Erin Conrad is Elevating Customer Success at ZeroTurnaround
Ensuring customers have a great experience with its developer tools is a prime concern for ZeroTurnaround. In this Strategic BizOps Leader Profile, customer success leader Erin Conrad shares how she keeps the team’s mission in the foreground. ZeroTurnaround was acquired by Rogue Wave Software in November 2017.
Stephanie Fox: Many people in Customer Success have sales, marketing or service in their background. How has your training in anthropology prepared you for your role?
Erin Conrad: People assume my background has nothing to do with what I do at ZeroTurnaround but in reality it has been my guiding tenet. At Northeastern University, I wrote my senior thesis about how my generation interacts with this idea of building companies. I worked closely with the Entrepreneurs Club, where I met incredible people who wanted to grab life by the horns. We’d have meetings to develop new ideas, and I’d propose something and someone would say “None of that is going to work because it’s not going to resonate with our audience!” It was eye opening, but also very cool to be in an environment where that type of thinking was encouraged. There was nothing we couldn’t propose. There were silly and fun ideas but there was also an incubator for technology startups, some of which received giant contracts. We all wanted to be involved in that fast-paced startup space. A lot of what I observed then helps me with what I do now.
My love of tech and desire to be in a dynamic environment made everything feel really natural when I got my foot in the door at ZT. I came in with an edge because of my training; I can effectively communicate and distill a lot of information into something concise and useable. This has made it a lot easier for me in my role in customer success because I have to take in a lot of information about a given customer and the industry they are working in and how they are interacting with our tools and put a profile together that can be used for a number of different purposes.
SF: How is data used to support your activities as the head of customer success?
EC: We sell a tool that is designed to live in the background so while we want developers to be using it all the time, we don’t want them to be spending a ton of time with set-up or configuration. That is the baseline expectation that leads into upselling and expansion of the account. A big part of my job is figuring out usage data. We have to walk a fine line because we want to be on top of our customers and get feedback from them as far as the success they are having with our tool but at the same time we have to be very cautious because we built the tool to work out of the box, in the background, without a ton of input required. We try to find that neutral ground of making sure everyone has a good experience with the tool without making them feel smothered by constant follow-ups. We use different methods for tracking use and we conduct Net Promoter Surveys. My team takes the reins on collecting and organizing customer feedback and making sure that if someone is having a bad experience we get them connected to the resources that they need.
SF: What is a typical day like for you?
EC: I spend a lot of time in meetings, but it’s great because I have a team I can trust to handle the data-related tasks that I mentioned. I spend most days bouncing back and forth between answering tickets from our top-tier customers and designing processes, like how to make sure information is communicated clearly with our client base and with our sales people.
SF: What is your biggest challenge?
EC: Getting everybody on the same page to work towards the same initiative! When we were first getting started with building the customer success team in 2015 we had to convince the sales team that they should be collaborating with us in customer success. We’ve done a lot of work to build the relationship between the two teams. So much has improved but it’s still challenging, especially when you have new personnel come in. The goals will change and everyday it’s something new but initially getting everyone on the same page to work together is always the biggest challenge for a role like this.
SF: What are the keys to success for an organization looking to establish a customer success function, in your opinion?
EC: You have to find a leader who truly believes in the mission of customer success. When I started the team the very first thing I did was put together our mission statement. Our mission is to come in every day and make sure our customers have a great experience with our tools and our brand. If you lose sight of your mission and get caught up in other things in the business you will go off the rails and then wind up asking what happened. It’s so important to keep the central mission of customer success in mind.
SF: Why do you feel it is important to be part of the community of other BizOps Professionals?
EC: When I started customer success at ZeroTurnaround, I was knowledgeable about the tools because I had worked on the renewals team for 2+ years but I didn’t have a guidebook on managing customer success. I had nowhere to go to get feedback on ideas. I had to guess a lot of it and I got stuff wrong initially. I had to learn from those mistakes. So, for me, it’s important to have a place where I can go and see what people are doing -- what ideas are working and what ideas are not working so we can try those ideas or tweak them a little bit. If I have something that goes terribly wrong, I love to get feedback from people who can see things from my perspective.
- Interested in how BizOps and Customer Success come together? Join our community.
The next of our quarterly meetups for BizOps leaders takes place 16 January from 6-9PM in Boston, and we’d love for you to join us. The topic is “The LTV Dream Team” and features a panel discussion about how BizOps and Account Management are today’s B2B power couple.
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Steph served as Rekener’s Community Manager and CMO. A Rekener co-founder, she was previously Senior Director of Marketing at CCC, a $300M+ recurring revenue business, and served in marketing leadership roles at Vertical, @stake, Informio, DotContent and Meridian. Her first recurring revenue role was as an inside sales rep selling real-time stock pricing subscriptions.
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