Alexandra Sagaydak 0:02
It’s not also about the features, but it’s also about the processes that are standing behind these features. So when we are collecting the feature requests and ideas from the customers, we also try to understand what’s the process behind it.
Taylor Kenerson 0:18
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 0:38
Hey, greetings, everybody. This is Adil from Hyperengage Podcast, we have Alexandra joined from Romania. She’s originally from Ukraine, and she’s leading a customer success team at HR tech, which is quite interesting so let’s go in deep. First off, Alexandra, thank you very much for taking the time, we really appreciate that you showed interest and you’re willing to share your story. Thank you.
Alexandra Sagaydak 1:03
Hi, you- thank you, I’m very happy to be here and I would like to share everything that I know about the customer success with your listeners today.
Adil Saleh 1:12
Pleasure. Okay, so Alexandra, first up, getting started with- what was your biggest ‘why’ when you kind of got your foot in the door for customer success? Of course, customer-facing roles are relevantly same when it comes to sales and support. But when it comes to digital, like digital CS, like data-driven customer success in a SaaS business which, too, is in early stage, a team of less than 100 people, what motivated you? What was your biggest right to, you know, making the decision?
Alexandra Sagaydak 1:43
Yeah, so I have very interesting career paths. So actually, I have been communicating with people all my life. But I have started working in tech only in 2015. And I have started working on the position of the account management in the B2C cart software, I would say. And it was great. I had customers, we didn’t have like the golden B2B, you know, SaaS flow, but it was something very similar because we had invoice models and so on. We’ve had communications, we’ve had upsell processes and cross-sell. So it was very interesting to me. With digital customer success, I faced only in 2018, when the Ukrainian startup offered me a position of the customer success manager. And it was very interesting, because during the interview process when we discussed my responsibilities and what I should do, and I said like, “Yeah, great, but it sounds- everything’s so similar, so what’s the point?” And of course, when I have started doing my job I’ve understood, like, what’s the big difference between the account management, the customer support and customer success. And I have started reading a lot of blogs, podcasts actually, also listening to them. LinkedIn community was extremely helpful because I digged into the customer success world and understand all these differences in why the customer success is so important, when it has started at first, and what is coming in this interesting industry. So yes, and I’ve very quickly I realized that it’s something that I like a lot. Because it’s truly like, it’s my nature to building long-term relationships with the customers and driving the value to them. And yeah, I think I’m very good eventually, from switching the customers from adoption process. So when they become your, truly advisor or evangelist, and you’re switching, like this position when you’re just a vendor to the, to the partnership, and it’s great.
Adil Saleh 4:07
It’s, you know, absolutely. Like this, I mean, it seems pretty nursing that someone from a sales, like account management background, with a touch of experience in the support is so much, you know, accustomed now to two three years down the road to like digital measuring data, staying on top of data, making decisions, you know, via data, and how that all flows and translates across different teams and how it helps you to get your next big section and, you know, that drives action to build meaningful conversations. So tell our audience a bit about what, what is this HR tech about, what is, what is your customer that’s- that perceives value out of it, like what is that number one thing that it delivers?
Alexandra Sagaydak 4:53
Yeah, sure. So currently, it’s- so previously i have worked in different B2B sites. But this is, this job with HR tech, is something that I’m doing the first time, and it’s very exciting and curious. We’re helping the companies to optimize their business processes, and especially HR management, to do their job efficiently and smoothly. And all their daily routine and something that they have been doing in some spreadsheets or whatever, to be everything just in one place and consistently communicating with their employees proactively, monitoring the issues within the teams, organize the team structure and everything, like leave requests, sicks, and so on, announced company news. So yeah, our product is just an effective tool when you would like to optimize all your organization, administration and business processes in one place, and to stay on top of every process. And at the same time, so every employee within the company can use it, and don’t need to be afraid that something will go wrong. So yeah.
Adil Saleh 6:11
Yes, back in the years, when I, you know, I was in companies, they really thought that I’m good enough for them to, you know, hire me. So at that point, we used to have like, easy work, this kind of technology platform for HR teams, where everybody on the team was pretty much integrated. And we used to get like different assignments, different activities from the HR team that helped have them gauge our interest in the organization in the culture now. So looking at what you’re saying, like it seems like it’s, it’s, it’s a tool that suits more for the people’s team, right? So what about the talent acquisition, like recruitment teams? How they can leverage this? Like they have-?
Alexandra Sagaydak 6:51
Yeah, that’s a great question. We also have the recruitment model, where the recruiters can stay on top of all their vacancies and candidates, and also involve the different team leads and managers in the recruitment process. Because definitely, when you have the recruitment process, it’s not only one – the person who is involved, it’s different stakeholders, especially when you have like, when you’re hiring, concrete level positions, and others. So a lot of people are involved and our module also helps you to invite different stakeholders from different departments to be involved in this process. And also, we’re providing the opportunity to optimize like, welcome emails to the candidates and to deliver the test tasks and everything and some scorecards, which can actually help to all the people who are involved in the process to score the candidate and understand who is going great, and what are the stages where currently do have with- different vacancies.
Adil Saleh 8:06
Just two questions on this, because I’m pretty big on working with people, all my life I’ve worked with people. And there’s so much of technology that has evolved over time to giving people better experience while they come join the team whenever they hit the milestone. So I pretty much love the way you guys are approaching. So two questions, one, on the welcome email, as you said, like first off experience, like how you guys are thinking long-term? Like do you have any kind of integration with tools like Sendoso, group reading, like, to, you know, have them, you know, a warm card, or a message is very personalized whenever, whenever somebody makes a decision to join the team, or maybe their first day like inauguration of sorts. So do you have anything or any process around it? That’s one question.
Alexandra Sagaydak 8:53
Do you mean with our candidates or within the product?
Adil Saleh 8:56
With your your product team, like let’s say, how you guys are leveraging your customers to have a better onboarding experience for the employees? For their teams.
Alexandra Sagaydak 9:06
Okay, that’s a great question. So actually, we are pretty clear and transparent on this process and we are using different tools that help our customers actually to input different ideas and feature requests in our product. And we also encourage them to vote for these features so they can actually understand this how- that their decision also, that it’s also great. So- and within this we are like checking all the feature requests and prioritize them. And of course, we understand that it’s not also about the features, but it’s also about the processes that are standing behind these features. So when we are collecting the feature requests and ideas from the customers, we also try to understand what’s the process behind it, and to help not just to build, like the feature because it’s, it’s very easy to help and build the great process for the companies which can actually- this process will help them in their daily life using our product and tool and everything. So it’s also an understanding what’s standing behind the process and why they’re asking something. And not just to improve some functionality, but improve the whole process, the hiring and onboarding of their own template.
Adil Saleh 10:42
Cool stuff. So you’re basically collecting feedback, any feedback that you guys think is, is adding a big amount of a, big amount of value to the product and, and it’s absolutely assigned to the line, the vision that you have for the product, like your product managers, like your, your product team decides that after looking at the feature request. And of course, a lot of people they come and vouch for it, like up-vote. So based on the number of requests in demand, they decide which feature and experience they need to improve or enhance. Okay, cool stuff. And second question I had, this is just about work because I have a SaaS business too so I’m thinking that way, I’m trying to be your customer, so people can resonate better. So now next thing is, of course, for a lot of our team members, it’s, it’s it’s our biggest concern that we incentivize them, not just like precision in all of the things, you know, onboarding, but also on the monetary side as well, like giving them bonuses, having some sort of, you know, compensations on maybe holidays, or extra hours that they’ve worked on during the development, journey, like tech team that they work like set till 8pm sometimes. So I’m thinking of having a platform that is for my HR team, and I want my people’s team to take over that and appreciate and incentivize, but in a more systematic way. So do you guys have any sort of like, just like Deel? They have this feature? I’m sure you’re familiar with Deel, right?
Alexandra Sagaydak 12:10
Oh, yeah, I heard about them, but not very, like, a lot.
Adil Saleh 12:14
So down the road, I’m just asking, just on the fly, it’s not something that’s requested, we’re just having a discussion, that’s it. So just thinking of having some sort of integrations with sort of a payment port- payment integrations or some billing integrations, that we can set it up, and then on the back-end, you can set up an entire dashboard, if they want to adv- incentivize their employees on number of hours, extra hours, they can, you know, they can have it all transparent view of all that they’ve earned by putting extra effort. That is something monetary, apart from all of this, the rest of the stuff, too. Do you have any anything?
Alexandra Sagaydak 12:54
Yeah, it’s a great question, actually, we’re talking about the features of payroll, and it’s something that we will release very soon. And the thing is that as people for us, it’s Ukrainian company, so we have been working with Ukrainian companies. And as you know, the, the payroll feature, it’s not so hard to build, but it’s hard to maintain, because of the dri- different legal things, appropriations among other countries. So that’s why we didn’t release it like very fast. So we would like to have a little bit more time to build and to make, it’s mostly in working, not only for the new customers so we can acquire them and like advertise like, “Hey, we have the payroll, let’s go to the PeopleForce,” but also to our existing customers can join this feature and efficiently use it.
Adil Saleh 13:50
Great, appreciate that it’s pretty much planned. Of course, in jur- there’s so many regulations, like from the federal authorities, government authority, so you need to make sure that you’re, you’re compliant to that. Okay, so now get back to your CS team, you have a team of four people, you’re leading that team? You’re head of customer success, right?
Alexandra Sagaydak 14:11
Yeah, I’m a customer success director and I’m lin- leading this team. And we also have, we have previously working in like, different modes and now we would like to expand our team and separate the customer support and the customer success department, so each of the managers can do efficiently their, their own job.
Adil Saleh 14:35
Okay, yes. So you’re building a hierarchy. So thinking of you like, all that you plan for your own customer success team, which you are going to be, of course, this is standalone team that takes care and works with the customer and evolving with their goals and all, so what kind of processes you have? Like, on one side, you have CRM data, like the CRM that gets you information. On the other side, it’s, it’s more of email or chat, like Intercom, HubSpot, touch us a little bit on, on the tech stack, which- what is the serum that you guys read? And then the product usage data? And how does that all translate? And what is the organization you have for your team, in order to not only just get that information, but get it in the right time in the most seamless way, so that they can take corrective actions?
Alexandra Sagaydak 15:21
So I would say that actually in the Customer Success field as a job, it’s not the- like the tool that you’re using, but how you’re using it and the processes that are building around this tool. So- because I mean, we have a lot of CRMs right now on the market like Salesforce, Pipedrive, HubSpot, Zoho, and so on. So we were not like involved in it- we have a lot of processes, but these processes are standalone and we are not depending on, on the tools, because as a startup, at first, we had tried two different of them. And it’s actually we decided to build the processes as they are, without like having like, specific tools, because then if you would like to switch it, everything falls apart. So it’s not something that we would like to do. So we first decided to build the processes, and then to integrate with the tool. In terms of the communicating with the customer, it’s a great question, actually, we’re using several of them. First of all, it’s Intercom, it’s a great tool, and I advertise it for everyone who would like to be on top of their customer communication. It can help not only in customer support, but it’s great also for the customer success and all other communication activities with your customer. And we also using the email, and the email, and the Zoom is helping us to stay on the top of our onboarding process. It’s the main thing that we are using to onboard the customer. And then they are free to use Intercom as a live chat or send us email. So that’s fine. Because our main thing that we would like to focus with all our customers is currently just the onboarding process, because I truly believe that it’s the- like 90% of the whole success with your customer.
Adil Saleh 17:31
Absolutely, onboarding dru- drives adoption, adoption drives retention and expansion. So during the onboarding you, you’re using Intercom, like they have a chat widget, they have email support, they can reach out. So how often you guys are basically forecasting their experience? Like onboarding, let’s talk about onboarding experience post-sales. So if they make a transaction to get into the platform, you have some knowledge base you have for them, you have an option to leave a chat or talk to them. If 10 out of 15 don’t reach out, how does your team have- basically forecast that experience and reach out to them with the right thing that perhaps left them? You know, you know, just wondering, and this has been complicated for them, and they just never showed up?
Alexandra Sagaydak 18:20
Yeah, so it’s a great question. And I think it sometimes happens when you don’t also show the customers like, and you don’t have the clear borders, and you actually don’t have the, you didn’t set the clear expectations, why they need to invest right now. Like, for example, if the onboarding is 30 days, yes, you need to set the clear expectations within the customer that they need to spend these 30 days with us, the closest, the most, and then they can freely use our tool and even don’t chat with us so often. So yes, I think it’s clearly- first of all, we have the intro call where we show the customer that they have- each of them have their individual plan that we are sharing and that we are very sticking to and we are trying we are actually trying to control the customer within the onboarding process and give them this like, char- high touch communication because we have tried different theories and we have understood that within the HR tech, when you spent the most of the time during the onboarding within this communication, it gives much more result than if you were doing something, oh some optimization and low touch and some other things that- especially very popular in customer success like the communities, the webinars, but during onboarding you cannot do this. So you always need to stay on top of the communication with your customer. And when you start dealing with them, for example, during the sales kickoff, you need to basically find out as much more about your customer as you can because it will go- it will also provide you some information if the customer, for example, is delaying something or disappears for one day, it’s not because something’s wrong with the customer, but because maybe they have some processes within their company, but because you were proactive on some calls, you’ve known about this, so you’re not surprised.
Adil Saleh 20:38
Okay, so that’s quite exceptional that you’re working pretty hands-on early on, like during the kickoff and onboarding, and you have supported customer documentation and everything. So I was thinking of different segments, like, you know, taking on your use cases depends- and frustrations you guys are solving for people’s team and talent acquisition teams. It’s like, it ranges from like, even startups to large enterprise. So what kind of segments are you targeting for the first few years? And, of course, some of your onboarding experiences so much self-served. And then there comes a CS team that works, monitors the data and all that. Can you just, you know, answer the first part, like, what kind of segments so that we get a clear understanding on how does that process should or may look like? And then we can we can have a discussion on that. Thank you.
Alexandra Sagaydak 21:32
Yeah, I think that our main customer are SMBs, we are not currently targeting on enterprise customers, just because our product builds differently. And the enterprise customer requires much more different flows and processes that we are having. So yeah, of course, it would be great to have a lot of enterprise customers, but it’s not our target audience. SMBs, our main audience within the Ukrainian market, and especially the tech companies, as we are, probably are what we are seeing the most within our portfolio.
Adil Saleh 22:21
Cool stuff. So for SMBs, do you have onboarding that, like- how does your team stay on top of all the data, like product usage data, and identifying risk and opportunities, you know, for their accounts? So- and also one thing, you’re a team of four or five people? So how do you guys segregate book of businesses across these four people? And what’s the plan? Like, what is the book for like, do you have any set standard playbooks for onboarding, adoption, all that are more data-driven?
Alexandra Sagaydak 22:55
Yeah, so we have actually, we have the processes described on all of the customer journey steps, and our CS team is currently holding, I think, each of CSM around 80 accounts, which is a little bit too much. So that’s why we’re expanding the team. Because I think that, like 60 accounts is enough for which- one customer success manager. And in terms of the customer success team, as a department, I would say that we are currently in the process of defining all the internal processes as well, because I have joined the company in this summer. So I still have a lot of things on my plate to do. But in other ways, I would say that my team is very friendly and responsive and I have never been working with such people who are very excited about all the changes. And I’m truly- appreciate all their support, because it’s so much easier to drive anything and to try different stuff when you’re all together in this. So, um, yeah, I think like we have tried to describe as much as possible and to create different playbooks and to stick to different customer journeys so that the customer success manager also understands what to do with the customer on each step. And it also involves the proactive work. We’re using this CRM that helps us to stay on top of the old customer issues. And we also use the data ofcourse, to monitor all our customers and understanding how the things are going and their customer health.
Adil Saleh 24:51
Interesting. So you mentioned that the product or platform that you’re using, there are loads of platforms for marketing teams, sales teams, support teams, engineering teams, you know, so do you think at this point, with, you know, with the team this big and this customer base, that you should have a dedicated customer success platform as well? There are loads in the market like Catalyst, Vitally, a lot of these, they actually keep you on top of all the data points and, you know, make proactive machines and data that drives action, all of that. So, have you thought of it? Or have you still, you know, you think that your team’s, team processes or maybe infrastructure needs to be streamlined in a way? Or maybe you get- gotta get a little bigger? Or you gotta grow maybe next year? What do you think?
Alexandra Sagaydak 25:40
Yeah, I think so. It’s so- it’s, it’s a very tricky question. Because, you know, as a, as a former employee myself – not a director, team leader – I would say that when you’re dealing with a lot of different tools, sometimes it can be distracting, because you need to stay on top of all of them, during the, your workday, to login on different systems to check different informations. At the same time, during quick- my, my work, and with my work experience, I see that, yes, the customer success dashboards and all these tools, they are great, I love them, I really, truly love them. But at the same time, we need to also to understand, and I think that the customer success community needs to agree, that at the same time, the marketing, the sales and the customer success, yeah, we are different departments in different processes. But at the same time, we are also very close together. And we also affect each other in terms of different things and processes. And it’s very easy, it’s very easy to recognize using the data when we have like sometimes, for example, if marketing team drives wrong SQL, so then the sales boy going with the deal, close the bad customer, and we are doing with them. It’s very like, most- and you can easily check what went wrong on each step. And the customer success tools that are, we’re having right now, they’re sticking only to the customer success department. And yes, they are great. And actually, I’m already had some demos with them, because I thought that maybe we need to have it. But that’s- same time, I tried to be very, not so exciting about them. Because it’s not about the tool, but what’s the process, again, what’s the process behind the tool and what we have. Because I mean, if it’s only about the data, it doesn’t matter what tool you will use, it’s about like, it’s the data that you will see and what this data, data will- what value it will bring to you and what insights. So basically, I think that you can use any to- like, it doesn’t matter what tool you will use.
Adil Saleh 28:14
To talk about- like starting off, as, you know, as a small business as yours, I think it matters a whole lot more than what is coming next, you should be very proactive on that, where to find things, where to get your answers, and then, what action to take. But when you get bigger, like think of your team as like 150 or 200 people you guys are serving around 30,000 customers, then these things will come, then you will need centralized source and then you will need all data filling in one place. And you know, that is, you know, creating alerts and, you know, creating task or recommendations for you to, you know, take action. So then you guys will think more about you know, optimizing the time and, you know, setting everything, you know, automate the workflows that are low-hanging fruits, and then focus on the high-value tasks, like maybe medium-sized customers or customers, you know, at this point, you can call any customer that is paying like, that is highly paying customer as an enterprise, it’s okay. So then you will have like 5-10 enterprise customers across your, you know, customer success team that you need to look, look- really care for them. And you know, make sure they are well served when you’re managing their data and all. So of course, it comes over time and as you grow as a business. So you mentioned that you’re growing your team. First off, you tell us the culture across your team, how you guys work, and then let us know, our audience, because a lot of customer success managers, a lot of you know people, young folks listening to this podcast, they’re pretty much interested in getting a foot in the door and the customer just like you did. And just tell them what is the best thing that you would expect them to have to be able to join your team, and what is your culture about? Tell us, tell them a little bit about your culture.
Alexandra Sagaydak 30:02
Oh, I think that in PeopleForce, we have a great culture in terms of- we are very friendly, and we are very supportive. And I think it was even before the, the war, and the war has bring us a lot of more support to our team. And we also, like everyone in our team behaves like a true individual and owner of like your own customer accounts, or your own project, or whatever field you’re the expert in. So we are trying to behave like the individuals and to take responsibility in good and in bad things both and to share also the success not just with one person, but with the whole team, and to show that everyone did their own contribution in the company success. And so the hiring process, it’s actually, it’s a great question, because I mean, on my interviews that I’m doing even right now, I don’t expect like a lot, because sometimes we are, we’re smiling, and we’re laughing with my folks. And they say that I’m very strict, in my like, in everything that I- demanding from the people, but at the same time, the basic thing is, the person who is going to the customer success and to the any customer-facing role just need to understand that in the end of the day, you will communicate with customers a lot. And sometimes if you’re a little bit introverted, it might not work. So before joining, joining any customer-facing role, you just need to understand, it actually can happen in any job. It’s not only about our company. Are you truly okay with jumping fast on the customer call and help them? And I mean, communicate via Zoom or call, and to enable your camera and show yourself and contribute to your customer success, that’s the only thing that matters. Because actually, as you see, and as you know, the customer success is a job- is a very modern and new job. It’s not something that you can go to any university and get a degree like economics and finance or marketing even. So all of these people, we’re working – as you, as me – in different spheres, and we just switched to tech. So that the only- truly the things that matters is- that’s communication with the customers, and if you can handle this. Because all other things I can teach you, and we can buy any course that you want on Udemy, Coursera, or whatever you want, you can read any book, we have a lot of great books that the customer leaders that wrote it, and they’re all great. But at the same time, it’s all- always about your personality and showing to the customer.
Adil Saleh 33:21
Absolutely. Everything is teachable, but not the work ethic, not the, you know, your traits. So you got to have some traits that resonate with being a customer-facing professional. So I love that Alexandra and not sure how you, how your team like, is thinking that you are pretty, you know, harsh sometimes, strict sometimes, but you are pretty pleasant here. And, you know, I love, you know, the way you answered it and with very attention to detail. And also, you know, in a very simplified way so everybody could understand. So I really appreciate you taking the time today and sharing your story. We would- we highly recommend PeopleForce for teams like small businesses that are trying to create a streamlined process for their people’s team and also care and invest into their people. So once again, thank you very much Alexandra.
Alexandra Sagaydak 34:11
Thank you. It was a great time to meet and I hope your listeners will find something for themselves.
Adil Saleh 34:19
Sure. Appreciate it. Have a good rest of your day.
Alexandra Sagaydak 34:22
Thank you, you too.
Adil Saleh 34:23
Bye bye. Thank you so very much for staying with us on the episode. Please share 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. 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.