Customer Success Leader
Customer Success Leader

Episode · 10 months ago

Success Teams Align with the Customer, Not Sales w/ Richard Myers


A successful customer success team always aligns with the customer — even over the business.

But you can marry customer success to business outcomes.

You just need to start with the right mission and values.

In this episode of Customer Success Leader, Eric sits down with Richard Myers, Vice President of Customer Support & Customer Success at Linode, to discuss what customer success success really looks like — and how to achieve it.

They cover:

- Why success teams are a function of support, not sales

- How to align with your customer and your business goals

- Why you should be your customer’s first choice — not their only choice

For more info, check out or send a message to To hear other interviews like this one, subscribe to Customer Success Leader on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

With a customer success team, yourintent is to make them successful. Sometimes that is not aligned withwhere the company is going or what the company is doing and the solutions thatyou have to provide aren't in the best interest of your company, but they arein the best interest of the customer, want to create delightful customerexperiences. You are in the right place. Welcome to customer successleager,where you'll learn about the successes and struggles of leaders who arepassionate about their craft. Trust me. You want to stick around here's yourhost, Eric Crane, Hey y, welcome back good morningevening middle of the night lunchtime. Whenever you are listening thanks forjoining us on customer success leader this week, I'm Eric Crane, COO andcofounder a flat file, and I'm here today with Rick Myers who's, the vicepresident of customer support and customer success at Lenoud, Hey Rick,how you doing her thanks for having me I'm doing well. Yeah no problem so wantto talk about what the phillies need to do. Next season, tost try to get backin contention, National League East. I would love to talk about that, but Idon't think there's an answer. That's probably the right one there I wouldsay for sure sorry to Revyou on that right when we get started here, but Ijust had to bring it up here on the podcast. You know my braves also jokedin the playoffs, so it's not like. I got a much on you here. anyways atswell deserved. Well, thank you for joining us. We're not here to talkbaseball were to talk customer success and I love to just kick things off byasking like how do you define customer success? Sure I think that customersuccess is really cool because the name kind of gives it away. It literally, iswhatever you do in your organization to help your customers become successfuland it's super easy to draw that line between customers becoming successfuland spending more on your platform, and it's really not not more complicatedthan that ever you do things to align the goals of your customers with thegoals of your company. They find success and you find success in theirsuccess and it makes for a Pon tongue. Twister with how many times you get tosay success in a day, but yeah doing everything in your power to make yourcustomer successful, yeah and you've kind of sort of ridden the wave ofcustomer success. I would say, because this wasn't really much of a a formalconcept, even just about ten years ago. So tell me a little bit about how yougot into success and sort of the structure and how you're leading yourteam today sure. So, when I started at Lenod, I had never even heard ofcustomer success. We didn't have a customer success team. We were alsoquite small at the time, so we didn't have a lot of teams. We were a start upback then. Obviously, in time we saw a need for it with sales and marketingdepartments growing and that concept of customer success kind of landed with usat some point three or four years ago, which is when we figured that it wouldbe once we read into it and figured out sort of what it was and how it wasbeing used elsewhere, that it would be a good thing for us to do and that'skind of when when we kicked off originally we started our customersuccess, team in the marketing department and the MarkeninOrganization, and we did it sort of like like we do. Must things like moststartups? Do we just kind of you know, threw stuff at the wall and figured outwhat what works over time? Our mission and our values ind? The customersuccess team have really changed to align with what our customers need andhow we need to do customer success that ends up being a little bit differentthan traditional customer success teams a lot, but the mission still holds truewhat we're just saying a min to go about aligning argoals with theirs soyeah. It has been a wild ride and we're still evolving, so we're only three oarso years into having a customer success team at Leonod Yand, you said it'sdifferent than typical customer success. So tell me a little bit more about whyit's different there yeah, so customer success is traditionally and wasinvented by and four sotware companies...

...we're not a software company, so Linadoes infrastructure as a service. We do cloud computing, which means that ourcustomers are a little bit different and they consume our products a littlebit differently than customers in software companies usually do so bidesignd. Our services are kind of EFEMERAL. We let our customers spin upand speen down servers. We don't do a lot of contract work. Our customers arefree to leave whenever they want at the drop of a hat, so things like retentionand growth and even measuring those things lit alone. Improving them are achallenge, not a much different challenge than a lot of softwarecompanies have. So that means that we've had to kind of take the concepts from quote:Unquote Traditional Customer success and that's a silly thing to say for athing that hasn't existed. All that long we've had to take those lessonsand kind of translate them into an infrastructure world, and that holdstrue with not just growth and retention like I was saying, but a lot of otherthings as well from the way that we do ebrs to the way that we reach out tocustomers to onboarding and pretty much every every other part of the customersuccess journey yeah. So what's one of the like wankiest translations, where,if you tried to plug what you're doing into a SASS company, it just wouldn'tmake sense. That's a good question. I'm not sure that I have a great specificone, but I have a very good general one, which is our customers generally. Don'ttalk to us we're kind of like the utility company we describe ourselvesas the gas company right like we provide the gas, but whether you plugit into a Washer or a dryer or oven, or whatever that's kind of not have ourbusiness, and we don't have anything to do with it. Nor do we even knowgenerally what's happening so, and our customers can turn off the gas wheneverthey want. They can turn on the hug and whenever our relationship with ourcustomers generally is pretty hands off, they reach out to us when they have aproblem, so us being proactive not only in success but also somewhat in supportand also marketing, which is something that we've ramped up in the last fouror five six years was kind of a shocker and the rates of return in terms ofpeople like talking back to US people who actually want to engage with us,although it's so much better. Now at first, it was like you know wha. Whyare you talking to me? I you know I just want to spit up my server. I wantto get my work done and I want to sort of be left alone so generally that hasbeen like sort of one of the weirdest things that doesn't translate so wellyeah. It's a really great analogy there too right it's almost like. Well, Idon't even want to know you exist right. I just want to make sure that thingsare working and only when they stop work and it becomes a problem. But, asyou mentioned, being proactive is what customer success is all about a lot ofthe times, because you have to know what the customers goal is in order tohelp say: Hey we're aligned on your goal and so tell me a little bit abouthow you were able to get some of those initial conversation started with yourcustomers, so that you could learn a lot more about what they wre aging todo with Leonoud yeah. So we started with, I think, the logical place tostart with when you're starting any customer success. Team is kind of gothe account management, route, sort of and just talk to, your biggestcustomers. So obviously, those are the ones who you want to retain the most.They are the ones who will inevitably have the biggest impact on your productroadmap and they're, the ones that you want tod to put it in the most basicterms, O keep happiest. Those customers are more willing to talk to yougenerally, then, someone who's invested a huge amount of their time and moneyand trust are far more willing to speak to you than those who could leave atthe drop of a hat. So one of the other things about our industry is whileservices are femeral. Lockin is real in that it's very difficult. Once you havethat mass to move somewhere else, it's not impossible and it', certainly notsomething that doesn't happen, but to...

...keep those customers figure out how youcan keep those customers they want to stay with you. They don't want to goelsewhere, because it's such a hassle to do it. So just talking to thosecustomers th, they were much more willing to speak up and speak out andsay: Oh yes, thank you. Finally, I would love to talk to someone. In fact,this whole effort started with one of our biggest customers who werecontacting support, often an eventually and just asked for it. They were like.We need an account manager like we need someone and we were like. We don't havethose. I guess we can start this and that's actually where that kicked offseveral years ago. So there's a lot of conternation around the term accountantmanagement in customer success circles- and I know you've- got some thoughts onwhere customer success sort of lives in the organization. So you want to tellme a little bit more about your thoughts there. I do, I feel superstrongly and it only keeps getting. My thoughts are only stronger in time thata success organization is a supplement to a support team as opposed to afunction of a sales team. I think that account management exists for a verygood reason, but I think that they serve a different purpose than customersuccess. Some of the ways that that manifests are the ways that we talk tocustomers or the intent with which we talk to customers. So, with a customersuccess team, your intent is to make them successful. Sometimes that is notaligned with where the company is going or what what the company is doing andthe solutions that you have to provide aren't in the best interest of yourcompany, but they are in the best interest of the customer, and I thinkthat that's when there's, for example, commission attached to a customer beingretained or growing. I think, in my experience, I've seen that intent getmuddled and keeping it as a function of support or a having the right intentthat what you're trying to do is make a customer successful as opposed to justmaking them spend more, is the right way o. If you make them successful,they will spend more but focus on making them successful, not focus onmaking them spend more yeah. That's really interesting, and you notice thata lot of times when customer success has an explicit revenue target. Whatends up happening is that you know okay well, if I'm being compensated onhitting a specific number, and I feel like there's an opportunity to do thathere. It is in my best interest and maybe not necessarily optimizing forthe customers best interest. So I really do appreciate that perspective,because it's something that we think about, even when we're not in anunusual space like infrastructure, is a service so appreciate that, and how doyou get to the point, though, where your customer success team is able tokind of marry those two things up where hey they're practively, identifyingvalue expansion, opportunities that are mutual value expansions for both yourbusiness as well as your customers? I think it's about having a really greatset of core values and a really solid mission statement when you create thosefor a team. That's when you think about those things, that's when you thinkabout marrying those two items and that's when you think about how you dothose things. So if you have a great set of values in a really strongmission statement that leads you into situations where naturally those thingsget married, you don't have to think about it. You don't have to consider.Well, am I, on this side, am my on the customer side of the fence, or am I onthe company side of the fence? You just do the thing that your mission saysyou're going to do, and we've already established that that mission in thecase that it succeeds when it succeeds, will be mutually beneficial, which iswhy it's so important to get that right. Right off the bat and we've had tochange that a couple times. We've seen...

...things in our mission, vision, valuesthat didn't align correctly and at the end of the day, something went in oneway or went in the wrong direction because those weren't married out. So Ithink it's about putting those foundations in place, and then youdon't have to worry about it. As so, how do you effectively establish thatfoundation with the customer? You just mentioned right away right. You want tomake sure, from the very beginning of your conversation with a perspectivecustomer that they understand exactly it is who it is that you are and whatit is that you care about and the that's an alignment with that customer.So talk to me about, like the establishment of that sharedunderstanding, yeah the, so it's all about expectation, settings right thatsuch as life. You know life is about saying expectations. I think thatthat's going back to what we were talking about a mintte ago. I thinkthat that that is the value in having a sales organization, and that is thevalue in having account managers, so you can set the expectation ofcustomers. You know I talk to you about this when it's time to sign a contractor renew or whatever you can go talk to them about that I'll, be in the room tomake sure that we're advocating on both sides. But when you're talking to me, Idon't care about how much you're spending I don't care about those. Idon't care about those things that other functions of the business have tocare about. All I'm here for is for you to help you be successful. Saltproblems, for you bind creative solutions to things that are goingwrong, aligning our goals figuren out your business needs. That's all I'mhere. For so that separation is actually super. Super Helpful and it'smore justifidation for both of those existing, but for them aligning andwith different goals and values. Yeah makes a lot of sense. I mean unlessyou're, like you, know, Hartcore Buddhist here you're definitely goingto be dealing with expectations and, as a result, you want to make sure thatyou're an alignment on those to follow up on that. How do you systematize that,like what are sort of processes or tools that you use to be able to dothat at scale across many different customers? So one of the most valuabletools that we have in our tool bell is our onboarding flow. So we use email onboarding through from the time that a customer signs up up until a couple ofweeks, ind with essentially these lightbld moments through a customerlife cycle that hopefully over time, reinforce the value that linod isproviding a customer. So once a customer sees as a customer progressesthrough signing up spinning up their first Linnar, perhaps adding moreservices contacting support, getting help via our documentation or selfservethings I customer kind of gets that value. They start to understand thatvalue over time and that we can see results in better retention over time,whether it results in growth over time gets a little bit fuzzy because youhave to consider all the other things that are are happening to a customerduring their lifecycle, and you have to consider whether or not it's onboardingthat has gotten there, but we are able to see that customers stay longer wherethey drop off less early less soon that seven to ten day, windowis kind of likeour danger zone, which is what we have found and that has gone away withgiving customers those light bold moments through onboarding, automatedonboarding. We have considered doing in APP on boarding, but that actually goesback to what we were talking about before about how things are a littlebit different in your infastructure dashboard. Then it might be in thispiece of software that you're using it's hard to kind of translate that APPonboarding experience when you're a software company. I think, most of thetime you kind of you have a much more targeted problem you're trying to solve.I don't want to speak totally generally, but I think I think, most of the timethat's true, whereas with our customers, it could be one of so many differentthings. It's really hard to like direct...

...someone in APP to the things that theyshould be doing, because for a lot of customers, they shouldn't be doing that.That's not the problem. They're trying to solve so segmenting customers intowhat they might be doing is an idea. You know asking them up front like. Whyare you here and then creating an inap onboarding experience based on thatsegment might be something that we could do, but we haven't yet translatedthe software version to the infrastructure version in terms ofeINAPP on boarding, yeah and there's. You know a balancing act between makingsure that you get the customer to do all the things that you know will leadto their success in the system from a technical perspective, but also notnecessarily wanting to spoil their creativity with what they're going todo with it. A that we went in the same challenge with flafower. We work itcustomers across different market segments. We work bit work withsoftware companies who work with enterprises legacy businesses. I meanwe got like a Chidren's hospital, a grocery store and an insurance companyall as customers, and so I can totally understand that perspective an one ofthe biggest challenges just like okay. Well, if we don't necessarily know howthey get onboarded, but we know technically when they do that they'refairly sticky. How do we then build on that relationship over time? So talk tome about like how you then build on that relationship, assuming a customeris able to flex that creativity, deploy and use Ol node the way that they'rehoping to what is the way N, which ye like keep encouraging them and sayinghey like this. Is this mutual change of value and we're really both enjoyingthis process? Yeah one of the ways is by monitoring product adoption, so wehave our core product, which is our SERVERCS, but then we also have loadbalancers and we have backup solutions and we have storage solutions and wehave networking solutions. So it's watching as a customer growt. We knowthat as a customer grows within segment or sometimes even without segment,there are certain things that are going to become more valuable over time withgrowth. One great example of that is backups, so everybody knows you needbackups ut and that's one of the easiest conversations to start withsomeone is because it kind of defies segment or size. Just starting theconversation, I noticed you don't have backups, you know what are you doing inwhat industry or in what problem you're trying to solve? Or what have you allof those things require backups and that's the place to start, and if youdo it cleverly, you can get more information about what they're doingand then you can expand from there so kind of that land and expands kind ofmoving blandand expand into a different different definition. If you can justland in that one thing start that conversation about backups, thengenerally, you can get some more information about what they're doingand then figure out what miht be the right thing a lot of times, so I camefrom apple and some of what we do come from sales. At apple with which was allabout providing correct solution, so if you're trying to sell a customercomputer- and you say you know- We have a ninety nine dollar printer that comeswith this and they say well, I have a printer at home. Well then, that's whenthe conversation ends like okay cool, like let's make sure we can sed that up.Like that's all, and we do that too. You know when you talk to a customer,and you say well what about load balancing they say I don't need loadbalancing for Xyz. Well, that's what that's! When the conversation mens. Ithink that that's the values difference that can be the values difference orthe intent difference of a sales team versus a customer success to humoraccount. Managers of what have you yeah toly, makes sense, and I think that Ihad a guest on an earlier podcast episode, who is describing this to a tawhere it's like the ideal state of customer success is not necessarilythat you own every aspect of what the customer is doing anything remotelyrelated to your space, but rather you have a full understanding of all thethings that the customer is doing in their organization to achieve theirobjectives at a high level, and that could include other components or partsthat might not necessarily be worthwhile to replace to them right now.But if you ask them questions and you... curiosity into how they're solvingtheir problem, that's going to establish trust and later on down theroad when they're hoping to ow expand or do more with those things you'regoing to be the first person they think of because they know that you'rethinking about their business just as critically as they are yeah. I thinkthat that made me think of another big difference that we have to that. Wehave to deal with doing customer success. Here is, by definition, tohave redundant imfrastructure. The responsible thing to do is not to justuse linod it's to use our competitors also, and we completely understand thatthat's a responsible thing to do. That's that's very. Unlike a lot oftraditional companies right like we don't want you to use, we don't wantyou to have a hundred percent. We want to have a hundred percent of yourwallet allocation right. We want to have a hundred percent of what you'respending on infrastructure, but that's an irresponsible thing to do in ourworld and that's another thing that we have to deal with but, like you said,if we can do a good job of making sure that customers know our values arealigned with theirs. Then, when they kick off the next project, maybe theychoose US first or when they're expanding and they need to figure outwhere things go. Maybe the most critical stuff comes with us. It's allabout those little value moments that kind of build up to gain the trustwhere you become their first choice, not their only choice, which is whatwe're trying to do. First Choice: not only choice, yeah, all about that andthat's actually a really good parodim. I think I'm going to start using thatnowas. First Choice, not only choice, that's a great way to position it well.So what's one specific piece of advice that you picked up along the way,either from someone else or just have kind of garnered yourself or pulledtogether from others insights that you would love to share with our audiencehere. I think one of the best pieces of advice. I got a lot of people here, askfor forgiveness, not for permission, and I had an old boss several years ago.Tell me that's definitely true, but you need to use it very wisely. Sometimesit makes a lot more sense to ask for permission and is going to cover youway better and it's going to cover your customers way better. When you'reasking for permission and not forgiveness, I think that a lot ofpeople conflate that with how you treat customers also like I think everyonehas gotten burned a few times by doing the nice thing, and it ended up beingthe wrong thing. There is no harm in ever asking a customer if this is theright thing to do so. I think we said earlier on the call, expectations oreverything, and that holds true so much more with customers than I think thatwe even understand like academically. Fundamentally, we know that expectationsetting is is really important, but having that top of mind all the timethat you need to be super clear, super, transparent and super honest with yourcustomers, that's always going to pay off one hundred percent of the timeyeah. I couldn't agree more especially on the honesty bit. There's plenty oftimes where you get in a conversation with a customer and they say hey, canyou do this in your default response? What you really want to do is say: Yes,Oh yes, we can do that, but Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah and what ends uphappening is that all they remember is the Yes right. They remember the S,they don't remember, all the cabios and then they try to do it, and it's likethis isn't quite working the way I was hoping it would and then you'reultimately damaging your relationship with the customer from a businessperspective, but also from a personal perspective right they're working withyou is part of their job. They have similar types of incentives and theyhave a some mor life outside of work and so really insead. If you go backand say no, we can't do that. That's what they're going to remember and theysay. However, I want to work with you to solve this problem. Regardless,that's going to sess you up way better for success with that customer in thefuture yeah one of the going back to... one of the this. I think it wasin the steps of service or one of the mantre Zormatos was responding to acustomer. I don't know let's find out, and I always love that quite a bit.It's partially about. No, I don't know the answer, but it's also about findingout the answer. And thirdly, it's about, let's find out together. Let's figurethis out together, which that relationship pieces is so so valuable,stay. Heris Yel! You hopefully didn't hear that here first, but if you didkeep it in mind and really thank you so much for your time today, Aganos RickMyers he's a vpof customer support, ing success, Himar Crane, the host ofcustomer success, leader Cofounder flat file, signing off from this week'sepisode. If ye all stay well and will chat again same, 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 work spaces 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, Zo Io, Lash, CS leaderto 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 Finle, ifyou're a fan of the show and want to help us share these conversations withothers. Leave us a rating on Apple Podcast, just TAPD, a number of stars,you think to show heservs, that's it for today catch you in the next one.

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