At the end of the day, you’re the one who has to deliver the good news and the bad news – Interview with Stephani Clark, Director of CS at Heretto

Stephani Clark – Director of Customer Success, Heretto.


CSPL: What, in your opinion, is the most exciting about Customer Success Management?

SC: I think what excites me the most about Customer Success Management is that, at least within our organization, we can work with a really wide variety of customers. Because Customer Success kind of takes you to a bigger level, we almost become part of their team, so I would say that one of the things that excites me is that I’m going to work with some really cool teams, really smart people from giant companies all over the world and basically become an “honorary member” of their team.

With that, I would also say that every project is slightly different. It’s not the same thing every day so I really enjoy the challenge of looking at, from a high level, what’s the business case of this customer, what are they trying to do and then, helping them do that project and getting to see the results – I think that’s the most exciting and the most rewarding for me.

CSPL: This is also thanks to our high-touch model, I would say, because not every Customer Success Manager has this possibility to engage in such a way.

SC: It’s probably a little different for other companies. Our implementations can be very involved, there are great, enterprise customers and that’s why we get a lot of that.
I enjoy that part of work.

CSPL: And, on the other hand, what’s the biggest challenge in Customer Success for you?

SC: I would say, the biggest challenge is that our customers are unique. While it’s exciting to get involved in different projects, I think one of the biggest challenges is that there are customers who have a unique problem to solve and a very custom solution to it, and that can sometimes be challenging. “Here’s your software, but we want it to do all these things that it doesn’t do” and you’re trying to find a way to either accomplish their goal with what we have or figure out a solution that it’s going to work for them. I think that can be really challenging.

CSPL: The next question will be a little bit connected. This one was about challenges but now, let’s say, what would you change or improve in the Customer Success industry in general? What would make it better in your opinion?

SC: That’s a really big question. I don’t know if I can say what I would change in the industry and I don’t know if I feel comfortable saying that because I think there are things I would improve within our organization. We’re a startup, we’re continuing to grow and I think there’s been a lot of opportunities for us to keep learning from this growth and continually improve. As far as every other Customer Success organization does the thing, I’m not really sure if there is one particular thing I would say we should change.

I think that maybe one thing that I would like to change – this is something I’ve been kind of dealing with.

I think that in many organizations the Customer Success team may not have as big a voice in the company as a whole as I think maybe they should.

I would say that Customer Success Managers are a huge asset because we’re the frontline. We talk to these customers every day, we know their problems, the triumphs, we know if there’s good or bad feedback and so I think one of the biggest challenges is figuring out how to say that information to the right people and get things done. Sometimes they feel like this voice and that department doesn’t get heard as much as other departments in the company.

CSPL: So actually we can go smoothly to the next question. Here in Poland, it’s still a very new field and because it’s not cost-center but growth-center, some people are very skeptical about Customer Success.

Sometimes Chief Customer Officers are responsible for introducing the Customer Success methodology and philosophy in their companies… If you were to build a CS department from scratch in a company that has only a Customer Service department and a very traditional approach, where would you recommend starting?

SC: Well, that’s kind of what we’ve actually done at Heretto! We built this department from scratch. When I started we had two Customer Success Managers and it was not really a department per see.

I think where I would start is probably figuring out what the job description should look like.

One of the learning curves that we had in our company is… because we were a small startup company, we started with a small team. We kind of started this mentality of “CSMs do whatever”. You do everything, you wear every hat and if they’ve got a question to you, if they need docs to do, if they need a shoulder to cry on – you’re that person. They need a dev – you handle it. You’re the person that does everything customer-facing.

Right now what I’m kind of working on is figuring out how to paradigm that CSM job description. You don’t need to do everything anymore, we have a lot of support around us. One of the things I would maybe go back and start with this figuring out: what are our clients’ needs and what should be CSM and what do we need other support systems in place to do.

CSPL: I think that’s very good advice specifically for Polish CCOs because here, what I can observe is that sometimes you have a job position which is called Customer Success Manager but in fact, it describes an Account Manager or a Customer Service person.

The last question would be: what’s your advice for early CSM practitioners in Poland knowing that it’s still a developing field here?

SC: I think one of my biggest pieces of advice – and this almost applies to any job but for Customer Success particularly… I’ve always had this mentality of take ownership. You know, if you’re given a customer, you’re expected to manage their account, you have to own that! You have to be willing to figure out what needs to be done and go above and beyond, or ask questions or get other people in the organization involved. I would say, for me, if you want to be successful as a CSM you’ve got to take a lot of ownership and be willing to look at something as…  You know, we’ve just talked about the question of defining the variants of the job so having that defined can be helpful.

As a CSM at the end of the day, you’re the one who has to deliver the good news and the bad news, you’re the one who has to do all the internal communication within your company to make sure that things are progressing as needed and customers have certain things they need.

You’re doing a lot of stuff and you’ve got to really own that. Everything I do reflects on me, reflects on my customer, influences the relationship with this customer. I need to do everything to the best of my ability and be willing to own it.

CSPL: Thank you for that! I think it’s specifically important because some people can be like “Wow, Customer Success is such a nice field, it’s all about customer happiness, you don’t need to sell anything”. Yes, you don’t always have sales in your KPIs, but I’d say this ownership thing is the most important here.

See the Polish version here.

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