It goes without saying that customer success has changed since the pandemic, but the better questions are how has it evolved? What can leaders do more effectively in response? And how can we learn socially from our CS colleagues and other departments in the world of hybrid work?
We talked about her transition from a similar role at Typeform (where she worked for seven years), the best starting point for building a CS function at a young company, the importance of recognising internal customer needs, the optimal onboarding journey, and whether there’s a pressure to know all the answers when you’re leading a team.
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0:00 Intro to Angela Guedes.
1:52 How the pandemic has changed customer success.
4:17 What’s it like joining a new company and building a CS function?
6:16 What does an optimal onboarding journey look like for a new starter?
10:33 The roles and responsibilities of a Head of Customer Success.
15:05 Is there a pressure to know all of the answers?
17:24 How Angela approaches learning and becoming better at her role?
19:47 Replicating social learning in the hybrid and remote CS world.
23:08 The voice of the customer programs.
25:42 Quickfire questions.
Seven takeaways on customer success in the post-pandemic world
How has the pandemic affected and changed customer success?
In Angela’s opinion, it became less formal and more human. We’d see people’s houses and their families or friends in the background of customer calls – something that Angela personally enjoyed because it offers the human touch and builds more empathy between customer success managers and clients.
Customer success teams definitely needed support to feel comfortable in those less business-like scenarios, whether it’s noise in the background or unfamiliar set ups, it can be distracting when you’re not used to it.
Where do you start in building a CS function in a new company? What’s the first step?
A lot of listening! In Angela’s first week at Belvo, she joined plenty of meetings but let her manager do the talking so that she could learn as much as possible about the business, how it works and the people. She made a great point that there’s no sense in pretending you know how that new industry or business works. So, Angela chose to speak with the CS team, salespeople, jump into coffee roulettes and find out as much as possible early on by speaking with people throughout the company.
What does an optimal onboarding journey look like for a new starter?
You need to know what’s expected up front! In leadership roles, you have to balance building a team with learning about the processes and how people work. Angela made sure she asked questions like ‘what do you expect from me in 30 days?’ – enabling her to put together a realistic plan. It’s something that prevents you from getting lost in information overload or losing sight without deadlines.
Ensuring you meet with all the relevant teams is another tip. Angela discussed the benefits of jumping on 45-minute calls to understand the key issues and topics that affect those departments and people.
For Angela, as a CS leader, the first thing you need to get a handle on is the problem you solve and why customers choose you ahead of the competition. How many use cases do customers have with you? Is it just one or are there multiple reasons that they’re using your product? What does winning look like for your customers? These are the type of questions you need to ask.
How do you work out where your team needs support?
Angela’s early conversations with the team revealed they were hoping for someone who could act as a mentor or a coach. So it’s no surprise that she discussed career aspirations with them early on in her role at Belvo, to understand where they wanted to be in a few years. When a leader opens your relationship with a focus on you, that encourages people to open up and set the foundations for something fruitful.
You should ask people where they need support and use data where possible to understand opportunities too – combining the two can give you a balance between building hard and soft skills.
Nelson put it to Angela whether there’s any pressure to know all the answers? With people seeing her as the source of all knowledge for customer success. Angela felt that in her last year at Typeform, given that she’d been there for seven years but made the point that if you’re hiring the right people then you don’t always need to tell them what to do! Especially if their expertise is already in customer success.
How did Angela improve and grow in her role?
She really credits loving what you do! That way, you don’t mind when you have to spend eight hours troubleshooting an issue or taking the time to listen to podcasts and read articles that make you better at your job. That curiosity and passion was a driver for Angela in connecting with other professionals and learning from their experiences too.
Replicating social learning in the hybrid and remote CS world
At Belvo they’ve implemented CS learning groups, where one person in the team picks an article, podcast or resource and they all come back together on a Friday to discuss it! That’s definitely one way to keep up with the trends and understand different perspectives on key issues.
Keeping thorough sets of meeting notes and sharing with everyone in the team is another great idea too! Oversharing isn’t something to be scared of because it can truly help people understand the rationale behind decisions or how the journey with that client has progressed over time.
And never forget that human element either, to leave time for small talk and ensure you’re connecting with people on a personal level on a regular basis.
The voice of the customer programs
Angela shared a story that while it’s really helpful to be focused on becoming a champion for your customers, it led her to forgetting that the product team are one of her customers too! You have to consider which metrics they consider important and the best way to serve that information to them.
The end users aren’t your only customers, there’s plenty of internal teams who are interested in the customer insights you can share and will be able to act more effectively when you provide the right information in the right formats.