Customer Success Leader
Customer Success Leader

Episode 22 · 1 year ago

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


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

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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 whatthey're doing today is not the most ideal place to be, and also helpthem see where the tool that you're offering can fill that void. Want tocreate delightful customer experiences. You're in the right place. Welcome to customer successleader, where you'll learn about the successes and struggles of leaders who are passionateabout their craft. Trust me, you want to stick around. Here's yourhost, Eric Crane. Hey, y'all, it's are crane. See you ownco founder a flat file. I'm here this week on Customer Success Leaderwith Vanessa Hannay. She's the director of customer success at Muck Rack, whichis the all in one solution to help PR professionals. Hey Vanessa, howare you doing today? Hey Mark, thanks so much for having me.Doing well, how about yourself? Can't complain too much. So, thoughthe house is out of power. We had the hurricane run through town nottoo long ago, so still trying to clean up everything from that. Well, man, yeah, in some ways that feels like two thousand and twentyis just one hit after the next. Yeah, I'm waiting for like thelocusts. I think they said those are coming next week, but I'm notcertain. Man, don't have to worry too much about locus. You're callingin from New York right. Yes, that's right. I actually just movedto a new apartment in Manhattan in March, so not the best time to moveinto Manhattan, but a last year I am. Yeah, I believeit. What Partanian? I'm in Washington Heights, so right near the GeorgeWashington Bridge. For those who are familiar with the New York City area andNice, I don't really get to spend that much time on the upper westside. Whenever I visit New York I feel like it's just like a foreignarea, despite all the time and putson around, you know, the townand downtown. What I love about it is the Hudson. I mean youcan't beat it, and with the bike path along the way, it's justa beautiful place to be and have access to. Well, have to makesure to pick your brain about favorite restaurant, so hopefully I can come up inthat area next time I'm in town. Regardless, we're here to talk alittle 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 whoare listening to customer success leader. I would love to just start by understandinga little bit more about what is your unique definition of customer success? Yeah, absolutely. For me, customer success is all about whether or not yourcustomer got to a different end date after using your product and how your teamspecifically helps them get there. So the customer should be a positive return afterinteracting with not only your products but also your team, and there's definitely abalance 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 endstate throughout your career? Yeah, so I've been in customer success for overfive 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 withour customers at Muckrack and I've definitely benefited and enjoyed joining the organization when wewere under twenty employees and now we're about to hit a hundred employees at theorganization. So there's been a lot of growth in the past four years andas a fully bootstraps company to we have definitely remained scrappy as a team aswe've grown, and one thing that I always try to not only remind myselfthat also my team, is that customers, in theory, shouldn't have to interactwith 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, crossfunctionally helping product, helping account management, understand where customers are running into frustrationpoints 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 thesame? It's a pretty interesting approach. The idea that I think is youjust directly mentioned customers shouldn't really have to...

...interact with us. So one ofthe cases where they do have to interact with you. And why is thatthe case? Yeah, so this is very specific to our industry, butwe are definitely a market leader in the PR software space. Right now weare bringing to market what we call public relations management and with that it's ahuge 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 toolsin their day and instead bring all of the data that they need into oneplace. 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 toart organization, but hopefully this resonates with others listening as well, is thatyou have to help teams understand what they're doing today is not the most idealplace to be, and also help them see where the tool that you're offeringcan fill that void. So you're almost creating the problem for them, orhelping them see the problem with how they are used to interacting with their currenttools, that are their current way of working, and then bringing them overto a better way of doing things. So they'll let just about anybody runa podcast these days, and I got to say I know next to nothingabout pr and what those actual objectives should be. To can tell us alittle bit more about what you're hoping to help this PR professionals achieve? Yeah, absolutely so. If we take a sales org, for example, filteams have been using crms for years and years and years, but PR professionalshaven't had access to the same benefit. So if you think about yourself asa PR professional, a big part of your role is reaching out to journalistsand building relationships with them to help further your own brand message. And,as a result, if you were a team of five people, you couldprobably imagine how easy it is for more than one person on a team toend up reaching out to the same journalists.

So that would be a horror fora sales team, and PR teams haven't had that same structure access tosoftware that makes that easier for them. So what we're looking to achieve withour customers that we partner with is giving them access to not only the databasethat they need where they can actually search for and find those journalists, butthen also help them manage all of those relationships in one place too. GotIt. That makes a lot of sense. So the whole ideas is help thosePR 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 understandingcorrectly. Yes, that's exactly right. So how do you establish a relationshipwith 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 relationshipbuilding. So when we kick off a new relationship with a customer, wedefinitely 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 theposition of you bringing on a new tool internally within your organization and it's sopainful when you have to tell the CSM or the account manager the same informationthat you just shared with the salesperson that helps you bring on this new pieceof software. So that's one of the things that we want to do onour 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 knowthat 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 andreference early on in that relationship why they purchase the tool. So that'skey, understanding what they purchase muttrack for and then bringing that up early inthe conversation so that they know you're proactive and excited about the partnership to andfrom there, we really try to match our customers excitement. We do lookat all of our customer relationships as a partnership, so have to meet UShalfway. But we're definitely here to support...

...the initiatives that our customers are lookingto 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 understandand prove the value of their own work. That the huge gap in the PRindustry 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 helpthem 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 ofsense. is the ultimate goal here. I used to run into this allthe time when I was dealing with social media analytics teams. I was workingwith software that help those folks and it was a similar challenge, which islike 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 thespend for muck rack if we can also, in return, help them prove theirown Roli. So it's definitely a win win relationship there. Yeah,definitely makes sense. Where does things go right? So where do things kindof fall off when you can't meet the customer halfway or they can't necessarily showthat our I yeah, absolutely. So part of the challenges. We're allbusy people, right. So I think when people bring on a new softwarethere's often a lot of good intentions and sometimes things come up, you losemomentum with their relationship and we always try to do our best to bring thatexcitement back up, whether it's through a business review or a new feature thatwe just launched that we know they had requested or wish for and vocalize thatto us in the past. So there are definitely small ways that we tryto engage our customers as well as the bigger efforts like those business reviews andinteracting with other members throughout the organization. But we're things often go right toois when you don't have that stakeholder internally, and that is so key, especiallybecause we are trying to transform a...'s entire workflow. So, asyou can imagine, you can't really pull that off unless you have at leastone person who's fully bought in within the organization, and ideally that the leaderor senior leader who can really excite the team and motivate them to use thetool in the way that we both want it to be used. So that'swhere things definitely fall flad is when maybe we had a key point of contactand they left the organization, or maybe we never really got that full buyin from the team on utilizing muckrack as a work clow tool. So there'sa lot of ways that of course, things can go wrong, or notnecessarily wrong, but not the way that we had both hoped for. ButI think having that key stakeholder. I've seen that prove out plenty of timeson my end, where as soon as I get that one person who raisestheir hands bus yes, I believe in this, I can see why myteam should be using this. I'm going to work with you to work withmy team to get them using the tool in this way. Yeah, makesa lot of sense. And how have you designed sort of your team structureto be able to support that goal. Yeah, absolutely so. Within CustomerSuccess I have a team of sighs and two of those individuals are focused onsupport work. Three of those are focused on success at the moment and oneof my team members is really focus on customer communication and making sure that aswe're launching new products and features within the platform, that we're making customers awareof that, because one of the most painful things is when you see cancelationor turn feedback come through and they went to a competitor because they didn't knowthat you're tool did that. So we're always trying to make sure that thatdoesn't happen as much as possible. And I have another person on my teamto who work strategically with our account management team who manages all of the customerrenewals 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 thesuccess side is focused on on boarding, so customers who really need that oneto one dedicated training call up front.

He's taking the lead on those andthat's how we currently have the team structured. But we've seen so much growth intwo thousand and twenty. We're very thankful and blessed for that, andso 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 expandingto the point where you'd have CSM's own individual customer accounts, or wouldit be more of this kind of functional orientation as you grow? I seeit more as a functional orientation as we grow, since the Account Management Teamhas 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 strategicas a cross functional team working with product sales, account management, marketing,pretty much every team at muck rack to improve the customer experience. So wedefinitely see ourselves as part of the customer journey, but we also want tomake sure that we are not taking on anything and everything and just becoming thedo it all team. Makes a lot of sense. That also leads youto believe that you have some systems in place to ensure that there's a lotof great communication happening internally about each customer and what their experience has been thusfar. So I can tell me about, like, some of the systems andtools that you're using to manage that type of structure. On the teamwe use hub spot as our crm, and hub spot is really the toolwhere, of course, the sales team is using it, but the accountmanagement team is using it to to manage renewals and renewal deals and our teamis recording any call logs that we have with customers in there any relevant meetingnotes 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 alsoa proactive angle to so that's where we're not only responding reactively to inquiries thatcome into through the product, but we're,... addition to that, messaging customersthrough intercom to let them know about that new feature launch and, especiallyin the early days of someone joining the platform, helping them realize all therereally is to access and set up and leverage. We do use product boardon the product sign but I really like what we've done in collaboration with ourproduct team there to ensure that any conversation that is happening through intercom or anythingthat's being logged and hub spot is actually channeled through products board where the productteam can interact with those engagements and assign different things to the roadmap and ultimatelyidentify what type of requests or questions are starting to bubble up to. Werecently brought on client success and that tool is definitely going to help us takethings to the next level in terms of measuring account health and helping the accountmanagers to understand where those opportunities for upsells lie and where the opportunities or redflags are with different customers so that we can continue to stay one step aheadof 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 successyesterday afternoon. Well, amazing sitting in my car whether trying to connect toa couple bars lte here in the neighborhood. So that's awesome. That's really excitingthat you got a really thoughtful set of tools and systems that you're workingwith to ensure a positive customer relationship. I do like to ask so whereare the areas where you're still doing things manually that you feel like technology shouldbe able to help us? Yeah, that's a great question. I meanI don't know how much technology could really help with this, but one areathat I know not only our team struggles with, but probably every single customersuccess 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 oftool that we offer, so if someone...

...has an email alert set up throughthe platform, we see when that email bounces and that is definitely a goodindicator that they've most likely left the organization. But that is one area that Iknow we've really struggled with and I've been talking to other customer success teamsto I've definitely heard that shared struggle. So it'd be great if technology couldhelp more with that. But I would say that's one of the biggest challengesbecause when you lose a key fakeholder, even a power user, it isreally hard to bounce back from that and you have to put in in somecases it's almost like reselling your product to that organization. Yeah, definitely seenthat 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 theother folks that we bring on the show. So keep an eye outfor that as an opportunity area for some of you builders. I really appreciateyou sharing your perspectives about what's happening at Muck Rack and how you define customersuccess. I'd love for you to leave our listeners just with a piece ofadvice that you receive related to customer success that's really influenced how you think aboutit. Yeah, I would be happy to. It's not a piece ofadvice that I've received, but it is a piece of advice that I wouldlike to offer, and that is when you are in a tough conversation witha company who is looking to cancel their contracts with you, definitely remember thatwhile 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 ischurning or in the process of churning might very well go to an organization nextmonth or next year or two years from now and want to an advocate tobring on your product at their organization. So don't make it painful for themto leave. Obviously you want to do your job and be diligent and getthat feedback in case there is something directly...

...related to the products that could reallyhelp improve for other companies and customers as well. But that's my biggest pieceof advice to offer, is that even though you feel like you're losing acustomer, you're really not. You're losing a company. Yeah, don't necessarilytry to hold your customers a ransom. Right like Stockholm Syndrome isn't exactly thebest way to build up for poor with the market like it's okay. Sometimesit's not someone's decision to leave, and that's okay. If you make theexperience positive even when leaving, they're going to remember that positivity, not necessarilythe downside of, you know, just things not working out in that particularinstance 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 forlistening this week and tune in again next you depend on the fastest time tovalue for your customers, so I let data on board and sell you down. Stop emailing spreadsheets, creating CSP templates or setting up FTP transfers. Createcollaboratives secure workspaces with your customers and their data, saving you time while providinga memorable onboarding experience. Oh and there's no code required. You can goto 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 leaderis brought to you by flat file. If you're a fan of the showand want to help as share these conversations with others, leave us a ratingon 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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