Redefining Customer Success Without Direct Engagement
CEO & Co-Founder
Today on the show, we have Jamie Davidson, CEO and co-founder of Vitally.
In this episode, Jamie shares his expertise in Customer Success and the impact of his technical background on his role.
We then discussed the evolving landscape of customer engagement and the need for customer success teams to redefine their strategies in the absence of direct communication with customers. Jamie emphasizes the importance of internal workflows, customer education, and onboarding in driving customer success.
We wrapped up with Jamie providing insights into the current market challenges, such as budget cuts and negotiations. Jamie highlights the need for customer success teams to innovate and prove their value through data-driven approaches.
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.
Is ReadingShoe Dog
[00:00:00] Jamie Davidson: still to this day, a lot of customer success processes and teams operate under the assumption or the end state of, I'm going to engage the customer and tell them this. I'm going to set these recurring QBRs as a great example. So this recurring touch point with the customer. And I think increasingly as companies take on more software, as potentially changing legal and privacy landscapes makes it harder to engage customers like GDPR. And just as we all get more and more sort of like inundated or overwhelmed with our day to day tasks, I think customer engagement is going to become more and more of a challenge. And sometimes, potentially even into possibility. And so I like to think about the question, what if customer success was redefined without engagement being a possibility? When I say engagement, I mean direct communication, like an actual direct line to the customer where they usually say something and they respond.
00:00:51 VO: How do you build a habit-forming products? And you saw this different… Don't just gun for revenue in the door.
[00:00:59] Andrew Michael: This is Churn.FM, the podcast for subscription economy pros. Each week, we hear how the world's fastest growing companies are tackling churn and using retention to fuel their growth.
[00:01:12] VO: How do you build a habit forming product? We crossed over that magic threshold to negative churn. You need to invest in customer success. It always comes down to retention and engagement. Completely bootstrap, profitable and growing.
[00:01:25] Andrew Michael: Strategies, tactics, and ideas brought together to help your business thrive in the subscription economy. I'm your host, Andrew Michael, and here's today's episode.
[00:01:36] Andrew Michael: Hey, Jamie. Welcome to the show.
[00:01:37] Jamie Davidson: Hey, Andrew. How's it going?
[00:01:39] Andrew Michael: It's great to have you. For the listeners, Jamie is the CEO and co-founder of Vitally, a new kind of customer success platform and all-in-one collaborative workspace that combines your customer data with all the capabilities you expect from today's project management and work platforms. As a segment customer myself, I've watched Vitally grow from an integration to a fully-fledged platform and have always been amazed by the speed of execution and the ability to innovate in an already crowded space.
[00:02:06] Andrew Michael: So, Jamie, having started your career as a software engineer before founding Vitally, you co-founded Pathgather as the CTO. How do you believe your technical background has helped you in your new role at Vitally? And have there been any areas that you've been exposed to that you've had to work on as a result?
[00:02:23] Jamie Davidson: Yeah. It's definitely helped me quite a bit because actually at my last company, Pathgather, I was CTO for my first three years of the company and then was actually chief customer officer for my last nine months at the company, which is a very unconventional transition for a CTO to make. But it happened at the right time because it was 2016. Customer success was like, I think, a maturation point. It was starting to get more of a seat at the table.
[00:02:50] Jamie Davidson: There were not a ton of software vendors out there building for customer success. And those that were doing it, I thought, weren't executing it with the best capabilities. And so, approaching customer success with a technical mindset brought initially a very data-driven approach to my customer success. Very heavily educated by product adoption and product analytics and things like that, which I thought was lacking a good bit of space.
[00:03:15] Jamie Davidson: And then as I started to really dive deeper into what I would want to see from a customer success platform, I found myself thinking a lot more ambitiously from a technical perspective because I could not only envision what I wanted to do, but also envision the technical path of how to get there. And it allowed us, especially in the early days to operate with extreme flexibility and productivity with significantly less resources because we had the unique hybrid of technical and customer success knowledge leading the way.
[00:03:47] Jamie Davidson: Whereas if you were trying to do it with just technical knowledge, you would need to go and get somebody to educate you from a customer success perspective. And if you're just doing it from a customer success perspective, you would obviously have to go and get somebody with technical knowledge to help you execute. And that allowed us to really aim high, I think, in the early days, and still to this day, as we mature our platform.
[00:04:06] Andrew Michael: Yeah. It's very interesting as well that you say that because you can definitely see that coming from the technical background, the product started out a lot more data driven. And obviously with that initial integration being with segments, like where all the data was being centralized, and then you gave that data superpowers for customer success teams that previously they didn't really have access to or was really difficult to bring together all the different moving parts.
[00:04:32] Andrew Michael: So we were chatting a little bit before the show and just throwing a few ideas of what we could chat about today. And you suggested something very, very interesting to me. It's something we haven't talked about a whole lot on the show. And the way, and you can correct me if I'm wrong, but the way you mentioned it was what would customer success look like if you couldn't engage with customers? How would you be able to solve churn and retention if your customers weren't speaking to you? And what is the background look of customer success?
[00:05:02] Andrew Michael: Forget about, how do we engage customers? What are the processes look like for our QBRs or engagement strategy on emails? But really, what is the background? What can we do in the background? And I'm interested to just maybe if you mind elaborating your thoughts on this, and we'll see where it takes us from here.
[00:05:20] Jamie Davidson: Yeah, I brought it up because customer success got its start in the wine and dine version of customer success. It was something that you did for your highest paying enterprise customers. Those customers would make major bets on a software, write a check, six, potentially seven figures, and naturally would be heavily invested in that vendor. And so getting a hold of the customer was not hard.
[00:05:45] Jamie Davidson: Naturally, customer success has evolved through the years as PLG has become more prominent, as pricing strategies have changed and resulted in more global distribution of a product and higher volumes of customers. And that's given birth to scale of customer success or potentially even like tech touch automated customer success. But I always am intrigued at the idea of this changing landscape of customer engagement. I think that because of the origins of customer success and how I got started with the wine and dine approach, still to this day, a lot of customer success processes and teams operate under the assumption or the end state of, I'm going to engage the customer and tell them this. I'm going to set these recurring QBRs as a great example. So this recurring touch point with the customer.
[00:06:39] Jamie Davidson: And I think increasingly as companies take on more software, as potentially changing legal and privacy landscapes makes it harder to engage customers, like GDPR. And just as we all get more and more sort of like inundated or overwhelmed with our day to day tasks, I think customer engagement is going to become more and more of a challenge. And sometimes, potentially even into possibility. And so I like to think about the question, what if customer success was redefined without engagement being a possibility? When I say engagement, I mean direct communication, like an actual direct line to the customer where they usually say something and they respond.
[00:07:16] Jamie Davidson: Because I think that buyer profiles also change and there are plenty of buyers out there that don't want to talk to their vendors. But they do want to be successful with the product. What they want to get ROI from what they've chosen. And so I think customer success has a lot of room for evolution and adaptability there. And really changing their processes and their workflows to catch up to this changing landscape of potentially customers just don't want to talk to you anymore.
[00:07:41] Andrew Michael: I would say I'll probably definitely fall into that camp for the most part. I think the software I ever purchased in my career up until now was like, the customer success almost felt like it was a blocker from me getting to where I wanted to be. And funny I should say as well, like sort of the wine and dine old school way of doing things as well. Obviously, this still happens. But I even had guests on the show where they were telling me stories of how they literally sold a six, seven figure deal with their customer. And it was their job for the next year to go, set up, office in that customer's office, and then to go around and evangelize the product.
[00:08:14] Andrew Michael: And it was... it sort of blew my mind that this was something that's happening. I think it still happens today where large companies like Google might have an office for a specific product of theirs, they use just to come and educate. It's wild. I think we're more and more moving to the state that they just say more and more products are being used. It's not really feasible for the individual to be able to manage all these interactions with all the different providers and keep up with all the CSMs and wanting to be involved in the different meetings. So tell us a little bit more like what does this future then look like? As an end user yourself, not enjoying interacting with CS, like how do customer success serve a customer like yourself?
[00:08:54] Jamie Davidson: So I think that there's a lot of improvement that can be done all the way from day to day, like internal strategies and workflows that a CS team is doing to any eventual output, where the customer is potentially getting something from you. It doesn't have to be a meeting invite or even an email, but it could be a loom or a notion document or a Vitally documented, plug our own product. But I see a lot of area of opportunity for customer, CS teams to really innovate in how they're working on a repetitive basis internally as a team.
[00:09:29] Jamie Davidson: It's like something that we do that I think is somewhat uncommon and it's not coincidental being a former technical leader that now runs a company. We do sprints, bi-weekly sprint planning across the board for every team. Engineering, and all go to market. So customer success, marketing, sales, we do bi-weekly sprint planning. Naturally with customer success, and I actually have interviewed a lot of CS leaders recently about this. And some of them understand it. Some of them are like, what would a sprint even look like for a customer success team?
[00:10:04] Jamie Davidson: And I understand why the question is asked, but it's just planning ahead. It's just like, I have the next two weeks. I want to make sure my team is as productive and impactful as possible. We should be running some repetitive process to ensure that is the case, whether that be ensuring we have awareness over our churn risk and what playbooks we need to be running with those churn risks. Whether that be onboarding new customers and ensuring that strategic customers are making their way through the onboarding process. It's just a way to make sure that everyone's aligned on what are the top priorities and what are the goals for the next couple of weeks.
[00:10:40] Jamie Davidson: And something that I don't see a lot of with customer success is focusing on the internal, using that sprint planning strategy to plan more strategically and to improve more strategically. So not necessarily focusing on what does a CSM need to do for a specific customer? What are net new processes that we need to do as a customer success team over the next two weeks to continue to improve ourselves? Maybe that is rebuilding your health scores in your CSP. Maybe that is looking at new tooling to creatively engage a customer. Maybe that is looking at automated workflows that need to be set up. Things that are just generally going to improve the day-to-day workflow and impact that your team is having in customer success. Making sure that you revisit that on a recurring basis, whether that be a sprint planning or something else, is critical.
[00:11:27] Jamie Davidson: And again, I see a lot of CS teams over index on the direct customer. I need to work with this specific customer and get this done. Naturally, that needs to be baked into the process. But revisiting those general strategies, those general workflows is critical just to make sure your CS team is top-notch, is differentiated from your competition. Because your competition, you do have competition in customer success. It is the other customer success teams at your competitors. And every customer success team needs to be thinking about, how do I be better than them? And it's not all about engagement from that perspective.
[00:11:58] Andrew Michael: Yeah, absolutely. And I do see the value of bringing something like sprints to CS. I'm a big fan of sprints myself. When leading previous marketing teams, I was doing something, I'd like to introduce. Got a lot of pushback from that perspective. And you can see as well in the CS space. But thinking it through as well, obviously like within CS, there's a lot of day-to-day activities that just need to get done. You can't get around it. And I think without having something, whatever the framework or the structures, as you say, like a sprint planning, you sort of never leave time for the things that really matter and that need to get done. And maybe, there may be a goal for a quarter or for this year.
[00:12:35] Andrew Michael: And those sorts of things, like if you have a shorter cycle where you're focusing on making improvements, you're making iterative improvements, you can start to see a bigger impact a lot faster and it compounds over time as opposed to sort of like, okay, we're going to work on this project this quarter and we're going to figure it out. And it's more like, okay, this is a continual iteration process, even introducing things like retros and how do we improve and discussing these things on a biweekly basis, I think is really impactful for improving the teams.
[00:13:01] Jamie Davidson: Yeah, I agree. I mean, I think that if you don't do something like that, you can easily just get caught in the same processes day to day and you can kind of plateau really as a team because it sort of operates under the assumption that what you're doing now is good enough and the team should just get to work, which is a natural thought. But again, one thing I always encourage CST to think about is like, again, you do have competitors in customer success. We all have competitors in business. The other competitors are the other engineering teams that [you do] direct competitors, sales, your competitors are the other sales teams that your competitors.
[00:13:43] Jamie Davidson: And so I think that it's often hard for individual departments to kind of think about that from a business perspective. But if you do, then your goal is, well, how do I be the best in my market? How do I be the best out of all my competitors? And the only way to be the best is to continuously evolve and improve. And again, the only way to do that is to continuously revisit what you're doing and improve it and tweak it as need be. And so I think there's a bit of a changing in the way that, not only get customer success, but all of these departments can think about, to really try to push the boundaries of what they're doing, the impact that they're having and continuously improving internally.
[00:14:23] Andrew Michael: Yeah, absolutely. And on the note of continuous improving and retros itself, is that something that you adopt as well with the sprints? Is the team running retros? And what does that look like maybe in the context of CS? What does a typical retro look like?
[00:14:36] Jamie Davidson: When you say retro, do you mean like a churn retro, like a customer churns? Like why did they churn?
[00:14:42] Andrew Michael: No, the team retrospective, like itself, like how the team is operating, what they could do to improve? Is this something that's done? Or...?
[00:14:50] Jamie Davidson: Yeah, I see. I see. So we don't adapt the entire sprint and agile methodology and go to market, which, that is, kind of part of that for engineering. We certainly could and there's certainly been no reason not to, but we actually don't do sprint retros. We just do planning sessions and then kind of bake in the retro into like the next planning session. When you mention retro, we do actually have churn retros. Yeah, which is like a deep dive and analysis into the customer why they churned. But the actual agile sprint methodology of a retro, I actually honestly think there's potential argument for that to not even be part of the traditional engineering sprints as well. Because I'm also a fan of less meetings. And I think you can bake that into the original sprint planning session. But if you find it helpful, I see no reason not to do it.
[00:15:36] Andrew Michael: Yeah. Because I was just thinking as you were talking as well, like a lot of the processes maybe you do outside in different departments, for example, marketing, you're doing competitive analysis. But when marketing does a competitive analysis, they're not looking at like, what does customer success look like at company X? They're looking at the features and they go to markets and how they go about it. And there's different elements and aspects, I think, from different teams and the way that they operate that perhaps like something I haven't talked about with any other guests on the show happens on our like, how do you improve your own internal customer success operations? And what sort of signals are you looking to improve? So where do you get inspiration? Like how do you know as a team, like what we should be improving?
[00:16:15] Jamie Davidson: Yeah, and that's actually why we do like an entire, like we don't do and we probably change it as we get bigger. We're about 100 employees, like globally right now. But right now, our sprints are like go to market sprints. So sales, CS and marketing, all in the same, like sprint planning session. For that exact reason, it's like maybe customer success needs to, as an example, prioritize a case study because they learned of something like amazing with the customer. That's something that then hand off to marketing like in the sprint session.
[00:16:46] Jamie Davidson: Maybe sales needs help to close a customer and they want to communicate just the exact, like way of customer success. The onboarding process is going to be for prospect, that's like at the finish line of closing but isn't closed yet. Again, it's great to bring that up in a go to market sort of sprint. So that cross collaboration is occurring for us all in the same sprint planning session because all of our go to market from marketing to CS to sales to even support are all in this, like sort of sprint that occurs once every other week.
[00:17:11] Andrew Michael: Yeah, I love that. I see, I can see how that can become more of a challenge as the company scales. But at the stage that you're at is well, like having them work together and plan together increases that collaboration. I think at the early stage where it starts to fall apart after around 40 people because you don't have those direct communication lines.
[00:17:29] Jamie Davidson: And we don't in, like one change we made maybe at around like 50 people was that we, you know, control the invite list more to the sprint planning sessions. Originally, it was like, all of CS was in there. And then now it's basically the CS leaders, the implementation leader, the sales leaders, the sales managers. It's mostly, you know, top and mid level management in there. And then, yeah, as we get bigger and bigger, we'll probably break it up more and more. But yeah, we'll evolve it as we need to.
[00:17:54] Andrew Michael: As you iterate. Nice. So obviously like that's one component to how you can serve your customers in the background and one is like improving processes. What other areas of opportunity do you see for companies to be able to serve their customers other than engaging them direct?
[00:18:11] Jamie Davidson: Yeah, I mean naturally customer engagement is I think the obvious and inaccurate answer. Customer education is the obvious sort of answer there. And that's something that, I don't quite know if customer success teams often take on customer education themselves or if they outsource that or if they rely on support to do that. We currently see it as a shared effort. Customer success educates what should, what needs to be sort of collateralized. Like you know, maybe we encounter a new use case that our product can do, that customers aren't aware of. Is this an opportunity for a marketing blog post? Is this just an article in our help center?
[00:18:58] Jamie Davidson: Again back to the go-to-market sort of sprint for us. Having those discussions in the same room with all the leaders allows us to kind of, like define, isolate those questions in real time, find the right answers to those questions in real time. But scalable customer engagement is the, I think the next closest thing to sort of scalable customer education. I think I keep saying it.
[00:19:19] Andrew Michael: Yeah, you keep saying.
[00:19:21] Jamie Davidson: Scalable customer education. They're very close.
[00:19:24] Andrew Michael: Yeah.
[00:19:25] Jamie Davidson: Scalable customer education is like the next thing to direct customer engagement. Now the challenge there is of course you can't force customers to read an article that exists in your help center or to watch a Loom video that you send them. But taking the materials, the topics that would be covered typically in a direct one to one meeting and collateralizing what would be discussed in terms of like Loom videos and help centers or blog posts or whatever it is, is a very good step to at the very least giving one, your customers another option to more scalably onboard themselves. But two, they do want to talk to you, freeing up room for more exciting and engaging conversations that can't be served by your existing educational efforts.
[00:20:11] Jamie Davidson: So I love it when customer success teams or just post sales teams in general hire like an early head of customer education, somebody to run scalable educational narratives and efforts so that customer success, if the customer doesn't want to talk to you, can get way more in the weeds and in the details what the customer wants to talk about and skip a lot of things that can be automated or learned sort of like on the back end.
[00:20:34] Andrew Michael: Yeah, it is interesting because like you say, like sometimes it sits within support, sometimes that sits within CS and I think there's like sort of this distinction and this is line where like one is like documentation and how the product works and the X, Y and Z. And then the other side of it is like how do you extract the most value from our product and how can we educate them to use, in the best way and provide them use cases that they may not have thought about. I always found as well like some of the best support people I've worked with in the past always had this mindset of like, it's not just a matter of like solving X, Y or Z but it's like how can I go the extra mile then and educate them on a new use case that they could potentially maximizing it from the product and having that really great collateral at hand.
[00:21:17] Jamie Davidson: Like you say, as you mentioned, I think it was really nice that it opens up better conversations the next time you get on a call with the customer success rep and it's not just like, “Hey, this might be interesting for you to check out customer X, Y, Z.” It's like, yeah, I saw that these are the results I've got, like now what and then you can have these interesting conversations that can evolve into new material as you go along.
[00:21:37] Jamie Davidson: I think there's just a lot of room for innovation in customer education. Naturally, everybody has a help center, right? They have a resource center with articles and whatnot but the more that you can leverage something like a Loom video or just video in general, bake that in either into your help center or automated email campaigns that you're sending the customer, I think that's going to potentially drive progress by specific types of users that lean more towards learning from visual and auditory methods versus actually reading something.
[00:22:06] Jamie Davidson: But I think that there's a lot of room for improvement but there has been recent enhancements in the customer education space and going less away from the Zendesk of the world which no shaded them but not a lot of people want to read a three-page help center article to achieve their goal to more bite-size for the content that can be consumed in a more engaging way with more rapid efficiency. And then naturally, now there's a whole wealth of innovation in AI to pair all that content with an AI chatbot to surface the right kind of content at the right times based on natural language questions that your customer is asking.
[00:22:46] Jamie Davidson: So the intersection of AI and customer education, I think is also going to be very interesting to see how that plays out to really, again, help free up. And a lot of people understandably and probably a lot of, not so much customer assessment in other areas, looking at AI, potentially replacements to their job, which I understand. But I think AI can be used in customer success more to automate a lot of the repetitive and help teams or help customers find the right content at the right times, not so much to displace the CSM but to give the CSM more time and more creativity to make a direct and unique impact on the customer that can't be done by an AI bot.
[00:23:27] Jamie Davidson: And so, yeah, I think there's a lot of… I think if CS teams don't have an educational strategy and aren't making that internally within their capabilities, at least with a direct resource to continuously feed your educational efforts, then perhaps they want to revisit that. I think there's a lot of room for opportunity there.
[00:23:44] Andrew Michael: Yeah, for sure. And I think as well, on the AI notes, there's a lot of concern of like, oh, they're coming to take our jobs and we're going to lose our opportunity. I think people underestimate how much work there is to get done and how many more people companies would potentially hire if they could actually. So I think it's more just a matter of making you more efficient to be able to have a higher output and deliver a better experience for the end user. I also think like…
[00:24:09] Jamie Davidson: Well, and–
[00:24:09] Andrew Michael: Yeah, sorry.
[00:24:10] Jamie Davidson: No, go ahead, Andrew.
[00:24:11] Andrew Michael: And I was just thinking as well, like in terms of the advancements of AI, like how incredible experiences that we can create for end users where it becomes like the content that gets delivered to them gets really hyper-personalized. Like there's amazing tools like Synthesia and others where you can do a model of yourself, you can record a video and you can actually update the content in real time. So you're delivering a real message. And then by the time the customer gets to speak to you, there's almost some sort of a little bit of a rapport created through these automations. And I can just imagine some of those experiences that we start to see in the market.
[00:24:44] Jamie Davidson: Yeah, for sure. It's kind of automating the awkward introduction phase of a relationship. It's like, let's skip the small talk. You'll meet my AI persona a bit before we actually get on a call. And then when you call, it's almost like you know me and we can just get straight to the good stuff and skip to like, “Hey, where are you based” and all the kind of small talk that takes off the first five or 10 minutes of every meeting.
[00:25:10] Andrew Michael: Yeah, absolutely. So as an internal team, like we figure out processes, we've got different planning going, reiterating as a team, custom education being a space where we should be focusing on and really how do we innovate in that space to provide a really good experience for customers to be able to self-serve, to be able to better educate themselves and to extract value from the product. Are there any other areas that you see for opportunity that companies aren't really talking about today?
[00:25:40] Jamie Davidson: I mean, it's a close kin, but onboarding in general, implementation and onboarding. I think that a lot of customer success is especially gravitating and concentrating in onboarding and implementation, which is understandable. It's like the most fragile, like at-risk phase of a customer, right? Like naturally the customer doesn't get the product implemented and onboarded, then no amount of recurring engagements and adoption in QBRs are really going to matter because what are they even getting value from?
[00:26:10] Jamie Davidson: And I think that there's an interesting, I don't know, I think that the natural sort of split in that is implementation specialist or like solutions engineers or whatever other label you want to call them kind of handling that and then handling it off to the CSM. I think that makes sense. And we did the same thing transparently, so I don't have, like, some unique sort of, you know, experiment we've tried that, like we've really stuck with here. But the idea of like the technical CSM and trying to not look at it as like bifurcating expertise, like there's the bifurcation. You know, I don't always bump in support in that. There's the bifurcation of support, things go to support, then there's the bifurcation of implementation and onboarding, things go to like technical implementation specialist there, and then there's the bifurcation of like everything post-implementation and then even renewals handed off to the AM.
[00:27:03] Jamie Davidson: Like again, we do all that. We have AMs, we have implementation specialists, we have dedicated CSMs, and so it's not like we're trying anything new. But I do that bifurcation and the impact that has on the customer, I think is… will change over time. And I think that there's a lot of room for potential innovation there, because if customer success's job is to provide the most impact in ROI to the customer and also, I think, in a perfect world really impact the customer experience and just impress the customer. Putting an onus on the customer to figure out who they should reach out to based on their type of question is a huge ask to me.
[00:27:45] Jamie Davidson: And I know at times I get into this cycle with some of our vendors where I ask somebody and then I'm, you know, thrown to somebody else or thrown to somebody else because it's not the right person. And it really degrades the customer experience, especially if you are an executive assistant myself and have a lot of other things to go on. I don't want to, you know, it's like calling support for your credit card and you call the wrong person and you have to wait five minutes to get transferred to the next thing. So very frustrating and that impacts the customer experience, it impacts customer success. And so, I don't know, I think there's a lot of potential innovation to be done there that we could try to go down.
[00:28:22] Andrew Michael: Yeah, absolutely. And I echo the frustration of those experiences. I've been there as well before and then it's like, who did we speak to for X, Y, or Z and trying to navigate through your provider’s organization is often a nightmare. And especially if you think about customer champions and sharing being an issue, the same applies in the CS space, like people leave and then it's like a nightmare trying to figure out and understand who the best person is to speak to. So definitely see big room for opportunity to figure out a way to better navigate that process and streamline it for the end user.
[00:28:58] Andrew Michael: You also have an extremely interesting vantage point and maybe I want to shift gears and change topics a bit now and talk a little bit about the landscape today in customer success. We've obviously entered into a different, a completely different market at the moment. Churn is definitely on the rise for a lot of organizations and I'm interested to see what are some of the things you're seeing from your customers in the market? Are you seeing general concern across the board? Are you seeing any areas where perhaps things are actually going better than expected? And I can imagine there's some industries that could benefit from a situation like this. So.
[00:29:38] Jamie Davidson: Yeah, definitely seeing a lot of struggles around budgeting and I mean, just really around that, right? So we sell across the board to all companies of all sizes, but I would say specialize in mid-market and maybe a little bit of SMP and that's certainly been hit even, I think, harder than a lot of people by the down market. And so where like Q1, Q2 of last year, when valuations were insane for companies and their money was flowing, and venture money was flowing, you rarely ever heard from a customer that they were looking to cut budget or totally cut a product because they needed to save money or they want to look at a potential downgrade to contraction of their contract. It was, money was flowing now.
[00:30:30] Jamie Davidson: This year, the tables have turned. Negotiations are tighter, downgrades and contractions are like a first bullet point brought up, not like, maybe an eventual concession. Naturally, with the unfortunate amount of rifts that are happening, stakeholders are changing and you're having to consistently deal with that and win over new people to grant new budgets. So it's a tough time out there. We've certainly seen a bit of that. It was delayed for us. I know a lot of people are talking about this being a problem in the mid, end of last year. We raised our Series B in November last year, at a time when nobody was raising and our numbers were really, really great at that point. But the time caught up to us. I think what happened was, well, I just started to get cut at other tooling and whatnot. And then the down market kept happening. Venture was still not doing a whole bunch of fundings. And so I eventually caught up and made its way through the tool lifecycle to customer success. And so, yeah, it's a challenging time out there, for sure.
[00:31:39] Andrew Michael: Yeah, absolutely. I think with customer success, one of the things as well, that in a down market, you want to try and avoid churn and retain as many customers as possible. So there's that aspect where it becomes more important. But then in the other aspect, as well as a lot of organizations look at it and say it's a cost center, depending on the culture that they have internally. So I can see that being a bit of a challenge to navigate and understand. Because it does come down to a lot of company culture, I guess, at this stage and understanding like, which companies CS is like a vital interest versus which one's here does this cost center.
[00:32:14] Jamie Davidson: It's interesting because you're asking the executive of a CS company. So naturally, I'm going to have a very friendly opinion. But it's also, I think, an honest opinion. There are companies out there that have matured public companies that have totally gotten rid of customer success in this environment, and not in those board meetings so I don't, you know, I don't want a quarterback, sort of like, armchair quarterback their decisions or whatnot. But I find it hard to understand fully why you would take such a hard line approach. Because I think the implication there is that your product and your customers will see success, I guess, primarily through educational efforts, through support, through reactive CS, or through just a pure account management that this looks to renew customers later on, like, you know, towards the end of their contract.
[00:33:06] Jamie Davidson: But again, I think that overlooks customer success's impact on customer experience, which impacts, naturally their perspective on not only the product, but your business in general. I don't know why companies will look at it purely from a binary perspective, I either have it or I don't. I understand scaling it back. But approaching it from a different strategy and rethinking what customer success means to you seems to me to be more of the obvious or like the right sort of point to start with, rather than a pure like it's a cost or get rid of it kind of thing. But again, I'm not in the board meeting. So I don't want to say that, like, you know, I don't want to throw shade where I don't have the data to throw shade at.
[00:33:48] Andrew Michael: Absolutely. I mean, I think it's definitely, it's grown in popularity and understanding and the necessity, but it is still like an emerging space. It's still like it's one of the earliest, it's one of the youngest practices, I think, within companies today, if you look at everything else, like sales, marketing, product, everything is a lot more established, has its processes. And I think that's interesting. And a fun part about customer success is that there's still a lot of this like greenfield and ocean to explore and experiment with. And I guess you alluded today, like there's quite a few different areas for innovation and ways that can be improved and new things for people to think about. So I love that.
[00:34:29] Jamie Davidson: And to bring it back around to the beginning of the conversation, like I think the more that customer success can evolve and innovate in their internal workflows and their cross collaboration with sales and with marketing, the more they can be a resource to those teams, that they can point to, they actually want to deal because they were on the call and were communicating the differentiation in their customer success. They were in a sprint planning session with marketing, sharing case studies that marketing would not have understood or known about to begin with.
[00:34:58] Jamie Davidson: That's just, of course, when published drives more into the funnel, the more that they can impact the entirety of the customer funnel through internal workflows and cross collaboration, the harder it would be for an executive in a time of turmoil, when they're potentially doing a rip, to look at customer success and say, get rid of it. And so that's why I would encourage customer success to think really hard about those internal workflows, their internal productivity, and how they're impacting the entire funnel from pre-sales all the way through post sales because the bigger impact they can point to, frankly impossible, it would be to like actually get rid of them in times of difficulties like this.
[00:35:40] Andrew Michael: Yeah, absolutely. Well, I see we're running up on time today. So I have one question for you, is what's one thing that you know today about churn and retention that you wish you knew when you got started with your career?
[00:35:53] Jamie Davidson: It's just a really good question. I was going to say data is everything, but it's not true. But it's hard to argue against data. And I'll say that from the perspective, it actually gets back to the customer relationship and customer, is always in dating or over focusing, sorry, on the customer relationship, because stakeholders change, they get laid off, unfortunately, they get promoted, they move to different companies. And especially with how I got my career started, which was at a very enterprise focused company, Pathgather only sold to the Fortune 500 for the most part.
[00:36:29] Jamie Davidson: And because of that, we were wine and dine, talked to the stakeholder who bought us, get them loving us, get them out there on like speaker conferences, really lift them up, right? Which was not an incorrect decision, but it was a short sighted decision because when those people change jobs, we have to win over somebody else. And so I wish that I had instilled a mentality, and I kind of did, but I think we could have taken it a bit further towards, make sure you always have, do all that kind of stuff. It's definitely going to do it. But make sure you have, like the data packet to prove just how impactful, how successful you are to your business.
[00:37:13] Jamie Davidson: So that if you lose that one stakeholder, then the next person that comes in, send them the data packet that shows just how successful you've been, what you've done for their company, what you've done for their business. So that at times when there are financial decisions to be made, it's a lot more difficult of a decision to be made. So again, don't over index only on the customer relationship, back it up with data, back it up with actual hard proof, just how impactful you are being to the general business overall, so that you can navigate the ever changing landscape of stakeholder change.
[00:37:46] Andrew Michael: Yeah, to manage that. Yeah, like customer churn, customer champion churn is like one of the biggest risks we discuss on the show. And as you're saying now, as well, making sure you have the data available to illustrate and share the value with customers and to be able to then figure out who's next and make sure that they know about the product and what it's delivering to the users. It's been a pleasure hosting you today, Jamie. Is there any final thoughts you want to leave the listeners with before we wrap up today? How can they be aware of up to speed with your work?
[00:38:18] Jamie Davidson: My work is Vitally [inaudible]. So just check us out. I think we're doing some interesting things in the customer success software and platform landscape. And don't hesitate to connect with me on LinkedIn. If there's anything in here that you agree or disagree with, I'm happy to have conversations with anybody.
[00:38:38] Andrew Michael: Awesome. Well, thank you so much. It's been a pleasure hosting you today. For the listeners, everything that we've discussed today, any references, any resources will be in the show notes. So be sure to check that out. And yeah, just thanks so much again, Jamie, for joining the show. Wish you best of luck now going forward.
[00:38:252 Jamie Davidson: Take care. Bye-bye.
[00:38:55] Andrew Michael: And that's a wrap for the show today with me, Andrew Michael. I really hope you enjoyed it and you're able to pull out something valuable for your business. To keep up to date with Churn.FM and be notified about new episodes, blog posts and more, subscribe to our mailing list by visiting Churn.FM. Also, don't forget to subscribe to our show on iTunes, Google Play or wherever you listen to your podcasts. If you have any feedback, good or bad, I would love to hear from you. And you can provide your blunt, direct feedback by sending it to Andrew@churn.fm. Lastly, but most importantly, if you enjoyed this episode, please share it and leave a review as it really helps get the word out and grow the community. Thanks again for listening. See you again next week.
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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.