BIG RYG 2022 was a jam-packed two days of engaging sessions, new connections, and “aha” moments. I left Washington, DC thinking that the event was hugely successful at connecting the audience to the art of crafting Customer Success at scale, while pushing the limits of Customer Success leaders’ abilities to own reporting on revenue metrics to the C-Suite or Board of Directors.
While I took something away from nearly every session I attended (and wished I could be in two or three places at once to sit in even more!), there were five speakers and messages that really stuck with me that I want to highlight
The customer-centric CEO
Gabby Wong, CEO of FranConnect, shared her unintentional path to the c-suite. Gabby never set out to become a CEO and was nominated as a candidate and nudged that direction by those who knew her best. Gabby actually turned down the offer initially, then slept on it and woke up with a new perspective. She admitted she couldn’t do it alone and needed a team of support. Her secret to success included three personas:
- A Coach. The one person in your network that you can share ideas with openly, vent as much and as needed, and lean on them for advice.
- A Mentor. The person you look to for career advice. Could be a manager but that’s not required. Best when this relationship is positive, save the venting for your coach.
- A Sponsor. The person who sees your hidden strengths and talents, may have even found you, and believes in your ability.
We all need people who fill these three roles in our corner.
Founder and CEO of Axios and formerly of Politico, Jim VandeHei, shared a brief yet smart keynote address that got to the point. A guiding principle of his co-authored book Smart Brevity describes that “Brevity is confidence. Length is fear.” And when it comes to communicating with customers, his words of wisdom… “Stop being a drag.” Jim advised the CS community to communicate with customers in a way that is efficient and effective and makes them “want to open your emails and continue to like you”.
Seems so simple and intuitive, but it never ceases to amaze me how many CS leaders need to take a good hard look at their strategy through this lens.
Use hidden data to increase dollar retention
If you think only Sales and Customer Success can impact Net Dollar Retention (NDR), Joel Passen, Co-Founder of Sturdy would tell you that you’re dead wrong.
Joel shared that listening to customers is harder than it sounds. These days Joel uses AI to listen to customers through all forms of communication. He shared that…
- On average, there are more than 10,000 customer-generated communications per $10M in ARR
- 12 inboxes and systems communicate with a single customer (remember those contract and renewal date inquires that bypassed the CSM?)
- 18% of customer feedback contains at least one critical business signal that impacts revenue
- 60% of customer feedback is trapped in email accounts
Joel also shared that there are three types of customer feedback that lead to churn, and how to solve them.
- A change of executive sponsor. Have the person with the greatest impact to drive engagement contact and meet with the new executive sponsor. That may be the CSM but depending on the account, it may be a Director, VP, or other CS leader.
- Customer inquiries to procurement requesting copies of the contract. Procurement should notify the CSM each time such a request comes in.
- Inquiries to the billing team about their renewal date. Once again, be sure to notify the CSM that manages that customer’s renewal.
And if the CSM isn’t responsible for managing the customer relationship, revenue, or renewals, well, let’s have a chat at next year’s BIG RYG (or sooner!) because your CS org is leaving their seat at the table up for grabs!
Build a better health score
This session got into the nitty gritty of internal data sources and using the four components of a balanced scorecard (customer, financial, learning, and internal perspectives) to build a health score. Emilia D’Anzica, Founder and Managing Partner of Growth Molecules emphasized how learning perspectives are often not balanced with other perspectives in a health score formula. Customer learning comes in all shapes and sizes, including support tickets, viewing how-to guides and other learning management system (LMS) resources, and community engagement. These actually could provide evidence of positive outcomes, not just negative ones.
Approachable capacity planning
I couldn’t finish writing this without mentioning ESG’s very own Sheik Ayube and Jordan Olivero, who showed us all that financial modeling and spreadsheets can be fun and engaging. (No, really!) Even as their friend and colleague, I wasn’t convinced it could be done until I saw it in action. They spent 90 minutes walking CS leaders through a workbook designed to address both top-down and bottom-up approaches to using your segmentation and tiering strategy to determine headcount and capacity planning.
By popular demand, we’ve made the workbook available to download, and would encourage you to do so! Note that this version was distilled down to support a 90-minute presentation. In practice, additional considerations should be factored into tiering exercises to effectively guide strategic decision making at your specific company, informed by market, product, economics, and your current and future go-to-market strategy.
That’s a wrap
As I look back on BIG RYG, my head is still spinning from the stimulating conversations and new perspectives. But I can’t seem to shake one little irksome trend that keeps popping into my mind: the seemingly downward trend in CS owning renewals, which anecdotally continues to spiral down a year-over-year decline. I’m left a bit dumbfounded that CS leaders aren’t owning their numbers. Jeff Kushmerek, CEO of Infinite Renewals, might have stated this reality best when he quipped “CS leaders who don’t own renewals and upsells must like layoffs.” Let’s get out there, grab the renewal metrics by the reigns, and steer CS toward a revenue-driven direction as we plan for 2023.