The Pavilion Podcast
The Pavilion Podcast

Episode · 1 year 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 to the revenue collective podcast. I am your host, Brandon Barton, and you are listening to Is this a good time? The show where I asked revenue Collective members some really basic questions, and they have great answers in a short 15 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 have to worry about missing an opportunity here from your future boss who could be today's guest. Our guest today is Leah Cheney. She's the chief experience officer at better growth, and we talk about the importance of customer experience in a down economy before we get going with the questions I wanted to tell you a little bit about this one. Sponsor six cents six cents. The number one account engagement platform helps you identify accounts that are in market for your solution. Prioritize your efforts, engage buyers the right way with highly relevant messaging and measure what actually matters with the six cents platform, you're able to get into more deals, improve win rates, increase overall pipeline and optimized budget spent to learn more visit six cents dot com slash revenue collected. All right, let's do this. Episode 11 Is this a good time? All right, we are here with Leah Cheney. She is the chief experience officer at better growth. And I am so excited to talk to you this afternoon. Yeah, you as well, Brandon. Thank you. Thanks for having me on. Yeah, my pleasure. My pleasure. So first question always is Tell us about the 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 better growth, which is a software and consulting firm headquartered out of Portland, 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 it was starting after decades of being a customer success leader. And really, I spent my career building customer...

...success teams fixing customer success teams, and I just got to that point where I wanted to do that at scale and work for myself. And so it started out as a temporary challenge to see Could I do this? And then it accidentally started to work. So I hired really smart people to join me. That's when we brought in our CEO, Houston Perry, whom I've worked with in the past, and we brought on some really talented folks over the years. And, yeah, we're growing doing well and it's an exciting time. You know, it's a challenging economy, but it's an exciting time to like, you know, find your path during this economy, for sure. I would imagine that the concept of remote let's say, you know, remote folks doing customer experience work because you're you're basically full time for companies, right? Is that Is that right? Or you're teaching their customer success teams Or is it both? Yeah, so, no, we we build coach and train sales and customer 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, a diagnostic software, and we look at data and we helped teams to figure out where the kink in the hose is and help get like their strongest revenue streams. 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 people remotely because you've never done that. Maybe your organization was all in one office. You're And now you're trying to do this and maybe vet in a value. This probably has been a fairly decent time where new customers perhaps are reaching 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 field and, you know, back in 2000 and 7, 2000 and eight, I went through, um I was a customer success leader when I went through the last down economy. Right? And this is really the time for...

...customer success to shine. Because churn starts to become astronauts, the sales pipeline is drying out. And this is the time where with the right tools and focus, customer success can actually help you to find your customers that are built to weather this and actually grow during it and help you focus on that internal expansion, uh, to kind of help bridge the gap of some of the panic from probably shrinking pipelines. I love this. I mean, this is like my Bitcoin friends 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 prospect that you can gold because who knows? And, yeah, you know, this will probably air in March, late march or April, and we're hopefully going to be listening to this going. Yeah, we're getting out of it. So but maybe not too. So we'll see any case. I mean, I think I think hopefully we're all going to be getting some vaccines and shots and arms. But I think I think this challenge of growth is going to be here for a minute. And I think this is where the companies that are going to really come out on this on top are those that focus on that customer experience because people right now are evaluating their dollars, right? And if your product your service doesn't provide a good customer experience across the board, Yeah, you're probably going to make it through this, you know? Agreed. Agreed. Well, look, you know, we always say that luck and hard work makes success happen. Right? So give us an example of either or both in your career. That kind of got you to the seat you're sitting in. Yeah. I mean, I think a little bit of both. I've always taken a lot of pride from from working hard, but early in my career. So I'm from Austin, Texas. Originally, Uh, yeah, and early in my career I was working for a small baby startup that nobody had heard of at the time. And I got on really early and so early in my...

...software career, I got on with an early stage startup that ended up being a rocket ship and taking what was the name bizarre voice? Um, they pioneered ratings and reviews, and they were really front and center with this whole customer success department that a lot of companies just weren't on board with yet. And so I was a part of that when everything was going fabulous. And then I was a part of that when the world stopped in the last economic downturn. And, you know, I got to really see some smart executives get together and realize that this was the time to look internally with the clients and in a in a good way, right, like not nickel ng and dining or raising costs like that's not what they did. They looked at their clients, and they found the ones that we're going to weather the storm and how their product could help them, whether the storm even stronger. And so that's where customer success came in. We had the relationships, and we were able to grow revenue pretty strong with those strong customers and make stronger products for them to weather this storm. And then, in addition to that, we were able to hang on and help our other customers that we're having more challenges by having that relationship and talking to them and just really being a partner to them during that economic downturn. Like I remember, 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 and being able to help them and listen to them and find out how our products could help them. It was a pretty cool feeling. Uh, so, yeah, I mean, I got lucky 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 that works, 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, a different role in a small company. And I applaud you for that, you know? You know, as you said, being young in your...

...career, so from it could be a sales tactic. 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 what comes to mind, Okay, A couple of things and this is really important. So just like most changes in the economy, you have to keep in mind for a lot of companies. Either They were a startup and they weren't around during this last downturns. They've only had a healthy pipeline, and they've only had to 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 doing immediately and start doing one. Net. Promoter score was something that a lot of people used in a good economy to help them predict turn. I'm telling everyone to stop using that as your North star immediately. It's not terrible metric. It's a good metric. But it can't be your North star right now because you know, you can be friends with someone you know. I'm sure you've understood in your life when you're cutting back on things Are you know, like me. I just had a baby, right? I cut out a lot of subscriptions. I didn't need to pay for any more, so I could be smart. You know, one of the things that you're going to do is if you like someone you're not going to tell them you don't. And so that net promoter score isn't really applicable right now because people are making money choices based on what's best for them to survive this tighter economy. It might not be personal, right? So that's the first thing you don't have to get rid of it. I probably would right 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 than you 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 a customer success manager and you've done your job, right, if your CS leader you've developed that relationship and...

...having a call at the six month mark to be like, Hey, we're about halfway through. How are you doing? Just want to make sure we're on track for this renewal, but definitely by the 90 day mark. So a lot of companies wait until that last minute or they're afraid to ask it all in this because they don't want to wake the bear. I call it, by the way. This is exactly what I'm thinking about is like I just basically wait till that 30 day out is up and I'm like, Yeah, well, guess what? The bear wakes up and then it's a challenge and it gets ugly. And so I mean, I think it's better to just be brave is what I call it and just, you know, call people up to have the conversation 90 days at the latest to say, Hey, your renewal is coming up and you're important to our business. Are we on track? Anything we need to know? And if you get to know that you're not expected, at least you have time. Now, you know, to take that revenue dollars and calculate how do you keep net revenue retention okay across the board? Like if you're gonna lose a $60,000 a year contract, where can you make up ground with $60,000 with your existing business And, you know, and don't get desperate, get, get creative, 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 before renewal, you know, is there a way to, you know, push the contract out two more months to see where they are, right? Like, don't lose money. Don't pause. Don't pause. But like, put a contract out two more months. We're gonna give you two more months in this contract because we have a feeling you're going to be in a better spot. Also, let's talk about what we can do to help you, right? That's a little less scary. But don't cause because a lot 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 of months, you really feel it when you start paying for it again. It's counterintuitive, but I like the thought there. I mean, you know, in our business at Beit, we serve restaurants, restaurants got shut down. And, um, it wasn't a downturn, it was zero. And we...

...turned people off. And, you know, it was 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 busy enough to start charging people? So I totally can relate to this. And maybe I wish 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 in particular, like, you know? Yeah, I don't know about obviously you're passionate about it. I love to eat out. It's been one of the hardest things on this pandemic, so I think there are markets where a pause is okay. But my my advice is always to try to find a way to not do that. Because just like in 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 get people 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's It's super blurry right now, right? You're slashing people and budgets and everything. One thing I want to point out what you said. Congratulations on being 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 our crushing it in these incredible C suite roles, and you're still apparent and you're crushing a shout out to that and and I'm sure the culture you're building around that in your own company. So the people example of somebody who can be successful and be apparent is awesome. I always like to make a make that moment. Absolutely. And you have to question my sanity, you know, like I did. I plan for this. My wife and I plan to have a baby. We didn't plan on a pandemic, baby. Um, while still growing our business, you know, 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 being a parent, Um, it's hard in these times, and it's hard with the world and the state it is, But yeah, it's cool. I think it actually, I think I I think I do my best work now because I kind of feel like a purpose. You know, that's awesome. There's a good there's a good reason to work hard, right even more than in the past, so I could go on the parenting path forever. But I want to make sure to be true to the listeners that we keep this short. We'll go into some kind of quick lightning round questions, if you will. So what? What's a key position that you're hiring for? Yeah, well, we're usually hiring for sales and customer success so you can follow better growth on Glassdoor or any you know, linked in any of those channels. But, you know, I'm trying to grow young lines around the company. We did just hire some senior people as well. So definitely keep that up. We've been lucky. We've been able to continue to 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 you follow for content and like what they talk about on LinkedIn or anything like that and then maybe some up and comers who you're like, Hey, this person is a rock 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 honest with you. I'm kind of obsessed with this, uh, this customer success community that I'm working with, You know, obviously, I'm a chapter headed at Revenue Collective in Portland, and I gotta shout out that we're trying to grow that because it's a new chapter and it's such an exciting group. And in addition to that, you know, I've got a little podcast that we run off a better growth where if you go to our website, you can find it, um, in resources. And it's just the C X podcasts, and we just don't see X people. Um And then, you know, I'm really into everyone right now that is dedicated to diversity and inclusion efforts. I've got a good friend of mine, Amy Jeffers, that you can find on LinkedIn. And she's doing wonderful work. Um and yeah, it's anyone I think right now that is trying...

...to make the world a better place with some of the turmoil around inequality I can get behind any day, I'm gonna pull the virtual quick. I've got my lengthen up here in her company. If you want to follow somebody, cool is flourish training. She's one of the founders and they do training and classes around neurology of equity and inclusion, and I just think that's so important. If you have a company, do it, that's very cool 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 up with 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 put together when you make sure that your team is not all the same. Yeah, I completely subscribed to this and love it so and then Look, last but not least I am. This is the most important question to me. Frankly, give me a restaurant 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 you are in South Carolina, wherever, Wherever you want, man. Okay, so Portland Orient, uh, they've got some good food. Uh, theory is one of my favorites. It's got some of the best ramen I've ever had in my life. So I'm in this cute little spot in South Carolina right now called traveler's Rest. That is right on the cusp of the Blue Ridge Mountains. And it's like 5500 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 is they've just taken off. They invested in bringing foodies and getting people to want to, like, have restaurants. So the rest will happen to is just mind blowing. And the food is ridiculous. Anywhere in this town is amazing to eat at. But farmhouse tacos is definitely my favorite because I feel like Portland doesn't have other than than el Mercado, which is great. But I did miss me some Kosovo and some some tacos,...

...and they do it right here. Yeah, that's that awesome. Coming out. Well, amazing. So amazing to have a conversation with Yulia. I really appreciate all that. You have to stay there. And honestly, I can't wait to watch as you continue to grow the company and, uh, and keep up with you. So thank you. And listen, I have to plug one more thing. I'm revenue Collective. I also run the l g B T Q A, I channel, um, which is a great group, making sure that we're keeping a lot of momentum around the queer community having a safe place in the tech space. I know Sam Jacobs is a big advocate for us, An ally as well, making sure we do that. So I'm one of the moderators on there. So if you join Revenue Collective, you know, make sure you'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 all again working towards diversity and inclusion, especially in the software space. We're better for it when we do it 100%. What a wonderful way to end the 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 you so much for listening. If you love the show, please rate it and review in the apple. I actually mean this rate and review it in the apple podcast and Spotify have sent it to some friends and hit. Subscribe. It helps us a reminder. This episode was brought to you by six cents, powered by AI and Predictive Analytics. Six cents helps you unite your entire revenue team with a shared set of data to achieve predictable revenue growth. Had a ton of fun today. I hope you did too. Now go crush your numbers. Say something mhm.

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