WEBINAR REPLAY

THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY OF SCALING YOUR CUSTOMER SUCCESS TEAM

Erika Childers:

Hi everyone and happy Tuesday. Welcome to today’s webinar with UserIQ, “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Scaling Your Customer Success Team. I’m really excited about the content that we have today and the panelists that we’re working with. They’re going to share some lessons learned from their experience and scaling their own organizations.

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Erika Childers:

But today we’re going to cover a few different topics. So the first one is how to know that you’re ready to start scaling your CS organization and what are some of the signs that you can look forward to know that you’re ready, and what are some of the things that you can do to be proactive about scaling. And our panelists are going to share some practical advice for overcoming some scalability challenges. But first just want to share a few housekeeping items. So the webinar is being recorded and we will send out the slides and the recording after the webinar.

You can keep an eye out in your inbox with that tomorrow. We’ll also have a short question and answer at the end of the webinar today. So if you have questions for our panelists, if you want to know more about them, where you want to know more about their experience or any of the topics that we’re going to cover today, you can send those into the organizer. You can chat them in your chat panel or in the questions pane over in your GoTo Webinar panel. With that, let’s get started.

So, hi, I’m Erika Childers. I’m going to be your moderator today. I’m the Content Marketing Manager at UserIQ. If you’re not familiar with UserIQ, we help businesses realize the full value of customer success. We equip teams with the product data, customer insights and user engagement tools that they need in order to help them fight, churn, grow their accounts, and truly align the entire business around the needs of their users.

But we have three fantastic panelists with us today. Our first panelist is Laura Kightlinger. Laura is the Director of Customer Success for EMEA at Seismic Software. She’s responsible for starting and completely scaling the Customer Success Management Team there for the region and really with that focus on customer adoption and retention. Before she was at Seismic, she spent three years at Qubit where she started the customer success team there. And she grew that from its very inception all the way up to 15 team members globally. She was also implementing systems and processes that really focus on account management and renewals. She’s also held roles in business operations and finance at Docusign, Google, and General Mills. She has her MBA in BA and a BS in Accounting from Purdue. Laura, are you there?

Laura Kightlinger:

I’m here. Thanks.

Erika Childers:

Hey, good to have you. So something that I like to do is when we first get started, I want to just kind of set a level setting question to kind of understand why you’re here and what makes you such a great resource on a topic like this. So I want him to understand, Laura, if you can start us off, what are some of the first signs that you notice in your career when it comes to knowing if your customer success team is scalable?

Laura Kightlinger:

Yeah, that’s a really good question. I think it’s a mix for me of different metrics as well as still listening to that direct customer feedback. So from a metrics perspective, thinking about things like churn or if you’re starting to see an increase in churn, um, decrease in adoption. Maybe some negative trends in a customer satisfaction rating that you use, whether that’s NPS or something else. And then also you always know who some of your trusted clients are; who’s voices are pretty reliable for level setting. And if you start hearing some mumblings of feeling like we’re not getting the attention we used to are really struggling to drive value now, the combination of those two things are usually a good sign that you may need to revise how you’re working as a CSM team.

Erika Childers:

Great. I think those are really good points. Thanks Laura. I’m excited to have you. Our next panelist is Erica Putinsky. She is the VP of Customer Success at WhatCounts. Erica has a really sharp eye for keeping an eye on efficiencies and really streamlining cross functional collaborations and she sources secures and sustains the high impact partnerships that really generate buzz for her clients. She brings many years of experience producing project management solutions for her clients. And that’s everything from the center of a natural disaster all the way into the boardrooms of various Fortune 500 companies. She has an intuitive ability to identify problems and produce results for her clients. And that’s ultimately what helps her drive a successful outcomes for our customers. Erica, are you there?

Erica Putinsky:

I am.

Erika Childers:

Hey, good to have you. So I’m going to ask you to do the same question with you today that we just covered with Laura. What are some of those first signs that you noticed when your customer success team is ready to scale?

Erica Putinsky:

Yeah. You know, for us, one of the things, we really maintain a tight alliance with our sales team. So whenever our sales team obviously is growing the customer base, then uh, we want to make sure that we’re scaling up our customer success team. It’s important for us to stay lean but also to make sure that we’re supporting our enterprise customers in our larger customers that the sales team is bringing on. We also use as an indicator for scaling out if we’re increasing our product offering. So whenever we’re doing unique things and we need to dig in a little bit more from a training or support perspective, uh, we definitely think about scaling up. The CSMS are actually, you know, kind of reducing the number of customers that they’re serving, which then leads to more a CSM that we need. Uh, we also do a similar to what Laura was saying, talk to those customers. So we do deep account reviews, ask them questions, see how they’re feeling, and then I’m understand when it’s time to get more folks on the front line

Erika Childers:

Awesome. It seems like a good, almost a real time sort of approach to scalability. I think that’s awesome. Thank you for being here.Our next panelist is Kim Rose. She is the VP of Customer Success and Support at Buildium. She’s an established customer success executive with more than 15 years of experience under her belt. Really building and scaling customer focused organizations at different SaaS companies. She takes the humans first approach, which I think is really interesting. And that’s helped her transform more of a traditional service component. I’m going to absorb an organization to be more clear and distinctive market differentiator. She’s a pioneer in this really quickly growing space. She’s proven that relationship driven model really drives a focus on the customer, on the success of the customer and that helps lead to rapid and efficient scalability. She’s led teams that industry leading companies in the Boston area, including Carbonite and most recently Buildium, where she currently leads the success organization. Kim, are you there?

Kim Rose:

I am.

Erika Childers:

Hi. It’s nice to have you. So question for you. So how do you know when it’s the right time to scale? What has your experience told you about this?

Kim Rose:

Yeah. For us, we have a couple of different signals here. We’ve built a team relatively systematically where we started slowly with just a couple of people. We made sure we established processes and metrics to measure success and then used those leading indicators to make decisions on how and when to scale. Some of the leading indicators on there, you know, for, to sort of on two different fronts. One is when do we think we’re losing touch with our customers? Meaning there’s, there’s, uh, you know, we just don’t have the bandwidth to cover the customer base and that’s, you know, overdo reviews or, you know, just out of, because feeling out of sync or out of contact with those, that customer feedback a much like Laura and Erica said. The other inflection point is when we started to mark uccess of the team and really reducing churn and I’m driving engaged customers, then we’ve made decisions to scale because we wanted to further expand the success and reach of the team. So, you know, again, just like everyone said, looking at metrics, establishing processes and then making decisions when it’s the right time to grow the team.

Erika Childers:

Awesome. I think that’s a great way to sum it up and we’ll dig in a little bit more on some of what those metrics are, and what types of processes you need to have in place. But thank you, Kim for being here. I’m really excited to dig in. Sure. All right, so let’s get to the content. This is why we’re here today. So for our first question, gain, like it just mentioned, what are some of the or strategies that you need to have in place to ensure that your team can effectively scale and that that process is a smooth process? So Kim, I’m going to start with you on this one because we just kind of talked about it. What are some of the processes and strategies that you know you need to have in place so you can scale your team?

Kim Rose:

Yeah, absolutely. So, I mean, first and foremost, having repeatable processes, is the key because if you don’t, I think you can quickly get into a lot of challenges where people are just not working efficiently or not working together well. And for us it’s really about documenting those processes. So documenting playbooks, I’m starting to understand how our organization and the process that our CF team is going about. Working with our customers is repeatable, is designed around the customer outcomes, and understanding the various customer journeys and how the different outcomes effect what they might need from a support standpoint and it’s assessed standpoint, and really understanding to Erica’s point at the handoff and the cross functional alignment with sales. As long as that handoff is smooth, then you ensure scaling will be smooth. For us, the other thing that was important was understanding who the right hire might be and what a customer success manager look like for Buildium.

And, and you know, that’s really important to understand as you ensure that your team can scale smoothly. For us, there’s a strong combination of, you know, customer empathy. Empathy is big for us and, and customer centricity is big for us. Obviously there’s a sales acumen component to a CSM role. And you know, I think it goes without saying, there’s an element of personal resilience that’s kind of needed in a CSM. And so identifying that up front and, and kind of putting that into the process allows you to have a smooth scaling of the team.

Erika Childers:

I love this one. Two sides of that are really focusing on customers. So the processes and strategies that we’ve put in place are certainly for internal use and helps us keep smoothly thinking about how that impacts our customers. And the other side of that, which I didn’t even think about when I first thought thought about this question, but around who’s the right hire, how do you make sure that you have the right people on the right seat? On the right bus, making sure that everyone’s kind of doing the right things, even if you don’t necessarily have all your processes and strategies in place, really understanding who is your ideal candidate for your higher. I think that’s great. Thanks, Kim.

Kim Rose:

Sure.

Erika Childers:

So Erica, what about you on this one? What are some of those foundational sort of pieces that you needed to have in place in order to scale your cs organization?

Erica Putinsky:

Yeah, you know, I definitely agree that, having the right people in the right seat is very key with your CSM. But we also kind of flip it on its head and it’s important for us to have the right customer working with us. So for us, we spent a lot of time with our product team really talking through sort of where they want to take the product and what they see as a successful product. Then we layer that on top of our customers who are really performing well. You know, they’re not necessarily the happiest ones all the time or something like that, but they are the folks that are asking questions. They’re spoken there, folks that are challenging us and helping us to make the product smarter. So in doing that, it gives us the opportunity to really think about how we can continue to grow what we’re doing and then we can continue to have a great psms on the front lines and helping.

Another thing that we really rely on strongly is great onboarding. It starts with sales. So sales has to give us that nice passover, and have explained everything to the customer and that kind of thing. But we want to make sure from an onboarding perspective, we take folks through the full spectrum so they understand the product, they understand what they need to do to be successful, and they understand how a CSM and the interaction with those CSMs can help make them even more successful. And then I would say the third thing is we really work to make sure that everyone’s defined success in the same way. So from our president to our COO, to even the people in finance, we’re all on the same page. And this is what success means for our organization. And we’ve got metrics around it. So the way the CSM’s are working with our customers and keeping turns down is clear and evident to everybody. So that helps everyone feel comfortable and assures that as we’re scaling it can be smooth and folks, you know, feel supported and engaged.

Erika Childers:

That’s great. So that’s a few different things that I think are all really important. So not just like Kim mentioned, you know, you also, you do have to have the right people in the right seats but that also includes your customers, making sure that they are going to find the success that you aim to deliver for them. Making sure that onboarding is great UserIQ here, this is something that we talk about a lot and we think about a lot. Onboarding is such a critical step in customer success. It really can’t be skipped and I love that. That’s a critical process for you Erica. And then the other one really talking about making sure alignment, right? Like alignment across your entire organization, which I hope we can spend some time really digging into that in a little bit because alignment is not something that’s easy to do. But definitely something that is so required for your customer success team to be successful and to scale properly. Thanks Erica. And Laura, what are some of the key processes or strategies that you’ve needed to have in place to make sure that your team is ready to scale? And that they have the resources that they need?

Laura Putinsky:

Yeah, absolutely agree with what’s been said. I think one of the big ones for me kind of continues to build on some of these points around having boundaries around what the CSM role is. So that kind of goes along with having the metrics, but you know, if you’re going to define the right hire, really knowing what are those key responsibilities and having the alignment across the whole company for that. Because the CSM role is so key. It kind of, I always think of it as sort of sitting in the center with the customer and all of the other aspects of the company kind of revolve around that because the customer needs to be at the heart and CSM represents that internally and those lines can get blurry very quickly. And I don’t want my CSMs trying to fix the product just because they need to retain that customer. We need buy-in that their role is to go talk to product about the feedback that’s being had in product that needs to take it further, for example.

So if that’s well defined, I think that really helps. And then also gives the CSM’s clear remit on what they should be handling versus kind of flagging or communicating across the organization. The other big thing for me is having operational help within the teams. So sales operations is a very well defined function. Most sales teams wouldn’t try to scale without someone in a role like that. And I think in CS, that’s equally as important. So particularly as I was growing the team at Qubit, I did have someone who is a huge help with this and helping build out the systems to work for the team. Look at compensation and flex those things as we were growing and adapting with the business was critical to our team’s success.

Erika Childers:

I love it. I particularly love what you said earlier about customer success being like this center of, of all the other things in the business, right? So everyone in the business needs that, that kind of access to the customer and vice versa. The customer needs to have access to the rest of the business in different ways and customer success. We kind of say that here at UserIQ, like customer success is like the window into the user, right? Like they have to be able to understand everything about the user and be able to communicate those issues or successes with others in the organization. That’s awesome. And then I love what you mentioned about CS Ops — could not agree more. I know that I’m in marketing, we have marketing and sales ops, a professional on our team.

I don’t know how people get through without the CFO and operations person, especially when you’re at a place where you’re scaling and you have lots of different systems, you have different strategies and processes and people, all those things in place. Really someone who can kind of like hone all of those things together and make sure that it’s effective at each stage. Awesome. Thank you, Laura. Right. So for our next question, we kind of wanted to chat through what are some of the setbacks that companies can experience. So if you’re not able to successfully scale your customer success or what’s going to happen, Laura, I’m going to start with you on this one. What are some of the setbacks you’ve run into when you haven’t been able to scale your customer success team and what was that impact like on the, on the company at the time?

Laura Kightlinger:

Yeah, I think about this broadly in two buckets. The first one probably probably being the very obvious one of revenue impact. So often, you’ll start to see increased churn or just unrevised expansion. So you just can’t get customers to that point where they want to buy more. And most companies these days are doing more of a land and expand or you know, a good portion of revenue needs to come from the install base. And so you put that at risk if you aren’t scaling effectively. And also another piece of the revenue hustle is potential loss of future revenue from reputational risks. So if customers really start to have challenges working with you or not feeling like they can be successful because you don’t have the resources to help them, that spreads in the market pretty quickly. And so that may even impact future sales.

The other setback is not being able to effectively close that product feedback loop. So like we are just saying like, customer success is often the window for the rest of the company into the customer base. And in one of the keys for that, especially in a growing and scaling business is that we’re continually getting feedback back to product to be able to iterate, make sure that we’re staying relevant in the market and if customer successes and scaling and doing that, it’s hard for the product team as well. They obviously have other obligations and so you tend to lose that and kind of put that product market fit at risk.

Erika Childers:

Those are great ones. Obviously the revenue impact is huge if you’re a CS team, where it needs to be in terms of how it’s scaled. If people are at their capacity and you’re losing customers, you have unhappy customers, that kind of impacts everything, right? It impacts how they experience their product and then you can’t close that feedback loop so you’re not able to get them at a better place. And it kind of, all of this like revolving sort of circle around, you’re not scaling properly or you’re definitely going to run into issues across the board. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Kim, so we had chatted a little bit about this previously and you mentioned kind of how customer success teams can get a little bit separated from the customer if they’re not able to scale properly. And you mentioned like the customer success team really becoming overburdened. Can you expand on that just a little bit more? Like what happens when your CS team is just overburdened because you’re not able to scale?

Kim Rose:

Yeah, absolutely. It’s building on a lot of what Laura said, but um, there’s, there’s a couple of different things. I think when the CS team is max capacity, I think there is a tendency to really listen to the squeaky wheel. And in doing s, you run the risk of not just becoming disconnected from product because you don’t have the capacity to close the feedback loop, but really listening potentially to the wrong things and reacting to the wrong thing because I’m, the squeaky wheels are getting your attention and that not might not necessarily be representative of what’s needed by the whole customer base. So I think that’s definitely a risk that when the team is feeling maxed, it’s really hard not listen to customers who are in distress or who are having a problem.

So it adds to another setback which, um, which is a burnout on the CS team side. So sort of taking the conversation and flipping it internally and saying, okay, like that, you know, I talked about a little bit about personal resilience, resilience and in terms of hiring quality. But if you have a maxed out team and they are spending the vast majority of their time listening to CS or, or working with customers who are having challenges for one reason or another. And again, our customer is our property managers or party property managers and their lives are chaotic and their lives are really, really busy. And there’s a lot going into it. So some of the conversations, are difficult to handle or emotionally draining. And so you know, I think that plays into a real setback for the organization. There are morale challenges you can have. It really does take a lot out of the team. So keeping the team scaled appropriately, um, is not only better for the customers, but it’s better for the employees, which ultimately needs to be better for the customer has it’s sort of that cycle.

Erika Childers:

Yeah. I love that you called that out. So yes, burnout, I’ve been reading so many articles recently on the impact of being in customer success and how quickly you can burn out and if it’s, especially if you’re not able to scale your team or your customers are continually having challenges with your product or, or with your brand or whatever it may be, it is that vicious cycle. It’s kind of hard to get out of that and bring your customer success team back down and make sure that they are able to smooth out that burnout, but they’re feeling it because it is emotionally draining. Um, I think that’s such an interesting topic. Hopefully we can do, maybe we can do a webinars and things on that in the future. But yes, burnout, I know that, you know, it’s emotionally draining job, there’s a lot of high, high stakes. So yeah, definitely thinking about scaling your customer success team, not just to benefit the customer and, and benefit the company as a whole, but like you mentioned, benefit your internal employees so that they can benefit your customer, which benefits your business as a whole. I love it. And Erica, so what about you? What is the impact when a CS team just can’t be properly scaled? What happens to an organization?

Erica Putinsky:

Yeah, absolutely. You know, I think Laura kind of touched on that firefighter mentality that folks, you know, they’re kind of going after the hot issue. And then Kim touched on you know, burnout. I think also a sort of a secondary thing that we see whenever we’re not scaling properly is we don’t have time for our CSM to actually look elsewhere in the marketplace. So what counselor, email service provider and more deeply in digital marketing. So if our folks aren’t able to go out and understand what’s happening, what’s trending in marketing and digital and that kind of thing, then it makes it harder for them to work with the customers to truly think about product market fit so they’re not being able to kind of think big picture and then bring those great ideas back to products that, you know, our customers might halfway, you know, they know they want to do something but they’re not quite sure.

So if they don’t have that time and space to research and understand, then they can’t help make the product that much better. Um, and then I would say secondarily, another, a challenge that we see when we’re not scaling is our CSM. They can get overburdened and know, and we touched on it with burnout, it sort of creates that opportunity where they can’t find tune the customer issues. So they get a little overwhelmed and um, they can’t sort of pull out the actual issue just because they’re so, so busy. So whenever we have that opportunity to scale, I think part of it is also just sort of giving folks that release to take a breath and be able to look big picture what’s actually the problem, not just the issues that are surrounding what’s happening.

 

Erika Childers:

I love that you talked about like time, time and space. So how do we, if we’re not scaling properly and our CS team becomes overburdened and we can’t properly deliver value to our customers, which is, that’s our job. That’s, that’s what we’re here to do. But not just that our CS team can’t even keep up with what’s going on in the industry. They don’t have that moment, like you said, to take a breath and that’s eventually going to kind of creep into how they interact with customers, their ability to stay on top of what’s going on in the market, um, and continue to sell that value based on the trends that they would be able to see it. They were able to take more time to be able to read and stay up on what’s going on. I think that’s a pretty interesting way to think about some of these setbacks. It’s not just always companywide. It’s also time and giving someone the this time and space that they need to, to be successful for their customers.

Awesome. Thank you, Erica. Um, so we wanted to dig in a little bit more on challenges, and not just the challenges you know, that, that customers and companies run into, but what are the challenges of scaling itself? What are some of the things that go into it and what are some of the pitfalls that you could potentially run into? So Erica wanted to start with you on this, on what, what are some of the biggest challenges that you faced when trying to scale your team? And how have you started to overcome those?

Erica Putinsky:

Yeah. You know, um, I think one of the best things we can always do is create that opportunity where we can speak factual and we can bring metrics to the leadership team and the executives and be able to say, hey, this is what’s going on and this is why we need to scale our CS team. Um, if we’re not tracking those kinds of metrics, it’s possible that the CS team can get blamed for churn. Well, they weren’t taken care of. They weren’t working with the customers as effectively as they should have been. So what we’ve developed is exit interviews with our customers. So we talked to them, you know, for us, we work really hard to be open and transparent and ask them, hey, why did you leave? Is there something we could have done to save you? Or how can we improve our product?

And by having those conversations, we can really understand, you know, what’s going on and if we are churning, maybe we’re turning a lot because we need more CS. Maybe we need to focus differently on our products. But it’s really truly kind of digging in and understanding what the impact is and then we can identify if it is time to scale. Um, I think that that also gives us that chance to really kind of get to some of the root causes. Another thing that from a scaling perspective that is a great is whenever we scale, we can just have more in person and more client touches. It’s huge for us to be able to get out of office and go and talk to the customers. Um, I think one of the things originally that is sometimes problematic is convincing folks, hey, we need to spend the travel dollars and we need to sort of get out there and have lunch with the customers. We do video chat all the time and that kind of thing, but it’s really, really important to show up. So for us, we make sure that we budget that and that we value it as an organization. And then it gives folks that chance to maybe bring someone from product with you whenever you’re visiting a customer. And then we have those Aha moments where we can, uh, figured out something new and exciting for the product and really, uh, help to show that scaling that CS team is key and critical to making great products.

Erika Childers:

So you touched on some really interesting things here, so that one that you just mentioned kind of talking about really you’re talking about bringing the customer voice of the customer and customer feedback, bringing that into these conversations about when to scale. And I love that you mentioned having like, um, sort of like exit interview type things with your customers. I think that is like one of the most underrepresented things. I think it’s so important how much you can learn from just talking with your customers, even if they happened to no longer be your customers because there’s a chance that you up thinking it’s one thing that you need more CSM’s or you need a different technology. And then if you actually interview them or so you end up scaling and maybe you’ve overscaled because that’s just what your assumption was, but we’re actually interviewing and starting to get that feedback.

You can really start to understand what was actually the root cause of this and start to identify trends. Maybe like you mentioned, maybe it is we do need more CSMs, but maybe it’s something on the product side. Maybe it’s something about how they were sold in the sales process. So making sure that you’re  bringing that feedback in. I think that’s very intuitive Erica. So Laura, what about you on this one? When we talked to you previously on this, you had mentioned like really the importance of getting executive buy in and buy him from seeing the senior leadership, which obviously everyone wants to know. How do we do that? Why is it important? Can you expand on that, Laura?

Laura Kightlinger:

Yeah, absolutely. Um, so I think that for me has been probably the number one challenge and making sure that from the top down there is a culture of customer centricity and that the execs want to invest fully in customer success. So they see, they understand the, you know, we talked a lot about metrics here, so what are those revenue impacts, what are the benefits from that? And what is the cost benefit? If you really get into the numbers, retaining a client is much, much less expensive than selling a new one. And making sure that people understand that, and that the investment in customer success, actually kind of tells the revenue that you can drive. And also I think it’s about, like I said, creating this culture of customer centricity and culture. It can come from bottom up, but it’s so important that it’s coming top down as well and focusing on how are we making our customers successful.

So Kim talked earlier about really looking at customer outcomes and focusing on those. So I think we tend to confuse successful and happy customers. And so getting the leadership team on board with what are the things that we need to see from successful company customers to take some of that pressure off of the CSM team of always having to have really happy. We say positive things all the time. Customers, that’s not realistic and B, actually it’s quite good sometimes. So you have to have some of those bumps in the road with customers to, to learn on both sides. And so you need that executive support from the outset that that’s okay and that will relieve some of the pressure and probably ultimately lead to better outcomes for our customers.

Erika Childers:

And for you internally, I think that’s awesome. So I mean your, your point about happy customers versus successful customers, happy customers still churn, successful customers don’t churn. And I think that’s so important. You had mentioned a little bit about how you coach your team. How do you coach your team that it’s okay that yes, maybe they’re not there, they’re not happy right now, but we do see success metrics. What are some coaching tips for our audience?

Laura Kightlinger:

I guess I try to bring them back to the more objective side of the relationship. So again, as Kim said earlier, we tend to want to hire a really empathetic people. And so it, and I can fall prey to this as well. But because as a manager, I have sometimes outside of the date, often outside of the day to day, it’s easier for me to stay a bit more objective and, and come back to, okay, you know, what does this customer want from us and what have we delivered against that? And often we’re very close to having delivered all of it. And there may be one thing that we didn’t try, but there’s probably a good reason and there’s probably something on both sides. So really talking through how do you have kind of stripped some of that emotional and have a more objective conversation.

And remember that I always tell my team we’re really in the business of human management. And it’s not that you did something wrong, like it’s really hard to do something wrong with people. And yes, you can get a math problem wrong that you usually dealt, get like long term relationship management completely wrong. So let’s remember. It’s not a failure, it’s a short term challenge. And um, just think about, you know, where we want to push this person long term and be really honest. I think sometimes we have this tendency, especially as people pleasers, to find customer success managers who aren’t afraid to shy away from having what could be a difficult conversation. If you’re actually willing to do that, you gain credibility and a stronger relationship.

Erika Childers:

Those are some really good tips and things for a lot of us to keep in mind. I don’t work particularly in customer success, but I am a people pleaser. I am definitely one of those people who may be overly empathetic. So I can definitely identify with that. And I think that’s a really good piece of advice of like the long term relationships. You can’t necessarily fail at that. There may be bumps and there may be hiccups along the way. But overall, if you’re keeping them successful and you’re maintaining a strong relationship, that’s going to be a successful, strong relationship in the long run. That’s a really good tip. Thanks, Laura. And then Kim, so we’ve talked quite a bit about customer feedback and when we chatted about this previously, you talked a good bit about the importance of building a voice of the customer program and how that relates to scaling. So what are some of the challenges that you’ve run into with that? And how does that impact the scalability of your team?

Kim Rose:

Yeah, so, um, so I think it ties into a lot of what Erica and Laura have already said. For us and for my team here, when I first joined the team and the company, there wasn’t a voice of the customer program. There was no sort of formal way of getting feedback from the customers into a really into anyone else’s hands. And to Laura’s point and Erica as well, it’s really a company wide mission. And so, um, you know, was faced with the challenge of I think the mission of the customer success organization was not really well understood and the importance of the voice of customer as it related to the success of the customer wasn’t really well understood. And so I’m building that empathy across the org top down, making sure everybody feels that connection to our customers and feels a connection to the problems that they are experiencing.

And the value that our products brings to them was really, really important. So, you know, again, for us it was about creating a customer success organization that drew out all these really amazing insights around what the outcomes were that the customers wanted to achieve. And then creating a formal process for getting that, that information back into the, um, the product organization. But even really into the hands of all of the executive than all of the marketers and all of the salespeople. We spend a lot of time cross functionally talking about our customers as humans. And as the people they are, you know, they’re not personas on a slide. There are actually people who come into our office who, you know, set we send flowers to and we send one these two when they have babies. And you know, having those connections, it’s attaching the value that they add to Laura’s point that we deal with humans.

And on the other side of the conversation is somebody with a problem. And so I think the challenge I’ve faced is how do you formalize that and get that, bring that into a company, um, where, where that is really fully known and fully felt. And I’m really, really lucky here to have a very customer empathetic organization and, and we actually now have problems or we have to manage too many customers coming into our office, or it’s too many calls are too many people wanting to talk to them. So, uh, I think we’ve overcome that challenge.

Erika Childers:

What a great problem to have. People want to spend more time with you and our customer success team. That’s awesome. I love that you touched on some of these things. Like I think, customer feedback and voice of the customer can be things that often come second. Like in many cases we think we have to get processes set up and we’d have to hire all the right people and do all these things before we have the ability to talk to our customers. And I love that you take this approach if humans first and really thinking about how do we, let’s actually talk to these people. Let’s bring them in, let’s make sure that they’re talking to not just us but different people in our company and using that as your launching point for how you scale and, and how you kind of set up processes and strategies and how you move forward.

Alright, so we’ve got a couple more questions. Just as a reminder, if you have any questions for our panel, um, please feel free to chat those into the questions pane or the chat panel. I think we’ve had quite a few start to come in, so hopefully we’ll be able to cover it quite a bit at these. So for our next question, I really wanted to understand what are the unique challenges to scaling an organization that’s global or disparate, remote teams versus a team that’s kind of all in one office because I imagine there are significant challenges to this. So Laura, I wanted to talk with you on this one cause I know you have quite a bit of experience here. What are some of the unique challenges that come with a more global or disparate, a team versus something that’s more local?

Laura Kightlinger:

Yeah, I think the obvious one is communication. I won’t spend too much time on that. I think we all struggle with that regardless of whether we sit next to the person or not with all the different mediums of communication these days. But, um, when you’re not all in the same office and maybe not all speaking the same native language about how do you get the messages across, how do you find the right channels and try to recreate electronically in virtually, um, those really nice organic kind of in office chats and random brainstorms and information sharing sessions that happen when you’re sitting next to your peer. So I’ve worked hard with my teams, using Slack with companies where I’ve been in customer success about really trying to post those conversations with the outcome of them, they will inevitably happen in the office, but post the gems that come out of them on Slack for the rest of the team.

I think too, it’s about figuring out how to adapt the CS model in the different markets that you’re operating in. So whether that’s because it’s kind of more a startup stage in one region versus a more established business in another, or there are different cultural elements. Um, it’s about getting buy in across the management team that we may need to have different ratios of clients and revenue are slightly different playbooks, um, for different customer success managers and making sure that you’re driving the same outcomes but willing to be adaptable. And then finally, even again kind of going back to these feedback loops that I’ve spoken about with product, I’m often in growing markets, you are starting to see trends but among, you know, maybe a small dollar amount of revenue or a small number of clients, but you can tell in order to scale in that region that something different is going to need to happen in the product. And it’s about how do you get that prioritization in the product pipeline and get product buy-in where if we’re going to invest in this region, we might need to think about prioritization a little bit differently. And that will be hugely helpful to the customer success team because obviously their necks are on the line, so to speak, every day with clients. And if that feedback loop isn’t getting close, um, that’s really tough for them.

Erika Childers:

Yeah, that’s great. A lot of good points about communication and just like you mentioned, we all struggle with that, whether we’re global or whether we’re right next to each other, whether we’re in marketing or CS. That’s such an important one, but really figuring out how you adapt to those differences and then how do you adapt to customers and in different, in different regions or locales or, or markets or whatever it is, but really thinking about how you adapt and how do you kind of make that part of your DNA. Erica for you on this one you had mentioned, and you’ve talked about this quite a bit so far, and it was even in your bio — how does cross team collaboration play a part in your ability to scale across a global organization? So I know you mentioned you have three offices across the U.S — what part does being able to collaborate across teams play in that and that ability to stay centered in that way?

Erica Putinsky:

Yeah, absolutely. So we’ve got an office in Durham, North Carolina. Our headquarters is in Atlanta, Georgia, and then we have another office in Seattle, Washington. So, um, and then we have a lot of folks that are working from home all around the country. So we’ve got all the time zones covered. So we definitely the word through the time zone challenges, those kinds of things. Um, you know, similar to what Laura said, communication is always something that we’re working on. I think that, you know, from a cross functional perspective, one of the things that we do is we have just sort of swat teams that work on specific problems. So we’ll take folks from the Dev Ops team and folks from our technical account management team and then CSM’s and then they’re all thinking about a problem or an issue that a customer might have together.

It could be in a Slack channel, it could be in a video conference. But that way these folks are from all the different offices and they’re together and they’re servicing the customers in the same way. I think that that also has kind of, uh, an extra, uh, great outcome from a CS perspective. It gives our folks that are, you know, our coders and folks that are in Dev Ops and even folks that are, you know, maybe in finance or something like that, that aren’t necessarily talking to the customer all the time. It gives them a chance to kind of understand and get in the shoes of the customer because they see the issues that they’re having. And it’s not just, oh you know, writing code or I’m sending invoices or whatever it is. Like I’m hearing with the CSM and I’m understanding exactly what’s going on and these folks have the ability to be involved.

In a solution, which I think is very exciting for a lot of, uh, folks, when you’re working cross functionally, sometimes folks are very siloed and they’re just working on their things. So whenever we can bring it back to the fact that we’re something for people to get their message out, then I think it’s got a really high value and it really helps to bring up the team. Um, you know, for us it’s personally I have my own Slack rule. If it takes more than four times in the Slack, you got to pick up the phone, you got to get on a video call you happy, like actually interact with somebody because I think we do have a lot of technology that can sort of, uh, make us all stumble over ourselves. Um, so, you know, just little things like that to help support to communication in smarter ways.

We also, with our east coast CSM, we give them west coast customers sometimes, which sounds a little weird. We can overcome the time zones fairly easily, but it gives us the opportunity to call east coast to the west coast to visit a customer. And then go to our Seattle office and then the inverse. So then we’re having sort of folks showing up and going out to dinner and doing that thing. So again, there’s cross collaboration and they’re working with everybody, um, sort of throughout the offices. And then the third thing that we do is we really work hard to empower us folks and allow them to take calculated risks. You know, like you’re there, you’ve got the customer and you’ve, you know, worked in your a group to solve these problems. Go ahead and do it. You know, it’s, uh, it’s going to be okay.

Erika Childers:

That’s awesome. I love the idea of cross functional solution driving, right? So bringing in people who don’t really maybe get a ton of, of, of, uh, of access to the customer and we give a ton of exposure to that, but bringing them into a way to, to solve problems, um, and kind of criss crossing and a lot of different areas, it sounds like, whether it’s coast to coast or, or whether it’s, you know, from department to department, but making sure that kind of everybody’s folded in different ways. And at different points to really drive the, the solution and really drive the value to help reach those customer needs. I love that approach. Kim, what about you on this one? Anything else that you would add to this area?

Kim Rose:

Yeah, I think I’m, I’ll be brief in the interest of time, I echo what, what both Laura and Eric has said. I would just sort of double down on the face to face as much as possible, even if it is digitally. There is something magical in communicating when you can see the other person. And I think whether you are onboarding new employees are onboarding new clients or onboarding/ working through a relationship, you should question/challenge customers. If you can look your customers in the eye, the better the communication will ultimately be. So I would just sort of double down on that one.

Erika Childers:

Awesome. That’s great. All right, so I have one more question, but you guys have sent in some awesome questions — we only have about 12 minutes left. So I’m going to skip this question and I’m going to move right into the great questions that you guys have been sending in. So one of the first ones that I have here is from Aubrey. I’ll just leave this open to you guys. Whoever feels like they can answer this question, feel free to jump in. But this question is from Aubrey and Aubrey asks, what would you recommend to help success teams that struggle to close the feedback loop with their product teams? Any advice?

Erica Putinsky:

Probably, I don’t mind jumping in on this one. You know, I think the first thing is, we spent a lot of time building relationships with our customers. But I think it’s equally important to build relationships internally with your product partners to make sure that, you know, you’re able to have these conversations and able to bring in the feedback and create a mechanism for having those conversations. So for us, we, we set up a biweekly meeting, we talk about what we’re hearing from our customers. Our product team is super engaged in those conversations. It took a little time to get the cadence of the meeting and level of feedback. You know, it’s hard to go to them with something that is meaningfully going to change their roadmap.

But we’ve created a swim lane where we can bring in smaller changes or tweaks to the product or something else. And so with every sprint or every other sprint there, they’re open to taking in some of that voice of customer feedback so we can deliver a little wins. To our customers and then with the bigger pieces of feedback that folds into the product roadmap, um, planning and strategic planning. So I’m just really developing a partnership with the product team and it really, for us, it’s also with sales and also with marketing, but that the feedback that’s headed into product, we spent a lot of time developing those relationships and it’s, it’s really made a difference.

Erika Childers:

I love it. That’s a really actionable advice. I mean obviously you need to have a really good partnership with your product team and customer success team. But I think really thinking strategically about how you deliver that and what you expect in return and having like a dedicated plan. Love it. I think that’s, that’s great. I really hope that answers your question. We’ve got another question here and this is from Sonny. Sonny asks, how important were having core values established at the company, either at the company level or the team level, core values, and how important were core values to scaling your cs organization? If you have any thoughts?

Kim Rose:

Yeah, I can take this one. You know, it’s paramount to our organization. Um, we’ve got our core values that, uh, that are company wide do you know, and, and they just sort of fall into your lexicon. I mentioned take calculated risks as a core value of our organization. Another core value is based on speak factually. And so that means we’re hammering on all the metrics and that kind of thing. So for us it’s given us an opportunity to really, uh, be centered around like-mindedness cross functionally again. So everybody gets it. If I say, hey, the customer really wants this and here’s the data behind it, people know that it’s a true statement and it’s the true needs of the customer. It’s not just a kind of a gut feeling that’s being put out there. And I think that helps, you know, that helps us serve our customers better and it helps the CS team feel like they have the ability to, um, you know, really represent the customers and help the organization grow and be better.

Erika Childers:

That’s awesome. It also goes back to some of the hiring discussion we were having before. If you can put together a really good hiring profile in your core values, are part of that, that’s gonna kind of smooth out hiring processes in the future and make sure that the people that you’re hiring are like minded, like you mentioned.

Laura Kightlinger:

Yeah, and I would just add to that, for us, it’s this, you know, similar, you know, our one of our core values is focused on customer first, delivering a customer experience that creates that the happiest and most loyal customers anywhere as part of our company’s mission. And, and we go one step further and we report on metrics that are tied to those, um, those values in the, in that mission. And we report out, um, you know, quarterly to the, to the company and to our board and to everyone is just really, really important that we keep that top of mind, customer loyalty as a pillar that is founded in our of who we are. But it was really important to get that and really get buy in, like really get buy in for it. Now it makes all of the other conversations so much easier.

Erika Childers:

That’s awesome. All right. I think we have time for one more question and it’s hard to choose because these are some good ones, but we have one here from Jay and Jay asks, how do we define gray areas with CSM roles and responsibilities and get other department, especially operations to understand the value of the partnership with the customer success team?

Erica Putinsky:

I think I talked a bit about this and I would say it’s still a really tough one. This is where I will go back to and I feel like I might be by beating a bit of a dead horses is where senior level alignment and engagement is really important. I think inevitably, no matter how well you think you’ve defined the role or some of the boundaries, you will come up on gray areas. So it’s having senior sponsorship to be able, for managers to go in meetings together and say, hey, we’re constantly facing this. When are we going to do about it? Come up with a solution and then roll that out. It needs to be adaptable, especially if you’re in a scaling or the problems or challenges will continue to evolve. But, um, I think for me the biggest thing is taking that burden off of my teams. So as a manager, I, if I’m consistently seeing these gray areas, then that’s time for me to step in and make it clear for them. And even if I have to kind of deal with some ambiguity, that’s fine, but I want to try to alleviate that for the team so they can really focus on customers and the core things that I’ve asked them to do.

Erika Childers:

That’s great. Any other thoughts from our panel? All right, so we have about five minutes left. I’m going to let everyone go a little bit early. I know we didn’t get to answer everyone’s questions. You guys asked a ton of one. So what I might recommend is we’re going to take some of these questions and think about how can we answer them. How can we maybe do a future webinar? Maybe we’ll write a blog on what we can find and do some research. Um, so I’ll come back and check out users do later down the line and hopefully we can start to answer some of these questions for you. Um, so thanks everybody for being here, especially to our panel. You guys have been fantastic. There’s been a really good discussion here. Obviously our, our awesome audience is really engaged the, hopefully we can have you guys back in the future and talk even more about some of these things, but otherwise, I hope everyone has a wonderful Tuesday and I’ll look forward to seeing you all on our next webinar. We’re actually hosting a webinar on July 9th, which is a recorded webinar. We have a panelist from MailChimp and a painless from Drift, which is really exciting. And they’re going to talk all about the importance of customer engagement and how you can drive the right engagements across the customer journey and understand those touch points. So definitely come back and check us out. Have a wonderful Tuesday and we’ll talk again soon. Bye. Thank you.