Customer Success Leader
Customer Success Leader

Episode · 1 year 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, weare constantly monitoring the quality of the relationship with the customerand we're trying to detect where new risk has surfaced want to createdelightful customer experiences. You are in the right place, welcome tocustomer success leader where you'll learn about the successes and strugglesof leaders who are passionate about their craft. Trust me. You want tostick around here's your host, Eric Crane, hey all this is Eric Crane again fromcustomer success leader. I'm here today with Chris Hickin from Nuff, said howyou doing Chris Doing Great Eric thanks for having on the show glad to have youon weve met a couple months back, I guess, and how the world has changedsince then Huh it has changed dramatically and as well as for mepersonally. My wife just gave birth to our first son about three weeks ago, soI'm still trying to figure out dad life. In addition to everything else, that'shappening in the world, yeah is going to say, being a company Dad and a realdad is probably a bit of responsibility. Hu well- and you may you may edit thisout 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 andcleans and takes care of the baby. So I'm actually getting some sleep atnight, which is an incredible gift as awesome to hear so where you calling inbesides 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: Sal, like city kind of fellon our lap, but we plan to build enoughseid around two geographiccenters, 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 howwe're going to bridge the gap between fully remote work and in office work sothat we can still get together, maybe once for quarter, but also allow peopleto still work from home. When they'd like to it's great, to hear Yoa, andit's good timing as well. For that, I guess for better. For worst, it's kindof a forcing function to try out and see if that model actually works. YeahI've heard it's become quite popular amongst software companies and so we'regoing to give it a shot. So far, we've done frankly, since we launched thecompany, we've been predominantly remote, and that has worked very wellfor us. We do a good job of documenting our company, protessseason forceatures,and so we've already built a system in a process that enables from Ot wordyeah, definitely touch on that here in a second but I'd love to have you sharewith our listeners a little bit more about what Neuf said does yeah, so theproblem that we're trying to solve is that knowledge workers are increasinglyoverloaded with information and communication while at work. This iseven more true as we're working from home and we're getting so much morecommunication over written communication as well as meetings, andso many companies look at this problem of being overloaded with informationand they go to. You know productivity as the solution to the problem, whichis help you get more things done in your day, but I just want toacknowledge for everyone. That's listening. I know everyone's workingreally hard you're already getting a...

...ton of stuff done in your day andfrankly, the human brain isn't good at looking at fifty or hundred differentpieces of information and figuring out what the most important thing is to do.The computer could be really good at solving that problem for you, and sothe vision for Anough saidlong term is to build an AI powered brain that sitson your shoulder and that brain understands who you are at work, whatdepartment 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 foryour job. So you know the long term vasion for nough sad is build. Aipowered brains for different departments were actually launching thefirst brain that we're launching, with is for the customer success group orthe Account Management Group within a company, and so we plan to have thatlaunch a little bit later this year. That's exciting, so I mean tell me alittle bit more about how you got into this. Well, it started when I was youknow. I was president of viewser testing for about eight years usertesting. As a enterprise software company, we helped generally enterprisebusinesses figure out how to deliver a better experience, whether it's overtheir their websites, their mobile APPs, their instore experiences and while atuser testing, what I found over the years that I was there is that peoplewere increasingly. You know people are working longer in longer hours thanever. I mean by the time that I left there were people that wereconsistently putting in twelve thirteen hour plus days, but it was difficultfor people to get their core work flow done, because there are so manyinteruptions notifications distractions over the course of the workday. So Iactually spent a lot of my time personally working with people coachingthem on how to be more productive, how to focus on work that matters and soand of course, I'm not highly scalable as a single person, and so I looked forways that we could build technology to amplify the work that I was doing withpeople one on one, and that was the genesis of the original idea for Anupsaid. I love it solving a problem for yourself and then figuring out how tomake it scale. That's how we build businesses right, yeah! Well, you knowT's we're early in our development. We raise some seed money in November oflast year. We're going to be launching our MVP here in the next couple ofweeks, so knock on. Wood well have a good scalable solution over the coursethe next couple years, and so why did you decide to start with customersuccess? Well, a number of different factors we interviewed about a hundredand fifty people across the enterprise. Looking for teams that felt overloadedwith information and communication that search narrawd ite down to about sixdepartments and from there we aplied a few additional screening criteria,questions like which teams have the least software available today, elpssolve their business challenges, their team challenges a factor number one.We're also looking for teams that had really good access to customer data,and we are going to use that customer data to train our AI power brain. Sothat's, ultimately, that's how we arrived at customer success. So how doyou define customer success? Oh Wow, that's a big question. That's a bigquestion that does that deserves a big answer. So let's go ahead and walkthrough how I think about customer...

...success, which is customer success, isthe mindset that you will ensure your customers hit their goal and therehappens to be a department called customer success. But frankly, whendone correctly, everyone in the company should feel some level of ownership forthe customer and their outcomes, and so wwe've written about this recentlyfrankly out of frustration that so few companies are actually measuringwhether or not their customers have been successful and there's a maturitymodel with five levels that describes how well your company actually measurescustomer 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 callFitwatch Co and their plan is to sell Moure, watches. Obviously, and ofcourse their consumers want to lose weight and get in shape all right. Sothat's the h kind of the framing for this example. So I level one thecompany is focused on features and use cases. So in this case, Fitwatch Co isfocusing on their feature set, so their heart rate monitoring their step,counting, Autitu tracking etce, and it's up to the customer to figure outthe best use cases to solve their problem, just to lose weight. So we'regoing to call that level one and we know lots of companies, especiallyconsumer companies, that all they do is pitch features features features levelto is when you start to incorporate usage metrics. So at this level, fitwatch, Co measures the number of times their fitness watchis used per day, andthat information is shared back to the customeras, an example of hey you're,getting some value out of this because you're using it every single day now,of course, frankully actually inbe to be SASS. A lot of US stop at Level two,we say: Hey, you're, using a product, a lot you're getting value, but we're nottracking at all whether or not the customer at their goals. In this case,whether or not the custome lost weight is the only thing that matters, becausethat's the customers goal so now talk about level. Three level three isconnecting the usage of the product to the customer sguals. So in this level,Fitwatch code describes what healthy heart rates look like during workouts.The frequency of the workouts that are needed and how maybe setting up a stepcount goal, helps the customer. Ultimately, reach their long term goalof losing weight, Okayso, that's kind, O level, three of measuring thecustomers attainment of goals level, for is when you acknowledge theecosystem of services and products needed to help the customer hit theirgoals. So in this level for world fit watch, Co would identify that in orderto lose weight, the customer needs more than just a fitness watch. Okay, sothat, in addition to the Fitness Watch, the consumer Walso need a fitness coach,a well defined diet and a fitness APP as well in their phone to help themtrack and measure their progress. So a level for the company acknowledges thattheir product alone can't help the customer reach their final goals andthen finally get to level five, which is the total focus on whether or notthe customer received value, and in this final level the companyacknowledges that there is an ecosystem. Each player in the ecosystem has a goalthat they need to hit and then, once everyone is doing their part inecosystem, the customer finally reaches...

...their goal. So, in this case, thefitness watch measures the ten tousand steps per day and eight hours of sleep.The fitness coach is delivering an exercise program every week on Sundaythe Diet include specific meal choices, with a calory count and the customersresponsible for entering their daily weight and hitting their diet andexercising. So everyone contributes to the end result, which is the customerlosing weight. So when I think about customer success, it is about in theend helping the customer and sure that they hit their goals, and it is alsoabout understanding the ecosystem, the role that your company plays in theecosystem and detecting when there's partial value that's been received whenany part of the ecosystem is broken, that as a partner in helping thecustomer lose weight in this case, you're able to detect that and informthe customer early. So that's how I think about customer success in O, BTBcontext and love that framework. I'm definitely going to share it with myteam, 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 the blog about this as well, which we're happyto share as part of this episode. Yeah we'll, definitely add it in the shownotes, but I wanted to touch on a couple of these stages, like what kindof keeps you you mentioned, like typically, a BTB SASS company will getstuck at level to if they're doing decently. Well, maybe they'll get tolevel three. What gets them stuck in that like two to three range and notable to get to the four to five range? That's a good question! Frankly, youknow the customer success. Function is relatively new compared to otherfunctions, so as a department were all growing and maturing and learning howto better service customers. There's a general, I would say, there's a generaldesire in the market to connect to the customers goals. But frankly, there isa lack of data and systems and processes that they just don't existtoday and those things are required in order for the company to make the finaljump to level for and level five. So I think we've been seeing him maturityover time. We've seen our jump from level on level to we've. EVN seencompanies 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, Ericand IARE advocating for this development will see, hopefully anacceleration towards level five over time, but I think it's just a processthat we need to go through as we level up and mature in this process. Sobesides Nugf said and flat FY, I'm not going to let you plug the two of us,but like what e? What are some of your favorite tools to start inching towardsthat ultimate like value creation and realization relationship with yourcustomers? Well, I think the existing players in the customer success basehave acknowledged this challenge, so you have Nick Meta at Gansite, they'vebeen a longtime advocate of more the ND sixty understanding of customers. Thereare other big players in the space. You know totango Strike Deck Churn Zero.Those are names that you'l hear come up a lot and I think those are kind ofmaybe the key leaders and the customer success basement. Frankly, we chosecustomer success as the first brain early on, because there just isn't alot of software available today and technology for customer success, peopleand so there's a kind of a big...

...opportunity for a new player to come inand add some additional data and some intelligence into existing workflows,and so I would say actually, in terms of customer success, it's kind ofGreenfield for us as a company to go after that space because they're, youknow there just aren't a lot of companies helping to move the needle inthe areas that we just discussed. Yeah, and I really like the word that youmentioned there, which is workflows right so like actually gettingintegrated into daytoday things that a customer success professional wouldneed to do in order to help their customer achieve their goals. I think alot of the tools and systems on the market, rightfully so we're built togive 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 whate arethe tools and systems you're going to use to actually move those things inthe positive direction. Yeah and existing players. I'm a former GansiteAntotango customer existing players. You know the products were built forexecutives. You know the health score, which was the driving initial productfor customer success was not for the CSM at all. It was for the executiveand oughset is taking a litle bit of a different approach, which is, let's getintegrated. It's the work flows, let's provide intelligence to the people thatare doing the work. We can then consolidate that information andsurface of workflow data to the executive for the purposes ofunderstanding, the the risks and the portfolio and the actions that this theteam is taking to reduce the risk and help the customer connected to theirvultimately to their goal hitting their goals. So, let's talk about some ofthose things that are happening manually today that you're hoping toaddress yourself or would hope we get addressed by some of those otherecosystem players. That would show up like what are customer success.Managers doing that machine should be doing instead. Well, there's I mean Ithink the list is endless. Some of the things that come to mind are I'll justlist a few, maybe five or six, that I find horribly frustrating that we'redoing manually. One is when we are. You know, as customer success managers, wemake a commitment to our customers that were going to be advocates on theirbehalf for Bug and feature requests in the product, but we can never deliveron that because we submit a ticket. It goes into Jera. The product teamconsolidates those tickets, and it's up to me to figure out when the product orthe bug is eventually fixed. So I think you know one is tracking. You knowdoing a full three hundred, sixty tracking of a buggan feature requestwith notifications for csms when a bugger feature has been released, Ithink for the executive, it's associating bug and features withrenewal dates and the dollar volume of the requesting customers. You know thedollar value so that you can make better. You know priortizationdecisions like this bug is worth sixteen million dollars, and thisfeature is worth two million dollars. So I think that's you know that shouldbe an automatic thing that that machines are doing for us, detectingwhen competitors have been mentioned in calls or over emails, and what thecontext of that is. You know right now we're trying to chatrack that manually,which is so silly planning for Customer...

Success Head Count Needs. I don't knowwhy we spend all this time and spreadsheets going back and forth werewith our CFO. We should be able to have a model that automatically te text.Twenty three new Lagos coming next quarter and how many CSMS are needed tosupport that? U should be able to automatically compare my highperforming csms to other CSMS and have them automatically coached. I meanthat's low hanging fruit, detecting which customer profiles renew at ahigher rate compared to others. So there are certain subsegments of mycustomers that are performing really really well, and it's hard for me tosee that at a high level you know is it: Does it have something to do with thetime of year that they closed or something about what the product thatthey purchased first or the discount they got so finding my highestperforming customer segments. I don't know why we have to do all of thismanually surfacing of content for my marketing team, so marketing isresponsible for generating customer marketing content, but they're sodisconnected from the customers. I don't know how we created a systemwhere marketing has to generate content for us and they have no idea what'sgoing on with the customers themselves, so help surface up the stuff thatcustomers are asking about. What's what the customers talking about? Whatquestions are they asking? So those are just a list of some of the things thatare done manually today. They drive menuts are things that should beautomated by the machine and they will be. They will be automated by themachine in the next two to three years. I believe it so aside from identifyingtechnological areas of improvement, how have you designed the team structureand processes in order to ensure that you're always looking at the customerand their achievement of their goals? Yeah? So at the very beginning, and itall starts with the sales process. Frankly, when it's done well, but let'sjust say for the argument of this conversation since we're focusing injust on customer success, everything starts with on boarding so as part ofon boarding, we record what problem the customer expects to solve with thepurchase of our product and that is well documenteded. Then the system weactually have three or four use cases that we expect customers to try tosolve with our product and as part of that conversation as well, we aske thecustomer what other products and services they're using as part of thetotal ecosystem top solve that problem. So we understand what role we expectedto play in that ecosystems, then, over the course of the relationship andagain we use our own product. We eat er on dog food, of course, as part of, arewe drink our own champagne? That's at that's the new way to set we drink ourown champagne, which is we over the course of the relationship. We areconstantly monitoring the quality of the relationship with the customer andwe're trying to detect where new risk has surfaced. So some of the ways thatwe do that you know we gotther some of that ualitative information via surveys,some of we collect BIA scanning the communication back and forth with thecustomer, but we're looking for things like how severe is the problem that'sbeing solved in the mind of the customer. You know on a scale of hone aten. Is this problem as being solved at three or is it a nine over the courseof the relationship? We are constantly monitoring the quality of therelationship with the customer and...

...we're trying to detect where new riskhas surfaced. So we ask them questions about how complete the feature sed isfor the product to help them use the product Fulli and reach their goals. Weaske them about whether or not they have integrated the product fully intotheir existing company processes for the purposes of making sure that theproduct, the maximum value that should be extracted, is actually beingextracted. And then we ask tsome questions to about pricing, so thingslike you know, is the products progress so far sufficient enough to justify theprice, so we're asking these questo a lot of these questions are qualitative,a 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 wasaround gathering really rich qualitate feedback and so we're bringing thisqualitated feedback alongside the quantity to feedback like the ow, theproduct usage data, etc, and to give kind of this kind of complete threehundred sixty degree view of how the customers performing. We also askquestions like the other things that we're scinning, for are things like youknow? Is the customer mentioning a competitor or not, and not only istheir competitive mention, but what type of pressure are we feeling are wefeeling a pressure? Around features are WEU feeling up some pressure aroundprice. Are we feeling I a feature around? Maybe reputation, but maybeanother company has a better reputation than ours in the marketplace. So wehelp to surface up some of those insides as well to figure out wherethere is risk in that particular relationship, and so a lot of the youknow back to your original question, which is: How are you structured as acompany to understand the quality relationship and helping the customerreach their goals? It's you know. If we're going to summarize everything Ijust said into a single sentence: it's pulling in massive qualitative feedbackalongside the existing quantitato feedback to get a full three hundred D,Sixty degree view of how the customers feeling and making sure that thecustomer is. They are letting US know that they're hitting their goals andwhen they're not hitting their goals and if not, where the risk actually isin the account I like it. So do you actually take thatand tie those types of outcomes based metrics to all of your teams in thecompany or, if not like? How does that actually bridge into a marketing goalor a sales team goal where they might not necessarily be explicitlyresponsible for the maintenance and development of a customer relationshipover time? Yeah? So you know each customer of Nefh said their goal is toincrease their companies Renewa rates right because at we're selling twocustomer success. So our customer success is increasing reneal rates, andso we have in Ufortunately we're. You know we're an early stage company, sowe haven't had a chance to roll this out at scale, but rather than having acompany goal, which is a renewal rate goal for us. We have a company goalwhich is helping our customers drive up theire renal rates, so we're trackingand measuring our customers, progress towards improving their renew rates andthat's the company goal rather than just tracking the measuring our ownreneal right goal. Just wait! Til! I ask about your customers, customers,renewal rates that really get bat of... That's right! So that's andultimately that's what matters to us. Have we driven up our customers? Renewrates, yeah you're right, our customers, customers? That's that's a whole otherball game wellmake 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 tocustomer success? Oh that's easy! You got to sign up for the noughsidnewsletter weekly newsletter at newsletter, Duf saidcom and we'veinterviewed. You know dozens of chief customer officers who have consistentlysaid that one of the missing parts of their daily workflows is not havingaccess to a curated content that they can scan on a weekly basis to figureout. What's going on in the industry, we took that feedback. We heard it andwe've generated a newsletter that not only finds and cerates the top contentfrom the space, but we are generally also including notes from an interviewthat we've done recently with Ha top leader and that's all included in asingle newsletter which is easy to scan and digest once a week. It really isdesigned more for a leader than an individual cm, but of course, if you'rea CSM- and you want to level up your understanding of the industry, it's agreat resource as well. Aso. Definitely be subscribing and thank you Chris somuch your time today, as well as your thoughts, your a lot of great insightfor our listeners. Again, that's Chris Hickin from efsed I meric crane on theCOO and cofounder a flat file and looking forward to chat with yoallagain next time. You depend on the fastest time to valuefor your customers. So why let Datea onboard and sell you down? Stopemailing spreadsheets, creating CSB templates for setting up CTT transfers,create collaborative secure workspaces with your customers and their datasaving you time, while providing a memorable, onboarding experience. Ohand there's no code required, you can go to flatpile, OT IO lashcs leader tolearn more. I 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 us share these conversations withothers. 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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