Embracing a Generalist Mindset and Flexibility in Career Growth

Céline Daley


VP of Customer


Céline Daley
Céline Daley

Episode Summary

Today on the show we have Céline Daley, the VP of Customer at DeepL.

In this episode, Céline shares her unique insights into embracing a generalist mindset and the role of flexibility in navigating tech careers. With a background that spans from marketing to customer success, and from startups to global companies, Céline's journey showcases the power of adaptability and learning in driving career growth.

We then discussed the importance of understanding business needs and how seeking adventure can lead to unexpected and rewarding career paths. We wrapped up by exploring Céline's strategies for building and scaling customer success teams, and how her generalist approach has been a key factor in her success.

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 Andrew@churn.fm. Don't forget to follow us on Twitter.

Mentioned Resources



Welcome Celine Daley: The Journey from Marketing to Customer Success00:01:11
Zendesk to Brightwheel: Embracing Roles Across the Customer Journey00:03:15
Building DeepL's Success and Post-Sale Operations from Scratch00:06:17
The Value of a Generalist Mindset in Startup Growth and Adaptability00:09:06
Identifying and Responding to Business Needs Across Career Moves00:15:34
Strategies for Building a Customer Success Organization at DeepL00:19:17
Cross-Functional Collaboration: Enhancing Product, Sales, and Customer Success00:25:59
Navigating Career Growth: The Role of Mentorship, Learning, and Flexibility00:32:00


00:00:00 Celine Daley: A lot of people define it in different ways and the evolution can evolve over the course of your business. So alignment, I'd say, with our CEO was most important at that time, which was what do we want the team's mandate to be? And we decided that we wanted to be at that time and for now, a non-commercial team focused on account health. And it was up to us to define what account health was, what kind of product adoption, engagement, a health score that would look like. But that was the mandate of the team because a lot of teams can also be responsible for upsell and cross sell. That is not our mandate right now. So right now it is very much focused on account health. So that was, like first things first.

00:00:00 Andrew Michael: This is Churn.FM, the podcast for subscription economy pros. Each week we hear how the world's fastest growing companies are tackling churn and using retention to fuel their growth.

00:00:57 VO: How do you build a habit-forming product? We crossed over that magic threshold to negative churn. You need to invest in customer success. It always comes down to retention and engagement. Completely bootstrapped, profitable and growing.

00:01:11 Andrew Michael: Strategies, tactics and ideas brought together to help your business thrive in the subscription economy. I'm your host, Andrew Michael, and here's today's episode. Hey, Celine, welcome to the show.

00:01:24 Celine Daley: Thanks a lot for having me.

00:01:26 Andrew Michael: It's great to have you. For the listeners, Céline is the VP of customer at DeepL, helping businesses connect and scale globally with human sounding AI translator and writing tools. Prior to DeepL, Celine was the director of marketing at Brightwheel. Celine is also an investor and advisor to several startups. So my first question for you, Celine, is what made you make the move from marketing into a customer facing role?

00:01:50 Celine Daley: Great question. Probably a few things. One, business need. Two, desire for adventure and happy to share more on that. And three, learning as you go and using different techniques at different parts of the customer journey. So one, business need. Very much a generalist by background and whatever the business needs, happy to go in and tackle the problems that we're facing and build up teams, build up processes, build up systems that are required. Two, adventure of like, I very much like to mix it up, try new things and I'm fortunate to work at companies that embrace that and need that.

00:02:25 Celine Daley: And then third, I think it's great to be able to pair more scalable techniques that marketing tends to provide you with, with that human touch, with that more personal touch. And what I'll also say is that in success, we have a segment that we're calling digital success focused on, yes, our smaller businesses, that we provide digital resources, but also automating that customer journey for all of our customers. I see the marketing skills that is, very relevant to success, but business need adventure and always a game to learn something new and try something new and take my learnings and make them help our customers.

00:03:02 Andrew Michael: Nice. I love that. And you call yourself a generalist then as well. I think we were chatting a little bit before the show. You started out actually at Zendesk in the beginning. Maybe you can give us a little bit about your background and how you got to where you are today.

00:03:15 Celine Daley: Yeah, for sure. So I think it very much ties to that earlier comment about business need and desire for adventure and to work with good people and to take on good challenges. So early days at Zendesk was on the sales option strategy team. Actually, one of my first projects when I joined was to build out a churn and contraction forecast. So it all comes full circle. So that was, early days at Zendesk. We were still private when I joined but went public quickly after that. So a few hundred people, less than 100 million in ARR.

00:03:44 Celine Daley: And through my time there, became thousands of people and a much larger ARR number. So throughout my time at Zendesk, I think of it in three chapters there - sales option strategy to begin, lots of different projects, sales enablement for the team, turn of contraction models, again, different things that had to get done. I then moved over to our online business unit, which was a cross-functional team, think of it as a startup within Zendesk that had engineers and product managers and marketers and operational folks and salespeople as well within the team focused on that experience for the online, so for the SMB primarily.

00:04:20 Celine Daley: And there drove a lot of expansion, cross-sell, upsell campaigns, as well as retention-focused work with our sales folks. So again, different things there. And then my last role, we had gone public and we were focused on moving from more of an SMB buyer to an enterprise buyer. So I feel like at Zendesk had a chance to work with really, really phenomenal leaders who gave me different opportunities that were more sales op strategy, more strategy, more demand gen, more persona driven work. So that was awesome.

00:04:49 Celine Daley: Zendesk got big, decided to move to an earlier stage company. My background prior to Zendesk was actually in more nonprofits and education. So I found a vertical SaaS company focused on early education called Brightwheel. Joined when we were less than 20 people as the first marketing hire and built out the marketing function there. Great ride, non-technical buyers, so they needed a lot of help. So I partnered closely with our success team there on onboarding and adoption and making sure they got the most out of the product.

00:05:19 Celine Daley: Moved over to Europe, so that was all in the San Francisco Bay Area. Moved over to London, was still with Brightwheel for about a year and then joined DeepL, which again was a little bit later stage but quite early. So we were about 60 people, had raised a Series A from benchmark and had joined as the first commercial leadership hire. So I had sales and support and marketing and an operations team and a language and localization team all under my remit. And I think the team when I joined was about seven people and grew it to about 120 or so.

00:05:49 Celine Daley: By the time I welcomed new leaders to help me grow those functions and mentioned to Andrew just before that I had a son, Patrick, and popped out on my leave for a few months. And thank you, came back with the mandate to build out success but also our post-sale operations. So my mandate right now is customer success, support and knowledge management, which is internal and external knowledge. So again, I see it from like, latest stage to earliest stage to kind of scale up in the journey.

00:06:17 Celine Daley: And then like, always in more go to market functions, but just wearing different hats and focusing on different metrics at different times, different channels and tools. But yeah, I have loved the experience. And I feel as though, like the broader context has made me a stronger leader in the success area.

00:06:33 Andrew Michael: Yeah, I love that. And I think, like one of the things I've seen and noticed in startups is, generally like generalists don't tend to stick around that long. And it seems like you've managed to do that and you've managed to stick around and even take on roles like VP. Normally, like, you have a lot more specialty in a specific area when you get to that stage. So what do you think, in your career, has, like, helped you stick around and move into these different roles?

00:07:00 Celine Daley: Yeah, for sure. Great question. I think a few things there. I think one is like mentorship and sponsorship can touch on that. Two is just, like, humility of, like knowing that you're going to fill different gaps at different places. That's probably like the two big ones. Yeah, and like flexibility tied to that. So I've been fortunate to have pretty amazing mentors who have guided me when I've come to these inflection points of, like different role, different company, what should I do next? What skill set should I build on?

00:07:26 Celine Daley: And I'll say them by name, hopefully they're not too awkward about it, but Amanda Kleha, who has been the chief customer officer at Figma, and Anne Raimondi, who's the chief operating officer at Asana, were both like two of my bosses at Zendesk and go to them with all of my different life challenges or inflection points. And they've just been fabulous friends and mentors of mine. So I think good guidance along the way helps a lot.

00:07:50 Celine Daley: And then when it comes to humility, I think just knowing that you're also going to be bringing on additional leaders to focus on additional, more nuanced specialized areas and just knowing that it's hard to scale with the business and know that you'll find your place. And there will be people who have more experience than you who join and people who have just as much who join in a different capacity. So I think it's just knowing your own limits and knowing that you're better as a team.

00:08:13 Celine Daley: And I know it's hard, but trying not to hold on to the past too much and knowing that if you just embrace where the company is going, there's going to be a fit, there's going to be a need, and there's going to be an area that you can add value and don't get too tied up on title or number of people or any of that. So I think it's just like, get good advice and then be open-minded as to where the future will take you because I think that openness will highlight more opportunities that you wouldn't have thought of. Right?

00:08:40 Andrew Michael: Yeah.

00:08:40 Celine Daley: If you had asked me 10 years ago if I'd be leading a [post-sale] organization, I'd be like, maybe, but probably not. And here I am.

00:08:47 Andrew Michael: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, I think it's interesting because I think most people as well, as I said, like they tend to leave at a certain point in the company and what you mentioned as well as like not hold on to what it was, I think that's what ends up being the problem is everybody likes it, it's not the same, it's changed. And of course it's changed. It's got bigger, it's grown. And like, yeah, things are moving.

00:09:05 Celine Daley: Completely.

00:09:06 Andrew Michael: And one of the things I love as well, like a quote was given to was like embracing uncertainty in startups. And I think that's sort of the journey, but I think there's also a special skill that somebody needs to develop to grow with the company and to be able to learn really, really fast. And it sounds like you've developed this muscle moving into different roles all the time. And how do you, what is your approach to learning and development then for yourself as well?

00:09:27 Andrew Michael: Like one is having great mentors, but then two, like, how are you keeping up to speed with that rapid change of the company and making sure that you can be there for the team as well?

00:09:36 Celine Daley: Yeah, completely. Great question. So, a few things, I think one, network really matters and then resources that you can lead on, which are frequently one in the same. So, what I was fortunate to do at every path when I took on a new role was to reach out to people that I knew that I respected in the space to be able to get advice from them and to learn from their mistakes and what they had done so much faster. So, when I was given the mandate to build out success here at DeepL, I spoke to a dozen different people, both from my own network, from our investor network of folks who had done it before and who had built it from zero to whatever when it comes to headcount and learn from them.

00:10:15 Celine Daley: So I think going in with a structured approach of like, you know, your top 10 questions of what you want to find out from those people that leverage your network and people are willing to share, right? Like even this conversation today, people are happy to get on a call to share what they've learned to help you avoid mistakes. So I think realizing that people are willing to give back is helpful and also like, be comfortable paying it forward, right? So you're asking them for some advice, they'll come back to you and ask you for some advice.

00:10:41 Celine Daley: But the other thing I'll say is like keeping them posted on your progress tends to help. So the dozens of people that I spoke to, early days, it's like, it's helpful when you send them a note and you're like, you know, that team that I was going to build went from zero to 30. And like the [post-sale] org is like 80. And this is what you've accomplished. And we did this and didn't work. We did that and it works. So just like keeping them posted on what you've learned and what you've done helps. So one, network.

00:11:01 Celine Daley: Two, I think the people that you hire is, very important, right? And what you're going to learn from them and their networks and their resources. So even though I am a generalist, I have absolutely hired specialists. So I absolutely hire folks who have far more depth of experience and depth of expertise in the field, in the nuance than I will ever have. So someone said this to me once, like, you need to know enough to be dangerous. You have to be able to see through the bullshit in some ways, but you don't necessarily need to be that deep functional expert that your other folks will be on the team. So I think it's like, network and then the people that you hire.

00:11:35 Celine Daley: And then there are also so many best practices and resources out there, whether it's, like investors or what have you, their blogs, their think pieces, different companies, this, like there are lots of different ways that you can learn as well.

00:11:49 Andrew Michael: Yeah. It's interesting as well that you mentioned, on the hiring aspect and bringing in specialists. I'm keen to understand as well a little bit. On your hiring process then from this perspective, because as a generalist, then you know, as you mentioned, you need to know enough to be dangerous. But how do you know that you know enough to hire a specialist as well? I think this is one of those areas where, like, if especially, you're moving into new space now and you're starting to build a team, how are you going about your hiring process to ensure that you're filling the gaps that you have. And maybe the gaps that you don't even know that you have as well.

00:12:21 Celine Daley: Yeah. Completely. So again, I think it comes back to like, humility and making sure that you have the right job description and not like feedback from peers and different companies or your network just to make sure, like you understand how you're going to build out the team. Once you're going through the interview process, I tend to focus mostly on when I can, outcomes and what they learned along the way. So again, like this is our forever challenge like activities matter, but making sure that they are looking to drive the right business metrics and how they go about doing that.

00:12:48 Celine Daley: I think building is also such an important skill at a startup of like, when you're building a fresh team, you're not going to have every playbook for every situation. You're just not. You're going to have to be able to grow and to learn as you go. So I think it's like, what outcomes have they driven? What metrics have they focused on? And how have they been able to adapt and prove around that? So I think those are areas that I focus on for sure.

00:13:08 Celine Daley: And then I think it's cultural, but when I can, I love a good backdoor reference or a reference just to make sure that the people that you are hiring, your experience with them is the same as others who've worked with them for longer. I think it's getting the job description right, getting the org right, and then making sure that you're aligned on what you're looking to achieve as a business and sharing with them like what's expected, right? I think so much of what matters is that expectation management.

00:13:34 Celine Daley: So what are you coming in to build? What is success going to look like? What metrics are we driving? What initiatives or strategies do I need you to build out? So clarity. And then I think as long as you're focusing on the metrics, you can probably make sure that you're hiring the right people who have driven those metrics.

00:13:49 Andrew Michael: You can understand from that. Yeah. And the back door references, well, what did you mean by that as well? Cause I know like a lot of times most people end up saying, Oh, references are bullshits. Like you end up hearing the best thing from the best people. Actually, it's… something recently that I found interesting that I'll probably apply in the future was that when you get on the reference call, just ask them, like, who else should I speak to about this person? And then that you get like third degree separation from the individual. But are you doing anything else for your back door references? Yes.

00:14:20 Celine Daley: Yeah, so I think like, one is like, you can ask a candidate for references. And if they're smart, they're going to give you references that are good. Right? Hopefully, they make sure that they're handing you some, someone or giving you a chance to speak to someone who they've had a good experience with. And asking that reference then for other people. Yep, definitely do that. But then also, if you're connected to someone on LinkedIn, or you know that they've worked at a certain company, just going to your network at that company meeting, like, Hey, I'm chatting to this person.

00:14:47 Celine Daley: And like, again, make sure that you're not burning any bridges, make sure they've left that company, make sure that it's okay that you're like, flagging that they're in a process with you. But I think just going to someone that you know, they've worked with, without giving them the primer of your reference for them, just like, Hey, we're thinking about hiring this person. How was it working with them? And usually people again, are willing to share whether it's good or bad and stage fit.

00:15:09 Celine Daley: So again, I can think of a role that I was not hiring for, but a role that a colleague was hiring for. And we did that. And, you know, the feedback was like, at a later stage, perfect hire. At an early stage, maybe not the best fit, right? So, so much there too was like, it could be a terrific person, but are they right for your business at this time? So yeah, that's more of like the indirect–

00:15:31 Andrew Michael: Indirect way to make sure.

00:15:32 Celine Daley: Yeah.

00:15:34 Andrew Michael: Cool. You mentioned something else as well at the start in terms of the business need being one of the reasons, like for moving into different spaces and areas. So I'm keen to dive into that a little bit as well. Like what your process looks like in terms of like, understanding when the business needs arise, like why do you decide to go into those areas? Is it you driving it? Is it the company driving it? What's that been like?

00:15:58 Celine Daley: Yeah, for sure. So I'd say a bit of both of like, usually the, like the business times, like look at metrics and see like on the Zendesk side, it would have been like, okay, we're not... Again, as a public company, you want to close larger deals that are more stable or return rate, all of that. And at that time, it was like, okay, how do we make sure that we're more focused on the enterprise buyer? Because that's where we need to build a pipeline in order to land those deals. At that point, it was very much a business need. And then the team that I was managing had the skill set required to deliver on that.

00:16:30 Celine Daley: And I had worked with  the person before, the manager leading that team had worked with me before during that chapter. I was like, okay, let's have Celine lead It. She has a good team. We can refocus her priorities there. One, it's top-down. The market is telling you the business knows. How do you fill that gap and just be open-minded to it? At that time, did I love enterprise? No. Was I fired up about account-based marketing? No. But was it what we needed to do as a business? Yes.

00:16:54 Celine Daley: And I think that helps you get over any preconceptions that you might have around what you like or don't like and just think, okay, this is most impactful for the business, let's do it. So that example, I'd say, was more tops down. At DeepL, also a mix of tops down and bottoms up. What I mean by that is I had built out a team that we call the account management that was based on... The idea was selling into our customer base. So account executives would focus on new business, account managers would focus on upselling the customer base.

00:17:23 Celine Daley: What we realized is that those account managers were spending half their time, if not more, focused on onboarding, driving adoption, getting the account healthy before they could then sell into it. We had almost assumed that the account's healthy, let's sell into it. But then the more they spoke to customers, they're like, oh, shoot, they're actually not using the basic functionality that we offer and seeing value in what they bought. I need to focus on account health before I can sell into it. So that was more of the team feedback. Then driving like, okay, we should probably think about how we manage that and success is a natural part or component of that.

00:17:58 Celine Daley: It should be product-led, of course, but larger enterprises are going to need a helping hand. And then when chatting to Jarek, our CEO, he was like, Oh, I've also been seeing that, like product adoption and engagement is not what it could be in our enterprise. Let's get ahead of that so that we can make sure that we have a healthy customer base. So that was more of like a feedback from the team rising up and then also like top down the metrics that we report to the board.

00:18:19 Celine Daley: Our CEO is like, Oh, okay. There’s probably something here that we can get ahead of. We don't yet have a problem, but let's get ahead of it now so that we stay away from that space. Because I mean, the worst spot to be in is like, you have a massive turn problem, and then you're just throwing bodies at it. And you're like, how do we save this customer? And that's just like a high stress environment to be in. And I think most folks have learned, if you have the luxury of having resources to invest early, invest early because it's going to pay off.

00:18:45 Andrew Michael: Yeah, super interesting. And that's exactly what you're doing at the moment. Now you are investing early and I'm keen now to dive into a little bit about that process and what that looks like and within the context now of, like how this background that you have across the different board from marketing to sales now to CS is helping with this evolution now building out the CS team. So what does it look like? Or maybe let's start off like you got back from maternity leave, you said with the mandate now we need to build out CS. Like where were you at the time? What was the plan?

00:19:17 Celine Daley: For sure. So maybe a couple of thoughts on CS in general. So I'm privileged to have the responsibility of support and knowledge management as well. I mentioned support because if you don't have a strong support organization, your success folks end up doing customer support. That was the first realization of, support was in a great spot, but we also had some opportunity for improvement. So step one was looking at our core support team and realizing where we could invest.

00:19:44 Celine Daley: First reply time, that could be better for our B2B customers. Let's focus there. Let's make sure that we have more stability in the support world while we add on success, colleagues. Because again, if you're adding success, you don't want just to hire a shadow support team. So like that was the first realization of like, okay, support, let's partner with the team there. Let's get it as healthy as possible.

00:20:02 Celine Daley: On the success side, first thing I did was like, okay, how do we want to define success? And because a lot of people define it in different ways and the evolution can evolve over the course of your business. So alignment, I'd say, with our CEO was most important at that time, which was what do we want the team's mandate to be? And we decided that we want it to be at that time and for now, a non-commercial team focused on account health. And it was up to us to define what account health was, what kind of product adoption, engagement, a health score that would look like.

00:20:33 Celine Daley: But that was the mandate of the team because a lot of teams can also be responsible for upsell and cross-sell. That is not our mandate right now. So right now it is very much focused on account health. So that was like, first things first. What do we mean by customer success and how are we going to measure it? So key metrics that we are held to are our retention numbers, as well as our net revenue retention, because as much as we are not driving upsell and cross sell, we are close to the customer. And we need to make sure that sales is aware of customers who are primed for growth.

00:21:01 Celine Daley: So one was like, mandate and metrics that we'd be held to, then it was chatting to my broad network of like, how have you done it? And how should we do it? And this is where we're at, and what would you recommend? And at that point, I built what I think a lot of CS leaders build, which is like that great customer pyramid, and thinking about how you're going to segment the customer base and what resources you're going to give to each.

00:21:22 Celine Daley: So DeepL as a business has very heavy B2C roots. So a lot of people use this for free, buy it on their credit card, and then they become a team subscription, a department and then end up company wide. So we have a very large team account base or department account base. So folks who aren't spending a heck of a lot with us, but we also want to support because we know that they could grow with us.

00:21:43 Celine Daley: So we have tens of thousands in that tech touch segment, we have several hundred in the segment that we've called scale. And then again, several hundred in the high tech segment. So first things first, it was like, how are we going to segment and what resources are we going to give knowing that we can't give everyone the same experience, unfortunately, it's just not cost effective. So we aligned on what our desired experience would be at the end of 12 months, knowing that we had to validate as we went.

00:22:07 Celine Daley: So talk to people, segment the base, figure out what you're going to give to each type of customer. We segmented based off of error to start in time that might get more sophisticated, but just based on customer spend, and then thinking through how we want to structure the team and how that might evolve. So the two teams that I was committed to building out from the beginning, and I ended up building four.

00:22:29 Celine Daley: So the two teams that I was committed to building out in success at the beginning were your classic customer success management team that would have a portfolio of accounts to manage that we did have a great leader there. So I wanted to build that out and then also want to build out a digital success team that would be focused on that tech touch customer base and also digital resources for the entire customer base. So those two teams, I knew for sure we need with the thought that CSMs can focus on onboarding, account health and retention, have more of, like a generalist mindset as we get started.

00:22:59 Celine Daley: But then I will say like the people that you speak to inform the teams that you grow and when you hire people. So I knew I wanted CSMs and digital success. And then I thought maybe later in the year we'll hire operations and maybe later in the year we'll hire an onboarding team specifically. But again, like sometimes you speak to great people at the right time, you decide to build sooner. So I was very privileged to be able to hire three different leaders for that business or for those segments.

00:23:24 Celine Daley: So CSM lead, all bring enablement digital success, they're terrific. They have built out their teams and have different metrics that they're driving and then a terrific operational leader as well. So, I'd say like given the talent market and like the folks that were interested, was able to hire three folks in March and then another in June. So I've been able to hire leaders quite early who have been able to build out their teams. So it's also better for the team, right? Of, like, if I have 20 direct reports, no one's gonna be happy. If I have seven, people are gonna be okay. So it was also a need to drive higher.

00:23:58 Celine Daley: So yeah, like recap, what's the mandate? What are the metrics? Chatting to the network, figuring out how you're gonna build the team, and then having touch points to like, validate that your approach is good. And also staying open-minded to like things might change, right? Like things will change. Things will inevitably change. The structure that we have today is not gonna be what we have in 18 to 24 months, I would bet.

00:24:18 Andrew Michael: I like that point that you made a lot at the very beginning as well and repeated now in the sense that you started what the mandate is for now and what does the team need to look like for now? Because definitely I think chatting to so many different CS leaders, the teams continuously evolve depending on the stage of growth, depending where they're at as a business, it continuously evolves and it doesn't feel like it ever settles anywhere, like I've chatted to guests on the show and then I've told it to them again a year later.

00:24:45 Andrew Michael: And a year after that, and it still feels like it's always like a continuous evolution and you need to be continuously evolving as a CS organizer company. So making it clear the for now, I think is great. And then I really like, as well the mandate just being totally aligned in the beginning, because I think one of the things like hearing is that a lot of times in companies, there's, customer success team, but it's not really clear what their mandate is, what their goal is. It's normally a little bit up in the air.

00:25:14 Andrew Michael: And it's sometimes, as you said, like it tends to be glorified support in some places, which is a very bad place for it to be. So I love that you started there and just sort of said, okay, like before we do anything, like let's get it on the same page, let's align.

00:25:28 Celine Daley: Totally. And that's like cross-functionally alignment with support, with sales, with product. Because success touches all of those worlds, right? With marketing. So it's just like, this is what the team's going to look like. This is what our mandate is going to be. There's going to be touch points that trying to protect where you can, the team, because then you have new people joining and it's always easier when people know why they're joining and what they're here for.

00:25:52 Andrew Michael: Exactly. And it makes it easier then for the wider team as well to sort of adopt this new team that's being formed and–

00:25:59 Celine Daley: Totally.

00:25:59 Andrew Michael: You have a lot of crossover and a lot of touch points with different teams as well. Can you hear a little bit like how that's working out now? Maybe also just give a little bit of context. How big is the team today in CS and where did you start?

00:26:12 Celine Daley: Yeah, so started a year with three people, three of our former account managers. We ended up dissolving the account management team. They either became account executives, focused on all commercials, so new business and expansion, or they focused on success. So we had three people come over to the success team. And now we're at about, I think we're about 25, we'll be about 30 by the end of the year. And so again, from like a team that did not exist, really in Q1 to a team that is powerful and delivering is great.

00:26:45 Celine Daley: And then within the broader context of the post sale org, I think we're about 80, we'll end the year again at about 95, 100, I think is where we're headed. So that's where we're at right now. And then when it comes to kind of like where the touch points are with different orgs, I mean, everywhere for sure. So to touch on a few, I find that we interface the most with product and marketing when it comes to our larger customers. Like we want them for case studies or interviews or analyst reports or product feedback. So that's one area, like we do, tend to have a very close relationship with the customer and need to be able to, like protect them, but also make sure that they're engaging with the rest of the company when they need to.

00:27:25 Celine Daley: Another area is going to be more of, like that product onboarding experience as well as, like onboarding and digital success. So as we think about how we get customers up and running, wouldn't it be great if we didn't have to lean on one-to-one resources all the time? Right? So how can we allow customers to see the value of the product from within the product? So like, we are just supplementary and like not having to supplement too much with, like an app or email or meetings or QBRs or tutorials or an academy. Ideally, the product is so intuitive that you can just see value immediately that it's easy to get your teammates on board. That's an ongoing partnership.

00:28:06 Celine Daley: So again, sharing the customer feedback that we get with product and partnering on like, okay, if this is happening in product, what's happening in email, what's happening with our CSMs, how do we make sure that that's a coherent approach and that we're not bombarding our customers with too much information? Those are some of them. And with sales, obviously, all the time, sales is always hunting in the customer base, like, who can I sell into? And we are there to say, maybe not this person, maybe this person.

00:28:32 Celine Daley: And also doing that in a scalable way. We now have a health score. So that's a good indicator of like, this account is not in great shape. Maybe don't try to sell them more licenses or sell them a new product. But this account is doing great. And they're actually at their license limit, you should go talk to them. So that's also an area that we're operating cross-functionally. And just trying to be the eyes and ears for the sales team because CS is in touch with our customers so much. So those are a few of the different ways. And I'm sure there's like hundreds more that I could think of.

00:29:02 Andrew Michael: And how do you think your background is all coming from these different sectors like sales and marketing have helped with this setup and these relationships? Because a lot of time, like I think product and CS is not the greatest of relationships you hear in most places. It tends to always be a little bit of a battle, what gets shipped and how they're not listening to us and so forth. So how do you think this experience has helped you and what do you think, some of the things that you do right to foster these good relationships between departments?

00:29:34 Celine Daley: Yeah, good question. So I think like an ongoing journey and like, will I say that, like everything is perfect? Of course not. Like we could improve across the board. But I think what helps when you have a bit more context or experience across different functional areas is empathy for the mandate that other teams have and understanding their metrics. So on the sales side, knowing what their commission is structured as, knowing what their goals are and what they get paid out on helps you then understand that when you're asking them to do this or that, and it doesn't directly tie to that, that you're going to get some rep.

00:30:08 Celine Daley: So I think just understanding how people are motivated or compensated or what they're accountable for helps. So an example that we're thinking through right now is at the moment, our team is only responsible for flat renewals, but we're meant to get our sales team involved if there's an up or down renewal. So if there's expansion or term of contraction, we try to get AEs involved. And that's great on expansion because they get paid out on it all good.

00:30:31 Celine Daley: But on, term of contraction, there's actually nothing there to compensate them for helping out. So that’s more of like knowing that we should be understanding and empathetic to like, they're going to be able to give us context on the relationship, but they might not make it their top priority if there's going to be a turn or contraction. So I think understanding again, mandated metrics that they're driving so that then when you go to them, you can appreciate like, oh, that's why you're not prioritizing what I want to do. Like that, like just helps, like–

00:30:57 Andrew Michael: Able to empathize.

00:30:58 Celine Daley: Keep the emotions down, totally. And then also like knowing where you can help. And you know, marketing is always looking for references or case studies or testimonials and something that we've done because we know that that's an area that we can grow is, we've actually made it part of the variable component for CSM. So there's also like proactively building that relationship so that we know that we're in touch with customers, we know when they're happy. Let's make sure that at least once a quarter we are sharing one for CSM, one customer that's able to be ready marketing facing.

00:31:30 Celine Daley: So some of it's just like empathy to like the role that the team's doing. Some of it's also like proactively nurturing that relationship, but in a structured way. Because otherwise, it's kind of left up to every individual with their personalities and their works. And not can work, but I think if you can do it in a structured way when it comes to how you're structuring the variable of your teams, how you're structuring the rules and responsibilities, I think clarity just helps. And that background helps you be a bit more thoughtful about, oh, let's clarify that. Let's make sure that's taken care of. So those are some of the ways.

00:32:00 Celine Daley: And then product relationship, I hear you. It's always like a, why isn't that on the roadmap our customers wanted? I think again, it's just clarifying the roadmap process, clarifying the impact of the customer feedback. A lot of times customers will ask for something, but then they won't pay for it. And that's sometimes okay, but also sometimes not okay. So I think just being transparent with our team around, like our customers are great. They usually know what they're talking about for sure. But let's also make sure that it's one input into the roadmap process.

00:32:31 Andrew Michael: It feels as well like in sales. I think one aspect you mentioned is being able to empathize. The other side as well as yes, you can really deliver value to them by letting them know, like which accounts to sell into and so forth. So there's sort of a give and take relationship there. They can work quite nicely. And the same thing in marketing, as you mentioned as well, like having understanding of their goals and what they've been driven and also then feeding them back these case studies.

00:32:55 Andrew Michael: In product, it feels like there's a little bit less of that relationship going on. I mean, one thing is feedback, you're feeding back to customer, but product, I guess, feel like they're already flooded by feedback. So this is just another channel where there's more of this that I need to figure out. And it's like figuring out, like what is that relationship between the two departments that can work more effectively so that there's more of a give and take relationship there.

00:33:18 Celine Daley: And I think like, to your comment, like we will always be like, we need a customer advisory board, the customer's voice must be heard, especially when building, roadmap. But a lot of times I think where, product gets benefit from us is being able to join calls, right? To be able to join a QBR and hear from the customer what's working, what's not. Or when they're evaluating features, being able to do those interviews with customers. And again, making, not like a streamlined, scalable process so that, like they know who to go to, how to get customers and then we're not always going to the same customer for feedback all the time. So totally with you. Like it's going to be a give and take. And like, I think if we just went to our product team with customer feedback, they'd be like–

00:33:55 Andrew Michael: No.

00:33:56 Celine Daley: Go away.

00:33:58 Andrew Michael: That is a great way as well then just to make that process easy on the one end. And then it's sort of like this give and take and really being able to empathize and then also being able to deliver value, like across the board with the company enables these better relationships.

00:34:11 Celine Daley: Totally.

00:34:12 Andrew Michael: What's one thing that you know today about churn and retention that you wish you knew when you got started with your career?

00:34:18 Celine Daley: Oh gosh. Good question. I think they said, like, some of it's inevitable, especially in SMB, right? Like, you shouldn't save every customer. It's probably the other ones. Like, some churn is naturally going to happen. And not every customer we're saving would probably be like the two learnings. So like, you know, companies are going to go out of business, companies are going to need to cut costs for reasons that are unrelated to how great your team is or how great your product is. So like that, some of it's out of your control.

00:34:45 Celine Daley: And then also realizing that if you are going down a SAVE effort, like sometimes it's not worth it. Just like knowing how to learn from that and knowing how to be honest with yourself, of like, the odds are low. Let's do our best, but let's not, like distract 10 people on the team to try to save this customer that we know is walking away.

00:35:05 Andrew Michael: Yeah. It's interesting. We had a really good episode, I think with Emeric Ernoult from Agorapulse, where they sort of understood this, where they said, okay, like we're not just going to arbitrarily say we're going to decrease churn by X percent. So like, let's first understand what's within our control, what's outside of our control, and then let's set a target on what's within our control that we can reduce because sometimes we arbitrarily set this like we're going to decrease the 3% or whatever it is. But then it's just not feasibly, possible because like you can't stop companies going out of business, as you mentioned. So.

00:35:34 Celine Daley: Exactly, exactly. The retention target can never be 100%.

00:35:40 Andrew Michael: Unless we're talking about NRR, but then it should be.

00:35:44 Celine Daley: Greater than a hundred.

00:35:45 Andrew Michael: Exactly.

00:35:46 Celine Daley: But, yeah.

00:35:48 Andrew Michael: And then before we wrap up today, I'm keen to hear, like, is there any advice you would give to generalists out there looking in terms of their career now and how they should approach their moves as well?

00:36:02 Celine Daley: Yeah, for sure. And I think like from my experience, taking on new challenges is super fun and super rewarding. Yes, you can tumble along the way. But knowing that you have people who've been there before you, odds are you're not the first person tackling this problem for a business of your scale. You're special but not unique. So knowing that there are people out there to support you and that people have been there before but also that it's so rewarding and so fun to start something new.

00:36:29 Celine Daley: And I think, be open-minded. There are so many different roles in a company where you can add value and I think impact is so rewarding. And again, it depends on how you're motivated, but if you're driving impact, the company is growing. And if you have a small part to play in the growth of the company, it's pretty fun. So I'd say, like, stay open-minded. There might be different departments that you might be working in or leading that you might not have thought you would. And then know that you don't have to learn it all on your own.

00:36:56 Andrew Michael: Very cool. Is there any final thoughts you want to leave the listeners, like any way they can keep up to speed with your work before we wrap up today?

00:37:03 Celine Daley: Yeah, great question. I'm probably bad at this. I should probably start doing more of it. But I guess I'm on LinkedIn. I guess I have a really bad Twitter account. But otherwise, I'd be keen to share more on how we're doing, get the team more vocal about it too. But definitely give us a try if you haven't. DeepL, awesome translator, really high quality, very accurate. So if you're operating multiple languages, check us out and hope to share more on our journey on the website and other resources and time. So probably, like a pretty bad answer of, like the classic channels and maybe more to come in time.

00:37:35 Andrew Michael: Nice. Well, thank you so much, Celine, for joining today. It's been an absolute pleasure chatting to you and I wish you the best of luck now going forward into the new year.

00:37:43 Celine Daley: Awesome. Thanks so much, Andrew. Have a good one.

00:37:45 Andrew Michael: Cheers.

00:37:53 Andrew Michael: And that's a wrap for the show today with me Andrew Michael. I really hope you enjoyed it and you were able to pull out something valuable for your business. To keep up to date with Churn.FM and be notified about new episodes, blog posts and more, subscribe to our mailing list by visiting Churn.FM. 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 blunt, direct feedback by sending it to Andrew@Churn.FM. 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.


Céline Daley
Céline Daley

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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