SalesTechStar Interview With Catherine Blackmore, GVP of Customer Success & Renewals at Oracle

In what ways should B2B teams revisit their customer success initiatives and why? Catherine Blackmore, GVP of Customer Success & Renewals at Oracle weighs in:



Welcome to this SalesTechStar chat Catherine, tell us more about your role at Oracle…

I am Group Vice President of Customer Success at Oracle, and I take care of our SaaS customers, which includes the Oracle Fusion Cloud Applications suite of products as well as applications that have been added to our apps portfolio through past acquisitions. My role is to make sure every customer is successful, satisfied, and quickly finds value in our cloud applications.  SaaS is the primary area of focus for us because it is where our Customer Success models originated. However, my teams and I try to adapt our Customer Success strategies across all lines of business. I am a big proponent of building solid and repeatable frameworks. So even though I handle North America SaaS customers, I am still involved in ensuring our service and how we execute Customer Success is standard across the other regional teams.

Through your experience over the years: how would you summarize the evolving face of B2B Customer Success and what secrets to effective Customer Success would you share here?

Over the past decade we’ve seen the profession of Customer Success grow tremendously and transform from the early days of reacting to customer escalations in an effort to prevent churn to a data-driven service where CSMs proactively guide customers on a journey to productivity, self-sufficiency and value. In an ideal world, the product would fit like a puzzle piece. However, getting the customer acclimated to the product involves listening and learning so Customer Success teams can better execute and establish the product’s value. Once Customer Success teams understand the customer’s needs and adoption challenges, proactive action can occur. The proactive stage is knowing how to prevent adoption pitfalls and spotting relevant growth opportunities the product will bring.

To that point, effective Customer Success is letting only the customer define success. Once the Customer Success team does that, they can use the customer’s definition of success as a metric and guide for product development.

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When it comes to Customer Success processes and initiatives, what in your view should B2B teams be doing more of?

Customer Success has essentially developed into a growth engine because of the high expectations that software buyers have for the value of their technology investments. True success for customers comes only when you can achieve the desired business outcomes that elevate the customer’s success.

So, we’re beginning to see CSMs engaging in a more strategic game, using their in-depth understanding of a customer’s business goals and technological environment to spot growth prospects. Knowing this, I think Customer Success teams should also consider how their customer satisfaction strategies will unfold. So, collecting feedback is critical not only during the onboarding phase, but through the customer journey. By discussing the customer journey with them, from the sales process to the onboarding process to when the customers go live, customers feel like they were intimately involved in improving your customer satisfaction strategy. They then start to see the value in CSM teams’ to be a trusted advisor and partner.

Why should B2B teams pay more attention to the connect between Customer Success and Employee Success today?

If the Customer Success team isn’t getting proper support internally, we can assume that affects the quality of their Customer Success efforts. I implore B2B teams to pay attention to how they invest in their teams. You cannot achieve Customer Success if you do not focus on Employee Success.  With the onset of the pandemic, we saw people prioritizing wellness and leaving toxic workspaces. Organizations should apply the lessons we’ve learned and frameworks we’ve developed in driving Customer Success to Employee Success. We can do this by considering the employee lifecycle: what they would need at different stages of their career level, what is causing high churn, and what systems are in place for support?

At Oracle, we use Employee Success frameworks that center on the employee journey and how we can best support their needs in at every stage of their employment. We do annual surveys and pulse surveys to understand how we better serve employees. My team and I are also in constant conversation about training, tools, resources, and programs they need to continue to be successful. It boils down to creating standard systems, programs and processes that enable you to listen to employees on how best to invest in them based on their unique needs and goals, which is no different from Customer Success.

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A few thoughts on the future of sales tech as a segment and how you feel this space will shape up?

It was Excel sheets way back when, but now teams worldwide have a growing tech stack to provide a wealth of valuable data. With data making organizations more and more customer-centric, teams are being more strategic with how they can maximize customer value. The result will probably look like sales and Customer Success teams becoming more tightly aligned to quicken the rate in which customers see value in the product.

Some last thoughts on navigating B2B, sales/marketing takeaways?

It’s almost become a mantra at this point, but in Customer Success, you should start with meeting customers at their level, not the level you want them to be. Even if you have the clearest vision for implementing your solution, if that vision isn’t clear to the customer, then the value of service will also not be apparent to them. From Inflation to supply chain disruptions, businesses face unique challenges. So, the best approach is to assess the company’s gaps and how the Customer Success teams can address them at that moment. Ask ‘what does the customer need to be successful right now and then moving forward, how can you elevate their success?’

Oracle offers integrated suites of applications plus secure, autonomous infrastructure in the Oracle Cloud.

Catherine Blackmore is GVP of Customer Success & Renewals at Oracle.

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