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How to avoid burnout as a Customer Success Leader

How to avoid burnout as a Customer Success Leader

There’s no doubt that working in sales can put you in a high-pressure environment.

Plenty of companies view their sales team as their main way to generate revenue, which can put some major stress on anyone in those organizations. However, there’s another team that faces a similar level of stress: customer success (CS).

Yes, CS teams can face just as much pressure as anyone in sales. To learn more about CS and sales similarities, we talked to Gemma Cipriani-Espineira — Chili-Piper’s VP of Customer Success — on our recent Customer Engagement Lab podcast.

She offered us some great insight into the similarities of sales and CS roles and how both teams can handle the pressure they face.

Understanding the stress difference between CS and sales

The first question we asked Gemma was simple: “Why does it seem like CS teams face less stress than sales teams?” After all, both teams are integral to generating revenue for a business and keeping customers happy and engaged.

Gemma had some thoughts about that. She worked her way up from a lead generator/BDR role herself, so she’s experienced both CS and sales.

“I don’t feel that [stress] doesn’t exist in Customer Success,” she says. “There’s just as much pressure.”

– Gemma Cipriani-Espineira

In Gemma’s experience, every department is a revenue-generating department, from sales to CS to product development.

Taking away any one of these departments makes it harder for the company as a whole to succeed and meet revenue numbers.

When companies understand that everyone is involved in the revenue generation process, they are likely to give every team member target metrics and build a more well-rounded revenue approach.

“The sales teams that perform best have leadership that’s able to create that alignment,” she says. “It comes from having visibility into those  sales numbers outside the sales team, so everybody understands the  impact they have on those numbers.”

– Gemma Cipriani-Espineira

Essentially, there’s no reason that sales is fundamentally more stressful than CS. A customer success representative is just as likely to have a number they need to hit as a salesperson, even if it’s reducing churn instead of closing deals.

The best way to handle the stress of meeting the numbers in sales or CS or any other revenue operations (RevOps) department can look very similar. 

Handling stress in CS and sales

How does one begin learning how to avoid burnout as a customer success leader?

The answer to that question is just as important as preventing burnout in sales. The simplest way to avoid any kind of burnout is to understand why it’s happening.

According to Gemma, the root cause of stress in CS leaders is simple. They’re trying to help a customer achieve a specific outcome, but they just can’t figure out how to make it happen.

Whether it’s an unexpected question on a retention phone call or problems onboarding a new client, a lack of answers is still the fundamental problem.

While it’s not possible to avoid every problem in the first place, it’s still possible to protect the customer service team’s mental health.

Gemma has some advice for reducing stress, managing high-pressure situations, and avoiding employee burnout in CS and sales alike.

Encourage a Positive Mindset

“A positive mindset is totally important, I think, in any kind of fast-paced business like sales or CS,” Gemma says.

If you run into a  difficult situation, “It’s okay that you don’t have all the answers. It’s good that you’re escalating this [problem]. This is the kind of thing we need to share with other people in the business to prevent this kind of thing from happening again.”

When you have a positive mindset, you’re avoiding burnout and the work environment that leads to it.

Instead of looking at tricky situations as a roadblock, you can think of them as a chance to grow. It’s not a reflection of your value but a demonstration that your company has an opportunity to improve customer satisfaction.

That adjustment in your mindset can make all the difference in your approach to CS, now and in the future.

Embrace opportunities for growth

It’s crucial to remember that any CS department will run into new and unusual problems from time to time. Since CS is so heavily dedicated to the customer experience, it can be frustrating to run into issues that you can’t solve for them.

“The point when you feel like you want to cry because you’re really frustrated — that’s when you’re actually breaking ground and building new muscle memory.”

– Gemma Cipriani-Espineira

When you’re frustrated, it’s an opportunity to gather information and grow into your role more effectively.

Flipping your attitude toward a problem from negative to positive can help you avoid the struggles of burnout.

Instead of feeling stressed and anxious, you can get excited. You have the chance to learn new things and make your customer success team better.

Never hesitate to get help

Of course, sometimes it’s simply not possible to solve a customer’s problem alone, even for the best customer success managers (CSMs). 

That’s when it’s time to embrace the support systems and chain of command in your business and reach out to your own Gemma.

A customer success team’s well-being can be improved dramatically just by making it easier to reach out for help. 

“If a [CSM] is coming to me, it’s usually because they’ve exhausted all known routes to help that customer, and they’re out of ideas,” Gemma says.

“And at that point, it’s just a matter of reassuring that CSM. ‘Hey, it’s okay, this thing hasn’t happened before, and it’s something new we need to be prepared for.”

– Gemma Cipriani-Espineira

Whether you’re an experienced CSM or just learning the ropes, it’s always better to get help rather than sit and stew and continue to struggle to help your customer.

It saves you time and frustration, and it can help your company prepare to better help other customers in the future.

Realizing that burnout isn’t inevitable in sales or CS

Sales and CS aren’t their unique spheres anymore.

As more businesses recognize that every department is a RevOps department, it becomes more apparent that CS can be just as stressful as sales.

If you approach it with the wrong mindset, you’ll face more stress every day and risk burnout.

The reverse is also true. You can learn how to avoid burnout as a customer success leader or as a member of a sales team.

Sales and CS alike can become much less stressful if you approach them with the right mindset.

If you’re open to getting help, embracing growth opportunities, and keeping a positive attitude, you can thrive in even the highest-pressure environments.

Bethany Fagan

Bethany Fagan Senior Manager, Content Marketing at PandaDoc

Bethany is the Senior Manager, Content Marketing at PandaDoc. She has over 10 years in the sales and marketing industry and loves crafting new stories and discovering new content distribution channels. Outside of the office, she spends her time reading, working out at Orangetheory or trying a new Brooklyn brewery with her husband and two French Bulldogs, Tater Tot and Pork Chop.

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