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Mastering CS – Candid Leader Insights – Ep 15 – Keishla Ceaser-Jones

February 20, 2024 23 minutes read

Summary points:

In our new episode of the Mastering CS – Candid Leader Insights podcast, Irina Cismas, Custify’s Head of Marketing sat down with Keishla Ceaser-Jones, Sr. Director and Partner Success at EAB.

What you’ll learn:

  • How Customer Success challenged professionals in 2023
  • How to create a Customer success strategy
  • How to overcome CS challenges
  • Finding the right tools and tech for CS
  • Hiring the right people for your CS team
  • Predictions for 2024

Key insights and takeaways for CSMs based on the interview:

Startup vs mature organizations: Keishla acknowledges the potential benefits of shaping processes and practices from the ground up in startups but also notes the challenges, including the possible delay in recognizing the need for specific roles or functions. Her advice for CS leaders in any context emphasizes the importance of thorough evaluation, active listening, engaging with customers, understanding the product, and adapting to the organizational needs, whether in a startup or a mature environment.

CS strategy: Keishla outlines her organization’s strategy for developing a solid Customer Success plan, emphasizing adaptation and refinement halfway through their fiscal year. The plan includes assessing progress towards revenue targets, refining go-to-market strategies, and focusing on a renewals boot camp to identify commercial priorities.

Having the right tools: Keishla emphasizes the importance of having a good technology stack for Customer Success (CS), highlighting that it’s not about having every tool available but maximizing the value and use case of the essential tools chosen. She discusses the process of simplifying their tech stack to core foundational tools and thoughtfully adding and integrating new tools as needed to support their work effectively.

CS professionals: Keishla highlights the essential roles within customer success teams, including implementation, support, revenue management, marketing enablement, and customer education, from the moment an organization acquires a customer. She underscores the importance of not delaying the inclusion of these roles, suggesting that waiting too long to integrate key positions can leave partners without comprehensive support.

Podcast transcript

CS in 2023

Irina 00:03
Keishla, welcome to Mastering CS – Candid Leader Insights. Considering the highs and lows of 2023. How would you describe the year for customer success? Any particular challenges that you faced last year?

Keishla 00:19
Absolutely. You know, like all professions, Customer Success had to deal with different economic shifts and challenges. Some organizations were dealt tougher blows. And I think we’re in a really interesting spot because, in 2020, the entire world was sort of turned on its head. And in many ways, it still is. But I think that everybody in their organizations as CS, especially because I think there was an expansion of CS during that time, are really searching for their footing and really trying to figure out where they stand.

And so, in CS, words like mine included, we are continuing to navigate different shifts and changes of what our customers need. So many customers made decisions in 2020, based off of responding to the pandemic, and are now responding to flushes of funding in response to the pandemic. And now they’re really taking a step back, evaluating their needs. And so, CMS organizations are having to figure out what that landscape looks like, depending on the organization.

Organizations are trying to figure out what remote, hybrid, and in-person work looks like during this time. And that’s impacting the technology that they’re choosing to use. And so they’re having a process of reevaluating. And in the space that I work in, largely in the higher ed space, there’s a lot of reevaluation of the tools they’ve been using, the processes they’ve been going through.

And so, you know, if I could sum up CS, in a few words, in 2023, it would be that most organizations and I’m included in that, we were really trying to get clear on the role, what we are supposed to be doing with our time based on our product, so that we can focus on purpose and value realization for our partners, both externally, our paying partners, and our internal partners as well within the org to make sure that we’re communicating well, how we’re impacting what is happening in their businesses.

Irina 02:14
What is one thing you will do differently this year in customer success?

Keishla 02:19
So obviously, I wish that every person that was impacted by the economic uncertainty, the layoffs, you know, are something that I wish everybody had a different experience. But you know, I function in a lot of different CS communities, you know, which I’m a member, and I hear the stories of people who are still searching for roles, you know, and I hope that they find their space.

As for my work as a CS leader, I don’t necessarily live in a space of what would I rewrite or do differently. But I really, because I think that CS is iterative work, right, that you’re dealing with things in the moment. And plans and processes should be up for review and refinement. And that was what 2022 was, for me. I started my role in 2021, late 2021, going into 2022. And so 2022 was a complete year of upheaval for me.

And so when I got into 2023, I called it my year of questioning my inheritance. So many CS leaders step into organizations. I mean, some people have the fortune of working with startups and building up, but I stepped into a pretty mature organization. And some things were working and some things were not. And so I really spent a lot of time questioning what we were doing, and really trying to create alignment between what we say we’re doing and what we think we’re doing and what’s actually happening.

And so this has been a year for me for reevaluating milestone moments in our customer journey, improving some practices, sharpening the skills of my team to be responsive to their commercial roles. We also added some expansion responsibilities to our plate. And so really just trying to make sure we’re focused on what we need to do to retain and grow the business. And so, while I wouldn’t necessarily change anything, I obviously would wish for better economic stability. But I think from a CS perspective, you have to be looking for very small and incremental changes to continue to move your work forward.

Working in a startup vs a mature organization

Irina 04:26
I want to ask you, because you mentioned that you are working at this moment or you took a role in a CS organization that was mature enough. Is it better to work in a CS organization that is in a startup environment, and you have the chance to lay out the foundation, or would you prefer working in a more mature organization? I know that each and every one has its pros and cons, but I want to know what’s your take.

Keishla 05:00
I mean, I can’t judge it necessarily of which one is better or not, as I have not had the experience of working in a startup environment. It’s not that it’s not something I wouldn’t consider in my career. It’s just not been what my path has been. I think there are obviously benefits to being able to think through the processes that you want to build and practices. I question whether or not in every CS organization in a startup environment, that necessarily happens, because I think there’s always this sort of delayed sense of when you think you need a role or a function at a particular time. And I know we have a question about that a little bit later.

So, I don’t know that I’m necessarily equipped to judge what’s better, but either way, coming into any organization, new or otherwise, evaluation is a process that is super clear. You don’t want to just jump in and start acting. So, I think I would give advice to all CS leaders: Listen, sit in on calls, talk to customers, understand the product really well, and how it’s serving your market space. Because no matter where you are, whether you’re in a mature organization like I am, or in a startup situation, you’re going to have to do some building. And so you have to figure out which blocks you’re going to spend your time on doing that work.

Customer success strategy

Irina 06:24
I want to talk about planning for this year, what are the main strategies for developing a solid CS plan? And how are you handling this planning phase?

Keishla 06:40
Okay, so for my organization, this, for so many people, I understand that January is the start of a new fiscal year, but we work on a fiscal year from July to June. So technically, for us, it’s halftime. And so what we’re doing right now is sort of assessing where we are towards our revenue targets so that we can adapt our strategy to address our gaps goal and refine our go-to-market strategies as it relates to our customer success work.

So, at the beginning of the year, in July, we kicked off the year with what I call a renewals boot camp. My team is both service and commercially-focused. So, we spent time really identifying our commercial priorities and our plays. We developed our price increase strategy; we’ve had to adapt and refine that based on product improvements. So, we really try to leverage what is coming out of the product, go to market space, to build and support our renewal strategy and retention strategy, as well as growth and price increase. So, we’ve spent time doing that. And so, this time of year is really about refining and adjusting.

Additionally, we’ve spent a lot of time this year on a couple of different projects to once again, look at our customer journey. The customer journey sort of existed because I stepped into this role two years ago. So, we’ve been spending time, as I said, evaluating what we say is happening on paper, what we are doing, and what is actually happening. Right, like that sort of balance between those two and looking for those gaps, and where processes or flows are broken. So, we’ve spent a lot of time working on reevaluating the way we kickoff partnerships with our implementation team. We have refined one of our core best practice and strategy milestone moments with partners, to reorient that to really focus on driving adoption of our product and our partner race. And so, we’re going to continue to make those refinements around milestone moments. So, that’s a big focus.

From a people perspective, 2022 was a period of really big upheaval as well. And so, I have a really new team that’s been in place now for about a year with a level of continuity and stability. And so, this has been a year focused on, as an organization writ large, not just my part of the org, on psychological safety, really building good upskilling practices around sales skills for our team. So, we’ve been focused on persona-based conversations, permission-based selling, relationship building with our customers in a way that really gets to not just being friendly, obviously, everybody wants to be liked, but how am I relating to that customer based on their role? And what is important for them to deliver impact within their organization based on how our product can support that work, right. So, we’ve spent a lot of time doing that and will continue to do so.

So, we’re focusing internally on how we work with one another as a customer success team, how we work with our cross-functional peers in product and marketing and sales. So, that’s been a big focus as well. So, we’re going to continue to do that work and operationally, 2023 was a big year of cleanup. Getting our data clean, making sure we had good reporting and visualization so that everybody knew where we were in regards to our revenue, as well as our service obligations related to our partnerships.

And so, we had, because my team is two-footed with service and sales, I understand that not all customer success organizations own revenue, we have a bit of an obligation to work in our sales CRM, right. And but we understand that not all sales CRMs serve us as customer success teams to be able to do our service work. So, last year, we had a customer success CRM that we retired. And what that allowed us to do is really get clean and focus on where we were in the sales CRM. And now we’re adopting a new CS CRM. And it’s got us focused on the right workflows, that make sure that our customer success team properly adopts this technology. So, really excited about continuing to clean things up operationally, and look for broken processes clean up workarounds, so that we’re able to really focus on the work at hand for our customers.

Irina 11:24
When we are mapping out our CS strategy, we are somehow aiming for the winning formula. But sometimes even the best-laid plans can go south, what are some early warning signs that a CS strategy might be heading for a stumble?

Keishla 11:41
So, I empathize with every sales leader out there, because we’re always looking for that thing, right, that makes a difference in our business. And one of the most positive aspects of the Customer Success community is that we are so giving. Everybody is so willing to share in this community what they’re doing, just like we’re doing here today. But sometimes, we can really find ourselves just overwhelmed with a lot of ideas, strategies, and solutions. So, while hearing what people are doing is really important, I think that when people stumble, it’s because they haven’t really become attuned to their product, their customers, listening to their customers, listening to the market, and what their competition is doing, and listening to their team about what they’re experiencing in their customer interactions.

And so, there are a lot of warning signs, you know, whether that your customer success strategy is off track. That could be if you’re doing CSAT scores or NPS, there could be a drop in customer engagement, obviously, looking at your product usage rates is a concerning factor as well. We know that renewals are lagging indicators. You know, and so we got to get ahead of that, but paying attention to increases in unresolved support tickets. We’re working on a similar project to that right now of really getting a clear indication of what’s happening with our support flows, could result in maybe a greater need for product conversations, that will make you more competitive in the market.

So, monitoring those indicators really helps you to identify problems early in the process. And for me, what I think has been super critical, and making sure that we’re staying ahead of challenges, has been my interactions with my cross-functional teams. So, working very closely, and having an opportunity for customer success to influence the product roadmap has been important for us to then be able to deliver that back to our customers in value and new enhancements. And then, really working very closely with the sales team, who has a different ear to the ground in the acquisition market. And that’s helped to make sure that we’re refining our go-to-market strategy with our partners.

Customer success challenges

Irina 13:54
What are the common challenges you faced when joining different CS teams? And how did you overcome those?

Keishla 14:02
So, I think the biggest challenge is prioritization, right? There are so many things that you could do. When you get into a space, as a new CS leader, you’re hearing everybody’s pet challenges and pain points. And I think really focusing on what is going to be a priority and have the greatest impact is the biggest, biggest challenge that CS teams and CS leaders can deal with, because it’d be very easy to be sort of focused on the small thing, and not really looking at what’s happening with your processes. And what you say is your delivery, and expectations for your customers. And so, CS leaders have to listen to all of those ideas, pull them in, and make some decision-making processes that are inclusive and listening to their teams.

But it’s really up to CS leaders to lay out a vision for what they’re doing and for their focus priority so that they can move there. And so for my work this year, I’ve really worked on identifying those core priorities, really looking at our milestone moments for our customer journey. And I was really fortunate when I came into this space that my leadership had a really clear vision for me. So, I think it’s important for CS leaders to coordinate with their leadership, make sure that they’re on the same page and steering the ship in the same direction. So, we spent that first year really focused on sustainability and quality, how are we really improving the quality of our service. And that allowed us to get into a space of innovation and growth for not just the CS team, but our entire org. And you know, it doesn’t work without really strong coordination. And communication between teams, with sales, marketing, implementation, and support, it’s really complex. But I think that’s probably the biggest challenge within the organization: to not get caught into silos and think that you’re the one thing that is going to move things forward. It really takes a lot of interaction and coordination across teams.

Having the right tools and tech

Irina 16:08
You mentioned earlier something about tools, you mentioned it indirectly working in the sales CRM. I want to ask you how important are those, the tools and the technology, or having the right tools, and technology for CS?

Keishla 16:30
Having a good tech stack is really important. And sometimes, it’s not about having all the bells and whistles in every tool out there, because there’s lots of things to choose from. But it’s also making sure that the tech tools you have, you’re really maximizing the value and the use case of it. So, we got a little bit, you know, we stripped down to our core foundational tool, and we’re really trying to figure out how we’re adding on and layering in the right tools at the right time, and how we use that to be able to support the work that we do.

I think it’s a really interesting experience for Customer Success leaders to lead their teams through an adoption of a product because I think it’s a very eye-opening experience, because they’re actually sitting in the seat of a customer in that way. And so, I’ve had an opportunity to implement a couple of really core and central technology tools in a couple of different organizations, and the work that it takes to figure out how to get your team to not reject a tool and stay in their own little ways that they’ve worked around to figure out how to get their jobs done, you’ve got to get your teams to make changes. And it really is an eye-opening experience for them to translate into their CS work with their customers.

So, this has been a year of us really getting clean with where we are in our sales CRM. We’re now layering in a new CS CRM tool that integrates, you know, we got some pretty early, well integration, and we’re not just thinking about, sometimes I think when people think about integration, you really focus on whether or not systematically and technically do they talk to one another. But it’s also got to integrate with the way that you work. And so, we’ve really been taking the time to think about, you know, where things are placed on the screen, how many clicks is it going to take to do that thing? And like, because if it’s going to take too many clicks, over time, your CSMs are going to step away from the tool. And how do we get to the right expectations, and then build practice with the work that is then having an impact on the outcomes that you want, and giving you the data and information that you want.

Building CS key alliances

Irina 18:36
In your journey through different organizations who are your main partners in driving CS? And how do you build these key alliances?

Keishla 18:45
My main partners first start with my team, right, and I have to be really good and solid with the team that I’m working with. I’m coordinating really well with my leadership, making sure that I’m radiating my needs. But on a cross-functional basis, like I said, my core partners are product. We have a very extensive implementation process. So, I work very closely with my implementation teams and leadership and marketing. We have a dedicated customer success marketing, so that’s important. And then along with that, my revenue and operations team. So across those, that takes a lot of really good coordination and role definition and clarity. You have to trust. I’ve worked in other spaces where I didn’t have as many hands, like you talked about before, about wearing a lot of hats. And so, you have to really let people go to do the parts that they’re expert in, because they’re definitely going to get it done faster than you.

But I’m really proud over the past two years, especially in the way that we interact with product. We have a dedicated product review board that our teams work on. Customer success is represented on that board; they have influence on the different enhancements that get pushed up to our development teams around the roadmap. And as a result, over the past two years, we’ve been able to go back to our customer base, and not only deliver innovations that we already intended to do in response to the market and what our product needs, but we’ve been able to deliver back on product enhancements based on customer feedback. So like, “you guys have been asking us for this. And because we’re listening, we’ve been able to turn that around.” And that’s a direct relationship to how well we work with our product teams.

Must-haves in the CS teams

Irina 20:32
When it comes to customer success teams, what roles do you think are must haves? And when do those roles usually pop up?

Keishla 20:45
Yeah, so as we talked before, you know, I’ve not worked in a startup environment. So I don’t necessarily know that I can speak to, you know, hey, when’s the right time for this role. But the reality is that from the minute an organization sells a customer, you need implementation, you need support, you need revenue management, you need marketing enablement, and customer education. And whether that looks like a person, or a tool, or a process, those are all things you need. And so, I think sometimes organizations wait too late when they need to hire for the person. By that point, you’ve already not been supporting those partners with all of the facets. I wouldn’t say I’m going to host a party and wait to order food when the people get here. I know I’m having a party; I need to have food before they get here.

So, I think it’s really important to think about those core areas: implementation, and whether that looks like that, you know, depending on the complexity of the implementation of your tool, that might be a person or a team, that might be a function or process. As I said, revenue operations, customer marketing, customer enablement, and customer education, I think are all important functions to consider. This is a very awesome analogy. And it’s very easy to relate to; it was very well put. Thank you for that.

Customer success KPIs

Irina 22:15
What KPIs do you prioritize for your team? And I’m also curious on what are the KPIs that you are reporting to your leadership team?

Keishla 22:26
Yeah, on a current basis, as I mentioned, because our teams are revenue responsible, commercially responsible, we have revenue targets that we track to that are both net and gross revenue retention. In addition to that, we focus on what we call contract GPA. So we’re really focused on the health of our contracts, by way of pricing, term, payment, you know, all of those different things. So each deal that our team members process is graded; it has a scale. We have a literal, like a report card – 4.0, 3.0 for different measures, for our team to understand how well they’re managing a contract. And we’ve been talking a lot about how we negotiate contracts with partners. And what’s that sort of give and get between the two. So that’s a really new indicator for me and the organization. But I think it really forces us to not just think about the dollars and cents, but the structure of the partnership that we’re entering into. And, you know, where if I can get longer term, I might have an opportunity to give a little on price, or create some flexibility in different ways, because then I know, I’m not going to be managing that contract year over year in the work that we do.

So we’ve really been focusing this year on extending multi-year and focused on a really strong price increase strategy that supports the investments we’re making in the product. In addition to that, on the service side, we focus on what we call impact interactions. So we’ve identified our customer journey and the milestone moments. And there’s a lot of different interactions that teams have with a partner. And then we’ve said, these are what we call qualifying events for impact interactions. And we’re not focused on volume, but we’re focused on penetration across their partner base. So they have a threshold that they have to hit of meeting with a certain number of partners with the right types of value interactions that support the work, and we’ve had some statistical analysis about where partners who have had those interactions versus who haven’t, how that impacts their renewal expectations and rates.

And then, obviously, we look very closely at adoption behaviors and product performance. And so this year as well, part of that operational and systems cleanup is going to allow us to track to that a little bit better. To know that the best practices that we’re telling customers about how to use our product to gain value, so that we can make a connection between that and how it impacts their usage of the product.

Irina 25:02
What does the CS team need in order to be performing above expectations?

Keishla 25:10
First of all, I think that a CS team needs a really healthy team environment where people understand what their role is and where their contributions have an impact. I’m really thankful to work in an organization that looks at employee performance across the organization in two ways. You have your goals. And because we’re a commercial team, our goals are very quantifiable, right? They’re numbers-based metrics and revenue metrics. So that’s a portion of how we review and understand the work that we do. But we also work in a world of what we call competencies. So the goals are what you have to do; the competencies are how we want you to do it. We focus on competencies like communication, collaboration, maintaining operations, and procedures. And so what has been great for us as a team is, we have sort of like the general idea of what good communication is supposed to look and sound like, but we focused on what is good communication in this team, in this role, for this product, in this organization. And we spent the time really identifying how we want to work with one another, and we have agreement. So I think that it’s simple enough to just say, “Here’s your goal, go do it,” or “Here’s your product, go support it.” But if you don’t have a really good shared understanding of what good looks like in those different measures, I think that’s where you create opportunity for interpretation, deviance, change, and then you’re not all measuring the same thing. So I think a really clear vision and clear expectations or role clarity are super important from the start. So I’ve spent a lot of time this year focused on building my team, focusing on the skills they want, but also just also knowing them as people. So I think creating a good community is important for any organization and CS especially.

Beyond that, I think that really clear goals that are transparent. So this, we’ve improved on it each year. But everybody knows exactly, not only what their goal is, but what units comprise it, there’s no lack of clarity, and how their goal was created. So they can trust it. And they know exactly what are the pieces to the puzzle to help them get to that space. On a day-to-day basis, I think it’s providing them with the support and the communication that they need to go and be effective in the conversations with their customer, building them up and trusting them to be able to make those in-the-spot decisions. So we’ve also spent time this year, the past two years actually, creating a space of autonomy for our team members to make decisions. Nobody wants to have to be on a call with a customer and say, “Hey, let me go check on that. Let me go ask somebody.” So we’ve let our teams know like, “This is your ceiling, this is your floor.” And then we’ve created processes. And so it’s allowed us to also clean up a lot of back-and-forth inefficiencies, and create a lot of trust in their ability to make the right decision in the moment. So I think you can also round this out with a lot of different tools and things like that. But I think it’s really clarity of purpose and function and role, good community building, and creating space for them to go be the person you hired them to be.

Irina 28:28
Speaking about skills and competencies. I want to ask you what makes the difference between a great CSM and a good one.

Keishla 28:39
You know, I would just reiterate those things. It’s about transparency, clarity, good follow-up, and feedback in the work that they’re doing. So, you know, celebrating when you need to celebrate, encouraging, and also respecting the fact I think one of the biggest challenges about customer success is that in the work that we do, it’s very easy to feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. Right? And that “I won this partner, I lost this partner,” it’s a lot of highs and lows. And I’ve had a couple of, you know, “I lost a partner today.” It’s like, you didn’t lose a partner today. We lost a partner today.

In just, you know, you didn’t do it all by yourself in any way, shape, or form, even when it feels that way. So, if you, you know, you gotta know that you got to take your wins, and it’s the team behind you supporting you. And when you take those losses and challenges, so I think really communicating with your team. So, you know, returning to that, just I think creating a good, clear vision is what makes the difference between a great CS team and a good one. Because without a good vision and intention, there’s tons of things you can be doing. When I first stepped into CES, I had a leader tell me, she says, “we’re not want for activity.” So, are you doing the right thing at the right time? Right to make a difference? And we can all think we know what that is. But if it’s where we have that shared, want to know that when we do this thing at this time, this happens, right? And are we all doing that in a certain amount of coordination, not cloning one another, but, right, like maximizing the value of the right activity at the right time, I think is really important.

CS mistakes

Irina 30:55
You mentioned about doing the right thing right at the right time. But we aren’t always in these situations. So I want to also talk about the mistakes. And I want to ask you, what are some typical CS mistakes that often lead to failure or underperformance?

Keishla 31:14
I think not setting a clear strategy from the very beginning is a critical oversight. So, spending time, you know, I think you can give your team a number and say, “Here’s your goal.” Right? You know, it’s like, it’s clear, I know what this number means. But if you haven’t really taken the time to break it down, and say, okay, like, what are the steps and processes for me to get to that, you can very quickly find yourself behind that number, because you haven’t necessarily assessed the value of the different deals? And what are the building blocks that get you there? Or the different activities and what are the building blocks to get you there. So I think, where I’ve had struggles is, you know, sometimes where you’re, you’re going too fast, and you make assumptions of what people know and understand. I work with a really young team. From a commercial responsibility perspective, this is an early career CS role that I work with. And so there’s a certain amount of knowledge that you gain through experience.

Thinking that your team can just experience their way through growth is a really big mistake. And so I think it’s really important to identify what are the right skills that need to be used, and train your team on those skills. So if you want them to be able to mitigate risk effectively, you got to talk through what are the processes and strategies for managing a risk conversation? You know, what are the right skills and discovery questions, to be able to get at an upsell opportunity? Those things don’t happen just by accident all the time. Sometimes they can; we can work our way into really good results. But really equipping your team with the skills that you’ve acquired as a leader over time, we don’t have to wait for them to have 5-10 years of experience in seat to be good at things; we can teach them those strategies and skills early on.

Irina 33:08
Can you share with us one mistake that you did in your in your role that actually turned out in a valuable learning experience?

Keishla 33:19
In a previous role to this one that I’m in, I think this is where I had my learning experience on adopting a tech tool. You know, I think you immediately get a new tool, and you say, okay, like, this is the tool, this is how it works. This is what I want you to go do. And I didn’t spend the time really, I think, trying to set expectations before we thought about how this tool fit into our flow. And after a couple of situations where I was like, “Okay, guys, this is how we need to do it,” but then they’re on the ground, and they’re the ones using it, and they’re like, “but yeah, it doesn’t do this or that or whatever.” You know, I didn’t anticipate misconceptions. Or even though, you know, as a former educator, we know that those are the things we need to do, like anticipate how this message is going to be received by my team. It created a little friction around the tool in the product, and I had to manage through some pushback on that.

And then sort of take a step back. And then what we ended up doing was taking that tool and just doing sessions after, obviously getting base-level product training, was just spent time like, “tell me, you know, how is this working for you? What are your aha moments?” and let’s set some base-level expectations instead of requirements. And then people have the ability to either rise to that expectation, overperform on that expectation, or they might need some support to get to it, but it isn’t, “You’re doing it, you’re not doing it,” but we’re really creating opportunities for progression of growth. And I’ve taken that lesson and applied it right to everything that I do in helping to upskill and build my team is, you know, “where are you in this moment? And what is it that, you know, gets you to that next level?”

So when we’re talking about forecasting, you know, oftentimes, our teams will, we’re very conservative forecasters, they would forecast low because they’re trying to be conservative and you know, not say too much is going to happen. And so we had to spend some time saying, “you know, under forecasting is just as problematic as over forecasting, right?” Either way, as a business, I don’t have the predictability that I need to know what’s going to happen in the business. And so how do we create opportunities for people to see gradual and stepped improvement and not necessarily feel like you have to go from zero to 100. And so that lesson in my team adopting tech tools, I’ve applied that and how I approach any new learning that my team is undertaking, and when I create space to listen to them, and hear how it’s working, not say, “here’s what you’re gonna get, and this is what we’re going to do.” I think it’s really about listening to your team and figuring out how they’re going to manage through it, but also creating that really clear expectation that we’ve invested in something that we believe is going to be supportive of our work.

CS predictions for 2024

Irina 36:19
As we wrap up, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the future. What are your predictions for the customer success industry this year? Are there any trends or changes you foresee that we should all be keeping an eye on?

Keishla 36:32
You know, what I’ve been hearing in spaces? Even though I’ve always worked in a space where I’ve handled service and revenue, increasingly, we’re still hearing that question of, you know, should Customer Success teams manage revenue? I believe wholeheartedly that we should. I think it, obviously, there are different levels of complexities in products and implementations, that might mean you need different support teams to be able to manage that process, but to not have some sort of accountability to whether or not that customer stays or grows, I think is super important. And as organizations think about taking on that responsibility, or for the organizations that have always had it, they should be focused on how to upskill their teams and giving them the same sales, risk mitigation, and negotiation skills that our sales teams, our acquisition teams, get. So I think that’s number one is really figuring out the role of revenue and service, and how those functions and actions go hand in hand to influence one another.

Secondly, I think that obviously, everybody’s talking about AI. And that’s going to continue to be a conversation and how we’re using AI to not only enhance our workflows and how we get things done, and how we make templates and all the different things that obviously sales leaders need. But, you know, it’s been an interesting thing for me to watch how AI is influencing our product. So I think it’ll be really curious at how AI can deliver some product enhancements that can then further support the customer success conversations and retention of customers.

And then, as always, scale, scale, scale. Everybody is always trying to figure out, how do I do? I think sometimes we hear that, how do I do more with less? And I think it’s not about more, once again, right thing, right time, that has the right impact, I think, is going to be the real key. And so I think the CS organizations that excel in the next year are not necessarily going to be the ones that are focused on how do I trim this back and do this. It’s like, what are the right things that I need to be doing? And what are the tools I need to get it done, or the personnel that I need to get it done to be able to support my partners, and support the business.

Irina 38:55
It’s been wonderful having this conversation with you. And thank you for joining our Candid Leader Insights series and sharing your valuable insights with us. And as we continue into 2024. I’m excited to see how your predictions for the CS industry unfold. Best wishes for the year ahead.

Keishla 39:15
Thank you Irina!

Nicoleta Niculescu

Written by Nicoleta Niculescu

Nicoleta Niculescu is the Content Marketing Specialist at Custify. With over 6 years of experience, she likes to write about innovative tech products and B2B marketing. Besides writing, Nicoleta enjoys painting and reading thrillers.

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