How to strategically plan and successfully execute a user onboarding revamp.

Mike Sasaki & Tyler Ramsey


VP of Customer Success & Senior Customer Success Manager


Mike Sasaki & Tyler Ramsey
Mike Sasaki & Tyler Ramsey

Episode Summary

Today on the show we have Mike Sasaki VP of Customer Success & Support, and Tyler Ramsey, Senior Customer Success Manager at Mitek. 

In this episode, we talked about what Mitek is and what they do, why Mike and Tyler made the decision to shift their onboarding flow, and the steps they took to implement their new onboarding program in order to mitigate churn.

We also discussed the single metric Mitek uses to measure the ROI CSM’s deliver to the business and how they decided on that specific metric, how their CSM reduces the time to value and Mike also explains why every CSM team should have their own data analyst. 

Mentioned Resources



What is Mitek and what they do 00:01:59
Why did Mike and Tyler decide to reevaluate their onboarding flows 00:03:58
Why High Touch customer support works for Mitek 00:06:03
The first steps into shifting their onboarding program 00:07:01
The single metric Mitek uses to measure the ROI CSM’s deliver to the business and how they decided on that specific metric 00:08:51
Net Negative retention at Mitek 00:12:16
How their CSM team reduces the time to value 00:18:05
Why every CSM team should have their own data analyst 00:21:36
What Mike and Tyler would do to help a company turn its churn rate around 00:28:21
The one thing Mike and Tyler wished they knew about churn and retention when they first started out in her career 00:32:02


Andrew Michael: [00:00:00] hey Mike. Hey Tyler. Welcome to the show.

Mike Sakaki: [00:00:03] Great. Thank you for having us really excited to be talking about a churn mitigation and onboarding.

Tyler Ramsey: [00:00:10] Yeah, great to be here.

Andrew Michael: [00:00:11] Yeah. Thanks. So for the listeners, Mike is the VP of global head of customer success and support, and Tyler's a senior customer success manager at med tech systems.

The global leader in mobile capture and digital identity verification. MedTech is a publicly traded company that has just passed the a hundred million dollar Mark and serves companies like Airbnb, Instacart, and PayPal. So my first question for you both is what does Mitek do exactly?

Mike Sakaki: [00:00:37] Yeah, I'll take that one.

So Mitek is well known for their check deposit or mobile deposit product. So if you've ever deposited a check with your phone on your bank's app, Then you've used my tech, your, my customer. We also have a product that is growing rapidly, especially during these COVID times. And that's related to identity verification in [00:01:00] the digital channel.

So if you stay at an Airbnb, you may be asked to scan in your driver's license or passport to prove your identity, and then take a selfie as well to prove that, you're the person on the the identity document. So it's a way to enable trust and safety. And ensure that these platforms are safe to transact on.

Andrew Michael: [00:01:22] Yep. And so how old is the company now?

Mike Sakaki: [00:01:24] We are 30 plus years old. So we actually started in the eighties and we were related to the or were working in the, I believe the defense industry. And we've had a long history of revolving or evolving, and when the iPhone came out, that's when the mobile check deposit business first started and really took off.

Andrew Michael: [00:01:43] Oh, interesting. So you've had to constantly chase product market fit. And I think one of the things that we've talked about in the show a few times at how to moving target and as the market evolves, you need to be evolving. So it sounds like you're, you must have some interesting stories as well.

It might take cool. Today we discussed a, an interesting topic, [00:02:00] I think coming from perspectives and the reason we have Mike and Tyler on the show is we'll be looking at an initiative that they put on together to improve the customer onboarding and having Mike serve and answer questions from the leadership sort of side, most strategic.

And then Tyler really going into the details of how they went about implementing this program. And so maybe first question like. Let's start off of, like, why did you decide to really take a look at the onboarding flows that you have?

Mike Sakaki: [00:02:30] Yeah. I could take that one. We're looking at our book of business.

We, we, of course we had some churn, and that's usually the case when you're trying to figure out, what can you put in place to help fight that turn, mitigate that churn. But one of the bigger pieces of the puzzle or the, one of the bigger problems was that, customers may not be churning, but they weren't.

Very successful either. And if you're a transaction-based company, like my tech is, or if you are really trying to expand [00:03:00] customers, like all software companies are you really need to solve for that. And that was one of the biggest problems and reasons why we put in this onboarding program is trying to figure out how can we mitigate churn and how can we get customers to a successful state faster and ready to expand.

Tyler Ramsey: [00:03:18] Yeah. And maybe just a couple of other things add to that. We like Mike said, my tech has been around for a long time the line of business that we spend most of our time working on the identity verification is relatively new. Ben, by that, the last five years or so just in the market in general.

So customer success supporting that w we're only a few years in really at MiTek, so we've gone through the. The process that I think a lot of CSM Ords have gone through as they've gotten spun up of. Oh, number one is just cover the customers and just put out fires and fight back churn.

So we went through that. And then as we evolved as an org, we thought, right now we have a customer coming in, we put a CSM on them and that CSM manages them. It's throughout their lifespan with my tech, [00:04:00] we found that's not really the most efficient way of doing things. So it's  yeah, we're at phase one, but how do we grow this thing?

And really fine tune the experience for our customer depending on where they're at in their life cycle. So this is also just an evolution of a really the way we manage customers.

Andrew Michael: [00:04:17] Yeah, very interesting. I was going to ask her some of the questions that you answered before I asked it. So the thing then as well, I was interested to find out a little bit about what would you say is the majority of your interaction with your customers?

Would you say it's like prominently a high touch or do you have a mix between high and low touch?

Mike Sakaki: [00:04:35] We've Tyler and I have been at my tech now for coming up on four years and much like other customer success orgs, you dabble in the low touch tech touch,  idea that you can support customers that way.

What we found from tech and what I found at other places that I've worked at as well as just high touch works. And it's something that we do well, and it's very clear on what you're trying to achieve and you know what you need to do that. And [00:05:00] so that's the model that we have in place now.

Andrew Michael: [00:05:04] Fair, predominantly focused on high touch. And then I'm assuming it will be seen as a results, like the ARPA for your typical customers relatively high to support the high touch model.

Mike Sakaki: [00:05:12] Yeah, certainly it does need to be high in order to to justify a high touch model like that.

Andrew Michael: [00:05:18] Yeah. So let's dive into it a little bit then. And maybe Tyler, you can take this one, like. How did you go about in the beginning? So you mentioned five years at the company.

Now this is relatively new product. It's early days you were putting out fires. Like when was the moment in time that you took a step back and said, okay, let's start putting together this onboarding program, let's start getting a little bit more organized. And what were your first steps?

Tyler Ramsey: [00:05:42] Yeah. So there were a couple things we did a year and a half ago that really made it evident to us that we were going to need to shift the way we're doing things. One we took some time and reassessed our. CSMs book of business, right? How many are they covering? And obviously the goal we all have is how can we have CSMs, produce the same [00:06:00] results, but support more customers, right?

Just in improving the cost of CSM. So that's obviously something that's always in the back of our mind. At the same time we looked really deeply in, into the types of engagements. That we were having with our customers and where those engagements were happening. So we did some really detailed tracking around the types of meetings, the, that the outcomes from those meetings, the action items that came to those meetings, how much value is really coming out of them? All those things throughout the customer life cycle, and really dove into where are the most significant engagements taking place. Because obviously a high touch model you can meet with your customers two, three times a week. And CSMs feel like if they're doing that, they're doing a good job in a lot of cases, they are well, where is the value really coming from?

So that's really what it was. We looked at, how do we manage all of our customers better? And where's the time being spent, which things can we remove and where can we focus our energy for the best outcomes. So that kind of got us thinking about how we can shift this thing.

Andrew Michael: [00:06:58] Yeah. So it [00:07:00] sounds as well, a little bit like the first initial was like first initial attempt was really about how can we reduce costs and maximize the return we're getting from each CSM.

Are you measuring sort of the ROI in any other way, besides reducing the costs essentially, by being able to serve more customers like is the CSM team actively tracking the ROI that they delivered to the business?

Tyler Ramsey: [00:07:23] We are in a sense, and Mike, I'm sure you have a lot to say to this. W we went through that exercise, two of our, what are the metrics that we're really gonna focus on?

And we came up with now obviously we spent some time looking at time to value. What does that metric really mean? What does it mean that my tech going to be different? Every customer we decided we're going to simplify things and focus in on a single metric that we call time to a successful and production, a state of successful in production, which for us.

There's a couple of KPIs that roll up into that, but in short it's, when are customers getting their ROI? When are they operating at a transaction volume? Because we're a SAS model, a transaction volume high enough to [00:08:00] where they can justify the cost that they're paying MiTek. And what we found before is that.

Yeah, we were heavily engaged with customers, but bad time was dragging on and on. And maybe a three-year term with the customer. They were only getting value out of us for the last year and a half. Which is just not acceptable. So that was the big metric we looked at. How do we condense that time as much as possible.

And we put that on our CSMs as their primary goal of. Shortening that window, Mike, you probably have something to add to that.

Mike Sakaki: [00:08:28] Yeah. And it's really about finding that one metric. And I think CS leaders and CS orgs tend to over-complicate things. And so I'm working with Tyler. He helped me understand that this is really the metric we need to track.

And and then it was my job to sell that to the rest of the the executive staff. And so that, that's how we got it done. And. For us, it's a great metric. It's easy to track. We can do it at a Tableau no manual work involved, really. And yeah, so it's working for us.

Andrew Michael: [00:08:56] And why this metric specifically is there any sort of correlation [00:09:00] causation to any upside for the customer retention or w how did you get to choosing this specific metric?

Mike Sakaki: [00:09:05] Yeah, Tyler, Ron, why don't you take that one since this is your your metric that you brought to us.

Tyler Ramsey: [00:09:11] Sure. The primary reason is at my tech hour, our onboarding and implementation is really the work is very focused on the customer side. There's a lot of development work that needs to be done.

However, they start paying us on day one, they start paying us when they signed the contract. So there's going to be an implementation time when they're continuing to invest. Resources in addition to the money that they're paying my tech, but they're getting nothing back. And just logically the longer that window goes, the more difficult it's going to be for the customer to, to, to.

To one receive any sort of ROI, but also just their perception of my tech, the the level of kind of entanglement their internal systems have with my tech. All those things get pushed back the longer that time drags on [00:10:00] just. The worst. Everything is right. The worst, the state of the relationship is the more they've now invested the higher their, their their internal expectations are going to be of getting something back.

So really we looked at w what's the one thing we can do to just improve everything about our engagement with our customers the health of the customer, the ROI, why, what's the simplest way to improve that. And really it's. Get them live as quickly as possible because one they're operating, they're getting value.

But also because my tech is operating in the fraud space we're the biggest ROI they get is fraud prevention downstream for loan applications or account openings or digital onboarding or whatever that may be. The quicker we get up in there, the quicker we can start. Preventing fraud for them.

And then everyone at the customer buys in and then Mike ex the greatest thing in the world. So we just looked at it as we got to get them up and running. We got to get them live and that solves so many of our problems.

Mike Sakaki: [00:10:56] And I think at a basic level it's a sign of adoption, right? [00:11:00] The more they're transacting with you.

And one thing that we've done this year, which I'd recommend to all customer success leaders is bringing a data analyst onto your team. I think as CS leaders we're used to, or as a CSR, we're used to sharing resources or borrowing resources this way. We have a data analyst on our team and we have access to, everything that he or she is doing, we're related to data. And as he put it, they have to put these customers have to put the transaction somewhere. And so if they are transacting at a high level in a meaningful level, then they're going to think twice about leaving because they have to put those transactions somewhere. So getting them, getting customers to a level of adoption, where they have to think twice about putting those transactions, at a competitor potentially is meaningful.

Andrew Michael: [00:11:48] Yeah, th that was going to be my next question as well. Like it sounds as well, logical, this was the metric to pick from a retention perspective, all because I'm assuming that once somebody is set up and running, you must have [00:12:00] pretty strong retention on the other side, because you baked into their operating system.

The switching costs becomes high in terms of that initial development that needs to work in terms of integration. So What does it look like for you once somebody has activated and you've shortened that time to value? Is it really a switching point where you have net negative retention?

Mike Sakaki: [00:12:21] Yeah, absolutely. So w once they've hit successful in production, that can kick off a playbook of expansion, right? A playbook of references, playbook of case studies, things like that. And, interestingly enough, if you put this target in front of a customer, they start to believe that, they are successful.

And that is a metric that you could drive towards together. So it is meaningful in hitting it and then turning that into expansion.

Tyler Ramsey: [00:12:46] And there's, there's a visceral reaction to this, that our customers have to we looked at the data around where our CSM is being engaged and, what's the ideal time in each phase, along this journey to successful in production.

But even just [00:13:00] anecdotally talking to CSMs about their sponsors or their champions on the customer side,  what do they want from us? And. And we always talk about, wanting to be heavily engaged our customers. We want to be their advocates. We want to be their partners and that's true.

But on the customer side, the vast majority of the time, there's a person who's working with us managing the project to get this implemented. But they have their other job to do. We like to think they want to be engaged and they want to partner with us on growth and all that. The reality is that a lot of the time it's a person who just wants to get the thing up and running.

They want to get it working so that they can just go about what their real job is. They want it to work, but they want us to be on the back burner. And we found by working with the CSMs that, yeah, we're heavily engaged. We're very white touch or white glove high touch later on in the process.

But we have vastly more impact on the customer's outcomes in that first three to four month period than we do, probably for the remainder of, the following two and a half [00:14:00] years of a three-year term. So that's where we have the impact. That's where we can move the needle on, on everything that's going to happen afterwards.

So let's focus on that.

Andrew Michael: [00:14:09] Yeah. You mentioned both of, you mentioned a couple of times now the three-year term, and I think that's quite an interesting length. Do you offer any other terms beside like shorter terms or what is the thinking behind the long-term lock-in

Mike Sakaki: [00:14:22] yeah. I think it's funny.

You mentioned that because then I started to think about. Maybe that's what birth, this onboarding program. So we, when we first started, there were a one year terms, there were six month terms. There were what felt like day to day terms where the customer can determinate whenever they wanted to, for any reason.

And so you had to nail the onboarding program and perhaps that's what, what what drove us to really focus on the onboarding program. Because that was, what we were being measured by daily. And  we do offer we did offer other terms, much like the evolution of a lot of software companies, you tend to settle at a three-year committed [00:15:00] term, or a five-year committed term. If you're lucky,

Andrew Michael: [00:15:03] Yeah. And I imagine as well, like listening to what you're saying in terms of the setup costs too, it wouldn't make sense as well for you to invest the resources, to get a customer set up and then have them cancel like a couple months later. And then, so the time to value Metric that you're focused on.

It's really about making sure that they can upset transaction rates as fast as possible and make sure they're getting set up. But how much of that can actually be influenced by a CSM because from listening to you too, it sounds like there's some technical implementation needs to be done.

Like what are you doing from a CSM perspective to reduce that time to value?

Mike Sakaki: [00:15:37] Yeah, I'll let Tyler talk to that. I would say, when you were talking just now I was thinking about the transaction, they had it's one metric or it's one number, but there's a lot of trust built into the transaction, right?

There's a customer experience built in the transaction. There's a lot that goes into that one number. And that's why it's so valuable, but as far as the your question, Tyler, why don't you take that one?

Tyler Ramsey: [00:15:59] Yeah, that's a good [00:16:00] question. Cause that's the question, right? We only have so much influence.

They have their own resources, they have their own timelines. So the real challenge that we face day to day is the obvious one of how, what can we leverage? How much force can we exert? To really speed up timelines. If the customer isn't motivated to them, we hope that they are, but you know how it goes sometimes they have competing priorities.

So we focused on a few different things. Like Mike said we're very heavily invested with data analysts within our team. So they do some internal things as well as external things. One is w we set some benchmarking. Standards best practices for onboarding based on different verticals, because we have customers in hospitality or in financial services, or, a variety of verticals.

And obviously their internal resources are going to vary and their timelines are gonna vary. So what is correct for each type of customer? We spend a lot of time Determining that. And then we share that information with our customer someone like you should be up and [00:17:00] running in this amount of time, and here's why, we break down the different phases and why they're able to do that.  So we try to make that case with data and that seems to be pretty successful. We've also invested very heavily. In product and domain education upfront.  And what I mean by that is that there's always going to be an internal handoff on the customer side after the sale is made, right?

There's a procurement person and a executive sponsor who bought the product. Now we're handed off to a product team or an operational team who is standing this up. The. The loss of knowledge, there is very dangerous to us in terms of how our products integrate with their internal processes, their compliance, their fraud controls, all those things.

So instead of a model where we're incrementally sharing best practices over the course of the relationship, we take them to school at the very beginning. Educate everybody on. The product goals on the product KPIs on if you implement the product correctly, here's the value you get.

If you implement the [00:18:00] product incorrectly, here's some horror stories about things that can go wrong. So try to handle all of that, like literally within the first couple of weeks, and then it trickles throughout onboarding but really heavily front-load those things. So they understand the KPIs, they understand the success criteria that customers like them have.

And then we've. We've really shifted the engagement model that we have. So we talked a little bit about as might be the most significant thing we changed. We talked a little bit about our, the engagement we had which I think is pretty standard, customer signs and they get a CSM. For the course of their engagement with my tech w we blew up that model.

So our CSMs now only get engaged with a customer six months after they've signed, which is the end of our onboarding window. So for the duration of. From when they signed through that six month window we created a new role at least a new role at my tech, a customer onboarding manager, which is really a project manager with some CSM [00:19:00] experience with domain expertise as well.

So we, we run it very much like a project. We embed them within our customer's team.  They coordinate internally and externally. It's not standard CSM stuff for that first six months. It's very much. Managing a project, getting them live, then there's a handoff that takes place.

Andrew Michael: [00:19:17] And this person would there be like, almost like a solutions engineer as well in the sense that be technical too, or you would have somebody as all protein for the implementation phase.


Tyler Ramsey: [00:19:27] we have a variety of resources. We do have solutions architects who operate separately from our CSM org. Obviously we partner with them. And then we have our data team. So the project management project manager takes point and coordinates all those internal resources.

Andrew Michael: [00:19:42] Nice. And you both mentioned the data team a few times.

So I want to dive into this a little bit and hear the reasoning behind it again and how it's structured. So you mentioned Mike that it's a good piece of advice to, for any CS org to have data team implemented within their [00:20:00] org structure. How are you currently structured? Like how big is the data team within customer success?

Mike Sakaki: [00:20:08] It's one person that we brought on this fiscal year.  I brought this person on with the idea of, we will test it out. I, we knew it would work and it has and then we're, our plan is to grow this. This team is then make it available to the go-to-market team, right? So not just customer success, because now it's become very obvious that this person understands their business, understands customers, understands the data and why would we keep that only under customer success?

We will roll that out. Our plan is to roll that out to the go-to-market team next fiscal year. Yeah. And I will

Tyler Ramsey: [00:20:42] say that my tech as a whole has a, obviously a much larger data team that coordinates with product. And for a while, we tried to leverage that team, but like Mike said, it, it needed to it'd be within our groups.

So we brought in that one person obviously coordinates pretty heavily with the larger data, Oregon [00:21:00] MiTek, but it's really been a game changer for us.

Andrew Michael: [00:21:03] And why do you think that you knew it wasn't working for you aligning with the product org and you needed to bring them in house? What were some of the shortfalls

Mike Sakaki: [00:21:12] I would get in?

We'd get in line, right? We'd be in the queue. It didn't sit under me. Whenever the team, the data team got to our request, it got fulfilled and we had no control over that. So as you can imagine, Customers need answers CSMs need answers quickly and they're more than willing to self-serve.

So that's the, one of the bigger parts of this role is just setting up the ability for our CSMs to self-serve so that we can get answers to the customer's questions. And also eventually it's going to be product reporting that's available to customers. Via a customer portal that's that lives on our website, right?

So that's the vision of this role. And the reason why we needed it in our org and why it wasn't working previously for us.

Tyler Ramsey: [00:21:57] And also obviously the data team at a company is going to be [00:22:00] focused internally. They're gonna be focused. How is the product performing. On a global level across all customers and that's helpful, but what we needed was not necessarily how our products performing, but how are our customers performing?

So we're able to shift the focus from product features in general usage and things like that to customer specific benchmarks, leverage against peers of theirs. And that's really where  the change came in. And the way we can tell really. Substantial impactful stories to our customers is because now the data's focused on them specifically.

Not necessarily just all of my tech customer.

Andrew Michael: [00:22:38] Yeah. And how big is the overall data team then? It might take.

Mike Sakaki: [00:22:42] That's a good question. I think it's about a four or five people. Is that right? Tyler? Something like, yeah.

Tyler Ramsey: [00:22:48] Somewhere between five and 10 obit.

Andrew Michael: [00:22:50] Yeah. How is then the person you've brought down to data, working with the data team overall, is there any interaction between this person and the rest of the data [00:23:00] team?

Mike Sakaki: [00:23:01] Are there are when we need like data sources built, things like that. But as far as once that data source is built then he's off and running and everything's within his control. And so it's really nice.

Andrew Michael: [00:23:12] Okay. And bringing this person, you'd mentioned the, this fiscal year, but did you mean 20, 20 or 2021?

Because it's been only 11 days in this year.  2020. Yeah. So in 2020, bringing this person in what did you get them to start with first? What was the first thing on their list?  Ending list, but what was the first thing that was the most priority to get them started with

Mike Sakaki: [00:23:33] man I'm testing my memory.

So I would, I think it was going back to operational efficiency with the CSMs. What reports are the CSMs constantly having to create? Individually and manually right out of Tableau. And then how can we make it so that, the CSM can come into Tableau, press a button, and the reports, the standard reports are delivered on the PowerPoint.

That's approved by marketing. As you can imagine that's difficult at times, a lot of these [00:24:00] systems you press export to PowerPoint. And it looks terrible. So that was one of the first things that he tackled was that standard reporting. And just making sure that the CSMs lift is a lot less than it was prior to him joining.

Andrew Michael: [00:24:15] And so these reports are just the standard reports should be sharing with your customers. You mentioned earlier in terms of their performance and how their account is doing and how they're utilizing your service. Yeah. Correct.

Tyler Ramsey: [00:24:25] Yeah. Yeah. And with a big focus on benchmarking as well. Because every CSM I know it's like that in my tech, the number one question you get asked is what are your other customers doing?

And at least in MiTek, we had a hard time answering that. So the big shift there was not only here's your performance, but here's your performance relative again to your peers and other customers in your vertical. And here's why you're doing better. Here's why you're doing worse.

It let us give significant guidance.

Mike Sakaki: [00:24:50] And I would say one more thing is that that's a good point, Tyler. And the way we worked with this data analysts was it wasn't a lot of us just giving him direction. Hey, I need this report. I need that [00:25:00] report. The agreement that we had was come in, you understand our business.

You've worked in product engineering at MiTek listened to our customers. Sit in on calls and tell us how you can help us, just giving him that room to be creative and that trust that, whatever he's going to produce is going to help us and sure enough, it did. So there, of course there are parts of the role where it's, I need this report, I need that report.

But a lot of it is him understanding our business and coming to the lesson saying, why are we not showing this type of report to customers? Or, we can look at the data this way. So that's been super helpful.

Andrew Michael: [00:25:35] Yeah, I definitely, I think it's a lot more impactful than just churning out reports is really like having this overarching view and really being a little bit creative with the data.

Cause I think more often than not like analysts get caught up in requests when the impact can be so much more. If they take a step back and take a look and say, okay, what can we automate? What can we bring? What data sources can we bring together to provide additional value? Like I think a lot of [00:26:00] organizations.

Under utilize talented analysts in that way. So good to hear that you're given the freedom to work.

Tyler Ramsey: [00:26:07] Yeah. And we hear that from customers who come over to us from competitors, is that yeah, your competitors gave us reports, as a PDF that they got once a month, that they maybe would look at it and maybe they wouldn't.

So we decided early on that wasn't going to work for us. If we were going to share data, it was going to be for a specific reason and to impel our customers to do something specific.

Andrew Michael: [00:26:26] Very nice. I see we're running up on time. So I have a couple of questions that are asked every guest that joins the show.

So the first question and, or pose it to both of you, obviously a game, but let's imagine a hypothetical scenario that you join a new company and churn and retention is not doing great at this company. This year comes to and says, we need to turn things around. We have 90 days, we want to get some quick results.

They put you in charge. What are you going to do in the first 90 days?

Mike Sakaki: [00:26:53] Tyler, you take this one and I'll think of my answer.

Tyler Ramsey: [00:26:59] The first thing you have [00:27:00] to do is understand why, right?  We talked about this Andrew before, before the podcast started is that it's tough to go in there with blanket strategies. You have to understand the specific business, the specific cusp, the specific products, and understand what's going on.

So w. I, I would start looking at customer customer transaction volumes or whatever,  the KPI of that product would be and where are they falling off? Is it that they never ramp up? Is it they plateau is that they're never getting value. You have to understand really what's going on and then break that down even further to find out where customers hitting obstacles.

Because in my view, customers. You want to be successful, right? They probably want to be more successful than we want them to be. Something's getting in the way something is causing an obstacle that keeps them from getting their first 90 days. You got to really deeply understand what that is, and then put a plan into place to remove those obstacles.

Mike Sakaki: [00:27:55] I would That's absolutely true. I can just think back about my own experience.  [00:28:00] When you go to a w or they say, when you go to prison, you pick a fight with the biggest guy and everyone leaves. So similarly, when you join a company, 90 days is not enough. So you need to buy yourself more times.

How do you do that? You take the biggest customer. That's red. And you turn them around. And so typically what happens at companies that are, that have a churn problem or bring in customer success for the first time? Or maybe it's a refresh is that they're trying everyone's involved products, involved engineers talking to customers.

Sales is talking to customers everyone's running around. There's a lot of requests from the customers that have been made to you. And you've said, maybe we can do that. Maybe we can't, there's not much clarity. And so your job as the first customer success person coming in is really to take that red customer and either turn them around quickly or start to turn them around and make sure that you're protecting everyone else's time.

So product and engineering should not be meeting with customers. The answer to the customer is no, we're not going to do that. Sales should not be [00:29:00] doing the customer success job. They should be selling. So you can remove them from that as well. And any customer success leader that's.

Worth hiring as the first customer success person at a company is able to take a customer from red to green. That's not super hard to do, but the effect of it internally is that you're some sort of magician that you did that, and sure enough, you will get longer than 90 days to really dive into the things that Tyler mentioned.

So that would be my approach.

Andrew Michael: [00:29:28] Yeah, it's interesting that you say as well, as the first customer success leader coming in, there are so many different people speaking to the customer and just centralizing that focus, taking everybody else off the table and just giving the customer one channel to communicate, I think is definitely a big.

Pain reliever, I think for customers. Cause I know in my own experience like working with different companies like purchasing different products and you end up speaking to five or six different people at any given time and you end up getting lost, who should I actually be coordinating with? So [00:30:00] is there lack of a really good customer success org?

You definitely do feel the pain as a customer.

Mike Sakaki: [00:30:05] He could say no to customers, right? And I think that's new to the company. When you come in and say, no, they're a little afraid. Oh man. You're he said, no, they're going to leave, but they won't leave.

Andrew Michael: [00:30:15] Yeah. But I probably wouldn't take your advice on picking a fight of the biggest person in prison.

Cause I'm not, I'll probably be the smallest guy in prison. It wouldn't end well for me. But the next question then I have for both of you is what's one thing that you know today about churn and retention that you wish you knew you got when you got started with your careers.

Mike Sakaki: [00:30:34] I'll take that. Let me give you an opportunity to think of a, of an answer.

Tyler. . So as far as what I know about churn now that I didn't know earlier in my career, that I wish I did is that there's, there's good churn, right? And you need to work at a company that understands that philosophy. There is good churn. There's a breakeven with customers.

And if you can't hit that break even, or if you don't even know what that is, you're in trouble. And if you're a cus, if your company does not believe that there's good [00:31:00] churn, that's your job as a leader to convince and to help others understand there is such a thing as good churn. And there's, I think a lot of companies talk about, yeah, we're willing to turn customers win, but when it comes down to it, a lot of companies lack the guts to do that.

Unfortunate enough. We're fortunate enough to work at the company where. That's widely understood and our resources just like every other customer or company internally are scarce. And we need to use those resources in a smart way on those customers that can actually be successful. And we'll be able to retain and expand.

Andrew Michael: [00:31:35] Yeah, it's an interesting take. I think because a lot of times you talk about  the problem being on the sales end, where sales are closing deals that should never be closed and aren't really good customer fits. But then having, so that power on the other end of customer success, when you realize that the ROI is not there, that a customer is chewing up too much time and resources and not delivering value to the business, like it's interesting to take that you can actually have that.

Freedom to understand when to, if you [00:32:00] want to put it another way, fire customers.

Tyler Ramsey: [00:32:01] Right. And there's very rarely a situation where a customer is about to churn and it's all hands on deck and you fight, you, you scratch to keep that customer and then everything's fine, that customer is going to be a resource drain forever.

If they're in that situation where they're so close to churning and then a year from now, if they're up for renewal, You're in the exact same situation. You got to target your resources where they can do the most good for the business.

Andrew Michael: [00:32:28] Yep. Absolutely. Guys, it's been a pleasure having you both on the show today.

Is there any final thoughts you want to leave the listeners with anything they should be aware of or how to keep up to date with YouTube?

Mike Sakaki: [00:32:38] Yeah, I'd like to one thing I'd like to share is that, when you're looking at a problem at a company or within your customer success org with the customers and you're a CS leader.

I would turn to your team, those that actually do the job every day to come up with the solution. I think a lot of times I see customer success leaders try to come up with a solution and then push it down. I think it needs to work the other way.  That's my one [00:33:00] recommendation for a CS leaders that might be listening to this podcast.


Andrew Michael: [00:33:07] Cool. Thanks very much guys. Wish you best of luck now going into 2021.

Mike Sakaki: [00:33:11] Great. Thank you.

Tyler Ramsey: [00:33:12] Appreciate it. Thank you, Andrew.


Mike Sasaki & Tyler Ramsey
Mike Sasaki & Tyler Ramsey

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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