Jenelle Friday 0:01
Traditionally, organizations make more money on renewals and customer upsells upgrades than they do on net new logos. So if we really are going to evaluate how the company is going to be run, if we don’t see customer success as our growth engine, then that’s a failure.
Taylor Kenerson 0:17
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 0:36
Hey, greetings, everybody. This is Adil. I have Taylor Kenerson, with me, thank you very much for listening to our episode. We are here with for VP of Customer Success at Forecastable, Jenelle. Thank you very much for taking the time.
Jenelle Friday 0:50
Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.
Adil Saleh 0:53
Cool. Great. So Jenelle, talking to a lot of CS leaders, even some of the C suite executives. In the past we have, we have, we’ve had so many different stories, like a lot of them came from different backgrounds that they stumbled upon customer success tip belt, okay, this is good. Working Hands on really close to customers living with their dreams, they go along with their goals, it’s our own thing. And this is something we that’s, that’s something that we need to pursue, what was your story, starting up as a CFO back from the Adobe days? And then, you know, going into the startup world and working at platform like forecastable? Like how does that process? Drive that, you know, entire decision making process was?
Jenelle Friday 1:44
Yeah. So I actually, my intentions in life was to sing opera, I went to college, to sing opera. And that didn’t work out. I I’m the one who was always the one on the back row in the choir section. And my dad would stay to the back of the auditorium. He’s like, I can still hear you. Like, I was a projector. very competent. And I got in that world and just decided I hated the drama. I hated the backstabbing, I hated that. I’ll do anything to get the lead part. I just love to say and that was kind of a thing. And so I realized very quickly, that was not the right choice for me. And I stumbled into office management because I’m really good at calendaring, email management, I’m very Monica Geller organized and clean, like, you know, so just was a good fit. So I did that for a while and end up being like an executive assistant to a couple of company owners. And one of those company owners that I ended up working in the field with our majority clients are our top 1% earners. And realized very quickly that that’s what I was supposed to be doing in life was working with people helping manage those relationships. And then I got a very clear, clean break, he brought on a new company owner. And we just did not get along very well. And my sister was here in Colorado, I have to I’ve tuned out now three nephews, and I didn’t want to be a distant card in the mail for holidays and birthdays. And you know, so I’m at every baseball game, I’m an every football game, I take them to school three times, or you know, in the week during the week. So I moved here I moved to Colorado to be a full time Aunt and started at a company called Agility Recovery, their disaster recovery company and started as an SDR had to prove myself. So I started as an SDR set a couple company records, because I was I’m naturally good at selling. And I had an offer to become an AE and make a lot of money or become their very first CS hire. And I remember sitting on the front porch of this old house, we used to live out with my mom on the phone going Mom, I want to make a lot of money. I’ve never made a lot of money that’s really enticing, right. And then there’s this, there’s this job that like they’re still trying to work out the details. And I don’t have a job description yet. And there’s no bonus structure com structure yet just to be solid. And, you know, as tempting as the money was, I knew in my gut that the customer success manager position was where I needed to be. And so I excelled very quickly in that role. We built out the strategic Enterprise team, I was the first part of that team. And it’s just kind of gone from there I left to be a conversant and kind of helped manage some KPIs that they were struggling with, then landed at Adobe and that was for me, really the pivotal moment getting into Adobe in their enterprise level strategic accounts, and meeting all of these incredible people in business. So I was managing higher ed one year so I’m still very good friends with my contact at Georgetown. University of Washington was very near to my heart because I always wanted to go there for college right just found myself in conversations with some chief marketing officers and some Chief Chief offering operator officers that really just helped my skill set develop in a very quick amount of time. And ultimately decided that Adobe, big corporate wasn’t my gig. And along the way, just so happened that one of my account executives, that that I got along really well, Alex buckles, who was now my CEO and co founder of Forecastable. On one of our trips together, he was building out this buyer map, and he was doing it Lucid Chart. And I’m like, What are you doing? He’s like, Oh, I do these for accounts, it just helps me get visual. And he gained so much momentum from that, that he decided to start up Forecastable. And in an Uber ride on the way to a restaurant, he’s like, when I’m ready, you’re my only choice for customer success. He’s like, I’ve never worked with anyone that cares for people and throws themselves into their work with people the way that you do and truly care. And, and I was so taken aback by that, that I’m like, oh, yeah, well, we’ll we’ll talk about it when that happened. It was like a year later, right? He’s like, would you come on as an advisor until I can pay you full time. And so I did that for about a year and a half. And then he brought me on full time in October. And here we go, right, we’re at this place where I’m building an entire customer success program from the ground up. And it’s been the hardest job of my life, but also the most fulfilling the most inspirational, like, I just, I get up every day. And I’m like, I can’t wait to figure out what I’m going to do next or next or build next. Right? So yeah.
Taylor Kenerson 6:33
I love that I love that you had such an unorthodox approach coming into CS, you kind of like stumbled upon it. And it’s almost sometimes when you come into something with that naive activity, and you’re not really sure what it is, you’re able to, like, bring in those cross functional knowledge of your different experiences, and interlock that with your, you know, in CS now, which gives you like a different perspective, and you’re able to create that slightly unique profile for yourself, where you set yourself apart just by being a little taking a different path and being okay, with not going the traditional route of following the money, you felt like you followed your gut. And sometimes that is the fork in the road that people look back on 30 years, you know, ago and are like, wow, shit, I wish I would have done what I knew I should have done, which takes a lot of courage. So can you kind of go into now you’re in a new kind of setting where you’re building a team, you’ve never you’ve seen it done, you were a part of it happening and growing. So what does it look like now for you? And what are your what kind of frameworks are you applying? Because now you’re making the decision? You’re in the driver’s seat?
Jenelle Friday 7:46
No, no pressure, right?
Taylor Kenerson 7:48
Yeah, no pressure, anything. Now we want all the answers.
Jenelle Friday 7:51
I know, right? Well, so I think, you know, I cannot attribute my success, or, or the position that I’m in, for my sake alone. Really, Alex buckles, my CEO, and I had a very deep heart to heart if I was going to come on board. These were my expectations, because I knew all the pitfalls. I knew all of the the knows, within customer success that I had experienced, you know, in real time with customers at some of my organizations, where I’m like, that is the wrong decision. And I had no say. So I made it very clear to Alex that if we were gonna move forward together as a team, that he needed to do a couple things, one of those was see customer success as the growth engine. We are a product-led growth company, right, we are leading by where the product is heading. And you don’t know where the product should be heading if you’re not listening to your customers. Also, traditionally, organizations make more money on renewals and customer upsells upgrades than they do on net new logos. Okay, so if we really are going to evaluate how the company is going to be run, if we don’t see customer success as our growth engine, then that’s a failure. So right out of the gate, he and I were aligned on that point. I also wanted to take a different approach around how customers are engaged from the moment that SDR BDR makes that first phone call all the way through till renewal. Right? And the pitfalls are right, the AE line in his pockets, doesn’t take a whole lot of notes doesn’t really outline the process. We’re lucky if we get 30 minutes with them before we’re handed this customer. We don’t know the goals or the business outcomes or how the customers measuring success. We’re trying to right so now I’m sitting with you, the customer and I’m asking all these questions that the AE or the BDR asked during the sales cycle and that handoff has been a difficult road. So we approach it as soon as the account executive is in the final two stages of the opportunity. I’m brought in Customer Success is brought in to do discovery to make sure that the customer sees that sales and CSR completely aligned and they are not answering Some redundant questions along the way. And I can set up their customer profile within forecastable. And how we’re managing that customer relationship before they even sign the contract. So we’re going in with the smooth transition. So I think those two approaches are what are going to set us apart and why I think we’re gonna find success very early on, truthfully, my drive is I’m passionate to let other people become the best versions of themselves. And to see a light bulb go off over someone’s head, they’re like, Oh, I get that, oh, I never heard of that, oh, that was great. You know, that’s, I live for that. And I think, you know, the world needs. Kindness, the world needs respect, the world needs to be a little bit more vulnerable with each other in business, and I’ve been told my entire career, you put too much into your customers, you can’t keep up the pace you’re gonna burn out. And here we are many years later. Because, you know, it’s what I love, I love building relationships, I love giving people the assurance that you can trust my word, I will follow through, I’m gonna get back to you, you can hand me a project and I will project manage to completion, right? I don’t know, I just I have a passion for doing what I say I’m going to do and being trustworthy and treating other people like that term, the way I want to be treated with respect, with kindness, with grace on my bad days, when I’m having a grumpy day, you know, which we all have. So that’s just kind of my approach. And I think, I think the way that we’re going to grow this the customer success team, we’ve actually made the decision to focus on non customer success managers. So we are actually actively scouting teachers, there’s a mass exodus of teachers that are leaving their professions for whatever reason, right, whether it’s a great disagreement, whatever, whatever the reasons are, I think teachers are an incredible resource that put to work in their own home office, wherever they want to be, you know, they’re going to be amazing hires, I already have two that have blown me away. So far. I’m also looking at the retail and service industries, because to be good with people is something I cannot teach, I can teach a sales force, I can teach you forecastable, but I cannot teach you how to care, I cannot teach you how to be proactive to think two steps ahead of the customer as to what they might need. And I can’t teach you how to manage that relationship, when it’s difficult when the customer is down selling. And it’s an uncomfortable conversation to have, you have to have those conversations with grace and respect, right. So those skill sets are in the market like gangbusters, but we tend to look at the degree and we look at the job history. And we don’t want people who’ve never done this role before. And I just I want to give those individuals the opportunity to grow themselves professionally in a way that they never would have been able to before. And so I kind of created a four week boot camp, zero to zero to 104 weeks, and we’ll see we’ll see how it goes.
Adil Saleh 13:13
A lot of this comes down to how you know, people that you have, how barren they are, like how they are part of like, everything is imprinted within them. The way you want to take this operation up to a level where it makes a difference makes a huge massive impact. So you know, when it comes to posts his journey journey that forecast, you know, of course, you’re booking a different customer segments, some segments more in the strategic partnership side, you’re working hands on with partners, how does the infor side of it like? I would say the operation side of it has been standardized. And to make it scalable, let’s say 3x 5x 10x More customers dislike what kind of technologies? Have you guys incorporated over the years? I would appreciate it?
Jenelle Friday 14:06
Well, you know, for me, I really I didn’t want our decisions to be driven off of thoughts or or feelings or ideas. I wanted our decisions to be based off of data period. I wanted customers to see visibly see what was happening with their user base because our our focus right now our sales teams, Customer Success teams legals operations, you know, managing that entire customer relationship from start to finish. And so our customers look for how many of my let’s say have 100 users that are supposed to be using Forecastable? Are they logging in? Are they working on the core features that we deem these are the things they should be doing and so the only partner I was looking to have was Pendo. So Pendo not only it’s twofold for me one it’s an app product guys, that when I get onboard a new team of people. Let’s say it’s 100, folks. And I do a real quick, you know, 90 minute, let’s make sure everybody logs in and you have the Google Chrome plug in and I walked through the platform. I don’t leave a ton of questions room for questions, because if I let everybody asked a question I run out of time, right. So I always say, I’ll record the training. And then there’s product guide. So literally by topic, you can search for a product guide that will kick up and walk you through the process or the step, whatever you’re trying to do it Forecastable. And I knew Pendo was great at that, and easy to work with. So that was my first thing. The second thing was Pendo actively tracks user data and not just user data, but it shows you within your own platform, which features are being used, the most clicked on the most, it’ll actually show you when a user logs in, where did they go from the login page, it will actually map all the way down to when they leave the website, where did they go, they map their their direction. And so I use that data to ensure our customers have visibility. And we set goals like so for you know, every week, we want to have 50 new contacts imported from LinkedIn into forecast table. So we set a goal, and then Pendo will track against that goal. And so I’m offering consistent real data to drive the conversation around, you know, we’ve seen a dip in usage, have there been layoffs, we have new team lead, you know what’s going on, it gives me visibility into what their usage actually looks like. And if we’re seeing real success that also drives that conversation of, it’s time to expand, let’s talk about, you know, moving this into your marketing team, let’s talk about you know, how we can continue to partner with maybe your partner network, because we’re very strategically placed to co sell and be in the partner ecosystem space. So I don’t, I’ve thought about using Gainsight, I thought about using client success. And right now, it’s really simple. It’s Salesforce, which we have a native integration into Forecastable. So we use Salesforce, Forecastable, and Pendo. Those are the three that my team use, and we use Slack. Obviously, Slack is another tool. But those are really the three. And I mean, the feedback that I’m getting from my customers is that their time isn’t wasted on the call, because I’m coming with real data to have a real conversation. And they’re getting the results that they’re looking for the feedback that they need. And and so I keep our program as as simple as I can be. Because when you overcomplicated, I think the customer turns out, yeah,
Adil Saleh 17:27
minimum tech stack minimal tools to look at and make sure they get the job done. So by the way, you know, when you talk about CRM, like Salesforce, it’s good to manage your context, engagements, all of that. So how you are managing and are monitoring the data points that are more related to the product or platform usage, like engagements inside the platform, like all those data points in advance, to make sure your customers are better adopted to the platform to be able to retain Yeah, so.
Jenelle Friday 17:58
So actually Salesforce serve those of us the CRM exceeds we make we do all of our daily activity actually, in our own platform Forecastable. So we build buyer maps to give a visual representation of who is an opponent who’s a supporter, who reports to who who’s the economic buyer, who’s the decision maker, you know, gives visibility into who you’re working with. But then we also have a planning section where we allow customers and I should actually just speak on us, we created plans for each step of the customer journey. So an accounting an SDR and account executive has a plan with milestones that are in order of when they’re due. So every milestone every touchpoint, that the customer should have in that phase of their journey, we’ve put into a plan and then the account executive works against that plan, marking milestones complete actively showing their manager where they are in their plan with that customer, we transition that into customer success. So I have a plan for if it’s a co selling customer, if it’s a partner, vendor partner, or if it’s a straight for castable customer, there’s a customer success plan with preset milestones that we work against. So that includes, you know, regular stakeholder touchpoints. It includes we, we work with executive business reviews, we don’t do QBRs And so between those regular stakeholder check ins and our EDR is which I built the decks for right so that all of that pendant data, all of their their active, we’re quarter over quarter review, or you know m1 m2, first of the year, half second half of the year, depending on what the customer is looking for. We work off of their business objectives and the KPIs they’re looking to measure against to make sure that the data we’re surfacing is exactly what they’re looking for. So
Taylor Kenerson 19:50
I love how you were able to take you kind of like bashed a misconception that some people have is that you know, you can’t be data driven while being empathetic, respectful human for First, and I love the fact of the point you made earlier, before we dove in a bit to the CS Ops is you, you had a conversation with your teammate, or you know, he’s your boss, but everyone’s on the same team had a conversation and you outlined what your non negotiable work was, and what really drove home to me that you emphasize to him and made sure he understood the what cs really is. And you know, it’s a it’s a new space. And some people, you know, have their own definitions of what cs looks like, I’m relatively new into this space never had the position but just have talked to, you know, amazing people that have been in CS. And at the core of it for me, like I guess an outsider looking in is, it’s a, it’s human first function, you’re caring about the human, and you just had to put a business term on top of caring about the human and driving value and making sure they’re okay. And you put CS on top of that. So the layer of you now looking at the teachers, and the people that have these soft skills makes complete sense in my mind, because from an outsider looking in, like, it’s almost like a duck obvious, like smack yourself in the forehead, when you’re in the trenches, you just don’t see it like, like, you don’t even see that the core of what CS truly is. And if you’re caring about the human, as you know, not just your client, and then you will see value, in the end result, as long as your product is doing what it says it does. And you’re caring about the human, that’s really the winning formula, you build that trust, you build that relationship at all, as a byproduct of the basis of that. And that’s a huge thing. And I love that you were able to integrate that have that conversation too, with someone, you know, perhaps you like, according to roles was more senior than you, but you were like, No, this is this is what it is. And him being able to buy in on that is critical,
Jenelle Friday 21:55
much. You know, he he chose me as the CS leader, because of my philosophy and business because of my passion because of my care of our, you know, fellow customers. So there wasn’t much talking him into it. It was just reassuring that he agreed with me, basically. And he was like, Well, yeah, that’s why I hired. So, you know, I had, he has a friend, I respect him so much. He’s been a mentor, I’ve learned, oh, my God, in the last few years of my career with him, I’ve learned so much, but at the heart of, of who I am, it has not changed throughout all of the different organizations I’ve been with. And a quick example of you know, that the kind of relationships that I build that I think are that we need in business, I’m tired of people telling me it’s business, it’s not personal. It is personal. These are real relationships, real people. So while at an organization had a customer who chose my product over other products, I inherited them in year three of their three year contract. And it was very clear. They did they never should have been sold. I knew that because they had fired the account executive because he was selling these deals, that wouldn’t work. And no one had really dug in really well enough to really see can we custom build something for you. So I spent the first six months of that year, trying to get it to work knew that it couldn’t. And my primary point of contact my primary stakeholder said, you know, basically, if this fails, I’m out of a job, because we don’t have a backup right now. So I went to our two largest competitors, because I had contacts there and got him meetings with those two vendors so that there wouldn’t be if he could find a solution with either of them. There wouldn’t be downtime, he could easily transition from my product to their product with no interruption. And he did go with one of my competitors. And he actually wrote one of my recommendation letters to get into CU Boulder for my master’s degree. And I use that as an example to show that like, that’s not in the job description. Right. It was a gut instinct. I heard that said he’s terrified for his job. He’s a dad, I know about his life. I didn’t want him to just struggle when I knew there was something I could do to help the situation right. And, and I think that’s how you have to approach customer success. While it is business. Yes, business is important. But like you said, it’s human first. And I think the one positive that COVID brought to business was it humanized all of us. CEOs are in businesses, or in their offices at home, just like I’m with dogs behind me on the floor, they have kids interrupt. They’re real, right? They’re real people. We’re all real people that have bad days, good days, and it leveled the playing field. I feel like and so you know that and and I’ve seen more face people than I ever did before COVID. We’re on video now all day. And I love that because again, it humanizes all of us, when you’re in front of people on a regular basis. And so, you know, I’m someone who tries to find the positive and I think COVID did us a favor and business to reconnect each other as real individuals with real real struggles and real problems
Adil Saleh 24:57
and reconnect with within our ourselves as well. Like we tend to spend a lot of time outside having external infliction, and externally inflicted experiences. And COVID For the first time made us realize you got to sit with yourself, you got to sit the pain with the demons, that’s all of you, you know, you got to accept it, you gotta keep it. Thank you very much for being such an inspiration today. By the way, it was so inspiring, listening to you all this pinions that you have. I love it.
Jenelle Friday 25:28
Oh, man, I’m telling you, there’s been some dark times in life, right? I’ve faced some very dark times of the last couple of years, I may face some incredible joys, you know, the summer 2020, I got married, and I turned 40. And I graduated with a bachelor’s degree within 30 days of all of that. And, you know, again, I just feel like we all struggle, we all have things that we go through. And I think we can value human beings in business, and still do business. Right and and do it with a degree of dignity and respect. And without ego. And I think that’s one thing and customer success that is hard for me is there’s a lot of ego right now in business. And I don’t know where it comes from. I don’t appreciate it when someone’s devalued because they don’t have the right resume or they don’t have the right degree, or they don’t have the right background, right. If I hired a teacher at another organization, I was out they go, What are you doing, you know what I mean? I want to get away from that and stop feeling like we have to have this picture perfect background, in order to allow someone the opportunity to be successful if they have the right skill set. And customer success is about people people first, right. So it’s
Adil Saleh 26:47
also about giving second chances. I still remember Hawking Phoenix, he won the Oscar for the third for the first time, I guess first and second time for Joker just a few years back. And he came in and he started crying on an Oscar stage. And he said, there are lots of people here in the room that gave me the second chances. Third chances. That’s why I’m here today. It’s not me. It was never me. So it’s all about being a support system. It’s all about, you know, giving people chances. And you know, being empathetic about people, there are people that have, you know, a lot of things that they go through on a daily basis, a lot of battles to fight, a lot of them still within them that they don’t they’re afraid to share, because you’re not empathetic. So I’m so big on this, by the way, so I love doing
Jenelle Friday 27:34
them. And I will say too, I think, you know, 2020 2021 did some radical things for SaaS. Right? And I think I don’t think we’re over that fall out yet. We’re still operating as if business world is as flourishing as it was in 2020. And 2021. The truth is, it’s not right, a lot of startups are going to fail, a lot of leaders were fired. But I know that there are leaders like myself, who if you look at my resume, and I would apply to a job, I have not grown an organization from 10 million to 100 million, and there are people going to that are gonna look at that and go, Well, I can’t hire you because you don’t have the skill set. But I think that there are individuals who are passionately motivated and good at what they’re doing that can be grown, right, that can be in an organization with the right leaders and the right growth points to achieve, to give that person the ability to grow themselves. And I think as long as we continue to look for, again, that picture perfect, right background to fit the need that we have when we don’t look inside an organization for who can we look at that’s really successful that we can grow, and my husband as a sales executive, and he always says you never promote your top earner because they have to keep earning. And I said yeah, but they’re their top earner for a reason they’ve they’ve built and mature their skill set to the point where they’re incredibly successful, wouldn’t you want to promote that person if they want to be to give them a chance for their own professional growth? And I think that mentality is difficult to find in business sometimes. So I you know, I urge I’m going to be encouraging my team and looking at the folks that want to be promoted and move on to you know, they came to me and said, Hey, there’s a senior CSM role at this other company. You know, would you help me get there like, dude, let’s go like I’m not going to grip onto you because I want to keep you I want you to find your own personal path and, and professional success and however I can help get there, man do I want to help you get there?
Taylor Kenerson 29:27
I love that such that’s so true. And before we wrap up to it’s so resonates with me it’s so much about you know, helping people along their journey and when you are when you actually say you care about someone, but then when you do what you do Janelle And you actually like take action on that and like go find another role because you actually staying in the same position is a direct reflection on me that you’re complacent in my in our book. I feel like that’s the complacency and you’re allowing someone to just be okay with being okay. And if you’re trying to pave the way that You are like we are all together trying to put this human first mentality. It is helping someone grow. And sometimes it doesn’t work out so well within your company. And if you’re putting the human first and that’s okay. And that’s where it’s a beautiful journey of life and growth and nurturing someone and supporting them and watching them flourish,
Jenelle Friday 30:18
people that are looking for more than a wanting to see more that are looking for that for the mentor to help them make more of themselves, right. That’s what I’m finding in these folks that are retail service and teaching industries is, boy, you give them the runway to help them build a plane.
Taylor Kenerson 30:38
Yeah, they they’ll take off, I got a long way to go. I love that amazing Chanel. So beautiful talking to you. We thank you so much for your time. Thank you the insights you shared were invaluable. And we’re so excited to get these out. Awesome.
Adil Saleh 30:51
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, it was so inspiring to have you today and listen to all of your opinions, stories, experiences, I’m sure this can only come out of someone like you that has struggled over the years that has, you know, struggled through all of these good and bad times, and you know, try to be be a better version of themselves. And that is the only way for that person is to give away, you know, whatever. That’s the purpose of life for me. You know, just give away and die. Whatever you have whatever you’ve acquired in terms of money comes up skills in terms of all these gifts that we don’t appreciate. And give it away before you die.
Jenelle Friday 31:32
And you have complete choice over who you are today. I choose to be joyful, I choose to be kind, I choose to be respected. No matter what’s behind me that can no longer hurt me because it’s behind me where I sit today in my life and the choices that I make that will affect my tomorrow. I actively make choices. I have a little post-it on my mirror in my bathroom of you know, a very kind thought in the morning can change your entire day to yourself, be kind to yourself, and make choices that not only help you get through the day as a better person, but help everybody else that you interact with have a better day. And that’s the mentality I take and I take one day at a time. Because tomorrow, I wake up I wake up with a headache and that might not be the same.
Taylor Kenerson 32:15
reminder, so mindset shift as soon as you go to the mirror. I love it. Well.
Adil Saleh 32:28
Thank you very much, man for showing up. Have a good rest of the day.
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.