Customer Success Leader
Customer Success Leader

Episode · 10 months ago

Why the Best CSMs Have Transferable Skills w/ Graham Gill

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Not all great CSMs have traditional CS training. Some — like Graham Gill — transfer their skills from roles like product management to CS.

 

Graham, the VP of CS & Services at Accent Technologies, shares how he found his way to customer success and brought his knowledge of product with him. Plus, Eric and Graham discuss… 

 

- How to break down silos and build a foundation of alignment

 

- Why it’s important for CSMs to empathize with other roles

 

- How CSMs can create strong customer relationships in a pandemic

 

For more info, check out customersuccessleader.com or send a message to hello@flatfile.io.

 

To hear more interviews like this one, subscribe to Customer Success Leader on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Sitting on all sides doing it touroduty on all sides of the arder organization, whether it's Qa, whetherit's marketing, whether it's product, whether it's a countmangmet customersuccess, I think, makes you a stronger person further on down the line want to create delightful customerexperiences. You 're in the right place welcome to customer success, leager,where you'll learn about the successes and struggles of leaders who arepassionate, outtheir craft trust me. You want to stick around here's yourhost, Eric Cra, Heyo, Eric Crane here Seo and cofounderflat file, and I'm excited to be joyined today on the customer,successluader podcast by Graham Gil who's, the VP of customer success ataccent, technologies, Hey, Graham, how you doing hi Eric how you doing thankslot. Hor. Are you calling in from today, I'm up in Connecticut Right now hangingout my bunker, my basement don the virtual stuff as everyone else's, so itkind of caught in the middle? I got to ask: Are you socks or Yanks hundredpercent red socks, everything Oston I'm from Massachusetts? Originally sothat's where my allegiance fals, I'm a big baseball guy and I actually used tolive in Boston love going to fenway. It's pretty cool experience if youhaven't been definitely try to check it out. One of my favorite places toughseason, tough for the socks this year. Yeah. But you know you got a couplerings. The last ten ID call that a netwin all at all, yeah after years ofsuffering with with the red socks, the patrots it's been well deserved. Sowe're not here to talk about baseball, we're here to talk about customersuccess and I'd love for you to tell me a little bit more about what you dorunning customer success at accent sure so I am ultimately responsible for myteam's teams are responsible for everything post sale. So it's a littlebit of a unique opportunity, an a unique role where I'm not just focusedin on customer success, but I'm also building out implementation supporttraining, adding in a layer, professional services. So it's reallyan all encompassing group of folks that were pluying together. So it's quite alot of different functions. Here I mean: How do you define success within yourteam, great questions, so when I first...

...got to accent, it was really multiplefolks doing multiple roles and the first thing I really looked was: howcan I break this up so that we can measure like how would I define successif I were in support? So is it igering to slas on the customer success I,which I think you know you're well gersed and that's the easiest partright, that's something that you can measure renewals. You can measureNetarr, you can upsells, but services implementations. You know those aredifferent metrics, and so it's very interesting as we've split this out andwe brought in folks to fill in these individual roles. How do we measurethem right, and so that's really something that we're still in theInfancia of doing yeah. So tell me a little bit about how thattransformation is gone to this point as well. So what are some of the uniquethings that you're doing to try and break down some of these silas betweenthings like training and services? So it's interesting when you're a smallshop, an action has been around for twenty twenty five years right, butreally at the heart of it. It's a bunch of really smart folks who are handlingmultiple roles right wearing many hats, as we like to say, and so that's notsustainable for scaling it for growth. So it's really been an exercise andfiguring out what folks want to do when they grow up what part of their daythey really enjoy and getting them focused in on that. So we spent a lotof time splitting out, you know, what's a successful handoff from sales toimplementation, actually look like right, because you can measure that youcan coach that you can build out around that then, where to support kickinright in some relationships, that' sort of that ever alolving right, and so howdo you get customer successin engage so that you have a truth: Separation ofchurch and state between sales, implementation support and thenbuilding and cultivating that relationship on the customer Successsad.So, given that there are focus areas, I imagine you've been designing someprocesses to try and sitch all this together. So could you tell me a littlebit about r process for doing that sure I love to listen to understand whatworks understand where the painpoints are so the process. Really I almostlook at so the customer success focus...

...was people right, so we had to changearound our team a little bit. We had folks that were technically focused ot,really like that, but dim like the paperwork. They got very nervous whenit came time to slide that renewal across or start talking about, upsellsor start talking about expansion. I ht, so we have the honest discussion of ifthat's not what you're comfortable with. Is there a better role in theorganization? So we started it was really a slice and dice almost aninterview, hands on understanding where folks felt comfortable and then figurinout where the gaps were right, a gap assessment. Do we have all the rightplayers all the right skill sets that fill these different areas within theorganization yeah. It's a really interesting process that are goingthrough and actually interviewing your current team to make sure they're inthe right role. That sounds like something that might be interesting todo on an ongoing basis as well. I've actually enjoyed it. So right came tothe organization just as covid started beginning of March, so it's been a veryunique experience right. I think it's I was talking about this the other daywith a collee where we were talking about hey as it gone as you expected,and the answer is absolutely not right. I thought I was going to have face timewith folks. I thought I was going to be able to be in the room, but we talkabout. You know visual ques. What does that facelook like on over Zon? What dothey mean by that? So it's really been. I get Tou know you in this new world,but also how do you figure out what someone really wants to do right? Youhave a new person coming in. Are they telling you what they think you want tohear? So that takes a little bit more time right, because you can't just godown to the corner coffee shop and have that that conversation, it's all remoteand it's been really interesting and it's taught me a lot of patients aswell as a lot of really fine tuning and getting to the message quicker so thatI can really figure that out aksense and so, besides things like zoom orhangout. So what are some of the technology tools that you're using inthis sustainable kind of like postsale customer engagement process? Yeah, Imean anything from good old fashioned phone, which is coming back in. If yousaid to me eight nine months ago that I would be on actual like picking up thephone and calling people a lot more. If it wasn't a customer I'd, say you'recrazy, but I think everyone needs a...

...break. It's understanding, not only theclients but also your teammates, what their communication stylethat's right,you kN! When I first got to the organization, I thought it was reallyimportant to have one en one Oti, everyone which obviously could keep up.But then I noticed it wasn't working for everyone, so we have folks on theteam. WHOARE O O we'll have the one I wone schedule. But if they're not ready,they'll text me and say: Hey Look: could we do it tomorrow, because I havegot a couple more topics, I'm working through, so you know the tools are thesame as everyone's using it's understanding the communication styleof clients prospects as conteammates yeah. So let's talk a little bit moreabout this from the customers porsective. So the customer outsidelooking in sees all these different folks who are helping them with avariety of different things. How do you ensure alignment so that all thosefolks are saying the same things and like basically just all organizedaround that customer success with accent that has been, I think, hat thebiggest opportunity? I don't want to say a challenge, but it's been anopportunity right, because my philosophy is different than mypredecessors right. Our organization is changed is evolved, it's scaling, andso it's really outlining that vision for the clients and then making surethat folks on the team in the specific area. So if your post implementationthat they understand what the role of support is moving forward and Oh, I wasalways used to Goingto Eric for this, but Eric's roll is changing a littlebit and Ju just reinforcing. So it was a lot of virtual road shows. I continuethem to today, where I will really talk and reiterate what the philosophy is ofde Organization. Why we're making these changes and how it benefits you thatthe customer and it's not really rocket science, but it does take reinforcementand you have to have your team believe in it. They may disagree about thestufs we take to get there, but the overall philosophy I think we're allbought into. I know it's only been a few months for what are some of theearly results that you're seeing so when I first got to the organization, Iwill tell you. I really thought that we did not have a good handle on ouraccount base. Right so, if you're adding more into that, it's very rockyand there's there's potential for turn,...

I would say that the initial resultsfrom just talking to customers outlining where we're going small windsbuilding credibility has worked immensely. I think our turn rates aredown. Oure onboarding is quicker. Our reaction to customer events, whether itbe support, whether it be questions the time, is dramatically dropped from whatmight have been multiple days weeks to t hours and it sounds like you're,taking a very itrative, almost a product like approach to this. So Iwant to ask you a little bit about your background, especially because ifsomeone who's worked as a PM as well as a CSM, it seems like I got a kindredspirit here. So tell me a bit more about your path from the product sideof the business to the customer success side, yeah, one of the things I'vealways said, and I retired it, but I'll bring it back out here. I never woke upand said I wanted to be a doctor, lauyer firefighter all really greatprofessions, pretty linear in terms of a path of a curious mind. So you know Istarted tinkering, I'm a Geek at heart. I was building really in my mind what Ithought really great products, whether it Beo work flow, whether it be youknow, healthcare, O software, and I just couldn't figure out why it wasn'tresonating in the marketplace ad opportunity. There was a great group offolks that were essentially account managers. I said I feel like I can helpand I had no professional customer success training. I never worked. Ihate sales, I run sales teams, but I really just I don't like sales, butsomething about customer success and just being able to be honest, truthful,transparent and HEALP. Folks really gave me the understanding of way. Iunderstand why those products weren't resonating, that I was building,because I was thinking about how I wanted it. What I thought was cool andwhat my team thought was cool, but there was problems in the way it wasbeing designed it was. It didn't translate to the end user. You saw thatwith customer success. I think it gives me a very unique view when I go intosome of these clients, R or even prospects. I still help on on thetresale side, and I think it's the empathy, the understanding of it fromboth sides from from not only the...

...product perspective, the user, Perenduser perspective and like will this make my life better? Will it help merelieve Xyandz painpoints, and so that's really the journey that I'vetaken I've toyd with going back to the product side, but I think you know,with the type of roles that I've been in now, where I get to handle multipledifferent flavors of the post sale. It's been very interesting and I thinkif you talk to accents product group, I think it's also been an asset to themright just having someone who's, not just looking Tho pushpaper, looking tosay the clients Sawas Right, and we have to do this- really understandingthat it is a give and take that's sort of a long explanation on how I camearound. I I just wanted to make myself more knowledgeble and get on thepostsale side yeah, and it's really funny because oftentimes fucks will askme hey how do I get into product and I'll say: Go? Do Customer success go tocustomer support because it helpd you build empathy with the customers and soLi e in long term run. I imagine that there's going to be a lot of overlapbetween customer success and product and wouldn't be surprised to seedifferent businesses innovating around, maybe combining those roles and saying:okay, Hey: How can our product managers also be the ones who are directlyserving our customers? Yeah, you hear you know product cotes love to get onwith customers, and sometimes you wonder you know, does it resonate withthem? And I use this when I'm hiring for any role? I don't want six Erics.You know you're great you're, good at what you do, but cloting you isn'tgoing to help me my team, the organization right, so I do think yousee those folks that have the technical priles who have been product folks, youknow, maybe they just don't want to write. Specks anymore, maybe they don'twant to sit in the morning standups because they understand that throughthose phone calls they're picking up something on the customer Sid. Let mego over there and try to help and- and I think the skills are verytransferable- and I actually, if anyone would ever ask advice and yeah everynow, and then you get folk starting out that ask. How do I get into something Ithink sitting on all sides, doing it touro duty on all sides of the Ardirorganization, whether it's Qa, whether it's marketing, whether it's product?Whether it's you know a countmanagement...

...customer success? I think, makes you astronger person further on down the line yeah. I couldn't agree more. As afellow journeymen, through the different areas of business operationsacross the typtical software company, you really get to learn a lot about thebusiness and I think that would know retrude not only for a role likecustomer success and product management which have to understand all thosedifferent parts of the business, but also something like you know, startingyour own business as well. You need to be able to understand all thosedifferent fassets and be able to design your organization n the most effectiveway too, ultimately be in service to the customer. Yeah. I'm sure like likeme, you've been in organizations where you know either leadership or orkeyareas just doesn't understand or doesn't see the other side of theequation, and you can almost feel that there will be that grinding. Haltingmoment where you'll successwill be caped, because you don't have thatempatheor, you don't have the understanding of how the customersusing your product or service Yep totally get it just I'd be remiss. If Ididn't ask you a little bit more about some of your favorite technology tools,I'm a builder here and I'm just always curious to learn like what are some ofthe things that you just really love using in your relationship with yourcustomers. That's a great question, the thing that I'm finding most usefulthese days- and this is not a plug, but I actually enjoy our own technology, soaccent has what we call our revenue operating system and at the croks of it.It's helping US process data, so if you look at transaction anall events, soit's you know, renewals its communications and it's surfacing it upin a way that allows me to look across my portfloo right. Everyone can dosomething lie by Lane and Excel and say well that that renewal events coming upin three weeks we haven't talked to the customer in the last o six months.Activities are down right so using acton in our platform and almosthelping build out that customer success. Aspect of it is something that I use alot. I find that we're sort of in this period where technology is almostcoming in, at a detriment to some of...

...these relationships right becauseyou're trying to do your outreaches and you're ruiting your campaigns for yourcampaign manager. So we don't have a currently a customer success. Specifictool and house feel I boy wuld with Bringnin Gane site or some of the otherones. I've done that in the past. I don't know if we're ready for that, butI do like the visibility of showing activity based metric and using that tohelp manage Orour court Followu, especially as I'm bringing in newcustomer success managers and allows them to kind of see their book ofbusiness as it stands today. Helps me coach them to mov move theserelationships along t at's, a really interesting pererspective right, likedeciding or defining when the organization is ready or need some sortof like overarcun tool or if we can use just the things that we've already got,especially our own product, to make things a bit easier. So I like thatperspective and that that comes from Americ honestly making the mistakebefore I need to have this all encompassing tool. That's going to helpmy team right or the organization, and we spent a lot of time and we wasted alot of cycles right so right now, you're fighting for space in E, verycrowded market right companies are looking to reduce their overhead withtechnologies. So, if you're not out there helping them your potentially onh on the chopping block to take the time to implement one of these systemsnow would probably come at the cost of losing core customers, which I don'twant to jeopardize. I would rather us get at that personal approach back wersthe technology approach, especially as we come through the latter part of thisyear, yea. That makes a lot of sense, and you know that's one of the thingsthat I constantly think about with my team, too, is like hey. Instead ofstarting with the tool, let's start with the problem right, you start withthe problem and say like okay. What is it that we need to accomplish? Do weneed to send out more emails to our customers? Do we need better insightinto how they're using our products like start with that? First and thenthat will get you to the right solution. It's not always necessarily a tool, itcould just be a new process or we need...

...to adjust the way we use our existingsoftware in order to most effectively serve that customer yeah. I think a lotof that also comes from my I'm a big picture, long charm or midrange hatperson. That's how I view things sure there's the ups and downs of you knowthings that are going on now, but I also realized that there's in a growingorganization in a scaling organization, six, nine, twelve eighteen months fromnow it's going to be drastically different right. Our client Porflo isgoing to be different. The problems that they're going to be looking tosolve could be different right as we go into two thousand and twenty one. Do Ireally want to take the time now to put something in a Stak in the ground thatmay not even make sense in six months? Yeah tiks ton a sense. Well, so I liketo wrap all these episodes with a similar question, which is especially Iinpertinent for you, someone who started in kind of like a differentcareer path than necessarily customer success and then moved into it. Butwhat was the best piece of advice you got from someone else related tocustomer success, be honest and start talking honestly right, a lot of folks.hige behind emails, a lot of folks hi behind you know the aunomationcomponent of it just be honest, these transparent and build report rightyou're not going to do that through email. You know in the old days it hisphone, it was going to lunch. It was getting on conversations like this, butthat was the best I actually as interesting. My first tustomer success,Rol reported into the CRO, and so it was sales customer success, and yourealize that the successful sales folks weren't just shooting emails out,weren't, just shooting out paper and trying to know land a big fish theywere talking. They were communicating, theyould, be honest. They were sayingno to certain prospects because it CIDN fit, and so that's always resonatedwith me. There's just a problem: let's talk about it. If there's an issue withyou know the way things were implement at leas Di sock. That let'sit's coursecorrect now, so that you can start getting value and thet will make we'llmake it better in the future. YEA that youal be honest and talk. I love it.You got to be able to have a conversation if you're going to becustomer zess later, because you got to...

...get to know people eltodatey, that'swhat drives Bhusinessis forward. Thank you so much for your time today. Graham,I really appreciate it. Agai y'all, that was Gran Gil who's, the PP ofcustomer success at accent technologies. Thank you again for listening to thisweek's episode of customer successfullyher. Thanks Lot Eric you depend on the fastest time to valuefor your customers. So why let Datea onboardand sell you down. Stop emailingspreadsheets, creating CSB templates for setting up ftt transfers, createcollaborative secure work spaces with your customers and their data savingyou time, while providing a memorable, onboarding experience. Oh and there'sno code required, you can go to flat file, Zot IO lashcs leader to learnmore. I 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 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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