All About Leveling Up your Customer Success Game Image

All About Leveling Up your Customer Success Game

An athlete’s path to success is as unique as the person. Similarly, a company’s path to leveling up doesn’t always come with a predictable model, either. But often, the best success stories start with a vision, the best data, and the openness to whatever the next step brings. 

Recently, we talked to two leaders from different worlds about the way that they leveled up in their careers. One was Peloton instructor Tunde Oyeneyin and the other was Penny Ashley-Lawrence, Senior Vice President and Head of Customer and Partner Experience at Workiva. After hearing both stories, we recognized a few universal lessons we think are important to share. Lessons like: 

  • Gather all the data you can along the way, but stay focused on a single goal.
  • Remember the value of using our life experience, intuition, and wisdom. It makes up all that data in our heads that we use to make decisions, but we don’t always rely on it.

Let’s dig into how.

How Oyeneyin Saw the Future and Leveled Up Her Own Life to a New Career

After her first cycling class, Oyeneyin knew that she would be cycling for the rest of her life, teaching on the world’s biggest platform and impacting as many people as possible. After advancing her career locally, she hit Peloton’s radar and was invited to audition for an instructor role. Though she was praised for her performance, the audition was unsuccessful. She was rejected via email a month later.

Oyeneyin started to doubt her calling. She was devastated by the loss of the job and said it felt like the loss of a family member “because I’d seen this vision so clearly, and I’d trusted myself, and I’d believed what I saw to be true.”

It’s easy to lose the bigger vision in moments of doubt. But having confidence can make us ready to level up, and more than that, make us ready to act with purpose and confidence. She returned to her home gym and started visiting other instructors to observe their approach. She added new approaches to her toolkit and kept advancing.

Eight months later, new Peloton leadership called. They saw her audition tape. They wanted to hire her.

Helping Customers Reach New Heights

For Oyeneyin, data always works. That data was her life experience, wisdom, and intuition. And it had led her this far. She emphasized that it helped her keep going when times were tough, all in the service of a big goal, a single metric for success.

Her approach isn’t so far removed from the best customer success teams’ approach. How do they know what the next logical solution is for existing customers? It’s about anticipating what’s already working in a customer success strategy, then tracking the data and adding that layer of insight in service of the big goals, says Ashley-Lawrence.

Ashley-Lawrence says her data-centered process helps her give CSMs focus on how they can help customers best. It proves value to board members, helps teams get budget dollars, and helps customers succeed better. 

Ashley-Lawrence had a few more tips on moving from data to customer leveling up:

Customer Engagement and Customer Success Is A Lot Like Instructing Peloton Classes 

CSMs can be like Peloton instructors in that they are one-to-many representatives that keep customers motivated and help them solve problems as they emerge, so they can feel successful and overcome challenges in their own journeys of leveling up. And “it’s just going to get better and more innovative,” says Ashley-Lawrence, who emphasizes that learning about customers through surveys and digital onboarding provides feedback that drives customer success.

Data Can Build Logic Into that Customer Journey

Insight helps teams know what customers need next and then reach them with the education they need to level up. In this way, CSMs can be as “beloved” as Peloton instructors, according to Ashley-Lawrence. Even when they don’t reach celebrity status, they are trusted partners who know their customers’ business. 

With Gainsight, Ashley-Lawrence says Workiva is able to track where CSMs should go to help customers find the next solution. CSMs know what compliance issues their customers are having, what teams are involved, what teams could be included, and what business problems customers have that might be solved by Workiva. This approach helps prove the story that CSMs are integral to identifying customer needs and serving them well. These customer success qualified leads (CSQRs) are a key reporting metric.

Working with Value Management Teams Can Help Tell the Story of Customer Cuccess

It’s crucial to use a tool like Gainsight to track positive business outcomes (PBOs), for example, that customers are finding new efficiencies and saving time and effort. Businesses can work with a Value Management Team to predict retention and growth by pinpointing where customer success happens. Ashley-Lawrence says she tries to get Value Management leaders in the sales cycle of as many customers as possible. If it’s not possible during the sales cycle, finding that value later is crucial for all customers in the enterprise space.

Ultimately, Value Management ties the promise of the product with the business outcomes delivered. It tells the story of a product’s successes and what challenges it can overcome.

Data Can Inform a Great Customer Relationship

Data not only informs the creation of the user journey internally but can build relationships with customers directly. For example, at a user conference, Workiva used predictions about which sessions to recommend for customers to get them the best outcomes for their needs. 

But an over-reliance on too much data can make for scattered CSMs. For instance, Call to Actions (CTAs) in Gainsight can be powerful attractors. Newcomers to the program often set many CTAs, trying to track them all. But how many are closing in 30 days? “You have to be constrained and surgical about it,” Ashley-Lawrence says. There isn’t a set number of CTAs that’s ideal, she says, but Workiva aims for having 85% of CTAs close within 30 days. That helps show which ones are most useful, and which were actually slowing down the team.

Broad Use of Data Tools like Gainsight Offers a Better View

Inviting teams like marketing, project management, and sales means a broad base of experience that generates more insight and delivers value. “That was a game-changer for us,” says Ashley-Lawrence. “It lit it on fire.” With more insights, more ways to talk about the customer journey, and ways to talk about how the company offers value allowed for an overall view that was focused on the big goals.

It Starts with Your Why

“Think about your overall ‘why,’” says Ashley-Lawrence. 

Like new Peloton users, data teams sometimes like to set multiple goals, taking advantage of all the tools they can, but without honing in on the purpose for that data in the first place. They can feel pulled toward multiple calls to action and find they’re simply lowering their effectiveness with customers. And they can get stuck with fear when the path gets a little bit winding.

Instead, CS business leaders and Peloton instructors alike would do better to trust their data, keep their eyes on the prize, and just keep riding.