S01 Ep.01: Check-box Mentality vs Value-focused mentality for Customer Success

Stephan Howsepian, Sr. Manager, AMS Customer Success, Citrix on striking a balance between a checkbox mentality and value-based mentality
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In this episode of the Launch Station, we spoke to Stephan Howsepian, who leads a team of Technical Account Managers (TAMs) at Citrix, delivering premium Customer Success Services to its high-profile customers. In his current role, he is responsible for continuous innovation and the improvement of Citrix’s global service delivery practices including key performance measures, operational targets, and the professional development of his team of TAMs. 

In this episode, you’ll hear him answer questions on:

  • What a Customer Success Manager should focus on 
  • The best way for a CSM to support clients
  • The ideal attributes and skills Customer Success orioles
  • Advice for people in Customer Success

…and more.

Summary and Takeaways 

Our conversation with Stephan left us with some great insights on how CS teams can strike a balance between Check-box Mentality vs Value-focused mentality by 

  • hiring the right people 
  • focusing on clear communication, and 
  • staying open and flexible to change 

Here are some of the other takeaways from this session:

  1. Customer success is about showing up and supporting the team: It needs team members who are focused on owning this specialization within their teams
  2. Understand before being understood: All customers are different, with unique needs, journeys, aspirations, and objectives. Focus on understanding where they are, why they are where they are, where they want to get to, and why they want to get there.
  3. Adopt a flexible attitude: While playbooks and templates are helpful, most plans should be dynamic, allowing teams to pick and choose what works in their specific context. 

Ensure that all members of the CS team understand why the checklists are created, so they are equipped to use their discretion based on the unique needs of the customer.  

  1. Empower your customers: Help customers think about how to think, how to solve problems so that your CS team can go on to expanding their subject matter expertise on the next set of solutions. 
  2.  Skill sets in a Customer Success team: 

A good CSM team is a combination of business acumen, technical expertise, and project management.  

  • A good fit for people with consulting backgrounds as they can balance customer/relationship management and subject matter/technical expertise 
  • Many organizations have two teams, one for managing the customer and another with the technical expertise that can be brought in when needed 
  • A CS leader should be someone who enjoys interacting with not just the customer, but also other teams at their end — to better orchestrate the master plan and understanding how each team fits in the larger goal at the customer end and your end 

  1. Evolution of CS roles: At Citrix, Customer Success grew out of necessity given the various departments and functions. As a result, the customer success approach has evolved to one where the customer has full awareness of all the options available to them, so that they are proposed the right things at the right time. This way, at Citrix’s end, they are not selling what customers may need, but actually need — this way, the sales team has a qualified lead. 

  1. Advice to CS managers working with large enterprise clients: 
  • Understand that each customer is different. 
  • Remember a plan is a plan until it changes; focus on being agile and responding to the needs of the customer. 
  • Focus on being the only one that does what you do 
  • Play to your strengths: Don’t be focused on what others are doing. Don’t take for granted whatever you’ve learned, it is unique and only what you could have learned through your experience with large customers. 

  1. Approach to working with high-profile enterprise clients: 

The CSM team’s portfolio at Citrix is built out considering the different sizes and the financial investment different customers make. A couple of guiding ideas:

  • A focus on equity, not equality
  • Understanding when customers need support and managing a CSM’s portfolio taking this into consideration

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