With its unified and integrated platform, Sysomos, leader in social marketing and analytics, allows marketers and researchers to listen, curate, engage, publish, and analyze social content.
As Sysomos grew and gained momentum, Customer Success became a true pillar of its culture. Making sure every single one of their 1,200+ customers achieves the best possible outcomes using Sysomos is a true mission statement for all departments in the company.
Amity got the chance the visit Sysomos’ Toronto office to meet David Follert, Senior Manager of Customer Success. We asked him how Customer Success Management became a pillar of Sysomos’ culture and how his team’s structure and priorities have evolved over the years.
Can you tell us about your responsibilities at Sysomos?
I manage one of the Customer Success teams here at Sysomos and one of my primary responsibilities is making sure that my team has the right materials, support, and guidance to help our customers find success using our products. Brainstorming and tweaking strategies are always an ongoing focus as well.
How did you get started in Customer Success, and what was your path into your current role?
I’ve been with Sysomos for close to 6 years, and when I originally started here, Customer Success was still somewhat of a new thing for the company. I originally started as an account manager, which was a pretty general role. We started carving out the CSM role fairly quickly and after a year or so as an Account Manager, I became a general CSM. I then went on to becoming an enterprise/sales hybrid CSM, and I finally moved into a role that was specifically agency focused. As the role developed and due to a combination of timing and experience, I had the opportunity to manage our first internship program. This subsequently led me down this path to becoming a Manager of Customer Success, it was a very natural progression. Outside of my work at Sysomos, I’ve had a lot of different jobs, and the ones I enjoyed the most were Customer Success or Customer Service-centric. So it’s really no surprise to me that I’m doing what I’m doing today.
How is your team structured and how have you seen it evolve over the past few years?
When I started at Sysomos, the Account Management role was fairly general and we did a lot of different things, including supporting customers, sales-related activities, and creating Marketing collateral. As we focused on Customer Success, the role became more finely tuned, and we started to focus the role and responsibilities of Customer Success Managers as a separate entity. We then realized that it made the most sense to segment the team into three groups: an SMB team, an agency team, and an enterprise team. The roles and responsibilities aren’t drastically different, however, we found that agency and enterprise customers require different touch points and a different approach throughout their lifecycle, while SMB customers can be at the infancy stages of their maturity with social analytics. I now manage the SMB team, which represents about 8 people, and cares for customers from various industries: healthcare, education, food and beverage, retail, or finance, just to name a few. There are now 30 people in Customer Success and the department is pretty evenly split between the three teams. A lot of folks start in SMB and move to agency or enterprise, so it allows for a lot of movement and career opportunities.
What is the most powerful part of your Customer Success process?
I’d say the most powerful part of the process is definitely the Customer Success Managers. We’re very fortunate to be working with a group of very dedicated, passionate, and resilient reps. In addition, we have a great leadership which implements the right strategies at the right time, and we have an arsenal of tools at our disposal to help us execute. It really is a combination of the right people, tools, and strategies.
It really is a combination of the right people, tools, and strategies
What main challenges is your team facing, and how do you overcome them?
The challenges we face have always been a combination of being time-starved, and the role we play as a resource center for other departments and initiatives. CSMs can have a fairly large book of business in terms of volume of customers who are using a variety of Sysomos products, and who are at various stages of their lifecycle. It can be very difficult for a CSM to know what should be done, for whom, and when exactly, and that’s the hardest question they have to answer and think about on a daily basis. Amity helps us tackle these questions by allowing us to set trip wires, which alert us of specific insights which we feel are worthy of proactive outreach. Amity essentially helps us become more strategic and proactive with our outreach and our time because that really is our main hurdle: we’re time-starved.
It can be very difficult for a CSM to know what should be done, for whom, and when exactly
What does the culture of Customer Success look like at Sysomos?
Customer Success is a pillar at Sysomos, and its importance is weighted equally as that of Sales, Product, or Marketing. Customer Success has VP leadership and we promote the organizational value of this function because we know that every department will, at some point, interact with the Customer. That interaction, at any stage of the customer’s lifecycle, will ultimately impact Customer Success, whether that’s in a good or bad way. The idea of Customer Success is deeply embedded in every department at Sysomos, everyone is aware of that, and it has naturally become a main part of our culture.
The idea of Customer Success is deeply embedded in every department at Sysomos
How have you seen your user base change over the past few years?
Our user base has widened, and it’s also changed in terms of what our customer’s needs are. Our product line and the capabilities of our products have evolved over time, and what was once predominantly a user base of Researchers and Analysts has broadened. We now see a lot of Brand Managers, Marketers, or Customer Service Reps using our products. The space has also evolved, and our users now need more precise and actionable insights that will help them move the needle. It makes sense that, as the industry evolved, our products did too, and the maturity of our users grew alongside.
For the Customer Success team, this means that we’ve had to become more focused on providing continuous education around how to action the data. This can be difficult at first, but that’s an integral part of understanding our customers, their businesses, and their objectives. The deeper the customer’s understanding of data, the easier it becomes for us to help them use the product and look beyond vanity metrics, and in turn, get real value out of the product.
What does a typical day look like for a member of your team, and how do you use Amity on a daily basis?
A typical day is… fairly busy! CSMs can be doing a number of different things, any day of the week. They can be providing customer training, advanced training, continued education sessions, or conducting health checks (commonly called QBRs). They’re continuously tracking defects and feature requests, as well as providing a lot of reactive and proactive support. Amity is a great command center to check at the beginning of our day and week to know what’s ahead of us. We usually check Amity at the beginning of the workweek and workday to organize outstanding tasks and activities that we have on our respective and collective plates. We also use Amity if we’re trying to understand what stage of an onboarding a customer is at, if we have an upcoming renewal to plan for, and to stay in the know about the conversations our customers are having with our Tier 1 Support team. It also allows us to keep an eye on product usage, and it helps us keep a finger on the pulse of our customers’ health. It’s a great tool to centralize everything all in one place.
What metrics do you watch most closely and why?
The obvious one would be our churn rate. Aside from that, we focus on product usage data, number of defects, number of feature requests, frequency of proactive outreach, NPS results, all of which combined help us have a pretty good understanding of the customers’ overall health. We find all of those data points in Amity and we both combine them into an overall health score and set up alerts around specific ones. That’s how we get a better and unified overall understanding of how our customer is doing.
What blogs, newsletter, news sites or book are you reading at the moment?
I read a blog called Stratechery by Ben Thompson, it’s not Customer Success focused, but it’s about the space and touches on SaaS products, the SaaS model, the subscription economy, etc. In terms of Customer Success content, I read the Amity blog, the Totango blog, and Glide Consulting’s blog. There’s also a Customer Success subreddit, and although not a ton of people are posting in it, when they do, it’s really great articles from all around the web. There’s also a Social Media Analytics Research subreddit that I follow.
What role did Customer Success play in Sysomos' overall business strategy?
The overall concept of Customer Success, the very function of this organization, and that idea of wanting the customer to be wildly successful using our products has seeped into other departments and has motivated them to become more in tune with Customer Success. For instance, Sales speaks to the value of our Customer Success Managers as a key differentiator in this industry. Our product team sits with our Customer Success Managers to understand not only feature requests and what the customer wants but also how to improve the overall user experience. This enables us to be more market driven, and a lot of Customer Success elements bleed into other processes and impact how we move forward as a company. Because we’re on the frontline and we interact with the customer every day, it makes sense that other departments lean on us because what we know and what we do helps them move forward. I’d say we’re essentially a central hub at Sysomos because the information we have is highly sought after.
A lot of Customer Success elements bleed into other processes and impact how we move forward as a company
At the end of the day, how can you tell that you’ve made your customer successful?
Retaining their business would, of course, be a great indicator, but I think there’s more to it. A happy and engaged customer with whom you frequently communicate is often the most successful. If you have a deep understanding of the customer’s business, their objectives, and if you have a strong relationship with them, you’ll know if they are successful because they’ll let you know.
A happy and engaged customer with whom you frequently communicate is often the most successful
In your everyday life, what does success look like?
I’d say that success means living a life that I’m happy about and proud of, and a life in which I feel like my contributions are valued. Setting goals for myself and meeting them while progressing and developing all aspects of my life is what I feel makes me most successful.
Do you have a piece of advice for professionals who are getting started in Customer Success?
It’s absolutely crucial to have a deep understanding of the product or service you support. It will help you establish yourself as a trusted adviser in the eyes of your customer very quickly. I would also suggest getting very familiar with your space and your competition. Lastly, it’s all about being proactive.
Photos by Setti Kidane
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