Join us when we speak with Jay Nathan. Jay’s the CCO for Higher Logic and one of the co-founders of Gain Grow Retain.
In this episode, Jay is going to talk to us about strategic behaviour and how it relates to customer success.
Guest: Jay Nathan - Chief Customer Officer at Higher Logic
Jay is a world renowned CS leader and has worked in exec roles across pretty much all the post sales customer facing parts of the business and has built up a methodology and approach for building, leading, and scaling SaaS companies serving a wide range of end-markets and customer sizes. He founded Customer Imperative, a company focused on helping B2B SaaS retain customers, grow revenue and scale customer success which he sold to HigherLogic and then in 2020 co-founded Gain Grow Retain, a community for customer success leaders.
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Jason Noble: [00:00:00] Excellent. Good morning, good afternoon, and good evening everybody. Welcome to another episode of the Jason’s Take on podcast with myself, Jason Noble in London, a and my partner in crime. Mr. Whitehead, say hello, Jason.
Jason Whitehead: Hello Jason.
Jason Noble: This is our third recording of the year. We are super, super excited to have yet another amazing guest with us on today.
I will give a quick introduction, but we’re gonna talk. Strategic behavior and how that relates to customer success. And I think it’s something that’s very topical at the moment. How do you really bring customer success to the table to help be part of those transformational changes we’re looking to do?
So a quick intro to our guest. A very warm welcome. He’s another, a-list guest that we’ve got in 2023. It’s the one and only Jay Nathan. Jay is the chief customer officer and e v P at Higher. He’s of course one of the co-founders of Gain, grow, retain. He’s a fellow podcaster with the podcast over at Gain, grow, retain and he’s also a several times over CS thought leader executive.
He’s worked in multiple [00:01:00] exec roles across I think pretty much all of the post sales, customer facing parts of the business. So he is got that tenure, that experience. He was doing this before it was called customer. He’s built up an approach and a methodology for really how you help SaaS companies scale.
Really about, irrespective of what the markets are, what their sizes are. He founded customer imperative before coming into gain, grow, retaining higher logic, and they really were focused on about how you go about retaining SaaS customers and growing revenue, scaling customer success.
Which he ultimately sold to Higher Logic. And then as we know, get, I think this is where most people know from JE founded Gain, grow. Retain, which is a, yeah, nothing short of, I think it’s the community for customer success leaders and practitioners. A and the growth you’ve seen there. It has been amazing over the last few years.
You’re also a fellow runner. I’m a runner myself, getting back into it now after hip surgery recently, and a big guitar player. So Jay, a huge welcome to you. We [00:02:00] both are super, super excited to have you here.
Jay: Thank you very much and I got the pleasure to meet Jason. I guess it was. Was it last year or two years ago?
Jason Whitehead: I think it was two Big rig.
Jay: Yeah, at big rig. Yeah. So g got the opportunity to meet Mr. Whitehead in person. But glad to finally get to meet you as well, Jason Noble.
Jason Noble: Actually this is awesome. I love this for us lot the podcasts are, these are the people that you know so well and you feel that you know each other.
But it’s great to have you on Jay. Look. Just go ahead and give our listeners a bit of an intro into your own journey and I think it’s a phenomenal one and kind. What your own plans are for the year.
Jay: Yeah, sure. A lot of the things you mentioned in the intro I won’t repeat a lot of that, but somebody did ask me there’s a guy named Mohammed Ock who is, who started customer Success Middle East.
I don’t know if you know of him. Another great community.
Jason Noble: I’ve
had conversations with him recently. Great.
Jay: Good. I actually hope I pronounced his name correctly, but great guy and he’s done great stuff and he asked me the same, he asked me this question which is like, what was your path to get into customer success?
And I think the cool thing that you find, [00:03:00] and you all undoubtedly have your own stories as well of how you got into this. Part of the industry is, it’s different for everybody, almost for everybody, unless you really started out, fresh outta college, going right into customer success. I was in professional services for a long time.
Actually, I started out as a, so a software engineer. So I got a business degree in college, but I was super hands-on in the technology programming, doing a lot of data work, analytics which all ends up paring pretty well into the things. Have to do Now in my roles as a leader at Higher Logic and other companies I’ve been in, you gotta know how to work with data.
Also spent, my, my first software company, I was telling you in the pre-show, we moved down to Charleston, South Carolina in 2005 when I worked, went to work for Black bod and that was my first software company being in, I was there for almost nine years. Ran built and ran a large professional services team there, which I think is a good foundation for customer success and we could maybe talk about that.
I spent three years in product management, which is another helpful thing if you’re gonna be in customer success. And then went to smaller company after [00:04:00] that. As you mentioned, I started a consulting firm after we sold that last company. Got to learn so much that was really cata. Part of my career is customer Imperative, was a consulting firm, but we just got to speak with hundreds of software companies trying to go through and transform into true subscription SAS businesses, customer oriented businesses.
Got to learn what their pitfalls were, what their problems were. Got to work with a lot of them, not just talk with ’em, but actually help them design their strategies. It was really informative to what we ended up doing over the past few years, which was then Launch Gang. Yes, we sold that to Higher Logic and now it’s part how we basically engage and go to market from a Higher Logic, which is a customer community platform company.
It’s been a goat path, I guess from a career per perspective. But some really fun stuff in there over the years, and I’m sure you all have similar stories that you would share if we talked about your backgrounds as well.
Jason Noble: I love that. And it is, I love your point there about that. We all come, the journeys are very different unless you just started out in this.
Yeah. So there’s this guy that I actually had an [00:05:00] intro to yesterday who’s come from the cruise business and you think, okay but there’s a lot of similar. And it’s quite an amazing transformation to go through that. And I love it. It is, I think that background in other types of organization, other roles really brings something.
And I think that you as a software engineer must, from a product development point of view, must have some great internal conversations. You wrote an article recently about strategic behavior, which really resonated with me, which is where we got chatting. Could you just talk us a bit more about what you mean by strategic behavior, then why do you see it?
Yeah. Why is it so critical for us as customer success practitioners and professionals?
Jay: Yeah. Yeah. Great. Great question. So the, I guess the article I wrote, we, I think it was part of, probably one of my newsletter posts that I sent out, and we can talk about that later as well. But I think one of the things that I’d like to see happen in our industry, in the customer success world in particular is is that the entire industry gets a little bit more business savvy because [00:06:00] customer success.
On its own is, it’s an amazing goal, right? We have to make our customers successful. That’s almost a foregone conclusion. It’s a given. But the other side of the coin is that you actually have to run a business, and the business has to be profitable. The business has to be growing. The business has to be, providing value for shareholders.
If you want the business to. And so I think sometimes we get a little lost in the customer success world about being a customer-centric company and how that should work, but then also being a successful business and having those two things work together. In my consulting firm, we did management consulting style work.
So it’s almost impossible to go in front of an executive, A C E O or even a board of directors for a company and say, Hey, we need to invest more in your customer success organization. The first question they’re gonna ask is, Okay, that sounds great, but why? And what do I get outta that investment?
You [00:07:00] have to justify your investment in anything you do in the business, whether it’s marketing, whether it’s sales, whether it’s product development, human resources, it doesn’t matter if you’re gonna spend money, you have to justify those expenditures. And show how they’re gonna be accretive to the business in some way.
So we got really good at going in, looking at retention, looking not just at retention overall, but looking at different segments of customers, different parts of the business to say, Hey, if you invest here, we could probably move the needle this much in retention or in expansion. And by doing that, you can pay for the investments that you need to make and it’ll pay off further down the road with ag advocacy in terms that customer base.
We, I’ve just always gotten accustomed, through, through my work in the other software companies that I talked about, or in the consulting work to justifying the investments that I wanted to make. And that’s really what it’s all about is tying the work that you’re gonna do as a customer success leader to the business outcomes that your executive [00:08:00] team and your board are looking.
Jason Noble: Why do you think we don’t do that? It, I think it’s a skill that is lacking a lot in cs, but what do you think are some of the challenges that are stopping CSMs doing that? Is it that they don’t have that kind of consultancy mind frame, that experience? Or is the more to it?
Jay: I think it’s a, it’s, there’s some experience there.
I actually don’t think it’s a CSMs job to. I think it’s the leadership team’s job to, to do that type of work, right? And now interestingly, if you look at a lot of tech companies, no knocks here, but if you look at early stage tech companies what often happens is your best C S M becomes the manager of customer success and then they become the director of customer success, and then they become the vp, and then maybe someday they become chief customer officer.
Which is a beautiful career path. Like people make those transitions all the time, it’s fantastic. But what you have to do along the way is you make the transition from being an individual contributor or even just a frontline manager. [00:09:00] You have to make the transition from your functional role, which may be customer success or support or professional services or product management, into a business leadership role, which means.
you have a functional responsibility, but you have accountability to the broader business to make sure that the way your team interact. And the value they provide actually is coordinated and interacts well and is accretive to the business across the other functions as well. So I think, customer success is still a relatively young function.
We, I think we always say that, but, we’re probably coming up on 15, 20 years worth of solid, customer success, thought and integration into the SaaS ecosystem, the subscription. And so I think the more mature that it gets, you will have leaders that have come from different areas that have learned those lessons that will apply them naturally in the companies that they join.
Jason Whitehead: And
I’m also wondering, even just the businesses that we interact with, they’re getting more savvy too, and expecting different things from customer success professionals and They’re not always used to dealing with [00:10:00] customer success and what is, or started out, what is this thing called customer success and slowly evolving the point of looking to them to be those more strategic advisors about their own business as well too.
Which ends a bit of a challenge.
Jay: Yeah, that’s right. And now, I think what happening in 2023, which not to make the podcast, not live what’s the word I’m looking for? Not to put a date on the podcast and screw it up , but the, in 2023. Companies are asking their customer success functions to get really strategic.
Yeah. So let me ask you guys this. Do you think that we’ve built customer success the right way over the past 15 years? Is it, has it do have we really nailed it yet, or do we have some opportunity to tweak it and get it right? I have some
ideas. Of course.
Jason Noble: If you’ve thrown us here, Jay, you’re asking us questions.
This is . I know this is a great question and I think the answer is no. I don’t think we have, I think historically we haven’t built them the right way. And I think there’s changed you, and I think it is to your point, it is, it has to be a commercial function that’s driving [00:11:00] margin for the business profit pro positive margin.
And it’s really important. I think we’ve got to look to where it, where does it actually align to, there’s a lot of organizations have it as part of sales, as part of operat. Let’s break that and say this is where it should report. Stop the, it could report here or brought here, but give it its own remit.
This is what it should be. And I think we’ve got to come up and define properly what is meant in the industry and the community by customer success. A and I think you, it’s, that’s a phenomenal question. Cause I don’t think we have, I think historically, It’s been built as a reactive function quite often, and we’re still seeing a lot of the fallout from that.
There aren’t many organizations that are proactively going out and creating it from day one as they would with a sales organization.
Jason Whitehead: I agree with that. And I think when I look back, my career, early career I think was similar to years Jane’s Professional Services and spent a lot of time in management consulting and approaching things through that lens.
And I also have a background in user adoption and change management as part of my consulting work. And I [00:12:00] remember when I started to first look at The new CS platforms when they were first coming out, like when I first learned of Gainsight, when I first learned of to Tango back in the days, and so much of their early functionality and seemed so much more oh, this is really influenced by marketing analytics, software marketing, automation software, and now we’re just applying it post.
Post sale to our internal customers and they threw in a little bit more around, oh, we can track what our customers are actually using, and they built up around that. But just I think the big drivers and influence in money that influenced the industry came from a different mentality around how do we automate this and platform it and get people to believe, sell the solution, and find a problem for it.
Which I think is very different than folks who come from more of a strategic management viewpoint. But I’d love to hear some of your thoughts, Jay. What do you think is the right way to do
Jay: well? Yeah. I think both of your points are great. And it’s funny you mentioned to Tango.
I met Guy near PAs in 2013 at the business of software conferences where we first got to know each other. He’s the c e o of that company, but, and they. They were the biggest game in town at the time. Okay. And there were some others as well. [00:13:00] Blue Nose and who was it? Was it Frontleaf? There?
There was a few other early stage one that sold very quickly to other businesses, but the thing that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is how does the, especially with 2023 rolling around and the economy being what it is and valuations being what they are for tech companies is. Ha have we built, have we overbuilt customer success as a high touch?
As a high-touch model? And I would say in a lot of companies we have, right? And that when you think about customer success and you listen you watch LinkedIn, people talk about it, and you read the literature and all the articles that are out there. You see a lot of things about how to drive customer relationships.
But it’s, a lot of it is high touch. And I think the thing. I’d like us to do as an industry is get more strategic in terms of building out the way we scale, making customers successful first, and then layering in that human touch where it’s absolutely necessary. I I had the opportunity to [00:14:00] sit in on a QBR r with one of my team members, which I often do, and I noticed in, so we’re guilty of this too.
We, we can do a better job too in my company. But I noticed there were a lot of conversations that were happening during this QBR r which are like, oh, that is a great question. Let’s do a follow up call on this, or let’s do a follow up call on that. And in my head I was thinking, man, wouldn’t it be cool if we.
A standing workshop to for that one need there. Or if we had a, a webinar series that, that customers could go to, to learn about this other thing and just more programs that we could, that our CSMs could plug customers into. So I think it really, Jason Whitehead, it comes back to your education change management enablement background.
Which is like, how are we building that foundation so that the high-touch customer success model doesn’t end up being an expensive, overloaded, unreliable element in the customer success strategy overall not the strategy, right? Having a bunch of CSMs running around connecting with customers is not a strategy.
[00:15:00] It’s throwing bogies at a problem and it does not scale, right? Scale means me is doing more with.
Jason Whitehead: I so agree with that. And I remember working on a customer project God, probably 10 years ago. It was a CS type project and facilitating ’em through. And the approach we were taking is, let’s map out the high-touch customer journey.
Cause that’s where most of their customers were and where most of, where, what they were doing, where the struggle is. And then we were going to strip away what are the elements that don’t apply for low-touch. And now when we work with customers, we flip that. What are the elements that we can automate for everyone and where do we need to layer in high-touch just for those folks?
And it took a while for me to get there, but also I think for the industry. Me too. Yeah. I’m not sure the industry is there yet either too.
Jason Noble: I love the thinking about, you almost start off as that digital approach, that automation, how do we do this? This should be. Just like another tool or service as part of our standard tech stack.
And I think the other risk, and I’ve seen this with when the focus shifts to high-touch is a lot of the real meat of what you’re doing gets lost in the noise. Your example there, Jay about that. Why don’t we do webinar series? All those things cuz other people [00:16:00] ask about ’em.
Absolutely. Cuz otherwise that CSM is gonna be setting. 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 other meetings that are just about that customer that are just more high touch and you lose what you’re trying to do. You lose the goals and objectives and how do we drive value here? Yeah. I, I, oh, go ahead Jay.
Jay: Oh just one point.
You also lose quality because if you have, let’s say you have 30 CSMs on your team, each trying to run around and do the same thing five times a week. Somebody’s gotta monitor quality on that and enable that team to do that. What if you had one person or two people who are responsible for running that program over and over and tuning it and tweaking it?
Everybody could see it. Yes. I just to further on to your point, Jason Noble.
Jason Noble: It’s almost, it’s great cause I’ve seen another challenge with customer success go back a few years where, You start off with lots of CSMs, all doing their own thing. And I’ve seen this quite a few Cs organizations starting like cuz they don’t know what to do.
So it’s not high touch, but you’ve got that inconsistency built from day one and you can’t scale with that. [00:17:00] So the other benefit that this brings is, like you say, having one c s m working on one thing, you and fine tuning it, you’re building on what you’ve got, it’s the same thing you’re delivering and that, that consistency is a big part of what quality.
Jason Whitehead: Yeah. I think another issue related to all this too is organizations that are buying software for many years and even universities when they’re teaching information systems and all that good stuff, they focus more on. Getting systems live and managing it as opposed to how do we ensure that we move beyond what the technology needs to do, to what can we, as an organization do with the technology and how do we make that happen?
I studied information systems and I remember, years ago now, was very young and figuring it out. All of the classes were focused on managing technology and development life cycles and testing and getting it. And all that stuff. And maybe a little bit of change management in the sense of, let’s train some folks on it and tell people what’s in it for them and all that other Tom foolery.
And that’s where it stopped. And a lot of times when I’m working with customers, we’re like, all right, what is success three to five years after the system goes live? Let’s get rid of the [00:18:00] noise and the focus on time and on budget and switch that conversation, not a. Concept to do. But I think most organizations don’t even think about that of, Hey, why are we doing this and how are we gonna ensure that we have our own success with whatever software we build?
And I think if more buyers of organizations understood those challenges, it would really change the dynamic with the customer success team and where A C S T needs to focus their efforts.
Jay: Absolutely. I have an information that’s, that was my actual degree, was an information systems degree. And so I had some of the technical, had a lot of the project lifecycle stuff, but didn’t have a lot of like value in R ROI or change management.
I had organizational behavior but not change management. So I think you’re spot on. I think you’re spot on there and change. Such a fundamental part of customer success in my mind.
Jason Whitehead: That’s funny. My first masters was in information systems and I was working at a company where my boss said, it’s great.
We’ve got the system up and running, but if we can’t get people to use it and the execs don’t see value, we don’t need it. Or you, and that’s when I’m back to school and got another degree in organization development to learn the [00:19:00] skills around change and adoption that I didn’t have before. But it was just by dumb luck that I fell into that piece of it.
Jay: That’s awesome.
Jason Noble: If we go back to the strategic stuff, how do you as a, as an individual in cs, as a CS leader, how do you get the balance right between focus on what needs to be strategic and then quite often that roll your sleeves up, get your hands dirty, that more tactical operational work, how do you get the balance right between them?
Jay: Great question. And I don’t know if I have the right, the best answer. I think, To me. Everybody when they’re earlier in their career says, oh, I want to get in a more strategic role, or I wanna do more strategy. But to me, part of strategy is execution, right? It’s actually trying things and figuring out what’s working and what’s up, but doing it in a controlled and in a smart way, so you’re not betting the farm on something that you don’t yet understand.
If it’s gonna be a. Effective. Yeah. So let’s say, you think you, you could do a better job for your customers if you went from this high-touch model to more of a pulled or a scaled customer success approach, right? The wrong, [00:20:00] that’s a good strategic thought to have. We could assume maybe we save some money, we do things more efficiently.
But the question is how do you go from that big thought to practice? And that’s where you would say, okay, why don’t we, instead of just making that declaration, taking all the CSMs away from the customers that we’ve assigned them to and doing something different. Why don’t we test something first?
Why don’t we go create a, we have a hypothesis that we believe that customers will get more benefit. It’ll be of higher quality, more co. If we create a workshop style new user onboarding webinar, for example, versus doing it five times a week per c s m, and then you go test that out and you say, okay, what worked, what didn’t?
Where do we go with it next? What else could we do? It worked fantastic. What’s the next. Most painful item that we’re gonna pick off. I think, part of it’s one of the things that, that I spend a lot of time doing in, in, even in my role, is gathering data and analyzing it in Excel. Yeah.
And thinking about, and this is where my data. [00:21:00] Warehousing to date myself. Background comes in handy because, you can think about the way the data needs to be structured in an Excel file to get the right view of it. So across our customer segments what are the different breakdowns?
How do we need to bucket? Data. If you try to look at everything and you don’t try to summarize it up to make some sense out of it and try to glean some insights into what’s actually happening in your business, then it’s hard to decide what the right actions are to take. And so if you’re not starting with data, you cannot be strategic.
But I think. To me, strategy is about deciding how you’re gonna win, right? It’s Patrick Lynch. It’s, classic, basic stuff. It strategy gets confused because people think it’s like this pie in the sky thinking, but it’s not. It’s just answering a very simple question. I wanna achieve X.
How am I gonna go achieve X? Whatever my goal is, how am I gonna get there? I want to go grow my business by 20% a year. Does that mean I go sell into enterprise? Does that mean I focus all my energy on smb? What is it? How do I do that? And then how [00:22:00] do I go execute on that plan, right? . So I, I think sometimes we make strategy more complex than it needs to be.
If I’m a CS leader, I have a goal. I need to drive additional retention in a certain. How do I go do it? What is, what are the tactics I’m gonna employ? That is still strategy. Even though it’s there, there’s a tactical element to it. Absolutely. I’m no scholar but , so it prob it probably doesn’t come outta my mouth.
But that’s at least the way I think about it.
Jason Noble: I think it, no, it makes a lot of sense and I think it is hearing. . It’s that practical, real world. This is what it really means. That’s the key thing. It’s all right. You could write, and there are scholars around strategy.
You can do degrees in it. , but it’s hearing the. What does it really mean when you are on the ground doing the job at an exec level, at a CS level or whatever the level is? What does it really mean? What does strategy really mean? to us as a business, why are we doing this? What, and I think you’re so right.
A lot of people get confused by what it is and have that kind of separation in the mind that strategies, this thing [00:23:00] that’s way off here and they’re stuck doing this thing.
Jay: That’s right. Strategy should be informed by, if you’re a C S M and you’re listening to this, guess what, you have a really valuable role to play in this because everything you hear from your customers on the front lines every day could be summarized and fed to people who are trying to make decisions about where to take the business, how to grow it.
That’s really valuable insight that you’re gathering. If you’re listening for those cues, you’re connecting the dots across your customers. To understand what’s really happening in the market. Do you hear, you, let’s say you have five customer conversations in a week. Are they all referencing some integration that they have to do with their CRM system?
Maybe that’s, Something that you should be paying attention to. And that’s where I think I, if you are gonna have a high touch customer success motion, they’re talking to customers directly on the phone, via email, then it’s so important for customer success, people on the front lines to be asking questions that aren’t just about the product.
Help me [00:24:00] underst. As a leader, I want to hear from my CSMs, help me understand the context around the product. What other solutions are in the mix? What what organizational dynamics are at play that prevent people from adopting? Because a lot of times the software all of our software’s pretty good these days, right?
I’m sure there’re, there’s plenty of crappy software too, but for the most part, software has become pretty reliable. It’s building it as a known thing. , right? It’s not rocket. The thing that prevents adoption and our barriers to companies achieving outcomes with your products is usually the things that sit around the software that you have no visibility Yep.
Into, but you may have some influence over if you know enough about them.
Jason Whitehead: Yeah. It’s interesting you mentioned that half of our business is working with buyers of software to drive adoption success internally in their organizations. And recently I was helping one of our customers doing a vendor evaluation and improving some of their adoption of other systems.
And just the conversations that a software vendor and a C S M ask are so different than what they’re asking [00:25:00] internally in their organization. And being able to see both sides, like they’re still talking past each other a bit. and I think it’s an opportunity for CSMs to learn how to have a different conversation that would be more impactful that I think as an industry, we haven’t quite
gotten there yet.
Jay: Oh, absolutely. I think a lot of what we’re doing in customer success land is by rote if and it’s I have to have calls, I have to ask questions, I have to make sure the product is being utilized. But to be honest with you, you’re gonna get so much. Again, if we are in this high-touch mode, which a lot of companies are, you’re gonna get so much more love from the customer by just asking questions about their business that aren’t about your product, that help you connect dots and then just sit back and listen to the answer and absorb, let them talk.
That’s a skill in itself, which we, you
Jason Noble: I think. I think a lot of people can’t do it or they don’t think they should be doing it, and they don’t like to take that back step or back seat and say actually, what about the bigger things? What about.
Jay: What you really, that’s a great way, that’s a great way to be, quote unquote, strategic, [00:26:00] right?
Ask fricking strategic questions, , don’t ask tactical questions of your customers, right? Hey what is your, what’s your plan for the year? What worries you about your budget for the year?
Can you that and at the beginning of 2023, what a perfect time for people to start doing that.
Jason Whitehead: Absolutely. Exactly. And I think to that point too, when everyone wants to be a trusted advisor, if you start asking more of those bigger questions, but not just ask the question to get the answer, but ask the question that will then provoke them to take a different action that gets better results or provide a solution they haven’t thought of at that level.
That’s the stuff that really drives it forward. But it does have to start with asking those questions and positioning yourself in that strategic advisor role as well too. think many CSMs that I deal with, especially the ones new to their. They’re either not comfortable with that role or they don’t know that’s their role, or they’re not sure what questions to ask.
So I think there’s a certain amount of mentorship and professional development that needs to happen from your more seat and your folks to, to get them there.
Jay: But yeah you’re absolutely right. And I, to me, there, there’s still. I post about this a lot on LinkedIn and pe. I know people are [00:27:00] tired of hearing about it.
I know Dave Jackson always gives me hell about when I post about the difference between support and customer success, but I do think that a lot of times our customer success teams end up looking like very much white glove support. High-touch, expensive support teams. Yep. And I think be, because we do focus they have to be focused on the product.
They have to know the product, they have to handle escalations, all manner of issues. And that’s, even if the organization is designed in a way that we would deem quote unquote correct. I do think it’s a wholesale mindset shift, like c customer success to me is much more like the consulting that you talked about, Jason than it is, than it should be product support.
Otherwise, why isn’t it just product support? That’s cool too. Like we need that. So cool.
Jason Whitehead: And I think you can, one could argue the case as well too, that should be more like a post-sale professional services that’s not about implementation, but the ongoing value creation for customers. And I think right now, yeah.
So many CSMs. They have a portfolio of customers. They don’t have time to keep in touch with ’em all, let alone to do any real value added services [00:28:00] to them. It’s a bit of a question. Even five years from now or 10 years from now, will there be both CSMs that are meant to be that business relationship and monitor the outcomes versus the wholesale professional services that will have an impact on changing adoption behavior and value.
I think it is.
Jason Noble: If you look very well said, the thinking about is it is a consultative function. What are we trying to do with our customers? Generate more value, generate value for them quicker. It is consulting what we’re doing and I think people that have got that background just have it’s a skillset and a way of thinking that I think really is what we need now and need more of in the industry.
Jay: Yeah. And that’s, if you’re gonna, if you’re gonna do the high-touch model, then that’s what it should really be. Otherwise, it’s hard to, it’s hard to differentiate it from other things that you should have anyway. Support, training, and enablement. Absolutely. Yeah. So on and so forth. But you can even do that kind of stuff at scale too.
Like one of the things that, that. We’re looking at doing, I’ll open up the kimono a little bit, is success plans, right? We all know that could go through this [00:29:00] consultative kind of conversation on a one by one basis with a customer, but what if we had a workshop style? Program where we can invite all of our mid-market and SMB customers to, to walk them through the process of how to think through this for themselves, and coach them and let them ask questions live of how to create a suc success plan. Because really the success plan is for them to justify internally their own success in our product success internally. So that does not necessarily need to be something that can only happen on a one-on-one basis.
Right? Absolutely. We’re just trying to enable them at scale to do it.
Jason Whitehead: We actually did that with a internal client. They were planning a big CRM rollout and they have, enterprise across all 50 states, each state had their own organization. So it was 50 different implementations you were managing at once.
All this great stuff. And we brought them in to do that and facilitate them through success planning. And what does it look like in, in your state’s organization? . It was both impactful, but it was also surprising how difficult it was for folks who had never in their own organization thought about things like that before.
[00:30:00] And it took much longer than we expected. We got results from it. But for those of us who had done it fairly easy, this is, or often this isn’t that difficult. And then for folks who have never had that mentality, especially if you’re working like in a nonprofit or a government world it really would blow their mind.
So I think. A great way to scale and it’s powerful, but it’s, it will be more challenging than some folks anticipate just because the people on the other end of it could prove a challenge.
Jay: Did, I would love to dig into that more. Yeah. If we have. But did the people who weren’t necessarily used to thinking that way, were they appreciative of learning something new in this?
Jason Whitehead: Appreciative new yes is the short answer. But also in their organization, it was interesting. They were senior leaders and have been there for quite a while. But not a lot of business acumen and business terminology and the organizations, none of them were big on putting in repeatable, scalable processes.
They were not very good at implementing technology about anything in their organizations. So it was one of these where they recognized they had a problem they had to improve. They had tried over the years, different attempts to do this. But they’d never really gotten technology, [00:31:00] so they weren’t quite sure what to do.
And frankly, they also just didn’t devote the time and resources, and they didn’t make it a priority the way they should have. They learned something new. It took a lot more reinforcement and handholding than we thought. And probably looking back, we probably should have done some other prep for them in advance of the, these meetings as well that we didn’t do.
Lessons learned. But it was just .
Jason Noble: Yeah. Jay this has been. Such an awesome conversation. A big thank you. This has been really insightful for us. I think there’s a lot of stuff we could go on and on. There’s a lot more conversations we could have. What we do to do is give you a, what we call a bold challenge question.
And the one for you is, what is the, what would you say is the number one bold action that CS leaders should take today to ensure that the CS activities in their business get the right level of strategic visibil? They need to.
Jay: This is a great question. I would say if you have not gone to sit down with your VP of finance or your C F O or even maybe a board member and ask them what is your perspective of the money that we’re spending on customer [00:32:00] success, how do you think about that?
Do you feel like we’re getting the value for it? That’s a great place to. to connect the dots directly. So it, it’s a very tactical and tangible thing that I think a lot of CS leaders could do and benefit from is just get closer to the people who think about the dollars and cents in your company so that you can map your activities, your initiatives, and your strategy to.
The broader company strategy cuz everybody is in a slightly different place. And you got it’s unique to every business, so you gotta understand
Jason Noble: it. I think being, where we are now with the economic situation and everything that, that awareness of wanting to understand the financial impact, what you do well.
Brilliant thing. Really good. And I think. Not a difficult thing to do, to have that conversation with your cfo, F o, with your finance team and understand better about it. Awesome stuff, Jay. Thank you. Jay. What? Thank you. What we wanna give you the opportunity to do, please. We haven’t talked much about gain, grow, retain but we want to give you the opportunity to shameless plug yourself, gain, grow, retain at the community, anything.[00:33:00]
Jay: Sure. I work for a company called Higher Logic. We’re trying to help our customers scale customer success, utilizing community as a tool to do that. So if you don’t have a customer community or you’re, you have an old one, you should come talk to us and give us a chance to walk you through what the modern version of that can look like and how you can scale.
So that’s exciting. Gang grow. Retain is our customer success leadership community, as you’ve mentioned. Thank you. It’s just been the most fun thing to be involved with in my entire career. So it’s just been a lot of fun lots of knowledge sharing that’s all about giving value to the community.
That’s what we’re all about there. We just, we give it out freely and we try to, Find people like yourselves who are amazing thinkers and doers in the space and elevate their stories there. So that’s number two. And then I have a weekly newsletter as you pointed out, and you can find firstname.lastname@example.org and you can sign up there.
And I actually pulled 500 of my LinkedIn posts from the past couple of years and I’ve put ’em up there and organized ’em on that site too. Yeah, may maybe that stuff is [00:34:00] interesting or useful to somebody, but but yeah check that out as well. But thank you all very much
for having me.
Jason Noble: Thank you, sir. This has been really cool. We’re looking forward to the next one with you. Awesome.
Jason Whitehead: Great.