Customer Success Leader
Customer Success Leader

Episode · 1 year 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 successrole you really have to be an ambassador of change management, because you're effectivelytrying to get a company to do something differently than they've done before. Wantto create delightful customer experiences. You're in the right place. Welcome to customersuccess leader, where you'll learn about the successes and struggles of leaders who arepassionate about their craft. Trust me, you want to stick around. Here'syour host, Eric Crane. Hey, y all, this is Eric Crane, CEO and Co founder Flat Fole. I'm here today on Customer Success Leaderwith Christy felt to Rousseau from and teleshift. Hey, Christy, I you doingtoday? Hi, are great, great to be here. Where areyou calling in from? I am calling in from Long Island, New York, so about forty five minutes outside of Manhattan. I was actually referring tothe room of the House here. Well, I'm calling in from my Home Officewhich fortunately we had fully renovated right before the quarantine. So my contractorswere here wrapping up on day two of US and being quarantined. So fortunatelyI was able to get my setup in order because I haven't left my HomeOffice since that's really exciting. That's interesting. We actually do offer a Home Officerenovation for our employees that have their own home as a well. It'spretty cool. Who did you work with on the office to renovation? Sowe have a contractor who's been doing work on our house since we moved inabout four guys ago. So he came in and I gave Him a visionand he executed flawlessly. So been pleased, did you hear? Well, I'mreally excited to share your perspective on customer success with our audience. You'veworked in a lot of different companies in spaces, but it seems like yourcareer has really aligned towards becoming a customer success leader and that's what this showis all about. So I love to hear a little bit more about yourbackground, just how you got into customer success and now what you're doing today, and tell a shift as well. Awesome. Yeah, I actually reallylove my professional journey because I think I speaked lit of a lot of folksthat are trying to break into customers success. So I think it dove tells nicelyinto giving them hope and an example of how you can segue. SoI started the first ten years of my professional career in digital marketing, primarilyin search engine optimization. I worked in house, I worked in agencies,I owned my own agency, I was a professor at university for about fouryears and really the one common theme over the last few roles that I heldwas I maximize the value out of a software called bright edge, and soI use them at two different companies when I was running and managing all onlineacquisition and specifically searching optimization. So there camp point in my career where Isaid to the CEO and CTO, like, you know, open an office inNew York and I'll come work for you, and they did and Idid. And so when they opened their office in New York I was ableto transition into customer success as a subject matter expert. So, because notonly was I familiar with their product but also the search engine optimization landscape andthat space, it was a really nice transition to helping basically my peers maximizethe value out of the solution. And so stayed there for about five anda half years, grew my career from an individual contributor to vp of customersuccess and practice development and then also,... know, then took that tothree other companies. was over the organization called scense and the Bispace, acompany 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 aswe help organizations that have fleets really optimize their operations, so connecting thedata from their most important assets, which are their vehicles, and bring thatdata in house so that way they can actually streamline their processes. It's quitethe 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 VPof customer success, like what does that mean that you're doing on a regularbasis? It means I'm doing everything. So in an organization where I feellike customer success is really embodied and valued, you're wearing a lot more hats thanprobably just orchestrating the post cell journey. I'm working with the entire organization oneverything that may impact our customers, and so that's everything from the dayzero of the awareness exposure that our marketing team is generating to bring prospects inthe door, all the way through ensuring customer advocacy where we're working with ourcustomers on case studies and testimonials and references. So, you know, in myday day I'm running a team and we've got about fifteen people on theteam today and growing. So soft plug but we are still hiring and we'relooking for folks for all of our segments. So we're really excited about our continuedscale. But managing the team in their day to day to help reallyprovide 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 isreally just make them successful. So everything I do is to drive efficiency and, you know, drive the operations for them. You know, I'm alsopartnering with all of our great you know cross functional teams, so whether thatsells, marketing, finance product so working very closely with them ensuring that theyare doing all the right things to support our customers long term. And thenthe lastly, it's our customers, and so probably most importantly, it's connectingwith them and making sure that we understand what they need from the partnership andthat we're delivering that on a daily basis. Yeah, there's a lot there thatgoes into customers success and sort of a bridge between many different parts ofan organization, both internally as well as extortally. But I love to digin more on that last point you made about sort of delivering value. Sohow 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 theInternet by Lincoln Murphy, right, but what I can say is I dowholeheartedly believe with his theory of like, you know, achieving your customers desiredoutcomes and ensuring good interactions. Is the game site methodology of like outcomes andexperience, right. So I believe that those are the right things. Butwhen we think about it internally, I think it's more tailored to the experienceand outcomes that we want to drive for our customers. So when I thinkabout customers success is really did I help them drive operational efficiency, because itis more specific to my company and not just a general statement of what iscustomer success for us. It's, you know, my customers. They're workingwith us for very specific reasons and so... success is basically if they wereable to drive better operations in their company through change management. As a resultof our partnership. We've been successful. You know. Yes, what Ilove for every interaction, they have to be a good one. With us, we're scaling hypergrowth company and, like most companies, right, you're nevergoing to get it right a hundred percent of the time. So my goalis to just really make sure that they are, you know, driving theirbusiness forward. Got It? And Yeah, you don't necessarily have to be perfectevery single time, but what you want the customer to understand is thatyou're aligned with them. Yes, that's more important than anything. So Iguess the operational efficiency right, like, how is that measured? How doyou measure that they're able to effectively change and become more operationally efficient? Let'sgive them the weeds a little bit here, just to give our listeners a littlebit more contacts. Yeah, I mean it's definitely a space that Ifeel 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 partnerwith, who manage very large fleets, right. So we're talking think abouta construction company, who's got trucks, but they also have equipment. Companiescan also have, you know, cars, they give boats, so it's anyasset 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 welook at is are we able to help them understand how to maximize the valueof those assets, and that could be through fuel efficiency. Right. Thinkabout how much money these vehicles are spending in gas. So if you couldjust help a customer understand vehicles that are spending too much time idoling or ifthey've taken longer routes because they didn't know where they were going and we couldregret them to optimize that, you're saving them a ton in fuel. Thatfuel right, that cost there. That's a huge Roi for a lot ofthese businesses. That's a huge line item for them every year. So that'ssomething that we're working with them on. Another big one is safety. Soobviously 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. Soif operator gets into an accident, for example, to take that vehicle offthe road, not only is it the cost of maintenance and to repair itand or maybe even replace it, it's also the cost of what is itdoing to the business to now have one less asset that is going to goand drive a job forward. And then obviously, with that Gosh I meanI mean hopefully nothing horrible happens to the person who's operating the vehicle or somebodyelse in another vehicle, but then you have insurance costs and premiums and youknow, just other things related to bottle injury. So I mean we're lookingat it through all facets. It's really what can you do to optimize thevehicles and their performance and output? What can you do to actually do morebusiness? So instead of your company only doing four jobs today, can youdrive operational efficiency so you can do five jobs today? So it's really connectingat 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 notcome 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. Everyoneknows that. That's that's the big that's that moment, you know, whereyou can really shine, especially with executives, is being able to connect those dotshere. It's a it's a really clear line to how you can drivevalue for a business and I'm I think it makes us even more excited aboutthe work that we're doing. Yeah, it's all about that Roi. Allright. So the thing is, though, is that you understand what your productcan deliver in terms of Ury. But how much time would you sayyou spend just educating your customers on what Roi should be for them versus tryingto maximize that Roi? A Lot, is the answer. A lot oftime goes into that and I think you know this, and that's to besaid 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 yieldfor them, but sometimes connecting those dots is very difficult, and so youknow, for us, we spent a lot of time at one trying tomake sure that we understand the difference between who is executing the work that we'redoing. So maybe it's the person who's deploying the product versus who is theperson who made the decision to purchase the product. So understanding not only thosetwo different roles, the gap between those roles, that also making sure thatwe're getting access to the right person who understands the business use cases, becausethat's the biggest challenge that we have. We often spend a lot of timespeaking with the folks that are using the product in the day to day andsometimes they are very far removed from understanding the business goals and then business challengesthat were trying to solve for so I would say our first challenge is gettingaccess 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 drivechange 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 bean ambassador of change management. Because you're effectively trying to get a company todo something differently than they've done before. Right, they did something and nowit's either you're replacing technologies, they're learning something new and they're trying to changetheir habits or behaviors or processes, or they've never addressed it and so nowyou're getting them to think differently about something in a problem that they hadn't solvedfor 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 notgetting to that hard answer in the onboarding period. It does take a littlebit of a time. So we find that, like you know, itcould be six months in on a don't forget, most of our contracts areabout three to five years. So it could be six months in before we'rereally locking down all the data and insierge that we need so we actually canbuild 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 timewith the customer. But what gets in the way of that? Like whatare blockers where you have to take another route or something different than you mighttypically go in order to ensure that the customers seeing value and want to stickare APP so it's like a map, right like. So you got tofigure out how you're going to navigate it all the time. There's always goingto 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 andcustomers we were working with how to plan had something they were working on fortwo thousand and twenty and very quickly that had to pivot and shift. Andso I think the most important thing that I'm kind of hopefully educate and powerenable 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 tofigure out what that is. And you know, our customers priorities are changingdaily 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 relationshipsestablished, that we understand the roles that each of those individuals play in thepartnership. We have to understand really again, that close alignment to their business goalsand priorities, so that way we actually are providing value constantly. Ifwe're misaligned there, I will tell you we're not moving anything forward. I'lltell you I've got people my team were like Nope, I'm focused on projectday and it's like, well, the customer told us that Project B isthat whether they really care about now? So like you've got a pivot andshift and you can't keep trying to push something that's not allowing to where yourcustomers are. And the third thing I would say is, like we arevery big on being transparent with our customers and, you know, really justhaving the ability to be audible about like what's going on, how are weworking with them? You know what challenges are we facing, and so alsosocializing and escalating that up if we had a road block, it's our responsibilityto 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 theend of the day, if they're not successful, we're not successful, andI think that's where the transparency is really really important. Now as a roadblock, a proprietary term or great, great, try some words there.So tell me a little bit more about the team, like how do youset them up for success with systems and tools that make it easier for youto 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 personand that's you know, that's probably like my favorite aspect of what wedo here and kind of in my role. But you know, one of thefirst things that I've done when I arrived here was really defining what customersuccess would look like, and that's everything from restart fecturing all of our customersegments. There were there were loose segments before I arrived, but really noclear way to define what the similarities were and the behaviors and the strategy behindgrouping 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 thatthey were all being successful in the partnership, also creating a very well thought outcustomer journey. That started not only when we received the customer from thatinitial cell, but also, again I talked about earlier, that engagement wehave with marketing, but starting at that day zero, right, like whatis their first impression of us, wherever they find us, for that beingadd a review site, our website, really truly understanding that all the waythrough. And so no, my cross functional alignment with, you know,sales and marketing and product has really been instrumental to my success because allowing themto 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 theoryaround customer success and what we really want is a business has been reallyhelpful. You know, beyond that, we've deployed gainsite. Anyone who knowsme 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, eightyears now, since about two thousand and twelve. At all four companies I'vebeen at, I've either been, you know, part of the you knowteam that's influential and making the decision to the bring them on board or keepthem, and the last two companies I've been the executive buyer. So reallyI've seen great success with it. So what I've done to help my teamgame forge forward and do all the things that I've described today is through drivingout operational efficiency and gainsite. So we build out everything. Every single playbook, every process, our customer journey is all orchestrated through the technology. Allof our automation is built out through journey orchestrator, which is one of theirproducts. We even use them for our product usage data. So gainsite hasa product usage technology called gamesite PX. We use that to understand how ourcustomers are using our technology today, where there's ways to optimize that. Whatdo 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, isbeing able to orchestrate all that. Now, does the tool design all of ourthings? No, does it create my playbooks? Know. So allthat was really well thought out, everything down to our score cards and ourhealth scoring, segmentation, everything. But having a tool to really deploy allthat 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 righttime the right way is actually a reality. Got It. Yeah, glad you'vetouched on technology. I mean is you know, a founder of aTech Company? I have to ask that's a great to hear that you loveGames and I'm not looking for you to knock them at all, but morejust 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 whereit's failed me? And so I think kind of my career learnings. Ithink 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 isover reliance on what the data says without any emotional sentiment weight in. Andso 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 customersread and like they're out the door. And how many times over the yearshave we seen green accounts churn and red accounts or renew and grow? Andso I think we're I've probably put less emphasis is around a health score todrive my business forward and rather to be an indicator of changes in behavior andpoints where I think my team needs to either reengage or to change what they'redoing. 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 Iwould say that was my big fail with technology. Outside of that, Imean, like, listen, at the end of the day, if wecould 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 strongcommunication and empathy and, you know, Change Management and Program Management? SoI think there's a lot of technology can do, but at the end ofthe day, I still think that there's a human element that's required in orderfor your customers to truly be successful. Totally agree. So tell me moreabout you're touching on the health score a little bit and particular like building behavioralchange into it. So I what does an example of a type of behavioralchange that you might want to look for that would it inform the health ofa customers relationship with dollar shift so here's a great one. Our customers areno longer speaking with us, right. So all of a sudden, andyou know, I hate to use, you know, covid and this thisglobal 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 productreally well, but all of a sudden is not engaging with us. Soone of the metrics that we keep track of is, you know, pointsof engagement, and so what we call a high valued activity or an Hva, which would be a call, a video meeting and on site, youknow, 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 timelinethat we'd ideally hope for and an engagement model. So we shoot for everythirty days having one of those. We've seen more and more customers fall intothe forty, five days, sixty days, and for many of them it's becausetheir businesses were closed, right, but we had to use that asnets an example of what we would use is like that indicator of where wehave to change our behavior because we know something is going on on. Thatcustomer'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, youknow, the minute a customer disconnects all their assets. So maybe now they'veremoved 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 isa competitor in there, because now they're removing our hardware and replacing it withsomeone else's. or it could be, you know, maybe they're going throughsome acquisition and they're removing it right. So that will also drive different behaviorchange for us and how we're going to help support those customers. So wetry to use that data to really help drive what we might do. Butnothing is ever so prescriptive so that like we can't pivot or we can't explorewhat's actually happening, because there's a lot of reasons a lot of people doa 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 inbehavior and how our team operates. So where do you go to learn allof this stuff. I find the best experts are usually just consistent and constantlearners. Like what are your favorite places to learn more about things that helpcraft this understanding our methodology behind effective customer success? So definitely I'm a bigadvocate 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 Ican to. Often people will get request from me on Linkedin. It's notbecause I'm trying to like increase my numbers there, but rather I just wantto 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 ofthem 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 webcommunity, but also we do like weekly leadership office hours, which isgreat because you're hearing directly from other leaders with their challenges are and how they'renavigating them them. So I'm big from just like learning from others, fromtheir 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 Ialso enjoy reading. That helped me. But the reality of it is Ilearn a lot from just doing every day right. So a lot of myexpertise comes from experience. So whether that's over the past four companies where I'vedone 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 gratefulto have the experiences that I've had to test all of the different things thatI've done and to formulate my own opinions and hypothesis on what I should doto move forward. But I would love to go all day, but wedefinitely don't have it. So I'd love to leave just with one last questionI like to ask of everyone, which is what is the best piece ofadvice related to customer success that you've got from someone? I would probably sayone of my former colleagues was I'm a bit of a perfectionist. I'm avery type A personality. I don't want to do anything unless it feels likeit's going to be wildly successful, and one of the things that I wastold early on was, you know, it's more important to have progress overperfection. 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 somethingelse and changing something. Oh No, you know, ebrs don't work anymoreor whatever it is. So making progress over perfection is probably the bestadvice I ever received because, I will tell you, it's that has juststuck with me as well as encouraged me and empowered me to just move fasterand fell fast and pivot where I need but I've also been able to bemuch more successful in scaling and growing and executing in the roles that I've beenin as a result. I can't agree more. It's always important to keepmoving forward, both from a psychological perspective of maintaining momentum and the stealing ofadvancing, but also just because you get more done that way, it turnsout, is us well. Thank you so much for your time today,Christy. Again, that's Christy felt Russa from and teleshift. Christy, greatto have you on Customer Success Leader and everyone listening in. I'm America Cranefrom flat file. Thank you for joining us this week and look forward tochatting with you again soon. Thanks, Eric. You depend on the fastesttime to value for your customers, so why let data on board and sellyou down? Stop emailing spreadsheets, creating CSP templates or setting up FTP transfers. Create collaboratives secure workspaces with your customers and their data, saving you timewhile providing a memorable onboarding experience. Oh and there's no code required. Youcan go to flat files IO C S leader to learn more and get startedfor free. Thank you so much for joining us for this episode. CustomerSuccess leader is brought to you by flat file. If you're a fan ofthe show and want to help as share these conversations with others, leave usa rating on apple podcast. Just tap...

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