I’m Laura, and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to introduce myself to the Middle East Customer Success community. In the past several years, I’ve had the privilege of leading Customer Success teams at Silicon Valley SaaS companies, serving distinguished Fortune 500 clients. My focus has always been on delivering exceptional customer experiences and nurturing strong relationships that drive revenue growth.
Recently, I made the exciting transition from the vibrant tech scene in San Francisco to the enchanting city of Athens. Outside of the professional world, I’m a mom to two spirited girls who keep life wonderfully chaotic. In my downtime, you’ll often find me exploring self-improvement literature and seeking serenity through horseback riding adventures.
I’m a firm believer in open and honest communication, which plays a crucial role in addressing challenging conversations constructively. My passion lies in helping individuals reach their full potential, whether it’s in the realm of customer interactions or within my dedicated teams. So, let’s dive into this interview, and I’ll share more about how I bring this enthusiasm, experience, and that unique perspective of a mom to two spirited girls to the table!
We asked Laura 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?
My career journey has been quite an adventure. I started out in the field of education, where I had the privilege of helping students and educators achieve their goals. It was a deeply rewarding experience, but I felt the urge to broaden my horizons and expand my impact. That’s when I found my way into the dynamic world of startups.
Initially, I dipped my toes into Business Development, but it wasn’t long before I was introduced to the fascinating realm of Customer Success. This career path resonated with me on multiple levels. It allowed me to put into practice all my favorite things: effective communication, relationship building, a constant drive for iterative improvement, and the promise of never having a dull day. Moreover, it offered the unique opportunity to have a direct impact not only on individuals but also on the trajectory of the companies I worked for.
I spent an enriching decade of my life in San Francisco, where I had the chance to build a Customer Success organization not once, but twice. I had the privilege of collaborating with successful entrepreneurs in both early-stage startups and established market leaders. However, more than anything else, what brought me the greatest fulfillment in my career was to foster the growth and development of my team members, helping them reach their maximum potential.
How did you join Customer Success?
I found my way into the fascinating world of Customer Success through a natural progression of my career. I was living in the thriving tech hub of San Francisco during a period when the startup ecosystem was booming, surrounded by a network of tech enthusiasts. What drew me to this field was the tangible impact that products had on people’s lives and the immense opportunities for creativity they presented.
Before venturing into Customer Success, I had been deeply engaged in Account Management in the education sector, catering to corporate organizations. It was during this time that I recognized the parallels between my existing role and the Customer Success arena in the tech industry. The fast-paced, ever-evolving nature of Customer Success resonated with my personality and my quest for new challenges.
This realization led me to take a leap of faith. I applied for a three-month trial role at Remind, a decision that proved to be transformative. Little did I know that it marked the beginning of my journey into Customer Success, as I embarked on the exciting endeavor of shaping Remind’s first-ever Customer Success team.
How would you describe the ideal CSM candidate?
The ideal Customer Success Manager (CSM) embodies a unique set of qualities that make them exceptionally effective in their role. They must possess a diverse range of skills and characteristics to succeed in this multifaceted position.
An ideal CSM has the remarkable ability to navigate complex tasks and challenges. They excel in building trust with clients, managing product expectations, and adeptly handling setbacks, all while advancing their own and their clients’ objectives simultaneously.
These professionals are a perfect blend of people-oriented and technically savvy (if we’re within the SaaS realm). They have the capability to delve deep into issues while maintaining a high-level perspective. Their skill set includes a balance of analytical prowess and strategic thinking, and they consistently display empathy alongside revenue-focused decision-making.
In essence, the ideal CSM is a harmonious fusion of creativity and logic. This unique combination of qualities enables them to deliver outstanding customer experiences, drive business growth, and cultivate enduring client relationships.
What one piece of advice would you give to someone just starting out as a Customer Success Manager?
My advice to someone embarking on their journey as a Customer Success Manager would be to become a product expert by developing a close relationship with the product. It’s essential to truly understand the product inside and out, as this knowledge will serve as a solid foundation for your role.
Furthermore, talk to customers as much as possible to stay closely attuned to their needs. Building strong customer relationships and actively listening to their feedback is at the heart of effective Customer Success.
In addition, be flexible, curious, and embrace scrappiness. Customer Success is a dynamic field, and adaptability is key. Approach challenges with an inquisitive mindset, and don’t be afraid to get resourceful when necessary.
Remember, it’s often better to learn through your mistakes than to avoid taking risks altogether. Customer Success is a unique role in each company, and you need to immerse yourself in it, even if it means making mistakes along the way.
Focus on understanding the real needs of your clients before jumping into solutions. Clients’ needs can often run deeper than what they initially express, and some solutions may already be embedded within the product. By taking the time to uncover these underlying needs, you can provide more valuable and tailored support to your customers.
“Focus on understanding the real needs of your clients before jumping into solutions”.
Can you take us on a journey describing what your workday looks like?
My workday typically begins with the familiar ritual of grabbing a mug of coffee to kickstart my morning. I open my calendar to get a sense of what the day holds. I also take a moment to review my to-do list, which helps me set clear priorities for the day ahead.
A quick glance at my email inbox is next on the agenda. I dedicate about 10 minutes to read through the most pertinent messages, ensuring I’m updated on any critical information.
Now, the rest of my day can vary significantly depending on what’s on the agenda. Some days are filled with alignment meetings, where I’m coordinating with team members and providing training. These sessions are essential for keeping everyone on the same page and ensuring we’re all working towards our goals.
On other days, a substantial portion of my time is dedicated to building tools and processes for the team. This involves developing and refining the resources and strategies that help us deliver top-notch service to our clients.
In a nutshell, my workdays are a dynamic blend of coordination, training, and strategic work. The variety keeps things interesting, and it’s all in service of providing exceptional support to our customers.
What makes you feel inspired or motivated?
What truly inspires and motivates me is the feeling that I’m making a meaningful impact on both the organization I work for and the individuals on my team. Knowing that my efforts contribute to the success of the company and the professional growth of my colleagues is a powerful driving force for me.
Additionally, a significant source of inspiration is the desire to do things that not only make me proud but also make my children proud. Being able to set an example for them and demonstrate the value of hard work and dedication is a powerful source of motivation in my life.
Furthermore, I’m fueled by the opportunity to continually learn and grow, both personally and professionally. It’s essential for me to be on a path of continuous self-improvement and to assist others on their journeys of growth and development. This mutual process of learning and growth is what keeps me inspired and motivated each day.
What’s one thing that people are generally surprised to find out about you?
I was going to say that I am left-handed and it’s a common surprise to people but I think the winner here is my terrible singing voice! I would say it’s the winner because it also gives a lot of laughs to people whenever they hear me singing.
Who do you look up to the most?
I am inspired by my female friends. These friends are not only thriving in their professional endeavors but also offer unwavering support in my life. What truly inspires me is their ability to break free from societal stereotypes, having a clear vision and taking steps to turn it into reality. They manage to strike a remarkable balance, being exceptional mothers to their children while also being successful entrepreneurs. It’s their ability to shatter expectations and pursue their goals with determination that I find truly inspiring.
What are your top 3 priorities now?
Elevating Client Relationships: My primary focus lies in expanding our client relationships beyond the transactional. I’m steering towards fostering strategic partnerships where we function not just as service providers but as trusted business experts and consultants. Engaging in profound discussions about their goals and devising strategies to achieve them through our product is at the forefront.
Tech Stack Enhancement: A key initiative involves upgrading our tech stack to inject more oversight and automation into our team’s workflow. This enhancement is geared towards streamlining our operations, ensuring efficiency, and staying at the forefront of technological advancements in our industry.
Forward-Looking Forecasting: A significant chunk of my attention is directed towards the intriguing task of forecasting for 2024. This year, we’re trying a new approach to forecasting and goal setting.
What advice would you give to Customer Success Managers to grow and develop their careers?
If I were to give some advice to fellow Customer Success Managers looking to grow and develop their careers, I’d say this: never stop seeking opportunities for personal growth. That means diving into effective communication methods and expanding your network. Connect with others to learn about different companies and how they tackle Customer Success. The more you broaden your horizons, the more you’ll be able to enhance your career.
What’s your favorite book, and why?
It is hard to pick just one favorite book, but if I had to choose, I would say “Crucial Conversations.” It is the kind of book that I would recommend to every CSM out there. It offers practical tools for effective communication, and it is all about not dodging those tricky conflicts.
» 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’ve always been someone who sets goals and works hard to achieve them. But when it comes to having that “I’ve made it” moment, I’ve learned that it’s a bit of a moving target. Whenever I face really challenging situations, it often means I’m in a phase of rapid learning and growth. So, there have definitely been moments when I’ve felt accomplished, but I can’t imagine a life without the constant presence of challenges and new opportunities to learn.
What should I have asked you but didn’t?
What do you do to contribute back to the Customer Success community?
In the dynamic world of Customer Success, community collaboration is key. I’ve been fortunate to be part of a robust CS community in San Francisco. We had monthly meetups, open discussions, and forums—a space to freely exchange ideas and support one another.
As a CSM with a diverse professional background, I’ve had the privilege of building CS teams from the ground up multiple times. My journey in Customer Success has been fueled by the incredible support from my peers. I cherish being a resource hub. I often coach fellow CSMs on their career paths and provide guidance to companies in the early stages of establishing a CS team. Want to chat more about my journey or brainstorm solutions for your challenges and goals? Feel free to reach out—I’m here for it.
Where can people go to find out more about you?
LinkedIn is a good place to start.
Thank you, Laura, 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?