Episode No:07

Dive into Customer Success at Acquire App and Deel ft.

Bradley Liou

Head of CS, Acquire App

Listen & Subscribe


Ep#07: Dive into Customer Success
at Acquire App and Deel ft. Bradley Liou (Head of Customer Success, Acquire App)
Ep#07: Dive into Customer Success at Acquire App and Deel ft. Bradley Liou (Head of Customer Success, Acquire App)
  • Ep#07: Dive into Customer Success at Acquire App and Deel ft. Bradley Liou (Head of Customer Success, Acquire App)

Episode Summary

In conversation with Bradley Liou, Head of Customer Success at the Acquire App, who accidentally started his Customer Success journey and never settled. As per his proven and actionable knowledge, Bradley expressed what he believes makes Customer Success teams successful and product scalable. A product that provides value to the customer is integral;
  1. A product roadmap,
  2. well-integrated process,
  3. People that make the process, and
  4. The right technologies to be incorporated and measured. All these are in place to achieve the goal of frictionless onboarding and value realization.
A CS team must be well-integrated and must not work in silos to achieve these goals. Also, it is the need of the hour to transform our Customer Success operations and not wait until it’s indispensable to have a dedicated Customer Success team. Bradley also shared his experience building CS teams and playbooks. He also talked about his attempts to have suitable tools, pitch-perfect segmentation, and mistakes he made along the way. Then there was a discussion about the progress of the Acquire App, the technologies incorporated by Bradley for the Acquire App, and steps he has taken to make the app Scalable. As the conversation progressed, the discussion revolved around Bradley’s journey as a lone CS warrior, his tools, decision-making process, segmentation, general approach toward CS ops, and challenges in engagement. The podcast concluded with how according to his experience efficient and actionable data benefits the product teams.
  • Kingside
  • Catalyst
  • SalesForce
  • Hubspot
Key Takeaways Time
Bradley’s journey as a CS individual 1:17
What makes CS teams successful? How important are the product, people, process, and technology for the CS team? 7:33
Why should the CS team never work in silos? 9:44
Making CS ops digital (12:34) Why do organizations don’t have a dedicated CS team? 13:47
Bradley’s experience in building CS teams and playbooks • attempt to have suitable tools and pitch-perfect segmentation • Mistakes made in the process and remedies • Usage Model (26:32) 18:27
Technologies used by Bradley for Acquire App 36:21
About acquire app team at the moment 41:37
Bradley’s experience as a CS lone warrior: Tools, Decision-making process, segmentation, CS ops in place. 42:47
What steps has Bradley taken to make the Acquire App scalable? 53:40
Importance of efficient data 57:54
How is actionable data beneficial for the product team as well? 58:22
Challenges in Engagement faced by Bradley 1:02:54
Why is it essential to hire the right team for a series A company? 1:03:23

Empower Your GTM Strategy

Monthly expert advice and top GTM insights in your inbox.


Bradley: You started to have the high touch, low touch, tech touch. That was the standard way of doing things. I’m going to challenge that too. Is there a concept of mid market when you cannot clearly define what’s mid market? 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 Adil: greetings, everybody, we’ve got Bradley from Hive this is got like plenty of experience in the CS Customer Success space acquire app he’s currently working with prior to that is part of his been a part of the Customer Success operations at deal and it was a pleasure having conversation with him over the LinkedIn and he decided to join us on the hyper engage podcast stage. You know, it’s better you tell yourself what you do and you know, thank you very much for taking the time today. Bradley: Absolutely. Hello everyone. So a quick I guess summary for myself I’ve been in the Customer Success slash post sales my whole life in my career. So started really as a typical you know, technical support product support SAP climate way through became the first CSM SAP Canada, then went to the startup world, and been building Customer Success department teams, everything from onboarding, to adoption to retention, expansion to data operation KPI comp plan, which everyone who has done complaint commission knows how complicated and fine it is. But everything in the Customer Success world, building couple teams from densify, CVC, company to a couple Y Combinator companies like lever, building the team there alone with deal building the global team there, and right now at the acquire app, again, building another customer success department. Adil: One wonderful, so we’ve joined with so many customer success leaders in the past, you know, and the best part about this episode is we get to choose and we get to interact with people that have you know, within the CS, you know, ops, there is a huge amount of diversity based on, you know, the customer segmentation based on the industry based on the kind of CS like, you know, b2b model that they have, like their focus more enterprise. And so that’s the best part about it, about HyperEngage. So let’s get right into why you started with customer success. What was your reason? And, you know, what was your biggest challenge starting? Like, let’s talk about the first deal brand bit? And then, you know, what were your key challenges that made you, you know, sort of sometimes feel like, okay, Ash, kind of not in the right place or something. Bradley: So, let’s hear some stories, man. Absolutely. So I can probably start with, I come from a computer engineering background, I actually started as a developer at IBM. And part of me, though, was always wondering, what’s the impact of my software, my product to the world, right, so naturally, I went on to be more of a customer facing role. And, of course, as a developer, no one’s gonna get you to be a sales guy, right? Because the moment that you have your developer on your resume, you’re, you’re lucky in a way, but you’re also screwed in a way that no one’s going to be like, yeah, be my sales guy. So I went through sort of that customer support, product support. And that really got me thinking, “ Well, I can do support, maybe I can do consulting implementation, because we are familiar with that. Right? And mind you that was there early 2010 ish. At that time, at least in Canada, there was the concept of customer success. So very naturally, I wanted to become a technical consultant. And through that, there’s the role called technical account manager, which I’m like great, a love to maintain the relationship with the customer. But I think ultimately, part of me wants to see customers getting value from the product, not me being happy when something goes live, because going live doesn’t mean crap. Customer hasn’t really started using it, we celebrate because we as a vendor finish implementation, or that’s a technical support, I close a ticket I celebrate, that has nothing to do with customer value. So that really got me into getting into that technical account manager role. And one day, there was like, I think there’s a movement at least in Toronto tech in the SAAS world where everyone was like, I’m gonna rebrand my department to customer success, and I don’t care what role is if you’ve managed sort of a customer relationship, we’re gonna slap the customer success manager on you, right? And I was in that era, I got slapped with the customer success manager title, which I have no clue what it is. But that was a time when gainsay just started. That was a time when Lincoln Murphy was the thought leader, there’s tons of articles and really, it was just about what is customer success. First time, we learned about product adoption, value realization, and I was like, Oh, my God, that’s what I’d like to do. And that’s what I believe, where every enterprise software, every b2b SAAS, this will be the core, right, and I think over overtime is proven it is the core, when we talk about net dollar retention was one of the biggest factor aside from SAP profit margin, and from revenue growth, that impact the company’s valuation. And that forces people to think about customer success, not just as a support or happiness are experienced by really customer get a value you as a SAAS company will grow. So that’s my short story about how I got accidentally into customer success, and never stopped. Adil: Wonderful. So sometimes you don’t get to choose your passion, your passion chooses you and you know, you just fall into place. And you started, you know, feeling great about it. And then you just just think, okay, let’s move on, let’s see what happens. And this is how most of the times you find innovations, creativity, and you know, you try to, for the first time you live, you start thinking, Okay, I’m trying to evolve not just as a skillset or exposure, but within me there is something that that is called leadership. So that is why when you say the way you have explained your story that explains a lot in that. So now, you know, since you already know that you might have seen our previous episodes, we are so much focused on making the CS ops intelligent and digital, just like, you know, Nick Mehta says back in the years and you know, all these, you know, people from different SAAS businesses they are trying to accomplish, we will not so much, you know, integrate ourselves with the fundamentals like fundamentals is something everybody know, we will just more focus on the journey on the journey that how we have how we expose, as a CS team, more towards the relationship capital, how you forecast our data ahead of time to make sure, okay, we are absolutely walling with the with our customer goals. So the first thing I want to jump into is that, in your opinion, what do you think is what makes a customer success operations organization, as a team, as a setup successful is that the best well driven, you know, decisions that you make, like, it can be tools, it can be, you know, some of the operations that you know, work on a concrete level, or it’s just going to be some of the playbooks, or you just got to live with the customers. What is that? Bradley: That’s it, I’m going to give a controversial answer. But if your product sucks, there’s nothing you can do. So let me start with one thing, and I’ll sort of elaborate on that. I personally believe that number one to make anything scalable, as a b2b SaaS company, you need to have a product that people actually use and get value from that, right. So the first step was always making sure that how much influence you have as a Customer Success leader that can go back and making sure that product delivers value, whether it’s a product roadmap, whether it’s, you will have product manager doing the market research, but we on the customer success side, that actually matters a lot. Now, assuming that product has value, then the next question on the more customer success operation is how do I ensure the customer gets the value number one as soon as possible? And number two, as scalable as possible, right? So time to value speed, and then scalability. And that trickles down into I think three things right? People process and technology. You have to have the right people. And when I say people I don’t mean CSM. I mean more on, do you have the key person whether it’s Customer Success operation, or programme manager or customer education, they can make things fast and scalable, right, because throwing people to solve a problem doesn’t help. Right? So that was sort of number one. Do you have the right people that reflect how your company’s product and your customer base really resonate? The second one, though, was more on the process itself. So do you have the right process? I have seen cases when people have built Customer Success teams in silos. So they have a playbook. But that playbook was just for a specific stage. So going back to the whole technical consultant onboarding, we have perfectly booked from post sales to go live, then I don’t give a shit about customers. That to me was broken, you have a silo process. And then that’s the time when you heard Customer Success leader or CSM was like, Oh, our sales handoff sucks, oh my god, it’s the sales team, or, well, our onboarding team rushed, it didn’t do a good job and the handoff sucks, or, Oh, the account manager sucks, because when we need them to do the renewal of the handoff was horrible. And that goes back to me was, do you have the right process that has to end to end customer journey. And I think that’s sort of forced into the third part, which is once you have the processes, again, internally knowing give a shit a PowerPoint, unless you put it into a system. And you measure that, and you show it to whether it’s the VPS or the a CS on, you did not follow the process, because it’s not in the system. Right. So that goes down to the right people that you have the process and playbook. And then you have that technology, whether it’s kingside, Client Success catalyst, but something even Salesforce or HubSpot, but something to measure and enforce it, then you can create that whole end to end journey. Adil: Wonderful, great answer. So I mean, the kind of way you construct this answer that, you know, serves even the start of that people that just trying to hire their first customer success manager, you know, the first person in the CS team. So this also serves in that case, as well. You know, if there are different components, you know, at first you need to make sure you are receiving your customer in the way in the best way possible. As soon as possible, you’re getting closer to the end goal that he or she tries to achieve, while making a transaction, then you need to, of course, when it comes to customer success team, you need to make sure everything that your customer does inside your platform, you know, what are the reason why why exactly, you can document it like in a simplified way, you can document it in the way that you have technology, like Salesforce, like intercom, like segment, mix, man, all of that, you know, technology, you need to need to make sure that you have the data and then insights that, you know, you can make intelligent decisions like all the percent that, you know, that is why all these guys here are Nick Mehta, and you know, Catalyst, you know, widely and you know, all these customer success tools to make your customer success operations digital, and you make smart decisions. You can all like these. Bradley: Yeah, I’m just gonna double click on that, that in this era, in this time and age, there is no excuse. When you say I don’t have the data. Now, mind you, 10 years, 15 years ago, 20 years ago, right? My golden SAP days, we were on prem, that was the time where it’s hard for us to get the data. And we have to guess how customer is doing. Right when you do the on prem installation. So any cut any company that tells me I don’t have the customer data, it kind of like got me into a place where I’m like you are so spoiled, where you’re telling me your product team, your development team doesn’t have a way to measure and get you the customer success department some sort of insight into customer data. So you can drive a frictionless onboarding, you can drive a frictionless value realisation. So I’m putting out there anyone who’s listening who doesn’t have the data? Well, if you’re not on prem, you have no excuse Adil: Excuses are like assholes. Everybody’s got one. So that’s about it. Yep. Though, it’s, you know, like, like you said, you focus and stress more on the technology because, you know, you have answers to everything, you have the same amount of information sitting on your workstation, as Elon Musk sitting on a space station, same freaking amount of technologies, same information, same time and day, you can hire resources, you know, all of that. But again, what do you think? What is that key reason? Like of course, everybody tries in, you know, tries in their level best in terms of investing in technology, investing in people, you know, cooperating or analysing their customers? Why do you think that people don’t prefer to use a dedicated customer team for, you know, data visualisation and analytics and you know, make their team even product managers, even engineers, everybody have better insights on their customer journey with the help of data and they may get a room to see what is the thing that comes into your mind of course, that you mean like Adil: Preventing people, especially Customer Success side to have some sort of operation or system right. To me, it was more philosophical. So I’ll give you example. Most of the time when we heard about people say, Well, we have to share a sales ops resource to build something else. And that person is part time because his main job was to work with go to market or with a sales team, then really the question was, number one, is your customer success still billed as a cost centre as a support team? Or do you manage the revenue and the understanding that you have? Probably own 70 to 80% of the annual recurring revenue right? Now, that is hard to convince, oh, school folks who really has done it before. And then their world was new cells and growth and the pipeline and the forecast. Right? So going back to what, what prevents it, it’s how people see things. And it’s the philosophy of a CEO, and how they run the company. Now, this is gonna sound controversial as well. But when people that say build a company, you go to see stage Series A, B, and C, you’ll get advisors, right, you’ll get board members. Over time, those people are coming from the that’s a 10 years, 20 years of experience. But that’s how they’ve been running things, doesn’t mean they’re wrong. But that was the philosophy behind that. So I am, I’m 100%, looking at product like growth that was sort of coming up recent years, right, not sales, leg rope or product growth. I’m looking at the trend of how do we make sure that in app there is guidance to the people, and then there’s that blend between the product team, the r&d team, all the way into the customer success team. They and then the sales team can be like, yes, that creates a great way for me to sell to a customer for them to get the value. Even with a shift of going from annual contract or multi year contract into MRR, that accelerate time to value that it’s a shift in philosophical view on, I’m confident that my product is so good, my customer success team is so good that every month, you will renew. And we will charge you more. So there’s MRR. Growth that the best business you see in the world right now. Could be MRR but MRR grow, right net dollar retention on the monthly level. But that goes back to people do have to have the right philosophy to run the company. And when a co founder says we’re customer centric, and you asking about what’s your best? What’s your biggest term? Why? How do you prevent that? And then what is your most sticky feature, the one that once customer adopted will never leave, they’ll get the most value. If the founder and CEO say you have to talk to my VP of Customer Success, or I’ll get someone to pull the data for you. You know, there’s something wrong. Right. So interesting. That’s interesting. So, you know, we bring it down to you know, now, first we will discuss the high level, you know, things that you share your opinion and an experience that you shared, that you have in the past and your belief system, the way you operate as a leader in the customer success team. Now, just let’s drill down into your past experiences, how you build team, what kind of, you know, playbooks, you were that were best practice over there, and you made a decision on it. And then you know, how you, you know how you smartly, being flexible as a CS team while choosing the right tools? Of course, it matters, dedicated tools, then second, making sure the customer segmentation is 100% Pitch Perfect. And it’s aligning, if there is no you know, manual work, of course, I mean, there comes a point when you need to get in touch with people, you need to step in and have some human intervention and stuff. But your goal is to csteam to make it scalable. And that way, there is only way you can do it and you know, grow big net revenue retention, and all that air is attached to it. Technology plays a part. So how do you see that you segment your customers during those times for D? You know, that’s a Bradley: very big question. That’s a very big Adil: and when when it comes to when I when shared some scenarios that when it came to a point, that of course there is a some standard playbook that you had pretty much set up, then it’s going to be that customer that actually opt ins and lands into your system and database. You have a dedicated segmentation for it because they were customers as well. Do you have a segmentation for it? Yep. Just shared some cases that how Where did you get wrong and how did you fix it? Bradley: So I’ll probably start With the first thing, I’ve been building 1, 2, 3, 4 different teams and being sort of the first CSM in other two companies. There’s no perfect playbook. So that was number one at the everyone agrees, but it’s even, I’m gonna, again say something kind of controversial, Adil: then you’re in the place man Bradley: every stage of your company will need a different playbook. We as a leader need to suck it up and used to write playbook. And we know that that playbook doesn’t work, we cannot be afraid to get rid of the playbook and we think about customer journey. So the reason for that are twofold. Number one product is changing all the time, you may have a monthly sprint, you may have a quarterly release, right whatever cadence you on, but as a SAS, your product keeps improving. If you’re telling me your customer journey stays the same your value realisation, your product adoption method, you are onboarding, your goal life, your renewal playbook is exactly the same. There’s something wrong with it. Right. So number one was understanding there’s no play perfect playbook. But there’s the right playbook for a company at the stage. Now I’ll take a step back and talk about the real example. Densify was the first manager good in team from zero, right? The playbook that I built, and the team I hire will be very different from Lever when I went there to build the the regional team and really focusing on renewal and expansion. And that will also be different when I was a deal which we went through from Series B to Series C. And then the hypergrowth in the stage, right. As a leader, one thing I need to be very conscious of is my playbook is never good enough. And when it’s time to retire it, retire it when it’s time to change, do the change management. Okay, so that to me was and that goes down to also segmentation as well. Now I’ll talk about the tool, but your customer segmentation is changing, depending on how fast you grow, right, but it’s okay to start with something, just know that every quarter you may revisit, and you may want to change it, then we’ll celebrate when you rolled out a playbook. That’s not something that worth celebrating. Just because now you have something you can start. But then you have to get the data and think about does it work or not. So that to me was every company has the enterprise and Marquez and B. Right. And then you sort of have the high touch, low touch, tech touch. That was the standard way of doing things. I’m going to challenge that too. Is there a concept of mid market when you cannot clearly define what’s mid market? So you basically say I have a line for SMB F and line for enterprise, everything in between three to mid market. And that you completely miss out playbook because you have no clue what the market is. Or it’s changing because next time someone’s sold a deal that to extrovert largest deal. Now your enterprise became your mid market because we define we defined a segmentation. So that was one interesting I felt, which is we as a leader, we need to adapt, we need to change. And we cannot be afraid to say this is what I think market is. We’re going to do it this way. That’s it but next quarter, I’m going to come back instead of point back at a playbook you build two years ago and say no, that’s how we define the market. So we need to hire market CSM based on that, right? That’s BS, right? Yes. They’re meant to be proactive. Exactly. Now, that correlates to based on segmentation. You have your hiring, you have a portfolio, blah, blah, blah. And then you also have your typical high touch, low touch, and tech touch. That is also something that personally I’ve been challenging that concept as well because high touch, pretty straightforward, right? You throw people you have meaning, tech touch, yes, pretty straightforward. You don’t have someone assigned or you have a programme manager or a CSM assigned to a huge book but they use intercom whatever tool you use to hide behind a generic name. What the hell is low touch? Like what the hell number one is a low touch model when you assign account to a CSM and are you telling the CSM that because it’s your it’s a low touch account, you cannot talk to the customer more than once a month. Or you tell the customer that I’m sorry but you don’t pay enough in the segmentation so you’re not high touch, but here’s your customer success manager. You can only talk to him twice a month as sending one email right? So those are the things that we need to really think about the the middle ground and my the one thing that even when I was with Acquire App now when I’m restarting from scratch where See stage so I get to sort of rebuild a whole customer journey. That’s one thing I want to think about too. If I get rid of low touch, if I get rid of midmarket those blurred line, you have your VIP customer 80-20 rule, you have the 80%, the customer who give you sort of that 20% revenue, it’s about how fast you deliver the value, and how scalable you can build the programme. If you can do those two, doesn’t matter if you don’t have a low touch or take on that. What’s your take on that, like low touch is some customer, of course, 80% of your customers are the ones that are bringing only 20% of the revenue, but you need to take care of them at some point as business owner as leader, when you’re going to have a financial talks you don’t even know as a leader, how soon this this, this customer is going to expand and like what’s going to be the revenue coverage and stuff you’re not. I mean, I don’t think this is something you can quantify somebody that has exactly signed up for a trial. I’m not sure how big is that? And what how big they’re thinking in terms of you know, so how do you think that you can make it scalable as low touch, or just keeping them in the same bar, do you know very, very, so I will go all the way back into number one. Your core business model should be oriented around customer success. And when people are successful, and they get the value, they don’t mind to pay more to get more value out of it. So that was sort of the number one thing is is your pricing model is your we’ve seen a lot of companies start pivot into a usage model. Right? If I look at snowflakes, so fast was a usage model company, right? If I look at AWS, AWS, one of the fastest growing, it’s an infrastructure as a service, but if you think about that was you get the value, so you’re going to get more easy to write. Now you do have a way to lock people in. But I think number one was, if people give value, then they will use more, they’ll pay more. Now can I design a no touch programme to help people to get the value? Right, so that’s where I was start. And I’ve seen multiple company, a lot of company where they started with I’m just gonna throw CSM to solve the problem. And when they start doing that, and oftentimes there that’s a C stage or series A or even B, there isn’t a true customer success leader to challenge that thought. So CSM start to do more and more and more. And when that happens, there’s going to be a lipid point when you get to that series C or D. And you as the founder your investors like look, you can burn money like that your margin is to improve, then you start to think about oh my god, I probably need like a way to skill for post sales to make sure customer get adopted, then you start to create that tech touch. I’m sorry, but that’s too late. If you are thinking about that at the time. So going back to your question on what’s harder, what’s Look, when the company first started, you have to do it in the right way, instead of throwing more and more resources, right. And then by that time, you want to build a tech touch or no touch model. This everything, your product has been designed to have a high touch implementation specialist. There’s no way unless you rebuild the product. Adil: You get along along the lines that you’re working really hard on your customers. As a startup, I’m just talking about a startup that has just passed on an MVP stage. It had some, you know, some excellent are working with some technical VCs and stuff. So for that, I think that says teams should be more focused towards receiving their customer at the highest level and listening to them monitoring their data and all that and then making and shaping their product in the best way, just like you said, to receive the data in the fastest and efficient way. And then the skill. Think about the scalability and stuff along the line. Exactly once you get your product sorted out. Now this question is also going to be pretty much important for our audience that are SAS founders and, you know, people that are working in the stealth, SAS b2b SaaS space. So you as a leader as leading customers testing while thinking of you know, at this point, it’s technologies evolved so much. If you’re in a b2b space, sooner or later, maybe in the first year, you realise you need a dedicated customer success team. I’d set up data tool or centralised data tools for my CS team that helps them drive better decisions, better conversations and better results. So as you as of course, as you as a VP, or leading a customer success team, you got to think two ways one, either make sure the technologies I’m going to incorporate when I’m going to sit with the BODS when I’m going to sit with with the panel Nolan decisionmakers, and I’m going to justify, I’ll have to say it out loud, this is what is going to bring in terms of revenue in terms of, of course, everything is connected revenue, retention, everything. That is something they’re concerned. And number two, you also need to think, Okay, this is what my CSM day to day looks like. And this is what I this is how I can place this technology to make him act better. And you know and efficient. And then we can scale this team adding more team members and then both of those mindsets, you think as a VP while choosing and making a decision on a dedicated customer success technology, it can be not a software like catalyst, it can be a process that that you design. I mean, I’m sure you’ve had a huge load of experience, you know, what kind of technologies process I could make? Think of some some company that has a small budget, how do you think you should react as a VP? Bradley: The the official answer that I can give, though, is that you do your typical like business case and your system, why do I need a system because to authorise a, b and c and right now. So I’m actually going to split on two part number one, when I first got Gainsight implemented myself, that was I think, 2015 back in the day, right? The customer success tech doesn’t do a really good job at presenting ROI. That was just the time of day. And I remembered that was a time when we need to like that the business case was Why do you need another system that’s built on Salesforce? Right? Now, I will say though, it’s different because people are getting more used to Yeah, you’re right customer success need to have their own system, because CRM was only built to be frank on when the deal is closed. And that I will contribute to all the customer success, thought leaders and technology, right? That have been sort of raising the awareness of CRM is a customer relationship management system. It’s a deal management system. Right. Now, on top of that, then once you have the right business case, you have the ROI, your vendor typically will give you a pretty good way to measure the ROI, then you can present it back right, then you look at the pricing. But one thing that I would consider as well wasn’t just the Customer Success System, but your tech stack, what is the investment that can guarantee customer gets the most value the quickest way. And that to me was beyond Customer Success System. Right? It could be anything from a resource who is a intercom guru, they can build a best outbound flow for a tech touch onboarding, they can really do a, I don’t know, a walkthrough of the system, right? Someone who got walked me right and then you can also do something in app to build it up and you have almost a instead of a tech touch CSM, you have a tech touch onboarding programme manager that really are running the system. That to me was really something that me as a Customer Success leader will think about which is out of the investment a lot of time though it could be just hire one more CSM. Because that getting early stage that was always the big debate of you can have a system system will improve efficiency, but system cannot give you the feedback. Now if I am at a super early stage, I want a human being to not only improve customer getting the value, but they work as a way of getting those feedback to the product team to the r&d team. Now when you’re a mature when your D your EA or let’s say your way larger company, you probably have a big enough product research team, right product marketing manager that does a lot of those job but early days still CSM does multiple thing and one of the biggest contribution was making sure your product development process has a real customer voice. And that to me was also something that’s worth it not just investing on system but investing on the resources and having the right human being to not just do the damn job, but really advocate for the customer. Adil: Hmm 100% And that I mean, because you know, I was expecting as a CS like you came up as an engineer and that is why you’re thinking like part of that as well like a lot of CS teams, even very successful businesses. There are so many customer centric just to build better relations and achieve their goals of course. I mean, everybody knows like if you are my customer, I need to talk about you goals at all times, and then only then you will reach and know that there is something good, which is good that will help serve your goal. But at the same time, as is mentioned that you also need to get the voice of your customer to the actual front runners, product teams, engineers, and just the way you first understand it, then you need to transfer it back to the right people 100% end of the day, no matter what you say, the kind of relationship you build and stuff, that customer has purchased your product, then he needs to be served with his goals using that product. So that is something important too. And the other thing that you mentioned is the voice that is also too because, you know a lot of times the customer success teams even at an individual level, they’re not so tech driven. And some challenges we have faced talking to different CSM teams, we talked to CSMs as well. And you know, we realised okay, if we’re building a tech base, like they’re been provided with all the data, they don’t know what to talk, they sometimes don’t even know how to talk and and and when customer gives a churn, then they think okay, things could have been different if had had this information that was sitting and exactly it was giving me the indicator, I could have forecasted ahead of time, I may have realised it later, I may have you know, a pet a better decision later on. So how do you touch on that by giving some some of the processes and examples from from the time you were in deal or you know, this recent company Acquirwe App as well. So just give us some showcases in terms of scenarios what kind of technologies you’re using, we’ve come across people sharing using intercom built some you know custom objects on the Salesforce yourself CRM for this CST and sales team. Also, what was your waste there. Bradley: Um, I have done everything from Salesforce custom object to finding out something that sales team doesn’t use, and then repurpose that for customer success to really having a CRM that’s customer centric to a Google sheet that was my ultimate customer health indicator, plus renewable plus comm plan to having Gainsight or whatever system that’s dedicated. So I’ve pretty much done end to end. My, I’m biassed, because as a Customer Success leader, I want to have my own system. But at the same time, I am very conscious of a lot of leaders, the lazy way for them to solve a problem was thinking if I buy a system, it will solve the whole damn problem when you don’t have product market fit, when your playbook was completely broken, what your customer journey of the different customer lifecycle and stages was based on four years ago when a random guy who joined and left two years later thought of a playbook. So I’ve doubled that it will be a lot cleaner and easier for customer success team to have their own system and data. But again, I will throw it out there that if you have dedicated resources and that’s one thing I learned from my early days, when one of my leader a customer success leader who then went on to be a COO. The last thing he gave me though, which is something I learned and keep in mind was he built a couple CS teams, and he told me that the next time it’s gonna build it after he hired one or two CSM is going to hire a operation slash data analyst person. And I don’t know about the how many CSM you talk to a CS leader a lot of times we are our own damn data analyst. We are the one that spam which our full time job should be running the team making sure customers get the value by half of our time are spending on importing data to Google Sheet, finding out the correlation writing our formula, go to Hubspot or Salesforce, we create a field and push it out and do account reassignment to look at the portfolio any leader who’s listening to this my recommendation just like the mentor who taught me this, your third hire fourth hire, don’t be afraid and get ops guy. It may be hard to justify to the founder. But if you think about how to skill Guess someone early, and not only can that person to run the system by can think about how do I find the right data. And without the data. Your customer success manager will be wasting a lot of time to find out what’s going on. And then you bet the product team who may give you half of the resource, do internal data and tool and mighty was always why but that’s Hey look, it’s a philosophical change and I will say years ago or decades ago, it was the sales team who was blind, it was the marketing team who’s blind, then you have all the tool coming out whether it’s Salesforce or Marketo, that start to think about, Hey, can I have a marketing ops Can I have a sales ops kind of have a go to market ops, my next challenge would be in a SAS world, there should be a revenue operation person. And that revenue operation person based on your ARR of recurring revenue versus your new revenue, he should spend the corresponding time so if 80% of revenue was recurring 20% was net new, your revenue ops team, she dedicated just as much to the customer success team, or even having the headcount there. Adil: 100%. So this is this, this can be a challenge for a lot of early stage startups, as well, when you know, when they’re not so certain on their revenue forecasting. And, of course, there’s a reason because they’re not certain on the growth. So when when taking on that account, because we are trying to help, you know, businesses in stealth, or early stage or freeze the initial funds and stuff and they need, they need to make sure that they of course, they invest at the right places at the right time. But also, they have the system just like mentioned, they have the systems around it to make it powerful, because tool itself cannot be in value. You have to, you know, have the right people right systems, and you know, the things that it needs, like data and other sources and stuff. So this taking on Acquire App. You How big is your team at this moment, we currently have one, one, so that you are you have one as me. Bradley: So we’ve been around for 12 months, we just raised our seed stage as of last year. And literally, we got our first customer, I think couples about four months, five months ago. So I’m at the seed stage of a brand new company, Adil: that you’re absolutely the right person to be showcased towards our audience, because they’re pretty much on the same stage. That is our goal. Like, you know, you get friends, you get serious debt, there are different challenges, you know, we are helping the people that need the most, and we share you the audience, we will help them message and there is more some more components to it too. And we may end up building our own CS tool for the things that we talked about. And there’s not a gaps that we see which we can navigate. And I’m listening to you and we’re trying to navigate to. So Bradley, you tell me being alone, CS warrior, and what kind of tools you’re using, what kind of CS operations like of course, you must have thought about, like, you know, scalability, and you know, even need to run team, of course, you’re going to grow. So segmentation, and also what kind of questions how many you have at this moment? How do you do the segmentation as worrier? And what kind of decisions you’re making? In terms of thinking of any centralised? Of course, you’re smart enough, you’ve been there long enough. So it’s coming, you have a training centre, you just get induced another person with three, four or five years experience? What do you think they are going forward? On the training side as well? Do you want your team to have a dedicated CS team going forward? And what kind of options like Sorry, feature set it’s gonna have? Like, is there gonna save the time? And efficiency improve the efficiency or not? And how hard is it going to do what competence involved while making the decision? Bradley: Oh, that’s big. So I’ll probably start with the way I look at things, right. it orients back to how do I make sure number one customer get the value? And number two, what are the data I can get to make sure customer gets the value. So based on that, I think tech stack is pretty standard as most SaaS company when you start right you have a CRM system, well, you probably have an intercom or something like that, where you can do a sequence of emails or that say the error messages to guide people through, you probably have something like Zendesk or that’s a you just use intercom for your help centre, right, those are more the you can call a reactive or tech touch by essentially resources you can build. So that was something that we do as well. We do a lot of those, sort of number one, making sure when the customer joins, we have resources for people to self serve. Instead of we need to talk to every single person. So that was like a given. Now, based on that though, the next step or the things that we typically build was we understand there’s a customer journey. But when you have less than this 10 customer, your ARR was not even at 1 million, right? It’s important to have a customer journey and playbook but that’s it’s also more important to number one build customer to be your advocacy. So you can reuse their story feeding back to product team to double down on the feature either we lag. So that’s why they churn or the love is so much that willing to pay more. The other side will be feeding those back to marketing as customer success story to generate leads. And I think I’m at the intersection that yes, we can talk about just hiring CSM to make sure people go live properly. To make sure every month there’s a new product releases, you have someone to go over or do something for the customer. But it’s more cross functional at a stage of can I feed that information back to marketing? Can I feed that information back to product team, and to impact so we can get to zero to one, then we go from one mil to 10 and then 10 to 50. Right? Typical playbook. So those are the way I’m looking at things. But in terms of even the model of a CSM, I enjoyed the stage right now, because I don’t have to get fixated on this is what I used to do at deal or lever or SAP or SuccessFactors. It’s okay not to have a CSM. Right, because it could be any title customer carefully don’t give a shit about whatever it is they want someone they can trust and get help from, and then get the value and get best practices. Right. So yeah, that’s how I think about things. I’m not a big fan of, hey, I got to I have playbook for every company that I build. But I’m not a big fan of coming to a new company and say this is the playbook we should do. Because every says is different. And assess business that was created last year will be very different from the company that was created 10 years ago. Right? Adil: So yeah, buddy, I was just listening to just a few bids, one of my team members came up with a video from Microsoft Bell from Y Combinator. So he he was showing the initial Mbps of you know, you know, like products and you know, like Netflix, and you know, all these. So I was thinking that how small and how, you know, baseline were they at that point and how they evolved. And everything that they did to evolve and make it efficient was was, you know, the voice of the customer, they actually analyse it, of course, they didn’t have technology to make it, you know, as probably efficient are in less time at back then back in the years. But now they were doing the same things like we have to no matter technologies that has evolved. But we will still stick with our fundamentals. So exactly. For years and years. So now talking on the scalability, of course at Acquire app, how do you think what kind of technology you just incorporate to make it scalable? And you know, you have to do it, because you’re all alone? So yeah, yep. So so make sure that you’re not just spending a huge time investing in like talking, measuring and talking to the customers. So you have everything centralised. So what is your process? So, again, the the external tools, intercom, etc, those are pretty standard, right? One of the things that we did double down on though, was internally, we have our development team r&d Team to create some internal tools, internal portal internal information that can pull. So that was sort of number one. Number two was make sure all that data flow through to the CRM Hubspot, right. So that’s sort of how we started. The key thing was making sure the product data and my customer system has integration. And that really comes down to this the team, even the product team, though, do they understand that having those information helps? Do they know that building that integration helps, not just for the Adil: Sorry to interupt, that as you mentioned that the customer system, and the data, the product data has to be line so this will change in every case, like for every customer, like every SAS is different. So how do you do it the way that it’s scalable to Bradley: Hmm, it’s the you as a customer success team or customer success leader as need to tell the product team to have the partnership. And I think we failed the partnership and we felt a good understanding of having a terminal tool team or having someone to be dedicated for that. That’s impossible. It’s when people say like my CRM doesn’t have the customer data I need, um, depending on which vertical you’re in, right, but you should have to be a baseline. So you know, there has been exactly standardise you know, you can say product data playbook, so, exactly, exactly. So you can incorporate all the because what I what I tell the team though was I need the data, I need this data to be not. So I’m gonna use acquire app probably an easier way for people to visualise it, right? Our tool was there to help ecommerce merchants, Shopify merchants to make more money. Right. So very easily, whatever revenue they made, correlates to how successful they are. Right? Now, I will have this data in the product, I can see how much money they made through us by Can I pull this data in and centralise it into whether it’s a CRM or ultimately a Customer Success System? I think we have to. But the first step was always does that data only live in the engineering database, because engineer will tell you that always have the data, I don’t give a shit. If it’s good or not, you have to share it, you have to make it flow back, you have to have a way where I can easily pull how many customer are at risk, because they made $0 out of acquire app in the past 30 days. So that was one i i am geared toward I don’t care about 100 people login, the easiest way for engineering to say they contribute to customer success is let me show you how to log in how many times it was the last login, I don’t care that has nothing to do with customer value. So I will tell you what the customer value is based on the solution we built. And if you’re your product, you should know right, because everyone who build product knows that I’m going to deliver value. So I need a way to measure that value within the product. Now I need the data back and flow into my system or sort of customer facing system. And by having that, then I can do the journey. Adil: Also please explain that system as well. So for people to have a simplified because this is something can be really critical for businesses on this. Bradley: I will start with in terms of system just have the data in your CRM, because a lot of things bill through your CRM, right, I don’t want to admit that I would love to get rid of that person. But that’s just It can be SalesForce. It can be Intercom, it can be of course you can exactly Mixpanel as well. Exactly. Insightful data. Yeah. But once you have those data, not only internally that you can have a dashboard, a BI tool to visualise that easily right, whether it’s through database or a CRM tool, but you can then hook it up to a customer interaction system, whether it’s intercom or whatever system you use, or even HubSpot to trigger condition that if someone never said, Never make a money, automatic email or automatic tag will be labelled to this customer and they get a journey. That was a customer at risk. Because everyone has a playbook of customer at risk. How do you automate that? Right. And now if you’re if if you have a system, let’s say if your intercom connects directly to your product database as someone’s there to maintain it to trigger the right flow, perfect, that works too. You don’t have to be a CRM to do that. But CRM always helped because he also helped my sales team to look at the data. I’m like, Look, this rap, every customer he closes in the past two months get zero value. Is there something wrong with a sales pitch and the playbook or the marketing? Right, so selfishly, that helps for me to where I fold the data back to CRM, which is where my CEO, my sales counterpart, my marketing, team cares and where they look. Adil: Okay, okay, great, great. So do you do not have to this this can be an opinionated answer. But you don’t also think that there has to be a centralised just for the customer facing teams for both like sales team get their data like for the pipelines, you know, prospects in Ireland customer support being sorted issues and technical curious in all and then success team on the journeys and you know, based on segmentation, you said, and also revenue coverage as well. It’s like the customer of course, as a business model as its customer success manager if, if I’m paying your team $1 million dollar a year, it’s it’s something that yeah, I’m paying for the time of paying for that person that’s that needs to be delegated to me. So as a customer success manager or even the VP you need to take care of those customers too. So segmentation, based on the revenue coverage and then the usage and product data. Now, how do you think that it should not be their dashboard in place or any centralised space for data points for this reason? I log in I have like my book of business I have around 15 customers out of which 10 Small and five or six people you know customers point of can I need to take care of the most. And I get get onto my dashboard 9am In the morning, good work and I see these five customers. This is this what they’re doing in the past, you know, one month on your product. This is this is what they’ve done done with the customer support If any query any communication any fail, this is this isn’t what they’ve done in terms of the intelligent indicators that you’ve set for the product for the Cs that measures these these these indicators like, you know, it’s going to retain like high level KPIs. So do you think it should be a centralised in simplified that save not only the time and is more you can say transferrable information to the CSM, which is not that involved in the tech, with the background, you cannot, you cannot integrate a CSM customer facing current with the technology as good as you have with engineers to understand data in a different way. I’m talking about broader perspective. I’m talking about 2000 SAS startups who says early stage customer support teams and success teams, what do you think on that? Bradley: My short answer is yes. Based on the condition that the dashboard triggers action, so here is my sort of, quote, a dashboard or a report. Doesn’t matter how beautiful it is, or how centralised is a got the best data, everything a CEO can come in and click everything right. Any dashboard that doesn’t drive action is useless. I’m going to repeat that get any dashboard and I we have seen it tonnes and tonnes and tonnes again. Customer health dashboard. People look at that drive zero action. product teams say we still have the product roadmap that’s already designed or decided for the next 12 months. Okay. CSM team say, Yeah, my calendar was booked. I have seven QBR I need to run. Yeah, I know those are risk, I will try to email them when I have the time, but they never get back to me. I will try to email them again. Mm hmm. In that case, though, I like what’s the point of having a dashboard. Now, on the flip side, and I can see even a deal we have, we used a BI tool to really pull every data, whether it’s the revenue data, customer data, product, data, etc, right? Those are great when you have the visibility. And I think that’s something that we need to number one Is there a dashboard that people can come in and look and have the visibility? And understanding? Shit is not right? We got to do something about it, or this is going really well? I’m confident. Right? So that was number one. Now, number two was once you have the dashboard, and that’s one thing I’ve been challenging a lot of people who are on the BI side, or analysts say now you pull the data, what’s a playbook that can automatically be triggered? And ideally, it has no human involvement. Exactly, exactly right. Because when it comes to data readily, it’s all enough, especially in the b2b space, it’s all about efficient, it’s going to be either zero or one. Exactly me getting with your customers with your customers, you need action data, there’s no other talk, efficient data. So the data can only be efficient. And so based on that, just like you mentioned, so it has to data it’s just not have to be data for CS. That is only that is willing that CSM or CS team is waiting on the actions. And he doesn’t know what to do like they drive actionable insights to for a CS team or individual to take action. And better, better yet, not only for CSM, when product team builds something. Do they measure how many people use that? Got them feature and do correlate to the retention? That’s something that we we can think about write our essay, you when when a sales team doubling down upselling a feature or cross sell on a special product, right? Do you have the data on that? So yes, it’s important for CSMs. But if we’re only siloed, with a CSMs, and the dashboard, that’s incompetence and only one that goes back to my very first very, very first point, which is you ultimately the CSM team was split between onboarding, implementation to customer success manager. And if you have enough people you need to renew and renew has a lot of friction, right? If you have a high CPU probably are going to have a commander then do you have a dashboard for level three? No, does each three trigger the action? And do people celebrate just based on their little got them dashboard that doesn’t really help the company to be successful. Or I love your point on having that all in one dashboard with data sets that your CEO can present to the board with a dashboard and your CSMs can have action items generated and created through the dashboard. Adil: Wonderful and also on dead with that like we’re working on you know poking more and refining this this topic too much that’s fine and we’re gonna have some more questions like in your case like and you of course you will talk about like simplify When you think about SAAS early stage, you think about small business, not enterprise enterprise is different they prefer these days, they prefer to get a person that said, so they didn’t do have a dedicated account manager stuff. So now for this dashboard to give them actionable insights so they can make action. The data, what kind of data do you think a CSM needs and indicators, insights you need? On this day and age, talking about only b2b SAAS small, early stage b2b SaaS companies providing different solutions brands in the mid market space? Bradley: I’m gonna give a generic answer because that really depends on the software itself, right and the customer. But the one of the rule of thumb for me is, do you have the data on how much value your customer realise through your system? If you have that, that it’s easier to reverse engineer to have playbook and really identify customer health. We talk a lot about adoption data. To me the adoption data doesn’t mean anything. It’s the value realisation data. So if I mean ad tech, it should be how people consume the courses, right on the education sector. If I am a marketing tech, it should be the the the the marketing, dollar efficiency and the return of that, right. If an E commerce app, my job is to help my customer my immersion to make more money, so revenue was a very easy thing. Right? But there’s there should always be an ultimate indicator. And then that, that if someone built a company, then of course, there’s something like that. Now, can you quantify that? Can you measure that? Can you report on that? And can you now we segment the customer based on how big they are, by having the right customer health, then you can have a grid, and the grid will be vertically was the segment or the money they paid but then also horizontal your or the x axis will be on how much value they realised. And then you build your playbook and customer success team solely on what are the resources I can put in to make sure people realise more value? Faster. Bradley: That’s it. Okay, so you need to build your data sets around it for for for Correct. Correct red grid. So in your opinion, and experience, what are what do you think are the top top tier challenges any VP of Customer Success gonna face around customer engagement with with their team with their individual giving them trainings, I mean, of course, you might have taken some training initiatives at lean to when you have a bigger team as well. And of course, you’re gonna do the same here as well. So you need to develop a mindset to the CSM. So what kind of challenges you you face while engaging? Like is that data is that technology is that they’re not adopting your own CS team is not adopting or using the data points to some level that it’s, it’s needed? Or maybe. So how can you just give some scenarios, if any, or you can, there is millions of challenges. Anyone who has done this would know, I’m going to throw one thing out, just for the time being because I don’t want to do another, like 10 Questions 10 challenges that will be a different topic, right? The one thing though, was the people you hire, I know it sounds very obvious the people you hire. But personally, I think the biggest challenge is do you hire the right talent. Now, the reason for that was a lot of people want to be CSM, not because they have passion. It’s either they think it’s an easier job than a than sales that BDR than cold calling. Or they think that it’s more glorified job than being a support or being whatever. Okay. Um, when people go into a sales role, here’s the interesting thing that I’ve seen, when people go to sales pro, they typically kind of know what sales is, and hustle, there’s playbook, blah, blah. When people go to marketing role, they kind of know that, hey, I love creating the brand equity, right? Brand awareness. When people go to a development role. I love to write and develop a solve problem using my coding development skills. When people come to customer success was a motive. And oftentimes we see people who got hired because they were a support per se, they hate doing support. So they’re like CSM always told me what to do. I want to be a CSM so I have an easier life. I’ve seen SDR or AE trying to be a CSM in a more renewable expansion function CSM because they’re like, I don’t have to hunt every quarter. I don’t have to start from zero. I start from 100% retention, you only go down right. Those are the wrong people. And I quite frankly I do believe that if the way you hire The way you interview the way you ask the question, and you can not identify those people wait till those people work because they’re lazy, they think it’s an easier job. And they kind of stay for two years because he’s hard to say who’s a shitty CSM, if you don’t have a good KPI to measure, and then those people out some of that become the last guy standing because all the other good people were like, I’m gonna move on to a better company. And then those like no offence, but like really low quality folks become your most senior CSM becoming the manager becoming whatever role/ I’m sorry, but it’s too late for this company, like what do you do? And they’re only going to hire people like them. So it’s something that Jack Welch like, you heard of that hire the right talent, because the a player hire a player B player, hire C player, right? You heard of that? is So coming Customer Success world, because no one knows what he does. People just think it’s easier. And better. I love to talk to customer and make sure they’re successful. So you’re hiring people for the wrong reason. And ultimately, exceptionally long run it hurts your business. So what is your what is your advice? On this way? It’s like when building a team like first? Yes, of course, it depends on on the history. Exactly. The People’s your your product cycle as well. And if of course, you if if I’m a VP of Customer Success, or I’m trying to build my team, and I’m in the first series a stage, I have to think differently as compared to Adil: 100% 100%. So depends on the time. Yes, about time, do you? Bradley: Yeah, it’s. So the short answer is there’s enough playbook on Google, what are the qualities you look for at a different stage? But you as a leader need to, like the two thing I love to ask. One was like, Where do you see yourself? Why do you see a future in customer success as an industry and you love to be in there. And you can see yourself becoming sort of a player in this world. That was sort of number one, but number two was a frankly, like, that’s one thing I learned from another mentor of mine at lever but my favourite interview question was, tell me one thing that I can tell you. So your drop out from this interview process. Wow, that right? Because if this person said Yeah, if I don’t have direction, so like, I don’t want to go to a chaotic world and you’re serious. A I’m sorry, you’re you’re out. More. That’s a your unicorn. Unicorn is hard. You have to keep growing as a unicorn Unicorn does mean your valuation was over $1 billion. Doesn’t mean you made it yet. Doesn’t mean your revenue was there. Right? So if someone was like, Yeah, I love to tell me something that well if you don’t have a good process, that like I won’t join it. Well, most unicorns still don’t have a good process. That’s just a fact. Adil: Yeah, I get I talked to many. So I’m sure you’re familiar with KeepTruckin. Just one minute. I’m gonna let you go. I mean, we’re up on the time. Let’s let’s take it for another day. This conversation thank you very much Bradley for being so genuine and open on and concrete towards the things that we wanted to discuss here. Let’s touch base soon on this if we need to you need you and I really appreciate you. You love it. Bradley: Love the chat today. And good luck. Adil: Well. Thank you so very much for staying with us on the episode. Please hear your feedback at adilette hyperimmune.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 some building some meaningful relationships. We qualify people for the episode just to make sure we bring the value to the listeners. Do reach us out if you want to refer any CS leader. Until next time, goodbye and have a good rest of the day.

Keep Listening VIEW ALL EPISODES >>>