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 forthem. Want to create delightful customer experiences, you're in the right place. Welcometo customer success leader, where you'll learn about the successes and struggles ofleaders who are passionate about their craft. Trust me, you want to stickaround. Here's your host, Eric Crane. Hey, Yo, welcome to thisweek's episode of Customer Success Leader. I'm Eric Crane, the CEO andCo founder of flat file. Today I've got kiapoom is, the CEO ofdesired path, on the show with me. Hey, Kia, how you didto day? Good, Eric, how are you doing today? Ican't complain too much. Where you calling in from? I am calling infrom Toronto, sor. Are you blue Jays Fan by chance? I am. I can't say as I'm a die hard, full on Fan, butI am a definitely specially who they're doing well, a fair weather fan forsure. Nice. I'm a big baseball person. I also like hockey alittle 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 willingto share your experience here on the the episode here with us. Excited tolearn more about you and your background. So how did you get to startin 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. SoI've been in software my entire career and have had the opportunity to work atcompanies of various sizes and been able to either build, create, lead andmanage 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 reallyget a lot of experience in that customer success space early on, before theterm customer success in the practice even existed. So I've been around for a whileand 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, CrosCCOS to help them create this customer centric aligned model to be able to generaterevenue 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 becauseI'm sure, I mean even for me, it's evolved over time. Like howdo you define customer success? Yeah, so I take a very literal viewon customer success. I literally view it as the success of your customersand then, by extension, this success of your own company when your customersare successful. I also believe that customer success needs to be a mindset acrossan entire organization. It's sometimes too easy for companies to or rolls within companiesthat are not within the function of customers success to feel that they're not responsiblefor it. But actually your customers experience is an aggregate some of all theeither indirect or direct interactions that they have with your brand, and so everyrule 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 maybethe 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 therelation to the experiences and successes I've had in my career, and I findthat I've gained a lot of insights not only but my successes, but butbut from the failures. But I can summarize twenty five year career into twoa Hammaments, and that's one. Thinking from the customers perspective. Literally walkingin their shoes is the best way to understand a customer and holistically, sothat you're able to meet them where they need to be met in order toachieve their objectives and to I view the customer journey map as the best wayto align and organization holistically to support customer centricity and support that customer to asuccess 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. Customersexpectations are increasing exponentially our products and services that we deliver are changing, themarkets are changing and, of course, you know today, especially in theenvironment that we're in, just generally, the environment is changing. So thatputs the significant pressure on business, businesses to be able to support customers andat how do you do that scale and repeatabuilt in a repeatable manner? Andso thinking from a customers perspective and using that customer journey or that desired pathto success as the means by which you can continually observe and gain insights foryour 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 tomeet your customers. Yeah, and there's sort of like an opposite of thattoo. It's you. I think we were touching out a little bit beforethe show, right. You want to share a little bit more about that? Yeah, absolutely. So I find that often we are operating our customersuccess practices in random acts of customer success. You know, the the market isstill growing and evolving and companies are looking for best practices and what theyshould do to execute customer success properly, and so what's happening is that youknow 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 ahundred and twenty day renewal or execute the renewal. When we execute all thesethings without the context, that holistic context, of the customer, we are executingacts at our customer, not for them, and so there's this disconnectbetween what our customers need to be successful and the activities that were executing atthem in order to do that. And there could be this false sense ofsecurity that if we have a certain number of meetings with customers, that equalsrenewals and it and it doesn't right. We need to make sure that we'remindful of what is it that our customers are trying to achieve as outcomes andthen help them achieve those outcomes. So there might be customers that don't needany interaction with us. They need us to just feed us, feed theminformation on how the product works and they're going to run like the Dickens toto go and and leverage that that platform to get their success and they willbe very happy if we do that in...

...a in a relevant and timely mannerthat meets their needs of when they need that information. And then there mightbe other customers that that really need a lot more help. They might needsubject matter expertise, they might be new to technology, they they might havesignificant change within their organization, and so we need to understand the bigger contextof customers so that we can actually help them achieve what it is that they'retrying to achieve. We need to be intelligent about how we are aligning ourselvesto the customer so that we are providing value add and driving outcomes, notjust executing random acts of success at them. So sometimes you don't even know youhave a problem until you can kind of step outside and recognize and saylike 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 actsof customer success is opposed to that more holistic view? Yeah, that's agreat 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 toprovide information internally to their stakeholders or what their objectives are and and what theirtimelines to meet them. If you don't have that insight, you are likelythen running random acts of customer success. Another good indication is if customers aresaying 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 havethem 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 thatinteraction and that customer doesn't have time for that because they need to get theirtheir work done and achieve their goals, and so they're going to push youback because of that. So it sounds like there's this ideal state where youare, like, to use a term that I heard of one of theother 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 Nirvanastate of customers success. But it can also be pretty high effort to sowhat are the ways in which you find folks able to scale themselves to accommodatebeing an intimate part of many relationships with many customers. So and something I'mquite passionate about in in in doing and why I created the intelligent framework thatI use to help companies. So this this customer centric model. We donot have enough time in the day. Our customers do not have enough timein the day, and so the ability to have strong relationships with customers andspend all the time needed to ensure that you're driving that success is not alwayspossible, especially when we start scaling and we have more and more customers todeal with. So what we need to do is we need to really understandwhat are the patterns of our most successful customers use those insights and learnings tofigure out how can we replicate this, to create a very prescriptive and proactivejourney that allows our customers to achieve their success in a way that they don'teven realize we're leading them on, that it just feels seamless and intuitive forthem 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 thatwere resolving those for them before they issues even arise, so that that they'rethey're successful. And then what happens is we're able to start codifying that intoautomated tools and assets that allow us to scale. So we could start tocreate videos or we could start to create nurture campaigns that allow us to movecustomers along that way. And the intimacy..., of course, one onone. Human Interaction is the best way to build that. But if youare meeting customers where they need, if you know what your customers need andyou are providing them with that information or those assets or tools or that servicealong the journey when they need it, that customer is going to feel likeyou understand them, like you get them, and they are going to be thatrelationship is going to be stronger. And we all know this from ourexperience with brands that we like. We're companies. Just just get it thatit's resonated. They understand us and we buy from them because we feel likethey understand us. And that means that we didn't necessarily have a onelarm relationshipwith them, but we trusted them to be able to do that. Sonot to give away too much free business, because I know this is what youdo for a living. But let's just say we were having conversation andyou're saying, Eric, y'all have way too many random acts of customer successgoing on over there. Flat file. Let's get things started, let's cleanthis up and let's make sure you're supporting your customer as well. Where aresome of the first practical steps that you take with organizations you work with tohelp them kind of design what that ultimate, you know, journey map and frameworkwould look like? If you go on to my blog, the desiredpathcom, you'll see that the very first articles that I wrote about when Istarted the company was all about journey mapping to the point where people were talkingabout journey mapping in customer success, but it was still more of a marketinguse and an asset. And you know, as beating this drum beat about aboutmapping out the customer journey, and it's now started to resonate, peoplewill go out and and map out that journey. Is Part of building upa proper CS organization and structure. What that enables you to do when youmap out that journey is, like I said before, is start to walkin the shoes of the customer. We're not mapping just interactions or our owninternal process and methodologies of what we believe a customers should follow. We aremapping what the customers entire holistic experiences so that we can understand them and wecan start to figure out how do we now align activities to support that customeralong 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 willthey do with customers? We need to go upside down. We need togo backwards a customer centric approach and look at the customer journey first and thenwhat 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 andand when I've done this, I have an inevitably with all the clientsthat I work with, have discovered or uncovered areas that they weren't even addressingthat then they started to add into their customer success engagement model which significantly impactedretention and revenue. So what's an example of one of those types of blockersyou've seen before. Yeah, so one of the companies that I work withwas a very large software company that provided software and actually big hardware to hospitalsand we started the process of journey mapping and mapped out what that map wouldlook like and inevitably it was more of an internal process. When we startedto dig in what was the reason for retention problems? We started to lookat the fact that there were unused licenses and of coursecome renewal time. It'svery difficult to sell the value of unused licenses. And when we dug indeeper, what that why that reason was?...

It was you cannot pull everybody outof it a hospital emergency room to do software training. Now, thisis something. Scheduling or providing best practices on how to Schedule Hospital employees forsoftware training is nothing that my client thought they needed to do because it hadnothing to do with the software or and who were they to tell the HRorganizations that hospitals how to go about scheduling employees? But it had everything todo 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 actuallyin the best position because they were working with all the clients that were atall these hospitals. They actually knew what was actually working. So that's justan example of where, when you look at it from a holistic perspective andwalk in the customers shoes what saw their challenges might be, it might startto open up past two different activities you never thought about that could be hinderingyour customers. You know, seamless journey. Yeah, it's also an example ofturning an area of what was previously weakness and turn it into an areaof strength. Right like that example is perfect. Hey, we actually workwith a lot of folks like you and we can provide you some great insightsinto how best to do this, because then it sets you up is sortof like a trusted confidant of the customer as well, not even just someonewho's delivering them value through software. Yeah, that's exactly right. So, justto switch gears a little bit, I've got to ask, because I'mfounder of a software company, what type of technology do you like to useand 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 figuredthat out for you, and I actually believe that. You know, wedon't buy or use technology because we want to buy and use technology. Webuy technology because we want to leverage it for some sort of outcome or usethe technology and leverage it to achieve outcomes. And so what I find is thatwhen technology fails, it's because we might not be clear about what ourdesired objectives are or how we want and then we don't know how to goabout leverage in the technology. And so I think part of what customer successneeds to do an end. Often can miss the mark on this when theyfocus just on the technology aspect, is we need to understand what is itthat client is trying to achieve and then be able to figure out how theybest 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 hadterm for that at a previous roll. was called a picnic. It's aproblem in chair, not in computer, right like. Well, so,regardless, what do you feel like you're doing manually today that you feel likemachine 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 whyI 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 isactually understanding what I'm thinking a little bit more. And maybe they we're gettinga little bit too far advanced, but a lot of times you will maybesound something out in your head before you say it. Even on this podcastconversation 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 thingsout in my mouth while it's closed.

Like I think that would be supercool, 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 tonguea little bit in your mouth or like having these micro facial expressions that actuallywould represent thoughts or ideas and just, I don't know, turn it intoemail transcribing or one of my our favorite new solutions. And how I can'teven remember the name of the technology, but what it does is it letsyou record video and lines up the audio with the visual, unless you usea text based editor to like delete and add certain phrases in. So it'slike a combination of like deep fade in media attack and but this is itmakes it a lot easier for you to have a single take every time youdo a podcast recording or a demonstration video. And so there's all these other thingswhere it's like, okay, Hey, I have to do this thing overand over again or I have to do it manually. Is there away to solve that with technology that's available today? And I think a lotof times it's just not even necessarily creating new technology, it's just more aboutfiguring 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. WasWe were like why is everybody keep building a data in porter over and overagain? Why do people have to use V lookups all the time every timethey're trying to get data and a pieces offtware if it's the same set ofdata, but it's just formatted the wrong way or the columns or ordered thewrong way. Why are we making humans do all that? Like machines shouldbe able to figure that out. But, as you mentioned earlier, the machineshave 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 providethat intent to the machine, we won't necessarily go row as fast as weotherwise could. But if that machine is designed to understand that intent and learnmore 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 perspectivesand understanding how emotions tie into, you know, successful operations and productize resultsand 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 likehey, let's, like humans, be more human and teach machines how tounderstand us just a little bit better. I really appreciate you taken the timethey come on the podcast today. We're about at time here, but Ido like to ask a final question of all my guests just to kind ofpay it forward here a little bit. Was the best piece of advice thatyou'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 wasnot 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 neverspell someone's name wrong. And I was told this by a senior executive whenI was living in Switzerland working at day software, and when I was toldthat I was taken aback at why was she telling me something so obvious asspelling someone's name right? And when he started to unpack it, we discussedit. You know, we all identify with our names right and if somebodyspells that name wrong, you instantly have a reaction to that and it informshow you might feel about that person. And then it also says something aboutthe 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 oneover 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 hadan impact. It's said a lot more about how to really interact with customerswhen you're when you're working with them, and actually, to this day there'snot one email I send out where I don't double check the name, evenif 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 thatthat has allowed me to maintain sort of this connection with with an individual adrill because of it. I love that so much that that is a greatpiece of advice and it resonates well with me right it's just like that littlething where it's like hey, yes, I want to make sure that thisis someone who I'm respecting, is a human being, and one of theeasiest and simplest ways to do that is the extra certain that I am appropriatelyaddressing them in a way that they would respect and appreciate. So absolutely lovethat. 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 aericcrane. Really appreciate you'll joining us this week on customer success leader and I'llcatch you again next week. You depend on the fastest time to value foryour customers, so why let data on board and sell you down? Stopemailing spreadsheets, creating CSB templates or setting up FTP transfers. Create collaboratives secureworkspaces with your customers and their data, saving you time while providing a memorableonboarding experience. Oh and there's no code required. You can go to flatfile DOT IO CS leader to learn more and get started for free. Thankyou so much for joining us for this episode. Customer Success leader is broughtto you by flat file. If you're a fan of the show and wantto 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'sit for today. Catch you in the next one.

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