Over the past year I’ve been thinking a lot about the role leadership plays in customer success.

As a community, there are some well-worn ruts in the road around the techniques and skills. You can find 100 articles on how to conduct an exec business review, and there are training courses to teach the fundamentals of how to be a good CSM.

The customer success movement is fully underway.

But there’s one area where i believe we need to do more work as an industry. We need to cultivate leadership as a skill set.

I did a three-year stint in product management in the early 2010s and at the time I considered product management to be the most dynamic job in a software company.

The sheer volume of inbound feedback, stakeholder management, and communications to be managed would make anyone’s head spin. To this day i believe that a stop in product is a fantastic career move for most people.

But i don’t think it’s the most demanding job in SaaS anymore. I now believe that dubious honor belongs to the customer success team who retains 100% of the accountability for customer and business outcomes with almost none of the direct responsibility.

Given this fact, CS leaders must be among the best influencers in the business. The best communicators (both internal and external). They have to prioritize well.

And that’s why leadership as a skill set is so important.

The average tenure of a director or both of CS is less than two years. I’ve seen many CS pros take a new job only to be utterly demoralized by issues with product, sales, and customer service. Where they’ve been brought in too late to make an impact.

But it’s at precisely this moment that their leadership is needed to address the root cause issues that lead to poor customer experiences, outcomes, and ultimately to churn.

Like my good friend Nils says, “The source of and solution to every business problem you have is leadership.”

He’s right.

Illuminating product quality issues internally while reassuring upset customers.

Changing sales messaging while helping customers that have the wrong expectations.

Helping prioritize product feature requests from a customer while helping them find a suitable workaround.

These are all situations that CS leaders don’t control but they must influence.

Build cross-functional relationships
Bring facts and data vs opinions and anecdotes.

Influence with positive energy.

In the immortal words of Dale Carnegie, “Arouse in the other person an eager want. He who can do this has the whole world with him."

This is the work of the CS leader: influencing others to create positive customer and business outcomes.

Make no mistake, sometimes it’s a game of inches, but if we get just a little bit better every day, we’ll look back a year ago and be astounded by the progress we’ve made.

View Original Discussion and LinkedIn