Customer Success Leader
Customer Success Leader

Episode · 9 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 hasto be something that really leads that company's strategies want to create delightful customerexperiences. Youare in the right place. Welcome to customer Successleaer, whereyou'll learn about the successes and struggles of leaders who are passionateabout their craft. Trust me. You want to stick around here's your host, EricCrean, hey good morning afternoon eveningmiddle of the day whenever it is you're. Listening, I'm Ar Crane host ofcustomer success leader, I'm joined today by Tana Straus and she's. TheDirector of Customer Success at service. Now, Hey Tanya. How are you doing today?I'm doing great thanks? How are you eric? I can't complain too much.SOTHOUGH the power is still out at the house. He just had the remnancs of thehurricane role through town, so we're clean, egnough right now. Ah thatsounds awful where you calling in from I'm in Sunny Southern California,actually I'm calling in from San Diego, so you've never seen one of thesehurricanes in your life. Hu. No, honestly, I can't even imagine it.I did one time see the remnants of Hurricane Actually Hurricane Harvey inHouston. I came in a couple weeks afterwards, which was obviouslydevastating gay. By the time I got there. It was mostly just a lot ofcleanup, but yeah definitely can appreciate. whather nature is capableof yeah. Does San Diego just like shut down whenever there's a drop of rain?Does everyone you know, go out and make a run on umbrellas at the Walmart orsomething there? I don't know about that. I think peoplegenerally are are all about being at the beach regardless of the weather,but the one thing that I think you would crack up about in San Diego is,if it drops below about seventy two degrees, then you'l, let us the Ugboots and the parkes start coming out just kind of laughable, because by thetime we get to the middle of the afternoon, it's usually still seventyfive, oh wow, that's so good man! That's funny! I mean we do the samething in Atlanta, it's just with snow. We get freaked out over that I mean, Ithink SNDL. He had made fun of us for it, so I can't hate on y'll too muchfor that type of reaction. If it snowed here, I think that there woulddefinitely be a yeah. It would be arm again because we would have no idea howto deal with that well, either way. Thank you so much. I love being able tomake these connections across the country, and one thing that I wouldlove to learn a little bit about is just kind of your path to having thisconversation. Oday tell me a bit about how you got into customer success. 'Know. I'd love to so I started my career in business, an businesssoftware at the time that was really more of an on premise, kind of a thingwhich hopefully doesn't give away too much about how old I am so. I startedoff my career working ind training, where I got to work with end users, andthat was really fun teaching people how to use individual. You know enterprisesoftware and then I sort of progress through professional services and acouple of different areas. I even worked for a while in Presales for asoftware company. All of that was really great and then, until twothousand and eight when I decided to when my husband and I had our firstchild so when our first child was born all I realized that all of the kind ofwork that I was doing was really oriented around jumping on a plane tosolve some sort of problem, and so, when jumping on a plane just didn'tseem very appealing anymore. I actually took eight years off to be a sta athome, mom to my son and then later my daughter as well. So by the time I cameback into the workforce, there was this somewhat new idea, really taking holdcalled customer success where there was an entirely different part of software.companiehs then had existed for most software companies before I hadchildren, which was customer success. So I quickly, you know, decided thatthis was probably the place for me, because one of the things I had found-maybe not disappointing or frustrating, but certainly unfulfilling- aboutworking particularly in professional services, is that I never felt like. Ireally got to experience the excitement and the celebration of customersexperiencing actual outcomes, so I saw lots of customers getting to go livebut then generally I was on a plane to the next city and to the next project.So the idea that customer success is...

...really all about helping customers toachieve outcomes, celebrate outcomes and then take on new outcomes or newnew desired outcomes was really appealing to me. So very quickly becameclear that Ganesit was the leader in customer success, so I spent a coupleof years at at ganesite learning as much as I could about what gainsihtdoes and about what customer success means and then earlier this year,actually right before we started the world started working from home and weall sort of honkered down from the COVID pandemic. I started working forservice now, which has been really special because service now is acompany, that'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 in Sandiegorheadquarters is now up in Santa Clara, but yeah I get to do customer successat one of the most innomative companies in the world, hit's just really to thereally big priplege. For me, that's realler, exciting and by the way, don'tworry about the the onprem software thing I mean I did that too at the sortof my career, and I don't want people guess ing how old I am either. So don'tworry about that too much and can totally relate to sort of that wantingto experience kind of share. I outcomes with the customer. Tell me morespecifically like how do you define customer success? I actually I'm such aI'm so passionate about customer success that I've probably spent a sortof ridiculous amount of time pondering this question throughout my career, butI've actually come to a framework that I think other people might share offour components, but I think to find customer success. So, first of all it'sa job. It's something that individual people do obviously and practicecustomer success by hopefully delivering outcomes and helpingcustomers deliver outcomes. It's also a department, an organization within agenerally within a software company or any sort of subscription based orrenewal based organization. Anything obviously with that subscriptioneconomy would fit into a customer success model and then the third andfourth that I think about Ar a discipline as well as a cultural value.So you know, obviously we can walk around any corporate headquarters andsomewhere you're going to find a mission statement somewhere you'regoing to find a company purpose and almost every one of those is somewheregoing to mention something about you know, being customer centric andkeeping our customers. You know our first priority or whatever, and I thinkthat that's that's wonderful, but I think in order to practice thediscipline of customer success, the cultural value of customer success hasto be something that really leads that company's strategy. So it's not just aposter on a wall. It's actually something that all the way from youknow the board at the very top down to technical support engineering.Absolutely every aspect of it of the company is taking into account thediscipline of customer success from the perspective that ultimately, somebody'sjob probably depends on this investment that they've made in this technologythat they purchased from us, the software vendor and therefore you knowhelping them to get to outcomes, BIA best practices or whatever thatrequires really does require. I think, some discipline. So I think thatbetween the idea of a discipline as in a practice that is deliberate and acultural value, which is something that as a company, we all share- and we allfundamentally believe in. I think that H, those four things sort of make upwbut, I think customerd success should be all about. I love it. I I thinkthat's a great sounds like the kind of thing that youhave in a poster, an the wall in the office, and then I realize oh wait. Weain't really in the office too much these ays. Are We yeah? That's so true,I kind of Misse staying in the office, if I'm honest, and u one of the thingsthat I was so excited about joining service. Now, as actually we have acampus here in San Diego, and so I was looking forward to you, know theafterwork happy hours and all those kinds of things after my years of jetsetting but yeah. I think that you know I'm pretty sure that any corporateheadquarters I've ever been to somewhere has something about. You knowhow customers are our most important thing, but I think that it's the way toflex that and to practice, that is by making it a discipline and an a trulydeep cultural value, yeah. Well, let's talk a little bit about that and likewhere we are today, because I feel like...

...we could probably talk through each oneof those four areas and how covid is kind of made those things differently,so how covid is made to job and the department, an the discipline and eventhe values of customer success different than it was even just tenmonths ago. Yeah! That's a great question, so I think that as a culturalvalue I think at this moment and and in the last six or eight months or howeverlong it's been, a lot of companies have realized that the cultural value andthe discipline around customer success are actually much more valuable thanthey may have considered previously, in the sense that it's really hard. It's alot harder, at least right now, to get net new business to land new logos,because right now, there's you know, there's a lot of fear and uncertaintyin the world about what's going to happen with the election. That's comingup next week, what's going to happen with the stock market as a result ofthat, what's going to happen with the stock market or any other market as aresult of continuing the constantly shifting changes that that covid hasreally introduced to our lives. So, given all of that uncertainty, I thinkthat the companies who double down on customer success, who really pushcustomer success to the front of their strategy, then have the the advantageof a keeping the customers. So the revenue multipliers that they're,relying on for evaluation, for example, being able to keep those customers andkeep them keep them happy and keep them coming back is really important. Butthen, obviously the other part of customer success. That's exciting isthe ability to expand and sort of nurture those those partnerships thatwe have with our customers and having them again, crosscell upsell expand bymore. So I think that customer success has become more and more of acompetitive differentiator to a certain degree in the covid world than it wouldhave been previously or than it ever was previously. I actually alwaysthought that it was a competitive advantage. Companies who focus oncustomer success, but I think that in this covid world the companies who arereally focused on it really really can excele yeah and that's reallyinteresting. I think I was talking to someone earlier about you know in mostorganizations. Typically, customer success takes a while before itactually becomes more important than that new business, because what youhave is you have basically more opportunity from winning you logos thanyou do from you know, leveraging your existing customer base, and I thinkthis is shaken that parodim up even to the point where it doesn't, even matter,if you're still winning more new business than you are upselling orexpanding or growing whatever you want to call it your existing business, butalso just the fact that that is much more reliable than actually having togo out and get those new logos, because yeah the pipine might be good right now.But who knows what it's going to look like in a corner? Yes exactly exactlyand that that definitely has been an impact on sort of the other twocomponents right: The job in the department. I think from the jobperspective. It means that customer success professionals are there's, evenmaybe, unfortunately, even more pressure, even more folks, survise onthem, as far as what they can produce. I'd like to think that it also enhancesthe partnership between customer success professionals and their salespartners, their solution, consulting partners, their renewal managementpartners etce, so that really there can. Hopefully there can be more consistencyand a more cohesive nature of those relationships, so that again, thatcultural value in that discipline really get reinforced and then on thedepartmental, the organizational or kind of operational side. I think thatthis experience has given us an opportunity to really kind of sit backand think about what we're doing from an operational perspective and howconsistently we have what opportunities we have for real, consistent deliveryand engagement with customers all across the the spectrum from revenueperspective. So even those who we might consider you know lower value, lowerpriority and lower severity. However, we want to sort of figure out oursegmentation. I think that departmentally and again operationally.We have a really good opportunity right now to kind of look at at our practices,because we're not traveling, we hopefully have a little bit more timethan we used to. Although in my company,...

I'm not sure how that happened, itdoesn't seem to be the case, but if that was the case, then I think it'sdefinitely a good time for some reflection and then focus on oninternal delivery and excellence. Yeah I mean youv Had Tho, see a team as aleader who just joined the business actually go through this as a majortransition. So could you talk about some of the ways that you've helpedthose folks who are doing customer success? The job get adjusted to theenvironment that we are in today? Eric? I think, that's a really good question.I think it's a really important question for us to be considering rightis like how does this affect the individual and not to make too much ofa plug for service now, but culturally service now has really, I think, donean fantastic job of taking advantage, if that's the right term of thepandemic, to really double down on our culture. So the company has beenextremely generous with ensuring that every employee is well situated to beworking from home, offering things like Mifi devices. If people don't feel likethey have adequate band with, because maybe there's children in the house whoare also you know, connecting to school or whatever, but we've also been ableto leverage our own platform, our own workflow delivery capabilities, toreally make it easier for people to get the things that they need reallyquickly. So I think about that a lot as far as the fact that this has been acertainly a very scary time in history certainly been the scariest time in mylife. As far as something that's continued to be this sort of level ofuncertainty, but I'm just I personally a'm so grateful that I work for acompany. That's been able to really focus on employees and their and theirwellness first give us a lot of choices and that sort of thing. So, as far asour customer success Professionals Go, we've leveraged technology to reallypick up and keep everybody running at the same pace. They always were so youknow we're not missing our quarterly success. Reviews we've rolled all ofthose things into zoom. We encourage people to use the camera whenever theycan. So, both on the on the strategy, the culture and the tactics, I thinkthere's definitely again just a lot of opportunity that this situation haspresented to us yeah and, I think, we're all kind of getting used to thisworld, where the other person's, always on the different side of the screen tobe on. Just like teleconferencing like what are some of the other processesand tools, and things like that that you've used in order to help the teamget adjusted to the new paradigme. Well, we are big fans of slack. I've actuallyalways said that I could write poetry about flack and when we were justgetting settled in the sort of work from home new normal, which for a lotof the people on my team, was first for them, because we have a lot of peopleon my my particular team who are early in their careers. So for those kinds ofpeople to get used to you know going from you know. Maybe they were incollege a couple of years ago, where there was potentially a lot morestructure to than th the structure of working in an office to almost nostructure and really the sort of all of the discipline to get through the daykind of relies on our own self starter capabilities and that sort of thing Ihave found that you know. First of all, it's been an exercise and definitelythat technology and collaboration are more important than ever so usingthings like slack to communicate because we're not going to pick up thephone, we're, certainly not going to walk over to somebody's desk usingthings like collaborative documentation, and you know one drives and sharepointfiles and all those kinds of things I think ifve made this all possible.Quite honestly, if it weren't for the Internet and some of the innovativetechnologies that we've had that we've seen and created over the last coupleof decades. This whole thing could have really crippled the entire world yeah.I trotally agree. It's really interesting and I feel like you, cansee the stark difference between those two things where you have the types ofbusinesses where you can do business over the Internet and be a video calls,and things like that. You know ipoing and celebrating and ringing bills, andthen businesses that don't have that ability, ere suffering a lot more thanI feel like we are and what we do on paytoday pasis. Absolutely so,regardless of all the cool tectats out there. What are things that you feellike you're still doing, manially right now that you wish you could do in amachine. Instead, I feel like...

...operationally the area that I wouldlove to explore. A lot more is doing a better job with meeting collateral withsort 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 a customer, but to be able toserve up as much of the sort of obvious stuff as possible. Thankfully, there'sa lot of technologies who, who are really innovative around this and a lotof that stuff kind of doing really well, but I think of things like powerpoint,auto generation, templated, tokenized, email capabilities, both on the on themass scale, as well as on the on this sort of one to one scale. I think thatI like to think about matching up each customers, unique product footprint,adoption posture, engagement, level and then sort of suggesting again, I thinka I can help with this a lot. But so can you know Sokin just a sort of, ifthen statement matching all of those components up to the right collateraland serving all of that up to really keep our first of all. Keep our bootson the ground enabled with what they need, but also continue that level ofconsistency of delivering an engagement with our customers. Who I really likethat and I think he would probably break quarantine and social distancingto strangle me. If I didn't tell you about this, but one of my previouspodcast guest name is Josh fetdy and he's got a company called sales reachand funny enough they're, actually thinking about changing the name of thecompany, because what they do is they provide a personalized landing page forcustomers and they thought that sale themes would be the ones that use itthe most and turns out that they're getting many more customer success teamsigning up and using this because they want to do exactly what you're talkingabout, which is aggregating information about ha specific customer or that isrelevant to a specific customer in a single place like a landing page.Whethey can go, get all of that information, see it understand itsrelevance and also so that the team themselves can understand how thecustomers, interacting with that, as opposed to just hoping that they'reopening their emails and downloading their attachments and reading throughthem. Oh my goodness, I love that yeah. I could see an entire quarterlybusiness review meeting, just possibly walking a customer through their salesreach. Portall ad, you know here's all the things that we've curated for youthat you know based on here's your adoption data etcea. I could think of alot of cool things that could happen with just you know, sort of using thecustomer success engagements as awareness tools for that technology,enablement. So yeah. I really love that yeah. Thank you for sharing that andfor other builders out there too. I mean this is something that I reallyfind important is they're. Also folks who are trying to you know solveproblems that you're running into and customer success listening to thepodcast and they told me directly: Hey are there? Are Things that you can askyour guest to come on? Thay could help us understand how ind, where to buildcertain types of things, absolutely yeah. I mean for me where, from whereI'm sitting right now all things sort of just intime materials just in timeennablement just in time collateral, so that we can really continue to scaleand keep you know Sert of serve as many customers as possible. Obviouslycustomer success. Some organizations look at it as something of a costcenter, although I would argue that the Roy on it is is pretty straightforwardand usually several x, what whatever investment it might be. However, Ithink that still the Opportunity Tho scale so that we can keep or ourprosales organizations lean, especially in these kinds of times, are definitelypriorities for most companies right now, Oh yeah. Absolutely I mean we includecustomer success is part of the cost of sale here flatfile and I encouragepretty much anyone else to do the same exact thing, because it is definitelypart of not only your know, just customer service motion, but also yourrevenue generation motion. If you understand your customers objectivesand you can educate them on how to receive value out of your solution andcome up together with a plan for how to achieve that value, then absolutelythose customers e going to keep coming back to you from Mord more businessover time absolutely and building up partnership building that report- andyou know when, on the rainy days when...

...times are tough- and you know thecustomers, not necessarily seean. I Di never heard to remind them that youknow we're making a huge investment in our partnership with you by having adedicated customer success person. All of that stuff. I think you know again.I think it can ot pay dividence, but I think you're making a very wise choiceby including the cost of customer success as part of customer acquisitionthat I would also you know, encourage you guys to consider how expansonopportunities you know. Renewal plus kind of stuff really can hopefully makethe rli very, very strong, oh for sure, yeah, then there's just pur upsideafter that exactly but really appreciate you shareing a little bitmore about how you' help the team there adapt to Covid and love for you to justchar some wisdom that you picked up along the way is you've learned abouthow customer success developed and why it was the right fit for you and yourcareer, so there anything that someone has eten told Your Beu just kind ofaggregated. That would be a little piece of advice that someone can carryaway from this articular episode so Eric. I think that's a really goodquestion, I'm so glad you asked it someone I've had the fortune to workwith in my career is alice an pickins. We work together at Gamesite. She wasthe chief operating officer as well as a chief customer officer duringdifferent points in her her time at Gansiht, she's, also written a coupleof books on the topic of customer success. A few years ago, she came tothe company's sort of all company all hands meeting, and she presented thisidea that we should be brave. She talked about how you know: We'de seen,customers who have had great experiences from a personal sort ofsentiment perspective working with with gainsight with other technologies rightlike Oh, we just we just love the people so much, but we're still goingto not renew, because we haven't gotten the value that we needed and we reallywish that your team had given us better guidance along the way, and this is atheme that I've seen unfortunately playout. I think throughout my career,really where you know you have really nice people who have really goodintentions. So Alison's idea of be brave was it's okay to not only say noto a customer when times are tough more when necessary, but also to you know,provide the guidance and even stand up with the guidance win. The customers,maybe not even asking for it. I actually have a great example of this.In my own life a few years ago, we were remodeling a house, and I had it in mymind that it would be a great idea to paint the ceiling of the half bathroom,a dark blue, like a maby blue color, and I was working with a designer andshe looked at me and she said no you're, just no we're not doing that like thatis just not going to work. It's too small of the room, you know, and shebrought up all of her subject- met Er expertise about design and bathroomdesigns, Etcera, all kinds of stuff that I don't know much about. If, if Iprobably don't know anything about, but the bravery tot sort of you know insome ways stand up to me professionally gently and with the with really goodintentions with something that really stuck with me. As far as from acustomer success perspective, we have a lot of opportunity to advise customersto 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 necessarily thebest 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, tbut. So awesomeI had a very similar type of experience as well. I had a previous CEO come upand tell me hey or stop showing your work. So a similar type of advice islike hey. If you know what you're talking about- and you know what you'redoing go for it right, if someone's going to ask you, questions yeah bringup your work later, but that's not the first thing that you provide. The firstthing you provide is direction o decision and then from there youultimately might be questioned you, someone might call into your judgmentbut stand behind it and be confident in it and just know that, like you, don'tnecessarily need to show that, in order for people to, you know believe thatyou're intentionally guiding your...

...thoughts and your decisions absolutelyyeah. I think that the the permission and the advice to be brave is somethingthat has been really influential for me so alison if you're out there. Thankyou so much for that advice and to everybody else who might be you know,especially early in your career and trying to figure out, like you know,how do you I know when to say when you know the customers will certainly guideyou, but occasionally it's. It makes more sense to provide some guidance tothem as well. Wonderful! Well, thank you so much for joining us today, againy'll. Let's ton, Ya, strou she's, a director of customer success at servicenow I' Maric Crane founder in COO at flat file signing off for this week'sepisode of Customer Successullyaer. You depend on the fastest time to valuefor your customers, so why let Datea onboard and slow you down stop emailingspreadsheets, creating CSB templates for setting up CTT transfers, createcollaborative secure workspaces with your customers and their data savingyou time, while providing a memorable, onboarding experience. Oh and there'sno code required, you can go to flat file, dot, IO lashcs leader to learnmore and get started for free. Thank you. So much for joining us forthis episode. Customer Success leader is brought to you by flat file ifyou're a fan of the show and want to help us share these conversations withothers. Leave us a rating on Apple Podcast, just tap the number of stars.You think the show deserves. That's it for tyday catch you in the next one.

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