Today we meet Graham Gill, a CS leader and a dad.
Which company do you/did you most recently work for?
How long have you been in the Customer Success field
Can you tell me a bit about your journey to Customer Success? Did your education/life experience play a part in that?
I sort of fell into customer success by opening my mouth one day. I had built the product marketing function, so providing air coverage for sales. Then I build the sales engineering group to take that material and to work with sales to land clients and then I noticed these clients kind of ended up in some form of support. But who was looking after them? There was a small team of one plus a couple support folks that really didn't have any oversight. I raise my hand and said I'd like to try this thing called customer success and form a team to handle our customers. From there, I went on to grow multiple teams in different industries.
What is one important lesson you've learned from your time in Customer Success?
It's not so much what I learned about my time in customer success, but more a lesson in life, and that is to be transparent and they give as much information as you can. I think the lesson that I apply even to this day I actually learned from being a product manager, and that is every person should expect one of four answers to a question: Yes-Now, Yes-Later, No-Never, No-Not Now. If you can answer one of those questions, at least your clients will understand where you are coming from. They may wanna debate it and they can but at least they understand where you stand. It removes the ambiguity that we often see breaking down communications and relationships.
What advice/tips would you give someone trying to break into Customer Success?
Great question. I guess it depends on what they have done before. I'd actually advise going off and doing something else first if you are early in your career. For me a lot of the skills that I use today in my role I got through real world experience in other roles outside of customer success. That is why I truly believe the best customer success managers are not 'booksmart', but 'streetsmart' getting real world experience and getting out of touch situations along the way.
Is there anything about the Customer Success industry that you'd like to see change?
Yes, I touched on it briefly. Less discussion about the journey mapping, save plays, and all that stuff that feels rinse and repeat. CS is about navigating real-world situation experiences. I don't see that being discussed enough. There is a lot of fluff that sends the wrong message. Also, you need to be tied to revenue or your expendable. We saw that in the aftermath of COVID and we are seeing it now with the recession. You have to be seen as not just an advocate but as driving or retaining real dollars.
In this section we want to learn about you the person, not the CSM.
What are passionate about aside from Customer Success?
My Family. I also coach girls hockey. It is pretty cool to see the kids use the sport as a vehicle to open doors.
What is your favorite quote/saying
I don't have one specific go-to quote. I think there are a lot of great quotes for whatever moment you are in. I have been reading and listing a lot about military organizational theory lately and came across this one the other day that I wrote down: "There's likely a place in paradise for people who tried hard, but what really matters is succeeding. If that requires you to change, that's your mission." - General Stanley McChrystal, U.S. Army Retired
How do you stay motivated when things get hard?
I don't often lack motivation. When times get tough, I'll take a break and work on something else. Whether it's picking up some piece of technology on my desk, hitting the gym, basically anything to clear my mind that usually recharges me. Or I'll try to write. Now that frustrates me. I'm a failed writer. After a couple minutes of that, I'll go back to whatever the challenge was.
Thank you to Graham for giving us some of his time.
You can connect with Graham on LinkedIn here
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