The Same Principles Apply: How Customer Success Skills Translate to Tech Companies

If outside applicants are willing to overcome an initial learning curve, their unique perspective could ultimately be an asset when switching professions.

Written by Jeff Kirshman
Published on Apr. 22, 2022
The Same Principles Apply: How Customer Success Skills Translate to Tech Companies
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Before she worked in tech, Melissa Sommer’s relationship with the industry was mostly transactional. Stakeholders only reached out to each other as needed, and never more. Even when projects were successful, the former data analyst said, the context around outcomes remained largely opaque. 

“Now that I’m on the other side of the vendor relationship, I’ve found it’s important to stay vigilant by looking for ways to build trust in our product and help reach overarching company goals,” the customer success manager at information technology company Cutover said. 

The difference between achievement and failure comes down to the quality of your relationship with your customers, Sommer noted. By proactively eliminating potential problems and recognizing client needs, CSMs can foster customer loyalty and improve retention. 

If anything, speaking to customer concerns might be easier for someone from outside the tech industry, according to Cherie Cantu, senior customer success manager at legal technology company Red Points

Acting as the voice of the customer means thinking like the customer, she said, and getting into that headspace is easier when you’ve been in similar situations earlier in your career. If outside applicants are willing to overcome an initial learning curve, their unique perspectives could ultimately be an asset when switching professions. 

“The skill set of a customer success manager is very different in the tech industry,” Cantu said. “CSMs need to wear the hat and have the knowledge of every department in the building.”

Built In NYC met with Sommers and Cantu to learn more about their circuitous journeys to becoming CSMs in tech, and why the knowledge they’ve gained in previous roles is invaluable when it comes to solving problems and delivering value for their customers. 

 

Cherie Cantu
Senior Customer Success Manager • Red Points

 

Why did you decide to join the tech industry?

When I first started, I really wanted to be part of the fast-paced tech industry. Now I’ve been in the technology world in some capacity for over a decade. My experience in technology and software companies includes project management, sales, implementation and customer success management. In my experience at Red Points and other tech companies, the speed at which things progress is both challenging and rewarding.

 

How is the tech industry — and the skill set it demands of customer success managers — different from other industries in which you’ve worked?

We are the main point of contact for customers, ensuring they achieve success and desired outcomes, while also being their voice. CSMs are relationship-focused, with a customer-first strategy. They understand their customers’ needs and goals, both in the short term and long term.

CSMs are relationship-focused, with a customer-first strategy.”

 

What advice would you give to other customer success managers thinking about moving into the tech industry? 

There is unlimited growth in the tech industry. Whether you are working with an established company with thousands of employees or joining a startup, there is no shortage of opportunities. These environments provide both personal growth and learning, as well as career advancement opportunities. That being said, anyone making a move into the tech industry should connect with a mentor to learn more about the challenges they should expect and ways to overcome them. 

Red Points specializes in protecting digital assets and brands sold online.

 

 

Cutover team members outside with one person on a lampost
Cutover

 

Melissa Sommer
Customer Success Manager • Cutover

 

Why did you decide to join the tech industry?

After dipping my toe in both the commercial and investment banking industries, I decided it was time to bring the skill set I had cultivated to a company that was growing on the same timeline as I was. Since breaking down traditional processes and finding efficient solutions is right up my alley, I was thrilled to move into the tech SaaS industry by taking a position at Cutover.

I decided it was time to bring the skill set I had cultivated to a company that was growing on the same timeline as I was.”

 

How is the tech industry — and the skill set it demands of customer success managers — different from other industries in which you’ve worked?

You need to have a constant mindset of thinking outside of the box and expanding your knowledge on the product, its capabilities and customers’ needs, as they can be ever-changing. The pace of technological advancements can be daunting in this digital age, so someone who can produce results, as well as forge strong relationships, is key. Also, now that I’m on the other side of the vendor relationship, I’ve found it’s important to stay vigilant by looking for ways to build trust in our product and help meet overarching company goals.

 

What do you wish you’d known before you made the leap?

Anyone seeking a move into this industry should hone in what they can offer a client — whether it be subject-matter expertise, consulting skills or tactical solutions. Also, ensure you have an open mind and are keen to collaborate in a team environment. Before I shifted roles, it would have been useful to know how much technology and tools affect the outcomes that other industries are trying to achieve. Lastly, remember that clients are entrusting your services to a very high level of success, which I think is extremely important to keep top of mind in a customer success role.

Cutover is a work orchestration and observability platform.

 

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images via listed companies and Shutterstock.

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