How productboard increased retention by scaling a handheld onboarding experience

John Henwood


Director of Customer Success


John Henwood
John Henwood

Episode Summary

Today on the show we have John Henwood, Director of Customer Success at productboard.

In this episode, we talked about how customer success has evolved over the past 10 years, how Customer Success’s approach to increasing retention differs at a big organization VS an early-stage startup, and how John prioritized his focus when he first joined Productboard.

We also discussed why productboard’s Customer Success team handhold their customers through their onboarding process, how they measure success, and what was John’s thought-process when building out and scaling the customer success team at Productboard.

Mentioned Resources



How customer success has evolved over the past 10 years. 00:02:28
How Customer Success’s approach to increasing retention differs at a big organization VS an early-stage startup 00:04:05
How John prioritized focus when he first joined productboard 00:09:30
How segmentation helped them build their onboarding experience 00:14:30
Why Productboard’s Customer Success team handhold their customers through their onboarding process. 00:18:54
How the customer success team at productboard measure success. 00:24:19
Building out and scaling the customer success team at productboard. 00:24:19
The one thing John wishes more people would ask about customer success, but they don't. 00:24:19


EP71 |  Henwood

Andrew Michael: [00:00:00] Hey, John, welcome to the show.  

John Henwood: [00:00:02] Hey there Andrew. Great to speak with you today,

Andrew Michael: [00:00:04] It's excellent to have you ,  so for the listeners, John is the director of customer success, Productboad, a product management system that helps you understand what users need, prioritize, what to build and rally everyone around your roadmap. Product board has over 2500 customers, including Microsoft Zendesk and Sproutsocial to name a few.  And prior to Productboad, John was the director of customer success for America's field. That Houtsuite. And he's also the co-leader for pulse local currently. So my first question for you, John, is like, how have you seen customer success evolve over the last 10 years? And what would you say has been the biggest change that you've noticed?

John Henwood: [00:00:39] Yeah, it's a great question. And thanks again, Andrew, for, for inviting me on. And it's really, when I think about customer success 10 years ago, when I, you know, I was kind of getting into this world is. Then we really think of customer success. more as an accountant function. And we had this view of how so [00:01:00] we, you know, churn and retention started becoming a, the radar of, of SAS companies.

It's a real value driver for how do we actually go to market? How do we help increase customer lifetime value? And so w we took. The roles that we had engaged with customers at the time, which were primarily the, the sales account management roles. And we kind of lay it on this additional functional, Hey, maybe if we could help them get the best practices and, drive adoption forward, that might, should be a leading indicator of, of helping them continue as a customer for the long term.

I think that then evolved into. Much more of an integrated approach to how we think about different segments of the business and their role in how to actually drive value across the whole customer journey. And so that's where I think customer success started getting a bit more of a brand name within the organization and thinking like what role we play.

In actually helping deliver outcomes for our customers. And so [00:02:00] what role does marketing have to play in acquiring good fit customers? The same with sales from a marketing perspective, also what product marketing content, materials resources do we have guidance thought leadership to help me short customer is actually educated in understanding how to use the product effectively and from a support perspective, how do we go from being reactive to maybe a bit more proactive? And as you creating a customer experience, which lends itself towards having deeper engagement across the user journey. And so all of these, I think. Really being a big evolution in thinking about as cross-functional play in customer success, which I don't think was there 10 years ago.

And I think it was pretty easy where customer success, when we, when things are going well, everyone kind of holds a hand up and says, you know, well it's because our department help that. But when you know, things are going wrong with Chun, customer success is always normally the one getting a finger pointing [00:03:00] at them.

And I think that's still something that customer success is fighting. against, but it's definitely been, an evolution that I've started seeing, at the sea level.

Andrew Michael: [00:03:10] Yeah, absolutely. It's definitely one of those things that's come up from time to time on the show where like, who owns churn &  retention. It's typically like pointed towards customer success in organizations that are still trying to figure things out.

And, what the argument is obviously is like, there's so many inputs, like. Customer success probably has the least influence of it. But like, I like what you said as well as like they're the ones that are the gel and it almost feels like what you were describing was like, they would take it the components of each part of the cast, like the team's focus.

So I, from marketing or from product to, from support and really what the job of the customer success is that actual value delivering. from the users from the user's perspective. So, whether it's in marketing, it's like taking those functions of really looking at the content that we have to educate and help our users, whether it's in support to see how we can be a little bit more proactive in getting them set up and get to value and like within product, what are those features that we [00:04:00] can be helping to get them to be adopted to use.

So, Like you said, really being that glue. And then I think, unfortunately they still have that thing now where they're the ones typically being asked to be responsible with churn & retention, but ultimately it's like everybody's job. And, if anything like that, they need to be fighting with all the rest of the organization to do their jobs, to, to bend down, churn & retention.

John Henwood: [00:04:22] And yeah, I think we've definitely seen a big trend towards this getting better executive engagement now, cross functionally, and certainly a protocol. That's something we're trying to do. Olly is think about like different roles. Each leader has to play and make that a part of, you know, that target, around churn &  retention and, you know, one last thing I'll say on kind of.

Some changes have happened in the last 10 years is really if I think about the last two, three years. And it's one of the main reasons I actually joined productboard is kind of product led approach. Like everyone wants to be, you know, Twilio, Zoom, Slack, for example. Yep. And really [00:05:00] have this prop, that approach to customer success and how we deliver value organically through the product and bridge that gap between what organically delivers and what customer success helps customers with.

And that's been a really big initiative where I think there's tons of opportunities with product and customer success to work more closely and think about user journeys. And I think customer success has done a really good job in thinking about like our champions. And how do we help enable a champion that, you know, if I'm a customer success manager, that one person I'm working with, or maybe that sponsor, but I think as we move forward, we're also going to be thinking more about what the user journey, who is the end user at that company you're working for.

Who's used a number like 77 of the products you have and how do we help them. And that has to be like a partnership with product around how we help those end users get success at scale.

Andrew Michael: [00:05:50] Yeah, absolutely. Cause you can only speak to so many people that can only interact personal one-to-one and it's definitely like you say, I think something I've even notice accelerate more now [00:06:00] with the recent times and conditions is that sort of executive viewpoints and having alignments around general attention.

I mentioned to you before we got on the show, definitely. The show has had seen as huge spike in listenership. Now, obviously a lot more people paying attention to it. And I think definitely like the customer success components as well, has been getting a lot more attention and the attention it deserves of life, which is pretty good to see.

So have you noticed a difference for yourself that product board, or like you already had that strong mindset coming into it prior to Covid?


John Henwood: [00:06:31] think, we've definitely seen increased focus within the industry, like in the communities and networks that I worked within, within productboard I think we've got a pretty good culture of really focusing on churn & rentetion. And that comes from, you know, my boss, who's come to the revenue leader. Portal board was also my boss at my previous company Hootesuite. And you know, as we think about. Your organization. This is a key factor for me.

Joining product board is having an organization that I was going into that I know there would be a clear [00:07:00] focus on retention. Wouldn't have to fight some battles that so many others in the industry have to fight. And that's really important as you think about what organization are joining you, that there is this embedded culture and thinking about retention as a priority and not as an afterthought.

Andrew Michael: [00:07:14] Yeah, I love that. Cause I think for me, it's central to subscription business. I mean, ultimately if you're not retaining customers, you don't have a subscription business. So, if you, if it's not a main focus for the company, then you have to worry about that. Something's going to come short at some point.

so you mentioned Hootsuite's a couple of times actually, and I want you to ask. The question around this, is, definitely like from the perception, looking at it, like Hootsuite's a very big organization, very well established. you made a move now to Productboard, and younger earliest stage startup now, like, experiencing some good growth.

What are some of the big differences you see between the two now, when it comes to one customer success and then two a retention and the focus in the areas where you're prioritizing at the moment.

John Henwood: [00:07:56] Yeah, it's, it's a great question. And as you said, [00:08:00] hoot suite was a pretty mature late stage organization, pre IPO, ginger million dollars.

And. Funding and customer success was well over a hundred individuals on the team. And I think going from that to a smaller scale out like product board on the downside, I'd say one of the things you really notice when you're at a larger organization is the. Cushioning and resources that you have around customer success.

Like we had an amazing content team at HootSuite from a product marketing perspective. We had, you know, for every feature release for every. you know, trend that's happening with the industry. We had a great content team with China, so many things that we could leverage within the customer success organization to help our customers be successful.

And then as we also think about, you know, from a support perspective, a sales perspective, you know, we had very, we had a lot of breadth and depth within the organization, in how things were [00:09:00] built out. And so. When you go to a smaller organization, we have probably less specialization in roles, that lends itself to needing people, to have, you know, slightly broader roles.

and yeah, thoughtful about where do we want to start? Right. When you joined the earlier stage company. There's so many things that you can tackle and some of the things that you need to tackle and prioritizing what to focus on first is being like a really interesting challenge for me to move forward on.

but, but you know, when I was at Hootsuite whilst it was really well built out some things it's hard to, to move when there's like infrastructure and marrying to the status quo and. We built a really successful organization, but I often said that, Hey, if I could go back knowing what I know now about success and how that's evolved, what I think a good success organization could look like.

Once you've got over a hundred people in an organization it's pretty hard to actually rip out those foundations. And, [00:10:00] and so I was really interested to go back and, when there is no marrying that status quo to, build something from the ground up without, some of the same bureaucracy that you might get.

Andrew Michael: [00:10:10] Yeah, that makes sense. You said as well that you, now sort of having a smaller team, having to prioritize a little bit, be a bit more ruthless in the activities and the things that you work on. And you found this a bit of a challenge now coming in, at product board, deciding what to work on first, what did you decide?

Like what was the first things when you came in and said, okay, like these are the one or two areas. Like we really need to get strong on when it comes to customer success.

John Henwood: [00:10:35] For sure. I think when you're looking to build out a success. Function within the business. And anytime you're really looking at customer success strategically, I think the first question I have to ask is what type of customer success team do we need to be to get customers to the value they're here for?

Right. And that can mean different things to different organizations, different products, the level of maturity of the market. And so when I came in, I was [00:11:00] asking those questions, where are the gaps today? and I started by looking at who are our best customers. Like who's getting most in from the product.

why is that? You know, w what are they demonstrating watches, they taking, what is it about them that make them? So, and then on the flip side, like, who are the customers who are struggling the most, who aren't getting value, whether it's like photographically, or behavior based, engagements that are driving those actions, what makes them so, and so, based on that, Really, it was clear that there was a really big lever unsurprisingly, in our onboarding process.

And that's probably, you know, something that's not, a surprise to anyone is customer success, but I made a pretty big bet that we could. Dramatically reduce churn by focusing on onboarding process. And the reason being is port board is an incredibly flexible product, in a market that is still very much emerging, right?

Product management there, some set frameworks, but there's [00:12:00] still, a lots of discrepancies in how people think about going to market with a product management function. and. They were coming into the product and really not know knowing where to start. And they're trying to bring like bad or no process into a good product and expect a good outcome, which is not a recipe for success.

And so we've really focused on how do we help educate them, get them up and running and avoid that blank page problem, and start to help drive them forward.

Andrew Michael: [00:12:27] Yeah, absolutely. I think in terms of like impact, when we talk on the show and it's always like the three there's three main areas and improvements you can do to reduce churn, and definitely like onboarding is always number one, whether it's a, is sort of like a self serve or if it's a customer success, like a high touch model, it's always the number one area.

I think that comes up as like a great way to make an improvement and to see things. So talking specifically about this, then like, What was some of the things you started working on when it came to onboarding? from your perspective, [00:13:00] like, did you go high touch, low touch? Like you mentioned, you decided, and you like try to understand who the ideal customer was, but, what was the framework for like, trying to roll something like this out?

did you go about testing, different variations? what did it look like coming into Productboard?

John Henwood: [00:13:15] Yeah. So it started by to your point, like segmenting the customers. So we, We try to understand what experience does each of these customer segments need to be successful. And like, what are the natural break points where there may be different experiences required.

And based on that, we then, orchestrated the, these different experiences. And we're tied really closely at the hip with our growth organization. and I think that's something success teams to my earlier point around like being close to your product could really benefit from doing because they take an experiment.

Experimental mindset, every day. and so they're looking at like, what are. What are the asks set up moments that customers have in the product that lead to that aha moment, everyone talks [00:14:00] about, which then can lead to like a habit moment or customers. And so we did, a project called like smart touch.

We really looked at the data and tried to determine what are those metrics along that funnel in the user onboarding. And that was again, a cross functional initiative of product growth and customer success that tried to understand what those moments are and then how we can better get customers, to those motions through both like in productive engagement and outside of product engagement, like email.

Andrew Michael: [00:14:31] And then yourself, are you doing any sort of high touch customer success now purport where, setting up calls with teams on bullying specifically, or is it mostly low touch and really trying to make sure they have the materials and education and seeing how you can automate most of it.

John Henwood: [00:14:47] Yeah, we do. we do the whole spectrum. Sure. so we go from like low one to many approach, and all the way up to very high enterprise touch. And one of the things, you know, in building out the [00:15:00] customer success organization, Is building out a subsistence function. We've got an amazing services leader that what to previously hoot suite. And we have, a solutions architect function that she sits within customer success, which is a little unusual.

Normally it sits in sales. but what we found is, you know, we have this really strong trial motions as all of our revenue comes from a two week trial. Which may get extended if we're running a proof of concept with the customer, go through a sales cycle. And prior to me joining what was happening was customers were going through the sales cycles, onboarding into the product and going through a sales motion.

Signing a deal. And then we would implement a onboarding program at which point, and they may have been in the product for a month or two months setting things up wrong, or you get frustrated and we're off to a bad start. And so we just made a bet that we wanted to start our customer success journey.

The moment the customer's journey starts in the product. And so we made a big bet on bringing in a solutions architect function early in the process to [00:16:00] handhold customers through this onboarding process and essentially stop the activation. Well immediately. And that starts with, you know, a lot of the change management that needs to happen to onboard customers successfully onto the product.

I think that's something to bear in mind, as you think about your product is, you know, going back to that, what does it need? What do we need to be to make a customer successful? And what we really found was that it wasn't just a product to neighborhood we've really need to up level our customers and how they think about product management.

Right? So they have the processes that they need to then. Transfer that into the realities of the product. And so we get in that very early and help them think through those strategies, even created a, what we call the excellence consultant role, which is their domain expert who can help them think through those things that we can then put to practice in the product.

Andrew Michael: [00:16:51] It's very interesting that you say that send sort of looking at the stage at which you start interacting early. Cause I think similarly, this is something that segments, came, [00:17:00] bots and realized as well. the show like we interviewed, and, one of the things was that like adding a little bit of friction to the onboarding and sort of.

Not allowing customers to run ahead and get started and get it before that actually had a good plan in place or good education on how to use the tool effectively. A constant derivatively like actually helped increase retention. Whereas most people always like try to shy away from adding friction to any of the onboarding experience and they want to get, since you see value as much as possible. So yeah. Just saying that you saw something similar as well.

John Henwood: [00:17:29] Yeah. It's definitely a balance between friction and, you know, reducing friction and then also getting information you need to help the customer, and you know, end of the day, we should know better than the customer. We've onboarded more people into the port then they have so that we can be prescriptive about.

Andrew Michael: [00:17:45] And then when you sort of look at the, you say, you say you have the full spectrum of like, had such low touch and you're working with different customers and segments in different ways. Like. What does the process go like in terms of deciding how [00:18:00] you prioritize each segment, when it comes to high touch and low touch, did you have any specific bar that you set for yourself? Whether it was revenue, company size? Like what does the segmentation look like when you decide? Okay. Which type of business to serve, which type of, customer success experience.

John Henwood: [00:18:16] Yeah, it's a good question. And I think I see other organizations that different ways they might segment it. Maybe it's by ARR, maybe it's by company size or potential upside opportunity, or maybe a mixture of all those.

And we have different plans that people can sign up for with, you know, along those axes, like different ARR and different companies can sign up for those plans. And from my perspective, it was really thinking about like, again, do it. What experience, what's the biggest determinant on what experience the customer needs to be successful for us, that was the number of what we call maker licenses, which we wanted to call licenses that you can buy as a part, regardless of plan.

So regardless of which plan you buy, we will serve you based on how many, make, licenses that you have instruction [00:19:00] for, because we felt that was the biggest channel, how much. Handholding human interaction, how complex your implementation would be. And so we're, again, we're not being discriminatory against how you buy, whether self-serve or sales led engagement, like why would I ever penalize a customer because they self-serve online and actually we're a cheapest sale, right?

Like, great. Like I'm not going to penalize you for doing that. and. That was the kind of main dementia by which we segmented. And then we found kind of the lines in the sand based on what we thought we could a reasonably deliver at some unit economic cost effective way. and you know, so it will always attract as we go, well, what an up market?

Cool. so there's a couple of other questions then on top of this that I wanted to ask and, the one that, like, I think they both fall under the category now of like building arts and scaling the customer success team. So the first maybe to start with it on this then is actually like thinking about the context of [00:20:00] retention and having the discussion earlier that, it's often like lives on customer success, shoulders too.

Try and move the number, but ultimately, it's very difficult than to do on their own. when it comes to general retention though, what are some of the metrics that you're setting for your team and trying to get alignment across the organization for? And what would you say your team is ultimately responsible for?

Yeah. So we're responsible today, you know, from a lagging indicator perspective. If we look at gross retention, and that's our primary metric, I fully understand that like net dollar retention is like the North star metric from a SAAS business perspective and driving like valuation, everything else forward.

But, you know, net retention has, you know, a couple on this platform have one of which is gross retention. And so it was really. important for me to think about, I just want to move one piece of this at a time. Otherwise, from a leader perspective, your message can get, con convoluted. And so we're focusing mainly on how do we keep more customers.

And then as we [00:21:00] mature, we'll focus on how do we now we've kept more customers. How do we then create expansion motions? to move them forward and increase the network and gentlemen with that. So that's our biggest lagging indicator then from it's a leading indicator that we've created like programmatic health score for customers, which is built on a benchmark on our customer's engagement against peers.

So people within that tier that segment, as well as engagement against themselves, like what that POS behavior was that adoption. And then we have a CSM sentiment element two is qualitative. And so we're actually looking at like, what's the health of our cohorts going forward as a leading indicator, as well as, you know, how well are we engaging our customers?

How well are they engage with us as being like two metrics that we look at more of the leading indicator side. and you know, I, there was also some. I guess subjective elements that come into it. And I frequently get asked, you know, from a customer success management perspective, you know, what makes a good CSM and from a lead perspective, how do I know if I've got a good citizen, what to hire for what customer success management [00:22:00] perspective.

And we were talking just before the show and I recently created a CSM competency matrix, and I really think that as a. There's several things that the ideal person would have and would be demonstrating to know that, Hey, they actually thinks successful in doing a good job, like, and it's unfair to anyone do all of these things by the way.

so one, there would be a domain expert. They would really, they would have done the job of our customer, right. W you know, for us, but that's product management for anyone else, whatever domain you're working in. Manager, they'd be able to build relationships there, better mitigate poor relationships and turn those around.

They'll have some good product technical, background. They probably understand, you know, API APIs. we'll have some soft engineering background. There would be a great communicator. Yeah. And be able to take complex topics and make them simple. And it should create change. I'm fine. And how you communicate and there'll be a great check, you know, a change of project manager, [00:23:00] right?

Like how do we actually think about creating habit, forming, products and how do we actually help drive new habits with, individuals at different levels within the organization? And so there's all these things that, someone in customer success could be great at that people will have different flavors of those things.

And as you're building out your success organization, it's really important to think about like, Based on where customers are getting tripped up or where we're failing today. Like which elements of these are really important that we need to actually focus on where we want to reward people for doing good work, be like hire talent around or develop talent around.

And so. Yeah, it's something that I thought pretty deeply about going forward, with pro board around, how do we actually build our team that's well-rounded across all of these functions, so that we have these different expertise within the team that can help Uplevel others as well.

Andrew Michael: [00:23:55] That's sort of a similar approach, just like the t-shirt marketer that buffer, and a lot of other [00:24:00] companies have adopted where really identifying what are the key strengths you need within the team.

And then seeing like, Where the gaps lie, but also like that you also mentioned like looking at your company specifically and seeing like, which of these skillsets do we need to address it also, I'm glad you mentioned that, that not every person has a need to have all of these, because it almost feels like you described six different roles in one.

John Henwood: [00:24:22] Absolutely. There's no Unicorn with all those things. I'm very open about saying that, but yeah, as you said, like maybe you have your, you know, your product is, but. Dev so engineers, right. And that you might need to have a real product technical expert in that role, which is more of like a technical account manager role.

Yeah. That's great. That's where we're going to focus on efforts and maybe some other pieces are in the background for us. What we noticed is, as I said, like the maturity of the product management world is actually relatively low and where our product is somewhat ahead of the market. So domain. But T's actually some of the value.

Hey, here's how you should be thinking about your practices was really important. So I weighed that really heavily as we think about how to enable our [00:25:00] team. It's how do we give them the training, the guidance to help Uplevel themselves so that they can be a position to be successful. And so, again, just thinking about what that means you're organized organization is really important and building up your customer success function so that it's productive and actually getting the opposite. You're looking for.

Andrew Michael: [00:25:18] Cool. And those are like, sort of the core competencies that you look for then does that differ between sort of individual contributor, tracks and leadership tracks was the same?

John Henwood: [00:25:29] Yeah, I think, I've really like from going from individual contributor to leader, I think it's really important that you were good at the job. I think as you, especially as you think about like being a good coach for your people in your team and building trust, I think it is important that. You understand how these things operate and the people on your team know that you can do those functions. Yeah. And so the only other things I'd add foundationally as you go from individual contributor to leader is, you know, [00:26:00] you want to be doing the job well, part of the job above you, before you go into it, right?

You want to be able to demonstrate the issue, doing pots of those things. So anyone who's looking to go into leadership position, I'd be asking them like, how frequently are people already coming to you for questions off of coaching? Where are you doing these things already? Or where are you already thinking about.

How we can better improve our processes, our systems. And so that's really important to think about if you're an individual contributor role, how much is that all going to be happening so that you can just be top of mind anyone going, if there's an issue, opportunity open, and then you don't have the things I, you know, I, I.

You're thinking about some foundational traits as well. Like, are you a good team player? Do you have good time prioritization management? I use someone who can actually make decisions, right? But wouldn't you go into leadership role really important you, but to look at a whole myriad of options. Data input and be able to prioritize like all of these things, the keepings that means welcome today.

And then lastly, like, are you someone who takes accountability, right. Customer success. Like [00:27:00] every interview I'm doing customer success, you know, I'll ask them like, Hey, when, when was the last time the customer chat? And tell me about that. Why was that? If at no point in that story, does that person. Have any self reflection on any part they had to play and they blame on product or marketing and nothing else.

Then that's someone who probably wouldn't be a good fit.

Andrew Michael: [00:27:18] Yeah, for sure. interesting as well. And then talking about a company disability, actually, it's a good segue to the next question that I ask every guest let's imagine sort of a hypothetical scenario. That you've joined a new company and turn our attention is not doing great at this company.

And you've been asked to be held accountable. Ah, here comes to segue, fight churn and retention, but the CEO is looking to get some fast results and they're looking to sort of see the number move in the first 90 days that you're. what would you want to be doing with your time during those 90 days to try and make it a move on the number at all?

John Henwood: [00:27:55] Yeah. and so it depends on two things. One, if my [00:28:00] window, my tenure was only 90 days, I'm gone at the end of that 90 days, I would first do something completely unscalable depending on the volume of customers we have, where I would get myself and everyone else just to simply call every single customer.

We possibly have to understand where that challenge and where we could possibly help them. If I had a longer tenure in the 90 days, I'm thinking more like impacts, has to start with learning from the customers. So, I, I have to tell you what I did the port board, because that's the only fair way to, to say what I would do.

So it's taught by looking at what data do we already have. By customers about whether I'm being successful, whether or not, what do they need and mixing that with some quantitative and the quantitative data, right? When actually pick up the phone, call those customers, I'll use a system of record that maybe we already gather some of that qualitative input around where they're getting tripped up.

If I don't have the sufficient data. And one of the things we actually did a portable. I know you had a Raul from superhuman, recently was asked that Sean Ellis product market fit [00:29:00] question. so we surveyed, I said all our customers and ask them, you know, how disappointed would you be if you can only use product board?

You know, they're disappointed, somewhat disappointed, not disappointed at all. And then a followup question. What's the biggest benefit you get from port of board or what's anything we could do better for you? You know, we've gotten any 500 responses. I went through every single one of those responses, gold ton of good constituted data and comments as well as go with it.

Where we, then I shared that with marketing. Product growth sales. Everyone had an amazing understanding what's pad with the information we also have from product board itself, around product feedback and where customers need help to then actually understand how do we get more customers to. The key benefit that our primary customers are seeing.

And we started with the moderately disappointed ones. Those are the moveable metal, the ones that more likely to be able to change. And right now my whole team is focused on how do we move those into, you know, someone who'd be very disappointed if they can longer use Productboard [00:30:00] and that's where we're prioritizing our actions today.

And then the last thing I would do, I would just, we did do, was build a customer success mission statement. You know, I, as you said, I've been at a successful organization. It was much more mature as an organization that went through a lot of growth and it, customer success can get pulled into many different directions into being more sales oriented, for example, and maybe it's well supported and it's really important that you have.

some North star that as things grow as the team scales, that you have some center of gravity around what it is you're doing, why you're doing it. And so having understood all those things I would, I would build up and that's what we did a proper board.

Andrew Michael: [00:30:39] Very nice. I love how you've also taken sort of that product market fit and use it as a prioritization framework for which customers to focus on.

Cause I think, listening to that episode of Raul, it's something I actually also recently launched at Hotjar. As part of some work we were doing from a go to market exercise, obviously you're, I will talk spot in the context of [00:31:00] products and making changes and things. So it is a thing, it feels like a very, very useful tool to get a good grasp of how you can prioritize on new product changes.

But like you said, like which customers should you be focusing on? And, So I definitely recommend if you haven't had that episode, like listeners like arts and the sincere Al's episode was, it was fantastic.

John Henwood: [00:31:19] Yeah. That's a great one. He's such a smart guy. I love every, every piece of content he puts out.

Andrew Michael: [00:31:24] Yeah. I've the feedback we've been getting on that screen. Really good. so. I see as well, we run a little bit up on time here, John, like I is anything from your perspective, you think that we haven't really covered, and looking at your sort of career today, really like strongly focused on customer success that you would leave as like a strong message for the listeners when it comes to trying to improve these numbers.

John Henwood: [00:31:49] I think customer success is. What do you mean of things that have happened over many years and decades before? Right. It's not new. It's just an [00:32:00] amalgamation of lots of things. I think people can maybe overthink it. From time to time. And so I think just do the simple things excellently, right? Like how do we actually like future proof, a business by training for skills that don't change frequently, right?

Like how do we help our team be better communicators? I've talked about communicating complex things in simple way. How do we actually help you? No, our team be persuasive, right. And how to actually help make change with an organization. And how do we focus less on like downstream activities and more upstream.

I see so many things in success. Talk about like, you know, at risk plays or like what to do when a customer says they want to churn and there's those. Okay, that's fine. But like how many times when a customer says they want to win and you actually end up turning them around, like, not often. So I think the more we can go upstream.

And, if it's something that I would recommend to any successful organization,

Andrew Michael: [00:32:53] I like that as well. Just keeping things basic and really not over complicating things. Cause definitely, especially at [00:33:00] the earliest stage, you might have like million ideas here are different stories that really keep in core and keeping things simple is great.

I think maybe last question then for you for today is what's one thing that you wish more people would ask about when it comes to customer success, but they don't.

John Henwood: [00:33:23] What role can I play in also helping make customers successful.

Andrew Michael: [00:33:28] Nice, excellent. Well, like I said, it's been a pleasure having you today, John now is anything sort of final thoughts you want to leave the audience? How can they keep up to speed with what you're working on? Anything you'd like to share with us, before we drop off today?

John Henwood: [00:33:43] Yeah. for anyone out there that, always open to chat with the community, feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn, you know, pretty easy to find and always open to conversation with those out there in industry.

Andrew Michael: [00:33:55] Awesome. Well, thanks so much for joining the show today and we should be so now going forward as you build out the [00:34:00] team at Productboard.

John Henwood: [00:34:01] Awesome. Andrew, it's been great. Appreciate it.

Cheers. Bye.


John Henwood
John Henwood

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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