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[Webinar] How Does Customer Success Scale Through Digital?

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"With customer success, we need to leverage technology, people, and process, to deliver to the goals of that customer success team, and it's a lot more than that high-touch approach."

Transcript

Aseem Chandra: [00:00:00] So really excited for this session. This is hosted by ersa.ai. If you’d like to see some of our previous sessions feel free to check us out at ersa.ai/events. We’ve had a series of awesome guests here and I’m really excited to introduce Chad Horenfeldt from Meta. And so Chad, why don’t you go ahead and introduce yourself and then I’ll share with the audience a little bit about the conversation we intend to have.

Chad Horenfeldt: Awesome. Thank you so much for having me on. So my name’s Chad Horenfeldt. I’m the head of Customer Success at Meta and it’s, I’m part of the Kustomer with a K division. So Kustomer is a CRM support platform. We fit up within the business messaging group of Meta. 

Aseem Chandra: Great. My name is Aseem.

Aseem Chandra: I’m the host today to this show and co-founder and CEO at Immersa we have, we launched a series of conversations in the [00:01:00] industry with folks who are really prominent in the customer success space to learn more about how you run your business and how things things evolved in this space over the years and really excited to have you on board.

Aseem Chandra: So just to orient the audience a little bit today on what we’re gonna be doing today, we’re gonna talk about how customer success is evolving from a high touch world to a digital scaled world. And nearly everyone we talk to today is being asked to do a lot more with the resources and the team that they currently have.

Aseem Chandra: You’re being asked to manage more accounts to raise some of the metrics that measure the success of your business outcomes while maintaining the same or fewer resources on your team. So really, really good conversation to have on how do you leverage technology and what are some of the key areas to focus on to drive that scale.

Aseem Chandra: And second, kind of looking at it from the customer’s lens what are their expectations of the customer success function and how’s that evolving? So we’re gonna talk about that as [00:02:00] well. So for the audience, as you have questions, please jump in and post them here in the chat forum and I will raise your questions to chat or we will try and address it.

Aseem Chandra: If you have a response to the questions that are being raised here, please share your responses as well. You’re all experts in customer success. We wanna make sure there’s a good dialogue going here with with folks. So let’s get on started. So Chad, I’m gonna ask you to share with the audience a little bit more about Kustomer, with a k, pretty cool product.

Aseem Chandra: I was checking it out last night, but, but tell us a little bit more about what it is. 

Chad Horenfeldt: Sure. So in terms of our company, in terms of our product, the company’s been around since 2016. And really what we do, our, our main goal has always been to provide a better experience for our customers.

Chad Horenfeldt: And we mostly work in the B2C space. So if you’re interacting with a site, maybe there’s a clothing company that you buy from online. some of our [00:03:00] company, some of our customers include Ring Abercrombie and Vince is another one. If you’re buying things online, you’re interacting with people typically either through chat or through email or through SMS.

Chad Horenfeldt: Our system’s an omnichannel support platform. So we handle all of that information. And what we’re trying to do is take all that information from different sources and making sure that it’s available to the agents who are trying to help you and trying to service you. And what we found in the past is that all this information was disparate sources and people were really being treated as tickets, and we really wanted to change that and create conversations with individuals.

Chad Horenfeldt: companies are shopping with people. They’re not shopping with tickets. They’re not trying to have people be treated as tickets. I don’t wanna be treated as a ticket. So that’s kind of how we’ve changed things. And within Meta, I mean, really what Meta’s trying to do is transform how companies are communicating with consumers.

Chad Horenfeldt: And we, they [00:04:00] see us as a really phenomenal way of doing that and, and leveraging the different channels that that meta. That we currently integrate with. And so it’s really just facilitating more of where we’re seeing people and, and businesses progress, where it’s moving away from some of those traditional channels like voice, email, and more into that conversational messaging type format.

Aseem Chandra: That’s great. So is this just, just to kind of orient us and orient the audience meta is the parent company to Facebook and recently acquired customer, I believe it was earlier this year. Is that correct? 

Chad Horenfeldt: Yeah, the acquisition was completed earlier 

Aseem Chandra: So it’s it’s really interesting to kind of put customer success together with Meta and so kind of help us understand the use case. Is it more B2C oriented businesses that they are interacting with, is why they acquired you? What was the rationale behind the acquisition? [00:05:00] 

Chad Horenfeldt: Yeah, I, I think just what I had said before it’s really around they, they’re seeing a revolution in terms of how consumers wanna communicate.

Chad Horenfeldt: They wanna communicate through messaging. I mean, think about this morning, how many messages have you already sent to your friends and family? And in a similar way why should businesses be communicating in a similar. And, and that’s kind of where customer fits in because it could help facilitate that type of communication.

Chad Horenfeldt: It’s a very powerful crm, system. It allows for lots of different automation and it allows for ai, which is a I’d say an up and coming part of the different tool sets that companies can use because the other trend that we see within the customer experience space is, People don’t want to necessarily speak to anyone.

Chad Horenfeldt: They really just wanna get their answers and they want to get them quickly. And there’s lots of simple use cases like, where’s my order? Or just even if there’s delays or anything like that where [00:06:00] you can proactively message as well as when people are trying to figure out where, where their packages.

Chad Horenfeldt: All that information and all those types of requests can be handled in an automated way for the most part. And so that’s kind of some of the things that our system facilitates. And this in turn can help a lot broader market than what customer was doing previous.

Aseem Chandra: Yeah. So it’s interesting Chad and you, you’ve been doing this a long while, but over the last few years, clearly there’s been this massive explosion in the number of channels in which. A consumer or a customer can interact with a brand and ask for help or ask for support or ask for any kind of interaction with, with that, with that brand.

Aseem Chandra: It sounds like from what you’re describing, the focus for customer with the K has been a lot towards chat as the, as the, as a important channel. So is this, [00:07:00] is, is that sort of the next platform on which customer success tools are gonna be? 

Chad Horenfeldt: I mean, possibly it’s not necessarily just chat. I think that even some of the traditional channels like voice and email are still very important.

Chad Horenfeldt: I think that there’s other channels like WhatsApp, which is like an emerging channel in, in areas of the world, and it’s growing in North America. Those are other channels as well. Again, it’s, it’s not necessarily our platform, it’s more comes down to the consumer. And you really each business has to determine what is the best way to communicate with their customers based on what their customers want.

Chad Horenfeldt: It’s not, it shouldn’t be based on what the businesses think that they should communicate. And that’s a lot of the mistakes that I’d say that companies have made in the past. 

Aseem Chandra: Got it. And so help us understand a little bit about how customer expectations are evolving. the, the, the traditional sort of tools that have been part of the tool belt for CS teams including [00:08:00] QBR and sort of, you know back and forth communication with, with customers to identify where there’s potentially at some risk in, in an account or potentially opportunity in an.

Aseem Chandra: Helping them navigate that, but like what, what are some of the new trends? What are some of the expectations, how do you see consumer expectations or customer expectations evolve and what do they expect from a customer success team these days? 

Chad Horenfeldt: Yeah, I think from a customer success from a B2B perspective, I think where in the, in the past I’d say, Customer success teams would reach out to their customers and have expectations that they would hear from their customers, and that those customers would be happy to hear from their customer success manager.

Chad Horenfeldt: And I think really what’s changed is, I’d say two things. One is that the expectations of customers have gone up and the expectation is that, hey, when I reach out to you, someone’s gonna need to be there. You’re gonna need to help me in, in the way that I want to be helped. And so for example, I’ve seen where customers are interacting with [00:09:00] customer success teams through Slack in some cases.

Chad Horenfeldt: Mm-hmm. . But it really comes down to in app messaging is another more popular one as well. Really, really what it comes down to is that consumers want help when they need it. I think the other thing is, A typical individual, a company they may interact with like 10 or 20 different software companies.

Chad Horenfeldt: So previously customer success manager wanna reach out and want to do a traditional QBR business review, whatever you wanna call it. And now they might not hear crickets. And you as a CSM you really have to prove yourself that the value that you’re going to bring during that interaction because that person’s interacting with, again, many different software companies and trying to run their business.

Chad Horenfeldt: And you have to again, prove your value that the time you’re gonna spend with them is worth spending with them. So that’s really the challenge I’d say that customer success teams have and with. They have to change their approach [00:10:00] to make sure that they’re going to A, have an impact, and B make sure that they stand out and so that you know what their customer needs and what they provide are aligned and so that they’re gonna have a long-term relationship.

Aseem Chandra: Yeah, very well said. I’m curious when you look at it from the other lens, which is where you sit as leading up a important customer success organization. What’s evolved and what’s changed for you? I mean, you’ve been in this industry a long time and in, in, in this capacity in different companies a long time.

Aseem Chandra: So maybe take us through a little bit of a journey from when you started in a customer success capacity. Almost like 15 years. To where you’re today, what’s the evolution that you’ve seen of the function particularly for tech companies and, and where I, I believe you’ve spent a lot of your.

Chad Horenfeldt: Yes. I’ve been very lucky, I’d say, because very early on I saw that businesses were gonna start to do [00:11:00] more of their interactions and, and more of their software purchases online. And, and I saw that kind of birth and rise of SaaS and joined SaaS company very early on. So I had joined Eloqua, which is in the marketing automation space, and was eventually purchased by Oracle.

Chad Horenfeldt: But at the time when I joined that company, I was very much in the space. How can I help my customer? What can I do myself? And it was a very, almost like a heroic type of approach where your customer was in need and whatever happens you’d wake up. I remember it was very early days and we were a small company.

Chad Horenfeldt: I think we were like about 3 million in ARR when I joined. And so you had customers in Asia, people were calling. Pick up the phone or whatever. You do whatever you needed to do. And that was really, that, that kind of helper mentality that came out of that. And even as we started to differentiate and specialize roles and we created a support team, and then we created, you [00:12:00] know, a more sophisticated services team that that heroic efforts, that that mentality still, I would say maintain was, was maintained.

Chad Horenfeldt: And, and then how, how’s that, how that’s evolved is. We started to see technology start to come in and similar to other functions like sales and marketing, where they had their own, their own tools like salesforce.com and, and then on the marketing side of qua and Marketo customer success started to have, its own tools.

Chad Horenfeldt: And so then we start to see greater efficiency because we start to have data that we can leverage that’s really at our fingertips and that can help us Priorit. Where we need to focus on. And I think it also added some rigor to customer success as well, where tracking things in more of a central place.

Chad Horenfeldt: We’re understanding when we need to reach out to our customers. And I think the next step and where we have kind of gotten to today is two on a, I’d say in a twofold, one is, The technology is just so [00:13:00] much better and it’s more specialized. So not only do we have these customer success platforms, but we have platforms for onboarding, we have platforms for pulling together data and making sense of data.

Chad Horenfeldt: And on the other, the other area is that we now have operations and so we now have teams that are, have been set up either specifically within customer success or maybe part of like revenue operations or a greater operations. That are there to help the customer success teams to help them scale.

Chad Horenfeldt: And then the, the other part of this is that it’s, it used to be a very high touch, one to one approach, and that’s really evolved as well, where customer success managers that used to be equivalent to customer success, and that’s really not the case anymore. It shouldn’t necessarily be a, this whole idea of that a person is customer success.

Chad Horenfeldt: Customer success is I would say a function. And within customer success, we need to leverage [00:14:00] technology, people and process to deliver on what the goals are of that customer success team. And it’s just a lot more than that high touch approach. 

Aseem Chandra: Mm-hmm. . Yeah. So I think you kind of covered three key aspects of how the customer success roles evolved over the years.

Aseem Chandra: let me, let me dig a little bit deeper on the technology aspect, and I’d love to hear from the audience, like, what are some of the CS tools you’re using today? Just to kinda get a sense for what, what kind of tools and technologies you, you interact with now. Sean, thank you for your response.

Aseem Chandra: Really appreciate it. But I, I kind of heard four categories in your narrative. one is obviously the CS platforms that are the backbone for a lot of the CS teams and where they spend their time every day. Second of this onboarding tools and, and sort of driving adoption based off of that onboarding.

Aseem Chandra: Third I heard was around operations teams supporting customer success organizations. And then the last one, which is in fact [00:15:00] where we as Immersa play is around data platforms that support these different technologies to figure out what’s going on in an account and kind of provide an intelligence layer at an operational level. So, so that’s, that’s sort of what I took away from that narrative. 

 

Now I wanna touch on these a little bit and go a little bit deeper in these areas. What are, I mean, you obviously have a lot of experience with these different tools, and I’d love to hear how what tools are being utilized by our audience today and the different technologies.

Aseem Chandra: But just where do you see there’s been strong evolution of technology and, and it’s it kind of meets the need of the organization today versus where there are opportunities for growth. I’d love to hear like where there’s maturity and where there’s where there are gaps in tech cloud in the industry. Not necessarily any particular tool, but in the industry. 

Chad Horenfeldt: Yeah, I, I think there’s definitely a lot of maturity around the 360 view, let’s say, of the customer. So it, [00:16:00] it’s really like where that technology started from, was geared, I’d say, to the customer success leader to give them greater insights and help them organize their information as well as the customer success manager to help them organize their day, to give them insights and to, to keep everyone accountable.

Chad Horenfeldt: And I think where it’s progressed to. Again, it’s kind of beyond the actual customer success manager. It’s thinking through technology to communicate to the customer to help them deliver their outcomes. And so what we’ve started to see is customer success platforms integrating different communication channels so that it’s not just the customer success manager that’s reaching out to the customer, that a lot of that communication can be automated.

Chad Horenfeldt: So we’re seeing things. email automation things that were traditionally, let’s say in marketing being added into these customer success platforms as well as in app as well. So that’s just creating a more [00:17:00] sophisticated customer journey. The differentiated journey based on different segments.

Chad Horenfeldt: And I’d say then the other parts in terms of where that technology is, is continuously. changing and progressing is there’s been more of a focus, let’s say, on onboarding. I think there’s at least two or three or more vendors that are focused very specifically on how we create the best experience for that customer that’s just coming on board.

Chad Horenfeldt: And a lot of automating those experiences as well. And then the last part I would say in terms of a lot of things that I’m seeing as of late is how, how can we take all of this data that we have that could be usage data, it could be support data, it could be customer survey data.

Chad Horenfeldt: And pulling that all together to glean insights from that. And then that can drive other initiatives that companies have. It could be, again, going back to like automating communications. It could be creating alerts for people on the CS team that [00:18:00] these are customers that they need to focus on and reach out to.

Chad Horenfeldt: And, and those are the things that I’d say are, are how, how we’re changing. It can’t be where customer. Teams have just regular calls with their customers and that sort of same approach that’s been used over and over again because it’s very resource intensive and customers don’t necessarily want that, or, or like that, like they don’t have the time for that.

Chad Horenfeldt: So it’s best to leverage the data and then reach out to that right customer, that right time with the right piece of content that’s going to help them achieve what they need to. Yeah, 

Aseem Chandra: I think you just touched on a response to a question Michael is asking online about how CS teams provide proactive value and, and show that to customers.

Aseem Chandra: So let’s, let’s kind of take a data lens to what you just described, right? So you kind of walk through all the different elements from a data standpoint that need to come together in order to kind of [00:19:00] create these proactive notifications and notify whether those. In-app notifications or directly to the customer or to the CS team and so on.

Aseem Chandra: What, what are some of the challenges that you see specifically around trying to bring all these different data sets together, right? In order to, to create these insights, in order to create these operational insights at an account level or at a user level. What are some of the challenges that you see from a data standpoint?

Chad Horenfeldt: Yeah, I think the biggest challenge is the data is, first of all, it’s structured in many different ways. So you have data, let’s say, from your support systems that’s structured in one way. You have data, data from your surveys. It’s over here. You have data usage data.

Chad Horenfeldt: It’s over there. So first of all, the data is just disparate all over the place. I’d say second of all is that different systems have different types of reporting and some of it’s good, some of it’s not so great. And so how do you actually [00:20:00] pull insights outta that data. It could be very challenging.

Chad Horenfeldt: It could be that you’re gonna have to do a lot of manual work. I know for us, we have a voice of customer survey. And what I actually do is I go through the actual open text results that people provide in some of those, those longer form questions. And then, Pull out what are the three things that are the positive things and categorize them, and then what are the three negative things, and try to categorize those.

Chad Horenfeldt: And that’s obviously very painful, but these are the things that you need to do. And I know for myself as a CS leader, whenever I’m bringing anything to let’s say product or engineering, They always want to get down to the very specific things. So even if I say, okay, this area of our product is problematic, it’s never enough.

Chad Horenfeldt: Like it needs to be further down, further down so that they can actually leverage that information and, and build off of that. 

Aseem Chandra: Yeah, I think that’s a [00:21:00] really important point. I mean, we talk a lot in terms of customer success and. CS teams do for, for customers, but there is a feedback loop back into the product as well.

Aseem Chandra: You’re on the front lines of all the feedback from clients about how they’re using the product. So maybe let’s talk about that for a moment, right? How do you, how do you kinda capture that and is there, is it more subjective through interactions that you then bring it back to the product team?

Aseem Chandra: More data driven that you bring it back to the product team. How and what do you see in the industry? what, what’s sort of best practice in addressing those, those feedback loops back into product teams. 

Chad Horenfeldt: I think that the key thing is, it’s leveraging data and trying to pull together very specific insights, but I don’t really know if there’s a best practice.

Chad Horenfeldt: I think this is just an area that is really difficult. I think the other thing that’s challenging is getting resources to do the data analysis. So we do have like [00:22:00] a growing number of CS ops groups forming. But that can be very difficult. I think the other thing is it depends on how sophisticated your company is in terms of pulling all that data together.

Chad Horenfeldt: do they have a data team? Do they have a data warehouse? Do they have bi, a bi tool? And, and if they don’t have all of that do you have the knowledge to let’s say query the data yourself? So I think it’s still a very wide open area at the moment. And it’s definitely ripe for change and for new technologies.

Aseem Chandra: That right there was the reason why MEA exists, so thank you for pointing that out. It kind of validates some of the assumptions we made about the market. Alright, so, let me, let me maybe move forward from there. You know this whole idea of having to sort of bank on ops teams internally or turning to data [00:23:00] teams and you obviously are part of an organization that is well known for its agility with being able to handle large amounts of data.

Aseem Chandra: What, what sort of the challenges with that whole approach and I mean, you’ve, you’ve covered the data challenges, but maybe organizationally, what do you see and where does customer success stack up in the overall priorities for data teams when when CS team gonna ask for, for help internally?

Chad Horenfeldt: Yeah. I think it all depends. I think that it also depends on the organization, on the focus of the organization. As companies move from, I would say, the traditional high touch to more of the product led growth data becomes even more important. Mm-hmm. , because a lot of you, you have a lot more customers typically, and you are not looking at some of these larger trends, but I would say even like finite.

Chad Horenfeldt: Elements, [00:24:00] so as an example there, there might be something in the onboarding that, that onboarding setup that’s been created by the product team where they’re noticing that customers are tripping over a certain step. They’re not getting past a certain step. And so they might find that there’s like a button or maybe an element that they, the user requires more training and they might come to the customer success team and say, This is an area our customers are struggling, perhaps that you can create a webinar to help our customers as part of the onboarding process so that they understand how to do that.

Chad Horenfeldt: And rather than having to, let’s say, restructure the entire product it just might be it’s just an area that we can, you can teach customers. So I think that those are some of the differentiators in terms of how companies might look at data. I think it also depends on what was the origin of the company?

Chad Horenfeldt: Some companies their founders come maybe from a data engineering background or maybe that’s kind of the core of the product is around ai. [00:25:00] Again, it, it just, it, it very, it depends on company to company. I think the key thing today is that some companies have embedded that more in their company from the start, and other companies are catching up and realizing that if they don’t invest.

Chad Horenfeldt: Then either they need to invest and, and that might require a data team or they need to look at the right technology that can help and improve what they’re doing today. But I think that if they don’t, that’s where there’s a lot of inefficiencies and, and a lot of assumptions.

Chad Horenfeldt: And that’s really what happens is that many CS leaders are like, okay, well, I think that I see from the churn data or from some other feedback that customers require us to do this. Mm-hmm. . But in reality, like if you’re not doing real data analysis diving into the data, understanding what is actually going on.

Chad Horenfeldt: And it’s not just taking a bunch of customer [00:26:00] feedback. You have to look at where on the journey the customer is what segment they’re in. And taking those different factors. And so it’s not just pulling the data together. It’s also, I’d say, specific analytical skills that are required that you can separate some of the, you know, really amazing points from some of the noise that exist.

Aseem Chandra: Got it. So I think I think Chad, you, you kind of touched on all of the data related issues pretty well there. Now let’s maybe shift gears and talk about metrics, right? So data eventually has to feed into metrics and you, you actually mentioned a couple of them as you were, as you were going through that previous response.

Aseem Chandra: So what are, from your lens I mean, obviously like when we talk to folks in your position, we hear about net revenue retention as kind of the primary metric on which a lot of the CS teams. Success is being measured internally, but when you look at the problem of how is my team performing and are we delivering to our customer’s expectations or to the business’ expectations, what are [00:27:00] some of the metrics that you, that you look at, and then what are the top two or three things that you personally pay a lot of attention to?

Aseem Chandra: Yeah. 

Chad Horenfeldt: I look at metrics and it’s two ways, so I look at it. From a lagging metric perspective. And so these are things like net dollar retention rate. And so that, that’s involved not only is it looking at customer retention, but it’s looking at customer growth. So how much, and, and it’s looking from a revenue perspective.

Chad Horenfeldt: And so it’s a very important metric. We wanna make sure. That we’re trending there in the right direction. We look at gross dollar retention rate as well, which is looking more focused on revenue retention rather than growth. And then we look at quarterly retention rates. So we look at that specific quarter rather than gross dollar retention.

Chad Horenfeldt: It’s all retention. They typically go back like it’s a 12 month cohort that we look at that data. So those are some of the key metrics that we start with. And then in terms of some of the leading indicators we’ll look at things such as, [00:28:00] voice of customer, so we’ll look at nps, we’ll look at usage data.

Chad Horenfeldt: And the other things that we do in terms of help to help drive some of the things like the retention rate goes to all retention rate net to all retention rate. We will. Perform certain activities. So from our enterprise team, we do what we call strategic engagement. So those might be business reviews.

Chad Horenfeldt: We do customer health checks, we do outcome reviews. These are just different tools that we have, depending on the customer need and depending on where they’re at in the customer life cycle. In the smaller segments, we have different types. Tools that we use. So we do things like customer health checks and we also employ other tools.

Chad Horenfeldt: We might do webinars to try and educate more customers on mass. But we are tracking those activities and tracking how we engage with customers. I also own our technical account management team. And so [00:29:00] we also track their engagements with customers as well. And so that’s kind of how we look at those engagements, we relay those up in terms of how they impact retention and growth.

Chad Horenfeldt: That’s how we can justify those resources. The other things we might look at are engagement as well. Those might blend into the overall health score. But, overall, those are some of the metrics that we look at on a regular basis. Got it. 

Aseem Chandra: Got it. I think this framing of leading versus lagging indicators was super helpful in sort of evolving my thinking and, and how to think about the different metrics in, in the space.

Aseem Chandra: do you also sort of distinguish, for example, between metrics that measure account health in some way, or what’s the status of the account of the client versus. Team team efficiency or team execution, like how do you, how do you beat apart those two things? And, and just maybe touch on that a little bit.

Chad Horenfeldt: Yeah, I, I think from it’s, it is a good [00:30:00] point because we hear a lot of these days like net dollar retention and gross dollar retention and those are really important. I’d say that it’s easy within a quarter to see what impact I have, because you can look at your retention rate.

Chad Horenfeldt: As we know, it’s not gonna come down to that quarter. If you’re gonna retain that customer, it’s usually a more longer term effort. And it involves more teams than just customer success. even beyond onboarding or support, you’re looking at the product team. You’re looking at the sales team.

Chad Horenfeldt: And, and so to achieve that we look at specific activities, and this is kind of going back to what I was mentioning around those strategic engagements. There’s other activities as well. So we look to identify advocates. And so those are customers who will wanna volunteer to help us.

Chad Horenfeldt: So it could be mentioning in a community or participating in a marketing event that we’re providing a reference. So that’s one area. [00:31:00] We also identify upsell opportunities. So this is kind of where we partner with our sales team and we have a way that we track that so that when those opportunities come up and we pass those on sales there’s just another value point from the customer success team.

Chad Horenfeldt: I think that it’s really important. There’s a. Intangibles. So the intangibles are great customer stories that come out and bring customer feedback back to the product team and developing. But those aren’t things that I would say will make a customer success team a cemented part of your organization, you really have to have very tangible things that you do.

Chad Horenfeldt: And I’m someone like our, our customer success team owns renewals and I’m very much in favor of that. I think. Some people are concerned that it might influence that trusted advisor relationship. I don’t think so at all. I think that it actually cements it even more [00:32:00] because you’re the one that’s going to be working with them, working through the renewal and renewals should be really a non-event.

Chad Horenfeldt: Like if you’re doing what you should be doing to drive their outcome. renewals sometimes get into some tough negotiations especially I’d say now in terms of this economy. But that’s where you can just bring in a manager, you can bring in other resources if needed.

Chad Horenfeldt: But if your pricing is fair, if your value is very clear that shouldn’t necessarily be a challenge. 

Aseem Chandra: Hm, very interesting. And I think what I took away from a lot of this is the, the fact that the customer success, customer success is there’s an organization centered around it, but then the way you describe the role the touchpoints and the sales and the product and other parts of the organization, you’re orchestrating a response that’s to the best interest of the client and obviously to yourselves.

Aseem Chandra: So that orchestration piece, right? Like you touched on how you connect with the product team to bring them [00:33:00] product feedback. You connect with the sales team to deliver upsell opportunities to them. You might involve certain organizations or teams or people in where there’s a tough negotiation to be had around renewals.

Aseem Chandra: Help me understand that a little bit better. Like how is that a structured approach or is it sort of ad hoc? Is it like, how do you, as a, as a leader of the organization, how do you empower your team? And how do you bring in other stakeholders to participate to the same degree who are being measured on very different metrics internally for their own deliverables to participate in the process in the right way?

Aseem Chandra: Like what are some of the challenges around that? How do you address them? 

Chad Horenfeldt: Yeah, it’s, it’s a good question and I think it is a structured approach. The way I look at customer success and how I define it is that there’s really two foundational elements. There’s trust and value. And so, and, and traditionally we look at it from a customer perspective.

Chad Horenfeldt: If a customer. Trust you. Then they’re going to be willing to learn more and get more value. And if they’re seeing [00:34:00] value, then that actually reinforces the trust that they have in you. And obviously in the reverse. Like if you, if your system goes down, that breaks the trust and the opposite, they don’t get value.

Chad Horenfeldt: But it, it really, customer success goes beyond that. Like there needs to be trust within your team. So your team teammates need to be working together towards providing that experience for the customer. And there needs to be trust with your. But there also has to be trust within the organization and the way that you to get that trust and that value with, let’s say, let’s say the product team.

Chad Horenfeldt: So with the product team, What customer success can do is they can bring beta testers to the product team. They can raise particular items and help the product team see the trends that are happening within their customer base. The other thing that they can do is that no product team wants to hear all sorts of different issues flying at them.

Chad Horenfeldt: If you’re bringing the items in a more holistic process [00:35:00] oriented way where you’ve really bubbled up the top items and then you provided data showing, Hey, I have this number of customers that are having this particular challenge. These are the results. We have customer renewals that are dependent on this.

Chad Horenfeldt: That’s kind of how you can develop that relationship with the product team rather than having like 20 different people screaming at the product team. It’s, it’s really providing that, that relationship of respect and helping each other and being very empathetic. And this translates across all teams, marketing, sales, finance and, and really what I try and work on with my team.

Chad Horenfeldt: We really wanna set the example for the rest of the organization. We want to be the voice of the customer, but we need to do it in the right way. And it’s hard. As a customer success manager, you’ve got a customer that’s yelling at you and our first inclination is to yell internally because you want that customers to do [00:36:00] well, but you have to.

Chad Horenfeldt: Not just look at that one customer. You have to look at how this impacts the entire organization and how if you get your product team, you have a limited number of resources and you get them building something. what’s something that they can build that’s gonna help the greater business?

Chad Horenfeldt: It’s gonna generate more revenue or protect more revenue. And so if you create those internal processes and those ways of communicating, then you know you’re gonna develop a much better relationship across the organization. So we’ve got escalation channels that for product we have like the leadership between product engineering and CX that meet together on a regular basis.

Chad Horenfeldt: And, and that’s kind of where. We let out some of those. It could be frustrations, it could be just broken processes, it could be processes that are outgrown as your company changes. And you really have to have those types of points in place because as you said, you’re gonna have [00:37:00] different measurements between the different teams, different priorities, and you have to have those outlets to make sure that there’s a.

Aseem Chandra: Hmm. Very cool, very cool. I, I, I love the point you made early on about having to establish that trust and, and be able to deliver the value between the different organizations and then be able to find the patterns in the, in the behaviors that you’re seeing with customers or the issues that you’re seeing, and be able to communicate those patterns effectively.

Aseem Chandra: Teams that can then act upon it. So really cool. I as we’re kind of approaching the tail end of our conversation here I want to touch on this notion of you, you talked about PLG a little bit and how, how important data is in that context for companies that are in particular trying to sign up free or trying to sign up users in a free trial mode and then convert them into.

Aseem Chandra: Tell me a little bit about where, what role do you see customer success [00:38:00] organizations play in that process? Is it primarily a sales function? Is it primarily a marketing function? marketing obviously has to bring people into the funnel. But then who’s responsible for onboarding? For driving adoption?

Aseem Chandra: For driving conversion? That’s a very high touch kind of a, or I would imagine not high touch, but more sort of orchestrated process across different departments. And so what, what’s sort of your view, and I know you, your customer also offers that as an option, right? How do you guys manage it yourself?

Chad Horenfeldt: Yeah, so it’s, it’s a good question. I think that it’s something that is evolving over time, but I think to what you were saying, like marketing is, is responsible, let’s say, for bringing in people to the site, bringing people to start to. Take the trial and, and then in from, in terms of trial conversion, I think that it involves a number of different pieces.

Chad Horenfeldt: It involves the product. So making sure you’ve created a really great experience for that new person that’s [00:39:00] trying out your product. And I do feel that’s more of a product LED function. But the product team is going to leverage the experie. From the customer success and customer experience teams to better understand things like, what does that customer need to do to be successful?

Chad Horenfeldt: What’s going to be that, those first and second value points and, and take all that information, kind of bubble that up into the product. And in terms of supporting those customers, I think that your support teams most likely involved. It depends on the complexity of your product. You might have it so that you have maybe some, some sales development representatives.

Chad Horenfeldt: Potentially even like sales executives. I don’t, I don’t it depends on the type of trial and the type of product that is communicating with those customers directly. But I would say that that’s the period in which going back to when a customer needs your help, are you gonna be available?

Chad Horenfeldt: And if, if I am trying out your products and I’m making a decision if I wanna continue using it or. [00:40:00] I better get some immediate help if I get stuck. And so again, like that, that’s where you might need to have support, like your actual support team helping those trial recipients. I haven’t, like, we’re not involved as a customer success team.

Chad Horenfeldt: We’ve kind of. Created that barrier where we’re handling customers after they’ve actually converted and become a paid customer. But that could change. Again, it’s very fluid there, I would say at the moment. In terms of what different businesses do. 

Aseem Chandra: Got it. Got it. All right. So final call out to attendees.

Aseem Chandra: If you have any questions that you’d like to raise please, please bring them up now and we’ll, we’ll cover those. from my lens Chad, this has just been an amazing conversation. It’s so informational and, and added to my understanding of, of how teams operate in this, in this setting.

Aseem Chandra: Over the last few months, clearly the macro environment has turned. And [00:41:00] there’s been, I mean, we interact with a lot of different organizations and teams, and particularly in the SaaS b2b, SAS industry. What’s your advice to people who are either thinking about starting a career in customer success or who have recently been laid off and thinking about what next, what, what advice would you offer to folks?

Aseem Chandra: And I know it’s very different populations but what, what’s your advice to, to both of those? Yeah. 

Chad Horenfeldt: So you, you, you asked like in terms of breaking into customer success or just handling 

Aseem Chandra: this, breaking into customer success, or if someone’s recently been laid off from their current role in customer success, what’s your advice to them?

Chad Horenfeldt: Yeah, I, I think that a couple of things in terms of breaking into customer success, my advice that I give to everyone is that Before customer success, like what you’re doing today is you’re you’ve most likely specialized in some area. It could be education, it could be finance you have, and, and really what you take from those experiences, that is, that [00:42:00] you have a lot of domain experiences.

Chad Horenfeldt: So my suggestion is to look for companies that have some sort of software that support those domains that you already have experience in. Because I know that if I’m working with a software company, I wanna know that they’ve done what I’ve done. Like they, they know me. And I think that you can leverage that to help you get in and, and get, at least get an, an interview.

Chad Horenfeldt: But along those lines, networking is extremely important. So there’s really great communities out there, like a Gain, Grow, Retain. Another source of information that I’m part of is the success league and going the success league, signing up . There’s a bunch of us who have been doing this for a while and just getting more knowledgeable in customer success.

Chad Horenfeldt: And to those who are laid off, I think in a similar way one is definitely thinking about what it is that you love and what is it the things that you don’t necessarily like. So as an example if you’ve been in [00:43:00] customer success and you, you actually feel that you prefer maybe more on the operational side.

Chad Horenfeldt: And so that might be something that you might want to further explore mm-hmm. And specialize in what we’ve talked about. Is that customer success is definitely becoming more specialized. It’s not this sort of hero that sort of did everything. And then obviously like networking, reaching out to people asking for help.

Chad Horenfeldt: There’s many people that are hurting right now, many people in a similar situation. And people will help. You just need to necessarily reach out to them and ask them. 

Aseem Chandra: Yeah, I, I couldn’t agree more in terms of the value of networking and, and being true to what you want. Sort of being able to explicitly state that, and you’ll be surprised at.

Aseem Chandra: Opportunities start to show up once you express your intent and you reach out for help. Good advice Chad. And, and as always, I really appreciate you making the time here today to meet with [00:44:00] us. You’ve already been kind and generous with your time to advise us in terms of how we’re building ERSA and what some of the things for us to focus on.

Aseem Chandra: And I know this conversation is gonna be very, very valuable to our audience as particularly in the, on the customer success side as people are thinking about. How they evolve their organizations, where they take ’em. Next for the audience we will post a recording to this webinar shortly on our website.

Aseem Chandra: So please feel free to share it with your friends and colleagues who weren’t able to join today. And we have a very exciting guest that will be joining us for our next webinar in the series in early mid-December. We’ll announce the date. The guest is Jan Young. Some of you may know her already.

Aseem Chandra: She is brilliant. And, and we, we’ve had a couple conversations with her. I’m really impressed with her understanding of the space and  what she brings to the table. So look forward to that next one. And we’ll send an invite to everybody here to be a [00:45:00] part of that.

Aseem Chandra: Chad, thank you for your time today and for people who would like to reach out to you, what’s the best way to connect with. 

Chad Horenfeldt: Yeah, just you can go to LinkedIn and connect with me on LinkedIn. And that’s the best way. Feel free to reach out if there’s any questions you had from the event. 

Aseem Chandra: Awesome, thank you.

Aseem Chandra: And you know how to reach Chad. You can find him on LinkedIn. You can finder us at Immersa.ai and we would love to continue this conversation with anybody who’s interested in learning more, would like to share ideas on customer success and the role that data is starting to play in evolving this particular aspect of the organization.

Aseem Chandra: So thank you all for your time and we’ll look forward to seeing you in a couple weeks. 

Chad Horenfeldt: All right. Thank you. Thank you soon. Appreciate it. Bye.

Speakers

Chad Horenfeldt, Head of Global CS at Kustomer (Meta)
Aseem Chandra, Co-founder & CEO @ Immersa 

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