Nailing Your Customer Success Job Transition

So you have decided to take the leap and switch companies. Now what!? The goal of any career transition is to reach what “The First 90 Days” (highly recommend this book) calls the break-even point – the “point at which you have contributed as much value to your new organization as you have consumed from it” (Watkins, 2013). Below are 8 steps that will help you reach this point more quickly.

1. Unlearn what Customer Success means to you.

It is likely that your new company will define CS differently than your last and will have different structures and practices in place as a result. Take time to mentally reset, and prepare to embrace the new. Remember, just because something worked at your old company, there’s no guarantee that it will work at the next one.

2. Regularly sync with your new manager.

Early on, ensure that you confirm expectations and goals for your role. Interviewing is like dating – sometimes after you get into the relationship, things change – ensure you’re proactive about it. Sooner rather than later, have crucial conversations such as preferred communication styles and what decisions you can make on your own versus those you should consult them on. It’s always better to risk over-communicating as you two get to know one another better.

3. Develop a strategy for your learning.

Work closely with your new team to create a learning plan that carefully balances getting up to speed on your customers, products, and the company. You’ll need to consider a variety of factors such as:

  • Is there an established CS team in place, are you replacing someone, or is the team expanding?
  • Will there be a formal handoff of accounts, or are you going to be taking on new accounts as they come?
  • Is the organization in any type of crisis, and were you hired to help tackle a specific challenge?

4. (Don’t shoot me but) Volunteer to help document.

CS teams are often newer or quickly evolving due to rapid growth or industry shifts, so it is common for Customer Success processes not to be formally written down or to be outdated. Documenting will not only help you to deeply learn processes but will also help you make good use of what can be an awkward first few days or even weeks. You know, when you’re attempting to look busy by staring at the same handful of reports, because you are uncertain of what else to do while your co-workers are busy working on other things.

5. During the first two weeks, never eat lunch alone.

Everyone has to eat. Use this time to network and build internal relationships vertically – up to your boss and down to your reports, horizontally – across to your peers, and arguably most importantly over to other teams and departments. Break down silos, if applicable, and really try to get to know everyone. You name it – accounting, product development, contracts, marketing – you will eventually need them all in order to effectively support your customers, so the sooner you begin to understand department structures, who does what, and communication channels, the better.

6. As quickly as appropriate, begin to build relationships with customers.

While getting up to speed on products and clients’ businesses and goals, you may need to rely on methods other than being a trusted advisor or partner to the customer. Instead, build trust by being honest (e.g., “Let me research into that with the team” vs. making up answers just to appear knowledgeable) and by having meticulous follow-through. Transitions are often a great time for the “new person” to ask innocent questions such as “how have things been going”, “how can I most effectively work with you”, and the like.

7. Find a balance between securing early wins and taking action too quickly on.

For example, don’t shy away from getting on the phone with a disgruntled customer and attempting to find common ground but do take caution in suggesting major changes as a result of one client’s feedback until you have time to more fully integrate into your new company.

8. Leverage your “fresh eyes”.

Because you won’t have an emotional connection/attachment to past decisions, you are likely in a great place to see possible improvements to products and processes as you get up to speed. If timing doesn’t seem quite right to share these ideas at first, at least jot them down somewhere so they aren’t forgotten and bring them up at a more appropriate time.

What other best practices have you found to work well when transitioning between companies as a CSM, CSD, or VP of CS? We’d love to hear about them in the comments section below!