Building relationships with Sprout customers can be one of the most rewarding parts of working at Sprout. No one knows that better than our Customer Success Team, a group of people dedicated to cultivating an exceptional customer experience.

Ali McAnaney, a Relationship Manager, is one of the people who can best speak to what it takes to build long-lasting relationships with Sprout customers. Since joining Team Sprout in 2014, she has been an integral part of the Success Team’s growth.

In this month’s Meet Team Sprout interview, we talked about Ali’s career path so far, the most challenging part of her job and what motivated her to run her fastest time yet.

Name: Ali McAnaney
Department: Success
Started at Sprout: August 2014

Tell me about your career path and how you got to Sprout.

I went to Middlebury College, a small liberal arts college in Vermont. After graduation, I briefly worked in recruiting before developing an interest in the technology space. I started at a company in Boston doing qualitative market research. When I moved to Chicago, I immersed myself in the Chicago tech scene and focused on finding a company where I really wanted to work. I came to Sprout, loved the vibe and have been hooked on tech ever since.

How would you describe the role of the Customer Success Team at Sprout?

The acquisition team does a great job of bringing in new customers and helping them make sure that Sprout is the right platform for their needs. From there, our team is here to enable customers to continue to be successful using the Sprout platform. We want to understand customers’ social media goals so that we can make sure they’re aware of how they can best accomplish them within our platform.

We also work with other internal teams to provide training and support. A big part of Sprout for me is that we have such a focus on customer service. We have a great Support Team, and the Success Team works with them a lot to make sure we retain customers and show them how our product is growing and evolving.

When you started at Sprout, the Customer Success Manager role was pretty new. Now you’re a Relationship Manager—how has your role evolved over time?

As our team developed and we added new roles, the CSM position became more defined. I went from managing thousands of accounts to talking regularly with a specific book of customers. After a year in that role, I moved into the Relationship Manager role, in which I work with bigger accounts and get more strategic about how they’re using Sprout.

What qualities do you think make a good Relationship Manager?

Patience, a positive attitude and good communication skills. You need to really get to know your customers and see their perspective to communicate well and set expectations.

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?

I would say the most rewarding part is when I give someone a demo of Sprout, and afterward they say something like, “Wow, this makes things so much simpler!” When people are aware of all that they have access to, they’re thrilled and they’re thankful to have someone here who can walk them through it.

Some of my accounts have been with us since 2011 and it’s really rewarding to hear them talk about how Sprout today is a completely different product that’s been able to grow with their business, too.

Have you noticed any trends in how customers use Sprout?

Our customers vary across industry and size. Once you understand a specific customer’s strategy, you can help them identify and use the features that are the most helpful for their team.

When helping customers, I try to apply observations and industry trends. For instance, I’ve noticed higher education customers really love our engagement features, especially for Instagram.

Are there any recent product updates that your customers have found most exciting?

The Instagram integration was huge. It was exciting to roll that out and continue to develop the engagement and reporting features we have. Message tagging has been very well-received from a content creation and engagement perspective. That feature is really well-rounded and I’m excited to see it continue to grow.

Anything that has surprised you the most from working at Sprout?

The loyalty people have to Sprout is amazing, not just from an internal employee perspective, but from customers and people in the Chicago tech community. I’ve made so many good friends through Sprout, and we’re all rooting for each other to succeed here and outside of work. There’s such a diverse, well-rounded team of people who work here, and their support has been incredible.

Speaking of teams, you were part of the Sprout team for the Ragnar Relay in Napa. Have you always been a runner?

I hated running for a long time, but I was always an athlete. I went to Middlebury to play softball as a pitcher, and after I graduated, I missed having a competitive, athletic outlet. I started running with a friend who had been on the track team, and I did my first half marathon in the fall of 2013 in Boston. Since then, I’ve run four more half marathons and the Ragnar. I love training for a race, putting my mind to something and having a structured training program.

Do you have a favorite memory from the trip?

My favorite part was my nine-mile run from around 11:30pm to 1:00am. It was pitch black and I was running in the middle of nowhere, wearing a headlamp and some reflectors, and I couldn’t see anything. I ran the fastest time I’ve ever run, because I was terrified! I ran so fast that my team wasn’t even at the exchange yet—but they did bring a box of pizza when they arrived, so it was worth it.

What else do you like to do outside of work?

I love all things fitness: running along the lake or trying new classes like spinning and yoga. I tutor at Mercy Home for Boys and Girls, and I love working with kids. My family is in Chicago, too, so I enjoy spending time with them.

What advice would you give to a new hire at Sprout?

I would probably say that you should immerse yourself in everything that Sprout has to offer and try to talk to as many people from different departments as you can. We all affect each other in some way, and understanding how we work as a whole is incredibly important. Understanding what everyone else is working on and what they do makes you better on your own team, and it helps you understand how to be successful in your role.