How to set up Customer Success for churn shattering results
Jay Nathan & Jeff Breunsbach
Jay Nathan & Jeff Breunsbach
Today on the show we have Jay Nathan & Jeff Breunsbach, managing partners at Customer Imperative.
In this episode, we talked about what they do at Customer Imperative, the biggest difference Jay and Jeff see between the way Customer Success teams operate, and how their quick Time to Value process helps their clients see tangible results in just 30 to 45 days.
We also discussed the process they use to put together a customer health score and what to avoid, why companies “push back” on customer success, and who should own customer retention within an organization.
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 on Andrew@churn.fm. Don't forget to follow us on Twitter.
Andrew Michael 0:00
Hey, Jay. Hey Jeff, welcome to the show.
It's great to have you for the listeners, Jay and Jeff are the managing partners of custom imperative, a purpose driven company focused on customer centric revenue growth for software as a service software and technology businesses. They both have long standing careers and customer success holding director VP and SVP roles at companies like Blackboard people meta tag levelling and more. In between them, they've helped over 50 teams define structure and implement best in class Customer Success practices that drive growth for these companies. And today's also a special episode because I don't think you've ever had two guests on the show before. So we experimented with a new format and I'm excited to see how that goes. So my first question for you too, is what is it like working together?
Jay Nathan 0:50
Well, I will, I'll start. This is Jay. Thanks for having us on Andrew. You know, when I I initially started the company As a you know, an individual, sole proprietor I guess you would say, back in early 2017. And until you very confidently that starting a company by yourself is a very lonely place to be. So, you know, when Jeff joined the team, not you know, not too long after I launched the company, it It was great to have somebody who would go toe to toe with me every day on this and it was genuinely interested in helping to identify the kinds of problems that we were going to solve a business and, you know, work hard every day to solve them. So, you know, for me, it's been it's been fantastic to have a partner in crime and just just certainly been a good partner as we've gotten to, to know one another and work together over the past couple of years. let him tell you the bad sides.
Andrew Michael 2:02
Yeah, I think definitely as well like that. So part is a lonely, lonely place to be. So having somebody there to be by your side is a big, big help. What's it like Jeff?
Jeff Breunsbach 2:12
Yeah, so I think from the opposite side, you know, I've always just envisioned, you know, starting a business or kind of operating a business at the highest level. And I always like to joke that, you know, I didn't necessarily have to have the hutzpah to kind of go do it on myself by myself and launch a company solo. So it certainly, you know, kudos to Jay for doing that. And I think it's been great though, because this is the, you know, from my side of things, it was great to walk into the door and Jay never really treated me as anything but a partner from day one. So, you know, I think we've always looked at this business, as we are, you know, kind of going to do this together and we see ourselves being a part of this company for a long time and growing it. So I think that's been a fun aspect, you know, and I actually got to know Jason Nine to 12 months as he started the company, and so we actually bothered him for 912 months or so, you know, getting coffee every single month hearing a little bit about his story each and every time. And, you know, throughout that time is when we really built a relationship to kind of give us a launching point in order to do this. And so, to me, that was just a really good perspective that maybe you know, if people are out there thinking about this is how can you get to know kind of a founder early on, and try and build a relationship before you even walk in the door? That was really good for me to do.
Andrew Michael 3:34
Yeah, I think like having that understanding and fitness character ism, this person you're going to be working with is critical, especially when you're going to be working to the building a company because you go through some hard times you go through some good times and making sure you understand the character of that person and how they're going to respond in both is always is critical, I think. So Jay, what was the inspiration and I guess what started you and drove you to get started with building Customer Imperative? Where did the idea come from? And maybe give us a little bit more context into what you do?
Jay Nathan 4:06
Yeah, sure. So, you know, the idea, I guess, was born out of the, the, you know, I had, I had sort of run my course after, you know, being with a company that sold to a larger company, you know, did almost a year with that company that had purchased and, you know, it was it was time for that, to that, that phase to pass. And so I knew I had wanted to start a company. And at one point, I thought, hey, I want to start a software company, maybe even a CS platform company, and, you know, took a look around in the market and there were a lot of those out there. There still are a lot today and
Andrew Michael 4:48
Jay Nathan 4:50
Yeah, yeah, it's very saturated. And, you know, it's also a little bit about it's, it's a disorganised market, and that's partly because it's just it's a very Early Stage market that's going through some maturation right now. So I decided that consulting was the quickest way to sort of get to a reliable revenue stream. And I'm really glad that we went that direction because it's allowed us to learn a lot. We've worked with large and small companies, we've worked with companies that have large clients, and we've worked with companies that have small clients. And, you know, through that whole process, what we've validated is that customer success operating model, it works. It's consistent across all those types of companies, but the way it's implemented is slightly different. So we've gotten to see a lot and learn a lot about this market and what works and what doesn't and that's just been really rewarding. The way we work with our clients is really you know, we work on three different levels. One is what we call strategy and planning, two is enablement and three is operation, operational deployment and So that's everything from, you know, customer journey mapping playbook design, all the way to like, Hey, how are we going to deploy this into Salesforce? How are we to configure gain site or configure the platform that we're going to use to manage the business? How are we going to how are we going to turn these processes into things that can be measured and monitored? So we really have tried to take a broad approach in terms of helping teams operationalize customer success. What we're focused on now is data. And so a couple of things, you know, one is smaller companies that are typically in the one to $10 million range, they're they're forming, they're they're growing, they're getting funded. They have a challenge in that they don't always have that they need to make decisions. So our focus is with those smaller companies is we help them put the initial systems in place that get them some visibility into their customers, their health of their customers, their renewal base there. Revenue base. And then with larger companies in the, you know, 10 to $50 million range, we're really helping them make sense of all the data that they have. They have a lot of systems in place already. But typically those systems aren't talking to each other. The data is disparate each department is using information that they have and data that they have from the tools that they use to make their own independent decisions. And we try to bring all that together. So that's, but that's, that's a little bit of an overview of where we have been and where we're going.
Andrew Michael 7:33
And I send I think that's actually one of the things I wanted to touch a little bit on today's I think the idea of customer success has so many different meanings for so many different companies and the way they go about implementing and thinking about it as well can change drastically and as you've helped over like 50 different companies now, you must have seen like quite a big difference in the way teams operate depending on sort of their stage of growth or the market. They're going after their target audience. So, Jeff, like, what would you say is like some of the biggest differences that you see between the way Customer Success teams operate?
Jeff Breunsbach 8:07
Yeah, I think, you know, two things come to mind initially, you know, to Jay's point I think what we've certainly recognised is that for some of the early stage companies that might be, you know, one to $10 million in ARR right now, they are certainly at a kind of a different level of customer success than if you start getting into the 20 3040. And even higher range of ARR. You know, the biggest difference there is when you're one to $10 million, you're kind of less specialised, you don't necessarily have specific teams, maybe for onboarding that's different than customer success that might be different from traditional services and support. It all kind of is blended together, I think, from what we've seen in that early stage. And so as you start maturing, and as you start, you know, getting more success in gaining more ARR and client market share, you essentially are starting to see A specialisation of roles where you're going to have you know, more specifically an onboarding team, you might have a customer success management team, maybe, you know, sales plays a role and accounts as they go forward. So I think just kind of where that where that customer is, in terms of their ARR and just maturity of organisation, I think is one of the first differences we see. And I think the the second one that comes to mind is just who they're serving as their end users, you know, enterprise customers who are used to buying enterprise grade software and having specific experiences, you know, you you hear all the time kind of, quote unquote, white glove service. If enterprise organisations are used to that there's a very different way that we need to go engage with those customers than if we are selling to, you know, early stage companies or we're selling to SMB or mid market. It's just kind of different motions that happen. I think there's different skill sets that you bring into those conversations. that we've seen, so I think, you know, differences between kind of where they are in terms of ARR and then just differences in where they're really serving the customers that they have from their customer base, I think is just the the two big vectors that we always see is main differentiators of how Customer Success is deployed.
Andrew Michael 10:17
Yeah, and I think that as well like the high touch first low touch models when you do when you see the different types of customers, that and the areas of specialisation is something actually discussed quite in depth. Brian lafell, from Looker before, I think just off there were acquired by Google just before like as the company he was there one of the first customer success reps and eSports scale to the point where they got acquired and that was one of the biggest learnings I think he realised and similar to the way you mentioned are like sort of the stages of growth and the revenue ARR are had a good timing in terms of who they introduced into the team in which areas of specialisation they started going to. So I'm intrigued in as well like, what is the typical process look like for you when going into company? And, like you, you talked about like a combination of strategy and execution and making sure that these playbooks are actually things that customers feel the impact of at the end of the day. What could be like your, like a term of contract or the engagement that you work with a client? And then when would you start to see sort of some of the work and the strategy being implemented and executed upon?
Jay Nathan 11:26
Yeah, I'll jump in on that one. Andrew. So our goal is to get just like our clients, our goal is to get time value to be as short as possible for our customers. So a lot of come time to stop and think through big, you know, pie in the sky strategy. So, it really over the past year, we've pivoted much more, much more predominantly toward it. Quick Start, you know, just foundational kinds of processes. So, oftentimes, we're working with the CS team directly to implement core playbooks that you need one way or the other, right? You need to know how to do success plans with your largest clients, you need to know how to run an EBR in a basic health framework, so you can assess customer health, you need to know when your renewals are coming and be able to manage that programme. So a lot of time putting there and then you know, companies are seeing results out of making some relatively minor changes to their processes in you know, 30 or 45 days it doesn't take that long. Then there are some bigger problems that we we go into solve. At times you know, you need to get the the sales to service or sales to customer success transition worked out, you may need to improve the way that customer success and product are working together. Customer Success services support There's all kinds of different interdepartmental challenges as well. And that's where some of the more strategic work around roles and responsibilities customer journey design, and those sorts of things come into play for us, and how we work with our, with our clients. But, you know, ultimately, we're trying to get to some kind of tangible outcome in 30 days or less, meaning we have a process in place and our team is trained on it that we did before. We're trying to do that as quickly as possible now, because just just like you're just like your customers, right? We want our customers to have a quick time to value because it actually makes a huge difference in terms of their perception of our work with them. And we've done it the other way, and it's not good. So,
Andrew Michael 13:45
yeah, and ultimately sort of customer attention.
Jay Nathan 13:50
Yeah, exactly. Exactly.
Andrew Michael 13:52
So I mean, definitely what I'm hearing as well and it's nothing new and it's obviously the whole purpose of the show is to try and illustrate like how nuanced of a Problem churn and retention isn't obviously Customer Success playing a big part in retaining customers and making sure they successful. And just what you sort of highlighting now through this discussion is that there's just so many different nuances to customer success alone. That is done in so many different ways. But you mentioned a couple of things that may be consistent across the board, and you touched on things like a health score, for example, is something that doesn't matter the sort of the stage of the company or which audience you're going after, it's important to understand how healthy your audience is, because that's going to be an indication and inputs in towards some of the output being churned at the end of the day. What would the process look like for you then like trying to understand and putting together a health score for companies like, what data points are you typically going to be looking at and maybe give us an example for a company that's like one to 10 millionaire or they're still figuring things out hasn't got all the data they need? And then maybe one way you come into a company that just has all the data And what would be what would that look like for you to?
Jay Nathan 15:04
Yeah, yeah, it's a great question like, what is the process for how you go through this? Um, you know, a lot of times the the information that you need to understand customer health is is
it's very close, right? All you have to do is ask, typically you talk to customers to get a feel for what, what their perception is of your product in your service delivery, and your interactions and your relationships with them. And that'll tell you a tonne, right? We like to dig into We start by understanding what the team thinks. So what what are the most predominant reasons that you think that customers stay or leave, and you want to look at both success and failure. So we get that from our team. First, we also asked customers and sometimes we do that on behalf of our clients so that we can get an objective perspective from them on what it is that's working and what is in what's not. Then one of the one of the biggest challenges we see is that there are some health scores out there. And I think it's easy to fall into this trap that are just so complex, right? There's so many different factors, you know, support cases, the number of outbound outreaches, from a CSM, the number of conversations that I've had the health of the business, there's so many different factors that could have that could go into it, that it's easy to overthink it, and then create a a single score, that's almost meaningless. So we really go through a prioritisation process of saying, Okay, what are the top three, four or five things that if we get these right mean the customer is going to be really healthy. And if we get them wrong, the customer is going to actually be at risk. So there's a prioritisation process. And then how do we figure out how to measure that? Is it something that we have to track manually? Is it something that we can get out of our system? or out of our product data. And then I think after you sort of define those metrics in the data, then you have to make sure that data live somewhere and you can validate what you thought was right. Again, back to this theme of data, the more you can, you know, put data and information around in tooling around your, the way you're looking at customer health, and then go back and make sure that it's, it's matching the reality of the customers that stay or the customers that leave, then that's, that's good, right? You always want to go back and validate these things. We don't think that the health score is ever really done. being validated and created and refined. It's just, you know, it's it's an ongoing thing. Yeah. So Jeff, I don't know if you'd add anything else to that. But that's just some of the steps that we we go through there.
Andrew Michael 17:52
Yeah, I think as well. It's just like product market fit is something that's constantly evolving and the value that you're delivering to your claim is something it's like a moving target you always do. To try and hit I think the same time, obviously, with that movement come to your customers health school movement. But Jeff, yeah, like, if you want to add anything else you'd like to hear maybe a little bit more of a practical example of like a specific use case of a company and what sort of metrics were chosen and why. I think as well like, talking, like at a high level, it makes total sense. But then just putting a little bit more into practice can help others think about how this would be in their business as well.
Jeff Breunsbach 18:27
Yeah, so I think one company that we've worked with recently, who was actually standing up customer success, they were in the healthcare sector, and you know, they've actually gotten a big influx, they were kind of on the side of doing some healthcare video to help, you know, with the ease of the transition of getting patients to be seen by doctors and so really trying to stand up, you know, what their customer success practice looks like. And for that, it was, you know, really trying to look at some of the basics For where they were right now, they're early stage company, they're, you know, getting all this demand, they've actually got kind of a free version. They've also got some paid version. So they were looking at things of like what that conversion rate might look like. If we did, you know, if we were engaging with a larger hospital system, we were looking at things like how many users have actually signed up for their profile and logged in and used it. You can see how many essentially how many patients are flowing through the system per provider in the tool. So we were looking at some ratios for that as well. So we were for that company in particular, we were very much focused because of where they are right now. And just the sheer growth. We were less concerned maybe about some of the relationships they might have. And some of the other factors in terms of maybe business health or presence of competitors than we normally would be. We were really focused on products because they're kind of catching lightning in a bottle and we needed to make sure That, you know, customers that were signing up, we're finding it easy to log in, we're using the tool, they're actually kind of getting some of the value. So I think for that specific example, for about a two week three week period, we really zeroed in on building some playbooks around some of that initial product health data. A couple other things that we always like to think about, though, as some leading indicators that could be helpful for some of these companies is relationship breath and relationship quality. So thinking about who do we have relationships with? And can we actually qualify it into a quality type score, even though it might be a qualitative metric? We look at engagement in the product, if there's a community engagement in that community as well. You mentioned it earlier, but industry and use case fit. We might look at business health or the presence of competitors that might be involved. And then also product and support performance as a couple of examples, but you know, I think Just like you mentioned earlier, there's so many nuances. And we always try and look at the situation. And like I mentioned, I think, really interesting, you know, for us to look at that two to three week period with that company. And we're really had to zero in on kind of actually, you know, two to three specific metrics that were all very much product oriented.
Andrew Michael 21:18
And interesting how like specific timing now as well. We're talking about sort of the COVID pandemic, I guess, as well. And obviously influx of patients being a specific case where maybe health metrics need to change to suit the time as well. So it's not only sort of being adaptable to the value that the product delivers and how it shifts over time, but also how the time itself impacts the value that the customers receive at the end of the day.
I think, yeah, you want to jump right into that.
Jay Nathan 21:49
Yeah, just add to that. I mean, the industry that customers in may actually be the primary health factor right now. Right. If you're in Retail then I can almost guarantee you that if your customers in retail, then I can guarantee you that they're either red or yellow, you know, just based on the fact that they're they probably lost a lot of business. But you know, going back to some of these another good example. And maybe this is a more detailed one that will help people think through this. But, you know, a lot of times there's there's a question around like, Okay, how much support is it good that people are contacting support or bad, you know, that that's gonna vary by your product? And, you know, you may look at that and say, hey, there's if customers are contacting support a lot, that's a really, that's a really good thing, because we get lots of chances to interact with them and help them get it right. Okay. But one customer that we've done this for, we looked at just critical cases as their health factor, because we know that critical cases meaning there's a real problem with the software, and probably a pretty bad problem with the software actually really negatively. Impact perception and loyalty, right? If I can't rely on your product, and I know it's not you that I'm gonna have trouble potentially renewing with you. So you can get a little more nuanced and get some more value out of these metrics by thinking about the real impact from a customer perspective.
Andrew Michael 23:17
Yeah, I can definitely see that and understand as well, like things are so nuanced. I mean, we talked about this previously, but there changes more rapidly. And the one thing I was also interested now that you mentioned, something that triggered a thought is, you go into a lot of different companies and with the idea of helping to get things set up and processes put in place in sorting text, you can play books in customer success. What is typically some of the biggest pushback that you get from within an organisation when it comes to introducing customer success or at least improving the like the existing infrastructure like where would you say you get the biggest resistance in an organisation and what are the main drivers for that?
Jeff Breunsbach 24:01
Yeah, I think maybe a couple of examples I think we typically get, it depends, again, a lot on the where the company is, and some of those things, but I say, you know, there's a lot of times that we see Customer Success leaders still having to defend customer success, and why it's there, you know, and I think where we've tried to help, where we've tried to help those leaders is really start thinking through the, the data side and how to bring data into those meetings. You know, I think, as you start thinking about the the maturity of a sales function or a marketing function, they've really gone through this evolution in both cases as being very fluffy. And getting into kind of more data driven and bringing data to the table to help them you know, understand, how long does it take us to get a deal through the cycle? How long does it take for us to get somebody in our funnel all the way down to you know, in SQL, and so, you know, I think we're in that maturation of customer success, where we're trying to help leaders bring data into the equation to say, you know, if we break down our segments, and we look at some of the retention rates that we might have the churn rates, how can we get more specific and granular about what's really impacting that? You know, I think a lot gets laid on the feet of customer success. Like you mentioned earlier that, you know, it could be a product market fit problem, it could be that we oversold them in the sales cycle. It could just be you know, that that customer isn't having a great support experience. There's so many things that really factor into that retention number. But I think the biggest pushback is really defending customer success and making sure that we have a value driven way of doing that. I think the second thing that comes to mind is typically getting pushback from other parts of the organisation. And I think it's more so just the change management aspect of how are we really going to kind of actually do this while while it's happening, you know, I think a lot of other parts of the organisation, you know, whether it's onboarding or sales, you know, they get in their motions, and they kind of have a cadence of the way that they'd like to do things. And so when you start introducing, Hey, can we introduce a CSM earlier in the sales process? You know, can we make sure that throughout the onboarding phase that we actually have a CSM who's engaged in driving value? It's kind of a scary thing for those teams to think about. And so I think, again, kind of the way that we've tried to approach that and kind of get over that with our with our leaders, is thinking about how we do that in a cohort model. So how do we start testing on a small number of clients that are paired with a small set of teams, so we don't have to go overhaul the entire process right from day one, and really prove it out again, looking at hopefully some metrics that come alongside of that. So mixing the quantitative with the qualitative and helping to kind of get the other leaders in the organisation over the hump by using some of those cohorts. analysis and driving some of that value kind of on a on that type of scale first, before we go roll it out across customer base. Those are two that just come to mind. For me, I'm not sure. Jay, if there's anything different comes to mind for you.
Jay Nathan 27:14
I think it's a really good question. Because, you know, a lot of times we are we do end up basically creating more of basically more of the same of what we do today on just a higher touch basis. And so I think, you know, the biggest thing that we've had to work with both customers and prospects of ours on over the years is helping them understand the the revenue lift implications of having customer success and being honest about if they exist or not. It doesn't always have to be a customer success manager role thing. You know, the one thing that we've, we continue to see over and over is that customer success is really more of just an operating model and it's a it's a way of of you know, helping your team work together in ways that put the customer at the centre of what you're doing, as opposed to just, you know, throwing more resources at it, it doesn't, you know, necessarily mean you need to have a role called customer success manager, although we do believe in that role as well, in many situations. So I think part of it is is, you know, just a is a general education thing around, you know, with this whole concept of customer success even is much less why we have to have additional people touching our clients, in addition to support and account management.
Andrew Michael 28:38
Yeah, I think as all Jeff mentioned earlier, in terms of like, the company's really not understanding, I think comes down to sort of a way of proving the ROI as well of a team. I think, especially like in the early days when you maybe don't have the data as well today and you don't have the level of sophistication the customer success team. It's difficult to try and put numbers to the scenarios as well and saying, okay, we have a team for this big until you get to the areas where you really start specialising. And I think that's where you get to the sophistication, you have the data, you know, like customer success team, maybe they're responsible for expansion or they're responsible for engagement. And then you can really start tying these, like areas of focus and the lifts that they are responsible for back to like how that influences like retention at the end of the day, or how it influences revenue growth, ultimately. So it definitely feels like I get this perception that maybe early stage companies struggle to justify the ROI. So it's something that maybe gets introduced a little bit later. And maybe you can correct me if I'm wrong on that, but it might it always felt like you said your sales and marketing are polished, they've gone through this process. They figured out ways to justify what the ROI is and they're measuring and attracting it. Were still in customer success, like different stages of companies and different stages of growth. There's still this like uncharted territory that everybody is trying To figure out a little bit better.
Jeff Breunsbach 30:03
Yeah, yeah, totally. I mean, you think about it in the early days, that the cusp, the chief customer officer, is actually the founder or the founders. And so we're early stage your your quote, unquote, CES team, whatever that looks like. They're really beginning to be a proxy for your founders to listen to the market and to listen to your customers and to. Now, the other thing that comes along with that, typically is there's a little bit of an operational lift too, right? We have to start providing support, we have to provide, you know, implementation services, we have to make sure the customer has adopted there's some things that we actually have to physically do with every single customer as well. But over time, to your point and through, you know, as you sort of you traverse from that one to 10 to 10 to 50 range of annual recurring revenue. Then you're starting to build out specialisation in the Different areas right account management, adoption and onboarding, relationship management in when you do that, you're necessarily going to have more people involved. And that's when it becomes really critical to figure out how they're going to work together. So yeah, I like the way you you describe that.
Andrew Michael 31:18
Nice. Yeah, I think it's just nature of like as you're growing, you're maturing, you're learning things along the way. And definitely like there is a pressure as companies grow naturally to start to prove the results of our work. The one thing is all there now is interested and it's a little bit of maybe not really a controversial subject, but something that gets debated quite often. I'm interested to hear your perspective on this is the question of who owns customer attention within an organisation in your eyes and your belief like Who do you believe should earn customer retention?
Jeff Breunsbach 31:54
I think the executive team owns customer retention and by extension, you know that that goes into
the various teams that product has a role to play. Marketing has a role to play. onboarding has a role to play, if that's a separate team for your organisation. Customer Success certainly has a role to play. That the the way we drive retention is through renewals. And so I think the obvious next question, you know, to go along with that, Andrew is, who's responsible for renewals in Why? And then there's, you know, there's a great debate, you're absolutely right. If if there are companies out there that believe that that the CSM should not touch renewals even right because it's a commercial element. I tend to disagree with that to some to some degree because I think, you know, first of all, most renewals especially for larger accounts, you know, hopefully they're on an auto renewal kind of person. Ram. And if things are going well, then the renewal is really just a formality anyway, but to the extent that the renewal is not a formality, and it has to be renegotiated every year, and it's a larger kind of account scenario, then I would absolutely have somebody with some commercial acumen. Who can help facilitate that. And that might look more like an account manager, right with that kind of sales background. As opposed to the smaller accounts where renewals are just going to happen a little bit more seamlessly. They're not a big event. You know, the CSM can probably own that no problem in maybe you should, assuming that there's not a heavy lift or a negotiation there. So, Jeff, I don't know what you'd add, but that's my, you know, that's my prevailing thought right now. Yeah, I think that to maybe summarise in a way that you know, we've talked about it recently, Andrew is we've seen a lot more successful b2b Ask companies who think about retention as a company wide metric rather than a specific metric for the customer success team. We think it's really powerful as you start to think about, you know, how does, as Jay mentioned, how does product play a role into retention and how to sales, and really making that a company goal to say, Hey, we want to retain this number of clients. And what we've seen start to happen is then, you know, sales starts to think about the product market fit a little bit more, you know, it starts to think about the outcomes that they're trying to drive, the product team is a lot more invested in thinking about going to get in front of customers more to interview customers more to hear about the jobs that need to be done. And then you know, customer success, support and onboarding also have their, you know, kind of client facing roles to play where they have some of these points across the customer journey that become really important. So I think that's just another way to say it, but I think we've just seen a lot more companies recently that are very successful, who employ that type of compensation model across their teams and thinking about that as a company wide metric.
Andrew Michael 35:04
Yeah, so I don't think there's going to be any debate today, then that's definitely the way I see things. Well, after speaking to over 60 people on the podcast, I think some of the most successful companies really have that this is a company on metric, if anybody ultimately it would sit this year, but at the executive level, because it's influenced by so many different departments. And it's unfair and unjust to sort of hold like a customer success department responsible for metric that's influenced by pretty much every other team when it comes to sort of marketing if they bring in the right leads, if sales, closing the wrong people with products, delivering on the wrong features and functionality. And then ultimately, like asking customer success, to be the miracle makers at the end of the day and keep customers is really, really unfair. So having that sits at the executive level is really, really important to encourage alignment across the organisation to make it like a common goal. So the last question then I have that ask everybody that joins the show. interest to hear your perspective obviously going into other companies. And I'm sure that the concepts and the discussion of retention comes up quite a bit in these discussions is it imagine a scenario now where you've joined a new company and churn and retention is not good at all. The CEO has asked you to try and turn things around for the company, and they're looking to try and get results pretty fast. They want to sort of see some movement in the numbers within the first 90 days. What would be on your agenda and list of things to do to try and get some turnaround for the company?
Jeff Breunsbach 36:59
Yeah, I think a couple of things come to mind first, for for me, you know, one, I think, just off the bat, I'd love to set realistic expectations, you know, understanding, I'd want to get an understanding of the contracts of, you know, the value and some of the renewal motion to really see if we could drive an impact after three months. I think that's the first place I start just to make sure we're all thinking about realistic goals there. But let's say that I'll check out fine, you know, I think a couple places that I would start to look would be really digging into the some of the data first. So do we have, you know, do we have kind of proper opportunities and renewals that we can manage, as you know, that are upcoming? And then when we look at those renewals? Do we have a sense of the health of those the relationships that we have? Do we just have some kind of baseline metrics that we can start to glean relationship surveys, you know, surveys from support, but I really want to try and understand kind of the what is the relationship that we're having with the customer and how do they feel about us That's kind of an initial place that I want to start. As we look at that, you know, I guess kind of a sidestep from that, in parallel, I'd be wanting to look at things like segmenting the customer base, to a point that we feel like we could, you know, have a differentiation of, you know, potentially the motion that we have, and making sure that we can again, use some of that data to our advantage about how the customers feel about us and each of those different segments. That's really the kind of the first place that I would look to start, before I even really took any immediate action from that, though, you know, I think a couple of things probably start to crop up as we start learning more about the customers. You know, do we have some executive presence with our customers, especially at the higher end of our, our amount, you know, if that's, you know, a place where we have some of the churn that's coming. That's where I'd want to start, you know, if it's coming from some of the lower segments, Some of the questions that I might be asking ourselves is does it fit our ideal client profile has really built the product to be, you know, kind of fit enough for that style of client. And, you know, coming out of that, too, I'd start to ask questions about what the onboarding experience look like. But really starting to break down some of the silos of the customer journey to understand, you know, essentially, what's happening in this stage of the journey, what are we measuring, to see if it's impactful? And how does the customer feel about our relationship? Those are the kind of the three questions that I want to look at at each stage of the journey and start to kind of, you know, start the beginning and then move forward. You know, again, the question or the reason why I said, Let's set realistic expectations as well is, you know, we might start impacting some things in the onboarding phase, but maybe, you know, that doesn't really start to creep up until, you know, six 910 months down the road. But we've, you know, feel like we're going to kind of solidify our base there for a longer period of time. So I think it's starting with the data starting to understand the relationship that we have with the customer, and breaking down each of the customer journey to get down to a point where we can actually drive some action. Jay, how would you differentiate?
Yeah, well, I was gonna say that expectations pieces is critical. Because I mean, look, if you've got customers that are on annual subscriptions with your business, and you have an executive telling you, we want to, we want to change our churn number within 90 days, then I would push back pretty hard on that, because, first of all, you don't even know what the root cause of it is. And second of all, you're you're you're reading renewals that are coming up in 90 days, or you're probably already laying in the bed you've made for yourself, right? If those customers are going to turn they're they're still going to turn in 90, some kind of heroics or offer some kind of outlandish deal for them to stay. And that's not how we want to do customer retention. So I think I love everything that Jeff said, obviously But what I would summarise that is I'm looking for leading indicators to help me progress before it shows up in the renewal number. Right. And to Jeff's point, it could be in the the depth of our relationships, it could be in usage of the product, but I'm looking for something that's a leading that tells me that, hey, when when my renewal start coming around next quarter, the following quarter, three quarters out that I expect it to be better at those points than it is today because of what factors right that's what I'm going to focus on initially. So I would set real strong expectations. And you may have the other class of businesses like if you have monthly recurring revenue, which is you know, you may not have customers on a contract. They may be doing trials or that sort of thing, and I think you can show an impact a little bit more quickly in those kind of scenarios. But you still need to Look for leading indicators and that involves understanding what you know what what churn you can control what what are the what are the core underlying root cause reasons for churn? Which ones can you control? Which ones can you not control, and then working to control the ones that you can control and having leading indicators to let you know how you're doing.
Andrew Michael 42:22
Nice. Yeah, but I like as well, that focus that it starts with setting the right expectations. It's something that doesn't come up often in responses to this question. I think, Brian, well, for the last person to mention it as well as that. 90 days is probably not going to be realistic expectation to make changes. But again, like as you just highlighted now, J just depends on the type of company and the payment cycles and the product itself if you can, or cannot make a difference, but I loved everything that you highlighted there as well, because it's a lot of what we talked about frequently on the podcast, too. So it's been a pleasure chatting with both of you today. Maybe it's me You want to leave us? Any final thoughts ways they can keep up with what you're up to? Anything you'd like to share before we cut off for today?
Unknown Speaker 43:09
Yeah, well, we,
Jeff Breunsbach 43:12
we'd love to share information about our leadership office hours. So we launched about seven weeks ago, something we call CS leadership office hours, which is a call happens every Thursday 11:30am Eastern Daylight Time, without fail. And we have about 150 to 200 Cs leaders on these zoom calls every week, they've just been fantastic. So we also record those if you can't make that not everybody can make those times but we record them and post them to our websites. If you get a customer imperative comm slash journal. You can see all the historical sessions that we've done there just some really, really cool content there for folks to hear practitioner level, you know, solutions to current problems that folks are having. And then the one other thing, I'll put a plug in for We're in early adopter mode, have a have an online community that goes with that, that office hours concept. So we've got about 140 people that are actively participating in this community in the next few weeks, we'll be opening it, opening it up to everybody. And we have several thousand people that are on the waiting list to join that. When we do so we're really excited about it also great content, they're really focused on practical, almost tool level things that people can be doing within their businesses and getting help from one another as peers to improve their their CS practice. So we're really excited about those two things. And then Jeff and I are very active on LinkedIn. We'd love for folks to to follow us and join us and discussion there as well.
Andrew Michael 44:47
Nice a lot of interesting stuff there to catch up on. We'll probably leave as well that often the show notes to find on chain.fm is all on the website and it's been a pleasure having you both today and wish you best of luck now with the new launch. And things going forward as well. Thanks for joining.
Unknown Speaker 45:02
Thanks, Andrew. Andrew, thanks a lot.
Jay Nathan & Jeff Breunsbach
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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.