Episode No:01

Why is visibility into customer goals super-critical?

Emily Garza

VP Customer Success, Proton.ai

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Ep#01: Why is visibility into
customer goals super-critical? ft. Emily Garza (VP Customer Success, Proton.ai)
Ep#01: Why is visibility into customer goals super-critical? ft. Emily Garza (VP Customer Success, Proton.ai)
  • Ep#01: Why is visibility into customer goals super-critical? ft. Emily Garza (VP Customer Success, Proton.ai)

Episode Summary

Emily Garza is the VP of Customer Success at proton.ai, a sales enablement and CRM platform for the wholesale distributor market. In this episode, we will dive deep into what motivates customer success individuals to build meaningful relationships with their customers, which enables higher revenue retention, and why having greater visibility into customer goals is essential for CS ops.
Key Takeaways Time
What led Emily to Customer Success? 5:04
Why is word of mouth more believable? 9:50
How can CSMs grow their customer engagement by 10x or even 20x? 11:50
Leveraging cadence meetings to prevent your customers from ghosting you. 19:26
What can transform your CS team from better to best? 25:03

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Emily: The other piece around cadence meetings that I think is really interesting is it allows you to, like test the waters a little bit if you have a new idea. Adil: Hey, welcome to the hyper engage podcast. It’s a weekly interview-style podcast series where we will pick the brains of some of the best customer success leaders across the globe and try to unearth customer engagement beyond onboarding, expansion and churn. So let’s get right in. Hey, everybody, this is Adil. I’m your host, I’m joined with a co-host Mohammed Shahrukh. Today we have Emily Garza from Proton.ai. She’s the VP of Customer Success at proton and prior to that she’s been mentoring Softwares like catalyst like SaaS platform for customer success managers prior to that she has worked for pretty long like more than six years at Fastly, which is a, which is a public company now. And she’s worked there from sales enablement to leading role in the in the customer success, she ended up as a VP of Customer Success, building, you know, the team from the ground up. So I think we’re gonna have a lot to learn from this episode from Emily Garza. And we’ll dive in deep into, you know, into looking into that how customer success managers and Customer Success operations can be aligned towards customer goals, and how your team members can have a complete visibility into their customer goals and their ambitions for any product or service. So let’s jump right in. I’ll just push this towards Mohammed Shahrukh. He is going to introduce himself. And we will start in talking and drill down deep into these questions. Thank you. Emily: Alright, so my name is Emily Garza. I’m the VP of Customer Success at Proton.ai. And proton is a sales enablement and CRM tool for the wholesale distributor market. And I have a background in sales, sales enablement, account management and customer success. Shahrukh: Awesome. Yeah, when we were doing your research, first of all, thank you for letting us know a bit about yourself. Even when we were doing a bit of research, we did see that you currently joined, just recently joined proton as VP of Customer Success. And in your past life, you served as a board member for the University of California…University of San Francisco’s Customer Success Program, the MS program, and also you spent lots and lots of years at companies like Fastly, and AT&T. So yep, that’s, that’s awesome. What we would do is we would just briefly introduce ourselves, because we just want to make sure that we try and pick your brain as much as we can. Because we have a series of questions. I’ll just briefly go ahead and share a bit about myself. My name is Mohammed Shahrukh. I have been in the Customer Success/Account management space for close to a decade. My most recent assignment was with Keep Truckin’. You must have heard about them there. Emily: I have! I met John. Shahrukh: Oh Yes. By the way, you mentioned John, he actually is my mentor. Him and I built a team based out of Pakistan. And we’re still connected even though I’m not with Keep Truckin’ anymore. But we do spend a lot of time still talking about what we love the most, professionally. So yep, I’ve spent time there. Currently, I’m serving as head of growth for a company called Turnitin. They’re also based out of Auckland. So they have their presence here in Pakistan. Emily: Is that like when students turn in papers for the plagiarism? Shahrukh: Absolutely. Yep, the de facto plagiarism detection software, the best one in the world. So we have a bit of a market here in Pakistan. And we’re supporting customers here. So that’s really that’s really it. All right. Emily, we did try our best to go through your profile, and make sure that we come up with the best questions because you’ve been in a lot of different podcasts. This is our second episode. We’re still learning the game of how to pick people’s brain and depending on where they have been in their professional journey. So I see that you have spent lots and lots of years in leadership capacity. So we’ll try to align our questions so that they’re the most relevant. But again, yeah, my very first question that I asked all my guests. What led to customer success and why customer success? Emily: So, why customer success? So having been on kind of both sides of the fence now from, you know, the sales piece earlier on in my career now customer success, I think the biggest piece is getting to work with existing customers and really maintaining that relationship. Yeah, one of the things that I always felt sad about in sales was that I had to hand off that relationship that I had spent so much time building, and I didn’t then get to see the ongoing success once they implemented the tool or product. So I think being able to see the customers that you’re working with kind of grow and engage and see them achieving their goals and also helping to push the product forward. Some of the best relationships that I’ve had with our customers are the ones who are pushing the envelope a little and make our company better because they’re bringing new ideas and use cases. And that’s really fun to see when you can find kind of that symbiotic relationship. Shahrukh: Yep, love that. And there’s so many things to resonate with what you’ve just mentioned. And I would maybe just drag that question just a bit more. Personally, why do you think success is something that you really enjoy doing is it’s something that comes naturally to you, or, I’d love to know, Emily, in the space of customer success as a person. Emily: Yeah. So I think it’s interesting because if I take one of the personality tests, I tend to be at least slightly more introverted than I am extroverted. Which doesn’t always like scream out at you of oh, you should be customer-facing, right. But it’s something that I’ve always kind of been drawn to because I don’t feel or I guess I do feel like in customer success, you’re able to build that longer term relationship. So I think that’s part of why I got out of sales that it was a little bit too, kind of short-lived. And really pushed a little bit more on the extroverted side. But I feel like being in customer success, I can build what seems like a more authentic relationship, really get to understand the customers and their goals. And that energizes me when I see their success. And then I think from a, you know, team perspective, see, like, as a leader, seeing, you know, individuals and team success, as well as super energizing. That’s more in general versus customer success. But I think the other thing that makes me really excited about customer success is just how big of a role it can play in an organization. So I went to undergrad for business, I got my MBA. And I’m, you know, not a wiz in all departments, by any means. But I really enjoy seeing kind of how all the decisions interact with various parts of the business. And I think if customer success is done right in a company, you really have the opportunity to have a voice that drives the entire organization forward, not just the customer success function. And I think that that’s really cool. You’re working with existing customers, you’re bringing them ideas to the product team, how you engage in grow your existing customers impacts the finance organization, you’re leveraging these good use cases and customer references for your marketing organization. So it touches a lot of pieces. And if you can do it right, then you’re able to drive your entire business forward, which I think is really exciting. Shahrukh: Yep. Totally. Again, and customer reference was, frankly speaking was something so close to my heart. I remember having a conversation with John back in the days where we talked about secondhand revenue, we actually happen to build a bit of a lightweight sort of a customer reference network, that we continue to supply to our sales organization. And I remember, one of these trucking companies had had this senior-aged team member, his name is Steve, and he happened to be such a huge advocate for Keep Truckin’ on genuine grounds. And we definitely didn’t send him any gift cards. But he ended up helping Keep Truckin’ have just a couple other customers based on the word that he put in for us. So that’s that that word of mouth is just so powerful. Emily: I think it’s more believable, right? Like customers don’t necessarily want to be sold to but hearing you know, someone…another company that they aspire to be who’s, you know, adopted your product or whatever, like, that’s so powerful. Shahrukh: Totally. And then that kind of leads me to another question since you must have been living and breathing this very, very closely. Eventually, it does boil down to people who lead all the strategy and lead it to execution. I’d love to know, you spend some time with Catalyst as well. And I just love their memes, what they post on LinkedIn. They’re just so funny. And it’s relatable. Totally. I’d love to know, as a leader, and I heard it and a lot of podcasts, people talk about churn, people talk about renewals, expansion, which I believe are all great outcomes. But there’s always a journey that leads to that outcome. And what we’re trying to achieve in Hyper Engage is to focus on that journey. And there’s tons of great collateral out there. When it comes to churn, revenue, expansion, renewals, all those strategies they’re pretty good, we tend to just focus on this one critical piece where CSMs are spending time that eventually leads to these goals. So my question to you is, we do talk about generic touch points where people are, where CSMs are meant to reach out to customers, and then have that meaningful conversation throughout that journey. What in your perspective as a leader, is something that’s still missing, that you think if your CSMs are equipped with that insight about their customers, their engagement would go 10x or 20x? Something along those lines Emily: Yeah, great question. So I think it’s two pieces. And I feel like we throw the idea around, but the execution part is what’s really hard. So I think the first is really understanding what the customer, what their goals are, and their so their goals and metrics and how they see success. So I think that’s a huge breakdown, that I see between the handoff, from sales to customer success, because sales asks all these questions upfront, right, they’re trying to, you know, do discovery, qualify the customer. And at some point, ideally, this comes up in the conversation, right? Like, why are you buying our product? How are you going to evaluate it, what’s gonna be successful, but a lot of times that either doesn’t fully get translated down to the CSM, as the handoffs are happening. Or maybe things have changed throughout the sales cycle, or maybe the customers organization has changed whatever else. So I think that there’s a huge gap in understanding why does the customer actually buy the product, and what are they expecting out of it. Because if you don’t know that, it’s really hard to then impact their business, and make sure that they’re actually getting what they thought out of it. And I think the second piece is around the idea of value. So I think there are some organizations, and I think it’s becoming a few and a few and far between, I hope, but that are so structured and focused on, you know, maybe meeting counts or things like that, that we forget to take the step back and say like, why, why are we doing this? Why are we having this meeting? And I think it comes across when you start to see, you know, customers who get quiet or don’t respond to you or stop showing up to meetings, it’s because you’re not showing value. And so it’s not a good use of their time. And so figuring out what, what is important to them, really understanding, you know, what metrics do they run their business by? And how does your product or tool influence that? Being able to then speak in their language, it makes it a lot easier for them to be engaged and understand and tie the value of your solution to their overall business. And I think one example that I’ve just recently seen, is also being able to understand the value conversation at different levels of the organization. So I think, for the most part CSMs tend to be really comfortable and having that conversation with, like their day to day contact, who may be an individual user or a manager, maybe even director level. They think when you get up to the VP or the C-level, that conversation has to change, because the C level doesn’t necessarily care about the intricacies of your product, right? They want to know like does it work, what’s the impact of the business? And I think figuring out how to raise that conversation and, again, understand what’s valuable insight and information at that level. That’s where I think a lot of CSMs falter, and then don’t get kind of that visibility and face time at that higher level, because they haven’t figured out how to kind of tell that story in a slightly different way. Shahrukh: I think you’ve touched on such interesting points. And then this was the kind of answer that I was expecting. What I’ve noticed, and thank you so much, because the way you worded and in different facets, I think it explains way more than we just generally hear on a lot of different or see on a lot of different articles that people keep talking about. And I think what’s really, in my opinion, what’s extremely critical, is that I think us as people in the world of CS, I think we’ve doubled down on just everything that’s generic, so much, that we’ve kind of lost out on the fact that there is so much more to learn about your customers, that really makes it makes you resonate with them. And especially when it comes to some very complex industries, construction management, CS is still relatively very new there. Even technology itself is very new there. I think just reaching out to your customers and saying, Hi, how you doing, and then just talking about everything your product, and then that makes you even sound more salesy, but you don’t intend to, but I think you hit the spot, that knowing about their business, which is just more than generic things that we know, okay, your renewal is at the state, your, we have now a new product, so you should be definitely testing it out. All of that is all centered to ourselves. And rather, I think we need to just maybe start expanding our horizons and try and learn about our customers a little better. Because we can keep producing these fancy things. Eventually, they won’t really end up anywhere. But yeah, I think that was absolutely spot on. And I’ve actually taken a note for that as well. Emily: Yeah, I think a lot of it goes back to the idea of curiosity. So when I look at the competencies for, you know, account managers, or customer success managers bringing on to my team, that’s usually something that I’ll focus on is can you ask questions? Do you feel comfortable asking questions, and it’s the same as in your personal life, right? People want to talk about themselves. And so how do you kind of enable that, but do it in a thoughtful way so that you’re getting information that, you know, will allow you to be more in tune with their business and then be able to bring those recommendations, but bring the ones that fit? Not just, hey, we’re rolling this out. So, you know, I’m being pushed to sell it. Shahrukh: Totally. That would be the last thing you want to share. Interesting. Love that. And maybe just a couple of other minutes, I’d love for you to share on you agreed that are essentially there is a need for having more touch points for CSM to have really those have those meaningful conversations. Can you think maybe a couple of them that come that come to you right now. And maybe you can share those with us? What would be those, those touchpoints that are not in the basic customer journey for more SaaS businesses that you think would be if not game-changing, but they would be very helpful to, to not eventually have any customer. Or most of the customers start ghosting on you. So yeah, if you could, if you could briefly touch on that. Sure. Emily: I think I don’t know that I have a complete secret here. But I’ll talk about one that I maybe think is underleveraged. I think people often talk about, you know, a QBR Ni br and those are important meetings and ideally a more strategic meeting. A little bit of kind of recap results looking but mostly looking forward and figuring out, you know, where’s the customer trying to drive their business and how does that kind of start to line up with where your organization’s going. So I think People are pretty clear on the importance of that piece, I think the meeting that oftentimes doesn’t get leveraged to its full capacity is like a cadence meeting. And it can look different depending on how you know how you segment your customers, or even what customers are interested in doing. But having more frequent cadence, right, maybe it’s weekly, maybe it’s monthly, the being able to have that meeting, typically a more tactical meeting, you might be meeting with your day to day stakeholders, maybe the manager level. But I think, it gives you the opportunity to create that foundational relationship, that’s going to be so important to then drive some of those other actions or other meetings like a QBR. So if you think about leveraging a cadence meeting, so this is something that you know, you’re doing with some regularity, again, like weekly, monthly, something like that. So it allows you to get consistent exposure to the customer, right, you stay top of mind. It also allows for some relationship building, right, if you’re only seeing a customer, for an hour, once a quarter, it’s really hard to get through, like all the content that you have, and want to talk to them about and build the relationship, right, like building the relationship is not like, let’s have everyone on the call go introduce themselves. That’s not going to build you kind of that deeper relationship. But seeing people consistently being able to, you know, kind of create that level of trust and everything else, that’s how you start to build a relationship. I think it also allows you to get deeper insight, kind of the same idea of squishing everything into one-time meeting. If you have this ongoing cadence, meeting you can bring, you know, two or three new questions every time, hey, you mentioned this, like, tell me more about it, let’s dive deeper into that. And it’s not, you know, trying to get through everything in a 60-minute increments, you can continue to build that knowledge meeting over meeting. And then I think the other piece around cadence meetings that I think is really interesting, is it allows you to test the waters a little bit if you have a new idea. And so, you know, say that you’ve got a new product that’s rolling out and you know, if you’ve already now built some of that relationship, you can ask the question, especially if it’s, you know, at that user kind of manager level and say, Hey, we’re rolling this thing out, I’m not sure if it’s a fit, or, you know, let’s talk about how this might fit into your organization. You know, hey, it touches, you know, X, Y, and Z inputs is that even something that would be interesting. And you could start to get that early feedback and build that case, before you kind of go up within the organization to maybe the decision-maker, and get some early feedback on, you know, is it going to be a fit, what could be the potential impacts, which I think is really powerful, because oftentimes, when you’re reaching out to a VP or a C level, they don’t want you to come and just kind of blankly pitch them, they want to know that it’s going to fit within their organization, you’ve already done your research. And so being able to leverage this relationship building and kind of this ongoing call allows you to do a little bit more of that so that you’re really well prepared to be able to add value when you’re in those other conversations. Shahrukh: This is my key takeaway, Emily. And honestly, I haven’t heard people. I haven’t actually heard anyone really talk about having emphasis on the cadence meeting. And the way you explained it, and for the reasons. They’re super insightful. And one thing that I can add to it was, I think, as a leader for CS team, you can keep having them, you know, build great stories for the EBR. And, unfortunately, what I saw was that most of the EBRs kept getting rescheduled for all the right reasons or the wrong. Can’t comment on that. But I think the way you mentioned about really strategically, prepping for that cadence goal, and using it for all the reasons that you mentioned, this is something that I think we even then try, honestly, so yeah, great key takeaway for me, for this one, as a leader and something that I’m definitely going to advise my teams as well. Going forward. Lastly, I know we are almost up on time. This is our magic question. And it definitely involves a magic wand. So if you haven’t had a magic wand, what would you want your teams to be equipped with, to be, move from being better to best? It could be a tool. It could be anything. It’s a broad question. I’ll let you run with it. But you have the magic wand. Emily: Okay, I’ve got the magic wand. And I think the biggest piece, I would say is visibility into customer goals. I think once you have that, you can do a lot with it, you can start to build a strategy plan for how you want to interact and bring value to the account. You can help influence your product, because you know, you know what the customers end goal and kind of end vision is. There’s a lot of other things I would want to help support that. But if it was like, hey, you need one thing in order to be successful, I think it’s really understanding what the customer goals and success criteria is. Shahrukh: Love that. Stability into customer goals is something that would make the whole the entire difference. Perfect. Got it. Emily, this was really it. In terms of questions, we have learned so much. And thank you for taking the time, I’ll share something insightful with you because we still have two minutes. So generally, all the content about customer success that is being posted, We, by no means, we want to be a podcast that is releasing a lot of content, I’ll tell you the real reason as to the kind of impact that we’re trying to have. So we are actually from Pakistan and you must have heard maybe from John, we have a big presence here. Keep Truckin, Sendoso’s engineering team is based out of Pakistan and actually, the engineers of Sendoso, they’re based out of a city called Lahore. They’ve built the entire product in and out. And this side of the world is actually booming with talent. And it’s at all times, the country when got featured in Bloomberg a couple of months ago. And one of the companies that I had, I’m grateful to mentor was called Airlift, they raised 85 million, and they’re one of the heaviest funded startups here in Pakistan, I’m trying to say is that what you just the time that you just spent with us, this is not only going for audience that has a lot of collateral already North America for customer success. This is actually also going to maybe 30,000, or 300,000, young graduates in Pakistan, who are aspiring to be CSMs, or wanting to explore the customer-facing roles. We’ve heard that generally our English speaking capability is better in the region, as compared to some other countries. So a lot of young folks are actually are inspired to opt for these roles. So this great insight that you have shared from a leadership perspective, this is going to be so beneficial for a lot of folks wanting to breakthrough in the world of CS here in Pakistan. So we just want to tell you that your impact is not for the only 30 people who are on LinkedIn, or maybe 300, or maybe 3000, this might even go up to 300,000 people or even more. So yeah, just want to thank you and share that impact that these 25 or 30 minutes that you’ve spent with us, this is what the outcome is going to be. Emily: That’s really so exciting today, you know, it’s a growing industry, and people are excited about it. Adil: Yeah, exactly, totally. And also, you know, we have 120 million people here in Pakistan, and more than 60% of them are under the age of 30. And our goal for the next three years is to get resources, get, you know, hunt talent from different backward cities, people that are hungry for, you know, to learn about, you know, customer success, customer relationship, what a great experience, we are building out some training institutes, Trainings for them, I have like a big team for my business as well. So I’m sitting in the National Incubation Center, a business center, and it’s a national university. So, I mean, our goal is to make an impact and contribute towards this society because we see this, they have a huge potential. Huge potential in terms of, you know, working and grinding hard and especially in this space in the customer-facing roles, and which has proven, you know, in the last four or five years, companies like Keep Truckin’, Airlift, Sendoso, you know, Amazon is building a team here. So it’s really a high time and it’s for us, people that have been there for a decade to contribute back to the society and make an impact because in 5 or 6 or 10 years I and Shahrukh will just be, you know, we will just stay down a little bit because energy is not going to be, you know that my so we’re just trying to play our part as much as possible. Emily: Yeah, that’s very cool and really neat that the two of you can be kind of part of the movement to bring the education and knowledge and awareness, both of you know, how to do the role. And then hopefully, like exposure to job opportunities and things like that, as the region becomes more well known, and people’s skillsets get more and more like, honed and crafted. So that’s really cool. Thank you for sharing that with me. Adil: And thank you for playing your part in the journey as well. Emily: Absolutely! It was so fun to chat with you guys. Shahrukh: Love that. Emily, I know we are up on time. And I think we’ve gone past three minutes. So again, thank you so much. It was a pleasure having you. And as soon as we master it and then do a bit of adjustment, we will share the recording with you so that you can review it or maybe share it in your own circle. I loved chatting with you. Thank you for all your insights. I think it was fantastic. Emily: Yeah, thanks so much, and I look forward to staying connected. Adil: Thank you so very much for staying with us on the episode, please share your feedback at adil@hyperengage.io We definitely need it. We will see you next time another guest on the stage with some concrete tips on how to operate better as a Customer Success leader and how you can empower engagements with building some meaningful relationships. We qualify people for the episode just to make sure we bring the value to the listeners. Do reach out if you want to refer any CS leader. Until next time, goodbye and have a good rest of your day.

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