Beyond the Acquisition | Customer Success Podcast | Episode 2

Victoria Nichol Director of Customer Success at Predictive Index

I sat down with Victoria Nichol, Victoria is an experienced customer centric leader in b2b Software and is currently the Director of Customer Success at Predictive Index. In this episode, Victoria shares with us how leaders can build better Customer Success teams and culture.

Predictive Index talent optimization platform allows business leaders hire top talent, design winning teams and manage people brilliantly.

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How do you define Customer Success?

Customer success is a whole organization coming together to help customers drive value through the solving business problems. Customer Success creates Hero’s, our customers are our Hero’s.

What makes a great Customer Success Leader?

It starts, first with the cores of leadership including the “right” self awareness, empathetic listening skills and being a servant to empower teams and those around you to succeed. Then comes the layer of Customer Success leadership building on the core foundation which is – knowing your customer. Going beyond Net Promoter Scores and survey feed back and becoming a voice for your customer (Predictive Index calls this “Voice of the Hero”).

It’s important for companies to “drink their own champaign” to understand the pain or success that your customers experience through the use of your product or platform. This coupled with rich dialog helps Customer Success leaders see the product experience through the lens of the customer and become the Voice of the Hero.

So would you say your model is high touch, tell us more?

At Predictive Index our model is more high touch, but we use a number of touch points. We like to start with a very “tight” on-boarding process ensuring that our customers are getting the most out of the first 30 days and are setup for success. Like most we perform Quarterly Business Reviews, but Victoria says the key to it all is being proactive.

We leverage the power of technology and use intelligence built into our platform to allow us to reach out to customers with low usage patterns as an example. We also go much further to track feature/solution usage to drive our proactive outreach and give our customers additional support and training. So leverage power of people, technology and data to be proactive and address customers needs.

How should organizations position Customer Success to ensure it is adopted into the culture?

Adoption of Customer Success within an organization needs to start at the top of the organization. While a “firestorm” of customer centric actions can start lower down in the organization, the Customer Success mindset and values must be in the heart of the Sr. leadership team to become engrained in the company culture.

Victoria finds that leveraging data can really help to show the value of Customer Success to leadership teams to win their “hearts and minds.” As an example her Customer Success team was seeing trends in the data coming back from a recent NPS survey highlighting customer concern over processing times. Her team took action raising this to the Head of Engineering allowing for upcoming delivery priorities to be adjusted to address the issue that was only highlighted in this survey.

The power of Customer Success to drive business outcomes that add customer value was clear in this case and it is real life examples like this that Victoria suggest be used to champion Customer Success.

What are your thoughts on Emotional Intelligence and Mindfulness in Customer Success?

It starts with self awareness, something that Predictive Index has been focusing on for more than 60 years. Knowing what makes you as an individual “tick,” understanding those strengths and weaknesses is critical. Much of this can come through un-filtered feedback from others, but the trick we all struggle with is to accept and apply this feedback.

As our own self awareness grows and matures it then becomes easier listen to the needs of others, be those team members, managers or customers. Our goal in Customer Success is to put the need of the customer first.

Productivity Tip or Hack?

Victoria and Predictive index use Asana to collaborate and capture meeting minuets and actions. She is also a big fan of old fashion, multicolored, sticky notes to capture big items for the week. If Victoria’s week was productive those notes will be crumpled up in the trash bin.

It was great speaking with Victoria, she is a true customer centric leader, with an unwavering passion for Customer Success.

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Beyond the Acquisition | Customer Success Podcast | Episode 1

Emmanuelle Skala SVP of Customer Success at Toast

Beyond the Acquisition our Customer Success Podcast is now live!

In this episode with Emmanuelle Skala, SVP of Customer Success at Toast we learn how using the customer at “True North” has allowed Toast to thrive. Toast is the leading cloud based Restaurant Management System and is ranked #12 in the Forbes Cloud 100.

Emmanuelle has a wealth of experience with scaling companies in sales, operations and Customer Success. She also serves as an advisor on a number of boards. I really enjoyed digging into her practical application of customer success and ensuring that customers are always getting the value of the product.

Are your customers achieving the business results promised with your solution?

This is the role of primary of Customer Success and the “yard stick” Emmanuelle uses to measure Customer Success teams. Focus on leading indicators as well as the traditional lagging indicators such as: NPC, CSAT, etc. is secondary to driving business results and value for your customers.

Meet your customers where they want to be.

In the case of Toast, this is a small business owner (restaurant owner) who is extremely busy serving customers who is not in front of a computer. Toast focuses on text messages, phone and in-person communication channels to connect with their customers. Connecting during non-peak times, such as before the lunch or dinner “rush.” It sounds simple, but Emmanuelle is stressing fundamentals and “knowing” your customer.

How would you structure Customer Success?

Focus on “True North.” Setup the team to be 100% focused on how to measure success. Your implementation team and/or Customer Success Managers must have a clear definition and measurement of first success, live or the first moment of value for your customers. Document this, test it and revise it as necessary for your customer segments. Plot the customer journey from sales to live (and then beyond) to ensure your team understands, intimately, all the steps required to achieve the promised business results with your solution. Spend the time up front with your customers to set them up for success. Early investment will pay dividends as the “flywheel” takes effect. If you you do all of this properly you have likely earned enough trust to take the next steps and consider cross and up-selling opportunities with your customers.

Don’t overlook the power of data, it’s fundamental to a Pro-Active Customer Success model. 

Ensure that your product is capturing and tracking usage and adoption data to empower your Customer Success team to measure and drive adoption. Many companies overlook this at early stages and invest only in people. Don’t overlook the power of data. Design and/or implement tools early on to leverage the power of your data allowing your Customer Success Managers to focus on targeted accounts based on data. Using data to drive CSMs actions is more productive that focusing on the customer with the loudest voice. As you can imagine if you have a high volume, lower touch CS model this becomes absolutely necessary to Customer Success.

What are the primary Customer Success metrics you take into the Board Room?

Retention – Important, but careful this a lagging indicator and best in context with other leading metrics.

Customer Sentiment – Net Promoter Score or Customer Satisfaction score is a leading indicator to retention and valuable across your customer segments

Health Score – If you have a way to measure health, this is a good leading indicator to customer sentiment and retention across customer segments. Health is usually a color coded (Red, Amber, Green) scale or points based score.

Net Revenue and Net Annual Recurring Revenue –  Net ARR is a measurement showing revenue growth in existing customers used primarily for later stage companies focused on a land and expand model. Early stage companies may have less focus on this metric as acquisition and retention are the primary focus.

Productivity Tip or Hack?

I have found that one common trait among successful folks is time management. Emmanuelle is no different! She uses her calendar to block off work into focused “chunks” as well as a disciplined approach to checking email. She sets specific times of the day to read and reply to emails to ensure she can stay focused and on task.

I had such a great time with Emmanuelle Skala, the SVP of Customer Success at Toast! Hopefully you will take some of this and apply it to your organization. Please be sure to check out our other episodes of Beyond the Acquisition and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.


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