5 Things I Learned from 200+ CS Career Coaching Conversations In 2020

5 Things I Learned from 200+ CS Career Coaching Conversations In 2020

One of the best parts of my job is my involvement in the exploding career of Customer Success. I’ve seen people enter the field, move up and thrive. I’ve noticed as Customer Success became the 6th-most-promising career in the world, according to LinkedIn. I’ve watched CCOs turn into CEOs. I’ve enjoyed the reception to CSYou from the community—everyone is energized about diversifying our companies by bringing more underrepresented groups into Customer Success.

I typically have 3-6 calls per week with Customer Success leaders thinking about their next role. In the spirit of our “human-first” purpose, we always want to support our community as human beings. Some of my favorite moments in my 8 years at Gainsight are seeing the human beings in Customer Success shine. We’ve made intros over the year that have turned into 100s of leadership and individual contributor roles in CS.

As such, we often get a sense of the “pulse” of the CS careers market. Below are quick trends we are seeing:

1. Hire Leader for Integrated Post-sales Journey

In the early days of the field, Customer Success teams started as silos. As I joked a few years ago, CS teams were told, “you handle the churn—everyone else keep doing what you’re doing.” But nearly every company has figured out that true Customer Success requires an end-to-end focus on the Customer Journey. As such, it is becoming the norm to hire a leader for the entire post-sales journey—from Services/Onboarding to Training to Customer Success Management to Support. In some cases, these leaders are also getting revenue-oriented responsibilities like Sales Engineering and Renewals.

For more input on structuring a CS Executive search, check out our guide here.

2. Customer Success Is Different in a Product-led Growth Company

While there might be somewhat of a line between pre and post-sales in traditional contracted subscription businesses, if your sales model is consumption-based or leverages freemium/free trials, the line is much more blurry. As such, these businesses with so-called “Product-led Growth” models tend to integrate CS and Sales more tightly together. Increasingly, they have all of the customer journey under one leader (often titled the “Chief Revenue Officer”). It’s imperative, though, that this CRO own the entire Revenue funnel, not just be a Sales leader with a fancier title.

3. Owning the Number Is Key

While Customer Success teams may have historically focused on “softer” metrics, as businesses realize that Company Success depends on Customer Success, they are increasingly giving ownership of critical metrics to the CS leader. At a minimum, CS leaders should own tangible leading indicators to renewal and expansion, like adoption and health scores. Over time, more and more CS leaders are also taking on revenue responsibility—whether that means owning the renewal number or, in some cases, owning parts of expansion.

Owning a number drives employers to look for CS leaders who can be actual general managers rather than just being functional experts.

4. Tech Touch Is Hot

I’ve heard dozens of employers sent me emails like the below:

“Tech touch,” or the idea of using technology to help provide a high touch customer experience at scale, is all the rage. Companies want to scale CS to all clients, which won’t work economically with a people-driven model. Clients don’t always want to get on a call either. Finally, modern technology, like Journey Orchestration and In-app Engagements, means that tech touch is entirely possible.

I’ve found that tech touch leadership jobs are the most in-demand and hard-to-fill right now.

5. CS Operations Is a Must

While Customer Success may have grown out of very people-heavy jobs like Support and Professional Services, employers today are looking for “operational” CS leaders who can drive programs, analytics, and automation.

In interviews, leaders are asked about:

  • Analytics-driven decision making
  • Driving change management and process evolution 
  • Building an adequate tech-stack for the maturity level of their organization

Much like how Sales leaders are expected to be data- and process-driven, the same is happening within the CS community.

We are very passionate about CS careers at Gainsight. Please join us for our 4 part series of discussions on executive hiring here to continue the conversation.

Nick Mehta

As a huge sports fan, Nick thinks of his job as being like that of a head coach. His role is to help bring the right people together on the team and put them in the best position to win for our customers, partners, employees and their families. He’s a big believer in the Golden Rule and we try to apply it as much as we can to bring more compassion to our interactions with others. And he talks way too fast and overuses the word awesome like it’s going out of style. Before coming to Gainsight, Nick was the CEO of awesome leading Software-as-a-Service E-Discovery provider LiveOffice through its acquisition by Symantec and prior to that was a Vice President at VERITAS Software and Symantec Corporation.