Customer Success Leader
Customer Success Leader

Episode · 1 year 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 itto our duty on all sides of the order organization, whether it's Qa,whether it's marketing, whether it's a product, whether it's account management. Customer success, I think makes you a stronger person further on down the line.Want to create delightful customer experiences. You're in the right place. Welcome tocustomer success leader, where you'll learn about the successes and struggles of leaders whoare passionate about their craft. Trust me, you want to stick around. Here'syour host, Eric Crane. Hey, y'all, are crane here, CEOand Co founder of flat file, and I'm excited to be joined todayon the customer success leader podcast by Graham Gill, who's the VP of customersuccess at accent technologies. Hey, Graham, how you done? I Eric,how you doing? Thanks a lot. Or you calling in from today?I'm up in Connecticut Right now hanging out my bunker, my basement,doing the virtual stuff, as everyone else has, so it kind of caughtin the middle. I gotta ask, are you socks or Yanks? Ahundred percent red sox everything. Austin. I'm from Massachusetts originally, so that'swhere my allegiance falls. I'm a big baseball guy and I actually used tolive in Boston. Loved going to fenway. It's pretty cool experience. If youhaven't been, definitely try to check it out. One of my favoriteplaces. Tough season, though, for the socks this year. Yeah,but you know, you got a couple rings the last ten. I'd callthat a net win all in all. Yeah, after years of suffering withthe Red Sox the Patriots, it's been well deserved. So we're not hereto talk about baseball, we're here to talk about customer success and I'd lovefor you to tell me a little bit more about what you do running customersuccess at accent. Sure. So I am ultimately responsible for my team's teamsare responsible for everything post sale. So it's a little bit of a uniqueopportunity and a unique role where I'm not just focused in on customer success,but I'm also building out implementation, support, training, adding in a layer ofprofessional services. So it's really an all encompassing group of folks that werepulling together. So I think it's quite a lot of different functions here.I mean, how do you define success within your team? Great questions.So when I first got to accent,...

...it was really multiple folks doing multipleroles in the first thing I really looked was how can I break this upso that we can measure like how would I define success if I were insupport? So is it? It's going to SLA's on the customer success side, which I think you know you're well versed in. That's the easiest part, right, that's something that you can measure. Renewals, you can measurenet Rr, you can up cells, but services, implementations, you know, those are different metrics and so it's very interesting as we've split this outand we brought in folks to fill in these individual roles, how do wemeasure them right, and so that that's really something that we're still in theinfancy of doing. Yeah, so tell me a little bit about how thattransformation has 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 silos betweenthings like training and services? So it's interesting when you're a small shop andactions been around for twenty, twenty five years, right. But really atthe heart of it it's a bunch of really smart folks who are handling multipleroles, right, wearing many hats, as we like to say, andso that's not sustainable for scaling and for Growth. So it's really been anexercise and figuring out what folks want to do when they grow up, whatpart of their day they really enjoy, and getting them focused in on that. So we spent a lot of time splitting out, you know, what'sthe successful handoff from sales to implementation actually look like, right, because youcan measure that, you can coach that, you can build out around that.Then where does support kick in? Right, in some relationships that sortof that ever evolving right. And so how do you get customer success engageso that you have a true separation of church and state between sales, implementationsupport and then building and cultivating that relationship on the customer success sid so givenit their focus areas. I imagine you've been designing some processes to try andto tell this together. So I could you tell me a little bit aboutyour process for doing that? Sure, I love to listen, to understandwhat works, understand where the pain points are. So the process really Ialmost look at. So the customer success...

...focus was people, right, sowe had to change around our team a little bit. We had folks thatwere technically focused at really like that, but then, like the paperwork,they got very nervous when it came time to slide that renewal across or starttalking about up cells or start talking about expansion. Right. So we hadthe honest discussion of if that's not what you're comfortable with, is there abetter role in the organization? So we started. It was really a somedice, almost an interview, hands on understanding where folks felt comfortable and thenfiguring out where the gaps were. Right, a gap assessment. Do we haveall the right players, all the right skill sets to fill these differentareas within the organization? Yeah, it's really interesting process that are going throughand actually interviewing your current team to make sure they're in the right role.That sounds like something that might be interesting to do on an ongoing basis aswell. I've actually enjoyed it so right, I came to the organization just ascovid started beginning of March, so it's been a very unique experience.Right, I think it's I was talking about this the other day with acolleague where we were talking about hey, has it gone as you expected?And the answer is absolutely not. Right. I thought I was going at facetimewith folks. I thought I was going to be able to be inthe room, but we talked about, you know, visual queues. Whatdoes that facebook like on over zoom? What do they mean by that?So it's really been to get to know you in this new world. Butalso, how do you figure out what someone really wants to do? Right? You have a new person coming in, are they telling you what they thinkyou want to hear? So that takes a little bit more time,right, because you can't just go down to the corner coffee shop and havethat that conversation. It's all remote and it's been really interesting and it's taughtme a lot of the patients as well as a lot of really fine tuningand getting to the message quicker so that I can really figure that out makesense. And besides things like zoom or hang out, say, what aresome of the technology tools that you're using in this sustainable kind of like postsale customer engagement process? Yeah, I mean anything from good old fashioned phone, which is coming back in. If you said to me eight, ninemonths ago that I would be on actual like picking up the phone and callingpeople a lot more. It wasn't a customer, I'd say you're crazy,but I think everyone needs a break and...

...it's understanding not only the clients butalso your teammates what their communication style is. Right when I first got to theorganization, I thought it was really important to have one on one's witheveryone, which obviously you keep up, but then I noticed it wasn't workingfor everyone. So we have folks on the team who are will have theone one scheduled, but if they're not ready, they'll text me and say, Hey, look, could we do it tomorrow because I have got acouple more topics I'm working through. So you know, the tools are thesame as everyone's using. It's understanding the communication style of clients, prospects andas teammates. Yeah, so let's talk a little bit more about this fromthe customers first active so the customer outside looking in and sees all these differentfolks who are helping them with a variety of different things. How do youensure alignment so that all those folks are saying the same things and like basicallyjust all organized around that customers success? With accent that is been. Ithink that the biggest opportunity. I don't want to say a challenge, butit's been an opportunity, right, because my philosophy is different than my predecessor's. Right, our organization is changed, just of aold it's scaling and soit's really outlining that vision for the clients and then making sure that folks onthe team in the specific area so if your post implementation, that they understandwhat the role of support is moving forward. And Oh, I was always usedto going to eric for this, but Eric's role is changing a littlebit and just reinforcing. So it was a lot of virtual road shows.I continue them to today where I will really talk and reiterate what the philosophyis of the organization, why we're making these changes and how it benefits you, the customer. And it's not really rocket science, but it does takereinforcement and you have to have your team believe in it. They may disagreeabout the steps we take to get there, but the overall philosophy I think we'reall bought into. I know it's only been a few months, butwhat are some of the early results that you're seeing? So when I firstgot to the organization. I will tell you I really thought that we didnot have a good handle on our account bas right. So if you're addingmore into that, it's very rocky and there's there's potential for turn I wouldsay that the initial results from just talking...

...to customers, outlining where we're going, small winds, building credibility, has worked immensely. I think our turnrates are down, are on boarding is quicker, our reaction to customer events, whether it be support, whether it be questions, the time is dramaticallydropped from what might have been multiple days weeks to to hours and it soundslike you're taking a very iterative, almost a product like approach to this.So I want to ask you a little bit about your background, especially becauseas someone who's worked as a PM as well as a CSM, it seemslike I got a kindred spirit here. So tell me a bit more aboutyour path from the product side of the business to the customer success side.Yeah, one of the things I've always said, and I retired it,but I'll go it back out here. I never woke up and said Iwanted to be a doctor, lawyer, firefighter, all really great professions.PRETTY LINEAR in terms of a path. I'm a curious mind, so youknow, I started tinkering. I'm a Geek at heart. I was buildingreally in my mind what I thought really great products, whether you workflow,whether it be, you know, healthcare software, and I just couldn't figureout why it wasn't resonating in the marketplace and an opportunity. There was agreat group of folks from that were essentially account managers. I said I feellike I can help and I had no professional customer success training. I hadnever worked. I hate sales. I run sales teams but I really justI don't like sales. But something about customer success and just being able tobe honest, truthful, transparent and help folks really gave me the understanding ofway. I understand why those products weren't resonating that I was building because Iwas thinking about how I wanted it, what I thought was cool and whatmy 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 sawthat with customer success and I think it gives me a very unique view whenI go into some of these clients or even prospects. I still help outon the Presale side and I think it's the empathy, the understanding of itfrom both sides, from from not only...

...did the product perspective, the userpresent user perspective and like will this make my life better? Will it helpme releive x, Y and Z pain points? And so that's really thejourney that I've taken. I've toyed with going back to the product side,but but I think you know, with the type of roles that I've beenin now, where I get to handle multiple different flavors at the post sale, it's been very interesting and I think it if you talk to accents productgroup, I think it's also been an asset to them right, just havingsomeone who's not just looking to push paper, looking to say that the clients alwaysright and we have to do that's really understanding that it is a giveand take. That sort of the long explanation of how I came around.I just wanted to make myself more knowledgeable and get on the the post saleside. Yeah, and it's really funny because oftentimes folks so last me,hey, how do I get into product, and I'll say go to customer successgo to customer support because it help you build empathy with the customers.And so I like in the long term run, I imagine that there's goingto be a lot of overlap between customer success and product and wouldn't be surprisedto see different businesses innovating around maybe combining those roles and saying, okay,hey, how can our product managers also be the ones who are directly servingour customers? Yeah, you hear you know, product folks love to geton with the customers and sometimes you wonder, you know, does their resonate withthem? And I use this when I'm hiring for any role. Idon't want six Erics. You know you're great, you're good at what youdo, but cloning you isn't going to help me my team the organization right. So I do think you see those folks that have the technical prowess whohave been product folks. You know, maybe they just don't want to writespects anymore, maybe they don't want to sit in the morning standups because theyunderstand that through those phone calls they're picking up something on the customer side.Let me go over there and try to help, and I think the skillsare very transferable and I actually if anyone would ever ask advice, and everynow and then you get folks starting out that ask how do I get intosomething? I think sitting on all sides, doing a tour duty on all sidesof the order organization, whether it's Qa, whether it's marketing, whetherit's product whether it's, you know,...

...account management, customers success, Ithink makes you a stronger person further on down the line. Yeah, Icouldn't agree more. As a fellow journeymen through the different areas of business operationsacross the tifical software company, you really get to learn a lot about thebusiness and I think that would bring true not only for a role like customersuccess and product management, which have to understand all those different parts of thebusiness, but also something like, you know, starting your own business aswell. You need to be able to understand all those different facets and beable to design your organization the most effective way to ultimately be in service tothe customer. Yeah, I'm sure, like me, you've been in organizationswhere you know either leadership or key areas just doesn't understand or doesn't see theother side of the equation and you can almost feel that there will be thatgrinding halting moment where you'll success will be capped because you don't have that empathyor you don't have the understanding of how the customers using your product or service. Yep, totally get it this. I'D BE REMISS IF I didn't askyou a little bit more about some of your favorite technology tools. I'm abuilder here and I'm just always curious to learn. Like, what are someof the things that you just really love using in your relationship with your customers? That's a great question. The thing that I'm finding most useful these days, and this is not a plug, but I actually enjoy our own technology. So accent has what we call our revenue operating system and at the cruxof it it's helping US process data. So if you look at transactional events, so it's, you know, renewals, it's communications and it's surfacing it upin a way that allows me to look across my portfolio right everyone cando something line by line and Excel and say, well, that renewal eventscoming up in three weeks. We haven't talked to the customer and the lastsix months activities are down right so using accent and our platform and almost helpingbuild out that customer success aspect of it is something that I use a lot. I find that we're sort of in this period where technology is almost comingin at a detriment to some of these...

...relationships, right, because you're tryingto do your outreaches and you're running your campaigns for your campaign manager. Sowe don't have a currently a customer success specific tool and house, you know, ivoyed with with bringing gain sight or some of the other ones. I'vedone that in the past. I don't know if we're ready for that,but I do like the visibility of showing activity based metrics and using that tohelp manage our portfolio, especially as I'm bringing in new customer success managers,and allows them to kind of see their book of business as it stands today. Helps me coach them to move these relationships along. That's a really interestingperspective, right, like deciding or defining when the organization is ready or needsome sort of like overarching tool or if we can use just the things thatwe've already got, especially are on product to make things a bit easier.So I like that perspective and that that comes from Eric honestly making the mistakebefore. I need to have this all encompassing tool that's going to help myteam, right, or the organization. And we spent a lot of timeand we wasted a lot of cycles. Right. So, right now you'refighting for space in the very crowded market. Right companies are looking to reduce theiroverhead with technologies. So if you're not out there helping them, yourpotentially on the chopping block. To take the time to implement one of thesesystems now would probably come at the cost of losing core customers, which Idon't want to jeopardize. I would rather us get that personal approach back.Where's the technology approach, especially as we come through the ladder part of thisyear? That makes a lot of sense and you know, that's one ofthe things that I'm constantly thinking about with my team too, is like hey, instead of starting with the tool, let's start with the problem. Right. You start with the problem and say like, okay, what is itthat we need to accomplish? Do we need to send out more emails toour customers? Do we need better insight into how they're using our products?Like, start with that first, and then that would get you to theright solution. It's not always necessarily a...

...tool. It could just be anew process or we need to adjust the way we use our existing software inorder to most effectively. Are that customer. Yeah, I think a lot ofthat also comes from my I'm a big picture, long term or midrange that person. That's how I view things. Sure, there's the upsand downs of, you know, things that are going on now, butI also realize that there's a growing organization, in a scaling organization. Six,nine, twelve, eighteen months from now it's going to be drastically different. Right, our client portfelows going to be different, the problems that they'regoing to be looking to solve could be different. Right, as we gointo two thousand and twenty one, do I really want to take the timenow to put something in the a stake in the ground that may not evenmake sense in six months? Yeahs ten of sense. Well. So Ilike to wrap all these episodes of a similar question which is especially, Ithink, pertinent for you, someone who started in kind of like a differentcareer path and necessarily customer success, and then moved into it. But whatwas the best piece of advice you got from someone else related to customer success. Be Honest and start talking honestly, right. A lot of folks hidebehind emails, a lot of folks hide behind, you know, the automationcomponent of it. Just be honest. He's transparent and build report right.You're not going to do that through email. You know, in the old daysit was phone, it was going to launch, it was getting onconversations like this, but that was the best. I actually interesting. Myfirst customer success role reported into the CRO and so it was sales customer successand you realize that the successful sales folks weren't just shooting emails out, weren'tjust shooting out paper and try and they land a big you fish. Theywere talking, they were communicating. There would be honest. They were sayingno to certain prospects because it didn't fit. And so I that's always resonated withme. There's just a problem, let's talk about it. If there'san issue with, you know, the way things were implemented, let's diestack that. Let's course correct now so that you can start getting value andthen we'll make will make it better in the future. Yeah, y'all,be honest and talk. I love it. You got to be able to havea conversation if you're going to be a customer success later, because yougot to get to know people. Ultimately,...

...that's what drives business is forward.Thank you so much for your time today, Graham. I really appreciateit. Again, y'all, that was a Graham Gil who's the VP ofcustomer success at accent technologies. Thank you again for listening to this week's episodeof Customer Success Leader. Thanks a lot, Eric. You depend on the fastesttime to value for your customers, so I let data on board andsell you down. Stop emailing spreadsheets, creating CSP templates or setting up FTPtransfers. Create collaboratives to cure work spaces with your customers and their data,saving you time while providing a memorable onboarding experience. Oh and there's no coderequired. You can go to flat files IO CS leader to learn more andget started for free. Thank you so much for joining us for this episode. Customer Success leader is brought to you by flat file. If you're afan of the show and want to help a share these conversations with others,leave us a rating on apple podcast. Just tap the number of stars youthink the show deserves. That's it for today. Catch you in the nextone.

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