Customer Success Leader
Customer Success Leader

Episode · 1 year ago

The Customer May Not Always Be Right, But They Should Be First w/ Jeff Breunsbach


For early-stage companies, building the foundation for a customer success program can be a little daunting. It’s not enough to simply push your product out to market. An in-depth understanding of the customer experience is imperative for designing a strategic plan to support and bolster the efforts of the organization as a whole.


Things like market fit, the power behind your sales engine, and identifying the right problem to assure the right solution are all things Jeff Breunsbach, Director of Customer Experience at Higher Logic, looks at when working with clients. 


He joined me on the show today to share his insights on best practices for setting up and maintaining a customer success program.


We talked about:


- Steps to stand up a successful customer success program


- How customer success drives business outcomes


- Challenges that can prevent programs success


For more info, check out or send a message to

Businesses now can't messessally thinkabout transactional elements. They have to think about the fact that our uniteconomics of SASS businesses have changed and we need that customer to bewith us for a long period of time 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 about their craft. Trust me. You want to stick around here's yourhost, Eric Crane, hey all eric crane here, the cofounderand Co flat file. Today on Customer Success Leaders, I'm joined by JeffRosboch from customer Inberativ, yeah, Hey Eric. Thank you for Havving me goodto be here AWESOM. To have you so first, most important question: Are youwearing pants? I am wearing shorts and I would like to say my attire for thepandemic has really just been a golf short and then typically some JimShorts, so I've been getting away with it. For you know the last three monthsor so, and I don't think I'll change my office tends to get quite hot. So if Iwear Pantsin here ID probably be sweating right now I can till you beingbased in Atlanta Myself. I didn't know you were Golfer, though yeah yeah, youknow Charleston grew up in South Carolina for about twenty years. So ifI can get out on the golf course I try to, but I also during the summer, Iwill probably avoid it like the plage. I love the winter fall months down herein the south. Where you, you know, we don't get too much snow and it's easyto get out in the golf course for it's a good weather. I love it well have toplay sometime yeah well to get out. You know somewhere in between here Atlantaand Tarston. Easy drive good deal well, so I'm really excited to have you sharewith our audience a little bit about customer success, it's kind of been thedefinition of your career almost, and I would love to hear how you definecustomer success. Yeah, there's probably the long definition in theshort one I'll try and give you the long one in a cistinct way, but I thinkwe think about customer success as proactively helping customers reachmeasurable Business Outcomes, and you know it's the generic answer thatyou're going to get a lot of places right now, but when you really boilthat down into what we think about it or some of the SISTINX parts, is theproactive piece really matters. When you start thinking about customersuccess and customer success, Management and also business outcomes,you know, I think we oftentimes in a lot of businesses, see that they mightbe focused a lot on adoption or they might be focused a lot on support orsome other areas, and really what we want to be looking at is what are theactual business at outcomes that we're helping our customers achieve, and thatreally needs to be the core focus of what customer success is really allyingtowards in the business. That makes sense, so I mean tell me a little bitmore about how you're helping folks do that through customer imperative yeah.So we started our business about three years ago now we focus on a lot ofconsulting engagements and we've tried to tailor them to different stagecompanies. So when you start thinking about early stage companies who mightbe looking at getting customer success off the ground, we've built aaccelerator program. So how do we give you the foundations and start thinkingabout? Some of the strategic elements are what we think of is readiness. Sodo we have the right segmentation? Do we have the right customer journey?What's our engagement model look like and then we started looking atengagements that also serve kind of the larger customers or clients in the BTBspace, and so you know, how can we do customer journey work? Hacan me do alittle bit more specific, pointed engagements tove been doing that forthree years and then you know about fifteen weeks ago we also stood up acommunity for customer success leaders, so it's called game. Ro retain andevery day we get new leaders into our online community. We've got thousandthat signed up over the first week and it's just growing every day which isexciting for us, but it's just another thing that we're really passionateabout we're learning from customer success, leaders every single day andit's been fun. That's cool really excited to hear that. How did you getinto doing consulting work in the area of Customer Success Yeah? So we, mybusiness partner, Jy, had started customer amparative three years ago,and I think that was I'll put a you know some words in his mouth, but thatwas born out of the fact that he wanted to go start his own company and youknow venture off after he had been successful in the BB stas space for anumber of years and nacturally. The easiest and first thing to go. Do isjust start consulting and what he found...

...was that there was a need for this. Youknow I think customer success is still kind of on a maturity curve that maybelags behind some of the other sales and marketing functions that are a littlebit further along in terms of their development. So there's a lot of peopleout there that are starting SASS companies that are thinking aboutrecurring revenue and subsrcryptions, and this became a really hot commodity,and so you know he started the company and then about ten months after that Ijoined him and we've been running ever since you know we don't like to thinkabout ourselves as consultants, we tend to think we're a little friendlier, thenormal consultants. We tend to think that you know we're a little bit moreexecution focused, and you know it's been fun to do that for the last threeyears and try and build you know some repeatability of what we're doing, butat the end of the day, what we're trying to help our clients achieve isjust increase growth retention or increase net retention, and do thatthrough customer success. Programs got it hat makes sense. So I mean let'stalk about like when you're working with your clients like what are thethings that you like to see some of your early stage, customers focus onwhen they're, just thinking about how to stand up customer success and theirorganization Yeah. I think the question that we always like to ask ourselves atthe very beginning is maybe a series of three questions. One is: Do you haveproduct market fit? The second tends to be: Do you have a sales engine and thenthird is you know, have you really started o stand up a customerorganization, so you know when you think about product market fit. That'sreally the first question, because you know you need to understand that you'resolving the right problem in the right space. The second question then becomesokay. Now that we're solving the right problem in the right space, can weactually get a sales engine? That's repeatable, you know. Can we make theunit economics work for a sales team in the growth that we want to achieve, andthen the third question then becomes now that we have the right problem:We're solving at the right space. We've also spun up a sales team and now we'regetting a ton of new sales through now we have to think about the customerexperience and how do we start optimizing and thinking about thecustomer experience and what customer success can really mean to that kind ofas the third COG in that wheel? That's typically the questions that we'retrying to ask, and then you know you start drilling down into some of theearlier stage. Companies there's probably two areas that we would say.You really want to focus on. First, when you're in the early stage andyou're starting to formulate customer success, one area is just making surethat you've got a good support function. You know we need the dial tone of theorganization as we like to think about it so broke fixd. We need to be able todo that very quickly, and you know that tends to be really close to kind ofproduct and engineering, because you know typically, the product is stillbeing built out there. Then the second area is just the onboarding. I thinkyou know when you are in the early stage again you're getting a ton of newcustomers. We want to make sure and think about the onboarding experienceand how we start to optimize that. So those are probably the two areas thatwesee a lot of early stage. Companies focus on first and that's that'sgenerally what we try and do as we go into companies at thei early stage aswell, got it Dae, make sense and let the come back to that like drivingbusiness outcomes for your customers Ho you say: That's the ultimately, themost important thing in customer success. What are some of the ways inwhich you can ensure that that happens for your customers as a customer, OsTHAs person who has no control over the product, necessarily for the the salesof Lichol or even the marketing that was delivered to that customer yeah. Ithink it starts with as you take over that relationship. So one of the toolsthat we like to think about is what we call a joint success plan and you know,might be a fancy word, but really what it boils down to are a couple of courtconcepts which are who are the relationships that we have at thisorganization? What are the actual business outcomes theyre trying toachieve, and we think about that, as maybe you know, they've got a threeyear initiative to grow by a certain percent or they're trying to reducecost, but something that's very tangible and oriented to the greaterbusiness. And then we like to think about objectives and key results. Sohow can we actually take some of those larger, more strategic avision of wherethey're going and what business outcomes we can help them achieve? Andthen how do we boil that down into you know things that are changeible? Whatare we actually helping? The move, the need to bill on terms of our day today,relationship and what our product and service can do and then the last twoareas are just key milestones and then key risks and the reason I bring upthat as a really good place. To start. As back to the point you made, you knowwe have a lot of things in the customer success team. We have a lot of things.We can't really control, but the one thing we can't control is kind ofkeeping all six of those boxes, as we...

...think about it at the forefront of ourrelationship with the customer, and what that tends to do is really bringup risks earlier in the process, it tends to make sure were aligned to theoutcomes that they're looking to achieve on a more regular basis, and itjust tends to make sure that the relationship is really focused on thecustomer and focused on getting the right feedback at the right times. Ifyou don't have the joint success plan, when you've got something else that cando it, you know that can still be that forcing mechanism to try and aggregatethat information. I think we tend to see that works fairly well, but I thinkthe big thing is that we notice a lot of times, as you would mention you knowif we can't control product and we can control all these different things,then, if well, allow ourselves to let the customers see that or think that aswell, then you know we tend to be in a losing situation, so we try and againkind of focus back on the customer. How can we make sure that we're reallydialed into that and then hopefully, what our management team and what ourteam in the backend are doing or building channels for us to bring backsome of those points about product or marketing or sales that we need to go?Give feedback in the right areas, Goda thanks, so n, some like building thisrelationship is incredibly important to understand what the business objectivesare of the customer and to be able to understand. Okay, like how do we play apart in that, so what are blockers that get in the way of establishing thatrelationship that you're trying to build with this customer yeah? That isa question that we get at many many times. I think the big one is probably-and I'm sure, you've experienced this in your career- is our key contact overthere maybe gets defensive or thinks that we're trying to posture ourselvesin a way that maybe is going to go around them or maybe is going to kindof skirt by that relationship, and so they don't value the same thing as weare. I think that's probably number one is that you find a champion or whoeveryou're working with to be a little bit more defensive or combative. Ratherthan trying to be helpful- and you know be- I a real champion for us inside theorganization- a that's, probably a big one- that we see, I think a second oneis we tend to see products and services who think about themselves? FirstInstiad of the customer, so you know you're thinking about what are wetrying to achieve? What are we trying to get out of this process? Can I justcheck the box move on to the x customer and you're not really focused on youknow what they're trying to achieve and building the actual relationship. Atthe end of the day we like to think about this as a lot of relationshipfocused because you know we have people to deal with it's a one on one,typically, a onto one relationship that we're building over time and if WEDlose sight of that, and we start to focus on the more transactionalelements of what we're doing. Then we lose sight of that relationship and howit can be really beneficial for us in the long run, and I think that's justthe element that we see a lot of, is you know, businesses now can't messllythink about transactional elements. They have to think about the fact thatour unit economics of SASS businesses have changed and we need that customerto be with us for a long period of time. You look at some of the data. A typicalcack payback ratio means that we need that customer to stay with us for atleast eighteen months. So generally, if we lose that customer at the end ofyour one. It's not necessarily. We actually lost money on that deal as abusiness, and so how can we make sure and ensure that we've got the rightrelationship, so we can stay ahead of any potential charing problems that wecan stay ahead of of what we're trying to do as a business got it. So, as aformer CSM, I really enjoy hearing other stories, so I'd love to hearmaybe one or to exceptional stories from your time and customer success,eithere working with cus your clients or in your previous holes yeah. So I'vegot maybe a I'll give you a good example and a bad example of maybe I'slike shaped the way I think about this, and what we've done so the bad example.First I like to do, you know, deliver badnus first, so there was probably atleast one or two times in my career, where you kind of went into a meeting.You weren't really feeling good. You don't really feel like Youw're thatprepared this was a Qbr that we were delivering to a enterprise customer ofours. They were six figures, they were big deal needed. You know like for us.This is a really important. We had from the customers side of the House. We hadexecutive tea members in the room from our side of the house, reet executive,te members in the room- and you know you walk in, and this is the moment toshine and I completely blew it. You...

...know I had a presentation that justwasn't cohesive in the story that I was telling. I did a lot of regurgetationof data on the slides. It was basically just like a a report. You know, couldhave gotten out of a tool and I just threw it up there and starteddelivering it and about halfway through the presentation. You know theexecutive tea members that we were presenting to essentially stoppd me andjust you know, wanted to know what what else was in the presentation becausethey felt like they could probably just go. Read it on themselves, and it was areally crucial moment in really shaped o the way I thought about things,because ever since then, I've tried to maybe take a reverse approach now,which is like I'm trying to go extremely deep on the customers that Ihad so you know fast forward, maybe three months or six months. From thatpoint you know I had gone and done the research I was reading. It was a publiccompany that we were working with. I went and read the public filings andthe public reports that were being put out. I was talking with otherdepartments that we weren't even working with to understand what washappening and what that really did for me was just helped shape, a story thatI wasn't telling in that first meeting and completely changed the relationshipwhen I was able to take the time to do that to go in and learn. You know thinkone of the questions is like: How does this company make money as a businessand for me that just kind of transformed the way I thought aboutjust the preparation needed the research that you can do, there's somuch information online? Now that, like that research, no matter where you cago, get it from, can really help tell a narrative for your product and service,because it's all kind of points that you can bring into the discussion thatour public information thatare out there. So that was a you know, painfulmoment. That kind of shaped me into thinking about how we need to researchbetter, how many to think about just getting deeper into accounts. We can'tjust stay surface level and kind of rip and repeat and go on to the next one.So that's that's kind of an initial one that that sticks out for me on the badside of things on the good side of things to, I think, at least incustomer success. I'll give ou an example made from our recent times, oneof the the fun things that we've done recently was. We had a client who hadmaybe the Baer minimum of Customer Success Very Large Business Theywere,actually getting over a hundred million dollars as an entire business andthey're, really a transactional type business they're trying to transformwhat they were doing and they had really low ettention and one of thethings that we did is we walked in and helped them to just look at the problemin different way. So we said: Hey, let's take a cohorder customers. Wetook two hundred eight and let's go kind of prove out. Maybe a customersuccess model that can work. So we focused a lot on implementation andonboarding for that making sure that clients got activated and then we had aseries of customer success, touchpoints and so the real fun part about that orthe unique story is that we were able to help them improve their ros revenueattention by eighteen points over about a year and a half span. So for them itwas really fatastic because they started to look at customer successmore as a reactive role. They were about to get rid of it. They weren'treally thinking. You know this could be a strategic arm of their business andtransform the way that they thought about it, and it, you know, was areally fun exercise trying and do a test on a coboart like that and thatended up proving out over. You know the next eighteen months, where theyexpanded it to the rest of the customer base. It's AWESOM be here, so I run atechnology company. I have to ask you about tech. What are some of yourfavorite tools for customer success? Everything from Youta Astor widgits,all the way so like erprise style software hate are the tools that youuse or you recommend in your custom, refuse in order to make their jobeasier and more efficient and make their customers experience moredelightful yeah. So I've got a couple that have are sticking up to me. One ofthem is a product called Lim, I'm not sure if you've used it before, but Irecord video really easily they've got a slick in her face, and one of thethings that we've been trying to look at recently is how you could, as a CSMreally just start to introduce, maybe some more personalized videos that youcan send be an email that you can make easily accessible. So for me, that isone that a CSM could just easily start doing without really anything otherthan just signing up for an account. You know: they've got like a reallygood free, based version that you can work from, and I just think it's soeasy to use that for me, it's something that, like every CSM should be able togo. Do it and, I think, provides a little unique experience for yourcustomer. You know generally they're just going to read an email from you.You know they're going to go on zoom calls, and this could just be an easyway for you to get something across...

...that doesn't necessarily have to bekind of boiler plate in an email. That's one! I think is kind of funright now. Another one that we've seen recently is the use of some of thesesales recording tools. So a gong or an outreach, and you know some of thesetools that can from the sales oftomation thing. Who can you knowrecord or help us think about sequences? I think can become really valuable andI think we've seen some people really use th as well, especially therecording piece especy. You know when you think about the fact that I can go.Listen to other customer success managers. Maybe delivering find go,listen to you know as a manager. If I can go, listen to all my customersuccess, reps and who's performing well who's, not t what are the types ofthings that they're saying. I just think it's there's so many goodelements to it. We've seen that work well, as you know in that case, andthen I think, there's some really fun tools that are coming out and someunique ways that we've seen people use DAS hords, maybe through looker orTapleau Yopober. You know your more standard, Bei tools and then you've gotyour kind of avoided, saying the traditional customer successfouls,because you know, I think everybody knows those. So I was trying to givesome different examples, but those are all still out there and you know tendto be in the space that everyone knows about. The gamesites and clientsuccesses turn Zeros of world medicx just launched catalyst up in New Yorks.There's a ton of you w CS tools that are certainly capble out there as well.It makes sense you're telling me earlier that there's some places thattechnology is not really helping your tustomers very well, so like what aresome things that you see your customer Sucess flins doing manually that youfeel like there should be technology out there to address yeah. I thinkthere's a number of different things. I think at the beginning, as we startthinking about some of the fundammentals of customer success andwhat we try and instill in our clients is around the idea of trying to beproactive. So how can we have a health score? Maybe that brings in multipledifferent types of data into the picture, and you know you're not payingme to say this. You know this is a challenge like that. We need to getdata into the right place and that we need to make sure that it's accurateand that we've got it flowing just from all the right areas of the business. Soyou know when we think about health scores. We want to get you know.Financial Information Wyo want to get renewal, an information we want to getcrm level data. We then want to get product level data. You know, there'sso many different sources support level data, there's literally more and morethat come every day. NPS and survey marketint right, there's tons, and Ithink what we continue to see is just the challenge for customer successteams to really take advantage of the tools, because they can't get the datain the right way, and so for us that really turns into healt score and how ecan become proactive and then I think it has some of he, the otherpermutations down. The Line of you know: I'd love for, like we've got somecustomers who had loved some of the financial information to flow in, butyou know they might be using different tools that don't tink well with salesforce, and so we don't have. You know, Opportunity records that really speakto what we need and so the connecting of data through all these sources,whether it's renewal, information, ND, PS and survey level, Datais a big oneand then looking at product level data. You know, I think, that's just the bigchallenge for what we see right now, as why some of these tools can'tnecessarily be utilized to the fullest, and that really helps, as you starttiking down the line right like if we can get our customers success team ifwe can help them and incremental one one o two percent by you know maybegetting some proactive outreaches on their behalf, can help schedulesomemeetings on their behalf and use some of these tools to do it. You knowthat would go a long way in their day and helping them do the right things.But again, if you don't have the data flowing right and you can't get thosethings working, even if it breaks one time right, like we've done a ton ofhomegrown solutions at that break and then it's like Y, you end up puttingmore time into it than you really want, so ends up being a huge huge challengethere for sure got it. So you mentioned churn and Customer Health score acouple times as a sort of like the heart beat of any customer successorganization. What are some specific initiatives or campaigns or likeprojects that you have teams work on in order to improve not only just thegeneral harpeats and maybe some other metrics that you might see within thebusiness whether it's activation on you teatheres or something somilar yeah.Couple that come to mind. You know the first one, maybe that popped into mybrain is we've been thinking about NPS...

...and survey and more o just surveyprograms overall, and I think you know there kind of becomes a fallacy outthere, where the NPS score matters. You know to a great deal and I think wemaybe deprioritize the score a little bit and we think of it more as anengagement tool, and so one of the things that we're trying to teach ourcustomers about is you know, that's great. We've got promoters, we've gotthe tractors, but really who we want to go target and talk to me even more arethe non responders. Those are the ones who didn't even take the time. You knowto even give you a score, and so what we're trying to think about, or how canwe build, maybe a campaign that goes to look at the non responders? How do weget them engaged? Why are they not even giving us a score? You know. Is itbecause they're too busy can we help offload stuff on their plate as it,because they don't even like the product and they're just never going touse it? And you know they don't evewant to give us a time o day they're goingto turn. We want to know those things, so I think trying to figure out the NonResponder Bucket is a big one. That we've been trying to push right now andbecause the other ones you can easily deal with in our minds right. Thepromoter is great. We should be able to ship those off to sales and marketingand we should be able to start to cultivate those into more pemotionalmaterial for our customers. You know they should be able to do testimonialsfor us like we should be able to really super charge. You know those promoters.The detractors. We should be able to follow up on that right. We should beable to whatever the score was whatever their feedbeck was. Let's actually getinto it, see if there's a solution that we can come to you know. Sometimes wecan't sometimes it's product level stuff that maybe is on the roadmap ormaybe not. You know, we can't go make everybody happy, but at the same time,can we actually follow up make sure that they feel like they've, been heardand make sure we have a follow up cavens for the detractors as well. Sothat's just one that really comes into my mind. Right now is just this idea ofmaking sure we can build a better program around surving and NPS, ifthat's what you use or seset, and so along those same lines as well. I thinkyou know you mentioned is how do we get our response? War, its higher, and, Ithink, a lot of times when you hear from companies they might only behearing from ten fifteen thirty percent of customers and that's just not alarge percentage, and so I think that also really comes into play andsomething we're talking a lot about with our customers is: How do youdevelop a nice sustinct coheasive which also didt? You know those two don'talways go together, but so sint and cotesive survey that could go out there,where you can actually get goid response rates and entice yourcustomers to respond, because they know you're actually going to use thatinformation that they give you, I think, we're on the same page, an Ns d. So alot of times spokes treated as an end. witerally is just the meat to a varietyof differentnds, a a little more extreme myview. I think that' promoterscore is quite overrated. If you want someone to promote you givehem thetools to actually promote you and see if they do right, yeah, morsuralprograms, okay, if someone actually is sharing out Refo, lings they're,definitely promoten, it's not just about. Yes, they do but Lhet theyactually diton. No, definitely, and we think about that the same way rightlike if they were going to be promoted like they should be able to go right, apublic review. They should be able to put their name on it out in public. Ifthey're a true promoter- and you know, I think, that's the crux F- The problemtoo becaumes that you know the NPS was the first one in the door, and sothat's what everyone does and now there I think, there's a large you know,there's a there's, not necessarily a large component, where people want tomove away from that, but I think you can think you cu start to ask better Quuestions that are more informative to what you really want to know is abusiness instead of just you know the standard and PS question and again wewant to think f. We want to be thoughtful about th these things, so weactually, if we're going to ask the question, we better want the Fik backand we better respond and use it, and so it has to be stuff. That's reallygoing to be important. Se Yeah, I'm on the same page either I cool so lastquestion here I like to ask the same thing of everyone. What is the bestpiece of advice related to Xestomer success that you've ever got best pieceof advice? I Ou have to go back to an old boss of mine and one of the thingsthat he would say is: If you can help somebody get recognition or getpromoted, then you are going to have somebody for life and he meant you knowfrom that is not Allla. Can Our product and service help them, but if they cango get recognition inside of their company and then you're going to findlike a deeper relationship that you're going to have for a long period of time?So it goes back to the relationship aspect. We' talked about a lot, but Ithink because of that you know again, it's shaped a lot of what I thought,because if you can go do that, if that...

...person moves to the next company,they're probably going to be thinking about you and how your company couldhelp them right and it's the same thing in your career as you're. Even justmoving up in the same organization, you tend to find people who are promotorsof yourself champions who want to help you and you know if they help you, thenyou're more likely to go back and ask for more feedback or an develop, a deeprelationship and it just becomes kind of a harmoniocycle. So I think that'sthe the one that sticks out to me is you know if you can help somebody getpromoted or recognition that you're going to have somebody for life, yeahpeople, vo relationships with people not really as well with sea, corpse,yeah, exactly yeap need to get down to the human level for sure yeah. I willthank you so much on Ow. This is Jeff from customer INPARATIV and I eged togo check out their customers, O sexs community game, grow routine, O forbydetails in the show dots here and again, I'm Eric Crane from plotfile sign itoff. You depend on the fastest time to value for your customers. So why letdata onboard and sell you down? Stop emailing spreadsheets, creating CStemplates. orsetting of ftt transfers create collaborative secure workspaceswith your customers and their data saving you time, while providing amemorable, onboarding experience. Oh and there's no code required, you cango to flat file, dot, IO lashcs leader 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. U Share these conversations withothers. Leave us a rating on Apple Podcast, just TAPD, a number of stars.You think to shot his house. That's it for today catch you in the next one.

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