Where Customer Success and Marketing Strategies Meet
Director of Customer Success & Corporate Communication Strategy
Today on the show, we have Evgenia Mkrtychian, Head of Customer Success and Corporate Communication Strategy at Loyalty Plant.
In this episode, Evgenia shares Loyalty Plant's journey and we explore how they are managing their rapid growth.
Evgenia shares insights into the significance of customer success and marketing strategies within their mobile marketing and e-commerce platform for quick-service restaurants.
Evgenia then talks about the importance of a streamlined onboarding process and how they are optimizing and automating specific processes to handle their growth. Evgenia also touched on the sales process and how knowledge is shared between sales and customer success teams.
As usual, we're excited to hear what you think of this episode, and if you have any feedback, we would love to hear from you.
00:00:00 Evgenia: We talk more about the marketing and loyalty aspect because this is the foundation that we need to consider before we make any technical implementation, at least to some extent, just to make sure that we are moving in the right direction.
00:00:15 VO: How do you build a habit-forming products? How do you… Don't just guns for revenue in the door?
00:00:22 Andrew: 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.
00:00:34 VO: How do you build a habit forming products? 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.
00:00:48 Andrew: 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. Hey Gen, welcome to the show.
00:01:01 Evgenia: Hi, Andrew. Thanks for having me.
00:01:03 Andrew: It's great to have you. For the listeners, Gen is the head of Customer Success and Corporate Communication Strategy at LoyaltyPlant, helping offline businesses worldwide create meaningful connections with their customers through mobile solutions. Prior to LoyaltyPlant, Gen was the founder and chief marketing officer of Language Profit School. So my first question for you, Gen, is what does the head of Customer Success and Corporate Communication Strategy do and why are these two roles connected at LoyaltyPlant?
00:01:30 Evgenia: So essentially my main responsibility is actually ensuring that we do great customer success globally for our customers worldwide. A lot of things that we do is relevant to building great marketing and communication strategies also with the help of our solution. So that is why I'm also responsible for marketing strategies and communication strategies.
00:01:56 Andrew: Very interesting. And maybe you can give us then a little bit about what is the LoyaltyPlant does and then why in this context does so much of what you do role world run marketing strategy as well?
00:02:07 Evgenia: Absolutely. So the core value of our solution is in the marketing engine. Essentially we are a marketing platform/ecommerce platform for the end users. We are a mobile application with online ordering and loyalty program built in primarily for the QSR brands and the whole customer journey. Communication and strategy is built and powered with the help of our marketing platform, our engine. So it comes in different shapes and forms, push messages, marketing campaigns. We target the right audience at the right time just to make sure we have the best conversions.
00:02:48 Andrew: Well, you said something an acronym QSR?
00:02:51 Evgenia: Yeah, Quick Service Restaurants. This is our nation. This is our industry that we work for primarily brands like Papa John, Subway.
00:03:01 Andrew: Nice. And then what is exactly you producing the apps for them and then all the underlying marketing mechanics behind it? Or do they have their own apps and then they just plug into loyalty plan for the promotional side?
00:03:11 Evgenia: Exactly. Well, this is a white label app that we customize and we roll out certain marketing strategies, loyalty program, referral programs, and many, many more features.
00:03:23 Andrew: And then just before the show as well, we're talking a little bit about sort of the growth loyalty plants and it sounds like you mentioned you're going through sort of a rapid growth at this stage. Like what does that feel like internally at the organization?
00:03:35 Evgenia: We are. Especially in after the covid hit and during the pandemic, everyone wanted and needed an online ordering platform immediately. We are more than that, but essentially this is what was really amazing for a lot of great businesses during covid. So yes, we are in this hyper growth stage internally that means that we are working under a lot of pressure and stress, but we are dealing with it. And it's not only the volume of work and the amount of work, it's also about the product itself. It is changing, it is evolving and we have added so many great features to the product and we are trying to continue delivering great value and drive engagement with our customers to ensure great retention and minimize churn risks.
00:04:27 Andrew: How are you doing that?
00:04:28 Evgenia: We are doing well and there is a lot of effort behind this from myself and the team. I do believe that in order to minimize churn risks, you have to be preventive and be proactive. So that's what we are doing rather than waiting until the situation escalates. So my best approach is to ensure that the customers are seeing the value behind the product.
00:04:55 Andrew: And when you say sort of hypergrowth, what does this mean? Like in terms of customer base? Like don't give any specific numbers, but like has the number of customers in 10% [inaudible] a hundred percent. And then just maybe the reason I'm asking for this is in contrast to the team size, like has the team size scaled proportionately to the amount of working customers that you've acquired over the last few years?
00:05:18 Evgenia: I would say that we have almost doubled the amount of our customers, the amount of customer base. That does not necessarily mean that we are partnering with new brands. It's that we are scaling our existing projects customers and the team is growing not in the same proportion, but we are growing the team. But most importantly, we are trying to optimize certain processes, automate certain things, delegate more, work more efficiently with other teams like support analytics, just to make sure that we can handle the same amount of work or even a greater amount of work given almost the same resources. So we just want to work faster and smarter rather than just constantly be growing the team
00:06:06 Andrew: And the team. What was the first other process that broke or process that you realized you needed to put in place once you started to experience this rapid growth?
00:06:16 Evgenia: I think the very first process... it's not just because it broke. I just feel like it needs certain improvement. That's the very first point of contact with the customer. We call this the kickoff call where we start the onboarding process. So the more efficient this onboarding process is organized, the faster you can pass through the activation stage and start delivering the value behind this product. The activation stage, I know for many companies it differs, it's different for our company. It depends on the complexity of the project, whether it's midmarket or enterprise. But in any case, we want to make sure we are past this activation stage as soon as possible and we implement on certain steps into making this activation process as straightforward as possible to the customer. We optimize certain processes, we automate them just to make sure we can start to deliver the value.
00:07:18 Andrew: And just for context as well, do you provide any sort of self-serve product or it is purely like customer success driven and like an onboarding and implementation process that happens?
00:07:30 Evgenia: It is customer success driven. It's not a sales service. It's customer success driven.
00:07:36 Andrew: And at which point then as well do you interact then during the sales journey? Is it something that you get introduced to at the end of the sales cycle? Are you involved earlier on during the sales process?
00:07:47 Evgenia: I myself might be involved earlier during the sales process, but normally the customer success team steps in after the deal is closed and we kind of this is how we start working on the project.
00:08:02 Andrew: All right. And what does your onboarding process look like then? So obviously you said this was on the first areas where it started to break or you needed to make improvements. What does your onboarding process look like today for customers? What would like the typical interaction be with an end user?
00:08:18 Evgenia: So at the very first call, the kickoff call, we are connecting with the customer, the decision makers or the project group. And we once again explain the process as of how it is going to look like, what are the steps needed from the customer, what are the steps we are going to be managing ourselves. And at the same time during this kickoff call, we need to ensure that the customer understands the product, the platform, how it works in more detail, and we kind of get a better feeling and understanding of their operations. And we talk more about the marketing and loyalty aspect because this is the foundation that we need to consider before we make any technical implementation, at least to some extent, just to make sure that we are moving in the right direction.
00:09:08 Evgenia:And then the activation stage actually begins, it may take somewhere from two to four months, ideally. And during this whole activation stage, we are finalizing some technical setup because our product is pretty complicated. It consists of many aspects, integrations with point of sale systems, with payment providers, analytic tools. So all of those pieces of the puzzle, they need to be in the right place by the end of the activation process.
00:09:38 Andrew: That's very interesting. And you mentioned as well, obviously like you asked quite a few different questions from the end user. I'd imagine a lot of the stuff as well is asked during sales calls too to understand like the goals, the motivations. Like if you are, how are you sharing knowledge between sales and customer success to streamline that process? Or is there something that you still feel needs to be improved?
00:09:59 Evgenia: That particular aspect, I would say it's pretty well organized. We get as... I would say sufficient amount of details from our sales team. This is not actually piece that needs to be improved. I guess the piece that needs to be improved is customers understanding of what the steps are, what they need to do in order to complete the activation process, because certain things we do not have either the access or the power to finalize. But with the sales team, I think the process is pretty well organized. We have this great culture within the team, so we understand that the goal is to make the customer happy and help them achieve greater results with the help of our solution. And the sales team is very well educated on our product.
00:10:48 Andrew: Because I think for me, thinking back to like when I purchased software, the most frustrating thing typically was always when you'd like speak to a salesperson they'd ask, what are your goals? What are your objectives? What are you trying to achieve? And then you'd go through all of that in a call and then the next call you would have with customer success for onboarding would be like, what are your goals? What are you trying to achieve? What are the motivations? And ended up being like two hours where you've basically just repeated yourself over and over. It's always interesting to see how different companies tackle this and ensure that there's this good smooth handover. Either it's like having a customer success rep, like involved in the early stages and then throughout or like I said, and really documenting and sharing good knowledge between one another. How big is the team today then, from a customer success perspective? How many are you in the team?
00:11:35 Evgenia: We are a team of 20 customer success managers, enterprise mid market in junior managers. So we are.
00:11:44 Andrew: And in terms of the overall team, like I... when I think I looked on LinkedIn, it was only about 80 team members in total, is that correct? Or?
00:11:52 Evgenia: Yeah, that's right. About 80 people.
00:11:55 Andrew: So customer success is quite a sizable part of the organization. I think you might be one of the largest ratios that I've heard on the show to date. In terms of the investment in customer success, what is the motivation behind that as well?
00:12:10 Evgenia: I can explain. Well, firstly, as I mentioned before, our product is pretty complex in terms of everything that is capable of. And in order to get the most of it, we still need customer success managers to help our customers. But when you ask like, how big is the team? How are you growing the team? So my answer and my goal is to actually not grow the team, but just to optimize certain processes to make sure that some of the work is delegated to more technical teams, for example, or analytics or marketing for that matter. So yeah, but right now we are covering a lot of aspects from technical to project management, to actually customer success and marketing and building great case status for our customers and for the company.
00:13:01 Andrew: And what is customer success then responsible for what are some of the metrics that you own and why?
00:13:08 Evgenia: The metrics that matter for us the most looking at how well we are doing the, I would say the customer satisfaction score, the NPS, these are generic metrics, but looking at how our products is utilized, we are interested in such metrics at the costs for the loyalty program, for example, our benchmark is like 5%. If it's higher than certain actions need to be taken, or the ratio between the customer cohorts like medium and heavy, what is the average check? Is it growing? What is the number of repeat purchases that we are seeing? What's the upsell, how well it is working? So it kind of to understand how well our platform is doing and either understand that, well, hey, we are doing really great here, but these are the areas of improvements that we need to be looking at.
00:14:06 Andrew: We've had a few debates on the podcast in the past with the, like the reliability of NPS and CSAT and what are your opinions on the metrics of NPSs and CSATs?
00:14:16 Evgenia: These are the metrics that I would kind of say whether the customer is generally happy interacting with the... with us as with the company, rather than actually telling how well the product is doing. Because these are two opposite things. Obviously normally businesses would be happy when both metrics look fine, but it might happen that customers might have a great satisfaction score, like give us a great review, but certain metrics are not doing that great, so that that might be happening. So that's why we are looking at a bigger picture to understand how well we are doing.
00:14:56 Andrew: I think in a recent interview, and the guest needs to forgive me for this, but because I can't remember who it was cause I've had quite a few interviews recently. But we discussed the… they did a really interesting study as well. I've got.... It was Tom Conwell and he basically looked at hundreds of thousands of different data points and tried to understand like which key metrics correlated the most to net dollar retention and ultimately to customer retention. And though the metrics that scored like the least favorable were MPS and CSATs they had the least likelihood to indicate whether you're gonna to the one reason, like you said, you can be satisfied with the company or products, but maybe at the end you don't need it anymore or it doesn't deliver value or there's all a bunch of other reasons.
00:15:40 Andrew: The other thing I was gonna ask you... and imagine in your case probably this is different to a lot of other products, but what sort of percentage are filling in these NPSs and CSATs? Is it pretty much every customer that goes through the onboarding experience or through experience that you manage to get to submit them? Or is it only a select percentage?
00:15:57 Evgenia: I would say it's not every customer, but I would say it's every customer that is more like enterprise in this category. Unfortunately at this point we are not doing this for all of our mid market customers, but this is the goal to actually get there.
00:16:15 Andrew: Cause I think most of the time, like the sample size is not representative of the total audience and total user base that you have. And typically it's either the people that are extremely motivated cause they're extremely happy or extremely pissed off and they really don't like your product to service. You're not really getting the middle ground and understanding sort of what is the people that are in the in between states. So you have a few different key metrics. Is there any like... could you pinpoint one that you would say like, as an organization, this is the one that we absolutely are responsible for and need to move the needle on?
00:16:51 Evgenia: The core value and my favorite feature of our product, our platform is within marketing campaigns, winback campaigns, essentially it happens with every brand. No matter how well you are doing that, customers stop visiting or stop purchasing your product or service. Because we have the right mechanics within our platform, we can target the lapsed audience with the relevant offer because we know they are purchase history and we do this personalization rather than send an a mass message to everyone. And we've seen and we have battle tested this mechanics and we are seeing great retention. We see that customers are actually influenced and engaged with the help of our campaigns and they continue to place orders and this proves the value of our product greatly because we are just seeing incremental marginal profit. That's hard to argue because this is the data that just speaks for itself.
00:17:55 Evgenia: So in order to launch winback campaigns or other campaigns that are available within our platform, it is pretty straightforward. However, it requires certain amount of work to be done, an effort to build this strategy, to roll out these scenarios and to actually launch the campaigns. And this is why we have a customer success team to work with our customers and advise them on best practices and kind of ensure they use this particular aspect of our platform. It's because if you are not using it, if you are not utilizing, you are not seeing the valves like having a subscription to the best gym in town and just not going there and then seeing a result, so then you do want to cancel at the end of the day if you are not seeing the results. So this is the top feature, this is something that we are focusing on driving retention, repeat sales.
00:18:47 Andrew: That's awesome. It's like we talk a little a lot about this as well on the shows, like really trying to get to understand at the point where you can measure the value that you deliver your customers and the actual value. So a lot of times when people come and say, come to your service and they want a website, this is... we talk about [Heidi Gibson] a lot on GoDaddy, but actually they don't really want a website. They wanna drive sales, they wanna get repeat purchases, they wanna get bookings, and you actually have a way to measure, are you being able to drive those repeat purchases and are you able to win back customers. And using that as sort of the main focus as well. I think from illustrating and delivering value to customers, it must come in handy. Do you have any sort of automations off the back of that when your report that you send customers in terms of revenue, additional revenue generated or saved?
00:19:29 Evgenia: Yeah, it is all in our CM system, the backend system that our customers have access to. And from there you can generate tons of reports available insights and just looking at the results of one campaign, we can blend better for the future. We can either repeat this success or actually make certain changes and this is what I would usually recommend, not just doing the same thing over and over again. We like to do our AB testing in marketing. There is no silver bullet. What works in the month of March may not necessarily work in the month of April just because there is some seasonal decline or holiday or anything else that might influence the behavior. So we did AB testing, we tried different scenarios. We have done our research and AB testing. It was pretty interesting with Papa John's. We analyzed what works best, the campaign that has a selection of rewards or just one reward based on the purchase history. So what we expected is that the purchase history preferences would work best it did. So we have greater conversion there. This was wrapped into a case study. We won the Loyalty 360 Silver Award last year. We are a very data driven company and the result that we achieve usually has some scientific foundation for that.
00:21:02 Andrew: Very nice. During this phase now of sort of hypergrowth, what would you say has been the biggest challenge that you've had to overcome as a team?
00:21:09 Evgenia: As a team overall, I would say it is the complexity of the project that we are working with. I mean, our customers, especially our enterprise customers, they're all different and they might have different requirements and all of them are reasonable usually. And, we understand that this is a great request. This was another great request. So like what do we do? We have our product roadmap that looks really, really ambitious and we kind of need to balance in terms of delivering certain features in order to ensure the best product we want to see. Also, the competition in our field is aggressive, I would say. So we're staying competitive by adding modern features, improving our user experience and by providing great customer service. So it's just trying to handle lots of things at the same time and not lose in quality.
00:22:14 Andrew: If you had to say sort of go back two, three years before sort of the acceleration started, would there have been anything that you would've preferred to have in place before you got started or would you do anything differently to the what you did today to get to where you are today?
00:22:28 Evgenia: Yeah, absolutely. This is a great question. Looking back or even look… even just being where I am right now, sometimes I would like to be able to stop for a moment and actually plan certain things or have enough time to create certain processes because most of the time it happens on the go. It's not like you have the luxury of time and you may put everything on pause and prioritize or build certain processes to make sure that next time it goes better. So yeah, looking back like three years ago, I probably wish we had some process in place or some technology in place that would help us with our internal processes.
00:23:15 Andrew: I think when you're in the middle of everything and everything's burning down around you and you just need to make sure you're putting out the fire so you can keep the house going, it's very easy to look back in retrospect and say, we wish you we had these things, but I think you also at some point need to be burn a little bit to understand the guardrails and things that need to be put in place in the processes. Interesting.
00:23:36 Andrew: I see we're running up on time, so I wanna make sure I ask you a couple of questions that ask every guest. Let's imagine a hypothetical scenario that you join a new company and general attention is not doing good at this company. The CEO comes to you and says, Hey Gen, you're in charge. You need to fix this. You've got 90 days to do it. What do you do? The trick is you're not gonna tell me I'm gonna go speak to customers or look at the dates and figure out and start there. You're just gonna take a tactic that you've seen work and run with it blindly hoping it works at this company. What would you do?
00:24:07 Evgenia: Okay, in this case I would be working with what I can work with in terms of the features that are available with this certain product or platform, and I would make sure that those features are utilized and the... it's communicated to the customer so we kind of make sure that those features are utilized, the product is utilized. I do not necessarily need to look at some data to understand that it's just starting Monday. This Monday we are doing this and this and this. We are working hard to utilize what we have in the product right now. And then we see what happens from there. In 10 or 30 or 60 days, we should be seeing some result or not seeing some result. So we do see a result, okay, this is great, the product is working, the strategy is working whenever is involved in the process and in the unlikely scenario, but it may happen that, okay, we've done everything we could possibly do, but we are seeing no result. Okay, then I would start to analyze why that is happening.
00:25:14 Andrew: Yeah, and go back from there. I think definitely like the focusing on the activation, it comes up a lot. And I think in your case, like you said, really just understanding what is the value that you're delivering your customers and making sure they're utilizing and experiencing the value. I think more often than not we spend like way too much time building more features, building more features to building for features, which in actually what we should be doing is making sure adoption and activation is happening with the existing features that you do have. And I think it's a common trap to fall into, like an early stage of feeling you're behind and you need to have every feature under the sun when really what you really need to do is have a powerful and good onboarding that people can experience that value that your product delivers. What's one thing that you know today about general retention that you wish in knew when you got started with your career?
00:26:00 Evgenia: I wish I knew more about the health scores and how they're implemented. What's the best health score? Because this is a subject for a debate and oftentimes health scores look really complicated when they can be simplified just to tell you some basic things. So I wish I knew a little bit more about health scores than I would not be trying to create a monster and just think that, oh, okay, now I need to help some super complex health scoring system in order to prevent churn. No, this is not the case. I know this now, I wish I knew this when I started, or if someone could just tell me, well, don't bother. Just look at these three metrics and make sure that they are successful.
00:26:47 Andrew: Yeah, I love that. Something as well, I think previously I was working at a company called Hotjar and this is one of the things in the early days from a different angle from a marketing perspective, not from a customer success, but it was really trying to understand like what are the leading indicators that somebody would convert to become a customer and what are like all the key metrics? And in the early days, like we put together some powerful machine learning model, they tried to predict what were the property is and the factors, and ultimately it just came down to a single property. And like we understood that like if that single property was below above a certain number, like the likelihood of becoming a customer was much, much higher or much lower, and it was so much simpler for everybody to understand.
00:27:28 Andrew: It was much easier for the all organizations to communicate and get behind it and know what we are looking after, rather than trying to add all these layers and levels of complexity that in 90% of the cases don't really add much value to its... and I've definitely had this conversation with others on the show around health scores, like how can you, like the goal should be to how to make it as simple as possible so that it's clear and direct disposal, not layer of complexity and layer on different metrics. It almost always tend to be irrelevant. I see we like upon time, but is there any sort of final thoughts that you wanna leave the listeners with or anything that they should be aware of about your work?
00:28:07 Evgenia: Well I just want to add that customer success teams they're super busy usually within every organization, but the key to success for an organization for the matter is to make sure that customer success team actually focus on customer success. And I know a lot of companies are struggling with that. So if there is a way to optimize certain processes or make sure that customer success team is not responsible for everything, it's a great way to make sure that while you actually spend more time with the customers, given an extra hour of a zoom call can result in greater results. Like, other than having customer success team juggle too many things at the same time.
00:28:54 Andrew: Too many things. That was one thing I was gonna actually ask earlier, you reminded me now is you said you're 20 people today in customer success. Like how is the team divided? Is everybody like a customer success manager or are you focused on different areas? How do you break the team up?
00:29:09 Evgenia: I have two team leaders. They're responsible for different regions and then within these two departments we have enterprise mid market customer success managers, and we also have our junior customer success team. We sometimes call them client support team. It's not like technical support. They are the frontline when it comes to some basic questions that our customers have. They're not too technical. It's like, how do you do this? How do you do that? And they can either send a quick response or some toolkit or some other resource to look at within our product. So this is, this has been very helpful and this is one thing that we have optimized within our structure.
00:29:50 Andrew: And in terms of sort of different stages for the customer journey, do you break up the team that I know, like a lot of teams all typically have people that focus on onboarding and then the reactivation or upselling?
00:30:04 Evgenia: Yeah. So we have recently implemented a new role in within our customer success team. This is exactly the activation manager. We have one team member now. She's entirely responsible for all new sales, all new accounts that we are about to onboard. because before that we had our customer success managers who were responsible for this activation stage. And now I kind of want to separate that and have an activation team. Like it is one person now, but we are getting there. I think this experiment has been successful. So in the future there is this activation process then we have the customer success manager that's working with the customers and is responsible for the upsell renewals and product adoption engagement and everything.
00:30:55 Andrew: Nice. So just going through those different stages of growth and evolving the team as the demands and needs grown and scale. Very cool. Well, Jen, it's been an absolute pleasure hosting on the show today. Thank you so much for your time and I wish you best of luck now in the future going forward.
00:31:11 Evgenia: Thank you so much. It was a pleasure. Thanks.
00:31:14 Andrew: Cheers.
00:31:17 Andrew: And that's a wrap for the show today with me, Andrew Michael, I really hope you enjoyed it and you are 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 blunts direct feedback by sending it to Andrew at 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.