Jennifer Chiang, Author of The Startup's Guide to Customer Success and Director of Customer Success at Yup Technologies
Jennifer Chiang is the CEO of DWDG Consulting and the Director of Customer Success at Yup Technologies, where she was the architect behind the customer success team. She is a leader who is passionate about helping companies - particularly startups - unlock the true potential of customer success through analytics, empowerment, and a truly customer-centric mindset.
Throughout her career, she's connected with other customer success leaders and have collated her learnings and insights into The Startup's Guide to Customer Success.
AUTOMATED EPISODE TRANSCRIPT
[00:00:01] You're listening to Scaling Up Services where we speak with entrepreneurs authors business experts and thought leaders to give you the knowledge and insights you need to scale your service based business faster and easier. And now here is your host Business Coach Bruce Eckfeldt.
[00:00:23] Welcome everyone this is Scaling Up Services. I’m Bruce Eckfeldt. I'm your host and our guest today is Jennifer Chiang and she is author of the startups guide to customer success. And we're going to talk to her a little bit about what it means to have a successful customer strategy and what it means to be customer centric in your mindset as you develop your business. And I'm excited about this. I think this is a great topic for anyone who is a service based company. So let's get into it with that. Jennifer welcome to the program.
[00:00:48] Thank you. Great to be here. So let's get a little bit more information about you your background. And then we can talk about the book so professional background. Where did you start and how did you get into this facet of the profession.
[00:01:00] Yeah. So I saw the business world success being customer centric has always been something I've been interested in. And kind of being heavy on communication and making sure everyone's OK has something has been something I've always focused on throughout my career. Individual ships or anything like that so I started out in the business sense and realized that hey like I'm at a startup here in San Francisco and there's a lot of talk about being customer centric right. A lot of CEOs you know we're so customer centric and they care about the customer but I realized that you know even talk to my friends like what does that actually mean. And that's when I saw again the customer success being understand. OK yes you can say you're customer centric but what actions are you taking to really really show that to really tell your customers to hey I'm listening hey I'm actually reacting to what you're saying. And you know there's been so many studies like in the early 2010s over 85 percent of people have said that they actually choose companies based on the customer experience. So there's this huge shift in focus from the customer like a high touch or like like glove experiences. They want to be treated well and they choose companies based on that. So that really interests me kind of going into profession being like well OK. So how does this mean for Mr. Right work. You know we were at the time we were 10 people and one dog you know he had security if you. And that's when I really thought like OK how do you bring this company to the next level. There's a lot of people on this base who would take this into the club.
[00:02:35] Right. And that's kind of where I started going into customer success as I went into customer success I realized you know there's a ton of resources out there and I got completely overwhelmed because just as there are so many different types of companies out there which means that a lot of different types of customer centric models out there. So for example what how to be customer centric in a B2B sense you know if I'm talking to a company you know versus if I'm talking to the end user it's going to be very different. Yeah. So I don't work that company. Yeah exactly. So I work in a company where we work with parents for an education company and everyone cares about the child's education and rightly so. What this means is that we need the extra we need to be very very customer centric to make sure that the parent and the student feel like we're there for them along the whole journey. Then the journey especially since you know you mess up one thing in education and then there's a snowball things like that. Yeah yeah that's kind of how I started my journey and realizing OK. Yes. There's so many resources out there and I realized that a lot of B2B and I don't see. So what does that mean. And especially since I'm a startup I don't have that many many resources that I like fifty thousand budget where I can spend on technology don't make my life separate again. So with that actually in that's why you know I started in 30 minutes I talk to people and I kind of clean it all into a book and that's why I recently published. Good.
[00:04:08] So. So let's talk about let's talk about customer because I think that's where. I think that seemingly is easy.
[00:04:14] But I certainly have found in my own kind of personal startup experience and and my kind of coaching and advising experience that defining that can actually be harder than it originally seems particularly like you mentioned the B2B and actually even in your situation.
[00:04:31] I mean you have multiple customers or multiple stakeholders or multiple people that you're trying to satisfy for different levels. You know how how do you kind of start with that question of or how do you begin to answer that question of who is your customer or what's your strategy around that.
[00:04:47] Definitely. And I think that's such an important question as well. We don't know your customers you don't know how does the center run strategy price strategy or customer success strategy.
[00:04:55] So really figuring that out the super super important and I recommend you know first you just kind of go out there say well you're starting kind of go for part product market fit and you can only ask around see who gravitate naturally as you developing that persona that you do learning that user Well I think people usually forget about understanding what I call music complexity so understanding the behind every single word like motion people have it when they're interacting with your partner.
[00:05:26] Whatever that is from the very beginning so hey. Searching for anyone. For example I'm searching for a product that can solve my computer needs. What type of mindset do I have going into this. Whatever emotions my experience makes being see inside I'm not going to work on time in me or I might be trying to be opportunistic like that's really important for the company to understand especially marketing to understand. OK how do I make sure that I'm meeting the customer they're at user complexity is also very important. And then comes to the product. So or even with the support site. OK. So if someone that's having an issue with your product where are they coming from. Are they coming from a place of desperation. Are they coming from a place that you know this is kind of on the label figuring it out. And what does that mean. And question is do they have outside of them. So whether that is for us academic. So that could be their teacher pressure pressure to go to college things like that. And how do you meet them there so that sort of thing catered to their needs into their actual pain points and may not be the pain points that they're saying to us. So I think it's a little bit one step further into bit better and you say easier but I think that's something that we need.
[00:06:36] As CEOs and its leadership who you always keep in mind Yeah well I like that I've really understanding the different kind of stakeholders or the people that you're trying to service on and what their concerns are.
[00:06:48] And I like the whole idea of kind of the emotional needs or the emotional kind of situation or context thread. I think it's very easy for us a particular business people very kind of analytical at times to look at the task that we're trying to get done and not not appreciate the sort of confounding emotional factors that are going into the drive in for that task. The desire to do that task or the complexity of that task and the ability to kind of deal with the task particularly a complex task.
[00:07:14] If if there are other kind of pressures or things going on for that person as we're going through it and I think failing failing to get that can lead to problems or at least lead to a lack of success.
[00:07:25] Yeah and definitely it goes the other way. So if my user you know is kind of like kind of bloods n Oh yeah I don't really care about this. We also need to know that too.
[00:07:34] Right. So maybe we're spending too many resources on this.
[00:07:38] It's the whole spectrum or that we assume they're good they're gonna have more motivation or persistence on this task than they actually will. So yeah.
[00:07:50] So it's a really kind of developing that emotional map or that Bush model for how their engaged is is as interesting in terms of kind of defining customer.
[00:08:00] You know I guess one thing that we do a lot with on the business strategy side is identify our core customer and describe them in different ways. What are the some of the things when you when you begin to kind of model a customer or define a customer what are the things that you're looking to sort of define or to build characteristics around.
[00:08:19] So I think you want to understand you know not only where they are coming from emotionally but whether to pinpoint what they want to solve and who are they right. How they interact with technology especially in the technology world. It's really important to understand what devices do they have. How experienced are they with technology. So for example if they barely know how to write an email you know maybe you shouldn't tell them how to do messaging right. Let me know where they're at. So understanding what their technical capabilities are. Understand your team side is also really important. So are you dealing with one person who has all the has a better idea of what's going on or are you dealing with one person who you are one of very one of many vendors right and you are dealing with thousands and thousands of end users and they'll have a lot of time for you because you're going would approach these two people very differently. But in the last thing that you want to also kind of note is if they have a previous experience with products like yours. So have they onboard how they work with vendors before had their work with their parties had they worked with for example in our service. Because we kind of do some homework help on demand. Have they ever done to do it before. Do they know what kind of one two one two looks like for them and kind of always meeting them where they're at.
[00:09:41] Yeah it's funny it's a funny one for me. One of the questions first questions I ask a prospect when they you know I got a referral or someone comes in through my website or something and they're interested in hiring a business coach.
[00:09:52] The first thing I say is Have you ever used a coach before. Exactly.
[00:09:56] Because immediately immediately gives me a basis to be able to say OK well what worked with that. What didn't work with that what did you like how did that coach work even if it wasn't business coach I might I might talk about it like an athletic coach or a personal trainer or anywhere where they've had somebody helping them advise them on a process you know setting goals or achieving those goals working through obstacles. Dealing with mindset you know if they've had some basis of experience which we can use to triangulate while my right to I a good fit for them.
[00:10:24] Is is really powerful so I can see this whole this whole thing of understanding the context that they used anyone any service like like yours before is a good way to kind of triangulate but definitely it goes throughout the whole customer journey as well it's not only being able to sell to that person definitely but does it.
[00:10:41] How do you care in a person once they're in the door. Right. And the common example that when my good mentor is Jamie just shared with me was you know when you go into a car dealership right. If you never bought a car the very first time and buy a car.
[00:10:55] If you don't read the whole manual thing and throw them out of class unless you really like him it's like this car just like you give me the keys I'm going to use anymore.
[00:11:07] It's like give me the file I'll just put the fob in my pocket.
[00:11:09] I drive away quickly. Exactly. Things like how do you how do you care to did anyone not only sell but also be looking out like where to next. That's after you sold them right. So it's really us.
[00:11:19] Yeah. Thankfully you know the carbon is a good example because I think the people that are really doing really fascinating kind of services and are innovating in this space are even just rethinking that whole thing. So you know why go to the dealership. You know you can you know brand the car to you for a day and if you like it you know we'll just we'll charge you. I think once you become kind of customer centric or customer focused around some of these things you are able to rethink some assumptions or some standard way of doing things that can really innovate in an industry and we can really kind of change the way that you know that the game is played.
[00:11:51] Let's actually take a step back and just talk about this whole idea of customer journey because I think that is I think that's somewhat of a customer customer experience term that not everyone may get when we talk about customer journey. What are we're referring to and why is it important to understand that or to kind of map that out.
[00:12:06] Yeah. So for a CEO for a leadership team the customer journey starts the moment the customer learns about your company and ends the moment they think and you want make sure that every step the journey is not one seamless so you know there's no super chunky like ok in my marketing you told me that this. But then when you want to actually use it does while it does not same with customer care right. So if a that sense is understanding how is the customer's feeling along the highway are they having a good experience. Is the handoff between departments very seamless and then within each team you kind of go to the next level down of what's the nitty gritty like how are people feeling every single step of the way. What are the pain points. Is this button too green and that therefore they don't see it or is it or is it something better. Kind of like he's not making these up as I go by understanding how the customer is interacting with the product an injury after the team's awareness support and limitations on onboarding whatever throughout the day. What does that look like. And being super detailed in this way forces everyone to think about the customer and forces everyone to then put themselves in that shoe in their shoes and really intervene you can't go back to what you're saying before in a beat taking the next step and pushing the envelope and building your company really.
[00:13:29] Yeah there's a I came out of the lean agile world more on the kind of tech and software side but I think one of the things that I've I've kind of brought over to the general business strategy and business consulting world is the idea of value maps or value stream mapping and really kind of helping business think through what's every step that a customer goes through with you and where where is the value add and where it is waste and how can you redesign your service process around increasing value increasing the value delivered from the customer's point of view and decreasing the amount of waste whether it's time or movement or energy or rework or you know all the all the different types of mood when we know in Japanese management terms. But I think it's that same that it's a very similar idea at least as you know having a very clear customer centric view of whereas value being created for them and how do we how do we make sure that we add that as much as possible and reduce the things that are not directly adding value.
[00:14:28] As I look at yes totally and absolutely and I think once you have that map you've had that extra your step of booking how many resources Am I putting in to get that value right. So for example we have something called cubic yards which is called a business reviews hearings because we're success well we're really kind of reviewing the count. What's a quarter with the count themselves. But it is music records data. So plan. Anything like that. And what I found was that you know sometimes some people employ a lot of value into that but take a ton of time to create and schedule meetings and have meetings and all this stuff and when they realize they actually don't need to have this huge huge process they can drive the same amount of value with way less weight and it's optimizing their value map so that your resource if you can maximize your team's output as well. Which people.
[00:15:23] Yeah. Yeah. That often is where there's these epiphanies. A company realizes they're doing something like Well you know we we package it in this way and then we you know we send it out like this and we go through put it through this process and the other ones like quality assurance like Oh we do all this kind of quality assurance stuff and what does the customer really does this customer benefit from quality assurance their benefits and the quality the quality assurance part is not as a non value activity. So he's going to figure out like how else can we make sure that quality is going to happen and how can we remove the time and remove the cost of this. And really like you get in there and there's often times people are like well I don't know why we're doing this. When do we change it.
[00:16:05] You know there's really kind of challenging calendar those numbers.
[00:16:08] And I think it's I think I think there is a bit of a difference between kind of startup world when you're kind of figuring these things out versus the established company you've been around for while you've you have some quote unquote standard ways of doing things. They've worked well for you you know to a point but if you're really going to focus on innovation and growth and improvement oftentimes you really need to take a harder look at some of those steps in this customer journey. Map can be a great one because it's a great way to kind of frame it in terms of that customer value. So it's great. So in terms of other strategies in terms of kind of designing customer experiences or customer interactions What are some of the other best practices that you found or that you've used to talk about in the book are you found inside the business that have helped you create kind of exceptional customer customer success customer service.
[00:16:53] Yeah. Great question. So I think so I talk a little bit earlier about something on user complexity where you kind of understand the emotions behind motion the emotional complexity behind each the user.
[00:17:03] And then there's also something called the complexity where you look at the complexity behind the product. So is this something that requires this huge dashboard that is a million buttons there's a million things they could do in supercar for tool or is it something you know very simple has one function does one thing really really well. These two products have very different complexities and understanding where your own company falls on that spectrum is really important when it comes to designing a customer centric process because even the customer success function is a you know I can teach you the basics of you know but onboarding is how do you get users how you prioritize your time are you hiring a team. That's easy but because it's not a copy paste sort of thing you can't copy paste strategy along like a different company because every single cut this one tries different in two uses are different when they're reading for example in my book or any other glow they understand also the complexity as well as its complexity. And I kind of create this matrix within the book where for example if you have a service as being a really high cost complexity and something that's really high you can use your complexity and that means that your service is something that maybe requires a lot of ongoing a lot of handholding beginning because someone is not very familiar with the service or has never used it before. There's just a lot of the example I'd like to give you is Salesforce you know look like they're rolling out there just Salesforce like just Salesforce. We've had a couple of them on the podcasts. Exactly. There's just such a behemoth Apple Pie and it's such a powerful tool but it's like it takes it takes a really long time to really wrap your head around it.
[00:18:44] So something like Salesforce an example of product complexity right does a product that has you know just a lot of features variables. There's a fairly steep learning curve to become proficient at the tool that's brought a complexity to explain user complexity.
[00:19:01] Yeah. So user complexity is you know understanding where one why is the user coming to this product and to what mindset is the user coming to this. So for example going along with Salesforce yeah they have it there. People are dealing with a lot of customer trading overwhelmed or super stressed how how do I grow and scale my business with so many customers that can barely keep track of in the Google spreadsheet right. That's what one of the reasons I move Salesforce. So I understand that kind of the pain and the anxiety and all these other emotions that these are as going in. I really hate because you have high user complexity and complexity. And I could revolutionize as a function. So as a customer success.
[00:19:46] So an example is like a low customer complexity example something like If I go I need a haircut you know that's a low customer complexity versus if I'm if I need a marriage counselor Yeah that's a high complexity right haircut.
[00:20:02] You know I pretty much know how to purchase haircut or I know what my variables are. It's pretty simple for me to choose versus marriage counselors. I kind of don't even know to start I may not even know what my problems are. No I haven't I. It's even confusing to understand what the criteria are should be using. Where do I find these people. So. So that's user complexity versus the product complexity now. So you can get in situations where you have low user low product and high user high product and then obviously the other combinations as well.
[00:20:30] Yes exactly. And then basically when you look at Christmas as a strategy of becoming more customer centric focused strategies. Each of these things kind of plus nicely into a matrix of highly complex the hyperbolic complexity you have to kind of revolutionize and what I mean by that is that you know this the meat really can be very very complex the user has to make very significant changes to your data that day to day life to better understand how the two companies can work together. And if it's successful you know everyone's would be super happy. We think we'll end in a field everyone's going to be like really sensitive to that. Yeah. So it's understanding our networks as well. And if for example you have something that's like very low product complexity and very low user complexity maybe the rule of thumb is necessarily you shouldn't be trying to change your business light. Yes very simple product the people interacting with you might just want one thing done. It's very simple. They don't need some sort of like revolutionary speech or motivational speech or anything that they want. I think there is to help us simplify it. Focus on getting the job done. Understand whether people need to get away you know understand it where you come in as a company in their lives.
[00:21:43] So the example that I think of and give me feedback on this is a product example not a service example but are these like super fancy corkscrews and you know and it's like you know you've got to plug them in and they you know they're the size of a coffeemaker and you know but they take out the cork you know perfectly and suddenly versus it's just a simple waiter key that you know it is four dollars. It's just as well it's got for me and that's like you know the complexity. It's pretty simple by the user level is simple. And it seems like they've overcomplicated the solution to some extent.
[00:22:20] You know I don't think that happens all the time with services. You know I think people you know design these kind of services and the delivery of these services and they kind of overengineered them and overthink them thinking that it's going to add value or you know additional features or additional kind of perceived benefit is going to drive value for the customer in the end it just drives annoyance and it drives. You know it doesn't make it easier it actually makes it worse for customers.
[00:22:43] Yeah exactly. Going back to your wine wine in full again. There was a bunch of little buttons on the side to be like really annoying these buttons. You know do I really need this. Explain why you're paying extra for this is actually giving me more and more ports to deal with the company.
[00:22:58] Not not only does it cost more but it actually gives me anxiety and I've got to use it if I do it wrong I ruined my wine. They never want to ruin your life. Yeah. So this gives you this nice grid and based on the quarter that you're in it gives you kind of a sense of of what your customer strategy is going to be in terms of are you revolutionary revolutionizing and are you really focusing on changing there.
[00:23:23] You know the way they're doing things or their mental model or the frame of the world or are you just trying to make it you know simple and easy and kind of conform to exactly what they're kind of doing now as easily as possible. That's got to take away from the map.
[00:23:35] Yeah. You got it. You know another one I wanted to ask and this might be more kind of service focused is oftentimes when we're doing kind of customer journey mappings is it often comes from kind of the sales starts with the sales process and people trying to map out the sales funnel or map out the sales process and we you know we talk about OK.
[00:23:54] When did they first hear about you know awareness and then we talk about first interaction and nurturing and then you know initial conversation and you know addressing needs and getting to some kind of sale.
[00:24:03] And typically those those funnels and at like sign contract or something like that. And one of my arguments is always you know that's really the midway point. And once you get a signed contract that now you really need to think through OK well what is what is you account setup look like what is called engagement look like what is the first delivery. How does that happen what does the first six months of the relationship development and really what our endpoint is is creating an advocate creating you know someone who's going to go out and represent our company to all their companies and actually refer us to other businesses.
[00:24:38] And I think people often kind of miss that a they miss that opportunity to really think through how can I make the positive but because they haven't mapped it out they end up you know turning customers they end up getting all these people I think you mentioned before in the door or you know getting getting people kind of in the door but then keeping them there is is half the battle. You know it's like if you if you don't have a strategy for how you're going to people engage at a minimum ideally making them advocates for the business you're missing opportunities. I'm curious how you've addressed that all you've thought about that.
[00:25:05] Yeah you're actually missing a ton of opportunities. I mean especially as more and more business models are going to the SAS model so subscription model renewals and up sales actually can account for 80 percent of revenue. Keep someone over time not only multiplier effect. Right. So if someone is really really happy not only are they a lifetime of misery but then also be your lifetime advocate exactly what you were saying. And you know a lot of the reason why customer success kind of was born was because a lot of companies are realizing that hey you know let's care about users after they come in the door. It's you know I'm only getting like 10 percent that I could be getting if I don't care about them like they're against it because in the past they're like if you think about parents or grandparents generations they go to the store they buy one thing and then they never have to talk to the person ever again. I like the product will speak for itself but now that they even look at email right. So every I use every single day like I need to be happy with the amount every every single month and order for me to renew my subscription service or anything like that. So everyone I'm putting that right. And if I'm not happy anymore I will just stop me. That's a huge revenue loss. The more people are dissatisfied the less they'll come back the less the other friends the less like there's so many. Yeah. Yeah exactly like I am. It's actually amazing how much revenue could be losing if you don't keep that customer centric mindset.
[00:26:36] Yeah that's a great start.
[00:26:37] I haven't heard that one but 80 percent that a good good customer kind of follow up you know follow on services and up sell cross-sell 80 percent of potential revenues. That's that's huge.
[00:26:49] Yeah. I mean some people like it. Some people say it's as low as 70 percent but is it still really high. Ninety five percent. So it is really insane actually.
[00:26:58] Yeah. So let's let's kind of finish with the conversation around. If you are trying to create a culture inside your your company that is more kind of customer success focused customer centric What are some of the things you can do as a leader inside the business to inspire that to fuel that process.
[00:27:18] So I mean it kind of goes back to telling stories and connecting with people emotionally. Right. So as much as their business if you don't you have to go through the mindset of hey if you don't have customers on business right now we tell you our customers are doing and how we can improve our customer experience. And that's kind of how I've approached this conversation with my own leadership understanding like hey I guess you're getting a ton of sales but you know how many of them are churning you know how many of them have been complaining about our service in Week 1. That's actually a bigger problem than you not having enough leads right. So let's make sure that we have some presence dedicated to being an advocate for customers within the company. Right. So like for example business has this very famous story where it will be the chair of every single board meeting where because that chair represents the customer. Yeah yeah. Yeah. So it's kind of having that mindset you know customer is a huge stakeholder in every single interaction I've had a couple of clients where we'll do we'll do some like customer personas what kind of will develop you know kind of a customer profile customer persona and we'll actually make a cut out of that for us.
[00:28:32] I'd like to put him in the chair and you know at the important meetings it's like it's like literally you kind of turn to turn to a customer you know core customer persona. So how would this affect us and even things like.
[00:28:43] I mean the thing you know the things that are customer focused or customer facing it's a little more. I think people tend to do a little bit better. But even things like you know I've been in situations where you know companies are working on their vacation policy and and actually taking a moment to think about OK how how's this going to impact the customer and say All right well yeah I get that. You know we want to take precedence day off or something. But you know well not all of our customers are going to President's Day off like we really need to. What are we gonna do for them.
[00:29:08] Like do we have a service or we're getting service or we're going to rotate in someone's going to take on the calls for that week. You know it's it is. And actually it can affect every single part of your business. If you set it up right to ask that question correctly.
[00:29:18] Exactly like for example our company because we're an education shit education service we go back to school year right. So there's summer break there's winter break there's even ski break. So understanding like what how you can help them and cater to their customers and do those moments is super important.
[00:29:34] Yeah. And meeting where they are and certainly understanding their you know the week before a big vacation is not they're not going to be super focused. So let's not pretend that they might be. Exactly. Yeah. You gotta be realistic throughout all of this as well. Yeah so we're gonna we're gonna have time here. Jennifer this has been a pleasure great conversation.
[00:29:55] You know I love the insights that you have. I've loved the kind of strategies that you've suggested that people want to find out more about you and the book. What's the best way to get that information.
[00:30:04] Yeah. The best way to get information would be to go to my Web site which is guide to customer success dot com. And then there you can find more information about the book. You can also order the book learn more about me and I'll also have my contact information and feel free to give me Lincoln I'm always happy to have these conversations about customer centricity and be an advocate empowering customer success.
[00:30:28] Perfect. I'll make sure that those links are all in the shit out so people can click through and get those. Jennifer thank you so much for taking the time it's really been a pleasure. Thank you.
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