SalesTechStar Interview with Joanna Johnston, Chief Customer Officer at BigPanda
Joanna Johnston, Chief Customer Officer at BigPanda shares five fundamentals that Chief Customer Officers in B2B Tech need to keep in mind to enable better end user experiences:
Welcome to this SalesTechStar chat Joanna, tell us about yourself and more about your role at BigPanda?
I joined BigPanda in January of 2023 – this will be my 24th year working in tech. I’ve had a chance to work with phenomenal companies – from HP to ServiceNow to Snowflake. Through these different opportunities I realized I had a passion for building – building teams and helping build companies, in the areas of greatest customer impact.
In April, I moved into the Chief Customer Officer role at BigPanda, reporting to our CEO Assaf Resnik, and joined our Executive Leadership Team (ELT). At BigPanda, the CCO is accountable for specific company functions – Customer Education & Community, Professional Services, Voice of the Customer and Customer Insights – as well working cross-functionally to drive onboarding, adoption, expansion and usage of BigPanda and drive a culture of customer centricity.
Take us through the evolution of the role of the typical B2B Chief Customer Officer as you’ve seen it and what key skills are needed now to create a difference here?
The CCO role is one of the newer C-suite functions, which means there is still a lot of variability in areas of responsibility. To make the most impact in the CCO role, I’m focusing on bringing insights from data, storytelling and driving a positive financial impact for the company.
– Driving insights from data – Every B2B company has a wealth of data about their customers – everyone from how they buy, to how they use the product to how they feel about different experiences from the company. Having data is not enough – you have to be able to translate that into actionable insights. These insights help you decide if your strategic initiatives are having the right impact or if you need to change course – or if you have even identified the right initiatives.
– Storytelling – In the CCO role, I’m responsible for painting the vision of success to our customers and helping our internal teams understand the customer experience. This means telling stories that evoke emotions to drive action. Data and even insights are not enough to drive action – you have to connect that data to something meaningful, which is the people we help with our products and services. My goal with storytelling is to make this as real as possible.
– Positive financial impact – There are always more ideas than resources available – and it’s not enough to say specific initiatives are just the right thing to do. I have to be able to tie our initiatives back to increasing revenue for the company. Having a strong understanding of our business model, or cost structures and how we can invest to make a positive impact is essential for my role. It also makes for better partnership at the ELT level.
How can B2B brands in your view drive superior customer success and service experiences to differentiate how they do what they do in the market in terms of building unique customer journeys?
For B2B brands, the key to customer success and delivering a great customer experience is recognizing that your “customer” is made up of a group of individuals – all of whom have unique needs that your product and services must fulfill. You have to meet each of these individuals where they are and ensure that your product and service experience is exceeding their expectations.
It’s possible to get too focused on one type of individual – maybe the buyer or executive champion – and forget that the people using the product are critical to your product being successfully adopted. You have to get as close as possible to these users, while drastically and dramatically improving the way they get things done with your product. If you do this, then you’ll be much closer to creating a group of raving fans for the company.
If you had to highlight five leading brands for the way they maneuver their customer success and service journeys: which brands would make the list and why?
Many brands claim to value customer service, but the following brands walk the talk and have been at the forefront of leading change for other companies in regards to how they approach service and success.
- AAA – “We’re working to transform AAA for the next century with a mission to create Members for life by unleashing the innovative spirit of our Team Members. By inspiring them to achieve our mission of offering the best possible member service, we’ve established our organization as one that people know they can always rely on.” Customers have noted, “AAA made us and our safety a priority.”
- Nordstrom – “Don’t say no to your customers if there is a tiny bit of chance to say yes. Even if there’s not one, give the best alternative instead of shooting the request down. Your customers will pay you back in spades in terms of loyalty and share of heart.”
- Target – “In 2023, we’ll bring guests our very best. To do it, we’ll keep investing in priority areas that build our capabilities, enhance our shopping experiences and make Target more relevant than ever. In fact, we plan to invest $4 billion to $5 billion this year to deliver even more of what our guests love most.”
- Starbucks – “Reward your customers with the help of a strong voice of the customer program. Invest in listening tools, listen to your customers, and actually act on them. If you think 10.9M customers follow Starbucks on Twitter just to learn how Starbucks’s latest Pistachio Latte tastes, you are mistaken. Listen to a customer’s own words.”
- Virgin Atlantic – “You will learn more from unhappy customers than happy customers. They burst the bubble of self-acclaimed customer success and show how you are really performing – which may not be what you want but very much need.”
What in your view are the five fundamentals of being a successful chief customer officer in B2B?
You have to be passionate about helping customers. Being a CCO means walking into every customer meeting with a goal of helping them and taking on their challenges, and walking into every internal meeting representing your customer needs.
You have to be relentless about making improvements. I’ve adopted the mantra to be 1% better every day – you have to relentlessly push forward, seeing all of the areas that need to be improved and being optimistic about the path forward.
You have to be an expert at partnering across your organization. Customer success needs to be a company ethos – not just a department. To enable true success, you need every function across the company thinking about how they impact the customer, customer experience and customer success. This means continuously partnering.
You have to see feedback as a gift. In the CCO role, you should be hearing all the customer feedback and continuing to ask for more. If a customer is willing to spend time with you to tell you what’s working and what’s not – that is the greatest gift. It means they care enough to see the company improve. You need to embrace that at every opportunity.
You have to be comfortable being uncomfortable. This role requires constant learning, personal development and growth. You are constantly presented with new perspectives, new opportunities and new challenges. Being willing to get outside of your comfort zone and learn quickly is critical for success.
Some last thoughts you’d like to leave us with before we wrap up?
I’m glad to see so many organizations putting an emphasis on the success of customers through a Chief Customer Officer role – and incredibly excited about the opportunity with BigPanda.
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