Customer Success Leader
Customer Success Leader

Episode 21 · 1 year ago

Map the Customer Journey to Success w/ Kia Puhm


Do you know your customer's objectives, challenges, and timeline? If not, you might be practicing random-access customer success. Your customer could feel like you're executing acts at them rather than for them.

In this episode of Customer Success Leader, Eric sits down with the Founder and CEO of DesiredPath, Kia Puhm. The two discuss...

- What failure looks like in customer experience

- Random acts of customer success vs. Holistic customer success

- Why customer mapping helps CX as well as marketing

- Moving the burden of intent from human to machine

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.

Without the context, that holistic context, of the customer. We are executing acts at our customer, not for them. 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, Yo, welcome to this week's episode of Customer Success Leader. I'm Eric Crane, the CEO and Co founder of flat file. Today I've got kiapoom is, the CEO of desired path, on the show with me. Hey, Kia, how you did to day? Good, Eric, how are you doing today? I can't complain too much. Where you calling in from? I am calling in from Toronto, sor. Are you blue Jays Fan by chance? I am. I can't say as I'm a die hard, full on Fan, but I am a definitely specially who they're doing well, a fair weather fan for sure. Nice. I'm a big baseball person. I also like hockey a little bit too. Or wait, let me pronounce that the right way. Hockey. Did they do? Okay, you did, you did all right. Well, thank you so much for calling in. Really appreciate you willing to share your experience here on the the episode here with us. Excited to learn more about you and your background. So how did you get to start in desired path and tell me a little bit more about what you're doing there? Yeah, so I computer engineer by education twenty five years ago. So I've been in software my entire career and have had the opportunity to work at companies of various sizes and been able to either build, create, lead and manage all post sales functions at some point or other or at the same time. And so I've worked at companies like enterprise content management company day software, which was acquired by Adobe, and look with Oracle and was able to really get a lot of experience in that customer success space early on, before the term customer success in the practice even existed. So I've been around for a while and I found that I was continually getting asked to have my brain picked, you know, for what? What did we do at various organizations? And so I found that there was an opportunity, a very good opportunity, to start my own practice and so I help companies basically become customer centric, to achieve faster, smarter revenue growth and I work with predominantly CEOS, Cros CCOS to help them create this customer centric aligned model to be able to generate revenue growth and be able to scale and a very sustainable and repeatable manner. Well, I'm really interested, then, in your answer to this question because I'm sure, I mean even for me, it's evolved over time. Like how do you define customer success? Yeah, so I take a very literal view on customer success. I literally view it as the success of your customers and then, by extension, this success of your own company when your customers are successful. I also believe that customer success needs to be a mindset across an entire organization. It's sometimes too easy for companies to or rolls within companies that are not within the function of customers success to feel that they're not responsible for it. But actually your customers experience is an aggregate some of all the either indirect or direct interactions that they have with your brand, and so every rule is important for helping to define that customer experience. It's interesting because, like experience and success might sound objective right,...

...but they can be fairly subjective. Across the organization, in the industry, even in specific geographies as well. So can you tell me a little bit more about like success and maybe the opposite of that, which is failure, that you've seen in customer experience? Yeah, so, I mean I've maybe I'll talk about it in the relation to the experiences and successes I've had in my career, and I find that I've gained a lot of insights not only but my successes, but but but from the failures. But I can summarize twenty five year career into two a Hammaments, and that's one. Thinking from the customers perspective. Literally walking in their shoes is the best way to understand a customer and holistically, so that you're able to meet them where they need to be met in order to achieve their objectives and to I view the customer journey map as the best way to align and organization holistically to support customer centricity and support that customer to a success path. And the reason why I say this is that, you know, we're living in this experience economy where things are changing so rapidly. Customers expectations are increasing exponentially our products and services that we deliver are changing, the markets are changing and, of course, you know today, especially in the environment that we're in, just generally, the environment is changing. So that puts the significant pressure on business, businesses to be able to support customers and at how do you do that scale and repeatabuilt in a repeatable manner? And so thinking from a customers perspective and using that customer journey or that desired path to success as the means by which you can continually observe and gain insights for your customers are what is working and what's not, the successes and failures, allows you then to be able to continually operate in a very agile manner to meet your customers. Yeah, and there's sort of like an opposite of that too. It's you. I think we were touching out a little bit before the show, right. You want to share a little bit more about that? Yeah, absolutely. So I find that often we are operating our customer success practices in random acts of customer success. You know, the the market is still growing and evolving and companies are looking for best practices and what they should do to execute customer success properly, and so what's happening is that you know we're grabbing onto these tactics. Okay, we've got to run executive business review, we've got to do proper on boarding, we've got to do a hundred and twenty day renewal or execute the renewal. When we execute all these things without the context, that holistic context, of the customer, we are executing acts at our customer, not for them, and so there's this disconnect between what our customers need to be successful and the activities that were executing at them in order to do that. And there could be this false sense of security that if we have a certain number of meetings with customers, that equals renewals and it and it doesn't right. We need to make sure that we're mindful of what is it that our customers are trying to achieve as outcomes and then help them achieve those outcomes. So there might be customers that don't need any interaction with us. They need us to just feed us, feed them information on how the product works and they're going to run like the Dickens to to go and and leverage that that platform to get their success and they will be very happy if we do that in...

...a in a relevant and timely manner that meets their needs of when they need that information. And then there might be other customers that that really need a lot more help. They might need subject matter expertise, they might be new to technology, they they might have significant change within their organization, and so we need to understand the bigger context of customers so that we can actually help them achieve what it is that they're trying to achieve. We need to be intelligent about how we are aligning ourselves to the customer so that we are providing value add and driving outcomes, not just executing random acts of success at them. So sometimes you don't even know you have a problem until you can kind of step outside and recognize and say like a okay, actually, yeah, that sounds like what I'm doing. How would someone realize that they're they're in this sort of mode of random acts of customer success is opposed to that more holistic view? Yeah, that's a great question. Well, if you can't say or understand anything but your customer, if you don't if you're not quite sure about what their objectives are, what their challenges or constraints, how the people that you're interacting with need to provide information internally to their stakeholders or what their objectives are and and what their timelines to meet them. If you don't have that insight, you are likely then running random acts of customer success. Another good indication is if customers are saying that they're too busy, that they're too busy to have a meeting, you're having a hard time getting ahold of them, you're not able to have them do the work that they need to do in order to leverage the technology. That could be signs that you're not adding value in that exchange or that interaction and that customer doesn't have time for that because they need to get their their work done and achieve their goals, and so they're going to push you back because of that. So it sounds like there's this ideal state where you are, like, to use a term that I heard of one of the other podcasts, is basically intimate with the customer right you understand their business, you feel like an extension of it, and that's sort of this like Nirvana state of customers success. But it can also be pretty high effort to so what are the ways in which you find folks able to scale themselves to accommodate being an intimate part of many relationships with many customers. So and something I'm quite passionate about in in in doing and why I created the intelligent framework that I use to help companies. So this this customer centric model. We do not have enough time in the day. Our customers do not have enough time in the day, and so the ability to have strong relationships with customers and spend all the time needed to ensure that you're driving that success is not always possible, especially when we start scaling and we have more and more customers to deal with. So what we need to do is we need to really understand what are the patterns of our most successful customers use those insights and learnings to figure out how can we replicate this, to create a very prescriptive and proactive journey that allows our customers to achieve their success in a way that they don't even realize we're leading them on, that it just feels seamless and intuitive for them to be traveling this way, that we're anticipate challenges they might have, that we're anticipating what are the industry specific challenges that that might have and that were resolving those for them before they issues even arise, so that that they're they're successful. And then what happens is we're able to start codifying that into automated tools and assets that allow us to scale. So we could start to create videos or we could start to create nurture campaigns that allow us to move customers along that way. And the intimacy..., of course, one on one. Human Interaction is the best way to build that. But if you are meeting customers where they need, if you know what your customers need and you are providing them with that information or those assets or tools or that service along the journey when they need it, that customer is going to feel like you understand them, like you get them, and they are going to be that relationship is going to be stronger. And we all know this from our experience with brands that we like. We're companies. Just just get it that it's resonated. They understand us and we buy from them because we feel like they understand us. And that means that we didn't necessarily have a onelarm relationship with them, but we trusted them to be able to do that. So not to give away too much free business, because I know this is what you do for a living. But let's just say we were having conversation and you're saying, Eric, y'all have way too many random acts of customer success going on over there. Flat file. Let's get things started, let's clean this up and let's make sure you're supporting your customer as well. Where are some of the first practical steps that you take with organizations you work with to help them kind of design what that ultimate, you know, journey map and framework would look like? If you go on to my blog, the desired pathcom, you'll see that the very first articles that I wrote about when I started the company was all about journey mapping to the point where people were talking about journey mapping in customer success, but it was still more of a marketing use and an asset. And you know, as beating this drum beat about about mapping out the customer journey, and it's now started to resonate, people will go out and and map out that journey. Is Part of building up a proper CS organization and structure. What that enables you to do when you map out that journey is, like I said before, is start to walk in the shoes of the customer. We're not mapping just interactions or our own internal process and methodologies of what we believe a customers should follow. We are mapping what the customers entire holistic experiences so that we can understand them and we can start to figure out how do we now align activities to support that customer along that journey and and so we can then reverse engineer how we operate. You know, too often we start with our organizational structure. Are People, and then we start like, what are their roles and responsibilities and what will they do with customers? We need to go upside down. We need to go backwards a customer centric approach and look at the customer journey first and then what are the activities that are needed to support those successful traversals of those journeys, and then look at, you know, what are the roles and activities and and when I've done this, I have an inevitably with all the clients that I work with, have discovered or uncovered areas that they weren't even addressing that then they started to add into their customer success engagement model which significantly impacted retention and revenue. So what's an example of one of those types of blockers you've seen before. Yeah, so one of the companies that I work with was a very large software company that provided software and actually big hardware to hospitals and we started the process of journey mapping and mapped out what that map would look like and inevitably it was more of an internal process. When we started to dig in what was the reason for retention problems? We started to look at the fact that there were unused licenses and of coursecome renewal time. It's very difficult to sell the value of unused licenses. And when we dug in deeper, what that why that reason was?...

It was you cannot pull everybody out of it a hospital emergency room to do software training. Now, this is something. Scheduling or providing best practices on how to Schedule Hospital employees for software training is nothing that my client thought they needed to do because it had nothing to do with the software or and who were they to tell the HR organizations that hospitals how to go about scheduling employees? But it had everything to do with retention and so when we looked at it from the holistic perspective, we actually added Best Practices into the engagement model, because my client was actually in the best position because they were working with all the clients that were at all these hospitals. They actually knew what was actually working. So that's just an example of where, when you look at it from a holistic perspective and walk in the customers shoes what saw their challenges might be, it might start to open up past two different activities you never thought about that could be hindering your customers. You know, seamless journey. Yeah, it's also an example of turning an area of what was previously weakness and turn it into an area of strength. Right like that example is perfect. Hey, we actually work with a lot of folks like you and we can provide you some great insights into how best to do this, because then it sets you up is sort of like a trusted confidant of the customer as well, not even just someone who's delivering them value through software. Yeah, that's exactly right. So, just to switch gears a little bit, I've got to ask, because I'm founder of a software company, what type of technology do you like to use and where has that technology failed you before? That's an interesting question about technology failing. That implies that technology understands what your desired outcomes are and has figured that out for you, and I actually believe that. You know, we don't buy or use technology because we want to buy and use technology. We buy technology because we want to leverage it for some sort of outcome or use the technology and leverage it to achieve outcomes. And so what I find is that when technology fails, it's because we might not be clear about what our desired objectives are or how we want and then we don't know how to go about leverage in the technology. And so I think part of what customer success needs to do an end. Often can miss the mark on this when they focus just on the technology aspect, is we need to understand what is it that client is trying to achieve and then be able to figure out how they best can leverage the technology to sell it. So you know, like I said, it doesn't fail you're not sure how to leverage it. We had term for that at a previous roll. was called a picnic. It's a problem in chair, not in computer, right like. Well, so, regardless, what do you feel like you're doing manually today that you feel like machine should be doing instead? I don't even know how to answer that question. I don't know. Loading the Dishwasher, ironing, I know. That's why I take close to the dish the dry clear. I don't know. What do you manually do that you think machine should be doing? You know, one of the things that I really would love to see machines doing is actually understanding what I'm thinking a little bit more. And maybe they we're getting a little bit too far advanced, but a lot of times you will maybe sound something out in your head before you say it. Even on this podcast conversation I've been thinking about different things and I'd love for even something to understand, not even the neurological symbols, just the physical symbols of me sounding things out in my mouth while it's closed.

Like I think that would be super cool, right, like you might be thinking about what you want to say, but you're not actually saying it, but you're probably like moving your tongue a little bit in your mouth or like having these micro facial expressions that actually would represent thoughts or ideas and just, I don't know, turn it into email transcribing or one of my our favorite new solutions. And how I can't even remember the name of the technology, but what it does is it lets you record video and lines up the audio with the visual, unless you use a text based editor to like delete and add certain phrases in. So it's like a combination of like deep fade in media attack and but this is it makes it a lot easier for you to have a single take every time you do a podcast recording or a demonstration video. And so there's all these other things where it's like, okay, Hey, I have to do this thing over and over again or I have to do it manually. Is there a way to solve that with technology that's available today? And I think a lot of times it's just not even necessarily creating new technology, it's just more about figuring out how to apply the existing technic. We have to what we're doing right, leveraging, figuring out how to leverage and use it. Yeah, I mean that's that's why we built flat file in the first place. Was We were like why is everybody keep building a data in porter over and over again? Why do people have to use V lookups all the time every time they're trying to get data and a pieces offtware if it's the same set of data, but it's just formatted the wrong way or the columns or ordered the wrong way. Why are we making humans do all that? Like machines should be able to figure that out. But, as you mentioned earlier, the machines have to understand the intent of the human for technology to be most effective, and I think if we always put the burden on the human to provide that intent to the machine, we won't necessarily go row as fast as we otherwise could. But if that machine is designed to understand that intent and learn more about that over time, that's when we can really start, as humans, doing the things that we are best at, which is building unique perspectives and understanding how emotions tie into, you know, successful operations and productize results and how different unrelated ideas connect with each other. And so that's I mean, that's really why we started our business in the first place. was like hey, let's, like humans, be more human and teach machines how to understand us just a little bit better. I really appreciate you taken the time they come on the podcast today. We're about at time here, but I do like to ask a final question of all my guests just to kind of pay it forward here a little bit. Was the best piece of advice that you've received from someone else on your journey towards becoming a customer success lay are? Yeah, you know what, the best piece of advice I received was not specifically related to customer success, as it was quite early in my career, but it definitely is relevant for customers success, and it was to never spell someone's name wrong. And I was told this by a senior executive when I was living in Switzerland working at day software, and when I was told that I was taken aback at why was she telling me something so obvious as spelling someone's name right? And when he started to unpack it, we discussed it. You know, we all identify with our names right and if somebody spells that name wrong, you instantly have a reaction to that and it informs how you might feel about that person. And then it also says something about the sender who might have got it wrong. Maybe they were just in a hurry, it was an accident, that's that's okay, that can be one over later. But they're maybe they didn't care, maybe they weren't mindful enough, you know. And so when you...

...looked at it. It really had an impact. It's said a lot more about how to really interact with customers when you're when you're working with them, and actually, to this day there's not one email I send out where I don't double check the name, even if it's as easy as spelling as Jack and jail. Just double check that, you know, autocorrect, etc. And I and there's something about that that has allowed me to maintain sort of this connection with with an individual a drill because of it. I love that so much that that is a great piece of advice and it resonates well with me right it's just like that little thing where it's like hey, yes, I want to make sure that this is someone who I'm respecting, is a human being, and one of the easiest and simplest ways to do that is the extra certain that I am appropriately addressing them in a way that they would respect and appreciate. So absolutely love that. Thank thank you so much for your time today again, y'all. That was key of boom. She's the CEO of desired path. I'm aeric crane. Really appreciate you'll joining us this week on customer success leader and I'll catch you again next week. You depend on the fastest time to value for your customers, so why let data on board and sell you down? Stop emailing spreadsheets, creating CSB templates or setting up FTP transfers. Create collaboratives 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 a 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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