In the most recent episode of Taking The Lead, Articulate Vice President of Customer Success, Romaine Buck sat down with Christina Brady to discuss a number of topics, including customer success tactics.  A few of the quick highlights in this article:

  • Every organization is different. And so, how they implement customer success, even how they define customer success, is different.
  • Getting those end-users to love your product is critical to ensuring you have a greater likelihood of renewal because the managers should be asking the end-users, “Hey, what do you think? How’s it going? Is this working or not working? “You want your end-users to be your raving fans so that they can say, “Yeah, I can’t live without this.”
  • What we’re trying to accomplish is being strategic, thoughtful advisors for our customers who are proactive and understand what’s important to our customers. And that starts by understanding why they buy.

”I think my career speaks to the possibilities. When you’re open to the journey and not being so married to the path that you’re unwilling to deviate from,” says Romaine Buck, the VP of Customer Success at Articulate. She is with us today to share what it is like to be a customer success leader. 

Romaine’s career is admirable, and her professional path is to be wished for. However, it doesn’t mean things always went smoothly. As she states, failure is an unavoidable part of one’s life, whether personal or professional. And success is not about avoiding failure; it is about learning and becoming a better person.

A two and a half decades ago, coming out of college, Romaine believed journalism was her calling. However, after seven years, she decided to go in another direction. That’s when she came across sales. 

In her prolific career, she worked at many reputable companies, including LinkedIn. She spent seven years there and now sees that period as a crucial part of her growth. Today, she is the VP of Customer Success at Articulate and still firmly believes her mission is to help customers identify their problems and help them find the solution.

In today’s episode of the Taking the Lead podcast, Romaine joins our host, Christina Brady, to discuss the most common misconceptions regarding customer success. She also shares details about her professional journey, emphasizing ups and downs to encourage everyone, especially women, not to be afraid to seek opportunities and show how incredible they are.

If we don’t speak for ourselves, who will

Joining a new organization may seem intimidating. However, as Romaine suggests, you should aim to gain as much experience as possible. Then, when you decide to join another company, you’ll be a professional everyone would want to collaborate with. 

That’s why she encourages everyone not to be afraid to raise their hands and ask questions, and most importantly, work on their relationships. ”I would say that’s fantastic advice I employ with my teams today and have continued to use as well. So building relationships, asking questions, setting up coffee conversations with people in parts of the business that you’re interested in, or you would like to learn more about simply because you have no exposure. And part of that is building those relationships and asking those questions. But then also, taking on projects that are outside of your scope outside of your role, volunteering for things, raising your hand for things that aren’t part of your job description, stretching yourself, and acquiring those new skills is another key part.”

One of the things she sees is people thinking they just need to do their jobs responsibly, and someone will notice. But, unfortunately, that’s not so common, so we have to work on self-promotion because showing the world how incredible you are is the least you can do for your self-development.

”The first thing I would say is we have to get over ourselves. We have to stop worrying about what other people are going to think about us. Saying, ‘I want this opportunity,’ and just put it out there because if we don’t speak for ourselves, who will. And that is often the mistake that I think we as women make. We think, ‘Well, I’m just going to do a good job, and I’m gonna keep my head down, and somebody’s going to notice, and it’s going to be great.’

Well, hey, if you’re fortunate, yes, you’ll have an amazing leader who is that perceptive and will notice you. But how many dozens of other people that they also need to notice. So it’s up to us to curate our own careers and create the opportunities that we want for ourselves.”

On the other hand, Romaine says it is a delicate line between being ambitious and being obnoxious. ”As a leader, I’ve also been on the receiving end of folks, coming to me, demanding opportunities or raising their hands for things that they weren’t ready for.

And when I gave them that gentle feedback, they didn’t take it well. And I think part of the job, managing your brand as a professional, is knowing how to advocate for yourself, but also knowing when to take the feedback. Leverage that feedback for growth so that you can be the candidate that’s being considered the next time an opportunity comes around.” 

Romaine also believes failure can positively affect our professional growth. ”Not everything we raise our hand for the first time around is going to come to us. We’re not going to get it. And that’s okay. It is what you do in that next opportunity in that space between quote-unquote, failure, and the next opportunity that will determine if you’re going to be successful.  I’ve stumbled, fallen, failed plenty, but I always got up, and I think that resilience of getting up with grace and being respectful of the people around you in those moments is what determines who gets those opportunities and who doesn’t.”

Companies have different approaches regarding customer success

Romaine and our host, Christina, agree that there are many misconceptions about how customer success programs should look like. Here’s what Romaine sees as the main reason. ”It’s because every business is different and what product you’re selling, what the process looks like, how complicated is it for a customer to see time-to-value, all of that are key factors in what your program should look like on the post-sales side of the house.”

She also adds that customer success programs depend on how complex a product or a service you are selling is. ”So if I have a very turnkey solution that customers can plug and play themselves, we turn it on, and there they’ve got it. We don’t need a complicated onboarding process. We don’t need to spend a lot of time getting them up to speed on it. Maybe we can automate that program. But if I’ve got something super complicated, very technical that requires a lot of training, then maybe the onboarding time is going to be six months. And so, time-to-value is going to be almost closer to a year, if not longer. And so it’s really important that we recognize how complicated this product is and realistically, how long will it take for our customer to see the value and then build the system?”

With that in mind, Romaine points out the difference but also the similarities between sales and customer success teams and changes that might happen during the entire selling cycle and people involved in it. ”I’m a customer success leader; I will say that the selling part is the easy part. You find your prospect; you understand the business needs they’re trying to solve. 

And then, you tell the story about how your product can fit those business needs. Then it comes over the fence to customer success, and the person who bought it may not be the person we’re talking to anymore. So now we have to sell it again. We also have to understand how they are going to measure success for this program again, because the person who bought in the C-suite is probably not the person that’s going to be using it.”

The importance of timely handoff

Every company’s goal should be to identify the pain points of their customers and offer solutions. That’s when the power of communication comes in. First, sales gets in touch with prospects, and once they close the deal, it is up to customer success to take the helm. That’s why fruitful and timely communication between sales and customer success teams is crucial. ”So from the point that the deal gets closed, it’s coming over the fence to customer success. That’s where customer success needs to start. They need to be in lock-step with that sales rep to understand – what they are trying to accomplish with this product they just bought from us. What is it that they want? Why did they come here in the first place? And that needs to be passed over to the customer success team.”

Customer success is everyone’s responsibility

Another common misconception is that customer success is a one-person job. However, as our guest explains, customer success should concern every company member. ”Gainsight has that amazing equation that I love, which is CS equals CX plus CO. I don’t know if you’re familiar with it. The CS is customer success, but the components of that are customer experience plus customer outcomes. So the idea here is everyone who comes in contact with a customer is responsible for customer experience, not just the people who have customer success or customer experience in their titles.

Every bit of it from marketing to sales, pre-sales, to support, IT. Everyone is responsible for curating and ensuring the customer has a great experience. What are they trying to accomplish? Why did they buy in the first place? You put those two things together; that’s how we get customer success.”

 

This article is based on an episode of Sales Assembly’s podcast, Taking The Lead, which features top female B2B Tech Revenue Leaders, VCs, Advisors, and Icons. Bi-weekly episodes dive into a tactical topic to help listeners (regardless of gender or seniority level) learn how to be better, faster, and smarter as they navigate the craziness of the Revenue world within B2B Tech.