The Pavilion Podcast
The Pavilion Podcast

Episode · 7 months ago

Ep 52: Customer Success in a Downturn w/ Leah Chaney

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Ep 52: Customer Success in a Downturn w/ Leah Chaney

Hello, everyone. And welcome back tothe revenue collective podcast. I am your host, Brandon Barton, and you arelistening to Is this a good time? The show where I asked revenue Collectivemembers some really basic questions, and they have great answers in a short15 minute conversation. We're coming to you on Tuesdays and Thursdays each week.So if you hit, subscribe to get it in your podcast feed. And you don't haveto worry about missing an opportunity here from your future boss who could betoday's guest. Our guest today is Leah Cheney. She's the chief experienceofficer at better growth, and we talk about the importance of customerexperience in a down economy before we get going with the questions I wantedto tell you a little bit about this one. Sponsor six cents six cents. The numberone account engagement platform helps you identify accounts that are inmarket for your solution. Prioritize your efforts, engage buyers the rightway with highly relevant messaging and measure what actually matters with thesix cents platform, you're able to get into more deals, improve win rates,increase overall pipeline and optimized budget spent to learn more visit sixcents dot com slash revenue collected. All right, let's do this. Episode 11 Isthis a good time? All right, we are here with Leah Cheney. She is the chiefexperience officer at better growth. And I am so excited to talk to you thisafternoon. Yeah, you as well, Brandon. Thank you. Thanks for having me on.Yeah, my pleasure. My pleasure. So first question always is Tell us aboutthe role you have. Tell us how you got here in in your career. Yeah,absolutely. So, like you said, I'm the chief experience officer with bettergrowth, which is a software and consulting firm headquartered out ofPortland, Oregon. But we're spread out all over the place, and yeah, I mean,so I'm one of four founders with the company. I joined the company when itwas starting after decades of being a customer success leader. And really, Ispent my career building customer...

...success teams fixing customer successteams, and I just got to that point where I wanted to do that at scale andwork for myself. And so it started out as a temporary challenge to see Could Ido this? And then it accidentally started to work. So I hired reallysmart people to join me. That's when we brought in our CEO, Houston Perry, whomI've worked with in the past, and we brought on some really talented folksover the years. And, yeah, we're growing doing well and it's an excitingtime. You know, it's a challenging economy, but it's an exciting time tolike, you know, find your path during this economy, for sure. I would imaginethat the concept of remote let's say, you know, remote folks doing customerexperience work because you're you're basically full time for companies,right? Is that Is that right? Or you're teaching their customer success teamsOr is it both? Yeah, so, no, we we build coach and train sales andcustomer success teams across the world. We've got international clients as well,so we don't work full time for anyone. We go in, um, you start with, like, adiagnostic software, and we look at data and we helped teams to figure outwhere the kink in the hose is and help get like their strongest revenuestreams. God, I was going to say I would imagine this time pandemic,Whatever having people you know come in to help you. Let's say onboard peopleremotely because you've never done that. Maybe your organization was all in oneoffice. You're And now you're trying to do this and maybe vet in a value. Thisprobably has been a fairly decent time where new customers perhaps arereaching out to you. Not that that may not have previously. Yeah, absolutely.And you know, something for me is I've been around for a while in this fieldand, you know, back in 2000 and 7, 2000 and eight, I went through, um I was acustomer success leader when I went through the last down economy. Right?And this is really the time for...

...customer success to shine. Becausechurn starts to become astronauts, the sales pipeline is drying out. And thisis the time where with the right tools and focus, customer success canactually help you to find your customers that are built to weatherthis and actually grow during it and help you focus on that internalexpansion, uh, to kind of help bridge the gap of some of the panic fromprobably shrinking pipelines. I love this. I mean, this is like my Bitcoinfriends would would certainly say. Like Hoddle, like hold on for dear life.That's what That's what a lot of the customers you have treat every prospectthat you can gold because who knows? And, yeah, you know, this will probablyair in March, late march or April, and we're hopefully going to be listeningto this going. Yeah, we're getting out of it. So but maybe not too. So we'llsee any case. I mean, I think I think hopefully we're all going to be gettingsome vaccines and shots and arms. But I think I think this challenge of growthis going to be here for a minute. And I think this is where the companies thatare going to really come out on this on top are those that focus on thatcustomer experience because people right now are evaluating their dollars,right? And if your product your service doesn't provide a good customerexperience across the board, Yeah, you're probably going to make itthrough this, you know? Agreed. Agreed. Well, look, you know, we always saythat luck and hard work makes success happen. Right? So give us an example ofeither or both in your career. That kind of got you to the seat you'resitting in. Yeah. I mean, I think a little bit of both. I've always taken alot of pride from from working hard, but early in my career. So I'm fromAustin, Texas. Originally, Uh, yeah, and early in my career I was workingfor a small baby startup that nobody had heard of at the time. And I got onreally early and so early in my...

...software career, I got on with an earlystage startup that ended up being a rocket ship and taking what was thename bizarre voice? Um, they pioneered ratings and reviews, and they werereally front and center with this whole customer success department that a lotof companies just weren't on board with yet. And so I was a part of that wheneverything was going fabulous. And then I was a part of that when the worldstopped in the last economic downturn. And, you know, I got to really see somesmart executives get together and realize that this was the time to lookinternally with the clients and in a in a good way, right, like not nickel ngand dining or raising costs like that's not what they did. They looked at theirclients, and they found the ones that we're going to weather the storm andhow their product could help them, whether the storm even stronger. And sothat's where customer success came in. We had the relationships, and we wereable to grow revenue pretty strong with those strong customers and makestronger products for them to weather this storm. And then, in addition tothat, we were able to hang on and help our other customers that we're havingmore challenges by having that relationship and talking to them andjust really being a partner to them during that economic downturn. Like Iremember, we worked with some retail clients that were, like top, you know,top of the line retail that really, you know, went and took a huge punch andbeing able to help them and listen to them and find out how our productscould help them. It was a pretty cool feeling. Uh, so, yeah, I mean, I gotlucky to be a part of that, but then after that, it was all hard work for me,and I've been to take what worked well there. And then what I've learned thatworks, you know well as well. And like grow customer success over the last,you know, decade and then some. There's definitely a lesson there. It's luck.But you also took a chance on a different thing your first siesta, adifferent role in a small company. And I applaud you for that, you know? Youknow, as you said, being young in your...

...career, so from it could be a salestactic. It could be a market to give us something that revenue collected.Members might be able to throw in their toolbox and use tomorrow. Some tactic.Maybe it's on anti, you know, preventing turn side. I don't know whatcomes to mind, Okay, A couple of things and this is really important. So justlike most changes in the economy, you have to keep in mind for a lot ofcompanies. Either They were a startup and they weren't around during thislast downturns. They've only had a healthy pipeline, and they've only hadto do things a certain way or they're an older company and they forgot, right?Like what? Either Or there's a couple of things you have to stop doingimmediately and start doing one. Net. Promoter score was something that a lotof people used in a good economy to help them predict turn. I'm tellingeveryone to stop using that as your North star immediately. It's notterrible metric. It's a good metric. But it can't be your North star rightnow because you know, you can be friends with someone you know. I'm sureyou've understood in your life when you're cutting back on things Are youknow, like me. I just had a baby, right? I cut out a lot of subscriptions. Ididn't need to pay for any more, so I could be smart. You know, one of thethings that you're going to do is if you like someone you're not going totell them you don't. And so that net promoter score isn't really applicableright now because people are making money choices based on what's best forthem to survive this tighter economy. It might not be personal, right? Sothat's the first thing you don't have to get rid of it. I probably wouldright now personally, but don't make it your North star. The second thing is,don't be afraid to ask your customer if they're going to renew way earlier thanyou would have to say. I like that one, because Hey, Sally, give us an idea.Are we? You know you're going to come back to a second. Yeah, if you're acustomer success manager and you've done your job, right, if your CS leaderyou've developed that relationship and...

...having a call at the six month mark tobe like, Hey, we're about halfway through. How are you doing? Just wantto make sure we're on track for this renewal, but definitely by the 90 daymark. So a lot of companies wait until that last minute or they're afraid toask it all in this because they don't want to wake the bear. I call it, bythe way. This is exactly what I'm thinking about is like I just basicallywait till that 30 day out is up and I'm like, Yeah, well, guess what? The bearwakes up and then it's a challenge and it gets ugly. And so I mean, I thinkit's better to just be brave is what I call it and just, you know, call peopleup to have the conversation 90 days at the latest to say, Hey, your renewal iscoming up and you're important to our business. Are we on track? Anything weneed to know? And if you get to know that you're not expected, at least youhave time. Now, you know, to take that revenue dollars and calculate how doyou keep net revenue retention okay across the board? Like if you're gonnalose a $60,000 a year contract, where can you make up ground with $60,000with your existing business And, you know, and don't get desperate, get, getcreative, find solutions that make sense for you and the partner. You know,if it is because of the economy and you have a conversation 90 days beforerenewal, you know, is there a way to, you know, push the contract out twomore months to see where they are, right? Like, don't lose money. Don'tpause. Don't pause. But like, put a contract out two more months. We'regonna give you two more months in this contract because we have a feelingyou're going to be in a better spot. Also, let's talk about what we can doto help you, right? That's a little less scary. But don't cause because alot of people do that Well, we just won't charge you for two months. Well,I don't know about you, but once you don't pay for something for a couple ofmonths, you really feel it when you start paying for it again. It'scounterintuitive, but I like the thought there. I mean, you know, in ourbusiness at Beit, we serve restaurants, restaurants got shut down. And, um, itwasn't a downturn, it was zero. And we...

...turned people off. And, you know, itwas It's been a hard process to get people to, you know, start paying again.And it's not because they don't buy the service. It's just when is it busyenough to start charging people? So I totally can relate to this. And maybe Iwish we would have gotten this advice last February, but hey, it's here now.Good. You're doing right by people, right? And look everything I say.There's an exception to the rule, and I think with the restaurant business inparticular, like, you know? Yeah, I don't know about obviously you'repassionate about it. I love to eat out. It's been one of the hardest things onthis pandemic, so I think there are markets where a pause is okay. But mymy advice is always to try to find a way to not do that. Because just likein your personal life, if you stop paying for something, you know,oftentimes you start to, like, you know, fill that hole with another figure four.And it can be challenging from a customer success standpoint to getpeople you know, nobody is going to ever be in a spot where they're like,Hey, I'd love to start paying that again right now. Yeah, sure. And it'sIt's super blurry right now, right? You're slashing people and budgets andeverything. One thing I want to point out what you said. Congratulations onbeing a new mother, so cool. And I applaud all of especially the women.But all of the members who I've interviewed who our parents and ourcrushing it in these incredible C suite roles, and you're still apparent andyou're crushing a shout out to that and and I'm sure the culture you'rebuilding around that in your own company. So the people example ofsomebody who can be successful and be apparent is awesome. I always like tomake a make that moment. Absolutely. And you have to question my sanity, youknow, like I did. I plan for this. My wife and I plan to have a baby. Wedidn't plan on a pandemic, baby. Um, while still growing our business, youknow, our business is a baby to It's only around three years old and, um,you know, But it felt good and, you...

...know, it's just it's a cool thing beinga parent, Um, it's hard in these times, and it's hard with the world and thestate it is, But yeah, it's cool. I think it actually, I think I I think Ido my best work now because I kind of feel like a purpose. You know, that'sawesome. There's a good there's a good reason to work hard, right even morethan in the past, so I could go on the parenting path forever. But I want tomake sure to be true to the listeners that we keep this short. We'll go intosome kind of quick lightning round questions, if you will. So what? What'sa key position that you're hiring for? Yeah, well, we're usually hiring forsales and customer success so you can follow better growth on Glassdoor orany you know, linked in any of those channels. But, you know, I'm trying togrow young lines around the company. We did just hire some senior people aswell. So definitely keep that up. We've been lucky. We've been able to continueto hire as people have needed our services. So that's that's been great,awesome. And And give some shout outs to, you know, maybe folks that youfollow for content and like what they talk about on LinkedIn or anything likethat and then maybe some up and comers who you're like, Hey, this person is arock star in the making. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, there's so many.There's so many great people. I mean, right now I'm I'm I gotta be honestwith you. I'm kind of obsessed with this, uh, this customer successcommunity that I'm working with, You know, obviously, I'm a chapter headedat Revenue Collective in Portland, and I gotta shout out that we're trying togrow that because it's a new chapter and it's such an exciting group. And inaddition to that, you know, I've got a little podcast that we run off a bettergrowth where if you go to our website, you can find it, um, in resources. Andit's just the C X podcasts, and we just don't see X people. Um And then, youknow, I'm really into everyone right now that is dedicated to diversity andinclusion efforts. I've got a good friend of mine, Amy Jeffers, that youcan find on LinkedIn. And she's doing wonderful work. Um and yeah, it'sanyone I think right now that is trying...

...to make the world a better place withsome of the turmoil around inequality I can get behind any day, I'm gonna pullthe virtual quick. I've got my lengthen up here in her company. If you want tofollow somebody, cool is flourish training. She's one of the founders andthey do training and classes around neurology of equity and inclusion, andI just think that's so important. If you have a company, do it, that's verycool and you'll uncovering unconscious bias. It's everywhere. So, like, uh,pretty pretty, pretty important to do that these days. Or else you end upwith a company full of all the same type of people. Yeah, there's too many.There's too much great cultural, you know, energy and synergy to puttogether when you make sure that your team is not all the same. Yeah, Icompletely subscribed to this and love it so and then Look, last but not leastI am. This is the most important question to me. Frankly, give me arestaurant that we got to know. You said you can't wait to dine out again.Give us a restaurant that we should go to. Could be important. And where youare in South Carolina, wherever, Wherever you want, man. Okay, soPortland Orient, uh, they've got some good food. Uh, theory is one of myfavorites. It's got some of the best ramen I've ever had in my life. So I'min this cute little spot in South Carolina right now called traveler'sRest. That is right on the cusp of the Blue Ridge Mountains. And it's like5500 people really remote. But if it's about 45 minutes outside of Asheville.So if you ever find yourself in this area, this town in travelers rest isthey've just taken off. They invested in bringing foodies and getting peopleto want to, like, have restaurants. So the rest will happen to is just mindblowing. And the food is ridiculous. Anywhere in this town is amazing to eatat. But farmhouse tacos is definitely my favorite because I feel likePortland doesn't have other than than el Mercado, which is great. But I didmiss me some Kosovo and some some tacos,...

...and they do it right here. Yeah, that'sthat awesome. Coming out. Well, amazing. So amazing to have a conversation withYulia. I really appreciate all that. You have to stay there. And honestly, Ican't wait to watch as you continue to grow the company and, uh, and keep upwith you. So thank you. And listen, I have to plug one more thing. I'mrevenue Collective. I also run the l g B T Q A, I channel, um, which is agreat group, making sure that we're keeping a lot of momentum around thequeer community having a safe place in the tech space. I know Sam Jacobs is abig advocate for us, An ally as well, making sure we do that. So I'm one ofthe moderators on there. So if you join Revenue Collective, you know, make sureyou're a part of that channel if it makes sense for your life. And, um,yeah, it's a great group, and, um, it's just cool. It's cool to see us allagain working towards diversity and inclusion, especially in the softwarespace. We're better for it when we do it 100%. What a wonderful way to endthe podcast. Love it. Thanks, Leah. Really appreciate having you on. Yeah,Brandon, thank you so much. Thank you. All right, that's our show. Thank youso much for listening. If you love the show, please rate it and review in theapple. I actually mean this rate and review it in the apple podcast andSpotify have sent it to some friends and hit. Subscribe. It helps us areminder. This episode was brought to you by six cents, powered by AI andPredictive Analytics. Six cents helps you unite your entire revenue team witha shared set of data to achieve predictable revenue growth. Had a tonof fun today. I hope you did too. Now go crush your numbers. Say something mhm.

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