In this interview, Christina Wong, Director of Customer Success and Support at Badger Maps, shares her perspective on achieving measurable results through an authentic , genuine engagement with customers. She also shares her methods on harnessing emotional intelligence for creating valuable relationships.
The Advantage of Educating the Customer
Vincent: Christina, how did you find your way to customer success?
Christina: I was hired as a dedicated CSM at Badger Maps 3 years ago. Before Badger, I was a manager and handling sales and customer facing role.
One of the most important things I learned at I- Tech Experience about customer success is to approach customers with the best intention at heart.
If I’m going to approach sales without the full understanding of the product or what is the value customers will get out of it, then customers are just going to be unhappy and frustrated.
Likewise, if the customers don’t see the value of what they have purchased – customers will never come back to the store.
My main initiative was educating the customer about the product and how it works, onboarding them quickly and assessing preparedness (adoption) before they leave the store.
Vincent: How did you manage the expectations while at the same time, improving your skills?
Christina: I stayed focused on the task at hand and processes involved. I dove right into the role, which ultimately required me to fill other roles in order to complete my original task.
Having this multifaceted experience gave me the clarity to the role, insight into missing pieces, and showed me where improvements were needed.
I actively seek opportunities to expand and deepen my understanding of this role and industry – online courses, articles/blogs, conferences and networking with others inside and outside of the industry have been illuminating
Vincent: Did you have a mentor during your journey through customer success?
Christina: I had a management mentor that really influenced how I thought about customers in general - my mentor would always tell me “The customer isn’t always right, but they can be wrong with dignity.”
It’s a bit counter-intuitive to “The customer is always right”, but the ultimate goal is to understand the customer’s needs and educate them to ensure their continued success. Communication is key, not who is right or wrong.
The “customer isn’t always right”, but they can be wrong with dignity - this is where the importance of customer education became clear to me.
Feedback-driven approach for sustainable growth
Vincent: How does Customer Success fit in your organization, and how does it affect the long-term goals?
Christina: Customer Success fits into all parts of our organization - it is a part of our company culture to deliver the best customer’s journey through department collaboration.
Vincent: How do you measure the success of your team?
Christina: Like most SaaS companies, we focus on reducing churn and improving retention. We track churn and retention through ProfitWell, but we’ve also implemented Report Cards for our Sales and Customer Success Teams.
Report Cards are filled out by the AE and CSA partnered on a pilot together, for each party to be able to provide feedback for their counterpart - this has allowed us to look at Pilots that have closed to see what has worked well for our customers and then to look at Pilots we’ve lost in order to see where we need to improve, as a company or individually.
Vincent: How do you ensure that everyone is on the same page and meeting goals?
Christina: I have weekly one on ones with my CSMs where they are expected to provide a full report of their activity for the week and the status of each of their active accounts.
We also utilize Close.io and Zapier to automate a lot of our back end operations, including the sales process, i.e. follow up reminders, upcoming renewals, and expansion opportunities. We’ve built in a lot of flexibility for our changing needs, as well.
Recently, I implemented “Report Cards” - a behavioral survey between the CSM and the Sales team. In a nutshell, after a pilot closes, both teams report on the performance of the other which provides us with feedback on company processes and individual performance.
Christina: In addition to learning how we can improve our processes internally, it also helps our Sales and Customer Success teams to be more effective by:
Leadership at Badger Maps
Vincent: Who are you like as a leader?
Christina: I am the kind of leader that is in the trenches with my team. I believe as a leader, I should share the same burden and accountabilities with my team, in order to understand their challenges.
Learn the problem, not just the process.
Christina: Understanding what a normal day and work flow looks like for CSM is paramount for organizational success.
By observing and understanding the problem, not just the process – CSMs set themselves up for success. I believe becoming an expert on the problem slowly exposes them to what they are going to be doing.
Vincent: What are the key characteristics (or aptitudes) that you look for when hiring new CSMs?
Christina: Grit, which I consider to be four critical personality traits:
Vincent: What could be the biggest impediments for achieving customer satisfaction?
Christina: Engagement – We do our best to get every single one of our customers on the phone to talk about the app. People really like an authentic, real conversation and genuine people, so we do our best to interact with customers, since we can’t automate and set our relationships to “grow.”
This leaves me asking this question to myself - what can we do to help our customers achieve success when almost everyone is leveraging AI and machine learning to automating key processes?
I appreciated getting Christina’s insights on developing an authentic and genuine approach for valuing a relationship, and hope to talk further with her in a future interview.