Agenda 2023: Behavioural Skills that Customer Success (CS) Leaders Need to Succeed with

Arvind Mehrotra
5 min readApr 5, 2023

The customer success landscape is going through a bit of a churn. On the one hand, companies need CS more than ever before to retain their customers and to drive renewals in a challenging economic climate.

On the other hand, reports suggest that 86% of customer success employees are looking to switch jobs in the next six months. CS roles suffer from a fundamental disconnect between job descriptions and expected skills. 62% of employees said they have already “quiet quit,” and 48% have done so due to a lack of management support.

In 2023, customer success roles need a complete re-envisioning of their skill sets, exceptionally soft and behavioural skills. For example, the rise of CS was to quantify account management and offer standardized, repeatable customer experiences. As a result, data now plays an overwhelming role in CS jobs, calling for a new behavioural skill set that isn’t the traditional sales and marketing capabilities we typically know.

Therefore, the agenda for 2023 will include the following critical behavioural skills for CS leaders:

1. Conflict resolution

Conflict resolution is a critical behavioural skill for any managerial role and is even more important for CS. It is because thriving CS functions hinge on close collaboration between multiple stakeholders across teams and companies. For example, internally, customer success leaders must work with product, sales, and marketing teams — sometimes even developers. In addition, CS staff have to collaborate with external vendors, customers, and their partners, and the interests of all parties are often in conflict. That is why CS leaders must be expert negotiators and able to navigate the agendas of different stakeholders to arrive at the perfect resolution. Ability to take decisions on the go, especially Conflict resolution, as a decision-making ability is a critical survival skill.

2. Curiosity and a proactive stance

Traditional sales and marketing were about the status quo and following predefined processes to grow at a predictable pace. On the other hand, customer success is always looking for new opportunities to add value. Therefore, CS leaders must not be afraid to break the old to make it unique. Requires curiosity as an essential behavioural trait and a proactive stance to act on the insights. For knowledge acquisition for a customer success team, they not only know their product and service but also understand how competition outflanks them, what features stand out and lastly why customers bought their products/services. Why customers bought their product/service will help them sharpen the goal of customer success and how to succeed in product adoption.

3. Flexibility and going the extra mile

The “extra mile” mindset adopted by young knowledge workers eager to grow fast and participate in the hustle culture is given in many ways. Only recently have employees started to push back against this practice through the quiet quitting trend. For CS leaders, however, it remains a vital behavioural trait. They must be flexible enough to absorb and act on customer feedback, even when it is not perfectly conducive to existing workflows. They must also go the extra mile to advocate for their company, the product, and its features to maximize the value a customer gets.

4. Perceptiveness and empathy

The ability to perceive and empathize with customer needs is a critical behavioural trait for CS leaders. Customers are often unaware of the exact blockers hampering their product experience. Or, there may be multiple user roles in a single account, each with a different need. A customer success leader is a person who applies intuition, experience, and data to pinpoint problem areas and possible improvements.

5. Strong self-confidence

CS leaders’ behavioural traits besides being linked to other qualities such as conflict resolution, curiosity, and going the extra mile. Being self-confident allows these professionals to be assertive in their internal decisions. It also helps them be more persuasive when communicating with the customer account. Self-confidence is also critical for data interpretation, as it allows customer success professionals to convey insights and “stories” around raw data.

6. The ability to stay calm under fire

Customer success is a highly dynamic field, with fires to put out daily. It is due to several reasons — it involves multiple stakeholders and points of view. In addition, there is always stiff competition with other products in the same field. CS leaders also act as sounding boards for customer complaints and grievances, which may be challenging to absorb, even if they are not always severe. That is why the ability to stay calm under fire is an essential behavioural trait for CS leaders and often the secret to their sustained success.

Conclusion

Ultimately, the customer success function has technical and strategic aspects, requiring the right competency mix. Therefore, product companies should look for these six behavioural traits when hiring for CS roles. Individuals with these traits, even without past CS experience, have the potential to rise fast and thrive in this field. To better assess and address your customer success needs, email me at Arvind@am-pmassociates.com.

--

--

Arvind Mehrotra

Board Advisor, Strategy, Culture Alignment and Technology Advisor