How do you retain good talent, especially when customer success roles are in such high demand across the industry?
Retaining talent is a challenge for any company at any point in time. Customer Success is only a piece of the puzzle. Employees quit because they are unhappy with the culture, compensation, growth, and manager.
Let us start with culture, specifically around Customer Success. To see a company’s customers succeed, it must be goal mandated top-down. The CEO and the e-staff aim to enable and empower the Customer Success team to create a holistic positive customer experience. Without this - there does not exist a customer-first mentality within the company. When this happens - Customer Success is the first of a few teams in the firing line. Besides this, overall work culture is also essential.
Overall compensation is a huge criterion I am not too concerned about as the industry has been recognizing this, and I have seen compensation now up to industry standard. There is still debate on whether a CSM should be comped on renewals. That should be slated for a more extended debate.
The recognition and reward mechanism is more important than base/bonus comp. Does your manager have clear KPIs for stretch goals? Is there a monetary reward tied to it? How is it celebrated? Instantaneous recognition and reward mechanisms work best among groups.
Growth - As part of success - our job is to create a roadmap for our customers and their growth. What has your manager done for you lately, for your growth? Employees are often more likely to stay with a company that provides career advancement and skill development opportunities. As you contribute your skills to the company, the company should invest in you to develop new skills. You need to be in a constant state of ‘learning.’ You stop ‘working’ when you stop ‘learning.’
Flexibility - Working from home is a significant initiative. Bring your pets or kids to work day. Every day a celebration day - is a day you want to come to work!
Last but certainly not least - is the Manager. Empowering and enabling Customer Success Team to deliver top-notch service is essential. Does your manager enable you, and is your manager available when you need them? Simple things weekly 1:1. Does your manager listen and do something about your suggestions? Do they value it or respect it? Do they treat you like you want to be treated or make you uncomfortable or out of place?
Ultimately, retaining top talent requires a combination of strategies that focus on providing employees with competitive compensation, opportunities for growth and development, a positive work culture, recognition, and a sense of ownership over their work. This requires constant investment, even in the best employee.
That individual focus where the employee is not the most crucial asset in the company will put the company on a pedestal and thus put the customers on a pedestal. The bottom line, you always have options!
There's no magic bullet here, but I've found a few key ingredients to retaining great talent.
- Care deeply about the people on your team. Get to know them on a human level. Celebrate their wins. Understand how they want to grow, and be intentional about supporting that growth.
- Orient everyone around the mission. It's hard to push through the tough days if you don't connect with a reward or benefit. It's even harder if you think you're the only one fighting. The team needs to know that they're all in the same boat (you included!) and that you're moving toward something great. It could be a brighter future for the team (we're fixing this process), or it could be a great accomplishment (we'll hit quota). Put that goal front and center and keep all eyes on it. Make sure to celebrate wins, however small, along the way.
- Bring people along. Change is hard, and also constant in CS. Give your team space to share ideas, voice concerns, and help craft the program. We hold brainstorms and debates to make better decisions and the team appreciates the trust and transparency that we extend to them. Open-door policies are great, but if you're not willing to adjust tack, what's the point?
- Be humbly human. You don't need to be right all the time, and you don't need to be emotionless. Admit to your mistakes, seek feedback often, and let your humanity show. It creates a safe space for your team members to bring their whole selves to work as well.
Every company is on some form of journey. Whether you are at an early-stage start-up or have been around for decades, your team needs to understand how what they do daily relates to the journey the company is on and how their daily interactions contribute to the company's goals. For me retaining good talent is ensuring that you have a team that has signed up to go on that journey with you. I operate from a position of transparency, which builds trust. If your team trusts that you are lobbying for their professional growth trajectory and aligning with the company's (and hopefully the customer's) goals. In that case, they are more likely to stay for a relatively substantial period. I'm a huge proponent of helping team members get promoted and grow their careers, and this should be a frequent conversation individually with each team member.
Here are several strategies you can use to increase retention among your customer success teams:
Remove Hurdles and Be their Advocate: Removing hurdles to make CSM get insights into how to do their jobs better is key towards building a solid foundation for your team. Do you have a tool in place? Do you bring data and use that data to create meaningful action and insights? If you do not have a tool in place or you are unable to get the data your team needs in order to be successful, you are failing as a manager.
Competitive Compensation: Ensure that your compensation packages are competitive in your industry and location. This doesn't just include salary, but also benefits, bonuses, and equity, if applicable.
Career Development Opportunities: Provide clear paths for advancement within your organization. Regularly discuss career goals with your team members and provide opportunities for training and development that align with those goals. This can help them feel that they are growing and progressing in their careers, which is a key factor in job satisfaction and retention.
Recognition and Rewards: Regularly recognize and reward good performance. This doesn't always have to be a big bonus or promotion – small gestures like a public acknowledgement in a team meeting, a small gift, or an extra day off can go a long way in making employees feel valued.
Work-Life Balance: Promote a healthy work-life balance. Burnout is a real issue in high-demand, customer-facing roles, and it can lead to high turnover rates. Encourage employees to take breaks and time off, and consider flexible work options if possible.
Positive Work Environment: Foster a positive work culture that encourages collaboration, inclusivity, and mutual respect. Employees who enjoy their work environment are more likely to stay.
Supportive Management: Provide strong and supportive management. Managers should be accessible and open to feedback, and they should regularly check in with their team members to ensure they have the resources and support they need to do their jobs effectively.
Engagement and Feedback: Regularly solicit feedback from your team and take action based on that feedback. Employee engagement surveys can be a good tool for this. If your team members feel that their voice is heard and that they can impact their work environment, they're more likely to stick around.
Empowerment: Empower your customer success team to make decisions that benefit the customer. This helps them feel trusted and valued, which can increase job satisfaction and retention.