Customer Success Leader
Customer Success Leader

Episode 19 · 10 months ago

How the Best CEOs Drive Customer-Centricity w/ Arjun Devgan


Who owns the customer experience? Most would say the CS team. But, in order to be truly customer-centric, it should be the entire company starting with the CEO.

In this episode of Customer Success Leader, Eric sits down with the VP of CS at Amplitude, Arjun Devgan. The two discuss…

- How to prove your value to the customer year after year

- Why Arjun breaks CS into success, services, and support

- Why the CEO needs to empower the organization to be customer-centric

- The importance of having a top-level metric

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.

You have to continue to reprove valueand document value and get acknowledgment of value every singleyear to weearn the customers. Business want to create delightful customerexperiences Youare in the right place. Welcome to customer successleager,where you'll learn about the successes and struggles of leaders who arepassionate about their craft. Trust me. You want to stick around here's yourhost, Eric Cran, Hey, ah welcome to the customer successlater Podcast, I'm your host Eric Crane and I'm here today with Argent Digonwho's, the VP of customer success at amplitude, Hey Argen, how you doingtoday, I'm doing well! Thank you for having me on this podcast. So where areyou calling in from San Francisco, preferring to the room of the house? Itlooks like you got a nice little background there. I do have a very vastcollection of virtual zoom backgrounds that are in high demand, AAs going tosay that it seems like te trend these days. If you see that thing that zoomrelease where you can now have like multiple people- N, like a boardroomtype setting in the background- Yes thit's, pretty cool, it's amazing howmuch of a forcing function covid has been for us learning about what wereally like and also what we really hate about remote working, absolutelyyeah. I mean I'm definitely on the camp UF. I do miss the in office,Interaction and white boards and the Lun sessions. So hopefully you knowsometimes in the near future, will be able to go back and do that as well.Hundred percent agree. Well I'd love to hear about your time and customersuccess. I mean someone looks at your resume and they just so well like thisis crazy. How much you've contributed to the growth of so many differentbusinesses and largely driven by ensuring that you know customers reachtheir desired outcomes. So tell me a bit about why you decided to get intocustomer success and what you're doing today at amplietude yeah I got intoprofessional services, which is you know the sort of early version of youknow. I would say you know spending time with the customer after they havepurchased your software bit twenty years ago. You know, fell Ito itslightly by accident, but primarily because I realized that one. I likedworking with systems to develop solutions and second like beingcustomer facing, so you combine those two and I like spending time withcustomers to help them use technology to solve their business problems rightkind of the ultimate sort of consultant gene that sort of gets. You attractedto that. You know that job or a job even in support a job and solutionconsulting many of those jobs, that of attract the kind of people who, likethinkering with technology, to solve customer problems. Ah, so how did thatkind of lead you down the journey to customer success, eventually yeah? So Ispent you know the majority of my career net sweet. I was there for you,know, twelve years, you know we. I was one of the first services people theyhired. We had, I think, for people in the services team and it wasn't much ofa team. I think we were just trying to figure out what services even lookedlike for our customers back then they would just buy the software and weneedyd to figure out what you know. onboarding look like how do you deploythem successfully? How do you train them properly? How do you make surethey start to actually use the software and over the next twelve years as netweet went from you know, I think we're you know: Twenty million do eighthundred million in revenue. You know,...

...service organization went to four fivehundred people there's a lot of innovation. We, you know, started byfiguring out the basics of how do you get someone up and running, but overtime it became much more complicated. As you know, the market group from SMBto enterprise as the product became significantly more complicated and sowere sold to many different dapartments. Not just you know, finance andaccounting really had to think through how you deploy enterprise. You knowtechnology at scale right and that involved looking at not only onboarding but actually looking at post implementation, experiences andservices. Looking at how you scale out training, how you support customers,what what do you monetize? What do you not monetize right and then, since youhire so many people in the postsale steam? How do you fund a lot of thosepeople? Because you do need to? Actually, you know, have you know insome parts of the business a pan out right how that warfd in te customersuccess was was interesting right because customer success, the Waisdefined today kind of you know birth, probably ten years ago, and you knowwhen I left net sweet. I took a little bit of a short break. I knew the onething I really wanted to do was make sure that I went to a smaller companysor the early days of netweed and had a bigger influence on the Indo endcustomer journey and that's kind of what I've been doing for the last sevenyears is really spending a lot of time. Thinking about the end, doend customerexperience not just one aspect of the customer journey because ultimatelyevery single point in that customer experience and then it outcomes youdeliverd to that customer and up defining how long they stay with youright. So that's you know in a notshel how I started in services and Warfd todo where I am today. Yeah, it's really exciting. I seems just sort of likenatural right like a natural progression towards like hey, like Iwant to make sure I get as close as possible to where the problem solvingis happening and, like you said it's like consulting right. You get such awide variety of exposure, different businesses and business problems whenyou're in that type of role, that's aligned with the ultimate isnis outcomeof the EN gustomer yeah. I don't know where I read this, but I once read thatyou know customer success. Is a service function with the sales outcome rightand was a really fascinating, take on customer success because beforecustomers Uccess, what you had was services support and sales right. Thatwas broadly how you work with a customer nd. If you want to go reallyfar back before there was subscription based software, you kind of you know:Sale Steam, sold the software, the service ESTEAM implemented andsupporting supported it. And then the sales team came back into sell moresoftware right Oor to upgrade the customer. If you will right and when wewent to the subscription economy, it changed. But if you think about it, itdidn't change that much. We changed how we do business with customers, becauseyou have to reearn their business every year, but you kind of still had salesservice and support. In fact, you know I would argue that for the majority ofnetsweets existence- and you know, if you look at work day- even look atsales force- you know probably the pioneers of Sass- they all had salesservices in support and then over the last ten years. What's happened? Is youkind of flipped IUT on its head,...

...because we basically said it's time togo out of the old model and put the customer at the center of thisconversation and that's when the model started to change, and you end up withcustomer success, which is effectively a role. If done right? is equal partsconsulting and equal parts, commercial acumen right, you're able to understandwhat the customers like business outcomes, are whath their desiredoutcomes are what are they trying? What business problems they're trying tosolve, for which traditionally, you know very good sales. People have beengreat at and combine that with recommending a solution to solve thatproblem, which is traditionally consulting, and you know, servicesskill set right. So I love that about cs how it's brought those twodisciplines that are equally important together in one yeah. I W? U D, I wouldargue they coulsend that even further to other parts of the organizationright. I think that the folks over at gameside have a really great book,we're actually going through a book club right now at the company. It'scalled the customer success economy and the CORT PREMIS of the book is thatcustomer success is the business right like, especially in a subscriptionbusiness like you have to be continuously generating value, not fromyour perspective, but from the customers perspective in order to stayin business these days. Yes, it's a very important point, because here'sthe thing right how many software companies out there are like furniturethat are that is just like it. Just is there, like you know, certainly I wouldsay financial management software, you know comes unto the category lots ofsales. Forts deployments are in that category, where, regardless of how muchvalue and usage is happening, they're kind of just there, you just buy itright, and you know those those companies are fortunate becausetherthey're very sticky, the majority of software companies are not thatsticky. You do have to reprove value every single year, even for highquality companies right and then you, you lay ar on top of that, the factthat disruption happens fairly quickly these days right, especially if you'renot an end, doing like sweet type solution. If you're, not one of the,you know the clouds, the sales cloud, the marketing cloud you can getdisrupted, if you're only providing a point solution, no matter how greatyour product is, because all it thaks is for the next product to come alongand you know, switching Costerlo, which is why your point is super valid, whichis you have to continue to reprove value and document value and getacknowledgment of value every single year to weearn the customers business?Now you defind a cost effective way to do it, so it doesn't become a hugeburden on your organization right and that's. Where sort of the you know,unit economics of the business an and the cost of customer success comes intoquestion. So tell me about how you have scalled this customer success andservices organization and T amplitude. Have you kind of made sure you rain inthose cops while still delivering the most amount of value on a continuousbasis? Yes, I mean it's a great time to ask that question were in the throws oftwo thousand an twenty one planning, and you know I have an initiral model.That is still to be reviewed by the CFL in the board Etceera. So we're stillhaving those discussions, I mean I'm thankful. I work for a company that isvery customer centric and has invested in CS long before I even had heard ofamplitude. So they had it. You know stood up very early, so credit to them.You know our product organization is...

...probably one of the most customercentric customer friend the organizations I've met, which helps alot. But do I answer you question how we think about it is you know we havebroken cs into success services, an support and, as you can imagine, whenyou're smaller company, when you have you know a hundred people when you gotyou know a handful of customers, it's fine yo h. It should be one role right,like you, don't start to specialize super early, it's okay! Many companiesstart with one person doing everything. They'll traditionally break out supportfirst, because it's a very different motion right. You want tooperationalize it. You want to have Zendusk in place or similartechnologies, but then the CSM still ends up doing a lot right. For example,they would do the kickoff call and the implementation. Then they drive atoption. They do some training, they might negotiate the renewal, they mightbe doing a whole bunch of things right and we are starting to move away fromthat and specialize, and you know one of the big investments for us asprofessional services. We've kind of doubled, our professional service esteem in the last. You know nine months looking to growd next year, becausewhat we find is one you really need to have that rins and repeat: Motion inthe first. You know thirty, sixty ninety days of a customer where youguarantee that they go live with the software, you can't take, leave it achance. You need to have a very rigorous process and having a teamfocused on that is very important. Now they all sat under cus, the broaderorganization, so it helps with the integration. But it's really importantand as you culd Dell have a PS background right. So I've done a lot ofyou know: Implementation Design, etcetera in my life. So I think that isvery important. I also think that helps you, because most customers are willingto pay for some sort of onboarding free in the enterprise they expected. I'vehad customers say how come there is no implementation offering with you know alarge price tag where I can get people spending time with me. So the beauty ofthe Caid Service model is, you can have a menu that meets every customers needright. So when somebody comes and says I need you to do extra me, you don'tneed to say we don't provide that you can say. Yes, we can provide thatservice, here's what that service is for fee and then eventually as evolve.You can introduce partners who can do these services, but it's very importantbecause you know once you get to a certain scale, you can't tell yourcustomer, you can't provide them a service that is on the critical path tomaking them successful is going to say that actually helps enable the salesteam to because instead of teen selling line items they get to sell value right.Your life with X is way better than selling this othin right. Yea No YOUONLbe selling wigits. You want to be sellingthem margin and experience andopportunity. Definitely- and you know, look different software. The technologymatters right. So you know if zoom releases a new feature and the videofeed they don't need to sell, leave services to use it right. It's a BTC S,s, experience right and all modern SAS technologies like we release very oftenat amplity right. We release stuff that doesn't need anything. You really saidand there's a lottle pop up. That tells you what it is it's done right, butthen we release lifechanging technology like this market. Changing technologylike we did this week at our amplify conference right and in reality, thebest way to consume that technology is probably to sit with an expert whohelps you map it to how your business should be using it and there's value inthat to the customer and there's value... US spending the time with thatcustomer to actually help them do that right and, as you scale, it's importantto separate that out. So you know we don't do this today, but it's one ofour clear visions for two thousand and twenty one is making a cleardistinction between something that is released. That is very selfservice. Wecreate content the customer cans consume and lovers the technology sothat Wull be product led right. Our producting leaves the charge ourproduct marketing yocan create some content. Then there is CSM lead, so theproduct creates the technology, but the CSM's partner, with the customers toeducate them on it to inform them about it, to align on use cases to give themthe idea that they can be leveraging this technology and then there's thaservices. You know enabled component, which is really around the right way todeploy this brand. New behement of O product we've launched, is to actuallydo a small implementation project right or to do some sort of enhancement,project, optimization project that actually helps you take it to marketright, and you know that's he the way we want to think about everything webuild. diall forever makes a ten of sense and we're actually alreadyrunning up into that and our business and we're only you know twentysomething foks here, and that leads me to a question which is like who ownsthe customer relationship. I think at the best companies the company owns thecustomer relationship. I think when you I know a lot of people believe that thehead of customer success should be empowered on the customer relationship.I think it's true some extent. Like an amplibued, I would say yes, generallyspeaking, everything to do with ha customer. The CSTAM takes the lead onthe strategy, but it should never be at the risk of alienating otherdepartments, because sales has an enormous role to play in engagingexisting customers and driving net revenue. attension they're, the oneswho acquire the customers to begin with right. The product and engineeringteams are building products for the customers right. Do you want themtalking to the customer? Absolutely I think the CEOOWNS, the customer right. You know the CEO Mpowers, thehead of customer success, do partner with all of the other components youknow, departments within the company, every single one of them right tocreate a unified experence with a customer. I know it's incredibly hard.What I'm saying is not easy to do, but you have to figure it out as a companyright. So let's take two or three very specific examples: Right. Do you wantcollections emails to be sent by finance in a vacuum, or do you want anoverlay where you actually think about the experience the customers gettingwhen you send out collections? Emails Right? I think that's! A greatintersection of CSN finance how you message: Collections, Hake, you ow memoney, payup or I'm going to shut you down, or is it hey? It's reallyunfortunate that we reachd this point where we have sent you three emails andyou still haven't paid. We really would not want to get to the point where wehave to turn you off. Can we figure this out right? That's a very differenttone right same with marketing. You know, marketing owns a lot of thecontent, the messaging. You know a lot of the you know, thocgt that goes intothe brand of the company and the software right, and I love the idea ofthat brand messaging overlapping into...

...the customer experience right. Sothere's a huge overlap between CS and marketing in designing the perfectexperience for customers, because market at marketers do it best. They'really do they'd nail it right. So you know we have our customer marketingperson sits and marketing, but they spend a lot of time with us becausewe're trying to together design a great experience. You know for thosecustomers right. So you know long winded answer to your question, but Ireally think that that the best companies, the CEO, is very customercentric and empowers every department to think you know. Customer first andnot, you know, doesn't silow the customer experience into one division.Yeah listeners can't see this, but ti was FIS pumping here in the background,but I heard you say that it's owned by the CEO, because that is absolutelytrue right, like you have to especially in an organization where you're tryingto scale and you're trying to ensure that you're able to build theserelationships with many many folks over a short period of time. Everyone has tobe in lockstep right, like othink about it. You, like you, don't go date,someone and then they go hand you off to their friend and then another friendcomes in and says hey. Actually, I'm going to go out with theio day tonight,because we're Gong into Italian, yes, yeah, I'm the one who eeats Italian.Yes, I mean think about an organization where CS and sales report directly tothe CEO Right and theyare two separate teams and everyone gets along fineexcept the SEO says, look ses. You are empowered to drive. You know retention.You really have to. You know, make sure that the cusbicks- you know we want tobe a customer. CENTRIC company you got to go leaves with our departments. Atthe same time, they tell the sales steam that they have to hit theirnumbers at all costs. All costs, including not fractoring, in whetheryou're acquiring the right customer, which thereby impact PretensionCoplands, are n, delined and sentives. Aren't deline that's going to be veryhard to become a customer centric company in that in thats INERA right,so it does start at the top, as you'll probably read about and see from otherpeople. You know conversations with other people and I think you know Ilove my job because I think you have a huge say in this in terms ofinfluencing the culture of the company building those crossfunctionltherelationnships. I think you're, the you know cheer leader Ind Chief, liketalking about customers and customer success, but it takes a whole companyin order to do you know, be customer centric yeah. So what's your likefavorite actual story of seeing that in practice, so we've talked about thiskind of theoretically, but what's an example where you really saw a highdegree of alignment across, you know Cs and sales and support. Well, I'm goingto definitely pick my card company, even though I've seen other examples aswell. So even before I joined Dan Withdo, so I joined amplitude and I oneof the first things you do. Is You understand what of the company metrics?What are the targets right and they had five targets at the company level? Ithas not changed since I've joined in eighteen months and one of the targetswhich it took me a while to understand hi'm like hey. What is that like? Whatis that metric? I help me understand, and you know I was educated on it andit's essentially a target that, as I would say, is like led by the productteam and supported by the CSTM, but it's really a joint petric. It's calledweekly learning users and it's a joint...

...metric to measure adoption within ourcustomer base and we are at a company level trying to drive it and it isn'tproduct Sol responsibility, and it doesn't see us his ole responsibility.We all need to get to that right and it's a very meaningful metric. It's notlike how many people longed in ther. If you look at the definition, it looks atsomething that is a serious indicator of rattention or expansion right. Itlooks at people who have been active in the last seven days who are creatingcontent that has been consumed by two other people within the organization.So it's very thoughtful metric that you know many people put, you know theirheads together and built, and it's lasted. You know over several years andI think that's a phenomenal example of a product and a CS organization in acompany you know being unified in their goal. I talk about it with Btobe Sasscompanies that are our customers all the time, because they're allstruggling with this, their product teams are building to satisfy the nextsale. The prospect and the CSTM is sort of catching up, and I always tell themthe story I was like you have to get unified around this idea that you'reall in the same business. You know you grow the business by making thecustomer successful, not the other way, rout right, yeah right an Ebe don mind,but I am definitely going to steal that and talk to our to about how we canbuild a similar type of measurement in our own organization. So thank you andwe'd be happy to help. You talk through that. Well so we're kind of getting upon time here and I do like to rap every episode with just one specific question,which is what was the best piece of advice: You've gotten from someone elsejust related to customer success, so related t running customer success. I would say I'm going to specificallyspeak about the customer Success Management Team, because it's the onewhere people struggle a lot like. I don't think too many people are goingto say what's the best piece of advision God regarding running andProfessional Servicesteam, I think that function's been around for long. Ithink the best piece of advice actually read it in a tsia white paper, maybe anunexpected place to find this is always have a charter, and the reason for thatis you know at the scale you guys are at Etceea you' find that a lot ofCSTEEMS run into this identity crisis of I'm responsible for everything butaccountable for nothing and it's a very hard job. It's a very, very difficultjob because you are actually expected to deliver on seven different fronts,and yet it's unclear. What is the direct benefit you're? Having so youneed to have a primary charter at amplitude, its etention right now. Itmay change next year, T my chains of folling year right right now, at theend of the day, what matters is grosser tension. We measure teams by in quarterpretention annual and quaterty retention, and we also look at adoption,and we also look at experience and we look at a bunch of other things. Butwhat we're driving to words is retention in other organizations. Youmay find that you know pretention is the secondary metric for the CSTEAM,because theyre have an account management function or a salesteam thatis owning that and you may have an adoption metric. That is, you know,front and center, which is you need to have you know? Ninety two percentutilization of the product or a three...

...percent utilization or the health score,needs to be something higher, but it needs to be one thing because themoment you say you need to on board successfully, you need to driveadoption properly. You need to be doing ex number of customer engagements forquarter. You also need to be ruing at this thing. You need to be acontributed expansions. It's too many goals. No one team can you know, hitfive or six different goals in a year right. So that's probably the bestadvice and I've never had a CSTEM report to me since that time. I readthat many years ago, where there's been any sort of lack of flarity around whatthe top level metric is. I love it man. I love the big number reports right. Itjust makes it so easy right like because you don't have to try andbalance all these things out ir figure out how one thing relates to another,and then I love to do this. Even when I was running product teams, but you K O,we would. We would pick a top METR, very similarly yeah and during everyconversation that was about our strategy or how we'd address an account.I would say: How does that drive x? How does that drive whatever that top levelmetric is, and if you couldn't come up with an answer, woul'd say: Why are wetalking about this now? Let's go pick something else to tackle in thebusiness and take care of yeah. Absolutely I mean I think best case youcan. If you can get an ord down to like top to or three things you're lookingat right, then you can everything else. You measure you're, measuring, becauseyou need to measure it and improve it, but you know you should have the topone. The other thing that that you know that is related to that is make sureyou get the CEO and CFL bought into that top level metric. So there's notmuch point having a charter if the if the CCEO doesn't agree with it right,so I think it's very important to get their alignment on that fair plient.Well, thank you! So much arging for joining us today. Again, that's ArgentDave gun he's the VP of customer success at amplitude. I'm are crame soand cofounder a flat file. Thank you for listening to this week, customersuccess leader. Thank you. Erick have a good oneyall. You depend on the fastesttime to value for your customers. So why let data onboard and sell you down?Stop emailing spreadsheets, creating CSB templates or senting AP Pactkytransfers 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, Zoio, slash TS 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. U Share these conversations withothers. Leave us a rating on Appe podcast, just tap ha number of stars.You Think Tho show deserves. That's it for today catch you in the next one.

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