WEBINAR REPLAY

DRIVING CUSTOMER ENGAGEMENT

How to Find the Right Touchpoints Throughout the Customer Journey

Video Transcription

Nicole Wojno:
Good afternoon, everyone. I appreciate you guys taking time out of your day to join UserIQ for our webinar, Driving Customer Engagement: How to Find the Right Touch Points Throughout the Customer Journey. My name is Nicole Wojno, and I’ll be your host for the webinar.

I’m really excited about the topic and our speakers, but before we jump into the content, I just want to take care of a few announcements we have. We’ll be recording the webinar, and we’ll send out the recording to everyone after the webinar. Please feel free to send any questions you have to the organizer, and we’ll make sure to leave plenty of time to cover those at the end. In addition, if you’re having any audio problems or technical difficulties, please post those in the questions area and we’ll try and cover those.

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As I mentioned, I’m Nicole Wojno. I’m the CMO of UserIQ and I’ll be serving as the moderator. If you’re not familiar with UserIQ, we’re headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, and we help SaaS companies deliver what each user needs to be successful in every moment, starting with adoption. This helps companies scale onboarding, drive feature usage, accelerate time to value, and ultimately drive more revenue throughout the customer journey.

On our webinars, if you’ve attended any of these before, we usually do pretty quick introductions of the panelists. I really want to spend some more time on these today, because we have two great leaders from amazing companies that are really writing the book on what I would say is a pretty kick-ass customer experience. Let’s do a deep dive into who they are, what their companies are doing, and why we decided to bring them both on the webinar, because I think their backgrounds and their current roles are really going to shape the direction of the conversation that we have here.

Our first panelist is Ariana Hargrave. She’s the director of VIP services at MailChimp, which is the world’s largest marketing automation platform, that helps millions of customers find their audience, engage their customers, and build their brand. I’m sure everyone is familiar with MailChimp, and has heard of them or even used them at some point in their career. MailChimp is actually located just right down the road from UserIQ in Atlanta. Ariana started at MailChimp about nine years ago in technical support, and now she’s in charge of all high-touch customer-facing teams, including pro support, social media support, client relations, and business development. Her team helps provide guidance to small businesses and agencies building their brand presence online. Ariana, it’s great to have you here. Are you there?

Ariana Hargrave:
It’s great to be here. Yeah.

Nicole Wojno:
Awesome. Did I miss anything on the bio, or any MailChimp background you wanted to provide?

Ariana Hargrave:
I mean, you hit a lot of it right there. You were dead on that I started nine years ago in tech support, and since then I’ve just been working on understanding the problems that our customers face, and finding the best ways to solve them. I’ve done that through working as a tech support agent, building out a webinar team, followed by a how-to video team, and now working with all of our high-touch 24/7 teams.

Nicole Wojno:
Great. Well, can you share some of your thoughts on how MailChimp has become so exemplary in their customer engagement efforts?

Ariana Hargrave:
Of course. MailChimp is a very intuitive product, and we want people using our product to find that it’s easy and intuitive so that they can get back to their business, because their job isn’t working in MailChimp, or any other product that they’ve hired to help them run their business. Their job is actually running their business. At MailChimp, we want to make sure that it’s a tool that can help alleviate the stress of building and maintaining relationships with businesses existing and future, or even lapsed customers.

That means that in our engagement efforts, we aim to meet customers where they are. To us, that means that every journey is different. We address this through a number of means. We’ve got an onboarding series of emails, we’ve got great online guides, our knowledge base. We also have a very well-trained 24/7 support staff. But we want to make sure that, when connecting with any business, or their fans, that it’s easy. Regardless of how we’re engaging, ease of use means that our customers can just begin using our product right away, starting with as many or as few features as best fits their strategy and trajectory.

That really just means that we are tailoring that journey so that customers can engage immediately, and can opt-in to additional guidance, self-service, or through support 1:1s as they need to. That custom experience and the ability to access our knowledge base, research, guides, and support provides that positive environment where people can quickly realize the value of using our product. Regardless of any of the things that we have available, the customers are just at the heart of everything that we do. We want to make sure that no matter what we’re doing, it is for the customers.

Nicole Wojno:
I think that’s a great point, and that’s really one I know a lot of companies want to do, and they want to be part of their mission, but it’s also easy to lose focus on that as well. I want to go back a little bit, because I know we’ve touched on it for a second, but you’ve had a really cyclical journey at MailChimp. Can we talk a little more about how your role’s evolved over the years, and also how it’s contributed to your understanding of building out the customer experience, and how you’re doing that as well?

Ariana Hargrave:
For sure, yeah. In that wonderful introduction that you gave me, you talked about how I started in tech support, and I briefly jumped in there and mentioned how I built out our webinar team, as well as those how-to videos. Those actually live on our knowledge base. Anybody that is using our self-service help, we’ve got these online guides that really explain how each feature works and how they work in combination. There’s also videos in there that further explain how to use a feature or a product within our product, and then there’s also gifs. All of that has been something that I’ve worked on while here at MailChimp.

I didn’t build the webinar idea initially at MailChimp. That was actually one of our co-founders, Dan. When I started as a tech support agent, my background was in technical training and sales, and so he was like, “Hey, you’ve done this. Would you mind jumping in and doing these webinars?” From that, I actually built out an entire team that was doing multiple webinars across multiple topics in multiple languages, and from that realized that our customers really wanted something that was on their own time, that they could stop and rewind and watch as many times as possible. While a webinar was good for that, it wasn’t the best thing.

Then we developed those how-to videos and put those in the knowledge base, and I built out a team around that. From those videos, we learned that, well, not everybody has time to sit down with a three-minute video. Maybe they just need a really quick explanation. Then we developed the gifs. Within our how-to articles, we actually have quick gifs that show you, without even any words, just how to use a specific portion of a feature. That’s really helped our customers quickly get in and understand what it is that they need to do to get back to business.

After creating webinars and building out the video team and then working on gifs, I started working with all of our high-touch teams. That is our 24/7 social support team, our pro support team, which supports our pro feature set, our customer success team, also known as client relations, and our business development team. They really focus on educating people that are considering using our product so that we can help them find the best fit. Because hopefully MailChimp is the best fit, but sometimes it’s not, so we want to make sure that people are well educated so that they can make the best decision for their business.

Nicole Wojno:
That’s great. It seems like you guys have really made those decisions over the years that, like you said, you want to focus on anything that your customers are doing. You have to meet them where they are, so whether it’s the videos, and if that doesn’t work, you’re finding the next thing, like the gifs. I think that’s really cool, to show that progression of where it’s gone in your role and how you’ve made those efforts over the years.

Ariana Hargrave:
Yeah, thanks. Like I said, it’s really about tailoring that experience to every customer. We want to make sure to have as many touchpoints with them as makes sense, and they can always opt in or opt down.

Nicole Wojno:
Great. Well, it’s great to have you here. I’m looking forward to this webinar with you.

Our next panelist that we have is Julie Hogan. She’s the VP of the customer team and partner program at Drift, which is the leading conversational marketing platform, that helps you turn the traffic that’s on your website into leads using bots. Julie joined Drift as their first female executive, hooray for Julie, and in her role she oversees the customer success, support, and partner program teams, where she’s focused on being proactive and aligned with the needs of Drift’s customers to drive value.

Nicole Wojno:
Before Drift, she was the VP of customer success and international services for HubSpot, where she was responsible for the retention of their global customer base and services strategy. Julie, can you talk to us a little bit about the customer team and some of the decisions you’ve made when building out this operation to ensure it’s such a seamless customer experience there at Drift? Because I know everyone’s probably heard of Drift on the call, and I know I envy what you guys have done with that and how great of a customer experience you’ve made it.

Julie Hogan:
Thank you so much. Well, first, thank you for having me. Really excited to be here with both of you here today talking to you. Appreciate the introduction. Yeah, absolutely. I’ve been at Drift since October, and what’s been really exciting is, we’ve built the customer team really from scratch. We started selling, started figuring out the market, and had this opportunity to start thinking about, how do we understand the problems or the needs that our customers face as they’re being onboarded, as they’re starting to adopt Drift into their business? And so really thinking about what that looks like.

A couple of pieces. I think to start, starting even at the very beginning, focusing on hiring, one of our core values is that we want to make work more human again. Even our tagline at Drift is that Drift is the new way businesses buy from businesses. We want to take the friction out of the buying process, make it easier for your potential customers to buy. And so similar to what Ariana mentioned, it means meeting our customers where they’re at, being able to keep this very fluid, very easy process in place post-purchase, so that as they’re onboarding, our customers really feel like they’re in the hands of someone who’s helpful, whose sole purpose is to help them see value.

And so from a hiring standpoint, one of the decisions we’ve made in building the team has been focusing on people who have what I refer to as this third eye of service. I grew up in customer-facing roles, also in hospitality, so have worked in hotels, have worked in bars, in restaurants. There’s this sense you develop about the needs of others, and understanding, are people getting lost, do people have a need, ahead of them telling you that they have it, right? So really being in a place where you can anticipate that need.

We’ve been looking for people as we’ve hired into our customer success teams and our customer support teams … We call our customer support agents customer advocates … people who have that. They care about experience, they show the potential and the enthusiasm to learn our product, to even learn the sales and marketing industry, but first and foremost, they come to the table with this desire to be helpful. They like talking to people, they like solving problems, they like helping people gain value from what it is they’ve purchased.

And so from the very beginning, we’ll often start looking for someone who doesn’t necessarily have the traditional career in, or has been a career account manager or career technical support person, but instead has these core values and the potential to learn the rest of our products. That’s us, is number one, who are we hiring, what are the things that we value?

As we’ve built out the team as well, I think a couple of core decisions we’ve made. One is for people to get started. Customers, when they get started with us, they’ll engage with a member of our customer success team. We’ve made the decision not to divide implementation and onboarding from ongoing success. One of those reasons is, when we think about the customer journey, the introduction of handoffs or the introduction of dividing time over a series of days or hours that you can only spend with one person, and then you get transitioned to another person, when we think about the customer experience, that doesn’t create the fluidity or the ease of engagement that we want Drift to be.

And so making it simple to get started, being very clear about, these are the things you need to do to start to see success. You’re going to do them with one person, and we’re not dictating the number of days or hours you must spend. We’re going to work with you until you get these things done. That for us is, again, another core value. Making sure we’re not operating our customer team focused only on customer success or business customer operations, but instead, it’s customer journey-driven. Our [inaudible 00:13:43] engagement from the very beginning and how we move things forward is based off of that customer journey, not just based off of what conventional wisdom tells you in terms of how you hire and operating at that very beginning point.

Nicole Wojno:
I think that’s a great way to approach it, and it really goes back to how people see your brand, and how you guys are positioning yourselves of the conversational marketing and trying to be more human in your engagements. I think that how you’re approach that in your customer success and customer engagement program, that really shows through in that area. That’s really interesting, an interesting approach of how you’re handling that in who you’re hiring as well.

Julie Hogan:
Thank you. Yeah, it’s been a lot of fun. It’s been a lot of fun as we’ve thought through it. And thinking too, I think that piece of making it customer journey-driven, versus customer operations-driven, meaning we’re thinking about, how can we make this decision in terms of who we hire or what we’re focusing on measuring something that’s going to add value to that customer’s experience?

Nicole Wojno:
Yeah. I love that. Well, thank you both for being here. I know we’re going to have a great discussion on the innovative strategies that you both are employing at MailChimp and Drift, so I’m excited to kick that off today. I want to start by talking about how you define the areas of your customer journey that require engagement. Julie, let’s start with you here. How have you evaluated the customer journey and automated touchpoints along the way, and removed ones that really don’t work for you?

Julie Hogan:
Yeah, so it’s a timely conversation, because automation comes up quite a bit in customer journey. Going back, I sound like a broken record, but going back to that idea of the customer journey, making that the focus of how you make the decisions, versus the customer operations-driven. Meaning, these conversations about decisions in most customer organizations often start with, “How do we make the thing more efficient? How do we increase ratios? How do we improve the spend or the cost to be at 10% of ARR?” You end up optimizing your operation for the operation, as opposed to the customer experience and success.

With automation specifically, our goal is to do the work first and learn, and then plug in where we think automation makes sense. I heard Ariana talk earlier about working through creating webinars, and then realizing customers weren’t going through them or weren’t finding value there. A quick story around something we made a decision around was that we moved too quickly toward touchless for a cohort of our customers that we define as very small business. Again, sort of leaning into conventional wisdom, the best practice out there tells you, “Get as many as possible in terms of customers who fit this cohort into a place where the engagement is touchless. They’re leveraging automation, they’re leveraging webinars, they’re leveraging content that you have on demand.”

What we learned as we were watching and listening to customers go through this was that there was a very big distinction between our customers who were founders and owners, so the companies in the very small business segment who perhaps only had one or two employees … Those are our customers coming back to us saying, “Hey, scheduling a call to talk to someone on a Tuesday at 2:00 p.m. doesn’t work for me, because I’m on a plane, and I’m working through a negotiation, and then I come back and I have other things to do.” … versus companies that were even a little bit bigger, maybe had a marketer or had a dedicated sales manager, who also is in this very early stage of build mode, wasn’t necessarily looking to have a one-on-one conversation, but did enjoy the idea of having on-demand content. Listening before making the longer-term decision to split, divide, create too many paths of automation ahead of understanding, is really important to us.

I think the other piece too is understanding where customer trust comes from in the cohorts of customers you manage and the audience they’re coming from. What we often found was, we were having conversations with customers about adoption. “Hey, we know that customers who do this and engage in this way tend to see the most success.” Only hearing that from us, only hearing that from the vendor voice … Again, thinking about making work as human as possible again. In reality, is that who a person would go to? Is that who I would go to if I had a question about a product?

And so we experimented with this idea of a customer in residence, and so leveraging existing customers to get on the phone with existing customers not only in save situations or situations where there’s a struggle, but as a voice of someone who’s using the product to give that honest opinion about, “Hey, I use the product in this way. Here are the things I’ve learned.” That’s been really successful for us also. Again, introducing someone who’s a customer to help have conversations with existing customers, as opposed to assuming all of these things must be automated in product or in process.

Nicole Wojno:
Those were some great examples, and a really good way to use automation, and then also use them, I think, not necessarily in person, but also personal touchpoints as well. Ariana, I know-

Julie Hogan:
Definitely. I think-

Nicole Wojno:
Sorry, go ahead.

Julie Hogan:
Oh, I was just going to say, I think it’s a blend, right? It’s both. You need both. I think the critical piece for us was understanding where it made sense to automate ahead of assuming you had to plug everything in through automation, and learning first through people what could be automated and what wasn’t going to make sense for our customers.

Nicole Wojno:
That’s a great point. Ariana, I know you’ve had a unique customer journey at MailChimp, because you’re self-service and you don’t have a sales team. How does that impact how you’re looking at these customer touchpoints and what you’re doing in this area?

Ariana Hargrave:
As a self-service marketing platform, we look for opportunities where customers are likely to seek more information. Our goal is to provide an intuitive platform.

More information, and our goal is to provide an intuitive platform that you can log in to and quickly understand the steps to take action. Like you said, we don’t have a sales team, but we do have a growth team, we’ve got live chat and email. And we are often using the jobs [inaudible 00:20:16] framework, and that helps us uncover the jobs or the reason that our customers have hired our product to perform for them. And then we make those jobs easier, faster, or even automated. We do that through our onboarding series of emails, we use in-app messaging, we have in-app informational cards.

There’s all of these different little points that are really customizable to each business and their journey. We provide all this information to everyone, but people can opt in to as much of that as they need for their business, because some people are coming over from another product, so they’re familiar with how email marketing and marketing automation works. While other people are just getting started and they really need more hand holding and education. So we provide all of these different touch points that allow them to say, “Okay, this is what I need for me to be successful.” And we build as much of that as we can into our app, so that people can just find it where they are, so they don’t have to navigate to a different page or a different area, we’ve got that information right there when they need it, where they need it. And that just goes back to anticipating what the customer will need to help them grow and success.

MailChimp’s really focused on marketing automation, so we wanna help our customers painlessly and quickly create custom automations that are tailored to their customer base, so they can get back to work running their business, ass I mentioned before. Small and medium-sized businesses, and marketers, really shouldn’t have to spend all of their time trying to figure out what to do next, when there’s flows within MailChimp that can guide them.

Nicole Wojno:
That’s great, and so they have everything right there that they need. They can choose their adventure and where they wanna go and how much they need to do at that given time.

Ariana Hargrave:
Exactly.

Nicole Wojno:
I think that’s a good transition to our next question, because I wanna ask you both to share some examples of any successful customer touch points that have helped you drive stronger adoption, or faster time to value. I know we touched on these areas a little bit. But, Ariana, let’s start with you here. I know MailChimp has a special team that they’ve created to help drive stronger user adoption specifically. Can you talk to us about that team and what they do?

Ariana Hargrave:
Sure. We’ve got a few different teams that actually work on adoption. So that’s gonna be everything from our growth team, when people are initially coming on to MailChimp and figuring out what they need to do next. The growth team is really helping us optimize those different touch points. We also have our support team, and that is helping people that are in the moment trying to work through something. But, beyond all of that, we have this other team that we call the SPA team, that really helps us move fast and listen to our customers. So support teams in general, really understand each customer and their businesses individually, and that’s the power of support.

Now, the people helping our customers have enormous insight into how those customers are using certain features and what’s working well for different types of businesses, and even what’s slowing people down or giving them headaches trying to figure out how to best use a feature. But, our support product analyst team, or SPA team, they gather and analyze all of the data that our support team brings to them, and builds really comprehensive understandings of customer behavior and product usage. And that team meets with our customer facing team members, to help them collect and share that customer feedback more effectively. That way we’re collecting the same types of information. So we’re channeling this feedback through our SPA team, and that has given us a formula for collecting that data, helping to troubleshoot, working through different processes that people need in order to get the work done on our side, and standardizing work arounds for customers.

It also has provided us a clear and well-organized channel directly to our engineers. So any of those customer issues are surfaced through our SPA team. They’re reporting those top issues and feedback from our support departments, directly to the product teams for their review and prioritization. And then that relationship isn’t just one way, so the SPA team is staffed to product teams, so they’re regularly attending different development meetings to understand what product features are being built, how things are going to be implemented. And then they’re providing relevant feedback and customer insights, or even concerns, about how customers might use that feature.

Nicole Wojno:
It sounds like that’s a very cross-functional and collaborative team that you’ve built there, giving great insights to all of the organization that everyone can use to really grow and learn from what everyone’s doing.

Ariana Hargrave:
It is. The SPA team has been so helpful, because before we were tracking issues and we’ve got, of course, an issue tracking system as many companies do. But, we didn’t have that single team to be the voice, instead, support was the voice. But, support just got to be so big, and everybody wants to collect information and slightly different ways, but by having this main point team that has really helped us streamline and have a much stronger voice for support and for our customers with our engineers.

Nicole Wojno:
Awesome. Julie, what about you? What are some of the traditional and maybe even non-traditional touch points that you’re doing at Drift to build and accelerate that type of value?

Julie Hogan:
Sure, so in the customer success side, when we think about customers who are just getting started with us, two key things come to mind. The first, I mentioned a bit of this earlier, but getting rid of this idea of implementation as a period of time with a specific group of people. When we talk about touch points and touch, you often think about hand offs and things that happen at the early stages of getting a customer to see success. To avoid that friction, for us, it’s really been about making engagement early on very fluid and very focused on the needs of the customer. So again, not making it as rules based, so you have X number of days or X period of time with this one person and then you’re handed off elsewhere, but really focused on introducing someone who’s gonna be your primary point of contact to get you to see value and to continue with you to see value.

The other piece is, we’re big fans of Jason Lemkin, who many people on the webinar may know from SaaStr. He has this really great article that he put out a while ago called the 5+2 Rule. And the idea is, again, a little unconventional, where we talk often about being as efficient as possible with time over video tools and time through automation, but identifying when it makes sense in your book of business and the customers you’re servicing to implement at least five visits per quarter. And then the two rule comes from, you’ve visited this customer so frequently and you’ve developed such a great relationship, that when you show up at the business they’re like, “Hey, Nicole, just have a badge. You come here so frequently, just have this badge.” And so we’ve implemented this as well, the idea of the 5+2 rule in identifying, based on the needs of your customer, when does it make sense to have that personal visit, to make it happen, to go in person, and to build the relationship and rapport there.

On the support side, very similar to SPA, I also love that name by the way. It just has a nice ring to it when you say it. Very similar to the SPA team at MailChimp, our customer advocate team is embedded directly with our product team. And so often when you hear or think about customer support, it’s a really big team, they perhaps sit siloed or sit separate from the rest of the organization. And for us, customer advocates are front of the house for Drift, and so what we mean by that is they are the entry point for all of our customers into the rest of our company. And so they’re embedded and sit with product teams, each customer advocate is aligned directly with a product squad, so a very specific part of the product. And while they’re focusing the majority of their day engaging at the front line of customer chat, so that’s the primary way our customers come into us with questions. They’re then working to advocate for the questions, the features, the ideas, and the challenges that our customers are facing, by those conversations that they’re engaging in, and advocating for updates, changes, ways in which we can support the customer journey. So being embedded in products is really important to us, and an important part of our core values and the team.

When I mentioned being in front of the house, another thing we’ve done is, as we were building out the customer advocate and customer support function, we needed to think about how the team was going to be organized. And one of our co-founders, our CEO, David Cancel and I, were having a conversation about the development of this team, and his feedback was, “Imagine if instead of hiring someone who’s perhaps a traditional support manager who runs all of the operations, and the systems, and the strategies as one would expect in a SaaS business, and instead we hired someone who had that third eye of service, and that focus on front of the house?”

And so we ended up finding an individual who previously was the manager of guest services and front desk for the Four Seasons Hotel, so one of the premier hotels in the world. And in bringing her on, she’s helped us start to build the organization and the operation around experience and around how we can start to measure not, again, only the efficiencies. So the number of tickets that we’ve been able to go through, CSAT, NPS, the things you traditionally do. But, how do we measure and how do we start to fold into our operation the way in which our customers experience the Drift brand as a customer, and how we hold ourselves accountable to that? For us, the touch points happen very frequently. Customers chat in all day, and really holding ourselves accountable to the highest standards of the sort of highest rated hotels in the industry, and bring some of that service and hospitality mentality into what we do in servicing customers in software.

Nicole Wojno:
I read that blog that you guys put out on her and your approach and why you did that. I thought that was so interesting to do that, and a hire to make, and I understand it now as we’ve talked through this more and your approach to making this experience and how you wanted that to be. And I love that, and I think it’s so interesting, especially in the SaaS world.

Julie Hogan:
Thank you. It’s been fun for us as well, because you wanna learn from people outside of your industry also. Right? Service is a part of everything, not just software. We talk customer success and customer service and being customer-centric is something we’re starting to talk a lot about in software. But, it’s been around in every industry since people have been buying and selling. And so learning from outside of what we may perceive as the traditional of how to build teams has been really fun to explore.

Nicole Wojno:
I bet. I know you both have built really great programs, but there are always some challenges along the way of building successful programs. So let’s dive into those for a little bit too. Ariana, let’s start with you here. What are some challenges that you’ve run into at MailChimp in making sure that the journey is seamless and support’s involved in more than just the paying points that customers are facing?

Ariana Hargrave:
Yeah, so there can be a misalignment between departments, especially when they’re siloed. And that was something that as we grew quickly, we realized that we didn’t have quite all the same touch points that we needed across teams. So that’s really changed how we connect with one another and how we have cross-functional teams. But, a good example of this is, that support and marketing teams are often sending customers mixed messages. And we’ve definitely done this here at MailChimp, especially in periods of extreme growth, when we weren’t necessarily communicating clearly with one another. So let’s say a customer has an issue ticket logged with support, and then the marketing team contacts them about an opportunity to use a feature that that customer is currently struggling with. That’s not always a great experience, it’s something that we definitely want to avoid. So now we’re really intentional about staff and cross-functional teams, to connect multiple teams and ensure that we’re sharing information across. That way support always knows what marketing has planned before a new campaign launches, and marketing can help understand how customers are gonna interpret that message.

But, marketing, of course, is just one part of that customer journey, so you have to think about in-app experiences, support interactions, and the business’ overall presence on social media. That’s all feeding into the customer journey. So support has to be involved in knowing what marketing opportunities are being shared with customers, providing that guidance in how customers are best gonna interpret that offering, and aiding customers in understanding the best options based on their specific business’ needs. So when customers come in and say, “Oh, I received this message from marketing, what does it mean? What do I do with this? How can I best use this feature?” Support can actually guide the customer based on their business’ needs and how to use that feature. And to really be impactful, support has to be involved in more than just paying points.

I know that a lot of businesses like to think of support as a very reactive piece, but at MailChimp we like to think about support as being proactive. So we’ve got a support presence across multiple teams, and we’ve got many teams that support support. And we do that through our support communications team as well as our support product analyst team.

Nicole Wojno:
I think that’s a really important point of not making it a reactive piece of the group, and being more proactive about it, so that’s great to point out there. Julie, what about you? How have you overcome some of these challenges at Drift in creating that seamless customer journey?

Julie Hogan:
Yeah, I think for us, and I think other companies maybe feel this way as well, the key is that the customer journey isn’t just the path that the customer’s on. It’s not just something that we talk about and we market our centricity around, and then it simply becomes the outcome or output of our work. So the customer teams focus on the customer journey, and everyone else sort of does what they need to do, and the customer journey is just that. It’s a path specific for the customer. What we need to do, and it’s hard because all of these touch points aren’t always measurable in terms of outcomes. But, what we need to do is, have the entire company rally around the customer journey and build for that. And I think for us, a few places where we’ve stumbled a bit and we’ve been able to realign, I think first is, and customer success specifically.

In Drift, we’re a monthly business, and in SaaS, churn ends up being the target, the focus, the thing you live and breath, the target on your back, however you wanna call it. And it’s hard to say that you’re able to really separate how do I provide incredible value and incredible experience, while also knowing we have numbers to hit, and we have things we do have to do. So what I talked about previously, being customer journey driven as opposed to building your operation around the customer operation, sometimes it sounds almost too good to be true. It’s a nice philosophy, but hard to bring to life.

Julie Hogan:
One of the things that we did, and it was a learning I had, operating and working for two founders who come from products and engineering, is we organized ourselves into small squads. So as opposed to having a big customer success team with 10 or 12 people who rolled into a manager who then rolled into a director, and senior director, and so on and so forth. We had these very small autonomous squads that were about four to five people with a squad captain. And they’re responsible for really holding themselves accountable to the goals of their customers and the goals of the business. And what’s nice here is they align based off of customer cohort. So we have a small squad, four different segments of our very small businesses, our international businesses, our enterprise businesses. And what’s been great is, by virtue of being small and being able to work in that way, the teams are really able to be much more productive, much more autonomous in the problems they’re solving for, and those specific groups of customers. And they can focus on the needs of those customers.

Our culture at Drift is also is one where we don’t have a lot of meetings, and so 98% of your days spent in the office is spent talking to your customers, engaging with your customers, with the exception of three key points. We have a Monday morning standup with the entire company, where each function comes up, it’s 15 minutes total, and we talk about our goals for the week, where our numbers are at, and what we’re planning to do. And throughout the week we do 10 minute standups, so very quickly each of those small squads talks about any of the challenges or opportunities within their portfolio. So we make the week very focused on the outcomes and the actions delivered around helping our customers.

And at the end of the week we do a show and tell, so the entire company, again, it’s a relatively quick roundup. But, we talk about not just what we’ve done, what we’re proud of, but the things that we’ve done to support our customers. And at the end of each week we’ll will cape, so we have a cape with a lightning bolt on it, which is part of our brand, customer hero of the week. And it celebrates somebody across the entire company who has done the most for a customer. And so being able to end the week with that in mind and celebrating not just the outcome you drove, the number you hit, but who is the person, the one person at Drift, who did the most heroic act or was able to do something that mattered most to customers, and we recognize that person. And so again, I think it’s making that customer journey and the experience of our customers a real thing that we celebrate as an entire company.

One other quick thing I’ll add there is a problem that we ran into, and I think this is common across support teams, is when you see something that’s happening, that’s interfering with the customer experience but you’re not really sure if you should bother engineering, or should I escalate this because I’m not really sure what the impact will be. And often you introduce this unintentional red tape for when there is a challenge that you’re seeing customers face. And so we’ve introduced what we call the Andon Cord. So you were in a factory line, and you were building something, and something broke, when you’re at the front line of that process, you pull a literally cord. There’s a physical cord and it stops the machine. It stops everything. So we’ve introduced our version of that where anybody who’s customer facing, if you see something, say something, pull that cord, it stops what anyone in product is doing in production and puts the focus on what you deemed to be this critical issue impacting our customers. And what’s been great about that is, it’s eliminated this questioning the concern of red tape of who you have to get permission from and made that-

Questioning the concern, the red tape of who you have to get permission from and made that behavior focused entirely on the needs of our customers and giving the power to the people who are talking to our customers the most, and so that’s really helped us cut through a lot of the unintentional bs that you create in creating too much process, and really making sure people who are at the front lines of the customer experience are the ones who have the power to ensure that they can pull that cord when they need to.

Nicole Wojno:
Those are really great examples, and I think lots of stuff that it’s easy to implement in your own organization, so thanks for sharing those. As a reminder, listeners, if you have any questions for our panelists, feel free to chat them to us and we’ll make sure to answer theme soon in the Q&A period. Now that we’ve talked about success and challenges, I want to dive into some measurements, and how you measure customer engagement, and can you use that as a gauge for success and a positive experience? So Julie, let’s start with you here, how is your team at Drift looking at this and measuring success, and also tying customer success into customer experience as well?

Julie Hogan:
Sure, it’s a great question because it’s complicated. There are so many ways you can think about this. For Drift I think it’s important to highlight what we don’t do. And so what we’ve made decisions around not including for success and also for customer advocates. We’re not putting a focus on the volume of emails, or the number of calls out to a customer. The other is, I know health scores are something that’s really popular today. We think those are helpful as gauges to make smart decisions about customers, but what we’re not doing is grading, did you move a certain amount of your customers from yellow to red and the reason why we don’t focus on that is we don’t want to have customer experience conversations focused on things like what color grade is your customer in, or how many times did you try to touch them?

And instead of, we really spent some time and we had to spend time defining what makes our customers successful and understanding if those things are happening. And so what we’ve done to measure both teams is we’ve come up with customer success standards. So it’s a template of four core things, and within those four core quadrants were evaluating you against your results. And so there is a component of your actual results. So what is your turn number? What is your first support? It’s not measured on the volume of tickets you crank through because a customer doesn’t care about that, but instead your engagement, your participation, your ability to execute against what’s asked of you. So we measure results there.

Then it’s your operational excellence. So an example of this again in a customer advocacy is you’re proactive in chat. So there’s a 100% focus on chat and customer engagement during your chat shifts, you’re prioritizing conversations, managing them in the way in which it is expected of you. And so we look at the operational pieces that matter, not only to the business, but to your customers to ensure your customers are having a great experience.

The third piece is urgency, enthusiasm and passion for service. And so a we versus me mentality. You’re portraying a sense of being part of one company. You’re working toward a common goal. You demonstrate enthusiasm to your customer, you have a positive attitude, you exhibit excitement. Outstanding product knowledge is part of that as well. Passion for service drives you to always be learning about our product. You hold yourself accountable for staying on top of the new product features.

And the forth, and the one that I’m most excited about is we’ve taken a different approach to key performance indicators and have included what we call key experience indicators. And so these experience indicators are defined and you’re evaluated against in your conversations with customers. We’ve heavily borrowed these from the hospitality industry. There’s a tool called the Forbes Hospitality Standards, and we’ve started to build our own for SAS. And these are things that I think sometimes you think of as the softer skills, or the things that don’t matter, but for us experience needs to be measured in a way that we can hold people accountable to doing the things that we know make a difference. For advocates, we measure eight core things. You’re informing your customer when you’re, going into their account, you’re exhibiting a genuine sense of interest and concern. You’re calling people by name, your conversation is handled without excessive delays. Your conversation is always ending with a warm closing remark. You use natural language, so we’re not artificially engaging with customers, making them feel like they’re in this overly formal process, but you’re truly engaging and being helpful.

And so we measure and evaluate people against that. So I think for us the core is making sure it’s not simply the output in terms of operational results, but understanding what are the things we value when it comes to experience, and how do we hold people accountable to those?

Nicole Wojno:
That’s great. I think that’s a really interesting way to look at all that and measure because it can be challenging to do that, so I like how you’re putting in some of those different measurements that don’t just tie against support tickets.

Ariana Hargrave:
I loved the bit about the human language too Julie, that’s really something that’s important to us at MailChimp. We on our hiring page actually talk about being better, weirder and more human.

Julie Hogan:
I love that.

Ariana Hargrave:
We want to make sure that anybody that joins this company isn’t all about process to a fault. That we use as much process as we need, but we want to make sure that we’re all being human and thinking about how the changes that we think up really impact the customer positively.

Nicole Wojno:
That’s great. Ariana, do you want to share some metrics you guys are looking at for customer engagement to measure success and how you’re tying that in as well, the customer success to the customer?

Ariana Hargrave:
Absolutely. So we don’t have a single perfect score at MailChimp, but we look at a lot of different things. So we’re looking across all these different types of data. So within support we look at support ticket ratings and feedback. So that’s going to be things like the customer satisfaction rating. How did the customer rate their interaction with our support? What sort of feedback did they leave on that chat or email, and then how can we use that to help the support agents have better conversations in the future? So being more human, providing more technical information if needed, and really tailoring that message to the customer in the right way, the way that they need it.

We also look at NPS, so net promoter score, but NPS can be a little bit tricky because that doesn’t always give you the full picture. NPS is one of those things that especially can be skewed based on the user type. So I’m sure that a lot of businesses have seen that as well. So in MailChimp we have different user types, whether you’re an admin all the way down to a viewer, and those are different levels of access. Depending on your role in a company and the functions that you’re performing within a product that you’ve hired to do a job for you, that is really going to depend on how successful you view that product.

So somebody that’s in MailChimp everyday might say, oh yeah, it’s really getting the things done, but somebody that is not in it as often not using it, they might not really understand the value. So it’s really one of those tricky things, NPS is. So outside of support we look at things like conversions to paid. So that time to value is really critical when our customers realizing the value from the product. So are they seeing a high ROI immediately? Are they not? Do they maybe need some coaching on how to be a better marketer? How to use landing pages to help drive list growth? Maybe how to even promote their products within different messages? Or even how to automatically follow up with customers using automations?

We also look at feature adoption, so we look at cohorts of customers for those different feature adoptions and we can look at things like account growth. We’re looking at that monthly recurring revenue because, we as Julie mentioned, Drift is we are actually a monthly recurring revenue model so we don’t have annual contracts, we are constantly winning our customers every single month. So it’s important to us to look at that growth as well as what that MRR is.

Across the board we look at lifetime value and customer retention. So those are really important factors to us to figure out how long is somebody staying and growing with MailChimp and what does our retention look like? And then if people do leave, what are the common reasons that they leave? Again, so that we can correct that and either add features that they need, or adjust the process to make it easier, but we want to make sure that it’s easy to stay and grow with MailChimp.

We also are moving towards more of a feel of customer success just across the company. So no matter your role, anybody can impact the success of customers. I think that this is really driven home by the fact that most MailChimp employees have side hustles, and we really encourage that here at MailChimp. So our employees are also usually customers who are using MailChimp to help them promote their business online and connect with their customers, build a new customer base, and even, win back customers that maybe lapsed in the past. So every role can really help us think about that customer experience.

But all of those factors, the CSat with support, the NPS, conversions to paid, time to value, feature adoption, lifetime value and retention. All of these really help us understand that overall customer experience.

Julie Hogan:
Arianna, I love what you said to you about how everybody in the company can play a role and can help. One of the things we’ve recently launched is having different parts of the organization take on a support shift. So one support shift per month, including our executive team. And what we want to do is we’re holding them to the high standards that we have. So when you are doing your shift, we’re going to evaluate you and ensure that you’re doing it in the right way, but it gives the rest of the company perspective. It should not only be the individuals at the front of the house or the front line who are the only people talking to customers. Ideally, if you have the opportunity getting as many people from across the company to understand the customer journey and understand the questions they’re asking. who they are. I think it’s really important also when you talk, maybe you’re having a conversation in finance about a customer who you need to work with on getting some sort of reconciliation in place.

First conversation always internally should be, okay, what does this business do? Who are they? Where are they located? Calling customers by name, knowing where they’re from and knowing what their business does in every area of your organization is hugely important because it brings your customers to life in your office. And so having that opportunity to have more people in the business participate is so valuable to getting everyone committed to the customer journey.

Ariana Hargrave:
Absolutely. Yeah, and we even build on that with our motto internally, which is listen hard, change fast. So we want to make sure that our customers are being heard, and that we

Nicole Wojno:
Those are great examples, and I want to take a few questions that have come in. We don’t have a lot of time left, but the first question is from Ezekiel, and Ariana, I’ll give this to you because it actually ties into what you were just talking about because, since MailChimp is a self service, software model, what’s your approach with turn and how do you engage with customers who feel frustrated with the software, or what if it is too late to show them value on the platform? I know you guys are month to month and you’re having to win your customers every single month, so how do you deal with that? And I think turn?

Ariana Hargrave:
Churn is one of those tricky things because there’s so many reasons that people might churn, but let’s say that our product wasn’t necessarily meeting their needs, but that customer just really needed that feature at that time, and we didn’t offer it. Well that’s okay, sometimes people do leave, but we also are on a quest to really make sure that we’re promoting when we do add new features. So we want to make sure that we’re adding that to our website. We might send a couple of emails to people just to say, “Hey, I know that you’ve left, but wanted to let you know that you were being heard. We have now released this feature, so if it’s a good time for you to come back, we would love to have you back.” So just keeping an eye on what those churn reasons are and that way either making it better for future customers so that they don’t hit those same issues or even trying to win back those lapsed customers.

Nicole Wojno:
That’s great. This is the question from Matt and either of you can take this, the question is, do you cheer your customers out and do the touchpoints differ for your different tiers?

Julie Hogan:
I can jump on this. So what’s interesting is at first I made the mistake of having different touches for different tiers. And what we realized from that initial experiment and experience into going touchless was that all customers across the board require the same level of initial engagement to get started. And so for us it’s a kickoff strategy and launch. So understanding that these things don’t have to take place over a certain period of days or weeks. In fact, we could get these components taken care of even within the first few minutes of purchase. And what drives me bananas about a customer journey or customer life cycle is you often just see this line into infinity that often ends up in stagnate, grow, or churn. Where what we want to do is get customers into a cycle. So we do the things that we need to do regardless of segment.

So whether you’re a very small business or you’re a large enterprise, we need to get you kicked off. We need to understand the strategy for making Drift work for you. Then we need to launch it. And from there you’re going to start connecting with leads. You learn from what’s working, what’s not. You adapt and you end up in this cycle, this ongoing cycle of connects, learn, adapt. So for us it’s really being clear and focused on the things that we know to be true about our most successful customers across all segments and making it very simple to get started. And ensuring we’re helping you get started and seeing that ongoing success, getting into that cycle of Drift usage as fast as possible.

Ariana Hargrave:
Yeah, and at MailChimp we actually don’t segment customers by like pay band or any other thing like that, but what we do is we look at customers by segment, so what are their business needs and then we provide information to them in our app, and through email that really fit those business needs so that again, they’re getting the right information that’s tailored to them and their business.

Nicole Wojno:
Right. And quickly, I’ll ask this question, this is from Sarah. Julie because you mentioned this earlier, how do you get your current, and they’re probably very busy we’re assuming customers to get on the phone with newer customers about how to best leverage the product?

Julie Hogan:
Yeah. We ask, I don’t want to be silly about the answer, but when we have customers on the phone, customers we know who have been evangelists and been helpful. We’ve just said, Hey, you’ve been really valuable to us would you mind being able to do this for us?” And often they’re happy to do it, so if anyone’s looking for something like that, I would say just  ask. If you think you need to add incentives, we’ve not had to do that yet, but yeah, if you think you have to add incentives that could be a component of it as well for sure.

But I’d start by asking and saying, “Hey, we find the relationship with you really powerful and valuable,” and I think sometimes too, just the honesty of saying, “Listen, I’m the vendor, I work here, of course I want people to adopt and having you as a user who’s, seen value, who’s given us feedback and criticism and we’ve learned from it and we’ve, we’ve evolved what we’ve been doing with love to have you share your story.”

And, and also I think positioning the fact that this isn’t an incredible commitment. 10 minutes, 15 minutes people’s time  to be able to do things like this, generally is shorter and shorter. And so making it a quick, easy part of having a partnership together. I hope will work for different companies who are listening to this. It has for us and it’s been hugely valuable.

Nicole Wojno:
That’s great, you never know until you ask. Yeah,

Julie Hogan:
Exactly and the worst thing they’ll say is no.

Nicole Wojno:
Exactly. Well if we didn’t get to your question on this we’ll follow up with you personally to get those answered, and if you need any more resources or advice on anything you know related to user adoption, onboarding or customer engagement, you can check out The Direct User Adoption Toolkit embed.useriq.com/useradoptiontoolkits. We really appreciate you Ariana and Julie for sharing your thoughts with us. Taking the time out of your day to day this, this was amazing and thank you all attendees for coming. We hope you got some valuable insights on customer engagement. I know I did and we’ll be sending everyone a copy of the recording tomorrow and that’s all I have for now. I hope everyone enjoys the rest of their day and their week. Thank you so much. Bye.