Rants of a Customer Success Analyst: CS Analysts – We Don’t Have to be Data Scientists

April 15, 2022

Justin Garlock

Category: Customer Retention, Customer Success as a Service, Customer Success Maturity, Customer Success Strategy, Voice of the Team

The Reason

Beep. Beep. Beep.

I stand in line at my local pet supply store, a box of dog biscuits in my left hand, my wife’s hand in my right. I can see the sun setting in a fusion of yellows, oranges, and blues just outside the sliding doors that a young woman just walked through with her pearly gray, gallant pup—could be a Labrador or a Retriever. A few customers behind us, I can hear the whining of a Terrier—could be a Bulldog with maybe a little Boxer. To be honest, I’ve never been great at identifying dog breeds; you don’t need to know the breed of a puppy to know you need to pet it. Nevertheless, showing restraint, I look back at the conveyor belt a few meters in front of us, still packed with cans of cat food. This could take a while.

My eyes wander, my thoughts not far behind. They have big dog beds on sale—decent price, but I know my dog wouldn’t use it for more than a week. A man nearby is buying fish. We did that once. He has no idea how much work that’s going to be. My wife found the impulse-buying section and is looking for a new toy for our pup. They’re on sale too; let’s get two. I notice a crowd of folks over by the animal hospital corner of the store—mostly dogs, some cats. Hope they’re okay. Isn’t it a little late for a place like that to be so busy?

Beep. Beep.

How much longer is this going to take? Half of the conveyor belt is still full of cat food. I set the dog biscuits and toys on the back half of the conveyor belt and take a step to the side. Does he really have that many cats? Maybe he fosters them; that’s nice of him.

My eyes drift back over to the animal hospital. Is that? I think…I think I know that person. Yeah, I definitely do. It’s my college French professor! I haven’t seen her in at least two, maybe three years. Sure, I took French in high school, three years if memory serves, but I didn’t come out of those three years combined as fluent as I came out of the single year I spent learning from her in college. (To be fair, I was much more dedicated in college than high school, but that’s to be expected, isn’t it?) She made learning the language fun, relatable, even interesting—making it less about the language and more about the communication, the style, the history. What is she doing here? I didn’t think she lived around this area anymore. I must see how she’s doing and introduce my wife.

I wave and smile. She catches my wave and smiles big and waves back. I lean over to my wife and share my excitement. Of all the places and times, I can’t help but think how crazy and random this is. I hope her pet’s okay.

Our merchandise is being rung up now. I enter my phone number—for the rewards—and catch her eye again, gesturing to indicate we will make our way over after we finish paying. Amazing, she has her significant other with her—would love to meet him as well. He’s taller than I thought he was.

My wife grabs the bag of dog biscuits and the two toys, and we turn the corner to start walking down the aisle that leads to the animal hospital. He’s sitting down now, and she’s crouched down next to their dog. Her smile is getting bigger as we get closer, about halfway down the aisle, fifteen feet to go. Do we know each other well enough to hug? I’ll offer a handshake first and we’ll go from there. Ten feet to go as her smile gets bigger and she stands up. Why is she so tall? Five feet away. Wait a second, I don’t think…is it? It’s not. Oh no. What do I do? It’s not her. Why is she still smiling? Justin, just tell her you made a mistake—tell her you mistook her for someone else. Justin? Why are you still smiling? Why is your hand reaching out? Don’t say it…Don’t say it.

“It’s really nice to see you!”

My hand is outstretched. I can feel the blood draining from my head, my cheeks flushed. I should have just turned around. How do I get out of this? Just apologize. Tell her you made a mistake. Wait…what? Why is she shaking my hand?

“It’s really nice to see you too.”

She takes her other hand and uses it to wrap over our handshake. The double-handed clasp? This is the most genuine handshake I’ve ever received; her tone is so kind. Do I ask her how she’s doing? Does she think she knows me? This stranger’s husband is giving me the wildest side-eyes I’ve ever seen; the white of his eyes are so crisp. My wife must be so confused. After five seconds of an eternity shaking a stranger’s hand, I receive a moment of clarity; the solution becomes clear: smile, turn, and walk away.

So, I do. Thirty feet to the door. I make it about fifteen before I can’t hold in my embarrassment anymore. My wife is confused by my childish hysteria and scarlet face. The sliding doors swipe open and I walk out into the cool and freeing night, leaving behind a woman and her husband who, to this day, are likely still trying to figure out what just happened.

From afar, I was so certain I knew this stranger. I was so certain that I acted, and when I acted, I realized I was wrong. The moral of the story—things aren’t always as they seem from afar.


The Rant

Your organization is new to this whole Customer Success thing. You’re trying to figure out what to do, how to do it, who to convince, and where to start. Or maybe your organization is a bit more mature, and you’re realizing you have all this data rolling in with nothing being done with it—no action driven from the numbers—so you realize you need to either hire someone or utilize an existing resource to own this function to deliver insights. You need a Customer Success Analyst.

This is the moment, in this space between seeing and acting, where your strategy can thrive or die.

I’ve had a lot of conversations in the past few months with folks who want to learn more about the role of a Customer Success Analyst: what we do, how we think, the skills needed to be successful. In many of those conversations, the number one thing keeping people from pursuing the role is the fear of a four-letter word—code. I see job postings all the time for CS Analyst roles that include a complete list of programming languages that are required for application, with an ensemble of technologies that the applicant must have five to seven years of experience administering—all for an entry level role.

I’m only going to say this once: Customer Success Analysts DO NOT have to be Data Scientists.

Data Scientists have a specific set of technical skills that can seem very appetizing when you’re thinking about the business, specifically future state: programming and linking data sources, creating automated and live dashboards, and creating an algorithmic approach to predictive models. To be clear, I’m not suggesting that the latter skills are not desirable for the role; the truth is, employees/applicants who possess, and have experience executing on, those skills are invaluable. However, by completely focusing and impulsively acting on this desired outcome, the steps needed to get to the end state are often missed—the analytical skills and the execution of the softer skills needed for the role: storytelling, curiosity, efficiency with operational processes, and willingness to disrupt the flow by asking why and why not.


The Resolution

So, how do you know when you’ve found your unicorn?

I’ll leave you this week with my recommendations—

  1. You need someone who is comfortable with uncomfortable data, process, and workflow.
  2. You need someone who is secure learning technology stacks.
  3. You need someone who will listen, observe, and process before publishing, producing, and reporting.
  4. You need someone who can keep the thousand-foot view in mind while executing at ground level.
  5. You need someone who can tell the story.
  6. You need someone who is agile and nimble.
  7. You need someone who will always ask why.
  8. And lastly, you need someone who can use their technical and analytical expertise to complement the attributes above.

Customer Success Analysts are here to stay, and while from afar we can look like pure Data Scientists, there is a higher level of insight we can bring to the organization by mastering the soft skills to make our technical and analytical outputs more impactful, insightful, and actionable. You can choose to act on the immediate and impulsive reaction telling you that your college French teacher is standing in the animal hospital corner of your local pet supply store, ignoring all the indicators that point to the inverse—but you (and any nearby spouses) are then stuck in a situation that neither of you expected to be in, desperately searching for clarity in an impossible situation. Or, you can evaluate how your organization’s operational journey will benefit from someone with mastery of the above recommendations and react with purpose—walking through the sliding glass doors and out into the cool and freeing night.


Missed the first installment of Rants of a Customer Success Analyst last week? Go back and read! And keep an eye out for the next Reason, Rant, and Resolution next week.