The Digital Customer Success Podcast

How Digital Fuels the Post-Sale Journey at Demandbase with Alyssa Opella | Episode 031

January 02, 2024 Alex Turkovic, Alyssa Opella Episode 31
The Digital Customer Success Podcast
How Digital Fuels the Post-Sale Journey at Demandbase with Alyssa Opella | Episode 031
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In the intro to this week's episode, I briefly touch upon a new resource that is available to you via the website: The Digital Customer Success Tech Stack. In short, this is a collection of applications that a myriad of digital CS and Ops pros are using to execute on their digital strategies. Check it out here: https://digitalcustomersuccess.com/tech-stack/

Happy New Year!

Today's conversation with Alyssa Opella is an absolute treasure trove of how to incorporate digital motions into your entire post-sale journey. Since joining Demandbase almost 2 years ago, Alyssa has incorporated a strong focus on data quality and automations into processes which help customers achieve success from onboarding through to tracking successes and outcomes. 

She and her team focus on intervening in times of trouble just as much as they like to help celebrate their customers' wins, which is a fantastic way to operate. 

In this episode, full of practical advice, we discuss:

  • Alyssa's journey through key career points including time in Blockbuster and the IBM Watson program, as well as her transition from marketing automation into customer success
  • The journey of customer success at Demandbase and the power of perception of the org within the company
  • The importance of data in guiding customers to success
  • Executive-specific motions which help to foster communication with key decision makers
  • Celebrating wins and having fun with customers
  • Knowing your personas and crafting messages specific to that cohort
  • The team behind the scenes making it all happen
  • Not building automation for the sake of automating, but sourcing the requirements for digital motions from the CSM team
  • Support metrics and ticket deflection via digital
  • Failing fast and iterating
  • Taking examples of great digital motions from B2C

My favorite quote from the episode:
"The goal of CSAT is not to get 5 stars but to see where there's smoke"

Alyssa's LinkedIn

Resources:

Shoutouts:

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The Digital Customer Success Podcast is hosted by Alex Turkovic

Speaker 1:

Your team just accomplished this. That's great. Here's the impact you're seeing and congratulations on this success and look forward to celebrating the next one with you. And it's been huge because it's created relationships we didn't have before. In the first week that touch point launched, I had five different VPs responding back appreciating our support and partnership in this, and it then created phone calls to take it from a kind outreach to a relationship.

Speaker 2:

And, once again, welcome to the digital customer success podcast with me, alex Trokovich. So glad you could join us here today and every week as I seek out and interview leaders and practitioners who are innovating and building great scaled CS programs. My goal is to share what I've learned and to bring you along with me for the ride so that you get the insights that you need to build and evolve your own digital CS program. If you'd like more info, want to get in touch or sign up for the latest updates, go to digitalcustomersuccesscom, and if you have a question or commentary to be used in an upcoming episode, call us and leave a message at 512-222-7381. For now, let's get started. Hello greetings, welcome to episode 31 of the Digital CS podcast and happy new year. I hope that if you're listening to this, it's January 2nd at time of release and I hope you've had a fantastic holiday and you're back in the swing of things. I know a lot of folks kind of took those two weeks of you know the holidays off and this may be the second day back in office, so the vacation fog is hopefully clearing and you're able to jump in with both feet. Today we have a fantastic interview with Alyssa Opella of Demand Base, alyssa, gives us a fascinating insight into her program, which she's been in charge of, I think, for two years one and a half years, something like that and has grown dramatically into what I would say is a digital CS powerhouse. She's using digital motions in her data incredibly effectively to engage specific personas, and so you'll hear a lot about how she's going about doing those things and the kinds of things that she's doing with her team, which isn't massive, right. She's doing it on a kind of a lean budget, which I know that a lot of us are as well. So it's a really fascinating conversation. Before we jump and this did go out in my newsletter last week, so, if you haven't signed up for the newsletter, go to the website, sign up for newsletter. It goes out every week with every episode. But I did mention a new resource that we have on the website called the DCS tech stack, which is essentially a collection of tools. Right, in general, when it comes to digital CS, yes, strategy outweighs the tools, but at the end of the day, you need the tools to be able to execute on the strategy, and so what I've done is I've done a lot of research on the digital CS, and I've done a lot of research on the digital CS. What I've done is collected a wide variety of tools from not only all of our guests in the past, but also a couple of different communities, including the DCS connected community, and I've just asked several people hey, what tools are you using, what tools do you know that are out there? And so the DCS tech stack on the website at digitalcustomersuccesscom will give you just a pretty extensive list of tools that others are using for their own digital programs. So I hope you get a lot of value out of that. If you know of a tool or use a tool that isn't on the list, the bottom is a form that you can fill out to add that tool to the list and I'll get the site updated. So we'd love your feedback on it. But go check that out at digitalcustomersuccesscom. For now, please enjoy this conversation with Alyssa Opella of DemandBase, because I sure did. Well, we're not here to talk about animals, alyssa. We're here to talk about digital CS, and we're here to talk about you and digital CS and, more specifically, you and DemandBase and digital CS, and I'm so happy that you're here and happy that you joined me today.

Speaker 1:

I'm very excited to be here, and digital CS is definitely something near and dear to my heart, so it's a fun topic to talk about.

Speaker 2:

Sweet. Well, before we dig into that, though, I do have a couple of questions for you. One is what was it like working at Blockbuster in 2006, 2007? Did it feel like the end of an era, or was that not top of mind?

Speaker 1:

Honestly, it was one of those like great highs. So Blockbuster was in the middle of launching their online brand and they were having great success, so it was really kind of exciting energy in the air there. I mean, I remember they even had like exceeding their targets at the time and big celebrations. But you know, the data geek in me absolutely loved the possibilities of just very targeted content and triggering of messaging because I knew everything. I knew what types of movies you liked, the format you liked them on, dvd, cd, vhs, blu-ray, hd DVD, the snacks you liked. So I mean, talk about ultimate targeted digital messaging. We actually called the program Cyclops because there were so many data points. But we would even create we had a goober model where we would create coupons for you to trigger that right increase in behavior at the store because you still had to go someplace to rent your movies Based on what you typically rent. Here's a coupon for the right snack we think you would want. So, like data wise and like thinking through behavior actions, it was heaven or vana and exciting times because we were seeing the behaviors and motions happening. Mind you, I think it was about two years after I left Blockbuster that they ended up closing their doors forever, which was incredibly sad.

Speaker 2:

Except for that, like isn't there like one location in Alaska somewhere, or something like that what is that location?

Speaker 1:

I believe it's privately owned. It had been a franchisee who just kept the location going.

Speaker 2:

Just kept it going. Now it's probably a tourist attraction more so than a video store rental. Pretty much.

Speaker 1:

Now, if you watched Captain Marvel, you can get some deja vu and some nice memories of the store.

Speaker 2:

Well, I remember my wife and I were recently just reminiscing about the day like like what do we do before iPhones? You know what do we do before smartphones. And it was like well, on Friday we would go to Blockbuster and we would peruse the aisle for a solid hour because that was entertainment in its own. Pick your little DVDs.

Speaker 1:

Very exciting when the new releases would come out and you try to get there early to get the latest DVD and not have to get an old week long rental.

Speaker 2:

Or even VHS For those kids listening. Vhs is just kidding. I did have to explain what a VHS tape was to my son the other day and I felt like super, super old.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I had to explain that to my children and the fact that you had to rewind them before you could retry. Yeah, that's.

Speaker 2:

That was a really hard concept for him to grasp, which is funny. Well then fast forward a few years. Did I see correctly that you worked like in the IBM Watson group or like Watson related thing? Tell me about that a little bit.

Speaker 1:

Sure. So I was at IBM through an acquisition of marketing automation company and part of IBM Watson marketing. So it was marketing automation, analytics, content management, so leveraging some additional insights paired with customer data to create optimal marketing messaging and understand what your customers are doing, or what your customers customers are doing, and really kind of the kind of the initial treads into AI, not nowhere near where we are now, but those initial concepts of data modeling to start understanding behaviors and predicting.

Speaker 2:

It's exceedingly obvious to me just in talking with you these last couple of minutes that you're the ideal individual to talk about digital because of that background and data, and you're, dare I say, nerdiness in data, which I think is a good thing. But talk to me a little bit about your evolution out of basically that marketing type background into where you are today leading CS teams, leading customer facing teams and how your past has influenced where you are today.

Speaker 1:

Sure. So, as I mentioned, my background is actually in marketing automation, which is, frankly, the foundation of what digital right. So it really was a great kind of evolution, and so it was building programs at Blockbuster for health insurance companies, fossil watches, and got the opportunity to go to a SaaS provider and do it on a services level, which I loved. The idea of taking the strategy and the data and applying it in so many different ways, not staying within one focal. And so it's exciting to get to that approach and really starting to help customers define success and dig in with them to achieve it. And then I don't even remember how many years ago now I guess it's been about seven or eight years ago I was given the opportunity to take that over to the customer success side, which I loved, because in services you have the ability to really help make your customer successful, but only if they can afford it. So with customer success you're able to start leaning into more customers. You may not be able to get as hands on, but you can really help to work with them to define that strategy and guide them as a bit of a personal trainer on the path forward. So it was really exciting to start applying that same kind of logic and mentality but at a broader scale and, frankly, applying it based on the different tiers of customers. How far can we go for a strategic customer versus enterprise and mid market? And so we started then really digging into what does that mean for those smaller customers that we still want to make successful and they are hungry and they are looking for it, but we can't have weekly calls with them. And that's when we started really kind of diving into the digital touch. How can we be kind of just nudging them along the way, making suggestions, augmenting things that a CSM would normally do and then, frankly, going beyond that? What are other things that would be done? Getting ahead of support and enablement or making introductions, that could be a good opportunity for services or a cross sell. But if we do it right, it's not just for your commercial market, it applies to all aspects of the customer.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it's spot on. And I think that this probably kind of lends into my next question, which is, if you've listened to the show, is the question that I ask all my guests specifically what would be your elevator pitch of digital CS to somebody, in layman's terms, that has nothing, knows nothing about what it is? How would you describe it to your parents?

Speaker 1:

So I would say the digital CS is merging data and heart. It's merging what you know about customers and your product and your journey with empathy and concern for their best interest and success to create those scalable, personalized touch points. I liken it to air traffic control You're monitoring all the planes and proactively guiding them all forward in their journey, based on where they are at and where they are trying to go.

Speaker 2:

In a very empathetic way.

Speaker 1:

Exactly yeah.

Speaker 2:

Please land your plane now. Yes, I know you're tired, widow, paiwood is Paiwood. You need to land your plane. Maybe not, but I think you that was so stupid. You have hit on something that I don't think anybody else has really hit on, which is that heart component, and I think that is crazy, crazy important. I mean, people have talked about personalization and the need to get the right message to the right person at the right time, which kind of skirts around it, but fundamentally it goes back to your brand identity. It goes back to how you want to serve your customers, how you want your customers to perceive what they're receiving from you and take value and have trust in what they're receiving from you, and I think heart is a perfect word for that 110%.

Speaker 1:

I mean ultimately you're in customer success because you love customers, you care about customers and it can be one of the hardest parts of going towards digital touch is letting go. It's kind of you know, as your kids are growing up and you're letting them play on the playground without you standing over them, but then you recognize you giving that nudge and the freedom. As long as you do it from a point of concern and empathy, it's what helps make them more successful and makes them stronger.

Speaker 2:

Yep, I totally agree, and it's funny that my brain immediately goes to and I hope I'm not insulting our German customers here but like we have actually found that when we lean in heavily on messaging that really have that kind of personalized touch, we end up ostracizing a part of our customer base, especially those in certain parts of Europe who don't really connect with that kind of messaging. Like it's almost like we've had to you know, I don't know where I'm going with this, but we've almost had to tease out two separate messaging threads based on geographic location and how something like that would land, which I think is fascinating, like tying in the cultural aspect of things into your digital messaging.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely. I think it gets very interesting as you think through the different types of messaging you need, whether geographical or even thinking about different roles and personas. If you're talking to engineers versus sellers, versus marketers, you need to use your own, very different language and consideration of what you're reaching out for and when, because it's just very different ways of digesting the information.

Speaker 2:

You got to make it land, yeah absolutely. In. When we talked initially in kind of preparing for the show and meeting each other and all that kind of stuff, I was taken at your description of the journey that CS has been in, been on at demand base and where you've kind of helped to guide the team into where it is today, which is to say it's a you know it's the perception within the company has really changed for the positive of CS within demand base. Can you walk us through a little bit of that journey and what that looks like today versus a few years ago maybe?

Speaker 1:

Absolutely so. I mean, I think we all know there are multiple different iterations of customer success. There's customer success that owns the renewal, there's customer success that owns the renewal and expansion, and there's customer success that owns adoption. For the record, I personally don't know that there's one specific writer wrong. I think it depends on the nature of the business, the complexity of the tool and the nature of the team. So at demand base, customer success used to own the renewal but not the expansion. And prior to me joining the company, it was decided to have the growth account director, who owned the expansion, also own the renewal, for the sake of the customer, of not having two commercial contacts Right. And so customer success was moved to own health and adoption. The challenge was there was no metric for health and adoption and compensation was still based off renewal. So they were given a new mission but no definition of the mission and no real guidance in it. So as a result, they were kind of still working alongside the growth account director on the renewal. Additionally, we had no visibility on where our customers were in the journey to be actively guiding them. Obviously the CSM could do it based on their knowledge of the account, but they'd kind of be coming into every call blind, not knowing what happened in between their calls. So once I came on board and took this customer success team under my wing, we redefined their compensation to focus it on health and adoption what are the things that makes an account healthy, which was an initial major analysis for us. We didn't have even those metrics. We had one metric that was seven years old, so even there we had to kind of analyze it and make sure it still held true. But otherwise customer success was playing whack-a-mole of trying to do everything, hoping some of it made you sticky and, by the way, tracking it in about 40 different G sheets. So I mean it was one of the hardest jobs out there and was a very tactical job. It didn't allow them to be strategic.

Speaker 2:

So we brought in a customer success tool.

Speaker 1:

So it brought all of those 40 G sheets to one place. It let us see what the customer is doing in the site. It brought an insight on what they are doing with our learning management system, with support and all aspects. So we suddenly had that centralized visibility of our account which also gave us a metric of customer health, and so we were able to really cleanly and concisely define how every customer was doing. We had a North Star. We moved our compensation to that North Star, which then drove even greater kind of focus against it. We went from about 20% of customers having success plans to 80%. We had business reviews happening regularly. We were able to clearly and concisely bring feedback on where the customers are struggling in the product and really be able to give hard data against that to really guide the other teams and bring the voice of the customer forward. So now it's really helped to position customer success as the not only the advocate for our customers but the guru on how our customers are doing and what they need.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and I think that my perception is anyway, that businesses are starting to wake up to the fact that CS isn't just there to be firefighters or a collection point of processes that don't live in other teams or whatever, but it's a treasure trove of insanely valuable data that, if harvested correctly and presented correctly, can be a game changer for sales in the renewal cycle for product and their development roadmap, for support on what kind of articles to like crazy amounts of value there, and it feels like, from what you're saying, you've really been able to tap into that and utilize it in ways that others may not be.

Speaker 1:

I mean it's been a year and a half since we've implemented the tool and started gathering that information, but it's a whole different world. I agree, like we look at where customers struggle and are proactively getting enablement content out there or hosting office hours to try to get ahead of the problem. I had heard a story that in the 1950s firefighters spent all of their time fighting fires but they started to create enablement programs. You know it's smokey the bear only you can prevent forest fires. Going and meeting at conventions for builders on fire safety and because of all of the time they spend now towards fire prevention, only I believe it was like 40% of their time is spent actually firefighting and the rest is spent more on education and enablement. And that's my complete goal with customer success. The most successful customer doesn't have to submit a ticket, doesn't have a problem. So how do we guide and enable the customer to avoid the problems from happening?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, my brain is weird and, as you were talking about firefighting, all I could think about was that scene in Christmas story where the dad is like he's just replaced the fuses or something like that in the basement and he's trying to plug in like the next strand of light bulbs into a plug that already has like 20 things in it and like sparks are flying out, and to me like that's. That's maybe the perfect meme we could use for like old CS versus new CS, which is a nice power strip, you know whatever it is organized cable management.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely. I mean, I think we're CS struggles is we have such a heart for a customer. I had a CSM mentioned the other day that, as much as we can say, this power strip is our roles and responsibilities. If a customer needs something outside of it, if they need us to start, you know, adding more outlets onto the strip, we're going to do that because we need in as far as we can for the customer, and that's where we need to figure out ways to be supporting the customer, to be working smarter without creating future fires or issues, whether it's for the customer or the CSM.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, Absolutely. I completely agree. So that's cool. We've got a nice evolution of the team. What is, what is the digital layer of that now look like? Like you know how have you kind of built that digital journey demand base to complement this? You know, new structure, new tool set, all that kind of stuff.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely so. We started first with onboarding, meaning looking holistically at year one. But first let's look at those first few weeks while you're getting stood up, because it can be an overwhelming time and it's also, you know, the transition of relationships. You had a seller who was your best friend, took you out to baseball games and dinners, and now you've got a whole new crew. There's a lot to take in and onboarding. So we really built out this process to augment your calls with your CSM and your calls with your implementation manager, kind of setting your expectations beforehand, helping ensure that you're defining what success looks like and then also making the suggestions of what classes you should be taking in between your onboarding meetings, and that has been incredibly successful. We found that 80 percent of customers in that onboarding series are completing parts of Academy, which is a huge increase in customer health and stickiness if they're taking those classes. So then their implementation manager is able to focus on strategy versus education. Additionally, we've been, you know, hitting key milestones, triggering based on adoption moments, inactivity, celebrating key accomplishments and working to drive adoption, because for demand-based, we're really more actively involved with marketers, but we also need the sellers to be leveraging the tool to get the most out of it. So we built out series with just, you know, little digestible nuggets for sales users to help them understand the value of the tool for them, how it will make them successful, and that's also had, I believe, about a 40 percent increase in sales usage for the sellers who get those messages, because it's guiding them with just quick, digestible tips on what to do to, you know, make more out of their day. And then the one I'm probably most excited about is we developed an executive touch. So just sending those outreach from myself or other executives at demand-based depending on where you're at in the journey or your title, you know, are you a marketing VP of marketing versus a VP of sales? Just acknowledging your team just accomplished this. That's great. Here's the impact you're seeing and congratulations on this success and look forward to celebrating the next one with you. And it's been huge because it's created relationships we didn't have before. In the first week that Touchpoint launched, I had five different VPs responding back appreciating our support and partnership in this, and it then created phone calls to take it from a kind outreach to a relationship. And then, similarly, we've been looking across the journey at where customers struggle and have partnered with engineering to create in-app guidance to proactively guide you on how to configure this to avoid the support ticket and connect you to enablement. So both proactive nudging as well as just that proactive aversion to avoid problems.

Speaker 2:

You've hit on so many really amazing things just now and I want to rewind on a couple of them real quick, because, you know, I'm kind of in the background working on this digital CS maturity model right, and I think that you've just hit on a few things that I think are whatever we want to call it the expert level, or like the advanced level, like the gold, silver, palladium level whatever you want to call it of digital CS maturity, which is knowing who your persona is and crafting tailored, meaningful outreaches to those personas. And so, like you know, the example that you gave of engaging your sellers in a different way than you're engaging your marketers is prime, because sellers are all over the place. They've got, you know, contacts to make and they've got emails to send and they've got you know deals to close, blah, blah, blah. They're like all over the place multitasking like crazy. The last thing they want to do is sit down for a half hour and watch like a video or something like that. They need short, bite sized, little bits that help them. You know that help them see the value in the tool and then start to drive adoption within the tool. So I think that's awesome. And then I wanted to ask you about a little bit deeper into the exec level reach out. What does that tangibly look like for you? Is that an automation that goes out to the executive on your behalf from the tool and then you engage on the back end of that? Or are you prompted to send something like what does that look like?

Speaker 1:

From what we've built out in stage one. It's digitally automated, based off of key milestones and accomplishments, defined what titles it would be going to and which exec from demand base it's coming from. And I mean the beauty is it looks like an email coming straight from my email box, or the CEOs or CMOs, so it very much feels personal and when they reply back if they reply back, it's going to my inbox. So then you can have that contact because as much as I'd love to reach out to every exec across our customer base at every milestone, I would fall far behind in all of the responsibilities of my job very quickly. So it's great to give that insight and let them know the success their team is having. So it's not just helping our relationship, but it's giving them insight in their investment between signing a contract and a renewal and ensuring that they see the success or give visibility of hey, you may want to remind your team to keep doing these things, yeah, but again, it's starting a relationship and it makes them feel like we're partners in this which I love. Yeah, that makes a digital touch doesn't feel like a digital touch. It feels like a personal outreach.

Speaker 2:

Yes, yeah, absolutely you know, and that requires your data to support those motions.

Speaker 1:

Plain and simple.

Speaker 2:

The first time that you send a personalized email out that has the recipient's first name in all caps out of there.

Speaker 1:

Your name.

Speaker 2:

You're out of there, but that's really cool. Do you currently, or is it your plan, to also engage at that executive level when things aren't going right, like when milestones aren't being met in a timely manner or in the time that you would like to see them being met?

Speaker 1:

Absolutely Right down to looking at. If nobody on the sales team is doing any of the basic classes to understand how to use the product, I think we need to let them know because otherwise, when we're up for renewal and no one in sales is using the product, we're going to have a really tough renewal versus if I say, hey, alex, I hope you're doing well, everything's fully implemented. Here's a few metrics of success from your marketing team. But, by the way, right now zero individuals, or two individuals, have completed the sales training. At this point we'd like to see about 10% of your sales team trained. You can look and say, ok, two is 10% of my sales team, or, holy crap, I've got 200 sellers. This is a problem. Sorry, I shouldn't have sworn. You can leap that out.

Speaker 2:

This is a problem Completely acceptable.

Speaker 1:

And then you're turning to your team and saying, guys, let's do the training. So this way we're falling attention on something we can partner to address and improve. If we don't, I mean it can be the beginning of a major problem in the relationship, Right? So, let's just drive that visibility or you can reach out and say thanks for the insight. We're actually going through some major changes right now and even still by me just saying hey, alex, just FYI, it still lets you feel like, ok, she's looking out for me to make the most of my investment.

Speaker 2:

It shows you have the finger on the pulse and that you've got their back. Yeah, absolutely.

Speaker 1:

Exactly.

Speaker 2:

What is the behind the scenes of all this look like? Because this isn't just somebody in a broom closet building out these digital motions or looking after your data or whatever. Is there an operations magic team that sits behind all this and is curating all this and helping program it all, or do you have team members stepping up as a side thing to help with some of this? How do you like to approach that?

Speaker 1:

A little bit of both, so we're a very lean team, and so we actually have an amazing woman, erica Settla, who runs CX Strategy.

Speaker 2:

Shout out Erica.

Speaker 1:

Yes, erica is amazing, but she runs CX Strategy, so she's building out the playbooks and it's important that she's at the CX level, not the CS level, because we're looking at the entirety of the customer experience and journey. So she's building out these playbooks and recognizing key trigger points. And then, additionally, we have another lovely gentleman in the CX kind of strategy and operations team, george Walters, who really is kind of my tech guru in churn zero, building out a lot of these digital touches. But they work closely with the customer success team and put together a Tiger team where CSMs will call out hey, I'm testing out this type of a trigger, I'm testing out this type of a play, this type of an automation. So, while we've got a lean team here really doing this as well as like an operations person who's doing a lot of our analytics and health insights, it's largely leveraging the knowledge and experience of the team. Additionally, we have two individuals who are running commercial customer success with a large number of clients that they're more so reactively responding to and we're challenging them of what are the touch points. As you're looking at the health details and opportunities, where do you see needs or opportunities to trigger communications to them, because we can then scale that again across the entire group. But what I love with the Tiger team is you have strategic CSMs, you have enterprise, you have mid-market, we have CSMs and AMIA. So we're looking at it from many different customer experiences as they are kind of identifying needs and opportunities, and then we look at how to scale it or where we need to filter it.

Speaker 2:

What I love most about this approach is there is a large tendency, when you're getting digital motions off the ground, to just build automations, like you're just building stuff, but what you're doing is you're farming the team for problems that need to be solved and that could potentially be solved digitally, to help the team digitally reduce some of the workload, make things a little bit more streamlined and cohesive, but also you're not building things in a vacuum. These are tried and true things that people are doing and if we can throw some automation or some things behind it, then all of a sudden you have a well-tested automation that's been done by humans before actually automating it. I think that's a great approach.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely, and as much as I get jealous of peers that I hear have a team of 10 or 15 CS ops people, that's not the reality for many. So I think being able to find that middle grounds of leveraging the team you have and the people who are in the front line seeing what our customers are experiencing, it gives us that ability to scale and ultimately it's a win for everyone Because for the CSMs, as we drive this, it makes their customers happier and stickier and lets them then focus on the more important details how to really be actively guiding them in their success plans or demonstrating ROI or a surprise and delight moment. That's the other fun with digital touches, those opportunities for surprise and delight, congratulations, you hit this milestone. Here's a sendoso gift or happy anniversary. All of those just little fun touch points that make it a relationship, not a business.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, you celebrate people's wins absolutely and also that's a thing that's overlooked. Yeah, I've found the same thing. I'm in very similar shoes to yours and some of the best ideas that we've come up with for some of these automations and trigger points and things like that have literally come from just the weekly CSM meetings about Gainsight, about how to solve for certain problems. It's like, oh yeah, we should go do that.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely, oh yeah great idea.

Speaker 2:

Let's go do that.

Speaker 1:

Keeping a log of them. And I mean I swear we had one quarter where we had 144 OKRs of different initiatives. We were driving, let's rate, in a single quarter when you're turning the ship around. It's not sustainable and we all would lose our mind if we maintain to that pace. So we have to remind ourselves what are our three top priorities this quarter. Anything we're doing need to support those. These other great ideas are just going to have to be doggiered for an upcoming quarter.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, exactly. So one of the things you mentioned also in describing Erica and George's role is that they are CX focused, so they are across your customer facing team, which I believe you own, success services and support and education. Yep Customer enablement Customer stuff.

Speaker 1:

Professional, basically the-.

Speaker 2:

The post-sale journey.

Speaker 1:

Yes, post-sales customer experience, which I think is fantastic when you can keep those groups together, because it's all of the different tools you need to make a customer successful.

Speaker 2:

Yes, I agree completely. There's so many instances where maybe support is under the product umbrella and CS is under the sales umbrella, and then you've got services and they're a little island. There's 500 different flavors of that, but I do agree with you. If you can own that entire post-sale journey, it helps you to build that journey, to have that information flowing between teams, avoid silos and all that good stuff. How does that manifest it digitally? Are there motions that go across all those functions? Or how does information pass between the functions? What's that look like for you?

Speaker 1:

We do have information from all the functions. Go into our customer success tool so that we can see it all in one place. In fact, we've given access to the tool to our services team so they can also understand where the customer is at in their journey. Support sees the info from churn zero in our support tickets so they understand the customer health or what's going on with the customer. To help prioritize the ticketing but also our onboarding journey stages, we now have that feeding in to churn zero so that we're able to trigger success. You've accomplished these milestones but also helping the account team to see where the customer is at. We use that to further score the health of the implementation, to recognize what messaging we should or shouldn't be sending. We're really trying to keep it into one centralized view of the customer to then be triggering out suggested enablement or hey, you're struggling here. You should go to this workshop or this office hours. Then I love to take customer support and enablement and pair them with each other. Where are our top support tickets Now? How do we address that with enablement content and how do we actively get that to the customer before they need to support the ticket?

Speaker 2:

Ticket deflection man, exactly, it's a thing.

Speaker 1:

Our team is one that has no tickets, which is never going to happen. But if we constantly work to put ourselves out of business and support, we're getting ahead for the next question challenge, or just the more positive, active guidance on an integration or how to versus fix this.

Speaker 2:

Right, it's interesting that you mentioned the no tickets thing, because we had a I wouldn't say it was a long debate, it was a relatively short debate, but we had a debate nonetheless of what the support component of our health scoring should look like. With regards to ticket volume, the initial assumption was well, zero tickets is great and many tickets is bad. The many tickets is bad thing that I agree with, but the no tickets is, I think, equally bad, because your customer is not engaged with you. It's highly unlikely that they're not going to have some sort of issue, and so it denotes just like zero tickets is like red flag up the wazoo.

Speaker 1:

We've done the same thing. I mean, you're really looking for that donut hole. Zero tickets are not in the product to get stuck or to find an issue. Too many tickets is also bad. You want that middle zone. So yeah, we've had like too few tickets as a red flag, too many tickets as a red flag. I mean, our best power users are submitting tickets regularly because products are updating weekly. We're in an agile company, so there's going to be little things that pop up and our power users are typically the ones saying, hey, this doesn't look right and are catching those issues for us, and that's a good thing. That means they're engaged.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I couldn't agree with you more.

Speaker 1:

But it's definitely a fun game figuring out where that donut hole is and we found it varies. It's a different target for mid-market versus enterprise, different kind of zones.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, we did the exact same thing for this size customer. It's like this is the bell curve and for this size customer. This is the bell curve and it just yeah it's right there with you. We speak in the same language. Are there any motions digitally that you're particularly proud of, fond of? I mean, you spoke about the executive outreach one, which I think is brilliant or are there some that you and the team have implemented that maybe have failed miserably, that you've learned from? Learned valuable lessons from anything like that?

Speaker 1:

I would not say any would be called a failure, because everything that we've done digitally is creating an engagement or a guide where there wasn't one. I think there are definitely some where we rolled it out and we're much faster to optimize it, sometimes due to recognizing quality of the data is not as good as it should be, and, okay, we need to have an approval in place before some of these go out because of data quality. So I would say I haven't had anything where I'm thinking, man, that's a failure and I wish we hadn't turned that on. It was more of a fail fast and quickly make the optimizations needed to guide it further. On the success side, I mean I definitely love the exact to exact and I'd say you know the enablement guidance suggesting what classes or content you want to read across year one, based on adoption, was huge because it's augmenting. I think everyone has a different way they prefer to learn. Some people want hands-on guidance with the CSM, other people are kind of in the like just point me in the right direction, and sometimes you need both. I mean, I'm sure all of us are of the like. I need to hear something three or four times and then you hit me at that point in the day where my mind is clear and I digest it and then I'm ready to act upon it, and so I think that combination has been invaluable because it's created significant increase in Academy certifications in one of our core metrics of weekly average users, and so it's really helping make sure that the customers are getting the info they needed. So I'd say that was probably our most successful just those triggered messaging, getting you to the right classes at the right time.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and in the whole format Help me, help you, basically.

Speaker 1:

Exactly and help me understand how you want to be helped.

Speaker 2:

Mm-hmm, yeah, and I guess, speaking of that, what sorts of feedback mechanisms do you rely on for those kinds of things? Is it, you know, just those email engagements? Do you do regular surveys? Do you do NPS, like what's that look like?

Speaker 1:

So we have NPS. Nps is largely in-product, gauging experience in the product. We've really focused on doing C-SAT surveys, which we trigger all throughout your experience. We have it at the end of onboarding. We have it after every success plan review and business review because remember I mentioned earlier how we've increased the volume of success plan reviews and business reviews.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

I never want to mistake quantity for quality. So it was critical that we have C-SATs after every single one of those to make sure that it's a valuable conversation on your success plan. You appreciate what you got out of the business review. We have it after every service's engagement or for longer term services engagements. We do it midway through, we do it at the six month mark of every year of the contract, at the end of any renewal. So basically there's, I think at this point, 15 to 20 different surveys that are triggered and I view it as the goal of C-SAT is not to get five stars. The goal of C-SAT is to know where there's smoke so that I can address it and be improving things. But I'm happy to say that right now we're at about a 94% C-SAT, which I consider that phenomenal, that's another thing, that's a win yeah. Giving a gold start to the CX team of we're not just checking boxes, we're making sure we're making our customers successful and if we get a three or below, we are on the phone with the customer that day to get the feedback that's brilliant.

Speaker 2:

I was going to ask what that feedback mechanism is and if you're, because there's nothing worse than like responding to a survey that you know is going into a black hole.

Speaker 1:

I mean, I think it's the old marketer in me. I'm a big believer that you can't ask a question if you're not going to do something with the answer. So it's critical to be getting that feedback and C-SAT. I also love to do like a survey quarterly asking kind of what their priorities are. We just wrapped a voice of the customer program to understand what it means to be a have to have solution for them. How do they define success and how do we help them to accomplish that. And I mean I think it was an incredibly invaluable insight that we're now sharing across. You know the leadership team, like the demand based leadership team, not just CX, so that we understand what customers need from sales marketing product to be successful. So I'm I think it's critical if you ask the question, you've got to listen to the answer.

Speaker 2:

You've got to. I think your marketing instincts, you know, serve you well in that. In that you're, you're, you've basically turned the CX or into very marketable part of the demand-based product offering. You know, I can, you know, I mean I Think it was 94%, 95%, whatever you said that that is something that a seller can say hey look, your post sale is gonna be great. This is why, like you know, that's- really good.

Speaker 1:

We just started doing that that Won a bronze Stevie Award for all of the things they put in place, which was great for them to experience. To you know, really, we know we've done some great work, but for it to be recognized, I think, was fantastic for the team to you know really be able to celebrate.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, that's great. Well, look, I've really enjoyed this conversation. As we kind of wrap things up, I'd love to know, first and foremost, what's in your content diet, what are you paying attention to? And you know what, what. What can you share for others To dig into as well?

Speaker 1:

Sure, so I definitely, depending on the time of the day, are very different in where I go for my content. So I've got some books I'm reading right now, like the jolt effect. I also am a big fan of audio books because I can play it while I'm in the car commuting children or so on Big fan and it lets me digest it more. And then I just honestly love just Searching the trades of what's the latest and greatest, what's going on right now. I think it's really interesting to look outside of just, you know, b2b or within my industry or, frankly, even within digital customer success, and look across the board. Like I've said before, applying marketing automation. So I like to look at different Aspects there of what companies are doing, because I think that's when you get some of the greatest ideas is taking something You're not repeating what someone else did, um, and then continually just reading books on, you know, innovation, or Love some of the Richard Branson books on just how to be driving change and leading things forward, and Then sometimes it's fun to have more of a Ted lasso on learning how to just be a good leader While letting some of the anxiety for the day. So I'm definitely across the board between books, podcasts, blogs and sometimes television.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, oh for sure, absolutely. One thing that you just you said you know you're looking outside for inspiration and things and, and I think, your early example of the blockbuster scenario where you've got a good handle on the customer data and you're serving up, you know, coupons for certain things that mean something to the customer is an amazing example of how B2C has been doing this shit for ages. Like Like this isn't a new thing. Digital customer success, it's the buzzword or whatever but hey, good marketers have been doing this forever product people have been doing this forever in product and B2C has been doing this forever in the form of like coupons and data collection and rewards programs and stuff like that. So I think I think you're spot on that like we got a look outside for you know Cool things that other companies are doing in completely different environments 110%.

Speaker 1:

I was talking with my team the other day about like hey, what are who's doing this? Well, and ironically, the response was chewy. Totally absolutely not at all customer success. But when you think about it, it is because it's guiding you forward in the use of their site, in the consumption of their products and making you a happy customer, and it's a fantastic example.

Speaker 2:

They've come up in this forecast before, too, for that exact reason. Yeah, are there people that you're paying attention to, perhaps in digital customer success, or maybe without you know, outside of digital CS, that they're doing cool things that you know With digital motions and automations?

Speaker 1:

Honestly, I have so many digital CS heroes. I mean well, CS heroes as a whole. I mean I think, some of the things that gain sight does is amazing. I've been very impressed with churn zeros Communications and I'm regularly firing that off like we need to do this. We need to do that, and certainly looking at other individuals J Nathan, rachel Orston, rod Cherkis love just seeing the different things coming out from them as thought, leadership and inspiration.

Speaker 2:

Yep for sure, absolutely well. With that, it's time to basically wrap up, but maybe share with people where they can find you, where they can engage with you, interact with you, ask you follow-up questions.

Speaker 1:

I will be candid. I've spent a lot of my time in the past couple of years focused on building and not as much, you know, being out and networking, but I've been really, you know, now starting to recognize that to build to the next level, we've got our foundation in place. It's critical to be sharing our learnings and hearing from others. So I'm doing much more in blogging now, starting to get into podcasts. But if anyone ever wanted to reach out to me, I think the easiest way is probably linked in and I love Conversations with anybody else in the space, comparing notes and figuring out, you know, how we innovate to the next level for sure Sounds good.

Speaker 2:

Well, I've enjoyed, enjoyed this conversation a whole lot and I thank you for taking the time and for joining us and for sharing all your wisdom, and I feel like we could probably talked into the couple hours.

Speaker 1:

I love this stuff. I mean data, psychology, customer happiness. It's Perfect Mecca.

Speaker 2:

Thank you for joining me for this episode of the digital customer success podcast. If you like what we're doing, consider leaving us a review on your podcast platform of choice. It really helps us to grow and to provide value to a broader audience. You can view the digital customer success definition word map and get more details about the show at digitalcustomersuccesscom. My name is Alex Turkovich. Thanks again for joining and we'll see you next time.

Digital CS Program and Tools Discussion
Digital Customer Success and Its Evolution
Customer Success and Digital Journey Evolution
Leveraging CX Strategy and Automation
Effective Customer Journey and Support Integration
Customer Engagement and Feedback Mechanisms