Customer Success Leader
Customer Success Leader

Episode 22 · 1 year ago

Create a Healthy Balance of Product & CS Interactions w/ Vanessa Hannay

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Serving your customer via your product and CS team interactions is a bit of a balancing act. There needs to be a healthy level of both.

In this episode of Customer Success Leader, Vanessa Hannay, Sr. Director of CS at Muck Rack, talks to Eric about…

- Striking a balance between customer interactions w/ the product & CS team

- Tips on establishing trusting relationships with customers

- Why losing a company isn’t losing a customer

For more info, check out customersuccessleader.com or send a message to hello@flatfile.io.

To hear more interviews like this one, subscribe to Customer Success Leader on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

You have to help teams understand what they're doing today is not the most ideal place to be, and also help them see where the tool that you're offering can fill that void. Want to create delightful customer experiences. You're in the right place. Welcome to customer success leader, where you'll learn about the successes and struggles of leaders who are passionate about their craft. Trust me, you want to stick around. Here's your host, Eric Crane. Hey, y'all, it's are crane. See you own co founder a flat file. I'm here this week on Customer Success Leader with Vanessa Hannay. She's the director of customer success at Muck Rack, which is the all in one solution to help PR professionals. Hey Vanessa, how are you doing today? Hey Mark, thanks so much for having me. Doing well, how about yourself? Can't complain too much. So, though the house is out of power. We had the hurricane run through town not too long ago, so still trying to clean up everything from that. Well, man, yeah, in some ways that feels like two thousand and twenty is just one hit after the next. Yeah, I'm waiting for like the locusts. I think they said those are coming next week, but I'm not certain. Man, don't have to worry too much about locus. You're calling in from New York right. Yes, that's right. I actually just moved to a new apartment in Manhattan in March, so not the best time to move into Manhattan, but a last year I am. Yeah, I believe it. What Partanian? I'm in Washington Heights, so right near the George Washington Bridge. For those who are familiar with the New York City area and Nice, I don't really get to spend that much time on the upper west side. Whenever I visit New York I feel like it's just like a foreign area, despite all the time and putson around, you know, the town and downtown. What I love about it is the Hudson. I mean you can't beat it, and with the bike path along the way, it's just a beautiful place to be and have access to. Well, have to make sure to pick your brain about favorite restaurant, so hopefully I can come up in that area next time I'm in town. Regardless, we're here to talk a little bit more about customers success, not necessarily restaurants in New York City. So thank you so much for sharing...

...your wisdom with the folks here who are listening to customer success leader. I would love to just start by understanding a little bit more about what is your unique definition of customer success? Yeah, absolutely. For me, customer success is all about whether or not your customer got to a different end date after using your product and how your team specifically helps them get there. So the customer should be a positive return after interacting with not only your products but also your team, and there's definitely a balance between the two as well. That's a really cool way of warding it, getting to a different end state. How did you get to that end state throughout your career? Yeah, so I've been in customer success for over five years now and I've been with muck craft specifically for almost four years. So a lot of my customer success journey has been a result of partnering with our customers at Muckrack and I've definitely benefited and enjoyed joining the organization when we were under twenty employees and now we're about to hit a hundred employees at the organization. So there's been a lot of growth in the past four years and as a fully bootstraps company to we have definitely remained scrappy as a team as we've grown, and one thing that I always try to not only remind myself that also my team, is that customers, in theory, shouldn't have to interact with us in a way we're always working ourselves out of a job. Or that's how we should think, because we should be collaborative partners, cross functionally helping product, helping account management, understand where customers are running into frustration points or where they're achieving great success, and then how do we capitalize, especially off of the success that one customer has and help other customers realize the same? It's a pretty interesting approach. The idea that I think is you just directly mentioned customers shouldn't really have to...

...interact with us. So one of the cases where they do have to interact with you. And why is that the case? Yeah, so this is very specific to our industry, but we are definitely a market leader in the PR software space. Right now we are bringing to market what we call public relations management and with that it's a huge change in mindset for how a lot of PR teams have traditionally operated. We're really trying to get teams to understand how they can stop using multiple tools in their day and instead bring all of the data that they need into one place. So with that comes a lot of change management, change in perspectives, and I would say we're customers success is needed. The most specific to art organization, but hopefully this resonates with others listening as well, is that you have to help teams understand what they're doing today is not the most ideal place to be, and also help them see where the tool that you're offering can fill that void. So you're almost creating the problem for them, or helping them see the problem with how they are used to interacting with their current tools, that are their current way of working, and then bringing them over to a better way of doing things. So they'll let just about anybody run a podcast these days, and I got to say I know next to nothing about pr and what those actual objectives should be. To can tell us a little bit more about what you're hoping to help this PR professionals achieve? Yeah, absolutely so. If we take a sales org, for example, fil teams have been using crms for years and years and years, but PR professionals haven't had access to the same benefit. So if you think about yourself as a PR professional, a big part of your role is reaching out to journalists and building relationships with them to help further your own brand message. And, as a result, if you were a team of five people, you could probably imagine how easy it is for more than one person on a team to end up reaching out to the same journalists.

So that would be a horror for a sales team, and PR teams haven't had that same structure access to software that makes that easier for them. So what we're looking to achieve with our customers that we partner with is giving them access to not only the database that they need where they can actually search for and find those journalists, but then also help them manage all of those relationships in one place too. Got It. That makes a lot of sense. So the whole ideas is help those PR folks actually expand their ability to manage efficiently multiple relationships with journalists, ultimately resulting in more information being passed between the two parties. If I'm understanding correctly. Yes, that's exactly right. So how do you establish a relationship with your customers? Yeah, that's an awesome question to so our customers thankfully, given the nature of their work, are pretty communicative and you enjoy relationship building. So when we kick off a new relationship with a customer, we definitely want to understand as much from the sales handoff process as possible. I, and I'm sure many listening and you as well, have been in the position of you bringing on a new tool internally within your organization and it's so painful when you have to tell the CSM or the account manager the same information that you just shared with the salesperson that helps you bring on this new piece of software. So that's one of the things that we want to do on our end to make sure we're diligent in understanding why did they purchase muccrack? What was the main pain point that they were trying to solve? We know that we want them to use the tool in more ways, most likely, than the one that they initially purchased for, but we definitely want to understand and reference early on in that relationship why they purchase the tool. So that's key, understanding what they purchase muttrack for and then bringing that up early in the conversation so that they know you're proactive and excited about the partnership to and from there, we really try to match our customers excitement. We do look at all of our customer relationships as a partnership, so have to meet US halfway. But we're definitely here to support...

...the initiatives that our customers are looking to achieve, whether that be finding more contacts than they've previously interacted with, monitoring media coverage better than they have in the past or just trying to understand and prove the value of their own work. That the huge gap in the PR industry right now is helping those teams that are prove there are internally. So no matter what objective they're trying to achieve, we definitely want to help them get there and we want to understand what their commitment level is too, so that we can meet them halfway. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. is the ultimate goal here. I used to run into this all the time when I was dealing with social media analytics teams. I was working with software that help those folks and it was a similar challenge, which is like what is what is the value that we're actually providing back to the business, and can we put something justifiable and quantitative behind that value? Too, absolutely, and obviously it makes it easier for a PR team to justify the spend for muck rack if we can also, in return, help them prove their own Roli. So it's definitely a win win relationship there. Yeah, definitely makes sense. Where does things go right? So where do things kind of fall off when you can't meet the customer halfway or they can't necessarily show that our I yeah, absolutely. So part of the challenges. We're all busy people, right. So I think when people bring on a new software there's often a lot of good intentions and sometimes things come up, you lose momentum with their relationship and we always try to do our best to bring that excitement back up, whether it's through a business review or a new feature that we just launched that we know they had requested or wish for and vocalize that to us in the past. So there are definitely small ways that we try to engage our customers as well as the bigger efforts like those business reviews and interacting with other members throughout the organization. But we're things often go right too is when you don't have that stakeholder internally, and that is so key, especially because we are trying to transform a...

...team's entire workflow. So, as you can imagine, you can't really pull that off unless you have at least one person who's fully bought in within the organization, and ideally that the leader or senior leader who can really excite the team and motivate them to use the tool in the way that we both want it to be used. So that's where things definitely fall flad is when maybe we had a key point of contact and they left the organization, or maybe we never really got that full buy in from the team on utilizing muckrack as a work clow tool. So there's a lot of ways that of course, things can go wrong, or not necessarily wrong, but not the way that we had both hoped for. But I think having that key stakeholder. I've seen that prove out plenty of times on my end, where as soon as I get that one person who raises their hands bus yes, I believe in this, I can see why my team should be using this. I'm going to work with you to work with my team to get them using the tool in this way. Yeah, makes a lot of sense. And how have you designed sort of your team structure to be able to support that goal. Yeah, absolutely so. Within Customer Success I have a team of sighs and two of those individuals are focused on support work. Three of those are focused on success at the moment and one of my team members is really focus on customer communication and making sure that as we're launching new products and features within the platform, that we're making customers aware of that, because one of the most painful things is when you see cancelation or turn feedback come through and they went to a competitor because they didn't know that you're tool did that. So we're always trying to make sure that that doesn't happen as much as possible. And I have another person on my team to who work strategically with our account management team who manages all of the customer renewals to help them better understand customer help of their own book of business. And then the third team member I have on my team right now within the success side is focused on on boarding, so customers who really need that one to one dedicated training call up front.

He's taking the lead on those and that's how we currently have the team structured. But we've seen so much growth in two thousand and twenty. We're very thankful and blessed for that, and so I know that growth will continue into two thousand and twenty one as well, and the team, as a result, will expand to do you envision expanding to the point where you'd have CSM's own individual customer accounts, or would it be more of this kind of functional orientation as you grow? I see it more as a functional orientation as we grow, since the Account Management Team has a dedicated book of business and they're responsible for specific set of customers. Our teams job is to really make their jobs easier and, as a result, improve our customers day to day as well. So we're definitely more strategic as a cross functional team working with product sales, account management, marketing, pretty much every team at muck rack to improve the customer experience. So we definitely see ourselves as part of the customer journey, but we also want to make sure that we are not taking on anything and everything and just becoming the do it all team. Makes a lot of sense. That also leads you to believe that you have some systems in place to ensure that there's a lot of great communication happening internally about each customer and what their experience has been thus far. So I can tell me about, like, some of the systems and tools that you're using to manage that type of structure. On the team we use hub spot as our crm, and hub spot is really the tool where, of course, the sales team is using it, but the account management team is using it to to manage renewals and renewal deals and our team is recording any call logs that we have with customers in there any relevant meeting notes that we want to make sure is reference or easily accessed across the company. We use intercom to communicate with our customers from a support angle but also a proactive angle to so that's where we're not only responding reactively to inquiries that come into through the product, but we're,...

...in addition to that, messaging customers through intercom to let them know about that new feature launch and, especially in the early days of someone joining the platform, helping them realize all there really is to access and set up and leverage. We do use product board on the product sign but I really like what we've done in collaboration with our product team there to ensure that any conversation that is happening through intercom or anything that's being logged and hub spot is actually channeled through products board where the product team can interact with those engagements and assign different things to the roadmap and ultimately identify what type of requests or questions are starting to bubble up to. We recently brought on client success and that tool is definitely going to help us take things to the next level in terms of measuring account health and helping the account managers to understand where those opportunities for upsells lie and where the opportunities or red flags are with different customers so that we can continue to stay one step ahead of any issues or decrease in value that a customers realizing through the product. That's great to hear. I just had a conversation with day from client success yesterday afternoon. Well, amazing sitting in my car whether trying to connect to a couple bars lte here in the neighborhood. So that's awesome. That's really exciting that you got a really thoughtful set of tools and systems that you're working with to ensure a positive customer relationship. I do like to ask so where are the areas where you're still doing things manually that you feel like technology should be able to help us? Yeah, that's a great question. I mean I don't know how much technology could really help with this, but one area that I know not only our team struggles with, but probably every single customer success and Account Management Team out there, is keeping track of those stakeholder relationships. It is so challenging to stay on Tabos, especially if your company grows, which people have left an organization, and thankfully email alerts are part of tool that we offer, so if someone...

...has an email alert set up through the platform, we see when that email bounces and that is definitely a good indicator that they've most likely left the organization. But that is one area that I know we've really struggled with and I've been talking to other customer success teams to I've definitely heard that shared struggle. So it'd be great if technology could help more with that. But I would say that's one of the biggest challenges because when you lose a key fakeholder, even a power user, it is really hard to bounce back from that and you have to put in in some cases it's almost like reselling your product to that organization. Yeah, definitely seen that happen many a time and I think there should be some stuff out there. But for those folks who are listening who are builders of the world, just know that, regardless of whether or not there's something that's out there, it's definitely not something that we have found, nor Vanessa, nor many of the other folks that we bring on the show. So keep an eye out for that as an opportunity area for some of you builders. I really appreciate you sharing your perspectives about what's happening at Muck Rack and how you define customer success. I'd love for you to leave our listeners just with a piece of advice that you receive related to customer success that's really influenced how you think about it. Yeah, I would be happy to. It's not a piece of advice that I've received, but it is a piece of advice that I would like to offer, and that is when you are in a tough conversation with a company who is looking to cancel their contracts with you, definitely remember that while you might be losing a company, you are not necessarily losing a customer, and what I mean by that is that person at that company that is churning or in the process of churning might very well go to an organization next month or next year or two years from now and want to an advocate to bring on your product at their organization. So don't make it painful for them to leave. Obviously you want to do your job and be diligent and get that feedback in case there is something directly...

...related to the products that could really help improve for other companies and customers as well. But that's my biggest piece of advice to offer, is that even though you feel like you're losing a customer, you're really not. You're losing a company. Yeah, don't necessarily try to hold your customers a ransom. Right like Stockholm Syndrome isn't exactly the best way to build up for poor with the market like it's okay. Sometimes it's not someone's decision to leave, and that's okay. If you make the experience positive even when leaving, they're going to remember that positivity, not necessarily the downside of, you know, just things not working out in that particular instance exactly. Great. Well, thank you so much, Vanessa again. That was Vanessa Hannay. She's a director of customer success at Fuck Rack, and I'm are crane, your host of customer success leader. Thank you for listening this week and tune in again next you depend on the fastest time to value for your customers, so I let data on board and sell you down. Stop emailing spreadsheets, creating CSP templates or setting up FTP transfers. Create collaboratives secure workspaces with your customers and their data, saving you time while providing a memorable onboarding experience. Oh and there's no code required. You can go to flat file DOT IO CS leader to learn more and get started for free. Thank you so much for joining us for this episode. Customer Success leader is brought to you by flat file. If you're a fan of the show and want to help as share these conversations with others, leave us a rating on apple podcast. Just tap the number of stars you think the show deserves. That's it for today. Catch you in the next one.

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