Episode 34: What is Customer Success and Why is it Important?: An interview with John Roberts

Episode 34: What is Customer Success and Why is it Important?: An interview with John Roberts

By Zeeva Viola | October 27, 2017

John Roberts founded Successly in 2016, a company dedicated to helping Customer Success teams make a big impact. John recently moved to Silicon Valley after a successful run guiding his previous startup–Buzz.Report–in North Carolina.

Topics discussed in this podcast are John’s move to Silicon Valley, the definition and importance of Customer Success, Customer Success and its role in the sales process, implementation of Customer Success in organizational design, Customer Success teams vs. Product teams, and hiring Customer Success teams.

Listen to the episode here:

Even better, why not subscribe to the “Startup Selling Podcast: Talking Sales with Scott Sambucci” on iTunes?



3 Key Takeaways:

  1. Customer Success should be at the head of the table for every company. [20:25]
  2. Customer Success is a Business Model. [21:05]
  3. If you have to choose between Customer Success or Sales, choose Customer Success first. [23:35]

On moving from the Research Triangle (North Carolina) to Silicon Valley [3:45]

  • If you want to sell B2B software, there’s no better place than San Francisco to be close to your customers, and being face-to-face with your customers is one of the most valuable parts to being here.
  • We’ve seen other regions (Atlanta, Austin, Portland, Phoenix, Boulder, Denver, New York City) emerge, but the density of opportunity is not the same outside of Silicon Valley.
  • You don’t have to have the whole team in San Francisco.

Customer Success: Definition & Importance [7:50]

  • Why every subscription company is only successful when you retain your customers because the real value is how long you can retain those customers.
  • How can you make that customer successful in a way that creates value?
  • Completing 290 Customer Success Interviews with VPs about customer success

Customer Success & Its Role in the Sales Process [10:25]

  • What are the goals we’re striving for over the next year with the product?
  • Should Customer Success teams have veto power over new customer acquisition?
  • Aligning top-line sales growth while avoiding churn and misaligned incentives?
  • How can you make sure the customer success team is compensated Renewals?
  • Casting in the sales process – Sales focuses on education and Customer Success focuses on implementation.
  • Focusing on the “jobs to be done.”
  • Customer Success is the crucible of all communication and activity.
  • Why Customer success should be at the head of the table in product companies.
  • Customer success as a business model.
  • Customer success teams and capturing the voice of the customer.

Organizational Design for Start-up CEOs [22:30]

  • The case for why Customer Success should be the first team to build.
  • Questions to ask: What’s the experience with the customer?  How can we watch the customer use the system or product?  How can we understand every aspect of the customer’s interaction with the product?

Customer Success teams vs Product teams [25:54]

  • Customer Success should focus on what the customers needs.
  • The Product team should focus on best feature to build in response to the customer success team’s list of problems.

Hiring customer success teams when someone wants to be the sales or the product manager: [28:18]

  • Set expectations very clearly.
  • All other departments relate to customer success.
  • You’ll be seeing is more salespeople in the customer success role in the future.

Links & Resources:

John Roberts on LinkedIn

Adam O’Donnell, John’s cofounder @ Successly, on LinkedIn

The Podcast Version on iTunes & SoundCloud:

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