Why Customer Success at SupplyShift is involved early in the sales process and how this impacts churn.
Director of Customer Success
Today on the show we have Shanta Bodhan, Director of Customer Success at SupplyShift.
In this episode, we talked about what drove Shanta to make the switch from HR to customer success, the different parallels between employee retention and customer retention, and how SupplyShift adapts and aligns their product roadmap to their customer’s current needs.
We also discussed the relationship between Customer Success and Sales at SupplyShift and how they work together towards common goals and we also dove into how they retain customers with their company mission.
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Andrew Michael: [00:00:00] hey, Shanta. Welcome to the show.
Shanta Bodhan: [00:00:03] Hi, Andrew. Thanks so much for having me.
Andrew Michael: [00:00:05] It's a pleasure for the listeners. Shanta is the
director of customer success
Andrew Michael: [00:00:09] and end to end supply chain management platform. Prior to SupplyShift, Shanta held several roles in customer success from being a customer success team of one in a startup to an account service operation partner at a company of over 3000 plus employees.
Before making a move into customer success though. Shanta started out a career in human resources. So my first question for you Shanta is what drove you to make the switch from HR to customer success? Was there a particular turning point?
Shanta Bodhan: [00:00:37] Yeah. Great question. there was, it happened naturally, but really when you come from.
When in-house role such as HR, you affect employees in one company. So you have a direct impact on their lives. And what I gradually realized that during kind of a switch in my career is that I can make a bigger impact on a larger [00:01:00] amount of a large amount of companies, and also a large amount of employees.
If I was working in kind of a more broad, consultative role, which of course customer success really lends itself well to The transition really came from moving from an HR in-house role to more of a consulting style, HR role to HR technology and customer success and, and lending my skills to a broader set of companies and a broader set of employees making a broader impact.
Andrew Michael: [00:01:30] And was any sort of specific moment in time, like you just remember and you created, this is something I need to be doing. I need to be reaching a big audience. was there a moment where you had this realization?
Shanta Bodhan: [00:01:40] There was an aha moment. It happened when I was already in the consultative role where, I realized, wow, I've been working kind of one-on-one with employees and you get that depth of connection.
when you are in an in house HR, associate or generalist, or, even working in a [00:02:00] broader level, when you move into a consultative role, You have the ability to work very strategically with a really wide set of companies and you see the breadth of companies and you see the breadth of challenges that really come along with those companies.
And so your skills kind of skyrocket in terms of what you have your hands on and in. And you can also make an impact on people's direct lives in that way as well. So that was my aha moment was realizing that there's a lot of different challenges that you can address, and really being able to dig into each one of those at a strategic level.
Andrew Michael: [00:02:35] Cool. So I'm interested to talk through some of that then as well as obviously the show itself, churn FM, we focus on customer retention. but coming from a background in HR, like a lot of your work and people ops as well is around employee retention. So I'm interested like on the topic here, Where do you see that you draw parallels from your past experience and now in your current work, like what are some of the [00:03:00] things that you've from your previous experience have found super valuable. Now going into the way you look at customer retention now is customer success.
Shanta Bodhan: [00:03:08] Yeah, there's actually a lot of parallels.
so the first is really the ability to be proactive. strategic planning is really a big part of human resources. Being able to predict what's going to happen, six months a year down the line a couple years down the line for your company and him planning appropriately. And really when you're looking at churn.
you obviously need to take a proactive approach to your customers and predict what's going to happen for them a couple of years down the line as well. So really that's a big part of, strategic planning and HR that really lent itself well to customer success. Another big part of that is just having the skills to listen and understand people and built relationships.
Obviously it's a huge part of HR. And that's something that really translated well. as you are transitioning to customer success is the ability to understand what's going on with your customers [00:04:00] and not really take the surface answer, but dig in a little bit deeper and have those listening skills to be able to understand.
Why are they, why are they going after the specific business schools that they are? why are they thinking about, either deepening the relationship with your company or moving onto something else and being able to dig into that. So all of that obviously has a big impact on both employee retention and customer churn.
Andrew Michael: [00:04:24] Absolutely. So I want to unpack both of those topics. I think we can start for strategic planning and then we can , jump into, the listening skills and listening deeper to hear what people are saying, but they, on the strategic planning side, I'm interested a little bit in this, in the sense that you mentioned, like as a customer success rep like your role as well as to think a little bit strategically for your customers too, and to try and predict where they're going to be in six months, 12 months from now, what their needs are going to be.
What does your process look like for this when working with customers? And, do you have any framework that you follow when it comes to, like putting together a strategic plan for these [00:05:00] customers?
Shanta Bodhan: [00:05:01] Yeah, a lot of it is in flux right now with the current climate. a lot of it is really understanding where our customers are at this point in time, because it is such an unprecedented point in time.
so where I would normally kind of take a very, planned approach, a lot of that has. Then, a lot of that has been reformed. So lately what we've been doing is really trying to take a strategic look at what our customer's current goals are because six months ago, obviously they may have been very different.
and so as they've been restructuring, what their business plan is. Obviously, we need to be nimble enough to understand that and then align that with our internal roadmap. So obviously we have more visibility into our company direction and where we're headed and be able to try to connect the dots and align where those two can converge, six months down the line and you're down the line.
something in particular for us. We have highlighted this in the past few months is not only are we a [00:06:00] supply chain visibility company from a sustainability perspective, but also from a risk management perspective. And that risk management perspective has really taken a highlight, within recent months.
and that's something that we've been trying to assist our customers with moving forward.
Andrew Michael: [00:06:16] Yeah, I think that's an interesting point in the sense that obviously like your customer's needs and use cases that you have for your product change over time. And, like somebody signed up a year ago and what their needs and problems and jobs to be done back then, were, could be completely different to where they are today or they're maybe due to like climate circumstances.
And we see like a big change in shift or just due to the fact that maybe your customers become more sophisticated and you're. Cool problem or your solution has really helped them with a part of their job. And now it's next. Like how can you transition them into that next use case to maximize the value?
I'm interested though, as well, like in the sort of conversations that you have having now with customers and really leading to take it back to the drawing board and rethink the strategy. How [00:07:00] are you, have you been approaching them and how have you been getting to that realization and prioritizing, like what features to prioritize for customers?
What the roadmap should look like is any specific, actions you've been taking with customers?
Shanta Bodhan: [00:07:12] Yeah. where we've been talking more recently? let me take a step back where we would normally talk about, where we're headed with the roadmap and, try to provide some insight.
Of course, there's limitations to what we can talk about, but. try to provide some insight into where we're headed, on our strategic planning and our strategic end. Really what we're doing now is more listening in understanding where the customer is at, what their specific challenges are.
Because again, those challenges have shifted over the past few months. So as we're seeing those challenges shift, we internally also need to take a look at what are. Our customers are trying to solve today. is that really the same focus that they have on sustainability? Or are they shifting more towards risk?
[00:08:00] Are they trying to tackle both at the same time? there's a lot of evidence out there that shows that sustainable responsible companies have better financial outcomes. So how can we align those two for our customers in order to help protect them against the effects that they've recently been experiencing as well?
Due to the current climate and then also the effects of COVID-19. So as all of that shifts, it's really up to us to be able to listen and digest the information and try to apply that to our own roadmap and feed that information into product management and to our management team and our executives so that they can really help to make better business decisions and plan for the future.
in a time where it's very difficult to plan for the future, but try to mitigate some of these, some of this churn and some of the hardships that our customers are facing right now.
Andrew Michael: [00:08:52] Cool. So if there's, again, a few things that I want to dive into. Yeah. So the one aspect, obviously, like we talked a little bit about listening and [00:09:00] is there anything like specific from your side that you do to really get to the root cause and the root problems that customers are having?
So you mentioned as well earlier that. A lot of times you might just hear things at the surface, but it's up to your job to really have those listening skills to go deeper and to listen deeper. is there anything that you've learned from your past that you found really effective in trying to identify like risks for churn or where customers are really strugglin
Shanta Bodhan: [00:09:27] yeah, and this actually reflects back to some skills that really came into play and HR. one of the roles that I had in human resources was as a recruiter. and I was a recruiter basically focusing on recruiting for about a solid year and then mixed with other types of roles. Like I'm more of a generalist type of role as well.
So I've been recruiting for many years. Part of recruiting is really the ability to ask questions and get to the root of, the topic that somebody is talking about. Really understand if they're the best fit for the position, [00:10:00] understand the nuances and their background that might align well to a current bull.
And really that has a lot of parallels in when I am speaking with the customer and trying to get to the root of an issue. a couple of tactics that you can use are, asking the same question in a different way. that usually works one thing that is unique to customer success that I haven't done with recruiting because of this scenario is asking the same question to a couple of different people in the organization.
So I might ask it of our main contact. I might ask it again, have an executive contact. And I might ask it again as a technical contact. So being able to triangulate in, on an issue and hone in on what people are actually doing and what's going on behind the scenes is really critical for us.
And so any pathways that we can use to get there, we find really valuable.
Andrew Michael: [00:10:49] Nice. and I like as well, like the angle of speaking to multiple different parties, having the same question within the company, and then being able to see the common thread potentially there and where the problem actually [00:11:00] lies.
So maybe we can just talk a little bit about like how you structure the team, how things are set up, what processes look like, um, for you.
So. How would a typical customer engage with somebody in customer success? Um, what does your process look like?
Shanta Bodhan: [00:11:18] Yeah, so we have kind of a unique spin on how we handle customers that add supply shift. So really we're involved to pretty early on in the sales process. More. Far more early than I would say, a typical SAS company.
Um, we do of course have sales engineers that that help facilitate the sales process. But we in customer success start our engagement with the customer, um, kind of fulfilling some of those sales engineer type of responsibilities. And then we carry that all the way forward through implementation. So we have an understanding of, of how that customer is, um, is fulfilling their needs and getting value from our software.
Andrew Michael: [00:11:57] Yeah. And what sort of the motivation [00:12:00] for doing that SAC? I think typically, like you would want to maybe be a little bit sure that a customer is going to convert before you started investing money into their success. Like, so what is the thinking behind it? Like w where did it start from?
Shanta Bodhan: [00:12:13] Yeah. So a couple of things.
Um, the first is, is we really want to make sure that we in customer success understand the value and the goals of the customer right up front. Um, and sometimes, you know, these things can get lost in translation and you know, that doesn't happen all the time, but I've experienced that with other. Oh with other organizations.
And really, we try to mitigate that as much as possible and also provide kind of a seamless transition for the customer. So they don't have kind of a disjointed experience moving from sales, into customer success. So we want to make sure that all of that flows as easily as possible. Um, and you're right.
You know, sometimes we, we don't end up getting the customer and it is a sunk cost, but more often than not, we actually help sales, win business.
Andrew Michael: [00:12:56] Yeah, very interesting. Because I think also that's probably one of [00:13:00] my points. I've always been with friction with different products, like dealing with sales and success is that the handoff is typically never that smooth.
And you end up having to repeat your goals and do what you're trying to get out and it's okay. Let's recap. And then you start to think to yourself. Well, Eh, do they not take notes? Like his people not in sharing this information internally, do it almost feels like a waste of time to have to repeat yourself.
So I can see how like, having that approach very early on, like really understanding, gathering requirements, understanding what the customer's looking to achieve. It makes total sense in the sense that like, if you really want to be geared up for the success, I get an early trying to understand the pains and problems so you can, uh, get to going.
So. What are you typically doing then on these calls? Like, what is the first call that you are joined typically? Like at what stage would you come in?
Shanta Bodhan: [00:13:49] Yeah. So typically they have some level of commitment of working with us, but you know, nothing has been signed. Of course, you know, we're, we're still working through the process.
We're [00:14:00] still trying to understand explicitly what they want. Um, our software is. It's pretty broad in terms of, you know, what the value is. We can get out of it. We collect data from suppliers. So that could go in in terms of, you know, sustainability and what you want to accomplish there that could go for procurement and what you want accomplish there.
So really understanding the customer's needs. Is really our first step. I mean, of course we do that by asking questions, understanding what the goals are upfront. We took it some information from the sales team, of course. And we just want to verify that that is still being used case of course, in the sales process.
Sometimes things change and. During that kind of evolution of how they're understanding what we bring to the table and also identifying and ironing out their own needs. Sometimes those things change. So part of that process is also just reiteration. So understanding exactly what they want saying it back to them confirming, and then moving forward.
Andrew Michael: [00:14:53] And this dynamic then like working with sales and success, same calls, like. [00:15:00] Maybe having like a line goals, but also in some ways different goals in what you want to achieve. Like, how do you see this relationship between sales and success? Like maybe, do you ever get scenarios where you feel like sales are just pushing too hard to close the deal to hit a deadline or a, and you're on the opposite trying to see different goals for the customer, or have you struck a good balance and set like line goals?
Like how do you go, uh, work as a team in this case?
Shanta Bodhan: [00:15:27] Yeah. So, you know, we in customer success are really tied to sales, um, and we're part of the commercial team. So we have aligned goals at the top, um, which really makes things more seamless. Um, so, you know, as we're thinking about the evolution for us, the bar customer, Upsells and expansions obviously are something that customer success should always be focused on.
And that's what sales wants as well. Right? So we're all kind of synergistically trying to meet those goals. So the way that we can set our customer up for success [00:16:00] in the beginning, and try to identify, you know, later on down the line where those expenses opportunities might be, are also synergistic with sales goals.
So it all kind of. Flows seamlessly, but of course you have to have a good, solid trust and understanding of what sales wants and be able to help accomplish those goals as well. There's obviously a more short term, but it's helping them understand that. Understanding what the customer wants early. It can also pave the way for more revenue later on down the line.
And typically when you have those conversations, their eyes light up, it works out pretty well.
Andrew Michael: [00:16:34] It works out well for everyone. Yeah, because I mean, it is one of those things where I think like CS typically and sales, like they do have diverging goals, not areas, but it's interesting that you have. Your alignment customer success sits within the revenue organization.
And like, what is the motivation behind that? Like, uh, how much of like revenue drivers is customer success in? Because I think this is often one of the things that oil is like customer success often [00:17:00] gets a bad rep and they'll often like difficult to prove their value within the organization and say, okay, like this is the ROI of success.
So what is the thinking behind that?
Shanta Bodhan: [00:17:09] Yeah, so it comes from a few different drivers. Um, and I also think it comes from the evolution of customer success within your, within your organization. Um, previously I've been with organizations where customer success does not sit within commercial and, and you know, that makes sense, especially if you're really focusing on implementation and in trying to figure out how to get customers up and running very quickly.
Um, so I've worked in smaller startups where that was the case. For us because we're more established and how we're trying to accomplish specific revenue goals while also trying to accomplish specific, specific customer satisfaction goals. It all kind of makes sense to have us sit within commercial. So the we're trying to achieve both of those at the same time, and it's not as much of a heavy focus for us specifically, um, on implementation, you know, we have a great implementation [00:18:00] team.
They're doing a fantastic job. And, and part of our job as well is to make sure that when we're moving from sales to delivery, that the implementation team gets what it needs as well. And so we have kind of a bird's eye view and provide that kind of connective tissue from sales into delivery. And then throughout the lifetime of the engagement with the customer,
Andrew Michael: [00:18:21] It's interesting. And then, so, um, like customer service, success has a lot closer, like tie towards revenue, trying to drive more revenue. Like you mentioned, the, you there's two goals. One is to drive revenue and others to drive satisfaction. So how much of driving satisfaction then sits on sales? Like a, is, is sales doing anything differently to try and help improve and drive satisfaction?
Shanta Bodhan: [00:18:44] Absolutely. I mean, it's an organizational goal for our entire company. Um, it NPS obviously is one of those big kind of customer success markers. Um, and so that is something that everybody does have an eye toward is, is client satisfaction [00:19:00] and customer satisfaction. And of course, sales knows, you know, if a customer isn't satisfied that doesn't lead to upsells, that doesn't lead to renewals and that hits everybody's bottom line.
Um, so it is definitely something that they are focused on as well.
Andrew Michael: [00:19:12] Interesting. So The next thing is, you mentioned previously was that then it's your job. Obviously take all this information. Speaking to customers, synthesize the main problems and then communicate this back into the organization, whether it's product or sales or into the organization. So you can help customers and serve them better.
I think often this is a challenge as well, like coming from roles and success or support where you're actually on the front lines. One speaking to. Customers the most yet the voice that you have when it comes to product is often like one of the smallest voices within an organization. So how have you been dealing with this within your company?
How have you seen it work effectively to make sure that, The insights that you gather from these conversations with [00:20:00] customers actually see the light of day and actually drive action for the product and for the company.
Shanta Bodhan: [00:20:06] Yeah. I can say that. The biggest thing that has helped me is building strong relationships internally with my internal teams.
I think that in customer success, obviously a lot of our focus is on the customer and should be. I think that at the same time, there's a lot that can be done internally in order to foster smooth communication throughout the company. and this is something that I'm really passionate about and have been passionate about since I've been working in human resources again, because you see the interactions between different teams from the top down, and how those teams work together and how they interact.
Really has a profound effect on the success of a company. So for me, coming from customer success and trying to evangelize that, whether it's a customer issue or what a customer enjoys, or, any of those different types of aspects, that really are the voice of the customer and bring that [00:21:00] internally.
I think the first step is to really have a good pathway in order to be able to have your receiver on the other end, be in a receptive state and really be a listening ear. I found that the best way to do that is to foster good relationships with different teams within the company. And then also have an understanding of what the best vehicle that is in order to provide that information.
So in some cases I've seen that some people prefer, one-on-one. information or, a Slack channel or a quick email and some organizations we've used JIRA. so it's really up to you and your organization in terms of what works best and how to capture that information in a great way.
being able to have that personal connection with those teams and help them understand that, you are providing that information to help them and help their jobs and they help them move forward more efficiently and help them be business drivers. That really goes a long way.
Andrew Michael: [00:21:56] For sure.
So I think absolutely like in this role,almost [00:22:00] like you need to work on building relationships, not only with customers, but then internally with, with different team members and stakeholders, to make sure that you can actually have the impact that you need to. but then you mentioned as well, like how to deliver this information.
You gave a few examples, like how do you do it today? How do you find it most effective to communicate The synthesized feedback that you collect from customers and to different parts of your organization.
Shanta Bodhan: [00:22:25] Yeah. it really depends on who I'm speaking to. And this is another part of listening, Is for us being able to be situational chameleons and familiar with different types and styles of communication, really goes a long way because then you really have the ear of your listener. So for some departments, they prefer a Slack channel. for some departments they prefer JIRA.
for some departments, they prefer one-on-one communication when it's something big. and if it really is something big, then I would just, speak to somebody in management, for example, and give some of the [00:23:00] feedback that I would think is necessary at that point in time. I think it really depends on who you're talking to.
One thing that has helped a lot, with prior companies as well is pulling together groups and teams into things like lunch and learns. What I've done with the prior company is I partnered with a junior developer and he taught me kind of the basics on, how the system works. the ins and outs of our products.
And I ended up teaching him about our customers. At that point in time, we were very small and, the two of us just partnered up to share information. Eventually other folks in the organization caught wind of what we were doing. And wanted to join in. And eventually we ended up having lunch and learns for the entire company because we found this information sharing was so valuable.
So I think it really depends on the vehicle that works best for you. The size of company that you're at the stage of company that you're at and how your receivers choose to receive that information and being flexible and adaptable to their needs.
Andrew Michael: [00:23:57] Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. I [00:24:00] need to really understand the audience and the context in which they prefer to receive information for it to be well received.
The next thing then is, I wanted to ask is like at supply shift now, is there anything that you think is unique or that you do exceptionally well when it comes to, retaining customers?
Shanta Bodhan: [00:24:20] Yeah. we are all really aligned behind her common goal. So our company provides a supply chain visibility software and say, I mentioned before, and that takes a couple of angles as I mentioned.
So it's either risk, it's risk and it's. Sustainability, in an organization. And we have a lot of folks that really resonate and really align behind that mission. And we do think that it's really important. Today's consumers really want to understand where their products come from.
And there's also a lot of research and information out there that shows that sustainable companies are also more resilient [00:25:00] when it comes to. downturns and things like that. and are really more, They help protect people in the planet, but they also protect businesses. And so strong, resilient supply chains can really help change the world for the better.
And so for us, that's really a mission that we rally behind. and Everything that we hear from our customers aligns with that mission as well, because that's what we're trying to enable our customers to do. So the information sharing that we have internally centers around that mission. And so when a customer is experiencing a problem, or experiencing something that we need to celebrate.
We really want to share that internally and make sure that we share that with the entire company. we have an all hands company meetings weekly in order to share that information. and we really want everybody in the company to understand where our customers are at, where our product is at, how we all work together and aligned to meet those goals in that mission.
Andrew Michael: [00:25:58] I'm serious. So you put more [00:26:00] behind, like the Watts and the Y I guess at the end of the day is, was like, it's not just another customer or it's not just another dollar or Euro in the bank. It's really like an impact to the planet. You've rally the team around the mission. They work and the impact of losing a customer actually has a great impact, I guess as well, to the overall, to the world, essentially.
I like how you've really rallied the team around that mission. And, it definitely is. I think like purpose driven, is really important. Like you can. Try and get people to coordinate, but at the end of the day, if there's no real strong reason why they would want to do this and no real strong mission guiding you, I think it's very difficult to.
Get people excited about the challenge to get people, to coordinate and work together. and I think you mentioned earlier before we joined the show, but it really is a powerful motivator to get a team work going and get the team to be working together as a team because everyone's vested interest in that common goal and common mission.
Shanta Bodhan: [00:26:58] Absolutely. [00:27:00] Prior to working at supply shift, obviously it was aware of some of the climate struggles and things that are going on, in this current environment. but I have little knowledge about how little some companies actually, about their supply chains, and where they come from.
And rather there's for example, modern slavery in their supply chains. And how they can really provide an impact to changing the world for the better. and that really is something that's important to all of us as a company and something that is important to our customers. And so being able to align our mission and our company goals with our customer's goals is really important to us on a very, very material level.
Andrew Michael: [00:27:42] Yeah, I can definitely see that as well. I think it's one of these things, those all, when it comes to like company mission and, focus as well, is that sometimes yeah. Like these things get stretched, but I think in this case, like it definitely obviously is a mission that everybody wants to get behind and get working towards [00:28:00] and the value of having a really strong company mission that people it's, I think People often forget that it's not about a paycheck and it's not a like about having interesting work. It's also, you need to feel like your work has something of value and you have meaning to it. I think like getting raises and promotions can only take you so far within a company till you get a, I think bored or want to move on to the next thing.
But. Finding that passion that really drives you and motivates you and being able to find an environment to work environment that enables you to not only act on that, but then get paid for it, I think is a really good sweet spot to be nice. So the question I wanted to ask a as well, something ask every guest, the joins, the shows.
Let's imagine a hypothetical scenario now that you are joining your company and you're out, the company, general retention is not doing great at all. And this year comes to you and says, we need to turn things around. We need to do them faster as well. We [00:29:00] have 90 days. what would you want to do with those first 90 days to try and turn things around and, decrease churn for the company?
Shanta Bodhan: [00:29:07] Yeah, great question. my first initial question is why, so why is this happening? and I would start by, if it's my first 90 days, I would want to understand that from an internal perspective and from an external perspective. So I would start by interviewing folks that have, connected with customers.
And the company and also folks who have not connected with customers in the company. So people that may not, for example, be directly in contact with customers, but may have an idea or some insight as to what's going on. and then I would just start calling customers and asking them, how satisfied are you with.
Your product and how satisfied are you with the services we provide? And, if we have NPS scores, I would love to see that data. and I would love to see, why people are giving the specific responses that they are. And I think that's the biggest question, right? Is what's going on and why is this [00:30:00] happening?
And then being able to drill down into specific issues to address it. It fits within services. For example, link up with the folks that are in services and understand their struggles. maybe there's a specific reason or something. That's holding them back from being able to deliver the way that they want to deliver.
If it's on the product side, link up with the folks on the product side and understand. What is on their roadmap, how did they come to those conclusions? What information can I provide for them to help them do their job better and really understand what's going on? So I think those would be my first steps is just to ask a lot of question and information gathering based on the synthesis of that information.
Kind of determine what my next steps are and where we need to be see focused. if it's across a lot of different areas, Then I would identify who the leaders are within those internal organizations and start pairing and working with them in order to understand how we can help them, how we can enable them and how we can provide more feedback on an ongoing basis from our customers [00:31:00] in order to get where we want to be.
Andrew Michael: [00:31:03] You mentioned, you'd want to see in NPS Y.
Shanta Bodhan: [00:31:08] NPS is that the typical metric that everybody hears about and it's important to customer success. I will add the caveat that it is a metric and that doesn't always give us a lot of information. it gives us a kind of barometer as to what's going on, but again, it doesn't tell me the why.
So I would want to pair that with a lot of. Questions, and be able to dig into that information at the same time. I feel that in customer success, you can't entirely ignore NPS just because it is such like a classic metric in our life.
Andrew Michael: [00:31:43] Yeah, for sure. It's a classic metric, I think.
But again, like you say, it needs to be accompanied with other work and other research and other, a deeper level of understanding because you can get Signals as to how your customers are operating. I think the other side of the thing it's always [00:32:00] lagging metric in its own, right? that the scores are being given off, based off their experiences over the last few months, as opposed to what's really happening, in your product now and going forward.
But, so next question, as well that I wanted to ask is what's one thing that, you know today about churn and retention that you wish you knew when you got started in your career.
Shanta Bodhan: [00:32:22] that's a great question. Yeah. I think that in the beginning of my career, I wasn't asking the right questions. and I wasn't as comfortable with really digging in and asking why.
I think that now, since I've had, a lot more experience in really understanding and uncovering why somebody is thinking about what they're trying to do or why a company is to focus, it's become more natural for me to have those types of conversations. and I think that somebody new in customer success really has to get familiar.
With the, kind of the arts of being able to dig in and [00:33:00] ask those questions and not really take a surface answer. so if I had to tell myself one thing from way back when it would really be, don't take the first answer as gospel, really dig in and try to uncover what that deeper meaning is.
And don't be afraid to ask the same question or ask why a couple of times, sometimes it can really help uncover what's really going on in your customer will appreciate it.
Andrew Michael: [00:33:23] Why do you think you felt like that in the beginning and not going deep into questions to begin with?
Shanta Bodhan: [00:33:29] Yeah, I think that it's really becoming, I'm familiar with your role, and becoming familiar with the depth that you really need to dive into in order to be effective in customer success.
I think that it's easy. For customer success managers, to ask a question and then get an answer. I think that it's a lot harder for customer success managers to ask a question and get the real answer. and when somebody is unfamiliar with customer success or is unfamiliar with a new role, or they're [00:34:00] making that transition for the first time.
Sometimes it's hard to be bold and really dig in and ask these questions of customers, because at the end of the day, they're their customers and you want to make them happy and you don't want to take a negative spin or tone on something. but if you don't address something that is troubling a customer, then you will never solve it.
So I think for me, the hesitation came from. not being as comfortable in my role and what I was doing and being able to really dive in and ask those questions, which I quickly overcome. I think that was really key and a turning point for me in my career, as well as, understanding that it's okay to have a hard question or have a hard discussion with the customer.
Similarly to having a hard discussion with an employee in HR, that's really where the rubber meets the road. And then you really dive in and you really find out if he tells you wouldn't normally, if you had avoided the topic.
Andrew Michael: [00:34:53] Absolutely. Let's dive into that a little bit more before we wrap up the show is having hard conversations.
[00:35:00] And I think, like you mentioned, like having hard conversation either with the employee, with the customer, it's never easy, thing to do. What is your typical process look like at approaching conversation? whether it be with the customers employee, how do you make sure that you go into it with the right frame of mind that you can deliver the message it needs to be delivered at the same time while being conscious of the situation, like at the end of the day, dealing with people and dealing with customers.
So you want to make sure you protect that relationship too. So what is your typical process like going into speaking to customer with a difficult conversation? Yep.
Shanta Bodhan: [00:35:36] No, that's a great question. really the first thing that I do is sit down and plan, have a plan and an agenda before I walk into that conversation.
part of that plan is really being able to understand the customer's point of view and doing my research. for example, if it is. A difficult customer about the product. then I would want to look at exactly what the customer is doing and exactly the [00:36:00] difficulties that they're encountering and make sure that I understand that backwards and forwards before addressing that with a customer.
if it's about a service, for example, then I would want to understand, exactly where the friction points were and sit down with internal teams and have my research done about, specifically that situation. What happened before I, I. Talk to any customer about that situation. the next point is really understanding their point of view.
we have obviously our end point of view internally on how something happened. Let's turn that lens to the customer. And purely looking from their point of view is as much as possible. Be able to understand where the customer is coming from. And then when I get into the conversation specifically, I would really set the tone and try to frame it, frame the conversation in an understanding way.
setting the tone up front that this is a conversation. I really want to understand what happened. We really want to meet your needs better. how we can frame that conversation really helps set the tone for the information that you get back. If you walk into the conversation and [00:37:00] maybe you're a little scared or you're not sure how to approach it, the customer knows.
And I think that they would. They would jump all over you. If they're already upset about the situation, it just makes them more angry because it looks like you don't have a plan. Being able to walk in there and sound confident and understanding and ask questions and have a plan really helps for a better outcome and better knowledge for yourself and your company.
Andrew Michael: [00:37:25] How do you open the conversation?
Shanta Bodhan: [00:37:28] I would typically start by saying that, this is a conversation and my intentions are to get X, Y, and Z information. and also to understand, what happened from your point of view, I would let the customer talk and describe what's going on, but really have a very.
Easy competent and conversational tone when leading into that conversation and then asking questions and diving more deeply as I'm going through that conversation while also trying to keep that conversational tone and also make [00:38:00] sure that the, even with the conversational tone, but the customer knows that we take the situation seriously.
So being able to, be receptive and listening and repeat back, for example, what the customer says in a different, in different words really helps. but just being able to show the customer that we're really listening as well.
Andrew Michael: [00:38:20] Yeah, I definitely the central theme around today's show is the power of listening and really having that intense focus when you are having conversations with people, to be able to identify and understand where the pain points are, where the problem lies.
So you can empathize and ultimately serve their needs better. Shanta, it's been a pleasure chatting with you today. Is there any sort of thing you'd like to leave the listeners with final thoughts that you'd like to share with them?
Shanta Bodhan: [00:38:46] Yeah, no, thank you so much for having me on the show, Andrew. I really think that for me and for supply shift, there's a lot of power and in providing services for customers and providing alignment with [00:39:00] your company goals and also your personal goals.
So for us as supply shift, we've really found that mission and that takes a big place. In our day-to-day lives. And that's something that I hope all of your listeners are able to find in their jobs and their specific roles as well.
Andrew Michael: [00:39:15] Absolutely. I wish that for everyone as well. And, thank you very much.
Shantha, it's been a pleasure having you on the show today and, wishing our best of luck now, going forward on your mission.
Shanta Bodhan: [00:39:25] Thank you so much, Andrew.
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We’ll send you one episode every Wednesday from a subscription economy pro with insights to help you grow.
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.