Tell us something fun about yourself.
My name’s Sara LaBlance and I work in Customer Success remotely, based out of South-Western Ontario. I’m currently working on obtaining my MBA (also remotely) with a specialization in Data Analytics Leadership. I am a big fan of true crime podcasts and a lover of all things outdoorsy. I’m currently reading all the books I can get my hands on with CS, personal development, and fictional dramas in the mix. I love to travel, with my favorite trips so far being Croatia and Switzerland.
What book, podcast, or influencer do you recommend checking out?
I always highly recommend the book “The Customer Success Professional’s Handbook” by Ashvin Vaidyanathan and Ruben Rabago. There is so much incredible content and it’s a beneficial read for CS professionals at any level, providing relevant introductions to CS practices for newbies and steps to improve for seasoned vets.
For influencers, I would recommend Ashna Patel. Ashna’s content is such a perfect blend of CS advice, book and podcast recommendations, events, and even a book club! She really does it all.
What is the one tech tool you can't live without?
I am officially Gainsight’s #1 fan. I came from a CS role in a company that was much earlier in the scaling journey than my current employer, so I was tracking everything manually. I love that Gainsight is a platform that provides a holistic view of a customer with visibility for my entire team. I can track everything from action items, and meeting notes, to friction points and health scores. My type A heart sings every time I get to use Gainsight. It has made my life so much easier. My boss has joked that if Gainsight ever offered me a job, they would lose me as part of the team in a heartbeat!
If you could go back in time, what would you tell yourself as a new CSM?
In my first CS role, I was extremely uncomfortable on client calls. Not because I was uncomfortable talking to customers, or presenting, I’ve always been good at that, but because I felt like I had to know everything. I was so nervous that they would ask a question that I wouldn’t have the answer to. I would tell myself as a new CSM that you don’t need to know everything in order to be confident. In fact, you will never know everything, especially in the ever-changing world of tech.
It’s so important that you are confident when speaking with your customers so that they know they are in good hands. Get comfortable saying “let me look into that for you” and following up.
How can those looking to break into CS get started?
Thankfully for CS newbies, the field is generally filled with very outgoing and friendly people (it’s almost a job requirement), so there is no shortage of people willing to talk to you about customer success! There are so many great spaces here on LinkedIn to get involved in the CS community, events to attend (like the CS Insider Speed Mixers), and incredible people to connect with. I would recommend taking advantage of these opportunities and reaching out to someone you admire on LinkedIn.
I would also recommend conducting an honest review of your skills. There are so many transferable skills from other roles. For areas you are lacking, there are a ton of great resources online to learn more. I would highly recommend learning the customer success lingo so you sound like you know what you’re talking about (even if it doesn’t always feel that way).
And most importantly, fake it til you make it! Confidence is so important in this space, but it’s hard to get there when you lack experience. Demonstrate confidence and I promise, with time, you will feel confident. Virtually none of my CS friends started out intending to be in this space. We are a group with diverse backgrounds; former teachers, paramedics, support technicians, healthcare workers, you name it! There’s room for so many new perspectives.
What’s something you recently learned the hard way?
I recently learned how much impact a negative environment has on your self-confidence and your work output. Prior to my current role, I was very briefly a part of an organization that was definitely not the right fit for me. The role was customer success in name, but primarily consisted of admin and support work and involved lots of micro-managing. I was a little bit hesitant to leave, because of how it would look to leave the role so soon, but I just really didn’t feel like myself.
My heart really wasn’t in it and transitioning to my current role has made a world of difference. I have the resources and mentorship I have craved in my career for so long and feel so much more excited about the work I am doing and the team I am a part of.