Guest: Jamie Bertasi – Customer Success Predictions for 2023
Join us when we speak with Jamie Bertasi. Jamie is the President and COO of Totango. Previously she was also the company’s Chief Customer Officer.
In this episode, Jamie is going to share her predictions for Customer Success in 2023!
Guest: Jamie Bertasi - President and COO of Totango
She is responsible for the go-to-market, onboarding and customer success teams at Totango. A proven and trusted leader, Jamie has a demonstrated track record for building high-value experiences for customers and partners, delivering strong business results and building teams with a positive culture.
Jamie is a recognized expert in go-to-market and customer success strategies. Before joining Totango, Jamie was the COO of HomeSuite and previously led TellMe to a successful acquisition by Microsoft.”
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Jason Whitehead: [00:00:00] All right. Hello and thank you everyone for joining us for another episode of the Jason’s Take on podcast. My name is Jason Whitehead, coming to you from sunny Washington, DC area. I’m here with my partner in crime, Mr. Noble, say hello, Jason.
Jason Noble: Hello, Jason. Hello everybody. Good evening. Good morning, good afternoon from a very dark and cold London.
Jason Whitehead: Yep. And today we’re excited to extend a very warm welcome to Jamie Bertasi. Did I pronounce that anywhere close to correct? I’m sorry.
Jamie Bertasi: Close enough. No problem. Jason.
Jason Whitehead: Jamie is the president and COO of Totango, and previously she was also the Chief Customer Officer at Totango. And Jamie’s going to share her predictions for customer success in 2023. So we’re excited to hear about this. Just a little background on Jamie. She is responsible for the go to market onboarding and customer success teams over at to Tango, and she’s a proven, a trusted leader. Jamie has a demonstrated track record for building high value experiences for customers and partner.
We’re delivering strong business [00:01:00] results and building teams with a positive culture. And many of you will recognize that Jamie is an expert in Go to market customer success strategies. And before joining to Tango, she was at Home Suite and previously tell me to a successful acquisition by Microsoft. So Jamie, thank you so much for being here. We’re excited to have you.
Jamie Bertasi: Thank you guys both for having me. The Jason.
Jason Whitehead: Absolutely. We love it. Before we jump into your thoughts on 2023, why don’t you just tell us a little bit more about your background and your experience in customer success and how you came to be where you are.
Jamie Bertasi: Sure. In terms of my background, I’ve been in high tech my whole career. Started grew up on the East coast. Went to Tufts University, graduated, went right into a software company and have been pretty entrepreneurial. I’ve had the opportunity to build three companies from the ground up and have very successful.
About five years or so ago now, I was introduced to Guy Niaz, the CEO and founder of To Tango through a board. Guy had built this amazing product and company, but he really needed his go-to-market partner. [00:02:00] And I spent about four months getting to know guy, making sure it was gonna be a great fit, and and then joined to Tango and it’s just been, up until the right since.
Super fun. Have really sold all the customers that we have and implemented all the customers that we have and just built everything from the ground up with Guy. It’s been just a great ride and super fun to work in customer success.
Jason Whitehead: Wow, that’s exciting. And I’m sure over that time you’ve seen a lot of changes in the the industry and in the space. Before we jump into predictions for 2023, maybe you can tell us a little bit about what have you seen as the biggest changes in CS over the last five or 10 years as of as a launching ground for where we’re going next?
Jamie Bertasi: I think it’s become very mainstream. Early on, I used to spend a lot of time meeting with senior executives at, corporations explaining to them what customer success was. What is this thing? A lot of people would really, I would say, confuse it with customer support. Many, support organizations rebranded themselves as customer success. Like doing nobody any favors with that one . And yeah. [00:03:00] And I think early on it just a little to tango history, which I think also I.
Guy started the company in Tel Aviv where our engineering and RT still is, and but what he quickly realized was that all the companies that were buying customer success technology right outta the gate were these small SAS software companies. Because of course they realized that they couldn’t hire people.
They really couldn’t afford to hire people and throw it at this customer success thing, or basically their post-sale functions, right? They had to use technology to scale that maybe one person in some technology as opposed to say five people. So really I think CS got started in that space.
But what we’ve seen happen really since then is it’s become much more mainstream, is people really understand the value of really focusing on delivering those customer outcomes in that post sales world in terms of holding onto your arr. And now customer success has really become also something that applies to all recurring revenue businesses. No longer is it just SAS software companies?
Jason Noble: do you see kinda things as they stand now, we’ve. It’s very [00:04:00] challenging year. This year. We’ve had economic situations, there’s geopolitical situations, there’s all kind of tech layoffs and things. Yeah, I think we’re, we’ve seen, our organizations seem to be still wanting to make investment in customers and customer success, but really interesting how have you seen the last 12 months and how do you think that’s positioning us up for changing and progressing into 2020?
Jamie Bertasi: Yeah, so I think as we started into 20 22, 1 of the things that I saw as a trend was, really the, what I would call the pace setter customer success leaders, those who are the real visionaries moving the industry forward, really leaning into digital customer success, across all their segments, not just, the tech touch segment, but really using digital as what’s called the baseline, and then layering some human in, human touch in for the higher. Higher ARR areas or segments. So I think what happened, as, folks got more and more comfortable with that type of an approach. And as the economy worsened, as they realized that, frankly they could use the [00:05:00] technology, lean on the technology more and more, and humans less and less.
So what I’ve seen is that a lot of times now people are basically saying, first of all, If I could even get the head count to add the CSMs, I would, but I’m not getting it. So I have no choice but to lean on the technology for automation and so forth. Or if I, even if I had the head count, I can’t hire them because there’s so many open heads for CSMs, right? As we all know on LinkedIn and so forth. So I have no choice but to lean into the technology to do a lot of the stuff for me, and really provide those, deliver those outcomes for the.
Jason Noble: Do you see that continuing next year then? Do you think digital customer success is really the big trend that we’re gonna see?
Jamie Bertasi: I think so. Digital CS and then automation, and I think it’s really about also rethinking the entire post sales journey. So the folks are really trying to bring together all of the functions to deliver seamlessly for the customer. To give you maybe a little bit more detail on what I mean by that, I think that as customer success initially got started, people [00:06:00] would say the Cs.
The CSM team was customer success, but I think what you realize over time, if you have a very successful business, is that customer success is what we call an operating model, which means that it’s really all of the areas in the post-sales world working together. So that might be the onboarding team, your customer success engineering team, your support team, your csm. All those teams coming together to deliver seamlessly, which is challenging, let me tell you, because it’s very easy to have silos and scenes, where the customer just falls between.
Jason Whitehead: Absolutely. I’ve said for years I thought the CCO title should also be Chief Collaboration Officer, cuz it really. That saddle busting, you’ve had a lot of experience with that as well.
Jamie Bertasi: Yes. It’s something I’m working on just right now. So give you a flavor for it. So my job is, head of go to market here and head of the really everything delivering for customers. And one of the things that we’ve done, and actually one of our customers also has done this exact same thing, is we hunt two VPs.
So we have a VP of what we call customer [00:07:00] operations, and then we have a VP of CSMs. So the VP of CSMs is really working on kind of the human aspect of the entire thing and the customer operations VP is working on more of the automation, right? And really working through like that seamless handoff between say, support and the CSM team as an example.
Jason Whitehead: I like what you’re saying as well about more reliance on digital. Some of the software vendors I’ve been speaking to, they’ve been concerned about over digitizing things that customers would miss, the high touch piece. But when they’ve gotten in there and actually started to make some changes, they said, no, actually our customers really prefer to be able to self-service for a lot of things, get the answers faster 24 7.
They don’t wanna have to deal with us. All that time. They’ve had a lot of demands on their time, and I think it’s probably gonna be one of those trends that you see to going forward is that more folks realize that customers don’t always wanna be. Handheld one on one for things.
Jamie Bertasi: Absolutely. So I would say two points on this. I’ll tell you a funny story. I always tell people here to tango place so sick of this, but I’ll just tell you guys anyway. So at one point in my career I worked when I worked at Tellme, I worked, I had a lot of [00:08:00] airline customers and at that time to date myself, it was. Pre the automated, ticketing check-in machine, right?
And one of my airline customers was trialing that in the airport. And they were, telling me about, I was the, their vendors, they were telling me about the project and they were basically saying, yeah we’re trialing this machine. We’re gonna stick it out in the middle of the of the, entryway at the airport.
Nobody’s gonna use it. Everyone wants to start, talk to a human and get in that line. And of course, as we all know, they were blown away because as soon as they put this machine out there so you could just check yourself in and be on your way in 30 seconds as opposed to waiting in line, everyone lined up for the machine.
For, ATMs and everything else. And of course it’s trans, really transformed the world and I think that’s how humans are. We would rather use a self-service technology that was like very, if it has to work well of course, like I. What’d you guys do for dinner last night?
Did you order online? Or when was the last time you actually called a taxi company versus, Uber or Lyft or whatever. So I think as human beings, we’d rather have those experiences that we understand. [00:09:00] They’re simple and easy for us. We know we don’t have to deal with any drama and we can get it done in that like 30, 45 seconds that we’ve got for this particular thing before we move on.
Jason Noble: I, I think that’s a key thing and I think that story, there’s great, cuz there, as much as you might want to go and talk to a human and check in, you don’t because there’s a massive cue. So the process that. They’ve tried to make the process simpler, but they’ve done away with the problem.
You don’t wanna queue up for three hours. My time’s precious but there’s only, you’ve always gotta bear in mind as well that there’s only so much that the technology can do. You, we’ve always said before that you, you still need to bring the human in at the right place. And I know a lot of the airports in the uk, there are lots of around the checking kio.
There are airline staff wondering about to answer questions and you still need that. So it’s making sure the technology works. That process is simple, that experience is seamless, but if there’s a problem you can deal with it straight away. Cause otherwise you just go back to your default and you will get fed up.
You’re going that long queue or take you three hours, not a [00:10:00] great start to your holiday. And it’s similar in technology. It’s not a great start to that initial. Process and engagement with the customers.
Jamie Bertasi: That’s right. And I think that, I think it’s important is also to constantly be learning. So as an example, I’ll just give you another real life example. So let’s say that you have a question about any particular technology that is asked twice. To two, twice a day to two CSMs. You do that for a week and you can see maybe there’s 40 times that particular question’s been asked.
But if it’s going to individual human beings who are not reporting that in, in any way, it’s, there’s no learning in the system, no self baked learning. Whereas if you have that, coming through a technology in a way that it’s being fed back. You can actually improve, you can change your processes, you can change your ui, you can change the, whatever the underlying issue is that’s causing that question. Because you’re learning. So the self-learning also has to really be baked in.
Jason Noble: Absolutely. Do you, in addition the digital side of it, where do you see the big other priorities next year and where are organizations gonna be investing and focusing their budgets and efforts on customer success?
Jamie Bertasi: Yeah. I think[00:11:00] I think it’s really all about growing the customer base, retaining and growing the customer base, right? C is a good example of this too, where of course we all know, so let’s just say March 15th of the covid year, everything just stopped, right? No one knew what was going to happen and really all new logo.
Pretty much stopped that moment. But then ultimately what you had to sell was your existing customers because you already had a relationship with them. You could already service them more, you could offer them more, you could, just do that much more for them. And I think that’s what’s going on right now too.
A lot of folks are taking a second or third look on external purchases, and so therefore new local sales, but you’ve got the opportunity to really continue to invest in your customers at this time. So I think the whole kind of customer. Concept company’s understanding that they can grow through the customer base, delivering great ne net revenue retention.
We see, we would call again, like the pace setters and customer success delivering, the neighborhood of 125 percent and more in nr, which is a super impressive number. [00:12:00]
Jason Whitehead: So I like what you were saying about some of the changes that are coming on, and I think it is different than Covid with, everyone all the same time is coming to a screeching halt, but there has been so much talk of a recession coming next year.
Jamie Bertasi: Yeah.
Jason Whitehead: With your crystal ball, do you think one’s coming and how long will it last? And if so, how is this gonna impact CS teams?
Jamie Bertasi: I. A recession coming or not. I am not the person to say this. All I could say is what the rest of you guys are saying, which is okay preparing for everything because we just don’t really know. And of course we wanna prepare for the worst to make sure that we’re in good shape. So I think you just, in these down times, you’ve gotta do more with less, right? You have to make sure that you’re increasing, okay. So I might not be able to fill that head. When people leave, you really might not get folks back.
So how are you making sure that you’re gonna be able to deliver for your customers? Still giving them an incredible experience and making sure that they’re very successful in what they’re trying to do. Even though you might have to do that with less, right? With [00:13:00] less human beings. So what is that going to mean?
How are you gonna deliver those programs and continually iterate? And I think the iteration is a super important. Component as well, because you can’t just put something out there these days and send and forget. To the point we talked about the learning component Sure. But also the ongoing iteration.
Okay, so what are you gonna do to continually improve your onboarding programs, for example? Or, what are you gonna do to continually really digest what’s coming in from nps and feeding that back into your system so you know, so that you’re improving the product, for example. Or let’s say there’s a particular issue with, some component of your experience.
Jason Whitehead: Do you do you see any of your customers doing anything creative or unique to really prepare for a potential downfall? A down downturn?
Jamie Bertasi: I, what I see all my customers doing, especially, the really forward thinking ones they’re just really leaning into automation. They’re really trying to figure out, okay, how much of this can I do in a way that delights my customer?
Not like crappy automation, like good, right? So delights my customers . But at the [00:14:00] same time, know, we achieve my business goals in as efficient way as possible. And we’ve had a lot of success with that, with our customer base and with to Tango itself. So we believe that for sure can be done.
We started out trying to figure out how to automate a lot of our onboarding, right? And how to give people a better experience there. We tend to see that with the customer base. I would just say that most people actually do start with onboarding. It’s interesting cause we wonder why do people always start with onboarding, but I think it’s just human nature, right? We go kind from left to yeah.
Jason Whitehead: Yep. Absolutely.
Jason Noble: Can you see in how do organizations CSM CS leaders, what can they do to help convince the boards their CEOs that they need to continue the level of investment they do to make sure they’re driving growth for customers, retaining customers and also if they’re looking at starting up new digital customer success functions, how do they go about getting that buy-in, that executive level buy in to do that and knowing it’s the right thing, they’re gonna see the return.
Jamie Bertasi: That’s right. I think that you have to first of all, you have to really [00:15:00] understand and be able to demonstrate the outcomes. So first, before the, let’s say the new investment, let’s just say folks are already doing it already. What are the business results you’re delivering? And are those improving?
What’s the trajectory? Are you going up by a percentage, every quarter? Are you going down by a percentage? Every quarter. And I think that really understanding the customer journey and then the results you’re driving, that’s critical because you have to be able to really demonstrate that to leadership.
And what I find with a lot of the larger companies is who are, let’s say, moving into customer success now. So they’re not let’s call it digital native. Those folks who were going through transformations, even wrapping their brain around what is their journey and how do they think about the journey post-sales journey, let’s say in a a cross bu cross brand way is very challenging because they tend to be super siloed, right?
So each bu each brand is thinking about the journey from their point of view, but their customers are experiencing many of their brands. And so how do they think? The journey from the overall corporation point of view, which is of course, what the board and what the [00:16:00] CEO and folks like that really care about.
So I think that it’s, if you wanna go get more mon, more money, more funding, what you’ve gotta be able to do is show those results. I was just talking to a CCO last Monday. And I won’t say who it was cuz he doesn’t he didn’t tell me it would be okay to talk about these results externally, but I’ll just say a major corporation, very large successful software company with NR of 115%.
This is incredible for this company, which is, pretty old stayed company, right? This is not like a digital native. And he is his budget and customer success is not being cut, whereas the sales and marketing budgets are because he’s got those results to really point to and show, and he can, he understands them and he can speak to them very clearly. So I think that it’s, that’s what you have to do. You have to be able to really put your finger on the results that you’re delivering and showing the positive outcomes for customers.
Jason Whitehead: Absolutely. Absolutely. I’m wondering as we talk about this and, I think there is a hunker down mentality for the short term and, pivot towards [00:17:00] digital for now, while we’re trying to get that done.
But at some point, some of the things will get back to normal and headcount will start to get improved again at some point. If you put on your magic, look in your magic ball again, what do you see the biggest challenges they’re gonna face in those areas afterwards? Come when we come back to more normal cycles and investment in CS being a little freed up again. So the industry moves forward.
Jamie Bertasi: Yeah. I think the first thing is that customer success professionals are still gonna be really in demand. Yeah. So it’s tough these days to hire and then when you do, even when you do hire CS means so many things to so many different people that you then have to actually train them.
Because it’s not it’s not like sales, okay? If you hire a salesperson, they come with a track record of sales. You understand that they know how to actually sell the selling techniques and so forth. You might have to tell ’em to train them your product. But in Cs, because C, as a company, a, company B, company C, can be so different.
Their expectations of what the job is can be very different, and you still have a lot of training to do. So I think for sure, once everybody starts hiring, The demand is gonna be there. [00:18:00] And I think from the layoffs, what we may see is that a lot more folks are transitioning into cs, right? From other arenas. And maybe from marketing jobs or from sales jobs. The areas that are really I think folks are cutting back on right now.
Jason Noble: Jamie when you said that about CS being different in every org, do you see that as a challenge? Because it’s something that, there’s been a lot of kind of conversations on LinkedIn recently around this and it is. It. It can sometimes present a challenge for cos not knowing what it is or having a different interpretation of it. Do you see that changing? Do you see that being a coming together in an agreement on what it really is? An organization’s agreeing on the standard definition for it.
Jamie Bertasi: I think, so I guess lemme question a couple ways. First, in terms of CEOs, I spend a lot of my time talking to CCOs and CEOs and executive team members explaining what customer success is and how they should think about customer success for their organization. And what I see with a lot of those folks is they understand it like at a conceptual level, I see this is the function that exists [00:19:00] after I sign the contract that’s gonna actually deliver.
The ARR retain this customer and grow this customer. Perfect. Got it. But then when he goes a little deeper, then they start to adoption. What does that mean? These kind of funky new terms, let’s say for some of the folks who are obviously very smart people, very good at what they do, but this is just the newer concept for them.
So I spend a lot of time understanding explaining that to people, talking to ’em about it. And I think there’s a we are over the. Where you don’t meet, I don’t meet with leaders of major corporations who are anti customer success or who are, thinking this is not really a real thing.
I think people totally get it, and now they’re just trying to either do their 1 0 2 oh or three oh version of this thing, depending on where they’ve come from and so forth. So I think there’s that side. In terms of, what is customer success and coming back, Jason, to your question on is there a shared definition?
I think what people, I think universally define customer success as the function of the company that actually, [00:20:00] implements the customer, delivers the arr from that, from the customer, make sure the customer’s using the product renews and buys. They all say it, maybe using different terms and so forth, but I think people agree that’s the thing.
But what I see as like slightly different from our point of view, and I’m seeing this again from some of the from the other customers as well, is the concept of saying, let’s say in the post sales world for a second, just put the customer success thing to the side. Let’s say in post sales you’ve.
So your salespeople sends, closes the deal, hands it off, right? They hand it off to the onboarding team. You’ve got your onboarding team, got customer support team, you’ve got your customer success engineering team, like technical issues that might come up, whatever. You might have a, you might have a a consulting organization or kind a services organization, right?
You have a training team, you have your CSMs themselves, right? You have all of these functions. So if you say customer success is just the Cs. [00:21:00] Then you are basically not really understanding what has to happen from all these other people who actually have to work together with the CSMs.
So we think of, that’s why we call the customer success operating model, and maybe they’ll be a longer term, a better way. It seems cluey to say it that way, but this whole arena we see as customer success as opposed to the CSMs, the.
Jason Noble: I think that’s the key thing, isn’t it? It’s much bigger than that.
Jamie Bertasi: It is. And if you just put it on the CSMs, it’s, it just doesn’t work. It’s not possible.
Jason Noble: It’s, and it’s too much responsibility on individuals as well. It’s a much bigger remit.
Jamie Bertasi: Yes, exactly.
Jason Noble: We look the next five, 10 years, so we’ve got digital customer success that’s very mature now. What challenges do you see in the industry and how do you see CS leaders? Changing and what do they need to do to make sure that we’re delivering it in the longer term here for what customer success is.
Jamie Bertasi: I think that the first thing that’s really hard for people, even still depending on the complexity of the business, but really a big successful business, let’s say, like [00:22:00] Microsoft, where I came from, it’s it’s really understanding the journey because.
It’s very difficult to think that through across all of your various brands, right? These huge corporations have all of these brands and they wanna have some continuity and some similarity of customer experience across all these brands. But at the same time, especially even if they’re buying, companies, if they’re an acquisitive company, they’re growing through acquisition and so forth, it’s challenging pull it all together in one unified experience, right?
There are companies that do it very well. And Microsoft I think would be an example of one that I think does do it very well, but there are, But it’s quite challenging, to think through it. And so I think that’s where people’s brain hurts. And I think on the tango side of the house this is an area that we work on as well, because trying to even track that and write it down on paper and so everyone can wrap their brain around what’s actually happening is very challenging.
Jason Noble: Absolutely.
Jason Whitehead: Absolutely. Excuse me, Jamie, this has been wonderful. I really [00:23:00] appreciate your thoughts. Before we go there, we always like to ask a bold challenge question, and for you, what’s the number one bold action that you’d like to see CS leaders take today to really set their team and their companies up for success in 2023?
Jamie Bertasi: I’d like them to really dive in and understand their journey and take it to the next level through iteration. Don’t just don’t. Sit there. Don’t just accept it as it is. Think about how can it be better? Let’s move forward. Let’s move forward. Let’s change, let’s iterate. Let’s try some new things and see where we can take this.
Jason Whitehead: Awesome. I love that very much that, that’s great stuff. Thank you again for being here. Before we go, we will always like to invite our guests to do a shameless plug for anything special on top of mind to them. So please let us know what’s exciting and of interest to you and how people can get in touch with you. And we can include links in the show notes below for anything as want to.
Jamie Bertasi: All right, Jason, thank you so much. So I guess I would just have a shameless plug for two things. The first is for To Tango itself. So Tango is one of the leaders in customer success technology and customer success platforms.
And we, of course, help our customers do all the things [00:24:00] I’ve been talking about here. So you can check to Tango out for free. You can just start using the product. And if you like it, you can email@example.com. tango.totango.com. And it’s our community edition. That’s the first thing. Then my second shameless plug, of course, is for my own CS podcast called CS No BS.
So I hope you guys will all listen to that. It’s a lot of fun. I typically, my guess, will typically be customer success leaders and they’ll be talking about what they’re doing, which I find. Folks really enjoy that cuz they wanna see, okay, what am I missing? What are people doing that I’m not doing? Or what have they tried that’s failed?
That kind of thing. And in terms of getting a hold of me, would love to talk to anybody. You can of course reach out to me on LinkedIn. I’m Jamie Bertasi, or you can email me at to tango, jamie to tango.com and I guess you guys are gonna put all the contact info in so
Jason Noble: a huge thank you. It’s been such a cool conversation having someone of Your background, your experience doing [00:25:00] your other podcast, but coming from one of the industry leaders as well, I think gives a really unique insight. So a huge thank you. Such a great conversation.
Jamie Bertasi: Thank you.