Meet Asaff Zamir, the Customer Success achiever
By Méryl Assayag,
What a great time we had talking with Asaff Zamir, founder of the unique Customer Success Community in Israel!
“Customer success is primarily a growth engine that constantly and increasingly promotes real business value” and this is why Asaff loves his job.
We would love to hear and learn about you and your background. Could you please introduce yourself?
Sure! I entered the high-tech world 11 years ago. I started my journey in an enterprise as a Service Operations Group Manager. However, with time, I realized that I wanted to work in an environment where I could make a direct impact on the business and I felt that an enterprise ecosystem is less suitable for me. I also wanted to work in a more business oriented role and be in touch with customers.
In late 2014, I started to hear about customer success and I decided to make a move and I joined a company named Cellebrite.
Something must have gone well during the interview because they hired me to establish customer success although I had zero experience in this domain! Since then, I have worked in 3 different startups and 6 months ago, I joined Zencity.
Could you please tell us about the company you are currently working for, Zencity, and your role within it?
Zencity’s platform enables local and state governments to generate a complete feedback loop so that they can truly understand, measure, and meet the needs and priorities of all of their residents. By ensuring that government organizations have the ability to take on inclusive community engagement from all angles, in one platform, we are ensuring that community input can and will play a prevalent role in governance agnostic to time, place, project phase, or subject matter.
Many of the biggest cities in Israel are our customers and we have more than 250 customers in the US. Zencity is increasingly growing. We just reached 150 employees and we are currently hiring all over. In the Customer Services organization alone, we have 8 open positions.
What are the biggest challenges as VP of Customer Success in a startup?
As a VP, my job is to define a very clear vision and strategy on how we should engage with customers and provide exceptional customer experience, demonstrating
the highest value at the right time. In a broader perspective, the Customer Services role is enabling the company’s scale and growth.
I have to make sure that all stakeholders partner together to reach our goals. It's very important because often, the challenges come from disagreements or misconceptions about what customer success is and how it should be handled. It is my job as a VP to make sure that the inter-department collaboration is on a strategic scale.
In Zencity, we work hand in hand with all the relevant departments as one team by defining mutual goals and processes. Shared responsibilities and OKRs is, in my opinion, a key in making customer success a company state of mind.
5 years ago, you created the first and only Customer Success Community in Israel. Could you tell us more about it?
I founded this community when I started my journey in CS. I was looking for other customer success professionals to consult with and I hardly found any… that’s how I decided to create the community.
It took me almost a year to get to a situation where the community is growing organically through word of mouth. We are now 3200 members!
The essence of the community is to help those who are practicing customer success to exchange their knowledge and experience, and to find jobs.
One of my favorite ways to stay connected to the CS community is 20 min, 1:1, hour-a-week conversations with anyone who wants to chat. Recently, the majority of the discussions were about ‘’how to become a CS’’.
In 2020 and 2021, you have been named as "Customer Success Top 100 strategists”? Quite impressive! Could you please tell us what it consists of?
It is very flattering indeed to be included in such a list because you are recognized as someone who influences the CS community. I am heavily involved in the community in Israel and also working and engaging with other CS communities worldwide, doing my best to help this amazing domain evolve.
A few years ago, the idea of “customer success” wasn’t even a concern for companies. Today, you are an Academic Lecturer for one of the first courses in the world of Customer Success Management at The Academic College of Tel-Aviv-Yaffo.
How do you see the Customer Success Industry evolving in Israel in the next coming years?
Customer Success is evolving very quickly, it is emerging to be precise. I see it in the community and in companies.
It's not surprising because we see this trend over the past few years growing here and all around the world. More and more companies are realizing that retention is one of the most important growth parameters and that if they care about their growth, brand strength and evaluation, they should really take care of their customers, proactively, as a strategy and as a philosophy.
Right now, there is an inherent gap in the market. A lot of companies are hiring but can’t find the right candidates. I believe it is a gap that can be closed because a lot of the skills needed to work in CS are soft skills.
This is why I wanted to teach about customer success in the Academy because I felt that students are not getting the right tools and the right exposure to what they will be facing when they will move to the business environment. My entire presentations are in industry standards. I teach about customer success, the role of a customer success manager, how the day-to-day look like, what they are likely to face. I also do simulations of real-life situations and the students also get to meet different departments of Zencity. It’s a very practical course that aims to give practical tools.
As we hear you, we understand how passionate you are about what you do.
What is it that you love the most in what you do today?
It's a good question.
The CS profession optimizes my ability as an individual and as a leader because I always felt that CS is a mix of so many different aspects. I call it the lighthouse: CSM is someone that has to work internally with every single department and help navigate the company strategy based on a closest familiarity with the customers and market. I get the chance to make an impact on the company’s success and help customers see real value every single day. I Also got a one-of-a-kind opportunity to take an active part in shaping this domain and this is not something I take for granted. During this time I was also lucky enough to work alongside amazing people and teams. This domain is so dynamic, so diverse. I just love it!
As a customer success manager apprentice, it is a pleasure to meet you and receive all these rich insights. Would you have any tips for people wishing to work in Customer Success?
In general, I think that finding a job is a hard task because in most cases you will get more nos than yes. You need to map your own experience even if you didn't work as a CS before and try to draw lines from things that you do or did that could be relevant to a CS role.
As I said, it's mostly soft skills. You need to have high emotional intelligence. A CSM is good at talking but to the point! You need to love to develop a conversation and know how to build a relationship from scratch.
You also need to have good commercial capabilities. People who do not run away when they see numbers and contracts.
It is also essential for a CSM to have good analytical skills. You have to be able to look at data in the ecosystem and draw correct conclusions.
Finally, this is the startup world. We need to know how to move forward with uncertainty while things are imperfect and win. It is not suitable for everyone, and a positive approach is critical. Optimism combined with mental flexibility is a big plus.
Thank you Asaff for sharing your journey with us!
We wish you a lot of exciting projects ahead for you and your community!
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