Bowery Capital > Podcasts  > BC Startup Sales Podcast – Unique Angles On Customer Success with Whitney Hillyer (Bitly)

BC Startup Sales Podcast – Unique Angles On Customer Success with Whitney Hillyer (Bitly)

customer successWe are back again this week with another great edition of the Bowery Capital Startup Sales Podcast! Whitney Hillyer from Bitly joined us in the studio to talk about customer success in a podcast we called “Unique Angles On Customer Success.” We care a lot about listener feedback here on the podcast and receive a fair amount of emails and tweets asking to follow up with guests around specific topics. One of the common grouping of questions that has come up recently revolves around post-sales efforts and customer success. Who handles upsells and renewals? How do you build a credible account management and customer success organization? As a result, we brought Whitney on to discuss this very topic!

In our podcast we first cover the broad brush-strokes of how to think about customer success in the context of your organization and why it matters a lot from the beginning. This is obviously a super important component of your business so Whitney lays out some unique ideas on how to think about this very early on. We then dive into Whitney’s background and experience setting up and growing customer success teams and some tips and tricks to really focus your efforts and win. We move on to some of the really tactical pieces around hiring, firing, metrics, and the various listener questions like who handles upsells and renewals. We cover the technology and tools that Bitly uses for this effort throughout the podcast and Whitney closes with some big thoughts for all the SaaS founders out there on really how to drive success with this part of your organization. For anyone that cares about growing accounts and really honing in on how to keep business in a competitive environment Whitney really gives listeners the toolkit.

Give it a listen and let us know what you think

Bowery Capital Startup Sales Podcast – Unique Angles On Customer Success with Whitney Hillyer (Bitly)

You can read the full transcript here:

MB: Welcome back to the show, podcast listeners. I am here today with Whitney Hillyer. We are going to talk about unique angles on customer success. She, right now, is a Director of Customer Success at Bitly, New York State, New York SaaS company. Welcome to the show, Whitney. How are you?

WH: I am good. How are you doing?

MB:I am doing well. So, give the listeners a little bit of background on Bitly and you, sort of, prior and your current role.

WH: Sure. Absolutely. So, thanks, Mike. As you mentioned, I am the Director of Customer Success at Bitly. A lot of you guys know us for the premiere of link shortener on the web, right? So, we shorten about 500 million links a month so… and see about 8 billion clicks. So, huge portion of the internet actually runs through Bitly and what some people may or may not know is we actually have a full enterprise suite of products called Bitly Brand Tools. We have about 1200 enterprise customers, 21 of the 25 top global brands in the world, 37 of the top 50 publishers in the world. So, we see… we have a really great customer base, pretty large and wide in terms of the type of customers that we have and see every day.

MB: Huge! And how big? I don’t know if you can mention, but sort of how big is the company? Where are you guys at today?

WH: Sure. Yeah. No, we are doing great. We doubled revenue year over year in 2014. So, pretty excited about that and things have been going well. I mean, it’s very, very strong growth again with 1200 customers that are growing day-to-day.

MB: How many employees in all?

WH: We are about 65 employees…

MB: Oh, wow!

WH: … and we just opened our San Francisco office like this month. So…

MB: Perfect!

WH: … pretty excited about that.

MB: That’s great! Give me a little bit of background on you. So, you have obviously been in Customer Success for some time now. What sort of is your background and how did you get into this?

WH: Yeah. Sure. So, the way I kinda got into Customer Success, I was actually working for down in Atlanta and was doing some mobile and social stuff for them and when I decided to move to New York for family reasons, one of the small SaaS start-ups that we are… was actually one of my vendors when I was at Home Depot said, “Hey, why don’t you come up and work for us. You run our account management department.” I think it was secretly a way of trying to ensure that they have the Home Depot business for a long time, but…

MB: That’s how it works.

WH: … I came onboard and really started their customer success program now which was great and they did a… it was a mobile marketing company at the time and then from there, grew that team and now, I came over to Bitly about two and a half years ago now.

MB: Perfect! Before we dive into this topic of unique angles on customer success, what is something that no one on this podcast would know about you?

WH: Oh gosh! Something that no one knows? So, I have pretty extensive crisis training, crisis management training.

MB: Interesting!

WH: So, I did that through college and for a while, after college. And so, I definitely think that helps in managing customers sometimes.

MB: It certainly does. I am sure you use that skill every single day.

WH: Yes. Yes.

MB: Well, let’s get into it. So, the topic of discussion is we said as unique angles on customer success. Why is this important, why should, if you are young, software founder, why do you care about this really?

WH: Yeah. So, I think customer success is kind of a new movement. You will see a lot of people who say like, “Okay, customer success account management”, but it’s a lot more than that and you think really the reason why this is so important is because when you look at companies that are, you know, I call them customer obsessed, right? I try to use their… like every new customer… every new company out there needs to be customer obsessed, right? Because we can build things to build them, but the companies that try to be doing really well with the ones who focus in on what their company… what their customers’ wants, needs are and then really build the two… to build for those customers.

MB: Sure. And sort of competition in the market, if you are not careful with that, you will obviously get killed, right?

WH: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And what people, you know, when you go through the literature, what you read is like if we look at companies who and you said, “Hey, if we never churned a client, think of how much further we would be.”

MB: Right.

WH: These companies that are focused on recurring revenue really keeping those clients, keeping them happy and growing them is so important for the health of the business.

MB: Right. Makes sense. So, you are, you know, a little hypothetical. You are young, SaaS founder, you have probably sold yourself to first 5, 10, 20, 50 accounts, you have an okay business, when do you really start to think about customer success? Is this something sort of from day one? How do you, kind of, coach people and what do you sort of suggest?

WH: Yeah. I mean, I think you have to be thinking about customer success from the beginning. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to hire a customer success team on day one or when you get your first customer, but again, making sure that once you have sort of that base of business and making sure that you have people who are solely focused on that because what they need to do is they need to not just manage those clients, keep them happy, renew them, answer your questions, train them, that kind of stuff, but they also have to take all of their feedback and they really have to lead that in with product. So, I try to tell people all the time not to necessarily… like, when you think of customer success, you actually sort of have to couple that with both sales and product.

MB: Right.

WH: Because the customer success team plays such an integral role in both of those things and when you are looking at product development, you really have to make sure you have those customer success professionals who can take what the customer says and translate it into conversations with the product team.

MB: And at Bitly, you guys are sort of… the customer is interesting to think of it not in a silo like that. The customer success team really is, at least at Bitly, spends the whole gamut, I guess.

WH: It does. So, we actually sit on the product teams. So, we have multiple product, you know, we have obviously in our product team and then we have like every single set of springs. We have like different sections and there is a customer success manager and that sits on each of those teams. So, we go to every single meeting, we are in all of the planning, we are in all of the prioritization meetings and we actually have a pretty big voice in those meetings.

MB: And it’s generally, they are talking to the customers day-to-day. So, they relay direct information from said customers on what matters and what doesn’t, right?

WH: It is and it is really two-sided, right. So, we get the information from the customer and we then bring that to the product teams to say, “Hey, this is what people like. Don’t like what they want.” But, also, when the product team says, “Hey, we really want to test this new idea.” We will go then and pull the product team in with the clients. We will say, “Hey, we think this will be really beneficial for these 10 customers.” We are gonna get them to join the beta program, we are gonna get 30 minute conversations set up with you in the product team. So, the conversation goes both ways. It’s helpful for us to relate information from clients to product and it’s helpful for us to take product and actually get them in with the customers when they have like new and exciting ideas to understand if they will be valuable or not.

MB: That makes sense. So, how do you coach people on getting the setups. So, think about it from day one, obviously, be maniacle about it. Before we dive into kind of hiring a person for this role, are there sort of solutions that you guys thought about maybe from the mobile marketing experience and then you are at Bitly in terms of tactical IT that a company needs or has to set up from day one to actually execute on this? Obviously, you have probably a CRM for managing lead through to close one, but is there something that bolt onto that or an additional effort that needs to transpire?

WH: Yeah. I think so. I think the first thing, especially with the young company is you are probably doing some sort of marketing automation. So, coupling that with your CRM to do a lot of the… that outreach that maybe you can automate, right? So, whether that making sure that you are continuously marketing to your customers or setting up automated renewal notices or things like that, just to take again when you are a young team and you don’t have a ton of people resources trying to do as much of that from an automated perspective, automated check-ins, quarterly reviews and things like that can be really helpful to do through this year. Yeah, there are big one, I would say, is some sort of a support system. So, whether that, you know, video tutorials, trainings, support centers so that people can try to answer a lot of questions on their own can be really valuable as well. We actually just rolled out one, a new one at Bitly, a new support center and pretty much over night to took our support tickets from two or three hundred a day to 20 to 30 a day. So, pretty substantial decrease in that and…

MB: And did you bit… did you build that yourself or was there a… did you use a vendor for that or…?

WH: Yeah. So, we use our third party for that and, but we sort of built all the knowledge based articles that can be wrote over 50 or 60 new knowledge based articles and it actually connects to the CRM. So, someone writes into support, we can connect it to that account or if it’s a free user, we think it might be a lead for enterprise product. We can actually connect all those dots.

MB: What is, and just for the audience, what are some vendors that you like on this side?

WH: Yes. So, there is which is owned by Salesforce, UserVoice is an another great one, pretty simple to use. Zendesk is another premiere leaders out there. So, those are three, we actually have experience with all three over the past 4-5 years adeptly.

MB: Got it. But, so, really as a founder, to lower your time spent dealing with a lot of minusha create some portal or system by which people can generally answer questions on their own and then get the feedback a lot faster, right?

WH: Yeah, absolutely. And even things like video tutorials and when I started at Bitly, I actually just recorded myself during trainings and that way, if a new team member came onboard or there was a turnover which happens a lot in… you know, our space is social so kind of in the social sphere, we have seen a lot of turnover with clients. We can just send them a training tutorial versus having an account manager actually get on the phone to train them.

MB: Got it. And how do you think about… so, what are the tasks that high value account manager or whoever, you know, if it’s the young company, the founders or the sales people should be really spending their time on, if not this sort of question and answer type of stuff?

WH: Yeah. I mean, I think training is really, really important. So, the first thing we try to do is get on the phone with customers and understand really what are their business goals and objectives, why did they buy the product. In certain cases, they may already know that, but what problem were they trying to solve by buying our product. Once you understand that, you understand their key goals and objectives for I try to talk to them on a quarterly basis, also on a yearly basis, if possible, understanding what those are and then really, really diving deep and training them on the tool in exactly the way that they want to use it. So, not just a generic like, “Hey, let me walk you through every single report we have”, but actually saying, “Hey, based on your needs and objectives, here’s what I think you should focus on and here’s some best practices that we have seen from other people that look like you or have the same objectives as you do.” Well, we have seen is that the quicker you can get someone onboard and then trained and the more extensively you can train them substantially less turnover. I think makes sense.

MB: Sure. And how… so, do you have individual sort of OKRs or KPIs that your account managers and you go, you talk about sort of a quarterly check-ins and doing sort of a web based overview of the platform that correlates them? Do you have… do you think it’s… maybe is it smart for founder or a first hire in to have kind of that checklist so that they know and their repeatability with every single customer?

WH: Yeah. I mean, I think you have to put in a moral that’s scalable, right, especially when you look at growing these growing companies. So, things like after these many days, they should be trained, set up, on-boarded, you know, quarterly reviews, annual reviews, check-ins, things like that and as I said before, sort of automate as much of that stuff or as much to reach out as possible. So, you take out that level of human error of, “Oh, I didn’t realize it was 60 days before the red alert if I had to reach out.”

MB: Yeah, right.

WH: … which happens fairly often, unfortunately, but so, automating that stuff as much as possible. But, I think one of the things that’s really important to understand these growing companies is that especially at the beginning, all your clients are probably gonna be a little bit different and making sure that you are sort of customizing it to a client’s need, I think is just as important as sort of having that checklist.

MB: Like have some guard rails, but clearly, they are all gonna be different.

WH: Yeah. Exactly. I mean, you are gonna have especially one of the things we have actually struggled with at Bitly is that none of our clients would like… like even when you took a… take two clients that you think you are gonna look exactly like that’s Visa and MasterCard, they are actually very different; their goals, objectives, how they are using the tool, what they are looking at, what team purchased the tool within the organization, very, very different. So, making sure that you have those guard rails, but also trying to customize it as much to the client and their needs as possible, I think, is really important.

MB: And really, just to sort of cement that thinking earlier, really getting them through the product in as deeper way as possible, in your opinion, is highly correlated to churn prevention, right? So…

WH: Yeah, as deeply as possible and honestly, as quickly as possible.

MB: Meaning sort of once you close the account or…

WH: Yeah, exactly. So, like one of the things you will find really interesting and we have seen as that people will sign and like they will go on vacation or they will, you know, when my team’s not ready or it takes me 3 weeks to get the team together and what I try to get my guys to do in that situation is even if you are only training two people and then you have got to do another training 3 weeks later, it’s worth it to get them up and running and using the tool. You don’t want them two months into look back and go, “Oh, we never really got training and we never really got set up and now, we wanna start, we wanna push the contract or we want two months back”, right?

MB: Sure.

WH: Or things like that which just happen.

MB: So, will you… and then when you have a sort of customer and sales oriented goal of one stand office made, how fast we can sort of get them on a call or get them through a demo?

WH: Yeah, definitely. I mean, I think one of the things we… I have like automated reports of any client that hasn’t been on-boarded within 15 days. So…

MB: Oh, amazing! Okay.

WH: We like… our account managers like their customer success managers have to fill in like their date that they are trained and I will get a report sort of ding-ding-ding saying, “Oh, by the way, this client hasn’t been… it’s been 15 days and they haven’t been trained.” And that’s sort of a red flag for me to like something is going on here and I didn’t make sure that I fall upon it.

MB: Super important, yeah. Maybe to turn a bit towards hiring for customer success, when do you think about this as a zero clients, 20 clients, 500 clients, you know, as a founder, you obviously are starting to build scale and get business that you clearly don’t want to lose. What are your views or how should a younger founder be thinking about customer success and when it’s appropriate to have a sort of some, a person dedicated to it.

WH:Yeah. So, I mean, I think it is going to be different for every company, obviously, depends how customized your solution is, how big the… problematic the implementation can be. But, I think you have to start thinking about it right away, whether or not you do it with your first customer, five customers. I wouldn’t wait for more than five or ten customers personally, but I think you also have to, sort of, decide that my time as a founder or my time as a new VP of sales or CTO or whatever it is, that I need to be out, getting new business, understanding the market of building the product and while the customer success piece is incredibly important and it needs focus of its own and having somebody do that. The other nice thing about customer success, if you hire the right person, I think, is that person can actually wear a lot of hats in a start-up. Normally, you are going to try and find somebody who has some sales experience, you are going to find somebody who has the traditional customer success account management background, but also someone who is really comfortable with the product of… being on the product team. And even sometimes I will find customer success managers, especially in early stage start-ups who are also doing like accounting and AR and I don’t necessarily recommend that, but it is one of those things where if you hire the right customer success professional, you are gonna, especially in the early stage, you are able to get sort of a lot of hats, they are going to be able to wear a lot of hats.

MB:What’s it… maybe just to comment a bit, who do you think is the perfect profile of that first person to hire or what have you seen work?

WH:Yeah, you know, I think someone who… depending on your industry. So, like when I am looking for somebody they have to have a SaaS background, I don’t… like I am not really going to look for somebody who hasn’t done SaaS before because I think SaaS is a beat in of itself. But, I really want someone who has some sort of sales background, they know how to sell, they know how to close, they have the account management renewals, management training depending on how customized your solution is, they may or may not need some sort of IT or product background as well.

MB:So, but they will come out of customer success or sales at a SaaS company usually and they are probably an individual contributor, right? You wouldn’t want to hire a manager right away, right?

WH:Yeah, I don’t think you need to hire a manager. I mean, I would look for someone who is a high enough individual contributor that you could see them growing into that role…

MB:Got it.

WH:… someone that you would really… like who is going to get in and take charge and really own some of the processes upfront, but who you could potentially see growing into that role.

MB: Got it. And how… you talked a little bit about IT, do they have to… I mean most of you talk about sort of about and marketing automation, few other things, they don’t have to be super technical unless the product implementation is extremely technical, right?

WH:Yeah. I don’t think so. At Bitly, we don’t… it is not very engineering heavy to get anyone set up, it is a flip of few switches. So, I don’t ever need someone necessarily who has a product background or a IT background.

MB:Got it. One of the big questions that comes up in releasing these podcast and people ask us fairly frequently is the relationship between sales and customer success, especially early on if I have two STRs and a director of enterprise sales and then I close accounts, how much do I keep that director of enterprise accounts involved post close and are they active other than kind of just keeping in touch and ensuring that their sort of customer is happy? I don’t know if you have… or how does sort of Bitly think about that and what do you think, especially in the early stages of a company’s life works or sort of doesn’t work?

WH: Yeah. You know, I think a lot of people have really strong views on this, I am one of them, but when I talk to people in the industry, everyone has this question and sort of what’s the relationship, how do you… The first thing that I think is important is making sure there is a good relationship. I think one of the things that’s been amazing at Bitly is our director of sales and myself, like actually are really good friends and we can sit down in a room and sometimes we don’t necessarily agree on things but we can sort of really… and so, making sure that those people sort of connect on a personal level. But, one of things that’s really big for us and I think these things are going to grow with the company but building our rules of engagement early on sticking to those and making sure that everybody knows and understands them. They are going to be iterated on, as your company grows, as you add more sales people, as you add more customer success managers, but making sure that you draw those out. So, the way that works with Bitly originally was basically once that customer was closed, it belonged completely to customer success, sales was no longer involved. They would sometimes join an intro call or something like that just to do the hand off, but everything from that point forward, renewals, upsells, growth of the account, that was all on the customer success manager and that’s still about 90 percent how it works, the other 10 percent is we have actually designated certain accounts as strategic accounts and those are accounts where our senior enterprise sales reps and our senior success managers actually work on them together and those are going to be like the biggest parent companies, those are going to be like the Apple’s of the world, the NBCUniversals’, the Comcast, the beasts that you really don’t want sales to necessarily lose the account just because they closed one division of NBCUniversal, but really the whole goal is to take that one account and turn it into 40 or 50 accounts. So, we have strategic accounts there and then we have… but everything else though, you know, when a deal is closed and the customer success manager goes in and their goal is to get, you know, “we only have the US team using the product now and our goal is to get 13 regions around the world”, that’s all the account managers and they are going to get comped on that some or the other ways.

MB: So, were you… you will make them carry some quota or some contribution based on that upsell, right?

WH: Yep. So, my success managers all have quotas, they are small and attainable or at least I like to think that. But… compared to the sales team, but they do have quota responsibilities, they also have MBOs so…

MB: Just explain to the them, the listeners

WH: Sure, yeah. So, they also have their business objectives, so the way they will comp a structure it is obviously have salary, they actually have a bonus pool that is actually team based as well as for their individual pool based and then they have quotas which they get paid commission on.

MB:Got it.

WH:So, they are sort of getting the best of both worlds, I like to think of that.

MB:So, it is kind of base bonus and then there is a sweetener, if you know…

WH:Exactly for the up sell sales team.

MB:You hit your quota, basically.

WH:Yeah, and they get paid a commission percentage, it is smaller than that sales team but it’s still… they are getting a commission percentage.

MB:And is it clear… this is sort of the last question on this that comes up as, how do you… sort of, is there clear rules of engagement really the driving force to prevent sales people from staying involved or is there any other kind of way that you think about this, or is that really just it?

WH:You know the rules of engagement are there, but they are there for a reason and you know we have run into some challenges and I think a lot of customers have or a lot of people listening probably have run into these things where a… you know, a good example of this, we had a sales person who sort of went after a company that they didn’t realize was owned by a parent company and they presented them with certain, like pricing options and things based on the fact that they thought they were sort of a small company and then we had the parent company come in and say, you know well this deal doesn’t look… isn’t structured like this deal and we sort of had a uncomfortable back and forth on that. So, you know I think that the reason that a lot of these rules of engagement are here is that we… it’s the customer success manager’s job to sort of know that client, know their subsidiaries, know their goals and objectives, know their contract inside and out and you don’t want a sales person going in and not realizing that CBS has preferential pricing with us and they close a deal with a CBS brand and then 6 months later they come and they say, “Hey based on this contract that I found from talking to my friend we have preferential pricing and how come I didn’t get that?”

MB:And so, how do you then, other than finding out about this through a sales meeting or a customer success meeting, how do you… is there a technical or a way to mitigate that or you just kind of have to minimize it as much as you can?

WH:There are few things that we have done, I mean making sure that parent accounts are really… in sales force and I will tell my customer success managers that if the parent account isn’t labelled in the sales force then someone goes in and they sign a subsidiary then it’s not necessarily their fault if they couldn’t find that information in our CRM, so making sure that things are clearly labelled and obviously that the rules of engagement are clear. But, there is always going to be edge cases, there is always going to be people who come in and say, well it’s a subsidiary but they are only owned 48 percent and you are going to have to deal with those as they come up.

MB:And I guess it just goes back to your relationship with the head of sales and being… the feedback is consistently important, I guess.

WH:Exactly. And I also think you, sort of, also have to… we got to a point where people were sort of bending the rules enough that we sort of made… we had a big meeting saying, “Hey guys here are the rules of engagement, anything close after this point that breaks these rules you are not going to get paid on, the appropriate person will get paid on this deal” and that stops sales people really quickly.

MB:Yeah. Sales people are always trying to break the rules. Maybe just a pivot yet again, the topic you talked about earlier which is think is really interesting is this kind of concept of a holistic customer success manager or customer success director, whatever you call them, how do they interface or what have you seen, sort of, that role be as it relates to, sort of, you know outside of sales. So you talk a little bit about product, how do they liaise with kind of marketing other areas and why is this kind of a necessity?

WH:Yeah. So, I mean, I think of customer success is like, and this is a little selfish, but like the most well rounded people in the company because they do have to interface with everybody. So, when Bitly decided that we were going to add customer success managers to actually sit on the product teams and probably spend 3 to 4 hours in meetings a week with product, you know that’s kind of a difficult decision because everyone is so busy to take up 3 or 4… but, we have seen things improve and our relationship with product improve 100 times. And we are finally starting to build things that I feel like our customers want and are asking for versus you know, what’s the next cool thing, what’s the next best thing and we are doing it on like actual product feedback. I think you know the sales when we touched on marketing is obviously big because a lot of the stuff that marketing is doing is for us so whether that be email marketing to our current clients or event marketing which is a lot of current clients, customer round tables, things like that or even things like the linear website and putting customer quotes on your website or case studies. Those things are really important but marketing and customer success sort of have to work together in order for that to be successful. I am not going to let the marketing team go email all over our client base asking for quotes, I want to make sure that we are doing that.

MB:So, that is also part of the marketing rules of engagement, I guess?

WH:Yes, exactly. Again, I mean, you asked earlier what the key tools were and I think the rules of engagement are probably the most key for all of this and same thing with product, I mean I think that we sort of have to say, you know, there are times where I am going to go into a meeting and I am going to fight very hard with product for what my clients want and what I think is right but at the end of the day our chief product officer is going to make a decision and I am going to support that. So, you know that sort of falls on us too.

MB:No, that’s super helpful. So, maybe just to wrap up and think on a macro level about some of this, I mean have you ever seen this go horribly wrong? I know there is a situation that we have had in many of our portfolio companies and around the SaaS world where sales tends to promise or sort of over commit and customer success tends to say, “Why would you do that?” and “Hey, now I have to clean up.” What do you kind of… obviously this leads to churn but what do you sort of tell founders to just watch out for and big issues that they could face where this could go very wrong.

WH:Yeah. I mean, I think that’s a big one, I think that happens at every company, the sales guys get really ambitious and the product guys get really ambitious and then tell the sales people like, “You can go sell this, it will be ready in 3 months, right?” And then we sort of have to walk that back a little bit. I think the biggest thing for me is really around like relationships within the company. So, if your sales and success teams have a good relationship, your product and success teams have good relationship, same thing with marketing. Hopefully, a lot of those challenges will be avoided because people don’t… the sales people don’t want their customer success managers running over or going, “what the heck did you promise them, you know, they are so pissed off”, so a lot of those things can be mitigated but, yeah, I think we have definitely seen it go wrong and it can lead to an uncomfortable situation especially when sales oversteps and again I think it all sort of leads back to the rules of engagement, I think if people play by the rules and people genuinely like each other, we do a lot of actually sales and success, like we will go out for happy hour or we will do success and marketing or we will do success and product and invite some of the product guy is to like come have lunch with us and things like that to try to make sure that the relationships are as good as possible.

MB:No, that makes sense. You have a theory just about… I sort of pose this question of who do you think are the best companies from a customer success standpoint in this sort of SaaS ecosystem and Whitney informed be before the podcast that there aren’t many or there might not be any, just given it is a new topic and a sort of new component of the SaaS world, maybe… can you just dive into that a little bit more.

WH:Yeah, no, no and I don’t mean that there aren’t people who aren’t doing it well or right, I think it is just very different for different companies and it is something that is being constantly sort of tweaked. I was talking to a company, there are companies that have popped up, SaaS companies that are focused on customer success rates, we are talking about game sites and Totango and those guys out there and I was talking to one of the head of customer success for Totango actually and he said that they did a survey that last year like 45 percent of account managers were doing cross sales and up sales, this year it is down to, like, 32 percent of account managers are doing cross sales and up sales versus letting sales handle that and what you learn when you read through the literature is that like everyone is sort of changing and evolving and sort of saying what works for them and you know, again having these people who sort of handle so many different aspects of the business can be really challenging and I think it can lead to really great things when it is done well but it can be hard because you are… again, from a hiring standpoint, from a lot of different areas that can be challenging when you have somebody who has to focus on product, sales, account management and marketing, someone who is trying to juggle all of those balls and keep clients happy can be challenging.

MB:Sure. So, that makes some kind of sense. Final thoughts, anything that was not mentioned that the young generation of SaaS founders who are listening to this podcast need to know before we break?

WH:You know, I think just really being like, the importance of being customer obsessed right, I think what happens a lot of time in this, you know, and when you see start-ups popping up left and right, a lot of them have this great idea and they are really focused on building the cool next awesome thing, but that cool next awesome thing doesn’t matter if no one wants to buy it and if the people who do buy it don’t think it’s valuable in 6 months or a year. So, I think making sure that you are focused on the customer and yes, building the next cool, great thing, but making sure that that’s based in what the customer wants, what the customer will pay for and sort of based in that reality, I think is incredibly important, so just making sure that people are focused on that.

MB:Excellent! WH talking about unique angles on customer success. Thanks a lot for coming on the show.

WH:Yeah, thanks for having me.


[Summer of ’69 Song playing in the background]



Michael Brown
Michael Brown
Michael is a Founder & Managing Partner at Bowery Capital based in New York. Prior to Bowery Capital, Brown was a Co-Founder and General Partner at AOL Ventures. Before AOL Ventures, Brown worked for the investment arm of Richard Branson’s Virgin Group. He began his career at Morgan Stanley as an equity research analyst. Outside of his professional life, Brown serves on the Board of Directors of the National Forest Foundation and the Columbia College Alumni Association. He holds a B.A. from Columbia University.