Thank you to everyone who joined JobStep last Thursday for our public webinar on how to break into customer success roles with Customer Success Leader & JobStep Coach, Ty Raia.
Ty Raia is a long-time customer success leader who transitioned from a background in Customer & IT Support into Enterprise Customer Success. He’s worked in individual contributor functions and managed large teams. We were so lucky to speak with him for a full hour where he talked about his experience and shared tips for aspiring customer success professionals.
Want to break into customer success? See below for his tips.
How did you get started in Customer Success? Did you know you always wanted to be in Customer Success?
TR: I was working as head of service and support for a global company. The part of my job that I loved was working with strategic partners and long-term enterprise customers. A well as developing success models internally. It was around this time I began to search for what that role might look like outside of account management or support. What role can I do this part full time. Naturally on my search I came upon customer success. I became engrossed in all things CS. I went to every meeting I could find, did informational interviews and after a few years I decided it was time to make this official.
When did you start to realize CS could be a career?
TR: Around 2011 or so, a few years after it really started in 2009. Jobs in CS really began to grow.
What is customer success?
TR: There are a lot of fancy definitions out there but I think it all boils down to achieving the customer’s desired outcome.
What is the difference between account management and customer success?
TR: I think it is all there in the titles. Account managers manage accounts. They tend to have a focus on growing accounts not necessarily making them successful. Additionally, Customer Success uses very different tactics.
What is the difference between customer service and customer success?
TR: Easy, Customer Service is reactive, Customer Success is proactive.
How much sales is involved in Customer Success?
TR: Depends on the job. Ideally, not at all. I think when you have your CSM (Customer Success Manager) tied directly into sales you muddy the relationship. There is a conflict of interest between hitting a quota and doing what is best for the client.
You have a background in statistics and IT. Are those skills required to get into success? How technical do you need to be to get a job in CS?
TR: People come from all different backgrounds. These skills helped me get roles in SaaS companies where the product is more technical but there are plenty of companies that are not. I would say if you are new to CS, looking in the vertical where you have experience will help give you a leg up.
For people who are trying to break into CS, what advice do you have for them?
TR: Find a narrative. Most of us don’t have a direct path seeing as the field of CS is only about 10 years old. Find an organic story that tells how you have come to CS.
What are common jobs that people have before becoming a Customer Success Manager?
TR: It runs the gamut from sales to support and even account management, but the core is the same: they are passionate about the post-sales relationship.
What are the top 3 skills you recommend aspiring or early career CS managers invest in and what are some resources you recommend?
TR: Active listening skills, time management and a good understanding of de-escalation Bonus: Solving Puzzles. I highly suggest going through a CSM training course if you are new to CS. There are a lot of ‘tricks of the trade’ that are critical to be familiar with before walking into a CS role. I suggest SuccessHACKER, Gainsight, and The Success League for training. The Customer Success Leadership Network , Gain, Grow, Retain I use as regular resources and Catalyst Software on Linkedin has some outstanding material including an amazing podcast NPS I Love You for general how to get the job advice. Finally, JobStep has an outstanding course that lays out tactical steps on how to prepare awesome interview answers, networking, and the job search overall.
Are there different types of customer success? If so, what are there?
TR: There are two big roles in CS. There is CS and CS Ops. CS Ops is more of the backend technical side of the job and is not usually customer facing. From there you can find all types of segmentation. The biggest one I see is between mid-market and enterprise accounts. There are also CS roles that are more sales based and focused.
When you were recruiting for early career customer success managers, what skills or personality traits did you look for?
TR: Coachability, a passion for learning and empathy. All of the hard skills can be taught.
How technical do you need to be to succeed and get promoted in CS?
TR: It depends on the company/product for some of this. However, there are some metrics you should be proficient in understanding and calculating such as Renewal Rates, Retention Cost, Churn Rates, NPS, Health Scores, ARR and/or MRR. There are a ton of other ones, but each company will have the metrics that are important to them, know these well.
What are the top trends in CS?
TR: I personally think we will start seeing more in CS automation and CS operations as the field evolves.
What advice do you have for someone with an IT background who wants to break into CS?
TR: I would say first, get to know customer success, take a course or do a lot of self study. Just like coding or being a database admin, there is a lot you need to know to walk into the role. That being said, once you are looking use your IT background to your advantage. Look for products that are more technical, look for products that sell to IT personas, you will have a leg up in these roles. Additionally, keep an eye out for CSM roles that specify technical skills such as Technical Customer Success Manager or Customer Success Engineer.
How do you manage customers if the company has 1000s of customers?
TR: There are a lot of different engagement models out there like high-touch, low-touch and tech-touch. It will also vary depending on if you are SMB, enterprise or mid-market. Each company is different and will align your book of business to the model. As an example, someone who works in a high-touch enterprise space will have just a handful of customers as where someone in mid-market tech-touch might have hundreds.
How do you set an effective agenda for an Executive Business Review? Especially since CEOs leave or zone out after the first 10 minutes?
TR: Make those 10 mins count. Sometimes I think we get too embellished with these types of meetings. Personally, I would rather have a 2 page deck that boils down what were our goals and how well did we achieve them. Everything else in this presentation might very well be important like a roadmap or industry benchmarking but often to someone in the c-suite, it is just fluff. Also, I like to get c-suite feedback early in the meeting, if I wait until the end of a 30min-1hr meeting they are likely to have checked out by then and honestly I don’t blame them, they delegate a lot of work because they are in charge of a lot! Respect their time, give them what they need to move onto the next thing.