The Digital CX Podcast: Driving digital customer success and outcomes in the age of A.I.

Hospitality, Drawing from B2C and Rethinking the QBR with Aaron Thompson of SuccessCOACHING | Episode 058

June 25, 2024 Alex Turkovic, Aaron Thompson Episode 58
Hospitality, Drawing from B2C and Rethinking the QBR with Aaron Thompson of SuccessCOACHING | Episode 058
The Digital CX Podcast: Driving digital customer success and outcomes in the age of A.I.
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The Digital CX Podcast: Driving digital customer success and outcomes in the age of A.I.
Hospitality, Drawing from B2C and Rethinking the QBR with Aaron Thompson of SuccessCOACHING | Episode 058
Jun 25, 2024 Episode 58
Alex Turkovic, Aaron Thompson

Send us a Text Message.

Aaron Thompson (Chief Revenue Officer of SuccessCOACHING and Founder of Red Slacks) has dedicated his professional life to helping companies and CS professionals.  He and Alex delve into the importance of leveraging digital technologies and data to enhance customer experience, and explore the benefits of transitioning from high touch to tech touch interactions.

Topics:

  • 02:40 - The origin of the Red Slacks
  • 07:44 - Aaron’s journey into customer success
  • 12:28 - Importance of hospitality experience in CS
  • 17:14 - Digital customer experience definition
  • 19:33 - Leveraging data in digital strategies
  • 26:50 - Rethinking the traditional QBR
  • 34:37 - B2B learns from direct-to-consumer strategies
  • 36:34 - Effective tools in digital CS
  • 40:20 - The missing piece in customer success platforms

Enjoy! I know I sure did...

Aaron's LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/athomps/
Red Slacks: https://redslacks.com/
SuccessCOACHING: https://successcoaching.co/

Resources:
- 4Rocks by Sean Albertson
- Revenue Operations by Stephen Diorio and Chris Hummel

Shoutouts:


+++++++++++++++++

This episode was edited by Lifetime Value Media, a media production company founded by my good friend and fellow CS veteran Dillon Young.  Lifetime Value aims to serve the audio/video content production and editing needs of CS and Post-Sales professionals.  Lifetime Value is offering select services at a deeply discounted rate for a limited time.  Navigate to lifetimevaluemedia.com to learn more.

+++++++++++++++++

Lifetime Value Media
Lifetime Value aims to serve the audio/video content production and editing needs.

Support the Show.

+++++++++++++++++

Like/Subscribe/Review:
If you are getting value from the show, please follow/subscribe so that you don't miss an episode and consider leaving us a review.

Website:
For more information about the show or to get in touch, visit DigitalCustomerSuccess.com.

Buy Alex a Cup of Coffee:
This show runs exclusively on caffeine - and lots of it. If you like what we're, consider supporting our habit by buying us a cup of coffee: https://bmc.link/dcsp

Thank you for all of your support!

The Digital Customer Success Podcast is hosted by Alex Turkovic

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Send us a Text Message.

Aaron Thompson (Chief Revenue Officer of SuccessCOACHING and Founder of Red Slacks) has dedicated his professional life to helping companies and CS professionals.  He and Alex delve into the importance of leveraging digital technologies and data to enhance customer experience, and explore the benefits of transitioning from high touch to tech touch interactions.

Topics:

  • 02:40 - The origin of the Red Slacks
  • 07:44 - Aaron’s journey into customer success
  • 12:28 - Importance of hospitality experience in CS
  • 17:14 - Digital customer experience definition
  • 19:33 - Leveraging data in digital strategies
  • 26:50 - Rethinking the traditional QBR
  • 34:37 - B2B learns from direct-to-consumer strategies
  • 36:34 - Effective tools in digital CS
  • 40:20 - The missing piece in customer success platforms

Enjoy! I know I sure did...

Aaron's LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/athomps/
Red Slacks: https://redslacks.com/
SuccessCOACHING: https://successcoaching.co/

Resources:
- 4Rocks by Sean Albertson
- Revenue Operations by Stephen Diorio and Chris Hummel

Shoutouts:


+++++++++++++++++

This episode was edited by Lifetime Value Media, a media production company founded by my good friend and fellow CS veteran Dillon Young.  Lifetime Value aims to serve the audio/video content production and editing needs of CS and Post-Sales professionals.  Lifetime Value is offering select services at a deeply discounted rate for a limited time.  Navigate to lifetimevaluemedia.com to learn more.

+++++++++++++++++

Lifetime Value Media
Lifetime Value aims to serve the audio/video content production and editing needs.

Support the Show.

+++++++++++++++++

Like/Subscribe/Review:
If you are getting value from the show, please follow/subscribe so that you don't miss an episode and consider leaving us a review.

Website:
For more information about the show or to get in touch, visit DigitalCustomerSuccess.com.

Buy Alex a Cup of Coffee:
This show runs exclusively on caffeine - and lots of it. If you like what we're, consider supporting our habit by buying us a cup of coffee: https://bmc.link/dcsp

Thank you for all of your support!

The Digital Customer Success Podcast is hosted by Alex Turkovic

Speaker 1:

We should always be trying to move into a more digital motion with our accounts. I should always have the goal of moving them from a high touch to a low touch to, eventually, a tech touch customer. That takes less of our time, less of our overhead.

Speaker 2:

Once again, welcome to the Digital Customer Experience podcast with me, Alex Terkovich. So glad you could join us here today and every week as we explore how digital can help enhance the customer and employee experience. My goal is to share what my guests and I have learned over the years so that you can get the insights that you need to evolve your own digital programs. If you'd like more info, need to get in touch or sign up for the weekly companion newsletter that has additional articles and resources in it. Go to digitalcustomersuccesscom. For now, let's get started. Hello and welcome back to the Digital Customer Experience Podcast. My name is Alex Terkovich, so glad you're here, and we've got a great one lined up for you today with Aaron Thompson of Success Coaching.

Speaker 2:

Most of you are probably familiar with Success Coaching because of all the cool, great certification programs that they provide to the CS industry. They also do the Thought Leader and Top Influencer Awards and all that kind of fun stuff. Great presence in the CS community, for sure, and Aaron is chief revenue officer at Success Coaching and just does a lot of great things for the industry. He also is famous for his red slacks, so we'll talk about that a little bit in this interview, along with digital stuff and what makes QBR super annoying and all that fun little diatribe stuff that we usually get into in these conversations. So I hope you enjoy this conversation with Aaron Thompson, because I sure did Cool. Let's go, aaron Thompson, I'm so happy to have you on the podcast.

Speaker 2:

We had probably 10 false starts on this whole thing over the last few months, because you know I got sick. You know I got sick and then you got sick, and then I got busy and you got busy and this is like you know, but with I think we finally made it. So welcome to the show thank you very much.

Speaker 1:

You know, I thought I thought this day would never happen. So it's a dream. I'm sure to be on the podcast.

Speaker 2:

Alex, I appreciate it yeah, I've been looking forward to this convo because, I mean, you're you're quite prolific in the world of cs. I guess my question is are you wearing red slacks right now?

Speaker 1:

I should have you should have and then I could have totally nailed it. You know where was that in the pre?

Speaker 2:

I want to keep your toes yeah, curveballs.

Speaker 1:

No, I've got. I've got some fancy basketball shorts on because it's like the first time it's been nice here in Portland Oregon in about nine months, so yeah.

Speaker 2:

I'm wearing a nice button down, but I totally have shorts on.

Speaker 1:

So 100% yeah, that's the modern day uniform right the work, attire the top and party on the bottom.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and this is the first time I've ever asked a guest if they've had pants on.

Speaker 1:

So you know, I appreciate that.

Speaker 2:

I was like well, I mean for for those who are like what the hell is he talking about? You know the context is obviously you're, I think, chief revenue officer at success coaching, correct? That is correct, yep, and then you operate under red slacks in terms of your you know, your, I guess thought leadership and conference speaking and podcast appearances and all that kind of stuff. How did the red slacks thing come about?

Speaker 1:

You know it's funny, it goes all the way back to the CS100 back in 2018, I think it was. I had a 15 minute pitch and I thought it was part of this competition, of this Innovator of the Year Award, and so I'm up there with actually a partner at the time and I just had these red pants and I was like I'm going to kind of peacock a little bit here for this 15-minute pitch, but I thought, yeah, I thought, like I said, I thought we were in the competition and we nailed this presentation. And I come off stage and I find out very quickly I'm told that oh, that's actually not. This is just sort of an opportunity for you to advertise. There's no competition at all. But that was the end of it.

Speaker 1:

Because I wore the red pants, everybody started kind of you know seeing me with that and that kind of became the personal branding. And then 2022, I'm like I need to create a new website. I got to put someplace and really what it is. It's a public speaking business. That's really what that's all about. And, to your point, a lot of podcasts and that kind of stuff. I need a place to put all the things I do publicly.

Speaker 1:

So, I start building it out and I'm looking for URLs and I'm on the couch. I yelled at my wife hey, honey, redpantscom is taken. You got any other ideas? She said, try slacks, and the rest is history. So even though they're not red slacks, they're actually red pants. They're like chinos. But I've got about 10 pairs of those bad boys and that's sort of kind of become my personal brand.

Speaker 2:

I love it. I mean, it's great. Well, the beauty of that too is, like you're not you're not branded into customer success, you know. So like you can go talk about anything as long as you're wearing those red slacks.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, it's actually worked out pretty well this year as I've gotten introduced to be a speaker and a moderator at customer experience conferences. I'm actually headed in weeks over to Toronto to be the emcee of a fairly large conference up there. And I was in Vancouver, BC, just back in March as a panelist or fireside chat and same thing I wore the red slacks and everybody said, you know, they liked the red pant guy. So I can't get them to figure out that it's slacks, dang it, it's not pants, but it does definitely transcend outside the CS world.

Speaker 2:

It's so funny you say that because, you know, with the 50th episode we kind of rebranded a little bit to the customer experience podcast as well and there's a lot of people that are just kind of going CX in general because, like, especially in digital, the digital experience encompasses just way more than CS. It is like what is your end-to-end customer experience? And if you're not going to connect it digitally, you might as well. What are we talking about?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, what business doesn't need a digital presence nowadays? I'm actually going to have a guest up in Toronto that his talk is about Fidgetal and I've never heard this term before, but the match between physical and digital and he runs the Fidgetal program for a fast food chain that started in the Middle East and then moved into Asia and is now making its way into Canada, called OPTP, and it's all about managing that order on the app, order, walk into the physical location, easy pickup and really that holistic customer experience. You're totally right.

Speaker 2:

There's not many businesses today that don't have to find a blend between those two yeah, it's so true, fidgetal, I don't know, I don't that's that's going to take a while to sink in. Yeah I think, yeah, I think like I have fidget toys because I'm I need some something to play with all the time yeah, I wish I had to come up with those things and the pet rock back when those were both.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, no joke, I missed my, my calling you missed.

Speaker 2:

You missed your calling. So you know, I don't want to go too deep into kind of background. There's obviously some interesting things. I think. When you know, when we talked a couple times you you were mentioning that kind of like your first CS gig was like B2B2C and so there was some like interesting stuff that I think there's so much that we can kind of glean from B2C that B2B kind of has failed to do in history or whatever. So I was just curious if you could give us like a brief rundown of like how you came to be where you are and what led you into CS and all that kind of good stuff.

Speaker 1:

A hundred percent.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, you know, I, like most people, did not go to school for customer success management. I didn't find a major in college that you know, aligned with that, and really I personally I didn't know what I wanted to be when I grew up and I kind of stumbled into technology by way of the healthcare space and then that led me into support and I had been working in support for a couple of decades, running a technical account management team at a B2B SaaS company here in Portland, and it was actually just last week was my anniversary, on May 10th 2016, I believe it was. I got laid off for the first time, yeah, and I didn't have a job. I didn't know what I was going to do next and it was like this mind blowing, like I'd had a job since college. I mean, I was, you know, and so I thought what should I? I was getting burned out on the support world, the reactive firefighting. I wanted a little more control of my, my schedule and my day to day, but I loved helping customers. I love solving problems.

Speaker 2:

Just like two o'clock in the morning, right.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, exactly yeah. And so I was looking at sales, you know, and I thought that'd be something. But I was 36 years old, with, like I think my son was about four or five years old at the time Like I don't really want to kind of start over again in my career, and I found this, this struggling startup here in Portland that was hiring a head of customer success to fix the churn problem and with my support experience, they hired me in to do that. I was able to get that job and then I came in on day one and I pulled out my laptop and I went to Google and I typed in what is customer success?

Speaker 1:

And now that I'm the head of this, thing I should probably figure out, like what is. I thought I knew what it was, but of course I did not. And so I found the industry, the communities, the technology players, the conferences and I studied it like I had never studied anything. It was amazing to me because all of these jobs that I'd had through my whole career a call center rep, even checking people in at a health club everything was customer facing in different ways. They all applied in one way or another to customer success management.

Speaker 1:

And so I implemented this strategy over a 12-month period and took a 40% churn rate down to 8% and I realized, wow, this actually works in this repeatable revenue model. And that's when I went and founded my first company and it was a local kind of consultancy for customer success. And somewhere along the lines I met Todd and Andrew, the two co-founders of Success Coaching. The rest is history with that. But I stumbled into customer success just like everybody else typically does, whether you're coming from sales or support or product or whatever. Usually none of us are like thinking as a little kid, I want to be a CSM when I grow up.

Speaker 2:

I love that story and one thing you said specifically kind of lit my neurons off, which was that whole kind of service industry, early experience with customers.

Speaker 2:

Two things to that.

Speaker 2:

I'm a firm believer that anyone should at some point have a job in hospitality, whether it be like restaurants or hotels, because that's where you learn how to do some of this stuff and how to be customer facing.

Speaker 2:

And also, I mean, you see the the you know the horrid side of some of that stuff, but I think you know it's. It's an amazing training ground for how to to really you know the horrid side of some of that stuff, but I think you know it's. It's an amazing training ground for how to to really you know work with, work with customers in a productive way that solves problems and and gets you through to the other side and and and makes folks happy. I spent some time at a software company that was primarily for the hospitality restaurant, hotel industry and we hired for those teams right out of you know the restaurant industry and I hardly ever had to do any kind of you know, customer service training or anything like that, because those folks knew, you know, they knew what they, they, they knew the assignment, so to speak it's pretty cool, then your customer as well.

Speaker 1:

You know we we advise that as well. If I'm gonna go build a customer success team or a customer experience team, I want to find people who have been in my customers industry and domain over someone who's been in customer success and customer experience for 100 years that empathy gene for the folks that they're talking to.

Speaker 1:

Exactly, value is so much easier to deliver and demonstrate If you know, if you've been there before. I mean, yeah, just being empathetic when things go wrong, and anticipation of risk and risk identification, and all of that is just so much easier when you've been on the other side of the table.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, for sure. So you know, this is the Digital Customer Experience Podcast. I have to pause every time now since the rename because you know, digital customer success just rolls off the tongue.

Speaker 1:

I didn't even notice it. No, no, it's DCE now, not DCS.

Speaker 2:

It's DCXD.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, your branding is about as good as mine red pants, I love it. It's DCXD. Yeah, your branding is about as good as mine red pants, I love it. We're two marketers at heart. You can tell Alex, that's right no-transcript. Yeah, I wasn't surprised to see the biggest word in the word cloud was customer.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I think right, that probably makes sense.

Speaker 1:

But yeah, so what I came up with for DCS is we're leveraging digital technologies and data to build strong, long-lasting relationships with our customers, and so it's really that's as quick and succinct as I can make it right, and I think the piece that most people might not think about you know better than me you've done I don't know how many of these interviews now is the data side. I think everybody thinks about the tech stack and the digital side, but really having access to and then knowing what kind of insights, actionable insights you can glean from that data is really, I think, a huge part of it. That I don't know. Have you experienced that people are really leaning into that side of the digital world, or is it sort of forgotten sometimes?

Speaker 2:

It's a really good question and I would say yes, no, because you know I've had the great, you know fortune throughout this process of you know advising a fair amount of you know companies on their digital strategy.

Speaker 2:

And a big thing that always comes up is, like you know, how am I going to structure my team around this stuff?

Speaker 2:

Because a lot of people immediately think, okay, I need to, you know, probably need to like a scaled customer facing team, and then I need my fiend side admin or whatever. And I'm like, well, you should probably think about somebody who lives in data and integrations and pivot tables and really knows your data inside and out. Because ultimately, I think you know to your point, data is one of the foundational blocks of a good digital strategy, because you can't do stuff if your data isn't clean, and I'm not saying it has to be like spic and span, but it needs to align with what your objectives are. And so having somebody on the team or somebody tangentially in RevOps or CSOps or wherever ops that can help you to look at that data, do some data hygiene and glean those insights that are needed out, is worth its weight in gold and can make the difference between a healthy digital program and CS org or something that's just kind of cobbled together.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah, exactly. I feel like that should be what is informing the direction of the digital side and the tech stack and everything that impacts the customer experience, from soup to nuts. You know, the more we can preface it based on data and truly understanding whether it's an adoption issue or, you know, whatever the challenges are that we're looking to solve with digital scalability. What have you are that we're looking to solve with digital scalability? What have you really understanding? That starts, I believe, with fully understanding what is the usage pattern and what does the engagement look like? Where are customers being successful and then when do they stop logging in because they're not seeing value, and what can we do to try to fill in those chasms?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I mean you'll be staggered at how many orgs don't really even know who their champions are or who their technical contacts are. You know and just struggle on a foundational level with who they're supposed to be engaging with, especially on the, you know, with assigned accounts that have CSMs in place. I mean that kind of takes care of itself because you're engaging with the account and you know them. But in an unassigned world, in a digital world, there's some cool things out there that people are doing, like Gainsight for example. They allow a user to kind of self-select who they are and things like that. So you have to get kind of scrappy sometimes to figure that out and not let that data get stale too, cause you know people move on and get different jobs and stuff.

Speaker 1:

So yeah, Keeping that up to date and accurate is tricky, and a lot of that I feel like should have been discovered during the sales cycle. Yeah Right, Like as you're going, even on a digital sale, you've got your buyer. But like, what are the roles that your product needs to know so that you can execute effective digital and making that prospect or net, new customer or whoever you know, early in the life cycle? Let you know that information so you can have the appropriate parties. You know that information so you can have the appropriate parties.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I mean. The reality is your buyer is disappearing after the deal is closed, right. And then your champion during the deal may be different than your champion post sale and like, while they're hot, identify all those people as like you know as part of the deal closed. Like, let's go, who do we need to talk?

Speaker 1:

to. That's just on the business side. You get the technical side technical side too right, any integrations and anything like that that you've got to worry about. Who are the players?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, it's key Key and to kind of, you know, go back to the digital front.

Speaker 2:

I think digital is very uniquely positioned to help solve for some of that stuff. You know, just just with some of those plays and and you know, rather than relying on humans and, you know, getting your BDRs involved in calling your customers to identify, you know, identify contacts or whatever. So you know, success coaching is obviously well known in the industry for you know your certification programs and things like that, and I know that you know you guys are also working on kind of some digital stuff as part of that. You know, one of the things I wanted to ask you about a little bit is sure you know what are you working on, but then also, like, I think there's education in digital CS for the leader. There's education in digital CS for, you know, the ops kind of person, but I strongly believe that there's also in digital digital cs for you know, the ops kind of person. But I I strongly believe that there's also opportunity to educate csms on digital and and those kinds of things. Do you have any thoughts on that?

Speaker 1:

yeah, 100 I mean. So thank you for the opportunity to plug our digital cs course that we are currently working on and we can talk more about that later. That's also a unicorn Anybody who's watching the video, our logo is supposed to be a unicorn. If anybody's seen a donkey and a plunger, you're not thinking majestically enough and it's a little cheeky play on unicorns out there. But across those three roles, like from the leader position, From the leader position, the professional development and education around anything, including digital, is at that strategic level.

Speaker 1:

Right, it's at that more consultative level and really understanding what is the goal and what's the vision of the organization relative to this motion. And so that would be what we would be educating on the next level, down your CS ops folks, that's gonna obviously be much more of the nuts and bolts, much more tactical, like within this tech stack and having that goal or those set of goals in mind. Here's what we need you to build and do and create, et cetera. And then on the CSM side, I think it would be around. At least my strategy with them would be to teach them ways to leverage those ops people and the tech stack. Of course, but ideally over time we should always be trying to move into a more digital motion with our accounts. If we're customer success managers, I should always have the goal of moving them from a high touch to a low touch to eventually a tech touch customer. That takes less of our time, less of our overhead. And if we can do that because we have the right tech stack in place and the right strategy and still maintain a high quality customer experience, still maintain a high quality customer experience, that's just additional margin for our business, right? And so I always find it funny when people look at their segmentation and their intelligence service model as though it's stagnant. Right, we have these accounts as our tier one high touch. These other ones are tier two low touch, mid touch and then we've got everybody else. And that's just how it's going to be, because these ones pay us so much money that we can justify having a dedicated CSM. Perfect, I totally agree.

Speaker 1:

I'm not saying not have a dedicated CSM of the tech stack. Use some of the tools that are available out there to maintain a really high quality CX for those customers by defining, delivering and demonstrating what success is for them and all of these moments of truth through their life cycle, et cetera. But we can start to alleviate some of those mundane tasks, right, Like if I have to do a live business review. That's part of my charter as a CSM. The less time I can spend preparing for those business reviews Right, the more time I'm going to have to do the other strategic stuff that we really care about and, frankly, what the customer really cares about.

Speaker 1:

That's what we're really getting at, and so that's where digital should just always be pushing up into high touch. It shouldn't just be like, well, this is a high touch, so we do it this way, and you know that other one's a tech touch, so we do it that way. We should be learning from the low end of our segmentation strategy and constantly, as leaders, be strategizing on how we can move that up into those higher ranking accounts to free up the time for the CSMs to be able to do the more important strategic, valuable tasks less of the Monday.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, very well said. Hey, I want to have a brief chat with you about this show. Did you know that roughly 60% of listeners aren't actually subscribed to the show, on whatever platform they're listening to it on? As you know, algorithms love, likes, follows, subscribes, comments, all of that kind of stuff. So if you get value out of the content, you listen regularly and you want to help others to discover the content as well, Please go ahead and follow the show, Leave a comment, Leave a review. Anything that you want to do there really helps us to grow organically as a show. To grow organically as a show. And while you're at it, go sign up for the companion newsletter that goes out every week at digitalcustomersuccesscom. Now back to the show.

Speaker 2:

As somebody who is an active digital CS leader, I very much look at the CSM population as my customers and I think that's one thing that we were talking earlier about. You know some of the things that gets overlooked when building a digital. You know strategy. It's like, yeah, you're a customer facing, you're building customer facing stuff, but guess what? Your CSMs need to benefit from that stuff as much as the customer does. And so when you talk about, like, building those efficiencies and really making the front end of those engagements as digital as possible to where you know the human can come in on the back end and just provide value. You don't have to send all these emails. You don't have to, you know, spend hours on making this deck. The tricky part is it sounds amazing in theory.

Speaker 1:

I can just pontificate and make it happen.

Speaker 2:

Wouldn't that be great? I mean, we might get to the future of AI where you spend like a half hour telling a GPT or whatever what problems you have and it pulls all the tools and integrations and templates together and does it for you. That would be great, wouldn't it?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and templates together and does it for you. That would be great, wouldn't it? Yeah, I just need a GPT to be able to build mobile apps when I'm out with my wife and I'm like they should make an app for that. You know how many good ideas I've had for apps in my life. I mean, I would be a millionaire if I could actually execute.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, absolutely, I'm right there with you, bro. But like in the meantime, it's like you know, it can get so overwhelming on how to execute some of that stuff and the app marketplace and the technology market for CS and really anything is so fragmented and there's stuff all over the place. It can be you can quickly just go into shutdown mode, you know, trying to figure it all out.

Speaker 1:

I think what you want to do as a first step is just like taking any product to market. You're going to find your product, market fit and what is your value proposition. And that's going to start with market research and really understanding your customer. And if you, as a DC digital CSX leader, see your CSMs as your customer, that's where we're going to start. Let's figure out where you're spending the most time on mundane tasks and then let's figure out what you need out of that in terms of outcomes. And then I'll go back and build whatever tool I can come up with and buy or purchase whatever. I'll find a solution for that pain point and then we'll take it to market with you, iterate on it, improve it until it's honed and dialed, and then we move on to the next one, just like you would with an external customer in any kind of technology product.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so true, so true. And being really just clear in your prioritization, like what are the biggest issues and go solve for those and take it one step at a time. There's a lot of folks who just try to do too much all at once because it's exciting, I get it, I get it.

Speaker 1:

Sometimes it can feel overwhelming if you can't sort of back into it right Then make it actual tactical things to work on. Yeah, absolutely, there's been a long standing, absolutely.

Speaker 2:

There's been a long standing, several year long talk track in CS about, you know, the state of the QBR and you know you've contributed to that as well. I think a few years ago you gave a talk or recently you gave a talk about, you know, making QBR smarter and we're starting to see a proliferation of digital QBRs. We were talking about our mutual friend, percy Rose, not long ago or right before we started recording who's doing. You know he's using CastApp to run monthly business reviews for his middle tier customers, which I think is freaking awesome, and that stuff is starting to happen where you know we're not again. It's this whole thing of like not removing the human from the process, but removing the mundane from the human so that they can then provide value on the back end. But anyway, I'm still in your thunder, probably. But like what's your take on the combination or juxtaposition of like humans, digital and the QBR?

Speaker 1:

Well, you know I hate QBRs. Yeah, how this whole thing started was I think it was 2021 when I finally wrote an article which can be found on RedSlackscom called QBRs are stupid and all of a sudden, people are like oh, what you can't say they're stupid.

Speaker 1:

We've been doing them forever and I'm just echoing what I as a customer feel like and what I am hearing from your customers. And the reason they're stupid is because, first off, they're quarterly and that just assumes that I'm going to be available throughout the year, every 90 days at the same cadence and clip, which I know. My life is not consistent. It's got cycles. There's times where I'm busier and there's times where I'm less busy. And in those busier times, no, I don't want to have my vendors tell me how great they are. In the less busy times, maybe I'm more open to that. So that's what originally kind of, where they just it's dumb. Right, you should do them differently throughout the year.

Speaker 1:

And the other main point about business reviews is they're a necessary evil in customer success management.

Speaker 1:

And I say that because they're the most selfish thing we do. So much of what we do is about the customer and them achieving value and all of that. And then we get to the business review. And the reason we have to do them that's why I say they're necessary is because you got to demonstrate the value you've been delivering. If you don't demonstrate it to me somehow some way, you can't guarantee that I know the value and I'm actually realizing the same value that you feel like you've been delivering, and so you have to do something to demonstrate value. However, it doesn't have to be a 60-minute Zoom call that starts with your founding story and goes through the court tickets, initial response times, how many bugs you've fixed. Spoiler alert bugs were not part of the business goals and objectives that I wanted to achieve when I bought your thing. So just because you fixed them quickly, it doesn't give me any value. It just gets you back to square one, and so that in itself is mundane and just something Self-serving.

Speaker 1:

It is, I don't care if it's your customer, I didn't want the bug in the first place. Don't be so proud about the fact that you fixed it quick, right, that didn't give me any value. And so there's all this like they're just poorly executed for years and years and years, until finally I write this article and everybody's like, okay, smart guy. Well then, how do you make them smart, right, if you can't just say they're dumb and then you know, not have a. And that's what it comes down to is remembering. The number one goal of an effective business review is to demonstrate the value you've been delivering, and if you keep that as your goal, you can get way more creative than 75 PowerPoint slides in a 60-minute Zoom call with your executive stakeholder. Yeah, perfect example. That's in that article.

Speaker 1:

The Spotify wrapped campaigns at the end of the year. That is a digital customer success motion done at massive scale. I've made hundreds of millions of subscribers I think they have. Yeah, everybody gets that information. It's all about the customer. It shows me all the different listening habits and behaviors I did last year, and it is an annual business review to make sure that I don't cancel Spotify at the end of the year when I look at my credit card statement and say, man, we got a lot of streaming services. What can we consolidate? What can we get rid of? Spotify's front of mind? The other thing that's genius about that, and why I love that campaign so much from a digital perspective, is they also make it really easy for me to be an advocate for Spotify.

Speaker 2:

It's social proof Totally.

Speaker 1:

I go put it out on social and I go brag about. Like for me, I'm a huge fan of the killers. I was super stoked to see I was in the top 1% globally with Spotify listeners in terms of the amount of music from the killers I listened to in 2023. You better believe I put that on my Instagram. I was all puffing my chest. Now I've just advocated for Spotify. People who don't have Spotify might see that on my feed, think it looks cool, want to investigate, and now they've generated a customer success qualified lead through a 100% digital strategy in motion. I love it. I mean, I think B2B can learn so much from the direct-to-consumer world in terms of digital.

Speaker 2:

I feel like I've been to church. I need to dab my forehead.

Speaker 1:

I get on a soapbox. I'm a little passionate about the business review thing because it's just for years, I mean, I've been in them. Yeah, they've sucked. I've been the csm and been told by my boss I have to do them and my customer says I don't want it, I don't need it. Why are you dragging me into this meeting every 90 days?

Speaker 2:

I've been all across the panes of the QBR world and once I got into customer success and I really learned about why do we actually do them, it was like oh well, in that case we could come up with a million different ways to demonstrate the value that we've been delivering can come up with a million different ways to demonstrate the value that we've been delivering and you know value looks different to each persona Like that's where the granularity comes in and you really got to figure out what makes each persona tick, because your executive is going to need different information than your admin and your end user. They're going to want to get you know the executive wants pointed information about is the investment we're making worth it? You know.

Speaker 1:

Yep Period, every party, yeah, your exec, your champion, your admins, your end users they've all got different definitions of success, right, and CS is all about define what success is, deliver that and then demonstrate to me that you've done so. And each of them has a different definition because they all have different desired outcomes that they're looking to achieve. That executive is going to be an ROI kind of. You know, show me the money, the champion, it's probably save me some time. Make my team's life easier. The end users are certainly saving some time. That's right, and you know I'm helping navigate the change management. Show me what's in it for me. Why would I use your tool, et cetera. How are you making my life easier? Same thing with the system admins, and so with digital, we can actually show those we can't as easily. I mean we could, but it would take. It'd be what do? We got four QBRs now that we're going to do right for the executive, and then the champion, and then the end users, etc.

Speaker 1:

With digital we could have this running every 90 days, giving them what they need, having their own kind of wrapped campaigns I mean back to the you know.

Speaker 2:

yeah, exactly back to the spotify thing. Like I, as a you know, as a podcast host, I get my own version of the of the campaign. Uh, from spotify that says hey, you're your listeners, here's your blah, here's top geographies, here's how you did compared to last year and all this kind of stuff and that's you know, it's, it's beautiful Cause, hey, I, that's something I can share on LinkedIn and on Twitter and X, whatever and and and and again proliferate there. But it's a different set of information because obviously I actually need to talk to whoever, like I'm, I actually need to talk to whoever like.

Speaker 1:

I'm sure there's a whole slew of people involved in that whole thing. Yeah, I don't know whose idea that was yeah, yeah, it's just such a digital customer success, customer experience, perfect sort of example of how you can do it right, I know somebody was in a meeting. He was like I got an idea. Everybody else was probably like no, that's stupid, nobody would ever want to do that you know how the hell are you gonna do that?

Speaker 2:

you know, speaking of cool stuff like that, are there other like digital motions that you've seen, you know out in the wild or you know with you know some of your clients that that you dig and and and you were like, oh, that's really cool.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, you know, as, as gpt becomes more and more prevalent, yeah, and you're like oh, that's really cool. Yeah, you know, as GPT becomes more and more prevalent and we're just getting so many more tools built around that technology specifically, this is happening more and more. You know, there's just more options out there and as far as like examples of that, I mean, do I throw out actual products and and?

Speaker 1:

companies you've mentioned. You know, cast app right, that's the ducky over there and that's a great way to be able to do business reviews at scale. Update ai is one that we've started working with. I saw mickey was your first guest, I think he was yeah, shout out to mickey pal.

Speaker 1:

That dude is absolutely amazing, he's awesome, I love him and like what he's been doing over there with josh at update is really impressive. We use that and it's just the thing I hate about note-taking tools that they got right is it doesn't take a big black square on the screen. Yeah, I don't know why I hate that so much, but they've got it. It's just in the background, you don't even know. It's not just Zoom recording and then the next thing you know, it does these amazing TLDRs and the action items and it's got the metrics and it has everything that you want. You don't have to worry about taking notes. It's incredible. I don't know, do you use that Alex?

Speaker 2:

I do, and you know not to turn this into an update AI commercial, but I think the thing that people don't realize about update AI is a couple of things. First off, josh and crew have have have figured out PLG for CS. Like they, they were in hot and heavy with the CSM. This is a great tool, note taker, going to save you a bunch of time, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Massive adoption. That way, the back end of it is this massive powerhouse of of customer data and and and churn prediction data that a lot of leaders are sleeping on, and so I think I think that I think update AI is a massive sleeping giant in CS right now.

Speaker 1:

I, I, I completely agree. And another one that comes to mind that, speaking of like signals like that, there's a company called Sturdy. They were last, was it 23? I think it was in 23. No, it's 22. They were attending, like, the different CS conferences and kind of coming to market in CS.

Speaker 1:

That thing is incredibly powerful because it has all of the signals to surface up. So all of your communications are going to go run through this thing and it's going to pick out those moments of expansion opportunities to forward to an account manager or CSM that hey, they mentioned this pain point and that could be an option to sell them something. Or the churn risk right, they're asking for their contract and why are they asking for a copy of their contract? Or whatever. The you know the the churn risk, right, they're asking for their contract and why are they asking for a copy of their contract? Or whatever the churn risk might be.

Speaker 1:

Surfaces up that signal to whomever can automate actions through a CSP or a CRM, or it can just alert a human to go next best thing to work on, basically can become a powerful workflow management tool. And so I mean that's my point, I guess there's so much out there right now, this tech stack's only getting bigger and bigger, all designed to more positively affect our relationships with customers remove friction, provide signals to the humans, remove the mundane services that we are, actions that we have to do as csMs, et cetera. The one thing if I can pick a bone with all the CSPs out there this drives me nuts, and it's driven me nuts for like 10 years now. And so Gainsight, tatango, client Success, churn, zero Catalyst.

Speaker 1:

I'm talking to all of you. How come nobody touches the customer? Why does nobody have a customer portal? Nobody touches the customer. Why does nobody have a customer portal? You're a customer success platform and it's all inward focused. The users are all CSMs and people in our organizations and we still fall into the same channel of communication with our customers as everybody else. Email.

Speaker 1:

And the reason why I'm so passionate about this is because before I was in true customer success, I was running that technical account management team at Jive Software and that was a collaboration tool and that's what we did. We didn't ever email our customers. We worked in our product with our customers and it created this less noisy channel for me to be able to engage with them more effectively. And I thought for sure, by this point, one of the CSPs would build out that type of functionality. So there's my bold pick with the tech stack of customer success, Somebody build a portal that changes how we interact with our customers.

Speaker 2:

If I've got a CSP installed, I shouldn't have to also install EverAfter to have a customer-facing portal right? That's exactly what well, look, you know we're sadly creeping up on time, but I've massively enjoyed the convo. As we kind of close stuff out, I would you know a couple more kind of standard questions that I love to ask, which is you know? The first one is what are you paying attention to? What's in your content diet?

Speaker 1:

what's in my con? Oh yeah, like what am I reading? Whatnot? You know it's right now. I'm really focused on customer experience and moving outside. So this year that was kind of my goal and so from a public speaking perspective, I'm able to get myself into some cx conferences. I'm going to be on a panel with the one and only peter armley in two weeks up in toronto. I can't wait to see peter, and so that's really where I'm kind of focusing in terms of podcast consumption and what books I'm reading, et cetera, and who I'm following and really trying to get up to speed on that CX side of the CS formula.

Speaker 2:

Do you know this guy, Simon?

Speaker 1:

Chris Simon, chris, no, I haven't met him.

Speaker 2:

He's a massive CX speaker. He wrote this book on the customer, the AI-empowered customer, which is a really good read.

Speaker 1:

If we're pulling out books, here we go. Here's one of them. I don't know if you're familiar with Sean Albertson, but Sean was the moderator up in Vancouver for the first CX conference I went to. I was actually on a fireside chat with him up there back in March. Cool, so working my way through that one. And then let's see. This one is a little different. This guy was actually Stephen, was actually up at that conference as well and as a chief revenue officer, when we talk rev operations and putting it's basically digital revenue that we're looking at right. It's right in line with what you're talking about for CS, but now we're looking at it from the revenue acquisition standpoint. That's obviously very interesting for me as well as a CRO who sells into customer success. I was trying to make that bridge right. Yeah, for sure.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, do you want to give any shout outs to make that bridge right? Yeah, for sure. Yeah, um, do you want to give any shout outs to anyone that you haven't already shouted out?

Speaker 1:

oh, let's see. Well, I didn't technically shout out percy rose, but I want to make sure I call out what he's doing over there at hpe, because he's awesome. I already, I think, said enough about mickey. That people probably know. I have a man crush on him, and that's good you know, those are probably the the two that to mind. I could go down the list you know forever, but in terms of like, trying to keep it digital focused, because, I know I want to stay on point.

Speaker 1:

For your listeners and yourself, alex, I mean congratulations on all of the success with the podcast. It's really impressive and I'm just happy to be able to be a part of it.

Speaker 2:

And thanks for the for the chance to hang out with you today, yeah it was awesome Having you working able to be a part of it, and thanks for the chance to hang out with you today. Yeah, it was awesome having you. Where can people find you, engage with you and find out what you're doing?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, absolutely LinkedIn. You can probably find me. Aaron Thompson, a-a-ron Redslackscom has a social page and you can link out to my YouTube channel, my LinkedIn and my Twitter, and then you can find all the training and education that you would need for customer success. We just came out with a customer support certification this year, so we have a certified customer support specialist. So instead of a certified CSM, it's a CCSS Cool. So any support leaders out there that would like to train their teams, find us at successcoachingco Not quite com we still haven't been able to wrestle that domain away, but yeah, successcoachingcoco not quitecom we still haven't been able to wrestle that domain away, but yeah, successcoachingco. Or just come and find me and I'll point you in the right direction.

Speaker 2:

That sounds good. Well, I appreciate your energy, your opinions, your thoughts, and it's been an awesome conversation. Thanks so much for coming on.

Speaker 1:

My pleasure, thank you.

Speaker 2:

Thank you for joining me for this episode of the Digital CX Podcast. If you like what we're doing, consider leaving us a review on your podcast platform of choice. If you're watching on YouTube, leave a comment down below. It really helps us to grow and provide value to a broader audience. You can view the Digital Customer Success Definition Wordmap and get more information about the show and some of the other things that we're doing at digitalcustomersuccesscom. This episode was edited by Lifetime Value Media, a media production company founded by our good mutual friend, Dylan Young. Lifetime Value aims to serve the content, video, audio production needs of the CS and post-sale community. They're offering services at a steep discount for a limited time. So navigate to lifetimevaluemediacom, go have a chat with Dylan and make sure you mention the Digital CX podcast sent to you. I'm Alex Trukovich. Thanks so much for listening. We'll talk to you next week.

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