Martina O. 0:02:
When you go to work, you’re 70%, you know, focused in your area – customer success, and then you’re 30% an entrepreneur.
Taylor Kenerson 0:10
Welcome to the Hyperengage 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 0:30
Hey, greetings, everybody. This is Adil from the Hyperengage podcast, I have my co-host Taylor and a special guest, Martina, she’s serving as Head of Customer Success at Layerise. I’m quite amazed with the kind of technology they’re they’re introducing towards like – there’s so many competitors, we have seen our time for product onboarding and post-sales user experiences. But this is just one of their kind, they’ve recently raised a seed round of more than $3 million. Thank you very much, Martina, for taking the time.
Martina O. 1:00
Thank you so much for inviting me.
Adil Saleh 1:01 I appreciate it. So Martina, starting off, just like we regularly go and talk to our guests like how they thought of joining the customer success role. And then you know, you know, getting into their thinking model, their thought process, their decision-making ability, when they finally decided to join the customer facing teams and taking on this role that is more of a post-sales operation. So what was your motivation? What was your inspiration towards making that decision?
Martina O. 1:34
Yeah, sure. Great question. I have a background in anthropology, like social anthropology. And I think I fell in love with the startup environment. Before I fell in love with CS actually. Yeah, I was studying anthropology and I went to San Francisco for a while to conduct some fieldwork and learn a little bit about different cultures. And it was when I went to San Francisco, I couldn’t help but fall in love in the whole, you know, startup innovation scene there. And I just knew, wow, there’s a passion here. There’s some people, there’s diversity, there’s all the things I love. And I want to find a way to apply anthropology in that setting when I get back home and I get done with my thesis. So I went back to Copenhagen. And I finished my thesis, I went out and looked for a job in the startup sphere. And that’s when I came across customer success, which just initially made a lot of sense to me. Because I’ve always been interested in you know, sharing perspectives, getting to understand the other one’s opinion of things. And how does this make sense to you? And how can we accomplish things together by sharing, you know, different opinions and stuff? And yeah, just seem, just seemed like the obvious choice. And then, of course, when I got in front of the customers, I really got to understand and learn, “Wow, this is what it’s to walk in a mile in someone else’s shoes. This is how we can optimize.” And so that’s how it, it kind of started from there on. Yeah, and I’ve been in, I started in a FinTech company, small, tiny company called Pleo, they’re now a unicorn, FinTech unicorns. So that was quite a journey, over the course of four years. And now I’m the head of customer success here at Layerise, where we are really trying to help consumer goods brand, introduce a new standard, the new way of thinking about post-sales, instead of just sending a user manual and be done with it. Really try to use your customers, engage with them. So yeah, that’s, that’s kind of been my road into customer success. And to my current role.
Taylor Kenerson 3:30
I really, I really love that, you know, you took such a unique approach into customer success. I mean, oftentimes, someone just you know, jumps into customer success. But you went such a different route, like studying the anthropology and then finding your way into startups, and then finding your way into your niche. Can you like kind of dive into how studying anthropology has helped you be more innovative? And like, really a difference maker and see us and how that approach looks?
Martina O. 3:56
Yeah, of course. I mean, for me, the whole point of studying anthropology is to get to understand the other side, right? Like the other person’s put, you know, put yourself in someone else’s perspective and someone who is completely different from you, can you really learn that perspective? And can you leverage it as well? Like, can you find common ground and use that insights to generate innovation? So that’s been my approach to customer success as well. Can you in your conversations with your customer, not just ask question, and not just ask to, you know, note something down that you can hand over to your team or something, but really ask and listen, like, use your listening skills so much in your actual interaction? And, you know, that has really helped me form some really deep conversations and relationships also with my customers, because they can sense you know, this is not just your average person asking a specific question to get to know something. This is someone who keeps asking and digging into the really fundamental needs of why I need this particular thing. And sometimes challenge customers as well, as well, when you get, when you get a little bit further down, you understand, oh, maybe it’s not that specific thing I need, maybe it’s something different. So that’s been my, my fuel basically.
Taylor Kenerson 5:09
I, that’s, that’s awesome. I love how it’s, you know, you take the approach of kind of unpeeling the onion, it’s not just a surface level, when you ask one question, you get a response. And like, most, you know, people are just like, Okay, great, that was the answer. But it’s about like unpacking that further, like, why, well, why do you do this and then keep furthering the why. And that’s really important to, you know, generate those deeper connections, conversations and really see, like, you just said, that common ground, and how things, you know, work together to make something happen. Before we dive like, really into CS, I’m so so interested in your journey in the startup world, because you were like, at a, you know, you were there at Pleo for like, I mean, the conception almost, and then it like generated into, you know, a unicorn, so if you could just like share some of your experiences. That’d be awesome.
Martina O. 6:00
Yeah, sure. Yeah, I think I was employee number 18 or so when I joined Pleo. So we were still standing, you know, around the same desk and talking about what we will be doing that day, that specific day. So it was it was very early days, it was a, it was amazing. And it was exactly that energy. And that, you know, culture that I’d found in the US that I really wanted to be a part of when I came back to Copenhagen, and luckily, I was lucky to find a company where, you know, I could join that. And yeah, so, so it really started with that. And I think one thing that was super important in that company has remained an important topic you can say is to always be humble, which was why my approach to customer success and the logical way makes sense as well. Because you have to be humble in order to like, listen to your customers and understand these things. And, you know, really understand, like not, not accepting that just because we made something right doesn’t mean that will always be right. So you know, don’t stop at your initial success, but keep pushing the boundary, keep being, asking questions, keep, take your customer feedback, really, really, really serious. I cannot stress this enough, like, really, you know, get to the insights of what unpacking and understanding what is it that this is about, and take that information and leverage that to to build on your next success has been super, super important throughout that journey, I don’t think they would have gotten that far without really listening in to the customers and yeah, taking them in the whole dream. So that was also why I partnered with the Layerise because I felt the same spirit ran us but I felt the same seriousness about the customers, both Pleo and then Layerise have really put a lot of effort into customer success already in year one. And I think that’s what kind of marks the companies that are serious about their customer engagement, like, do you put in efforts from the start to put customer success and the customers on the agenda? Or does Customer Success become an add-on once you have a more established company and now you kind of want to keep some more customers and then you start to hire in for that pain, but but really putting in some efforts from the start has been, yeah, valuable.
Taylor Kenerson 8:14
It’s kind of like incredible the similarities between success both in creating relationships and like in creating successful businesses, it’s that common thread of listening, when you listen, you actually uncover the magic in within those conversations. And you see that, you know, that’s how you get, you know, deep relationships with people you’re listening to them, you’re not, you know, having a pre assumption, you’re going in humbly, like I’m here for you, I’m your ears. And I think that’s really important too, as like CS evolves, it’s you are the ears for the company, you’re less of like the explanation of why that’s like the sales more you know, that, that that but you know, you’re you’re the ears, you’re on the ground floor, you’re you know, on these customers with, you know, the customers daily, almost, that’s, you know, incredible.
Adil Saleh 9:02
That’s a way to go like in the first year, I’m sorry to cut you off. For the first year, you’re more focused and you work hands-on with customers, when you get bigger, you’re not going to have enough time to you know, be, so you know, driving these engagements and working so hands-on with the customer to understand their needs, and you know, shape the product as well. Because at the end of the day, it’s about, you know, technology, it’s about giving it a better experience so all of that is only possible in the best way in the first couple of years. If you do it in the best way to be a unicorn in five, six years.
Martina O. 9:39
I would challenge that a little bit, Adil because I think it’s still possible to be able to remain and keep you know, that close connection, but you have to do it in a different skill because you’re completely right. There are some insights and there’s some you know, opportunities and insights you can only leverage when you can actually like bike out and actually meet your company and your customers and talk to them. So of course there’s gonna be more role and interaction there. But I think it’s important for companies to don’t, you know, accept that information will always be, you know, toward it, and there will always be less access to, you know, clear information, I think it’s important to leverage data and information there and build some systems. So you can continue to have that loop, but it will change over time. But yeah, remaining true. And staying focused on the customer is important.
Adil Saleh 10:27
Exactly. That’s what we talk most about that how they’re, you know, driving the post-sales, you know, department of their their business, like, what is customer success doing, technical support, customer support doing, what kind of technologies they have incorporated to make it a real success and understand and listen to the voice of the customer. So how big is your team right now at Layerise?
Martina O. 10:51
So right now we’re at four people. So we’re still in seed business. So we’re two years in, and I’ve been here for the last year or so I’m a full-time employee. And we have three part-time people.
Adil Saleh 11:03
Okay, that’s cool. So starting off with, of course, you are also serving customers in the product onboarding side, also, with the experience on the documentation, knowledge base, all of that. I’m sure you’re familiar with HelpScout. And a lot of other competitors, you have in like, not direct competitors, but they are doing some of the similar, you know, they’re solving the same problem. So now, for your customers, what kind of systems you have for the customer success team, like how you’re measuring data, and, you know, basically monitoring the activities inside the platform, what kind of training centers you have, like in terms of shortcuts, messaging, and all that. Could you drag us through that piece?
Martina O. 11:44
Yeah, do you mean like the tool stack and what we’re using on a daily basis or so?
Adil Saleh 11:48
Martina O. 11:48 So yeah, so since we’re still quite early stage, we don’t have like a full blown setup of everything. But we are using a couple of different tools. We’re sharing some tools with sales additionally here in the beginning. So we’re using HubSpot a lot, both to drive like, our conversations with customers in terms of ticketing and you know, the ticketing systems and customer communications, product updates and stuff like that. It’s been working okay, so far. But of course, as we grow, we will have a more dedicated tool for this one. Then we’re using a startup company called EverAfter to, almost like an onboarding service. So when they partner with us, they get us a customized success plan. So we really stay on the onboarding call with what I have with each customer, and we try to lay out what is it exactly that you want to achieve. And then we set up a dedicated platform for them that tracks and for them to keep score of what are the tasks we need to do. And we can also keep track of meetings, recordings, data and stuff like that through, through that system. Yeah. And then we have a lot of other smaller like, Google Drive and all that stuff. But I think everyone, startups, uses those things. Yeah.
Taylor Kenerson 11:48
I really love how – I have something. Yeah, I really love how you have something like you have a bunch of these, you know, technologies. But in the beginning of the, you know, the conversation, you mentioned that transition of like that, where you’re talking to the customer on a daily basis, but then when you do scale up, and when you do grow as a company, how are you like currently thinking about? I mean, obviously, your plan is to grow. So, but you can’t, you know, start off in the growth mode with all these technologies in these processes, because you have to achieve that. So like, what is your mindset into fostering what you have now, but to scale?
Martina O. 13:38
Yeah, good point. And for me, it’s very much about figuring out here in the early days, where is it that we can add most value to our customers in the CS team? And for me, that comes down to listening and understanding where, what are the hurdles that the customer needs to go through? And where can we best assist them in this. So right now, one thing we’re really eager and focusing a lot on tracking, its time to first value. So, the implementation can take a while with our software. It can also take weeks, it really depends on the customer’s ambition level, whether they want to go out and make like a full blown app experience with multiple – into linked pages and stuff like that, like a full on service experience, or they just want to create a simple ‘How to Get Started’ guide, which could be set up in a matter of hours right? If you have the content ready. So it’s really about figuring out how we, how do we ensure that whatever ambition level you come in with and you begin your journey with us with that you are put in front of the right information and the right resources and there is the right information and support that goes on. So for me, that’s something I really like focusing on here in the beginning. And as soon as we have that card down and we know okay, this is approximately the segments, this is the time, this is the maturity, this is what we see. Then I will be looking into tools. I would never look at a tool first and then try to fit my customers into it. I always try to figure out what are the needs of my customers, and then apply a tool afterwards. And then hack the tool if I can.
Taylor Kenerson 15:09
It seems, it seems like such a common thing to, you know, find the needs, talk to the customers and then implement the tool. But so many people, you know, do it backwards. And then they often, you know, find this issue. They’re like, “Oh, we need to implement the tech to drive the automation, the growth,” but then it’s like, “Well, did you even – do you even know what’s going on? Before you even do that?”
Martina O. 15:27
Yeah, yeah like, now, we’re just investigating and figuring out a new service, we were planning to have rollout to most of our customers, because we figured out, okay, we can actually help maybe 40% of our customers speed up their onboarding time with maybe 90% if we do this, and that wouldn’t be able to fit into our current need, necessarily. So we’re like, okay, like, I’m glad we didn’t invest more in different things, because these are the learnings to do early stage. And then at some point, you, you kind of, you start to hear the same things over and over again. And that’s where we’re like, okay, now we probably have it, a foundation, then I would apply a more like, strong tool that can apply for all of it.
Taylor Kenerson 16:07
For some of our audience that is,
Adil Saleh 16:07 Yeah, that’s interesting.
Taylor Kenerson 16:12 For some of our audience that are like new founders or like, on the executive team, what are, or how do you identify some of the metrics that are important to not only the company, but to the CS team to analyze like the adoption and the onboarding, and how you know, somebody is growing? And then if you can just jump into some of the metrics that you identified and track?
Martina O. 16:34
Sure. I mean, there are multiple ways to go about it. What I usually do is I would be looking at, like when I joined here, and I was looking and so “Okay, do we have any churn?” And if we have any churn, what would the, what’s the reason why they were churning that at least I know, okay, though, that was examples of when we didn’t meet expectations, and then you work your way backwards and talk to maybe some customers who have really, you know, proven successful, and when are they successful, that’s when in our, in our object, it’s like, when they renew, and we see, okay, they have actually committed to another year or two more years or something like that, then you know, you’re onto something, and then you kind of work your way into the middle there. So I look at the edges first, and then I move my way towards, towards the middle, I hope this makes sense. It is also a lot about like talking to the customers, because when you’re at this early stage, you don’t have you know, you haven’t tracked every single interaction and don’t have the resources to analyze, you know, millions of data points. So you, you have to speak with the customers and work fast and, and work with the feedback you’re given.
Taylor Kenerson 17:41
Okay, so where you’re getting all this information from your customers, how are you like managing it and prioritizing it? You know, because you’re like, and then translating it to the different teams that have to maybe take action on that. Maybe it’s the marketing team, or the sales of the product? Like, how do you do all that?
Martina O. 18:01
Yeah, do the thing. Yeah. Various things with the product team, we actually have a biweekly session. So we’re tracking all the information, we’re tracking every call, and we’re tracking email sessions and stuff like that, where we read, write down and we track, what are some of the topics that are coming up from our customers? Who has been requesting them? And what are the specifics of the, like, we try not to think in features, but more on like problem areas. So there seems to be a problem around this or there seems to be a problem around this. And then we hand it over to the product team. And then we work together towards figuring out, “Okay, what are, what are the action points that we can take here to change the product for the better, knowing what we know now?” And the product team are also super happy to always jump on a call with the customers as well, we’re, you know, that’s been, it’s a pretty important thing to have that the, you know, intention as well from the other teams, and sales and marketing team.
Taylor Kenerson 18:56
That’s, that’s a really key point. Sometimes, you know, the other teams that are within the organization, they want to just stay in their lane, and they don’t want to, you know, interact with the customer. So they’re like, you know, you take care of it and pass the information to me. And sometimes it’s way better if they actually hop on the call. And they’re, they’re showing their presence and giving that engagement. So can you just like, lightly dive into what like the difference is when you do have someone from like the product team or the marketing team coming onto a call with the customer and actually engaging with them and like providing more value to that conversation?
Martina O. 19:31
Sure. Let me first say to that, it’s also I think, very much responsibility on the CS team to give the rest of the teams the impression that customers are a delight to talk to, and there is much to gain from actually talking to the customers. If you’re, if you never talk to a customer and you dread having that conversation, then you know, it’s more easy to say, “I’ll just wait until, you know, the CS team delivers some insights.” So you also as a CS team have to help the other teams realize that this is, there are so many, you know, golden nuggets of information hiding out there with the customers for all the teams. Yeah, so coming back. So you mean like, yeah, so what what would usually happen if we set up a call, sometimes I would jump on the call together with the product team depending a little bit on the situation. So we would sometimes be two people, other times, I would like, you know, help phrase the conversation or like, set the scene so that the scene is set prior, that helps also to steer the conversation a little bit. And then we will always have like a follow-up meeting afterwards. So if they’ve had a conversation, and they said something to the design team that I was not aware of, something new, then we will sync so there’s no, for instance, if they mentioned that there’s a specific need, or that they wanted some kind of feature, but now they’ve completely changed their mind, that’s important for me to know as well. We tried to take it in like three, three steps like that.
Taylor Kenerson 20:55
What are some, like nuggets that you could give to when you do have to have those conversations with the customers? And like for some people they do, they might find it like a little challenging to have those, sometimes difficult conversations, but sometimes, you know, not difficult, but what are some like, yeah tips or like insights on how to drive that conversation in a more valuable way?
Martina O. 21:16
You mean, as a person who was not used to speaking with customers?
Taylor Kenerson 21:20
Yeah, yeah, or yeah, and anyway, like, what are like just any tidbits that maybe you’ve like, taken when you’ve interacted with clients, or customers, and you’re like, “Oh, wow, like this actually worked.” And one of the things is listening that you mentioned, you know, but um, like just some, some key things.
Martina O. 21:36
I think, always start with like, expressing gratitude for them taking out time of their busy day to spend time with you, even though it’s also in their benefit. It’s, it’s important to express gratitude for that, I always start with and I think that that sets kind of a positive note for the whole meeting, then I think it’s important to prepare a little bit and, you know, know, of course, what is this issue about? Or if it’s a potential partnership or something like that? Have some, you know, a brief or something. So you don’t come into the conversation, expecting the customer to fill in, you know, what is it that we need here, you should be the one driving it, and you should take ownership of that. So having some preparation, and then try again, to listen as much as possible, and speak a little less and keep your speaking, you know, towards the end or ask questions and let the customer answer. I try to be, try to be in the background. And if there’s something they don’t, you don’t understand, or if there’s something that, what can you say, that seems, that surprises you? Let the customer know, you know, that, oh I’m quite curious, could you elaborate a little bit more? Or could you like, keep following up until you have a thorough understanding of what the customer means? Because in a fast meeting, that can be much, you know, interaction happening. And yeah, just diving a little bit further in seems to help.
Adil Saleh 23:01
That’s powerful. Yeah, I mean, some of the basics that people, you know, while having conversations, even the time management as well, that’s one of the biggest problems today. And, and knowing the fact that, you know, it’s harder to, you know, buy your customers time in that space, and you need to cover all of that, and you need to get your answers as well, you need to understand the customer as well. And you never know, what’s what your customer is going to ask, in those 30-40 minutes. So, time management is also- so let’s check a little bit about your team, like your team of four. That also includes the customer support? It’s just a, you know, customer success team that comes with you.
Martina O. 23:41
We’re both support and customer success at this point. Yeah.
Adil Saleh 23:44
Support and customer success. So how do you guys like take, like training initiatives? And what kind of, let’s say, culture you have there? So could you tell us more about the vision and DNA? How do you guys align all the different teams across one vision, one DNA to make, make it work?
Martina O. 24:05
Yeah, sure. Um, I think for me, it’s in building this customer success department is really important for me to make sure that that it also reflects our company vision and our company’s stance and what were, the difference we’re trying to make here, with our tools and with our software. And for us, it’s really about you know, for Layerise, like building and making it possible to make post-sales experience that are so relevant to you. Like, you don’t want to be put in front of generic information. You don’t want to search endlessly to find what is relevant for you. For us, it’s really about relevance. It’s about putting the customer in front of the right information because that just increases satisfaction so much as opposed to have to browse through. So it’s kind of the same philosophy when we do customer success here. It comes down to everything from when the sales team hands over, you know a deal to us. You know, can we be so specific on what we need that, you know, we don’t have like a longer session, or we don’t get a lot of unnecessary notes. But we are so clear in our handover process. And our vision is really about this, like, can we make an onboarding experience and, experience with us after you’ve signed in and started with the software that is so relevant and full of quality? So relevance and quality are really like the core focus points for us in the team. And in order to foster that, how do you, how do we make a, you know, how do we make quality? And how do you make a specifically relevant experience, like it starts from me and the team and starts by having a team of people where everyone feels empowered to speak their mind, like everyone in the team is very different. We are very diverse team, we have I think, we’ve 24 people in the company now and we’re 18 different nationalities. So we are quite diverse.
Adil Saleh 25:56
Oh, love that. So much of diversity. Yeah.
Martina O. 25:59
Very very mixed. And I think that’s such a blessing in building a company, because everyone sits with their own information. And you know, everyone has a slightly different approach to something. And for me, it’s really about building a culture where all those different approaches can kind of thrive. And where you are not missing out on some angle or something, because someone is sitting in the back and thinking, you know, all the other ones seems like they got it all sorted out, I’m just gonna hold off. And then two weeks later, you’re like no, I wish you had shared that because it was amazing. So for me, you know, creating a safe environment where you can talk and we can have these conversations is super important. And I think everyone in the team will kind of agree that we have a lot of, you know, direct feedback both ways, basically. And we talk every single week and, you know, multiple times a day about, you know, how can we improve this, how can we change this, and everyone is also aware of their specific angle and how they contribute individually. And also, I’d say in a startup, because we are still in the seed journey of our, you know, growth, journey. And responsibility and taking ownership is also super cute. So as soon as there’s an area that starts to seem like, for instance, we just launched the new Help Center, again, it’s contextualized. So every time you log in, you’ll only see the information that’s relevant to us, it’s kind of the vision broadening out there. Finding someone who loves, you know, writing content, someone who loves to own it, and then put that person in front of that and make that person shine is kind of how I like to run my teams and how I like to run my departments, because talking into people’s strengths is just so much more, it makes things flow much more easily, and you get much more of that flow experience when you go to work.
Adil Saleh 27:46
Absolutely, absolutely. And this, all of this definitely plays out when you’re, especially with people that diverse, and you’re gonna make sure you’re consistent in communication, and you’re trying to, you know, bridge the gaps, and, you know, initially maybe somebody’s just getting the foot in the door, you’re just trying to make sure, making it comfortable, the experience-wise and everything and then, you know, trying to navigate their potential and put them into the, into the best places and you know, allocating the right opportunities, and absolutely love the fact that where you guys are, you know, taking people from all different different cultures, I love that and we never had any business, any SaaS business like this, right? We had, like, businesses, mostly from US, from Israel, from Canada, from Australia, from UK, but not like this. So great. I love that. So apart from
Taylor Kenerson 28:37
I also really, I also really like to, Martina, that like, you really emphasize the power of speaking up and like having your voice and understanding that, you know, you might have, we all might be like similar soul, similar valued, but we’re not like-minded, your mind- like your, your thinking process, your modeling is, you know, really different. And it’s really important for you to find that value, see that value, nurture it as a manager, and like the head of, you know, a team and nurture that so that your team does feel empowered, like you just had to speak up because the, the nuggets that could come through, you know, conversation with a team can be you know, literally product-changing, game-changing for a company, and you know, it’s really powerful to nurture that kind of an environment to, you know, get that result. That’s, that’s amazing.
Martina O. 29:27
Yeah, we used to have a saying in my older work, where when you go to work, you’re 70%, you know, focused in your area – customer success. And then you have 30%, an entrepreneur, like you have to have that mindset and everyone in a startup has to have that mindset in the beginning where I’m just here to do my thing. I’m also here to innovate and create new, you know, a new way of thinking a new way of approaching this and I think everyone has to have a little bit of that DNA. In the early days. You’re not just here for a job, you’re here to to innovate and push the boundaries, right?
Adil Saleh 29:57
Yes, absolutely great. It was real present having you around and we had a great time and great conversation. I appreciate that you’ve been so genuinely open and to, concrete and strategic into your, all the strategies and all your thinking and notions that you shared today. I appreciate your time.
Martina O. 30:15 Of course, thank you so much for hosting us and creating an awesome platform for sharing advice and tips and tricks. It’s truly awesome.
Adil Saleh 30:25 Likewise.
Taylor Kenerson 30:25
You’re awesome, Martina, thank you so much. Have a beautiful day.
Martina O. 30:29
You too. Take care.
Adil Saleh 30:33 Thank you so very much for staying with us on the episode. Please leave your feedback at email@example.com
. 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 with qualified people for the episode just to make sure we bring the value to the listeners do reach us out if you want to refer a CS leader. Until next time, goodbye and have a good rest of your day.