New Year, who dis?!

Most people’s general sentiment going into 2019 and, really, any new year as it arrives is about self-reflection and improvement. We’re all too familiar with the feeling of the new year being rung in and somehow bleeding into the first 2-3 weeks of January.

Within the first few weeks of any new year, leadership teams are typically sharing the goals/MGOs they’ve spent the last few months of the prior year identifying. If they’re doing it right, it took some time for them to arrive at those goals and now it’s time to get their employees to buy in. And how does this manifest? In the form of annual kickoffs, of course!

The nice thing? It’s not something you’re going through exclusively. We’re all experiencing this together. Customer Success professionals and clients alike.

In the world of Customer Success, we know that our customers will not only be in and out office on holiday leave but also in and out of annual kick off planning sessions of their own. While we remain supportive, we know this can skew our customer agenda driven timelines.

So in the midst of all this annual kick-off madness, how do we as Customer Success professionals hold ourselves and our clients accountable toward the personal goals that we (and our customers) have set forth? There’s a number of ways! But I’m not here to deliver a one size fits all solution. What works best for you may live somewhere within a healthy combination of all the tools we’ve talked about.

CCSP Co-founders Joe, Ben, Ryan, and Gary have laid the foundation for us in terms of popular (and effective)  methods for goal setting.

Joe gave us the tools needed for goal setting with the SMART method  and Mission/Goal Objectives. Ben gave some baller pro tips on prioritization, relevance, and time-specific factors that should affect your daily and weekly goals. Ryan talked about some best practices to take in terms of holding yourself accountable to your goals when it feels like you’re getting off track and celebrating your wins (which I agree is V important!). Gary talked about the real work of holding yourself accountable to the goals that you have set.

What I’d like to present to you, are some factors to keep in mind while navigating your personal goals and how they line up against your customer’s.

But first, a glossary:

  • Assigned – professionals operating in an assigned book of business in a 1:1 relationship
  • Unassigned – professionals operating in a scale book of business in a more 1: many relationships.

Personal Goals: where do they overlap with your customer’s?

Customer Success professionals with assigned books of business and unassigned books of business alike will be spending the first few weeks of any new year trying to get their customers on the phone for quarterly business reviews and annual kick off planning. This is hard. Why?

  • Because people are out of office.
    • Assigned folks – when it comes to holidays, it’s never too early to ask your customers for a time commitment to set aside to work with you on kick off planning for the new year. Ask your customers to commit to a time in January that is reasonable and achievable for you to connect.
    • Unassigned folks: ensure your team has appropriate amounts of time reserved to field inbound customer inquiries, as well as one-to-many outreach campaigns.

Once connected…

  • Ask your customers about what goals have been set forth for them. Ask how they feel about these goals. Do the goals seem achievable? Does your customer find them relevant? This is important! You cannot successfully (or meaningfully)  lead your customer through the year if they’re working pipeline dreams and irrelevant objectives.
    • Assigned folks – if your customer is lukewarm about their goals, find out who helped them set these goals and look for a time for everyone to connect, and realign.
    • Unassigned folks – your conversations will always be on a much faster and shorter track. You may have less reserved time with any specific client to dig too deeply into the desired conversations. Be effective with your time, and ready to assert big picture ideas into a condensed timeline.

Self reflect on the intersection of you & your customers’ goals.

  • Does helping your customer achieve their goals help you achieve yours?  CS professionals in assigned and unassigned books alike will have layers of customer relationship building built into their objectives. Acknowledge and respect whether the work you are doing is helping to drive forward customer specific agendas, but also ensure they align with your org’s larger m/go.

Hold yourself, and your customers accountable.

On the note of accountability, there are several things you can always hold your customers accountable for:

  • Respect for your time. If your customers are making asks or placing time on your calendar, they should be held accountable toward holding time.
  • Effective use of your time. If your customer has any outstanding action items or homework to be done before your next meeting, effectively communicate the impact the accomplished task will have on your next conversation, and what consequences may be imposed on your joint workflow if they have not been met.

In turn, you’ll need to ensure you’re setting clear communication about the resources available to your customer as they work toward their goals.

  • Assigned folks – be upfront with your book of business in terms of what your preferred method of communication is and what your response times may look like. If they need resources from you along the journey, they should have a clear expectation of how they should be communicating their needs and how long it may take to secure their resource.
  • Unassigned folks – also, be upfront with your customer interaction in terms of what their layer of account support looks like, what the appropriate resources to reach out to are, and what the response times may look like when they reach out. Sometimes it can feel uncomfortable to communicate the lack of a dedicated layer of support, but it ultimately sets your customer up for success in terms of what they can expect when they need resources.

I hope this helps some of you to put things into perspective while kicking off your customer interactions in 2019. Keep the conversation going via Twitter with any of the CCSP Co-Founders. You can find me specifically on Twitter (which I aim to become more active on in 2019) @Jenniperr.


Jenn Arevalo is one of the co-founders of the Chicago Customer Success Podcast. She is currently a Team Lead on the Account Management team with Sprout Social.

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