Monday Guest Kari Kvale-Y3-W22

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Get to know Kari Kvale

By: Mohammed Alqaq   |  May 27, 2024   |  Year 3  –  Week 22/2024

Hello Customer Success Middle East, my name is Kari, originally from South Africa but now based in Oslo, Norway for the last 15 years.

I’m Director, Head of Customer Success at Aize where we bring people, data, and documents closer together within the energy industry. I’m fortunate enough to be managing an amazing team of Customer Success Managers and Customer Support agents spread across Norway, the UK, and the USA.


We asked Kari 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  

Table of Contents

Tell us about your career path?

Upon moving to Norway, I had to learn the language to be able to work in my field of study which was a humbling experience the first few years.  This meant working as a barista and then back to university to adapt to the job market at the time, setting me back a couple of years compared to my peers, but a decision I don’t regret. I was lucky to meet a large expat group which is how I was introduced to my first corporate job within the Oil and Gas industry.  Over 6 years I held several roles but always centered around project management.  Having mastered the language, I left to join the pharmaceutical industry to work in Marketing which was a great period of growth professionally.

An ex-boss called me one day to ask if I was interested in joining a newly formed team within Customer Success and helping prepare for the SaaS phase for the soon-to-be spun-off company.  A few Google searches revealed this was a domain not widely present in Europe, so I started to follow several US-based thought leaders on the topic and decided to take on the challenge.

How did you join Customer Success?

As mentioned above, it was a leap of faith and an opportunity to learn something new.  I was also wanting to pivot towards a role in tech at the time and this afforded me the opportunity to do so.  I spend a lot of time still reading up, listening to podcasts, and remaining curious about the field to expand my skill set and test out new ways of doing CS with our customers. 

Key has been not being afraid to fail and being part of a culture that fosters this, something I encourage my team to take on as well. Having not had a traditional career trajectory has taught me to be resilient and look for opportunities in the daily challenges that a career in CS brings.  Something that I’m super motivated by.

How would you describe the ideal CSM candidate?

Empathetic, great organizational skills, connector of people, and able to ask the right questions to get customers to talk about what is important to them (pains, gains, value). 

Not afraid to roll up the sleeves and drive areas of improvement in how we work.  It’s a team effort, we lose and win together as a team.

What one piece of advice would you give to someone just starting out as a Customer Success Manager?

Be curious about your customers and the application. Ensure you understand why the customer purchased the application, and the expected value or make sure you uncover this early on and set up a joint success plan that you can measure progress against and showcase quick time to value.  Review and update the plan as the customer moves along the various stages of use and harness your data to be proactive.


Set up a joint success plan that you can measure progress against and showcase quick time to value.

Can you take us on a journey describing what your workday looks like?

I start my day by going over my top 3 tasks for the day and then reviewing tickets that have come in after hours/weekends to understand any urgent cases that have been escalated or need certain attention.  After some short ad-hoc internal syncs in the morning, I catch up on key Slack channels to understand the status of planned releases and any associated concerns.

Catching up with my Customer Success team weekly to get a high-level overview of their customers and where they need support or can share best practices.  This results in setting more focus for the week, assisting with customer meetings, work process improvements, and playbook creations to enable the team to do more ultimately scaling our efforts.  Each day varies greatly but something I enjoy as there is always an opportunity to improve something internally or get back on track with usage.

What makes you feel inspired or motivated?

Helping teams to become high performing, seeing their growth and impact with our customers. 

As well as the CS community, the openness, and willingness to share learnings, failures, and best practices.

What’s one thing that people are generally surprised to find out about you?

That I still dance ballet. It’s my creative outlet and helps me manage stressful periods.

Who do you look up to the most? 

Family has been a great source of motivation and support throughout my career even though they are far away today.  My dad never had the opportunities afforded to me to take a tertiary education but has built a solid career and businesses with pure grit and dedication. 

He has always been a promoter of being curious and never accepting no as the final answer or just accepting your fate.  My mom introduced my sister and me to ballet at the age of 4. The level of discipline this has introduced into all facets of my life is something I am forever thankful for.

She always reminded us to smile, both spreading positivity amongst others and picking ourselves up and focusing on the good.

What are your top 3 priorities now?

I love top 3 lists 😉

  • Automating certain administrative tasks for the customer success team to focus on strategic initiatives and more time with our end users.

  • Understanding the users more. Utilizing the data we have to be even more proactive.

  • Reviewing our Support practices and ways in which we can increase resolution as first line of support, getting our end users back to what they were doing.

What advice would you give to Customer Success Managers to grow and develop their careers?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions and harness your network.   Get to know the application you are working with and how you can collaborate with Product teams. There will always be difficult discussions/trade-offs being the voice of the customer.

Securing alignment early on and reviewing ways of working with internal teams will secure value for the customer whilst progressing and contributing to the roadmap in a productive manner.

What’s your favorite book, and why?

That’s a difficult question.  Currently, I’m reading two books that I can share here that are contributing to my current focus and personal development.

The Effortless Experience explores the idea that customer loyalty isn’t primarily driven by exceptional service, but rather by minimizing customer effort.  Through insightful research, the book shows how simplifying interactions and reducing hassle can build stronger bonds with your customers.

Deep Work – Rules for focused success in a distracted world offers practical strategies for achieving focused productivity in an age of distraction. Author Cal Newport argues that the ability to concentrate without distraction on cognitively demanding tasks is becoming increasingly valuable in today’s knowledge economy. Through a combination of case studies and actionable advice, Newport demonstrates how cultivating deep work habits can lead to greater professional success and personal fulfillment.

» 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 believe there are many “I’ve made it” moments both personally and professionally as we progress through life.  Important to stay motivated but not stuck in the proverbial hamster wheel of “just not there yet” but celebrate all successes big or small including the failures. 

Currently, I do feel I have attained one of my “I’ve made it” moments as heading up a Customer Success and Support team.  Helping teams grow, enabling them to deliver great service, but also challenging me and helping me grow as a leader.  Learning goes both ways.

What should I have asked you but didn’t? 

The questions were great so nothing more I would like to add for now Mo.

Where can people go to find out more about you?

Add me on LinkedIn, I’m always happy to discuss topics related to the field of Customer Success.

Thank you, Kari 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?