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 makeyourself indispensable to this customer- and you know- and then just document itout, and do it that's how you're going to grow the value make sure yourcustomers achieving weturn on their investment and not just achieving thereturn on their investment one time but again and again and again want to create delightful customerexperiences. You are in the right place, welcome to customer success leaderwhere you'll learn about the successes and struggles of leaders who arepassionate, outter craft trust me. You want to stick around here's your host,Eric Cran Heyo, Eric Crane Seo and cofounder flatfile here this week on customer success, leader with Miranda Dikonski who's, thevice president of customer success in people operations at swiftly, Hey,MRANDA, Hey Eric! Thank you so much for hapving me today. Yeah no problem.Where are you calling in from? I am in the San Francisco Bay area, soprobablyabout thirty miles or so outside of San Francisco? I was actually referring tothe room of the house yeah. I am one of the fortunate ones. Ihave a dedicated Home Office pace and I have for years. However, I occasionallycall into podcast from my Sofa and from my dining room table. Both are equallylovely spots o well, thank you for giving me the the prain of your office.It looks absolutely great. I know. Heur listeners can't see it, but tell me alittle bit more about what's going on out there in California, I mean you'vehad everything from wildfires to crazy tech. Vcpom like what's the latest indgreatest from the other side of the country. Here yeah, I mean we'reeverything short of like locust to make itit a complete year and we did havewildfires and where I'm at on my home, we were probably like four or fivemiles from an evacuation, so so it got a little intense. I had to pack up asuitcase and put it by the door and be ready just in case, thankfully we'reokay and everything you know turned out. Okay, but outside of that, you knowwe're starting to cool down a little bit and we are going to have a hundreddegree weather again this weekend, but we're kind of ancient into the fall,and you know I think the bigger news, though, is definitely covid is sopevailing, and you have like a lot of tech professionals that have beenworking. Our note here in San Francisco area since early March and we'llcontinue to do so some indefinitely. So that's a big shit. Yiu Know SanFrancisco kind of looks like a Gosstown in some reguards compared to pre covid.So I'm seeing folks in startups, you know of all sizes, move ermote movetheir teams, remote change their. You know, customer success strategies toaccommodate for the new work envirement and really excited to dig into thatwith you as well, but just to take us back tell us a little bit more aboutwhat you're doing it swiftly and how you found yourself leading cussomersuccess efforts there, as I mean as well as the people OPF stuff, to whichI'm sure is no easy task. Yeah. Well,...

I've been doing some type of customerfacing operations now for Oh over twenty years, and I moved to the SanFrancisco Bay area going on ten years ago, enjoying startup room and swiftlyin general, how I landed here. I was actually recruited by the SBP overgrowth in sales. He saw me Ot, linkdon and reached out to me and the rest ishistory so to say and funny enough. We kind of joke around about it. Itswiftly, but probably about thirty percent of the company was recruited bythis man. So he is like the Linkon Guru and we were company of about fifty fivepeople now so he's a big recruiter for the company in a big cheerleader, sothat yeah customer success, an people opps and just swiftly in general, wework with public transit agencies, so we are in data and we're like the layerthat kind of powers- public transit- If you think about your analytics likeyour real time, passenger information. So if youwere in a city where swiftly,we power that particular Transat Agency and you're looking for a live ETA foryour bus on Google or Transinat, that data 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 kin county transit up inSeattle and used to work in San Francisco as well. So he actually knowsabout hofully. I heard about it well before we got connected here. So tellme a little bit more about your customers like how do you definecustomer success for them yeah so hun? I know King County transit very well.You know they are definitely a region that we really want to work with. We dopartner with sound and Pierce in that region, so we you know I was just inSeattle, ind February visiting you know both sound anperse, so shout out toyour brother Inlaw, that's pretty cool! I did not know that yeah. So ourcustomers, if you're thinking about it from a customer success, Tamplay ar BTabate enterprise thereabout, is be a be enterprise, as you can get on thespectrum, these transit agencies. You know, if you think, about working witha tent company, they're, usually at the forefront of everything- and you knowthey utilize all these really cool tools and technologies. That's notusually the case at most transit agencies, so you know swiftly how weapproach 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 weleverage the swiftly tool sweet to help provide efficiencies with the transitagencies? T you know help them do their jobs better. We really care about thewriters, and we believe you know wholeheartedly that what swiftly isdoing is helping create a better experience for the writers just bite.You know having predictability and great information about when you canexpect or anticipate the arrival of...

...your boss Yeah. So I mean you'redealing with customers who ultimately have their own customers who are tryingto create a great experience for so what kind of challenges oes that createin terms of understanding the health or satisfaction of any of your customersas they're using swiftly. So in regards to the health and satisfaction of t e,the agencies, you know a few things that we do, of course is you knowprecovid, we would visit. You know once or twice the year, which is alwayshelpful 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 areusing your product in their dayto day, everything from planning t scheduling,customer service operations. You want to see it in real time. You want to getto experience what they're going through and understand their day to dochallenges. So, when you're thinking about your customer success plan, youcan really orchestrate it to be more seemless across what they need, notwhat you think they need, but we do look at metrics as well. So there arethings that we look at in regards to adoption and osage and PS, and s satand, of course you know, renewals and expansion, and all of that, so we domonitor it', just the core standard metrics that any other customer successteam would. I think, what makes us a little different, though, is thatpartnership 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 torewind back to when I was in Michigan, I worked in automotive and chemicalsplastics and fuels and that as well was incredibly relationship driven. Youknow we had sales people. Thar were out in the field building theserelationships, so they could understand the needs it's very similar to thatoute. That's because it's related to the fact that these groups aretypically either government run or government sponsored or is it relatedto some other factor outside of that you know. That's a really good question.I think it's a mix of it being a little bit more old school in just the day today operations and, yes, that it's government run. I think there are also,if you think, about we're at the higher end of the BTB enterprise spectrumwithout going into the actual cost of swiftly. You know agencies are spendinga decent money with us and I think that there's a certain expectation fromvendors when you hit a certain threshold in your revenue, spend thatthey're going to deliver certain things to you, I'm for you with you and Ithink, that's kind of where we are it's a little bit between you know. We spenda certain amount of money with you. What are we going to get? Not just thesoftware which the software itself is amazing, but what, beyond the software?Are we going to provide to these customers to make sure that they'resuccessful? And it's part of that? It's h therelationship component yeah? I love that perspective as well right a lot oftimes. You know we forget that, like hey, you know our customers often timethis are trying to do the best possible...

...job that they can, and they only havethe one example that they're working in right then, and we get the opportunityto see lots of different examples of the ways folks engage with our service,as well as just how they operate their businesses or agencies in general, andI think that's something that could CS leader would be presshingin to keep inmind is just therethey're, always looking for better ways to do businesshever, the actual adoption or implementation of those changes canchange 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 customer success should be thinking about rait,now more than ever is how do you leverage learnings from thecross yourentire portfolio and share them? How do you get your custoers, especially thebe to be enterprise world, especially in time of covid, when everybody'slooking at their bottom line and trying to figure out how M I' going to pay forall the tools that I nade? You really should be leveraging the relationshipsthat you've built in learning from how you know from your customers, on howthey're, using your tool and taking those learnings and sharing them withyour entire potfalio like spread the LELP, you know crowd source theinformation with your customers get them talking to each other. It justmakes the community that much stronger yeah that coild of allude to a pointthat we talked about during the pre interview as well, and I love this termyeas, which is like, don't be a turn stopper Anica O goal is to providesomething beyond just making sure customer doesn't leave rather givingthem a reason to never even think about leaving it, in fact always want toStayn and recreat others into that community. So like, let's think intothat, a little bit more once your perspective on other ways, you can, youknow not be a turn stoffer yeah, I think one of the you know I think oneof the biggest failures a company can do is higrhe customer success, just Thosnop turn that should be like way down the line. That should be like theresult of all the work that the customer success team should be doing.You know is a lower churn if you hire a team to just doctor than the point ofcustomer. Success is being missed, so customer success is way more than justcurn stoppers. You know if you're thinking and once again, I'm talkingpurely be to be enterprised, but I think this is applicable acrost. Youknow most software tools, most customer success teams at the core customersuccess managers should really own their portfolio. They should have theirear to the ground and understand you know what the needs are, what the goalsare coming up. How can we solve those goals? How do we plug holes? How do webe strong partners for you? What's the trends that are going on in theindustry that you should be aware of dear customer that we are privy toright, if you think about how do you make yourself indispensable to thiscustomer and you know, and then just document it out and do it that's howyou're going to you know grow the value, make sure your customers achieving. WeTurn Oun their investment and not just achieving the return on theirinvestment one time but again and again...

...and again, then the net result will behopefully lower turn if you're doing it right, instead of just coming in andtrying to stop the turn you come in and you build the core of what you're goingto do to provide value, manage the relationship, grow, H, relationship andjust make sure that everybody's on the same page with what the goal is and howyou're murching, along and I'll just ade one little point in there as well,and it goes beyond just thinking about your customers and what they need. Youare essentially their internal advocant as well. So you have to think aboutonce you understand, and you learn all of this information. What are you doingwith it? Is it sitting in in your brain had not being shared actively with yourorg? If so, then your feeling is a customer success manager as well. It'snot enough just to be a strong partner with your customer. You have to helpthe company evolve and learn from what you have learned and what you know aswell, and you talked about it a little bit at Bhout leveling up the team,especially in a time life right now, where everyone's trying to do a bitmore with less. So what are some of the practical ways that you've encouragedyour team to share information to kind of step, above and beyond theboundaries of just thinking about Cherm Yeah? So he was funny because, a fewweeks ago I started just feeling, like things were, broken right, noteverything but like a couple, things just felt like this process just feelslike it's not scaling well right- and I could have put my thumb out in likewhat's changed. What's changed, what's changed like this? Were perfectly fine,free Covid, and then it was like a light bub one off and like oh well,we're remote now, and we need to completely level up the entire team andget everybody looking at all the processes and figuring out what needsto evolve. So we did a brain sporum session on. You know all the processesthat feel a little cunky. Are there any tools that aren't working in the waythat you know they did maybe six months or a year ago like do? We need toreally look at how we're using our tool, swet and evaluate ore? They stillworking for us and then lastly, take a look at our team in our team structureand see if there's any gaps and skill sets. So when I'm talking aboutleveling up, I'm talking about just constantly looking at processtechnology 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 you're face to face it's bestpractices to do this quarterly or ever six months. I think it's even moreimportant when you've completely shifted the entire workforce of yourcompany to a remote environment, because things that you probably put inplace that worked really well when you were all sitting next to each other,probably doesn't work as well. Now, yeah, we got you here on get you theregot that dot, especially in the middle of a global pandemic hundred percenthundred percent. So you're involved a...

...lot in advisor. You work as well, sotell me a little bit more about how that's helpe contribute to yourperspective here and also just for the other folks listening what it's like toget involved in advisory. How do you end up doing that and what is it youknow? Ultimately, what are you trying to provide to the businesses you'reworking with yeah, so I've been very lucky over the years that a fewcompanies have tapped me honestly, I can't remember exactly how I've metsome of them. I'm trying to wrap my brain, but first I'll just answer thequestion about how I got involved and I think it's beingpassionate about what I do and having some strong opinions about how what weshouldn't do, maybe not how we should do with it, but like what you shouldn'tdo and also I'm a little bit of a tech nerd. So you know just believe it ornot. Silocom valley is really small. So if you help out one company, you knowyour name will kind of pop around a little bit and that's kind of how Ithink it's involved for me what I get out of it and how it provides meperspective. So one I think mostly what I get out of it is just the luxury ofbeing able to see multiple different business models and understanding thatthere is no one size fits all answer for anything that there are multipleways to achieve what you want to achieve. So I will- and I think beforeI started doing this- I was a little bit more. You do step one step to stothree step for and then you get, you know your cake right and now I you knowasthere being an advisor at some of these companies. It has just broadenedmy perspective and how you can shit things Walso. It taught me how to dealwith different personalities differently. There are veryinterestingly you'll see CEOS that have very different. CEO Styles, you'll ceecoos have very different co sels. It's really helped me think through whatkind of leader I want to be, and you know in really invest in that and makesure I'm shifting my style for the needs of the situation and the needs ofthe team. It's just kind of a blessing to be able to have that kind ofopportunity. Yeah I mean I don't know how to tell people to you know, find anadvisory Opportunity, because I've been just fortunate enough to have peopletap me and ask me if I'm interested in doing it and I've always you know ifit's something I believe in you know I say yeah I would be more than happy toso yeah, so I mean thet's got to be reason why they're tapfing you rightand it's probably because they see now you work or someone else has told themabout that, and they said Oh this. This might be a good person to speak with abit, or at least I find that that's how these evolved. For me from an Anoperspective, I'm also very operational person, so you know, for example, Imentor folks on the side as well. I have a couple people that I formallymentor and they'll come to me with a...

...problem, and you know I'll hear him outwe'll bring storm it out, but the odds are, I probably have a spreadsheetsomewhere with a framework already built out ready to go that you couldtake at plug and play and use right, and it's the same of when I'm doingadvisory work. You know if I'm working with a CEO who's, struggling thinkingthrough the Corpe of operations, like I'm really more of like an early stage,seed series, a kind of adviser because they just haven't figured this stuffout. I'd, probably have a framework. I'd probably have a template. Iprobably have things that will help you get rolling and I think that's whatpeople sometimes need just to kind of get the creative juicees flowing andI'm the person that usually has that can help provide them. What's one of ththore challenging questions that someone has come to you a if theyshould hire, I don't really care for the. Should I hire x or should I hire awife? 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 figureout. If that's the right fit for their company right now, I can give myopinion, based on the little limited information I know, but generally, if Ionly spend an hour a month with you or you know, whatever the said amount oftime, is I'm not the right person to tell you who you should hire? Those arethe kind of questions than I'm kind of like. I prefer you think, through yourlong term vision and see where you need to plug this person in. So, if someone is a budding customersuccess leader, how do they get a mentor like you? Well, that's a reallygood question and catalyst customer success. oftware just did a wholecatalys corner mentorship program. It's the first ive ever seen like that,where folks that are seeking mentorship can go and sign up, it's pretty cool.Now also, you know you can just reach out to customer success leaders and askthem Af. They have you know if they would be willing to mentor. You ofcourse, just know that you know folks are busy and if somebody says theycan't don't don't be dissuaded from reaching out to others. But you know:Linkddon is a powerful tool reaching out on linkdon and saying: Hey, I'mlooking for a Mentor D. do you have anyone? You would propose it's a greatway. I also run a customer success leader. I'm part of the crustor successleadership network and I help run the SLAT group. So we have this. This slatrobe that you can find a place to sign up from O my linkdon and we have peopleof all levels in there know from executive down to aspiring that areconstantly talking to each other and there's even a aspiring, csms likechannel in here where folks that want to be NCS, ask questions of CS leaders,and you know how do I approach this and how do I get the interview and you knowand stuff like that, there's no clear cut place to go, but those are fewoptions that you could potentially check out. Think for that and ill be,should HAV post those in the show notes here as well once this goes live sowe're getting kind of on time. YEARE and I like to ask a final questionrelated to advice, he've gotten from others, which is what is the best pieceof advice to related to customer...

...success that you've received fromsomeone else. Yeah. That's a really good question. So the best advice thatI've received from someone else in regards to customer success. I thinkprobably came years and years ago when I first started thinking about you knowmy career and customer success and where I wanted it to go, is thecustomer experience that your customers get may not be the experience you thinkyou're, giving so really put your customers hat on and be a customer? BeYour customer use your product, understand the pitfalls, understand theoverall custumer experience and that'll make you infinitely a better festumarsuccess manager, it's hard to be customer success manager for a productthat you don't believe in that you don't understand that you don't knowhow to use and that you don't know h where the downfalls are over the shortcoming time. I love it an that was a CSMO oth of my favorite. Things wasalways just sitting with the customer side by side like working with them attheir job to understand what it is that we need to help you do best and that Althat that empathy is something that just can't be replicated any other wayother than curiosity about what that problem is and how you can help them ahundred percent. Well, thank you! So much foranda again, that's MarendaDikonsky, the vice president of customer success. It's swiftly Ta! Youcan find her on Lik Din, although you'll probably want to copy and pasteher last tand. To spell it correctly, because I did that wrong at first.Thank you. So much foranda for your time today stay safe out there andreally appreciate you joined us on customer success later this week. Thankyou so much aric for having me, I really appreciate it. Aright Chell,thank you for listening to Gusford cus later this is their crane from flatfile, have a good one. You depend on the fastest time to valuefor your customers. So why let data 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 flat file, dot, IO, Lash, CSleader to learn more and 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 Appe podcast, just tap tha number of stars.You think the show deserves. That's it for today catch you in the next one.

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