I work at Brandwatch as a Senior Customer Success Manager. Brandwatch is a Digital Consumer Intelligence platform, focusing on social and media listening. My day-to-day can range from driving engagement on our platform, but also ensuring my clients’ strategies are being met with actionable insights gleaned from the platform.
Where are your teammates located?
We’re fully dispersed across the country for the North America team, but we have a global presence.
What does your team do? What are you responsible for?
My day-to-day can range from driving engagement on our platform, but also ensuring my clients’ strategies are being met with actionable insights gleaned from the platform. I’m in charge of everything post-onboarding, including the renewal and growth.
To preface, I’m not in a leadership position, though trying to get to that point.
While there are many components, I think a large part of it is trust - but trust is a two way street. The manager needs to be able to trust that their employees are doing their work, but the IC needs to be able to count on the manager to assist in whatever ways are needed.
From a managerial standpoint, in CS, it’s not always easy to see day to day work, as many KPIs are infrequent (renewal & growth). Checking in on calendars to see if their team is having regular meetings (check ins / touch bases) and strategic meetings (EBRs, etc) is only part of the story. This leads to the importance of weekly / fortnightly 1:1. While these can absolutely be used to go over any tough or critical accounts, especially approaching renewal, these should also be used as a human to human touch point. Questions like “How are you doing?” “How are you feeling?” “What are your biggest challenges?” Things that used to be fairly easy to pick up on in an office - attitude, inflection, outlook - are much harder to notice remotely. Managers forming this level of trust with their employees, having them feel safe and comfortable in sharing these responses, is more important than ever.
Also, managers should have weekly / fortnightly team meetings - both in part to inform anything going on from a company level, but also to bring everyone together and reflect on current company events. While some people feel more comfortable sharing things on a 1:1 basis, others feel more comfortable in a group setting. This meeting is also influenced by trust, and the manager needs to show that they are “on their team’s side.” Being open about disappointments and shortcomings of the company (new benefits, lack of bonus, other roadblocks) is incredibly important in building trust. Not saying the manager needs to bash the company, but understanding that everything isn’t always perfect goes a very long way.
From an IC standpoint, each team member needs to feel that they can trust their manager. As great as it is to have managers asking to open up, if the team member does not feel comfortable in sharing, then it’s not going to make much of a difference. The IC needs to actually speak their mind, within reason, to their manager. Speaking from experience, for one reason or another, an IC might be upset - very upset - about something like their pay, not enough work-life balance, or even something in their personal life that’s interfering with their job performance. If the IC speaks up to their manager, not only is the IC “clearing the air,” the manager can collaborate with their team member to find resolution. The manager can’t help an issue if they don’t know the issue exists in the first place.
While there are obviously many, many ways to build and maintain remote culture, a lot of it boils down to trust.
Strong remote cultures are built on strong connections.
Strong connections are built with Hailey.
A lot of the above is applicable, but going the extra step, listening to the team’s interest is very important. Do they enjoy virtual happy hours or do they hate them? Very mixed reviews on this one. Do they want virtual entertainment (comedy, magician, etc)? Or would they rather invest in an in-person meet up? Many of these events perpetuate both positive or negative feelings, and each team is unique.
One other major thing that can be done is encouraging people to actually take PTO. Whether it’s unlimited or finite, making sure people are taking time off (and actually unplugging) is absolutely critical. I’m as guilty as the next when it comes to taking time off, but still checking and responding to my email, but people need to take mental health time for their own sanity. Customer Success, or really any client-facing role, is very taxing, even for the most extroverted people. Creating a culture that encourages time off, and having the rest of the team / management respect their time off and not asking for deliverables and responses, is critical for a happy, well-engaged team. Managers are responsible for instilling this by what they say and also how they act. Managers should follow their own advice and take the necessary time off, but they should also not interfere when their team members take time off.
Very similar expectations apply to regular working hours. Customer Success isn’t a 9-5 by any means, especially with fully dispersed, international teams. While there may be some very early and very late meetings from time to time, managers should encourage their team to work within a generally-defined schedule. Further, revisiting trust, managers should allow and encourage their team to do things like go for walks, take breaks, handle regular life, etc. As CS isn’t a 9-5, there are days that are long, but also inconsistent. Encouraging people to get out of the house or even meditate is very important. Also, allowing employees to schedule doctor’s appointments and other appointments without permission is also a great way to not only show that physical and mental health are always priority, but it also builds trust on both ends of the relationship.
One other major thing that can be done is encouraging people to actually take PTO. Whether it’s unlimited or finite, making sure people are taking time off (and actually unplugging) is absolutely critical. I’m as guilty as the next when it comes to taking time off, but still checking and responding to my email, but people need to take mental health time for their own sanity.
I think the biggest challenge is a lot of what I said above. While building and instilling trust among a manager and their team is of the utmost importance, it’s also much harder to do in a remote setting. The mystery of the unknown (e.g. What is my employee doing? Why are they “away”? What if they aren’t doing their job?) will always be a factor, but starting the relationship with trust, not having the team members first prove it, will go a very long way.
Weekly happy hours primarily. We’ve been trying to plan in-person retreats, but the spikes of Covid have been a blocker.
Some of the team does fantasy sports and what not, but not any active games. While this is a great idea, especially for camaraderie, some members could feel obligated to participate in this game, which could seem like an extension of work outside of work.
We often do icebreakers anytime a new member joins the team, or if an external company member joins a team meeting. We try to keep these very simple (What is your favorite movie, ice cream flavor, food, etc). Sometimes, we like to play “would you rather” games, which is always entertaining as well.
We actually don’t, but I’m pitching a platform, TrustMetryx, in the upcoming days.
Dr. Jeb S. Hurley’s Team Relationship Management: The Art of Crafting Extraordinary Teams is an incredible read. Dr. Hurley uses behavioral science as he details the importance of trust within teams.
Nils Vinje’s 30 Day Leadership Playbook is another fantastic read. He also does weekly interview podcasts centered around leadership in CS and many other functions, and all are very applicable for any team or role.
Both are incredible reads for leaders and inspiring leaders. Highly-recommend both!
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