Thanks for checking out the first episode of Vitally’s new video series, ‘17 Questions with the Future of Customer Success’. In this series, we’ll chat with Customer Success professionals, from Customer Success Managers to Chief Customer Officers, and everyone in between, to gain insight into both their individual roles and the ever-evolving Customer Success space.
We’ll touch on how CS practitioners are approaching Customer Success in the remote workforce, tactical advice and insights on how CS is handled and positioned within their organizations, and how CS leaders are thinking strategically about future-planning, building world-class CS processes, and the customer experience.
For our inaugural episode, we’re chatting with Chris Jewitt, Customer Success Manager at Klaus.
Meet Chris—vegan food fan, dog dad, and proponent of Community. Chris is based in Lisbon, Portugal, and has been working in the SaaS space for six years, and Customer Success specifically for the last three years. Prior to working in Customer Success, Chris worked in Customer Support at Pipedrive before transitioning to a Customer Success role.
One thing Chris hopes exists in the future is a solution to climate change, and a carbon-free way to travel long distances.
Klaus is a B2B conversation review and QA platform that helps support teams at Epic Games, Soundcloud, PandaDoc, HotJar, Wistia, and beyond, support quality conversation with reviews. Klaus measurably improves customer service quality by making internal feedback easy and systematic.
Klaus is also a Vitally customer, and you can check out their Customer Story here.
Q&A with the Future of Customer Success (Extended Cut)
Vitally Team: What’s your ‘before work’ ritual?
Chris Jewitt: My before work ritual is usually the same. I wake up, coffee is always the first thing—a lot of coffee. I'm not one of these people that runs and meditates and things, I need that to function. And then I take my dog for a walk. Sometimes, I’ll get my coffee on the street from the bakery and some fresh bread as well. Do a little walk in the sun, and then come back, and get ready to work from there, basically. But going outside and drinking coffee, that's my first thing I do before work.
VT: What are the top 3 activities you spend most of your time on doing in your current role as a CSM?
CJ: First thing would be speaking with customers. So organizing calls, executing the calls, and spending three or four hours a day, usually speaking face-to-face on zoom calls with customers.
The second thing would be thinking of how we can best serve our self-service customers. So not everybody has a dedicated customer success manager. Some of our smaller customers use self-service, but we think of ways to engage them as best we can. For example, I'm always coming up with ideas for new webinars, how we can communicate with them, what we can send them, and basically how we can help them as a group rather than on a one-to-one basis.
The last thing is probably thinking about processes and tools and things like that.
“Success is always changing. The tools are changing, the process is changing. So we're always thinking of the best ways to do that, and how we can improve.”
So yeah, the third thing, when I have spare extra time, then I would spend it doing that.
VT: What does Customer Success look like at your organization right now?
CJ: So, Customer Success at Klaus is forever changing. We're a young company, and we're growing very quickly. So we're always hiring, and we're always changing how we're doing things and improving.
Right now we have three different customer success managers that look after customers from different parts of the world, in different languages as well. We usually take them through the trial and then take them through the whole of the relationship which is really nice. From the beginning and into the future. We can give them one contact, which is great.
"Customer Success sits within sales right now. This is a question that comes up a lot in Success. Where does it belong?"
VT: If you could wave a magic wand and automate one part of your work what would it be?
CJ: How do you balance automation and doing things in a personalized way? At Klaus we're able to do mainly personalized work, which is great. Being able to speak to our largest customers one-to-one.
However, if I could automate anything, if I had a magic wand, it would probably be the product updates. To be able to just have an automation that basically puts an email together every month and just fires off like a newsletter. Right now I'm doing that manually, going to the product team, looking at what we've done and changed, and adding that into a newsletter and then sending that off, which is really time consuming.
VT: One thing in your tech stack you can’t live without?
CJ: That would be Vitally because it's in the middle. It's the main tool that we're using everyday for Customer Success, which has been great so far. That's where I spend all of my time, and if you took it away, I'd probably be using paper.
We use a lot of great tools. A small shout out to Pipedrive CRM, which is fantastic for sales. Slack, obviously, that nearly everyone uses these days, and paper as well. Don't underestimate the power of writing things down.
Engaging with Unresponsive Customers and Traits of a World-Class CS Organization
VT: Pro-tip on engaging with unresponsive customers?
CJ: Yeah, I think the key here is to do that preemptively. So when a customer becomes a customer for the first time, you should have that conversation about what they think the relationship should look like. What do they want the Customer Success relationship to look like? Do they want to have calls every month? Every quarter? Do they just want to do it over email? Sometimes customers don't actually want to be booked all the time, constantly being asked how things are going and for feedback.
I think if you have that conversation in the beginning, it's less likely you're going to have unresponsive customers. For example, I had one customer say, you know what, Chris, I really don't like these calls in general, before we'd ever had one. “I'll let you know if I need to have one, if I need to talk to you.”
If I hadn't had that conversation with the customer, I could have been emailing that person every month, and being frustrated that they're not responding. So I think that's the key. Having the conversation first-hand to preemptively prevent that from happening.
A second tip: I think often when customers are unresponsive, it might be because they changed roles, or they changed companies, which is quite common.
“It's not their job to tell us really. So I go to LinkedIn, or else other networks, and just check. Is that person still working there? Are they on sabbatical? maternity leave? Is that why they're not responsive?”
And if so, even if not, even if they are working there and nothing's changed, it's good to get in touch with other people. So all the power users, or the very active users to just say, you know, I've been trying to get in touch with this person that doesn't seem to be available right now. Can we speak to somebody else who's the best person to speak to?
VT: What’s one thing Klaus’ Customer Success team does that’s world-class?
CJ: I think it's the relationship building that we're able to do. As I said, we're still a young company growing really quickly. But we've been able to scale quite well and still have good relationships with our customers, especially the largest ones. And I think that's a bit because we are still involved.
Even though the customer success managers are generally focusing on existing users, we do still participate in the sales process, sometimes in customer support as well. So we're always talking to the same people. So I think we're doing really well in that we know our customers well. We're able to scale, but still keep it personalized. We still know a lot of our customers and have good relationships there.
Also take up opportunities. Like last week, we all were on an off site in our headquarters in Estonia, and we managed to meet up with a few customers, safely of course, with distancing and everything, for the first time in a few years we've been able to take an opportunity and say, you know, let's go for cocktails. And that's what we did.
VT: Best way to take a rest/decompress after a stressful customer call?
CJ: Again, I go to take the dog for a walk. On very stressful days he rolls his eyes every time I get the lead out because he's sick of going I think. But it's just going outside, having a reason, an excuse, to get outside, stretch your legs, get some fresh air, go back refreshed and ready for the next call.
Also, I always leave a 15 minute buffer between meetings. So I'm not going into back-to-back calls. You definitely need that breathing space just to go outside. If you can do that in your garden or your balcony, great. But just fresh air and sunlight does it for me. And people often forget, I think, to do that.
VT: As CS teams continue to work remotely, what advice do you have for CS leaders who are managing and scaling remote CS teams?
CJ: Focus on hiring. So Klaus is a remote first company, we were remote before the pandemic. So we didn't take that hit as hard. Our Head of Product is a remote leadership expert as well. So that's been really helpful.
The main tip I would give anybody is to focus on the hiring. Make sure that you spend a lot of time hiring the right person, to avoid problems in the future and to make sure that the people that you hire are people you can trust to do the work from home.
"You see this debate online, on LinkedIn and things, about ‘if everyone's working remotely, how do managers stay on top of what people are doing?’ I'd say hire the right people that you trust and focus on the outcomes."
It shouldn't be about how long somebody sat at the desk. It should be about the outcomes at the end of the day. And I believe in Customer Success, it's very easy to measure those outcomes and see if somebody isn't being productive. If somebody is struggling with remote working, I think it's easy to see that from the results. You don't need to be, you know, using cameras and filming employees to make sure that they’re at their desk.
Community as a Pillar of Customer Success Strategy and Career Planning in CS
VT: How should Customer Success leaders be thinking about Community as an aspect of their Customer Success strategy?
CJ: So Klaus has a community now, it's called Quality Tribe. We have a community manager that's working really hard to increase activity and expand that community. And since we did that, it got me thinking about how community should be integral to any Customer Success effort.
"Customer Success is often about reaching out to customers to engage with them. However, it's also great if you can give them a space to do that themselves. And not to just engage with you. But to engage with other customers. People that are in the same situation as them."
I've seen in our community, our customers helping each other out, having great conversations. So yeah, I would say community should be a main pillar of your Customer Success strategy.
VT: What is one concrete step a (more junior) CSM could take today to set themselves up for a Customer Success leadership position down the road?
CJ: I would say read, but question. Read as much as you can—about remote leadership, Success, leadership in general, about where we are right now as an industry. But also, keep in mind that Success is one of the newer areas, and it's constantly changing, constantly evolving.
So don't just read everything, and then just try to implement that. You should also always try to question and innovate, think about the next things you can do, and show how productive you are in doing that. That's definitely the first concrete step I would take.
"So read, but question and elaborate on everything that's already been done. And don't doubt yourself."
VT: One item on your desk (or in your home office) that you cannot live without?
CJ: It might seem really old-fashioned, but post-it notes. I have seen so many productivity tools, and to-do list tools, and things like that, but if you forget to log into them, you forget to do the things on your list. So, I use post-its for my to-do’s. I stick them all around my desk, and I don't finish my day until all those posts are gone.
Basically, to make sure I don't forget anything. Of course, I have lots of other nice tools we use, such as Vitally and Pipedrive, to stay on top of things. But really, when it comes down to it, I couldn't live without post-it notes.
VT: Are there any Customer Success trends you’re excited about/to see continue in 2022?
CJ: Customer Success trends that I'm looking forward to continuing in 2022 is probably just Customer Success being more at the center of everything. I think, when I started out, it was still on the periphery, people didn't know where it belonged. It was kind of overlooked sometimes.
"But, if you are a customer-centric company, then Customer Success needs to be in the middle of everything that you do."
You also need to integrate your Customer Success goals with the goals of marketing, sales, product, and the leadership team as well. Basically communicate with all of them and be a central part of the company. I think that's more and more what we're moving towards. And I hope to see that continue and evolve in 2022.
VT: Biggest workplace pet peeve?
CJ: I've been working remotely for quite a few years now. So it's not things that people do in person. It used to be that people left their tea bags in the sink and things like that. Now it's more about the language that people use.
So one, it's jargon. I hate jargon, when it takes longer to get to the point because people are using abbreviations, and words that no one would ever use outside of work. I just don't see the point of that and it irritates me. So that's one big pet peeve.
Also, very gendered language that I didn't really think about until recently. Our Head of Product, Valentina, brought this to my attention, that in 2021, we should probably stop referring to groups of people, whether it's different genders as ‘guys’, because we always default to the masculine. And also, yeah, men, calling professional women ‘girls’ and referring to women as ‘my girls' and things like that. I've seen that a few times. And it kind of gets on my nerves a little bit.
VT: What’s the right way for sales to ask CSMs for customer referrals?
CJ: So, we have everything stored inside Vitally. Most people should go into Vitally and check the context of the customer, who the CSM is, and ask them directly through Slack.
"You mentioned pet peeves earlier—one of my pet peeves is when people just ask, like, ‘what's going on with this customer?’ Well, it's all there in Vitally. We have a very complete, centralized place where people can check these things."
VT: If you were not working in Customer Success what kind of work would you be in?
CJ: If I wasn't working in Customer Success, I would definitely be working in something food-related. A restaurant, a food truck. Good vegan food, basically.
VT: What’s your best productivity tip?
CJ: My best productivity tip would probably be to take lots of small breaks and not work in an eight hour block without breaks whatsoever, running yourself into the ground. So, decide how long you want to work solidly and how long you want to take a break, something like the old pomodoro trick. Working 25 minutes solidly with the five minute breaks got me through university, so that works.
Basically, stay happy and stay healthy by taking plenty of small breaks, going outside, stretching drinking water. That would be my main tip.