Customer Success Leader
Customer Success Leader

Episode · 11 months ago

How to Make Customer Success a Discipline


In almost any corporate office you walk into, there’ll be some sort of propaganda claiming their dedication to customer service.

But real customer success comes from something deeper, more ingrained.

Tanya Strauss, Director of Customer Success Strategy & Operations at ServiceNow, joins Eric in this episode to discuss why CS should be a discipline in your organization — not just a poster on a wall.

Plus, they discuss…

- How to maintain great CS outside of the office

- Why CSMs should be more honest & proactive with customers

- Advice for people just getting into CS

For more info, check out or send a message to To hear other interviews like this one, subscribe to Customer Success Leader on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

I think in order to practice thediscipline of customer success, the cultural value of customer success has to be somethingthat really leads that company's strategies. Want to create delightful customer experiences. You'rein the right place. Welcome to customer success leader, where you'll learn aboutthe 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, good morning, afternoon, evening, middle of the day, whenever itis you're listening. I'm are crane, host of customer success leader. I'mjoined today by Timya Strauss, and she's the director of Customer Success at servicenow. Hey, Tania, how are you doing today? I'm doing great. Thanks. How are you, Eric? I can't complain too much of thepower still out at the house. We just had the remnants of thehurricane roule through town, so we're clean enough right now. That sounds awful. Where are you calling in from? I'm in Sunny Southern California. Actually, I'm calling in from San Diego. So you never seen one of thesehurricanes in your life? No, honestly, I can't even imagine it. Idid one time see the remnants of Hurricane, actually Hurricane Harvey in Houston. I came in a couple weeks afterwards of which was obviously devastating day.By the time I got there it was mostly just a lot of cleanup.But yeah, definitely can appreciate what our nature is capable of. Yeah,it is. San Diego just like shut down whenever there's a drop arraigned,as everyone you know got and make a run on umbrellas at the Walmart orsomething there. I don't know about that. I think people generally are are allabout being at the beach regardless of the weather. But the one thingthat I think you would crack up about in San Diego is if it dropsbelow about seventy two degrees, then you'll notice the UG boots in the parkof start coming out. Just kind of laughable because by the time we getto the middle of the afternoon it's usually still seventy five. Oh Wow,that's so good man. That's funny. I mean we do the same thingin Atlanta. It's just with snow. We get freaked out over that.I mean I think SNL, you'd made fun of us for it, soI can't hate on Y'all too much for for that type of reaction. Ifit's snowed here, I think that there would definitely be a yeah, itwould be arm again, because we would have no idea how to deal withthat either way. Thank you so much. I love being able to make theseconnections across the country and one thing that I would love to learn alittle bit about is just kind of your path to having this conversation today.Tell me a bit about how you got into customer success. Well, I'dlove to. So I started my career in business to business software. Atthe time that was really more of an on premise kind of a thing,which hopefully doesn't give away too much about how old I am. So Istarted off my career working in training, where I got to work with endusers and that was really fun, teaching people how to use individual, youknow, enterprise software, and then I sort of progress through professional services anda couple of different areas. I even worked for a while in pre salesfor a software company. All of that was really great, and then untiltwo thousand and eight when I decided to when my husband and I had ourfirst child. So when our first child was born, all I realized thatall of the kind of work that I was doing was really oriented around jumpingon a plane to solve some sort of problem, and so when jumping outa plane just didn't seem very appealing anymore, I actually took eight years off tobe a stayathome mom to my son and then later my daughter as well. So by the time I came back into the workforce there was this somewhatnew idea really taking hold called customer success, where there was an entirely different partof software companies then had existed for most software companies before I had children, which was customer success. So I quickly, you know, decided thatthis was probably the place for me, because one of the things I hadfound maybe not disappointing or frustrating, but certainly unfulfilling about working, particularly inprofessional services, is that I never felt like I really got to experience theexcitement and the celebration of customers experiencing actual outcomes. So I saw lots ofcustomers getting to go live, but then generally I was on a plane tothe next city and to the next project. So the idea that customer success isreally all about helping customers to achieve...

...outcomes, celebrate outcomes and then takeon new outcomes or new, new desired outcomes was really appealing to me.So very quickly became clear that gainsite was the leader in customer success. SoI spent a couple of years it at gainsite, learning as much as Icould about what gainsite does and about what customer success means. Then then earlierthis year, actually right before we started, the world started working from home andwe all sort of hungered down from the COVID pandemic, I started workingfor service now, which has been really special because service now is a companythat's actually founded in San Diego by a couple of surfers. So I livein San Diego. I work for a company that was at least founded inSan Diego. Headquarters is now up in Santa Clara, but yeah, Iget to do customer success at one of the most innovative companies in the world, which is really just a really big privilege for me. That's really exciting. And, by the way, don't worry about the the on prem softwarething. I mean I did that too at the start of my career andI don't want people guess and how old I I am either. So don'tworry about that too much and can totally relate to sort of that wanting toexperience kind of shared outcomes with the customer. Tell me more specifically, like howdo you define customer success? I actually I'm such a I'm so passionateabout customer success that I've probably spent a sort of ridiculous amount of time ponderingthis question throughout my career. But I've actually come to a framework that Ithink other people might share of for components that I think to find customer success. So first of all, it's a job. It's something that individual peopledo, obviously in practice customer success by hopefully delivering outcomes and helping customers toliver outcomes. It's also a department in organization within a generally within a softwarecompany or any sort of subscription based or renewal based organization. Anything, obviouslywith that subscription economy, would fit into a customer success model. And thenthe third and fourth that I think about our a discipline as well as acultural value. You, so you know, obviously we can walk around any corporateheadquarters and somewhere you're going to find a mission statement somewhere you're going tofind a company purpose and almost every one of those is somewhere going to mentionsomething about, you know, being customer centric and keeping our customers, youknow, our first priority or whatever, and I think that that's that's wonderful. But I think in order to practice the discipline of customer success, thecultural value of customer success, has to be something that really leads that company'sstrategy. So it's not just a poster on a wall, it's actually somethingthat all the way from, you know, the board at the very top,down to technical support engineering, absolutely every aspect of it, of thecompany, is taking into account the discipline of customer success from the perspective thatultimately, somebody's job probably depends on this investment that they've made in this technologythat they purchased from us, the software vendor, and therefore, you know, helping them to get too outcomes via best practices or whatever that requires,really does require, I think, some discipline. So I think that betweenthe idea of a discipline, as in a practice that is deliberate, anda cultural value, which is something that, as a company, we all shareand we all fundamentally believe in, I think that that those four thingssort of make up what I think customer success should be all about. Ilove it. I think that's a great sounds like the kind of thing thatyou have in a poster on the wall in the office. And then Irealize, oh wait, wait, really in the office too much these days, are we? Yeah, that's too true. I kind of missed beingin the office, if I'm honest, and one of the things that Iwas so excited about joining service now is actually we have a campus here inSan Diego, and so I was looking forward to, you know, theafterwork happy hours and all those kinds of things after my years of jet setting. But yeah, I think that, you know, I'm pretty sure thatany corporate headquarters I've ever been to somewhere has something about, you know,how customers are our most important thing. But I think that it's the wayto flex that and to practice that is by making it a discipline and ofa truly deep cultural value. Yeah, well, let's talk a little bitabout that and like where we are today,...

...because I feel like we could probablytalk through each one of those four areas and how covid is kind ofmade those things differently. So how covid is made the job and the departmentand the discipline and even the values of customer success different than it was evenjust ten months ago? Yeah, that's a great question. So I thinkthat as a cultural value, I think at this moment and and in thelast six or eight months or however long it's been, a lot of companieshave realized that the cultural value and the discipline around customer success are actually muchmore valuable than than they may have considered previously, in the sense that it'sreally hard, it's a lot harder, at least right now, to getnet new business, to land new logos, because right now there's, you know, there's a lot of fear and uncertainty in the world about what's goingto happen with the election that's coming up next week, what's going to happenwith the stock market as a result of that, what's going to happen withthe stock market or any other market as a result of continuing the constantly shiftingchanges that that covid has really introduced to our lives. So, given allof that uncertainty, I think that the companies who double down on customer success, who really push customer success to the front of their strategy, then havethe the advantage of a keeping their customers, so the revenue multipliers that they're relyingon for valuation, for example, being able to keep those customers andkeep them, keep them happy and keep them coming back is really important.But then obviously the the other part of customer success that's exciting is the abilityto expand and sort of nurture those those partnerships that we have with our customersand having them again cross cell up cell expand by more. So I thinkthat customer success has become more and more of a competitive differentiator to a certaindegree in the covid world, then it would have been previously, or thanit ever was previously. I actually always thought that it was a competitive advantagecompanies who focus on customer success, but I think then in this covid world, the companies who are really focused on it really really can excel. Yeah, and that's really interesting. I think I was talking to someone earliier aboutyou know, in most organizations typically customer success takes a while before it actuallybecomes more important and net new business, because what you have is you havebasically more opportunity from winning new logos that you do from you know, leveragingyour existing customer base, and I think this is shaken that paradigm up evento the point where it doesn't even matter if you're still winning more new businessthan you are upselling or expanding or growing, whatever you want to call it,your existing business. But also just the fact that that is much morereliable than actually having to go out and get those new logos because, yeah, the pipeline might be good right now, but who knows what it's going tolook like in a corner? Yes, exactly, exactly, and that thatdefinitely have been an impact on sort of the other two components, rightthe job in the department. I think from the job perspective it means thatcustomer success professionals are there's even, maybe, unfortunately, even more pressure, evenmore folks serve eyes on them as far as what they can produce.I'd like to think that it also enhances the partnership between customer success professionals andtheir sales partners, their solution consulting partners, their renewal management partners, etcetera,so that really there can hopefully there can be more consistency and a morecohesive nature of those relationships so that again that cultural value and that discipline reallyget reinforced. And then on the departmental, the organizational or kind of operational side, I think that this experience has given us an opportunity to really kindof sit back and think about what we're doing from an operational perspective and howconsistently we we have, what opportunities we have for real consistent delivery and engagementwith customers all across the the spectrum. From revenue perspective, so even thosewho we might consider, you know, lower value, lower priority, lowerseverity. However, we want to sort of figure out our segmentation. Ithink that departmentally and again operationally, we have a really good opportunity right nowto kind of look at at our practices. Is because we're not traveling. Wehopefully have a little bit more time...

...than we used to, although inmy company I'm not sure how that happened. It doesn't seem to be the case, but if that was the case, then I think it's definitely a goodtime for some reflection and then focus on internal delivery and excellence. Yeah, I mean you've had to see a team, as a leader who justjoined the business, actually go through this as a major transition. So couldyou talk about some of the ways that you've helped those folks who are doingcustomer success the job get adjusted to the environment that we are in today?Eric, I think that's a really good question. I think it's a reallyimportant question for us to be considering right as like how does this effect tothe individuals? And not to make too much of a plug for service now, but culturally, service now has really, I think, done a fantastic jobof taking advantage, if that's the right term, of the pandemic toreally double down on our culture. So the company has been extremely generous withensuring that every employee is well situated to be working from home, offering thingslike my fi devices if people don't feel like they have adequate bandwidth because maybethere's children in the house who are also, you know, connecting to school orwhatever. But we've also been able to leverage our own platform, ourown workflow delivery capabilities to really make it easier for people to get the thingsthat they need really quickly. So I think about that a lot. Asfar as the fact that this has been a certainly a very scary time inhistory, certainly been the scariest time in my life as far as something that'sthat's continued to be this sort of level of uncertainty. But I'm just personally, I'm so grateful that I work for a company that's been able to reallyfocus on employees and their and their wellness first, give us a lot ofchoices and that sort of thing. So, as far as our customer success professionalsgo, we've leverage technology to really pick up and keep everybody running atthe same pace they always were. So you know, we're not missing ourquarterly success reviews. We've rolled all of those things into zoom. We encouragepeople to use the camera whenever they can. So both on the on the strategy, the culture and the tactics, I think there's definitely, again,just a lot of opportunity that this situation has presented to us. Yeah,and I think we're all kind of getting used to this world where the otherperson's always on the different side of the screen. To beyond just like teleconferencing, like, what are some of the other processes and tools and things likethat that you've used in order to help the team get adjusted to the NewParadigm? Well, we are big fans of slack. I've actually always saidthat I could write poetry about slack. And when we were just getting settledin the sort of work from home new normal, which for a lot ofthe people on my team was at first for them, because we have alot of people on my my particular team who are early in their careers.So for those kinds of people to get used to, you know, goingfrom you know, maybe they were in college a couple of years ago wherethere was potentially a lot more structure, to then the the structure of workingin an office, to almost no structure, and really that sort of all ofthe discipline to get through the day kind of relies on our own selfstarter capabilities and that sort of thing. I have found that, you know, first of all, it's been an exercise and definitely that technology and collaborationare more important than ever. So using things like slack to communicate, becausewe're not going to pick up the phone, we're certainly not going to walk overto somebody's desk, using things like collaborative documentation and, you know,one drives and sharepoint files and all those kinds of things, I think ofmade this all possible. Quite honestly, if it weren't for the Internet andsome of the innovative technologies that we've had, that we've seen and created over thelast couple of decades, this whole thing could have really crippled the entireworld. Yeah, I totally agree. It's really interesting and I feel likeyou can see the stark difference between those two things, where you have thetypes of businesses where you can do business over the Internet and be a videocalls and things like that, you know, Ip owing and celebrating and ringing bells, and then businesses that don't have that ability or suffering a lot morethan I feel like we are and what we do on a day to daybasis. Absolutely so, regardless of all the cool tech that's out there.What are the things that you feel like you're still doing manually right now thatyou wish you could do in a machine instead? I feel like operationally,the area that I would love to explore...

...a lot more is doing a betterjob with meeting collateral, with sort of meeting customer success professionals with exactly thecollateral that they need. Not that I would like to hand someone a portfolioof documents as they're walking in the door, to customer, but to be ableto serve up as much of the sort of obvious stuff as possible.Thankfully, there's a lot of technologies who are who are really innovative around thisand a lot of that stuff kind of doing really well. But I thinkof things like powerpoint autogeneration, templated tokenized email capabilities, both on the onthe mass scale as well as on the on this sort of one too onescale. I think that I like to think about matching up each customers uniqueproduct footprint, adoption, posture, engagement level and then sort of suggesting again, I think a I can help with this a lot, but so canyou know. So can just a sort of if then statement, matching allof those components up to the right collateral and serving all of that up toreally keep our first of all keep our boots on the ground enabled with whatthey need, but also continue that level of consistency of delivery and engagement withour customers right. I really like that and I think he would probably breakquarantine and social distancing to strangle me if I didn't tell you about this,but one of my previous podcast guests name is Josh Fettie. He's got acompany called sales reach and, funny enough, they're actually thinking about changing the nameof the company because what they do is they provide a personalized landing pagefor customers and they thought that sales teams would be the ones that use itthe most, and turns out that they're getting many more customer success team signingup and using this because they want to do exactly what you're talking about,which is aggregating information about a specific customer or that is relevant to a specificcustomer in a single place like a landing page. They can go get allof that information to see it, understand its relevance and also so that theteam themselves can understand how the customers interacting with that is opposed to just hopingthat they're opening their emails and downloading their attachments and reading through them. Ohmy goodness, I love that. Yeah, I can see an entire quarterly businessreview meeting just possibly walking a customer through their sales reach portal and youknow, here's all the things that we've curated for you that you know basedon, here's your adoption data, et Cetera. I could think of alot of cool things that could happen with just, you know, sort ofusing the customer success engagements as awareness tools for that technology enablement. So,yeah, I really love that. Yeah, well, thank you for sharing that, and for other builders out there too. I mean this is somethingthat I really find important, is they're also folks who are trying to,you know, solve problems that you're running into and customer success. Listening tothe podcasts and they told me directly, hey, or there are things thatyou can ask your guests to come on. They could help us understand how andwe're to build certain types of things. Absolutely, yeah, I mean,for me we're from where I'm sitting right now, all things sort ofjust in time, materials just in time, enablement just in time, collateral sothat we can really continue to scale and keep, you know, serveas many pot customers as possible. Obviously, customer success some organizations look at itas something of a cost center, although I would argue that Roy onit is pretty straightforward and usually several x would whatever investment it might be.However, I think that still be the opportunity to scale so that we cankeep our or our pro sales organizations lean, especially in these kinds of times aredefinitely priorities for most companies right now. Oh yeah, absolutely. I meanwe include customers success us is part of the cost of sale here atflat file and I encourage pretty much anyone else to do the same exact thing, because it is definitely part of not only your, you know, justcustomer service motion, but also your revenue generation motion. If you understand yourcustomers objectives and you can educate them on how to receive value out of yoursolution and come up together with a plan for how to achieve that value,and absolutely those customers are to keep coming back to you from more and morebusiness over time. Absolutely, and building that partnership, building that rapport andyou know, when on the rainy days,...

...when times are tough and you knowthe customers not necessarily see and eyed, I it never hurts to remind themthat, you know, we're making a huge investment in our partnership withyou by having a dedicated customer success person. All of that stuff, I thinkyou know. Again, I think it can all pay dividends, butI think you're making a very wise choice by including the cost of customer success. Is Part of customer acquisition. But I would also, you know,encourage you guys to consider how expansion opportunities, you know, renewal, plus kindof stuff, really can hopefully make the roy very, very strong.Oh for sure. Yeah, then there's just pure upside after that, exactly. Well, really appreciate you sharing a little bit more about how you've helpedthe team. They're adapted. Covid, I'd love for you to just sharesome wisdom that you've picked up along the way, as you've learned about howcustomer success developed and why it was the right fit for you and your career. So there anything that someone has either told your if you just kind ofaggregated that would be a little piece of advice that someone can carry away fromthis particular episode. So, Eric, I think that's a really good question. I'm so glad you asked it. Someone I've had the fortune to workwith in my career is Alison pickens. We work together at gainsite. Shewas the chief operating officer as well as a chief customer officer during different pointsin her her time at gainsight. She's also written a couple of books onthe topic of customers success. A few years ago she came to the company'ssort of all company all hands meeting and she presented this idea that we shouldbe brave. She talked about how, you know, we've seen customers whohave had great experiences from a personal sort of sentiment perspective, working with withgainsight, with other technologies, right like Oh, we just we just lovethe people so much, but we're still going to not renew because we haven'tgotten the value that we needed and we really wish that your team had givenus better guidance along the way. And this is a theme that I've seen, unfortunately, play out, I think, throughout my career, really where,you know, you have really nice people who have really good intentions.So Alice's idea of be brave was it's okay to not only say no toa customer when times are tough, more when necessary, but also to,you know, provide the guidance and even stand up with the guidance when thecustomers maybe not even asking for it. I actually have a great example ofthis in my own life. A few years ago we were remodeling a houseand I had it in my mind that it would be a great idea topaint the ceiling of the half bathroom a dark blue like a maybe blue colorand I was working with a designer and she looked at me and she saidno, you're just no, we're not doing that like that is just notgoing to work. It's too small of the room, you know, andshe brought up all of her subject matter expertise about design and bathroom designs,etc. All kinds of stuff that I don't know much about, if Iprobably don't know anything about, but the bravery to sort of, you know, in some ways stand up to me professionally, gently and with the withreally good intentions, was something that really stuck with me. As far asfrom a customer success perspective, we have a lot of opportunity to advise customers, to offer them consulting, and sometimes the best answer to someone is no, like that's just you're not doing this the right way. It's not necessarilythe best reasoning. Here's what I've seen is evidence of this from past customerengagements. Then, you know, let's work together to find another solution andit's maybe not going to have potential consequences for you. That's so awesome.I had a very similar type of experience as well. I had a previousCEO come up and tell me, Hey, are stop showing your work. Soa similar type of advice is like hey, if you know what you'retalking about and you know what you're doing, go for it, right. Ifsomeone's going to ask you questions, yeah, bring up your work later, but that's not the first thing that you provide. The first thing youprovide is direction or decision, and then from there you ultimately might be questioned. You, someone might call into your judgment, but stand behind it andbe confident in it and just know that, like, you don't necessarily need toshow that in order for pole to, you know, believe that you areintentionally guiding your thoughts and your decisions.

Absolutely, yeah, I think thatthe permission and the advice to be brave as something that has been reallyinfluential for me. So, Alison, if you're out there, thank youso much for that advice. and to everybody else who might be, youknow, especially early in your career and trying to figure out, like,you know, how do you buy? No, when to say when?You know the customers will certainly guide you, but occasionally it's it makes more senseto provide some guidance to them as well. Wonderful. Well, thankyou so much for joining us today again, y'all, that's time you strouse.She's a director of customer success at service. Now I'm Eric Crane,founder and CEO at flat file, signing off of this week's episode of CustomerSuccess Leader. You depend on the fastest time to value for your customers,so why light data on board and sell you down? Stop emailing spreadsheets,creating CSP templates or setting up FTP transfers. Create collaborative, secure work spaces withyour customers and their data, saving you time while providing a memorable onboarding experience. Oh and there's no code required. You can go to flatfiles IO C S leader to learn more and get started for free. Thankyou so much for joining us for this episode. Customer Success leader is broughtto you by flat file. If you're a fan of the show and wantto help us share these conversations with others, leave us a rating on apple podcast. Just tap the number of stars you think the show deserves. That'sit for today. Catch you in the next one.

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