Founded in 2009, Vend is a retail POS Software, Inventory Management, E-Commerce & Customer Loyalty for iPad, Mac and PC. Vend helps over 15,000 customers worldwide easily manage and grow their business in the cloud.
We sat down with Monique Steele, Director of Customer Success, to discuss how Customer Success has evolved at Vend over the last 3 years.
How did you get started in Customer Success and what was your path into your current role?
Coming from a retail background, I had a lot of experience in different roles and I loved the industry. I found myself looking for my next step but I wasn’t quite sure what that was.
A friend actually sent me the job posting for a Customer Success Manager (CSM) at Vend. I knew of Vend, being in the retail industry, and because of their big presence in New Zealand. It was an opportunity for me to go into something a bit different but also continue to work with retailers and actually help them be more successful. It was kind of a perfect fit for me.
I went for it and luckily they hired me!
You started in New Zealand, how did you end up in Toronto?
I was with Vend for 5 months when they asked me to move to Melbourne to help start our first international office. Our team grew over the next year, and we ended up having CSMs in 3 different offices. We needed to put management in place, so I was asked to come to Toronto and take this on.
I thought “why not”, I’d love to see this side of the world and learn more about the American market.
Can you tell us a little bit about your responsibilities at Vend?
The team that I manage consists of CSMs and Professional Services. My role is to make sure that we are giving our retailers everything they need to be successful. I look at what that means for our different segments of customers and make sure that we have the right frameworks to deliver value while also ensuring that we can scale our growth and make our cost models.
I manage the team, so I work with them in career development, recruitment, and all that fun stuff.
"My role is to make sure that we are giving our retailers everything they need to be successful"
What kind of demographics are you responsible for?
At the moment, I am overseeing our customer base and the team globally, so it is a big job.
We have a plan in place to split the Director role by region as there are significant differences that need to be incorporated into our strategy and processes. I am moving back to Melbourne to focus on APAC and we are currently recruiting for someone to replace me in Toronto to take over the Americas.
How is Customer Success structured at Vend?
We have four pillars under the Customer Success umbrella; Education, Enablement, Experience, and Support. All four pillars report to Sharad Mohan, our Chief Customer Officer. Those four pillars together are what we think is going to make our customers successful through their entire journey.
My pillar is Enablement and within my team are our Professional Services team and our CSMs who are split into low-touch and high-touch teams. The high-touch team works one-on-one with our top segment and then we have our low-touch team working with the remaining segments.
How have you seen that structure change over the last 3 years?
It has changed a lot and has changed many times.
When I first started we sold a premium support package where a CSM would work with the customer with one-on-one Onboarding and be a point of contact throughout their journey. That was great at the time but that was just not a scalable model because we were selling it to anybody and everybody.
About a year ago, we made changes so our CSMs were assigned to our lower segments for 30 days, just to help with onboarding. At the same time, we launched our Customer Health platform and one to many enablement strategy which gave us visibility and focus over our entire customer base.
In September, we launched Professional Services and split the two roles up completely. In the Professional Services model, customers pay for their onboarding, extra training, and that gets delivered. We keep CSMs assigned to any high revenue customers. We are always thinking of ways to offer enablement at a larger scale.
"We are always thinking of ways to offer enablement at a larger scale"
What’s the biggest advantage of your team structure?
The fact that we’ve actually segmented our customers has been absolutely key.
I think having a team that is completely dedicated to working one-on-one with customers helps to find those specific needs so they can build those relationships. Our team can then communicate the needs of our customers back to the product team.
"The fact that we’ve actually segmented our customers has been absolutely key."
What’s the biggest challenge of your team structure? How do you address it?
Originally it wasn’t built in a way that we could scale, so we had to change that. Things have been going really well since we brought in Professional Services. Where we are now, things are good but we know we can do better.
We know that our customer base is changing so much that in 6 months time, our top tier will be completely different. We don’t expect to put something in place and think that it will do well for the next 3 years.
We have to be constantly examining our process.
What does the Customer Success Culture look like at Vend? How have you seen the Customer Success culture change over the last 3 years?
Vend hired a Chief Customer Officer in May 2014 and I think that having that voice at the executive table changed everything.
When you look at things now, we’re very fortunate that we have an executive team that is very passionate about Customer Success. Sharad Mohan, has done a really great job of making Customer Success such a focus of the company. I think that everyone has really bought into the fact that if our retailers are not successful with our product then we don’t have a business. At the end of the day, that’s what it is. Having our four pillars aligned helps to reinforce how important it is.
Most of this office is customer facing and we have so many conversations about it. Everything that we’re talking about around the lunch table is getting in amongst the sales team. I think it’s very strong and we can attribute a lot of that to when Sharad come on board and we put frameworks in place and we brought our four pillars together.
One of our core values is we bring delight to our retailers, so that what everyone’s got to live and breathe.
What’s a typical day look like for a CSM?
On a typical day, a CSM will be monitoring Customer Health. They will be looking at what customers have dropped in health and identifying opportunities to improve. A CSM might be picking up the phone or sending emails. They may also look at a certain vertical and send targeted emails to that group to help improve their adoption on a particular feature. They may also be running training sessions.
CSMs live and breathe Customer Health and so they’ll be monitoring that and looking for adoption opportunities. Also, checking if there are any customers at risk of churning and looking at what we can do to turn things around.
They’ll be looking at usage patterns because if a customer suddenly stops running sales through their register, that’s not a good sign.
How has your user base changed since you started at Vend?
When I first started, our customers were still kind of the early adopters and over the last couple of years we have come much more into mainstream Retail.
So we’ve definitely seen a change in our customer base.
Vend has grown, so the challenge is having to change the way we interact with our retailers. When we’re talking to someone who owns 50 stores, it’s very different than talking to someone who owns 1 small store down the street and what they need to have a successful rollout is completely different. There’s also change management, project management, and all those kinds of things come into it.
"Vend has grown, so the challenge is having to change the way we interact with our retailers"
What do you think is the most powerful part of your Customer Success process?
In terms of one of our biggest strengths on the team is every single person that we have hired has Retail experience. Our employees know what’s going to work for retailers and they can deliver that in a way that retailers can understand.
I think it also comes down to our adaptability. We’re not stuck to our structure, we’re stuck to our retailers and what they need. If we think something is not working in the process, then we know what we need to do to change it and our team is adaptable around that. We can talk about it and we can put in a process in place. I really do think that retail knowledge is key to delivering to our retailers what they need.
As well as the ability to bring Customer Health in as a metric to actually track what our retailers are doing. With that information we have gone from an email check-in every few months asking how they are doing to “I see you’re not using this part of the product, can we book a training session and have a talk about how it can change your business”.
That’s giving value rather than a generic email adding no value. I think that has changed things a lot for us and for our retailers.
What role do you think Customer Success should play in developing the overall business strategy?
I think it’s become very apparent that it’s critical that we consider our customer’s success when we’re building strategy.
At the end of the day, if our customer’s aren’t achieving what they wanted to achieve with our product, no matter how good our strategy is, we aren’t going to grow. It comes down to it being a part of the culture and having the people making that strategy have that mindset going into it.
"It’s critical that we consider our customer’s success when we’re building strategy"
What types of metrics do you watch closely?
Churn is our biggest metric that we look at in Customer Success and everything that we do drives that number down.
Customer Health is a great driver for our team to look at who they should be prioritizing. The scoring needs to correlate with churn so we know when a customer is dropping in health that they are more likely to churn.
Everything that we’re doing should relate back to that. We know that if we deliver a really great onboarding experience through our services team, that is going to make the customer less likely to churn later on.
NPS is very important to us as well. We do an onboarding NPS survey to see how that first experience goes and then we have NPS surveys on an ongoing basis to get some insight into how our retailers are feeling and looking at how we can make their experience better.
What blogs or news sites are you reading at the moment?
The best resource I am currently into is the Customer Success Forum on LinkedIn. I’ve found that everyone is so keen to share questions and ideas. We are all facing the same sorts of challenges so it helps to hear what tools people are using and how they are structuring their customers. These updates pop-up in my inbox every day and I think, “I want to know how to do that too”. Then I’ll pop in and see all the comments from people offering to jump on calls with people they have never met to offer advice. I love the community around it.
That’s a big one that I love to read but I also follow the Amity Blog, Totango Blog, and Gainsight Blog. Some SaaS stuff as well but the innovation in Customer Success is what’s really interesting.
How can you tell that you’ve made your customer successful?
At the end of the day, it’s that they’ve achieved what they wanted to when they signed up for Vend. That can differ a lot between retailers but generally, it’s either they're selling more or spending less.
What does Success look like to you in your everyday life?
For me personally, it’s the fact that I’ve found something that I’m completely passionate about and I get to do this every day. I get to come into the office and the whole goal of my job is to help retailers be great at retail, which is awesome!
I’m so excited about that, so I feel really successful. In terms of the role itself, if my team is happy and our numbers are looking good, then there is not much more I can ask for.