I’m the Vice President of Customer Success at ESG, the Customer-Success-as-a-Service company. The company is headquartered in Denver, Colorado and my role is multi-faceted.
Much of my time is spent in conversation with executive clients and with low funnel prospects, while a good chunk of it is spent on helping to improve the company’s services and processes, and the rest is spent on studying the market and educating it about Customer Success principles and practices and how the business function should serve as both a catalyst and cipher for transformative change.
We asked Peter 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
Tell us about your career path?
Looking back over 30 years, I see that I always had a strong affinity for customers. As far back as the 1990s, working as a technical analyst and coder in IT for three companies in that decade – a railroad, a telecommunications company, and a national retailer – I was always curious and fascinated with how the applications we built and maintained were able to run businesses that delivered distinct value for customers.
Even when I was a Sales Engineer with BMC Software in the first decade of this century, I developed a solid reputation with prospects and customers as a business thinker who successfully matched customer needs to my employer’s capabilities. Probably the pivotal moment for my career during those years was when I took the initiative to research and write a customer-facing (long) white paper that provided tips for how to derive value from one of the middleware products.
That activity brought me into the international spotlight for the company and I was invited to visit customers around the globe to offer deep guidance for how to maximize their use of the product. It was also during those years I was invited to join the management team and be responsible for all the sales engineers across the country.
That position afforded me the opportunity to meet with many other parts of the business, especially Product Engineering and Support. Through those many experiences, I made the decision to move into the world of Support as the Director of Premier Support. It was in that position, in 2009, that I had my first exposure to what later became more widely known as Customer Success.
We created a fee-based service that essentially did the same thing and was mildly successful in securing customers in the financial services industry in New York City. The 2009 banking crisis blew it all up, along with my tenure in the role (team disbanded) and I moved to another company.
Eventually, I made my way to Eloqua, a late-stage marketing automation start-up, and was hired as the Director of Premier Support. It was there that I truly learned about Customer Success.
All the right elements were in place at that company. Executive belief and endorsement, a culture that revolved around the customer, and a collaborative spirit that percolated throughout the company.
How did you join Customer Success?
While at Eloqua and before it was acquired by Oracle, I was recruited in 2013 by my former employer, BMC Software, to head up the Americas for Customer Success. It was there that I worked closely with Bain & Co and Waterstone (another consulting company) and they helped me to establish a modern customer success practice, one built for scale and with an automation and digital-first approach.
I eventually left and joined TSIA as their first VP of Customer Success research. That role exposed me to a great community of thinkers and senior leaders and eventually, I was recruited by Oracle to be a Transformation Advisor.
With each role over the last 20 years, I’ve gained confidence in my ability to share what I learn and see, and I feel fortunate that I’ve been granted the opportunities (dating back to 2005) to speak on podcasts and webinars, and on stage at conferences, on a regular basis.
How would you describe the ideal CSM candidate?
Curious, open-minded, proactively communicative, respectful, people-oriented, courageous, technology-aware, business-focused, and interested in a variety of subjects from around the world.
You asked for my ideal candidate. 😊
What one piece of advice would you give to someone just starting out as a Customer Success Manager?
Understand that the key to Customer Success is the first word. Success only comes after you take a series of steps, and the first is when you seriously think about the customer and their goals. You won’t be able to do that unless you are genuinely interested in their business and what they hope to do. 🙂
Success only comes after you take a series of steps, and the first is when you seriously think about the customer and their goals.
Can you take us on a journey describing what your workday looks like?
It starts early around 6 am. After reviewing my calendar items, I read all kinds of information sources. I’ve spent years curating a pretty solid list of news journals and business/industry publications that drop items into my inbox overnight.
I also scan Twitter, which I’ve spent years curating (and so I don’t see the garbage that people complain about). That platform provides me with a wealth of information that helps set me up for the day. I’ll also listen to a podcast or two.
My formal workday begins, and meetings follow, mostly internal ones with project teams assigned to various clients, or with colleagues on a 1:1 basis. But I also have quite a few external meetings on my calendar each day and not just with clients. I also meet with people in business, people in my network, people I mentor and have been mentoring for years.
In between the meetings, I try to focus on completing my own deliverables that are usually presentations or email communications for clients and prospects, or presentations for upcoming industry speaking events I’ve been invited to. I also have to regularly set time aside to write my monthly article that appears on the ESG website or to join webinars and podcasts hosted by other companies that have invited me as a guest speaker.
Finally, as time permits, I attend online industry webinars (usually MIT) and in-person monthly seminars at the University of Toronto’s Rotman business school.
What makes you feel inspired or motivated?
My wife and my life. I’m an optimistic person (I blame my dad for that characteristic) and so I am almost never down. I believe in the essential goodness of humans, despite many examples that should call that into question.
I’m inspired by new knowledge and the opportunity to share it with others. Throughout my career in management, I’ve always strived to be the best educational leader an individual has ever reported to, and that in itself is a good motivator for me.
What’s one thing that people are generally surprised to find out about you?
That I’m Canadian and have always lived in Toronto for my entire adult life.
Who do you look up to the most?
My dad. He died 33 years ago and he’s still the most principled and easy-going person I’ve ever known.
What are your top 3 priorities now?
Help ESG expand the business. The goals are aggressive, but I believe fully in them.
Help grow the skills and capabilities of the ESG team. I have a vision for the company that is going to require our people to elevate themselves to a new plane. They find it exciting, as do I, and I’m positive it’ll happen.
Expand my industry presence with more writing and speaking.
What advice would you give to Customer Success Managers to grow and develop their careers?
More reading and less creation of personal videos about themself. Spend time learning instead of preaching. 🙂
What’s your favorite book, and why?
Have you had your “I’ve made it” moment yet?
I thought I did but it didn’t turn out well. It taught me to not be too prideful. 🙂
What should I have asked you but didn’t?
Why do you love dogs so much? I know you didn’t mean something personal but it’s important to know that I do and it’s because I think of dogs as pure beings.
What should you have asked? Where did you go to school and why does Peter Armaly think that’s the last thing anyone should care about someone else in the world of business?
Where can people go to find out more about you?
I’d be thrilled to connect and engage with people
Thank you, Peter, 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?