Episode No:33

Customer Success at Productboard

John Henwood

VP of CS, Productboard

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Ep#33: Customer Success at Productboard
ft. John Henwood (VP of Customer Success, productboard)
Ep#33: Customer Success at Productboard ft. John Henwood (VP of Customer Success, productboard)
  • Ep#33: Customer Success at Productboard ft. John Henwood (VP of Customer Success, productboard)

Episode Summary

Today on the show we have John Henwood, VP of Customer Success at productboard. Productboard is a customer-driven product management system that empowers teams to get the right products to market, faster. In this episode, John starts the conversation by talking about his background and why he joined customer success. He then gave us insights into their growth team that works closely with the CS team and increases their productivity. We also ran through an overview of their training initiatives, and how they empower their teams for change management. He then gave us insights into their tech stack and how their customer success team measures success. John also shared some advice on what it takes to become a world-class CSM!
Key Takeaways Time
Meet John Henwood, VP Customer Success at productboard.com 1:12
About Product board 2:24
Things to look out for when developing a product experience 4:30
Bridging the gap across different teams 5:49
Customer success team at product board 8:17
Training and enablement for the team at product board 10:18
Democratizing learning across their team 11:22
How the customer success team at product board measure success 14:58
Inside Product board’s tech stack 17:27
Core foundations for being valuable in customer success 24:40
Characteristics of a world-class CSM 25:29

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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 the Adil from The Hyperengage Podcast, I have my co host, Taylor kenerson. And a special guest, John Henwood from Productboard Team, he’s leading a customer success team there. Thank you very much, John, for taking the time. John Henwood: It’s great to be here. Thanks for having me on, Adil and Taylor, great to meet you. Adil Saleh: Good stuff. So starting off, like we always do, like we talk more about you like, how, how did you choose this industry? Like, what was your motivation in the beginning, when you tried to join the customer facing role and, you know, specifically in technology like product board, there is so much competition in the last seven years into this space. So I would appreciate if you go ahead and tell us a little bit about your inspirations into this, this industry this role, this kind of technologies? John Henwood: Yeah. You know, I’ve been in what was account management, and then customer success for the last 13 years, I’ve you know, I’ve always loved been the kind of relationship owner. You know, I love building customer experiences, even prior to you having a career, I really enjoy thinking about, you know, how to build an amazing experience, whether that’s, you know, if I’m in a restaurant, if I’m in a hotel, and really understand what the key moments that make an excellent experience. And so I’ve always gravitated towards that and thinking, How do I create better experiences? For customers, I love the kind of user social psychology around how to build habits around a product. And so when I think about customer success, really intriguing is that focus on how to deliver measurable value to the customer and customer success. Specifically, we think about is being really central to the whole way that organization delivers value. And so I really love the cross functional nature of, you know, understanding who’s our customer who’s the ideal customer profile throughout the right pricing and packaging, how do we define deliver measure value? And how do we create a flywheel advocates to see expansion? So just that the centralization of CS at a business level is really interesting and creating an experience? And then if I answer the second part of your questio8n, as it relates to productboard, specifically, productboard sits squarely in the middle of a really clear trend around product led growth, everyone wants to be the next slack, let’s Twilio the next zoom. And they really want to be product centered and building products that customers love and productboard sits really in the middle of helping companies do that. And so it’s really interesting, and especially some of the customers it says very meta to think about how the whole organization can rally be more customer centric around the customer, build products, the customer love and how product, Customer Success collaborate, to actually make sure we understand the customer and we build what’s right for them. So it’s a very meta role to do customers set up for a border. And that was incredibly interesting to me. Taylor Kenerson: Love that. I really love also your approach your approach on really centralizing and focusing on the product experience, which leads to the success of the customer? Can you kind of dive in a little bit about some of the things that you look for or look to build when developing a product experience? Like what are some key things that you have to be aware of either as a new founder or someone that’s like just getting in starting up their business and, and wants to know, like, how to shape that experience? John Henwood: Yeah, I mean, I kind of mentioned at the start, I think the first thing is understanding who your customer is, right? Like, who are we serving? Who is the ideal customer profile? Who’s kind of center, the bulls eye there, who we’re specifically creating the experience for? And then we think about the product? How do we really understand someone’s coming into the product? Like who they are? What are the kinds of jobs to be done, if any listeners out there with the jobs to be done framework? If not, I would, for sure recommend googling that has tons of content around it. What are the jobs to be done, the user the customers that to do in the product? From then it’s all about, like, how do we build very easy on rounds in the product? So we create momentum, right? Momentum, builds momentum. And you know, you hear about like aha moments, habit moments, and so at productboard, we really think about like, what are the where’s the points of inertia that we’re gonna get to, where when someone’s gets through that point that reaches that aha moment, then they’re likely to have a higher likelihood of coming back to the product the next day. And so, taking a kind of backwards approach looking at like who the most successful customers are, and then retrofitting what was it about them, what did they do that made them successful? It’s something we think a lot about. And on the flip side, you know who the customers are getting tripped up, where they get tripped up and how we could design. So I think it starts with understanding the customer, then taking a look at who the successful customers are, using data, and then building experiences, both in the product and then supplemented by customer success to deliver against those. Taylor Kenerson: And when you’re building you know, those product experiences, how do you engage your customer success team to drive whatever is needed to on the product side? So, you know, we talked about a lot in CS, you hear these, like, you have different silos with teams. And you know, sometimes one team is not really familiar on what another is doing. So how do you at productboard bridge the gap between that like information gap between the product side and your CS team? John Henwood: Yeah, well firstly, you know, shameless plug, we use product board, where all of our feedback from across the go-to-market organization, comes into product board. So I guess we’ll also be using product boards somewhere else? How do you make it really easy for the product team to get feedback from one place, if you’re a product manager, you’re getting feedback from your CEO, you’re getting feedback from your customers, you’re getting feedback from sales, support, success. And honestly, it’s incredibly tough to figure out how to make sense all of that. What are customers actually want? What’s the important thing? And so how do you as a customer success leader, customer success team, make it easier for the team to collect that feedback. And so it could be you have a shared Slack channel where everything lives? For example, it could be something simple like that. And then we really think about how do we create quality feedback from our team. So seldom to teams actually train the individuals on what good feedback looks like, right? How to be problem focused, not solution focused, we don’t want the team to be order takers, and how do they dig into the customer problems to really understand the why behind it, and what pain they’re trying to solve for. If you do that, it’s much more likely to be usable by the product team so that they can actually action it. So that’d be a couple of points. And then I guess the last thing I’d say is, we have a growth team at product board, and that’s a cross functional team. And customer success is part of that. So at growth we are really thinking about ways in which they can productize and create better activation, retention in the product. And we play a really key role in being parts of discussions, and customers, etc, I think can be really valuable to the product and growth team is we can probably iterate and experiment faster. And they can because we have humans to do it. So we will often run quick experiments with maybe some some messaging, maybe we’ll try a webinar for a particular use case. Maybe we’ll create an education template in a document that we share with customers. And if we get traction from those things, then we take those learnings back to the product. And then that might be something we prioritize for all productizing. Adil Saleh: Hmm, that makes sense. Absolutely. So now, when we talk about our customer success team, like just want to know, like, you know, for a small to mid market segment, how big is your team on the success side, like posted operations? John Henwood: My team is nearly 40 people. Yeah, so we’ve got, you know, a pretty robust team that serves anywhere from, you know, at productboard, we have a free plan, all the way up to very large enterprise businesses. And so we have a success team that’s got three core experiences, we have a strategic Customer Success management team for our biggest spending customers, we have a leader and a team of CSMs. Below that we have a commercial success management team for our midspan customers. And it’s simpler that and then we have a scale customer success function, which is really all the one to many programs, so things like webinars, clinics, office hours, lots of email campaigning. And we have a team of you know, what we call coaches, which is like a scale CSM function where they have several 100 accounts each. And it also has a customer education function, which owns like we have probably one Academy. So we think about how do we create content to drive adoption at scale, how to recruit courseware, etc. And so across those, plus we have an operations or CS operations function, which helps us scale standardization efficiency, forms customer success. Adil Saleh: Okay, that’s quite a wide range and you covered all their years pretty much in terms of, you know, education in terms of training and management for your own, not just to customers for the teams as well. So, when we talk about training and management, you guys taking some initiatives for your own team, like, apart from all the knowledge base, mainstream training John Henwood: Yeah, absolutely. So we, we think about training enablement under a team of a few axes. As of right now, as we’re speaking, my team is in training about persuasion and negotiation. And so we do a whole range of soft skills that help the team think about not just the technical product elements, so that they can be thought leaders around the product and the use cases, best practices. But you know, how to be better strategic advisors for our customers how to be better agents of change. And so some examples would be just talked about negotiation persuasion, we did change management training. And so we have a change management framework that we developed services function. And we train the whole team on how the fundamentals of change management, how to get people to take new actions, how to drive programmatic change across a whole business. And so we think about kind of core skills that the CS team might need to learn all the way down to presentation skills, how to build a good deck, how to think about data, see data, tell a story from that. And that’s an ongoing program that we do. Every two weeks, we’ll have sessions. And then lastly, I just says, we, we try and thread learning through everything we do. So in every team meeting, there is knowledge sharing, what did we learn? What are some stories, what are some successes that one CSM is having, and others can learn from in all of our kind of monthly all hands, we do the same we share successes, learning stories, so like we really think about how do we, we are 40 brains in the team? Or with different experiences? How do we better democratize learning across those because they all come with different shapes, backgrounds, skills, Taylor Kenerson: and you have so much that, you know, education obviously drives value, not only for your team, but also for your customer. So how like, I mean, education is one thing, but then actually implementing that knowledge is a whole separate game. How do you how do you allow the team to like nurture that knowledge and then go and like, implemented and test it out, like amongst clients or amongst their different accounts that they run? Like, how is this knowledge applied, and they’re like specific things, you’re like, Okay, this is what we’re going to be focusing on for this week, we want to begin implementing this kind of knowledge that we learned, John Henwood: it’s a really great call out and I think in the past, what we learned is, you know, it can’t just stop at like, we deliver the training, and then we’re done. So a key part of any enablement, we do. And we’ve got amazing sales enablement leader, who is an amazing forcing function for making us think, strategically about our trade enablement, is thinking, how do we reinforce this action after the fact that that’s actually where the value comes. And the same goes for our customers, when we when we do the same? Right? CSM gives customer some best practice, that is probably like 10 to 20% of the value that the customer actually going to get. It’s how do we actually hold them accountable to that action? How do we get their buy in? And then how do we manage them to it and cost creative but not doing it? And so yeah, we think about how will we know if the team is doing this? So we have measurement. So it could be you know, we set up Gong scorecards against some of the behaviors that we want the team to take, we will set up metrics, like a customer success tool against them. So you know, for the change management example, we set up new activation criteria to determine whether customers organizationally, change ready, but the CS team has to actually check off that they’ve taken some actions against so we can measure who’s doing it, who’s not? And are we driving that driving that change, we then include in every team meeting for the next four weeks after the session as a discussion point, but people have to come and share examples of how they’ve incorporated that into their work. And they might just share like a golf snippet of them trying X or Y behavior. And so yeah, we think a lot about it. And if we have, you know, we do quarterly OKRs we often incorporate an OKR around a specific behavior change that we’re trying to make course you Taylor Kenerson: You have like almost internal KPIs that you use, to gauge the team’s you know, application of knowledge. And then you also obviously have you know, metrics that you’re you have against your clients or your customers that you’re you’re dealing with. So when you you know, you’re leading so many people on the team, how what kind of like data is most relevant? And like, how do you prioritize that? I mean, you’re getting so much you mentioned it, you’re getting so much information, not only like customers, you know, complaining or expressing their joy, but um, you know, you have these different data points to that are coming in based on different accounts. How do you what are you looking at when you open up your computer, whatever you do each day, and what is most important, how do you prioritize that? Can you just get a little deep into that? John Henwood: Yeah, great question. We have we developed a Customer Success Scorecard. And you know, when you read any thought leadership about customer success, lots of it would preach Customer Success needs to be an organization wide initiative. Right? Not just a team. And we think about that too. And we think about what is the impact of customer success along the whole customer journey from acquisition through to expansion. And so we actually have a scorecard which goes across those elements. So we have an acquisition, how is customers influencing acquisition? And so we run proof of concepts with customers before they become a customer. And we look at what’s the conversion rate when Customer Success gets involved pre sell, that’s a metric we look at, we then look at activation, how are we actually helping activate customers? What percentage of customers being activated in a given period? We then go to engagement? What’s the customer health, we have a programmatic health score, we also look at how they engage with our team. So to what degree are they using the customer success team? Then we have all the we looked at retention, what are all the core retention metrics, gross retention, customer retention, net dollar retention, look, expansion? So we have CS QL process? So I’ll be identifying expansion opportunities across our accounts. But ultimately, we’re looking at advocacy, are we creating what advocates so we do that by way of customer case studies and quantifiable proof points? Who created? And And lastly, are we are we creating an amazing experience? So CSAT, NPS? So we have all these headers that go along a timeline, and the metrics? And it’s really easy to see. And we call them green, yellow, or red? And then we can see how long the customer journey? What’s green? What’s the yellow? What’s red? Like? Where in the customer journey? Do we actually need to make tweaks? Adil Saleh: Okay, that’s, that sounds pretty strategic, sounds pretty systematic. And you cannot scale without having a system having a process having an infra side on the baseline, and then you can build it up. And you know, to as many people as possible. So when it comes to measuring, and monitoring all of this entire customer journey, you know, of course, you need to incorporate a lot of technologies tools, there are loads of them, for customer facing teams success teams, specifically. So what kind of technologies have you incorporated in order to make it a success, and as scalable as you will ever wanted? John Henwood: Yeah, as you can imagine, probably by the sounds of what I’ve just described, like we we have a lot of tools. So we have, we have things to expect. So we have a CRM or Salesforce, we have a customer success tool. So the platform we use is by Italy. We use gong for all of our kind of call recordings or coaching, I talked about how we use that to scorecard sort of behaviors we want to change. We use intercom, which is connected advisor with intercom in app messaging, which customer success owns. So we create all the cohorts of users in the Vitalii have like it customers don’t X type them. And then that goes to intercom and they get my get campaign. We use product board to collect all of our feedback and see the roadmap, closer feedback customers. I think those are the main ones. I’m I’m certain I’m missing one. But those would be the core Adil Saleh: one, you know, this is pretty much all you know, what I understood from this is the source of truth for your success team is mostly widely triggered straight, you know, it takes all the data and triggers actions, recommendations for your success team to you know, build meaningful conversations, and all of that. So how you guys are monitoring those data, and how those conversations are looking like when it comes to triggering some actions or recommendation alerts that widely gives to your CS team everyday maybe? So how does that play around because I’m trying to think more on how you’re expanding your freemium model tours, you know, on annual recurring or monthly recurring. John Henwood: Yeah, we sort of free customers, if they’re not a paying customer, that’s typically under the growth organizations roles and responsibility to turn those into a paid customer and think about all that kind of top of funnel once they become a paid customer. And that might just be $20 a month, you know, very low spin, if we assume they don’t qualify for what we call a coach, or then a CSM. There’ll be a digital touch program, which we have several 1000 customers in that segment. And from there, yeah, there’s any number of digital customer journeys based on the specific plan that that n and again, there’s two ways we think about digital journey one is like time based intervention. So you know, on day one, you get x two, three, D seven, etc. And then behavior base. And so the behavior base is typically based on what plan they’re in what we should be doing at a certain stage in the journey based on the data that I referred to earlier. expectations of like what those key moments are. And if they don’t meet those expectations, then they will absolutely get prompted. But first by email, then we get more annoying by coming in app. And we really think about, if that’s not working, what signals do we also create where we might actually have a human intervene. And so when we think about expansion that you referred to, we have a sales team based on the size of the company size, the potential opportunity, we have a matrix style experience where we may layer on top human intervention with an account manager to go find that champion, find what use case they have maybe developed that champion, find other whitespace lines of business and could go grow that. And so it’s kind of a matrix based on current spend, and potential opportunity based on the market, which would dictate what’s, what ces motion we have, and what expansion motion. Adil Saleh: Great. So when it comes to you know, what kind of process you have around NPS, I’m sure I’ve seen your survey like NPS surveys or like intercom, they’re also doing it when it when it comes to making it more personal. What do you guys have have done in terms of making it more personalized? What is that process around MPs? John Henwood: Yeah, I mean, I, I think the key with NPS more than anything is following up. It’s like not the data. It’s not even necessarily like the answers more than anything. I think, like the biggest correlation to impact NPS is that people don’t respond, not even the people who do respond. And so I mean, we have an NPS program, I think the only difference I might call out is we do it at specific points in the customer’s journey. So rather than do it, we do it every six months based on our, our calendar, it’s always on, and it’s at different points in the customer journey. And I like it that way. Because that way we can see how does the customer feel at different points in their journey. And that helps us understand where we manage costs correctly, customers in the first 90 days, and that’s 180 days, etc. Otherwise, you just get a real crosshair, it’s really hard to action in a meaningful way. That’d be the main thing. We do have a separate, we call Value Survey that we deliver to customers, again, at different points in their journey, which is really oriented around the core value drivers that we promise when you come to be a customer report and we ask you to what degree are we helping you achieve those. And we do that as a way to get bottoms up feedback. So the CSM team come in your time can go to the champion and say, you know, 82% of your users feel like they’re saving time building roadmaps, for example. And so we really help create ways to tell that value story. Adil Saleh: Yeah, that’s the way to go. And it’s it’s also critical to, you know, viewing the customer journey, maybe in the beginning, slightly to get a touch on on the relationship, like what kind of relationship we are looking at, like relationship score, we spoke to Ziv the CCO of Appsflyer. So they are basically also monitoring and they’re kind of staying on top of relationship capital. So that’s utterly important for them during the customer journey. And that’s as you said, it’s more of like interpersonal, you need to connect, engage, and maybe communicate with the customers to understand what level of relationship we have with them to be able to, you know, not just expand, but also recommend your product or your service. So it’s all about, you know, staying in deep connection, you know, making sure you have the conversation going on, to be able to get the right word across. You have anything to say theater. Taylor Kenerson: Yeah, I kind of want to dive a little bit into the team aspect. So we’re talking a lot about you know, your customers and like how the infrastructure set up in order to you know, make sure that your customers are getting the value that you have you promise them and how you’re delivering upon that. But when you talk about you know, you have a team of, you know, 40 people, what is something? What are a few things that make a CSM or a leader in CS or someone on the CS team successful or, you know, really a leader in their own right, like, what are some of these? I don’t know, characteristics that you see? And maybe commonly or not, but Yeah, can you dive John Henwood: in? Yeah, and this is probably a, you know, a whole podcast unto itself. If you have a competency matrix around it, happy to share it, but if your audience is interested, so here’s some core foundations to being really valuable in customer success. I see one, a few of them are being curious. You just have to care about the customers business. And again, not the product, the business, what do you care about? What are your priorities, where are you trying to head so Curiosity is really key that drives all of this strategic conversation, you have to really have a sense of ownership and accountability, you know, you own a book of business, you are responsible for the value creation for your customer, how do you go defend that value? Get allies across our business to go support that customer? How do you hold them, the customer, most importantly, accountable to that value and drive change with them. So there’ll be a couple of like, underlying foundations. And then there’s some core characteristics of a, you know, a world class CSM, and not everyone is going to have all of these, but they might have a flavor, you know, they will be excellent communicators, they can turn very complex topics and communicate those in pretty simple succinct way. They’d have domain expertise, right, whatever domain of your product is, they have done the job of your customer. So they can really add value, they will be amazing at data and insights, they will look at data, glean insights and tell a story from that. They’d be amazing at change management, project management, it had a now I have recommendations how to actually organizationally, organizationally, get the these users as group of users to go change. And those are several lots of things. And it’s impossible to expect one person have all those skills. So when I’m hiring, I’m thinking about what skills do we have on the team? What are we missing? How do we round this out? What is this person bringing? Taylor Kenerson: Love that, I mean, your team obviously is super important, nothing can work unless you have the proper the proper team around you. So building out, you know, a team that you can trust that also takes ownership and also complements each other in different ways is, you know, a large part of the success of the company, I often equate customer success with success in the business, you know, maybe it doesn’t have to be dubbed customer success. But at every level, especially starting up, you know, companies, they should always be concerned or focused on this aspect of things. It’s basically just listening and talking to your customers and then applying that knowledge into the product and how you’re shaping that and delivering value. And I think that’s super important. Obviously, getting your team to rally behind what’s going on and how to deliver value to your customers. That’s really huge. Adil Saleh: Yeah, and also this idea of curiosity, like you’ll have to be thinking like most of the times about your customer, the business and being curious about why they’re doing what they’re doing. And, you know, asking questions about their business and customers love it. Like, they absolutely love to be heard, and felt now this time about anything that you can tell you. I mean, we spoke with the team at fastly, Emily Garza, she’s she’s so big on this, you know, idea of curiosity, and she’s pretty much preaching about asking, and, you know, she believes that cadence is so underleveraged people don’t can’t go in and ask questions about, about their business and you know, curious about what they’re doing, and even a lot of things that that can come into play, to make make people feel hurt. So I really appreciate that. You’ve been so concrete, and we have you guys featured and we can share the story. It’s going to be an entire team working on this episode, and we’ll share the word across and yeah, that’s it. John Henwood: I appreciate it. Taylor Kenerson: Really appreciate you. We’ll talk soon. Okay. Thanks so much. Adil Saleh: Have a good rest of your day, John. 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 with qualified people for the episode just to make sure we bring the value to the listeners do reaches 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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