Thank you for this opportunity to share my thoughts with the Customer Success Middle East group.
I have been in customer-centric roles throughout my 20+ year career, leveraging technology, project/program management and customer skills to drive operational excellence, ensure customer success and put team members in a position to succeed. That included leadership roles with some top technology companies like Splunk, VMWare and DocuSign.
I am also a husband and father of three kids and live in beautiful Boston, MA USA. I do my best to balance work, family and personal interests, including soccer, skiing and travel, and place a high priority on integrity, honesty and excellence.
We asked Jean-Pierre to take us through a journey telling us about his career path, how he spends his workday, what advice he can share with someone starting as a customer success manager, and many other questions.
Enjoy reading this interview
Table of Contents
Tell us about your career path?
After graduating with a Computer Science degree, I did a stint in software development. But the bulk of my career has been in Customer Success, starting with Support, then Professional Services and finally landing in Customer Success Management. Since I’ve always gravitated toward creating best practices, my recent roles have alternated between leading customer-facing and best practices activities.
A few of my recent leadership roles include:
Splunk: developed best practices, operational tools and enablement for Splunk’s 180+ person worldwide Customer Success Team, accountable for $4B ARR.
VMWare Carbon Black: accountable for renewal, expansion and satisfaction of the company’s largest customers, covering $100M in ARR.
DocuSign: I was fortunate to be part of the meteoric rise of DocuSign, from small to medium enterprise, leading a Professional Services team, working with customers to integrate eSignature functionality into their use cases.
How did you join Customer Success?
I’ve always loved working with customers to ensure that they realize value using my company’s software, including identifying needs, deploying solutions, overcoming obstacles, advocating, and building strong relationships, which is what Customer Success does!
What’s changed over the last decade is that the Customer Success industry has matured, incorporating things like customer journeys and purpose-built software to more consistently drive SAAS customer renewals, expansion and value realization. There is still a lot of work needed to clarify Customer Success roles, standardize execution, and show value and I’m looking forward to being part of the community that does that.
How would you describe the ideal CSM candidate?
A great CSM possesses a unique combination of characteristics, including:
Empathetic: genuinely cares about doing the right thing for their customers.
Multi-Faceted: comfortable working in a variety of areas to help customers, including technology, project/task management, legal, financial, etc.
Multi-Tasker & Organized: needs to be able to juggle a lot of needs and discussions, keeping their teams and customers organized
Strong Communicator & Emotional Quotient: excel in communication and build strong connections internally and with customers.
Product Expertise: enough knowledge about the product and industry to provide advice, understand/describe technical discussions, and know what kind of technical expertise is needed at any given point.
What one piece of advice would you give to someone just starting out as a Customer Success Manager?
My advice would be similar for any role, which is to be honest with yourself about what motivates you and do what you love. Then strive for excellence, integrity, and honesty in all that you do.
Do what you love. Then strive for excellence, integrity, and honesty.
Can you take us on a journey describing what your workday looks like?
Here are some of the main things that I focus on during a standard week:
Customer Facing Activities: meetings with customers/account team members to resolve risks, drive value/renewal/expansion plans, etc.
Reporting: review key metrics related to customers and the business as a whole, including risk reports, opportunities up for renewal, and program rollouts.
Team Leadership: Meet regularly with my team, and peers to inform, understand, and overcome concerns.
Best Practices: based on issues that have arisen and known needs, create/update and enable team members on organizational best practices.
What makes you feel inspired or motivated?
Being part of a team that’s cohesive, collaborative, caring and strives for excellence on behalf of our customers.
What’s one thing that people are generally surprised to find out about you?
My sarcastic and offbeat sense of humor. 🕺
Who do you look up to the most?
I look up to my wife the most. She is the kindest person I know and has a unique way of making people happy.
What are your top 3 priorities now?
Executing with excellence on behalf of customers and my organization
Spending quality time with loved ones
Growing as a person
What advice would you give to Customer Success Managers to grow and develop their careers?
Always strive for excellence in all that you do, starting with executing a Customer Success methodology rather than just playing everything by ear.
What’s your favorite book, and why?
One of the books that I enjoyed recently is “Crush It!” by Gary Varnerchuk’s. I like his bold “go for it” style, though he can be a bit over the top sometimes. The theme of the book is that, in this new world of social media and access to technology, it’s easier than ever to follow your passion. While his primary focus is on applying that to running your own business, I think it’s also useful for doing something that you love in a job.
» Check out the 10 Books a CSM should read to advance and improve their skills.
Have you had your “I’ve made it” moment yet?
I definitely don’t think that I’ve “made it” and never will. That would be too egotistical and unaware of how much there is to learn and achieve personally and professionally.
What should I have asked you but didn’t?
Why are many company Executives unclear about the value of Customer Success Management, sometimes leading to layoffs?
Answer: the value of CSMs is sometimes unclear because they either focus on reactive/ad hoc activities or solely on value realization. The primary goal of CSMs should be to drive high renewal and expansion rates, which aligns with corporate revenue goals! When CSMs play their part to drive revenue, working closely with the rest of the Account Team, their value is seen and appreciated. Things like value realization, executive alignment & escalation management are essential elements to achieve that, but not the end goals themselves.
Where can people go to find out more about you?
The best place to learn more about me is my LinkedIn page
Thank you, Jean-Pierre, for sharing your knowledge and for the opportunity to know you more.
Do you have a Customer Success Leader, Expert, or Influencer you would like to know more about?