Brian Nicholls 0:01
When you’re running a team like ours, with as many customers we’re fortunate enough to handle you’re not gonna be able to get to everything in one day. And so you really have to prioritize what’s important.
Taylor Kenerson 0:13
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 0:28
Hey, greetings, everybody. This is Adil from Hyperengage podcast. My co-host Taylor Kenerson, a very special guest. Brian. He’s currently a VP of Customer Success and revenue operations at RoadSync with his reemerging platform, in the logistics industry, they’re helping with payments, and you know, a lot of Finance, Financial Services solutions that they have. Thank you very much, Brian, for taking the time.
Brian Nicholls 0:56
Thank you for having me.
Adil Saleh 0:59
Cool. We also know that you prior to this, you had a two years VP level experience and user IQ that is also sort of a customer success platform for sales operations. And we’ll talk more about that too. So starting out, Brian, you someone started with, with a career mostly not towards so much core towards customer facing? How do you transition yourself into stumbling upon, you know, tech companies like UserIQ, like now, RoadSync and what was your journey? What was your motivation and thought process at that time?
Brian Nicholls 1:35
Yeah. So I have always been in some sort of role that is customer facing and helps the customer, I started way back when with Progressive Insurance, helping customers who had been in auto accidents, and one of the most difficult things to go through. And that really piqued my interest, from a mentality standpoint of, you know, customer success. And at that time, when I was a claims specialist, we operate to help further our customers, business or in that case, you know, their personal life by getting them to a point where they might not been able to have gotten without our without our assistance. And I think that’s sort of the Northstar that’s gotten me throughout my career, and why I’m so interested in customer success is the opportunity to go in and to impact or benefit individuals and or businesses that hopefully, are able to run a little bit better operate a little bit better, because of the impact that my company, my team or myself has had them. And so that’s that’s sort of got to me, it was drilled into me at profit recovery partners. I had some great managers and leaders there. They’re kind of, they’re the ones that really built the core of who I am and kind of the way I think about customer success. So
Taylor Kenerson 3:03
Can you dive a bit into that? Brian, like, what are some of those, like fundamentals that you learned super early on that really shaped how you think,
Brian Nicholls 3:13
yeah, so our CEO, at Profit Recovery Partners, Don Steiner, he was, he was just a visionary and a guy that always felt and been imparted on us to do right by the customer. One of his most popular sayings, and I tell my team, all that, I’ll say this all the time, is “what we say is hearsay, we being the company, what the customer says gold”, and he lived by that. And so the experiences I lived on, I got to live under him, as well as manager, Mike Darren, who I was with for 6, 7, 8 years, something like that. They just always thought of the customer first. Whether it would be Hey, you know, how would the customer Look at this? And how can we set up a program to make it better through them? You know, it’s the complete opposite side, where inevitably, when you’re handling customers, you’re gonna make mistakes. And so, you know, how do we figure out the best way to handle it, you know, that’s going to make the customer not necessarily happy. But understanding, right? We can’t always make the customer happy. We can’t always issue refunds. But we can help the customer understand why it happened. And so for seven and a half, I think the seven and a half, eight years, it was just imprinted on on me by that organization. And it had a great impact. And still I use many of the lessons that they they taught me today.
Taylor Kenerson 4:45 I’m really glad you mentioned that it’s one thing to you know, have ideas circling around driving value toward customers, but do you actually make every single one of your decisions with that perspective in mind? Like it’s not I’d always about compromising with the customer, because you can’t always every single time, but you can create that dialogue in that relationship and that trust where you can have those transparent conversations and figure out what the best solution would be that benefits them in the best way. I’m really glad. Also, you touched on, you know, your team. So I’m really curious how you translate these principles and the fundamentals that you learned to now your team.
Brian Nicholls 5:25
So I think it’s done, really in two ways. One, because I’m in love with small organizations. This is not meant to be disrespectful to the big organizations, but I will feel I feel like my career is gonna be based in small and medium sized organizations. But in this case, like, I, as a leader, I kind of have to lead by example, right. And so there’s sacrifices that we have to make there’s, you know, some scalable items, some non scalable items that you have to do for your, for your customers, but it’s at the end of the day, all about making them want to use your product more to grow with you to buy the other pieces. So. So that’s, that’s one way to do it. But then the second way to do is, is to try to get the team members, whether it’s through me or through, you know, in the store, at least, some of the other leaders on the team to understand the benefits that will come out of it for them. And I think it’s an OK conversation to have with CSMs and CS teams is, hey, look, if we do this, right, for the customer, here, the benefits that you’re going to get, right, if if we’re able to drive value for the customer, they’re gonna get, you’re gonna want to do more business with us, we’re gonna want to renew, they might want to expand, and the end of day that’s gonna affect your pocketbook, which could be considered selfish in a way. But I think it’s a language that speaks to everybody, right? We all want to be comfortable, we all want to do well, and we all want to be paid, paid fairly for what we’re doing. So I think, tying that all all together, where it says, hey, if, if we do this, right, for the customer, it’s gonna be right for your organization. It’s gonna be right for you. And it’s just all going to go in one big circle. So that everyone is, is is winning.
Adil Saleh 7:17
Yeah, absolutely. It’s all about, you know, it’s all about winning. And in the smaller businesses, startups, as you mentioned, it’s not only about motivation, it’s about inspiring people. It’s about going first, it’s about making impact first and leading by example. It’s more about an in smaller businesses, you’ll have like, close knit family that you’re working on be like a team of CSMs bunch of CSM that you’re working with your other partners and the leadership board, they always look up to you like you are more noticeable in a smaller organization as compared to you are a tiny little part of something very big. So not to disrespect, something related to like enterprise businesses and all but it’s, it’s just that on you, as an individual, as a professional, you do get to learn a whole lot more things, as compared to in a bigger organization, you have all things happening in a 360 view in front of you. And you have the ability to make the scenes at a higher level on daily basis critical decisions, having difficult conversations. So talking about roads, saying We talk to leadership and motive they’re more towards like fleet management for, you know, trucking, so you have a lot of customers in the trucking industry as well. So starting up, I’m assuming that you have more, more a few customer segment from mid market to enterprise. How did you form the team? And how big is that team by the way? Your your post sales team or just on the success side? And how you guys have segmented your customer base, like the install base, and then we’ll talk about your operations.
Brian Nicholls 8:50
Yeah, and my my apologies my dogs in the background barking whether either good or bad things about working from home after the pandemic.
Taylor Kenerson 8:59
We love. They’re always welcome
Brian Nicholls 9:02
Hopefully the viewers, as well. So I think it’s a great question. So So RoadSync really serves to two markets. One is warehouses that are transporting all kinds of of items, but primarily in our case, foods, food is our is our big focus on the second market is the tone repair market. So you can have anybody from large, you know, 7, 8, 9, 10 location, multi state organizations, all the way down to the one location that is owned by you know, efficiently mom and pop shop and all very, very great businesses. And so we we have built we have gone through somewhat of an evolution I think over the last year or two with the CS team and kind of where we started was when you look at our customer base, you know, to your point there are some that are, are really, really big and some that are smaller. And so we initially had the CS team handling each different type of customer in the same way. And what we realized was, it’s very hard to scale when you’re given the same onboarding process and the same attention to, you know, the the one person shot versus the multistage shot. So in today’s world, we have, we have one director, Jonathan, who is who is awesome, and we have a really great team that’s been assembled, one to breed CSMs, and then one RevOps analyst who was just incredible at what what he does, he sees that he sees things that that I just no one else sees. And so it’s a really, it’s a really good team. The way we’ve kind of looked at this is tearing Arca customers, right, and ensuring that we are using our time wisely is the one thing that is equal to everybody, right? It’s a it’s a finite resource, we all have 24 hours in a day. And so, and that work, realistically, you have eight hours, maybe nine, maybe sometimes 10, but we don’t like to get into that, right, we’re certainly not going to force any of our team members to be there at 9, 10 hours a day. So realistically, you have eight hours in a day. And so you have to select what you’re going to use that eight hours in a day to do. And so that’s, I think the second thing and I, I learned this more so in my journey, particularly over the last six months is the idea of prioritization. And particularly when you’re running a team like ours, with as many customers we’re fortunate enough to handle, you’re not gonna be able to get to everything in one day. And so you really have to prioritize what’s important. And in that case, for us, it’s right now it’s getting people on board, right, and sales does a great job of signing up the team, or sign up a new customer, we want to get them on board and in transacting, right, because that helps them with their business. But selfishly, obviously helps us with our business. So we’ve sort of built a team around this idea of of tears, the most experienced, team members are handling the bigger and midsize customer and then the ones that are still learning but coming up very fast, are handling, you know, the smaller tiered customers. And then the focus right now for us is onboarding, we have a great support team. So we’re, we’re fortunate in a lot of ways, I know that one of the things I read all the time, LinkedIn is support is not success. And I agree with that all those things, success gets into support a lot more than we’d like to even even rotating, which is fine. But we have a great support team. So it allows us to prioritize calls with our customers questions with our customers, getting them up and running. And then, you know, once you’ve earned kind of their business, their trust, teller, you kind of alluded to it earlier talking about other additional features in the application. But, you know, I’ll go down one quick rabbit hole, you know, for the for the audience, you know, people that have this idea that, you know, CS and sales should be separate. I will, I will argue that another way on that with a caveat is I think that customer success, team members and and one of the things that I look forward to I’m sorry, if I’m jumping ahead here, one of the things I look for is the ability to sell is not the right word, but to show value to customers when value needs to be shown. And realistically, one has to be comfortable in talking and asking questions to customers about hey, we have, you know, what would this help you? Or what are you experiencing over here? And it’s okay to ask those questions. Yeah, and, and not to do it in a, you know, quote, unquote, you know, 20 years ago, car sales, some type of way you think your guns flashing. So I think you have to be comfortable in doing that. And you have to prioritize that within your team about how much time within that eight hour day, you want to research, ask and ultimately hopefully, gain additional features that benefit your customer and then obviously come back and benefit you.
Adil Saleh 14:34
Interesting, interesting. So you talked about making sure you have the right teams behind it like smart people taking care of your bigger customers and you know, some people that that are just joining, joining the movement they’re learning, you’re just making sure that they have good books of business of smaller low hanging fruit. So now I’m more interested in how you are growing the smaller customers. Of course the lifetime value and how you making sure at the same In time, they will serve the perceived value of the soonest and, and then they are consistently using the platform. So you talked about prioritizing his role. I know that this can be challenging when you have like, one CSM has like 30 books to take care of 30 accounts that are not paying too much versus, you know, a couple that are paying too much and how you guys centralize those? I can say a lot of companies, tech companies, they do data houses, or maybe data analytics tools that they use. Is there any technology that you’ve incorporated to make it a success? And how you make customers the center of it? At all times beat a small customer beat a midsize or enterprise customer? customer centricity? I would love to, for you to touch on that, too.
Brian Nicholls 15:44
Yeah, I’m so sorry. Just to clarify, are you asking specifically just how do we handle the small customers or you want to kind of touch on
Adil Saleh 15:53
how you drove basically, that’s how you unlock growth from install base, be it small, and then making them bigger retain, how you monitoring their data points, they’re choosing that information, and you’re staying on top of it. And based on that you’re driving cadences, and if needed, QBRs, to take the right information.
Brian Nicholls 16:12
Okay, gotcha. So one way, you know, like a lot of organizations, we have a pretty robust tech stack that we have tracking on on our site to understand where our customers are going, we use a software that captures basically all the transactional data that runs through road sync. And we can slice and dice that by kind of however, we want daily reports. You know, aggregated reports, open invoices, I mean, you kind of name it, right. And I can go into this, the system and get it. And so we have daily reports, high level reports delivered to us, it’s called the flash report, done by our finance group. And they do a great job of highlighting what’s working and, and you know, what needs to be paid attention to, I also think that we’ve come a long way in our organization about not being too reactive to daily numbers. Because, in my opinion, like, if you’re reactive to bail, you’re always gonna be changing for changing sake. And it’s hard to run a business on that, right. Like, if you if a big customer goes down day or a week doesn’t mean something, maybe if they go down for a month or two, yeah, that has more, I think that’s more indicative of something that needs to be addressed. So definitely having the understanding from a tech stack standpoint, there’s some great tools out there both that cost a good amount of money, but also that you can get when you’re young in a startup world for little cost, and a lot of these companies nowadays will let you try it out for 30, 60 days. So definitely a tech stack helps. We do we don’t have a mandate in terms of you have to do a quarterly review every quarter. We do have certain customers, particularly the enterprise side that likes the monthly reporting. And so we have, I’ll say about 50% automated that process, there’s still some things that need to go into data points that need to be pulled in. And so they they see their reporting on a on a monthly basis. And some of our customers want to meet with us every six months. So it really just varies upon the customer. I guess my my takeaway, my suggestion for the the audience here would be that one size doesn’t necessarily fit all. I remember going back into profit recovery partners, we we did have a mandate, a company mandate to meet with the customer every quarter. And some of the feedback we got was, hey, you know what, this is great. But I don’t need to meet with you every quarter, I want to meet with you every six months. Or some of it was hey, I need to meet more often monthly, right? And so you kind of have to be open to plan that to plan that with your customer. But also at the same time figure out as best you can how much of the same data you can put into your reporting to your customers. That way, you’re not having to go and create a whole bunch of different documents. So we do use the the idea of a business review. But I wouldn’t call it quarterly I would call it customer requested. And maybe that’s not the right word, but just kind of customer customer directed. So the tech stack is big, obviously talking-to-the-customers big. And then I think the last thing is we have a really dynamic product team who is willing to go and talk to our customers. And you know, it’s not for me to judge other organizations. And what they’re product teams do. But I think I do think it’s important to have at least one product individual hear feedback from the customers mouth? Directly. Absolutely. And the reason for that is because like, you know, Taylor could give me feedback as my customer, and I can translate it, Adil to you. And what you hear me say is, is different than what Taylor say? Or you as the product expert might have a question, it gets lost in translation, do you think that yes, there’s a lost lost in translation. So I think having a product team, we have multiple on our team, or you know, depending on the size of organization, at least one person, it’s in the product understands the product, better than anybody else, having them comfortable talking to customers, and then to see us practitioners, we should be comfortable and encourage our product teams to talk to the customers. I’ve seen before I’ve heard before, and I’ve I’ve done it probably myself, where it’s like, hey, that no, that’s that’s my customer like, like, you know, you don’t talk to him, I talk to them. That’s the way to go. Right? We were a team. Customer Success is not just based in one departments to help the entire company. And so you know, if I can apply or anybody on the team can get help from a product colleague to go talk to these customers, for more than welcome back.
Adil Saleh 21:28 Yeah, a lot of tech companies that I know, they have product owners, product managers, they directly talk to customers once every month, if there are some feature updates, they go talk to talk to them about the feature, if they want to any sort of enhancement, any kind of feedback that they want to receive to be able to ship the product in a better way, the better experience. So it’s all about the product, when it comes to a product based business. At the end of the day, the product is the center of everything, if that is working good, you’re able to deliver the value, you’re able to build the relationship. It’s not just about you know, having the customer facing team talking about and building relationship but not you know, for for someone that has made a transaction to the sales revenue initially for the product that is actually going to do something solve their problem into the business operations. And that’s not been served. So it is at the end of the day, and the product is business in a tech business. It’s more about who are the people that are taking decisions on the product and how they are getting the information is super important. A lot of teams that we we also know that they have kind of technical onboarding managers, or maybe kind of a solution architects of source to their technical, technical knowledge to gather information and put it to the product team. That works. But in case, as you mentioned, you need product owners or product managers to talk directly to the customer. So now talking about this journey that you explain. And also the technology, we preach too much about investing in data, making sure you have a unified or centralized place where your customer facing team, specifically customer success team has all the data points has all the information in a more unified place, just like a source of truth for CSMs. So how does that play out in your organization?
Brian Nicholls 23:10 Right now, it hasn’t manifested itself, probably as completely or wholly as other organizations, we still have to go two to three, probably three or four different places sometimes to get to get information. And I think the takeaway here again, it comes back to I think, what’s best for your organization, it really depends on who the customer base is, and kind of how you want to run it. And so if it’s critical for your organization, your CS team to have you know, all your data in one place, then app investing in one of those tools is is absolutely the way to go. For us right now we’ve been able to have success without that doesn’t mean that necessarily, that’ll be the case moving forward as we evolve. And so it kind of comes back to, you know, figuring out what’s best for you and your team and executing from from there.
Taylor Kenerson 24:13
I love and you you also touched on that a bit, Brian, previously with the QBRs and reshaping your perspective on the reviews just because every other business mostly takes their, you know, mid, you know, enterprise customer, customers and have these quarterly business reviews doesn’t mean that you have to, you know, as an organization, if that’s not what works with your clients and with their needs. And I think that goes back to the original theory that you know, one of your your fundamentals is are you actually providing value to the client? And it’s actually looking at every single thing you do as a company to serve value and is in looking at it and saying, is this actually providing value or is this just generating a time waste and then that turns into, you know, churn and such like that, but just before we wrap, I would love if you could dive a little bit into you know, the team and how you go about hiring something, maybe what you look for, and people that you want on your team. And also, if you have any openings, you could dive into that as well.
Brian Nicholls 25:17
Sure. So, I think, when you’re looking at, you know, a customer success role, I think the the first thing I’ve noticed is that the most successful candidates don’t necessarily have to have a background in customer success, or what you would call legacy customer success, right? If you think about your background, and you have helped, or interacted or done anything with another individual that you consider a customer, I think the best example I have is school teachers. I mean, talk about a tough CS job. Right? When you look at it, I mean, your customers are all, you know, they’re they can be difficult. They don’t necessarily are professional all the time, particularly you talk about elementary, and I have an eight and six year old, and I can only imagine how they are at school sometimes, right? So, you know, teachers are great examples. But but doesn’t, it doesn’t have to stop there. So, you know, don’t, if you’re trying to get in customer success, and you’re fearful of oh, I don’t have that legacy, Customer Success background, don’t let that stop you figure out how you’ve helped others before and translate that into a story when you’re when you’re talking to someone or when you’re interviewing someone. The two key characteristics I look for that I found the best CSMs and eventually have gone on to be great leaders, I could I could name some names, if you want to know, send me a LinkedIn message, I’m happy to share with you for recommendation standpoint, but they have really, two, two main things, they have a lot of things underneath this. But there’s there’s two main things and they both start with the C. One is curiosity. And the second one is confidence. The first one, you know, curiosity to want to understand a customer’s challenges to understand why they signed up with us for a particular product, and to understand how they can drive more value for them going forward. So having that curiosity, from from, you know, asking direct questions to the customer to you know, knowing that your customer is a publicly traded organization, they do a quarterly earnings call to go figure out what you can learn from an earnings call. You know, I think that is very important. The second thing is confidence. And again, sort of alluding to what I talked about earlier, when you’re talking to the customer, it’s great to have curiosity. But if you don’t have the confidence to ask the proper questions, if you don’t have the confidence to try to figure out that additional value. And maybe most importantly, of all, that if you don’t have the confidence on to tell your customer exactly what they need to hear to help make a decision. You know, I it’s gonna be hard for you to be a CSM. I read a great post yesterday, that said, you know, Customer Success is not the happiness department. And I agree with that, like, we want to make our customers happy. But it’s not like all all we do and there’s sometimes we get to be on a call or Zoom with a customer. And you have to say, No, we can’t do that. No, we won’t do that. But it takes a very confident person to stand up and say, No, we won’t know we can’t, we messed up. And here’s why. And it’s kind of go through that stay calm. Sometimes customers, just one of them. We’ve all you know, if you’re in CS, you’ve been on those, those calls those zooms where the customer just wants to scream. And that’s and that’s fine. And so curiosity and confidence for me, are really two things that I try to drill on when I’m interviewing someone. And it’s not it’s not direct over questions. Hey, Taylor, are you curious? Right, it’s more. Tell me about a time that you had a situation with a customer or somebody that you didn’t understand, and how did you go about understanding that? What questions do you ask? And just, I care more about your thought process there than anything else? The latter part of your question is we don’t have any openings in CS right now. I know we’re looking for a product manager, which kind of gets out of Remo today and a few other roles. But we’ve got a fantastic team right now. And you know, certainly if we open up roles, you can always go check out at the RoadSync website, but right now we’re we don’t have any We unfortunately have any CS roles.
Taylor Kenerson 29:49
Love that. Brian. I think that was my so you know, you dropped a lot of really important nuggets at the end and I love the two you should you should make a little thing about that the two C’s to hiring your CS team, something like that and do a little skit, but it’s also just to touch on your point about, if you don’t have that previous CS experience, don’t count yourself out. You can reshape the fundamentals of what it takes to be a great CS leader into daily life, just like you said that school teachers, how about parents, you know, you’re, you’re, you’re a CSM, in a way you’re trying to make your clients happy all the time, or else you’re gonna get kicking and screaming. So it’s a different type of providing value and care. But I think that’s a really important point to make. Brian, we can’t thank you enough. We really, really are so happy to have you on. And yeah, well, we’ll be in touch.
Brian Nicholls 30:42
Thank you both.
Adil Saleh 30:43
Thank you very much for your time, Brian have a good rest of the day. Thank you.
Thank you so very much for staying with us on the episode. Please leave your feedback at email@example.com
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