A good customer success framework can help end users drive more value from your product or service and in the end, it can help boost retention too. John Serdinsky, Chief Customer Officer at Pramata has some tips to share:
Tell us about yourself and your journey in the B2B tech market; what are you most looking forward to in your new role at Pramata?
My journey in the tech market has been a fun roller-coaster ride. A few years out of college, I fled NYC and found my way into the communications industry in Denver. After leading a massive internal IT development program focused on a large federal contract, my team was tasked with selecting and implementing a new CRM for over 1,500 B2B sales reps. Not surprisingly we landed on Salesforce, and during the implementation I was encouraged to attend their annual user conference. I remember asking “Why do I need to go to a three-day sales pitch for a product I already bought,” but I went anyway. I was just blown away – by the breadth of the ecosystem, the customer excitement for B2B software, and the insane marketing engine – even 15 years ago. So many different companies focused on different elements of the B2B process, famous bands playing, VIP wristbands for select events, etc…And being a buyer for a Fortune 200 company made me a popular target on the expo floor, and let’s just say I saw every creative prospecting technique you can imagine. But through the gleam, I saw a huge need to address these users with better solutions.
Afterward, I started traveling with our head of sales to each regional branch and digging into the confusing myriad of systems and outdated processes that our B2B sales reps contended with and went about implementing a myriad of improvements for – CRM, eSignature, CPQ, CLM, coaching and training tools…We made considerable improvements to sales productivity, renewal rates, etc – and had a blast doing it. Some projects were more successful than others, but indeed the standout in terms of exceeding expectations while hitting all our milestone dates was the implementation of Pramata for contract management – which has always stuck with me.
I spent the last seven years leading customer success teams across several different industry verticals, and it was a great experience. With my new role at Pramata, I’m super excited to work on a leadership team with smart, fun, creative people, many of whom I’ve known for over ten years; I’m also looking forward to building the best customer success team and customer experience focused on optimizing a contract process that most companies have far from optimized. We’ve really honed our product in the past couple of years based on over 15 years of experience in this space, and I’m excited to open more eyes to what we can do to improve people’s jobs and drive value.
What are some B2B customer success nuances and best practices that you feel customer-facing teams need to be more proactive about?
I see two critical elements to an impactful success motion that are often not effectively addressed. The first is really understanding your customer, their business, and your technology’s relevance to their top initiatives. It’s really easy to focus on user logins, feature utilization, support tickets and spend way too much time on things that don’t really matter in terms of driving business value for your customers. Many years ago, I experienced a 20-minute discussion on a partner portal for a customer that had no partner channel – just completely irrelevant to their business model, but it was a feature in the product, so we were expected to try to get the customer to use it.
Customers don’t necessarily need to use 100% of the features to get massive value, and often the mistake is made where the success manager just doesn’t understand their business and doesn’t speak the customer’s language.
The other is failing to connect the dots to the key decision-makers and executive sponsors. I’ve seen tons of examples of success teams doing really great work to get users and working teams humming on the software solution, leading workshops, training sessions, bringing architects and product managers to solve complex use cases – but failing to surface this work to the executive sponsors and decision makers who then either try to reduce their footprint or move off the solution all together. Particularly in the current economic climate, it’s vital to show how the solution drives value and to make sure all decision-makers understand those benefits and the depth of partnership and investment that has occurred.
Can you talk about some of the most interesting customer-success strategies and initiatives you’ve seen in the B2B tech market and what key takeaways others can grab from them?
When you are trying to get people to use a new software tool, change a process, or input information – you run into a key challenge of human behavior – human beings hate change. We are creatures of habit, and creating new habits doesn’t happen inside the timeframe of a one-hour webinar or even a full-day in-person training. This is particularly important if you can’t mandate utilization by shutting all the old ways off. And it doesn’t matter if the new system and process are so much easier and prettier – people still resist. You need persistent reminders, triggers, and rewards, and maybe even some form of punishment for bad behavior. Yet the success manager has no positional authority; you can be charming, you can be a nag, but without really strong support from someone in a position of authority on the customer side, you can’t mandate change and adoption.
So, tactics that understand this dynamic – leveraging champions, multi-week habit creators, contests and prizes – can have a significant impact. I’ve seen great success from gamified learning multi-week challenges, competitive hack days, and even automated journeys with new system prompts and walkthroughs. And interestingly, the rewards don’t have to be big; just getting a sticker, or a badge, or onscreen confetti can have a big psychological impact and create that lasting behavior change.
In your view: how can modern-day, customer-facing teams use automation and proper tactics to drive better online journeys and experiences for their end users?
Ultimately, customer success needs to be engineered into the product itself. Then success teams need to be equipped with the right internal tooling to sense and respond so the customer touchpoints are higher impact. Typical customer questions can be answered through self-service if the product is designed properly – what are my usage trends, who are my top users, who are the people I need to target to re-engage, and what new features have been released and why should I use them? More sophisticated use cases would tie back to business value – you saved your legal teams 80 hours of contract work this month through automation – reinforcing the ROI. This doesn’t eliminate the need for success teams, but rather lets them pivot from driving awareness and education, to driving value realization in a deeper consultative motion.
What should be the fundamental metrics for evaluating the state of customer success in B2B tech?
I think happy, aka successful customers getting value from your technology, ultimately do three key things: renew, buy more, and tell their friends. So, metrics for retention rates of NRR and GRR and satisfaction scores like NPS reflect the scoreboard. But I think the most mature companies have a concept of a “customer health score” that incorporates elements of both risk and opportunity to help drive proactive action.
The score incorporates things like: are user logins declining, do they have a lot of high severity support tickets, are they active on user forums, are they interacting in the knowledge base, consuming collateral from the website, etc.? A well-designed health score can help direct and prioritize the limited bandwidth of your success resources to focus on areas of highest importance.
Can you highlight more about the future of the B2B tech market and in what ways you expect to see it grow?
Clearly, we are in the midst of another massively disruptive technological force with GPT and the latest wave of Generative AI. It is already showing up in several B2B applications, including soon at Pramata, and even in these early days it is really impactful. As it matures, I think you will see increasingly sophisticated use cases where the long-promised vision of AI as a personal assistant and value-added team member finally materializes.
The ability to understand the existing contractual relationship with a customer and use that to create a first draft of a new amendment, for example. The ability to take on more complex high value tasks will really shift the human/software interaction at work. I don’t think we can even envision all the ways this will impact the market, but it’s definitely going to drive massive growth and change.
Pramata is a radically simple contract management alternative. With the first contract Repository as a Service (RaaS). A proven solution that focuses on complete, cross-functional contract visibility, accurate insights, and self-services access, without the heavy lifting. RaaS gives you everything you need—technology, expert assist team, and a robust platform—in one subscription to comprehensively solve the most critical aspects of contract management, for good.
As Pramata’s Chief Customer Officer, John ensures customers maximize the value they receive from their investment and acts as the “voice of the customer” to inform Pramata’s product roadmap. Previously, John was Salesforce’s Regional VP of the Customer Success, Enterprise organization. During his seven years there, he led high-performing Customer Success teams across different industry verticals, driving best-in-class results for renewals and growth. Before Salesforce, he led the Sales Enablement team for CenturyLink (now Lumen), an enterprise technology platform. John has successfully managed: multi-year software implementation programs, massive platform migration projects, and winning sales enablement programs for Fortune 500 organizations. He earned his BA from the University in Colorado, Boulder and a Master’s degree from New York University.
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