Monday Guest Kristen Hayer

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Get to know Kristen Hayer

By: Mohammed Alqaq   |  September 18, 2023

Thank you for inviting me to be a Monday Guest! I am honored to be part of this great initiative. 

My name is Kristen Hayer, and I’m the founder and CEO of The Success League, a global consulting and training firm focused on the field of customer success. I live in the San Francisco Bay area with my husband and 2 German Shepherd dogs, and I have a daughter who is attending the University of California, San Diego.

Our family loves to travel, explore new cultures and foods, and spend time at the beach. I’m also an artist who uses acrylic and watercolor paint, gems and metal, and fabrics to create.

Kristen Hayer_Headshot

We asked Kristen 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 university, I started my career in project management, but quickly moved into sales. After several successful selling roles, I moved into sales management and ultimately became a VP of Sales.

In my final VP of Sales role, I had the opportunity to build a customer success program, as well as a support organization. I became so interested in customer success that I decided to shift my career focus to that field.

I had the opportunity to build a customer success organization from scratch as a VP of Success and then decided to start The Success League.

I’m now almost 30 years into my career, and I get to do what I love every day: Help companies build amazing customer success programs that drive revenue and provide exceptional customer experiences.

How did you join Customer Success?

I’ll tell you why I decided to shift from Sales to Customer Success. Sales teams are pretty homogenous. They are usually made up of attractive people who are uniformly social and pleasant. Outside of work, they generally focus on social activities. Of course, there are exceptions, but this is a common type of salesperson.

Success people are different – from salespeople and from each other. Most of the customer success professionals I know have something they are strongly passionate about outside of work. It could be art, music, activism, volunteering – something that drives them as a person. I found it more interesting to manage this kind of diverse team.

It was fun to figure out how to motivate different types of people. It was also fun to build a CS program at a time when customer success was still a very new discipline. The work I did was a part of what built the foundation of our field today. 

How would you describe the ideal CSM candidate?

There are certain skills I look for in CS professionals. The first is curiosity, which goes hand in hand with creativity.

Curiosity drives CS professionals to be great at asking good questions, understanding their customers’ businesses, and exploring challenges.

Creativity allows them to use the information they have uncovered to come up with interesting use cases and strong solutions to the business problems their clients face.

I also look for CS professionals who treat their portfolio like it is their own business. They take ownership of the customers, their challenges, and their revenue as if they were the CEO of their book of business.

This level of accountability and responsibility makes for a great CSM.

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

If you are a new CSM, start by learning as much as you can about your company, product, and the industry you are in. Once you are assigned a set of customers, learn as much as you can about those companies and your contacts.

Treat your first 3 months as a learning tour. You only get one chance to be the “new person” so use it to your advantage and ask tons of questions.

Don’t feel like you always have to be the one providing the answers. Your job is to learn as much as you can so that later you can be the expert.

Treat your first 3 months as a learning tour. You only get one chance to be the “new person” so use it to your advantage and ask tons of questions..

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

As a CEO, every day is a little different. I dedicate Mondays to meeting with my team members and handling business and accounting tasks.

During the rest of the week you’ll find me writing articles on customer success, recording a podcast episode, working with a client, speaking at an event, or working on social media and marketing.

To create balance in my schedule, I calendar blocks of time for specific tasks like working with clients or tackling email. I also calendar personal activities like walking, cooking dinner and winding down for the day. This keeps me from working late and helps me stay focused on all of the important things in my life.

What makes you feel inspired or motivated?

I love seeing new leaders progress in their careers and move into executive roles. I’ve had the pleasure of coaching several leaders into VP and C-level positions, and it is incredibly rewarding to watch.

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

I did not grow up in the United States. I spent middle and high school in Papua New Guinea, where my parents worked at that time. Once I graduated from high school, I moved back to the US by myself and attended University in Seattle, Washington.

Who do you look up to the most?

This is a tough question, but when I really thought about it, I decided that the people I look up to the most are the CSMs who are working hard, every day, with customers.

It is challenging work, and to be successful in the field you need to be a consultant, a troubleshooter, a change agent and incredibly creative. I look up to the people who show up every day to work with the customers who need them.

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

Realize that you don’t have to have the answer to every question. You have a team of other people in your company supporting you. Your role is to understand each of your customer’s business and help them to realize the value they seek from your solution.

Asking good questions is often better than trying to have all the answers. Great questions drive strong dialogue and position you as a consultant to your customers.

What’s your favorite book, and why?

I love the 12 Elements of Great Managing for anyone who wants to become a manager in any field. This book is about the things that create engaged employees and helps you to get into the mindset of a strong leader.

I recommend it to anyone who is new to management or considering a role in leadership in the future.

» 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?

Last year I had the opportunity to present an award at the Customer Success Excellence Awards in London. My daughter was in the audience as I presented the award for CSM of the Year.

It was a huge honor to be able to present, and I was so happy to be able to reward a deserving CSM for their excellent work. That was a huge “I’ve made it” moment for me.  🙂

What should I have asked you but didn’t? 

Nothing – great questions! 🙂

Where can people go to find out more about you?

I’m happy to connect with anyone in CS on LinkedIn. For more information about The Success League and our services, you can visit our website.

Thank you, Kristen, 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?