Guest Mara Vicente – Building Long-Term Relationships via Customer Support
Join us with guest Mara Vicente, VP of Customer solutions and Interim Head of Customer Success at Pipedrive.
Today Mara shares her insights about how to grow long-term relationships and partnerships through customer support. Mara discusses what she has learned from working in multiple disciplines and areas in organizations, and how all these experiences combine to help her advance customer success at Pipedrive.
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Meet Our Guest
Mara Vicente, VP of Customer Solutions & Interim Head of Customer Success
Mara Vicente has 20 years of experience in Customer Service: a background in Team leadership and multi-department Coordination for different national and international Telecommunications companies and also in the short-term Rental Industry.
Mara’s experience includes leading all customer-facing areas as VP Operations for Housetrip and Uniplaces. Deep experience also in Project management and Customer Experience Management, having collaborated in the design and implementation of several transformational projects (impacting operational and cultural change) on Customer Centricity.
Mara’s major professional experience includes Oni Telecom, Tele2 Portugal (acquired by Optimus), Optimus (merged with ZON), HouseTrip (acquired by Tripadvisor), Uniplaces.
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TJTO_033_Support_CS_Mara Vincente_ Pipedrive_20211022
[00:00:00] Jason Noble: Good afternoon. Good morning. And almost good evening, everybody. Welcome to another episode of the Jason’s take on podcast. You’ve got myself, Jason Noble here over in London. Almost ready for the weekend and my partner in crime. Mr. Whitehead, say hello, Jason.
[00:00:14] Jason Whitehead: Hi, everyone. Thanks for joining us today.
[00:00:16] Jason Noble: We are very excited to stay, to record another episode of our podcast series. We’ve got another guest episode today, and we’re great to welcome Mara Vincente. Joining us from pipe drive. Welcome Mara. Hello everyone. Have a great conversation with Mara today around building long-term partnerships and relations through customer support.
Mara’s background is as the VP of customer support with pipe drive. She’s now serving as the interim head of customer success. So there’s a real, I think, a real, super story that mark and had with that kind of very background there, I’ll let Mara do an introduction, but she’s got, I think 20 plus years experience in customer service.
She’s worked in team leadership across multiple roles there. So knows a lot about the operational side of the business, the support side of the business and the success side. But welcome Mara. Please give a quick intro for all.
[00:01:09] Maria Vincente: All right. Here. I’m 43 based in Lisbon, currently working as VP customer solutions at pipe drive.
I have an amazing team of almost 200 people customer support and customer success right now. And we’re here 24 7 for our customers. True. It’s been wow. Almost 20 years experience for more than 20 years
[00:01:30] Jason Noble: experience. I just feel, I
[00:01:33] Maria Vincente: feel old. That’s it? That’s it. Other than that, I’m still learning, which is great.
But yeah I started out picking up before. As a normal customer service rep for a telecommunications company, I worked for a couple of teleco companies national and international for more than 10 years. And then I ventured off to the startup world actually worked in a couple of startups, Portuguese and international on a short-term.
And that was like running the amazing experience of vacation for people and renting your perfect house, which can be also very painful. So it was fun in scary at the same time. And then I got the great opportunity to work for pipe drive sales CRM, built by salespeople for sales people and it’s been an adventure ever since.
[00:02:22] Jason Noble: I love that. You’ve got such an incredible background. I think that working across different disciplines, different industries, different areas of the business. It’s a great place to come in to customer success. And Jason, I we’ve talked about this before. I think that breadth of experience is what really differentiates really exceptional leaders in customer success.
How have you found this transition from being focused more on support into this. Customer solutions, customer success, role pipe driving. What are some of the plans that you’ve got?
[00:02:51] Maria Vincente: So it’s been quite a ride and very interesting. I can tell you that safely. Sometimes joking around with the team.
I like to say. Customer success is pretty much support on steroids with a bit of sales sassiness to it. That’s and that’s not an easy mix. That’s not an easy mix to get truth be said it’s a. Aggregating the product knowledge that’s required from the supports stem side that diligence and the commitment to serve a customer and, be there for them and take all the roadblocks out of the way, but still understand.
All right. So what’s in it for the company also, how can I get this customer to grow and bring more revenue into the. To into the company too. So it’s that mixed, right? Thinking about the customer and also company interests and. It’s been fun because it’s a learning experience that I can also take back to support staff and actually challenge the way that we do stuff.
And understand how we can also add value with that level of commitment and commercial trade that or skillset that, that success also has.
[00:04:05] Jason Noble: Kind of experience for doing both kind of the reactive stuff that, looking after our customers driving success, but you need that commercial understanding, which is where kind of the sales skills coming in. That’s something that we’ve spoken about many times.
[00:04:19] Maria Vincente: Yeah. That’s the magic bit too late to call it the magic that they do.
[00:04:23] Jason Whitehead: I’d love for you to start saying you as well too, about taking things back to the support team. Can you give us a couple of examples? What were some of the lessons that you’ve learned, or Hey, this is a really important skill or practice for the support team to have that. Yeah
[00:04:35] Maria Vincente: there, there are small things that we take on.
So small things that we can also do in support that helps then the handover to success. Understand like bridging the two departments and the customer experience when customers. Reach customer support, not working so much in silos and understanding how we can improve the experience for customers.
Every time they use support as a touch point, but have a customer success manager also and also helping with upsell activities and cross sell activities. More from a transactional standpoint, but also leverage, leveraging the opportunity that we have because we have the customer they’re engaged interesting, and the opportunity presents itself.
But also more at how we can pave the way. Customers when they actually interact with supports we get the information needed for then customer success to go after that customer reached out with already the background, the information that they need and the action plan to take care of the relationship instead of just focusing on the transactional bit and taking that specific topic out of.
[00:05:50] Jason Whitehead: I love that cause I’ve with a lot of our consulting clients, we’ve worked with support teams in the past as well too. And one of the things in success we always hear is, we want it to customer success to be proactive and sometimes they’re reactive. And one of the things we found with sport teams, we’ve worked.
They assume their roles as they responding to a customer ticket, that they don’t have to be proactive at all. And it’s you’ve got them on the phone. Like you said, working to be proactive and moving them to the next stage of value or where it can be proactive in suggesting something they didn’t know to ask, but gets ahead or prevents a future problem that builds those relationships in the.
Exactly. You’re doing this sort of things.
[00:06:26] Maria Vincente: And most of the voice of customer that we get in support. So those are the highly engaged customers that do want to fix things that do approach us. So they take the opportunity to reach out to the company. So that’s valuable insights that we have and that can also create more visibility and more awareness of everything that.
Proactively than can do to mitigate all these issues so that they, so we divert volume from support, but we actually help build relationships from the success point of view.
[00:07:01] Jason Noble: Do you find it requires your support team to have a different way of thinking? Cause quite often you support him, as you said, Jason, it’s about break fix, but they’re, they are transactional.
It’s about this one, move on to the next, move on to the next. Does it require. A very different type of person. Have you found your support team easily transitioned to this new way of. W
[00:07:19] Maria Vincente: one good thing about one good thing about customer support and bike rev is that I also making fun of it.
Sometimes I say I have secret agents scattered across the organization because they have support people pretty much everywhere in the company is a good place, like product knowledge is there. So if very ambitious people and they do jump to other opportunities and success is not a.
Case different. I have a lot of people moving from support to success. Yes, they have to build the commercial skillset that, so product knowledge is there. The commitment and customer service part of the equation is pretty much strong, but the commercial skillset still needs to be developed further.
So one good example is that As a support specialist, or we talk to customers every day and if they have one one issue they want to fix, we look, we address that specific issue. We don’t ask ourselves what if this customer upgrades so often we don’t do this, right? We don’t challenge their question.
We just look at the transaction and try to be there for them and give them what they’re asking for this. This has been for the most part transactional pretty much, yes. We want to move gradually to a relational way of thinking where we can also challenge the way the customer is thinking is, and maybe proposing different things, different approaches right now, the proposals are and the approaches are.
Technical mainly around why don’t you use this automation instead of this manual task. But other than that we don’t challenge that much for successes different than it’s. The big question is how do I get this company to work as efficiently and effectively as possible while still bringing more revenue to this to buy drive.
So it’s. It’s an added challenge for sure. For
[00:09:16] Jason Noble: success. We view customer success at pipe drive for a long time. Is it something that’s been there from day one or is it relatively more?
[00:09:25] Maria Vincente: Not from day one, but pretty re pretty soon along the way, what wild Pipedrive was growing. It, success built probably halfway through, through the build-out of pipe drive, but it’s been growing consistently.
And for 2022, the plans are to. Continue to grow the team and develop further supporting roles, including project specialists, process specialists, everyone to help bring more efficiency and effectiveness to the team. So not just customer facing teams,
[00:09:56] Jason Noble: you’ve talked back into the growth of the team next year, but what are some of your own kind of plans for customer succession as you’ve come into this role quite recently, what are some of your own visions and plans for them, for the customer success function for the.
And for your customers.
[00:10:10] Maria Vincente: So the exciting thing is that we’re also bringing on a new leadership and with that added challenge. So for 2022, we have a lot of different commitments for success, mostly around. Bringing effectiveness and efficiency into the team. So working with specific algorithms that and playbooks that allow us to be there for our customers, but understanding for the most part, which customers needs us most, right?
Since this is a proactive approach it can’t be random because we might be losing opportunities to help people. Do need to develop and do need to fix any issues that are impacting their usage or their growth. So it’s more around data, customer intelligence, understanding their behaviors, understanding the patterns and where we need to direct our efforts with one-to-one plays and one too many place to keep these customers engaged, happy, recommending buy drive, and using in
[00:11:15] Jason Whitehead: Wow.
That’s sounds like a big challenge that you have ahead there. A lot of stuff going on, I’m curious as well as I’m listening to you. We often find that people that get, that want to jump into customer success. Many times they’ve come from a background of support and they really do find that transition very difficult.
Many of them that I’ve encountered actually say, you know what? I think I’m going to go back to support what has been your experience here in terms of people in their career paths, coming into customer success from support. Any of the challenges that you’ve found, there are any recommendations to either someone who’s considering that for their career or as a CS leader about when you think about where you want to just staff up your different teams from
[00:11:49] Maria Vincente: can you rephrase that?
I don’t think
[00:11:51] Jason Whitehead: I’m trying to understand. What’s your experience with people who may start in customer support and moving into a career in customer success? Is that a good transition for most people or is it only for a certain type of people? And what advice would you give to folks to say, this may not be for you or this is something you should definitely do.
[00:12:06] Maria Vincente: Okay. My understanding is that this move comes from success support reps wanting to create a bigger impact on their customers. So they feel that. Yes. They help a lot of customers every day, all day, but it’s transactional and sometimes they just don’t want to lose touch. They feel they could add more value if the conversation continued, and if they could explore other things and other opportunities and as the.
Full understanding of the product and its its potential and limitations. They also feel that they’re more empowered to help more customers and create bigger impact for the company. So they feel interested in moving to success just because of that. It’s also a different routine in support you do chats emails, so it’s pretty much.
Being there talking to customers every day, continuously recurrently with customer success. You have the preparation part of the equation, the conversations you have a bit of admin work, but you also have a different pace, a different rhythm and a different understanding of your portfolio.
Plus you own your portfolio, right? So it’s very different than the way you approach your work and the way you perceive the impact of your work at the end of the day,
[00:13:25] Jason Noble: what does PI drive mean? How do you define customer success? What’s your. She visioned for customers. How does the business address customer success?
What are some of the things that are
[00:13:34] Maria Vincente: needed? So customer success for the most part is there to build strong and long lasting relationships with our high value customers. They’re there for the customers that are. Generate, usually more revenue to the company have also more complexity to the way that they manage the product more seats.
And so they need a dedicated person to manage, help manage the accounts and also the relationship, that’s customer success for us. Customer support by drive is way more directed to technical. Customer support. But we also engage with trial or trial users about billing issues, payment understanding pricing.
So it’s pretty much generic questions around everyone experimenting and trialing the product and also. Customers that are not high value that engage with us everyday. So it’s more around the technical part of the equation then customer success, which is building relationships.
[00:14:36] Jason Noble: Okay. How do you find the relationships are with your customers?
We were talking about how you build long-term relationships, but do you find, are they long-term partnerships, have you had a lot of great success with customers? Do you run to customers where they renew.
[00:14:50] Maria Vincente: Yeah. So fortunately for us high value customers in pipe drive they are the ones that have the higher lifetime value.
Also we have very low turn rates for high value customers. And it’s also because of this mix that we have dedicated customer support with enhance. Service enhanced SLS and then customer success. People also focused in dedicated to servicing and managing the accounts and the relationship for these customers and for this segment.
Obviously there’s more personalization, more customization also to these customers that also helps. But yes, for the most part, our customer are, have high value. Customers are very happy with and engaged with Piper.
[00:15:34] Jason Whitehead: That’s great. Mark, one of the things I’m curious about, especially both in your experience, but at pipe drive, one of the things that we often hear is, oh, the customer success folks, they have these great relationships with customers and customers just come to them first for everything instead of going to support when they should.
And if some of your CSMs also had that in-depth product knowledge or came from support at one point, there’s probably a lot of questions that they could answer very quickly if they wanted to, but distracts them from their other work and their other customers. How do you manage your teams? As a CSM one to.
Engage a customer on things that really should be done by support versus redirecting them. And how dispo, however, how does that actually handle by your front line staff?
[00:16:11] Maria Vincente: Yeah. So the good thing about a pipe drive is that every department w we don’t work in silos and we’re very collaborative and we use.
We use each other as basically part of the value proposition for our customers. High value customers know that support exists is there 24 7 is available via email chat phone so they can reach out very easily. So it’s mostly common that they start by reaching out to support instead of the CSM.
If it’s a very technical or tactical question. And for the most part, we want it to be like this because we don’t want to flood success managers with this part of the equation, right? Success managers, mostly redirect customers to support or promote actually supports to their portfolio because they know that for these questions.
Highly skilled professionals are there and can help 24 7. What support that’s exactly the same. If we understand that our customer is probably looking to grow has need to negotiate or difficult with a renewal. We also make the time for the customer success managers to become aware, create the slot and meet with the customer, prepare and meet with the customer.
But we work in, I think we work as one team. So the customer doesn’t really feel that. Talks to support or success is getting different experiences and different levels of commitments for that matter.
[00:17:41] Jason Whitehead: Wow. That is great to hear. Cause I know a lot of organizations, they strive for that, but they really struggled to achieve.
And even internally I love the language use to support our success tries to promote support and they have their highly skilled professionals and a lot of organizations I’ve seen not so combative with support and success, but it’s not that closeness that you just. And I’m curious as well too, cause I know a lot of organizations, like we want our customers to know where to go and to go to the right people first so that it saves time.
They have a good experience and they can get their problem solved faster. How do you start to introduce that to your customers? Is that even during the sales process, you explain the difference between success and support. Is there something special you do during onboarding or in the first few months of the relationship to really reinforce those kinds.
[00:18:22] Maria Vincente: Yes, it that’s where it all begins. And that’s where we make the customer aware of the options he has inside of pipe drive. So during the sales speed pitch, during the sales stage the customer is introduced to support usually for technical requirements that sales resorts to one good example is importing data.
It’s always a rather complex. Some people. I don’t want to do it by themselves or, need more time to, to go over it. And so sales always introduced the support as an option and they can book slots with us and we take care of thoughts of technical aspects. And then they do the handover to customer success.
They introduce the co the customer to the customer success manager. They’re going to get exactly why they’re there. When they’re going to reach out so that the customer knows expectations are managed. And from that moment, the customer knows, so technical stuff. I have this root and for the relationship part for the commercial part, I have this route and it’s clear from the.
[00:19:25] Jason Noble: What are some of the things that you’ve done to, to break down those internal silos? Cause there’s we said it’s a challenge. Every business had. I think, my big belief is that often is the role of your customer success leader is a horizontal role, but how. Going about doing that at pipe
[00:19:39] Maria Vincente: drive?
Yeah. Several different initiatives. We have we have started to conduct a lot of across department forums where we talk about processes, procedures, customer experience, and where we see. The main touch points in the main breaking points happening. And this also helps because we create a network and it’s easy to speak to the and understand who is the stakeholder responsible for what part of the customer experience within different departments, sales, success, support community partnerships, even.
And we’ve also done customer journey mapping and. That allow us to just take two steps back and actually map the experience for customers. Understand if the promise that we’re making is being correctly delivered. If everything is working as we anticipated, it should be working. And we just challenge the experience to, to improve.
And this is also a cross-functional exercise that involves people from different departments. So this helps us understand more. What’s happening on the other side. And also liaising with these departments and creating this synergies to make things more fluid more seamless for customers and all in all, a better customer experience in the end.
[00:20:55] Jason Whitehead: That’s great too. Cause I know a lot of organizations struggle to get that and to do that well and to get the other departments to play well, it sounds like you’ve really done a tremendous job there. I’m curious as I’m listening to you as well too. I know there are a lot of people that are.
Early in their CS leadership career and they may have come through support or they may have come up from a CS background. And they’re now coming into these, so many new CSV roles are opening up. What advice would you give to someone who’s coming into a situation where they may be in a leadership role for the first time where they’re going to have to oversee both success and.
And what, how would you help them prepare for the challenges that are going to face?
[00:21:28] Maria Vincente: First understand what your numbers are telling you very important to be data-driven and understand the strengths and the weaknesses from a data perspective, but then listen to your people. And Basically aggregate that feedback into your plan going forward.
Sometimes we lose track of what exactly is affecting customers and internal teams, both. And I think we never should lose track of that. So it’s looking at data, but also involving your team members and involving more departments even in creating that sense of Problems to solve challenges to overcome and then going at it, don’t assume that, at all, because, oh, you don’t,
[00:22:15] Jason Noble: it’s just an assumption too easy to make.
Isn’t it? You got to take a step back, Mara, look, this has been a super conversation. Thank you so much. One, one thing we like to do with all our guests, and this is really helps us and our listeners is give you this bowl challenge question. The one that we’d like to give you is what is the number one act?
That people can take to improve customer relationships through their support teams, really based on your feedback, that kind of transitions you’ve done, but what’s that number one takeaway on.
[00:22:44] Maria Vincente: Number one action thinking like a hundred different ones. Number one, action. Listen to what your customers are saying and structure.
That feedback in a way that you can then action upon it. Okay. Don’t just fix what’s happening every day. Take two steps back and understand. W, so what is happening and why go look for the root cause and then take action to mitigate those those issues going forward, give visibility to all the departments that are contributing to those issues and just be an engine of change.
Also, don’t just react because it’s what we tend to do in supporting. React be that be the engine that tribes change, don’t just, dwell of, oh, why are they always screwing up? And give that visibility and understand root cause and try to fix along with other leaders in other departments.
[00:23:49] Jason Noble: that thinking about being the engine of change, because it is, if you look at businesses now, Everyone’s going through these big changes, transformations, what COVID is dumper businesses and it is how can we help our customers through that change? And I think one of the big things about being truly customer centric is when you’re helping your customers go through these changes.
So I absolutely love that Mara look a huge, thank you. This has been a great conversation. We’ve really enjoyed it. A big thank you from me for joining us and for taking the time out of your day to join.
[00:24:18] Maria Vincente: Thank you so much. It was lovely talking to you. Hope to have shared some good insights to everyone listening.
And it was definitely a pleasure.
[00:24:27] Jason Noble: Fantastic. Thank you so much.