Customer Success Leader
Customer Success Leader

Episode · 1 year ago

Customer Success: Does Your Product Live Up to the Hype? w/ Chad Horenfeldt


Customer success is all about driving value. 

But that’s not limited to your customer success team. 

It’s company-wide. And your product better live up to what you sold it as.

Today’s guest is Chad Horenfeldt, Customer Success Coach at Kustomer. He has experience in a variety of customer-success-centered roles and came on to share the wisdom he’s gained over his impressive career.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • What customer success is
  • Why your product needs to live up to the hype
  • Why leadership means a dedication to lifelong learning

For more info, check out or send a message to

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


PESSOMIR success is all about drivingvalue, for customers want to create delightful customer experiences. Youare in the right place, welcome to customer success leader where you'lllearn about the successes and struggles of leaders who are passionate abouttheir craft. Trust me. You want to stick around here's your host, EricCrane, Heyyo Eric Crane from flat file here on this week's episode of customersuccess. Leader we've got Chadhorn felt the director of customer success atcustomer, Hey Chad, how are you today he good er? How are you I'm doing allright? I have a really important question for you. How many times do yousay customer throughout the day? That's funny? Actually, internally, weuse quiet, Sois, a way differentiate that so we want to make sure that wedon't say customer or too many times. I guess I don't Knov, but everythingactually part of our culture. Everything is with a K, so were Ha crewwith E K, and we use customer business reviews with Te k. So there's lots ofthings that we do. We get customer and Tek ind there all h time. That'sawesome! Well! Thank you! So much for joining me today, so I really want todig indeed to your experience in your background, but before e we get inthere tell me a little bit more about how you view customer success. What'syour unique definition for CS yeah, I like to keep it pretty simple to me:customers. Success is all about driving value for customers. I think the keything that I've learned over time that, in order to drive that value and foryour customers to want to work with you, you really need to establish trust withthem, and so that's something you can dive in and talk a lot more about, butyou know customer success. There is trust Os such a fundamental part ofthat in order to help try value fo the custumers. So how do you build trustwith your customers? It's our clients at customer yeah, IT'S A companyinitiaive! It's not just the customer success team right! Your products hasto live up to what sales people sold in in terms of how they sold it. You knowevery day the product has to work the way it's expected and from a customersuccess perspective when that customer success, managers, inttroduced and evenbefore their first call the first communication that they're involved inthat's establisheding trust right there, the credentials the customer successmanager has howother introduced when they're on that first meeting with theclient. If they don't know enough about the client or if the client has torepeat things, they've already said that customer success manage is alreadybehind. He Ait Ball. So you know it's really understanding the customer andeven getting down to how they speak about things like how do they calltheir agents? Because customer is a customer support software if they callthem associates, then you need to call them associates, need to understandtheir product and understand their business. So that's part of thefundamental way is that we helpe establish trust. I love that, andsometimes people gloss over those little things that they might feel like.Oh, you know thit's, not such a big deal, but it actually really does makeyour CSTAM feel like a part of their team and that's the whole objectivehere is to integrate and understand more about what drives business valuefor them. Yeah I mean you think about...

...any relationship that you have. Youcan't just start asking these. You know indepth strategic questions and a lotof CSINS like all. I want to be more stritegic and I want to have thesetypes of conversations you know whyt. Do I get just sent all f these issues?It's like. Well, you can't have those larger conversations unless you speakthe language that your customer speaks and if you want to have a conversationwith the VP or higher the sea level, you really need to again understandtheir business. What's on their mind and then think about from thatperspective, and so it's just different. It's very different from typially theday to day of this CSM. But if you ask tsome questions hat, you know terms oftheir customers. You know what makes a very valued customer. How do you makemoney? How does your company make money like ask some of these questions andthen you'll start to see thei relationship change and you can have abetter relationship? You know with your custer now. It obviously depends ifthere's people who are champions and they might be really indectd in theproduct, you're not going to ask them those tycs of questions they're,typically just looking for your help, how to get to the next thing done, butit's a Mo deepening relationship with in the client which will really driveyou forward, fo, the most part. So when is that moment that you know that it'slike okay, we've got this bond now like, like? Maybe some examples might behelpful, but usually there's like a light, bulb tat, clicks or somethingthat goes on? It's like, okay. I know now that we're on good terms, we geteach other and they view me as a partner, not necessarily as a vendoryeah. It's interesting. I U'd say I mean, depending on e different levels.I think there's a colleague and its name is Ben Wyn is over anothersoftwlarer vendor and he was like what, when you guys, are friends on instagram.It's always a good sign. You know, maybe that's the newer generation interms of customer Successan enators. I would say that if you were able toconverse in a really easy positive way, I can mostly tell Formiti team if Isometimes I'll, listen to some gone calls and I'll just see that there'sthis relationship that you can see. That's formed they're asking about someof the stuff of other percipal ives. That's typically tells me that there'sa strong bond there, and one of the Thas I see is that when customers giveyou obviously a High Survey Por, but at times I've gotten emails from ourclients, just saying how much appreciate other CSMS and Ar Hustrysuccess teim helping them. That tells me that you know we've gone past, thatsort of vendor client relationship into more of a partnership yeah buildingthat intuition takes a good bit of time and exposure to customers as well. SoI'd love to talk a little bit more about that, because you've seencustomer success at so many different organizations, but from an individualcontrirmeter level, as well as a manager, director and strategist level.So tell me a little bit more about what you've learned across all thosedifferent experiences. Yeah I've had a lot of experience. An I've had a lot ofpain. I would say over time I think the the key thing is that there's certainapproaches and methodologies you can take the customer success, but I youreally have to look at u situation in a...

...unique way back when I was at Aloquaand I was a custer success manager started, you know in a CSM role andmoved my way up. People were moving to different parts of the organization,but I really loved customer success and I wanted to further move into aleadership role. But when I started there we were about a three million Arrcompany and Theye were already people like me, who didn't have a lot ofexperience and by the time I was in the leadership role. I was looking forpeople with a lot of domain experience because that's what our customers werelooking for. They were looking for people with advanced marketing skillsand BTB, who could take them to the next level, and I remember arguing withmy manager at the time because she was like. Oh, we need people with moretechnical skills. I was like Whea, we actually have a team for that and wehave othe teams as like. Really what I need is I want to hire people who canbe more like coaches and whohave been there and done that and provide more ofthat strategic experience, because I just felt it was missing, so it evenchanges within the actual company based on the stage the company is in andwhere your team isn't how your team is maturing. You know another company wasat Blue Corpe, there's a much more technical product and it was more onthe email space and to be te C space, and I found that the people that reallyexcel well in those rules. You have to have the core CSM skills of empathy andbeing able to be a good coach. Ask questions, but it was also reallyhelpful when you had more of a technical background, because then youcould, you know decipher issues much more quickly and then you know my laststarte up before this won at updator. It was a moving software, but it wasnot very technical at all, so it was more about building a relationship andI would say, being more adept at how you can help that client work throughtheir issues and not necessarily the technical soside. So that's how o haveseen the different parts of that in terms of the different customer success,organcizations yeah and I found to in my career that this is- is aren'talways very good at describing that so I mean, if you're a customer successmanager out there looking for your next opportunity or even want to break intocustomer success. Look at what the company does. This is what I oftenadvise people, especially if they want to get intect for the first time andthey're non technical. They say. Oh Customer Success Looks Great, I say: Goto a company that builds tech for whatever industry you just came frombecause you're going to grow so quickly within that organization. Because ofthat domain expertise- and I love the word you use, which is coach ability tocoach customers as Ay get more and more out of the solution. You're providingis a good point that you made when I asked a question like. Why do you wantto work at if it's customer or another company? I don't want to hear from youthat you're looking for you know a company that you can grow an eventhough I mean I totally understand that I want to help you there too, but whatI'm really looking for is like. Are you passionate about what we do, becauseit's great that you want to grow in the company and my part of my motto is tohelp people grow in their careers, whether it's in the company there withwork with you or beyond, if you're not passionate about what the product doesand the company it's not going to be...

...enjoyable for you. So passion is areally big part and when I've in reving people, I want to make sure no there'sthe passion part, but you have the right skill set and I think that' temsyou get rejected from certain roles. You know it might not be that it mightbe r an awesome CSM. It's just this, isn't the right role for you, becausecustomer success I mean it just encompasses so much threy differentparts. So many different types of roles- and you know at the end of the day,like there's lots of different parts out there and it's just a matter offinhding the right role for you, yeah, I mean, haven't been in a variety ofdifferent roles in a software business inpludting, product management,engineering, everything in between customer success by far Wa the mostchallenging Yeah Iwas, not Gongna, get any arguments for me. So what is thedifference? Like the main difference, you see in being a manager of customersuccess managers and a customer success manager like what is the key difference.You see there besides, Jus youokay o have to hire people and interview likewhat is the key difference there for those folks who ere thinking aboutmoving into more of a leadership role in customer success in their currentorganization. They yeah it's really about that passion, but here's whereyour passion changes. So I remember when I was going through this myself. Iwas determining like what do I want to do in my career and when I was firststarting Ou customer success. I loved working with customers, I loved helpingthem. I love taking them to that next level and I had a lot of success doingthat and what I realized is that when I started to manage other people- and Istill remember this because I was given an opportunity to manage somebody- andthey wanted to give me a team- lead role- and I was like I'm not teamly,don't I'm a manager, I'm managing somebody, it's person over yearis doingthat they're a manager. I wanted to be a manager, so I was like make me amanager, and I got that opportunity which wis great and I was fighting formy own career and then what I got to do its take that same skills where I helpdevelop clients. But I was developing people and I really enjoyed that, andwhat I learned, though, is that it is extremely difficult way more difficultthan being SSM. It's just one of those things that people think that reallythe only opportunities potentially are to move up into leadership like that'show you move up and then when they get into it, they're like holy crap. Thisis really really difficult and- and I definitely struggled over the years- Ihad lots of opportunities and you know messed up and many and many ofopportunities. However, I still understood in terms of what I wanted todo in a career, and that was to manage people to be in those leaders to roles,and I took those learnings and helped improve myself and the companies thative worked with yeah so for the other sort of banager level. Customer success.Folks out there listening the VPS and the directors and the heads of like,what's your advice for them when it comes to like building and scaling upttheir team, especially if they're new to that kind of role. I think that youneed to. First of all, you need to keep learning so e leadership isn't justsomething that Youre Givin a title, and then you could say all right. I'm inthis title it's something that's its a...

...lifelong learning. If you really wantto be great at being a manager being a leader, you know the I've read and Ikeep reading a number of books. I talk to other people. Ask them how to handlecertain situations. You want to learn more about yourself. You should dothings like the strength, finders or you can do a discassessment learn aboutwhere you're strong in and also, if you know, those strikes. Sometimes thosestraighes can actually be weaknesses because you could just overcompensat ina strength, and it might mean that maybe you're not listening to people ona certain way or making it maybe you're, making decisions and you're notnecessarily taking to count all the different opinions that are out there.So it's just something that it takes time. It's not something that you caninstantly jump into, and the one thing too is that if you start to move intothose roles, F those higher up Guarls, you know there's a lot more. That's onyour play, there's lot more responsibility and then those extra responsibility canlead to other problems as well. So churn is always a problem. You know ifyour customer success manager, it's horrible and uses clients, but youcould probably live to finhd another day and you get into leaership pols.You start having churn that becomes a big problem. Potentially that you'll be:U Losing Your Employment and you know there's. Obviously Chartis is a thinginretention and Caus for successful an organizational thing, but I think thatyou know you're going to have potential challenges and how you respond to thosechallenges. That's what iwould say makes people better leaders, but itjust takes time and thing I h NK I learned is that I kind of felt, as I moved into theseleadership roles, that I should have all the answers and I should be able tofigure it out, which was definitely the wrong approach really, when you startto move into those liatership roles, that's when you need to seek help fromothers more often, either from your own team or crossfunctionally or outsideyour organization, and that just took me time to learn and understand. Yeahtotally agree: It's not about being right. It's about getting it right, alot of the time and that's sone of the things that people miss out is like heylike I can. I just want to make sure we get this right together. You know, evenif I don't have the answer right now- well work on it and we'll get there,and I know you're involved in the success league as well as sort of anoutlet to get some of that knowledge sharing happening amongst a group oflike minded peers. So would you mind sharing with me a little bit more aboutwhat the Success League is sure? You know the successfully is a consultingagency. It's led by Cristien hair and how I got involved with the SuccessLeague is that I remember listening to Wevenar that cristen did and then I waslike whoa like this is really awesome and me being a bit of a Geek of apustomer success and a learner is one of my strinkes. I started just lookingat her other blog posts, and I was like this is awesome. I remember justreaching out tere and saying like cristen Ou rock like this stuff isamazing. I use some of your materials and some of my compensation proposaland she's like Oh, you know it's like I've been looking your content as well.You want you can write for our blog and...

I was like okay, Oh right for your blogand and then she had just asked me to be an adviser and, as an advisor, Ihelp shape some of the contents that they use within the success league fortheir clients, and we also just meet up and discuss custooer success topics. Soit's just a really great symbiotic relationship that we have as theseadvisors for the Success League and I've met up in person at times withsome people from success like now, we meet virtually but yeah. It's a greatway. I'd say to expand your knowledge and also to just work and develop yournetwork, and what would you say are like maybe a few snippits of the devicethat you've gotten from others is a part of that I'd love to kind of sharethose out at the broader Roup, her, maybe even just as a teaser, to try andget them to think about joining yeah. So, in terms of like joining like it'sreally like you know, Christen has is her ipen salting firm and she doesthere's courses that you can take and there's things that you can read, but II'd say like drotter like in terms of joining a community or even forming asmaller. Almost like a study group of Customer Success, people you K Ow, itgoes back to what I was saying earlier. Is that you don't have all the answersand Norh. Should you think you should have all the answers? The answers areout there, and sometimes it just takes a conversation with another person tospark those answerrs, and I think the other thing is that the customer,successful fashion is still so young. I was really lucky just to be part of aSASS company that was thinking forward and thinking about the customer and thefact that if you treat your customers properly, they'll tell others andthat's sow Youl grow thote a my experience in Elliqua, but really thisis still a very young profession and so you'e really only going to learn. Ifyou can contact it, cansolv other people. So the successully is a groupthat I'm part of- and I even have a group that it's in New York City and weust have a small group where we slack back and forth almost daily, and it'sgood just for you know this sort of mental outlet because we're all leaders-and we all have challenges that we are working through and it's good to gustget advice from others yeah. I can tell you enough, especially as a founder ofa business, to t to have a community of people who are in a similar type ofsituation. Professionally really does help, because, often times you arerunning into just different flavors o the same types of challenges day todayand also a place to celebrate some successes together. Sometimes in yourbusiness it can be hard to celebrate certain types of successes and beingable to do that with others definitely makes a difference to definitely, andone of my values is really been helping other people, so it just very much inline with what helps drive me forward, and I recommend that other people Imean there's such such great communities and resources out there totake advantage of them. So that's my next question for you here is: If youare to teach like a csone o one course, and there was some prework for that-couruse like one of the top two or three public sintce resources booksthat someone could go and get to learn...

...a little bit more about how to be aneffective, CSM yea. There's lots of really good books out there andreedources. I would say: Hey that you know there's a couple communities liketha. I think it's called t a gain grown and retain community. I've just startedworking and listening to that think. It's an excellent community, there's aslack community. That is I'm just forgetting in right now, but it's ledby Miranda. I believe it's the customer success leadership network, so I wouldjust search on like customer success lack you should be able to find thatand in terms of books there's. I believe it's called the customersuccess handbook. I think sometingto. That effect, it's something that I wasinvolved with very briefly, and that was created by the people, whoweregainsite and just a lot of other customer success. Leaders. I've read itrecently myself. I just found it. It's really helpful and a good book to read.Yeah we've actually got a a book club going at flat file, and the next bookup here is the second book by Allison and Nick, which is the customer successeconomy, so really excited to dig into that one very cool, yeah tit's next onmy list great well we're about time here and I want to make sure you getthe chance to impart any bits of you know: Wisdom on our listeners justagain a lot of times, theres her folks who are either trying to break intocustomer success or are hoping to establish more of a leadership roleinside of CS. So if you have any parting thoughts for love for you toshare them with our lisseners here, yeah, I think that's important is thatyou kN W in customer success. It's a role, that's someone tofine, but in alot of ways not to fine. So one of the best pieces of advice that I ever gotwhen I was starting up in the roll is to go and talk to other departments andask them like how you can help them and really developing those cross,functional relationships and when there's challenges instead of lookingat the challenge and say: Oh, it's a challenge like. Why is this departmentdoing this? I can't believe it. It's really going and talking to them andtrying to understand what's going on from their perspective, and maybe thatthey're just short staffed, or maybe they really want to help you butthere's something that's been put on their plates, and while you do that,this is kind of where the e of the conversationis coming full circle isthat HEU develop that trust and that trust will go very very far for you ifyou work to develop those relationships, so I think that's a big part of it. Ithink that you need to not only understand your product if it's in SASIK is technology, product and Spen, a ton of time, understanding that butunderstand the industry as well, so going back to talking to your customerabout their products and their company. If you don't understand the industry,an if you don't start reading up and learning about the industry, it's great,you can ask them questions awoth their company, but you're not going to beable to do too much with that. Unless you really understand he thatenvironment that you're working in so I think that those things are things t aan anyone, can do it's not something... can typically do in your day today,so you're definitely going to have to work outside of normal hours. If youwant to exceed in your role, been there done that, I'm telling you I can'tagree more yeah, just being curious, just be as curious as possible aboutyour customers. I loved in the roles that I had where I was able to actuallylike join customers, onside and sit side by side and actually learn moreabout the challenges they rent into every day. Those are some of the bestexperiences because it really just helped build empathy which send led totheir ability to trust me and understanding that I could be a goodrepresentative of their needs exactly and you know, with this new environment,we're in when we're not going on site, it makes it even more difficult and itactually requires the customer success team to get more creative and to evenunfortunately, work harder in many ways to build that trust. It's justsomething that almost instantly happens when you go on site and you don't havethat anymore, so it's it makes it even more difficult. Yeah totally agree. Ohthank you. So much chat appreciate your time again that was Chadhornfeltdirector of customer success at customer. That's with the K I ar cramefrom flat file thank Youl for listening to another episode of customer success.Later rigt thanks Yor appreciate the opportunity you depend on the fastesttime to value for your customers. So why let data onboard and sell you down?Stop emailing spreadsheets, creating CSB templeates for setting up ftttransfers, create collaborative secure workspaces with your customers andtheir data saving you time, while providing a memorable, onboardingexperience. Oh and there's no code required, you can go to flat file, ZotIo, slash CS leader to learn more 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 today catch you in the next one.

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