Thank you for inviting me to be a Monday Guest! My name is Jenelle Friday, and I am currently the VP of Customer Success at Forecastable. I live in Windsor, Colorado which is about an hour north of Denver with my husband and two dogs. When I’m not working you can find me reading, crafting something pretty, fishing in the mountains with my husband, facetiming with my stepdaughter who is proudly serving our country in the Air Force, cheering at one of my nephews’ sporting events or playing pinochle with family. I have a very small circle, and they are my life.
We asked Jenelle to take us through a journey telling us about her career path, how she spends her workday, what advice she can share with someone starting as a customer success manager, and many other questions.
Enjoy reading this interview
Tell us about your career path?
After an attempt to attend college and pursue singing opera, I realized that wasn’t my path. I spent several years working at Starbucks honing my people skills and then found a job as an office coordinator which led me to executive level administrative support. I was naturally skilled at time management, organizational efficiency, and taking care of everyone in the office.
After I moved to Colorado permanently, I landed my first-ever CSM role after excelling as an SDR. Presented with the option to move to an AE or CSM role, my passion for people and relationships led me to the obvious choice.
Since then I have been a part of some of the most amazing Customer Success teams, learned from the best in the business, and am so excited for what is on the road ahead in Customer Success.
How did you join Customer Success?
I moved to Colorado to be a full-time aunt to my nephews, not sure what my career path would look like. I served tables at a local restaurant, trying to find an open door.
After 3 months at Agility Recovery as an entry-level SDR, I was offered the first CSM role the company created. Life from a professional perspective went from black and white, to a whole new world of color!
The role of a CSM is such an extension of who I am, that it didn’t take long for me to become a Customer Success groupie and commit to this industry for the remainder of my career.
How would you describe the ideal CSM candidate?
Empathetic, passionate, intellectually curious, organized, results-driven, a collaborator who thrives amongst their peers and customers.
They are great at problem-solving and active listening.
They are zealous for their relationships, specifically customers.
Quick to be kind. Respectful always. Happy to go above and beyond when called for.
What one piece of advice would you give to someone just starting out as a Customer Success Manager?
You’re not an island. No CSM is successful without the aid and help from your CS team, your cross-collaborative team members, your professional partnerships, and your customers! Build your own matrix of “Who’s who in the zoo?” outlining who you can go to for help depending on the topic and circumstances.
While you’re focused on building great relationships with your customers, equally as important is your relationship with your internal teams. It takes a village, and you’re most likely the chief – embrace it and thrive in a collaborative world!
Build your own matrix of “Who’s who in the zoo?”.
Can you take us on a journey describing what your workday looks like?
I’ve found that I’m more productive using time blocks in my calendar.
So, my day begins with a 60-minute time block to address email. Typically, I wake up to 100 new emails, if not more. I go through them looking for high-priority issues, fires that need to be addressed, updates to outstanding items, and anything else that might need to be resolved today.
Then I spend 15 minutes or so going through my calls for the day, double-checking invites in case anyone has declined last minute. I make sure I have my agenda/notes/talk track ready for every call (typically created in the last 48 hours) Once I feel like I have everything I need, my focus shifts to scheduled calls.
Before I get on a call with a customer, I have a follow-up email template ready to go. Calls are usually recorded for training purposes and for my own memory’s sake. On calls, I take handwritten notes because typing is too distracting for me.
After the call is over, I update the Follow-Up Email template with notes and action items from the call and send it to the customer and all internal stakeholders right away. This shows the customer I was listening to them, taking notes, and completely present during our call.
There is usually a 30–to 60-minute block of time every day that I use to prepare for upcoming calls. This gives me time to create a deck, or update a spreadsheet, or work on an agenda. This time block is fluid, meaning it can move to another time or day as needed depending on my availability for that day.
The last hour of my day, if possible, is to do all my admin work after the day’s calls. This is updating Salesforce, worksheets, and OneNote (I highly recommend this since you never have to hit ‘Save’) and tie up any loose ends.
During this time, I also address any new emails that might have come in that are urgent. Unless the house is burning down, my customers know my response time to an email is 24 hours. I don’t chase emails throughout my day as those white rabbit trails can pull me away from goals I’ve set for the day.
What makes you feel inspired or motivated?
I’m always inspired by people who work hard, stay kind, and do so with a smile on their faces. We are all being asked to do more with less, so if you can face that and still be kind and positive, that is incredibly inspiring!
I’m motivated by my need to please others. In a working capacity, this for me is my commitment to my customers that I’m reliable, trustworthy, and a true partner. I follow through on my commitments, I never leave anyone in the dark and I care about the outcomes we are working on together.
Even when I’m fighting fires, I’m working tirelessly to bring a successful outcome to my customers and teammates. At the end of the day, if that is how I spend my time, waking up the next morning to do it all over again is all the motivation I need.
What’s one thing that people are generally surprised to find out about you?
I was a competitive swimmer from the age of 7, pushing hard to be an Olympian before my 18th birthday. I fell short after a back injury that occurred two weeks before my 16th birthday. I coached for a while, and still swim for exercise today.
I think my time at a young age, training to be the best in the world, honed my sense of personal discipline and helped me see that when I really set my sights on something and hustle hard, I’m able to accomplish way more than I ever expected.
Who do you look up to the most?
My husband, no question.
The man is a pillar (literally, he’s 6’4”) of kindness, selfless love, and unyielding commitment to the people he loves. He didn’t have an easy upbringing, and despite all the obstacles he’s had to overcome, his unfailing kindness never ceases to amaze me!
I was very rough around the edges professionally when we met. Until that point, I had sort of wandered from one thing to another. Once Customer Success became my path, he made it his mission to smooth those rough edges through love and direct feedback, always reminding me of why he fell in love with me and his belief in me.
I have made MANY mistakes in my professional career, and every time I would trip, my husband was there to not just help me pick myself up but to learn from my mistakes and be better. His flaws seem to always become opportunities for him to grow, and no matter what, he fights passionately for our friendship first marriage.
I would not be the woman I am today, without him.
What are your top 3 priorities now?
Staying consistent in my daily LinkedIn posts. I am so passionate about helping aspiring and new CSM’s really understand what it takes to thrive in the CS industry. I’ve created a library of topics to post about and made a commitment that the least I can do to help these people is spend a small percentage of my time helping and empowering them. Lately, I’ve been going through my own emotional rollercoaster and have had to take a step back. That’s life! I will be back on track soon.
Partnering with Alex Buckles and Forecastable in raising awareness around partner ecosystems and co-selling. The wave of partner ecosystems and co-selling has been building for a while and is now starting to crest. Working with PARTNERNOMICS, Alex has created a Co-Selling Activation Workshop intended to help businesses create and scale their own co-sell motion. Through Forecastable, our customers can begin that process and quickly realize value.
Continue to coach and mentor. I have a handful of people I’ve been coaching and mentoring for a while, and they are incredibly important to me. As a few of them wrap up the goals we set and move on, new mentees find their way into my calendar. I LOVE IT!
What advice would you give to Customer Success Managers to grow and develop their careers?
While there is a lot of focus out there around “How to have difficult conversations” and “How to build a QBR deck”, I find that these topics are not what CSM’s really need. Topics like “Building Mental Fortitude” or “Developing Research Skills” tie directly into common frustrations I’m hearing from the community.
So much of who we are as individuals gets looped into our daily work lives. If we are not focused on the soft skills needed to thrive and help our customers succeed, all the training in the world won’t help.
Truly, it’s developing Emotional Intelligence and applying that to your professional life. It takes time, and its hard work, but it’s ALWAYS worth it!
What’s your favorite book, and why?
Oh boy, this is a tough one. I read a lot. I bounce from books like “The Chief Customer Officer Playbook” to Lee Child’s latest Jack Reacher story. I love history and crime novels. I don’t think I have one single favorite.
» 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?
No. For me, “I’ve made it” feels like it should be at the end of my life.
I believe no matter the company or job title, I will never “arrive.” The SaaS industry is growing and changing so fast, I will never run out of things to learn, challenges to overcome, and opportunities for personal and professional growth. My mind’s eye is set on helping others become the best versions of themselves, and that goal will always sit beyond reach as there will always be people to help.
Even after I’ve retired, I know I will continue to give back and help others. I want to look back on my life and think, “I’ve made it. I accomplished what I was called to do, and now there is no more striving. I am at peace.” 🙂
What should I have asked you but didn’t?
Can you give a few examples quotes that inspire you? 🙂
“Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.”
“Each day you must choose the pain of discipline or the pain of regret.”
“A strong woman stands up for herself. A stronger woman stands up for those who cannot stand up for themselves.”
Where can people go to find out more about you?
LinkedIn is the best place :
Thank you, Jenelle, 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?