Customer Success Leader
Customer Success Leader

Episode · 2 years ago

How to Generate a 360-Degree View of Your Customer w/ Chris Hicken


There aren’t many companies that are able to say that they have a comprehensive understanding of each of their customers.


In fact, most companies are coming up short when it comes to seeing their customers wholly.


In this episode, Eric is joined by Chris Hicken, the CEO of ‘nuffsaid, a team helping knowledge workers prioritize their communications. The two chat about… 


- Why so few companies are measuring their customers’ success


- How to continuously create value for customers


- How Chris’ team combines qualitative and quantitative data to get a 360-degree view of their customers


Resources mentioned:


- Value Measurement Maturity Scale




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.

Over the course of the relationship. We are constantly monitoring the quality of the relationship with the customer and we're trying to detect where new risk has surfaced. 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, all, this is are crane again from customer success leader. I'm here today with Chris Hiken from neff said. How you doing, Chriss? Doing Great, Eric, thanks for having me on the show. Glad to have you on. We've met a couple months back, I guess. And how the world has changed since then. Huh, it has changed dramatically, and as well as for me personally, my wife just gave birth to our first son about three weeks ago, so I'm still trying to figure out dad life in addition to everything else that's happening in the world. As going to say, being a company Dad and a real dad is probably a bit of a responsibility. Uh Well, and you may, you may edit this out. A tip for other new parents my wife hired a nanny who's living with us and it has been a game changer for new parent life because the nanny cooks and cleans and taste care of the baby. So I'm actually getting some sleep at night, which is an incredible gift. As awesome to hear. So where are you calling in besides your living room? So I'm based in Salt Lake City, UTAH. I was, you know, I grew up in California recently moved out here. Salt Lake City kind of fell in our lap, but we plan to build, enough, said, around two geographic centers, primarily the bay area, so the San Francisco area and Salt Lake City. We might add a third location on the East Coast as well. But this is how we're going to bridge the gap between fully remote work and in office work, so that we can still get together maybe once per quarter, but also allow people to still work from home when they'd like to. It's great to hear yet, and it's good timing as well for that, I guess, for better for worse, it's kind of a forcing function to try out and see if that model actually works. Yeah, I've heard it's become quite popular amongst software companies, and so we're going to give it a shot. So far we've done frankly, since we launched the company we've been predominantly remote and that has worked very well for us. We do a good job of documenting our company process, seas and procedures, and so we've already built a system in a process that enables fromote work. Yeah, definitely touch on that here in a second, but I'd love to have you share with our listeners a little bit more about what enough said does. Yeah, so the problem that we're trying to solve is that knowledge workers are increasingly overloaded with information and communication while at work. This is even more true as we're working from home and we're getting so much more communication, over written communication as well as meetings. And so many companies look at this problem of being overloaded with information and they go to, you know, productivity as the solution to the problem, which is help you get more things done in your day. But I just want to acknowledge for everyone that's listening, I know everyone's working really hard. You're already getting a ton of...

...stuff done in your day and, frankly, the human brain isn't good at looking at fifty or a hundred different pieces of information and figuring out what the most important thing is to do. The computer can be really good at solving that problem for you. And so the vision for enough said, long term is to build an aipowered brain that sits on your shoulder and that brain understands who you are at work, what department you're in and what your goals are and with that understanding not only filters out all the junk of the noise in your daily workflow but, more importantly, it helps to focus you on the work that actually matters for your job. So you know, the long term vision for enough said, is build aipowered brains for different departments. We're actually launching the first brain that we're launching with is for the customer success group or the Account Management Group with any company, and so we plan to have that launched a little bit later this year. That's exciting, so to I mean. Tell me a little bit more about how you got into this. Well, it started when I was you know, I was president of user testing for about eight years. User testing as a enterprise software company. We helped generally enterprise businesses figure out how to deliver a better experience, whether it's over there, their websites, their mobile APPs, their in store experiences and while at user testing. What I found over the years that I was there is that people were increasingly you know, people are working longer and longer hours than ever. I mean, by the time that I left, there were people that were consistently putting in twelve, thirteen hour plus days, but it was difficult for people to get their core workflow done because there are so many interruptions, notifications, distractions over the course of the work day. So I actually spend a lot of my time personally working with people, coaching them on how to be more productive, how to focus on work that matters and so and of course I'm not highly scalable as a single person, and so I looked for ways that we could build technology to amplify the work that I was doing with people one on one, and that was the genesis of the original idea for enough said, I love it, solving a problem for yourself and then figuring out how to make it scale. That's how we build businesses, right. Yeah, well, you know, it's we're early in our development. We raise some seed money in November of last year. We're going to be launching our MVP here in the next couple of weeks. So, knock on wood, will have a good, scalable solution over the course of the next couple of years. And so why do you side to start with customer success? Well, number of different factors. We interviewed about a hundred fifty people across the enterprise looking for teams that felt overloaded with information and communication. That search narrated down to about six departments and from there we plied a few additional screening criteria. Questions like which teams have the least software available today to help solve their business challenges, their team challenges, a factor number one. We're also looking for teams that had a really good access to customer data and we are going to use that customer data to train our aipowered brain. So that's ultimately, that's how we arrived at customer success. So how do you define customer success? Oh Wow, that's a big question. That's a big question. That does that deserves a big answer. So let's go ahead and walk...

...through how I think about customer success, which is customer success is the mindset that you will ensure your customers hit their goal and there happens to be a department called customer success. But, frankly, when done correctly, everyone in the company should feel some level of ownership for the customer in their outcomes. And so we've written about this recently, frankly out of frustration that so few companies are actually measuring whether or not their customers have been successful. And there's a maturity model with five levels that describes how well your company actually measures customer success. And I like to walk through this model with an example. So let's let's talk about a fictional fitness watch company that will call fit watch co and their plans to sell more watches, obviously, and of course their consumers want to lose weight and get in shape. All right. So that's the the kind of the framing for this example. So I level one. The company is focused on features and use cases. So in this case fit watch co is focusing on their feature set, so their heart rate monitoring, their step counting, altitude tracking, etc. And it's up to the customer to figure out the best use cases to solve their problem, just to lose weight. So we're going to call that level one. And we know lots of companies, especially consumer companies, that all they do is pitch features, features, features. Level to is when you start to incorporate usage metrics. So at this level, fit watch co measures the number of times their fitness watch is used per day and that information is shared back to the customer as an example of Hey, you're getting some value out of this because you're using it every single day. Now, of course, frankly, actually, and be to be SASS, a lot of us stop at level too. We say, Hey, you're using a product a lot, you're getting value, but we're not tracking at all whether or not the customer met their goals. In this case, whether or not the customer lost weight is the only thing that matters, because that's the customers goal. So now we'll talk about level three. Level three is connecting the usage of the product to the customers goals. So in this level, fit watch code describes what healthy heart rates look like during workouts, the frequency of the workouts that are needed and how maybe setting up a step count goal helps the customer ultimately reach their long term goal of losing weight. Okay, so that's kind of level three of measuring the customers attainment of goals. Level four is when you acknowledge the ecosystem of services and products needed to help the customer hit their goals. So in this level four world fit watch code would identify that in order to lose weight, the customer needs more than just a fitness watch. Okay, so that in addition to the Fitness Watch, the consumer Wallso need a fitness coach, a well defined diet and a fitness APP as well on their phone to help them track and measure their progress. So a level for the company acknowledges that their product Alane can't help the customer each their final goals. And then finally get to level five, which is the total focus on whether or not the customer received value. And this final level the company acknowledges that there is an ecosystem. Each player in the ecosystem has a goal that they need to hit and then, once everyone is doing their part in the ecosystem, the customer finally reaches their...

...goals. In this case, the Fitness Watch measures the ten thousand steps per day and eight hours of sleep. The fitness coach is delivering an exercise program every week on Sunday. The Diet includes specific meal choices with a calorie count, and the customers responsible for entering their daily weight and hitting their diet and exercising. So everyone contributes to the end result, which is the customer losing weight. So when I think about customer success, it is about, in the end, helping the customer ensure that they hit their goals, and it is also about understanding the ecosystem, the role that your company plays in the ecosystem, and detecting when there's partial value that's been received, when any part of the ecosystem is broken, that, as a partner in helping the customer lose weight in this case, you're able to detect that and inform the customer early. So that's how I think about customer success in a be to be context and love that framework. I'm definitely going to share it with my team and I want to I want to dig into it a little bit more. If you don't mind, go for it. We also written a blog about this as well, which we're happy to share as part of this episode. Yeah, we'll definitely added in the show notes. But I wanted to touch on a couple of these stages, like what kind of keeps you you mentioned like typically a beat B Sass company will get stuck at level too, if they're doing decently. Well, maybe they'll get to level three. What gets them stuck in that like two to three range and not able to get to the forty five range? That's a good question. Frankly. You know, the customer success function is relatively new compared to other functions. So as a department we're all growing and maturing and learning how to better service customers. There's a general I would say there's a general desire in the market to connect to the customers goals. But frankly, there's a lack of data and systems and processes that they just don't exist today and those things are are required in order for the company to make the final jump to level four and level five. So I think we've been seeing a maturity over time. We've seen our jump from level and level two. We've even seen companies jumped to level three. There's all just a lot more work left to go and I think we will get there over time and I think as people like you, Eric and I, are advocating for this development, will see hopefully in acceleration towards level five over time. But I think it's just a process that we need to go through as we level up and mature in this process. So, besides, nuff said, and flat fall, I'm not going to let you plug the two of us. But like, what are some of your favorite tools to start inching towards that ultimate like value creation and realization relationship with your customers? Well, I think the existing players in the customer success base have acknowledged this challenge. So you have Nick Meta at gain sight. They've been a longtime advocate of more three sixte understanding of customers. There are other big players in the space, you know, to tango, strike, deck, turn zero. Those are names that you'll here come up a lot and I think those are kind of maybe the key leaders and the customer success base. Mean, frankly, we chose customer success as the first brain early on because they're just isn't a lot of software available today and technology for customer success people, and... there's a kind of a big opportunity for a new player to come in and add some additional data and some intelligence into existing workflows. And so I would say actually, in terms of customer success, it's kind of green field for US as a company to go after that space because they're, you know, they're just aren't a lot of companies helping to move the needle in the areas that we just discussed, and I really liked the word that you mentioned there, which is workflows. Right, so like actually getting integrated into day to day things that a customer success professional would need to do in order to help their customer achieve their goals. I think a lot of the tools and systems on the market rightfully so. We're built to give you an overview of the status of the customer and the customers health, but at the end of the day, you actually want to move those things and what are the tools and systems are going to use to actually move those things in the positive direction? Yeah, and existing players. I'm a farmer gain site and to tango customer existing players. You know, the products were built for executives. You know, the Health Score, which was the driving initial product for customer success, was not for the CSM at all. It was as for the executive. Enough set is taking a little bit of a different approach, which is let's get integrated into the workflows, let's provide intelligence to the people that are doing the work. We can then consolidate that information and surface up workflow data to the executive for the purposes of understanding the the risks in the portfolio and the actions that this the team is taking to reduce the risk and help the customer connect to their ultimately to their goal, hitting their goals. So I let's talk about some of those things that are happening manually today that you're hoping to address yourself or would hope we get addressed by some of those other ecosystem players that would show up like what our customers success managers doing, that machine should be doing instead. Well, there's I mean, I think the list is endless. Some of the things that come to mind are I'll just list a few, maybe five or six that I find horribly frustrating that we're doing manually. One is when we are, you know, as customer success managers, we make a commitment to our customers that we're going to be advocates on their behalf for Bug and feature requests in the product, but we can never deliver on that because we submit a ticket, it goes into Jira, the product team consolidates those tickets and it's up to me to figure out when the product or the bug is eventually fixed. So I think you know, one is tracking, doing a full three hundred and sixty tracking of a bug and feature request, with notifications for CSM's when a bugger feature has been released. I think for the executive it's associating bug and features with renewaled dates and the dollar volume of of their requesting customers. You know the dollar value so that you can make better, you know prioritization decisions, like this bug is worth sixteen million dollars in this feature is worth two million dollars. So I think that's you know, that should be an automatic thing that that machines are doing for us, detecting when competitors have been mentioned in calls or over emails and what the context of that is. You know, right now we're trying to track that manually, which is so silly. Planning for customer success, headcount...

...needs. I don't know why we spend all this time and spreadsheets going back and forth worth with our CFO. We should be able to have a model that automatically detects twenty three new logos coming next quarter and how many CSMS are needed to support that. I should be able to automatically compare my high performing csms to other CSMS and have them automatically coached. I mean it's lowhanging fruit, detecting which customer profiles renew at a higher rate compared to others. So there are certain subsegments of my customers that are performing really, really well and it's hard for me to see that at a high level. You know is it? Does it have something to do with the time of year that they closed or something about what the product that they purchased first or the discount they got? So finding my highest performing customer segments, I don't know why we have to do all this manually, surfacing up content for my marketing team. So marketing is responsible for generating customer marketing content, but they're so disconnected from the customers. I don't know how we created a system where marketing has to generate content for us and they have no idea what's going on with the customers themselves. Also help surface up the stuff that customers are asking about. What's the what a customers talking about? What questions are they asking? So those are just a list of some of the things that are done manually today. They drive you nuts. Are Things that should be automated by the machine and they will be. They will be automated by the machine in the next two to three years, I believe it. So, aside from identifying technological areas of improvement, how have you designed the team structure and processes in order to ensure that you're always looking at the customer and their achievement of their goals? Yeah, so at the very beginning, and it all starts with the sales process. Frankly, when it's done well, but let's just say for the argument of this conversation, since we're focusing and just on customer success, everything starts with on boarding. So as part of onboarding we record what problem the customer expects to solve with the purchase of our product, and that is well documented in the system. We actually have three or four use cases that we expect customers to try to solve with our product and as part of that conversation as well, we ask the customer what other products and services they're using as part of the total ecosystem top solve that problem. So we understand what role we expected to play in that ecosystem. Then, over the course of the relationship, and again we use our own product, we eat our onn dog food, of course, as part of are we drink our own champagne. That's that. That's the new way to set. We drink around Champagne, which is we over the course of the relationship, we are constantly mon of turing the quality of the relationship with the customer and we're trying to detect where new risk has surfaced. So some of the ways that we do that, you know, we gather some of the qualitative information via surveys. Some of it we collect via scanning the communication back and forth with the customer. But we're looking for things like how severe is the problem that's being solved in the mind of the customer? You know, on a scale of one to ten, is this problem that's being solved at three or is it a nine? Over the course of the relationship, we are constantly monitoring the quality of the relationship with the customer and we're trying to detect where new risk has surfaced.

So we ask them questions about how complete the feature set is for the product to help them use the product fully and reach their goals. We asked them about whether or not they have integrated the product fully into their existing company processes for the purposes of making sure that the product the maximum value that should be extracted as actually being extracted, and then we ask some questions to about pricing. So things like, you know, is the products progress so far sufficient enough to justify the price? So we're asking these quests. A lot of these questions are qualitative in nature, which I think you should expect that from someone like me, because I was president of user testing for eight years and my whole life was around gathering really rich qualitative feedback, and so we're bringing this qualitative feedback alongside the quantitative feedback, like the product usage data, etc. and to give kind of this kind of fleet three hundred and sixty degree view of how the customers performing. We also ask questions like the other things that we're scanning for are things like, you know, is the customer mentioning a competitor or not? And not only is there competitive mention, but what type of pressure are we feeling? Are we feeling a pressure around features? Are we feeling up some pressure around price? Are we feeling a feature around maybe reputation, but maybe another company has a better reputation than ours in the marketplace? So we helped the surface up some of those insights as well to figure out where there is risk in that particular relationship, and so a lot of the you know, back to your original question, which is how are you structured as a company to understand the quality of relationship and helping the customer reach their goals? It's, you know, if we're going to summarize everything I just said into a single sentence, it's pulling in massive qualitative feedback alongside the existing quantitative feedback to get a full three hundred sixty degree view of how the customers feeling and making sure that the customer is they are letting us know that they're hitting their goals and when they're not hitting their goals and, if not, where the risk actually is in the account. I like it. So do you actually take that and tie those type of outcomes base metrics to all of your teams in the company? Or, if not, like how does that actually bridge into a marketing goal or a sales team goal where they might not necessarily be explicitly responsible for the maintenance and development of a customer relationship over time? Yeah, so, you know, each customer of Neff said their goal is to increase their company's renewal rates. Right, because that we're selling to customer success. So our customers success is increasing renewal rates, and so we have an unfortunately, we're, you know, we're in early stage company, so we haven't had a chance to roll this out at scale. But rather than having a company goal, which is a renewal rate goal for us, we have a company goal which is helping our customers drive up their renewal rates. So we're tracking and measuring our customers progress towards improving their renewal rates and that's the company goal rather than just tracking the measuring our own renewal rate goal. Just wait till I ask you about your customers, customers renewal...

...rates. That is really getting that out here. That's right. So that's and ultimately that's what matters to us. Have we driven up our customers renewal rates? Yeah, you're right, our customers, customers, that's that's a whole other ball game. We make this last one easy for you. I love to hear from everyone. What's the best piece of advice you've gotten from someone else related to customers success? Oh, that's easy. You got to sign up for the enough said newsletter, weekly newsletter at newsletter doten saidcom. And we've interviewed, you know, dozens of chief customer officers who have consistently said that one of the missing parts of their daily workflows is not having access to curated content that they can scan on a weekly basis to figure out what's going on in the industry. We took that feedback, we heard it and we've generated a newsletter that not only finds and curates the top content from the space, but we are generally also including notes from an interview that we've done recently with a top leader, and that's all included in a single newsletter which is easy to scan and digest once a week. It really is designed more for a leader than an individual CSM, but of course, if you're CSM and you want to level up your understanding of the industry, it's a great resource as well. So I'll definitely be subscribing and thank you, Chris, so much for your time today as well as your thoughts here. A lot of great insight for our listeners. Again. That's Chris Hicken from enough said, I'm are crane. I'm the CEO and Co founder of flat file and looking forward to chat with you all again next time. You depend on the fastest time to value for your customers, so why light data on board and sell you down. Stop emailing spreadsheets, creating CSP templates or setting up FTP transfers. Create collaborative, 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 file DOT IO CS 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 us 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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