The Digital Customer Success Podcast

Diversifying and Digitizing Customer Success with Annie Dean of RecastSuccess | Episode 035

January 30, 2024 Alex Turkovic, Annie Dean Episode 35
The Digital Customer Success Podcast
Diversifying and Digitizing Customer Success with Annie Dean of RecastSuccess | Episode 035
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Reminder! Enter for a Gold Pass to the CS Festival in Austin:

  1. Leave a review the podcast and send a quick screenshot to alex@digitalcustomersuccess.com
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  3. Leave a comment on that same post. Easy!

Today's Guest Annie Dean of RecastSuccess is a TRUE CS veteran and is one of those rare individuals who was around when the term 'Customer Success' was coined! 

What does that mean for us? Lots of insight and knowledge to learn from. In this fascinating conversation, Annie draws from her deep career at legendary companies like LinkedIn, Cisco & Coursera - as well as her current experience with RecastSuccess - to give us a ton of great nuggets of knowledge.

It was also a pleasure having her on as RecastSuccess does so much to drive equity and diversity within CS - which is definitely worth highlighting. 

In this fantastic conversation, we cover a lot of ground including:

  • How to prioritize where to start digitally
  • How tooling has helped us to normalize digital CS 
  • The genesis of RecastSuccess and its mission to help foster diversity in CS 
  • The role profiles of Digital CS and how product management, marketing, sales ops  and data science fit in well with DCS - not necessarily CSM.
  • How RecastSuccess partners with VCs & Startups to help grow CS orgs with well trained team members
  • Early stage startups have an advantage because you can start with automations and have them in place from the beginning
  • How to be proactive with end-users (those that aren’t reaching out) to help drive outcomes for those executives
  • Average professional in the US uses 80 apps regularly - which is why it is imperative to be proactive with users 
  • Semi-live webinars are a great way to scale
  • New AI tools are there to augment and improve what you’re doing - not replace what you’re doing.
  • Racial & Gender diversity in tech and RecastSuccess’ mission for building CS teams that are as diverse as possible
  • The ever-present topic of whether to QBR or whether to not QBR

Annie's Industry Newsletter List

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The Digital Customer Success Podcast is hosted by Alex Turkovic

Speaker 1:

Your percentage of time that you can ask from an executive should be directly proportional to the level of benefit they get from your product. So if you're the payroll software and your executive sponsor is the director of payroll, their jobs 100% rely on your software, like you play a huge part in their day to day and they really care and they want to know and they want an opportunity to ask questions. If you are, you know a plug-in for Zoom that has cute emojis like no one wants to talk to you.

Speaker 2:

And, once again, welcome to the Digital Customer Success podcast with me, alex Trokovich. So glad you could join us here today and every week as I seek out and interview leaders and practitioners who are innovating and building great scaled CS programs. My goal is to share what I've learned and to bring you along with me for the ride so that you get the insights that you need to build and evolve your own digital CS program. If you'd like more info, want to get in touch or sign up for the latest updates, go to DigitalCustomersuccesscom. For now, let's get started. Hello and welcome to the Digital Customer Success podcast. So great to have you back.

Speaker 2:

As usual, if you're listening to this quote unquote live, you have basically today and tomorrow because it's January 30th. So you have till the end of day, january 31st, to enter to win a gold pass to the Customer Success Festival that's happening in Austin next month in February. So the instructions for how to enter are down in the description. So if you want to enter, you got two days left, get at it. If the time has passed and you are now in February but the event hasn't happened yet, just drop me a message on LinkedIn or send me an email, alex at DigitalCustomersuccesscom and I'll shoot you a 20% off code that you can use to get into the event. That aside, if you're listening to this way in the future means nothing to you, so it's time to get into today's conversation with none other than Annie Dean.

Speaker 2:

This was an amazing conversation because she has such a wealth of history in CS. I mean, she's kind of like an. She's a CS OG. She spent a lot of time at LinkedIn and Cisco and a few other places Coursera, I think as well. I'm just building CS chops and being early to market with, like digital customer success before it was called Digital Customer Success. These days, you can find her at Recast Success, where she's been a few years with her co-founder, focused on building CS careers, focused on career transitioners and providing workshops and certifications for folks who want to get into CS, and the best part about it is they're focused on diversity. They're focused on gender and racial equity and really making CS as diverse as possible, which I absolutely love. We do talk about that a little bit, but we also spend a ton of time on just tactical advice and real world examples of you know just great digital CS best practices.

Speaker 2:

Lots of goodies in this conversation. I hope you enjoy it. I certainly did. Here we go with Annie Dean. Annie, I am so happy that you're here. Welcome to the podcast. It's great to have you.

Speaker 1:

Thank you for having me. I'm excited to chat with you.

Speaker 2:

There's a number of reasons why I reached out. You know, just because you're primarily the stuff that you do with Recast Success is like such kind of fundamentally cool and awesome and like the mission that you're on is great. So definitely want to dig into that. But before we kind of get going, I'd love to get a sense for kind of who you are, where you came from, what got you into CS, like that whole kind of journey that we all take that's never a direct line into CS.

Speaker 1:

Totally, totally. I had. I was pretty early days. So all of my generation of CS people we all were career transitioners coming from other places. Yeah, I did over a decade in retail and wholesale leadership, which I really enjoyed, but was ready to have a better quality of life and have a bigger impact and more scale. I really wanted to get into tech and it was tough Like I didn't know how to market myself, I didn't have the right connections. I applied for probably over a year before you know, even though I had 10 years of leadership experience. I'd run big businesses. I had to start over again at like an entry level job.

Speaker 2:

Right.

Speaker 1:

I was at Cisco as a project coordinator and, you know, luckily moved up really, really quickly. I was part of their learning at Cisco, so customer education.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

And got pretty quickly drafted into start the customer education function, which was basically digital CS, yeah, at LinkedIn in like 2013. Right, and you know, when we rebranded to customer success back then, so it was a brand brand you filled at that point.

Speaker 2:

It's so funny how well I mean I say this all the time that you know digital CS isn't necessarily a new concept. It's. It's, you know, taking things that we've done as companies forever, like email, marketing and in product and all that kind of stuff, and it's like wrapping it around the customer journey essentially. But it's so cool how you know you said it was essentially digital customer success, because it's what it was. It's what it's. It's been around for a while just as a name now.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, exactly we. You know we were brought on my tiny little team to address no and low touch solutions because you know the company had been around for a long time. But their B2B business was actually pretty new. Yeah, they had been around for a hundred million, been going for, I think, maybe three years or so. They were seeing double digit churn and everyone was getting high touch white glove service because they were figuring out as they went.

Speaker 2:

Right.

Speaker 1:

Industry was brand new.

Speaker 2:

Throwing bodies at it.

Speaker 1:

We came on to try and invent all of the no and low touch strategies that we could roll out, so we didn't have to just hire a thousand CSMs to keep up with the growth rate. We went from a hundred million to a billion in that first two years and then to two billion about a year and a half after that.

Speaker 2:

It's rare on this podcast. In fact, you might be the first one to ever mention billion on this podcast. So congratulations, I feel honored. That's a big number. That's a big number. So, okay, I think that we are on the digital CS podcast. I ask all my guests the same question and I would love to get your kind of elevator pitch on it, because everybody has a different take and you have a probably a more historically relevant take on where things have been and what not. So what, in your opinion, if you had to sum it up in 10, 30 seconds, what is digital CS?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and we, you know we talk about this a lot and you know I feel like it's bringing the right communication to the right person at the right moment in time and a scaled low, no touch kind of way, and then using actionable data and insights to prioritize your low touch interactions so that you get the highest ROI for those those interaction points.

Speaker 2:

I love that. Do you do you have, do you have, some insight into what you've used in the past or currently to get that prioritization Right, like what I mean, obviously, with an email campaign you look at, you can look at engagement metrics and things like that that's. But like, how are you going about prioritizing those things that need to be done or emphasizing things that are already being done?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I mean we start with a really easy version of a customer lifecycle right, which is just like get a minute. You know, get your end users enrolled, get them using basic functions, get them using advanced functions, demonstrate the value to the decision maker and then, you know, look for opportunities to expand your relationship. And we look at what are the top drivers of fall off at each of those steps along the way.

Speaker 1:

And how could we address those in a more meaningful way, even if it's just like try, test out one strategy each month to try and move the needle. So, for example, if the biggest drop off in getting people on and using it for the first time is they don't understand the why, bother If you can't get past that hurdle. They're never going to invest the time to actually come back and learn how to master it and get the full value out of it. So you know, that's usually where we start is like start at the beginning of the journey, start with some different channels and see which ones stick.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and before we started recording. You know we're kind of joking about the fact that, like a lot of people ask, you know, like, how do you get started in digital? And the thing is just start, Like, figure out where you need to go, figure out what you have, just start and if you fail, fine, fail fast, learn some good stuff and then go on.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, 100%. I mean, if we had waited for the tools to be invented and all the analytics to be in place and everything back when we were starting out, we never would have gotten customer success at scale off the ground. And we didn't always get it right. We absolutely didn't. But as long as you're learning something each step of the way and each time is a little bit better than the time before, then you're going to get to a really good place a lot faster by getting going.

Speaker 2:

The kids these days have it easy, because the kids these days you've got things like Zappier and then all these low cost ways of doing really niche things and you tie them all together and it's so fun. It's super fun.

Speaker 1:

But yeah, oh, my God. Yeah, people just don't have any idea how good they have it. I would have MBA interns digging into this data for me, trying to figure out which activity did this person perform on average? Of the customers that churned, what were they doing? Are the customers that expanded? What were they doing? What were the touch points? We were doing it on giant Excel files. It was ridiculous. Now you can plug it into a CSP or, I mean hell, you can drop it into chat GPT drop some data and you're like summarize this for me.

Speaker 1:

It's amazing.

Speaker 2:

It's like hardcore regression testing that you were doing.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, it wasn't easy, but it was pretty amazing. I got to work with some like just brilliant data scientists and engineers and business strategists. It was pretty awesome.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, that's cool. So okay, fast forward a bit. Recast success Tell me a little bit about that. What was the genesis for that? What got you kind of thinking along those lines? And then, if you want to give us kind of an overview of what you are all about at Recast, it'd be awesome.

Speaker 1:

Sure, yeah, it's funny we're coming up on. We incorporated almost two years ago, but we've been working on this for two and a half, almost three years. My co-founder and I were sitting one day and kind of talking about how challenging it was to hire more diverse customer success folks on our own teams. We've both been in CS leadership for quite some time. I wanted more career transitioners but it's really challenging.

Speaker 1:

Right With your hiring manager, you're trusting someone to go out and be the face of your company. With hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars of business, it's hard to find people who you can just plug in. It's always going to take some resources that, as a hiring manager, by the time we get a head count approved, we're already short staffed. We don't have a ton of resources available to train and develop folks. We also looked at just the diversity across the industry in general the CSMs that were in the market. Everyone's fighting over the same few people that were pretty homogenous. We wanted people that were a better reflection of our customers, that really understood a day in the life. We decided, well, heck, let's just create a way to have a better talent funnel of the kind of people that we want to hire on to our own teams. We originally founded this. It was just a boot camp program for mid-career professionals coming from industries that have highly transferable skills and primarily focused on underrepresented populations.

Speaker 2:

That's great. I think that speaks to the thing that you see in CS all the time, which is to say there's few people who start in CS. Not until recently could you go and get a degree. There were no degree programs and customers. You have folks from sales and product and all different walks of life. This is a weird question and we totally didn't prep for it, but I'm going to ask it anyway. Is there a previous experience, area or skill set that you find lends itself particularly well to somebody becoming a CSM, or is it just all over the place?

Speaker 1:

It's a good question. There's four key pillars to customer success. We look for people that have experience in at least two of them, One being that implementation, project management, training function. Two being sales components Can they do an upsell or renewal or negotiate a contract? Three is business consulting how well do they understand the companies they'll be working with so that they can provide valuable advice on things like change management, internal communications all those things that drive adoption and engagement? Then fourth is being the voice of the customer being able to do a root cause analysis and prioritization and communicate with your product team. There's a lot of different industries that have components that go along with that. We look for people they need to have at least two out of the four and then we can help train them on the other two as needed.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, for sure, some of us. I was having some conversations the other day I forget who, my short-term memory is not great these days. We were talking about what makes a good digital CSM or somebody who's really focused on digital. There was a combination of little things. There's marketing, customer marketing elements, there's data analysis and really understanding how two data sets compare all those kinds of things. Then there's this customer success, customer advocacy muscle. Have you found, in the boot camps that you've done, have you encountered individuals who have been maybe more focused or inclined to go down a more digital path versus traditional one-to-one CSM?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I think it's tough because a lot of people don't know about digital. Yeah, Yet. Yes, it's definitely gaining popularity. I completely agree. Product management feeds well into digital. Marketing feeds well into digital data science and analytics feeds well into digital. It's frustrating because a lot of what you see in the job descriptions hiring managers just don't get it.

Speaker 1:

They're just like I want someone that's been a CSM for five years. They don't have any of the skills you actually need to do this job. No, yeah, if I had to pick one field to pull someone into for digital CS, I would take someone from SalesOps a hundred times over.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. That's super fascinating. Have your goals and the things that you're aiming to achieve with Recast Success changed since your founding two years ago, or has it remained pretty steady?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I mean it's definitely changed. We've expanded quite a bit, because originally it was just Bootcamp, yeah, and we help our grads find jobs. Part of that is we have a large volunteer mentor network. They get to participate in our career services. So we always have this really amazing talent pool that's free to hire from.

Speaker 1:

And two things happened from that. One was employers would hire somebody who'd gone through Bootcamp and go, wow, this person's better trained than my CSMs that have been here for a couple of years. Can you do some training with us? So we do have an arm that does more B2B training now, working mostly with private equity and VCs that are.

Speaker 1:

They might see there's a need more than a startup would really know. If they don't know what good looks like, they don't realize that they don't really have best in class, and so sometimes it's those external advisors that can say, hey, by the way, you guys really are kind of missing the mark on some of these things that could take your CS team to the next level. The other area was, since we have this talent pool, we get early stage founders coming to us and they're like, hey, I'm looking to hire, can you give me an individual contributor who they're going to have no supervision. We have no tools in place, we have no playbooks in place and no one here really understands what customer success is. Can you give us some names?

Speaker 1:

We'd love to hire or the other end of the spectrum was like we want somebody who's an executive, who's built from scale up through IPO, who is not going to have a team to lead. They're just going to do all the work in the trenches, work mostly for equity, for 60 to 80 hours a week. Who do you know? I'm like I don't want to assign anyone up to either of these, which is where we founded in January. We started offering a fractional head of customer success program, somebody who sees and who knows what they're doing, embedded one day a week, paired with an individual contributor who is being trained and developed to kind of take on that long term leadership in the company.

Speaker 2:

That's cool. What a cool model, thank you. Yeah, I couldn't imagine throwing an individual contributor into that environment without any kind of guidance whatsoever or models, or just set up for failure just because somebody says, hey, that customer success thing. I think we need that.

Speaker 1:

Right, yeah, half the time you're talking to these founders and they really have no idea what customer success even is. So they're expecting this person to take on absolutely everything post-sale. So they're like you're going to do support and you might be doing bill collection and you're going to be doing a myriad of things. And if you get at IC, who hasn't been around very long, they don't know how to push back and really help them think about changing the culture of their business to be more responsive to customers, how to plug in feedback, how to better hone their ICP, their ideal customer profile based on what's working with the customers they have. They're just putting out fires and running around like a chicken with their head cut off. So we're hoping to change that model so we can get the fundamentals of what customer success really is into startups earlier and put them on a good path to have a really great culture long-term.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. So I'd like to be kind of a fly in the room on the wall for a second there. I mean analogies, I get them wrong all the time. You've just walked into kind of first day, maybe first month of a fractional head roll and spending one day a week maybe meeting some customers. You're kind of getting a lay of the land for what the product is and all those kinds of things. At what point do you typically say, hey look, these things should and can be automated versus these things need a human for now? I get that there's no one recipe. But at what point are you typically starting to advise these founders that, hey look, you can get a lot done with this type of automation?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, we love that we're starting really early stage so that we can build for that from the beginning. So sometimes they have a CRM in place. Sometimes they don't even have that yet. We're advising on okay, here's the CRM you need to run your business and PS. These are the features or the service levels that are going to allow us to capture the information that we need and make that automatable across multiple platforms in the future. So it's kind of helping them see around corners, building with that in mind from the very beginning.

Speaker 1:

But we teach digital CS workshops to a lot of our B2B customers too, and it starts small. So we're like, okay, great, you are doing a high-touch webinar with a new customer and you're going to walk them through how to use your product. Awesome, let's take the transcript from that. We're going to drop this into chat, GPT and get 10 articles we could use for your help center and for a newsletter. And here's we'll chop up this video and for your smaller customers, we can reuse this video segment using this software. So it's like really just thinking about how every action should be replicable and be able to be used at scale and just starting to embed that culture from, hopefully, from the very, very beginning.

Speaker 2:

It sounds to me like a lot of times you're encountering not just a CS type situation or CS leadership, but it's really operations. You're kind of advising on what systems they should and shouldn't think about and probably advising on what they should and shouldn't do with those. Is that a fair assumption?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I would say, when you're ahead of customer success at a startup like pre-seed seed series A, your job, a lot of your job, is operational, totally More than just you know. You're setting the foundation to build on top of. It's not doing just the traditional, you know working with customers and you know making sure that the value proposition is getting communicated clearly. It's putting the infrastructure in place so that everyone else can do that going forward.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, or dealing with a haphazard infrastructure that exists that was implemented without a strategy.

Speaker 1:

Correct. Yeah, we can tie it together and clean it up. You know, once you've done these for a few startups, there's very common themes you see over and over again. But you know, most startups are advised to focus on growth, right Like growth at all costs. If you want to raise your next round of funding, you've got to hit this dollar level, and so if there isn't someone there that has enough credibility, enough authority, you know, and enough experience to talk to them about how to think broader than that, then they won't. You know, like most founders, if there isn't somebody telling them to focus, they have so many other things going on it's just going to, you know, fall by the wayside. So we try and be that advocate, for here's how you need to structure for more long-term thinking If you actually want to keep this revenue you're fighting so hard to get in the door. Here are the fundamentals we need to put in place.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, that's awesome, so important and often missed, which is great for you from an opportunity standpoint. You know, and as you start to think about you know what. You know what this company should be putting in place in terms of their customer journey and just the kind of thinking through what those key moments are along that customer journey Are there, every company is different, every software is different, customer segments, all that kind of stuff. But do you find that there are key moments that you're advising over and over and over again that hey, look, this really needs to be digitally supported or, you know, put some automation behind it to support your humans? Like, are you finding yourself kind of advising on those same moments over and over again?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I think the biggest miss we see almost every single time is they only think about end users in a reactive way. Right, so they'll focus on executive sponsors and point of contact, if you're lucky, and then they'll have a reactive motion. You know, maybe there's some implementation work at the very beginning of the contract and then that's it. There's nothing proactive going out to those end users and without the end users actually utilizing and finding value in your product, that you know the bigger outcomes that the executive sponsors care about are never going to happen. So, really thinking about how to be more proactive, so we're always telling them. You know, if you think about who's reaching out for support from a personality standpoint, it's probably only about one in five that need help or reaching out for help.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

The other four out of five are just going to give up. They're like, yeah, this tool sucks, I'm not going to use it anymore. And so if you can't understand what problems they are having, that maybe they don't even know they're having, and reach out proactively to offer solutions, you're losing A huge percentage of the value of your product. That happens at pretty much every early stage startup. They just don't put enough thought into that.

Speaker 2:

Right, it's like once it's implemented, you're off to the races or whatever next you know.

Speaker 1:

Right, yeah, well, and you know, we know, turnover in jobs is pretty high. So even if that was true for the population you originally changed, what happens when there's new hire is what happens, you know, when there's reorgs and redesigns and all those things like training needs to be constant. You know communication needs to be constant so that you stay top of mind and you're providing relevant information when they need it.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, for sure. Yeah, I mean, we think about onboarding and we think you know the word that that word just conjures up this whole notion of, okay, you need to get them set up and stood up and enabled or whatever. But we think about user onboarding nearly enough, I think, especially in a platform where you know, maybe you have a lot of users coming and going and whatnot.

Speaker 1:

That's a huge part of it, yeah, I mean the average professional in the US uses 80 apps professionally. There's no way they're utilizing the full depth and breadth of the features on any of those. Probably Right, they're not just get them to log in and use it once and magically they're going to see why it's worth investing their time to learn all of the features to get the full benefit. You know if you're not proactive about constantly reinforcing why they should bother to learn something new. Like change is hard, You're fighting for their attention for a lot of different directions, so if you're really smart about it, you know.

Speaker 1:

Give it to them in bite-sized pieces and keep them coming back for more and help them. Help them understand the value of what they've already invested time learning.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, totally Thinking back this is a bit of a left turn, but thinking back over all of the kind of work you've done, that's kind of digital CS related, is there maybe like is there a program or a specific time or a specific motion that you can point to, that you're like you look back on your like that was really cool.

Speaker 1:

I'm still a really big fan of semi-live webinars.

Speaker 2:

I love that so much. Yeah, I did that at a previous place.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, we spent so much time here in a rapid growth company you've got a lot of new customers coming on all the time as watching my CSMs go through leading what you know. 90% of it was exactly the same over and over and over again. So setting up kind of recurring webinar series is where you know we're like we'll just do an onboarding once a week. Everyone who joined that week can go into this onboarding and 80% of it's pre-recorded. We only have to hop on for the last 20% to answer questions. That brought us so much bandwidth and delivered more consistency, like we could make sure that it was the perfect version. You know nobody had bandwidth issues or audio issues or bad hair day or whatever on that video where we had to do it live every time. There's always things that can go wrong.

Speaker 2:

Totally.

Speaker 1:

So it was higher quality and easier for us. So that was when I really was pleased to get in place, and one that I do again, over and over again in other companies as well.

Speaker 2:

I wish I could remember what platform we used, but at a previous employer we used this platform that basically you pre-record your webinar like soup to nuts. It feels completely live. You pepper in some kind of like fake questions in the chat from fake people just to kind of get the conversation going, but then on the back end you have an actual human manning the chat that's going on while this webinar is happening so that you can actually interact with it. So literally from a staffing perspective, to your point, you didn't have to get quaffed, you didn't have to go to the studio, you didn't have to turn your lights on and get your mic set up and do all that kind of stuff. You just had to make sure you had somebody in the live chat ready to go to answer questions.

Speaker 2:

And that was such a cool thing because I think a lot of times when we go to implement some of these digital motions, the first thing that can kind of leave is the personality and the human element of it. And it's hard to be human over email unless you're super creative about your copy and spend a lot of time on that. But I think those kinds of things still allow you to present a sense of who you are as a brand and who you are as a company, while, at the same time, being efficient with the resources that you have.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, it's emails. I don't know about you, but I don't have positive warm, fuzzy vibes when I open my inbox in the morning and there's 300 emails in there. There's nothing that's popping up but I'm like oh, I'm excited to read this from whatever vendor. So, I always push to try and think beyond the email cadences and all of that. What other ways can we connect? What other channels are employees and customers already on that we can tap into that they're more likely to be participating in and feel positively about participating in?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, totally. I love vendors that can make me laugh over email. They'll have my business forever.

Speaker 1:

but a few, far between A few far between, Maybe with chat to BT or AI. If people get better at that, I don't know.

Speaker 2:

Maybe yeah, as the better those tools get, are there kind of today? You've kind of fast forwarding to today. I know you probably see quite a bit and you interact with a lot of different organizations and leaders and things like that. Are there cool things that you're seeing out there right now that you're really excited about that are related?

Speaker 1:

Yeah for sure. Yeah, all these companies we work with are always asking for advice on what tools they should be thinking about, and so we take a lot of demos and a lot of trade shows. We're kind of looking at what's out there, Couple of the ones I'm really excited about. Well, let me take a step back. Part of what we do is not just look at tools that are already for customer success. Unfortunately, most of the innovation it doesn't happen for customer success. If you go on G2, there's over 15,000 tools for sales. There is like 30 something for customer success.

Speaker 1:

So what we try to do is talk to founders a little earlier in their journey, try to pivot them towards actually making it built for a customer success perspective, purpose built, instead of us having to later go and try and adapt something that wasn't really built for us. So one example of that I'm working with a company called Agent Co-Pilot that I discovered it faster and they were building for marketing. It's a it's kind of a loom style video that uses deepfakes, so you can like create an avatar of yourself, your video and your voice in a few minutes and then you can create scripts that will connect to your CSP or your CRM and can like inform what goes into that script to personalize it and then create a video from your CSM that looks exactly like your CSM across your entire customer base. So you could do a thousand custom videos in a few minutes instead of recording a thousand looms. That one I'm really excited about because we talked up into going to CSRoute instead of the marketing route.

Speaker 2:

Is that? Is that also the one that that does the translation really well? Which one is that?

Speaker 1:

No, that's hey Jen. That's definitely on my list as well. Yeah, I love that. We spent so much time at LinkedIn, especially because we were global. We covered 47 different languages and so when I left there, we were doing about 350 webinars every month in 27 different languages just to try and cover the most of our population. We spent so much money and had so many resources to try and cover all this language Like hey Jen would have been absolutely revolutionary for us, absolutely yeah.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, amazing. I love that. I think that's really cool. I don't know if you've seen them. I have.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, but that was another thing.

Speaker 1:

Customer education, like one of our big pain points is product change is probably every two weeks. Like how do you keep all your materials up to date? So there's, does you know? I think all of these need some work. Like none of them are 100% there yet, but like the direction they're going. I'm really excited.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, that's cool. Yeah, video is, you know. Again, it's solving a problem that a lot of large training organizations Well, part of the reasons are so large is because they've had to support this kind of, you know, level of quality of video creation and all of that kind of stuff that is now just like at the tip of your finger. And what's interesting about it, when I really think about these things, is, you know, you mentioned that they're not quite there yet, or that you know they still have some maturing to do, and I totally agree with that, because I don't I don't for once think that you could use any of these tools to A replace your CSM we don't, that's not what they're there for or B like just B, the CS function for you.

Speaker 2:

I think there are all tools to augment what you do and to make your humans like more efficient and more effective.

Speaker 2:

And you have to kind of really lead into that, like, hey, we've got this virtual assistant, or we have this persona named Bob and he's going to talk to you every once in a while about the health of your account. This isn't me, this is you know. It's like we almost have to like use it as, as a tool and and you know, I don't know where I'm going with this, but it's like it's like it's it's. It's not there yet, nor do I really want it to be there where it's like you're just putting an avatar with Jenae I in front of a customer for all of your CS needs. But what it does do is it takes some of the mundane, makes it entertaining, makes it fun, puts it in front of the customer when they need it, where they need it, and your CSM can then focus on having, like those really high value conversations that you know in strategic conversations. I think that's where I wanted to go with that.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I mean, I think about it like maybe graphic design like nineties and before, probably most designers were designing print media, right, like they're sending out postcards, they're putting up flyers, they're doing billboards, whatever. And then all of a sudden, you know, graphic design, digital graphic design got a lot easier. You didn't have to be an engineer to do it. You can use templates, you can drag and drop, you can change the colors, all those things. It doesn't mean there were no more designers, it just meant that they could be a lot more effective, a lot more creative and reach way more people, so have higher impact. And that's kind of how I think about you know, ai affecting the digital CS landscape.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah. Just because you have a Canva subscription doesn't make you a good designer. You can make crap in Canva too.

Speaker 1:

True, I do it all the time yeah.

Speaker 2:

That's awesome, as we kind of start to round things down a little bit, or wind things down a little bit. What's you've mentioned, some apps and some technology that you're really excited about. Are there some people that are doing cool things in digital that you might want to, you know, give a shout out to, or point out or give a high five to, virtually?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I mean I A lot of what I do is kind of we're following the tools than necessarily following the influencers.

Speaker 2:

Totally.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I love Rachel Woods.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

He has the AI exchange. She puts out some amazing content. That is a really good summary of what's going on in AI. Cool. They have a Slack community as well. People are always posting amazing things and good tips for each other there, so that's probably my top go-to at the moment.

Speaker 2:

Are there things outside of CS or professional content whatever, that you pay attention to that influences you as a CS leader?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, again, not necessarily following CS specific. I follow 15 industry newsletters that talk about what's going on in different segments of tech. It helps me understand what the finance landscape looks like, because where the money goes, the industry will follow. I pick one for each industry that I really love, like NTUK for ed tech and Rock Health for health tech. I've got my list there. Feel free to DM me if you're unhappy to share it.

Speaker 2:

Send it to me. I'll put it in the show notes if anybody's interested. Yeah.

Speaker 1:

Yeah For sure. Also a great way. If you're looking for work, follow the money. If you've been fundraising, they're probably going to have headcount opening. It's a great way to get ahead of the curve. I also really love Caesar Romero does a Beyond the Job podcast, which just gives me inspiration for career transition or stories Back to our boot camp roots there. I really love connecting with people who have made those transitions, not just to customer success but just in general hearing how people can highlight their transferable skills in a really meaningful way to move towards the lifestyle they want to have.

Speaker 2:

That's so great. Yeah, it's a good call out To your earlier point. Christy Faltrosi also gave this advice on the podcast, which is her main thing. That she called out was Bloomberg Just follow the money. That's where the opportunity is. One thing that actually I wanted to touch on that we didn't touch on earlier, when we were talking about recast, and I wanted to dig in a little bit deeper on this, on the mission of equity in the workplace, because I think it's crazy important. We've highlighted it on the show before with various guests. You've got your finger on the pulse, I feel like in CS anyway, I feel like gender equity has some room to grow at the leadership level, at the IC level. It seems pretty good, but I think racial diversity still in tech, in CS and everywhere is just way off the mark. I would love your finger on the pulse as to what you're seeing.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, Thank you for highlighting that. Definitely things we care a lot about. Yeah, when we started this company in 2020, we started working on it. We looked at the statistics across customer success. A lot of them were still from 2019. There At that point in time, 81 percent of CSMs were white, 90 percent had a bachelor's degree or higher and 95 percent lived in one of 15 major Metro urban areas. So like a very specific demographic which 100 percent did not look like my customers. So we've made and lost some progress across those areas. Specifically, Then, the percentage of white CSMs now is 78 percent, so we've made a little bit of progress there. Still not fully representative of the US population. Only 3 percent of CSMs are black, which has been pretty flat over the last five years, versus 13 percent of the US population is black. 10 percent of CSMs are Latinx, which has improved over the last few years but still is nowhere near the 19 percent of the US population.

Speaker 1:

Degrees has actually gone the wrong direction, Like we started to see a lot of positive change in 2021-22, where the labor market was really really tight and people started removing that requirement. This year, we've lost a ton of ground. It's actually higher than it was in 2019, at 92 percent have a bachelor's degree or higher, which I don't think is needed.

Speaker 2:

No.

Speaker 1:

Which also has some implications for diversity in class and I feel like college in general is not needed anymore.

Speaker 2:

I'm sorry, I'm just going to say it.

Speaker 1:

I know, having launched degrees for Coursera, I probably shouldn't say this out loud, but I absolutely agree. I think it's pretty antiquated and a pretty big problem We'll have to address this generation. The bright spot has been the urban versus rural divide has drastically changed. Those 15 urban areas were across about 10 states. There's now concentrations of at least 150 CSMs across 48 states. It's just absolutely exploded.

Speaker 1:

I'm really hoping we don't lose too much ground as companies are starting to pull back on remote, friendly roles, because it makes no sense for your CSM to have to be where your headquarters are Zero. This should be where their customers are Correct, even in the communities that they're serving. I'm really hoping that trend doesn't backtrack too much.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, that's very interesting. Do you find that because of that, do you find that CS orgs are segmenting their customers by geographic location more than they may have in the past, or is that not really a thing?

Speaker 1:

I feel like they always did. I don't know, maybe that's just the companies I've worked at, but I think time zones play a lot into it. Yeah, so being available the hours that your customers are available. But before digital was as popular, there was a lot of travel for CS Funds. Ideally, you want it local.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

A couple hour drive. I remember doing these crazy road shows supporting a CSM during quarterly business review season where we'd go down the entire Eastern seaboard and see 70 customers in two weeks or something, but those would all be with the customers for the East Coast that were within a couple hours drive of most of their customers.

Speaker 1:

So I feel like CS has always been more remote, friendly than other jobs in tech and I'm really hoping, as people are pulling these streams and requiring people to come back to the office, that they don't extend that to their CS teams.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I totally agree. It's interesting one thing that came to mind as you were talking about kind of those QBR road shows or whatever you know, the QBR I think makes perfect sense in an in-person environment. Obviously you want to come prepared with a deck and with the supporting details and being in person, you want to have something to present to and et cetera, et cetera. I'm finding that I think they're completely ineffective in a virtual kind of Zoom setting, because I bet you, your executive, doesn't even want to be in the meeting. They're like why are we all here? This could have been an email kind of thing you know, and curious to get your take on that. And if you're seeing kind of something similar, if you think something similar.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I know this isn't always the popular opinion to have. It's contentious, but I think it's okay.

Speaker 2:

We've got to have the conversation, folks, because you're being ineffective with this stuff sometimes.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, no, I mean, I feel like your percentage of time that you can ask from an executive should be directly proportional to the level of benefit they get from your product.

Speaker 1:

So if you're the payroll software and your executive sponsor is the director of payroll, their jobs 100% rely on your software, like you play a huge part in their day to day and they really care and they want to know and they want an opportunity to ask questions. If you are, you know a plug-in for Zoom that has cute emojis like no one wants to talk to you, right? If you are one tenth of 1% of the budget that that executive oversees, you should not be asking for their time or expecting your CSMs to get their time. You still need to communicate value, but it should be in a proportional way that says, like you know, here's a five-minute video I put together that's going to quickly walk you through all of the highlights of what we're doing together here if you have questions. But keep up the great work you know.

Speaker 2:

Well, with that hot take because it is a hot take, I love it it's time to wrap things up. But I would love for you to enlighten us on how folks can find you LinkedIn, obviously but how they can engage with you and all of those kinds of things.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, LinkedIn's the easiest. I worked at LinkedIn early days so I got good naming there, so it's just Annie Deed, which there's a couple like much more influential Annie Deeds now, but I stole it, so occasionally I get like congratulations on the award and I'm like I don't think that's me, but yeah, yeah.

Speaker 2:

LinkedIn.

Speaker 1:

Annie Deed, if you're interested in mentoring or taking a workshop or anything like that, you know recastsuccesscom is probably the easiest way and conference season's over, so I'm actually home for a couple months, I know, super enjoying it.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it's amazing. It's amazing It'll be good. Well, thanks for taking the time today. I know it's Friday afternoon and I might be keeping you from your weekend, so I appreciate the time. It was a pleasure, and thanks for sharing all of your valuable insights with the listener.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, thanks for having me. I love what you're doing for digital customer success and I can't wait to see 10 years from now or if people are like you know, back before it was a thing.

Speaker 2:

You remember when.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah.

Speaker 2:

Thank you for joining me for this episode of the Digital Customer Success Podcast. If you like what we're doing, consider leaving us a review on your podcast platform of choice. It really helps us to grow and to provide value to a broader audience. You can view the Digital Customer Success Definition Word Map and get more details about the show at digitalcustomersuccesscom. My name is Alex Turkovich. Thanks again for joining and we'll see you next time.

The Concept of Digital Customer Success
Hiring Diverse Customer Success Professionals
Supporting Startups in Customer Success
Exciting Innovations in Customer Success
Equity and Diversity in the Workplace