Ep. 13 | Catherine Blackmore On Whether Customer Success Should Help Accounts Or People


Catherine Blackmore

GVP Customer Success at Oracle Marketing Cloud

Catherine Blackmore, GVP of Customer Success at Oracle Marketing Cloud, joined the show to discuss the importance of training, change management, and business transformation to customer success. We also discuss whether the prominence of customer success is causing a convergence between sales and service. And yes, Bill did steal one of Catherine's ideas. 

Recommended viewing: Training is Customer Success 2015 Panel

Customer Success Has Changed Over 10 Years 

Ten years ago, Customer Success wasn't a profession or a role. Then churn was becoming a reality for people going cloud. Support was break-fix queue-based. Sales had to hunt. Catherine was a pioneer in figuring out how to hire, train, operationalize the role of Customer Success. She grew JigSaw, became a part of SFDC, JigSaw became data.com and their team spent a lot of time thinking about Customer Success at scale. This led to startup opportunities building out CS orgs and the profession has evolved over time from original days of helping customers adopt to now there's so many data points that become consuming around understanding customers digitally and mining data to have customer success not just with people but with technology and maintaining that customer intimacy grow. As you scale to thousands of users, you can't reach them trough people alone, and need technology and data to reach people. 

Customer Success Scaling Challenges Along The Customer Success maturity model 

As a company just started to sell and get customer online. Training, adopting, renewal, covering a lot of ground. As profession and company grows, you segment and have people do distinct parts of the journey which you can scale and become really good at onboarding, training, renewing, etc.  So how do you manage customer journey so they don't feel that they've got handed off.

How do you get customers to adopt software?

Change management is critical. There are things we have to do with end user adoption and training (login for first time, use product to certain point of success, uncover advanced features that are sticky, etc.). That's an area you have to put strategy and technology. We train people, not accounts. It's the people that we have to train. It could be the beginning when a new admin arrives. 

Sometimes the technology or end user won't make or break the end user. It's about helping a company like a CMO or CIO retire old business policies and procedures that sits outside of tech. Helping that company transform can sometimes mean the end user that may be successful to see value may require a bit more. 

Resources, best practices, thought leadership articles, how can you help a market that's still changing and innovating and coming up with new use cases and ways to get value and needing to help companies transform becoming modern marketing teams, leaders and organizations. That isn't always about training. It truly transforms the way a business transforms its business processes. 

When working with larger teams, how does it differ from working with smaller teams?

In some ways, size isn't the main issue. We think a lot about assessment of where a company is across marketing transformation journey. Whether a bit or small company, it's about how mature the customer is that indicates what a success plan truly looks like. That applies in all cases. 

If you've got a sales leader that's never purchased data in the cloud or leveraged technology in the cloud, that's a differnt conversaion than if someone is moving from one cloud vendor to another. They understand the delivery model and what you have to do to retire old business practices. That's about rolling out how rolling out what you're selling in the business model whether small or complex. You need to understand their approach to change management and training and enabling people.


What do you do when the person and the people making decisions aren't people who are asked to use a new thing.

You need to understand your tech to understand where end users are getting value so you can help partner with a leader who wants to roll out to your org. If my job every day is operations person and I've done that job, understand how technology is used, key features, etc. I can be an incredible resource to their boss or the person thinking about rolling it out who may not appreciate their day job. How would you put together a training program or think about a train the trainer program. If you have a program where you're doing a lot of training digitally and need to talk to someone via campaigns and emails to nudge, what would that look like. Being able to align what motivates that end user to change and get off an old way of doing something is about unlocking a pain point of what the end user is experiencing every day to ensure you're touching on it and they see the value of making that switch. That shows up in training programs, email campaigns, and customer success manager that knows and gets that. It's a resource to the department that rolls out the software.

What are strategies for building customer success teams?

When folks ask, how should I think about CS teams? Who should I hire or how do I put a CS org in place? There are some basic framework blocking and tackling what you should think about. But the nuances of what makes a CS program most impactful is recognizing where you are as a company in your lifecycle. How many customers do I have? Who are my customers? Large enterprise or SMB customers? How many do I have? Do I have thousands that I consider end-user customers or 100 customers that are very big in terms of people I hire. Also, product. How difficult is it to launch your customers to value using you rproduct? that could mean something different around onboarding, training, adoption curve to see first value. Once you've mapped that out, that indicates if I'm early and products are complex and you sell to large enterprise this is who you want. What will sales be responsible for? All commercials so they run renewals as well? Iin some cases, a CRO or CEO will say they want best sellers out in the field bringing in net new deals and it's green space and we need to build the market. So they may want Customer Success running commercials, which would look different in terms of who you hire. Set the structure up for success by figuring out what you need to do.

It is helpful to have both owned and managed and run numbers and understand folks retiring quota and what that world is about. Also, knowing about selling services and owning a services number or none of the above where you create what benchmarks are and what adoption and success metrics are. At the end of the day, when you start to scale a success organization, you have to have some number. You have to ask CFO and CEO what value your organization is returning. How is your organization retiring quota related to renewals, upsell/crossell. It's not about retiring quota but about growing advocates. What's an advocate worth? Show the value of what your team is delivering and improving health and reducing risk in the business. There's lots of ways that you need to represent your business value. Owning a number helps you think a way your sales leaders, CEO and CFO do so you can argue how you'd hire the next headcount and scale your apartment.

Advocates are your Second Funnel

We don't measure this enough. We talk about red accounts and turning churn situations around. Which is important. But a lot of CS orgs can become consumed with red account fires. The advocates are more likely to upsell, refer, etc. Are you tracking advocates and do you know what success looks like? Would you know an advocate from a fan. They offer extreme business value from your product or services. They will walk on stage and talk about business value they're getting. They become your best sales organizations. If you have true advocates, the value is lifetime value because they're more likely to stay a customer much longer because you don't have to renew every year. That can be painful. Even with advocates when things don't go well, but with a strong business partner you can resolve problems faster and they'll help sell for you. Take customers and grow them not just in terms of dollars but their advocacy so it becomes a bullhorn and them broadcasting out to the market what they're getting from a business value perspective. 

Should CS own a quota? Is Customer Success a reflection of sales and customer service functions converging?

If a renewal is a sale, does sales and service converge in Customer Success? Selling customers for life is becoming a concept. The social sales person selling business outcomes and a connected relationship. LinkedIn is changing the dynamic of how we think about selling. 

Who owns the customer?

Ultimately, your organization owns the relationship with the customer. You need clear lines of ownership throughout the customer journey. You have to have a great point of collaboration. Clear rules of engagement and alignment across leadership and incentives and compensation are correct. Comp plans can get in the way.


Sarah E. Brown and Bill Cushard

Written by Sarah E. Brown and Bill Cushard

Helping Sells Radio co-hosts, Bill Cushard and Sarah E. Brown, are Rocketeers based in Palo Alto, CA. Reach out to them by emailing marketing@servicerocket.com or on Twitter using the hashtag #HelpingSells.