Christine Watts 0:02
You need to communicate who you are, where you’re going to be where you’re going 10 years from now, and then how you’re going to get there. And so how a company wants to do that they have complete flexibility to do that within the platform.
Taylor Kenerson 0:14
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 0:33
Hey, everybody, greetings. This is Adil from Hyperengage podcast. I have my co host Taylor Kenerson, and a very special guest, Christine, she’s the head of customer success at Ninety. Thank you very much, Christine, for taking the time. Yeah,
Christine Watts 0:46
thanks for having me.
Taylor Kenerson 0:48
Thank you. Walk us through a little bit. Christine, how you got into this customer facing role. Even before that, what 90 is how you found the company? And what kind of, you know, made you attracted to this this type of you know, work?
Christine Watts 1:03
Yeah, I mean, I think it was, it was really all on accident at first. So kind of a fun story, my background was in marketing. And so I was just kind of out there looking for a new position, a friend connected me to somebody who owned a marketing firm. And he took a look at my resume and said, You know, I don’t have anything here, but I’ve got something else you might be interested in. And so they were creating this whole company, they didn’t have a job description, or website or anything set up. So I kind of went to this interview, not really knowing what to expect. And they put together the job description. And it sounded interesting enough, I was bought into the company and the vision. And long story short, I started as the first non developer hire at 90. So it’s been quite the journey, I’ve held a variety of roles. So that process, but I kind of came into it with an interesting perspective of, okay, I’m, I’m director of marketing and client success. And as soon as we can get more clients access people, I’m gonna get rid of that. And I don’t want to do that. I’m going to focus on the marketing side. And really, as the team developed, and we created the product, and I kind of became this middleman for like, it was very founder led founder vision, and the developers were very much like implementing what they they said, right. And so anybody that’s been out there and started software knows, like, that creates a lot of bumps along the road. So I kind of input myself into this middle position of product. And looking at things from the perspective of well, I’m talking to every single person that’s using the platform. And here’s what they’re telling me that they need, I can convey urgency, I can do a little bit of design, help them out with like, what people are confused around. So I was wearing a lot of hats around product management, and QA and a little design and just different things in that regard. And so, you know, fast forward, I ended up becoming head of product and had a client success and quickly getting rid of the marketing side, just because those, those conversations that I was having with clients were just so interesting. And it was so much problem solving, right, like listening, understanding where they are, and not just how they’re using the tool, but like conceptually, what they’re trying to implement in their business and how we’re supporting them due to that. So since I have gotten rid of the head of product title about eight months ago, and so now I’m fully focused on the client success side and really looking to be proactive with people and help out in the same way that I did back then.
Adil Saleh 3:43
Taylor Kenerson 3:44
Yeah, that is, it’s so a really unique situation you found yourself in where you’re almost became a linchpin in a sense, but you were also the connector between the vision, the company, the developer has really tech heavy mindsets, which is not a good or a bad thing. It’s just they’re in the trenches in one kind of role. And you came in and kind of were able to bridge that gap between, here’s the vision of the company, here’s what we need on the development side. And then while also understanding deeply the marketing side of things, so how, you know, messaging translated into getting customers into traction, and then also how that you know, integrated in your customer, your conversations with your customers, like what you were finding out via feedback, and how you were able to then aggregate and process that because you had such different lenses, you were able to see that through. So can you talk about kind of the early days and what the team looked like and how you’re able to build it up and build up more specifically the client success, but also the marketing too. And just seeing those different functions within the organization grow from literally the ground up.
Christine Watts 4:44
Yeah, and we started out with three founders and then there was two developers there, and then myself, man, I can’t even remember who like the second third, fourth, fifth hires were at this point like we definitely brought on more Engineers. So we were really focused on like the speed of developing the product. And I was really the only Client Success person, I would say for about three years. So that means like, working the live chat, having every single sales conversation, having every single like onboarding, retention, all of that kind of stuff. So all very reactionary, right, like, I’m dealing with anything that’s coming inbound, and just trying to service as best I can. But I think, you know, again, if you’ve created software, you know, it absolutely does not go perfectly when you’re starting out. And so I think being able to be in the weeds with the developers, and then also with the clients, like really attributed a lot of early success for us, because like, people felt heard, and when I told them, hey, we’re working on fixing that right now, or, Oh, my gosh, that sounds like such a big deal. I’m gonna go talk to XYZ person and get this done. Like, it actually happened, right. And so I think that makes made a big difference. And then as we scaled Yeah, we brought on marketing, maybe not so much right away, just because the product itself, like served a very specific niche, so we didn’t have a lot of means, like, go out and try to acquire new clients, the software is essentially business management tools. And so there was a team of coaches out there that were really out there selling and promoting the product and bringing people in. So that we were in a great position where we were really just dealing with inbound volume, as opposed to having to really go out there and have like, a world class website and Google ads, and everything that comes along with that. So could really spend our time and energy like really investing in like the product development side.
Taylor Kenerson 6:44
And that’s huge to recognize that you recognize where your focus had a lie, you know, um, traditionally, you know, some people, some companies feel the pressure to, you know, invest into marketing and do that right away. But sometimes it’s not always, you know, the best tactic to grow. And you You also mentioned briefly that when it was just you, it was so reactionary. So can you talk about the transition between, you know, going from being reactive to now like, what are some of the tools? How did you become more of a proactive type part of the organization of the whole?
Christine Watts 7:13
Yeah, I mean, I would say it’s, it’s really a theme for the year for us. So we’re still working on it. But now the client success department is, I would say, just over 20 people, so like, 20, to 25. And we’re really split up into three different arms. So one is just the support side. So anything that’s coming in live chat, email, phone calls, the people that are still like, purely reactionary, of like answering those questions. And then we have really that engagement side where it’s our proactive arm, hey, we have our CSMs. And they’re our onboarding specialists. So we’re starting to like really break out and specialize like how we can work with individual clients based on their stage of the customer journey. And then the third is really like kind of our technical ops side. So internally, how are we making sure that anybody in the company not just client success, but partnerships, education has what they need in order to service clients. So it’s operations and data uploads and account investigation and that kind of stuff in there. But our organization is pretty interesting still, because we don’t have sales. So again, we’re like, really, like, I mean, people would like kill for this, right? But we’re only dealing with the inbound volume, we still have an amazing coach network. And then we do have, you know, a marketing team now. So we do have inbound leads coming in from them, too. But it’s interesting, because our clients success team, they deal with every single stage, right? So it’s everyone from a lead all the way to retaining and servicing that client. And so we have kind of this internal mantra of like, we don’t sell we serve. And so if somebody’s not ready to use the product, like, there’s no hard sales pitch, well, let me get so and so on the phone, like, let’s work through this. And so, I don’t know, I think that served us pretty well in the long run, because the product itself, you can’t push on people. It’s deals with big change management in companies that deals with how they’re managing their business and their teams. And so I think it served us well. Hmm.
Adil Saleh 9:21
Very interesting, like, talking about marketing. It’s more of an analogue of sales, and they are geared more towards bringing inbound leads into the onboarding for client success. And then you have three different segments or division of based on the skill set based on the customer segmentation. So I was curious, like, how do you guys basically, you know, especially in the SMB, and midmarket, she had a lot of customers hear how you guys are incorporating systems smart systems to make sure your customer lifetime value gets on increases like specifically on on the expensive side, what kind of technologies have you incorporated? And what are the tactics or maybe playbooks or best practices that you have, you have introduced?
Christine Watts 10:08
One thing I’m very excited about implementing right now is Gainsight. So we really haven’t had a specific client success tool that we use to date. So we’ve, we’ve done a lot around, hey, automation, right? We don’t, we have 7000 plus companies using the platform, but only six people that are really focused on account management. So we don’t have that one to one white glove service, right, where that person only owns 20 accounts or whatever it is. So automation is very much our friend in that way in terms of like, hey, who should we reach out to? How can we engage? And so that’s been through a variety of tools, whether it’s intercom or we have Domo for data analytics, and so we’re getting slack notifications push to us through there, whatever it is. So I’m very excited for Gainsight to kind of be that all in one client resource hub, because then each person that’s really like a CSM can say, hey, here’s my portfolio of MRR under management. And here’s how I’m driving expansion. And I have those CTAs, and no one accounts are going read and just like all of that kind of basic, hadn’t implemented yet.
Adil Saleh 11:19
Yes, absolutely. You’re you’re trying to stay on top of all the data that indicates the customer journey, where they’re at and how you can serve them better. So for that you may need with onboarding many dedicated customer success manager that has certain book of businesses like maybe 30, 50 40, depending on on the size and operation, and you would need it up clean to make sure before well, before you implement a platform like Gainsight, you have all those data points pretty much sorted within your system, like safe segment, and pretty sure whatever you’re using for product usage, it becomes really critical there for the product usage, platform usage in your case. So now we’ll talk more about how hard easy is it to implement a platform against we’ve spoken to a lot of CSCs bigger, smaller midsize. And I don’t recall anyone coming up against there were so many tangle widely, Federalist clan had find success, a lot of these. So this can be a burgeoning case. And it’s, you can be as open as you want to.
Christine Watts 12:25
Yeah, I mean, we’re, we’re right in the middle of implementation right now. Right, and it’s definitely a process. And one where I’m, I’m very used to we purchase a tool, I’m gonna get in there and tinker around and see what’s happening and set it up myself. And so for them, like, there’s pros and cons, right? The Pro is you’re getting everything, so extremely customized to exactly what you need. And we’re not physically doing the work of like, setting it up. So we have like a pretty high level of competence that like this is going to be what we need it to be. And then the con is the time, right, like so they have to learn our business, they have to understand like what things they’re implementing, they have to work with our data team to your point and make sure that, hey, all of the information is correct in here, and we’re seeing what we need to see. So, man, we’ve probably been in it about six weeks. And we definitely have like six weeks left, I would say. But every conversation with them has been I can’t remember what they call their client success person. That’s I think it’s a client success architect or something like that, where whenever we come up with like, hey, we think we want to do this, they asked us what our business and client success goals were upfront. And so they’re able to reference back and say, hey, well, I’ve worked with these kinds of clients. And here’s what they’ve done in the past round this or that. And so, having that level of expertise to speak into it has also been a big bro. So I very much appreciate the level of care that they give, even if I’m like, man, we’re already paying for this, and I’m still not in it yet. That’s the part that kind of hurts, but I have very high hopes and expectations for the next six weeks.
Taylor Kenerson 14:12
And it’s also a little bit, it’s a little bit like anything, you know, you sometimes you have to build a really strong foundation. And and oftentimes that takes, it takes time. And obviously, you know, that’s the one thing that we that we all you know, can’t buy and don’t have an infinite amount of but when you do it, you know, right and properly and you actually set those building blocks like how they should be and you don’t rush through it, then you just see enormous exponential value. And that’s I think, like the really positive aspects.
Adil Saleh 14:40
Yeah. And also when it comes to data integration, when it comes to working with technical things, there are lots of dependencies, you know, you got to make sure you have the right systems, data points and right people with the right skill set on on hand to be able to communicate and get all the information out. Translated and incorporated into the system to be able for that system to be to be to work for you. So and that is why these these platforms become complicated, not sure what CRM you’re using, when it comes to Salesforce, it’s very, very complicated. Specifically for those custom data points, objects that people have, like a lot of sales teams have inside. And when you go on and try to integrate a platform like game side, it becomes very, very complicated you need on your team, someone very, very technical that understands all the info side of it. And yeah, there’s, it takes time, I’m so glad that it’s got like six months. Lots of the lots of, you know, customers that they have, like inside of enterprise customer that take like six months, six to eight months to, you know, just onboard them with a with all, you know, all the data points and everything.
Christine Watts 15:51
Yeah, I don’t think my patience would be that high. But what we did do is we didn’t, we were looking for our product analytics tool at the same time, too. And so we ended up going with the Gainsight PX as well. So they’re actually already in there and using it and setting up reports and things like that. Because for them, it’s like, hey, we need to connect to our platform. And then, like, there’s not a lot else, there’s like a little bit of data dependency, and they’ll get more when the CES side is in there too. But that’s, that’s been helpful to make sure like, hey, we have featured tagging and tracking, like, we want to be able to see that how that impacts client health. And so having both tools in one I’m very hopeful will be like a very high reward at the end.
Adil Saleh 16:37
Absolutely, I hope so. So post sales journey, have a bunch of folks working with you on a different set of book of businesses. And do you think after incorporating to dedicated to see his team that posts his journey? Would you need to have like draw your team or maybe have some strategic decisions across, you know, client customer assignments or account assignments to different team members? What kind of plans you have inside?
Christine Watts 17:03
Yeah, I mean, that’s something we’re really thinking about right now, especially since like, like I said earlier, our ratio is way off, right? Like six to about 7000. Companies doesn’t really make much sense. And so we’re thinking a lot about how, how many touches do our clients really need, right? Like, I don’t think we’re the kind of business that necessarily every single person needs a QBR. So we’re not going to like go that route in overkill our clients with all of these calls that they don’t really need or want. But at the same time, you know, we probably could have somebody that’s managing a certain amount. So we’re thinking about it in terms of our product, like I said, is business management. And so people really run on all of these types of types of business operating systems. So our segmentations are typically by that, and that our platform is pretty customizable, too. So people are running on the entrepreneur operating system, we have specific CSMs that know and understand, like, Hey, here’s what these clients are going through, or if they’re coached versus not coached clients, like I said, we have that whole coaching network, like, those two types of clients work very differently and are going to be facing different problems as they’re implementing something. So that’s how we’re segmenting right now. And then, in the future, it may be like, Hey, here’s high growth opportunities, where people are just like, expanding and adding users like crazy, or specific industry segmentations. Because again, that’s another way where people wouldn’t use the product in highly specific ways. So those are ways that we’ll be looking to segment the future.
Adil Saleh 18:37
Got it Got it. So talking about the US platforms, it is humanly impossible to serve all kinds of business operations, like they’re different industries, that energy that oil and gas, there’s, you know, financial sector is there’s their banks and all of those. So how do you see yourself on a on a longer term view? At a scale? Like what kind of tools are these tools that you have inside your platform? What are the most on demand tools? When it comes to you thinking of your team serving, like 60,000 paid customers with that, you know, big team? And what kind of foreign demand tools? Did you use stick for long term?
Christine Watts 19:16
Yeah, I mean, it’s a great question. Because if you think about it, so Ninety is specifically focused on how do you work on your business, not in your business. So all of those different industries are going to have way different compliance practices and like operations and whatever it is across the board, but what standard for an SMB, how you build your vision, how do you create an organizational structure? How do you run your meetings? How are those things cascaded across the organization? How are you doing goal setting performance management? So those were really like the, the key competencies that we have within 90 that are really important for every company has those things, right? And so each business operating system and Maybe something’s different, maybe a word is different on a company vision, maybe the layout is a little bit different with how you have your core values versus your purpose, passion cause or your marketing strategy. But the purpose behind the page is the same like on your vision, you need to communicate who you are, where you’re going to be, where you’re going 10 years from now, and then how you’re going to get there. And so how a company wants to do that they have complete flexibility to do that within the platform. And it’s really just about our our main vision is creating tools that are do have that layer of consistency as you go across industries and company sizes and things like that.
Adil Saleh 20:42
Hmm. Great. I love that you you said kind of on a high level to make sure everybody understands. Appreciate that. So now, to be able to see this at that scale. Do you are you guys planning on working with some sort of partners, I’m sure. But some of the marketing operations, you would need marketing partners with some sort of, you know, training and management, you would need access to LMS, like big LMS big players, there are some came up on this podcast as well. So how, what kind of partnership, strategic partnership decisions that you have on the table for you guys to make, you can speak it out loud, so people can listen, and you don’t have any sense of collaboration, they feel they can reach out to you and second, on the team, like how do you guys see, to form a team and strategic team to make sure you decrease the lifetime value of the customer, as well as you make sure you retain and expand them over time over years and towards the net revenue retention and valuation of the business as a whole? So these are the people on the partnerships.
Christine Watts 21:41
Yeah, we actually have a full partnerships team and their main focus or operate as, as the business coaches out there, like how are we ensuring that they can get the most out of their pot out of the platform so that their clients will want to keep using it. So they’ll we keep wanting to refer in those sort of things. And we’ve since expanded to your point of saying, hey, these, there’s these bigger coaching organizations that we can be a part of. And so that partnership team is going after those sorts of things we’re looking at, like, Yo organizations, and these specific peer groups, even our clients come to us and say, Hey, I’m in this, like, industry specific, hey, real estate Entrepreneurs Organization, like, do you want to be a part of this? Like, I’m already referring it to people. And so we’re looking for those kinds of opportunities to get involved. And then, I mean, even today, we we have a license agreement with EOS worldwide so that we’re a licensed provider of an EOS platform. And then even organizations like international franchise Association’s things like that. So we’re very focused on developing those partners and figuring out, hey, if there’s a large group of people that want to use 90 in a specific way, how can we create a template to make sure they can use it without having to like, custom configure every page and need that, you know, gain site fix weak design time, like, Hey, you can just plug and play and come right in, because we already know who you are and where you came from.
Adil Saleh 23:16
Right, making sure you have SKU have standardized based on the based on knowing the patterns and experiences. And this can have a really seamless experience for anybody in that industry, then so on the people side, like how do you think growing your team going forward kind of roles you have open? If you have any? What kind of skill set would you require for people to join your team, or any role at 90. So people that that are pretty much looking forward to change they have new or better opportunity they can they can definitely listen to this episode.
Christine Watts 23:51
Yeah, I would say our team is doubling this year specifically in find success, and then also across our organization as a whole. So if you want to check out our careers page, it is ninety.io/careers
. On the CF side in particular, I know at least one a quarter we’re looking to hire a client success manager, onboarding specialist and then a live support team member. So all of those are really just those those client facing arms that we’re we’re really interested in growing and developing. We hire on very specific, like sets of criteria. So we’re super focused on our core values. And that’s just, you know, who we are in terms of like, hey, we have this vision and we need to make sure everybody’s coming along for the ride. And then we also have kind of a, who we are as a brand as 90 how we portray ourselves to people. So just being inquisitive, accountable, approachable. You know, those sort of things that we would also look for in an interview and also coach against as like people are in conversation, and we’re like, Hey, here’s what you could have been could have gone and give them that feedback that can be like very targeted around windows specific areas.
Adil Saleh 25:06
Love that you folks listening. You can join Christine, just as humble as she is. She’s not that that humble, she’ll be very, very strict that make sure you listen to what she says like about messaging, branding and values. No company, no tech business at that scale can ever compromise on these. So the better you fit in. So on the client side is that remote roll are mostly on a concept.
Christine Watts 25:32
Yeah, yeah, we’re fully remote company. We were looking at office space, man, probably like right before COVID hit, we’re gonna sign a lease. And then when that happened, we’re like, listen, we’ve always been remote. We can hire top talent across the country across the world. We’re gonna go forward with that. So now we’re I mean, in every time zone in the US, and then I know we have a couple of people globally as well. So we love remote. Obviously, that makes culture hard. But we’re really intentional about it. And really intentional about when we meet and how we meet. So always developing new thoughts around that. Love to know that
Adil Saleh 26:13
I really appreciate your time today with us, Christine, I still recall you. You were kind of unavailable back into bonds, and then you reached back. Is that right? Is you the same lady?
Christine Watts 26:24
Yes. Yeah, that was me. We so the 90 sign behind me, we are going through a big rebrand kind of business restructure. I was leading the whole charging process. So I was very tied up for a couple months there.
Taylor Kenerson 26:36
On another On another note, maybe we’ll have to touch back in a couple months. And we’ll have to do maybe a short little podcast and like what it takes to rebrand and developing. You know that out we could get into the nitty gritty details there. I know. I know. We have some praise. Yeah, we have some. We definitely have some audience. I would look forward to that kind of a Creative Conversation on what that looks like. This makes me Awesome.
Thank you so much, Christine. We really appreciate you and we’ll touch back. And we’ll touch back with the episode as soon as we’re ready to push it live. Thank you so much. Yes.
Adil Saleh 27:16
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 in another guest on the stage with some concrete tips on how to operate better as a Customer Success leader and how you can empower engagements with some building some meaningful relationships. We qualify people for the episode just to make sure we bring the value to the listeners. Do reach us out if you want to refer CS leader. Until next time, goodbye and have a good rest of your day.