Creating true customer evangelists with workshops and success days

Bryan Plaster


CEO & Co-founder


Complete CSM
Bryan Plaster
Bryan Plaster

Episode Summary

Today on the show we have Bryan Plaster, CEO, and Co-founder of CompleteCSM.

In this episode, Brain shared his experience starting customer Success from scratch at multiple organizations and helping Informatica and Talend move from on-premise software sales to a cloud subscription business.

We then talked about the evolution of Customer Success over the last 15 years followed by how to create customer evangelists using workshops and success days. We wrapped up the episode with Bryan sharing the motivations for starting COmpleteCSM and how they help their customers uncover the customer signals throughout their lifecycle.

Mentioned Resources



Making the switch from on-premise and software sales to cloud subscriptions. 00:01:46
The evolution of customer success over the last 15 years. 00:07:48
Creating customer evangelists with workshops and success days. 00:10:53
An overview of Complete CSM. 00:12:17


[00:01:29] Andrew Michael: Hey, Bryan, welcome to the. 

[00:01:32] Bryan Plaster: Thanks for having me 

[00:01:33] Andrew Michael: appreciate it. It's a pleasure for the listeners. Brian is the CEO and co-founder of complete CSM, a customer success platform. Combining conversational AI with sentiment analytics to help you get to the heart speech customer interaction.

Prior to complete CSM, Bryan has held several global VP of customer success roles that trifecta talent and Informatica and started artist's career as a technical sales engineer. So my first question for you, Brian, is what [00:02:00] made you make the switch and dive into customer success? 

[00:02:04] Bryan Plaster: Yeah, well, I've been in customer success for, for quite a while.

Right. And so what I found was before it even became a thing. Right. W it was just trying to, how do you make customers successful? So they're happy. Right. And then as subscription third to come upon us, we said, okay, well, this is something that's important. Right. Let's make sure that everyone is successful and happy so that they actually renew with us.

Right. So I was lucky enough to be part of that journey, um, even about 12 years ago. Uh, okay, well, what is this thing called customer success? And I want to be part of it, right? Because it really makes. 

[00:02:39] Andrew Michael: Very cool. Um, so you you've been in customer success for quite a while then before the show, we chatted a little bit about some of the experience that you had transitioning businesses, uh, from, uh, regular software sales non-prem to subscription models.

And, uh, I think it'd be interesting for us to dive into that experience a little bit today. Uh, obviously you mentioned you're having gone through that [00:03:00] twice and I think Adobe is probably one of the. Uh, success stories. We hear about that there's many, many companies that made this transition. So, uh, maybe talk us through a little bit about sort of your experience in Informatica and starting off with like, what was the base premise?

Like what was the tipping point? If we, if we have to put that, that the company said, okay, like we need to make this transition, 

[00:03:21] Bryan Plaster: uh, that, that that's fantastic. Uh, you, you know, when I was in Informatica, that was around the time Adobe was the first. Yeah, it makes sense. When they saw that, as long as they preface the market with what they were doing, they were embarking on this new thing.

Um, their, their market cap didn't completely die. Right. And so they kind of set the stage for, Hey, everyone needs to transition to description because it's better for everybody. It's better for customers. It's better for the company. Um, it's really a new, a new way to look at this financial modeling, um, with customers.

And so when I was at Informatica, I was in preschool. And we had this new thing called a [00:04:00] trial and this was quite a while ago, but we said, okay, well, the trials are, are super interesting because if a customer is successful in the trial, then they're going to buy from us. Right. So I started trial success at that company.

Um, and we had a lot of success there because it, it converted a bunch of trials into deals and then in big enterprise deals. Um, but then what we said was, you know, actually now we have customers using the product. But they didn't get very, very far past the trial. They just bought this subscription, but they're not doing anything.

So we said, okay, well, let's figure out not only what they're doing with usage data. Right. But then how they feel about it. And let's, let's figure out how can we convert these customers to have successful adoption, right. Get more users on the platform. Right. So that way, when the renewal comes, because when we looked at renewal rate, it wasn't even a calculation back then.

Right. We said, well, rental rates pretty bad, right. If we're down to 60% of the people renew, that's terrible. Right. So I started this [00:05:00] customer success function to focus completely on that. Right. And then renewals turned into, okay, well, how do we grow? We came up with an NRR number, net revenue retention, um, and just kinda went from there.

And it was just a great experience to see customer success kind of being created by all of these companies being led by Adobe and their move. Um, and I was able to be a part of that and I'm back in there for America. 

[00:05:22] Andrew Michael: Awesome. So you mentioned obviously like Adobe really are around the market cap and needing to make the move.

What was sort of the initial discussions like at the company saying, okay, like, Hey, we need to move to subscription based business. We need to, um, stop our traditional on-prem business. What was that like? Uh, or the 

[00:05:42] Bryan Plaster: competition? Interesting, because you had the CEO saying the goal is to become a billion dollar.

And we ended up making that as a whole, but it was a lot through on-prem license software. Um, but then in the meantime, we had this incubator group, which was the cloud, and then they [00:06:00] called it Informatica on demand and they change it to Informatica cloud and it was all subscription. Um, and, and so it was real interesting to almost see the divergence between.

We're trying to get to a billion dollars versus we're trying to build this subscription business. Right. And so while Adobe was doing it and other companies were starting to do it, um, we started out on this mission to do it in like the next five years. Right. So it was a very slow some of your question.

It was a slow process and you had people hanging on to the old. Which is, how am I going to get a, hit a million dollars by selling or a billion dollars by selling million dollar deals versus how can we get this product led growth strategy, where we sign up five, 10 users and then grow them to a hundred thousand.

So it was this really interesting concept. And then that we went back and. With a lot, as we were building things up, you know, renewal was a new concept. We were defining what does the metric mean? Right. And when we look at, in RR, what does that mean? Right. And we started building metrics. We started getting usage data.

It was a real [00:07:00] great experience to really be a part of building that of a company while the world was looking at scription and a whole different. 

[00:07:07] Andrew Michael: Yeah, definitely. I think like customer success is still very, very in its infancy in its earliest days. And like you said, you're defining these metrics back then, but I'm pretty sure over the next five, 10 years, there's going to be, uh, new innovations in the space, new ways of structuring teams.

And I'm excited to see where it goes from here, but. What was it like back then as well? Like you mentioned, like defining these metrics and a handful of companies that really adopting these practices was any sort of knowledge sharing amongst the different software companies. And, uh, how did you support a former line?

Because I think ultimately like there's obviously one or two trendsetters and then a lot of people falling off the back of that. But, uh, back then, was there sort of any, uh, sort of good networking happening and a knowledge sharing amongst the software businesses making. 

[00:07:56] Bryan Plaster: Yeah. I mean, absolutely. And that's, that's critical, um, [00:08:00] to share with other companies, just like you said, a while back, we didn't have podcasts as much.

It was a little simpler, but we, we reached out to Salesforce. Right. And who was all subscription. They were no software it, and they have this new program called customers for life. And so we found the leader of that program and through connection said, Hey, let's just talk about what you're doing. We want to tell you about what we're doing.

Um, and see how we can do some alignment. We were also partners at the time, um, on that exchange. And so we, we ended up really experimenting with. Here's what we're thinking. Um, and then, you know, our contact at Salesforce was like, okay, we, we tried that. Here's what happened. And then we told her some more things that we've done with the trials.

And she's like, well, that's a great idea. I might try that here at Salesforce. So, so this collaboration happened with lots of different companies, but I mean, just like you said, it's about, okay, well, how did. Kind of share what works and what doesn't as, as you're building through these pieces. Right. And, and that was before [00:09:00] customer success was really even a thing, right.

They call it a customer for life, client success, um, and really the subscription. Wasn't a huge part, you know, fast forward to the last few years, I think gardener actually had a quote that 96% of SAS B2B teams, um, are going to have a customer success team. Right. I mean, it's like everyone now is getting customer success.

They're putting people in place. Um, and now you have to figure out, okay, well, how do you define it? So it's not only the metrics, uh, what is in our, why is that important? What's the difference between expansion and renewals up-sale downgrade, right? All these things have happened in these companies over the last couple of years, but I think one thing that's definitely really come across everyone's board is when you buy software on a subscription, you have.

Opportunity to not renew it or go month to month, right? It's it's like a whole new world where the customers are able to move back and forth and go to any different [00:10:00] software. So the fact that that happens is where the main need for customer success. Like we have to make sure that customers that start on our platform, they start to use it, they get success, right.

They have a great experience and that's just something that everyone has seen as a must have. 

[00:10:18] Andrew Michael: For sure. I think, like you said, it's no longer nice to have it's a must have. I think it's sort of just due to the sheer demand, like a competition now in the market, the sophistication of users today, uh, the ease at which to switch like switching costs with tools, even like segment and analytics, like MX switching to a new provider, seamless with some of the ways that they store data and able to replay it in services.

So, uh, really, really, um, it, it is. It's a must today to, to set up success and to set it up right from the start. I find it hard to think of a business today. That's doing any sort of decent amount of revenue without a customer success function. [00:11:00] Um, so you did this a couple of times though, like transitioned the company.

So I think it was other, was it a talent or trifecta where you went after and moved the business from sales to, um, subscript. 

[00:11:14] Bryan Plaster: Yeah. So I've, I've had some even PTC, like at PTC, I started the first customer success team and it was for all the IOT and cloud groups. Right. And that was a real great experience because.

It was similar to Informatica where they had this huge perpetual license business. Right. And they weren't, they were trying to figure out how can we, as fast as possible, as fast as Adobe did not only make cloud products, but also sell our existing products on description and start to move past. So we started there, um, and, and had a great experience there on at talent.

Um, fantastic group. They, they were, they had just went public and they had, they had moved to a a hundred million dollar. Base. [00:12:00] Right. So that was a pretty neat company that I'm in customers Excel. So I was able to bring the strategic services to the next level. And also the, we called it the virtual CSM.

Right. So what they were looking at is, okay, we have a lot of customers that are happy in our product. We have a lot of big enterprise customers and it was all about users. How do we go from three to 10, to a thousand users? Right? How do we take every customer and make sure they're having such a great. Um, that it grows very, very fast.

Right? And so that those programs are about strategic program. That's alignment. It's getting users to be fans, raving fans inside of their own organization and really promoting, um, the software to other groups. So essentially you get people selling for you and these groups. So customer success at that top scale is really exciting.

And that's the way these big, large corporations are doing it. Yeah. If you, if you have one or two users, that's great. But if you have thousands of users, right, you [00:13:00] have you, can't one person can't go train all thousand people, right? One person can't go and connect with every user. You have to work on the stakeholders.

You have to build these teams or centers of excellence. How can we make you as a thousand user company successful with all these programs for that company? Right. And that's what we did at that talent Trifacta was really great. They just got bought by Ultrix actually, which is pretty exciting. Um, always wanted a cloud product that had thousands of users already.

Right. And that's the things that I had built. I met Trifacta so, um, you know, I had some great team. That we built these programs to really get people so excited about the software that they were the, you know, the fact that they were the Trifacta expert at this bank, or they were the Trifacta program manager at this healthcare Institute.

So, I mean, it was amazing how, when you build these centers of excellence, all of a sudden you had teams of 12 people that was their job, right. To promote [00:14:00] your software. And that's, that's true. Customers. See. When it's not just you doing it, it's you have the customer themselves doing it in their own company.

[00:14:08] Andrew Michael: Let's dive deep into that. How do you do it? 

[00:14:13] Bryan Plaster: That makes perfect sense. So how do you grow customers beyond your walls screen? Right. We have to start with those first ones. The first users you have to understand what is it that they love about your software.

And as you do more and more of this, you get repeatable. Everybody loves about yourself, where are then you have to figure out how do you make them not only fans, but evangelist, right? And so you have to give them a platform to do that, right? You have to give them the ways and the procedures and like, how can you show what you built or what you've used the V the business value that you've obtained from our software.

How do you share that with the world? Because you know, a lot of people, they just want to go around and be evangelists, right. And they want to share their successes. Right. So, you know, you start an [00:15:00] organization, you start with one or two users, right. You figure out, okay, what are the things that they love about the software you give them platform?

We used to call them workshops. Hey, I want you to invite people from your department to this workshop. And let's talk about all the success that you've had. Why don't you invite people from the other department to this workshop and we'll have like a, uh, a success day, right? Or w you know, the name of your product complete CSM day, right.

And you have a full day. You know, people can come and go. It's almost like a trade show inside of their organization that they run. And so the really cool thing about that is as you build these centers of excellence, you start delivering these days, then you start to see people that are responsible for your software as their job in their company.

Right. So we were talking about Trifacta who, um, all three of just, just bought those guys, congratulations to all of them. Um, we've found that like, if some of the largest. In the world, they would have this Trifacta team at 12 people that were [00:16:00] there were being, uh, they were employed by that bank, but they were the Trifacta team and we would help that team really evangelize.

Right. And so if you look at it from that perspective of just going as big as possible, um, making sure that you spread the word, showing the value that all of those different either they're getting from your software and letting them evangelize. That's fantastic. Right? And that just goes on and on now, the way I look at what happened in the pandemic, right?

This was about two years ago. You couldn't do that anymore. You couldn't go onsite and do these days, right? So then you have started doing some virtual drive. So everything changed. And we started to see that, man, everyone now is on a teams call or a zoom call. You know, gong was really taken off. Right gongs the recording platform.

And we started to see that, you know, digital transformation just got accelerated 200 fold, right. It was insane, right? It's this, this multiplier of [00:17:00] interactions that are exponential. And, and so I got with my co-founder now and we said, Hey, we should start a company around customer success, um, to capture the signals because now they're all digital, right?

It's not just, it's not just this crazy. You know, let's fly everywhere and go do workshops and really figure how to grow these companies. It's like, how do we do it at scale? How do we do it? Because everyone's now going digital. And that's how we started the company. Complete CSM. 

[00:17:30] Andrew Michael: Very cool. Go into a little bit detail on these days as well.

And, um, how they were being conducted, like how being set up and we'll develop into complete CSM in a bit, but what would the days be structured like, and just for clarity, would this be something that you would go and let's say Microsoft, as a customer, you would go in and say, okay, Um, today's Microsoft success day, and we're going to talk about all the success you've had with using our tool service and facilitate workshops and how to sort of [00:18:00] get the most out of the product, whatever.

So was this predominantly being done with large enterprise clients? Is this a behavior that you see working elsewhere? 

[00:18:10] Bryan Plaster: Uh, that's a great question. So you have to seed it and then grow it, right. So you can't just start off. You know, thousands of peoples, like you said, you have to start off with, okay. We have some fans, right.

Let's figure out how to set up a day to get more fans. And then it compound. All right. So the first step is, Hey, let's, let's make it a little flyer, a brochure that says, Hey, we're going to start, uh, we're going to start a success day, um, with our software. And here's what we're going to talk about. We're going to have this great speaker, which, um, you know, if you're, if, if anyone's connected, you know, someone that somebody, and can talk about the software and talk about even their space, their vertical.

So we get some kind of speaker, even for. Um, just to kind of talk, you know, give a little pep talk to the group. I mean, that's not nothing to [00:19:00] do with the software, but remember, you know, you're trying to make this day really awesome. You make it. So people come and go as they please, but they come to a certain sessions.

So then we say, okay, we're going to have. Session with our product team. Um, that's going to be all the new things are coming out. It's going to be fantastic. And then we're going to have sessions with these users, these raving fans. All right. Well, let's talk about what I did in my job. And my, you know, in this role that really turned the dial, got a great ROI, or it really saved a lot of money.

Right? I mean, it, it made us a lot of money, whatever it is they're using. No, let let the users go and explain their story even for 10 minutes. Right. And so what we found was we had find these days, we give a nice firm agenda and then we had specified times everybody came to the different times. Right? And so once we built these days up, then those are initial evangelists.

They said, Hey man, all I want to do. His work on your product all [00:20:00] day. And I want to be more full-time until other people about it. So then where you get to, and sometimes it takes three, six months or maybe even longer that's okay, well now let's set up a day, but we'll help you do it. Right. So then as the vendor, you're helping the customer set up their own day.

Um, and they're evangelizing for you and they start bringing other groups in. I mean, at one place, I think we have like a hundred. Come to one of these days and they had, they had a reserve, their big, uh, kind of auditory and space, um, so that everybody could come and kind of watch. And it ranges from that to workshops where we do, um, kinda, kinda like at a convention, if you think of the conventions that you go to, or you do, I guess we're going back now and you know, those, those conventions are, Hey, have, have a little lab here yet where you can go build whatever you want over here, where you can go get whatever you want on it, out of this piece.

Um, and, and it's kind of a neat. Uh, way to think about it because it's not just let me go hold a QBR with the customer. Let me go. Do cadence [00:21:00] calls. Let's let's have a big show, basically, um, around all this around customers being successful with your software and how can other people be successful like them.

Um, and that's what we drove 

[00:21:13] Andrew Michael: very interesting. And then like the size of companies that you are doing this for, like what was the contract value? Because it sounds like a lot of work to set up one of these days. And, uh, just try to understand, like, who is this being done for and what was the level of scale of that?

[00:21:28] Bryan Plaster: That's a great question that gets into a lot of customer success things. Um, so when, when you think about how you segment your customers, you know, there's different ways to do it. So I think the best way is to segment them by their propensity. So you have like, okay, these are my strategic expansion customers.

They may be a tiny deal, a tiny ARR deal, like maybe even 5,000, but they could be. Right. And then I have my like retain customers, even if they're a man, they're probably not going to [00:22:00] expand right now. So the way that you can, you can segment your customer base is, is put them in these buckets of their propensity of what they're going to do next.

Right. And so now the customers that are up for these big centers of excellence and these big. Success days, they're there, the customers that have a really high propensity and they also have a lot of, a lot of people, right. So even if you have PG customer, that was only a few people that would be kind of tough.

So you're looking for, um, like banks and healthcare are huge and they're great because they have hundreds of thousands of people. And so that's where you would do that. And if they have it. A strategic aspect, which most of them do because that many people that's where you can focus your time and energy.

If you did the same thing for a company that only had a couple hundred people, it wouldn't work as well because of the. The part is not as big. 

[00:22:57] Andrew Michael: Yeah, man, the ROI, I think of like setting [00:23:00] something up and then amount of investment and time, because, but, so it's good just to get a bit of context around the size you mentioned then as well, like initially you would set these days up, you would bring in speakers and you would bring in product team potentially and so forth.

And then it would progress to having someone on their team set these days up and go forward. Like. What are some of the tools that you providing, uh, to the teams internally? Like how are you arming them to go about setting things up? 

[00:23:27] Bryan Plaster: Well, the that's a great question. So the, the tools, of course, they're already experts in our software, or at least they've, they've, they've created some great outcomes with it.

Um, the, the tools are, you know, it sounds kind of simple, but back in the day it was like, let's bring in lunch, right. Let's schedule that and make sure you have a room that holds. You know, 50 people and then we want to try to fill it. So it doesn't look like it's a, it's a, it's an, it's an unfunded event, right?

You want to fill it. So the, the tools, you kind of [00:24:00] give people momentum, you give them the, the decks that they can wrap around their demonstrations of the product. So you give them kind of the show. A lot of times we'll even do videos, let them do a two minute video or a one minute video. Right. And that's good for this software company because you get all this collateral, right?

And you, you start getting things, but you to make, to make them successful, you basically become this event planner. Um, and you, you give them tools to make it a really big show and not just a few people sitting around a room, um, sharing stories. So it goes from this. It is a cool collaboration to a man.

This is awesome. This is a, this is a greatest thing that we've done ever. Um, and that, that's the mindset that you, you want to kind of build toward, uh, when you're putting these together. 

[00:24:48] Andrew Michael: Cool. So you're really then like from one aspect, starting out know. Finding the bit, the larger clients, the ones who have the more propensity to expand and grow, uh, setting up days and [00:25:00] workshops with them where you bring in maybe a speaker, someone from the product team, uh, talking about success stories and just showing off success and slowly over time from there, like really trying to find two other key evangelists within this organization who are the ones that love the software and product the most.

When they're working with them to replicate that. So it scales within the organization. And I think that's a lovely point to get to where you actually have advocates within the company. Like we talked about on the show called our customer champions. Uh, the more you can sort of expand the number of customer champions within an organization, the better, and really it also then protects you against trend and retention as if.

Some of them, the organization really fighting for your product or service and you can expand the number of those. Uh, and, um, the number of users really seeing in establishing the value. Um, it's a big place to be because a lot of times our companies may work with customers and larger customers. They all chat to one of the key stakeholders and it stays there, but really like that's a huge risk for churn is like, if you only have one point of contact and one [00:26:00] person that you're dealing with, uh, who's using your products.

People move around all the time. They switched jobs, they changed things up. And like, uh, as soon as I leave, that's that's a big, like a flag. no, that's true. 

[00:26:13] Bryan Plaster: I mean, there, there's a lot of, like, I know we haven't gotten to these, these signals out there and who's saying what, but when I think about a watermelon customer and you say, well, they're green on the outside and they're red on the inside.

Like. Those are customers that all of a sudden, you thought everything was great from the people that you're talking to the users, but then they ended up turning her down, sell them because you're not connected with the people that are the buyers. Right. And so when you get these huge organizations and you have a lot of users, you also have to spend time on the different roles.

Like who's the stakeholder, who's the champion. Um, and so to avoid the watermelon. Uh, piece you have to look for. Okay. Well, it's not only the user, they're happy, but also are the stakeholders getting value from what the. Yeah, right. [00:27:00] So this is a real interesting concept. It's a lot of what we, we base our intelligence software on is, you know, who's happy and in between the user pulse and the champion polls, right?

So you have to really understand, you know, out of everyone, that's happy, you know, who is the, can they make the decision or not? And then you, you look at all those signals cause everyone's interacting with your company somehow. Support tickets, web chats. These big days are doing zoom calls. So when you look at all these signals from customers, then you have to decipher not only what are these person's intentions, but then also who can actually make decisions.

Right? And that's the huge piece of determining, you know, what that customer is going to do. Who to select. Um, and, and that, that insight really can come get you to the next level, just signing what to do next as a team and who to focus on. 

[00:27:51] Andrew Michael: Yeah. So talk us a little bit through that thing as well. You mentioned this was one of the use cases and reasons you built complete CSM.

Um, [00:28:00] tell us a little bit more about the company and, um, what you actually do. 

[00:28:05] Bryan Plaster: Um, appreciate that. I mean, what we saw was. The pandemic came. We really weren't able to go on site anymore. And so we're going to start doing these workshops virtual, right. And we can figure it out, everyone, everyone in the industry try to figure out how do you do a virtual convention?

How do you do virtual things? Um, and at the same time, everyone started working from home and they started taking their daily meetings. Right. And so it just started to becoming, people will figure it out how to transform digitally. Now all of, all of this interaction data is now available. Right? So those huge changes.

Like everything's changed now because now we actually capture everything or you can, um, and, and if you look at the data and what's being captured, those are those signals, right? So now customers are actually telling you what's going on, maybe not directly, but in their own little ways, that's we have figured it out.

So we said, okay, well, let's start a company using customer success. And. And [00:29:00] so what did that look like? Okay, well, we're going to harness all of these digital interactions, cause there's an explosion of them, right? We're going to figure out what are, what are CSM responsible for and how, what do they know already?

So that operational data, like who's the champion, who's the user, right? What is their usage data? Right? You, you take all of this data. That's already in like a Salesforce or a Gainsight. Or a plan and you look at this operational data and you see that it's just massive and no one really has intelligence around it, right?

People are starting to hire data scientists. Now they're like, man, there's so much data. Now we don't even know what to do. Right. So let's go hire data scientists. Let's figure out what what's going to be next. And let's just start maybe with usage and, and figure it out. So what we noticed was everything changed.

So we said, okay, let's start a company around. How do you scale teams and customer success? Like what I had done, um, over the past 15 years and how do we use technology to [00:30:00] do it? Right? So this, this became, man, this is super exciting. We're going to take the interactions. We're going to line up with the CSM operational data.

And then we're going to add intelligence to give CSMs what are the next things that they should be looking at next to affect revenue in our, our, um, and that's, that's where we got to where we are. 

[00:30:19] Andrew Michael: Um, what is the biggest challenge that you face today as a company? Like, um, where do you see the biggest challenge going forward?

[00:30:28] Bryan Plaster: Oh, that's a, that's a great question. So when I, when I think about the challenges that we've had is who has the most data, you know, it's the enterprise companies, they have these signal generators, I call. But what you have hundreds of different support systems. They have usage data, like keep and Pendo right.

They're using Zen desk, they're using the Salesforce tickets. So there's so much data out there and it's all locked down with it. Right? Security is becoming this big overwhelming concern. And [00:31:00] so, and it should be so one of the biggest things we did last year was we got our stock to security compliance.

So that was the biggest challenge. So that. You know, when we worked with people's data, they knew it was secure. Right. And that was a six month effort, um, to make sure that everyone had the right trust and capability there. So when you look at that challenge and that that's been, that was a big one. And now we have some enterprise customers that, Hey, we trust you now because you've been validated.

Let's go do it. Now, the other aspect that we're going down as far as challenges is. Product led growth, right? How can people start with customer intelligence? Right. Just, just start using it, right? Because if you look at the market customer intelligence, kind of this new thing, you know, people will have to go integrate with a hundred systems and do all this work.

What we found that people everyday are using slack, they're using Salesforce. There's [00:32:00] a lot of Dana's already. Right. So how do we make it so that people can get customer success intelligence, right. By just, you know, download the slack customer channels and understand how those people feel about you, right.

Lincoln to your Salesforce support tickets with just a simple click off Africa change. Right? So the challenges were security and then it's, it's getting started virtually. Um, and that's what we've really put a lot of focus on. Like, how do you democratize customer diligence, make it so everyone can have.

[00:32:30] Andrew Michael: Yeah, for sure. I understand the challenges as well. Um, so exactly, exactly. Um, so let's, um, ask a question that I ask every guest, let's imagine a hypothetical scenario. You joined a new company, turn. Our attention is not doing great. Uh, this year comes to you and says, okay, Brian, we really need to turn things around.

We have 90 days to do it. You're in charge. What do you. The catch. You're not going to tell me I [00:33:00] speak to customers and figure out the pain points and start there. You're just going to take some playbook that you've seen be effective in the past and run with the blindly, hoping that it works. What would be that one thing that you had tried to reduce churn fast, 

[00:33:16] Bryan Plaster: man, Andrew, I, I I've started customer success or, or taken it over at some different places.

And. Yeah, probably the most important piece of this is change management with the team, not only the executives, but the team, because whatever's going on, whatever reason you were brought into that company to start up their customer success, that the team might not feel that same way. Right. And so if you roll in guns blazing and just start.

You know, Hey, we're going to do this now it's a 980 degree motion that, that throws everybody off. Right? So I, my, my first suggestion is the one thing that you want to do is spend time [00:34:00] with the team understanding what's working and what's not. And spend time with customers understanding what's working and what's not as part of a 90 day plan.

And you're totally right on that. I mean, any executive starting a team, you have to manage expectations of everybody, of the, of your other peer executives and also your team. So 90 day plan is critical. Um, and then following it. So then, you know, once we got that said, you know, what's the one thing that you can really do.

Um, I think the one thing you can do is figure out how. How to crowdsource your users. Right. And, uh, that's you grabs crowdsource is an interesting concept. You getting people to kind of do like things together, right? And so that's what I've always of looked at user base. I mean, there's, there's so many different types of SAS businesses out there or subscription businesses.

They all work differently and everyone tries to figure out how to make them. Um, in their own way, but I think the key [00:35:00] is how do you crowdsource it? So you start getting these pockets of successful users that are doing the same things, and then they're telling everyone else about it. Right. So as you can tell, I'm, I'm big on scaling, right?

It, you can't scale it by just putting much things in place. You have to scale by working with the people. Right. And so that, that's how you understand. Okay. Well, Hey, all these people are doing the same thing. That's great, but let's, let's go get more people doing this. So now let's go figure out, okay, well, how those things that they're doing, how do we put them on the community?

How do we do more videos on them? How do we tell other people and evangelize those things and then get them to evangelize those things that they're doing already, uh, to, to really scale out and just get, you know, raving fans, I call them and then evangelists of your product. I mean, that's, that's the key, no matter how you look at customer success, if you don't have raving fans and amaze list, then you have really.

[00:35:55] Andrew Michael: So you'd really then just double down and I'm finding those really happy, [00:36:00] successful customers and using their stories and their successes to leverage, to educate others, to get others excited about the product service. 

[00:36:08] Bryan Plaster: They can make it repeatable and make it crowdsourced. So, yeah, you're totally right.

[00:36:12] Andrew Michael: What's one thing that, you know, today that you wish you knew when you got started with your career about general attention. 

[00:36:19] Bryan Plaster: That's ha I love the surprise question, Andrew. What, what, what I know today, you know, when I first started, um, customer success, there, there were no metrics around it. Like how, how do you measure good or bad?

And so we put massive effort into that, and that was great, but we, we looked at companies as a whole. We, we measured subscription by. ATV, you know, contract value. And then in RR we call it net expansion, actually back then, um, net retention, never, never, never tend to the new name for her, but you know, what did I learn?

I think you have to get, you have to see where you're at and then set goals to where you're going. Right. [00:37:00] And so when I, when I look at man, I wish I would have done that. You know, I wish I would've spent more time, you know, trying to set those goals and then iterating. Like you can't just set a year goal givers over here.

Right? You got to set, you know, weekly, monthly, quarterly goals that are simple, right. Two or three goals that you can align people around. They're not just your goals with the CEO, they're your goals with the team. And so I think that's an important thing that I've learned is that it's all about the team, right?

No matter what you do, the team has to be part of building the programs that you're in, um, and, and work together to get everyone excited about. Then you're this kind of unstoppable force that everyone's on the same page and we're all doing great. 

[00:37:47] Andrew Michael: Yeah, alignment too. We talk about this a lot in the show, but like having really strong alignment and focus, uh, is, is the best way to sort of really make a dent on general retention.

If everybody's pulling at different angles and they're going from different [00:38:00] directions, they've got different goals. Um, really end up going nowhere because, uh, people focus on individual metrics and numbers and, uh, without having like a clear direction. Uh, clear goal saying, okay, we're all in this together.

We're all here to sort of like reduce, churn, create customer evangelists. Um, we selfishly go off on our own paths, but all Andrew, Brian, it's been a pleasure chatting to you today. What is, uh, just before we go, like, is there any final thoughts you want to leave the listeners with? Like how can they keep up to speed with.

[00:38:32] Bryan Plaster: Um, yeah, I love that. Um, we're talking about customer success intelligence, right? And, and how you do it. So basically the concept of what works, right? Getting raving fans, getting evangelists, stick users, and scaling that. Right. We just wrote an article on Harvard business review, which is how can, how can AI help improve your EEQ.

Right. And so the way we look at this. Is in [00:39:00] my career. I've built programs that scale right now we can use AI to really understand how they're affecting people, what those people feel about you, what they intend to do next. Um, so it, it's, it's really an interesting study on the evolution of customer success.

I know to a lot of folks, customer says, came out of nowhere a year ago or two years ago. Right. And I've heard that before. Um, and I, and I, I liked the new perspective on. But yeah. It's how do you scale it? Um, and go down this path of not just 10, a hundred thousand users, millions of users, right? How do you affect that?

And that's what we're all about at complete CSM. So you can find, um, and, uh, we'd love to have you come back. Very 

[00:39:44] Andrew Michael: cool. Uh, we'll definitely make sure to leave, uh, the notes and the references you just mentioned now in the show notes. If you want to check those off later, you can. Um, but yeah, Brian, it was a pleasure sending today.

Uh, thank you so much for the time and, uh, I wish you best of luck going forward. 

[00:39:58] Bryan Plaster: Thank you so much, Andrew.[00:40:00] 

[00:40:01] Andrew Michael: And that's a wrap for the show today with me, Andrew, Michael, I really hope you enjoyed it. And you're able to pull out something valuable for your business to keep up to date with and be notified about new episodes. Blog posts and more subscribe to our mailing list by visiting Also, don't forget to subscribe to our show on iTunes, Google play, or wherever you listen to your podcasts.

If you have any feedback, good or bad, I would love to hear from you and you can provide your blend direct feedback by sending it to, lastly, but most importantly, if you enjoyed this episode, please share it and leave a review. As it really helps get the word out and grow the community.

Thanks again for listening. See you again next week.[00:41:00] 


Bryan Plaster
Bryan Plaster

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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