Episode No:32

Enhancing Customer Experience with Custify

Irina Vatafu

Head of CS, Custify

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Ep#32: Enhancing Customer Experience with
Custify ft. Irina Vatafu (Head of Customer Success, Custify)
Ep#32: Enhancing Customer Experience with Custify ft. Irina Vatafu (Head of Customer Success, Custify)
  • Ep#32: Enhancing Customer Experience with Custify ft. Irina Vatafu (Head of Customer Success, Custify)

Episode Summary

Today on the show, we have Irina Vatafu, Head of Customer Success at Custify, a Customer Success platform for SaaS businesses. Irina started the conversation by outlining how she got into customer success. She then shared her insights on what it takes to be a successful customer success manager. We then ran through an overview of their customer success operations and their unique approach to serving their customers. She also shared how Custify enables customer success teams to deliver a best-in-class experience using automation, analytics, and custom health scores.
Key Takeaways Time
Meet Irina, Head of Customer Success at Custify 1:52
Tips on how to become a successful customer success manager 3:54
Balancing the human and the digital in customer success 6:05
How does Custify serve its customers; a unique approach 8:19
How does the onboarding process at Custify look like 13:21
How Custify helps track customer journeys & take informed decisions 14:35
A dive into Custify’s most powerful features 19:55
The main challenge of a customer success manager 20:33
How Custify boosts the efficiency of a CSM by creating automated tasks throughout the customer journey 23:33

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Irina Vatafu: So, of course you have the churn rate you have the renewal rates and so on. But still, there is a big part of the work that is not visible, and we try to find solutions to help them report that to the leadership. 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: Hey, greetings, everybody. This is hyper engage podcast, your host, Adil and we have a co host Taylor Kenerson from New Jersey and a special guest, Head of Customer Success at Custify joined us today. Irina, thank you very much for taking the time. Irina Vatafu: Thank you also for the invitation. And thank you for having me. And it’s very nice to meet you both. Adil Saleh: Absolutely amazing. Okay, so Irina, we came across different sales platforms, some are dedicated towards sales team, marketing teams, revenue teams, you know, teams that are sitting on top like leadership teams and all. And we are so much intrigued while finding out what Custify is doing for the customer success team. So before we jump into that, I would love to, for you to you know, tell us a little more of why you joined this, this role, and what was your biggest motivation towards, you know, jumping into the customer facing role and you know, then building a team and helping a startup in a very, would say not saturated, but less competitive market is not easy to understand, for SaaS founders today, why they would need a customer success tool, why they need a dedicated tool for their CS teams, all of that. So please go ahead and tell us a little bit about your journey. Irina Vatafu: Yeah, sure. Thank you for asking me that. So I started when I was very young, and my first job was actually a customer facing role. So the main reason I chose to have it as a first job it was because I consider that having a customer facing role would challenge me on all the plans, basically, it’s a good way to develop all the core core skills, let’s say because once you work with the customers, you definitely develop skills like solving problems. So working under pressure, be it multitasking communication, skilling skills, language, skills, and so on. So this was the start, let’s say and then I actually discovered that I am really passionate about the job. And you know, when you do something that you are really passionate about you do it well, let’s say and you’re successful, and people feel that both customers and the colleagues that you’re working with. So I guess it led me to the position where I am today, because my passion made me be successful in a position that positions that I had. And it also helped me teach others to be successful in customer facing roles. So basically being passionate about it and exploring and developing my skills on that helped me also to coach and mentor other people. And I don’t know, be where I am today leading a team developing a team in that company that is actually supporting CSM all over the world, because custify is actually a platform dedicated for CS teams that want to manage their customers. So in a CRM, let’s say dedicated to paying customers Taylor Kenerson: Love that, before we dive a bit into customer I would love if you can dive into your Sanger mentor and helping people with customer success and helping them excel in those roles. So can you give us a little bit of background on what happens and what you have to do in order to be a successful customer success manager especially in today, as it’s such a growing and emerging industry. Irina Vatafu: I think you have to have a natural gift, let’s say for being able to work with people and to support customers, let’s say and also be able to move from support to success because there is a big difference between handling reactive work and reactive requests that are coming from customers. And having that analytical thinking and understanding their business, understanding their problems and actually helping them not only solve the problems but also challenging them and making them discover other issues or problems or business needs that they have to solve and always setting up goals and moving forward and pushing them basically to progress. So you have to be, I think talented to be able to do that. And only if you are really customer focused and passionate about working within customer facing roles you will be able to achieve that. Adil Saleh: Cool, interesting so Irina you started one and a half years back as a customer Success Manager with custify. I, could you tell us, could you touch a bit on how you as a customer success professional, I would say role can can be changed, you can be a CCO, but you still have to have a customer success mindset, you can talk to high level customers, enterprise customer when you’re sitting on top. But however, how you as an HR professional evolved in terms of number one, being more data centric, like proactive, the only way you can in this day and age only where you can be proactive is by data. This is what you guys are doing, right? Custify, so you gotta be, you just project yourself, like one and a half years back how you transformed as somebody that would need more of a tool that you’re basically serving like your own product? Irina Vatafu: Yeah, that’s a good question. And I would explain a bit more, let’s say how we focus on supporting our customers, because this is a nice trend, let’s say those days. So of course, data is very important. But from my experience, so far, we understood that you also have to have the right tool to analyze and understand that data. Because sometimes you have to deal with a lot of other issues, needs. So you have to wear a lot, a lot of different hats, let’s say in the companies you work for, and having to deal with a lot of data. It’s not best when you don’t have the right tools for that. So basically what we currently do in Custify and what I try to do with my team is to help them, yes, analyze data and be data driven, but also not forget about that subjective feeling and the analysis that only humans, let’s say, can do when it comes to customers health. Adil Saleh: Yeah, ofcourse no, no platform, no third party platform can replace the human touch when it’s needed. So you can only automate the repetitive or rule based touchpoints or maybe metrics and all, you know, I’m sure you are familiar with a lot of competitors doing like 360 dashboard, you know, measuring the health, identifying risk, and all of that. So we’ll jump in deep onto that as well. Before, I would appreciate if you go ahead and tell how big is your team? And right now as a head of customer success? How many customers are you guys serving altogether? Like most sales operations a bit on that, and then how it what segment you are most focused on, I know that platforms like Gainsight, and enterprise having a CRM like Salesforce, you know, all different teams, global teams, and all they can use Gainsight. But a lot of SAS early stage startups, they’re not looking into tools like Gainsight, maybe it’s not a better fit for them starting up in the early days. So what is your most suited segment? At this moment? Of course, you can scale and you can, you know, Irina Vatafu: Yeah, nice questions. So well, you first asked about my team, how big is the team, so we are around five team members at the moment. And each CSM can handle from 20 to 60 Customers, let’s say depending on the experience the scenario to the team member. And when it comes to customer segmentation, and to customer touch points, let’s say we tend to apply the same high touch processes for everyone, even if we have customers from, as you mentioned, startups, but also enterprise customers, we decided to go with the same workflow for everyone, because we want to be long term partners with our customers, even if they are startups, even if they are enterprise customers, we want to have the same process for everyone to be there from the onboarding to the adoption and the maturity to support them equally. And yeah, when it comes to segmentation, we actually are focused on segmentation based based on health scoring, or the pains they want to solve. So basically, we adjust the high touch processes based on the initial discussions that we have that help us segment them and decide what the following flows will be for each one. Adil Saleh: Oh, that’s great. I love the way you have. You have circled back to the question that had like a bunch of questions, and you answered it, I appreciate it. Erina you want to do something taylor? Taylor Kenerson: I was really interested, you said that you you which is really unique. Actually, he said that you have a similar or the same foundation with a goal of having a long term relationship, whether that your customers are in the startup phase, or if they’re enterprise clients. So can you kind of just dive a bit into what the thinking model is behind this, like the why behind this? And also go and touch into what that foundation looks like and what are those common touch points that you continuously, take on with, you know, as your customer grows. Irina Vatafu: Sure, so why we decided to do that even if, of course, there is an effort to support everyone with the high touch process and to have the same process for everyone doesn’t matter the size or the MRR they are paying, because we believe in our customers. And we think that we actually help them grow. And as I mentioned, we want to be their partners on long term. So this means that we support them in the growth process. And this means a lot for us. And this means retention, this means so let’s reduce the risk of churn. And this means that we help each other and this brings a lot of value for our customers. And we are happy at the end of the day, let’s say Adil Saleh: Most of our SaaS founders and businesses listening to this, they are early stage. And they’re still trying to figure out whether we need a dedicated CS tool from day one or not. Two years down the road, if we need, how it’s going to serve us. They’re looking at catalyst, they’re looking at Gainsight, Churnzero all these tools, you can be one of them, too. So I want I want this message to be translated that how three different segments of the customers you have, you’re identifying via proactive notification data, how you’re automating these non human tasks that you can trigger for every customer every segment and automate this process and save 30 40% more time towards serving. Irina Vatafu: Yes, so taking the example of what I mentioned, at the beginning was that we segment a way of segmenting our customers is by pains, for example. So let’s say we have three customer segments. So, split by pains they want to solve. One of them being the most common actually is that they never use the CS tool. And they have data all over the place, they use Excel files or other ways of tracking their customers health. So for example, for this specific segment, when I mentioned that we have, of course a custom flow. This means that we try to help them understand first, what is needed and what processes to implement. And this means that we are not only looking at the data and how they track the product usage for their platform, we are also looking at their processes and how effective they are. And we help them understand what has to be improved, let’s say in order to have a business impact and demonstrate value in in their sales teams. We also have the situation when they look to solve a problem like scaling sales operations. This means that there are a number of events. Adil Saleh: I’m sorry, I’m sorry, arena. So now let’s be a bit more specific, I be your customer, I’m trying to figure out whether I need customer or not. I have Salesforce as a CRM, I have intercom for my all the communication chat, I have segment or amplitude for my product usage. Now I’m trying to figure out how this data that lands in the products, use the platform for my product managers gets translated in the most seamless way. So my CS team can take action. So now you’re trying to onboard me. So let’s start with the onboarding, how you’re going to onboard some early stage startup, like sitting at series A right now and trying to implement a tool, and you’re going to be someone that’s going to help me. Yes. So Irina Vatafu: As I mentioned, in the onboarding phase, we have two consultancy calls where we try to understand the use case, we try to understand what the background of the team is, if they have processes, if they don’t have them, if there is a way to send data from their product directly, or they need a manual input of the data. So we evaluate the work and we try to come up with best practices. And we establish an action plan basically, for the next meetings. And from this part, we try to convince and challenge the customer to choose what is best for them sometimes, for example, they think they need all the data from their back end. And we challenge them and explain that actually having a lot of data in the platform will not be that useful. And let’s have a meeting and try to understand what is actually important for you to track or not. So this way we sit together and we brainstorm on the important data points, what is really important to track from the customer’s product usage basically. And once we know what we want to track, we move forward with implementation. So basically, we make sure they send the data and they have the product usage data. And here comes our team support because until this point, of course, we help them with the brainstorming and stuff. But once we have the product usage data, as I mentioned, we also have to help them understand the metrics and analyze them and act on them because it’s not enough to have the metric and to know what’s important, but you also have to take action based on those. And our tools help them do that. So basically they can, for example, let’s say it’s important to track the login even how often they log in in our platform in their platform, sorry, then they have the right tools in our platform to say I want to know if all the people that use our product are logging in. And also I want to combine it with the last touch point date when I last added a note for them, or when was the last time when I contacted them. And having this option to combine data together, makes them more confident and helps them getting taking very informed decisions when it comes to what alerts to trigger or how to move forward with the touch points. And yeah, how to organize your days. Adil Saleh: basically, oftentimes, as you said, you not only understand the gaps, identify the guests, but also let your customers know that this is your product use data, this is more powerful for you to identify whether your customer has been on boarded and using potentially using the product, like some of the data points you are helping your customers to, to get an integrated into the platform so we can build powerful insights. So just give us some examples on that kind of data points. So we figure out, okay, this is something that they will have to or they’ll have to do it every time for every customer using customer or they can automate for any the customer that gets triggered with the same shoe just uses metrics. So of course, at the end of the day, they are using justify to automate as much as they can and save their time and have everything at a time take actions. You got my point? Irina Vatafu: Yes, yes. So basically, we work with b2b customers, that are software providers. And each business is unique and is very different. So we have to understand each customer’s. So database, let’s say and each customer has some specific data points that they want to track. So it’s very hard to categorize them, you have to apply specific workflows for what I Adil Saleh: was trying to figure out. So you will have to look into every customer individually. So you go and you have five, a team of five people, like people, for the b2b customers, you have to identify all those data points and get help them get integrated into the software. And then is there right, Irina Vatafu: um, so yeah, I was more thinking about the way our customers look at their data. When it comes to my CS team. We indeed analyze some specific features that they use that our customers using the platform. But again, coming back to the fact that each customer is unique, and each customer having a specific use case, yes, you can have some alerts, for example, if they didn’t trigger any events in the last, I don’t know, seven days, for example, and they used to be active, then for sure, you have to act on that. And you have to understand what happened and why they are not active anymore. But when it comes, for example, to I don’t know, not using a specific feature of our software, we will not be that concerned. And we should analyze a specific use case, because they might not need that feature, for example. And that is not a Adil Saleh: value in a different way. The three customers, there are three different values or a product they can perceive. And it’s not necessarily that it’s out of all the same features that can use different modules, right. Irina Vatafu: And, and the job of the CSM is actually to understand what features that you will use in order to know how to track and how to understand the dealers now that the platform actually is triggering some stuff, Taylor Kenerson: I’m so glad you you mentioned that point, I was just gonna kind of touch on like, so what are how do you know, as the CES team, what are like some of your prompts or like templates, okay, like we have to implement this feature for this kind of a client. So can you dive a bit into that, too? Irina Vatafu: Yes. So this happens in the onboarding phase, when we do those calls to understand their use cases and the business needs. And we map the customers in our product under the specific pain that the one has solved. So it’s all related to segmentation. And based on that we understand what the customer will do with our platform, what the platform will, how the platform will bring value and what will be the business impact and understanding the use case you will understand what features they are supposed to use and how to track the product usage. Basically. Adil Saleh: Now, we’re talking about your team, five or six team members, you have a bunch of customers right now, what kind of features you’re still working on. Of course, you’ve been since 2017. You might have some growth plan towards the product side as well. A lot of information getting translated to the product teams as well from the CS team, the feedback feature requests, some of the best, you know, features that that your customers are looking out. Could you touch us more on that? Irina Vatafu: So I can tell you that the most powerful features that we have are the, for sure the health scores, the lifecycles, the automations. That are they’re able to do the reporting. And what we saw as a trend would be the fact that they asked more about, like, they want more details about financial data and some other ways to report the CS work to the leadership to make this work more visible to leader leadership teams. Okay. Yeah, exactly. Adil Saleh: Like, like, as chief customer officer needs a high level view of all the activities, all this, you know, goals and your KPIs and everything, so Irina Vatafu: I face it too in my team, sometimes the CS work is not that visible, because you deal with a lot of affected issues, and you put on a big amount of work in the past that you’re fulfilling. But this work is not it’s very hard to report on it, let’s say and it’s very hard to have KPIs, of course, you have the churn rate, you have the renewal rates, and so on. But still, there is a big part of the work that is not visible, and we try to find solutions to help them report that to the leadership. Adil Saleh: It’s all about, you know, cutting the frictions, and, you know, making sure the silos are eradicated. And that’s why people incorporate technologies, leadership incorporates technology, and that’s why, you know, we’re talking about about custify today. So now, before the, you know, push off, you know, in terms of automation, you know, projecting it as me as a customer is early. So I would, I would like to use custify, to not completely automate all my touch points. But also we can, we can structure it, we can get the right triggers, right tasks for my team to stay on top, and that lands on the on their, on their station on their dashboard. And second, I want some of the automation and ways that let’s say, some of the basic touch on the QBRs cadences, follow ups, starting from kickoff, you know, renewal meetings, and you know, all of these feature centric meetings for the product manager, so all of that I want automated, what’s on top custify is gonna help us with? Irina Vatafu: I think it’s the right tool, let’s say to have a hybrid between low touch and high touch processes. And as you mentioned, it’s sometimes you want to have a high touch process with the customer, but sometimes you need some automations without getting rid of those High touch processes. And for that, for sure, you could use some playbooks, that for example would get you, would assure you that you receive all the tasks on time. And you can run, for example, a scheduled playbook that will create tasks for each quarter, for example, to reach out to customers, without having to put aside the high touch work that you do by having the one on one meetings and taking notes and managing your tasks, let’s say directly in the tool. So it’s definitely a good place to have a mix. And this is what I see also on our customers, they also have this kind of setup, hybrid setup with low touch plus high touch. Taylor Kenerson: You mentioned one example of a playbook that you have scheduled Can you kind of go into a few of the sub What are like some playbooks that if you’re building your company that maybe you should look into curating and then implementing Irina Vatafu: this is exactly like, I will give you a simple example because each CS team should have QBRs with the customers that they manage and schedule playbooks help you to make sure you’re not forgetting about inviting your customers to QBRs. Because you, for example, you can set up a trigger once the onboarding finishes. And this is also something that you can track directly with our tool. And you can say once onboarding is finished, then schedule a QBR with the customer every three months, so the playbook will run, and the CSM will receive a task and you can also set up an automated email that will be sent to the customer to invite him to the QBR, you can add a Calendly and the QBR is directly in your calendar without you doing nothing. Let’s say if you want to add a high touch approach there, you can mix it together with I don’t know last meeting date or last added note and you can do an automation that will look at some metrics, and we’ll decide if the customer should receive the invite or not. Adil Saleh: Cool, cool, Irina, it was really nice talking to you and it was so genuine and you’ve been so opened up and I’m sure a lot of you know listeners listening to this conversation will definitely get an idea how Custify a platform can help them from earning on startup to along along the line. So I really appreciate your time. And thank you very much for being so confident. Taylor Kenerson: I love it. Irina, we so appreciate you. Thank you so much for all of your insights and valuable nuggets that you dropped. I’m sure there are so many things that people are going to learn. I definitely learned a lot. So really appreciate you coming on and sharing and you kick ass girl. Nice. Irina Vatafu: Thank you. Thank you for having me. It was great. 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 in 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 reaches out if you want to refer CS leader. Until next time, goodbye and have a good rest of your day.

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