Customer Success Leader
Customer Success Leader

Episode 19 · 1 year 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

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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 acknowledgement of value every single year. Do we earnthe customers business 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 strugglesof leaders who are passionate about their craft. Trust me, you want to stickaround. Here's your host, Eric Crane. Hey Ya, welcome tothe customer success leader podcast. I'm your host, Eric Crane, and I'mhere today with Argent Dagan, who's the VP of customer success at amplitude.Hey, ore, didn't how you do today. I'm doing well. Thankyou for having me on this podcast. So where you calling in from SanFrancisco. Referring to the room of the House. It looks like you gota nice little background there. I do have a very vast collection of virtualzoom backgrounds at that are in high demand. As going to say that it seemslike the trend these days. Did you see that thing, that zoomrelease, where you can now have like multiple people and like a board roomtype setting in the background? Yes, it'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. Absolutely yeah,I mean I'm definitely on the camp of I do miss the inoffice interaction andwhite boards and the lunch sessions. So hopefully, you know, sometime withthen your future, will be able to go back and do that as well. A hundred percent agree. Well, I'd love to hear about your timeand customer success. I mean, someone looks at your resume and they justso well, like this is crazy, how much you've contributed to the growthof so many different businesses and largely driven by ensuring that you customers reach theirdesired outcomes. So tell me a bit about why you decided to get intocustomer success and what you're doing today at amplitude. 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 customerafter they have purchased your software. About twenty years ago, you know,fellow to it, slightly by accident, but primarily because I realized that one, I liked working with systems to develop solutions and second like being customer facing. So you can buy those two and I like spending time with customers tohelp them use technology to solve their business problems. Right, kind of theultimate sort of consultant gene that sort of gets you attracted to that. Youknow, that job, or a job even in support, a job andsolution consulting. Many of those jobs that to attract the kind of people wholike tinkering with technology to solve customer problems. And so how did that kind oflead you down the journey to customer success eventually? Yeah, so Ispent, you know, the majority of my career and that tweed. Iwas there for twelve years. You know, we I was one of the firstservices people they hired. We had, I think, for people in theservices team and it wasn't much of a team. I think we werejust trying to figure out what services even looked like for our customers. Backthen they would just buy the software and we need to figure out what,you know, on boarding look like. How do you deploy them successfully,how do you train them properly? How do you make sure they start toactually use the software? And over the next twelve years, as net sweetwent from you know, I think we're, you know, twenty million to eighthundred million and revenue, you know,...

...the service, the organization went tofour five hundred people. There's a lot of innovation. We, youknow, started by figuring out the basics of how do you get someone upand running, but over time it became much more complicated. As you know, the market grew from SMB to enterprise as the product became significantly more complicatedand sold were sold to many different apartments, not just you know, finance andaccounting. Really had to think through how you deploy enterprise, you know, technology at scale right, and that involved looking at not only on boardingbut actually looking at post implementation experiences and services, looking at how you scaleout training, how you support customers. What what do you monetize? Whatdo you not monetize? Right? And then, since you hire so manypeople in the post sales seem, how do you fund a lot of thosepeople, because you do need to actually, you know, have you know insome parts of the business of a piano right. How that morphed intocustomer success was was interesting, right, because customers success the way it's definedtoday kind of you know birth probably ten years ago and you know, whenI left net suite and took a little bit of a short break. Iknew the one thing I really wanted to do was make sure that I wentto a smaller company, sort to early days of net Swede, and hada bigger influence on the end to end customer journey. And that's kind ofwhat I've been doing for the last seven years, is really spending a lotof time thinking about the end to end customer experience, not just one aspectof the customer journey, because ultimately every single point in that customer experiences andthe outcomes you delivered to that customer end up defining how long they stay withyou. Right. So that's, you know, in a nutshell, howI started in services and morphed to do where I am today. Yeah,it's really exciting. It seems just sort of like natural, right, likea natural progression towards like hey, like I want to make sure I getas close as possible to where the problem solving is happening. And, likeyou said, it's like consulting, right, you get such a wide variety ofexposure different businesses and business problems when you're in that type of role that'saligned with the ultimate business outcome of the end customer. Yeah, I don'tknow where I read this, but I once read that, you know,customer success is a service function with a sales outcome, right, and itwas a really fascinating take on customer success because before customers success, what youhad was services, support and sales. Right. That was broadly how youwork with a customer. And if you want to go really far back tobefore there was a subscription based software, you kind of, you know,sales team sold the software, the services team implemented and support team supported itand then the sales team came back into sell more software, right, orto upgrade the customer, if you will. Right. And when we went tothe subscription economy, it changed, but if you think about it,it didn't change that much. We changed how we do business with customers becauseyou have to re earn their business every year, but you kind of stillhad sales, service and support. In fact, you know, I wouldargue that for the majority of netsuites existence, and you know, if you lookat work, they even look at sales force, you know, probablythe pioneers of Sass, they all had sales services in support. And thenover the last ten years what's happened is... kind of flipped out on itshead because we basically said it's time to grow out of the old model andput the customer at the center of this conversation. And that's when the modelstarted to change and you end up with customer success, which is effectively arole, if done right, is equal parts consulting an equal parts commercial acumen. Right, you're able to understand what the customers like business outcomes are,with their desired outcomes are, what are the trying what business problem they're tryingto solve, for which traditionally, you know, very good sales people havebeen great at, and combined that with recommending a solution to solve that problem, which is traditionally a consulting and, you know, services skill set.Right. So I love that about cus how it's brought those two disciplines thatare equally important together in one yeah, I would argue, to get itsendthat even further to other parts of the organization right. I think the folksover at game side have a really great book. We're actually going through abook club right now at the company. It's called the customer success economy andthe core premise of the book is that customer success is the business right,like, especially in a subscription business like you have to be continuously generating value, not from your perspective but from the customers perspective in order to stay inbusiness these days. Yes, it's a very important point, because here's thething, right. How many software companies out there are like furniture, thatare that is just like you, it just is. They're like you know. Certainly I would say financial management software, you know, comes under that category. Lots of sales force deployments are in that category where, regardless ofhow much value and usage is happening, they're kind of just there. Youjust buy it, right, and you know those those companies are fortunate becausethey're they're very sticky. The majority of software companies are not that sticky.You do have to reprove value every single year, even for high quality companies, right. And then you you layer on top of that the fact thatdisruption happens fairly quickly these days, right, especially if you're not an end doinglike sweet type solution, if you're not one of the you know,the clouds, the sales cloud, the marketing cloud, you can get disruptedif you're only providing a point solution. No, matter how great your productis, because all it takes is for the next product to come along andyou know switching cost or low. Which is why your point is super valid, which is you have to continue to reprove value and document value and getacknowledgement of value every single year to we earn the customers business. Now youde find it. What cost effective way to do it so it doesn't becomea huge burden on your organization, right, and that's where sort of the uniteconomics of the business and and the cost of customer success comes into question. So tell me about how you have scaled this customer success and Services Organizationand amplitude. Have you kind of made sure you reigned in those costs whilestill delivering the most amount of value on a continuous basis? Yes, Imean it's a great time to ask that question. Where in the throes oftwenty one planning, and you know, I have an initial model that isstill to be reviewed by the CFL, on the board, etc. Sowe're still having those discussions. I mean, I'm I'm thankful I work for acompany that is very customer centric and has invested in see us long beforeI even had heard of amplitude. So they had it, you know,stood up very early, so credit to them. You know, our productorganization is probably one of the most customer...

...centric, customer friend the organizations I'vemet, which helps a lot. But to answer your question, how wethink about it is, you know, we have broken cs into success servicesin support and, as you can imagine, when you're smaller company, when youhave, you know, a hundred people, when you got you know, a handful of customers, it's fine. You it should be one role.Right, like you don't start to specialize super early. It's okay.Many companies start with one person doing everything. They'll traditionally break out support first becauseit's a very different motion. Right. You want to operationalize that, youwant to have Zendesk in place and or silver technologies, but then theCSIM still ends up doing a lot. Right. For example, they woulddo the kickoff call and the implementation. Then they drive a option, theydo some training, they might negotiate the renewal. They might be doing awhole bunch of things right, and we are starting to move away from thatand specialize and you know, one of the big investments for us as professionalservices. We've got a doubled our professional services team in the last, youknow, nine months, looking to grow it next year because what we findis one you really need to have that rins and repeat motion in the first, you know, Thir thousand and sixty ninety days of a customer where youyou guarantee that they go live with the software. You can't take leave ita chance. You need to have a very rigorous process and having a teamfocused on that is very important. Now they all sit under cus, thebroader organization, so that helps with the integration. But it's really important and, as you could tell, have a PS background, right, so I'vedone a lot of you know, implementation, design except or in my life.So I think that is very important. I also think that helps you becausemost customers are willing to pay for some sort of one boarding fee inthe enterprise. They expect it. I've had customers say how come there isno implementation offering with, you know, a bit large price tag where Ican get people spending time with me. So the beauty of the paid servicemodel is you can have a menu that meets every customers need. Right sowhen 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 canprovide that service, here's what that service is for fee. And then eventually, as you evolved, you can introduce partners who can do the services.But it's very important because you know, once you get to a certain scale, you can't tell your customers you can't provide them a service that is onthe critical path to making them successful. Is going to say? That actuallyhelps enable the sales team too, because instead of them selling line I ams, they get to sell value. Right. Your life with s is way betterthan selling this thing, right. Yeah, you got to be sellingwidgets. You want to be selling margin and experience and opportunity. Definitely,and you know, look different software. The technology matters, right. Soyou know, if zoom releases a new feature and the video feed, theydon't need to sell these services to use it. Right, it's a BToc sesque experience, right, and all modern says technologies like we release veryoften at amplity, right, we really stuff that doesn't need anything. You, you release it and there's a little pop up that tells you what itis. It's done, right. But then we release life changing that chnologylike this market changing technology, like we did this week at our Amplifi conferenceright. And in reality, the best way to consume that technology is probablyto sit with an expert who helps you map it to how your business shouldbe using it. And there's value in...

...that to the customer and there's valuein US spending the time with that customer do actually help them do that right. And as you scale it's important to separate that out. So you knowwe don't do this today, but it's one of our clearer visions for twothousand and twenty. One is making a clear distinction between something that is releasedthat is very self service. We create content the customer consume and levers thetechnology, so that we product led right. Our producting leads the charge. Ourproduct marketing can create some content. Then there is CSM led. Sothe product creates the technology, but the CSM's partner with the customers to educatethem on it, to inform them about it, to align on use cases, to give them the idea that they can be leveraging this technology. Andthen there's a services, you enabled component, which is really around the right wayto deploy this brand new behemoth of a product. We've launched is toactually do a small implementation project, right, or to do some sort of enhancementproject, optimization project that actually helps you take it to market, right, and you know, that's the way we want to think about everything webuild still forever. Makes a ton of sense and we're actually already running upinto that and our business and we're only, you know, twenty something folks hereand at leasy to question, which is like who owns the customer relationship? I think at the best companies the company owns the customer relationship. Ithink when you, I know a lot of people, believe that the headof customers success should be empowered to own the customer relationship, I think it'strue some extent. Like an ampl dude, I would say yes, generally speaking, everything to do with the customer. The C steam 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 engaging existing customers anddriving net revenue attention. They're the ones who acquire the customers to begin with. Right. The product and engineering teams are building products for the customers,right. Do you want them talking to the customer. Absolutely. I thinkthe CEO owns the customer right. And you know, the CEO empowers thehead of customer success to partner with all of the other components, you know, departments within the company, every single one of them, right to createa unified experience to the customer. I know it's incredibly hard. What I'msaying is not easy to do, but you have to figure it out asa company. Right. So let's take two or three very specific examples.Right. Do you want collections emails to be sent by finance in a vacuum, or do you want an overlay where you actually think about the experience thecustomers getting when you send out collections emails? Right, I think that's a greatintersection of CS and finance. How you message collections? Hey, Yoimoney, pay up. Are I'm going to shut you down, or isit hey, it's really unfortunate that we reach this point where we have sentyou three emails and you still haven't paid. We really would not want to getto the point where we have to turn you off. Can we figurethis out? Right? That's a very different tone. Right. Same withmarketing. You know, marketing owns a lot of the content, the messaging, you know, a lot of the you know thought that goes into thebrand of the company and the software, right, and I love the ideaof that brand messaging overlapping into the customer...

...experience. Right. So there's ahuge overlap between CS and marketing in designing the perfect experience for customers, becausemarket that marketers do it best. They really do, they'd nail it right. So, you know, we have our customer marketing person sits and marketing, but they spend a lot of time with us because we're trying together designa great experience, you know, for those customers. Right. So,you know, long winded answer to your question, but I really think thatat the best companies the CEO is very customer centric and empowers every department tothink, you know, customer first and not, you know, doesn't silothe customer experience into one division. Yeah, listeners can't see this, but Iwas fist pumping here in the background, but I heard you say that it'sowned by the CEO, because that is absolutely true. Like you haveto, especially in an organization where you're trying to scale and you're trying toensure that you're able to build these relationships with many, many folks over ashort period of time. Everyone has to be unlocked. That right. Thinkabout it. You like you don't go date someone and then they go handyou off to their friend and then another friend comes in and says, Hey, actually, I'm going to go out with the day tonight because we've goneto Italian. Yes, yeah, I'm the one who eats Italian. Yes, I mean, think about an organization where CS and sales report directly tothe CEO, right, and they're two separate teams and everyone gets along fine, except the CEO says, look, see us, you are empowered todrive, you know, retention. You really have to, you know,make sure that the customers you know, we want to be a customer centriccompany. You got to go these with other departments. At the same time, they tell the sales team that they have to hit their numbers at allcosts, all costs including not factoring in whether you are acquiring the right customer, which thereby impact retention. COMPLANS aren't the line and centis aren't a line. That's going to be very hard to become a customer centric company in thatin that sceneri right. So it does start at the top, as you'llprobably read about and see from other people, you know conversation with other people,and I think, you know, I love my job because I thinkyou have a huge say in this in terms of influencing the culture of thecompany, building those cross functional the relationships. I think you're the cheerleader in chief. Like talking about customers and customer success, but it takes a wholecompany in order to you know, be customer centric. Yeah, so what'syour like favorite actual story of seeing that in practice? So we've talked aboutthis kind of theoretically, but what's an example where you really saw that highdegree of alignment across you know, CS, sales and support? Well, I'mgoing to definitely pick my current company, even though I've seen other examples aswell. So even before I join amplitude. So I joined amplitude andI one of the first things you do is you understand what are the companymetrics? What are the targets? Right, and they had five targets at thecompany level. It has not changed since I've joined in eighteen months,and one of the targets, which it took me a while to understand,I'm like, Hey, what is that like. What is that metric?I help me understand and you know is educated on it and it's essentially atarget that is, I would say, is like led by the product teamand supported by the CSTEAM but it's really a joint metric. It's called weeklylearning users and it's a joint metric to...

...measure adoption within our customer base andwe are, at a company level, trying to drive it and it isn'tproduct soul responsibility and it isn't css soul responsibility. We all need to getto that right. And it's a very meaningful metric. It's not like howmany people logged in it. If you look at the definition, it looksat something that is a serious indicator of retention or expansion. Right. Itlooks at people who have been active in the last seven days, who arecreating content that has been consumed by two other people within the organization. Soit's a very thoughtful metric that you know many people but you know their headstogether and 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 and acompany, you know, being unified in their goal. I talked about itwith B Tob Sass, companies that are our customers all the time, becausethey're all struggling with this. Their product teams are building to satisfy the nextsale, the prospect, and the C steam is sort of catching up,and I always tell them the story. I was like, you have toget unified around this idea that you're all in the same business. You knowyou you grow the business by making the customer successful, not the other wayround. Right, yeah, arrant and now we don't mind, but Iam definitely gonna Steal that and talk to our team about how we can builda similar type of measurement in our own organizations. Of thank you and we'dbe happy to help you talk to that well. So we're kind of gettingup on time here and I do like to wrap every episode with just onespecific question, which is what was the best piece of advice you've gotten fromsomeone else just related to customer success? So related to running customer success?HMM, I would say I'm going to specifically speak about the customer Success ManagementTeam because it's the one where people struggle a lot. Like I don't thinktoo many people are going to say what's the best piece of advice? AndGod, regarding a running a professional services team, I think that function hasbeen are around for long. I think the best piece of advice, actuallyread it in a TSI white paper, may be an unexpected place to findthis, is always have a charter, and the reason for that is youknow, at the scale you guys are at, etc. You'll find thata lot of CS teams run into this identity crisis of I'm responsible for everythingbut accountable for nothing, and it's a very hard job. It's a very, very difficult job because you are actually expected to deliver on seven different frontsand yet it's unclear what is the direct benefit you're having. So you needto have a primary charter at amplitude. Its retention. Right now, itmay chase next year, my chains the following year. Right right now.At the end of the day, what matters is grosser tension. We measureteams by in quarter retention, an Wal and quantity retention, and we alsolook at adoption and we also look at experience and we look at a bunchof other things, but what we're driving tow wards is retention. In otherorganizations you may find that you know, retention is a secondary metric for theCS team because they have an account management function or sales team that is owningthat, and you may have an adoption metric that is, you know,front and center, which is you need to have ninety two percent utilization ofthe product or eighty three percent utilization,...

...or the help score needs to besomething higher, but it needs to be one thing because the moment you sayyou need to on board successfully, you need to drive adoption properly. Youneed to be doing x number of customer engagements per quarter. You also needto be ruling it this thing. You need to be a contribute to 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 C S team report to me since that. I'm I read that many years ago, where there's been any sort of lackof clarity around what the top level metric is. I love it,man. I love the big number reports right. It just makes it soeasy, right like, because you don't have to try and balance all thesethings out or figure out how one thing relates to another and then. Ilove to do this, even when I was running product teams. But youknow, we would, we would pick a top metric very similarly and duringevery conversation that was about our strategy or how ead addressed in account, Iwould say, how does that drive x? How does that drive whatever that toplevel metric is, and if you couldn't come up with an answer,would say why are we talking about this now? Let's go pick something elseto tackle in the business and take care of. Yeah, absolutely, Imean I think best case you can, if you can get it org downto like top two or three things you're looking at right, then you caneverything else you measure. You're measuring because you need to measure it and improveit, but you know you should have the top one. The other thingthat that you know that is related to that is make sure you get theCEO and CFO bought into that top level metric. So there's not much pointhaving a charter if the if the CCEO doesn't agree with it right. SoI think it's very important to get their alignment on that fair client well,thank you so much, Argent, for joining us today again. That's urgent, Dave Gun. He's the VP of customer success at amplitude. I'm ErCrane, CEO and Co founder a flat file. Thank you for listening tothis week customer success leader. Thank you, Eric. Have a good one.You'll you depend on the fastest time to value for your customers. Sowhy let data on board and sell you down? Stop emailing spreadsheets, creatingCSP templates or setting up ATP transfers. Create collaborative, secure workspaces with yourcustomers 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 CSleader to learn more and get started for free. Thank you so much forjoining us for this episode. Customer Success leader is brought to you by flatfile. If you're a fan of the show and want to help a sharethese conversations with others, leave us a rating on apple podcast. Just tapthe number of stars you think the show deserves. That's it for today.Catch you in the next one.

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