Creating human relationship capital to reduce churn

Michael Winnick


Founder & CEO


Michael Winnick
Michael Winnick

Episode Summary

Today on the show we have Michael Winnick, founder, and CEO of Dscout.

In this episode, Michael talked about how user research has changed over the years, and how data analytics and research teams should work together to get the maximum ROI. 

Michael then dove into how to fight your internal bias when it comes to user research, how Dscout drives growth by doubling down on creating a human relationship capital, and what they do to prevent champion departure churn. 

As usual, I'm excited to hear what you think of this episode, and if you have any feedback, I would love to hear from you. You can email me directly at Don't forget to follow us on Twitter.

Mentioned Resources



Believing and accepting the value of user research. 00:01:55
Getting the maximum ROI from data analytics and research teams working together. 00:04:32
Why Michael built Dscout. 00:06:11
Fighting the internal bias. 00:11:06
Driving growth by creating human relationships capital. 00:21:47
What to do to prevent champion departure churn. 00:30:52


[00:01:23] Andrew Michael: Hey, Michael. 

[00:01:26] Michael Winnick: Hey, Andrew, how are you, man? 

[00:01:27] Andrew Michael: I'm very good. Thanks for the listeners. Michael is the founder and CEO of discounts and remote research platform, helping businesses, efficiently, capture thoughts, reactions, and behaviors in the moment as they happen. Mike, on the team recently raised 70 million to feel that.

And Microsoft is Korea as a product market at wired, and then moved on to service director of product developments in before starting discard. Michael is the managing partner at gravity tank, a design led innovation consultancy. So my first question for you, Michael. What has been the biggest change you have [00:02:00] noticed in the user research market since founding discounts over 10 years ago, you've been in the space a 

[00:02:04] Michael Winnick: while.

Sure. Yeah. I'd say when we started D scout, I'm not sure there was a market. The biggest change is there. There is one now, which is really, really exciting. Um, you know, classic founder, you know, I had challenges of my own and saw opportunity to start a company and then kind of face the reality. There wasn't really a market there yet.

Right? So we were still in the age where everyone was like, Steve jobs doesn't need written search, you know, things come out beautifully out of his head. You know, why, why do you need to research anything? You know? And so really we, I think that the biggest change has been this general belief and acceptance of research that's come up.

Um, I actually really think it's similar to. Transition I saw earlier in my career around design. Right. So I actually went to design school, uh, before I, before I joined gravity tank. And you know, at that time, um, you know, my early [00:03:00] days in software development, people were like, do you really need designers to make software?

Yeah, no, you don't. Right. Just an engineer can do that. Right. And so, uh, really, um, there was a skepticism and now it seems ludicrous. Right? Can you imagine. Designing it like making any software where you didn't have someone with design skills doing it that'd be crazy. Right. So research has kind of gone through the same transition and in part, because of design, because I think research has kind of, uh, I kind of always call it like design's nerdy cousin or, or sibling.

Right. So wherever design goes, research tends to follow behind. What happens is, uh, organizations as they make this giant investment in, in design. Right? So see certain organizations spending a half, a billion dollars a year, building their design teams, teams of thousands of designers. They hire them, they get them going.

And then immediately they're like, um, well, how do we actually get a return from this investment? Right. Good [00:04:00] design is as much about asking questions and understanding context as it is about moving boxes around those. 

[00:04:07] Andrew Michael: For sure. And I think how do we get a return on that investment? That's also like a question that needs to be answered still in the reset space.

And I think people do a bit of meta jobs of it all the time, but it is one of those areas. It's so question, I also see, like, you sort like the design space. I see like a similarity as well in how companies like jumped on big data in the early days. And it almost feels like user research and it is like having it's prime time now, after people have gone on.

This crusade of like day-to-day data, we need to be data driven and then slowly starting to realize our care. Like it's not just data alone that drives the full picture, but having that additional context and actually speaking to users. 

[00:04:43] Michael Winnick: Yeah, I absolutely, I mean, I think there's an interplay between the two, right?

Everything in our organizations, I think. And when organizations are healthy are about kind of creating cultures of curiosity and ultimately what data always asks. What, when you look at data, it [00:05:00] always leads to more quick. And the base, the most basic question is why. Right? So someone starts, you know, we, we can see that there's a cohort that started using our product and stopped using it.

Why? Right. The data really will struggle to tell you why it will give you signals, but ultimately to fill that picture and you need to go after. And talk to and interact with real people. And then often you need to go back to the data with another insight of an area to go dig and drill into, and then back to talking to humans, right?

There's this kind of interplay between kind of the different styles of thinking and different types of analysis that you 

[00:05:41] Andrew Michael: need to do. For sure. I feel though, unfortunately we're not really there yet where like, this is the norm. This is like an edge case, at least in my experience in like companies that really understand the value of this and doing it really well.

Whereas I still feel like we have this big solid effect. We have research on one end and we have a data analytics on [00:06:00] another. Um, but it's really like this interaction in this play that you you're mentioning now that where the real value comes in and having the maximum ROI you get from both of these teams when they're working together.

You started 10 years ago, you said, uh, came sort of from your own need and I'm assuming as well, like, it feels like you have a natural path into the Scouts as well from, um, your, your previously is the managing partner, but maybe it took us a little bit through like, what was the early day inclination, et cetera.

Okay. There's something. Yeah. Like I need to get. And start building 

[00:06:32] Michael Winnick: discounts. Sure. Yeah. Research has kind of been a through line throughout my career actually started, as you mentioned in product marketing and product management, um, in the early hay days of the web. Um, and then I went to design school and then I kind of, um, was involved in this innovation consultancy a lot, like an IDEO and kind of throughout all of those roles, it was always felt like.

The, I was always attracted to, I call like the existential questions of like a product or [00:07:00] a service. Like why are people using it? Who is using it? Um, you know, uh, what are their alternatives? It's kind of really basic questions. And so I started early in my career doing research, like really, really. Really poorly.

Right, right. Like I might've done one of the first surveys on the web. That's how long I'm doing research. Right. So, so way back when I was working at wired, um, and so I started doing poorly, um, but always kind of found that that was the signal that I wanted. It was hard to, I could hear the internal stakeholders really well and really clearly, right.

Cause they were in my ear all the time. So it was really hard to get this, to understand. Kind of the view of the outside world, which ultimately, you know, our success really, really hinges on. So I started doing research there, uh, went and got, uh, a degree in effectively design thinking before that was even a phrase, right.

So I was kind of, uh, in the early days and then. Um, joined [00:08:00] gravity tank where I really started building kind of a craft and expertise around how to understand humans and use that as kind of the Fountainhead for, for innovating. Right? So we had built this great team of anthropologists and researchers, and it was kind of always where we started started the work, right.

Was kind of our grounding grounded emotion. And, you know, we, we got good at it, but it was really like the definition of Nazis. Right. If you could, if you could picture something not scalable, it would be that it was like flying humans around the world. Uh, it was, uh, incredibly logistically time-intensive complex.

And so you can really only apply it to things like what's going to be our smart port smartphone portfolio for the next five. Right. This kind of really big questions that are very episodic. Um, and so kind of what I saw with really the rise of smartphones and AI was this break where all of a sudden, we could [00:09:00] kind of take this niche skillset, which we could apply to maybe kind of a small set of things and say, how do we take this deeper context-driven way of understanding.

And now we can actually apply it to anything because all of a sudden, everybody has this thing in their pocket. So we have access now, right now it's a question of how do we get that access and get the permission that we analyze the data generally, you know, discounts always been a story around. Uh, democratization and access, right?

So again, starting with this really niche craft and then kind of seeing an expanding. And so that's really what motivated me to kind of start the company, um, and to kind of explore, kind of get up and get on this journey. Now, maybe, you know, 10 years ago, when someone said, Hey, you know, it's going to be 10 years and you're still going to be in the early days.

I don't know. I would've, might've been like, okay, okay man, maybe I'll do something else. But I feel like, um, you know, SAS companies are an ultra marathon, right? I'm really excited about where we've gone to. Uh, [00:10:00] but, and also just learn so much through the journey, you know, about, uh, myself, my team, you know, the market, um, I've learned a ton, so really, really enjoying it, excited to be at this point.

But also, like I said, it's, it's, it's really been a journey. 

[00:10:15] Andrew Michael: So yeah, it definitely sounds like it's been a journey, but on the other end, it sounds like now's the time, like when you're getting started, like you've got to the stock loud now and now it's the time to like, run the race. Yeah. 

[00:10:25] Michael Winnick: Yeah. I think a couple of big transition points.

I feel like we're, we're at another one that's really exciting now. Um, probably hit hit the first one about five years ago where we kind of had our first real big inflection point. So, uh, but, but really excited about kind of, like you said, the world is kind of coming to this way of thinking in the way of understanding, and I think it's becoming much more mission critical.

Um, and I think, uh, so that's a really exciting place. 

[00:10:54] Andrew Michael: Cool. You mentioned a bad research and, uh, you've been the victim [00:11:00] or you were the one big, that 

[00:11:02] Michael Winnick: was a perpetrator. 

[00:11:06] Andrew Michael: Uh, let's say like, what has been one of your two biggest learnings when it comes to research and like the biggest mistake? Uh,

[00:11:16] Michael Winnick: uh, I'd say that. I mean over time, I've gone from, uh, you know, the very naive from the, from the bunny hill to, you know, double diamond expert research. Right. So I've gone from I've I've, I've become a good, uh, a good researcher over time. Um, I think that, uh, probably my biggest learnings are, uh, how to, I guess, two things.

One is when you get good at research, you start understanding it's almost like a mini. Just like any creative process where you start understanding the tools and the space and how to employ the tools to kind of get to the outcome that you want. Right. So you [00:12:00] kind of learn the craft, um, and that took, it can be hard to learn, take a long time to learn the craft.

Um, and so I think that some of it was just developing that skill and having seen enough patterns. So that's kind of one of the big areas of learning or growth. I think when you want to kind of get to be an expert level on the other side, I think it's simply research is always this battle between your biases, your intuition, and what's going on.

And to be able to kind of have that inner place is ultimately, you know, one of the big misconceptions I see all the time, Andrew is people are, you know, people come to me and will say, I'm sure they say this to you. Is D scout going to generate the insight and I'm like, no, no. The insight is literally something that happens in your brain.

The insight is literally a connection between synapses in your head. Right? [00:13:00] That's what an insight is. The power of an insight is usually a good insight. Often sounds pretty dumb. It's it's the way it resonates in you. Right. And so I think learning about this interplay of what's going on in the world, how do I kind of reduce my own biases or kind of seeing through like my little lens of, of the world?

How do I pull that down? But at the same time, how do I interpret that? Right. Make a connection and then apply it. And I think that learning that that's, that's a, that's a tricky little dance to learn, but I think learning that is kind of critically important. 

[00:13:35] Andrew Michael: Yeah. I, I see a lot of similarities or when it comes to like experimentation from a data perspective.

And, uh, when you go into like running an experiment or conducting research, it's really about the learning and not about proving your hypothesis. And I think that's like one of the things like. W you, it's a challenge fighting that bias internal, like you think you have a hunch or you think, you know something and you're trying to prove it, and that's not the right way to start this really bad.


[00:13:58] Michael Winnick: yeah. It's a tough thing. [00:14:00] Especially, you know, um, for product oriented people, you know, we often have a lot of shortcuts, right. So, um, we're listening, it's hard to, we're listening for certain things. So it's hard to kind of put that down a little bit, but also, like I said, you need to also. Have the context understand what's what's really relevant, you know?

So I used to always say like, when we, in the gravity tank days, we would do kind of more classic in-home ethnographic research. Right. It was like, people were so sensitized, you know, you'd bring along people observing the research and they'd be like, wow. You know, is that person sitting on a couch? You're like, yeah, yeah, yeah.

That's like what humans do. There's this funny dance of just. Uh, finding that openness. Right. Um, and then, but also learning how to apply it in the context that you're operating 

[00:14:58] Andrew Michael: the bias is like a really, really [00:15:00] hard thing to do. Do you have any sort of cues or tips, like when you feel that you're getting biased or do you have any things going into a study?

What you just sort of like help set the stage of what your bias is? I'd send me. 

[00:15:13] Michael Winnick: Sure. I mean, I think there's a lot of approaches. I think there's obviously training. And the more you can do some basic training around biases in terms of learning, what are some class like mental biases, as well as other forms of bias?

Um, the more you can, you can do a little bit of training before, and it's helpful to make it kind of more of a conscious process, right? Because I think we all have bias and many, many things that we do researches is no different. Um, so that's, that's kind of just a starter, I think, uh, when you're doing a research, I think the most.

Kind of the most important step that's often under-recognized as analysis. So often kind of what happens, especially in classic research, as you kind of go from interviewing somebody to like, I have, I [00:16:00] have big insights, right? Like you kind of say like, oh, we're doing the interview. Great. Here's here's what we should go do.

That is a pretty dangerous step to make if you're trying to do good solid research, because ultimately that, that act of taking your information, organizing it, and then looking at the patterns. Yeah. Um, starts giving you a sense or am I really just jumping on one or two things? Am I seeing, am I seeing the whole correctly?

Am I kind of, um, understanding the broader pattern? So I think doing analysis, which is like a little bit of a hard skill to learn, but doing analysis is really important. I think there's some tools in the world that can help you with that. I can think of one or two perhaps, and I think the other, um, I also think it's healthy sometimes to have someone else look at your analysis, other human, right.

So a to get kind of a clean read, uh, can be really helpful if you're concerned about your [00:17:00] biases. Uh, too prominently. I think the last, the last comment I'd say is there are just some really good basic questioning techniques that are kind of important. So for instance, um, starting with pretty open-ended questions, right.

And letting, uh, when you're. Whether you're doing moderated or unmoderated methodologies, not just jumping right in to like your area, right. Starting, starting the frame wide enough that you can, someone might just kind of take it where they want to go versus necessarily the specific area that you're in.

[00:17:37] Andrew Michael: Yeah. Uh, this was actually one of my biggest, I'd say failures in the cancer research in the past was we went to like a startup live. We can, uh, so it was like a hackathon came up with a few ideas. And I remember like part of the weekend, we started going out and doing a little bit of research because essentially wasn't getting, there was three words you had to pick three words and then come up with a business idea from these three [00:18:00] words.

And then, so we went tots and we had like clean, um, Uh, washing, I can't remember, was it clean, fun, and washing or something like this. And I went around and we had this idea that we'd have a bracelet that if you were cleaning, it would be tracking, you'd be earning points. And then you wouldn't prizes. And the research we did with, we went around to people at the place where it's like, if you had to do you enjoy cleaning?

And everybody said, no, And it's like, would you enjoy cleaning more if you'd won prizes? And then he would say, yes, I'd enjoy any more if I won prizes. Uh, and then we were like, ah, so everybody wants our solution. This is like eight or 10 years ago. You know, it's like, it makes total sense, but like, no, like people are incredibly bad at predicting future behavior one and two, like we're so biased the questioning and the line of answers.

Like it was impossible to get a no on the other end. 

[00:18:46] Michael Winnick: Yeah. It's a funny thing too, where I think as you learn more research techniques, So, so one is like live critique, right? Like better when I can get people to do something. So even if it's, I can make an obstacle [00:19:00] course, like, Hey, you've got this little bracelet, I'm going to have you go clean.

And then I'm going to like announce prizes too. Right? Like that, that becomes better when it's a real simulation and people are trying to act something out. Right. Or you're kind of trying to. You know, um, with, with tools like these guys, you could actually do that whole thing in their house. You could just fake the whole thing.

Right. Um, so I'm really into sending people, props, or trying to make anything feel realer than just like, what'd you do X or what'd you do Y now there's also this kind of orthodoxy and research of like, we shouldn't ask people if they want something. I totally disagree with that. I'm fine asking people what they want, something I'm just going to be skeptical about the response.

Not because I think people are lying. I just think people are, people are complicated. Like you're, as you said, like we have a tough time predicting our future actions. Right. But mine asking people if they want things or what they might like, or not, like, it's just having the lens to know that humans are complicated creatures and we shouldn't over privilege that response.

[00:20:00] Right. So just because they say they want X doesn't really, maybe mean that they're going to want it. Right. So it's kind of taking that, learning enough about. And, you know, I always have this other general approach, which is like, really being real about like what can humans answer, right. What are, what are, what are good challenges for humans?

So for instance, humans are really good at like a or B sorts of question. Like, uh, here's option a here's option B. Tell me which option resonates with you and why that's that humans can do that pretty well. If I have options a through E and I'm going to rank them, I don't trust you. I'm very skeptical that we can take five conceptual options and come up with like a meaningful ranking and sorting of those.

I think I can do head to head. That's an example. So 

[00:20:52] Andrew Michael: that's entering in the comprehension side, uh, is required like one or two things versus five things. It's just like, um, the [00:21:00] capacity to focus as well in the moment and pick up new topics. Um, yeah, no, from our side, it was like a very bad, we actually ended up winning the competition.

We came second that weekend. As a result 

[00:21:09] Michael Winnick: of this, 

[00:21:11] Andrew Michael: we actually got accepted to start a bootcamp. And I remember like we arrived at startup weekend with this. Uh, like three of us, we quit our jobs. And then the very first meeting we had with the managing directors, like, uh, you guys have an amazing team, but your idea is absolute shit.

And we were like, we've all just quit these jobs. We've like packed our bags. He floats in other countries. But yeah, it was good times. We lent a lot to in the process that I guess. You've had a big announcement now, uh, recently just raised 70 million. Uh, but I'm sure along the way, there's been some, uh, folks in the road.

And you mentioned like there's been a couple of big turning points. Um, is there any turning points, like where you saw, like related to general attention for the topic of the show that would be interesting to chat about? 

[00:21:59] Michael Winnick: Sure. Yeah, [00:22:00] absolutely. Yeah. I think that's, um, kind of the. The first, I mean, when I started D scout, um, it was so early in the market, we didn't really know exactly, um, what the shape of the business was gonna be.

You know, as a profoundly under-prepared founder. So, you know, I barely knew what SAS, uh, what SAS events. Right? So in the early days we really spent a lot of time. We think we, we knew there was a need. We knew we had a product, but getting to a business model that would make everything work was hard. That took a while.

And, and so I think that, um, really. It took four or five years to get to the point where we were like, oh, we know how to make a business out of this. Right. And so that really started us down the road of, of kind of the SAS subscription model. And, you know, in the early days, you know, we, uh, we sold, I'm going to say our first, [00:23:00] you know, six to 10 subscriptions that were of decent size and, and we had no churn.

Not for the first year or two. And, you know, um, I think where we really started learning is one of the first cases of churn started to crop up, right. It really made us start, want paying more. You know, I think I became much more familiar with like, oh, this is really, really important. Like in this, in this world and this business model, this.

About the most important thing is our ability to drive. I mean, I flip it, the retention side ability to drive retention and drive growth. That's kind of the essence of this, of this model. We have to pay a lot more attention. I remember sitting with our leadership team, uh, we had called it at the time farming.

How do we become good for. Um, and we, we went to a organic farm, uh, to actually have like a workshop, you know, six of us, uh, it was, was kind of cool as a crazy building on the south side of [00:24:00] Chicago, but it kind of saw this whole thing about agriculture and we started kind of working on it. Um, but you know, really the early days it was kind of learning.

Like I said, um, given my utter lack of relevant experience, right. Really learning about, about the skills and capabilities. And I'd say that, you know, that was a significant fork in the road in terms of how we started to staff our business and build our business. Like we are. Heavyweight in terms of how we use account management and support and, and success in terms of driving our growth.

So if you kind of looked at our go to market motion, it's, it's, there's, there's a lot focused on the back. Uh, we're actually pretty, pretty light on the front, um, heavier on the back to ensure that our customers are having great experiences that we're learning from them and that we're actually driving sustained.

[00:24:54] Andrew Michael: Yeah, that's interesting. So when you, at this point, so the early days where you're just [00:25:00] doing like paper use sort of model and, um, pay what you use and then eventually said, okay, let's see what we can do with subscription. It's 

[00:25:07] Michael Winnick: Godwin. I think we were, we were playing around with service models, pay per use models, um, and then, and, and subscription models.

And we really got committed to driving. Our subscription model, um, around 20. Around 2015. That's kind of, when we really kind of started to say, this is the way we're going to grow this business. This is how this business works. And it was a reflection too, of, you know, the investment in this as a category.

Um, you kind of mentioned this earlier. It sometimes categories. You know, bottoms up, they start kind of in like smaller, more nimble companies that are in kind of some categories tend to start. And I think this category has been pretty different. It's really started top-down meaning the largest organizations in the largest innovators in the world.

Yep. [00:26:00] I've made the most significant investments in design and in research. And so it's kind of started differently. And so the model had to match the customer as well. Right. So things, again might be different, you know, are different today. The category is evolving quickly, right? Like it wouldn't be weird at all.

Now I have a team of 10 and have a research person on it, or a team of 20, you know, a decade ago that would, that just wouldn't happen. Right. 

[00:26:25] Andrew Michael: Yeah, but I definitely see that as well in the space, what you're leading to in the sense that it is a definitely a top-down approach still. I wouldn't even say to change that much.

Like it's getting better, but it's still not there at the point where everybody sort of sees this as a day to day, uh, necessity. I mean, I 

[00:26:42] Michael Winnick: would guess if you were to do it, you would still see, I mean, if you look at just the, the largest tech companies in the world and the scale of their research teams, you know, Th the difference is really stark when you look at kind of that tier and the next tier now, right?

So you're [00:27:00] talking about, you know, hundreds or thousands of researchers at those companies and other companies, you know, you're going to see a much, much smaller, popular. 

[00:27:11] Andrew Michael: Yeah. And it's typically quite late as well that I've seen like companies listed in my experience now is like 60 to 80 employees is where somebody says, okay, we need to research it to come on board now to help with all this product and design work.

Um, I don't know if you see anything similar from your side, but that's sort of where I see like the sweet spot inflection point for people that someone gets 

[00:27:29] Michael Winnick: introduced. Yeah. I think that's about right. I think it's changing. Like I said, I think it's changing. I think, I think, um, but in general I still think, uh, Uh, it's not the norm to bring it in early.

It's kind of in the assumed. And I think it is a tension in the space. It's, it's in the suit. It's kind of assumed that in earlier stage companies that this, that this is something that the team kind of has to know how to do or that the founder has know, but that really raises the bar for founders. I'd say that because of those [00:28:00] bias trips, I'd say founders.

Suffer the biggest challenges, myself included. I'm sure you included many of your desks. We suffered the biggest challenges in that because I'm kind of like the, we, we have to have a lot of conviction in what. But sometimes that conviction can be like critically blinding. Right? How do you, how do you work through that?

Right. Like, it's really important that you do, but it just creates, you know, I think it creates a lot of, almost like inner turmoil for founders. Right. So I actually think having a second set of eyes there that's a little more dispassionate would be tremendously helpful in a lot of smaller or. 

[00:28:38] Andrew Michael: Um, no, I definitely feel that as well.

I think luckily like with me and my co-founder, we S like sometimes have differing opinions and those different opinions really help us ground ourselves. And just sort of question things quite a bit and be able to have those discussions, I think helps because yeah, definitely like you get the blinders on at some point and like, it doesn't matter how much research you do, like the biases that you have [00:29:00] internally just guide you down a path, but yeah, training that 

[00:29:04] Michael Winnick: muscle, the nature.

Sorry. Yeah, the nature of entrepreneurial-ism is often. Um, we all understand that some there's this fine line between our conviction 10 make reality. Right? And so there's this truth now fall prey to that. And you have a lot of disastrous situations when it doesn't happen, but that is part of the dilemma.


[00:29:31] Andrew Michael: So introduced then a subscriptions now to the business, 2015 started to see things, uh, moving along quite nicely there, you mentioned that you have quite a heavy focus on the back end. What does that look like? What does that mean in practical? 

[00:29:48] Michael Winnick: Yeah. I think one of the, what it really means is that we've made substantial investments and building out our kind of account account management success and support functions.

[00:30:00] Um, what we found is that, um, those investments are really critical in terms of kind of creating the right engagement for our customers and kind of driving the sort of growth that, that we want to see. Right. So, um, I think we've been. Fortunate that the business model affords us the scale of the investments that companies are making with us, affords us the ability to kind of take that approach.

Um, but I think it's just been critical to kind of say that, Hey, you know what. Um, while, um, in our model we've found that that kind of creating enough, uh, human relationship capital has been really important to kind of driving the growth and scale that we want to see, um, in terms of, in terms of our customer relationships.

So, you know, I think that, um, yeah, and it was jumped in there. 

[00:30:52] Andrew Michael: Yeah. So you're spending a lot of time there, really just trying to build up that customer success, support muscle, making sure you're supporting his customers as [00:31:00] they're growing. One of like a common theme we see as well in a risk of churn will be interesting to get your perspective on this for companies is when customer champions leave.

Um, so when you have a good customer champion in and they end up leaving, uh, we've discussed this a couple of times on the show before, is this a similar pattern that you see and like, is this something that you're trying to tackle internally and how you doing. 

[00:31:22] Michael Winnick: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Uh, I think it's, uh, it's um, certainly, um, one of the, kind of like drivers of churn factors when we kind of look at why people churn out, um, champion champion departure, what we call like a narrow roots.

Right. So if we have like only one or two routes in an organization and especially today, great resignation, lots of job change. Right. Um, we, we kind of put, uh, put the account at risk. So I think that, um, you know, what's interesting. Uh, the other, so, so obviously we spend a lot of time and attention looking at how do we broaden the root [00:32:00] system inside of, inside of organizations and what are emotions that enable that and prevent that.

There's this interesting thing with champions where there's these champions that are true champions in terms of like they're going to spread and bring people in. And then there's champion date keepers, which is another variant of a champion, which is actually pretty difficult to deal with. It's kind of the person that.

This is my thing, and I'm going to kind of protect it and actually I'm going to get annoyed when you're actually bringing other people live. Right. So, so there's this pretty interesting, pretty interesting dance there, uh, to kind of work through, you know, but I think it's actually, you know, one of the areas we, um, we spend a lot of time on kind of with our account management team in particular.

It's actually what I, like. I think she tried to get the, the, what I call the researcher mindset infused and how we attack these problems, not just with researchers, but even like, how do our account managers run a QBR? [00:33:00] You know? Um, is it the QBR where you're like, Hey, here's the presentation, here's the data we see?

Where are you with this initiative, that initiative we want to know. I'm always trying to work with them and say, Hey, let's, let's actually, let's, let's act like a researcher. Let's start really open-ended with them. What's going on, uh, you know, w with you, uh, how's, what's going on with your team, um, how do you think we're doing right.

Really, but let's kind of start there. Right? Um, so there's a lot of work. Um, if you were going to, you know, um, we noticed that we have a small group of people that we're working within your team, you know, if we were going to, um, you know, tell me, tell me why that is. Yeah. Things like that. Right. So, so that's, that's a big, that's a big goal of ours.

Um, certainly, um, in terms of just how we're interacting with customers in general, but especially in this champion case, I think trying to understand actually back to the basics. [00:34:00] Why, why is that going on? Is there something, um, organizationally going on there? Is it something with their teams? Is something with us, sometimes SAS business.

Can I actually get in the way of creating the right organizational engagement, right? So if you're too rigid with your seat model or you've sold to this part of the organization, but not, you know, something that can go horizontal, right? There's a lot of tricks where we can kind of become the own, like our own inhibitors to our growth.

[00:34:35] Andrew Michael: Yeah, I liked that son, having them think more like researchers, rather than just like delivering a QVR in general. And I think you get a lot more value than from the calls, both for yourself and for the clients at the end of the day, because you understand how to help them better. And you also understand how you can help your business better at the 

[00:34:50] Michael Winnick: end of the day.

Yeah. I try to do it all the time. Just even for my own leadership and management. I kind of, I kind of think about literally like I'm putting on a [00:35:00] researcher. For this set of interactions. And in that, what that means is I'm going to try to be quieter. I'm going to try to really like ask these, start with broader questions.

I'm going to kind of like guide people. I'm not giving them a presentation. I'm giving them stimuli. I'm giving them things to react to. I'm going to see how they're reacting. So for instance, like how was it that not every sales call has a car? Yeah. You know what I'm saying? The basic research technique of like card sort put a together with, imagine a card sort technique when you're starting your sales calls, I'm trying to get my team to do this stuff.

Like here's eight things we can talk about today. Can you put these into two groups? What are the things you want to talk about that you think are really important? I think that much better, that is as an actual sales interaction with actual data, versus like, I'm just going to pound a presentation down [00:36:00] your throat or even worse, you know, I'm going to interrogate you for 20 minutes, which I hate, right.

As a sales technique to, to kind of qualify you as a lead. Yeah, 

[00:36:12] Andrew Michael: there's definitely, uh, that qualification side of things is one of my pet peeves. I think with sales teams is like, uh, but on the other end as well, like I see similarly, like I try to approach it in like, at least the sales calls from our learning perspective, like religious, trying to understand them and see what he can deliver battery like that as a mental model though, for everything.

Going into meetings with your team and just really like putting that researchers hats on and trying to understand as 

[00:36:40] Michael Winnick: opposed to, yeah, there's a funny, there's this really old book, a design thinking called Edward DeBono had this idea of thinking hats. I don't know if you've ever seen this. That's a crazy technique, but it's, it's cool.

You can kind of like you wear different color hats, like just mentally put them on and like, like the yellow hat I think is like the optimist. [00:37:00] Right. And then like the black hat is basically the skeptic, right? So there's these different roles. And I think that, um, so it's this design thinking technique, which you can use in meetings to kind of like, basically get your skeptic to wear the yellow hat and get your off.

Like you kind of flipped people. You know, look people around a little bit. It's really, it's really interesting as a, as a technique, but I dunno, think about again, but okay. Hey, I got a researcher hat. Sometimes I got to wear the CEO hat, you know, which has its own things with it. But often I'm kind of, I feel like often I'm doing my best CLE when I'm wearing a researcher hat and not kind of the, the CEO hat where I'm kind of listening and quiet and then assembling information and making sense of that.

Versus responding and reacting, like in that moment with like, here's the answer we've got to go do X, Y, and Z, right? Like that I feel personally is when I feel like sometimes I'm doing my, my best job [00:38:00] for my team and our, in our customers. 

[00:38:02] Andrew Michael: That's very cool. We chatted about something very recently as well on some of the alarms with David dominant, from a hot job and sort of his leadership style around like giving the team the freedom as well, to be able to do their own work and then learn their own mistakes on their own.

It's not exactly what you're saying, but it comes into sort of that mindset as religious, like, uh, not always being there to get the answers immediately, but be able to sort of take in digest and then, um, React once you have like the full picture, right? I see we're running up on time. So I want to make sure I save time for, um, couple of questions.

Ask every guest that joins the show. Let's imagine a hypothetical scenario now that you join a new company, turn, our attention is not doing well at this company at all. And the CEO comes to you and says, Hey, Michael, you're in charge. We got 90 days to fix this things are a mess. Um, what do you do? But he has the.

You're not going to tell me I'm going to go speak to customers, figure out what the pain points are and then start [00:39:00] there. You're just going to use something that you've seen. That's been effective previously in the company that you worked at for reducing churn fast. What would you run with? Will be the playbook.

[00:39:12] Michael Winnick: Okay. Okay. Uh, I think actually I was going to do a flip on that and say to me, especially in the early days, it's actually, um, the goal is focusing on retention and not. So actually it started with where we're really resonating and connecting with people and understand that because, you know, if you think about building a company, it's actually about like taking a small fire and kind of like giving it the right kindling and growing it and growing it kind of overtime.

So I care less actually about the negative I'd amplify, the positive to be like, why are we resonating in any, why isn't everyone turning. Yeah. Does that make sense? So where we're, where we're succeeding, what's the characteristics of that success. What's [00:40:00] driving that what's going on? Well, their sales team, how do we get more of that going?

How do we kind of amplify that? How do we take them, uh, understanding and see great now in the places that we're churning, uh, how can we start telling these stories? Why is the connection not the same, but it start with the retention and not the. And it started with the where we're resonating and succeeding.

And like I said, try to amplify that characteristic and understand that more than where we're at. 

[00:40:31] Andrew Michael: Yeah, I love that. Uh, it's actually the, I use the same analogy with the firewood and thinking about like building a SaaS business in the early days, like you need like sort of the, um, fire starters to get things going.

And those might be like the ones who come in and burn out very quickly over time. You're going to get the logs that are going to keep the fire burning and growing over time. So a fairly cool, um, What's one thing that you know today about churn and [00:41:00] retention that you wish you knew when you got started with your career?

[00:41:05] Michael Winnick: I think it took me a long time. I think it's always a journey of learning and there's still so much to learn about it. I can actually, I'll ask you a question about that, but I'd say that like, I think really separating, um, understanding there's kind of different types of retention and. And I think for a long time as a company, we're really focused on revenue retention as like the met as the key measure and understanding that that's a pretty lagging indicator that we have to kind of focus on usage and user retention as much more leading indicators and spending, um, creating as much it's, it's hard in an organization, especially an organization with financial goals to create as much heat and light around.

Um, as, as around when the, when someone leaves because of money. So [00:42:00] I think, I think that's something that I think we could be better at that I've learned as important, you know, just like every organization, you know, we use NPS, although researchers hate NPS. So sometimes we get an NPS score that's really low.

Cause they're like, Terrible as a metric. Um, but it's, to me, the thing that I love, the way our organization responds to NPS is that we actually don't care so much about the aggregate score, but man does a driver. Like it creates every time we get a negative score, the whole company sees that individuals.

Yeah. And there's usually like a conversation what's going on there. Why is that the case? I'm not, I love that energy, you know, as opposed to, like I said, the aggregator. Yeah. And also just this idea of, you know, it gives us a, a leading field or a more visceral feel of what's going on in the account. So, like I [00:43:00] said, I guess, big, big picture to simplify as separating out.

Um, The churn. That's a really lagging indicator from the churn that starts telling us a story about what's what's really going on at the time. What we may, might actually be able to impact it. 

[00:43:15] Andrew Michael: Yeah. So focusing more on the leading indicators that lead to the upper funnel per metric. It's very interesting.

Uh, Th the whole topic. And I think it's something that you evolve and learn over time. Like there's always something to learn about Shannon retention. Like, I don't know, 152 episodes in, and there's still times I come on over to like, oh, I've never heard that before. That's interesting. Like, uh, how 

[00:43:38] Michael Winnick: did they give up?

Because I mean, even from your standpoint, I think this question of how to really look at, even, we were just debating this yesterday. How do we look at what is the right user engagement profile? And how do we measure that in a way that effectively we can evaluate it [00:44:00] over time consistently. So for instance, we're playing around with those metrics right now to try to look at, okay.

Is it, um, do we want to look at. Um, you know, like a metric, like Mao is kind of useless for us. I mean, it's fine, but it's a pretty vanity metric, but so how do we, what's the mal version of, of retention look like is that, you know, we're playing with, is it, um, Mr. Use monthly return users? Is it QR use? Is it gap between significant activities in terms of time?

Like, what's a, what's a way to measure, um, that, so we can actually. Have a metric that we can, we can focus our teams on. Right? So again, someone literally, I was reading a bunch of blogs on that yesterday. Right. And try and understand what are the ways people are doing this. That's actually going to be applicable in kind of a, in a, in a SAS model.

[00:44:51] Andrew Michael: Th the one actually comes to mind that I enjoyed listening to the most on this topic was with Heidi, uh, from, she was a GoDaddy at the time. I think he's [00:45:00] moved on not to a Typeform. Um, but essentially it was talking about GoDaddy, how they went about figuring out like, what is the leading indicator for attention.

And I think this was basically turning her attention in general, though. People on new churn when they don't get value delivered. Uh, so if you can really figure out what that value metric is that, uh, is driving. And that's the only thing that really matters is like, are they doing X section or are they getting Y and GoDaddy we're in a fortunate position where like, they're this website builder, and they're trying to keep customers retained for the website builder.

So they first started, okay. It's like people coming in and changing their websites or whatever, updating or thing. And then they realize that people don't have a website because, um, they want to come in and make changes. They want to get visited. So then they moved to visit us was the main thing, like, are our customers getting visitors?

And then they said, okay, but. People don't have a website because they want visitors. People want sales. And they were fortunate that they had the state available, but they were like, okay, we have a template for online store. We have a template for booking. So like our [00:46:00] metric is, if it's a hair salon, we want to know how many bookings they're doing a month.

Like, if it's say. Uh, thing we want to, and like, that's all they focus on. And then they reverse engineered all the behavior too. Like how can we increase these metrics and these numbers, because there's ultimately why they're coming to us to begin with. And if we know that we keeping true on that side of the bargain and we're delivering on our promise that they've come to us for.

Um, it's not always easy in every business though. I think like, uh, there's nuances and, uh, but yeah, for me, from my perspective, I think that's where like I would really want to focus is, uh, what is the main value? 

[00:46:30] Michael Winnick: Why did they come to us? Uh, kind of, uh, soon after we can talk. So, so, 

[00:46:36] Andrew Michael: okay, cool. Uh, but yeah, so thanks very much.

Mike has been a pleasure chatting to you today. Is there any final thoughts you want to leave the listeners with? Like, is there anything they should be looking out for now with this new journey now with. 

[00:46:49] Michael Winnick: Sure. Absolutely. Yeah. We're, uh, we're excited. I feel like, uh, so much, uh, growth and potential, uh, in our category.

And we're really kind of spending time kind of [00:47:00] actually talking about a lot of, and kind of developing solutions about the things we talked about today. Right. So how do we kind of. Some of these research capabilities and skills and enable them. So I'm a designer, a product manager, a marketer can, uh, kind of execute research that is, uh, thoughtful and, uh, efficient.

Right. And, and kind of bring that kind of capability and thinking into, into the way they're doing their jobs. So I think this is a little separate riff Andrew, but I don't know if you want to put it in, uh, somewhere else, but I think. I think we probably talked about this before, but I think there's just this interesting, you know, if you kind of think about the vernacular of research, the words it's pervaded, the modern organization everywhere.

Right. So if you think about what's the, what's the Fountainhead for sales, it's like personas, right? What's the Fountainhead for, for marketing. It's the buyer. It's like the journey, the buyer's journey, right? What's what's the Fountainhead for [00:48:00] engineering. It's like user stories. Right? So we kind of think it's really interesting that the idea of customer centricity has pervaded almost all of the functions that we have in organizations, especially kind of technology oriented organizations, but the skill.

Yeah. You know, that's the size actually of the opportunity in the category is the gap between there is a, almost like an unstated belief that this is the way organizations need to be abroad.

And to your point, how many organizations are really, when they create a persona, are they actually. Informed from what's actually happening in the real world versus someone just being like, I think our personas, you know, Rachel, the researcher, blah, blah, blah. How often is it a buyer journey that someone's just like, oh, I think they do this.

And they do that, but that's. I buyer journeys are insane. Like they're never like that. [00:49:00] Right? Like usually buyer journeys are like this giant hairball, a decision pops out the other end, but you kind of get the point of kind of what I'm trying to say is like we have, um, this incredible opportunity, um, to really say that like, What does it win when we can take all of these organizations and the individuals in these roles, what would it be like if we really could infuse all of the work that we do with what feels like meaningful human understanding.

[00:49:31] Andrew Michael: Yeah, I love that this is something like spoken about quite a bit. And I think one of the ones is actually user personas, uh, is one of the very interesting ones where like it crosses over so many different teams. And at some point in the organization, each team has like slightly different definitions of them because they've only done their own little bits and pieces of research, but nobody's ever.

Really well, um, we did this similarly at Hotjar where we sort of, uh, I went off like as a salary session, did the initial work and then realize I care. Like [00:50:00] it's not going to effectively grow throughout the organization if you're not bringing in new, different counterparts and bringing in different perspectives.

And it's these silos, but I really love like what you mentioned now as what they'd like. Are doing these artifacts that we're producing these artifacts of research, but we're not really putting in the right work and producing them in the right way. And the stories that you mentioned, like could complex people just say like, oh yeah, we just sat down and we had an exercise and we came up with our personas and like, well, how did you come up with them?

Well, uh, well, the CEO had an idea or like the, marketing's had a couple of chats with two people and, uh, 

[00:50:32] Michael Winnick: this is it's. Yeah, the need is there. The challenge for the field is how do we then how do we take the responsibility of. Making it so people can kind of connect. I mean, who, if you talk to anybody who wouldn't be like, yeah, we would like, we D we actually would not like more accurate personas.

Yeah, no, one's going to say right. Everyone wants that, but there's a disconnect in, and it's, it's my responsibility to a degree. It's yours. It's the categories of [00:51:00] saying it's our job to create tools and capabilities that enable that accuracy without saying, Hey, it's something. Dark magical art that you have to, you know, some of the things I was saying earlier, like, you know, it's some dark art, you have to spend years learning this craft to apply it, to basically get good at it.

Right. I think that's that's our job is to say, Hey, you know, this is, this is solvable. Uh, we could use, uh, technology and learning to, to, to make, to make this. 

[00:51:31] Andrew Michael: To help democratize it. Yeah. Awesome. Well, Michael, thanks so much for joining the show. I really, really appreciate it. It's been great taps into today.

[00:51:40] Michael Winnick: Strictly. I love talking to you. I learned a lot today, so I got a couple things to follow up on, so I really, really appreciate that. 

[00:51:45] Andrew Michael: Thanks. So wish you best of luck now going forward as though 


Michael Winnick
Michael Winnick

The show

My name is Andrew Michael and I started CHURN.FM, as I was tired of hearing stories about some magical silver bullet that solved churn for company X.

In this podcast, you will hear from founders and subscription economy pros working in product, marketing, customer success, support, and operations roles across different stages of company growth, who are taking a systematic approach to increase retention and engagement within their organizations.


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