Another Cloud Podcast
A podcast designed to bring you stories from the smartest minds in IT, operations and business, and learn how they're using Cloud Technology to improve business and the customer experience.
The Importance of the Customer Journey Map with William Chesser
with Alex McBratney and Aarde Cosseboom
Don't have time to listen? Read the full transcription.
Hello, and welcome to another cloud podcast, a podcast designed to bring you stories from the smartest minds in it, operations and business and learn how they're using cloud technology to improve business and customer experience. All right, well, welcome to another cloud podcast. Today we are joined by William Chesser. He is the VP of customer success over at vital source. William, welcome to the show. Good to have you.
Thank you very much. The pleasure to be here.
Excellent. While spin was is after the weekend is Monday morning early for us in the West Coast, you're kind of hitting that lunchtime thing going on, but already good to see you. Good to have you on board. As always,
Alex, pleasure. As always, thanks for letting me co host this one. And William nice to nice to see and meet you. Why? Yeah, why don't we start by asking you a little bit about what you guys do a vital source?
Sure. Vital source has been a leader in trying to help folks who, who deliver education at a variety different levels, make the transition to digital materials to support what they do. And our focus for we've been in the market for Believe it or not, 25 years 20 years actively in the market. Um, and, uh, we've just we've we've done a ton of different things. But our specialty has been helping the market move to what are essentially e textbooks. That's the thing that we first did, we started 20 years ago. And we've done the most work around today, though, anywhere, folks are making a transition from what they would have used really in print. Previously, to support the teaching and learning environment, we're now going to try to help them make a smooth transition to consumption of digital versions of that. We think digital has the potential to make the learners experience richer. But we also think that from a, from a teaching and learning business, sustainability, and affordability point of view, we think digital has that potential to help all of those things. So we have our own platforms that people can use for ebooks or courseware. We are we're happy to help you. We have digital distribution platforms, if you've already got your own that will help get you to market effectively.
Yeah, that's interesting. I can only imagine that during COVID, in this whole pandemic this past year that the ebooks and digital has just exploded for you guys over there. How is that? I mean, talk a little bit about that, like how that that growth went, how just that transition went for you.
Yeah, I like to tell people, and it's half a joke, but it's only half a joke that I can move with data that we were good 10 or 15 years too early. As a company, we launched our first product in the market in 2000. And if you're, I mean, just thinking back the bandwidth that was available, you know, when for students at that time, the memory sizes of hard drives just everything. It was just a tough, tough world to get, um, a lot of what we were trying to get done, get it accomplished. But we had some early success that allowed us to, to hang around until, you know, things caught up with us in a lot of ways. But there's no question that and so in the last five years, we had really started to see a pretty dramatic growth in in people adopting a lot of the things that we've been working on for a long time. That's that wasn't anything new. But there's no question that the pandemic when things happened last year, it was gasoline on the on the fire? No, no question. And the way a lot of us think about that, and I think this is probably right. 2025 just got here five years early. For a lot of us, right. I mean, it really did compress and it gave people that extra push to we've always said that once teachers and learners made that transition into digital learning environments. There were advantages that people didn't go back, right. But but all of a sudden we're in a position where the reality of the world just made more people jump in and try and and half to take advantage of some of the things we did and had been doing for a long time and there's no question it made everything speed up dramatically.
Yeah, I remember back in the days when I was in college 2003 2004 still had to buy the textbook, you know, at the at the campus bookstore and I remember I think it was my junior or senior year of college, when I bought that book, it came with a CD ROM. And I was like, Oh my god, this is the future. Like, I didn't even like, the book was still brand new, I just took the CD ROM out, I played, you know, it might have been a DVD I can't remember put it into my computer. And, you know, did it all digitally. And I was like, wow, this is the future. So it can't imagine what it's like today, you know, with the Internet of Things and cloud and the ability to just, you know, have a license or pay for pay by use? It's definitely, it's got to be accelerated. How do you guys go ahead.
The good news is that the bookstore, part of that remains super relevant. Right? I mean, that that function that that campus bookstore has as the place where you know, it as the coordinating place for how all of those cool materials, get to the right people at the right time for the right. And in the right ways, they remain super important and central to that whole equation, I think what's what's probably different today than when you experienced it is just the maturity of the tools. And, you know, we've always been, we've always been focused on on a couple of what we think are just these these root things. Number one is, the more active a student is, while they're learning, the less passive, the better the learning is, right? So we do a lot of things. I mean, we'll work with the people who were actually creating the stuff that was on that CD ROM, and again, we have our own versions, we'll work with other people to make it as good. So it's not just a bunch of flat PDF files, right, we want to make it as searchable as possible as as as contextualized as possible. But on the other side, um, you know, there are there are just flat things about affordability and access and hat making sure every student has everything they need on day one, and how you can now embed that integrated into the campus LMS system and or the bookstore systems, in order to be able to just make everybody have the right thing at the right moment with hopefully, yeah, one click, and maybe you didn't have to install a CD and run up an executable and all that stuff, right? Maybe it's all a little cleaner than that.
Yeah, and what is a is consumer or college student adoption, a major friction point or hard point for your end users. Tell us a little bit about, you know, how you get people involved and keep them in the same space?
Yeah, so, um, I think that is one of the things. Um, it is that is one of the things that COVID sped up, right, if you're, um, there are, there are some really tricky economics that go on in any business, and ours is no exception. And one of the tricky economics is, if you feel like you can get your hands on a super cheap version of the course materials, there's such an incentive right to make that happen. And if you're a professor, you're you're wanting to help make sure your students aren't spending money, they don't have to spend, you're an advocate on their behalf. But then again, you want to make sure they have the right materials. It's complicated, right. And, and one of the things as we, as we kind of shift into talking about customer success in particular, one of the things about our business is particularly challenging is that end user, that student is the person who ends up on our platform, using their stuff and having to be successful as a user. But really, the institution that's delivering the material, in some ways, is more of a customer of ours, we're trying to help them be successful with those, making those students successful. And then the supply chain that that scaffolds in, that surrounds and helps that institution be successful is also part of our customer environment. And you go back upstream to the people who are creating the material in the first place, and they're also a customer success for us. I'm a customer set for us. And so we actually ended up and I don't think we're in any way unique we might have, it might be more complex than som. But from a customer success point of view, we end up with separate teams that are that are focused on these separate pieces of the supply chain, that ends up being a lot of the complexity. And a lot of the challenge that we as a company have, when we think of you know operationalizing A lot of people will will think about what we do think of that student and think oh, this is potentially kind of a straight up SAS model with that student as your customer but not the student doesn't choose the materials typically The student chooses maybe the point of sale that they go to, to get the materials, or from a mug, choose what they think they have to have or not right. But it's actually the institution that's typically making the choice of what the material is, it's best suited to make those students successful. And in conquering this particular content or learning domain, they happen to be involved in. Does that make sense?
Totally makes sense. Yeah, absolutely. And so you have these different buckets? What would you say, you know, this, I suppose, like, you know, what percentage of the buckets are the institution versus the students? And then how do you create a customer success team and, you know, environment around that to support all those different? You know, I guess, calling customers of customers, right?
Yeah, it's fun talking with you guys. Because you have a lot of context for customer success. So I don't necessarily feel like I have to explain how complicated it is. But the one thing I would want to the one thing I would want to state as clearly as I can up front, before we say anything else is we don't consider ourselves a vital source of very mature, mature Customer Success group. Right? We're, we've been doing this kind of thing. And again, a lot of companies say this. We've been doing the support of our customers in these various categories for for a couple decades, in some cases, but at least 10 years, right. We've had some team that did what we 10 years ago would have called account management, or customer support or something, right, these roles kind of in here. But in terms of this thing, that that the three of us are here to kind of talk about this, this this emerging discipline, have a thing called customer success. And why is that exactly different than these things we thought we were doing 10 years ago in terms of that, that discipline and that those best practices, we don't consider ourselves to be a very mature group, we're, we're a good reference for people who are just figuring out that, wait a minute, there's this thing called customer success? And how do you make? How do you get your company to move from this thing we used to call account management to this new set of of what are obviously best practices, right. And I think that's so our when I whenever I get a kind of question like this of, you know, how does the business break down? And and where do you? Where are you seeing success? Maybe and where not as you transition your teams? Well, the simplest answer, Alex is it depends. And it varies. And, and I've, I've been working with some some of my I have a, we have a pretty large team for customer success. And I've been working with some of the leadership on our customer success team recently trying to develop an actual matrix that talks about how to identify as a team as a segment specific team, how to identify how mature you are, in that journey, from what we used to call a count management to what we now want to call customer success. And, and there are going to be multiple vectors on that. Where are you with how you handle data? Where are you with how you do training? How, where are you with, you know, reactive versus proactive versus strategic kind of conversations, those, we're trying to plot those vectors in a way that potentially we hope to eventually, maybe come up with a kind of a rubric for the vectors that will help you plot yourself as a leader. So you can see, okay, as a team leader, I see that in one of I have one team, for example, that I think is still for a variety of reasons. In a pretty primitive state, I have another team that I think is pretty far along. A ton of that will have to do with the toolset that they're using the maturity of the toolset the maturity of the data structure around the toolset. You know you as a camp, we were a company that went through a quick succession of acquisitions in the last few years, I think we did something like five, four or five acquisitions in four or five years, right? So suddenly, you have date different data structures, and it you guys probably know this. It can be 90% similar but 10% different and it's still pretty success. Still pretty challenging, to get that real integration layer that you want to go back to pull together to begin to inform what your success teams are doing. Again, does that make sense? What I'm just sayin
Totally make sense.
Yeah. Get wound up about this. I tend to get off topic sometimes. Sorry.
No, that's perfect. Yeah. For a lot of the people out there, in similar roles, I could see them on the same journey of maturity. Of course, now, starting with not really having true Customer Success frameworks and then building them out over time. And I think, I think the journey is real, the journey from having nothing to having something to having you know, the best or something ideal, is a is a really good story to have. And it's good to hear people who are in it in throughout that change. It's also good to hear from people who have made it through and have see the light at the end of the tunnel. But it's also great to see you know, an interview people who are even at the beginning and don't even know how to start. So, talk to us a little bit about some of the the maybe the challenges that you have already talked a lot, and you have hit on a lot of really good points, the challenges of having lots of different end customers, you know, the end user, the institution as a customer and content creators. Yeah, let's, let's either drill into that template a little bit more, or talk about other potential challenges that you have the kind of prevent you from getting to the next level of maturity for customer success.
Yeah, so I think, um, asd you the one thing I think everybody immediately identifies is that sense of going from reactive to trying to be a little more proactive, a little more ahead of the story. And ahead of the, the taking the temperature of your customer and being you know, that's the one thing everybody gets 1012 years ago, it was, everything was good until we got that email that said, everything was not good. And everybody was all hands to try to deal with it. Right. And, and I think every person I threw through a variety of different connections this past year for me, I've been able to meet a lot of other VPS and directors of customer success. And and invariably, one of the place we always ended up we always end up in, in conversations is, on this topic of we used to be reactive, we're trying to figure out what needs to be true. For us not to be in there. There's, there's this funny series of questions that everybody I talked to, it is wrestling with this sort of diagnostic step. And for us, we started with, do we understand step by step what, what this whole thing looks like from our customer's point of view. And we anchored really hard really fast on the idea of this of the customer journey, and having a customer journey map. Right? That was one of the kind of buzz wordy best practice II things that we that we hear. When we came across it, man, it resonated with us. And we knew that was something that was going to be important to us. Now I should say, if you go back to the fact that our our success team is very segmented, um, I have a team that is focused just on content providers, I have a team that's focused just on that kind of supply chain, those Reese those important campus resellers, I have a team that's focused on our big institutional partners. And again, we had a really interesting question at the, from the very beginning. Are we gonna end up doing totally different journey maps for these different classes of customers? Right. And some of these customers came in, more or less, alongside or, or at least strategically aligned with some of the acquisitions we did. And so it was some new teams. And we were at the same time we were managing cultural and trying to integrate and build teams and everything. We were dealing with this, is it going to be totally different? And are we going to end up? Is this going to end up making us more siloed or less siloed? Right, those were the questions that were on those that things that were on our mind. And we were I think, Alex, I can't remember the first time we talked, I think I mentioned the story. No matter who you talk to in leadership and customer success anywhere in the world right now. They It seems to me that unless you started your company from scratch, pretty recently as a full SAS company, you've got some version of the story of some executive walked into a bunch of offices and said, Hey, I know you guys used to be account management. I've just changed all your titles here. Your new business cards are all customer success and they walk out of the room.
Yeah, the new buzz, right.
Yeah. And, and, and they and I have talked to so many people who have some version of this story. There's not there's sometimes there's a good amount of training and there's a good amount of follow up and there's a good amount, but sometimes there's not and sometimes it's short. left to the teams to kind of figure out and decipher what that really meant. And, and so for us, that journey started with this idea of a customer journey map. So I've, I'm, personally, I'm addicted to podcasts, I drove all my people crazy by talking about podcasts every single day about something. But I was going through a lot of podcasts at the time, on customer success came across a couple people I really responded to well reached out to one particular person, I read his eaps, who a lot of people in this part of the market already know, who's a good consultant, we brought her in, she helped us just kind of get out of the gate with these ideas about journey maps, in particular, because we were trying to anchor on it. And so we sat down, our my various team leaders went through the process of just trying to learn the language. And I will say, as an aside, just the commonality of language, just the commonality of vocabulary in and of itself was gold. Having all the teams talk about these phases in the same ways, and these and the breakdown of responsibilities with a lot of the same terminology, but terminology, super helpful, that's worth a ton. And to, to sort of cut to the to the punch line, we all went into it believing we were going to cut it was gonna have to be very, very different journeys. And it wasn't, it turned out at the end that while there are a lot of nuances that are very different, there was a superstructure of of a journey map that turned out at the end, we were very pleasantly surprised. We said, you know what this will work. And in almost any of our businesses at least. And while every team has their own flavor of it, it was really nice. It turned out to be a good team building exercise, just to see that you know, what we're all doing a lot of the same things and a lot of the same ways. And therefore the hidden leadership bonus here is and therefore, it, it should be perfectly acceptable for us all used to use the same ticketing system. Yeah. We don't have you, it's not a you use Zendesk, you use Salesforce, I'll use whatever right, we were able to say, look, the structure here is common enough where in our particular case where we were deploying Service Cloud on Salesforce at that time anyway, and it ended up being a really nice way to get everybody kind of bought in around this one thing, which for me, was critical if we were going to be on a path to any kind of common data. environment, right? Yeah.
Well, I love how like when we talked before, you talked about frameworks, right? And how this new customer success world, it's been challenging to find a good framework that sounds like a real disease, I was able to at least help build some structure that you can run with. And what's great is that, I think a lot of times with customer success are so much you can get lost in the weeds. And you can do so many different nuance things, right? Like the fact that you have three or four different customer sets, that you almost create something unique for each separate one, but then you just overcomplicate it, it creates more work, it doesn't hit, you know, ROI, and like what you're actually trying to do. So like the idea of just simplifying it one framework across all the different groups, and then each one can have their own nuance to it, but you're not losing that, that main framework.
Yeah, not to give a read too many plugs, but we got, we've actually worked with her, there's a, there's going to be a resource available on her website, that will, um, that has, I think, as a part of the documentation has some stuff about that actual what we ended up with as that kind of generic journey map kind of stuff. And so that might be something out it's worth dropping a link to later. I think it's live yet, but might be something worth putting in the show notes. At some point.
Absolutely. I mean, any resource for for the audience and for people out there because just like you're saying, like, you know, like most people are coming from the account management world. And they're going okay, well, now it's changed. We're now we're proactive, not reactive. So where do I start? You know, from there, you have any resources a good resource? Sure.
Well, we found that bringing in someone early on to just help us with vocabulary and best practices was worth as much that was really, really helpful for us, for us from the very beginning.
Is there is there something else that you guys did it because that's a very Strategic space, but then from, you have to have some tactical tasks or items. And I know consolidating the one CRM or repository or ticketing system was helpful. Were there other tactical changes that you guys did needed to make coming out of that kind of session that were just eye opening and just easy, low hanging fruit?
That was so not necessarily straight out of that, that session, we were in a primitive state at that session, and that was plenty for us to get out of that session. Right. And, um, and it was worth, you know, again, worth its weight in gold. But I do think subsequent to that, one of the fairly tactical things that that started to make sense to me, was there were going to be, and we're going to really get in the weeds here, sorry. But there were going to be specific things that our teams were doing that because of the complexity of our environment, um, it was going to be a, we were we were on a pathway to the product market, maturing to the point where the, you know, the product was going to begin to take on a lot of scales. But where we were at that moment, we were not there yet. Right. And so when you start talking about tactically, what we were doing, we're one of the big things, and I will end up this will be one of the vectors in our matrix, when we end up with it. One of the really important things was division of labor. And trying to begin to understand that look, there's there's a few things that only CSS can do. But I know very few CS team use that. That's all they do. Right? Yeah, you've got csms do, there's this layer of activities, that man, only a CSM can do these things. And it's about communicating with the customer. And it's about being out front and watching the data and being predictive and helping and doing training and all those things. But then there ends up being there's another 50 to 70% of their jobs that end up being very specific to whatever the tools are very specific to the to the business, right. And so what we did, tactically, I think really paid off for us was, as we started looking at the journey, we started if you think of the journey steps as being kind of vertical in a grid, we started to go down the rows and say, well, is that particular step something the CSM has to do? Or the Can that be offloaded to the to a customer success operations team. And that be in our case, inventory management is a huge part of our business. And so we began to say, well, is that something that would be more effectively managed by the an inventory management team is that something and that division of labor, again, to cut to the chase, ended up expressing itself in not just better communication with the product team, because we were able to document and really quickly have effective conversations about, you know, this doesn't feel like something the CSM ought to do operations can do it now. But ultimately, shouldn't the product just be taken care of this in some way? Right. But even I think probably more importantly than that, as you're negotiating, which we all do, with the product team, about the priorities around the things that you'd like to see versus the things that other things. As you're negotiating that there's this runway where in our case, we began to recognize for example, there were some things that could be offshore. And we could be so there there's these kind of cascading is the CSM doing it, there are some items that were probably then probably need to be offloaded to the CSM can be more effective. As we offload that to operations. Are there some things that we can find more cost effective ways of doing and more for us more than there give us a more burstable kind of scale? Remember our business where I'd say the majority of our business is in higher education, but it's higher education from around the globe. We also do we have a very robust adult learning part of our education. We also do some work in K 12. So we have different parts of the business really ramp up and work around academic calendars, training calendars, southern hemisphere, academic calendars versus northern hemisphere, academic calendars, and the management of that kind of on and off nature, spiky nature of the workload. We made huge strides just by being able to begin to do that division of labor thing and apply various and different things work for different parts of the business right Did you try to scale that, but but all of that came out of that basic? First, let us please identify the steps from the customer's point of view, so that we can see what they do next, what they do next and start to then pull the threads from that. What does that mean to our team, which our team have been doing before this? What started? What you know, how do we how do we break that out?
You hit it right on the head. And we've we've talked to a couple of people in a similar role. And they're at different points in their journey of transforming their teams. But we hear the same thing. People who are in the beginning, very beginning of this transformation, their CSM literally do everything, like even sales and marketing, they do support the upsell, they do. They do like ticketing they do. They do feature requests for product, and then they do quality assurance after the product does release. It's it's all over the board. But the mature ones get better with it.
Some people are surprised to hear that my background has been sort of swinging like a pendulum over the years through from kind of operational side, like what I consider what I'm doing today, back to business Dev, Biz Dev, and then back to average back to bizarre, but it's a function of the natural cycle of the business, you go and you get some new business. And then when you're a very small organization, you go back and you and you begin to try to build out the systems to support that business as it grows, right. And so all of a sudden, yeah, you were a part of starting a particular vein of the business. And now you're back to, and we all know how this happens. Let's be honest, the first time you just hire somebody that reports to that salesperson to make that stuff work. And then slowly over time, you realize now it's not gonna work for them to report to the salesperson, we're going to burn through somebody every two weeks. Kind of you book and and that's a joke, but it you don't build scale that way. Right. And so then you pull it back out, and it becomes this kind of customer support team. And then it becomes that becomes a kind of account management team. And then it becomes this kind of, you know, suddenly Finally, some one day somebody puts their head up and says, you know, there's actually a discipline in the market, about this, and there are books, we should look at customer success. Like we're, we're a, we're a totally typical example of that. And, and, again, don't consider ourselves to be super far along that journey. We've learned a ton. And I think we're a great kind of guideposts for folks who, like you were just describing our, you know, just really realizing that they need to make this kind of a transition. Those are the folks if you've if you've worked for Salesforce for 15 years and done customer success, you're not going to learn anything from us, you got you know, those guys wrote the book on it. And they have a very mature approach. We're, I think, a kind of poster children for the folks who are really just identifying and starting the journey.
Yeah, well, you know, like you're saying he didn't start as a SaaS company where it was automatically already there, you had to go from a model that was, has been there for 20 years. Now you're transitioning over. And at the same time, you're getting hit with all this, you know, influx of business because of COVID. And just in general, everything going digital, how did you talk about the tech stack a little bit has that matured over the past five years to help enable this new framework and enable, you know, the growth and keep up with it.
One of the things I think a lot of people might find a little surprising about our business is that our end user support team doesn't report into the same part of the company as customer success. We have we do have a robust, b2c business. It's one of the one of the segments that we serve. So we do have some customers coming directly to our website and buying stuff. But they're they're served through the customer support that that support team and user support, which actually reports in our product group. We stay closely coupled with them. But but but a lot of people I think would be surprised it's not. The customer success team for us supports the b2b business, right. And so our customer, our end user support team uses Zendesk. And so we had that. On our side, we were, you know, we're much more closely coupled with the sales teams, of course, so we're, we're much more likely to be in and out of Salesforce. Gotcha. Yeah, right, going back aways, but we didn't have anything like a Service Cloud. We've had Salesforce for a long time, but not that kind of extra extra transactional layer and we are We are a company software is our core competence, right? And so we have all of our own, we deliver digital products and digital platforms. And so all of those have their own tech stacks that are that totally our company's products, not, not necessarily the kind of things you would necessarily think of, as tech stacks for customer success, although there are back end systems that are critical, right, to what Customer Success does and how we approach it. So, um, that's a long winded way of saying, our tech stack environment has been complicated. It was not made less so by a bunch of acquisitions. Right. And so we live in an environment today that is still fairly complicated in terms of the various technical stacks and, and tools that we use, when we're approaching our customer successful. The implementation of of Service Cloud last year, was in many ways, a first big step toward trying to just bring all of our various segment teams together into a single environment. Um, I got, you know, like, I have some friends on who work at gainsight, and work at turn zero, and they call me all the time wondering when I'm going to be ready for my next demo. And I love them. And every time I see those things like this, these are great. But reality of our internal data environment, is we couldn't take advantage of a tool like that today, if we want it. We just couldn't I mean, that's there. And, and it's, and it's not for lack of one, right? I mean, I would love to be an AR, we're a company that sees the value of that kind of thing. The problem we have is, number one, like a lot of companies these days, um, data is a little bit radioactive, because we have, we have to be we're dealing with students in schools, we have to be super careful. And we are super dedicated to the whole idea of I personally identifiable information. I think, obviously, everybody has to be incredibly careful with those things these days. But we consider that to be one of our core competencies, we've been in this business for 20 years, and we nobody, I think, in education has more experience than we do. And I don't, I don't believe anybody's invested more than we have in just that one component of making sure we take care of that data. Now, that said, that doesn't necessarily make it the easiest data to take advantage of, and pull into other systems and make a big data lake and you know, all the things on that there are all these little nuances that really have to be very, very well taken care of, I'd say where we are today is, um, through Service Cloud. Through our Zendesk integrations with Zendesk and how we're starting to pull some of that stuff together, we are beginning we do have a BI tool, we are beginning to pull a lot of that data together. Um, I think that'll be something that'll be a real area of focus for us in the next 12 months. We've made some amazing strides in the last 18 to 24 months. Um, but there's still a ton to do. And we're not going to get, we're not going to get into a more complicated, success focused tech stack, until some of these other things that that take care of.
Now, I know we like to wrap up with a final question, Alex, I'll let you ask them one after this one. But I have a question before that, um, talk to us a little bit about how your customers communicate with you, whether that's, you know, inbound tickets, email shots, phone, or scheduling appointments. And has that changed over the last, you know, I will say 18 months since the pandemic, has the volume of contacts change? Yeah. How
How do our customers communicate with us actively? Is the answer. Right? Um, it does vary a little bit by segment. But, um, and I think one of the really important points, I'm glad you asked this question, because I didn't want us to get away without making this point. In our business, like a lot of businesses again, um, we have pretty widely varying tiers of b2b customers. Right? We will have we have some b2b customers that are billion dollar companies. And we have some b2b customers that aren't that are less than a million dollar a year. Your company, right? I mean, really super niche, but nonetheless super important to us in the success of our business. And so one of the things we had to do really early on, right, as we were doing journey maps, we immediately jumped in and said, Oh, in order for these journey maps to work, we're going to have to tear out the customer sets. And so we do that in every one of our segments. And when we start talking about how we communicate with a tier $1 billion company, there are going to be different tactics, they're actually going to be different on columns in the customer journey map, about what what necessarily constitutes a handoff meeting, or a pre meeting with stakeholders, or each of the or, you know, what ends up serving as a renewal for us will vary by segment, but it will also vary by tier right. And so all of those nuances have to be teased out. To give you a much more concrete practical answer, in some cases, so we have a variety of different email powered systems that feed writing in and out of Salesforce, that's a ton of how we communicate, we are slack users, and we do what a lot of people are doing these days, I think, which is set up external, externally activated Slack, on arrangements with certain customers in certain tiers where that makes sense, certain partners, we keep talking about customers, we also have some very large and significant partners, in all of these varieties of businesses. And so we're likely to have things like the kind of Slack channel setups with with those guys. Um, but you know, we were pretty old school and the number of times we want to try to get our CSS on the phone with people, as well. And now, of course, no one does anything but zoom, right? Suddenly, it's all every day, every day all day, for everything we do. So in all of those cases, um, it is a, we like to think it's a coordinated collection of these various avenues, but you can't, in our business, it's not reasonable to think you're going to try to lock a customer in on any one of those, it's going to be multiple, the most significant improvement, I think, in the last 12 months for our business, though, has been the things that we do that automate communication in and out of our ticketing system in Service Cloud.
Yeah, there's nothing like automation, right? And where it makes sense, because you still want to maintain that that good relationship, you don't want to just automate the world out of the process, because then you lose.
We know a lot of people I think, want to jump to the conclusion that these really big tier one publishers, oh, they're gonna take 80% of your time and your, your, your important but small or published customers, that they're gonna not need, they're gonna just, you know, need a requisite corresponding amount of attention, right, according to the size of the business, and what and what most people come to understand. And again, I think this is most businesses, it can actually be the opposite. It can actually be inversely proportionate. Because in a lot of cases, your largest partners and customers have teams of people internally, who are working with you and are doing their and are also very interested in being as proactive and everything else. Whereas sometimes it's the smaller tier publishers who are better served by a more active and more automated approach, because they need more they need. They need a closer touch and no and a more tailored approach and the extent to which you can put in automated things that allow them to drive their own journey through what they need, man, it's hugely, hugely important.
yeah, I think. I think that's a lot. It's similar to what Brett said, from sun basket, and he's on a monthly recurring delivery service and his customers. You know, they get boxes in which they get recipes and they make food every single week or month. And he said, don't focus on the people who have been your customer for three years. I mean, do focus on them, but don't focus hypersensitivity to them because they already know what they want. They don't need the suggestions whereas your two three week you know, five week old customers, they need suggestions they need hand holding. They need to understand how to Cook and prep certain types of meals. So it's very interesting, you got to flip it upside down and think about your consumer base a little bit differently.
Yeah, it really is it our version, I think one of our versions of that is we power an entire supply chain. And there in each of the folks along the way in the supply chain, potentially not don't have to, but potentially might have some kind of connection with us, where we're supporting something they're doing through our technology, right. And sometimes, someone late in the supply chain is driving a need or used for someone early in the supply chain. And that person early in the supply chain, if they're small business, they may not even know what you're talking to them about. Right. And there's a it's not just about making the plumbing work, it's about being able to engage with those people at the various stages, and be able to talk about the rest of the stages and and be able to, to help manage the demand in some cases as well as the supply. Right. And that's a that's a challenge. I think we we've been wrestling with that to some degree or another for 20 years, and I don't expect it to go away for 20. More. That's one of the reasons I think that what we in our supply chain partners do is so important, and so helpful, ultimately, is we do manage a lot of that up down upstream downstream of the supply chain, in a way that we, by virtue of being at it for so long, we've gotten pretty good at where if you're, if you're new to this market, you will scratch your head and think what on earth is going on?
And again, there's nothing special about our market, every markets got their version of that?
Well, what what I love about this podcast is that every single business is has its own nuances. They're all unique, there's not a one size fits all, for any sort of framework or any like technology use, it has to be custom thought about With that in mind, because everyone's just has a different flavor, whether it's b2b, and you're helping your b2b clients support their customers. And so there's just so many nuances, when one of the things we like to do at the very end of the podcast is just ask about a personal customer experience that you've had with a brand or a service that kind of blew you away where you're like, that's how we should be treating our customers or our clients. You know, I'll give an example. This is a small one for myself, it was just over the weekend, I got our skis all tuned up into winter tune so that they're all good for the summer until next year. And there are some burrs on it, there's the edges weren't quite done right the right way, there's still some kind of rough spots. So I brought him back in over the weekend and said, Hey, you know what, like, this wasn't quite what I thought and so he looked at it, it's like, you know what, we just got a new bevel machine, we're gonna put it through that, don't worry about it. You know, come back next week, and we'll have those all cleaned up better for you, you know, so it's just for me, it's always about taking care of the customer. They don't give me flack they even look up my record to see that they paid for the full tune up before. And then I you know, here they are. So any examples that you have that kind of stand out?
Yeah, I tell you what, let me say one thing before I answer your question, um, I, before we stop, I have to say, I get the fun of jumping on a call like this with folks like you. I get this is so much fun and talking about what we're doing. And I'm, you know, it is so great. I get I get the privilege of doing this. But I have to tell you guys, I have a group of directors and managers who report to me Who are the people who really did everything that I'm talking to you. And I have learned most of what I'm talking about I learned from them in the last two years. And the folks that are that are that are really leaders on our customer success team are the ones that that really I we get so much more if it was a panel of them instead of just talking to head William talking telling all these stories. Yeah, but and and when you first said you know, stories about really high quality customer success. The first thing that popped into my head was some of the things that I've heard our own teams do for folks that I would think wow, I am so happy. What a team right and you the without I had nothing to do with it. These people are just really good at what they do. Now that said, as you were talking one did pop into my mind, I did have a good example. Um, I won't name the actual product because it's a good and bad.
Okay, So I run a lot, um, I jog I don't know that people would call it running, but I do jog really religiously. And so I like all cyclists and runners, I'm into the gear. That's the only reason we really do it, it's all about the gear. And I discovered recently set of headphones that his eye sees bone conducting headphones. I don't know if you've heard of this, no, but the advantage is they go by, they don't cover your ear, your ears still wide open to hear your surroundings. And the sound is being transmitted through bone conduction, like in front of and behind your ear, right? Anyway. So that'll narrow it down for me. But, um, so I wanted to try these. And I tried them. And it was a really good product experience. I loved the product. But sure enough, after a month, on the something came loose in one side, and I could hear it rattling. And I was so disappointed that these that I had had, I really liked these things. I wanted to keep them forever, right. And I went to their website, and just to say, Hey, you know, I need some help. I need some support here. And the bad part of the story is the website was helpful. It was, you know, there, obviously, and I'm sympathetic to this there. Obviously one of these companies is trying to manage costs on the support side, right? It was not easy to find a way to to communicate with their support team. It's very disappointing. So I did what everyone always does. And now if you had not driven back down there, Alex, I guarantee you, you would have done this, but your skis, I tweeted, o Oh, yeah,
at this company, hey, guys had a pretty crummy experience, you know, super disappointed because I love the product. And man, within two hours, I had receipt, I had a confirmation number of the new set they had, they were shipping me, I had the shipping beautiful, within two hours. And that to me, that completely turned my experience around. And I was you know, I was 100% back in on this company and thought, Wow, that was great. Now, Alex, I think we could have a whole nother hour of conversation
About customer success, or is that customer support? Or is that reactive? Or is that proactive? And is that? You know, that's a fun one to pull the thread on? You know, maybe in the future? Yeah. But that is the thing that came to mind when you asked me that question. I it was, it was a better or worse. Yeah. It was a really good experience with a team that was supposed to try to make me happy. And they absolutely did.
Yeah, I absolutely love that. And I think a lot of it too, is you know, meeting the customer where they're at to like you wanted to tweet something out to get a response. That's the channel you took, but if they didn't have that channel to monitor or watch, you're done buying that brand and you're gonna get to tell all your friends about it all your other running buddies, hey, I tried those but yeah, fell apart, they didn't do anything about it, I would recommend looking somewhere else.
Now a better customer success example my son's moving into an apartment in a nearby college town. He's moves in June 1, so in three weeks, and he had it set up with a provider that shall remain nameless that was supposed to come by that day and hook up his internet and they got they sent him an email yesterday saying that without talking to him they had decided to change the date they were going to come a week earlier.
That's moving date is like nobody was there a week earlier. And that's that to me is an example of a company that's really they haven't really thought through this whole Customer Success yet. Or at least they're super early in the process.
Well sadly Yes. That's the cable company slash internet company for you. Go ahead Aarde
that's one of those things that you need assurance that you have internet it's almost like you need water and gas you know day one electricity water he had an internet Other than that, you know, you could you don't have internet you're you're working off your phone and you know to be a successful person in this day and age working off your phones not very not
it's not going to help you it's not going to be the answer you want for your advanced calculus class. Right? Oh, it is awesome and it's all online and
I could do I could do without gas and water The internet is very important.
Because you could you can order food from you know Yeah, but it's it's tough not having internet. But
yeah. We're all hooked for life. But William, I got to tell you, it's wonderful having you on the show and you have such great insight. I think anyone that listens is going to learn, definitely learned something, especially the ones that are on the journey early in the faith phase of this customer success journey. And but again, thanks. Thanks for jumping on. It was absolute pleasure.
It obviously fun. I enjoy it. So thanks again for the opportunity. And I hope we have a chance to follow up.
Absolutely. Thanks, everyone.
Bye bye. Well, that wraps up the show for today. Thanks for joining. And don't forget to join us next week as we bring another guest in to talk about the trends around cloud contact center and customer experience. Also, you can find us at Adler, advisors.com, LinkedIn, or your favorite podcast platform. We'll see you next week on another cloud podcast.