How PandaDoc scaled their high touch customer success model as the company scaled.
Customer Success Manager
Today on the show we have Ryanne Doumet, Customer Success Manager at PandaDoc.
In this episode, we talked about what drove Ryanne to make the switch from media & advertising to customer success, how PandaDoc scaled their customer facing approach as the company scaled, and how they put together Customer Success decks to bring value to client conversions, using their own tool.
We also discussed the upsides and downsides of a Matrix organization, setting, tracking and measuring KPI’s, and we then dove into PandaDoc’s WISE framework, and why and how they build it.
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[00:00:42] Andrew Michael: Hey, Ryanne, how you doing?
[00:01:30] Ryanne Doumet: Hey doing well. Thanks. How are you?
[00:01:32] Andrew Michael: Very good. Thanks. Welcome to the show. And for the listeners Ryanne is the customer success leader, Panda doc, and all in one document workflow automation platform that helps foster scaling teams accelerate the ability to create, manage, and sign digital documents, including proposals, quotes, contracts, and more prior to Panda doc, Ryanne started her career out in media.
And moved into advertising, followed by product marketing before starting a first role in CS as an account manager at blue leads. [00:02:00] So my first question for your own is what drove you to make the switch from media and advertising to customer success.
[00:02:08] Ryanne Doumet: Ever since I graduated college, my first full-time job was actually in client services.
The industry was marketing and advertising and that's something I did for about four years and I really enjoyed it. But as I was looking for my next career move, I actually took a step back and assess. The skills that I like to using every day and my current job and notice that it actually wasn't directly tied to being in the marketing and advertising industry.
Instead it was more directly tied to being customer facing. So through one of the people in my network, I was presented the opportunity to join Panda doc and a lot of the skillsets in the customer success environment. Just lined up with what really drives me every day at work.
[00:02:48] Andrew Michael: And so you joined Panda doc.
How long have you been now? About a couple of years. You've been at PandaDoc?
[00:02:54] Ryanne Doumet: Coming up on two years in January of next year.
[00:02:58] Andrew Michael: Nice. And maybe just give us a [00:03:00] little bit of context as well. Like you're the customer success leadthere now. What is the size of the customer success team? How big is the company?
[00:03:07] Ryanne Doumet: Yeah. So the company has scaled quite a bit from what I joined. When we, when I joined, we were about 250 employees, and I think we're somewhere around 700 close to 800. Now, somewhere in that ballpark, we are growing very quickly. So if that number honestly changes every day,
[00:03:26] Andrew Michael: every day.
[00:03:28] Ryanne Doumet: Yes, exactly. As far as the CS organization, so the department itself has changed and grown, but. A little bit before I started, we were at 14 employees, not including our support department. And as of, I think a month ago, we're at 110 employees, including our support department. So in about a two year timeline from 14 to one 10,
[00:03:51] Andrew Michael: So that's some rapid growth there as well. What's been some of the challenges you've seen, like through this growth
[00:03:56] Ryanne Doumet: Yeah. So I think, probably the classic answer of scaling and [00:04:00] scaling effectively. We've done a really great job of keeping our culture at PandaDoc. It's something that I think makes us really unique. And thankfully we haven't had an issue culturally scaling but obviously being in a customer facing department scaling and making sure you're delivering.
Your promises to every client definitely comes with some challenges. As you scale quickly, it's all about how do you keep the experiences consistent with every client? How do you make sure you're not losing sight of what your clients truly want and what you can deliver to them? So I would say.
Scaling our customer facing approaches definitely proved to be a challenge, but one that I think we handled really well and we're still continuing to tackle and make great strides on.
[00:04:43] Andrew Michael: Let's talk about that a little bit more as well. Obviously this very quick growth, like at what point did you realize, okay, we need to put in some processes and to make sure that we like protecting this experience.
And then what were some of the things you did. To ensure that you had that consistent experience across board.
[00:04:58] Ryanne Doumet: Yeah. So at the time [00:05:00] that I joined was definitely an interesting one, so it was January, 2020, and it was, about pre pandemic. And I would say. The year of 2020 in the CS department was really the time that we buckled down and scaled.
I think when I started, we had very loose processes. But everyone was in a good way empowered to just make their own decisions, do what they thought was best. And luckily the team was small enough and the expertise was there. That was okay. But as we tried to scale, we, we needed playbooks and we needed scalable.
Conversation approaches with our clients. And it was in 2020 that I think we really started to carve that out. Something that we, something very particular that we didn't have when I started was really great decks to present to our clients that would help drive high value conversations. Two years later, that's like our bread and butter.
That's what we thrive on. It used to take sometimes two hours to prep for a client call to make it effective. We can now do it in five [00:06:00] minutes and still have the same, if not honestly, a stronger conversation than we were having before.
[00:06:04] Andrew Michael: Glen, let's talk about that a little bit. Obviously the one is like you realize growing really fast, you need to just put in some processes, you needed to get some playbooks together.
One of these things, I was all like having really good decks to share with clients. What does your process look like around that? How many are there is a single deck that everybody's using. Have you got one per playbook? And what was the process like actually getting that put together.
[00:06:27] Ryanne Doumet: Yeah. So we have quite a few different decks which is great because it helps the CSM identify. What's going to bring the most value to a client conversation. In the customer life cycle journey we'll have success plan decks presented we'll move into monthly check-ins or quarterly check-ins or the more formal quarterly business review.
We'll do workflow consultations. Our company is undergoing a huge migration from our old software to our new software. We have decks. Very specific to that. So we actually have quite a few and they all start out as templates. So it makes it very easy for the [00:07:00] CSM to start with that, and then iterate just slightly based on the client's needs.
So we have quite a few of those and the process in getting there. We started small. We didn't have all of those to start with. I'm pretty sure we just started out with a monthly tracking and a quarterly check-in and they were a few pages long, a quick intro of. Just a reminder on your CSM.
This is your account manager. This is our support team. And then moving into, these are what your success metrics look like. And this is what they tell us. Okay. The success metrics a year and a half ago were not as in-depth as they are now. And then moving into these rigor past objectives. These are your new objectives and flowing the conversation in that way.
So it started small and it's all PandaDoc deck, so we can use our own product for it. And that's obviously been very strong for us. Before, it was a lot of manual filling in. And then by integrating with other softwares, we're now able to take advantage of using our own variables and having things [00:08:00] automatically pull in and pulling in metrics automatically rather than, filling in 12 metrics manually.
So we've made. We've made quite a big adjustment and that's that kind of ties back to how it used to take two hours to create a deck. And now it takes five minutes. Cause so much of it is automated.
[00:08:15] Andrew Michael: That's very cool and definitely a great way to dog food and use your own product to save time.
And I think, and then, so originally four or five slides. And then just from there, it evolved over time. Like how were you feeding back the learnings and from the team, obviously quite a big team, everybody presenting there must have been quite a bit of feedback coming in as well around them.
And what could be improved? Like how was the process managed to get them where they are today? Like how frequently to change of novices.
[00:08:43] Ryanne Doumet: Yeah, we definitely are. We changed them less frequently now because I think we've iterated so much, they're in a very good spot. But back when we started, the team was a little bit smaller and the way they would work is more of a tenured CSMs would run a few calls off of the deck and then easily go back to their manager and say, [00:09:00] Hey, I've actually noticed in conversation, this doesn't flow.
Or we actually don't use this page instead. We're talking about this. And again, we're very much a matrix organization, our manager was very quick to say, go in there, edit the template, see how the rest of the team likes it. How does that work? So it's very much based on one-on-one feedback. As far as the conversation flowing in terms of the success metrics that get pulled in that's data that we analyze and look at, and as we've been able to grow out.
Our success metrics, as we've been able to make more connections as to what really drives customer adoptions is our metric. We weren't showing before that we should show from a management level, that's helped iterate the decks as well.
[00:09:40] Andrew Michael: Nice. So it sounds like you've also got a good alignment as a whole.
You mentioned as well that you're a matrix organization. Can you explain what that means? A little bit more in detail?
[00:09:50] Ryanne Doumet: Yeah. So matrix organizations help empower every individual to make an impact and a difference. You're not as. Stuck into this linear [00:10:00] organization where you as an individual contributor might not have as much of a say in something it has to funnel through your manager and the assistant head through that manager, managers, manager, and so on and so forth.
By being a matrix, it allows more of a free flow. Of thought and of change. And we're very quick to empower an individual contributor to spearhead a project. If that's something they're interested in, or we noticed that they have a strong skill in that, and by them spearheading it, we can then train an entire team on it.
It's just empowers every individual to make an impact in the business.
[00:10:34] Andrew Michael: And this was something that was a set up before you joined and joining into the organization. What were some of the differences you noticed, like maybe from some of the apostles,
[00:10:44] Ryanne Doumet: In terms of being an, a matrix organization?
Yes. Yeah. I think it, it helps a lot with alignment and just everyone feeling valued. And other organizations I've been at that are more linear. Sometimes, it just feels like you show up for work and you're just another fish in [00:11:00] the pond. And sometimes your opinions aren't as valued.
And that can really stifle creative thinking. Your individual contributors are in the trenches, they're at the forefront and they're the ones talking to your customers every day. And they are going to be the most aware from a firsthand perspective of what the issues are. So I think it really capitalizes on making sure that your customers are heard.
If you do have a matrix organization it puts a lot of trust in every person to voice their opinions and to talk about it. Would it make sense to make a change based on that feedback? And if it doesn't that's conversations we have to write and it just helps. Give light to how people can alter their thinking and continue to push themselves to not just think of creative solutions, but creative solutions that will foster customer advocacy, but also align with businesses.
[00:11:48] Andrew Michael: Nice. What would you say some of the downsides with this sort of structure? Yeah,
[00:11:53] Ryanne Doumet: there is a downside, right? Luckily for us, I think the upside is bigger than the downside, but the downside of a matrix [00:12:00] organization as we move really fast and sometimes maybe too fast for our own good that process will change.
And. Someone might not hear about it in all honesty. So it really goes back to, we have a lot of open communication, but because everyone's enabled to make changes, it's really important. Those are communicated in a timely manner. And that we get everyone's buy-in right. So making sure you're aligned, if.
Change, you're going to make no matter how small or big impacts another department that other department needs to be on board. So that's definitely something we strive to do is make sure everyone's involved. Everyone's aligned and everyone gets the same message.
[00:12:38] Andrew Michael: It sounds very contradictory in my head.
Like that one thing it's really fast. And then you make these changes on the other side, you need to get buy in from all these different departments. So how does that work out? Is it just a given that everybody's super open to constant change? Because I can see the other, the alternative view in my mind is that if you needing to get buy in from every department that you might be impacting, the touching [00:13:00] that could slow down and hamper the process.
[00:13:02] Ryanne Doumet: Yeah, I think the way that we get around that is really nailing down our OKR is so our OKR start at the leadership level at the C-suite level. And they're set every quarter by our CEO. And a few other key players and in setting our OKR ours that helps us know, okay. Which departments need to be involved to achieve that OKR.
And then we have consistent meetings and that's how we stay aligned. So that's how we just basically ensure that everyone's on the same page.
[00:13:32] Andrew Michael: Nice. Yeah, definitely. Like this is something most of the guests, which had two cows earlier is strong framework for alignment. It's like for my like opinions all on this speaking to all the guests over the last couple of years, when it comes to churn and retention, just having a really strong alignment is super critical to improving it.
And it typically starts with one of the company's main objectives and then having that alignment throughout the company. So very
[00:13:58] Ryanne Doumet: cool. Great. And I [00:14:00] think the other thing I'll add is. When we're making smaller changes, these aren't changes that are detrimental, that if someone were to hear about it, everything's going to go up in flames.
Our, okay. Ours are really our bread and butter. So even though we have smaller changes happening, they're not altering huge business decisions.
[00:14:15] Andrew Michael: Absolutely cool. Talking then about like business decisions and okay. I was as well as another framework. How has the team like measuring themselves in success?
Like what is your customer success, KPIs and how did you go about setting.
[00:14:29] Ryanne Doumet: Yeah. So right now this quarter, our team is being measured on adoption retention and expansion. Adoption is measured by the engagement events that we have with our clients. So what kind of conversations are we having? And we strive to have a certain amount of those per CSM.
Every quarter. That again, very focused on adoption. What's working for you with the product. What's not, how can we improve that? Then we move into retention. Standard, how much of your base are you renewing every quarter and then [00:15:00] expansion? How much of that base is expanding every quarter?
So retention and expansion are, I think the two key always in CS, and then we've added that adoption piece more so to drive behavior within our team, because we found that good adoption naturally leads to good retention, naturally leads to that expansion.
[00:15:18] Andrew Michael: And how are you tracking those metrics?
[00:15:23] Ryanne Doumet: Yeah. So we actually have a progress tracker that was built out by our ops team, love our ops team.
They help us with so much, and this is definitely one of them. So it's a spreadsheet that's just automated and it just updates consistently. And that is just automation. That's been set up between. Panda Docker and product Salesforce. We have a few other softwares that pull in and I just constantly updating those numbers per our team as a whole, and then per individual contributor.
So we can measure on an individual level as well.
[00:15:54] Andrew Michael: Okay. And for adoption and like maybe talk through what are the main metrics you're looking at [00:16:00] specifically then for each of the phases, adoption, retention, and expense. Yeah.
[00:16:04] Ryanne Doumet: So the adoption category changes a little bit every quarter, depending on what behavior we're trying to drive within our team.
Two of the things that we're mostly measuring are how many quarterly business reviews are you delivering per quarter? And then how many workflow consultations are you delivering? These are two of the decks that we have just found drive a lot of really good adoption conversations within the team.
So we're putting a big emphasis on that this quarter.
[00:16:30] Andrew Michael: Okay. And just for context was the setup that you have, like really high touch, low touch what is the majority of your involvement as CS team? And how are you focused as well? Do you have marketing automation or is that within customer success?
[00:16:45] Ryanne Doumet: Yeah. The way that the business is split up is right now, we actually have a customer success manager for every single account we didn't use to have that. It's definitely something we've grown towards. So every customer is assigned to someone w within our customer base, we do have it [00:17:00] broken up within cohorts.
So we have our upmarket segment, commercial segment velocity segment. And those are our name CSMs. They have a book of business that is assigned to them of markets about 70 accounts per CSM commercials, about 1 50, 1 70 velocity. You get into a couple of thousand, and then we actually, this quarter introduced a pooled model and that's going to be for also a V velocity accounts just, lower scaled velocity accounts.
And in that pooled model, it's obviously a shared book of Of accounts and that's our model now? Yeah,
[00:17:35] Andrew Michael: th this actually one thing I've noticed, like with a lot of companies that they started to scale the practice, it would start off with the one to one accounts I, Kevin, and the. CSM assigned to every account.
And then slowly over time, it shifts to more of a pooled model where you have areas of expertise like dropping in at specific stages of the customer's journey as well. Certainly. Interesting, just to see the different stages as the maturity of the organization grows as well, like [00:18:00] adopting different models around that.
And I think each one makes sense for different stages to what are some of the. Biggest pain points the team is facing today. Now, when it comes to customer success, like where do you see your biggest areas of improvements?
[00:18:15] Ryanne Doumet: Yeah. So I mentioned, we have our success metrics, which is something we call our Weiss framework and that stands for workflow insights, speed, and experience.
And within that framework, we have a set of metrics that we share with our clients. And these are metrics that there was a lot of research done around as to why did we pick them? Why did we present them to clients this way? And they've been a really amazing Amazing thing that drives really great conversations, but something that we're always looking to do is gather more data.
So right now, I think we're recognizing that there's still a lot of key data that we're not able to gather just yet. And there's been a lot of internal talks of how do we do that? What are those missing metrics? Why do we need them? How is that going to help every single department at Panda doc?
So I think one of our biggest struggles has been. Trying to get [00:19:00] those quickly, it takes time to build data points. And it's something that we want, we always want right away. So I think that's our biggest challenge right now is accepting that we still have some work to do in that area. And then what can we do?
To get those results faster.
[00:19:16] Andrew Michael: Yeah, absolutely. And I think definitely sometimes our customer success is one of the last teams to get data resources, and then analytics. It sounds like you've got a good ops team that's supporting you. You mentioned the framework was called wise is, this is as well.
You specifically talking about the different metrics that you share with your customers on the calls that you're having second.
[00:19:34] Ryanne Doumet: Yeah. So these are our metrics that measure what they're using within Panda doc. And through that, we have a pretty good pulse just from looking at the data raw of how an account is doing.
And then of course, we have a conversation of this is what we're seeing. Is this also what you're seeing internally. These are the metrics we suggest you focus on. Is this also your area of priority? So there are metrics that drive those kinds of conversations to give you an example of what one of those metrics are.
It would be your CRM rate. [00:20:00] So if you are integrated with a CRM, the CRM rate will show you if you're actually using the Panda doc, I-frame within a CRM. To create all of your documents, which is something we push heavily forward to best practice. So if you have a low CRM rate, but we know you have a CRM, that's always a big red flag for us of what's going on.
That you're not integrating. Is there something we can improve? Sometimes it's as simple as there was turnover with the client, and they're just not aware that was even a thing.
[00:20:28] Andrew Michael: Yeah, definitely with a customer champion living sometimes. This is again, not sometimes one of the big reasons for churn.
Nice. And you mentioned there was quite a bit of research that was done to get to these metrics. What did that process look like? Who was involved in that? Yeah.
[00:20:43] Ryanne Doumet: So that research started a bit before I was with the company, but it actually started in a few different ways. So the first thing was that it actually started as a project between finance and product and the purpose was just to gather internal data.
So it was just to see how is there, what's the product usage look like as it [00:21:00] relates to finance? So that was one project that was going on. Then there was another project that was looking at the state of deals and it was taking a look at external surveys. So sellers and buyers within G2 crowd, and then also looking at internal data specifically for our top 10% of patients.
Then there was another project that was with marketing. And that was called, I believe it was called something like brand promises which eventually evolved into our wives framework. So as these projects were separately being worked on there started to become this commonality between all of them.
And that's how it evolved. So it's all these pieces of research in different areas coming together with the main focus of how do we identify. How people are using our product, what our product's purpose is, and then relay that back to ensuring that people are getting value from our product and actually making it client facing as opposed to just internal data.
[00:21:54] Andrew Michael: Very cool. And how was the team aligning around this information? Like how you mentioned, there's a few [00:22:00] things. It became clear across the different studies and research being done. How did this all get pulled to get.
[00:22:06] Ryanne Doumet: Yeah. So it got pulled together a bit before my time. But to my understanding, I think there was just realization that a lot of departments were looking into something that could end up being the same thing.
So I'm pretty sure just every single department started to align on it. Someone, one of the leaders from marketing aligned with someone from product, from finance, from CS, and everyone just came together. I know towards the tail end of it. CS and marketing worked very closely together with the product team on how we're going to roll it out to clients.
And that was actually one of the first projects I worked on a Panda doc to give you a timeframe of when I stepped into yeah. When I stepped into this.
[00:22:40] Andrew Michael: Very cool. Next capacity as well. We are running a little bit short on time. I want to save a four question, ask every guest let's imagine a hypothetical scenario now that you're joining your company, Turner attention is not doing great.
And this year comes to and says you really need to turn things around. The company has 90 days to make an impact and you're in [00:23:00] charge. So the question is what do you do to reduce churn, but you're not going to give the obvious answer and say, I'm going to. Speak to customers and identify the biggest pain points and start there.
What you're going to do is just pick something you've seen work at your, in your past previous company and run with that blindly. What would be the one thing that you want to do to reduce churn quick?
[00:23:21] Ryanne Doumet: Yeah. What I would say to that is that I think it's really important to recognize that. A metric that's directly tied to see us. A lot of other departments take part and if a client churn.
So I would say alignment's the key here. It's important for honestly, every single department to be aligned. Was it a bad sale? Was it something product related? Was it something from support? It can, the finger can be pointed in so many directions. So ownership and alignment and having a one team wondering vision is the key.
So I would definitely start with alignment and start with having key stakeholder meetings and everyone being involved to really make sure we understand the root of the problem.
[00:23:58] Andrew Michael: Yeah, I love that. And I think it [00:24:00] definitely that's like the root cause of it all. Because as you mentioned, if everybody's pulling off in their own directions, there's not clear alignment in terms of what the goal is and what the motivations are.
It's so easy to be misled and optimizing for different metrics that have an impact on the overall churn and retention. Cool. What's one thing that you noted about general attention that you wish you knew when you got started with your career.
[00:24:24] Ryanne Doumet: That's a great question. I think, I would say it's accepting sometimes that it's going to be out of your control. I think your job as a CSM is to really exhaust every single option and to make sure you truly understand why someone's leaving. But. To not always take it personally, right? There's been scenarios where it's not product related at all.
It's not even experience related. It actually has nothing at all to do with your company. It's just that another company was maybe acquired or going in a different direction or completely changing their strategy. And sometimes I think to bring peace and [00:25:00] to make sure you stay focused on fixing the things you can control, you do have to accept that you can't control everything.
[00:25:07] Andrew Michael: Yeah, absolutely. There's definitely like a good lesson in that as well. One of our previous episodes with Emeric we spoke about it and I loved the concept as always that a lot of times companies, when they're trying to reduce churn or retention, they just look at the current number and they say, we're going to reduce it by X percent.
And then they go off and try to work on strategies. But. Most, not most of the time, but a large portion of your time, depending on the customer base, you're serving like a lot of times turn our attention outside of your control. So being able to quantify like what's within your control to change and impact in, what's not really helps you set the bar and the standard of okay, what's really achievable when it comes to reducing churn and like how much of it can we hold ourselves accountable to?
Because like you say, just sometimes it's reasons outside of your control that there's no chance, no matter what you did, you, weren't going to save that account. Yeah,
[00:25:55] Ryanne Doumet: exactly. I think knowing where to focus just helps you put your efforts in the right and the right [00:26:00] place at the right time.
[00:26:01] Andrew Michael: Absolutely.
Cool. Ryan, it's been a pleasure chatting to you today. Is there any sort of final thoughts you want to leave the listeners with? Like how can they keep up to speed with the work, any special announcements you want to share with us?
[00:26:13] Ryanne Doumet: Yeah, you're always welcome to connect with me on LinkedIn or reach out to me directly.
I'm always happy to chat and I think, just from a CS perspective, I think the biggest thing I would leave. Any leader with is empower your individual contributors to ask questions. I think asking questions to customers is key and asking the right questions is key. It's how you're going to get the most valuable data that you can then make really great decisions based off of.
[00:26:36] Andrew Michael: Absolutely. Very cool. Thanks so much for joining today. It's been a pleasure hosting you and wish you best of luck going forward. Thanks. Same to you.
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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.