The Art of Customer Success
For many people, the term “customer success” equates to addressing complaints. It has negative connotations. But in my role as Customer Success Manager for Prisma Cloud at Palo Alto Networks, we perform true customer success functions, in that we are working to ensure that customers obtain the highest possible value from our products and services, leading to better, stronger cloud protection. I come in at the post-sale phase and help manage our relationship with the customer by assisting with the operationalisation of Prisma Cloud, helping them see value in it, and helping implement best practices in line with their business objectives.
I work in London as part of the EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Asia) region, specifically working with customers in Southern Europe — Spain, Italy, Portugal — as well as in Israel. My work involves travel about one-third to half of the time so that I can meet face to face with customers and work with them on enablement to ensure that they’re getting the most out of the products and maximising the value of their investment with us.
My path to Palo Alto Networks was untraditional. Growing up, I wasn’t an academic. Art was my thing — I love to paint and sketch — and it was something I’ve always been good at. I thought for a while that I would pursue a career in art and design, but when I wasn’t able to attend the art school I’d set my sights on, I realized university wasn’t for me. I much preferred a professional setting to an academic one. So I finished my A levels and left school at 18, then went to work for a bit in retail. Soon after, an opportunity came along to work for my friend’s dad at an IT company, and my tech career started at age 19.
When I started out, I was doing purchasing and procurement in desktop support. Because it was a small company, I was quickly promoted to head of customer support, which made me a supervisor at a very young age. That’s where I started to engage with customers more often and enjoyed it while realising that I was good at customer-facing roles. After four years, I was ready for the next level and moved to another tech company, specifically, as a service manager. After an acquisition the role was changed to customer success, but unfortunately, it fell back into service management — the focus was quite reactive and concentrated on escalation management and resolving customer issues more often than not. Whereas customer success should be very proactive and consultative. I was soon promoted to a management role, but I eventually realised I preferred delivering true customer success and wanted to focus on that.
I sought out a role with Palo Alto Networks because I had been working in Technology for quite a while and had heard a lot about its culture, its products, and the direction in which the company was headed. I had kept an eye on shares and stock prices, watched the growth of the company, and had seen how it was transitioning from traditional firewalls and physical security to the cloud, and SaaS offerings, which was all very attractive to me. Plus, I knew its leadership was strong, and I wanted to be part of a company that was continuously growing and progressing. It seemed like a really exciting place to be.
Customer Success at Palo Alto Networks is the opposite of what my prior experiences were. It’s a very positive position in that we’re not selling, per se — we’re reminding customers of the continuous value of our products and helping them to successfully obtain that value. For example, rather than talking about ticket numbers or problem cases, we’re talking about adoption, new features, giving best practice guidance, and— as the name suggests — how to achieve success with the product. Customer Success means always finding ways for customers to achieve value.
While university may be right for some people, I don’t believe it’s essential in order to work in tech, and the professional world has been an invaluable training ground for me. I’ve developed in the course of my work, facing new obstacles that create more learning. The challenges of this role have truly improved my skills in working with customers over the short time I’ve been with the company. I think my work has been helped by my artistic background, because it means I tend to think more outside the box, coming up with creative solutions and being persistent in overcoming obstacles. Palo Alto Networks is a place that appreciates an innovative approach and empowers people to offer up new ideas. I recently told my boss, I’d rather go to her with a suggestion or solution than a problem, and I feel well suited to this company because it’s a place where that is encouraged.
“Silence and invisibility go hand in hand with powerlessness.” Audre Lorde
My journey to Palo Alto Networks has been a long and winding road, and I am tremendously grateful for having had the opportunity to explore the world and different languages, cultures, and career options before I earned my MBA, spent a decade at Bain