Dec 3, 2021

Read Time 10 min

12 Key Takeaways from ChurnZero’s BIG RYG Customer Success Conference


BIG RYG 2021 Virtual

12 Key Takeaways from ChurnZero’s BIG RYG Virtual Customer Success Conference

It’s a wrap on ChurnZero’s 2021 BIG RYG Virtual – our online Customer Success conference. From sessions on building variable compensation plans and Customer Success tech stacks to fostering customer advocacy and community, BIG RYG explored how today’s Customer Success leaders are tackling major industry challenges and advancing their Customer Success game.

With the insights and soundbites coming in hot, we compiled a list of our favorite takeaways from each session for your skimming pleasure. And should you decide you want to dive deeper into a particular topic (you will), you can watch all BIG RYG Virtual sessions on-demand.

For those unfamiliar with our beloved (albeit unusual) acronym – BIG RYG – let’s quickly explain its meaning and origin so we’re all on the same page.

An acronym for Red, Yellow and Green, RYG represents the common indicators of customer health. RYG events started as local Customer Success meetups (now called RYG Leadership Hours), which provided a casual and intimate setting for Customer Success leaders to talk shop. But soon after we realized we wanted to expand this networking and learning opportunity to our global audience. And voilà, BIG RYG Virtual was born.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, here are the top takeaways from BIG RYG Virtual.

1. Don’t put your tech stack before your customer journey

“The Customer Success tech stack is misunderstood. There are a lot of pieces to put together in terms of what your Customer Success tech stack looks like. The misunderstanding stems from a situation where people tend to focus first on the technology. They think the technology will solve their problems and build their processes. That’s a really common mistake for companies to make. Take a step back and understand the entirety of your customer journey and what you’re actually trying to deliver. Then, back into the tech stack from there.”

Melinda Gonzalez
, VP of Customer Success, Pendo

Watch the session: How Stacked Is Your CS Tech Stack? Software vendors want in. Should you let them?

2. Customer Success is the most cost-efficient way to increase your ARR

“Anyone building a Customer Success organization must position themselves as a profit center. Cost centers always face scrutiny of cost cutting while revenue-driving teams have higher visibility to impact the business in a greater fashion. If you operate Customer Success as a business and start thinking bigger and ‘outside the box,’ then you can elevate the conversation at the upper management level to become a strategic department and not just tactical.”

Matthew Brown, Director Customer Enablement, Solink

Watch the session: Customer Success as a Profit Center

3. Get Sales invested in NRR by conducting weekly deal reviews and stipulating sales commission based on Customer Success acceptance of customers

Jason on weekly deal reviews:

“I don’t see enough folks do weekly deal reviews for both prospects and existing customers. You have to force the CEO, the VP of Sales, and the VP of Customer Success to be at the deal review. Customer Success should be involved in reviewing the top deals in the pipeline, so they know what’s going to be forced down their throat. The VP of Sales and CEO should talk about the top customer issues each week. If a churn-and-burn deal is important enough that it creates stress among that triumvirate, you’re going to see gradually improvement and you’re going to get more resources. But you have to have these meetings, you have to, at least once a month, talk about lost deals too, and you have to have all three [executives] come to these meetings. If they won’t, then the CEO has to drive it.”

Jason on sales commission stipulations:

“If you have enough trust with your Head of Customer Success, have them have to accept the customer. This is the only hack I’ve seen work. Not that the [sales] commission is delayed until deployment or renewal. But Customer Success has to accept the customer. Talk to Sales and tell them they have two choices: either you hold back some of their commission until production or you ask for a Customer Success-accepted customer. In fact, even on our team at SaaStr, we implemented this in the last year, and it was magical for our team. Anything non-standard that a salesperson on my team closed with a sponsor, there was no commission until it was accepted by the post-sales team. And it radically changed our sales team’s behavior.”

Jason M. Lemkin, Founder and CEO, SaaStr | Managing Director, SaaStr Fund

Watch the session: An Offer You Can’t Refuse: Ask Jason Anything

4. Play offense and set the agenda to gain executive attention

“I’ll talk to Customer Success leaders and they’ll say things like ‘I’ve got a new CEO and I need to find out what they think about Customer Success.’ I think that’s the wrong approach. Of course, you need to know the perspective of your upline, but I would argue playing offense – delivering your perspective and trying to influence the perspective of that executive – is a much better approach that gives you a higher chance to succeed.

“The first way you can play offense is by setting the agenda. This sounds super basic, but I see so many people who don’t do this or don’t do it well. Here’s what setting the agenda primarily involves. It’s an emphasis on leading indicators versus lagging indicators. If you don’t set the agenda, you could be put in a situation where your executive team comes to a conclusion that says, ‘We’ve invested in Customer Success and we now have a Customer Success team; therefore, revenue retention should be going through the roof. If we spent this money, why isn’t retention immediately going up?’ If you allow the focus of the conversation to be exclusively on lagging indicators, then that’s probably not going to play well for you. Instead, focus the conversation further upstream. One way you do that is by talking about the capabilities that the Customer Success organization has today that they didn’t have last month or six months ago. List your capabilities, show how you use those capabilities by customer segment, and what you expect the results to be. It will result in a completely different conversation.”

Michael Harnum, Chief Executive Officer, ESG

Watch the session: How to Capitalize on the C-Suite’s Attention on Customer Success

5. Counter opposing forces and/or increase favorable forces to induce change by reinforcing positives and eliminating or reducing negatives

Amy explaining the concept of a force field analysis:

“Think about what’s keeping you in your chair. There are two answers. One is gravity, which is pushing you down into the chair; that’s a driving force. The other is the chair itself, which provides an opposing force that pushes against gravity to keep you from falling to the ground. Sitting in the chair is an equilibrium of sorts. You have two equal forces – a driving force and a resisting force – working to keep the status quo. If you want to move away from the status quo, you could increase the amount of gravity (the driving force). The chair would eventually give way and you’d fall. Or you could weaken or remove the chair (the resisting force) and you’d get the same results.”

Amy shares a few practical applications of a force field analysis, such as improving processes like onboarding, removing barriers to adoption, managing product feedback, making a change or difficult decision, helping a team resolve issues and focus on broader goals, and helping a sales organization close deals faster.

Amy Manning, VP of Customer Success, LawGeex

Watch the session: Using a Force Field Analysis to Optimize the Critical Path of Any Process

6. Be a good (not perfect) example for your Customer Success team

“We really need to show our teams what it means to work like a human. Imposter syndrome is very much associated with behaviors such as perfectionism and overworking. It’s great to have high standards and to be detail-oriented but nobody wins when team members burn out. We need to model transparently how we care for our mental health and work-life balance, and where appropriate, share challenges and development focus areas of our own with our teams so they know that we are not perfect either.”

Sharon Winterton, VP Customer Success, Catalina Marketing

Watch the session: Battling Imposter Syndrome in Customer Success

7. Variable compensation plans need to be achievable

“This is absolutely critical. You as the leader of your Customer Success team need input into your goals in order to make that part happen. If there is some wildly aggressive goal that has come down from the board or your investors, and you cannot reasonably explain to your team a way to achieve it, that goal should not be a part of your variable compensation plan. Now, it’s OK to have challenging goals. Challenging and achievable are not mutually exclusive. However, you as the team leader need to be able to show someone on your team what it would take to achieve that goal. Put a plan together and build a model. If you can’t do that because you can’t make the numbers work in any kind of reasonable way, then the goal is too aggressive. You either need to dial it back or leave it out of your variable compensation plan.”

Kristen Hayer, Founder & CEO, The Success League

Watch the session: Drive the Team Behavior You Want with a Variable Compensation Plan

8. Community is your brand’s biggest billboard and welcome mat

Over 90% of people find [your company] via Google. That’s either for support or brand research. […] 88% of people we surveyed felt better about brands that offer a shared space for customers to connect. They also look at how you respond to customers. It’s not only the importance of having that space so people can have those conversations, but it’s also how you respond and interact with them. In many ways, community is the first interaction with your brand. Customers will ask if you provide value outside of your software. Delivering value to a customer before they are a customer can be a game-changer. They already have a positive view stepping in the door, and that’s really what you want to provide.”

Adrian Speyer, Head of Community, Vanilla by Higher Logic

Watch the session: Building Long-Term Value with Community

9. Build customer personas for your advocacy program

“I really like the idea of building customer personas for your advocate program. Two examples of this would be a power user and strategic decision-maker. Train everyone from your client-facing teams on these personas. That way you can quickly identify the customers who you need to bring into this program based on the persona you’ve created. The power users will be easy to identify from your weekly or monthly calls; they’re very engaged. The strategic decision-makers will be harder to identify. I would focus on multi-threading within the organization. See if you can build relationships with these contacts if you don’t have them today. They could be your contract signers, your champions, or anyone that’s VP or higher.”

Jessica Jurmann, Director of Customer Success, G2

Watch the session: Customer Advocacy as a Growth Engine

10.Customer Success leaders need to have business acumen if they want a seat at the table

“Not all software companies are the same. Many are growing topline revenue very quickly. Many are slower growing and focused on driving business profitability, which you see more and more as the SaaS market matures. Having situational awareness to your business and understanding what your business objectives are – whether it’s to grow 50% in topline revenue next year or to maintain a healthy gross margin and EBITDA margin that’s attractive to buyers. Every Customer Success leader needs to be educated on the business realities of SaaS. If you want to be a business leader and if you want a seat at the table, you have to think at that level. You need to show how you’ll impact those metrics one segment at a time.”

Jay Nathan, Chief Customer Officer, Higher Logic

Watch the session: How Stacked Is Your CS Tech Stack? Software vendors want in. Should you let them?

11. Partnerships are most often born from a need to increase reach, scale, or efficiency

“In many instances, [the need for a partner] begins with a problem. But it’s a good problem. Perhaps your company’s success has opened up opportunities further afield than your initial plan – be it in terms of geography, industry, or segment. That is a case for increased reach. Or perhaps you’re experiencing growth that can’t be sustained or supported swiftly enough with your current internal capabilities. That is a case for increased scale. Or perhaps you’re at a juncture where leveraging a partner is more margin accretive, thus is margin dilutive, and therefore a case for increased efficiency.”

Dominic Constandi, SVP Customer Success, ZoomInfo

Watch the session: Building a Success Partner Ecosystem to Scale & Drive Revenue

12. SaaS companies must be in the top quartile in NRR to get funded

“If you meet with a VC, and let’s say you’re enterprise, and your NRR is only 100% of the enterprise, it’s not good enough. It has to be north of 120% of the enterprise. Let’s say your SMB, and you’re below 95%, it’s not good enough for SMB. You’re not going to get that series A or B check because you’re not top quartile in NRR. If you’re not top quartile, you’re not going to get funded. I’m not even sure that was true two or three years ago, but it’s true today. […] If you’re not top quartile, have the confidence that it’s possible. Just improve it each quarter. Probably the top one or two most impactful things you can do for your company is to improve these metrics each quarter.”

Jason M. Lemkin, Founder and CEO, SaaStr | Managing Director, SaaStr Fund

Watch the session: An Offer You Can’t Refuse: Ask Jason Anything

What’s Next for Customer Success?

From these session takeaways, it’s clear that Customer Success is rapidly gaining momentum – as a belief, as a function, and as a business driver. With Customer Success seeing such aggressive growth, you might be wondering “Where is Customer Success headed?” To see what’s next for Customer Success, check out our top three Customer Success trends to look out for in 2022.

Get BIG RYG Content On-Demand

To dig deeper into these session takeaways, watch all BIG RYG sessions on-demand now.

Interested in attending an in-person RYG Leadership Hour?

At RYG Leadership Hours, we bring together local leaders to discuss the trending topics, best practices, and top issues in Customer Success today.

Visit our Events page to see if an upcoming RYG Leadership Hour is coming to a city near you!


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