The Digital Customer Success Podcast

Cross Collaborating on the Customer Journey with James Lawson of River Consulting Group | Episode 039

February 20, 2024 Alex Turkovic, James Lawson Episode 39
The Digital Customer Success Podcast
Cross Collaborating on the Customer Journey with James Lawson of River Consulting Group | Episode 039
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

James Lawson of River Consultancy Group joins us this week in a fun conversation that spans a wide range of topics including a growing sentiment among CS leaders that contributions to the customer journey should be cross collaborative in nature. 

James is the founder of River Consultancy Group and currently serves as CCO at key Computer Applications Ltd. It is this along with his long history in CS that have shaped his unique and healthy outlook on CS and how CSMs specifically can best position themselves in the future.

In this episode, we cover topics including: 

  •  Why CS is so prevalent in software and not as much elsewhere
  • Customer success as a company-wide capability, not just CS function
  • Internal collaboration around customer journey actions
  • Providing value at scale with the illusion of it being personal 
  • Making sure we don’t forget to celebrate the success of our users and various personas
  • CSMs who have strong consultative skills will have the edge in the future
  • Storytelling on the back of data points is where humans excel and this can be supported by digital
  • Personalizing digital engagement by asking personas about their engagement preferences
  • The importance of having your product and digital motions lead with simplicity
  • Continually tweaking your ICP using internal and external indicators - especially among your smaller customers that are scaling, vs the largest customers.

Enjoy! I know I sure did...

James' LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jlaw-customersuccess/
River Consultancy Group: https://www.riverconsultancygroup.co.uk/

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The Digital Customer Success Podcast is hosted by Alex Turkovic

Speaker 1:

You can do all of that total cost of ownership stuff, but actually the game is what did you promise? Yeah. What did you say back there? Yeah, you know Right.

Speaker 2:

What did you say before I signed on the dotted line versus what's?

Speaker 1:

actually happening.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, 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. For now, let's get started. Hello and welcome to the Digital Customer Success Podcast. This is episode 39. It's so great to have you back each and every week where we talk about all things customer success and, specifically, digital CS. Before we get started today, I do want to give a quick shout out to the Customer Success Collective for putting on an amazing event last week. The Customer Success Festival in Austin was on Tuesday and Wednesday, and not only was I, you know, part of the event and had a great time at the event met lots of really great people. Special shout out to Sophie for all your coordination work as part of the event, and especially Janelle Friday who was the MC kind of chairperson of the event as well, gave a great keynote on emotional intelligence, so it was just great all around and it was great meeting some of you there as well.

Speaker 2:

Today we're speaking with James Lawson. He's a UK based CS leader, has been in the game for a long time, currently runs River Consultancy Group, where he helps leaders just excel in terms of scaling CS and growing their CS orgs and doing it the right way. He has a lot of really unique insights, I would say, into what's what a modern CS org looks like and specifically how you know you can leverage cross collaboration and company wide inputs into the customer journey. So we talk a lot about that. We talk a lot about storytelling and personalization of content and how, you know, some of these digital emotions lead into that kind of company wide collaboration around the customer journey. And he's just a good guy. Very funny there's. There's a couple of pretty funny points in the conversation as well. So I hope you enjoyed this conversation with James Lawson, because I sure did. Well, you ready to go now that we're going already?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, this guy, this James.

Speaker 2:

James Lawson. The way that I can always tell it's you on LinkedIn is not obviously your name, but then you've got that big, big check mark right by your name. That's how I always know.

Speaker 1:

Oh yeah, it's.

Speaker 2:

James, that's awesome, but I wanted to welcome you to the show. Thanks for coming on.

Speaker 1:

Thank you. Thank you, that's just a tick, by the way, a winging.

Speaker 2:

It's good. Yeah, there's, there's a couple of people that use things like that and you can always, you know, pick their name out in like I, I, I, I, I, I, I, I, I, I, I, I, I, I, I, I, I, I, I, I, I, I, I. You know, I think that, but then if everybody did, then if you didn't do it, then you would stand out right, yeah, exactly.

Speaker 1:

Just a um, just a glorified attention seeker, I knew. I thought to myself well if, if I have to pay for it and other social media platforms just use a winging?

Speaker 2:

That's right. Yeah, Find a way, Absolutely so. You know I was excited to have you on because, um, obviously you have a crazed success. I think you were Oracle for like five decades, which is actually six, seven years, something like that.

Speaker 1:

Yeah.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, something like that. Um done a lot of cool things. Now you're a founder of River Consultancy Group, which is awesome. We'll definitely get into that Um, you know. But but I was curious if you could just kind of give a quick whistle stop tour of where you've been, what you're doing now, um, and and you know what your plans are for the future.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, sure. Um, when you said where have I been, it always makes me feel slightly guilty, like I'm name questioning. What have I been?

Speaker 2:

What have you done? What have you done? What have you done? What have you done? Yeah, inflection is inflection is very important.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and it can be dark, but I won't make this dark. So um, I, um. So, basically, I, I, I've done custom success most of my working career and I started as a CSM you could say, but kind of still in the leadership post, um little company. Well, it wasn't a little company Because Tileo was the original place where, you know, I learned, learned the trade um acquired by Oracle. I tried to leave Oracle several times and, like the death star, kept sucking me in. So I kind of went over.

Speaker 1:

I just give in to the force and and stay, um, stay in Oracle and um. I think, um. Whenever I say to people I've been in customer success my whole career, it's just because it's been in various guises. You know, there's been the business development role of it, there's been the very support heavy role of it, the techie side of it, um, uh, the I'll be your friend's customer for always side of it.

Speaker 2:

So there's a.

Speaker 1:

I've been in that various guises of it my whole career and I think that every time you're in a company and you're doing customer success, you always feel like that you know everything about it like a 14 year old kid going through that time in the life where you think, well, I know everything, nobody can tell you what to do. And then, as soon as you step into your next role, you realize that you don't.

Speaker 1:

And um and certainly very recently, when I stepped out of the recent company I was in, um DeTara. I stepped out thinking I'm an expert and the truth of it is to this day, looking back, you are never an expert. You know, and it's the same as I compare it to when I first saw my daughter being born. You know, coming into this world, you know, when she was born, kicking and screaming, it was the worst day of her life, right?

Speaker 2:

Sure.

Speaker 1:

She was warm and safe and all that. And then she's coming out and then I realized I had this fast forward flash of hang on, like now. Right now, everything is going to be new to her. Every, every experience is new. She she hadn't had our first. You know, just like discussion there's air, she has to breathe.

Speaker 2:

There's stuff, there's a divorce, there's whatever you know, there's all those things she has to experience.

Speaker 1:

It's all new and it's no different in CS. And it's no different in most jobs, but in CS I think it's quite as a profession. It's more prolific that you experience something for the first time over and over again. So whenever I hear someone say, oh yeah, I've done this, I always think I don't think you have.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, you bring up a very interesting point because it relates to something that I've said a few times on the podcast with relation to digital customer success. But I think CS in general is aware I feel like the the most amount of variability lives within like a single function from org to org to org to org, because the CS role in one place is going to be completely different than a CS role in another place or even within like segments. You know, in the, in the, in that that variability, whereas in you know, you know I don't know, an account executive at one SaaS firm, an account executive as another SaaS firm, is going to be, I think, relatively kind of the same right.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, there's some commonalities there isn't there.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and, and and also I. I am if you, if you think about any product outside of SaaS, like where are the?

Speaker 2:

CSMs yeah, why is that, if you?

Speaker 1:

just think of it in a really basic, generic way. Why is there customer success in just software? Now, I would expect if I was in a bigger room people will go well, yeah, there are customer successes in other product customer success managers. There's a group in LinkedIn and it proved my point on this because I wanted to just go and explore that theory. When I looked in there, 80 percent of the CS professionals in there were to do with software, but there were a good chunk within the 25,000 that were in this particular group that were customer success managers in other product lines. Sure, but when you look at what they do, you suddenly realize, oh wait, this is why there's ambiguity around the role. This is why it's difficult to pin them down. This is why there's variability. But also, I looked at it and thought do you know what? It doesn't matter that. I think we don't need to pin it down because I think it's all to do with working back from the customer to what's needed.

Speaker 2:

If it's not a.

Speaker 1:

CSM, then what's needed. This is why, today, I very much stand by and this is probably the hill that I'll die on in the high stand by the fact that customer success is a company capability rather than a function or a department. That doesn't mean to say that I don't think there should be CSMs, because they absolutely should. I just mean that it needs to be spearheaded by that as a task force. So that's where I see specifically data backing up that point. For example, the leading pay setters in SaaS, the data bricks, etc. That are miles away from anyone else in customer acquisition costs. They have that down. Now, you could argue, but the product's different, it's simpler, it's a bit more. But regardless of all that, you cannot walk away from the fact that those guys have got that down because they have started to treat customer success as an org capability.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I think you're among a number of people that are thinking that way, because I think to your point. I think the CSM will always have a home, because there's always a need to have somebody focused on the executive relationship and driving specific outcomes and things like that. But when it comes to the customer journey, it's not just in CSM land. Everybody has a hand in it. Even the finance has a hand in it, even, obviously, sellers and support and professional services and whatnot. I think a healthy organization should be aware of, interact with and contribute to the customer journey.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, absolutely, I think as well. The interesting thing I think happens commonly is that there is a lot of firms fall asleep at the wheel a little bit with what the initial promise was, and I go back to that example I made about there being why is there only CS in software or SaaS? And I caveat that with and a few other organizations. But I go back to this thing of when the initial sale happens. If you're leading with something like, for example, mckinsey would say in the SOW, they say something like this we will engage with you on the mutual agreement that the value that's being provided to you is less than the money you pay.

Speaker 2:

Sorry, it's more than the money you pay. Okay, I was going to say You're always going to pay us more than we think we're worth.

Speaker 1:

Which is actually probably the cold hard truth. But yeah, you're getting more value and you're paying less for that value.

Speaker 1:

And once you enter that agreement. The interesting thing is that it's and this is why I think CSNs live more in SaaS is that it's a subscription, so you are the customer is always asking, would I buy again today? At every interaction, and so they're subscribing to that agreement and the solution that I'm going to see value. So, because they're subscribing, there needs to be a pulse on that, and that can come from anywhere and that's where CSNs should be primarily focused on the value element of it. I think for most startup organizations, getting there is obviously not a straight line and that's where we need CS professionals to help. But I think that's where I see pass in my journey, where the wheels come off or people fall asleep at the wheel because they're going without that initial piece. You can do your total cost of ownership of the department. You can do your return of investment on the CS function. You can do all of that total cost of ownership stuff. But actually the game is what did you promise? What did you say Right? What did you say before I?

Speaker 2:

signed on the dotted line versus what's actually happening. Yeah, yeah, for sure, it's the age old problem. So and I think this dovetails nicely into this a little bit because one of the things that I ask all of my guests is kind of what their elevator pitch standard definition of digital customer success is. And I'm curious to get your take, because you do have some unique takes on CS in general and lots of experience there. But if you had to explain in layman terms what DCS is. What would you say?

Speaker 1:

In layman terms, let's say, the digital CS element is providing value at scale with the illusion of it being personable. Yeah, and I put illusion in there purely because in the digital world of websites and domains and your AWS group, et cetera, I've been a part of the personalization element of it is captivating.

Speaker 1:

Right and you can achieve that through engaging with customers too, because that's the way they do it. So if you're buying a pair of Nike's and it comes up with your specific size and a style that you like maybe it's Jordan's then you go hey, they know me, they recognize. Now you know that there's something behind there, because people are smart. Kids are smart. They know I think I'm me. That's why kids aren't looking at their phones and going, oh my God, they're listening.

Speaker 2:

That's all the oldies, all the old people are going. Yeah, exactly, so how did it know that I'm looking at? I didn't even know.

Speaker 1:

No, yeah how did they know the young kids are like? Of course it does, and that is right there where I think that digital customer success is going to go to, because it's about being relatable and relevant and it doesn't necessarily unpersonable the whole fact that it isn't a person. Fine, it's okay to say I believe that there was still any people. But the convenience of that is just so beneficial to both the customer and the organization.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I love your definition and you're right, personalization is kind of like the gold standard, I think, in a good digital program, where you're not just filling in the name. Right, it's like dear Boolean or whatever it is or dear token, but it's like you know who the person is by name, you know what their general role is within the organization, and so you're kind of tailoring the content a little bit. But I think to your point, I think it's important to also almost play with the fact that it's fake personalization.

Speaker 2:

You've got to kind of own it a little bit in your digital motions, but also make sure that the customer knows that there's always a human somewhere that is available.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, exactly, and I like the idea. I saw something play out not so long ago with a client where their approach to the whole thing was we want the customer to have no surprises unless they are good.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, sure, which I loved because it was like course you don't want to see any surprises, because you don't want to have risk of any or just appear, but you want them to get good product advice. So I was like, yeah, of course that makes perfect sense. And where they carried that as actually a core value of their company, which is really interesting.

Speaker 2:

No, surprises, I said good, which I loved. That's really cool and I think it plays to the fact that also we don't have a habit of celebrating things in CES and especially in digital. Digital is all about at least most programs are all about alerting and proactive engagement at certain points in the journey and things like that. But I think that should include celebrating your champion's wins, of accomplishing XYZ. Or if a user just uploaded them widgets into the Hoosie, what's it's, then there should be some confetti that appears and all that kind of stuff.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. What do you see Like? Do you see, how do you see that being done at the moment with the celebrating success thing? Because I think it's sometimes just overlooked a lot, you know.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I don't think it's done a lot. Where I've seen it done well is where it's obvious that whoever's behind the digital motion has clearly identified those key moments in the journey that need to be celebrated in order to, like, keep the game of things going. You know, Gainsight is actually a company that does this quite well. Yeah, you know they success in platform that and they. You know they reward certified and stuff like that.

Speaker 2:

Like you know it's, it's true, like I think it's. I think it's those companies that have a really good handle on on the user persona, not just the you know, not just the journey of the entire you know customer, but the journey of the individual persona and and and being able to track milestones along there. I think that's really the key.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah, that makes a lot of sense and I'm finding that the, the, the, the. Just from an axiom view, I look at things and go, you know, when we see some of the successes but also some of the challenges. Yeah, it worries me what the learns are taken, what learns are taken from it, and I say that is because there has to always be this return to a discovery of having a process, etc. Because I've noticed in this industry and LinkedIn is very guilty of this there's a lot of this is how you should do stuff. There's a lot of negativity. Actually, csm are not doing this, do this.

Speaker 1:

And I think there is you have to have a responsibility of the messaging you're putting out there, in that that when you take something, when you look at your audience and they're taking something from that, what? Yeah, remember that that might not work and they'll come back to you. They'll think of you and they'll come back. So, you know, I always think the success thing is is a better way to play it, because you, the success leaves clues, yeah, and the saying to people you shouldn't be doing this might not necessarily be right.

Speaker 2:

You know we we have a saying in our family and it's it's quite simple. It's like you know, you shouldn't, don't should yourself, like if you say, oh, I should have done X, y, z, don't should yourself. You know, it's all good, but I think, I think that carries over to, I think, one of the things that Greg Danes on recently and he was talking about the kind of the magic words and CS, which is, I think, a way that you can kind of toe the line a little bit, like I think it's roughly akin to other customers in your space are doing X, y, z, like you know, you take what others are doing and you're not going like, well, you're not doing this, you suck.

Speaker 2:

But, you're saying that. Okay, you know your peers are doing this. Yeah, just so you know.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, exactly yeah, and he's totally right, like it's how you articulate things is is key, and it it blows my mind, like I do still feel like there are influencers parading, as you know, cs experts who have been out of touch, who are not articulating value with impact, and I think that rolls along. And so a lot of it, a lot of the best training that is offered these days, that there's a good friend of mine called Maurice Hellermans. He does some training specifically on presentation skills and they're very specific around delivering value with impact. So, and CSMs that are able to do that need to learn off influencers and credible sources to who can say look, approach it like this, say it like this, because then you are, then you're consultative, you don't just know stuff, you can apply your knowledge, and that makes a great CSM. Anyone can apply their knowledge you know relevantly and articulating it the right way.

Speaker 1:

I think it's a bit of an art and I think it is sort of drifting away a little bit. But I think those CSMs that have knowledge, commerce going forward, you know, are in a consultative mode and have some expertise and niche behind them and can articulate value with impact, I think those are the guys that are the future.

Speaker 2:

And I think that's where the that's, that's the real value in a CSM right and and I've talked about this relatively frequently but it's this, this, you know, that's the goal, the sweet spot for the mix between a digital motion and a human, because the human is there to provide, you know, value and insights and and and extreme personalization and kind of the relationship element of things, but it's not, you know, having them pull down data and do the you know, analysis and create insights and send 50, 50 emails to the same person, like that's not where a CSM's value is, and so I was curious to kind of get your take on that on, on where that sweet spot is with the interaction between, like, digital and human.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, so I, I'm, I've so, and this isn't my view.

Speaker 1:

This is just what I've seen work, so from a customer point of view, stories, how you tell a story, the expressions you use behind the story, which which come off the back of data points or anything digital, are incredible. Like they, they just elevate everything and almost and almost tell your customer that you are of high value, you're a high value contact to have and they love having people like that. People like having people and, in fact, when they're in the M and a world, they're the people that are gold. Oh, we keep, that's not a cost over there, that's person right there. We can't lose them. It's not because they're indisposable.

Speaker 1:

It's just because of what they can deliver and how they deliver it and the stories they tell. Yeah, so most of the stories I have are terrible and rubbish and ridiculous, but but oh, no, I know something. Oh, they're just ridiculous. But I mean, the thing is that the reason I still tell them is because I'm I'm finding a way of describing something that isn't very exciting, right.

Speaker 1:

So I always tell the story of you know, when I spoke earlier about surprises and no surprises, I always tell the story of once being on a train and there was this. This actually happened to me and it was just the most strangest thing to ever happen in my whole life. I was on a train and there was a woman sat next to me and I'm a little guy, so I was kind of shoved in the corner of the train and she very casually opened her bag and took out a banana and she ate the banana and I just thought, okay, I'm just having a snack. And then she took the banana peel and just put it neatly on my lap and I didn't know her, just almost like you know, like Mario Kart, where they sort of upside down and it's just on the floor and just that was it, and I didn't know what to do and so I just sort of I didn't say anything.

Speaker 1:

I'm too polite. I picked up and put it to one side, but you, just you cannot with with anything like. You cannot like. That was a surprise. You can't predict that. Can you predict churn to a degree? But stuff happened Like that. You cannot get away from the fact that people are weird and unpredictable.

Speaker 2:

You won't be able to change that.

Speaker 1:

But what you can do is you can tell stories engaged from that person. Where do they sit on the spectrum? Are they in unpredictable contact? Is this person worthy of digital interaction? Because if they're not, you want to be there. Whereas there might be someone we go hey, this guy, this guy, he might need me, but actually he needs more digital interaction. Do you see what I mean? Yeah, I'm still stuck on the banana peel.

Speaker 2:

Like what I. What I want to know is was she just eccentric and maybe on the spectrum and didn't really realize it, or was she trying to create a moment I was? She created a moment when I was out?

Speaker 1:

of doubt, but was she trying to? She looked like she looked like someone who you'd get to host very posh dinner party. You know, she was really. Yeah, she was one of them. You know, like, like she, she would make a really good hotel manager. And I looked at the time I looked like someone who was helping a brother move house. I looked like a scruff, so maybe she just thought I was. You were the help?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I was the help.

Speaker 1:

I was only good for one thing, and that was propping up a banana. Yeah, but yeah, it's just amazing.

Speaker 2:

It's just one of those things when I think about, when I think about customers and customer success and digital.

Speaker 1:

I just think you know. You know you know yourself as a person and as a customer of other, of other vendors and things that you know yourself, if you think carefully, that you are unpredictable and you will make choices. You change your car every two years. You will do X, y and Z. So, introspectively, we should consider the fact that it's great having all these methods and frameworks and playbooks, but actually what should we should do is have a conversation and make an educated decision whether and we're not going to do that, a scout, of course, but of course we can we can make our way through that and understand where digital applies and where it doesn't.

Speaker 2:

So, yeah, I mean, I think you hit on something very, very important though, and something you know, when I asked you your definition of digital. One of the elements that a lot of people wind into their definition is essentially meeting the customer where they want to be met right, and as a human, that can be relatively simple. I mean, if you've ever taken kind of like a I don't know customer service or kind of phone etiquette or kind of phone skills, soft skills type courses, One of the first things they always teach you is like OK, mirror your customer, mirror their tone, mirror their pace, do all that kind of stuff. But then it's also like you have that human interaction where you can literally ask your customer like, do you prefer email, do you prefer SMS? Like what's that? What's that all about? And I think I think the opportunity that we have in digital and that a lot of people are starting to do is ask those questions digitally. Maybe somebody wants an email, maybe somebody wants an in-app notification, maybe they don't want both.

Speaker 1:

Yeah.

Speaker 2:

Do they have a preference one or the other, and letting you individual users kind of identify how they want to be communicated with the ways that you can design your digital emotions to serve the outcome, but then also, you know, help preserve some sanity.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, exactly, I think that's a really difficult task as well, just because it is, I think, like if you delve into personas and job roles. Now, I'm not quite sure if the typical methods I think the principles remain the same, but I think the methods of interacting may not necessarily be what you think Right. So, as an example, I generally would have thought people in perhaps the manufacturing space, you know, would prefer a light touch because they're busy, but I don't know that for sure. So there's, I always feel like there's, the persona, and then perhaps there's the disc profile. There's more around that which needs to be shaped, which makes it quite tricky. But I have seen it I don't know if you have, I have seen it where it is completely over thought about and you should really meet the customer or try attempts to meet the customer and then adjust the sales from there, rather than try and create a perfect fit, that makes sense.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, and I mean knowing what the habits are, you know, of a persona. I mean the most obvious one and the one that's you know pretty plain is your executive buyer is likely not going to spend a lot of time in product messaging to an executive is probably not going to be effective versus the admin is going to live in there and so yeah go to town Exactly.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, a lot of executives say to me. In fact, there's one that said something to me recently. He was from, he was from Spain. In fact he still is. Anyway, he said to me. He said to me listen, james, that you know. Can I just tell you that, in terms of our value creation plan and our vision and what we're trying to achieve, success for us isn't achieving that. Success for us is is nurturing the right habits to to reach that goal. That success is the day to day.

Speaker 1:

And then what he said is if we can get that day to day bit right in terms of how we interact with you, with our partners, with our customers, then we've nailed it, and I know that's not going to happen overnight. And he said that was success, which is a you know. He said a lot of executives are now thinking like that, because, whether you're trying to sell a company or you're trying to, you know, increase, you know, accelerate EBITDA or whatever you're trying to do, and whatever initiatives you have, functional or financial, ultimately it comes down to the what, what. What do we need to exemplify internally? And how can you, as a CS person, help us exemplify that? And and I think there is maybe you see this too, but I think there are the CSMs that lead the customer to that, and then I think there are CSMs that let that hit them in waves and therefore become more of a victim of what the customer is saying. It's true.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, well, it's true, because you know, I think more times than not, your customer doesn't know what they don't know. Yeah, you know, and they don't. Really they don't have a full vision for what the journey the next year kind of looks like in terms of success, whereas you know you get a SM hey, guess what? You have full three or four most common outcomes that your customers are driving for and you have kind of an idea for what, what kind of steps along that journey you need to drive. And so I think you're right, a good CSM and a good digital program provides kind of that, the bits of bread on the way back.

Speaker 2:

I don't know I was trying to do a red writing hood analogy there, but it was a trail of breadcrumbs to lead her back to civilization. Yeah, yeah, red writing. You know what Simpsons called that red writing hood is she she the what she eats. The grandma, right yeah, the wolf eats the grandma, yeah, and then gets in, but then he got in our clothes, so he must have had to get the grandma naked to then put on the clothes.

Speaker 1:

Sorry to believe that on your podcast, but that's, that's the truth. Let's just put it out there.

Speaker 2:

It's cause. It's cause and effect.

Speaker 1:

I mean, it's like Casper. It's like Casper. People forget that's a dead kid, right.

Speaker 2:

That's going to be the show promo.

Speaker 1:

I think that the other interesting thing is that with the digital side and is that is the reflection or the optics of having digital CS with the product that must sort of echo its simplicity. So I hear this over and over again, especially on the executive side. I keep getting told, james, we will, we will always choose simplicity over innovation. So when we buy it's not in, it's no longer about price. And I was like, of course it's about price. No, no, no, it's not. Actually, if it's simple enough for procurement to buy, for us to execute, for our internal people to use, you win every time. And that's why people buy. You know big, you know the big packages, because it is to them in their mind it's simple. But if you have a digital CS program that exemplifies that simplicity, then great. But having a digital CS program for something that's maybe a complex product is almost the optics of that kind of strange, aren't they? And I think there's more to it than that. I don't know if you agree with that or not.

Speaker 2:

I don't know, I totally agree. I mean it's a lot simpler to build a simple digital program for something that's, you know, kind of single-minded and does one or two things and whatever. But you know, if you have a complex product set or there's multiple products that are tied into one thing, at that point it becomes crazy convoluted, because then all of a sudden you've gone from one customer champion to like four.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah, exactly, and also, I guess, depth of adoption, which is the key. Like people like to measure breadth and I'm like, no, no, no, no, you need depth, you need the workflow, Like with a digital program that's more simple. Then you're gonna get that depth of adoption. So that's easier to then plant a story around and go. It's obviously going great than have a huge tool with multiple workflows. Yeah, yeah, exactly.

Speaker 2:

Exactly. One of the things that we touched on a little bit earlier was this notion of, you know, really getting the entire company kind of through and around the customer journey and kind of owning the CS from various facets, and I was curious to get your take on. You know what that looks like digitally, Cause I think so many of the digital programs that are out there are starting to embrace internal workflows and efficiency. Do you have a sense for where it is in that, in the internal kind of collaboration around the journey?

Speaker 1:

Yeah. So I mean, I see it in kind of three channels really. So the first channel I see it in is how internal teams collaborate to own own actions as a result of customer sentiment, if that makes sense.

Speaker 1:

So if you're doing a survey in whatever way. I believe I have strong beliefs that if I'm responding to a survey and let's face it, everybody hates surveys but if I'm responding to it, the natural instinct in me is I'll say I'm British, so I'm gonna be like this, I'm gonna go, they're never gonna do anything about it, right so? But what is such an amazing thing and I know lots of firms are doing this is they're jumping on that sentiment and going we hear you and no, we're never gonna do that, and that is fantastic to hear.

Speaker 1:

But also equally fantastic say we hear you, let's talk about how we might be able to achieve that. Now, from that point on, what happens internally needs to almost be some form of intervention in which we're tracking those trends and themes and things that we should take advantage of and apply a cost to that decision. So, digitally it's making its way to a centralized location whereby we can make some really intelligent decisions which can then feed digital marketing, can feed to digital CS. And I saw this incredible thing and I think it was done by the guys at IBM where they were sending out feelers based on sentiment so we get our customers feel this right, and then they'd send these things out and they were going. It was conjecture right, but the thing was nobody was. They got deals from it.

Speaker 1:

Because just because things are in the press, they're in LinkedIn or on social, doesn't mean that's what's happening necessarily. It's undercurrents of impacts happening to these businesses that require solutions and so that internal digital come together thing it can be leveraged for a substantial gain, right, and that's just channels. The other thing I've seen work really well is via Slack or Teams, internal channels, that team strategy. I had no idea how beneficial it would be to really improve operational efficiencies but also drive down costs. It blows my mind actually, if you get that right. And one of those things was, I think it's known as a success desk in some places, a heal desk in others whereby you have the CSM in a call, whereby you have all the key stakeholders and you have submitted something to the desk which is a blocker to a deal, a blocker to a renewal, or you smell smoke. So in other words, it's not like a risk register. You're just saying this customer hasn't spoken to me and I normally do, I'm gonna call it out, I'm gonna wait for a flag. Can someone own this or tell me if they might know why?

Speaker 1:

And just having that awareness and that flag raised in a open forum and in a place where it's recorded is again hugely powerful, because you can track what's been saved, what has been put on the line, what we've been suspicious because putting a cost on those things is beautiful and also understanding where your ICP might be going, because the other thing and this is the third channel is that the internal, the ICP, as a digital representation of the ICP, in which I believe everybody should fully understand. I believe it shifts and changes over time, Like I think there are things that change within it, like it morphs slightly, and if you're a product person and you're using something like a layer cake to dictate where you're hedging your bets in terms of where the product's going, I believe you need to keep an eye on that ICP by getting feedback into it and closing the loop as to from the Custom Success Team or whoever you have custom facing to say we're hearing this, is this a thing? Well, let's check is it a?

Speaker 1:

thing. Does it need to alter our ICP? Should we be removing the product on that? The difficulty with that is, if you're running customer advisory boards, is that a majority of SaaS firms and this is a difference between the leading pay setters and the others, which is very interesting the leading SaaS firms do calves for their top customers right.

Speaker 2:

Right.

Speaker 1:

Now until the last six months I've been like of course that's the right way to do it. Now I'm looking at going. You're falling into a trap, because what's actually more important is all of the inputs from your long tail. They should be educating your enterprise customers right. They're noisy as hell. Obviously, your enterprise customers will have quite niche requirements. They often think they know best practice, but the best practice lives with the majority who are scaling up right.

Speaker 1:

Exactly, exactly, and that's where if you feed that into the ICP, you can start to use the digital aspects of it to. I love that To get a compass on it.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and that long tail customer, like your smallest customer, is the ones of AIDF, because they've been forced to be innovative because of whatever constraints they're facing and those kinds of things. And so I think that's fascinating. And yeah, like how many times have we responded to survey, knowing full well we weren't gonna hear back? And so to your first point like just responding puts you like ahead of a lot of surveys out there and a lot of companies out there that just you know, you know it's going into a black hole somewhere.

Speaker 1:

So yeah, exactly yeah. And I do think surveys I do, they're a necessary evil. I get it.

Speaker 2:

And I do.

Speaker 1:

It's lovely, it's a love hate, but also I sort of feel like maybe if we changed the word or I don't know, I feel I also feel I find it's really interesting that when you plug surveys in product and not via email, that you start to get a better response rate, and that tells me more about how the surveys delivered are over and above the other.

Speaker 2:

I should call them I think we should call them quandaries instead of surveys. Quandaries, yeah.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, that way, that yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, tick me, tick me yeah.

Speaker 2:

That's right, I'm conscious of time and, unfortunately, you and I have labored away basically an hour, which is amazing, because every time I'm surprised by the time, it means it's been a good conversation, it's been good but. But, but, as as we kind of close things out, I do have a couple of other standard questions for you. The first one is kind of you know your content, diet, what are you paying attention to?

Speaker 1:

God, you panned to me a little bit there where you said diet because it's not good, but uh, cheese, mainly my content. Diet is so, and so I like to read the thing called the daily stoic. Are you aware of the daily stoic?

Speaker 2:

No.

Speaker 1:

I am not Ryan holiday, it's a, it's a philosophy. Every day there's a different stoicism, quote and um, and it's every day. I read one page. I've done it for like four years. It sets my day up and um it it. It just helps me almost frame my day like bookends my day or, ironically um the baby is great.

Speaker 1:

And if you're a CSM, uh, most of the CSNs I know I tend to send them a copy because it's such a tough job and it is, and it's emotionally tough, more emotionally tough than I think anyone realises. Um, it's definitely the hardest job in the company, without a question doubt. But nobody quite gets the psychological impact it can have on you and the stage stoics helped, helped me and many others through that by thinking more clearly. So that's one that's great, I just subscribed.

Speaker 1:

Oh yeah, excellent. Yeah, it's great. I hope you like it. And um, deep work is a great book. There are many other books. I'm currently reading this work again because I'm a terrible victim of doing trying to do many things at once, um and um, there are many other books that are really, really good, but I, very I, on terms of podcasts and channels, um, I tend to, uh, every guest that you've had on I follow, so you know I'd follow all those guests. Mike is fancy, in fact, I'd say that you know the likes of Dave Jackson and Mike have been. They have shaped the way I've. I've thought a lot about things Like, if someone gets you to question things, they're a person to follow, whereas if you, if someone gets you to go, that's neat, probably just you know, that's great, fine, you know it's like throwing an onion, you know, okay, fine, but yeah, that's super smart.

Speaker 1:

Um, yeah, I think that. I think that's it really. Um yeah that's great.

Speaker 2:

Is there anyone in digital CS that you would want to give a shout out to or some kudos to them that is doing some cool things?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, but it's very embarrassing because I can't remember his surname, but he was. He's the guy. He's the AI guy, mickey Powell. That's him, mickey Powell. Yep, I'm a massive fan. He doesn't know me. I don't know him. I'm kind of his secret stalker. Um, um, he. I've been using a lot of AI tools recently, um, and I've been trying to find uh and I've been leveraging them into strategic success plans as means of accelerating accelerating it like uh outcomes, right.

Speaker 1:

And he has been absolutely fundamental in um just going in clarity about what, what, what matters most in that.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, um, yeah, and so yeah, big up. Mickey's amazing. He was episode one.

Speaker 1:

Episode one really.

Speaker 2:

Episode one Um, who's are you paying attention to?

Speaker 1:

Uh well, Marcus wrench is an obvious one, Marcus, Um, you know, everyone knows Marcus wrench Um yeah.

Speaker 1:

And uh, I. So here's the weird thing about me is when I, when I first left the corporate world, I very rarely pay attention to SaaS vendors. Now, I know that's completely bananas, but the first thing I did was I went and spoke to a ton of SaaS vendors customers. So I pay a lot of attention to customers of SaaS vendors because actually the customer's customer is the real customer. Now, if I don't know about them, what do I know about customer success? There's a, there's a thing flying around at the moment which is is gone kind of viral amongst forums of of of Curit parts, and they call it the customer success bubble, cause they're saying these customer success guys, they don't quite realize that we're vendors and we can see what they're posting, Like some of them are saying.

Speaker 2:

I don't know what they're doing, and these guys do know what they're doing.

Speaker 1:

This whole thing, and so I tend to follow all the big brand names, uh, but mainly the top spenders in in SaaS, Cause I just, I want to know you know, that's, that's the real audience, you know. So, um, I do, I do a bit of that and I like to see, uh, I just quite like all their uh, the initiatives that they have and what they're focusing on, because if those initiatives are things where CS can help, I feel like CS has got a really good place as these digital CS.

Speaker 2:

you know there's um where can people find you pay attention to, engage with you, uh, chat with you, all of that kind of stuff? Where can Mickey Powell stalk you?

Speaker 1:

Where can Mickey Powell stalk me? Oh, wow, yeah, um, so you can find me. Uh, so my website is, uh, river consultancy groupcouk, because the dot com was far too expensive, and, um, you can find me. I'm on LinkedIn as, uh, james Lawson. You'll find the uh Wingdings tick to make me stand out more than um, whatever, my shit. Um and uh, I'm based in the UK, but I work all hours Um and uh, so you can reach me on LinkedIn and I'm always happy to have a conversation with anyone, whether it be CSM, you know whoever um and um, and hopefully they'll find me on this podcast as well.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, absolutely yeah. Well, like I said, it's been a pleasure. I've super um appreciated this conversation and your time and, uh, it's been good. Can't wait to share it.

Speaker 1:

Me too, thanks. Thanks for having me.

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.

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