Guest: Maranda Dziekonski – What does the future customer success manager look like?

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The Jasons Take On...
Guest: Maranda Dziekonski - What does the future customer success manager look like?
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Episode Description

Join us when we speak with Maranda Dziekonski. Maranda is the SVP of Customer Success at HourWork. She is seasoned customer success executive and leader and with extensive experience building and scaling teams in early and mid-stage startups and has been part of 3 companies who have all seen successful exits.

In this episode, Maranda is going to talk to us about the future of the customer success manager role.

Guest: Maranda Dziekonski - Chief Customer Officer at Swiftly

Maranda Dziekonski was until very recently the Chief Customer Officer at Swiftly. For those that don’t know Swiftly is helping us make our cities more efficient, and helping to improve service reliability, passenger information, and operational efficiency. But she joined the team at HourWork as their new SVP of Customer Success.

Maranda is a vey well respected and well known leader in the customer success space and has extensive experience building and scaling teams in early and mid-stage startups and has been part of 3 companies who have all seen successful exits.

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Transcript

Jason Noble: [00:00:00] Good morning, good afternoon, good evening, everybody. Welcome to another episode of the Jason’s take on podcast series with myself, Jason Noble, here in a very dark and wet London, and my partner in crime. Mr. Whitehead, say hello, Jason.

Jason Whitehead: Hello, Jason.

Jason Noble: We are really thrilled today that we’ve got our, it’s our second podcast of the year and our second guest podcast, and today we have a, another amazing guest with us and a great conversation we’re gonna talk about, all about the.

The csm, what does the future of the customer success manager look like? And I think it’s a really topical topic. There’s lots of challenges between, in the industry, lots of changes, and I’m sure it’s one that a lot of our listeners are really gonna be keen on this conversation. And I’d like to give a very big welcome to Miranda Dsky.

Miranda, welcome. Miranda until very recently, I think until yesterday was the Chief Customer Officer at swiftly. This has taken us about 10 different chances to get this reorganized. [00:01:00] Predominantly down to me, my fault of other things coming up, but I’m thrilled to bits that we’ve got Miranda here. Miranda spent a lot of time at swiftly as their C O.

Helping build their processes up swiftly if you don’t know, help us make cities more efficient. So it’s a pretty big task that they’re undertaking, but she’s done some amazing work there, building out their customer success function, their customer success team there. And if you’re not connected with her already, and I’ll let her talk more about this, but she’s departed and she’s gonna be joining the team at our work in the US as the s VP of customer Success.

I think beginning of next month. So really excited about this. And Miranda, she’s very well respected in the customer success community, a very well-known leader, extensive experience building teams, scaling teams in early startups, early to mid-stage startups. She’s also been part of a number of companies that have seen a number of successful exits, so she’s.

A lot to bring to the table. She’s also a repeat rep recipient of the much acclaimed top 25 and top [00:02:00] 50 customer success influencer awards. Huge achievements. Miranda, welcome. I’m so excited to have you here and to be actually doing this conversation at last.

Maranda: I know finally I’m on the Adjacents. I can’t believe it.

I’ve made it. I’m talking to the Jasons on the Jasons podcast

Jason Noble: all that day.

You can sit back and relax a bit and enjoy the conversation, but

Maranda: yeah, you know me, I love to chit chat, so this is gonna be great.

Jason Noble: Absolutely.

Could you just start us off, I’ve given a little intro there, but in your own words, give us a quick intro to who you are, who Miranda is, and really your own journeys to where’s got you to, where you’ve got to and your upcoming role with our.

Maranda: Yeah. I think you did a fantastic job introducing me. I don’t know if I have a ton to add. But I did start out in customer success, some 20 odds something years ago, working at a very large organization that had, 30,000 plus employees globally. We were. 50 billion a year in revenue. I spent nine years there learning how to do [00:03:00] customer success.

I managed some very large strategic portfolios and that was in Michigan and then made the journey to Silicon Valley and now have been part of seven startups. Some have had. Successful exits. Some have exited in a different manner. . Yeah, they’ve all exited one way or another. . I’ve been really fortunate though.

I’ve landed at, lending Club, which had a unicorn, I p o Hello Sign, which had an, a successful acquisition by Dropbox. I had, Castlight Health. I was there short. before their I P O and then of course recently swiftly, which had an acquisition by J M I equity. So that’s for equity events, I guess is what I could call it.

Jason Noble: In my four F seven. That’s a good hit, right?

Maranda: Not bad. Yeah. Now I’m starting my eighth which I’m really excited about and I shared a lot about, why I chose this location and I did talk to a total of 39. When I was going through this journey and I ta I spoke more seriously [00:04:00] with 14.

But I was very fortunate to be in a ton of conversations, to have an idea of what’s out there, figure out what type of leader I wanna work with, what kind of team, the mission. And definitely I, I po I, I chose, Our work because the mission just really spoke to me as somebody who grew up with a blue collar family and poverty and, understanding needing to make ends meet, living paycheck to paycheck.

I’ve been there, so this is the community I’m gonna serve at our work and I’m really excited.

Jason Noble: I think that mission behind a, an organization it’s not a vision. It’s a mission. And they’re very different, aren’t they? And I think that’s something where you can see the fundamental difference it can make in, not just in, in the city you live in the country, but in society.

It’s a huge thing. I think in the, it’s a great intro that, and I think you’ve, You know that, that experience from large organizations to seven startups, eight, now, y you’ve seen it all. You really have you’ve seen the good, the bad, the ugly. How, in [00:05:00] your timing, customer success, how have you seen it change and grow?

What are some, particularly when we look at the roles in it and we’ll get onto the role of the csm, but how have you seen the industry and the roles changing it?

Maranda: Now I think investors. Finally, I think in the last five years or so, I’ve started noticing that investors really get what, customer success is and the value that it can bring to an organization That has not always been the case, which means that the leader of the customer success organization had to fight to sit, to have that seat at the table.

That’s no longer the case. I believe in, at least in most organizations that I’ve spoken with the investors seem to understand that whether it’s a PE firm or a vc, they understand the power. Of having a very strong customer success motion. On the other end of the spectrum I think we have done a pretty damn good job of moving customer success managers from that reactive support like function.

and the management of the portfolio being the afterthought to, having a [00:06:00] strong motion of them managing the portfolio proactively, doing the account planning, thinking about what needs to be true in order for a renewal to happen, what needs to be true for them to expand with us. And this is, I’m of course talking about the heavy B2B enterprise motion, but I think we really got that down.

We have those playbooks. I will, That the new emerging thing that I don’t think we quite have down is this tech touch, digital touch, one to many touch, whatever the hell you wanna call it. Touch. Yep. I don’t think we have that down yet. I think

Jason Noble: I like your last definition of that. The, what the hell,

Maranda: Yeah. I think that’s the next thing that we’ve got to figure out is a leadership teams. Yeah. Or as a community because there’s a lot of power. Whether you are in B2B enterprise or you’re in B2C or whatever you’re in, you have got to figure out how do you communicate to the masses?

How do you leverage technology to make you more efficient, especially, given the economic downturn. [00:07:00] Yeah. We cannot continue to throw bodies at problems, so we’re gonna have to really figure out how to be more efficient. I think. Layer that one to many or whatever the hell we call it, , is, we’ve gotta get that figured out quick.

Absolutely. Because money’s not going to be flowing freely like it used to.

Jason Whitehead: Yeah. Money and headcount are not, I like what you say about we’ve progressed in the five years and all that. I’m curious too, are there any areas where you think we’ve actually taken a few steps backwards, so it’s the tech touch we haven’t figured out yet, we’ve progressed in some other areas, but are there some things you say, wow, that was probably a mistake and we should have or this could be a mistake right now as an industry?

Maranda: Yeah, I think one of the things that I’m raising my eyebrow, like my right eyebrow at very frequently now is I’m seeing. Because of the state of the economy. , I think leadership is panicking. Whether it’s your board, it’s your c e o, whoever who, whomever it is. And I’m starting to see companies push, have like a power play and push [00:08:00] some of that power back over into the sales realm.

Because for one reason or another, maybe the CS leaders. Comfortable with sales or they haven’t been given that opportunity or that training, or they don’t have those chops, and I think that makes me a little nervous. It makes me a little nervous. I’m seeing it a lot. Not just, in isolation, but the minute there’s a panic, it’s oh let’s get this into the revenue owning hands, right?

Jason Noble: ,

I think that is, that’s a common theme and thread that we see as well globally. It’s the know different organizations panicking about economic situations, what they need to do. Do you, in the organizations you’ve worked in, when you’ve seen the different CSMs there and you’ve built these functions, I love the way you’ve said, You’ve seen that kind of growth from reactive to proactive driving renewals and cross sell.

You, you do get a lot of c s m still wearing multiple hats, doing too much being still very reactive and I think a lot of it can depend on a, their level of experience, but also the company they’re with. And a lot of companies have very different views as to what they [00:09:00] should be doing.

And often even the customers, there’s a different expectation for you. If we look at the ideal customer success matter in one of your organizations? What are the core elements that they’re doing as part of their role?

Maranda: Yeah, that’s a really good question and call, and it depends on the stage of the company.

So I’ll use swiftly as an example. When I started at swiftly there was a couple of handful of CSMs there, and they did everything from onboarding to support. To the relationship management and renewals and all of that stuff. It was all owned by just a handful of people. Problem with that was, is, first of all, the company was small.

I joined when we were just under 30 people and just not a ton of customers. So at that time, it made sense to have all of that owned. By just a small group of individuals because it just, business sense and also customer sense. The problem with that was, is it didn’t scale and it couldn’t scale because you have to eventually start peeling [00:10:00] back those layers of the onion and specializing in order to scale.

So see this happen again and again at these organizations. They need to really figure out, when do I specialize? Because if you do it too early, then you have a bunch of folks who. A ton of bandwidth on their hands, and they’re not busy. But if you do it too late, you sacrifice employee morale team morale, the customer experience, and ultimately the business outcomes.

So I think that the c s m that joins, that wants to do everything is sometimes different than the C S M that evolves with you while you special. So I don’t know if that

answers your question.

Jason Noble: I think does and I think that getting that balance right is so difficult, isn’t it, in trying to time it so that it’s right because you can’t let you say you’ve got, what you don’t wanna do is having a team that are not doing anything, they’re twiddling their thumbs.

Cuz that impacts morale as well, as much as having too much to do. And it is, and I think you’ve gotta be very careful. You’ve gotta look at the stage, the [00:11:00] business. What your priorities are, what your level of funding is, what your customers are. So there’s all these other things. I think to your point earlier, when you look at the market as well, that brings in another dimension to it, the external economic situations.

Jason Whitehead: Yeah, exactly.

Yeah, I think too you were saying you need to specialize to scale, need to automate to scale, and now everyone’s, all that requires investment and people are getting very scared about making investment, whether it’s in tools or people or process or whatever it is. It’s gonna be a challenging few months I think for quite a few folks.

One of the things I wanted to ask you is, since you’ve seen this evolution of CS over the years, I’ve maintained a theory that over time CS will become more of a competitive differentiator to help companies win new sales. When you can point to look at our track record of making our customers successful compared to our competitors.

But I personally don’t think we’re quite there yet. But for that to actually be impactful, I think customers need to be more sophisticated in what they’re buying, what they’re looking for, and what they realize it takes. What sort of evolutions are you seeing in terms of the sophistication of customers when it comes to what they’re expecting for out of [00:12:00] a customer success team?

What they’re demanding, and what they might see with their other vendors up there. Say, Hey, we need, you should be doing this for us.

Maranda: That’s a really good question. And I just wrapped up my tenure with a company that served public transit. And. I don’t know. I wouldn’t call them, unsophisticated buyers.

They know the problems that they’re solving and they know what they need. However, it’s also a government entity and it moves a little bit slower. Yes. So in order to answer your question, I think it depends on your customer base. And how, what problems they’re solving with your services or your product, and how in tune they are with how those problems can be solved.

I think. I think where customer success can come in the sales cycle or, as a differentiator. Is when we start looping in things like maturity matrix, where we show the customer this is a, a customer similar to you. This is how they’ve used our [00:13:00] product to solve these particular product or problem statements.

Are these problem statements that you, encount. Yes, great. These are the things that you could do with our products and services to get you from A, B, and C and those that are the most mature in using, the majority of the features are solving these types of problems, like really wrapping it into problem statements and showing how the customer success manager will partner with you to drive those outcomes.

That’s what we’ve done at swiftly and that has, that is what has netted us are very strong outcomes for the customer and also for the company.

Jason Whitehead: That’s great. No I like that approach. I haven’t heard people do it in quite such a consistent fashion, especially early in the sales process.

Maranda: Yeah. I wouldn’t say it’s super early when you have a long sales cycle, you’re not gonna bring that right in at the beginning and be like, look no.

It’s more when you know that it could definitely be a differentiator that you could leverage in the sales cycle. Always customer success was listed as a differentiator. You will get this team is going to help [00:14:00] you, with your outcomes. They’re gonna do regular business reviews with you, make sure you’re collecting the goals of what you want to achieve, partnering with you to achieve those goals.

And then once you achieve those, we collect new goals and we do it again.

Jason Noble: Did you find it hard to get buy-in from the sales team to do that and be part of their process?

Maranda: No, not at all. It’s beneficial to them. Yep. If a, if. You can speak to the salesperson through their wallet,

You show them how this is beneficial for, expansion, upsell opportunities, cross-sell opportunities, renewals if they own renewals then it’s just like a no-brainer.

Jason Noble: It isn’t. Even if you bring it in at the right point, it is. You’re part of closing that initial deal as well. I think the way, I love the way you’ve phrased it there.

 For me it is it’s you bring the csm, the CS team into the sales process to really bring case studies to life. You really exactly showcase what customers are really doing and it does, it makes such a difference when it [00:15:00] works.

Maranda: Case studies, references, yeah. All of those types of things.

Gener are generally generated in customer success. So if we’re doing our jobs correctly, we should have customers out there that are willing to advocate for us and our products.

Jason Noble: What do you see today as some of the biggest challenges for CSMs as the roles coming into it? How do we go about addressing those issues

Maranda: not being the dumping ground in the organization?

I’ve seen this time and time. Where, I, I don’t know if it’s causation or correlation, but everybody says let’s just, push this over to customer success, or put this on customer success. And next thing you have a C S M team that’s doing 50 things and then they can’t do the things that they need to do, right?

, because you can’t have that much on your plate. And be able to really manage your portfolio. So if I was to say anything, I urge leaders out there to be guardians of your CSMs time. Understand [00:16:00] where they’re spending their time. Don’t, of course, come across as somebody who doesn’t wanna partner with others in the organization, but understand if something’s being punted over to your organization, why?

What is the problem it’s going to solve? Does it really belong there? or does it belong within another function, maybe within the customer success organization and not with a C S M. Just really drill in on the why’s before you’re just like, yes, we’ll take that. We’ll take this. It’s sometimes viewed as like a power play the more you own.

Yep. I will urge folks to think about it in the opposite way. If you’re not doing the core of what you need to do owning more means nothing.

Jason Whitehead: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah I think that’s a tough balance to figure out, like what should we own and what should we meet? And so many organizations I meet with, they really struggle to get that internal politics and balance and roles and responsibilities and, if you’re able to get that to work, I think that you’re really ahead of the game.

Absolutely. I’m wondering, in your perspective, what is the future of A C S M look like and how it will be different today? Where do you sees need to pivot more going forward and what’s [00:17:00] your timeline for this? Five or 10 years down the road? Or is it like in the next two or ye one or two years down the road?

Maranda: Oh, Jason, I work in early startups. I can’t even think a year or two out five years. What does that look like? I do think what I said earlier about the economic state customer success managers, if they are not comfortable with owning renewals or expansions, upsells, things like that, they need to get comfortable with the commercials or else or else you know, that function will go to sales.

I’m really concerned that we’re just gonna start seeing. , all of the commercials just completely put in this bucket with sales. And I think that CS just needs to get comfortable with this.

Jason Noble: I love that. And it is you’ve gotta, cuz it’s. It’s a commercial function, we should be a revenue generating function.

A profit center part of the business. Exactly. Enterprise, a mind shift, and it’s part of that shifting from doing everything from doing support and things to how do we generate revenue for the [00:18:00] business and how do we ultimately generate enterprise value for ourselves.

Maranda: Exactly. A hundred percent.

Jason Noble: Do you go, Jason, were you gonna say something? No, go ahead. I was just gonna say, Amanda, this is a really phenomenal conversation and. Appreciate you taking your time out. timing, of all the rearrangements, weran here on the day that you leave. I so apologies for the timing, but it’s been a great conversation.

I think there’s so much that you bring to our listeners your experiences. I think it’s unique. It’s what makes you who you are but there’s so much to add. What we always like to do is give our. Guess a bold challenge question and the one for you is, what would you say is the number one thing as a C S M that I should be doing if I’m a C S M?

What sort of number one thing I should be working on today to ensure that I’m ready for the future?

Maranda: Okay, so I, it’s a big question. It is a really big question. I have noticed that a lot of customer success managers don’t understand the business that they work in, [00:19:00] so really understand what is net retention?

What does that mean? What is your levers to drive net retention? What is gross renewal? What is gross dollar renewal? What is gross dollar returned ? Really know all of these things and understand how you impact that and how those you partner with impact that. Get a big picture of how these businesses work, not just your day-to-day.

Look outside of the mechanics of I do A, B, C, to, how you impact everything, the full ecosystem.

Jason Whitehead: That’s awesome. Love that. Thank you again for being here. Before we go, we always like to invite a guest to do a shameless plug, so please let us know what’s top of mind for you or how people can get in touch or whatever.

You’d like to plug.

Maranda: I don’t have a lot to plug these days. I sunsetted my podcast. But I do talk a lot about customer success, leadership, hiring, cause I was also a human resource professional. I was a chief people officer at swiftly for three years. So feel free to follow me on LinkedIn. Very easy to find.

Jason Whitehead: That’s great. [00:20:00] Awesome. Thank you so much. Really appreciate Miranda.

Jason Noble: Thanks Miranda. This has been great, and I know you’ve got I’m looking forward to more of these conversations. There’s some great content that you do push out for people to listen to. So do, like Miranda said, if you’re not following her, make sure you do.

She’s a person to watch and listen to superb conversation. Thank you so much and best of luck in your new role next month.

Maranda: Thank you. Thank you. Happy New Year. Happy

Jason Noble: New year.

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