Leveraging technology while maintaining personal touch is a challenge all CX leaders face.
Rachel Sheriff, VP of Global Customer Success at LogicMonitor, shares how she balances efficiency with connection using her “tech touch” approach.
Rachel also breaks some news to us: We're all in the business of sales. Though this doesn’t often look like what we think of as sales.
Listen in to learn how to sustainably differentiate yourself, which metrics to use as your North Star, and best practices for meeting customers where they are.
- Create a “tech touch” approach to balance automation with personal touch
- We’re all in the business of sales
- Use your customer experience to differentiate yourself
Things to Listen For:
[01:30] Using automation to meet customers where they are
[04:30] Setting expectations and understanding value early in the sales cycle
[07:30] Rachel’s North Star customer success metrics
[11:30] Managing limited resources with automation
[14:00] Aligning customer experience with sales
[16:30] Differentiating yourself with customer experience
[18:30] Proactively managing customer relationships
Rachel: I think that if you are providing the experience that that customer is seeking. That, from the beginning, you're aligning your technology, not to technical goals in value, but to business outcomes. Then you're going to know that customer well enough to know that, hey, I think that they might be talking to a competitor, but good thing I know now, because I have a year to come in and try to change that sentiment or make sure that they understand the value that they're getting from our service.
Flourish CX, the only show helping CX leaders do one thing: empower their customers. Each episode democratizes best practices while leaving you feeling both inspired and equipped to take action. Let's get to it.
Alon: If CX is a team sport, when does the game actually begin? I’m Alon Waks, host of the Flourish CX podcast. But in this episode, you'll be hearing from guest host Ciaran Doyle, director of product marketing at Zoomin.
For many years, improving the customer experience is about fixing problems that already exist. For Rachel Sheriff, VP of Global Customer Success at Logic Monitor, that is too little too late. You need to work proactively to keep problems from creeping up in the first place.
One way to avoid issues is to make sure the people using your products are getting value out of it. As you listen, think about how you would define your services value and answer the question: does that line up with your customer's definition?
Ciaran: So, Rachel, we'll start out with kind of a fun question. What would you be doing if you weren't in your current role?
Rachel: I've been in the customer success realm for probably 10 years now. And I'd like to say since it's infancy, but if I was not doing customer success for a software company… oddly enough I like to say that I’m a closeted introvert and I actually find my most joy whenever I am doing something quiet, whether it's reading or writing. And I would say that for a really long time, I always used to daydream about having time and the ability to take some time off and maybe do a little bit of writing. Either short story format or a novel, but I really, really enjoy writing quite a bit and would love to do that one day.
Ciaran: So maybe it will give you a little writing topic. What would you say is your customer experience, rant, rave, you know, recent poor experience, uh, that you'd like to share?
Rachel: As a customer, I would say one of my rants is I think that automation is really, really important when it comes to how you drive a customer experience.
But I do think that you need to have the right balance. And as a consumer, there are times when automation really gets me to where I need to be, whether it’s seeking out a question, troubleshooting an issue. Interestingly, in software, who is very technology averse, I often use automation to help me seek out issues that I'm having, whether it's internet, TV, etcetera. But from time to time, I do think you need to swoop in with a personal voice and somebody who can talk you through an issue.
And I would say the same thing happens in business, is we need to make sure as leaders who are driving customer experience that we use a right balance of technology, but then also human touch. And we do that in my business, we have a tech touch approach for some of our customers or, or digital success rather. And we always say that it doesn't mean that you're not ever going to talk to a customer and give someone that one-to-one time.
It’s using automation to understand when the time is appropriate and what they need and having all of the information in your hands, through tooling and automation, to be able to answer their questions really quickly.
Ciaran: So I guess the question there is, is there such thing as too much self-service? Do you think self service is being used sort of as a crutch by some organizations?
Do you think we still need more self-service? Kind of where are we on the spectrum?
Rachel: I think it depends on how you define self-service. Again, I think people always tend to think that self-service is going to be a fully automated process from soup to nuts.
And I think self-service can also be used in more of a figurative way in that the most important thing for self-service is making sure that you're able to answer someone's question as quickly as possible and with as much information already at hand so that you know what the problem is. You have all of that background history, or you understand where they are in their journey with either your product or your service.
And so I think that the most important thing is if you are going to go through the path of self-service it’s making sure, again, that you understand when you need to come in and talk someone through an issue and giving the person the ability to opt in or opt out of that more personal touch. I think that everyone consumes technology, products, service differently, and you want to meet that consumer or that customer where they are and how they want to experience their service journey with you or their customer experience with you.
And so again, I think it's all about balance and being able to collect the right amount of data and the right amount of information so that when you do meet that customer where they want to be, that you can get to resolution or answer as quickly as possible.
Ciaran: And I think the data aspect is one area where it kind of gets to the question: does customer experience have an owner in a company or is it a team sport?
And I think, to kind of lead you, I think it has to be sort of a team sport because the data is just spread across and the experience is spread across so many different departments.
Rachel: You know what's really interesting is we are in a process in my own company of thinking through customer experience, not just within the post-sales cycle. And I think that that's one thing that a lot of companies make a mistake in, is that customer experience is generally always aligned at post-sale, post-implementation, then you kick off your customer experience team who are generally your post-sale organizations, customer support, professional services, customer success.
But if you think about it, a customer's journey is not linear at all. And their experience in the sales cycle is often what's going to set them off on a course of success or failure. And so, you know, we're not only thinking about how customer experience is owned by every organization within our company, but also that it's not just a post-sale activity and focus either.
How do we bring in some of these folks that generally come in after a sale earlier into that journey and set the right expectations? Understand value during that sale cycle. Start creating relationships with decision-makers and champions during the sales cycle so that they don't feel like they're pushed off of a cliff.
So I would say it's totally a team sport and the journey starts with the minute a customer is researching and considering your company or your service or your product.
Ciaran: When we're talking customer experience, you're making a clear delineation between prospect, pre-customer and existing customer. So, do you think there's one metric to measure how good a customer experience is or do you think it's divided by those different stages?
Rachel: I think that there's different metrics. Um, because if you think about it, there's leading indicators and lagging indicators of if a customer has had a great journey.
You've seen a lot of companies who really focus on things like NPS, C-SAT. To me, you have to think about not just that customer satisfaction score, those kinds of survey metrics, but you also have to think about how they're rating their experience with their wallet.
And so, my team, we pay a lot of attention to net dollar retention, but we also kind of align our net dollar retention metrics and goals with those more qualitative scores, like a C-SAT, like an NPS. And again, I do think that ultimately you've got to think about the full journey and what are those key, like, leading indicators of success.
So, you have your typical sales metrics, like qualified leads, POVs, and then, you know, you then go into things like C-SAT during an implementation score, NPS. Um, and then finally, you've got your financial metrics that kind of prove out if those different things actually lead to customers showing their satisfaction or dissatisfaction with their wallet.
Ciaran: So at Logic Monitor, is there one metric that you focus on?
Rachel: As a leader of, of the function, at the end of the day, net dollar retention is really my North Star because I believe a customer who is healthy, who's adopted the technology, who's following best practices, they're also more likely to grow. And so the way that we measure net dollar retention is within our existing customer base.
It's not just the churn, which a lot of customer success teams focus on, or the retention rather. It's also the growth within that customer base. And I feel that all individuals who align to CX play a really, really large role in growth. My team hears me say it all the time and they probably roll their eyes that at the end of the day, we're all in the business of sales. We just have to make sure our customers are healthy and happy so that those sales happen.
Ciaran: And you mentioned some sort of leading indicators. Can you share what some of those are that you're looking at?
Rachel: So we look at a lot of different things and we have tooling into, you know, telemetry to help us understand that.
So some leading indicators for me, I look at things like, obviously we look at, are they utilizing the product? We use a tool called Pindo. It helps us look at logins. Our businesses run on volume. So, are they actually utilizing the volume that's spelled out in their contract? And another interesting metric that actually is becoming quite a buzzword in the industry, in the SAS industry, is time to value.
How quickly are they adopting the technology after implementation? And so for example, we know that if our customers hit a certain volume metric, that they are more likely to renew, to grow, and that metric is measured within the first 120 days of the relationship. So we look at time to value, product utilization, and then of course, some of those survey metrics like C-SAT, NPS.
And then, finally, another metric that's really, really important to me is customer engagement and that's engagement with our teams. So are they attending our business reviews? Do we have an executive relationship cadence with them? Generally when an executive is involved the team and in our cadence, then you know that they see value in participating in those conversations.
So, lots of different things. You can imagine what our dashboards look like, but I think it's really, really important to look at those leading indicators so that you can understand risk in enough time to actually mitigate it.
Ciaran: Yeah. I've seen at another company, we used to just understand the customer sort of adoption pattern and say, once you got to this skill or this feature, like you are good, so get them to that feature and then there'll be sort of solid, engaged, fully adopted customer.
Rachel: And then you can also drive a lot of both automation, but also some proactive professional services packages around what you're seeing in that adoption. Right? Because again, it's not linear and a lot of customers are going to ingest your software and ingest different features and functionalities depending on their business and what they're trying to achieve.
And you can't approach it all as a one size fits all. You have to make sure you're thinking about, what do we need to put in front of this customer to drive them to this certain leading indicator of success? And again, it's meeting your customers where they are in their journey and providing that real custom and almost personalized experience versus trying to one size fits all package that I think a lot of us are guilty of doing in the early days of automation and customer success.
Ciaran: Thinking about sort of self service on one side of the see-saw and engagement proactivity on the other, how do you decide where to apply? Are you using these leading indicators to say, we want to make our engaged customers great? We want to back off and let them do their thing? Or do you want to look at the customers that are maybe starting to lag and that's where you focus your resources? Because obviously there's only so much people power to go around.
Rachel: I would say when a customer is healthy, happy and doing all the right things, I think that that's when you can actually apply some of that automation and really what you're doing there is you want to celebrate their wins.
And so you think about like, where are they hitting certain milestones that you can send some sort of celebratory or acknowledgement that they're hitting those milestones. And that actually doesn't take a lot of time. And then for customers that are in a sticky spot, that's probably where you're going to want to put more people power.
So that they can come in and take a more strategic approach to what's going on. Time to value, it's an interesting concept because the way that a company defines value may not necessarily be the way that your customer defines value. And so they could hit a very specific quantitative value metric with you and not agree that they're getting value.
And so you look at all those other indicators and that's going to take a people-led approach. It's very hard to use self-service and automation to be able to understand when a customer might have really great leading indicator metrics, but still, um, you know, may not be seeing value, might be unengaged, or even responding to some of those survey mechanisms, with like detractor sentiment.
And so I would say first focus in on where you see issues and try to put people, you know, apply to that. If a customer is open to having that type of experience and then where you see someone as smooth sailing then you can use automation, telemetry, tools like Pendo, tools like Marchetto etcetera, to check in on those people with a more one to many approach.
I think that's probably where you're gonna make the most bang for your buck.
Ciaran: So here's a good question. What should a COO, CEO, leader of a company… what should they know that sometimes people are afraid to tell them about customer success, about customer experience, that you could basically give them some free consulting on things they should think about or do or prioritize that maybe they don't want to hear but should?
Rachel: I would say my statement around we're all in the business of sales and customer success being aligned to a financial metric can sometimes be a bit provocative. I think that a lot of CEOs, COOs, etcetera, who've come in where customer success is not really mature in the organization, they're generally going to go straight for customer success being a one throat to choke escalations slash triage type of organization.
And the issue with aligning customer success, again, to that more reactive post-sales support type motion is that you're going to totally miss on those leading indicators of success, right? Because those CSMs are going to be very focused on when there's a problem, instead of more focused on what is this customer actually trying to achieve from a value perspective and coming in proactively. And proving and articulating that value before there becomes a problem.
And so one thing I always try to talk to any senior leader about is A: what is your philosophy of customer success? And B: why it's so important for them to think about customer success as a growth engine. And there's a lot of organizational design that goes into that structure.
So, how are we aligning with sales? What did the value in customer handoffs look like between sales and customer success? How do you compensate customer success? I see a lot of customer success organizations that are still being compensated on MBOs like utilization or OKRs. And again, I think that it's really, really important for CS to have stake in the game and growth in some financial metrics so that they get ahead of escalations, risk, and poor customer experience.
Ciaran: How essential is that relationship that the CSMs have with the customer? I've heard of, and I don't know if this is the case across the board or this trend is changing, but companies wanting to replace a technology, but whoever the stakeholder is saying, ‘You know, I'm not leaving because I get such a good experience.’
Do you think that's sort of an outlier?
Rachel: No, no, no, no, no. So, technology, believe this or not, but a lot of it gets commoditized very, very quickly just with the pace of innovation, the ability to be an innovator with your technology for a long period of time is hard. Because companies catch up and in over time, your technology is going to be commoditized.
And what really differentiates you is your customer experience, are the relationships, are the services and kind of the experience wrapper that you include with your technology. And so you're absolutely right that the relationship in a lot of situations that I have seen have actually been the things that have driven a customer to stick with your platform even if technically there's a competitor that can do something better.
I think it's paramount for your customer success organization to be the steward of that relationship and to be aligned at the executive level. So one of my biggest focuses for my team is how do we make sure that the CSMs have a seat at the table in those executive strategic conversations?
And in order to do that, the CSM has to be aligned and attached to the value that that customer wants out of your product or your service. And then they have to be seen as some sort of a subject matter expert. They have to deliver some sort of expertise so that the executive in that business doesn't see them as simply like a support or a technical resource, that they see them more as a partner or a consultative resource.
And I think when that happens, that's when you see the growth, that's like when the magic happens, because that CSM is seen as a really trusted advisor. And someone that they can trust to talk more about the strategic focus of their company, um, and where they have, you know, challenges that your software, your services can actually help solve.
Ciaran: Getting back to your earlier point about, you know, stop focusing on being reactive and understanding earlier on where you can add value, why you want this person as part of the conversation, you know, when you're thinking about what to do next.
Rachel: I always tell my team, look, by the time the customers has raised their hand and either said, ‘I don't think I'm going to renew with you guys,’ or maybe they've actually submitted cancellation, it's often way too late to come in and do anything other than drop your price to like a ridiculous number.
I think that if you are providing the experience that that customer is seeking. That, from the beginning, you're aligning your technology, not to technical goals in value, but to business outcomes. Then you're going to know that customer well enough to know that, hey, I think that they might be talking to a competitor, but good thing I know now, because I have a year to come in and try to change that sentiment or make sure that they understand the value that they're getting from our service.
So, I’ve said it probably 10 times so far, that those leading indicators of risk success and sentiment are so important. And the only way you're going to see them is if you're aligned at the relationship level in a very proactive way versus being reactive and more of that triage and escalation mode that a lot of customer success and customer experience organizations unfortunately are in.
Ciaran: And do you think there's any metrics or indicators or acronyms that people are looking at, maybe giving too much weight to? That they're too focused on like, you know, NPS for example, NPS, because-
Rachel: Yes! I was gonna say that!
Ciaran: Yeah, that's an easy one.
Rachel: I actually would get rid of NPS. I think that it's such a catch all for feedback that's not always aligned to your product or your service.
It could just be somebody who's had a bad day. It could be somebody who doesn't like your survey experience. Like we are dealing with that right now. Like our survey experiences in our tool, like in our customer’s, when they're logged in, they get annoyed by it. And so they give us a bunch of zeros because they want to click out of it.
And by no means a measure of their actual sentiment toward your product, they just don't feel like having to answer a survey. So NPS is one that drives me bananas, but it's seen as an industry standard, so we still serve it up.
Ciaran: Anything else you want to share with our audience? Any key takeaways you'd like them to, uh, keep in mind?
Rachel: First of all: thank you. I, as you can see, I love talking about customer success and all things customer experience. I guess the one thing I would say is when you think about how you align customer success and customer experience… A: it's not a linear journey. You need to think about where your customers are and where they want to meet you from an experience standpoint.
And that customer experience is throughout the whole cycle of a customer's journey with you, including sales, post-sales and, at the end of the day, it's, it's a team sport and I love that you identified it that way and that's, that's very much the philosophy that I use.
Thank you for listening to this episode of Flourish CX, to learn more head over to zoominsoftware.com/podcast and follow along wherever you get your audio.