Episode No:28

Driving Success at Fellow.app ft.

Sarah (Wong) C.

Head of CS, Fellow.app

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Ep#28: Driving Success at Fellow.app
ft. Sarah (Wong) Collins (Head of Customer Success)
Ep#28: Driving Success at Fellow.app ft. Sarah (Wong) Collins (Head of Customer Success)
  • Ep#28: Driving Success at Fellow.app ft. Sarah (Wong) Collins (Head of Customer Success)

Episode Summary

In this episode, we were joined by Sarah (Wong) Collins, Head of Customer Success at Fellow.app, a disruptive meeting management software that helps teams to have productive meetings and meaningful 1:1s. Sarah started the conversation by talking about her background and outlining how she got into CS. We then ran through an overview of how Fellow.app helps teams stay productive and organized. She then talked about their customized customer success dashboard and how it helps them track user journeys and make smarter decisions. She also gave us insights into their research-driven culture and how it enables them to provide the best service to their customers.
Key Takeaways Time
Sarah’s background and how she settled into the world of Customer Success 01:44
About Fellow.app 6:22
Best practices for prioritizing customer requests 11:54
Insights into customer success tools and operations at Fellow.app 17:07
Having a Research-Driven Culture 24:24
How experimenting can lead to success 25:15

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Sarah Collins: You all have those early cringy meetings where you’re waiting for it to fast forward and just be over while you spend so much time prepping that you don’t actually have a productive conversation? And so that’s the problem that fellow is looking to solve. Taylor Kenerson: Welcome to the hyper engage podcast. We are so happy to have you along our journey. Here, we uncover bits of knowledge from some of the greatest minds in tech, we unearth, the hows, whys and whats that drive the tech of today? Welcome to the movement. Adil Saleh: Hello, greetings, everybody. This is a Adil from hyper engage, we have our co host Taylor Kenerson from New Jersey, we have our special guest, Sarah Collins: Fellow.app today, thank you very much, Sarah, for taking the time and showing up. Sarah Collins: Thank you so much for having me. Adil Saleh: I loved it. So Sarah, leading a customer success team as an Head of Customer Success in a productivity management software, and building a new category like, like we were so thinking about your competitors, like how you’re competing in this space. And we could not directly find softwares or platforms, or even custom solutions that are serving in the same space in the way you guys are. So first off, I really appreciate that, you know, you you’ve kind of, we stumbled upon some sort of unique solution. And we would love to learn today. So starting off, Sara, how did you started like thinking about joining a customer success role? Or maybe a customer facing role? What was your biggest why? And motivation that convinced you to be to be someone off of customer facing and working alongside customers? Sarah Collins: Yeah, that’s a great question. So I’ve always loved business. I never knew how I was going to get into business, but I always loved it. And so I didn’t have my path carved out right from the get go right at a high school and to university, I just knew that I would get there, I believed. So once I started going to university, and I started realizing, you know, what are your own superpowers, because when you’re looking for what your career is going to be, you have to look at those things as well. And also take into consideration what makes you happy. And so working with people has always made me happy. And so CS was a very natural fit for me. But it took a little bobbing and weaving to get there I tried sales, I tried implementation before finally settling on CS that covers a lot of all of the above. Taylor Kenerson: How did you, like you said you did a lot of bobbing and weaving. And then you finally stumbled upon customer success. And when you were going through those different transitions, what made you like say, Oh, this is not what I think my career is going to be like, and then you were able to have the courage to take that leap. Can you just walk us through your mindset behind that? And like how you functioned and did that? Sarah Collins: Yeah, that’s a great question. I really think looking back, and of course, it’s always looking back, you always see it in a different light. But I started out as a pharmacy assistant. And so working with people going through really tough scenarios and comforting them at times when they are maybe stressed, going through some really rocky parts of their life, that I think really set me up to deal with a lot of those tougher conversations that you do have to have in CS, and to do that with empathy, and to really understand where that person is coming from. So that I feel really fed my career in terms of initial skills in the workforce. And then from there serving, of course, dealing with people and all kinds of different personalities, that definitely fed into it as well. But I think the position that I love the most that is really why I’m here where I am today fellow is that I worked for an implementation team for the same set of founders that I do today. But it was a few years back. So they actually have hired me twice, which I really appreciate. Taylor Kenerson: So can you so what led so what led you to fellow is more of so that you were with the original founders, and you had a previous experience with them? And you then transition into fellow? Can you then take us through that that’s so interesting, because usually I mean, when you’re at, you know, one company, you you’re you know, you’re like your role and normally that shift is not like following the founders you follow normally what your passions are something like that you don’t get introduced in that type of way. So can you walk us through a little bit about that? Sarah Collins: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, the honest answer is is that coming out of university, I needed a job because I needed to eat. And so I saw one of my good friends she had posted Hey SurveyMonkey is looking to fill this role and what had happened, was that this set of founders Aydin, Sam and Amin, had sold their product to SurveyMonkey. And it was still, you know, a branch of that business. So that’s the product that I started on, it in my current boss was the final interview as part of that panel series. And I was interviewing there, the very start of my tech career. And I transitioned away from that company to try sales like is that the bobbing and weaving? Um, no, not when they started fellow app, I messaged them and said, Hey, are you looking for someone to join the team? What do you need next to help build out the business? And so we found that based on my skills, and based on where they were looking to scale next, that implementation and CS was the next part of their business that they wanted to grow out. And so I had the opportunity to help do that. Taylor Kenerson: Love that we’ve talked a little bit off record, about fellow up, but can you kind of just dive into it? I know Adil mentioned, you know, we were checking out trying to find a competitors. But you’re such a disruptor in the space that you don’t really have competitors, you kind of have foes, and friends that you tag along with. But no one directly in this space, though, can you kind of dive into this disruptive idea and what this fellow app is all about? Sarah Collins: Yeah, great question. So Fellow App is a meeting productivity tool. And our main goal is to make meetings delightful again. We all have those really cringy meetings where you’re waiting for it to fast forward and just be over? Where you spend so much time prepping that you don’t actually have a productive conversation. And so that’s the problem that fellow is looking to solve. And I think that we do that really, really well, because we’re a purpose built tool. So if you’re using a Google doc to plan your meetings, of course, you can do that. But you’re not seeing the same benefits of something that’s really purpose built to solve t hat particular pain, and to the tune of multiple hundreds of 1000s of dollars for organizations a year in time lost through those meetings by them not being productive. Taylor Kenerson: Okay, hold on just just a bit. I’ve actually never heard this purpose built. So you’re, you’re you’re driven on this, this purpose built premise, this this value? How did you, you know, what are some use cases, I guess, with fellow App that you are more aligned with Purpose built Sarah Collins: So really, it’s very specific features that really help to alleviate pain. So for example, we’ve got automations in fellow, and now you’ll send out your agenda X amount of time ahead of your meeting, so that you don’t have to do it manually every week, it’s going to run on a schedule for you, you can post it to Slack, you can post it to Microsoft Teams, and you can email it out. And so that reminds people, Hey, come in, check out the agenda at a time do that pre reading or pre homework so that you can have the most productive conversation possible. And then it also means that it’s a great equalizer among employees. So what that means is that you’re no longer sitting there listening to the manager speak the entire time of that meeting, you’re more actively part of that contribution. And that means that there’s a lot more alignment within the organization to an empowerment. So I really love that about fellow. Adil Saleh: Okay, that’s interesting. That’s interesting. So talking about your own team, how big is that team? Sarah Collins: So we’re Around 60 people, some of those are part time. And then my team specifically is around seven people, but growing. Adil Saleh: Cool, cool. So could you touch a little into your operations like Customer Success operation? What kind of segments are you serving? I’ve looked at your business website. Seems like you’re you’re serving the enterprise as well. And you have some, you know, mid market size customers as well. So how does that play out within your customer success team? Sarah Collins: Yeah, great question. So we are segmented based on seat size. So with most SAS was often the case. So as somebody like you mentioned mid market and enterprise, we definitely serve all three segments. And we have a couple of different branches of the business. So I like to call one the product driven side. So that’s people that are self serving their upgrades, they’re usually some of the smaller organizations or maybe a smaller department within a larger organization. And then we have our sales driven arm as well. So those are usually the larger organizations or people that are really looking for some extra support to translate what their old processes were into the new. Taylor Kenerson: Would you would you consider both of those two sections if you will bot data driven And if they are data driven, how do you go about prioritizing that data for the CS team to make an actionable decision with that client? Sarah Collins: Yeah, that’s a great question. So in terms of the decision, if it’s a sales driven, then usually there’s more of a CS touch associated with that. So typically a little bit of a higher price point to get you on boarded, make sure that you’re set up for success, all of that great stuff, and then you’re off to the races. So fellow is a very sticky tool, which is also really interesting about this particular product is that once implemented, people continue to see the value year over year. And so cs helps to bridge that gap between what their old solution was and what their new solution is, and really explain how this tool is gonna fit into their tech stack, but also into their day to day. So I found in implementation of previous companies that one of the biggest challenges that people have when adopting a new product is that it’s left up to them to do that translating. And that’s something very special about fellow is that we’re really driven to help make sure that we’re assisting you to do that. Adil Saleh: Okay, so you talked about navigating the pain and, you know, crossing bridges, like building bridges, how we can get closer to severing them this one is, and in the best way. And that’s, that’s what most tech businesses during the onboarding or the onboarding stages. So could you tell us a little bit about your onboarding experience for, let’s say, midsize customer? So that is not so high touch or you’re not so hands hands on, but you’re also relying on some self serve model, but in times, when do you realize based on their activities that they need help? What kind of experience that is? Sarah Collins: Yeah, that’s a great question. So we don’t really segment based off of that, per se, if a customer is in need of customers in need. And so at this point, we’re definitely prioritizing, helping them no matter what their size is, if they need that extra support. So bottom line is we want them to be successful. If they say, Hey, I’m actually struggling a little bit with getting adoption, or I don’t exactly know how to translate this process into fellow. Not only can we help them out through our support, but we also we’ll schedule some time together to walk through what that problem is, and then how to solve that with Fellow. So we’ll hop on a call. I even do that sometimes myself, because it’s really nice to be able to chat with customers and deeply understand what they’re going through. And it’s probably my favorite part of the job. Adil Saleh: Okay, cool. So what is like if I think about it, and if I ask you, what is that one thing for a midsize customer for your team to look out for to be able to recognize they’re 100% onboard, and then they’ve adopted the platform 100% you can specify the metrics, you can specify some of the data that piles into the CS dashboard for the you know, translates from the product usage, technologies that you’re using. So just walk us through a little bit on that. Sarah Collins: Yeah, great question. So when it comes to meeting management, of course, everyone has a different cadence of meetings. So when we’re looking at success for a customer, everyone can have meetings, either monthly, weekly, daily, there’s kind of a different spectrum depending on where you sit within the organization. So what’s really important is that the people that have the most amount of meetings, so sea levels, managers, directors, they usually get some extra touch in onboarding, to make sure that they know how to translate their specific processes over into fellow. And so that’s how we manage the mid market and enterprises law. Taylor Kenerson: I just wanted to dive into you. You know, how do you you mentioned when a customer is in need a customer’s in need, regardless of you know, what segment they’re coming from? How do you then prioritize all of these, if you have so many needy, like, let’s say you have so many needy customers at once, how are you prioritizing like which needy customer has to be served first and who has to be able to handle that and how that’s being translated. Sarah Collins: So we would definitely look at renewal date, how close to that is coming up. We also take a look at overall company size so if there’s opportunity for expansion to serve a greater population within that account, then of course that’s also high priority for us as well. But also logo makes a difference too. So some some logos while they might be a smaller department, based on that logo, it is impactful. And those testimonials too when you have a recognizable name make a lot of impact with incoming customers. So we definitely prioritize based on those things. But also just how much pain the customer is in, you know, if they’ve reached out a few times over support, we know that we need to have an extra touch point to make sure that they don’t have to chat in with us again, and then we fully resolve whatever their question is. Adil Saleh: Cool. Yeah, that definitely makes sense. And it depends on the intensity of the pain. And the amount of times they knock on the door, sometimes about it, too. So that’s from the customer support perspective. So now, talking about the post sales operation, mainly customer success. Do you think looking at your team, what do you think and your customer base that you guys are serving, the revenue coverage? How much of that is served like we a CSM touch? Or how much is is more of a tech touch? Sarah Collins: Great question. So at this particular juncture in our scaling, we’re looking to start building in more tech touch. So you caught us that a good time. And part of that is that we would call air coverage from the marketing team. And so they would help with product education and other kind of one to many approaches, when it comes to keeping our customers up to date, with all of the features that we’re launching, we have really fast development cycles here at follow. And so we’re constantly churning out new features. And so to ask just our CS team to be the communicator of all of those changes, we’re finding that at this point of scale, we need some extra support to do that, so that we can help to focus in again, on the most important things that we need to do to your point, Adil Saleh: okay, that’s, that’s, that’s super important to you know, stay in loop with all the rest of the teams and you know, the cross exchange of information that is very important. So, technology plays a big part in it. So tell us more about what kind of technologies you have integrated to be able to translate the data from the product teams to the, you know, Customer Success teams, and then you know, engineering and marketing all these, you know, how you’re connecting the dots amongst the teams using technology. Sarah Collins: So, from a technology standpoint, we have our own superstar, his name is Brian, and he is our mean data guy. So he built out all kinds of fantastic internal dashboards and custom reports for us to just get ahead of where our customer need is. And so things like our CSM dashboard, we actually built that in house with certain indicators, we also have certain alerts that we’ve set up based on certain behaviors. And that tells us all kinds of information that helps us to prioritize our customer care. Taylor Kenerson: That’s like super helpful, you know, to have one centralized look for your whole team. I mean, the efficiency with within your team, you could definitely I’m sure do. Less is more. And it’s probably incredible, the kind of actions you could drive into that that’s super cool. Can you deep dive a little bit into like, what your indicators and your like, alerting looks like. So for our audience that like is starting a new company, or, you know, just getting into funding or something. They’re always interested in how they can or what they have to be looking out for to, you know, with their existing customer base, like what is new and upcoming companies that are doing so you can share and deep dive a little bit into that, that’d be so beautiful. Sarah Collins: Absolutely. So when it comes to our business, what we were finding is that because we’re building out this new category, what our process looks like, for those indicators was very different than other organizations. So depending on what you’re looking to do, those indicators are different. And so what you need to do when you’re first starting out, is to have people that can help to identify those patterns. And to do that really well. And that usually comes before the tech touch, because that gives you some indicators as to what you need to build into your tooling to do some of that recognition automatically. So that’s what we did at fellow is that our implementation team was pretty integral in terms of identifying a lot of those patterns. And then we took that information and we started to automate it. So the things that we’re looking at specifically, our general usage, you know, our champions leaving the organization as well, and all kinds of other indicators like that. So okay. Yeah, go ahead. Sorry. Adil Saleh: I want to understand this, like you said that you have some sort of implementations team which we can say like, the data ops team, or something like that, that basically aggregates data from the CRM from the product usage. Technologies, and from the communication of chat technologies is the right, did I get the right? Sarah Collins: I’m sorry, our implementation teams, a separate branch of the CS team, and so they’re doing the customer onboarding. And so while they’re onboarding customers, they were recognizing different patterns and usage, different patterns and product usage. And so those human pattern recognition elements were what came before the technology. So after Then our data guy built it into a system for us. Adil Saleh: Okay. Okay, so that implementation that works closely with customer while the onboarding, so and then they that customer is handed over to the customer success team, seven team members that you have is that right? Sarah Collins: We actually have a single CSM right now so they get passed on to our CSM and Jamie, Adil Saleh: okay. Okay, okay, because I’m just thinking around how the data translates if that team does it in the first place when onboarding, how does that data evolves and gets into the real people that are communicating and taking actions time to time. It’s not just for one, that moment of onboarding, you know, goals get, you know, they can change, they can evolve, you know, metrics can change usage can change, like, specifically for the product usage, data, data points I’m talking about. So do you have any sort of platform? Or is that the same platform that you, you have implemented a petition team that has built custom for your CS team, Sarah Collins: we now have two separate dashboards, one for implementations or for some of those early metrics. And then we also have a separate CSM dashboard for more of the ongoing health metrics. And so they have different things that they look at, based on where they are in the customer journey. But definitely something that we’ve learned is that implementation is one of the most important things that you can do along the customer journey, you need to get that first 90 days, right? Or else it’s much harder to get it right after that fact. Adil Saleh: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. So, of course, and also staying in touch with customer for the consistent feedback that you are evolving, your product is evolving with their goals. And if something is missing out, you need to get back to the product team, all the information. And you can take us further dot app for all the notes and meetings to get it back to the engineering team. Okay, so just last question on this, on this front is like, did you ever feel during these years that of your state, let’s say, you thought that, you know, we should have a centralized source of data information like data analytics, not just the data coming from the product and the CRM, but the data that translates into actions for our team in any way. Like, let’s say, you talk about third party, dedicated customer success tools, just like dedicated tools or marketing sales, did you think along this journey of your tenure with fellow? Sarah Collins: Yeah, we definitely explored some external tools to help make it much easier for the CS team to identify those things. But because we’re also using several data analytics tools, what we’re finding as a CS team was that finding a source of truth among each of those tools, each one had a different source of truth about the same data depending on how it was constructed, or deconstructed. And so we found that pulling that information through our own back end, that was the most trusted source of truth, and that’s why we ended up moving forward with a custom in house solution. Adil Saleh: Custom in house solution, so you want to build on top of your CRM just like sales for what CRM are you guys using? Is that Salesforce or HubSpot. HubSpot? Okay. Okay. So you’re trying to manage customer success data analytics. Inside HubSpot, you want to have some sort of custom solution inside that or you want to be sending anything on top of it. Sarah Collins: So we actually have our own fellow dashboard. So it’s hosted locally, it’s something that just fellow has built for ourselves custom and internally. And that pulls in information from HubSpot, and from chart mogul and from stripe and a bunch of other tools and it aggregates them into one Adil Saleh: Okay, and that data absolutely is understandable and translatable to the customer facing team as just the product or engineering wonderful. Loved it. So this is what we are trying to get get to, you know, that is super important. Like when it comes to making corrective decisions data analytics for for Customer Success teams is super important. So now just jump a little bit about your team, like since you joined a couple, like a couple of years back and you know what kind of reception you had. And over time, whether you feel how leadership responds to your interest and towards your development. You know, it can be personal or professional, what kind of initiatives you guys have taken. Sarah Collins: Yeah, so internal opportunities for girls and l&d? Yes, yeah. So because we are a software that primarily works with managers, we do a lot of our own research about management. And so it’s actually been really interesting to work for fellow because you have to learn a lot of that research as it’s happening. And so we get insights before they’re published, which means that we also have time to test a lot of those new ideas internally, and do studies or to trial it to be able to provide best practices for our customers. And that’s been Really cool. And so one thing that we’re very passionate about is practicing what we preach, we’re gonna write an article about it, we also need to be reflective of that internally. And so that for growth has been huge for everyone internally. Taylor Kenerson: You, you mentioned that you actually test the findings and what you’re actually going to be giving insights toward internally. And then you go ahead and publish that can, how does that how does that work? When you’re like testing within your internal team? What does that process look like to you know, begin to implement something new, introduce something new, have it implemented properly, and like actually use to its fullest and then saying, Okay, we need to pivot and refine here in order to actually launch it. Sarah Collins: Yeah, so it comes back to two of our values, experiment and grow. And then our other value is around setting the bar high. So we’ve got a lot of alignment with a lot of the experiments that we do internally with those values. So when it comes to creating a new experiment, often one of our teams will trial it and then we’ll bring it to the rest of the organization at a town hall, and then we’ll try it as a company. So a specific example of when we’ve done that is with asynchronous meetings. So zoom fatigue became such a real problem during COVID. Everyone was exhausted from being on all the time. And so we trialed this idea of what would it be like to have an asynchronous meeting. And what we found with it was that there’s certain areas of the product we can improve to make sure that that was a really smooth process. But we were also able to help customers cut down overall meet time with this kind of novel idea of having this asynchronous communication in a less traditional meeting format. Taylor Kenerson: Okay, and you and you tested that on a smaller scale kind of was doing some like sampling saw going well, then we’re like, Alright, let me let’s roll this out in a larger format, was that kind of miss thinking? A little behind how I normally? Adil Saleh: Yeah, it’s, it’s, I loved it. The kind of values that you experiment and grow, it’s all about, you know, expressing yourself and, you know, investing in experiments, not in a monetary way, but as an individual, investing your time into experiments, trying different things and exploring different ventures personally and professionally. So that’s super important for growth that basically nurtures growth minds mindset. Wonderful. So just, you’re pretty much in the time, just one thing. This I wanted to check on, like, you’ve recently with around 20 $20 million, or $24 million. And, you know, just give us a, you know, a brief on what kind of revenue goals you have for the next two years, as a team that revenue retention goals as a customer success team, just our audience would love to know your growth plans. Sarah Collins: Great question. So being another leader in this space, we are looking for, of course, you know, current growth, that’s what everyone’s after those days. But I love that fellows really positioned well to actually achieve that. So that’s what we’re after we’re after that unicorn style growth. And we’re really passionate about getting there. And I really think that we can do it. Adil Saleh: Yeah, that’s as soon as it 20 $400 million. Sears is not not a small number. So you got a good valuation, which means you had a good growth metrics in the initial years. That’s, that shows that wonderful, do you want to add something today, Taylor Kenerson: I was gonna say belief is sometimes the hardest thing to do, but it is one of the most important things to do in order to, you know, keep the company you know, thriving and nurture in the way that you envision it to be. And that’s just really, that’s a really big takeaway to I don’t want to, you know, that to be skimmed over the enthusiasm that you just shared, you know, being a part of the company, and, you know, taking that torch forward and passing it on that same enthusiasm for the team and all that. That’s a super important aspect, especially in the startup. Yeah, Adil Saleh: yeah. So it goes, it goes the same way as on a personal level to like, you know, at times you’re upside down as an individual or as a business. The only thing that keeps you back up is faith is belief. So that’s the only thing that keeps you hanging there, and you survive, and then you know, you preserve and then you move on, and you do have good color suit. So it’s all about you know, hanging in sometimes. And you know, just see what’s on the other side. Sarah Collins: Absolutely manifest that next reality that you want to see for your company. Yeah. Taylor Kenerson: All about that and manifest that shit. Yeah. Love it. All right, Sarah. Adil Saleh: Really nice. Talk. Continue, I love the energy, I love the, you know, positive energy that you bought. And it’s sometimes everybody needs it, like even sitting on the other side of table, we need it. So we take it from our guests just like today we took it. So I appreciate you taking the time from your schedule and and we’ll touch base soon on some of the feedback that we need from, from your key insights on any platform that is having the similar challenge or needs, your knowledge will touch back to you in any way you can contribute. Because remember, it’s all about the payback. So we are here to you know, pay back until you die. So it’s that’s the that’s the purpose that we’re after. You know, day in day out. It’s just about it. Taylor Kenerson: Well, thank you so much. Thank you so much, sir. Have a beautiful day. We’ll see you later. Bye. Adil Saleh: 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 and 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 your day.

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