How to Get a Seat at a Table for Customer SuccessFeb 16, 2022
In #Episode59 we welcome Monica Trivedi, Director of Global Customer Success at Building Engines.
Tell us your story. What is it that we should know about you?
I just recently joined the role of Director of Customer Success at Building Engines in September of 2021 but my journey into customer success has really been a little unique.
When I first started my career, I was super career-focused. I started in financial services, right after university and then took on a role of consulting at a boutique firm after I got my MBA. I was really a heads down, hard worker, helping my colleagues and then life sort of threw me a little curveball.
I ended up having twin boys which put me home for a couple of years with them. However deep down, I was always very much career-focused. And so I always thought, “okay, what can I do? I’m a full-time mom, but I also want to be a full-time career person.” So I went and took some classes on website design, digital and social media marketing, and I started consulting small to midsize businesses that were going into the cloud space.
It was really an exciting time and I enjoyed every moment of it. I kind of got the best of both worlds. Once my children got a little bit older, someone from Oracle reached out to me for a customer success manager position.
I had no idea what that was. I thought it was a customer service rep and I kind of was thinking “I’m not sure if this is the role I want to take”. But Oracle is a great company, so I thought I’ll check it out. I joined and I learned really the fundamental of what CS is in the industry.
And I would say I never looked back from then. I have sort of been in Customer Success since then, I’m super obsessed about it. I love everything about it and love to talk about it.
You’ve grown your career in Customer Success while having your twin boys. I’d love to find out more about how you do it. How do you balance it all together? What does it look like to be a mom in tech in 2022?
I always admired my mom. She worked all the time. And although at that time she would be home usually by five o’clock, whereas sometimes I’m still working. But I would say in the last couple of years, my children have seen me work. I am on calls all the time and they see how hard I work and I think they’ve appreciated me that much more because they see how hard I am working. You know, I can still be a mom and, yesterday I was on a call with my team and I had to help my son set up something, so I just had to put the call on pause.
I think in the world we’re in now it’s completely acceptable. I am there for them when they need me, but I’m also there for work when work needs me. So it is a balance. It’s not easy.
I need to admit that’s something that I really love about customer success, I guess it’s one of those. industries or professions that really can give you that flexibility, because the way you manage your customers, the way you manage your work, you should be able to manage it together with other things in life, especially now when we are working from home. It’s not nine to five, we don’t live in those days anymore.
That’s true, I do think prioritizing it in customer success, we have to manage so many different things. Learning how to prioritize and I think prioritizing home life and work life. Even just what’s important, there are sacrifices that we all make, but I agree. I think we would all want our kids off of the phones, to be honest.
decent life with our kids, spending quality time with them, but also allowing the kids to see us working. I think that’s incredibly important and you’re setting a very good example for them. Monica, you progressed substantially in your customer success career. What is it that you really enjoy in customer success? And how did you know when to make the right career move?
Good questions. I would say early on in my career, I was very much focused on helping the customer, doing all of those activities that you should do as a customer success manager and individual contributor, pulling the right resources, all of that.
Now in my career, as a director, leading a team, being part of an organization that’s really transforming. It’s all about the impact. What impact does customer success make on the organization? That is really my passion right now. I think we’ve all been part of the company’s All Hands or Town Halls where the Sales presents their newest wins, Marketing presents events that they’re doing, Product presents their newest feature releases.
And many times customer success is not featured. And it’s something that I’m pushing for, for that seat at the table. In my last role when I went from an individual contributor to a leadership position, that is one thing that I pushed for and I kind of developed this model of micro wins.
Every day, CSMs are working with customers and they are creating wins for their customers. It doesn’t have to be big.
Health check or big QBR it’s every day we’re making impact and moments of delight, I would say, and putting those in a framework where we’ve shown where the customer was at, where they’re struggling, how we approach them, and then the outcome that we made and that outcome could be an expansion.
It’s great because other parts of our organization can see what we’re doing. So that’s sort of one part of it. And then the other part is the quantitative part, right?
The data part of it. The impact is qualitative and quantitative, and those are two main areas that I’ve been focused on and creating those micro wins, micro-moments of impact and getting that seat at the table.
Your second question is when did I know to make the move? I would say for me, I have switched roles pretty often over my career, but the reason is that I go in, I learn, I absorb, I do make an impact and assess what’s going on. When I feel like I’ve made that impact and if I can do the same thing at another organization and I can make even a bigger impact, then that’s where I know I want to go. I would say in the last couple of years, I’ve been working with a lot of mentors and other women in CS that have grown their careers. I feel like now I have that sort of target of where I want to go over the next, three to five years.
I really love how you’re focused on impact in your personal career, but also the impact that you as the customer success department is having on the whole business impact that the business has on your customers.
So what are those strategies and initiatives that you’re putting in place to present the impact of customer success?
Absolutely, so I would say in my new role right now something that I’ve been doing, you know, it’s been a couple of months since I’ve joined, is aligning closely with our sales team and developing those relationships early on.
We’re actually doing a joint CS sales kick-off which had never been done before. And this is where we’re going to show the impact that we’re making as a group to the rest of the sales team and the customer success team. Those initiatives of getting buy-in early I think are a big part of getting a seat at the table and understanding the challenges of everyone else at that table.
So even in my previous leadership role, I would join sales meetings. I would join product meetings. I would join marketing meetings. I want to know what their challenges are, what their goals and targets are. So as a leader, I can then develop some solutions and partnerships with them so we can tackle this together and you’re right not just customers names, being able to identify some of the challenges they’re facing.
I can guarantee you that if we show a micro win about one customer, that’s facing a challenge, there are other customers facing the same challenge. And so we can sort of develop that solution for a particular segment or a particular group of customers that may be facing that.
And I think that’s the way to work together and collaborate together with other teams at that table.
It’s like a butterfly effect. You’re impacting the wider organization by being intentional. Partnering and understanding everybody else’s goals and the ways that you can support them in that journey.
Absolutely, somebody once said to me, “Why did you get your MBA if you want to be in customer success?”.
And I said because customer success touches every part of the organization, I consider this as the best career path. And I think everyone in customer success should understand that, that they touch every part of the organization. And so yes, you’re in a perfect position.
Absolutely. It gives you the opportunity to meet so many other people within an organization and department. It’s so lovely to hear you talking so passionately about the impact of customer success. So I want to go even a little deeper. You are in a leadership role. Regardless of, if someone is intentional or not about it, you are impacting the people who are working very closely with you. What would you say is your leadership style?
I would say my leadership style is definitely servant leader. I work for my team and being a leader comes with immense responsibility. I think if you’re just stepping into a new leadership role, or even if you’ve been in one for a while, it requires advocating for your team, rallying your team.
You may feel defeated, but not allowing that to affect them and then allowing them to shine with their strengths and being there to help grow that team. And for me, when I first joined I did hire a couple of people, but then I had an existing team as well. And one of the first things I did was understand who they are, what are their personal and professional goals and what do they want to do?
Because let’s face it. We’re in this great resignation, really anyone could leave at any moment. And for me, it’s not a one-stop solution of okay, if you pay somebody more money or if you give them more flexibility, it’s really understanding each individual person on your team.
What’s important to them, identifying that and then helping them get there. It’s very similar to CS. We’re trying to create goals and objectives for our customers. As team leaders, we need to do the same for our team and bring them along that journey.
I couldn’t agree more. What do you think they would say about you as a leader?
I ask them all the time, they definitely consider me as a true advocate. What I am doing now is a transformation of our CS team. And as you know, customer success could be anything at any organization.
Sometimes it’s very reactive and sometimes it’s an extension of support. And what I’m trying to do is create a real proactive organization and team and advocating for them. That’s what I’ve been doing for the last few months. When I actually interviewed for this role, I asked to meet the existing team. I wanted to meet with them. I wanted them to interview me.
So, I think that’s, a great thing to do when you’re interviewing for a role or even if you’re interviewing a new member of your team, get your existing team to speak with them too.
That’s absolutely wonderful advice because you want to get to know them early on. What would you say is the ideal customer success manager? You know, what are those behaviours and the skills or the habits that amazing CSMs have.
I would say the positivity, we are the ones on calls that are smiling, that are happy. Even if customers are upset or angry or frustrated with a specific department, we’re the ones that are bringing that positive spin in a realistic way. I think that is really important to be a CSM. You have to be positive. You’re going to be faced with product bugs and support tickets and, delays, you just need to go with that positive attitude.
So that’s one, the second is resourcefulness, being resourceful, being independent. I find that those individuals make the best CSMs going out there. Developing relationships with other members in the organization, being able to get those answers for our customers. We are not developers. We are not engineers. We are not technical folks typically. So we can’t actually go and do those things, but if we can find the answer, provide a timeline and communicate. That is exactly what I want in a good CSM, someone that is very resourceful and relentless. Somebody that will push and, stay their ground and definitely get that answer.
I think it’s very easy for a customer to reach out and we can say we’re looking into it. And then people could just sit back, but I want my team to be relentless. and I’m okay with kind of being that team that’s bothering other teams. But if we’re getting that answer for the customer, I think that’s what we want to be able.
And that’s what matters at the end of the day. Thank you so much for sharing great advice, the skills and behaviours that a great CSM should exhibit, I wonder what would be your message for inspiring leaders in customer success?
For those that are hoping to lead a team or even maybe not lead a team, but I’ve been in roles where I’ve had to influence without authority, and I think the best part is thinking outside of the box. So going back to when I was in my early career and I was just heads down.
I think if you are looking to become a leader, you need to pull yourself up out of that, look around at what’s happening and think of ways to improve, whether it’s improved process, improve engagement, improve relationships internally. I think as a leader, you have to sort of pick yourself up, look around at what’s happening around you, not stay siloed in your role and start making that impact, start making those changes.
Once you do, you will become regarded as that leader in either product knowledge or process knowledge, and that’s what you want to be considered for. That’s how you move up into the next step. Basically, get my team to think of ways that they could put themselves in leadership positions.
So if our product does a release notes meeting every week, one of my team members goes out and cheer rates that she took that on her then shares it with the entire CS team so that they can deliver it to their customers. I think that’s it, it’s small moments where you can make an impact to your internal team or external customer that puts you in a leadership position.
I definitely think that’s a big thing. Secondarily, I would say being a leader has its challenges, but I think at the end of the day, it really is a human connection. Right? You have a human connection with your team members, with your customers and with your management as well.
You’re giving us an amazing mini master class about leadership, how to be an invaluable CSM and how to lead with transparency and how to really create those impacts around you and how to exhibit impacts of your teams to other departments within the business. I would like to ask you the last question. What question do you wish other people ask you more often?
I would say, especially in this day and age, instead of zoom meetings, I wish people would say to me, can we just have a quick phone call? So maybe I could go for a walk and have that connection. That’s what I want.
This was such a wonderful conversation. Thank you so much for coming to the show.
Thank you so much for having me.
Follow Monica Trivedi!