Customer Success Leader
Customer Success Leader

Episode · 2 years ago

Customer Success: The Ambassadors of Change Management w/ Kristi Faltorusso


Customer Success is not just an exit survey or ensuring that messaging is getting through. 


Kristi Faltorusso, Vice President of Customer Success at IntelliShift, details out how her team is involved from Day Zero through testimonials and references.


What we talked about:


- Customer Success partnering with other cross-functional teams.


- Driving operational efficiency, and maximizing customer assets. 


- The need for agility in customer success.


For more info, check out or send a message to

I think anybody in a customer success role you really have to be an ambassador of change management, because you're effectively trying to get a company to do something differently than they've done before. Want to create delightful customer experiences. You're in the right place. Welcome to customer success leader, where you'll learn about the successes and struggles of leaders who are passionate about their craft. Trust me, you want to stick around. Here's your host, Eric Crane. Hey, y all, this is Eric Crane, CEO and Co founder Flat Fole. I'm here today on Customer Success Leader with Christy felt to Rousseau from and teleshift. Hey, Christy, I you doing today? Hi, are great, great to be here. Where are you calling in from? I am calling in from Long Island, New York, so about forty five minutes outside of Manhattan. I was actually referring to the room of the House here. Well, I'm calling in from my Home Office which fortunately we had fully renovated right before the quarantine. So my contractors were here wrapping up on day two of US and being quarantined. So fortunately I was able to get my setup in order because I haven't left my Home Office since that's really exciting. That's interesting. We actually do offer a Home Office renovation for our employees that have their own home as a well. It's pretty cool. Who did you work with on the office to renovation? So we have a contractor who's been doing work on our house since we moved in about four guys ago. So he came in and I gave Him a vision and he executed flawlessly. So been pleased, did you hear? Well, I'm really excited to share your perspective on customer success with our audience. You've worked in a lot of different companies in spaces, but it seems like your career has really aligned towards becoming a customer success leader and that's what this show is all about. So I love to hear a little bit more about your background, just how you got into customer success and now what you're doing today, and tell a shift as well. Awesome. Yeah, I actually really love my professional journey because I think I speaked lit of a lot of folks that are trying to break into customers success. So I think it dove tells nicely into giving them hope and an example of how you can segue. So I started the first ten years of my professional career in digital marketing, primarily in search engine optimization. I worked in house, I worked in agencies, I owned my own agency, I was a professor at university for about four years and really the one common theme over the last few roles that I held was I maximize the value out of a software called bright edge, and so I use them at two different companies when I was running and managing all online acquisition and specifically searching optimization. So there camp point in my career where I said to the CEO and CTO, like, you know, open an office in New York and I'll come work for you, and they did and I did. And so when they opened their office in New York I was able to transition into customer success as a subject matter expert. So, because not only was I familiar with their product but also the search engine optimization landscape and that space, it was a really nice transition to helping basically my peers maximize the value out of the solution. And so stayed there for about five and a half years, grew my career from an individual contributor to vp of customer success and practice development and then also,... know, then took that to three other companies. was over the organization called scense and the Bispace, a company called better cloud in the SASSOPS space, and now I'm at in teleshift, and we focus on basically connected operations. And so what that means practically as we help organizations that have fleets really optimize their operations, so connecting the data from their most important assets, which are their vehicles, and bring that data in house so that way they can actually streamline their processes. It's quite the journey you've had there and love to dig in a little bit more. But tell me a little bit more about what it's like to be a VP of customer success, like what does that mean that you're doing on a regular basis? It means I'm doing everything. So in an organization where I feel like customer success is really embodied and valued, you're wearing a lot more hats than probably just orchestrating the post cell journey. I'm working with the entire organization on everything that may impact our customers, and so that's everything from the day zero of the awareness exposure that our marketing team is generating to bring prospects in the door, all the way through ensuring customer advocacy where we're working with our customers on case studies and testimonials and references. So, you know, in my day day I'm running a team and we've got about fifteen people on the team today and growing. So soft plug but we are still hiring and we're looking for folks for all of our segments. So we're really excited about our continued scale. But managing the team in their day to day to help really provide them the resources and the infrastructure to be successful in supporting their customers. I take a very servant leader approach, so I believe that my existence is really just make them successful. So everything I do is to drive efficiency and, you know, drive the operations for them. You know, I'm also partnering with all of our great you know cross functional teams, so whether that sells, marketing, finance product so working very closely with them ensuring that they are doing all the right things to support our customers long term. And then the lastly, it's our customers, and so probably most importantly, it's connecting with them and making sure that we understand what they need from the partnership and that we're delivering that on a daily basis. Yeah, there's a lot there that goes into customers success and sort of a bridge between many different parts of an organization, both internally as well as extortally. But I love to dig in more on that last point you made about sort of delivering value. So how do you define customer success? Pat and Ella shift. So it's funny, rightly, I can give you the the coined version that floats around the Internet by Lincoln Murphy, right, but what I can say is I do wholeheartedly believe with his theory of like, you know, achieving your customers desired outcomes and ensuring good interactions. Is the game site methodology of like outcomes and experience, right. So I believe that those are the right things. But when we think about it internally, I think it's more tailored to the experience and outcomes that we want to drive for our customers. So when I think about customers success is really did I help them drive operational efficiency, because it is more specific to my company and not just a general statement of what is customer success for us. It's, you know, my customers. They're working with us for very specific reasons and so... success is basically if they were able to drive better operations in their company through change management. As a result of our partnership. We've been successful. You know. Yes, what I love for every interaction, they have to be a good one. With us, we're scaling hypergrowth company and, like most companies, right, you're never going to get it right a hundred percent of the time. So my goal is to just really make sure that they are, you know, driving their business forward. Got It? And Yeah, you don't necessarily have to be perfect every single time, but what you want the customer to understand is that you're aligned with them. Yes, that's more important than anything. So I guess the operational efficiency right, like, how is that measured? How do you measure that they're able to effectively change and become more operationally efficient? Let's give them the weeds a little bit here, just to give our listeners a little bit more contacts. Yeah, I mean it's definitely a space that I feel like people are less familiar with telematics, right, and like GPS tracking. So really the big thing for us is helping our organizations that we partner with, who manage very large fleets, right. So we're talking think about a construction company, who's got trucks, but they also have equipment. Companies can also have, you know, cars, they give boats, so it's any asset that they have that's out there executing work through an operator, right. So I think of driver or somebody who's managing a piece of machinery, and so really it could be a couple things. So the first thing we look at is are we able to help them understand how to maximize the value of those assets, and that could be through fuel efficiency. Right. Think about how much money these vehicles are spending in gas. So if you could just help a customer understand vehicles that are spending too much time idoling or if they've taken longer routes because they didn't know where they were going and we could regret them to optimize that, you're saving them a ton in fuel. That fuel right, that cost there. That's a huge Roi for a lot of these businesses. That's a huge line item for them every year. So that's something that we're working with them on. Another big one is safety. So obviously a lot of these companies they want to protect two things their employees, so those operators who are driving those trucks, as well as those vehicles themselves. So it costs a company a ton of money in vehicle downtime. So if operator gets into an accident, for example, to take that vehicle off the road, not only is it the cost of maintenance and to repair it and or maybe even replace it, it's also the cost of what is it doing to the business to now have one less asset that is going to go and drive a job forward. And then obviously, with that Gosh I mean I mean hopefully nothing horrible happens to the person who's operating the vehicle or somebody else in another vehicle, but then you have insurance costs and premiums and you know, just other things related to bottle injury. So I mean we're looking at it through all facets. It's really what can you do to optimize the vehicles and their performance and output? What can you do to actually do more business? So instead of your company only doing four jobs today, can you drive operational efficiency so you can do five jobs today? So it's really connecting at all said Url through those kind of processes. So I don't know. I will say this is not a world I'm familiar with. I did not come in here with a tell netics background, but it is super interesting and probably, if I've had to say,...

...of all the companies I've worked at, probably the easiest one to connect to Real Roli, which incest. Everyone knows that. That's that's the big that's that moment, you know, where you can really shine, especially with executives, is being able to connect those dots here. It's a it's a really clear line to how you can drive value for a business and I'm I think it makes us even more excited about the work that we're doing. Yeah, it's all about that Roi. All right. So the thing is, though, is that you understand what your product can deliver in terms of Ury. But how much time would you say you spend just educating your customers on what Roi should be for them versus trying to maximize that Roi? A Lot, is the answer. A lot of time goes into that and I think you know this, and that's to be said about any any product that's in the space. So obviously your customers, they know what they think. They want your product and your partnership to yield for them, but sometimes connecting those dots is very difficult, and so you know, for us, we spent a lot of time at one trying to make sure that we understand the difference between who is executing the work that we're doing. So maybe it's the person who's deploying the product versus who is the person who made the decision to purchase the product. So understanding not only those two different roles, the gap between those roles, that also making sure that we're getting access to the right person who understands the business use cases, because that's the biggest challenge that we have. We often spend a lot of time speaking with the folks that are using the product in the day to day and sometimes they are very far removed from understanding the business goals and then business challenges that were trying to solve for so I would say our first challenge is getting access to the right person to have the right conversation to get the right data. And then the second one, I think that's kind of part of that, is also being able to get the right empowerment across their company to drive change management, because that's what we're doing at the end of the day. Right I think anybody in a customer success role, you really have to be an ambassador of change management. Because you're effectively trying to get a company to do something differently than they've done before. Right, they did something and now it's either you're replacing technologies, they're learning something new and they're trying to change their habits or behaviors or processes, or they've never addressed it and so now you're getting them to think differently about something in a problem that they hadn't solved for so I mean, I would say we spent a lot of time here. We probably never, not never, eighty parent of the time we're not getting to that hard answer in the onboarding period. It does take a little bit of a time. So we find that, like you know, it could be six months in on a don't forget, most of our contracts are about three to five years. So it could be six months in before we're really locking down all the data and insierge that we need so we actually can build out a successful plan. That makes sense. So it sounds like again, you have this sort of general ideal relationship that would evolve of our time with the customer. But what gets in the way of that? Like what are blockers where you have to take another route or something different than you might typically go in order to ensure that the customers seeing value and want to stick are APP so it's like a map, right like. So you got to figure out how you're going to navigate it all the time. There's always going to be road blocks and things that pop up and pivot. I mean, I think covid is a great example of...

...that. Most of the companies and customers we were working with how to plan had something they were working on for two thousand and twenty and very quickly that had to pivot and shift. And so I think the most important thing that I'm kind of hopefully educate and power enable my team to do is to be agile and how they're supporting their customers. So, you know, being able to understand when something does arise, there is another path forward and you just got to work with your customer to figure out what that is. And you know, our customers priorities are changing daily and we've got to be Nimble enough to change with them. And so, you know, it's making sure, one that we've got the right relationships established, that we understand the roles that each of those individuals play in the partnership. We have to understand really again, that close alignment to their business goals and priorities, so that way we actually are providing value constantly. If we're misaligned there, I will tell you we're not moving anything forward. I'll tell you I've got people my team were like Nope, I'm focused on project day and it's like, well, the customer told us that Project B is that whether they really care about now? So like you've got a pivot and shift and you can't keep trying to push something that's not allowing to where your customers are. And the third thing I would say is, like we are very big on being transparent with our customers and, you know, really just having the ability to be audible about like what's going on, how are we working with them? You know what challenges are we facing, and so also socializing and escalating that up if we had a road block, it's our responsibility to make sure that everyone in the partnership understands we're not advancing because of this. And it's not a finger pointing game. We're not here to like place blame, but we all want to be on the same page because at the end of the day, if they're not successful, we're not successful, and I think that's where the transparency is really really important. Now as a road block, a proprietary term or great, great, try some words there. So tell me a little bit more about the team, like how do you set them up for success with systems and tools that make it easier for you to do this really deep you know, engaging support of your customers at goals. So this might be my favorite question. I'm a big operations and process person and that's you know, that's probably like my favorite aspect of what we do here and kind of in my role. But you know, one of the first things that I've done when I arrived here was really defining what customer success would look like, and that's everything from restart fecturing all of our customer segments. There were there were loose segments before I arrived, but really no clear way to define what the similarities were and the behaviors and the strategy behind grouping our customers a way that we did so, really defining our segments, designing the engagement model that we would need to invest in to make sure that they were all being successful in the partnership, also creating a very well thought out customer journey. That started not only when we received the customer from that initial cell, but also, again I talked about earlier, that engagement we have with marketing, but starting at that day zero, right, like what is their first impression of us, wherever they find us, for that being add a review site, our website, really truly understanding that all the way through. And so no, my cross functional alignment with, you know, sales and marketing and product has really been instrumental to my success because allowing them to really lean into the process, educate... as I've ranged the roll, and for us to just, I think, all a line on the same theory around customer success and what we really want is a business has been really helpful. You know, beyond that, we've deployed gainsite. Anyone who knows me or has heard me speak knows that I speak about gamesite quite often. It's a tool that I've used for the past, when to say, eight years now, since about two thousand and twelve. At all four companies I've been at, I've either been, you know, part of the you know team that's influential and making the decision to the bring them on board or keep them, and the last two companies I've been the executive buyer. So really I've seen great success with it. So what I've done to help my team game forge forward and do all the things that I've described today is through driving out operational efficiency and gainsite. So we build out everything. Every single playbook, every process, our customer journey is all orchestrated through the technology. All of our automation is built out through journey orchestrator, which is one of their products. We even use them for our product usage data. So gainsite has a product usage technology called gamesite PX. We use that to understand how our customers are using our technology today, where there's ways to optimize that. What do they not maximizing the value out of? So really that's been, I think, kind of the central pulse to the success of our team, is being able to orchestrate all that. Now, does the tool design all of our things? No, does it create my playbooks? Know. So all that was really well thought out, everything down to our score cards and our health scoring, segmentation, everything. But having a tool to really deploy all that and to ensure continuity across all of my employees, all of my teams, to make sure that everything that we need to have happened at the right time the right way is actually a reality. Got It. Yeah, glad you've touched on technology. I mean is you know, a founder of a Tech Company? I have to ask that's a great to hear that you love Games and I'm not looking for you to knock them at all, but more just generally, where's technology failing you right now? This is a good one. So I will say where is it not feeling me today, but where it's failed me? And so I think kind of my career learnings. I think historically we used to rely very heavily on health scores or or a red, yellow green kind of indicator to say or forecast churn or to forecast renewals, and so I would say the bigger fail that I've had with technology is over reliance on what the data says without any emotional sentiment weight in. And so I I used to say, Yep, here's what we can you know, this customers green, so they're definitely going to renew, or this customers read and like they're out the door. And how many times over the years have we seen green accounts churn and red accounts or renew and grow? And so I think we're I've probably put less emphasis is around a health score to drive my business forward and rather to be an indicator of changes in behavior and points where I think my team needs to either reengage or to change what they're doing. So for us it's more of a directional engagement pulse rather than, like me trying to forecast the health of my business on it. So I would say that was my big fail with technology. Outside of that, I mean, like, listen, at the end of the day, if we could automate every single thing, then why...

...would you need customer success team right, like, why would I actually in people that have the skills of strong communication and empathy and, you know, Change Management and Program Management? So I think there's a lot of technology can do, but at the end of the day, I still think that there's a human element that's required in order for your customers to truly be successful. Totally agree. So tell me more about you're touching on the health score a little bit and particular like building behavioral change into it. So I what does an example of a type of behavioral change that you might want to look for that would it inform the health of a customers relationship with dollar shift so here's a great one. Our customers are no longer speaking with us, right. So all of a sudden, and you know, I hate to use, you know, covid and this this global pandemic, but I think it's a great example of, you know, we could have a customer who is highly engaged before, maybe using the product really well, but all of a sudden is not engaging with us. So one of the metrics that we keep track of is, you know, points of engagement, and so what we call a high valued activity or an Hva, which would be a call, a video meeting and on site, you know, those types of touch points where it is more valuable for the customer. And so as those, I think kind of drift away from the timeline that we'd ideally hope for and an engagement model. So we shoot for every thirty days having one of those. We've seen more and more customers fall into the forty, five days, sixty days, and for many of them it's because their businesses were closed, right, but we had to use that as nets an example of what we would use is like that indicator of where we have to change our behavior because we know something is going on on. That customer's end. It could also be the same thing as using, you know, an indicator in our health score card is looking at product usage data or, you know, connected assets. We've also used that to understand, you know, the minute a customer disconnects all their assets. So maybe now they've removed a hardware component and now they're not tracking that asset anymore. Well, what's going on? You know, it could be an indication that there is a competitor in there, because now they're removing our hardware and replacing it with someone else's. or it could be, you know, maybe they're going through some acquisition and they're removing it right. So that will also drive different behavior change for us and how we're going to help support those customers. So we try to use that data to really help drive what we might do. But nothing is ever so prescriptive so that like we can't pivot or we can't explore what's actually happening, because there's a lot of reasons a lot of people do a lot of things. So we want to be very thoughtful about it. But those are some of the ways that we're using that to drive change in behavior and how our team operates. So where do you go to learn all of this stuff. I find the best experts are usually just consistent and constant learners. Like what are your favorite places to learn more about things that help craft this understanding our methodology behind effective customer success? So definitely I'm a big advocate of like listening to other leaders, so podcasts like this and other podcasts. I'm also really big on Linkedin. I follow as many leaders as I can to. Often people will get request from me on Linkedin. It's not because I'm trying to like increase my numbers there, but rather I just want to follow as many people because I want to see what people are reading, I want to see what they're learning, I want to see what they're sharing. I'm also pretty active in a lot...

...of customers success communities, one of them being gain, grow retain, which is by the founders of customer imperative, and so been really active in that. Not only is a great online web community, but also we do like weekly leadership office hours, which is great because you're hearing directly from other leaders with their challenges are and how they're navigating them them. So I'm big from just like learning from others, from their successes as well as their failures. So I think that really helps and, like listen, I can reatle off the laundry lists of books that I also enjoy reading. That helped me. But the reality of it is I learn a lot from just doing every day right. So a lot of my expertise comes from experience. So whether that's over the past four companies where I've done it and the failures that I've had and the successes that I've had, they all teach you and you learn from them. So I've been really grateful to have the experiences that I've had to test all of the different things that I've done and to formulate my own opinions and hypothesis on what I should do to move forward. But I would love to go all day, but we definitely don't have it. So I'd love to leave just with one last question I like to ask of everyone, which is what is the best piece of advice related to customer success that you've got from someone? I would probably say one of my former colleagues was I'm a bit of a perfectionist. I'm a very type A personality. I don't want to do anything unless it feels like it's going to be wildly successful, and one of the things that I was told early on was, you know, it's more important to have progress over perfection. Right, especially in a hyper changing industry like customer success. Right, like it's still new, it's changing. Every day there's somebody else coining something else and changing something. Oh No, you know, ebrs don't work anymore or whatever it is. So making progress over perfection is probably the best advice I ever received because, I will tell you, it's that has just stuck with me as well as encouraged me and empowered me to just move faster and fell fast and pivot where I need but I've also been able to be much more successful in scaling and growing and executing in the roles that I've been in as a result. I can't agree more. It's always important to keep moving forward, both from a psychological perspective of maintaining momentum and the stealing of advancing, but also just because you get more done that way, it turns out, is us well. Thank you so much for your time today, Christy. Again, that's Christy felt Russa from and teleshift. Christy, great to have you on Customer Success Leader and everyone listening in. I'm America Crane from flat file. Thank you for joining us this week and look forward to chatting with you again soon. Thanks, Eric. You depend on the fastest time to value for your customers, so why let data on board and sell you down? Stop emailing spreadsheets, creating CSP templates or setting up FTP transfers. Create collaboratives secure workspaces with your customers and their data, saving you time while providing a memorable onboarding experience. Oh and there's no code required. You can go to flat files IO C S leader to learn more and get started for free. Thank you so much for joining us for this episode. Customer Success leader is brought to you by flat file. If you're a fan of the show and want to help as share these conversations with others, leave us a rating on apple podcast. Just tap...

...the number of stars you think the show deserves. That's it for today. Catch you in the next one.

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