Join us with guest Irit Eizips, CEO and Chief Customer Officer for CSM Practice, a global customer success management consulting firm, that specializes in working with executives to accelerate the creation and implementation of Customer Success strategies.
Today we’re talking with Irit about how you go about designing and implementing customer success strategies in complex organizations (and what exactly complex organizations are.)
Guest: Irit Eizips
Irit Eizips is CEO of CSM Practice, a global customer success management consulting firm. The firm specializes in working with executives to accelerate the creation and implementation of Customer Success strategies, derive extensive value from Customer Success technology solutions as well as coach customer facing teams in Customer Success Management. She has been pivotal in shaping Customer Success methodologies and best practices.
She has been consistently voted top Customer Success strategist since 2013 and is frequently featured as a speaker at conferences and Customer Success publications.
ABOUT CSM Practice
CSM Practice specializes in the design and implementation of best of breed scalable customer success programs using an optimal combination of strategy, playbooks, and technology, and was the first to develop accelerated methodologies for customer success programs and is continuously producing thought leadership content for the Customer
Success community. The company was founded in 2014 and is headquartered in Sunnyvale, California. Additional information can be found at www.csmpractice.com
CONTACT IRIT EIZIPS
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[00:00:00] Jason Noble: Good morning. Good afternoon. And good evening, everybody. Welcome to another episode of the Jason’s take on podcasts. We’ve got another amazing guest with us. I think that’s three on a trot, so we’re really excited about this. It’s myself from Jason’s north. Say hello, Jason. Hi everyone. And today we are talking to the one and only era is Epps.
The chief customer officer and CEO from CSM practice. Eric is a world renowned expert thought leader in the world of customer success with a big focus on methodology strategies. She’s had multiple nominations over the years for top CS influencer, top CS strategists and recognized as one of the really big thought leaders in India.
Kind of leaders they’re there. So a big welcome here. We’re thrilled to have you absolutely thrilled. And I know it’s taken us a while. A lot of this has been on my side track and it’s organized, but welcome.
[00:00:50] Irit Eizips: Thank you so much. Hi guys. Hi everyone. Let’s listening.
[00:00:54] Jason Noble: I am today. We’re going to, we’re going to talk with her.
It’s about how you put together and set up a customer success strategy in complex organizations. So really good conversation. But before we do that, Eric, please go ahead and introduce yourself.
[00:01:08] Irit Eizips: Hi, everyone. Just like Jason said my name is Erie. I am thrilled to be here and share my, my experience and the expertise in this topic.
For those of you who don’t know besides working with companies on strategizing, what should their customer success practice look like? I also help those already have a practice in place. Optimize it to minimize churn and increase upsells and cross-sells, which is my forte. And I specifically specialize in working with enterprise organizations as well as complex organizations.
So we’ll talk about what that means. I’m sure. In a minute it was like, what is complex
[00:01:50] Jason Noble: exactly site. One thing I’m sure our listeners would love to know is what brought you to set up CSM practice practices, a business you’ve been going now for quite a while, and what are some of the learnings and challenges that you’ve seen along the way.
[00:02:00] Irit Eizips: What brought me in is really almost accidental setting up my firm. I think it happened because I worked at Gainsight for a little over a year. And before that I wasn’t a management consultant for many years. And so this transition over to start helping different companies setting up their customer success function or optimizing it.
Like a natural thing that happened. Just people started asking me to do it. And I was like I don’t know what I want to do after Gainsight. I guess I’m just going to do what people ask me to do. And then after a year of doing that, some somebody in my family said, AKA, my husband you want to get a job or do you want to do here?
It was like, okay, I guess I’m going to do this. Full-time. And that was the story of that. And I think that. It’s so cool to work with so many companies working on just like, how do you do customer success? And initially I worked with a lot of startup companies and mid market companies that just wanted to create a superior customer experience.
Mitigate churn. And then gradually it evolved to like in the last couple of three years to get organizations that are really a lot more, have a lot more complicated structure. They have gone through a lot of M and a, they have gone through, purchasing a lot of different products or they have a unique business model that doesn’t.
But most of the blogs that you see out there and they say what do you think? What should we be doing? And because I’ve seen so many things, it’s just easier to have somebody from the outside, take a look, see how things are and say what. This is what I recommend. So I always feel like, psychologists or doctors sometime, and I was like, all right, this is what you need to do.
[00:03:43] Jason Noble: I love that. I think you’re so right. That external insight, and it is, it’s a therapy. It’s a consultant is that I think your background and experience working as a career management consultant is so useful. It gives you a very different way of thinking about it. You talked a bit about kind of complex organization.
W which, as we said already can cover a wide range of organizations big and small, but how do you see the level of complexity? How does that impact how you define and implement the customer success strategy?
[00:04:12] Irit Eizips: So I like to think about a complex or don’t really love the word complex. Actually. I like to think about it, like some organizations that are a little bit more unique than your standard SAS company that has one single product and, does plenty of blogs about how to do customer success for that.
And even then sometimes, It’s useful to get an expert come in and tell you, are you doing this in the most optimized way? So I think that like what are the ones that don’t fall into that normal standard outside that deviation? So I think those are going to be any kind of organizations.
Like I said, that went through multiple mergers and acquisitions that have maybe inherited some customer success teams from. Other company that they just purchased. And then sometimes, some of these companies, when they purchase another or acquire another company, that new product has a completely different business model I’ve seen over and over again.
When a company has an enterprise solution, meaning a complex product that takes months to set up, go ahead and acquire a company where it’s literally a switch to turn it on. And then maybe the setup takes a few hours. The people from the original company don’t even know how to handle, like there’s such a big gap and should you have the same customer success team dealing with both?
How do you scale something like that? Do you run it as two different businesses? There’s so many questions around these types of things, but then there’s on the other. And there’s the incumbents, those large organizations that have been in business for 30, 40 years, they’ve went through, years of doing things in a certain way.
And they might also have a lot of specialized roles to, to some degree do some parts of what we call customer success, but they’re siloed. They’re not really customer centric. They don’t really work in a customer success strategy umbrella. And so it kinda works, but doesn’t then. So sometimes when I talk to people that work with these organizations, the senior leadership is very worried about setting up a customer success function.
And maybe rightly because, when you read the blogs, it’s overstepping existing roles. So what are you going to do about that? So I think the way that I like to look at this, when an organization doesn’t have a clear cut. Let’s set up the customer success function and take care of everything nobody else is doing to simplify it need to think about what are the barriers to success when the organization is not that straightforward.
[00:06:51] Jason Noble: I think that I love that the way you’re thinking. I know those kinds of, mergers and acquisitions, kind of new companies, different products. There, there are things that people just don’t think about, but there’s not just a level of complexity for the organization, but there’s a level of complexity to how they do business.
And it is, it could be too, as you said very different strategies for what they’re doing for customer success today. How do you bring them together? Not easy answers.
[00:07:15] Jason Whitehead: No, I think you’re so right to have the, so much of the customer success, blogosphere and thought leadership has been focused on startups, or just rolling it out for an existing company.
That’s there and not thinking about the acquisitions and all that other madness that comes in when it’s such a time of emotional turmoil too, with people’s jobs and roles changing. I also loved it. You said when you first came on about the psychologist and piece there, and I’m wondering, we’ve been in this field, I’ve known you for a few years now of a.
You know how it’s evolved and how it’s changed. So I’m sure it’s got a lot of flavors of customer success. How do you actually go about helping your customers, especially in complex organizations, really understand what customer success means for them and for their organization. How do you get into their head space and move them along the continuum of thinking about things a little bit differently.
[00:07:57] Irit Eizips: You have to understand where they’re coming from. Most of these organizations have been doing things for a long time and it was successful for them, but now we’re in 2020 and things changed. There’s these emergent of all these new companies that are, they are doing things differently and they do get that they need to change, but they’re very worried about it.
So I think the first thing you need to tackle is. What is the barrier to success to help the company transition and transform into a customer centric company, embracing customer success, methodologies. And the answer is simple. You have to talk to everybody that might have a concern about.
You have to create this open discussion and kind of flush out. What did they think are the current challenges without making any change? What’s going to happen to the company. It’s bring it to their awareness and how have them articulate, what is the risk and then have them articulate.
What do they think the solution is? And have a discussion around how some of their solutioning is practically aligned to customer success. And if some of their solutions is not aligned with it kind of share awareness to what customer success can bring into that situation. Flush that out as well.
And so these preliminary discussions that sometimes can take, two to three months to just line everybody up and have a conversation to create literally an enrollment conversation is super important, especially with larger organizations.
[00:09:25] Jason Noble: Yeah, I love the way of thinking about an enrollment conversation, because that’s what it is.
You, you also trying to get all that buy-in aren’t you. And at that’s a big challenge. People have come into these organizations, it’s very difficult for them to navigate what they need to do.
[00:09:38] Jason Whitehead: Picturing too, as a CS leader practitioner needing an office that has both a whiteboard and the therapist’s couch, and it’s really to move them through and get them where they need to be.
[00:09:47] Jason Noble: I think that’s probably what we already did. Officers, is there,
what are your thoughts about kind of approaches for best practice? I How do you determine what best practice is when you go into an organization? Do you. Best practices, CSM practicing. You can go in and share with people. And what kind of direction do you use when you determining the right CS strategy for different organizations?
And then how do you go about taking that from a vision and an idea right through to implementation and.
[00:10:14] Irit Eizips: That’s the secret sauce, right? Is that as a consultant, you’re trained to ask the right question and those questions lead you to the conclusion of what the best practice should be.
You have to understand that when you work with organizations that don’t have a clear cut a cookie cutter, I should say business model. You can just plug something out of your box and say this is how everybody’s doing it. So you should do it too. The answer is always a little bit different.
And so you have to, that’s why they hire you for so that you don’t give them, the cookie cutter. They can just copy paste that from a blog or a webinar that they saw. Yeah, you have to have a thoughtful thinking around, what are the challenges? How do we. Structure, first of all the organization, what kind of enablement model should they pay?
All the fundamentals, what we should do the customer journey look like, are they missing some phases? Like it’s sometimes it’s that fundamental. Like they don’t even have a phase after onboarding. The client might go, their customers might go from onboarding to customer support and nobody’s responsible for customer value.
Can you imagine that the only time they reach out to the customer is to. Upsell them on something or renew their contract. That’s not great. So sometimes you have to call these things out and then you make a list of all the challenges and all the things that are good. You, maybe you give them a score about each one of the aspects of customer success from a maturity standpoint and highlight where are the gaps?
And then from there you just create a roadmap and tell them, Hey, here’s the blueprint. Here’s where I think you need to go. These are the types of priorities that I recommend taking on in the next six months in the next year. And the next two years. Think about these organizations.
Sometimes they’re like multi-billion dollar companies with thousands of employees, the campaign, this transition even if they could make it very quickly, you don’t want them to, you want them to take it slow because any recommendation that you make. First of all requires training of hundreds of people sometimes.
And then even then you have to test everything out at first, do a proof of concept and then launch it in a grander scale because every mistake is amplified by thousands and hundreds and sometimes millions of dollars. So you can’t really outgrown yourself. You have to pace yourself.
So that’s like the way that I like to approach things and. Yeah, there was no cookie cutter, but like I said, when you’re, when you do this a lot of times, and you’ve seen a lot of things, you know what would work for certain situations and you can offer the right tool for the right job or the right situation.
[00:12:54] Jason Noble: That’s why you’re there. Isn’t it that bring you in because of what you’ve done in other organizations. Do you find a lot of organizations resisting the change at all and how do you manage that? Because some of these are quite fundamental shifts. You train. Why do you have to manage the changes?
[00:13:08] Irit Eizips: What, when I’m brought in, it’s typically because there’s some people in the organization that are apprehensive about what somebody proposes and then that’s somebody brings me in. So I can, come in as an ex, a world expert, as you say, an outsider view to say, here’s what I think. And then it’s not just them that say what needs to be done.
Here’s this outside third party that has no political interest in any kind of power play or anything like that. That just says, this is what’s right for your company. Now the process itself, of course, is broken down too many pieces. Like I said, there should be some sort of. Play for enrollment conversation.
You can’t just think that just because you brought in a consultant, then people would say, oh, of course she said so, so let’s go do it. There’s a lot of ways that, things that I need to do during that transit to transition them essentially to become believers and at least give us some sort of a budget to start implementing.
That blueprint, that roadmap to do the very least the proof of concept for at least six months or a year to say here, we implemented her recommendations. Here’s the value that we’re getting so far. Here’s the difference that we’re seeing and then make the case for a larger budget.
[00:14:30] Jason Whitehead: Yep. That’s fine.
What since you’ve worked with so many organizations, what advice would you give to a CS leader? Who’s coming into a new organization. That’s very complex. What are the things that they should do to set themselves up for success as a leader in their organization. And what do you see as the most common things that, that really bind a new CS leader in the backside when they weren’t expecting it?
[00:14:48] Irit Eizips: That’s like the, what do you do in the first 90 days when you come into an organization? I actually recorded a couple of videos on my YouTube channel CSM practice. If anybody has not heard of it, I’d really be thrilled if they go check it out. But at any event, it’s almost like very unanimous.
Doesn’t matter what size of the organization. Almost always the recommendation is still the same. You have to understand the current situation. You have to create some sort of an assessment of where things are and where the wind blows. So I like to think about it in three circles or three aspects.
First of all, what happens in your core team? Did you inherit a team or you have nobody, if you didn’t. A team or multiple teams. What is the sentiment of the team? What do they think should change? What are their current challenges? So that’s one aspect then the other circle is of course, what does management think?
What do they see from across functional issues or challenges that they’re having with the existing team in general? Another aspect for the internal company in general is to talk to sales. What are the kinds of deals that are coming in? Are there any market changes? Are there any certain features that are being asked talk to product, are they getting some requests for certain features and what does, what do customers tell them?
Cause they actually do a lot of interviews and due diligence with customers as well. And then of course we want to talk to the executive team to understand what is the go-to market strategy. Then once you ha and of course, talk to customers that goes without saying, talk to the customers themselves, what did they think?
What worked, what didn’t in each one of the phases? Do they see the company as a partner or do they see them as a vendor of a software solution or a service provider? And so once you have all this. Understandings, you can have a better sense of what should you be proposing and more importantly and like what are the changes of your Mo you’re going to do, but more importantly, how do you position it?
What your, you propose to be supportive of what you’ve heard. From the, when you talked to the team about the changes, how do you connect it back to things that they told you? And the same goes to the management and the cross-functional team? I think how do you announce it? The customers? I think one of the mistakes that most leaders make is not that they don’t have good plans.
It’s just that they’re not well trained or they don’t put enough of intention to smooth their change management practices. To ensure that they have the right enrollment conversation with all those who are going to be impacted by those changes. And so when they don’t do that, here’s what happens.
There’s a lot of nervous. In the organization sales thing, you’re going to step on their toes. A product is not sure. You know how you’re going to impact the roadmap, if anything, or they’re going to block you from impacting the roadmap. Customers are going to be nervous. So far maybe they talked to an account manager and they liked them and they don’t want you to change the account assignment, or you’re going to propose something else.
And they’re going to say no to it because they don’t understand what is. Maybe you need to start billing for customer success and they won’t understand why or you won’t be able to pitch it correctly. So all these conversations, these initial conversations are really critical for any leader to be successful if they leverage it correctly.
[00:18:15] Jason Noble: I think there are , it’s not just about complex organizations, the strategies, there’s a level of complexity there as well. Isn’t there and dealing with the organizations and the leaders. How have you guys seen. Customer success strategies and effective customer success strategies evolve over the year since you’ve been going.
What are some of the big changes that you’re expecting and seeing this year as we get into 2022?
[00:18:37] Irit Eizips: I can say back in 2014, when I started, it was just, Hey, can you set it up? We have 8,000 customers and. 10 CSMs, but it’s, they only deal with a fraction, like a hundred of cost and account, accounts.
It’s just, it was ridiculous. Like they would just take the most strategic accounts and assign a dedicated CSM to them or designated CSM nowadays the big change. Is that customer success leaders understand that it’s not about just taking care of the highly strategic customers and accounts. It’s about creating a scalable organization that can also take care of the long tail customer segment.
And it’s about really creating value for customers versus retention and renewals of contracts, because we’ve seen a lot of those at the beginning, right? Like we would have the account managers being converted to a new title called customer success and all the. Is try looking for upsell opportunities and renew contracts.
And they would be assigned like 150 accounts. We still have that. I just saw something on Reddit. Somebody said that they had 190 accounts assigned to them and their goals for the year. Like they’re literally their 15% bonus was tied to how many calls they made to customers in every given quarter. So we still have some of that shenanigan happening.
[00:20:07] Jason Noble: To see his name is frustrating. When you know, there’s a right way of doing this, but the fact that is, and these are not small organizations and it’s not uncommon. There’s still a lot of people struggling.
[00:20:17] Irit Eizips: It’s just sad. I got a little sad this morning when I read it.
I was like, no, I said, make a video about that. Don’t do it. But yeah, so it’s when we say complex organizations, it’s a lot of these things like having the right enablement model, having the right strategy in place, creating these evaluations in the first 90 days of every job. That those are critical for any organization, not just complex organizations.
[00:20:43] Jason Whitehead: You’ve raised so many good points here and continue on with this for quite a while as well, too. But as we’re getting ready to go, I wanted to ask you bull challenge question, cause you’ve brought up a lot of really good points here. And I guess the question is what would your number one piece of advice be when it comes to successfully implementing customer success strategies for any type of organization?
Not just a complex one, but really, Hey, what’s your number one piece of advice to you?
[00:21:08] Irit Eizips: It was just one, one piece of advice then I don’t think I’d have a job, but do you due diligence maybe, whew. I know, you know what, maybe after they set it up, make sure. You prepare and have intentional efforts around how you’re going to prove the value of any initiative you put in place. If you can do that, if you can prove how your initiatives benefited. The leadership team and your cross-functional teams, you’re going to be in such a good place versus just proving that upheld retention or did some upsells or just, it’s just, sometimes I see so many customer success leaders don’t take enough time to really think how they’re going to prove value.
And they’re just. It’s just such a miss because they sometimes do so much good work and because they don’t articulate the value internally in a structured and powerful and effective manner, they sometimes lose the budget. Or lose the power that they could have within the organization. It’s I had to think of one thing that I see a lot of times is being missed, but at some something that’s very powerful for any executive especially in customer success is just think about how you’re going to prove value internally.
[00:22:27] Jason Noble: I love that because it is that’s fundamentally what we’re trying to do. You know that if you can prove that internally, how are you proving if your customers, but it makes you think it makes you step back and think actually, what am I trying to do? Don’t step in and just do a rush plan, but really think about what am I trying to do?
You’ve got different stakeholders. We’ve talked before, you’ve got your customers, you’ve got your internal exec team, the stakeholders as well. They want to be successful. An awesome conversation. Thank you so much for joining us really excited. And I think I’m going to join you on your YouTube challenge next month.
Hopefully all being well, but really great conversation. Thank you so much for joining us.
[00:23:02] Irit Eizips: Thank you. Yeah. Looking forward to hosting you and my channel.
[00:23:07] Jason Whitehead: So before we go Garrett, please just give us a shameless plug for your organization and tell a little bit more about how people can find your YouTube channel or anything else you’d like to share, because I’ve seen several of your videos.
They’re great. And I highly recommend people check them out.
[00:23:21] Irit Eizips: CSM practice is a strategy consulting firm. We work with companies to help them either set up their customer success function or optimize it so that they can accelerate their profitable growth. Either via upsells, cross-sells improve their value selling for existing customer cohorts, or simply defend their renewable services or products.
And we specialize, like I said, with, any kind of organizations that are not cookie cutter. And that’s what we do. We’ve been doing this since 2014 and we were one of the first companies in the world to consult companies on how to structure customer success. And we bring all this experience and expertise to our projects about the channel.
This is my, my passion. I realized that, I’m not going to be able to work with. A ton of customers every year, I can only work with a handful of them. So I created my YouTube channel called CSM practice to either interview or share my own thought leadership around, what methodologies were.
What are some of the things that people should know about customer success, or even talk about topics that I don’t always talk about to my customers, because I work a lot with customer success executives I work with. So a lot of the videos are for CSMs actually. And so if you’ve never seen it before, you want to check it out, go to youtube.com/csn practice and Give one of my videos alike.
If you like it, it’ll help the channel and make
[00:24:57] Jason Whitehead: fantastic. Definitely everyone can check it out. There’s some great stuff out there and thank you again. We appreciate it.
[00:25:01] Jason Noble: Really good conversation. Awesome.
[00:25:03] Irit Eizips: Thanks guys.