What Do Chicago Customer Success Managers Actually Do?

September 10, 2020
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Customer success management (CSM) has found its footing as a staple in many tech companies. 

With 80 percent year-over-year growth in job openings, LinkedIn deemed customer success management the sixth most promising job in 2019. A survey from that same year by Harvard Business Review’s consulting firm, ZS, found that 40 percent of the 109 technology companies they spoke to said they have a CSM department now. 

Despite the rising popularity, questions around the profession still exist: Are CSMs salespeople? Or customer service agents with different titles?

While customer success does involve both of those aspects, the roles require far more nuance than meeting quotas or logging customer complaints. 

Three Chicago customer success professionals answer some of the questions about their positions, including the cross-team collaboration and creative problem-solving that power the wins they generate for their respective companies and clients.

 

Jeffrey Levinson
Senior Customer Advocate

“There’s immense professional and personal pride in cutting three months off a customer project by spending a half-hour troubleshooting over emails,” Jeffrey Levinson, senior customer advocate at Milyli, said. 

Levinson explained why creatively solving customer challenges is the nature of his job at the e-discovery services platform.

 

What are your primary duties on a typical day?

First, I prioritize my calendared tasks and identify what can be completed during the workday. Then I dive into ticket responses from our customers. After a ticket is closed, I analyze and document the issue, the correspondence with the customer and the resolution, especially if it required internal collaboration. Doing so allows my team and the product org to learn from each ticket. I also own and maintain our education materials.
 

Most of my work is creative problem-solving.”


What’s something you do in your role that would surprise most people?

Most people might think of customer advocacy as answering tickets and talking on the phone all day. However, I collaborate with other teams and our CEO more than some might expect. Working across the standard lines of an org structure allows us to uncover what our customers actually want and need from us, even if they differ from the needs they had when they became customers.

Tasks may start with an email, but most of my work is creative problem-solving within our products and the e-discovery platform, Relativity. Our customers love to come up with new workflows using our tools. Often, I’m needed to help get things running smoothly rather than “fixing” something technical. “Where can we cut out steps?” is a question I get a lot, and it’s an exciting, always-different problem-solving scenario.

 

What are the three most important skills needed to be a good customer success manager?

Listen to what a customer does and doesn’t say. Be a customer’s advocate, not just a support associate. Challenge your customer’s and team’s status quo when things can be better. We share educational materials and use cases because it’s vital to how we retain and grow business. 
 
However, a dynamic where a customer advocate can offer new ideas requires active listening. If a customer’s product use declines or they bring up the same complaint repeatedly, it’s crucial that the entire Milyli team hears. Someone has to pay attention to what customers are saying and doing, and I love that I get to do that.

 

Customer Success Manager
Hannah Gordon

Livly Customer Success Manager Hannah Gordon said her work allows her to make real connections with people while also evolving her skills. Being a CSM at the property management software company has forced her to hone her organizational skills to service her clients, which, in turn, has helped her clients achieve countless milestones.

 

What are your primary duties on a typical day?

I work closely with property managers and their teams who typically work long hours and weekends. So I start my day answering customer emails that came in on my off-hours. Then I look at all of my clients who are onboarding. Each client is at a different step in the process, so I update each of them on their progress, plan next steps and host trainings. 

Hosting trainings is one of the more time-consuming, but fun, parts of my day. I teach clients how they can utilize our products to make their residents happier. I love sharing our product and seeing others get excited about using it. 
 

In one week, I can have ten trainings, eight meetings and countless calls with my team and clients.”

 

What’s something you do in your role that would surprise most people?

The relationships we build with clients. I learn so much about clients as individuals. I had a lot to learn about property management when I joined Livly, and my clients supported my interest in learning about their roles and day-to-day tasks. Together we celebrated promotions, new building launches, birthdays and much more. Internally, we consider ourselves family and we welcome our clients into our community. 

 

What are the three most important skills needed to be a good customer success manager?

Positivity, patience and organization. Positivity is so important because whatever mood I am in will directly affect my client calls and trainings. If I go into a call upbeat and excited, clients will be as well. Patience is also crucial because CSMs are expected to be experts on our product, but we are always working with users who are new to it. Some clients need more time and attention to learn a new process, so remembering to be patient as others learn is vital.

Lastly, organization. I am not the most type-A person, so I had to train myself to be very organized. In one week, I can have ten trainings, eight meetings and countless calls with my team and clients. At any given time, I need to know a client’s details, who their contacts are, and their progress with onboarding and engagement. It’s a lot to handle at the start, but staying organized is so important for success. 

 

Jen Kraska
senior director of customer operations

Jen Kraska, the senior director of customer operations at logistics company project44, has over a decade of customer service experience. She said one of the things her tenure has taught her is that CSMs are well-suited to make sales because they have ongoing insight into how products can solve clients’ needs. 

 

What are your primary duties on a typical day?

I oversee our CS team that ensures we obsess over the customer. From the beginning of the sales cycle process, CS is working in concert with each team across the organization to deliver a smooth onboarding process. We provide customer feedback from the frontlines, work hand-in-hand with the product and engineering teams, and help define market signals. 

Coming from a long career in CS, I found that the best way to learn about a new product or industry is to speak directly with the customers. I recently joined the p44 team, and it’s been fascinating to learn about an entirely new industry and SaaS product while also being able to tie in my CS operational background. 
 

CS could be the most prominent sales function in any organization.”

 

What’s something you do in your role that would surprise most people?

The biggest myth about CS is that often it’s not considered a “sales” role. However, in reality, CS could be the most prominent sales function in any organization. It’s on us to continue to educate the customer about the value that our product delivers and identify consumption gaps.

 

What do you look for in a good customer success manager?

Given that we work with a wide variety of customers, it’s crucial that we have team members joining project44 from different walks of life. On top of being a great culture add, we look for ambitious people that own their career path. We also look for accountable team members — as we are held to high standards from our customers — who are also passionate about creating the best customer journey.

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