Customer Success Leader
Customer Success Leader

Episode · 1 year ago

Stopping Churn Isn’t Your Only Job w/ Maranda Dziekonski


Stopping customer churn shouldn’t be a CS leader’s main concern. It should be a result of achieving more meaningful goals.


In this episode of Customer Success Leaders, Maranda Dziekonski, VP of CS & People Ops at Swiftly, joins Eric to discuss… 


- Why CS leaders should be leveraging relationships they’ve built


- How to be more than just a churn-stopper


- How CS leaders can act as internal advocates for customers


- Why advising has been so important to Maranda’s career


Resources mentioned:


- Catalyst’s Coaching Corner


- Customer Success Leadership Network Slack channel


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.

If you think about how do you make yourself indispensable to this customer you know, and then just documented out and do it. That's how you're going to grow the value make sure your customers achieving return on their investment, and not just achieving the return on their investment one time, but again and again and again. 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, y'all, are crane, CEO and Co founder flat file, here this week on customer success leader with Miranda de Konski, who's the vice president of customer success and people operations at swiftly. Hey Miranda, Hey Eric, thank you so much for having me today. Yeah, no problem. Where you calling in from? I am in the San Francisco Bay area, so probably about thirty miles or so outside of San Francisco. How is actually referring to the room of the house? Yeah, I am one of the fortunate ones. I have a dedicated Home Office space and I have for years. However, I occasionally call into podcast from my Sofa and from my dining room table. Both are equally lovely spots. So well, thank you for giving me the the Friday of your office. It looks absolutely great. I know our listeners can't see it, but tell me a little bit more about what's going on out there and know for me. I mean you've had everything from wildfires to crazy tech DCA boom. Like, what's the latest and greatest from the other side of the country here? Yeah, I mean, we're everything short of like locust to make it in a complete year. And we did have wildfires and where I'm at on my home we were probably like four or five miles from an evacuation zone, so it did got a little intense. I had to pack up a suitcase and put it by the door and be ready just in case. Thankfully, we're okay and everything, you know, turned out okay. But outside of that, you know, we're starting to cool down a little bit. We are going to have a hundred degree weather again this weekend, but we're kind of inching into the fall and you know, I think the bigger news, though, is definitely covid is so prevailing and you have like a lot of tech professionals that have been working remote here in San Francisco area since early March and we'll continue to do so some indefinitely. So that's a big ship. You know, San Francisco kind of looks like a ghost town in some regards compared to pre covid so I'm seeing folks in startups, you know, of all sizes, move remote, move their team's remote, change their you know, customer success strategies to accommodate for the new work environment and really excited to dig into that with you as well. It just to take us back tell us a little bit more about what you're doing a swiftly and how you found yourself leading customer success efforts there, and I mean as well as the people AP stuff too, which I'm sure is no easy to ask. Yeah, well, I've been doing some type of customer facing operations now for over...

...twenty years and I moved to the San Francisco Bay area going on ten years ago and join start up room and swiftly in general, how I landed here. I was actually recruited by the SPP over growth in sales. He saw me on Linkedin and reached out to me and the rest is history, so to say. And Funny Enough we kind of joke around about it at swiftly, but probably about thirty percent of the company was recruited by this man. So he is like the Linkedin Guru and we were company of about fifty five people now, so he's a big recruiter for the company in a big cheerleader. So but yeah, customer success and people ops and just swiftly in general. We work with public transit agencies. So we are in data and we're like the layer that kind of powers public transit. If you think about your analytics, like your real time passenger information. So if you're in a city where swiftly we power that particular transit agency and you're looking for a live VTA for your bus on Google or transit out, that Dato is most likely coming from swiftly. But we do things behind the scenes as well and you know, help with on time, performance analytics and things like that. Yeah, it's so fascinating to me. My brother is actually a transportation engineer with King County transit up in Seattle and used to work in San Francisco as well. So you actually knows about swiffully. I heard about it well before we got connected here. So tell me a little bit more about your customers, like how do you defind customer success for them? Yeah, so funny. I know King County transit very well. You know. They're definitely a region that we really want to work with. We do partner with sound and Pierce in that region. So we you know, I was just in Seattle in February visiting, you know, both sound and Pierce. So shout out to your brother in law. That's pretty cool. I did not know that. Yeah, so our customers, if you're thinking about it frorom a customer success standpoint, are be to be enterprise. They're about is be to be enterprise as you can get on the SPEC girl these transit agencies. You know, if you think about working with a tech company, they're usually at the forefront of everything and you know they utilize all these really cool tools and technologies. That's not usually the case at most transit agencies. So you know, swiftly, how we approach customer success, is very much so a partnership way. We are, you know, always thinking about what's going on in transit in general. How can we leverage the swiftly tool suite to help provide efficiencies with the transit agencies that, you know, help them do their jobs better. We really care about the riders and we believe, you know, wholeheartedly that was swiftly is doing is helping create a better experience for the writers just by, you know, having predictability and great information about when you can expect or anticipate...

...the arrival of your boss. Yeah, I mean, you're dealing with customers who ultimately have their own customers who are trying to create a great experience for so what kind of challenges that create in terms of understanding the health or satisfaction of any of your customers as they're using swiftly? So, in regards to the health and satisfaction of the the agencies, you know, a few things that we do, of course, is, you know, pre covid. We would visit, you know, once or twice the year, which is always helpful when you're working in an industry like transportation transit, because you want to go on site and you want to really understand how folks are using your product in their day to day everything from planning, scheduling, customer service operations. You want to see it in real time. You want to get to experience what they're going through and understand their data to challenges. So when you're thinking about your customer success plan, you can really orchestrate it to be more seamless across what they need, not what you think they need. But we do look at metrics as well. So there are things that we look at and regards to adoption and usage and NPS and CSAT and, of course, you know, renewals and expansion and all of that. So we do monitor just the core standard metrics that any other customers success as team would. I think what makes us a little different, though, is that partnership, that relationship. This is a very relationship driven industry, you know, more so than any that I've been a part of for a long time. If you rewind back to when I was in Michigan, I worked in automotive and chemicals, plastics and fuels, and that as well was incredibly relationship driven. You know, we had sales people that were out in the field building these relationships so they can understand the needs. It's very similar to that. I think that's because it's related to the fact that these groups are typically either government run or government sponsored, or is it related to some other factor outside of that. You know, that's a really good question. I think it's a mix of being a little bit more old school in just the daytoday operations and, yes, that it's government run. I think there are also if you think about where at the higher end of the BB enterprise spectrum, without going into the actual cost of swiftly, you know, agencies are spending a decent money with us and I think that there's a certain expectation from vendors when you hit a certain threshold in your revenue spend, that they're going to deliver certain things to you. I'm for you, with you, and I think that's kind of where we are. It's a little bit between. You know, we spend a certain amount of money with you. What are we going to get? Not just the software, which the software itself is amazing, but what beyond the software are we going to provide to these customers to make sure that they're successful? And it's part of that. It's the relationship component. Yeah, I love that perspective as well. Right. A lot of times, yeah, we forget that, like, Hey, you know, our customers oftentimes are trying to do the best possible job. That they can and they...

...only have the one example that they're working in right then, and we at the opportunity to see lots of different examples of the ways folks engage with our service, as well as just how they operate there at their businesses or agencies in general, and I think that's something that I could see US leader would be prescient to keep in mind. Is just they're they're always looking for better ways to do business. However, the actual adoption or implementation of those changes can change depending on the type of industry and the type of business too. Absolutely, and I think you know, another thing that customer success managers and leaders of customers success tould be thinking about right now more than ever, is how do you leverage learnings from across your entire portfolio and share them? How do you get your customers, especially the be to be enterprise world, especially in time of covid when everybody's looking at their bottom line and trying to figure out how am I going to pay for all the tools that I need, you really should be leveraging the relationships that you've built in, learning from how you know from your customers on how they're using your tool and taking those learnings and sharing them with your entire portfolio. Like spread the wealth, you know, crowdsource the information with your customers, get them talking to each other. It just makes the community that much stronger. Yeah, and that kind of alludes to a point we talked about during the pre interview as well, and I love this term use, which is like don't be a turn stopper. I cave will. Goal is to provide something beyond just making sure a customer doesn't leave, or rather giving them a reason to never even think about leaving and in fact, always want to stay in and record others into that community. So like. But think into that a little bit more. I want your perspective on other ways you can, you know, not be a turn stopper. Yeah, I think one of the you know, I think one of the biggest failures a company can do is hire customer success just to stop turn. That should be like way down the line. That should be like the result of all the work that the customer success team should be doing. You know, is a lower turn. If you hire a team to just stop turn, then the point of customer success is being missed. So customer success is way more than just churn stoppers. You know, if you're thinking, and once again I'm talking purely, be to be enterprised, but I think this is applicable across, you know, most software tools, most customer success teams. At the core, customer success managers should really own their portfolio. They should have their ear to the ground and understand, you know, what the needs are, what the goals are coming up. How can we solve those goals? How do we plug holes? How do we be strong partners for you? What's the trends that are going on in the industry that you should be aware of? Dear customer that we are privy to write. If you think about how do you make yourself indispensable to this customer, and you know and then just documented out and do it, that's how you're going to, you know, grow the value, make sure your customers achieving return on their investment and not just achieving the return on their investment one time, but again and again and again. Then the net result will be hopefully for...

...lower turn if you're doing it right. Stead of just coming in and trying to stop the turn, you come in and you build the core of what you're going to do to provide value, manage their relationship, grow the relationship and just make sure that everybody's on the same page with what the goal is and how you're marching along. And I'll just add one little point in there as well, and it goes beyond just thinking about your customers and what they need. You are essentially their internal advocate as well. So you have to think about once you understand and you learn all of this information, what are you doing with it? Is it sitting in a in your your brain not being shared actively with your org? If so, then you're failing as a customer success manager as well. It's not enough just to be a strong partner with your customer. You have to help the company evolved and learn from what you have learned and what you know as well. And you talked about it a little bit of about leveling up the team, especially in a time like right now where everyone's trying to do a bit more with less. So what are some of the practical ways that you've encouraged your team to share information, to kind of step above and beyond the boundaries of just thinking about churn? Yeah, so it was funny because of a few weeks ago, I started just feeling like things were broken right. Not Everything, but like a couple things just felt like this process just feels like it's not scaling well right, and I couldn't put my thumb out and I'm like, what's changed? What's changed? What's changed? Like this work perfectly fine, pretty covid. And then it was like a lightbulb went off. I'm like, oh well, we're remote now and we need to completely level up the entire team and get everybody looking at all the processes and figuring out what needs to evolve. So we did a brainstorm session on, you know, all the processes that feel a little conky. Are there any tools that aren't working in the way that you know they did maybe six months or a year ago, like do we need to really look at how we're using our tool suite and evaluate are they still working for us? And then, lastly, take a look at our team and our team structure and see if there's any gaps and skill sets. So when I'm talking about leveling up, I'm talking about just constantly looking at process, technology, stack and people and making sure that you're continuously iterating. It is best practice to do that even in any in any startup, but in you know, when you're a rapidly growing start up. Even if your facetoface, it's best practice is to do this quarterly or every six months. I think it's even more important when you've completely shifted the entire workforce of your company to a remote environment, because things that you probably put in place that worked really well when you were all sitting next to each other probably doesn't work as well now. Yeah, what got you here won't get you there dot dot dot, especially in the middle of a global pandemic. A hundred percent.

Hundred percent. So you're involved a lot in advisory work as well. So tell me a little bit more about how that's helped contribute to your perspective here and also, just for the other folks listening, what it's like to get involved in advisory? How do you end up doing that and what is it you know? Ultimately, what are you trying to provide to the business as you're working with? Yeah, so I've been very lucky over the years that a few companies have tapped me. Honestly, I cann't remember exactly how I've met some of them. I'm trying to wrap my brain, but first I'll just answer the question about how I got involved and I think it's being passionate about what I do and having some strong opinions about how what we shouldn't do, maybe not how you should do with it, but like what you shouldn't do. And also I'm a little bit of a tech nerd. So, you know, just believe it or not, silicon valley is really small. So if you help out one company, you know your name will kind of pop around a little bit and that's kind of how it I think it's evolved for me what I get out of it and how it provides me perspective. So one, I think mostly what I get out of it is just the luxury of being able to see multiple different business models and understanding that there is no one size fits all answer for anything, that there are multiple ways to achieve what you want to achieve. So I will and I think before I started doing this I was a little bit more you do step one, step two, step three, step four and then you get, you know, your cake right and now I you know, after being an advisor at some of these companies, it has just brought in my perspective on how you can shift things. Also, it's taught me how to deal with different personalities differently. There are very interestingly, you'll see CEOS that have very different CEO styles. You'll see CEOS have very different CEOS house. It's really helped me think through what kind of leader I want to be and, you know, and really invest in that and make sure I'm shifting my style for the needs of the situation and the needs of the team. It's just kind of a blessing to be able to have that kind of opportunity. Yeah, I mean I don't know how to tell people to, you know, find an advisory Opportunity, because I've been just fortunate enough to have people tap me and ask me if I'm interested in doing it and I've always, you know, if it's something I believe in, you know, I say yeah, I would be more than happy to so yes, I mean there's got to be reason why they're tapping you, right, and it's probably because they've seen how you work or someone else's total them about that they said, Oh, this is this might be a good person to speak with a bit more at least. I find that that's how these evolved for me from an adopt perspective. I'm also very operational person. So, you know, for example, I mentor folks on the side as well. I have a couple people that I formerly mentor and they'll come to me with a problem and you know, I'll hear...

...them out, will bring storm it out, but the odds are I probably have a spreadsheet somewhere with a framework already build out, ready to go, that you could take a plug and play and use right and it's the same when I'm doing advisory work. You know, if I'm working with a CEO who's struggling thinking through the core of operations, like I'm really more of like an early stage seed series, a kind of advisor, because they just haven't figured this stuff out. I probably have a framework, I probably have a template, I probably have things that will help you get rolling, and I think that's what people sometimes need just to kind of get the creative juice flowing, and I'm the person that usually has that can help provide them. What's one of our challenging questions that someone has come to us? If they should hire? I don't really care for the should I hire x or should I hire a? Why? You know, I don't want to take that burden off from their shoulders. They need to figure out their needs and what their their journey is to figure out if that's the right fit for their company. Right now, I can give my opinion based on the little limited information I know, but generally, if I only spend an hour a month with you or, you know, whatever the said amount of time is, I'm not the right person to tell you who you should hire. Those are the kind of questions that I'm kind of like. I prefer you think through your long term vision and see where you need to plug this person in. So, if someone is a budding customer success leader, how do they get a mentor like you? Well, that's a really good question and catalyst customer success software just did a whole catalyst corner mentorship program it's the first I've ever seen like that where folks that are seeking mentorship can go and sign up. It's pretty cool. But also, you know, you can just reach out to customer success leaders and ask them if they have you know, if they would be willing to mentor you. Of course, just know that. You know folks are busy and if somebody says they can't, don't. Don't be dissuaded from reaching out to others. But you know, Linkedin is a powerful tool reaching out on linkedin and saying hey, I'm looking for a mentor do you have anyone you would propose? As a great way. I also run a customer success leader. I'm part of the customer success leadership network and I help run the slack group. So we have this this slack group that you can find a place to sign up from on my linkedin and we have people of all levels in there, you know, from executive down to aspiring, that are constantly talking to each other and there's even a aspiring csms like channel in here where folks that want to be and see us ask questions of see US leaders and you know, how do I approach this and how do I get the interview and you know, and stuff like that. There's no clear cut place to go, but those are a few options that you could potentially check out. Thanks for that and I'll make sure to post those in the show notes here as well once this goes live. So we're getting kind of on time here and I like to ask a final question related to advice you've gotten from others, which is what is the best piece of advice related to customer success that you've received from someone else? Yeah, that's a really good question.

So the best advice that I've received from someone out in regards to customers success, I think, probably came years and years ago and I first started thinking about, you know, my career and customer success and where I wanted it to go. Is the customer experience that your customers get may not be the experience you think you're giving. So really put your customers had on and be a customer, be your customer, use your product, understand the pitfalls, understand the overall customer experience in that will make you infinitely a better customer success manager. It's hard to be customer success manager for a product that you don't believe in, that you don't understand, that you don't know how to use and that you don't know where the downfalls are or where the shortcomings are. I love it, and that was a CSM that one of my favorite things was always just sitting with the customers side by side, like working with them at their job, to understand what it is that we need to help you do best and that allay that that empathy is something that just can't be replicated any other way other than curiosity about what that problem is and how you can help them a hundred percent. Well, thank you so much, Miranda again. That's Miranda de Konski, the vice president of customer success, as swiftly sure you can find her on Linkedin, although you'll probably want to copy and paste her last name to fell it correctly, because I did that wrong at first. Thank you so much for Randa, for your time today. Stay safe out there and really appreciate you joining us on customer success later this week. Thank you so much, Eric, for having me. I really appreciate it. All right, y'all, thank you for listening to us. For access later. This is their crane from flat file. Have a go on. 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 CSP 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 C S 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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