HelloSign is powering the future of intelligent business. The company’s software platform — which includes eSignature, digital workflow, and electronic fax solutions — converts process to revenue for over 60,000 companies around the world with HelloSign, HelloFax and HelloWorks.
Can you tell us about your responsibilities at HelloSign?
I’m the Vice President of Customer Operations at HelloSign. There’s quite a lot that falls under the Customer Operations bucket, including the majority of things that are customer facing and post-sale. Customer Operations means everything from Customer Success to Customer Support, Engineering Support, and Professional Services. The latter falls majoritarily pre-sales so that’s a bit of a different world from the rest, but we still place it under Customer Operations.
How did you get started in Customer Success, and how did you get to where you are today?
I have been in customer-facing operations for over 20 years now and I have a very diverse career track. I started early on in a blue-collar, manufacturing background doing account management and account services. I then lived in Mexico for a year and did some account management there, which I continued to do when I returned to Michigan. I knew from the beginning that I loved working with Customers and I loved the entire process whether it was with supply chain or technology which is where I’m at now. I watched Account Management transform and evolve over the past few years, especially with the subscription-based economy and the growth of SaaS. Customer Success is more outcomes-focused than the reactive “what do you need from me” type of Account Management.
Customer Success is more outcomes-focused than the reactive “what do you need from me” type of Account Management.
How is your team structured, why, and how has that structure evolved over time?
The team has evolved quite a bit since I started here. When I joined, we had our typical support group, they were very reactive in nature, dealing with a lot of our B2C customers. Over the past couple of years, we identified the need to become more B2B focused, while still doing B2C. In parallel, we created an API Support team, and we launched Customer Success about 1 year and a half ago. Our customer base was evolving and as we moved upmarket, MRR continued to grow, which meant we needed to focus more heavily on outcomes and ensuring that customers achieve their ROI.
What is the most unique thing about the way your team functions?
We have a very close-knit team and what makes everybody unique is their constant focus on what can be done to make the customer’s experience better. We constantly emphasize and nurture collaboration and dialogue and we believe that communication is key to our success. As a team, we’re heavily focusing on evolving the product and our practices to grow with the customer base. One of our many values is to make our customers and teams awesome and we really bake that into everything we do here at HelloSign.
We constantly emphasize and nurture collaboration and dialogue.
What is the biggest challenge facing your team, and how do you address it?
The thing that impresses me the most is also one of our biggest challenges: growing, evolving, and keeping up our customers and their needs. As you move upmarket, what holds true today won’t hold true tomorrow. Analyzing feedback and ticket trends is a good way to predict where the customer is heading and keep yourself relevant so they don’t outgrow you. We’ve managed to do so successfully but it always presents a real challenge.
What does the culture of Customer Success look like at HelloSign?
At HelloSign we take Customer Success very seriously. It’s not just a department within the organization, it’s a mindset. Everybody is focused on the outcome of the customer, we do OKRs for all of our planning and everything we do ties into building a better business, a better team, and a better product for the customer. We have a Voice of the Customer Program in which we share NPS with the entire team and invite customers to come in and talk to the team about their experience with our product. We work tirelessly from a cultural standpoint to put customers at the core of the company. It’s crucial that we all feel how real our customers are, that they’re not just a number or a name but a real person using our product and ultimately, the reason why we’re all here.
Customer Success is not just a department within the organization, it’s a mindset.
This shows in the way we work with Product and Sales. Every week, Customer Success attends the Monday morning forecasting meeting with Sales and provides them with the feedback they need on what makes a customer successful. Customer Success also has quarterly goals for product feedback items submitted by our highest value customers. We tie our MRR directly to our feedback items so we can show which revenue level is providing feedback on which areas of the product. This provides valuable insights on what is being requested by each segment.
How has your user base evolved over time, and how has that affected the way your team operates?
When I joined the HelloSign team, our customers were mostly B2C and starting to emerge onto the B2B side. Moving upmarket has had a very real impact on the way we operate, whether it’s happening by design or organically. A lot of our accounts are now higher value, which means that we have to orchestrate more specifically how we define success in our product. This pushed for a transition from success as an afterthought to becoming fully proactive in knowing what success looks like in different industries and market segments. We have to track what success means and facilitate the right conversations and activities accordingly.
What does a typical day look like for a member of your team?
My team’s time is divided between analytics, customer conversations, firefighting, and setting up the customer base for future success. I’d love to be able to say that the Customer Success team is 100% proactive but that’s neither true nor realistic. There’s always a firefighting component to the job but in doing so the CSMs can learn new strategies that they’ll then apply on a general basis.
As of myself, it can be chaotic. Every morning before I get my day started, I look at my calendar to know where I need to be and what to prep, but I also look at some key and core metrics from the previous day. I go over Customer Satisfaction, NPS, and customer health score to make sure there aren’t any radical changes for any of our key customers.
What metrics do you watch closely?
We regularly look at CSAT, NPS, retention, upsells, health score, and churn. As I discussed in a recent blog post on the Amity blog, I think that the latter is a great lagging indicator which can give you valuable leading insights. I also watch core support metrics such as time to resolution and number of tickets. I feed the number of tickets received into our health score, not as an engagement but as a barrier to success. I believe that a SaaS product should be so easy to use and intuitive that customers rarely need to contact Support or Success. Ultimately, SaaS products should be designed to support themselves. At the very least, SaaS companies should provide customers with the right resources to self-help.
What is the most powerful part of your Customer Success process?
I think that onboarding is the most powerful and most important element of Customer Success. It’s crucial that customers have a great experience when they’re just getting to know your product. It’s more challenging to change first impressions, so the Customer Success Manager needs to provide customers with the tools they’ll need to be successful right away. If someone has a great onboarding experience, it might not be a guaranteed renewal but it at least helps you move them along the line of adoption and stickiness.
It’s crucial that customers have a great experience when they’re just getting to know your product.
What role did Customer Success play in developing the overall business strategy at HelloSign?
Customer Success is still fairly new at HelloSign with just about a year and a half under its belt. In regards to our overall business strategy, I think that Customer Success is central in making sure that the appropriate feedback items are distributed to the appropriate players. I look at Customer Success as an information conduit between the customer and the organization. The team is always presenting information to various departments and executives, which ultimately impacts the decisions that are made at the company level. Customer Success helps the entire company keep up with the evolution of our customer base so that we can proactively keep our business strategy relevant.
Customer Success is an information conduit between the customer and the organization.
How do you keep on learning about Customer Success?
We are a small team so we learn a lot together. We’re always going to local meetups in the San Francisco area, we take part in the SuccessHacker online community, and we read blogs such as Amity and Sixteen Ventures by Lincoln Murphy. As a startup, we can’t spend too much on education but I’m always looking for summits we can attend at a reduced price. It’s all about staying on top of trends and new findings in the industry, and there’s a lot out there that can help you do just that. As a leader, I make sure to always reach out to my team and invite them to events I’m going to.
At the end of the day, how can you tell that you’ve made your customer successful?
I’m really big on data and analytics, but I’m also a realist. I know that I can look at numbers like health scores, NPS, or CSAT all day and draw some kind of conclusion to determine if a customer is successful or not. Ultimately, though, it really comes down to a couple of things. First, are they renewing and growing with us by adding new features and seats? Secondly, are they advocating for HelloSign? When somebody is talking about their need for e-signature, do they promote us? NPS is an important component of this, but selecting a 9 on a survey and actually promoting a product at a dinner party are two different things. We try as best as we can to measure advocacy in our lead attribution process, but we still need to work on tracking our viral coefficient.
In your everyday life, what does success look like?
To me, success means effortless. At the end of the day when I look back at what I did, I feel successful if every tool I touched and every product I used added value effortlessly. When there are barriers in my way, it feels like the opposite of success.
Success means effortless.
Do you have one piece of advice for Customer Success professionals who are just getting started?
Network and learn. You’ll need a constant curiosity to keep up with the way the industry is evolving and changing. Customer Success is no longer theoretical, it’s been proven to work and as long as we live in a subscription-based environment, it will stick around. You’ll need to stay on top of trends and new best practices by attending as many meetups as possible, reading good books, educating yourself, and networking with others. You’ll need to put in work to stay relevant.
Customer Success is no longer theoretical, it’s been proven to work.
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