CSM Career Path - 8 Ways to become a high-performing CSM newbie

Kevin Leonor

Congratulations on your first day. Your organization is excited to have you join the team. There is a lot of work ahead of you, but a lot of free time as well. This is a one-time opportunity. 

After you scale up to a fully operating Customer Success Manager, you will rarely have the bandwidth and flexibility to be this IMPACTFUL. 


So, to be properly prepared and to prove yourself as the right hire for the job, here are 8 ways you could help your CS Organization scale as a newbie.


  1. Create their new-hire onboarding guide
  2. Document unwritten processes and rules
  3. Volunteer to become the subject matter expert of a new product or feature
  4. Create a new-hire support group
  5. Meet with your primary internal stakeholders and establish relationships
  6. Attend webinars that are designated for the customer
  7. Assist in Customer Success projects or help with grunt work
  8. Build a knowledge base


Create their new-hire onboarding guide


On day one, you will be given your training schedule. This training schedule may consist of:

  • Product training
  • Understanding the customer journey
  • Resource management
  • Cross-department communication expectations
  • Escalation procedures
  • Adoption playbooks
  • Expansion processes
  • and a RACI chart.


There’s a very strong chance the training is missing many of the above competencies in your onboarding. This is a great opportunity to document while learning, which will allow your CS organization to have a solidified new-hire onboarding guide for easier department scaling. Now, the team can take chances on project candidates and can build advanced training.


Take this opportunity to dig into the company CRM to understand the history of every strategic account and what made them successful.  Try listening to Gong/recorded calls of other CSMs to understand how to best onboard a client. Read as many support tickets as you can from Jira/ZenDesk. Shadow other Customer Success Managers and take note of things which were effective in their customer calls. Learn by hunting, then document it in your new-hire onboarding guide.


Document the unwritten processes and rules


As you learn the above new-hire basics, you will come across common use cases, frequently asked questions, and procedures that are not documented. Build those documents for the team and load them into a public drive. 


Some common areas you could find “loose” knowledge are chat channels (try using the search feature of your chat channel), emails, and knowledge that lives within a subject matter expert’s mind. If you have to ask how to do something, and your team cannot point you to a documented resource, then be the one to document it as you learn.


For bonus points, 

  • Produce videos with screen shares and explainers using Zoom for processes and policies that are more challenging to understand through text than video. 
  • Try adding a tutorial on how to understand the CS dashboards and the actions you could take from the data in the dashboard. 
  • Look for common churn risks in their Customer Success tool and develop a response playbook.
  • Analyze the red account list and look for common problems you could produce a scalable solution for.
  • Identify common support ticket issues and develop an FAQ or best practices one-pager.


Volunteer to become the subject matter expert of a new product or feature


There is a high chance you joined this organization when they released an amazing new feature. Because of its recency, even the senior CSMs know as much as you do and they may not have time to learn it. This becomes your opportunity to learn the most about the subject.


Interview the product team, ask the marketing team some questions about the feature or product, experiment in a demo environment, read the complete guide on the subject, read the case studies, and interview the beta users.


After you studied all there is to know, offer to present it to the CS team. 


Make a commitment to hold cadence calls with product and marketing to communicate frequently asked questions from your Customer Success team and to learn more about improvements, enhancements, and bug fixes.

Create a new-hire support group


You don’t have to tackle the pressures of a new CS role alone. Create a chat channel between you and other recent new hires to share knowledge. There is a good chance that others have run into subjects and challenges that you have not experienced. Best to learn how to solve those challenges before you need to. Shared knowledge allows you to scale learning efficiently.


Meet once a week to share knowledge and to ask questions in a safe environment. No question too small or too simple. No judgments.


Meet to discuss strategic topics like:

  • Common hangups customers have for adopting key features
  • Working to replace incumbent solutions
  • Strategies for quick time to value
  • Strategies for sustainable and progressive value
  • Common pain points and how to solve
  • Effective workarounds for feature gaps

Meet with your primary internal stakeholders and establish relationships


Being new is a perfect excuse to introduce yourself to important internal stakeholders. Ask for a time to meet with them to discuss:


  • How you could help the internal stakeholders be more effective in processes that involve the CS team
  • What are some mistakes to avoid when working with this specific department?
  • What are the expectations of you from this department?
  • Would they be open to a monthly cadence call?


This will go a long way to working harmoniously and may unlock some benefits such as priority support and extra resources.

Attend webinars that are designated for the customer


This is your opportunity to see how the customers learn and to see how marketing tells a story of feature and benefit. We get a glimpse into the company’s focus of thought leadership and the kind of professional minds they look to influence. This will allow you to mirror the same language and storytelling to reinforce the value and mission. 


If the customer agrees with the thought leadership, adoption and usage initiatives will come easier by embodying the same message in your CS campaigns. 


Take some of these steps to leveraging webinars for customer success:

  • Review the list of current customers who attended the webinar and dive into how your company is communicating with this customer. 
  • What are the talk tracks and messaging themes that are being discussed with this customer? 
  • Is our messaging matching the messaging in their attended webinars? 
  • Is the message resonating? 
  • Can we leverage the success of the customer relating to our messaging to impact adoption and expansion?


These are strategic ways to efficiently use the marketing team to scale your department’s customer success growth efforts.


Assist in Customer Success projects or help with grunt work


One of the best ways to learn is to take some admin work off of your coworkers plate. Any routine forms you need to learn? Any routine configurations need to be performed? This will expose you to everyday work while freeing up your teammates to do more strategic work.


Also, see if there are low-level tasks in a Customer Success project that you could help with. This will allow you to see the overall mindset and strategy of your customer success team while pitching in with work like data entry, filing, organization, or other work that doesn’t require too much organizational understanding. 

  • Put together reports using data provided by the team. 
  • Create a slide deck out of the outline they already produced.
  • Document handwritten notes into Word .doc files
  • Develop graphs or presentation art

Organize a CS round-table

Invite CS professionals from other organizations that can share from their own wisdom of how they execute Customer Success. This can be done over Zoom or face-to-face and can provide a lot of value to your organization while promoting your CS networking brand.


Subjects that you could focus your roundtable on include:

  • Best free tools for Customer Success
  • Creating a churn response program and analysis
  • Scaling a Customer Success program
  • Creating CS new-hire programs
  • And more Customer Success challenges and pain points

Build a knowledge base


If you don’t have a centralized knowledge base, build a Google Drive or OneDrive filled with the necessary guides, whitepapers, and playbooks needed to execute your role. Leverage already built documents by linking them in your knowledge base instead of rewriting them. 


If all the data is housed on multiple platforms, set up a table of contents that will direct you to each repository.


Organize all the links into a Google Site for structured access.


Then, share this resource with the team.

Conclusion

Overall, exercising these behaviors will show your new employer that they made the right choice in hiring you by helping them scale their Customer Success organization and scale their ability to onboard CS professionals for years to come. It will also give you recognition for creation of materials and establishes you as an early subject-matter expert leading to job security.


These behaviors will also give you evidence of Customer Success Leadership skills like the ability to create Customer Success programs, create playbooks and documentation, and organizing team discussions.


Best of luck in your new CS Career and we look forward to seeing you build the future of your organization and your career.

About the writer

Kevin Leonor has spent 8 years in Customer Success, Account Management, and Sales while achieving certifications in Customer Success, Sales, and Project Management. In 2020, Kevin was voted a Top 100 Customer Success Strategist by SuccessHacker and ClientSuccess, was a panelist in the CS Mastermind Series, and a keynote speaker at the Contact Centre User Experience Expo. Kevin is dedicated to the CS Community and the advancement of Customer Success as a practice worldwide.


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