Webinar Recap: What Your New CSM Hires Wish You Did (and Did Not) Include During Onboarding

Q&A Recap + Key Takeaways

The latest episode in Vitally’s “Scale or Fail” webinar series takes a deep dive into onboarding, showcasing a panel of CS leaders and practitioners from RecastSuccess, the professional training and coaching program for Customer Success career transitioners, along with BigCommerce and Culture Amp. These panelists discuss CSM onboarding from both sides, plus tips on how CS organizations can optimize and scale their onboarding process effectively.

This blog summarizes the loaded questions asked in this webinar and the memorable responses and key takeaways from this webinar’s expert panelists. 

Question 1: Best practices for helping diverse and distributed and remote teams build cohesion with new team members?

Annie Dean, Co-Founder and CEO of RecastSuccess, took on the first question in the webinar providing her recommendations on best practices. She admits she is passionate about what companies can do to better onboard their new hires and set them up with tools for success in their new role. Annie provides awesome examples of what companies can do, so we went ahead and highlighted some of those key quotes below:

Company transparency

“[Companies should be] transparent and vulnerable. [Talk] about why customers churn during that onboarding process, what didn't go well, and what could the customer success managers have done better. Make sure [new hires] understand how to tap into the resources around them and encourage them to participate even from the very beginning”

Connect on a human level

“It doesn't all have to be about work, especially when you're in a remote environment. Connect and have conversations with people about things beyond just the day-to-day.”

Question 2: What aspects of your CS tech stack have been the most challenging for new hires to get ramped up on, and how have you addressed/combated those challenges?

Customer Success Manager at CultureAmp, Luis Savery, provided insight on his onboarding experience at a company with a heavy tech stack and how it can feel overwhelming to learn all of the platforms and technologies the company is using. Luis shares some advice on how to overcome that challenge in the quotes below through prioritization and curiosity:

Prioritizing based on your role

“It can be a lot of pressure to try to learn [the company tech stack] in a few weeks, but focus on what is the priority in your role, for now, not forgetting about the rest [but rather] taking it a step at a time, week by week.”

Remain curious

“Make sure to pick people's brains in [your] organization and team [about what] made the process of adapting the different technologies [in the tech stack] a bit easier while they were onboarding.”

Question 3: What’s one onboarding activity companies should skip? What’s the most effective way for new hires to surface challenges or provide feedback throughout onboarding?

Maria Jose (MJ) Buendia, Manager, Customer Success at BigCommerce, had a very informative response on what she thought new hires could benefit from most during onboarding and how to make it an effective process for each new hire. MJ’s key takeaways:

Setting the tone

“The onboarding journey really sets the tone for the experience with the company and their success.”

Helpful onboarding activities

Effectively surfacing challenges and providing opportunities for feedback with new hires can start with “meeting leaders from all key departments [and] having the opportunity to learn and hear from their perspective on what their team does, [plus] giving a chance for new hires to ask any questions and have insight into their own world.”

Question 4: What meetings (with which teams) are the most critical during the first 30 days of new CSM onboarding? Best practices for structuring these meetings?

Director of Customer Success and Chief Talent Connector at Colorful Connections, David Brady, echoed the previous answers of expressing curiosity and ensuring as a new hire you are open to feedback or information as critical components of CSM onboarding. David discusses how important it is for a new hire to feel comfortable enough to ask difficult questions: 

Make new hires comfortable

“I think it's important to not necessarily be prescriptive as an industry best practice, but it's inviting [new hires] to ask and be comfortable asking questions.” 

Start from the beginning

“Be intentional about getting to know humans that you're interacting with and understanding their story is a great way to build long-term rapport.” 

Rapid Fire Live Q&A Recap

Question #1: Can we touch on handing over an account to CSM from tech implementation?

MJ was the first to respond, recommending that CSMs be pulled in during implementation cadences. Being a part of implementation cadences will allow the new CSM to be a part of current conversations early on, helping them learn more about the merchant and the status of that relationship with the customer, as it will help them do their job better. 

Be a fly on the wall

“Being like a fly on the wall type of thing where you get to learn a little bit more about the merchant, their current bottlenecks, if they discuss anything about what their plans are, or expansion plan and their goals.” 

Question #2: What is the best way to ramp up complex products and also balance business needs that call for a quicker ramp?

The training wheel method is the biggest recommendation from Annie for ramping up new CSMs. She goes on to say that the method requires a low enough ratio of CSMs to the managers; that way managers can provide the air cover while their new CSMs are getting up to speed. Below are the best ways to go about the training wheel method according to Annie:

Set an example

“[Focus] on showing [new hires] how to do something and have shadowing opportunities where they can be a fly on the wall. If there are complex questions that they can't answer yet, having a really good knowledge repository where they can get on-demand answers when they need them as easily as possible is also great.” 

Question #3: Any suggestions on building out your own onboarding program?

David added in a great response to this question recommending reaching out and being a part of the many different CS communities, like on LinkedIn, that are available for people in the industry.

Customer Success Community Groups

“There are so many great community groups in the CS community outside of breakouts, CS, and Recast. So many great CS communities are available to get involved in, and I find that [the Customer Success] community, in general, is beyond helpful to each other.”

Question #4: What percentage should be on-demand video content? And what percentage should be dedicated to live training? How do you decide between the two?

For Luis, he believes that onboarding can consist of a mix of both on-demand video and live training. When first onboarded at CultureAmp, he tailored his weeks to learning certain parts of the product via meetings or on-demand video. 

Learning what works best for you

“I don't want to feel like I am just looking at a video all week. That is not personally my learning style. I like to watch a video and then [ask some of my teammates],  ‘Hey, let's have a quick meeting. I got a few questions for you, and you can let me know if I'm on the right track.’” 

Final Thoughts

Episode 3 of the “Scale or Fail” webinar series from Vitally is packed with great recommendations, insightful experiences, and helpful hints for onboarding in the Customer Success Industry. This panel of CS practitioners and industry experts provided far more information not included in this blog; these are just the key takeaways from the main questions asked! So make sure you don’t miss out on those details and watch Vitally’s webinar recording today. 

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