Growing Customer Success and strategies for getting buy-in
VP of Customer Success
Today on the show, we have Vanessa Neurohr, VP of Customer Success at Muck Rack.
In this episode, we discussed Vanessa's unique perspective on how comedy shows can help improve public speaking skills, and why understanding the product intimately is crucial for success. Vanessa delves into her journey with Muck Rack, offering insights on company growth and how clear lines of ownership enhance each stage of the customer journey.
We then dove into Vanessa's approach to building the customer success department into four robust functions: customer success managers, customer support, customer onboarding, and customer education. Vanessa stressed the significance of promoting oneself internally, delegating responsibilities, and showcasing impact to secure support within an organization.
We wrapped up by discussing the importance of establishing early connections within the organization during onboarding and how to bring the voice of the customer to new team members as swiftly as possible. Vanessa shared her experiences of improving help center materials and her discovery that the most engaged customers are those who write into support chat frequently and tend to renew their subscriptions.
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.
00:00:00 Vanessa: Try to really validate, you know, if a particular customer or a particular group of customers is not adopting a specific area of the product. Be curious about why that is. Try to figure out this information on your own and bring those ideas back to the broader team
00:00:17 VO: How do you build a habit-forming products? How do you… Don't just guns for revenue in the door?
00:00:24 Andrew: 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.
00:00:37 VO: How do you build a habit forming products ? 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 bootstrap. Profitable and growing.
00:00:50 Andrew: 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.
00:01:01 Andrew: Hey, Vanessa, welcome to the show.
00:01:03 Vanessa: Thank you so much, Andrew.
00:01:04 Andrew: It's great to have you. For the listeners, Vanessa is the VP of customer Success at Muck Rack, a public relations management platform that helps companies like Google, Pfizer, Zapier and Lingo build trust and tell their stories through earned media. Vanessa is also a co-founder of Thrive Network and is responsible for membership recruitment and event strategy. And Vanessa is a standup comedian who performs shows at Gotham Comedy Club and Westside Comedy Club in New York. So my first question for you today, Vanessa, is how does your comedy shows help improve your public speaking skills and what's a golden nugget you could share with someone looking to improve their skills?
00:01:42 Vanessa: Absolutely. I mean, comedy has been tremendously helpful for my public speaking abilities, particularly with nerves in advance of public speaking. I used to get so nervous before getting on a stage and I would be in my own head thinking about all of the different things that could go wrong. I for could forget exactly my what my talk track is. But with stand up comedy, it took me so far outside of my comfort zone and really the primary focus with comedy is to make people laugh. And that is so much harder to do than to talk about customer success. So once I did stand up comedy for the first time, I realized giving a business presentation is not all that bad. You know, I can get on a stage and talk about what I do every day and what I love doing every day in my job and it wasn't as scary. And so I think it doesn't have to be standup comedy in terms of the golden nugget that you asked for, but do something that you're so terrified of doing because once you do that very thing that you're afraid of, whatever else you're nervous about just won't seem as bad in comparison.
00:02:42 Andrew: Yeah, very interesting. I think, definitely talking about a topic like channel retention or customer success is way easier than making people laugh. Like I was told once a while. It's always good to try and get the audience laughing to calm your nerves and ease a thing, but there's nothing worse than trying to land a joke, like trying to make a joke that doesn't land at the start of your presentation and then trying to recover after that. That's happened to me once. But yeah, I think definitely putting yourself out there, putting yourself in a position, in different scenarios really helps you rationalize other areas as well. I don't know if you've ever been told this, like one of the things or like myself speaking on stage previous, I also used to get like all in my head, get really nervous, like have this fight or flight sensation and somebody basically told me like, if you just use like this pressure points here on your thumbs and you push really hard on these pressure points that essentially between your thumb and your index finger, that like it triggers like a pain response in your body and then your body sends that fight or flight mode towards the pain that's in the finger as opposed to like this nervousness and urge and it sort of helps calm and relax little bit. And it's actually something I still do to this day that it really helps like in nurses sort of situations just to divert the attention and divert that need to run or to fly. So I'm gonna go on this. So ‘cause I'm interested as well, like the public sort of side of thing, like how regularly are you doing these comedy shows? Like how do you balance this between that and being a CS leader as well, at a company like Muck Rack?
00:04:13 Vanessa: Yeah, it's a great question. I did stand up comedy before the pandemic and then once the pandemic hit, I couldn't imagine doing standup on Zoom. It just sounded like a rough scenario. Everyone's on mute and you're telling jokes and no one is laughing. So that seems incredibly painful to me. So it's something that I definitely don't do as often as I would like to. But now that every comedy club in New York is back open and doing shows regularly, my favorite workshop is still virtual and I'm really hoping that they go back to in-person again soon because I loved doing that workshop in New York and it's a great way to meet other people too that you wouldn't ordinarily cross paths with. So it's essentially a group full of other aspiring comedians. And I wouldn't even say I'm an aspiring comedian, but it's really inspiring to be among those types of people.
00:05:06 Vanessa: And honestly, trying to tell a joke in front of a room of people who are aspiring comedians is very intimidating. No one, no one laughed. So then once I got up on stage in front of a room full of strangers and got some laughs, my confidence immediately was boosted. So I definitely hoped to get back into it more, but I will say it has propelled my public speaking career in ways that I'm forever grateful for. And so that's really the primary focus is giving back to the CS community and outside of my role at Muck Rack, connecting with people who are getting into CS for the first time, trying to establish their path, what their career path will look like within the field of customer success. And then for people that have been in it for a while but are looking to get into people management, helping them through that next stage of growth, too.
00:05:55 Andrew: That's awesome. Yeah, I think it's what you mentioned as well about doing comedy to a room full of comedians as well, like super intimidating. We've had like quite a few guests on the show as well where they build, they're in customer success and they build software for customer success while they're in like research and research tools and they build for that audience. I think it's incredibly intimidating when you're building something or doing something for a specific audience that you're trying to reach as well. And Nice. So at Muck Rack, you joined in, was it around 2016? You are one of the first customer success hires there, what's that journey been like? So maybe give us a little bit of context like when you joined in 2016, what did it look like versus what does it look like today?
00:06:46 Vanessa: I joined in December of 2016 at Muck Rack and I was a customer success strategist at the time. So what that meant is I was essentially doing a little bit of everything as it related to our post-sale motion. I was the only person handling support requests that were coming in from customers. I was onboarding brand new customers who just signed up for Muck Rack for the first time. And then working with my colleague Ted, who's still here too on our enterprise CSM team to renew customers as well. So really I got my hands in everything when I started at Muck Rack and I really appreciated that, too, even more so in hindsight, I think it really set me up for success at the company and helped me deepen my passion for both our product and our customers. And so being part of the whole customer life cycle or customer journey, it really helped me understand how important it is to make sure that someone is ultimately responsible for each part of it.
00:07:42 Vanessa: So obviously it's not sustainable for one person to do everything forever as the company scales, thank goodness. But it's still important to make sure that there is clear lines of ownership in every stage of the journey. So someone needs to own support, someone needs to own onboarding, someone needs to own the CSM or you know, post onboarding engagement with the customer and then someone needs to own the longer term education of our user base and how we continue to bring more self-serve resources to them to help them optimize their use of our platform and ultimately just do their jobs better. I mean, that's what we're trying to help our customers do. I try not to be too Muck Rack-centric about how we want our customers to use Muck Rack. We of course have ambitions and goals for how we want customers to use our product and we love seeing customers who use every single feature of it, but at the same time, that doesn't equal success for some of our customers.
00:08:35 Vanessa: So we really wanna lead with the value we're bringing to a particular customer and making sure that we're doing that both in any sort of human engagement or interaction that we're having, but also at scale through our education resources that we're creating, too. And so the journey of going from being one of our first CS hires to where we are now with a CS department of over 50 people, it's hard to summarize to be honest, but every year the way that I think about it is every calendar year I'm signing up to work at a different company. And I don't mean that in the literal sense, but so much changes, right? And your business challenges grow and you're ultimately prioritizing different things as you grow. So in my mind it's like every year that's what keeps me here. That's why I'm so excited about Muck Rack and about continuing to grow the department is that we always have new work to do and it's ultimately helping us grow the business too. So it's a win-win for everyone.
00:09:27 Andrew: Yeah, I think it's super interesting like hearing your journey as well, like joining 2016, it's been what, like seven years now? Like seeing that journey go from like one person in CS to 50, over 50 team members. I'm sure as well, like the overall company's grown extensively as well in all other directions. It's not the easiest thing to do for like an individual. So I think like typically the way I see team members that I've ever worked with in the past, like they typically fall in one of two buckets, like one that really enjoy like the early stage, the create and becoming credit experiments coming up with new things and then sort of you have like the harvesters, those that come in at some point in the company and just improve and fix what's already been built and and grow from there.
00:10:15 Andrew: And like very not very often do you see somebody make a good successful transition from like that early adopter to like a more later stage team member. And then especially, certainly even like growing into a role like VP of customer success. So I'm particularly interested in talking about this journey actually and through that maybe we can talk about how the team built out from there as well. But what do you think were some of the defining factors in your year one and two when you joined that really helped you set you on this trajectory today to where you are?
00:10:47 Vanessa: Yeah, understanding the product, number one. I took a lot of pride in my product knowledge and I sat at right next to our VP of product at the time and listened to everything that they said and calls that they had with engineers. There were plenty of times, too, where I would be going deep into the product in a particular area and then just elbow him, be like, okay, how does this actually work on the backend? You know, I really wanted to understand not just the front end experience of the platform that our customers were seeing, but everything that went into it from the backend, too, so that if something went wrong I could start to diagnose things on my own without pulling in a bunch of other resources. And so I would encourage anyone who's joining a company early on to intimately understand the product, pride yourself on knowing it even better than the product team.
00:11:35 Vanessa: I mean that's really what I tried to work towards. And along with that, ask questions, be curious and don't settle for surface level answers or reasons that things might be happening. Try to really validate, you know, if a particular customer or a particular group of customers is not adopting a specific area of the product. Be curious about why that is. Try to figure out this information on your own and bring those ideas back to the broader team. Those are two things, both understanding the product and being really curious about all areas of the business that in years one and two really helped set me up for success. And then I know this might sound corny, but I genuinely love working at Muck Rack and I think that's a really important part too that can't be understated is that in order to be able to go from the early stages of a company to the scaling stages of a company, you have to really love working there. You have to believe in the product, you have to enjoy working in the industry that you're working in. You can't fake it. I mean you have to really feel it. So that's another thing too that I know not everyone has the privilege of finding that company that really fits who they are from a culture standpoint, from a value proposition standpoint. I feel like I check every single box at Muck Rack and I'm so grateful for that and that's why I stay here.
00:12:52 Andrew: Yeah, that is I think very lucky and it's quite unique to find a place that really ticks all the boxes. I think there's a lot of good places to work, but when it really matches the individual and then the company as well, like values and needs, I think that's something special. The first points that you make as well, like they sound extremely obvious. I join a company, it's my job to get to know the product inside out and then to try and learn my customers' adoption and what they use and don't use. But it's something that I don't think many like early stage customer success team members joining actually really do and really go deep on. And I think like what I'm getting from you is like, this is something like you really, really need to go deep, like in those conversations, like knowing more than the, the product team knows themselves as well so that you can be the expert of your product.
00:13:42 Vanessa: Yes.
00:13:42 Andrew: This is something I've heard as well from others like on the show that actually they started out as customers of the product and uh, then they got recruited to join in a customer success factor and then it became so easy to do the job just because of how well they already knew the product themselves. They already knew the pain points they could already empathize with the customers extremely, extremely well. So yeah, it's interesting to hear from your perspective as well on that. That's year one and two. What did that transition look like? So it was yourself in the beginning, you go deep on the product, you're really trying to learn and understand in this time. Like has the team evolved in the first one or two years? What are some of those transitions looking like for you?
00:14:23 Vanessa: Yeah, so great question. We definitely started to specialize functional areas within the team, not to the extent that we have today, but we started to separate out success from support and I think that's a transition that most SaaS companies do go through earlier on. But recognizing that to be successful as a customer success manager, you can't own everything else post sale. You have to be really deliberate about how you're bringing value back to your book of business. And if you also have to be on every single support ticket that comes in, you're not going to be successful and your customers won't be as successful as a result. So you have to get out of that reactive mindset in order to be able to grow with the company, too. So that's what we really focused on next is separating out the support responsibilities from the success responsibilities.
00:15:14 So what is the reactive stuff that we know we still need to do to keep the ship afloat, but then what's the proactive stuff that's going to push us forward and help us get to that next stage of growth? So that was our next move. And then from there, that's when I started to take on a leadership role within the company and had a smaller team at the start. But thankfully as our companies continued to perform, I've been able to grow our customer success department and now have four built out functions within the department. So we have our customer success managers, our CSM team, that's our largest function within the department today. Then we also have a customer support team, customer onboarding, and then customer education. And customer education is our newest function within the department that we're all really excited about at Muck Rack because it's helping us still deliver a premium experience to our small business customers without having the one-to-one onboarding resources assigned to them.
00:16:09 Andrew: Very cool. And we'll go into I think like the evolution of this as well over the last thing, I wanna just backtrack a little bit as well. So, year two and three, now you're starting to grow the team. You mentioned it was like the first time you had a leadership role in this capacity. So what did that original planning discussion goes like? 'Cause I think you're right, like every company typically starts like this where they have like one individual who's doing a bit of success, doing a bit of support, then the SaaS company said, okay, like we need to have this create specialties in this area. How did that original sort of process go and how did it come to the point where now you're inventing yourself into leadership role? What did you do to put yourself in that position to become the lead of this new team?
00:16:51 Vanessa: Yeah, I love that question, too. I can't stress enough how important it is to promote yourself internally. I think that's something that some people, when they hear that, they cringe. They're thinking, I don't wanna talk about myself. But you have to, you have to, especially when you're doing so many things at an early stage company, you have to be really clear about what you're doing and then not just what you're doing but what is the impact of that work. And if you can show that by delegating certain responsibilities to other folks on the team that you're able to do even more impactful work, then that's a pretty hard argument to turn down. So that's what I did. I really focused on promoting myself internally within the organization and then also highlighting some clear opportunities to say if I'm not in the support inbox all day, here's what else I could be doing that would have X, Y, Z impact. And some of it is a hypothesis, right? I mean when you're at an earlier stage, you don't always know exactly what the impact will be because you haven't proven that thing out before. A lot of the stuff you're doing is quote unquote for the first time at that specific company. But if you have really clear intention on where your focus should be, then you'll figure out pretty quickly if you have support within the rest of your organization to be able to accomplish that.
00:18:09 Andrew: Yeah, let's go a little bit deeper on this as well because I think it's one thing just saying it and there's nothing actually executing on it and then getting buy-in from the team and understanding. So what would like the steps that you took as well to illustrate to the team and okay, like, yes, if I stopped doing X, Y, or Z, could I impact the value? Like were there any specific artifacts that you produced to talk to the team? Was this meetings that you were organizing, like how did you illustrate this to them?
00:18:34 Vanessa: Yeah, it's a great question. And at this time, too, we still had an office in New York City. We are now a fully remote distributed company, but we did still have an office. So I had a lot of FaceTime with folks within the organization, too. And part of what I focused on upfront and still do to this day is how can I help others? You know, I try to be really focused on what I can do to make someone else's job easier. And that helps with buy-in too, right? I mean, when you're pitching something that will help you or your department, if you've gone outta your way to help others, it is going to come back to you in a positive way. So that never hurts regardless of what stage you're at as a company, that's always something that I would advise it, advise on focusing on. But in terms of more tactically what I did, I looked at different job descriptions to basically build out a framework of what my ideal team would look like in the next 12 to 18 months. I know I can't do it all, definitely can't do it all, but if we're able to build this team, then here's what I'll be able to focus on. And I know for a fact that all of the stuff we're currently doing will still be taken care of because I've appropriately delegated it to different future members across the team. So I would really think about what are your gaps? You know, what are you not good at, right? I'm not good at everything. What are the areas that you would like to add to the team that will make an impact? But you also shouldn't execute a hundred percent on your own either.
00:20:04 Vanessa: And so for every business it's going to look different. But for Muck Rack, we had such great brand reputation for being an amazing customer facing team and that's not something that our competitors have been able to say as confidently as Muck Rack. And so I knew no matter what, as our department grew, as our company scaled, I didn't wanna lose the focus on our customer in the post-sale experience. I still want any customer to be able to reach Muck Rack if they need help. I don't want them to have to go through 10 different forms and wait five business days to hear back from someone. It should be easy to contact Muck Rack if you do need support. And then there's proactive things we're doing, too, of course throughout the journey to enable our customers as well. But that was something I really focused on and made clear to the team that, look, I can't do all of the things I'm currently doing today plus building out the team. I wanna make sure that everything I'm currently doing is appropriately taken care of, but at the same time, I'm going to need people to be able to execute on these things and uplevel them too, right? I mean, I'm always looking to bring in people that will take us to the next level. I will happily admit where I'm not an expert in something and need some additional support. And I think customer education is a good example of that. I don't have an instructional design background. I could certainly try to develop courses for our customers, but I'm not the best person equipped to do that. So I wanna define someone who is an expert in instructional design and I brought them into the organization and now they're managing our customer education team. So I definitely lean a lot on the talent that I bring into the organization, too, and then also the folks that we promote internally.
00:21:45 Andrew: Very cool. So you put together sort of like your plan 12 to 18 months, like was this a document itself? Did you sort of have a vision for the team, uh, where we are today, where we wanna be, what are the skills? Did you go into any things like budget requirements and things like this putting together something specific? Is that for the proposal?
00:22:06 Vanessa: Yeah, that's a great question. I wish I could say it was that well thought out. I think at the time when you're growing that quickly, I put together what I thought would present the best argument. It definitely wasn't as thorough as it could have been, but you're also trying to balance moving quickly with being smart about how you're doing it. So I put together a decent proposal, but we didn't at the time have a CFO at the company yet. So I'm not saying money grew on trees either, but yeah, I think if I were to do that today it would definitely look different.
00:22:42 Andrew: Yeah. I think definitely as well. I think this is something as well as a founder myself like, and having been in this role at different companies that typically, you'll find very few people within the organization, within companies actually come with plans and ideas and like problems. Yeah. And typically the ones that really do this are the ones that get the buy-in and the ones that get able to. And it's just like that act of seeing the problem, seeing the opportunity, like framing it in a really good way that you can see like at least in the environments I've been like nine times out of 10 I've seen people just get by in and say, go with it. Because like really when you're in this early stage environment, fast moving, like nobody really has the time to sit and think or understand each and every aspect of the business or what's happening. And what you really want is others to really step up and take ownership and then you are gladly give them, so like what you basically outlined and said, okay, like here's the opportunity, here's how we can make improvements, here's what we need to do. Like I think that's almost like a dream set up. Hearing that is okay, go do it now. Like, uh, yeah, tell me what you did. So very cool. So you did, you did that like year one and two was learning the products starting to define and breakout like year three success. You mentioned four different departments as well that you've grown. Like at what stages did you roll those out over the like 12 to 18 months as you were building out your team? Like what came after the support team?
00:24:05 Vanessa: Yeah, that's a great question. So we had our CSM team reporting into a different area of the business reporting into sales essentially for a long time. And within the last year I advocated to bring our CSM team over to our customer success department. So that's where we were able to marry our CSM team with onboarding education support. So after support for me came onboarding, then we were able to merge together our CSM team with the other customer-facing functions that we had. And then customer education was actually established around the same time, too. So it's been part of the team I've grown organically and then another part of the team I've inherited. But even for the team that I've inherited, I've still worked here alongside most of them as they've joined the organization. So inherit is sort of a loose term for me. It's formally, yes I did inherit that team, but informally I already had relationships with most of that team.
00:25:07 Andrew: Yeah. And growing these teams out as well. Like it seems as well there was quite a rapid hiring phase as well throughout the organization as well. If like 2018, there was still two or three of you at that point before you started to...
00:25:24 Vanessa: Yeah, it is tough to remember exactly how many people we had at...
00:25:31 Andrew: But at least like let's say on average like 10 new team members joining per year over the last like five years. Yeah. So like maybe at some points like rapid sprints and so forth.
00:25:42 Vanessa: Right.
00:25:43 How have you managed like this as well, like introducing new team members in this rapid evolving environment as well with the team themselves? Because I think there's two things like people really enjoyed in early stage startup is this, like little bit of chaos, like doing a little bit of everything moving around, but as the company starts to grow and scale, like people start to prefer a little bit more structure and a little bit more direction and clear focus. And I think with a team constantly growing at this stage there is room for a lot of disruption continuously. So what have been some of the things you've tried to do to have a smooth onboarding experience for team members joining the CS organization?
00:26:21 Vanessa: Yeah, I mean I have to give a lot of credit to our people team at Muck Rack because they've done so much work on new employee onboarding and not just for customer success for any new person joining Muck Rack, but part of that journey is being paired up with an onboarding buddy, which is usually within your same department. So for example, if we hired a new customer support team member and they started tomorrow, they would get paired up with someone within our c s team. It could be a CSM, it could be an onboarding team member, it could be someone within our customer education team. But that pair up early on helps and that onboarding buddy will actually reach out to you as the new employee before you start at the company. So already coming in day one, you feel like you have someone on your side who's really looking to help you succeed. So that I think goes a long way. And then they also have a lot of events monthly that they plan. We have a budget for meals that we can order and have virtual catch ups with people and just eat lunch with someone on Zoom at the same time. And then within the CS team specifically, we leverage Gong for our customer conversations. And so part of it is just helping bring the voice of the customer to our new team members as soon as possible. I always say to new hires that 90% of what you need to learn is what you'll learn through onboarding, but that final 10% you're going to learn through executing in your role through talking to customers, through getting to know other people in different departments here. So you don't have to aim for perfection, you don't have to, by the end of your onboarding, be a hundred percent ready with all of the knowledge, just try to get to 90%. That's the goal. And then again, the final 10% you learn by doing. So that's something that we try to stress throughout the new employee onboarding as well. So it's a combination of helping them make those connections early on within the organization so that they feel like they have an internal network or internal support system that wants them to succeed here. And then bringing the voice of the customer to them as soon as possible, both to create customer empathy as well as develop more understanding of the product and how people are using it ultimately.
00:28:31 Andrew: Yeah, very nice. I think like having a really good robust onboarding experience with team members is critical to helping like that smooth transition and uh, as well, I think like at the early stages as well, it adds so much more value as well to really help enforce and build that culture as well that you wanna be throughout the organization. I like the idea of the buddy system as well, like easing that transition. Like one of the things we used to as well emphasize at Hot Jar, we had a similar system where it's like a two week onboarding experience. First week was like the ops onboarding history of Hot Jar values, like all these sorts of things. And then second week would be department specific and typically what you would see is like team members would join and after day three they were like, okay, like what am I gonna do? What's my job? Gimme a task and then you'd be like, your job for this week is to learn the company inside, like spend the time. Like this work never ends. I can tell you that one thing for sure, like it's always gonna be an endless amount of work for you to do, like use this time effectively as much as possible to really immerse yourself in the company, understand the culture, get to meet team members, like really spend the time to create these connections because like I think more often that people try to like hit the ground running before they're actually ready and they've tied their laces or anything like that and spending their time to do really good solid onboarding experience then really helps you like to nail their 10%, like you say, in the doing phase, like having the base knowledge locked up. Very cool. So we'll talk a little bit about the transition, like how you set the team up the different phases. Now you have four teams today. What's next for the team? Like what does the next 12 months look like for you at Muck Rack? Why is it gonna be exciting? What's new about it?
00:30:15 Vanessa: Yeah, I mean we'll definitely keep investing in the teams that we have today, but something new that I'm excited to add to the team is community and a focus on how we, not specific to Muck Rack as a product either, but how do we bring more of our customers together in a dedicated forum for them to share peer-to-peer insights? And again, it can go beyond Muck Rack as a product. Actually that would be preferable. We want the community to bring value to the industry, not necessarily just to customers of Muck Rack. So that's something that I'm really excited about. We're putting a lot of research into that right now, validating what our customers and the industry would really look for within a dedicated community site. But we'll also be doing a lot more customer travel this year, which is something I'm so excited to get back into because again, one of those things that before COVID, it was like every month I was going to a different city and meeting with customers and you just get so much value out of those face-to-face connections with customers.
00:31:15 Vanessa: So we have mapped out, you know, seven to 10 cities that we're gonna be targeting in the next six to eight months in terms of customer travel. So I'm really looking forward to that and you know, that plus community I think will be really impactful for this year. And then in addition to that, we just brought on a new chief revenue officer. His name is Brian Hamlin and he spent some time at Gainsight, which is really exciting. He's a huge believer in customer success and, and that connection between sales and customer success too and making sure that we're all one team, right? I mean, for the customer there's really no notion of like sales versus customer success. I know internally that's how it can feel, but externally we wanna make sure we're providing a really strong and uniform experience. So I'm really excited to have him on board and partner with him too through the next 12 to 18 months.
00:32:03 Andrew: Very exciting. So I see we're running up on time, so I wanna make sure I leave time for two questions. Ask every guest. First question. Let's imagine a hypothetical scenario. You join new company, churn retention's not doing well at this company at all, and the CEO comes to and says, "Vanessa, you're in charge. You have three months to fix this. What do you do?" The catch is, you're not gonna tell me I'm gonna go speak to customers and figure out the pain points or look at the data and then start with whatever the biggest issue is that I see you're just gonna take a tactic that you can deploy immediately and run with that blindly hoping it works at this company. What would you do?
00:32:39 Vanessa: That is a good question. I feel like I'm on Survivor or something. This is high stakes, but knowing that I can't speak with individual customers or study the data, what I would do is honestly look at what help center materials we have. I feel like a lot of companies forget about their help center, they kind of abandon it at a certain stage or they don't keep it as up to date as possible. And so some of the reasons your customers might not be successful with the product is because you don't even have the right product documentation to make them successful. I mean, there's the added layer here too, of how technical is your product? Is it the type of product that people can just log into and pretty much start using without any sort of implementation or onboarding or support? Or is it the type of product that has like a three to six month implementation period? So that would definitely influence my answer a little bit too. But I would say beef up your help center, make it something that people can rely on a hundred percent because if it's not accurate or if it's not fully built out, then you lose credibility pretty quickly. And so that can have some negative brand impact too, even if no, that's obviously not your intent.
00:33:51 Andrew: Yeah, and it's something you probably won't even realize as well that it's an issue. It'll be very difficult to understand. Nice. What's one thing that you know today about children retention that you wish you knew when you got started with your career?
00:34:03 Vanessa: Hmm. I love that question. One thing I wish I knew is that actually the customers that write into your support chat the most are not always the ones that cancel. When I first started at Muck Rack, I thought about it through the lens of, "Oh, if someone's writing in all the time with critical feedback," or you know, I wish the product did X, Y, Z, I am like, "Oh no, they're gonna cancel." But to be honest, those are usually the customers that renew. And what I've realized over the years, too, is that the customers that write in the most to your support chat, for better or for worse, they're engaged with your product. They care, they want to use it and want to be an expert in using your product. And that's usually why they have critical feedback to share with you too. So that's something I wish I knew is to not worry so much about the customers that are writing in all the time. Actually, the ones that I should have been more worried about were the ones that we didn't really hear from.
00:34:55 Andrew: Absolutely. Yes. I think that's like the immediate sort of mindset is, "Oh, someone's complaining it's a problem." Yes. But like this is something as well, like if people aren't complaining about your product, it's a problem. Like it means nobody cares enough to complain and that's when you exactly need to worry. So I like that. Is there any final thoughts that you wanna wrap up with today to share with the listeners like how can they be keep up with your work or... yeah.
00:35:20 Vanessa: Yeah, I definitely encourage anyone to connect with me on LinkedIn. I know I mentioned it in passing earlier in the interview, but I really do love connecting with other customer success professionals, especially those that are a bit earlier in their customer success career. And I love helping people figure out what's next for them, them too. So we'd definitely encourage any LinkedIn connections and conversations from here.
00:35:41 Andrew: Very nice. And we'll definitely make sure to listen to any mentioned resources that we're in the show notes today so you can catch up with Vanessa as well. From there, thank you so much for joining today. I really, really appreciate your time and wish your best of luck now as you go rolling out these new initiatives in 2023.
00:35:59 Vanessa: Thank you for having me, Andrew, really appreciate it.
00:36:01 Andrew: Cheers.
00:36:09 And that's a wrap for the show today with me,
A new episode every week
We’ll send you one episode every Wednesday from a subscription economy pro with insights to help you grow.
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.