Diane Gordon 0:00
The people who understand customers the most and can get all the right people are the CSMs because the customer doesn’t feel like they’re looking for money.


Anne B 0:09
Welcome to Unexpected Journey, the show where each week top professionals share work wisdom and life lessons about their careers and what they have learned about human experience in the workplace. I’m your host and bid. Today we have Diane Gordon. Diane has more than 25 years of experience in b2b SaaS, delivering value based post sale services that drive retention and growth. She’s an expert at building and running implementation, professional services, Customer Success management, technical support, and account management teams that meet or exceed functional KPIs. Diane believes customers renew and buy more when two things are true: They feel valued, and they get value.
Before we begin, don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE. And leave your comments below. Now, let’s get started. Welcome back to Unexpected Journey and welcome, Diane.

Diane Gordon 1:12
Thanks, Anne. It’s great to be here.

Anne B 1:14
I am so glad we finally are able to get together we’ve been trying for a while to actually get together. And the world seems to be against us talking but we’re doing it.

Anne B 1:32
So Diane, I’d love to hear a lot more about you know, we’ve talked about how you are this wonderful and very experienced, you’d have 25 years of experience in this industry, and how you have so much experience in customer success and customer experience. And I’d like to hear-why don’t you just tell us how you got here, first of all, because you are one of the more experienced consultants and individuals in this industry.

Diane Gordon 2:04
Thanks, Anne. I think sometimes at this stage of my career, sometimes I hear really experienced as old which is not wrong. But you know, how this happened was, you know, I am, I started out, you know, my career as a tech writer, and, and really that experience of explaining things to people, you know, and sort of, I think I have that, that I believe that there’s people with sort of a service DNA, they’re the people who always want to make sure everybody has what they need, and everybody’s comfortable, temperature is good. And I think the you know, the really good tech writers is has that in mind, like what can I do to help a person understand this really confusing stuff. And that sort of grew from that into taking on training roles, taking on tech support roles, taking on professional services, all things that are customer facing, but designed to provide service. And, you know, it speaks to, you know, I feel satisfied when a customer is satisfied. So I think really, people that are really effective in the customer service or customer facing space are people who you can tell they enjoy doing that work, even when it’s challenging, because it is. So that’s really how I got into it. That was you know, years ago, when I first started, of course, you know, software as a service wasn’t a thing. And so it used to be that, you know, you sold somebody software and you know, you didn’t really have to take very good care of them, the worst they could do is say bad things about you in the market, but you weren’t counting on any more revenue from them, aside from maybe some maintenance fees. And so really, when Software as a Service became a thing you know, in this this my jobs of like providing sort of minimal service if you will provide you know, good service turned into customer success, which is really the you know, now in this world you really always selling You’re never done right so customer buys from you and you know, you have to make sure they buy at the end of their contract. And so anybody that’s touching the customer is is really has to make sure that they are continuing to get the value they thought they would get when they initially bought so it changed really dramatically when software service started went from providing good service in support of a single time purchase to Okay, we have to make sure you buy every year or every two years. And so the nature of the services really changed and turned it from being pure service into kind of a healthy mix of service and sales, sales DNA as well even without a quota. So So yeah, that’s that’s the history and as I was lucky enough to be on the bleeding edge of customer success and experience when SAS became a thing was one of gain sites first customers for example. inswept seen a lot of evolution in the space just in the last 2025 years.

Anne B 5:05
You know, you’re one of the first people that’s ever brought up the evolution of customer success. And I think that’s really interesting because I think you explained it the best, I bring it up a lot. And I asked people how it came about, but you explained it so eloquently. How it became the evolution of always be selling, I hear salespeople say, always be selling. But really, that’s customer success. And it’s kind of, but but not in a salesy aggressive kind of way. No,

Diane Gordon 5:44
it’s the you know, you the job of the salesperson during the sales cycle is to convince the customer that they will get at least as much value as of the money they’re partying with regularly this, like, am I going to get at least as much value from this software as what I’m about to spend, and hopefully more, right, so the salesperson convinces them, they say, Fine, I plunked down my money. And now everything that happens post sale has to be about constantly delivering on that value. So that comm renewal time that customer holds up the spend against the value they’ve been getting and goes is, is it equal? Or better? And if not, I’m out. And so that sort of proving the value constantly not just answering your questions, but making sure that you believe your money was well spent. Is is what I mean by you know, the customer success being in the sales mode.

Anne B 6:39
What do you say to the individuals that say customer success has absolutely no role in sales?

Diane Gordon 6:49
Yeah, I think that um, I think that it’s a very it’s a very black and white view that I don’t ascribe to I think there’s there is a difference I don’t believe Customer Success people should carry quotas, there’s a lot of debate about that about whether they should have a renewal number and you know, whether they should even have an upsell number I fall to the like, I think that’s not a great model side when I say they should they should be involved in sales What I mean is post that initial sale they are the ones convincing the customer that they’re achieving enough value. So you know, I use lots of lots of real life examples for this this kind of thing so people can really get it an example I often use is peloton and I don’t own one so I don’t know why I use this but I know a lot of people

Anne B 7:39
that have been I don’t know and when either so where there you go, but stop. We can talk like we are you know very often

Diane Gordon 7:47
anything like that gym membership, you know pick pick your thing, right

Anne B 7:52
don’t own one of those either.

Diane Gordon 7:55
We just need to get together. So you know here’s the thing you’re you sign up for something right? This is subscription, you’re going to be paying for it month after month maybe it’s an annual fee you get a break if you pay for it annually. You buy this thing right and there it sits and and you know what, what peloton or gyms have to do to make sure you use it to achieve your goals is engaged you right? And so someone sold you on the peloton. Yeah, you bought into that. And now you have this subscription every month. But what what peloton is great at is saying to you what are your goals? And do you want to do you want to build endurance? Do you want to change your your BMI? Do you want your what are your goals? And then what they do is they give you programs to use to achieve that goal. They don’t just like oh, there you go, there’s your peloton, right? And the reason they do that is because unless you are guided to get to your goals, you’re not going to get there, right, you’re going to hop onto your take whatever classes are kind of fun and interesting. That’s not a bad thing. But you may not get to whatever your fitness goal is same with a gym membership, right? gyms are getting better and better and engaging their members in, let me understand your goals. And we’re going to guide you to those outcomes. It’s the same thing with software. You know, you buy software, because you think it’s going to make you more productive, it’s going to make your revenues go up. You buy it, you implement it, everybody’s using it. But no one’s talking to you about how to use it to achieve your outcomes. And you know, and another another great example is you know, Salesforce when people buy Salesforce for all sorts of reasons. You know, one reason is because they just want visibility into their forecast like pipeline and forecast. Well, let’s say you decide you want to you buy it, it’s for that reason, and your Salesforce consultant or professional services, spends a ton of time getting all your data sources connected and then just walks away and doesn’t really talk to you about the change management that’s required in your org decision to get people in the system and using it. So come forecast time you have all this data, but it’s it’s not good. So this My point is like convincing people the value during the sale is great post sale, it’s about delivering on it getting the customer to the outcome they thought was important. If you just give it to them and kind of go call us when you need anything in it is very likely they will achieve some outcome, but it won’t be the ones they’ve wanted. Or they’ll go you know, it kind of sat on the shelf or a beat up people are in there using it. But you know, our revenues are same, our forecasts are still crappy, like you have to so this post sale function in SAS is all about delivering on that like getting the taking the customer by the hand and leading them to the outcome. And that’s what I mean, by ces being in sales, you have to keep that process going.

Anne B 10:53
It’s the implementation, the change management, the delivery, showing the value delivering on the promise all of these things. That’s right, you talked about how, and there is there’s a lot of debate on Should I have renewal numbers for customer success? Should I have upsell numbers for customer success? What are the appropriate in your opinion? Right, in your view, when you’re helping your clients? What do you help them to put as appropriate and realistic KPIs for their customer success? Organization?

Diane Gordon 11:32
Yeah, it’s definitely there’s a lot of debate. Look, I I believe some of it has to do with where you are in your organizational maturity, if you’re a tiny little company, and you’ve got an you really the place where you hire, if you jet eyes, and everybody does everything, then that’s not what we’re talking about here. Because,

Anne B 11:49
because let’s be honest, you know, when you’re a startup, a customer success team, they’re going to do implementation, they’re going to do onboarding, they’re going to do everything from startups.

Diane Gordon 12:00
I mean, you name it, right, right. So we’re talking about here is you get to a place where you’re beyond that, and you’ve started differentiating between the post sales lifecycle steps in the journey. So you’ve maybe got implementation, you’ve got customer success, you’ve got sport, or some blend of those things. Look in that scenario. I mean, the best, the best analogy I can use for this is when you go shopping and a salesperson is working on commission, versus when they’re not. Do you have a different experience? I think you do. Right? I mean, I do. When I know a salesperson is working on commission, I constantly question their motives, right? And, and so think about that, if you know that a person isn’t working with their handout in any way, right? You’re going to be much more authentic with them, you’re going to be very transparent about what’s going on for you and your business. And so that the that that relationship between the CSM and the customer is is its sacred, right? It’s the only place in your organization where the customer is talking to a person who has no agenda other than to get them to value, which is lifting

Anne B 13:19
what I think about whenever you I mean, it’s a great analogy. But what I think about in that moment I’ve got a completely date myself right now. Well, go. Woman do your work on commission. Big mistake. Big. Like, that’s what I think of. Yeah,

Diane Gordon 13:42
yeah. So but that’s, that’s the thing, right? I mean, it’s actually a good example. Because if they just had started because she

Anne B 13:50
walked in, they just heard her way because they were working on commission, because they didn’t think that she was going to buy but she walks in with somebody that looks like a money bag, and all of the sudden, they’re all over her. So you know,

Diane Gordon 14:04
so I so that’s that’s philosophy. One is, you know, I think customers are the people who understand customers the most and can get all the right people are the CSMs because the customer doesn’t feel like they’re looking for money. That’s, that’s reason one, I think it dramatically changes the relationship between the customer and the person. The second reason is, and I go back and forth on which of these is most important. The second reason is people that have really great service DNA and make great CSMs are terrible at talking about commercials. They hate it, it makes them uncomfortable. It makes me uncomfortable to talk about money. So with a customer so so you you have to like decide, you know if you’re gonna if you’re going to norm on really building a trusted partnership with the customer and hire people who really love doing that. It’s it’s In fact, even you know, when we run like a, some of my customers are running a spiff on, you know, identifying upsells, some of them are okay, some CSMs will do it. And some are like, I’d rather not get the bonus like, I don’t want to. So you just and again, it depends on where you are in your maturity cycle. And you can find CSM is for okay with having commercial conversations, or even really like that maybe they belong in account management or sales. But more often CSM, they’re like, let me talk to the customer about how to use our product to do their jobs, right. And don’t make me talk to them about dollars. And so it’s both of those things. And I think it’s hard enough to find people that are right for the role until look for sort of these unicorns that can do it all. So I think once you’re past that point in the maturity cycle, the thing to do is to have a part of the CSM bonus that’s tied to either overall renewal rate, or the renewal rate for their book of business, which is, it’s harder only because books change so frequently. So it’s sort of like an operational nightmare. But you can do that. But you know, most most CSM teams part of their bonuses tied to the company’s overall renewal rate, either VR and AR, that’s fine.

Anne B 16:15
But, um, wait, just so that everybody that’s listening who doesn’t know and our net retention rate? Yeah,

Diane Gordon 16:22
sorry. So gross retention is the percentage of customer you started the year with that you still have at the end of the year. So you started with 100% of your customers at the end, you ended up with 90% of their revenue. That’s true grr. Net retention is the GRR plus any revenue that you added to those existing customers. So if a bunch of those customers bought, you know, 20% more, you’d end up with an NRR of your 80 plus 20, which would get you to you’d be at 100. I’m sorry, 90 plus 20. Which gets you to 110. Nr, so the most common thing is for to compensate CSMs on grr. But, you know, one of my customers today compensates the whole company on nr. And because everyone you know, we do want people identifying upsell opportunities. I’ve seen it both ways, right.

Anne B 17:16
And I’ve seen some that are trying to do it based on the individual’s accounts and what they have. But to your point, it gets messy, especially when it counts are going back and forth between a

Diane Gordon 17:26
loser. Yeah, you get into like, I don’t see, I don’t want that one. That’s, you know, that account is a loser. I don’t want our

Anne B 17:35
you know what Diane doesn’t like, and she wants to work with Sally. So did you know because it happens, you want your clients to work with people that they absolutely like, and that they’re going to mesh with? Because then they will grow? Mm hmm. So and that happens a lot. It does nothing wrong with it. Yeah,

Diane Gordon 17:56
I think it all comes down to and this gets to customer experiences like designing, you know, sometimes companies design things because it works well for them. And it’s sort of like the, you know, my analogy there is flipping analogy person is, you know, you you you reach out to your phone service provider, everybody’s like, Oh, no, don’t make me do that. You reach out to them and they pass you from person to person, each person asks you the same questions, right, your date of birth, and your social and your all the things right. And you’re like the Someone designed that to make it work for them, and for the customer. And so I think the that’s the thing is, you know, you can you can say hey, we want to compensate CSMs on nr gr for their book of business. And then that keeps you from being responsive to good customer CSM fit. So you’re designing because it works really well for your business, because you can measure the books of business really easily. But you’re not giving yourself the flexibility to make changes based on what’s good for a given customer, the same kind of thing. So I always just, you know, part of a good customer experience is, is making sure that you’re designing for the customer and not for you that you’re not you know, it’s that same thing like you never want to build a that’s you never want to say that’s not our policy, right? That’s like a big no, no.

Anne B 19:19
Like, do I say this? Don’t say that segment, right. So I want to talk in a minute about you mentioned, maybe they should be an account management. But before we get into that, speaking of this, or that, I think this is a great segment to move into this or that for you. So I know you’ve watched the show, and you know that we play this on every episode. So this is where I give you one or two words or phrases and we both pick which one we like and explain why. So Netflix or Hulu on

Diane Gordon 20:05
Netflix, why it’s easier to navigate. Really? Yeah, I just find it easier to now. And that’s the only reason. Like I realized when I flopped down on the couch, and I just don’t want to have to work to Netflix, I just not not because of the offerings or anything. It’s just like, I think their interface is better. I just, I’ve never really thought about that till right now.

Anne B 20:36
You know what, I was actually going to go with Hulu, just because I’m mad. But yeah, no, you’re right. I think I’m gonna have to flip the game here and go with Netflix. Because you’re right. They do actually have a little bit of an easier system to navigate through. Yeah, so yeah. You changed my mind on that one. Okay, let’s go with sushi. Or Tacos. Tacos. Oh, no, I am sushi. All the way. Yeah,

Diane Gordon 21:12
I like sushi too, but my husband does not. And so

Anne B 21:15
this is not what your husband would pick. This is what you like I usually with him

Diane Gordon 21:24
in LA so I just love Mexican food. And yeah, I love I love all things. You know, tacos, Tex Mex. All that stuff. I do like sushi too. But if it’s a choice, I would choose tacos. See,

Anne B 21:36
I like tacos too. Especially breakfast tacos. I love a good breakfast taco

Diane Gordon 21:41
was good. But if

Anne B 21:43
I had to pick I would go sushi. Just has it but but I do have to put this caveat on it. Like only on specific days in my area. Because like, I know when the sushi when the fresh fish delivered. Like I will not eat sushi in my area on Monday or Tuesday?

Diane Gordon 22:06
Because it’s been there over the weekend. Exactly. Okay. Like that.

Anne B 22:11
I know that the fresh fish comes in and is delivered on Wednesdays. Oh, I will go eat sushi on anywhere from Thursday to Sunday. Got it. So my kids will be like, can we go have sushi? And I’m like what day? Is it Monday? No. Nope, not happening.

Diane Gordon 22:34
If I go to like to Whole Foods and buy a thing of sushi, you’re right. I only I won’t do it on a Sunday afternoon fee. Because it’s been sitting there

Anne B 22:42
right now. Yeah, no, you know. All right. Last question. sunset or sunrise.

Diane Gordon 22:50
Oh, sunset. Same not up that early.

Anne B 22:53
Me either.

Diane Gordon 22:59
I get that. It’s beautiful. I really do. But I really like my bed.

Anne B 23:05
I Yeah, no, although I will say and this again, is a weird thing as I get older. I have a hard time sleeping in now. I get that. Yeah. And you know, I want my husband does not have this problem. Mind you. I can sleep until two o’clock in the afternoon without a problem. Me. I turn the alarm off and I tell him I’m going to sleep in. And I’m still up by 7am.

Diane Gordon 23:37
Those your body moving around things. That’s another thing. Like

Anne B 23:41
I don’t like it, like a backfat the moving stuff. The 7am wakeup, like, can we stop already?

Diane Gordon 23:51
Yeah, as I said to my doctor, I was complaining to her the other day about something, you know, I don’t like this getting older thing. And she said well, the alternatives not very good either. So

Anne B 24:01
perspective. Yeah. So earlier, you were talking, we were talking about CSMs. And you mentioned how some CSMs don’t like commercials, and maybe they would be a good fit for account management. And I find this really interesting because I’ve had this conversation with a few individuals about what is the difference. But between, let’s say, let’s actually break it down into three different things. What is the difference between a customer success manager, a client services manager and account manager and is there even a difference? Like maybe a client services manager and an account manager or the same thing?

Diane Gordon 24:54
I don’t. I’m not familiar with that term Client Services Manager that feels very b2c. To me feels very like, you know, you’re the person that service counter kind of thing or, you know, you’re, you’re returning something you run on the phone with

Anne B 25:10
maybe it may be b2c client service feels

Diane Gordon 25:13
that way to me, very transactional is what that feels like. So I don’t I mean, I don’t really see that used much in SAS, I’ve never used it, the so here’s so here’s the thing. Depending on an organization’s sales model, whether they are a pure hunter or a hunter farmer model, what happens post the initial sale is really important. So, so let’s say a salesperson goes out, they, they sell a million dollar deal. And your model is a hunter model only, you only want them closing new logos. And you say, or you can hang on to that account for six months, in case there’s any additional upsell them, but then you have to move on to haunt other things. And some organizations organized that way, because they hire that profile people to look for new logos, and farming is not a good use of their time. In that case, what has to happen is that customer now that has potential upsell opportunity either to additional regions, other divisions of the company more products in the in the companies in our portfolio, someone has to be making sure that we are milking that customer for more revenue, right? The salesperson moves on, they’re no longer interested. So who’s going to do that, who is going to be creating the account plan looking for the green space opportunity with that customer and sort of going alright, well, you know, originally you bought for your Chicago division, but we know you have an LA division and in New York division, who’s going to have those conversations, salesperson is not going to do it. Customer Success is not a salesperson. So what you want to do is you want to have people that are really farmers, I call those people account managers. And sometimes account management is it’s used to mean a lot of different things. But the best model for account management is one where they are responsible for up and cross selling customers no longer owned by the sales organization. And they’re also responsible for closing the renewal. So they they have commercial responsibility for customers that are no longer owned by the initial salesperson, all commercial responsibility. And and so the way to think of that is a CSM is responsible for serving up a happy bright green customer. And the account manager is responsible for selling for farming, that green customer for the renewal upsells cross sells. And so they’re typically people salespeople that are great farmers for the better, more comfortable with, you know, selling into an existing base versus looking for new logos, and they’re very different profiles. And and so that’s, that’s, that’s the best model. You know, every so often, there’s also like a renewals ops person that’s responsible for the mechanics, the contracting. But on the other hand, if you have a sales model where people sell and then hold on to their customers forever, you don’t really need account management also, because it’s like another layer of something in that case, you just do the renewal ops piece. So you know that the the challenge with that first model is, it’s hard to if you compensate people the same way for new logos and upsells, the same salespeople, what will happen is that you’ll you’re one or the other will suffer, right? Because people will tend to do what they like to do most. As opposed to like I hired you to just do this one thing. So anyway, that’s that’s really the role of account management is to farm customers to really be responsible for the commercials for existing customers no longer owned by the sales organization. Does that make sense to you? Yeah. So

Anne B 29:10
it’s, it’s almost like you’re, and tell me if you think this is is wrong. It’s almost like you’re splitting the growth part out of the customer success. So we talked earlier about how we’re not talking about when you’re a startup and Customer Success does everything, right? We’re talking about when you start to grow into a little bit of a larger organization. And you have to start thinking strategically about your customer journey, and about how you split up your team so they can be more strategic and more aligned in what they’re doing. So now, you take that very holistic team that does everything right, right. And you start thinking about that. What are all of the things that they do? So this team, now we’re going to take out the growth part and that team is going to be account management. Exactly. Now, what else do they do? Okay, so we’re gonna take out patient implementations, now we’ve got an implementations and account management, and a customer success team, what else can we pull out of that team so that they are solely dedicated on customer success, and making sure that that client is successful, and continues to stay with us grow with us and renew, they don’t leave us they, we become so integrated with that customer, that they can’t live without us.

Diane Gordon 30:38
That’s right. The last thing to think about pulling out is, is tech support. And, you know, I’m working for one of my customers now where the CSM is do both tech support as well as CSM and and what happens in that, and they’re just just at the cusp of splitting it out. And so that the challenge with that is that, you know that, again, you hire a customer, because you typically hired CSMs, who are, you know, pretty technical, they’re good at customer relationship management, they’re more expensive than tech support people. And then you have them doing tech support. And so you’re spending a lot on tech support. And also customers tend to, you know, they tend to, if I might see someone, I have a customer and they have five open tickets, I’m going to spend all my time resolving those because they’re critical versus doing proactive care. So at some point, you need to split out tech support. And then you will find that some CSM is actually really enjoyed doing tech support, because it’s tactical, it’s satisfying to close things all the time,

Anne B 31:46
maybe they go out of customer success and become part of the tech support team.

Diane Gordon 31:49
Exactly. And that’s what we’re doing at the second customer is that we have a person in particular and that person is going to become the lead slash first person on the support team.

Anne B 31:58
For for everybody that’s watching. So we’ve got we started out as a startup, right? With our customer success team. We’ve grown. Now we’ve got a customer success team, and account management team and implementation team and an IT team. What is our remaining customer success team? What are they doing now? Are they just sitting there talking to our customers making friends being besties going to their wedding? Because that’s what some CEOs actually think that they do. Like they just don’t I kid you not? They’re like, well, they are a non revenue generating department. And all they do is make is half relationships. They do nothing for us. They have no, they don’t do anything. Why am I spending money on this customer success team? So what? What do they do for us now?

Diane Gordon 32:51
Yeah, no. Wow, that would be great. If that was the job. Right?

Anne B 32:56
I’m like, I’m down. How much does it pay?

Diane Gordon 32:59
Well, I think the way to think about that is, you know, like any team, they need to be measured on specific metrics. And those metrics would be you identify the leading indicators for churn for your business, they’re, they’re often the same as they are for most SaaS companies. And you measure the team on those metrics. And what that forces you to do is to build in initiatives and workflows to improve the metrics. So the three metrics that are most common, and leading indicators of turn are lack of adoption, right? Poor champion engagement. So the person who’s like your champion in the account, and poor, economic or executive buyer engagement. So those are the three leading indicators of churn, if those are all bad, their customer is going to churn, maybe not tomorrow, but ultimately, and so if you think about that, and you sort of have to produce a dashboard, weekly, or monthly on, here’s what the economic buyer engagement looks like, for all of our enterprise customers, for our mid market customers for what you what it forces you to do is to build in to Well, first of all, you have to build in a system to enable you to measure that, but you should build an activities to drive that metric up. So for example, one of the companies that I’m consulting for now, we require that so our exact buyer engagement metric is that you have one alignment conversation with the executive buyer, once a quarter, that can be a formal EBR. It can be a back and forth and an email, it can be a Slack, it all has to be documented and that counts and if you don’t do it, you can’t reach them or it doesn’t happen. You don’t get credit for the EB engagements when I’m looking at your portfolio and I see that all your exact buyer engagement scores, it’s a form of scoring is red or yellow for your customers. You’re not doing your job. Now you could be going golfing with not you You but someone could be the customer and going to their weddings and all that. But if that’s red, so I think the answer to the CEO is you measure the things that point to churn. And, and so it’s not enough that the customer likes their CSM, what has to be true as the data has to be good. So there has to be green AB engagement, green champion engagement, and good adoption. And adoption Can you can define that in a way you want. It can be like sspas use of specific features, like the ones you know, are very sticky. You can but but defining like agreeing on, like, when we look at churn, and it’s almost always the same for SaaS companies, those are the three things. How do you measure those indicators? And what is what is the CSM is doing to drive them down? And, and, you know, that’s your answer, that their whole job is to make those indicators green.

Anne B 35:55
Diane, where do you see the because there’s a lot of talk right now on customer success and the value and where it’s come and where it’s going. Where do you see customer success going over the next 1824 months?

Diane Gordon 36:13
Yeah, I think that, um, you know, I mean, the the poor economy has actually been a boon for customer success, because Pete company’s new sales growth has slowed. And so it’s become even more critical to retain existing customers because of the VGR and nr metrics. And so there’s, what I’m noticing is that there still continues to be hiring in customer success, because there’s a recognition that we’ve really got to retain our existing revenue. So I think it’s, it’s sort of teaching the world how important it is finally, I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t recommend it as a strategy. But but but the other thing I see is that I think increasing automation and instrumentation that enables teams to do more with less, I think platforms like Gainsight, turn zero, or have a much larger role than they used to. So you know, that sort of industry standard, you know, CSM book sizes, it’s, you know, anywhere from two to 3 million per CSM, I think those are, we’re pushing the upper limits of those because of budget. And so it becomes important to have, you know, instrumentation in my systems, that’s telling me what to do and what to pay attention to during a given day. So I think we’ll see more reliance on platforms, I also think AI is going to play a role. You know, we, I think, especially in support. And, you know, we started playing with that a little bit in one of my customers, but But mostly, I think that really instrumenting your CX platforms to take the burden off the team to figure out how to spend their time. Because, you know, they do a lot of context switching, right. And so the more time you spend, like, what is it I’m supposed to do next? That’s just last time. So I think, you know, operational systems for efficiency is the big thing.

Anne B 38:08
There are a lot of organizations that are either looking to reevaluate how they are setting up their CS departments, or are actually thinking about investing in their CS departments. And I’ve seen a lot of teams that are trying so hard to write those job descriptions or are trying to hire the right people. It is hard to hire a good CSM, and there are a lot of people out there trying to get into that field. So what is your thought on? What is? What are the right skills for when you’re hiring top talent? As a customer success manager, what am I looking for? And what am I not looking for? Like? What are the red flags and the green flags?

Diane Gordon 38:59
Yeah, so I I look for really four main characteristics. The first one is surface DNA. It’s a squishy one, but if the person you know, even if they had summer jobs, you know, they worked at Starbucks, like, get them talking about waiting on people, you know, being of service and see how see, see how that felt? Did it feel good? Did they like it? Did they like, you know, I mean, I was a waitress all through college, and I actually enjoyed it. Right. And so I think service DNA is kind of like, wanting to be of service versus going, you know, and of course, we’re all gonna have days like that, but you should. Right, right. I think attention to detail. You know, a CSM who is disorganized and can’t prioritize their work will fail. And then on the way they’re going to be a management nightmare. So attention to detail. What you don’t want is some like big thinker who can don’t really like, you know, look at their book of business and go where the Reds are, you know, they’re no. Like, that’s not that’s not a thing. technical aptitude, they don’t have to know the technology that that you’re that you’re specifically using, but they have to show that they can learn technology. And then finally, they can’t be an introvert. Right? And that’s actually my biggest challenge because I’m a massive introvert. And so you’re looking for people who, who look forward to engaging with people, so people that like would really rather just like, sit here and do their thing, probably not going to make a great CSM. So those are the four things and maybe there’s some red flags in there as well.

Anne B 40:42
Yeah, can we just say it’s okay to bring at least let me toss out there the idea that some introverts for CSM the the extroverted introvert,

Diane Gordon 40:57
that like that’s why that’s why it’s worked for me, because that’s me. I’m the extroverted introvert. Like, I can turn it on and, and I’m gonna

Anne B 41:06
go take a nap after this podcast right now, like this, I can do this for a good couple of hours, but then I’m gonna go take a nap. Right?

Diane Gordon 41:14
And I do, it feels fun, but it takes energy from me. And so yeah, I’m not saying that you can’t hire an introvert, but it should be somebody who’s like gets that a big part of their job is engaging with the outside world 100 products, you know, I’ve had CSMs are like, you know, let me be the support person for the other CSMs I don’t actually want to talk to customers. And that’s, that’s a problem. That’s

Anne B 41:39
and, and one other note on that is that if they can turn it on, but also noting that recognizing that there are days that they’re going to be like this with me, like in our one on one, and that’s okay. But I’ve seen them with their client, and they’re like this and absolutely fantastic. And I can see that they’re engaged with their client. But when they’re with me, it’s like this and I’m okay when they’re like this with me, because I know that that’s not what they’re like with their client, and I don’t have to have to worry about them being completely monotonous and edit at it. So it’s, it’s interesting to see how an extroverted introvert can just like flip that switch when they want to.

Diane Gordon 42:22
Yeah, no, you’re right. I mean, it’s honestly, you know, people are often surprised that I’ve had the career I’ve had when they learn how introverted I am. Because I’ve gotten really good at that. And you are creepily good at it. Yes, then was a little Wow. Nine day

Anne B 42:40
it brings my husband out to

So along those lines, on the job boards right now, there are hundreds, if not 1000s of people asking questions. How do I get a CSM job? Where do I find a CSM job? What certifications do I need? What training can I get? Where do I go? How do I go? Who can you introduce me to? I mean, like all the questions people want to get into this field. If you had one of those people or a dozen of those people sitting in front of you right now. Talk directly to them. Give them advice, tell them what to do where to go. Like give them that encouragement. You are going to talk directly to them right now about their future and how to pursue their career as a CSM.

Diane Gordon 43:48
Yeah, well first of all, I think it’s a great career. I mean, I’ve you know, having seen this this job form and then evolve I’ve I’ve really seen it be such a great opportunity for people who like working with customers like technology don’t want to be tech support have more to bring to the table in terms of being a talking about strategy and value. So it’s like this really nice opportunity for people who I think before weren’t quite sure where they fit in an organization and they and they go to tech support villainess not really where I belong, or they go to you know, trainings and that’s not really where I am and so it’s really this perfect fit for if you like doing a blend of things every day. This is a good job for you. So I would encourage it and and the other reason I encourage is that I think it is a great jumping off point should you decide you want to move into other parts of an org. I mean I’ve I’m a fan of this helping CSM is moving to like, you know, when I work with product line, I really think I want to be a product manager. Great. Let’s let’s do that. So I think it gives you a view into a lot of parts of the organization. So yeah, I think that the thinking about the characteristics that I mentioned, about, you know, organizational skills, your ability to communicate effectively. Think about that when you are, when you are preparing to go, or actually even before you prepare to go to for an interview, I think think about look, the thing that you’re going to be most excited about doing is something that is a product that’s of interest to you. And it’s going to come across in the interview. So, you know, I once interviewed for a role a hardware manufacturer, and it just wasn’t my thing, like hardware is not my thing. You know, I’ve always been in software, and I think that really came across, I felt it. So I think the first thing is to identify companies that are that have products that you that you genuinely are interested in. I think that as opposed to like, oh, there’s a CSM role at the, you know, nuts and bolts factory. I’ll do that even though I don’t like nuts and bolts like don’t try not to do that, although it’s easy for me to say in this economy. So that’s, that’s one thing. The other thing is I think, do there’s a ton of reading to be done in this space, there’s so much being published all the time, even if you just follow Gainsight or turn zero on, you know, LinkedIn, and read their posts, you’ll come into those those interviews with up to date information on how the job works today, and you can ask really good questions. So I would say keep current. And then the last thing is an AI This is advice I always give my daughter is come up with some really good questions to ask. And I would say that for any role you’re interviewing for, I’m always astonished when I get to the end of an interview with somebody I’d say do you have any questions or like, yeah, no, I’m I’m gobsmacked by that. Because it’s often the questions plus someone asks at the end of the interview, that convinced me whether or not they’re the right person, because it shows that they’ve thought about it. They’ve looked at the company, they’re up on the space. And they were asking me, it’s not not a question like, yeah, so how long have you been here? No. It has, you know, think about your questions. It shouldn’t be like, well, how much vacation time do I get? It should be really thoughtful about the company on the role. That’s kind of generic. I would say that for anybody interviewing, but I’m amazed at how frequently I don’t see it. So I don’t know, is that is that what you were looking for? Is that specific enough?

Anne B 47:31
I think that’s excellent advice for anybody. And my last question, Diane, is, why would anyone reach out to you? And how would anyone reach out to you?

Diane Gordon 47:46
Well, I’m easy to find it’s customer growth, consulting.com Customer growth consulting, is below for everybody. And also on LinkedIn, Diane Gordon, you can also find the customer growth consulting there. That’s that’s easiest way. And the reason really, you’d reach out to me is you know, I, I’ve been at this a long time. And I think that the secret to driving renewals and and net retention is in a journey, a customer journey that has four threads, and we’ve we’ve covered all four of these threats. The first one is, you know, what’s the experience the customer is having, of, you know, of you and your company, right? Are you making it easy for them to do business with you from the time they buy or even before they buy? But how was onboarding look like? What happens after onboarding? How do they move through the journey? That’s, that’s like the most basic thing. The second one is how are you making sure along that points in the journey that they’re achieving the outcomes that they want it to? How are you like, at the at the beginning, saying, let’s just align these are the three outcomes you want and right so they have a chance to go actually know what these other three, so you shift gears, constantly staying aligned, aligning on outcomes, delivering on the outcomes, that’s a second thread. The third thread is if you are losing customers, because your your stakeholders are not engaged. The important thing is to build stakeholder engagement into the journey as a thread. And that is easier said than done. It’s not just about make sure you stay in touch with the guy who bought that’s, that’s not what I’m talking about. That’s good. So that that third thread is if you look at your turn reasons, you’ll find that it’s often because the champion left the EB left or they lost interest or they didn’t get buy in something happened post sale. And no matter what you do, you’re you’re you’ve lost the renewal before you even really gotten started. So that third thread if you’re having challenges with stakeholder engagement, or you don’t even know what those words mean, because it’s not part of your journey, you need to talk to me and then finally scale like you can do all of the above but how do you do it based on where you are in your maturity model? So you know, we talked about listen, if you’re a five person company, you Got three people doing all those things, right? What do you do? When is the right time to split out implementation and support? What kinds of systems and infrastructure do you need? What are your leading indicators? How are you measuring them? That’s the sort of operational piece. So if any of those things are, you know, you’re struggling with your renewal number or your net retention number, and you a want to just understand why, like, which of these which of these threads is sort of a leading reason for that. That’s, that’s the reason to reach out. And then, you know, I can help you address some or all of those things. So I think that’s, that would be the pitch.

Anne B 50:39
Great. Well, thank you, Diane, for joining us. It has been an honor. I’m so glad we finally got to get together.

Diane Gordon 50:49
It’s so nice to see you. I’m glad we finally connected. Yeah, I look forward to chatting with you again.

Anne B 50:54
And thank you, everybody else for joining us on Unexpected Journey. We will see you again next week. As we wrap up the episode, we would like to take this time to thank you for joining us this week on unexpected journey. Our guest information will be linked in the episode description, along with a link to our hosts website, annebibb.com and our sponsors’ websites, remoteevolution.com, ethossupport.com, and yourcohort.co. Please don’t forget to like, subscribe and share on your favorite podcast app and on our YouTube channel so that you never miss an episode and we can continue to bring them to you. Let us know your thoughts on what we discussed in the comment section. And once again, thanks for joining us. We hope to see you again next time on Unexpected Journey.


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