Jan 8, 2021

Read Time 8 min

ChurnZero’s 10 Customer Success Leaders to Watch in 2021


ChurnZero's 10 Customer Success Leaders to Watch 2021

Against the backdrop of wild economic uncertainty, Customer Success has been the failsafe of SaaS businesses that were blindsided by pandemic-induced churn and contraction.

As one of the fastest-growing jobs in the world in 2020, the growth potential for this in-demand function has soared even higher with customer retention becoming the life preserver that crisis-stricken businesses have clung to during the upheaval. For the first time in its functional establishment, Customer Success was pressure-tested and forced centerstage – as new business evaporated, budgets constricted, and at-risk customers grew tenfold.

With their visibility elevated, Customer Success leaders stepped up to carry the weight of their fellow revenue-driven teams and prove their value within the broader organization.

Based on our recent Customer Success Leadership Study, 54% of survey respondents have a Chief Customer Officer (CCO) or Vice President (VP) of Customer Success as their highest Customer Success leadership position within their SaaS organization.

With Customer Success demand at an all-time high, we expect to see more of its leaders join the executive ranks in the coming months and years.

As Customer Success leaders continue to strengthen their organizational stature, we want to recognize those in the industry who are paving the way for this influential position. So, here’s our watchlist of Customer Success leaders to follow in 2021 – a year that’s bound to be marked by its own unique struggles and successes, as well as the cementing of Customer Success in the C-suite. 

If you’re considering the role yourself, check out our eBook, The Future CCO, for firsthand advice from industry leaders on what it takes to become a CCO.

1. Staci Satterwhite, Chief Customer Officer, Khoros

customer success leaderStaci brings over 25 years of technology experience to Khoros, including leadership roles at top services and sales companies like Microsoft, Vignette, HEALTHCAREfirst, and Dell. At Khoros, she will be responsible for the success across all stages of the Khoros customer journey and lead the company’s customer organization.

“We are thrilled to welcome Staci Satterwhite to our team at Khoros,” said Jack Blaha, CEO of Khoros. “Staci is a proven leader with a strong track record for building exceptional teams and delivering results. As we continue to grow as a company, I’m confident that Staci’s leadership will accelerate our customer strategies, success, and retention, ensuring every customer voice is heard, feels supported, and sees maximum value in our Khoros software and services.”

Most recently, Staci led a worldwide sales team at IBM for an offering that secures customers’ digital engagements. Her experience spans success with both small and large companies and includes the completion of two Initial Public Offerings and one Private Equity exit.

Follow Staci on Twitter and LinkedIn.

2. Ken Ewell, (First) Chief Customer Officer, SurveyMonkey

customer success leaderAs SurveyMonkey’s first Chief Customer Officer, Ken will help lead and expand SurveyMonkey’s customer success, professional services, and support teams to enhance value for customers and grow the company’s global enterprise business.

“Ken is a change agent, a problem-solver and a pragmatic leader who is passionate about developing strong, lasting relationships with customers,” said Zander Lurie, CEO of SurveyMonkey, in a statement. “He will not only make SurveyMonkey more customer-centric but will also play an integral role in representing customer needs in partnership with our product, engineering and design teams as they continue to build on our CX offering, the GetFeedback platform.”

Ken has more than 20 years of experience driving results for companies such as IBM and AT&T. Prior to joining SurveyMonkey, he served as VP of Customer Success at Neustar and SVP of Worldwide Professional Services at Aspect Software.

Follow Ken on LinkedIn.

3. Jason Baldree, (First) Chief Customer Officer, Alida

customer success leaderJason joined Alida in 2018 with over 20 years of experience leading customer success and operations teams, where he developed a deep expertise in driving customer value with a focus on empathy to ensure optimal business outcomes for customers. As Alida’s Chief Customer Officer, Jason leads the global customer success organization, customer support, and services businesses.

“Jason has made enormous contributions to Alida during his tenure. He embodies our values and always leads with empathy by putting the customer at the center of our business. He focuses on making decisions with our customers, not for them – Alida’s ultimate goal. Through his leadership, his teams have consistently attained above 90% customer satisfaction ratings (CSAT); an extraordinary feat,” said Ross Wainwright, CEO of Alida.

Prior to Alida, Jason led the customer success and consulting services teams at BMC Software, CA Technologies and Protiviti.

Follow Jason on Twitter and LinkedIn.

4. Charlie Harvey, Vice President of International Customer Success, Zappi

customer success leaderCharlie is focused on building and executing Zappi’s customer success strategy internationally, including leading a team of highly skilled customer success managers and identifying opportunities to drive additional value for customers.

She has a proven record implementing customer-focused retention and growth strategies for cloud-based global tech companies.

Follow Charlie on LinkedIn.

5. Phillip Graham, Vice President of Customer Success & Partnerships, Hubb

customer success leaderIn his new role at Hubb, Phillip will manage driving customer retention and engagement, overseeing profitable client expansion and growth, and developing strategic partnerships and alliances to support the event management ecosystem.

“We’re thrilled to have Phil on board because of his expertise as a customer advocate with over 15 years of experience in the event technology space. Phillip is passionate about providing the best customer experience and his background in sales demonstrates a successful track record of growth, relationship building and deep understanding of our industry and best practices,” said Allie Magyar, founder and CEO of Hubb. 

Phillip will lead the company’s efforts to evangelize customer voice to influence product roadmap and strategy.

Follow Phillip on LinkedIn.

6. Diane Gordon, Senior Vice President of Customer Success, Validity

customer success leaderDiane is an accomplished executive who has spent the past 25 years driving retention and growth by creating scalable infrastructure in support of profitable P&Ls and customer loyalty, the basis for minimizing churn. Diane leads Validity’s customer retention and customer support departments, while working closely with the company’s Chairman and CEO, Mark Briggs, and COO, Mike Piispanen, on additional customer-focused initiatives.

“We’re beyond excited to welcome such an incredible customer and professional services executive like Diane to our team,” said Briggs. “With her experience in product marketing, product management, and her deep customer success knowledge, Diane will be a tremendous asset to our leadership team and, most importantly, our customers.”

Previous to Validity, Diane was the VP, Customer Success at Panorama Education, where she was instrumental in scaling the team to handle a rapidly growing customer base. Prior to that, she was Chief Customer Officer of Brainshark, a sales readiness platform, where she led all post-sale customer activities, from implementation through renewal readiness.

Follow Diane on LinkedIn.

7. Jennifer Lovette, Senior Vice President of Customer Success, Invoca

customer success leaderJennifer was most recently Senior Vice President of Customer Success and Chief of Staff at Imperva, where she was responsible for embedding customer focus across the organization while operationalizing repeatable, measurable growth motions across diverse business and product lines. Prior to that, she was Vice President of Customer Experience and Customer Care Operations at LogMeIn and held a variety of customer-facing executive roles at Citrix, including Chief of Staff and Senior Director of Customer Success.

“I’ve always believed integrity is one of the most important qualities of a customer success organization. Our customers trust us to do the right thing and by doing so, we earn their loyalty rather than expect it,” said Lovette. “Invoca is laser focused on delivering customer value, and I’m looking forward to scaling our talented and passionate customer success team to ensure our customers exceed their business goals.”

Follow Jennifer on LinkedIn.

8. Miya Gray, Senior Vice President of Customer Success, Apervita

customer success leaderOver her 20 years of experience, Miya has worked with various stakeholders in the healthcare ecosystem, including payers, PBMs, pharmacies, EMR/EHR vendors and health systems; and has held a variety of leadership roles in healthcare interoperability, customer relationship management, technology innovation and operations.

“We are absolutely thrilled to have someone as experienced and accomplished as Miya to lead Apervita’s customer engagement strategy,” said Kareem Saad, President & Chief Operations Officer at Apervita. “Given her proven track record of managing the customer experience from training to post-implementation to the delivery of value-add professional services, Miya’s leadership capabilities position the company well as we further grow and scale our business. Not only will she ensure the scalable delivery of our customer-centric solutions, but she will help our organization establish lasting trusted relationships with our customers, including payers, providers and other healthcare stakeholders.”

Most recently she served as Senior Vice President of Customer Experience and Operations at BrainScope, an award-winning medical device company. There she focused on the organization’s transition from a clinical and technology-centered organization to a highly customer-centric organization.

Follow Miya on LinkedIn.

9. Mahesh Baxi, (First) Chief Customer Officer, Clinc

customer success leaderIn this newly created role, Mahesh will be responsible for the success of users from the time they become a Clinc customer throughout their entire lifecycle. This involves ensuring proper set up and implementation, working to resolve technological challenges, educating customers on the benefits of Clinc, and helping them maximize the value of conversational AI.

“Enterprises with complex infrastructures are continuing to adopt new, cutting-edge technology, including AI, for various business purposes – in particular, customer service,” says Baxi. “I am looking forward to enabling a successful journey for both customers who are new to AI and those who are looking to maximize their existing investments in Clinc to advance their customer service goals.”

Prior to joining Clinc, Mahesh was the Global Vice President of Customer Success of Apttus and the Senior Vice President of Customer Success an AI/ML Automation of My Ally. He also boasts an impressive resume of technology experience, having founded and led TalentOjo, a software company, and served as Managing Director of ThoughtWorks, a privately owned, global technology company.

Follow Mahesh on LinkedIn.

10. Nate Burnes, (First) Vice President of Customer Success, Centage Corporation

customer success leaderIn his new role, Nate will oversee Centage’s Consulting, Customer Success, Customer Advocacy, Enablement and Support teams to ensure the best possible experience for all Centage customers, keeping a pulse on customer needs and identifying areas to help customers receive increasing value from their relationship with Centage.

“Our creation of a senior level position and single organization laser focused on customer success is a direct reflection of our dedication to our customers. We felt that in order to ensure our customers are successful, we needed an advocate on the executive team that would be dedicated to meeting and exceeding customer expectations, not just with our current product suite, but also in how they’d like to see it evolve. We were impressed with Nate’s comprehensive vision of what customer success means, and his view that no effort is ever quite done, that evolution and learning is always required,” said John Murdock, CEO of Centage.

Prior to his promotion to VP of Customer Success, Nate served as Director of Product Management, where he gained deep expertise in processes, customer use cases, and functionality available in Centage’s Planning Maestro platform. Prior to Centage, he held positions in product management, consulting, and business management at divisions of Virgin Pulse, IBM and Accenture.

Follow Nate on LinkedIn.

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