Scott Morris Podcast Transcript

CloudApp text in black with speech bubble/cloud in various shades of blue

Joe: (00:00)
Welcome to the DNA and experience podcast from cloud app, where we discuss how and why creating an experience is so important and the psychology behind what makes an experience. So great. Thanks for joining us.

(00:19)
Hey everyone. I am thrilled to have a, another Adobe colleague alum with me. Scott Morris. Scott is currently the VP of marketing at Zendesk has a wealth of knowledge to share with everyone. And I’m excited that we can kind of dig in a little bit on customer experience marketing, and also just I’m a big fan of Zendesk and all that they do to help companies and their support teams. Uh, so I’m excited to dig in a little bit more on that. Scott, if you wouldn’t mind, uh, giving us a little intro on yourself, kind of how you got to Zendesk, what you’re kind of doing over there and we’ll go from there.

Scott: (01:11)

Awesome, Joe, thanks. So great to be here. Thanks for inviting me. So I’m VP of integrated marketing at Zendesk. I’ve been there about two and a half years now. Um, for those who don’t knows, and dusk is a software company based in San Francisco. Um, we make customer service software, but also SFA Salesforce, sales, automation, software, and customer engagement solutions, uh, which is basically another way of saying that we like many other companies are in the business of basically helping our customers create great experience for their customers. Right. It’s really all about CX for us. Um, uh, my role in particular at Zendesk is I’m responsible for what we call sort of life or integrated marketing. Um, it’s really the campaigns that take customers and prospects from awareness to consideration to purchase and beyond are big global at-scale campaigns that we do in all the regions and countries in which we do business globally. Um, I also manage the regional marketing teams in North and South America, like AKA field marketing in the Americas. Um, the global events team, that’s responsible for our big annual user conference, which obviously looks very different now.


And our big of marquee live events. And now, you know, online events around the world, uh, our partner marketing team, and then finally engagement marketing, which is basically the team that handles some of the highest, uh, highest volume customer touch points, like email and in product messaging and webinars and localization and stuff like that. And, um, prior to Zen desk, um, which is where we crossed paths. I did spend quite a few years at Adobe. Um, most recently I was in an integrated marketing role there for a couple of years. Uh, got a chance to live in Tokyo, which was really awesome, a great opportunity that was thrilling and one of the most exciting parts of my career to date. Um, and then I spent quite a few years in product marketing there and, um, what I did among other things I launched creative cloud, which is for those who don’t know, it was one of the first and biggest of sort of a traditional software company to move to subscription in the cloud.


Well, I actually didn’t, I mean, I kind of knew, but I didn’t didn’t make that connection that you were a big part of that, um,

Meaning the product marketing team during all that. Yeah. I started just doing the video products there and then over time also took on Photoshop and imaging products and then the web products and the design tools like InDesign and illustrator. Um, and so it was, and then I was actually, yeah, on the front lines, it was a tough time, right? Some people didn’t like the shift of the business model. So I literally was the spokesperson kind of out there trying to get designers and creatives to understand actually the, the good, you know, the benefits of this and all the cool things cloud could bring them, but you know, it wasn’t that common then. So they just looked kind of like working in their desktop tools and at that time, or it sharing other, all their files in the cloud and collaborating through cloud and doing all those things that everyone’s doing now. Um, so it was tough times, but, but really, really fun and, uh, you know, high point in my career for sure.

Joe: (04:05)
Yeah. That’s super cool. I mean, I, so I, you know, obviously we had so many all hands meetings, uh, like monthly, I feel like it’s so cool to kind of be a fly on the wall. You know, I was, uh, I think I’d been the company for maybe a year or two, so I was kinda just getting my feet wet there, but it was, it was such a cool experience to be a part of that’s that’s really, you know, I’m sure you lost a few years of your life.

Scott: (04:30)
Yeah, definitely. It was, you know, one of the things that was hard about it, I think is that it was so new. Right. And so what Adobe basically did out of the gate is they just offer their desktop tools as a subscription. Right. And the cloud value is something that built over time. It started cloud storage for your files. And so it was hard for people to see, like, how was this better other than I get updates all the time without having a great, but then there’ll be, has invested so much. And all the collaboration tools that are kind of built into it, things like, uh, what was formerly Typekit fonts that you can put on your website embedded in it just really, really strong, uh, also like the ability to share your brushes and pallets and things like that across the creative applications, which you couldn’t really do before. Um, so by really adding all that value where like, Hey, the cloud is actually different and better, and here’s what you get that you wouldn’t get the old way. That’s what really was like the tipping point where it just took off and a company is doing amazing right now. Right.

Joe: (05:30)
Doc did not slow down when, when either of us left. Um, so let’s, uh, you know, we came from Adobe, which was kinda making an experience, was the brand motto at kind of the end. And obviously, you know, Zendesk is on the front lines of customer experience, leading support, and people have, uh, you know, researched a whole bunch of things before they maybe use the Zendesk tool to like connect with whoever they’re frustrated with.

Scott: (06:02)
Wow.

Joe: (06:03)
How have you kind of, what is the DNA of a good experience? Uh, how does kind of like, I think integrated marketing is obviously a key piece of that. What are some key points that you think really, or marketing really fits into that customer experience or the customer journey?

Scott: (06:20)
Yeah. Um, good question. So, uh, as you know, everyone sort of defines customer experience so differently, giving so many things to so many people, so like to kind of cut cut through the clutter and confusion. And I always just think of it as the customer journey, right. Customer experience equals customer journey. And so what is the role that marketing plays in that? Uh, and so to deliver a really amazing customer journey, in my opinion, you know, there’s a couple of things you have to do. And of course, there’s the obvious ones you have to think full funnel, how do you drive awareness and bring prospects through and just deliver a delightful experience. But I think, you know, for me, a really important part that makes a customer journey super successful is you obviously have to make it relevant, right. And a great way to do that.

(07:07)
Not all companies do it. Zen desk is actually on a journey with this ourselves, but things like segmentation and personalization, right. Um, really helps drive a stronger emotional connection because you’ve, you know, you’ve sort of shown that, you know, the customer, right. You know what they’re looking for, you sort of put in more effort to deliver an experience that’s aligned with what you think they care about, or, you know, you care about it’s oftentimes think, um, and you know, we’re still on that journey. It’s Endesa rights, for example, segmentation pretty deep. We do it really well. We would around buyers, all the personas in the buying center, including the influencers and market segments and industries, but, um, personalization is harder. Uh, and we’re just starting on that journey. Right. Really putting that right message at the right time, across the right channel that feels very personalized and relevant.

(07:59)
Um, another thing that, um, that I have spent a lot of time on, I did this at Adobe and I’ve spent a lot of time on this Zen desk is that, you know, a really important part of the good customer experience is everything that happens after they’ve purchased. Right? I mean, so many marketers were so focused on acquisition because that tends to be where our KPIs are. We want to drive pipeline, want to help the sales team, close deals, whatever your, you know, your acquisition KPIs are. But, um, you know, using the Adobe example, we actually struggled with that in the early days when Adobe moved to cloud, because, you know, Adobe never really had to worry about that, just experience, you know, with a product like Photoshop, people bought it and they were generally happy with it. And maybe technical support is where you would maybe have to reach out post-purchase.

(08:49)
But, you know, with subscription customers voted with their wallets every month. Right. And making those customers successful kind of became job one because customer success basically equals customer happiness. Right. And what does that mean? Um, it’s going to be different based on what you’re selling, but in sort of the SAS world, it’s getting set up onboarding, learning how to get the most out of what the company just sold. You, you know, all that stuff, which really hugely important. Um, and, uh, you know, Adobe ended up investing a lot in that to really get that right. Um, and you know, we’ve been doing the same thing here at Zandesk over the last couple of years. Um, tons of time focused on that post purchase experience.

Joe: (09:37)
Yeah. That’s, those are really, really great points. I think, uh, you know, definitely like you, you learn, especially at, in like a lead role, how different, like an educator who might be a decision maker responds compared to like a B2B CIO, or even like a CMO, whoever your end kind of seller is, you kind of have to really structure, you know, how your campaigns target those different people. Uh, and to your point, yeah. Personalization is such a difficult thing to nail cause it’s, it has to be like a balance of not creepy, but like provides a good experience. And maybe it’s just, when you’re logged in, you get a nice, simple, hello, and the experience that you might expect for your role. It is really hard to now.

Scott: (10:26)
Well, I think one of the things that makes it the hardest is what, what I call the matrix. And it was the first thing that I was confronted with when we started doing even our initial efforts and personalization Zen desk. It’s like, every time you add another dimension of personalization, you just multiply the number of experiences you have to deliver. Right. If you’re trying to deliver, even if you think about like, are they a prospect or are they a customer, okay, there’s two Zendesk case. Are they a sales buyer, a support buyer or the it buyer, an HR buyer. Okay. That’s those four times the two that you had that’s eight, right. And then you add something else in like, you know, maybe what they’ve done in the past, where they came from most recently, and you just have this incredibly complex, um, set of options and experiences you have to deliver, which is of course why people turn into marketing automation software to help them do that and manually out of the gate.

Joe: (11:21)
Yeah. That’s a really good point. You know, we’ve kind of, we’ve kind of gone a little broad, uh, with, with topics. I want to dig in a little bit on Zendesk personally. Um, you know, Zendesk is, is such a leader in customer support software. It’s a GoTo for enterprises and small businesses. Um, how does it really kind of help improve that stage of the journey? Uh, there’s definitely an automation element to it, but there’s also a human element to it. Uh, what are kind of some of the key points or core values or things that you guys try to point?

Scott: (11:54)
Yeah. Uh, great. Um, I think most people, so by the way, you’re right, we’re basically a customer service company, but as I said, you know, we have an SFA now is that we also have products for the sales buyer. We have, you know, a pretty broad portfolio. We’re not like deep into, you know, uh, digital marketing and marketing automation, but we’ve got a bunch of other elements of this. But if we just talk about customer service, right. Which is how Zendesk got started, how we’re known the best. Um, most people think of customer service as something that happens when people need to reach out to a business with a problem. Right. Um, but that’s really only half the story like customer service. Isn’t just when a customer calls or emails you, um, it also is when people are shopping for something, um, and they find your business and customer service is actually happening, even though that person isn’t a customer yet, right.

(12:51)
Or when they’re, uh, in your knowledge base answering their own questions, that’s customer service too. And in all of these scenarios, customers expect really fast replies and they expect them on the channels of their choice. Right. And they expect that as they move between those channels, like they might’ve interacted with you via email. And then they interact with you via online chat on your website and then a messaging app like WhatsApp. They expect you to know all those conversations they had with all those people across all those channels. And that’s, that’s hard, right. That’s hard to do successfully. Um, and I think winning customer experiences are really about how the customer feels they’re being treated. Right. Like I said, if a customer bounces between has to keep repeating themselves or they bounce between those different departments, that’s super frustrating. And they feel like their time was wasted.

(13:40)
They weren’t respected. Right. Whereas like really excellent customer service happens when a customer, a company exceeds a customer’s expectations, right? And this could be delivering proactive support, answering customer’s questions or getting ahead of a problem before it happens as opposed to always being, um, being reactive, uh, and also means going the extra mile. I think one example I like to cite is one of our, one of our customers, Zappos of their customer, they’re really known for their customer service, right? And their team is empowered to basically do what ever it takes to build real human interactions with their customers. Um, they can stay on a call for example, as long as it’s necessary. They tell us that the longest call they ever had was 10 hours and 51 minutes calls lasting around two hours have been almost daily. Um, so, you know, that’s amazing the company can empower their team to help customers, you know, so deeply.

(14:40)
Um, and then just one final thing on the Zendesk side, I would say, um, you know, proactive engagement again is super, super important. Like I said, reactive support. Sure. That standard, you wait for customer to contact your business, but Lockton is, is critical. Um, it means anticipating, you know, what your customer’s issues are and addressing them before they even need to reach out to you, right? Like any commerce company getting ahead of an abandoned shopping cart, for example, by deploying a chat bot on their checkout page to answer your frequently asked questions, or I dunno, your Comcast sending customers that text about getting upcoming service interruptions, you know, before they actually have the interruption.

Joe: (15:22)
Yeah. I mean, those are all, some really great points. I like how you kind of applied customer services to so many stages. And it, you know, I was talking with, um, David Hunt, who’s the, the head of customer support at HubSpot, A podcast, a few episodes go and him and I were talking about like, by the time they actually get to a person, hopefully they don’t get to your person to be honest. But by the time they get there, they’ve already searched everything on the web. They’ve probably like seen some random forums that you may not have control over. They’ve definitely like done all the automated stuff that you mentioned, like Facebook messenger or WhatsApp or whatever. So, you know, you better have, first of all, good stuff at that first 80% and then really good reps at the end who are kind of, uh, you know, helping finish the finish.

Scott: (16:18)
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, do you like pick up the phone and call about a problem before you try to seek search out online, how you can fix it? Or, I mean, I always go and try to figure it out myself first and then, you know, if I haven’t actually interacted with the customer with the company directly, I understand it. But if I have, if I, if I emailed them a problem or if I chatted online and then I called them and they don’t have any record of that stuff, that’s super, super frustrating.

Joe: (16:43)
Yeah. Yup. And then obviously the last thing you want them to do is like, uh, you know, go out on social media kind of complaining about your product,

Scott: (16:51)
Which I do though. Right? Like how great it’s always what their problems were. Right.

Joe: (17:01)
I managed a social listening, how Adobe kind of near the end of my time there. And I definitely got still got a lot of like angry customers.

Scott: (17:13)
Adobe is the devil of Subscription service. Um, yeah. So it’s always an actually had, uh, during that first year, I actually had hand drawn, um, drawings of me not a flattering nail to the office with quotes that I had said on like interviews completely misconstrued it. What was funny as it looked like it was drawn with like Gran like drawing it, I thought, is this really a creative fro this doesn’t look like they could have done this and illustrator if they’re really that pissed off. Oh, that’s awesome. That’s like that’s of those things that’s really fun to look at.

(17:51)
Yeah. Well, I gotta think of some things in arrows, you know, so yeah.

Joe: (17:58)
We’re, you know, we’re, we’re communicating over video right now. Uh, zoom has exploded. Uh, we’re all kind of maybe have a little zoom fatigue. Um, but customer support is a big kind of piece of, of cloud apps business. We have a lot of people whose companies are using us for closing tickets faster, having higher satisfaction rates, not sending people to FAQ pages, they’re like creating a video or image. How can like async tools like cloud app or like even a real time chat if people are using zoom for customer support, um, really be helpful and kind of closing something with visual, um, evenly in like your knowledge base, you know, if you’re using it in Zendesk, um, how can that kind of be helpful with, uh, loyalty and satisfaction?

Scott: (18:51)
Yeah. So, I mean, I think, you know, certainly every marketer knows how powerful video can be. It’s a little funny now because of the zoom fatigue that you mentioned, right? Like we’re literally on video all day, every day in ways that we never, at least most people including myself never were before. And so sometimes you can talk about like how awesome video is people think about the fact that there are videos all day, but if you put that aside for a minute and let’s actually talk async video, right. Um, you know, th definitely top of mind in terms of thinking about the ways that businesses can connect with their customers, right. Especially in this distributed world that we’re in. And I think, you know, everyone has different preferences and I don’t want every experience to be video, frankly, but there are a lot that can be greatly improved with video.

(19:40)
Y’all using that little example that, um, and I’ll be honest, we do use video a lot at Zendesk, but it tends to be a lot of like highly produced by our brand team video that’s on our homepage and things like that in terms of using sort of fast, kind of do it yourself to get a quick message out video. That’s something that we are still early in our journey around, but increasingly it’s becoming more and more important. Um, I think where we really started to see the power of that was actually, I don’t know, a couple quarters ago, uh, our European marketing team actually was one of the first that really kind of tackled this. And they, um, you know, as, uh, uh, as with many B2B companies, you know, our inside sales team, our BDRs or SDRs, they manage a high volume of interactions with prospects and clients, but mainly prospects.

Joe: (20:27)
Um, everyone is aware of like the email fatigue and it’s something almost every marketer struggles with, you know, everyone receives loads of emails every day. So how can you make it more engaging? And we also, I think have all heard the like humans have what, eight seconds of attention span a shorter attention span than a goldfish. So like how do you really engage folks and get them, you know, peak their interest basically. And so the European team a little while back, you know, came up with this pilot where they actually got the, those inside sales team members, the XDR as we call them the BDRs and SDRs, as well as our account executives to actually be, you know, doing quick video recording, some screen grabs, et cetera, to create a more personalized and engaging way of reaching out to their, to their prospects. And just even a little pilot that we did.

Scott: (21:22)
Um, so a couple of stats, cause I did a little bit of, uh, research on this. So, um, we doubled the email, open rates by doing that. I mean, if we compare it against the control, we went for that type of email. Um, it was actually back when we were doing live events, inviting people to a live event cause that spring, I think, or early spring, um, 34% was our typical email open rate jumped to 68%. And the click through rate went from 4% to 88%. Like I literally had to triple check that because I couldn’t do that. It was increased. I think what’s really important though, like the end result, um, cause those are great, but those are just engagement metrics. Right. Um, the goal of the program was to actually get people to come to an event and to schedule a meeting. And when we compared to similar programs where we didn’t use that sort of, it’s kind of quick and dirty, but it’s great in personalized video. Um, we ended up booking something like 20 or 30 times as many things and getting folks to the event as they had done previously. So like, if you need anything to prove that video works, you know, that’s, that’s a good example.

(22:31)
Yeah. That’s it, you know, we, so we kind of started building our SDR BDR team law in Q four last year and we actually saw exact similar result. Like we started doing one line of text and then like a cloud out video and it was pretty insane. Like same type thing. I was like, ah, we need to check that. Like I want to write a blog post, but we really need to like check that and make it

Joe: (22:56)
Sure it’s accurate. You guys are in a hot space. I mean, it’s definitely, as, as companies are starting to experiment with technologies like that and they see results like that, I think we’re going to take off Scott.

(23:11)
We’ve got some really great experience. It’s been a wild year. You’ve got a big org. Take me through kind of the inside of being a leader during this time. Um, you know, it’s, I find it’s pretty fascinating to hear like, uh, how things kind of went down, how you’ve kind of adjusted, um, and w just digging a little bit on, on how it’s been to be a leader during this year.

Scott: (23:38)
Yeah. Um, great. So, uh, something that I think a lot of people might agree with is, um, I don’t think I’ve ever learned as much about how to lead and how to nurture a team as I have in the last six months. Um, I mean, I hate using the word unprecedented because it’s used so frequently, but like literally the edit in the dictionary, I think this is what will eventually show up there. Um, and so if I think about,

(24:07)
Um, some

(24:09)
Key things that I’ve learned, let me talk first about my team. And we talked a little about customers, right? So for my team, I think the number one thing I’ve learned is really the importance of empathy and don’t get me wrong, but not like I wasn’t before the pandemic. And it’s always been important, but like, wow, you really need to understand and feel what each team member is experiencing from within their frame of reference. Right? And in some ways, like when we were all in the office, it was like this democratizer because everyone had the same opportunity to show up in the same. I don’t want to say it was a level playing field, but all of the other things going on in their lives were in some ways left behind, at least that’s the way to be. But every dynamic in someone’s personal life is like rock right into that and work life silly things like you’re on a zoom with someone and their kids, you know, interrupt. So there’s their family situation. Their partnerships, you know, their literal living space has all been sucked into their work experience. And by the way, there’s no way to separate your work from your personal cause it’s also munched together, right? That’s huge, huge issue with the team and finding right work balance when work is where you sleep. Right.

(25:22)
And so, you know, really, really being able to understand what someone’s situation is and sort of where they’re coming from, resetting your expectations, giving more room for there to be a wider range of how people are going to need to tackle things. And maybe even the timeline they’ll need to do it. That’s, that’s been really important. Um, and that, I think from a customer perspective, I think, uh, the number one thing we’ve learned like as a company, not just myself, um, is, uh, actually one of your previous episodes with our former colleague, Chris Kohler from box to that a couple of days ago. And he talked about the importance of simplicity, right? So everything that we do, and we just like any company, things had gotten so complex, we had these long range projects we were working on. We were almost trying to do too much.

(26:11)
And Zendesk sort of said, you know what, we’re going to simplify this. We’re going to start with our customers always first. And their experience are going to work back from there as opposed to what our plans are and try to make the customer spit into it. It means complete transparency, right? No imprint, asterix, no complicated processes that only makes sense to Zendesk and not to our customers. Uh, and so that’s been a huge thing that, um, that won’t end when the pandemic ends and we’re all back to quote unquote, that’s something that’s now like, it’s just part of who we are.

Joe: (26:47)
Yeah. I’m sure that’s been really interesting with Zendesk kind of spanning, spanning so many different sizes of businesses. Uh, you know, just like the trickle down of like, uh, smaller business using Zendesk and then smaller business, not making any money for six months. Yeah. And they’re like, uh, Hey, we can’t pay for your tool anymore. And I’m sure you have like, you know, your marketing and sales team and support team are like, well, let’s like work something out and figure out how we can keep you.

Scott: (27:14)
That’s just been pretty, pretty crazy. Yeah. And in fact, we did a lot of that. Right. But actually the very first thing that our CEO came out and said he wanted everyone to do is protect our customers, meetings, whatever it takes to make it right for them. And yes, you are absolutely right. We have a lot, especially SMBs. Right. Um, they got, and they’re in like restaurants, small restaurants using about what they went through in the early stages of the Penn DEMEC and the rule was basically do whatever it takes. You need us to pause your billing portability. It’s do something special for you to do something special for you because Zendesk is not luxury software. It’s what customers, you businesses use to have important interactions with their customers. And because someone was in some hard times or wasn’t able to pay or whatever, like we didn’t want to take that away from them. So sure.

Joe: (28:03)
That’s really cool. Well, thanks for kind of digging into that, you know, at the last question I always ask is what is the crystal ball question? Um, look into kind of the future a little bit, not thinking about that Pandemic, nothing about what kind of times we’re in, what do you think is like the future of marketing customer service? Where do you kind of see see trends moving?

Scott: (28:22)
Yeah. Um, one thing that is, you know, even when we’re post pandemic, I think, I think is here to stay is that, um, marketers are going to need to basically know how to reach and engage prospects and customers digitally all the time for now and forever. Like, I don’t think you can ever depend on being able to reach someone in a physical space, even when the pandemic is over and more people are back in offices. I mean, I think there’s just been this fundamental shift there. And so how you differentiate your digital experience is really how you’re going to stand out even more than today. And dusk, I’ve been calling this, you know, simplified digital first marketing and scale, right. It’s all about how do you like bring the richest most immersive experience to an online only world, um, and also get great ROI.

(29:12)
I mean, I was actually really surprised that when we move only online events, like every other company in the world, not only did it have a good ROI, because guess what, they were a lot cheaper, we actually generated more pipeline than from our in person events, just like kind of amazing to me. And so, you know, and also like, I don’t know that we’ll ever go back and do big conferences again. I mean, I actually managed the team conference and we have this conversation all the time, like how we’re going to be interrupted. We’ll do live in person at some point and at some scale, but just really rethink about all of that. Um, but re rethink all of that. And the other thing, which is sort of not related to that is, um, I think more and more brands will define and differentiate themselves based on attributes that are outside of their product offering or their creative expression.

(30:00)
Right. So in other words, how do you weave your cultural attributes, um, to really become customer facing and weaving them into your brand attributes? Right. And the examples of how we’re doing this is on desk now that I think is going to be more and more commonplace in the future is thinking about the community involvement as a company. You know, we roll up our sleeves and find our roots and the communities that we call home. And how does that become literally part of our brand, even in terms of how we do acquisition programs, right? We’re good neighbors. How do we really focus on social impact and make that a core part of our brand diversity equity inclusion? Obviously, it’s still huge right now. And we, we have, you know, like any company, we have a long way to go when it comes to that, but how do we weave all that stuff together and use that, uh, as a, as a differentiator, we also have this word that I love it’s test that says we’re humbled int right. It’s a confident and humble kind of smashed together. So how do we like infuse all of that stuff to actually, you know, differentiate ourselves so much that we’re able to attract people to our brand in ways that, uh, you know, maybe your competitors aren’t gonna be able to do.

Joe: (31:11)

I love that Scott. There’s some really great thoughts. Thank you so much for digging into a few things about customer experience, Zendesk overall, and the future of marketing. Really great conversation today.

Scott: (31:22)
Thank you. Thanks Joe, for having me great catching up with you too. You too. See ya. Bye.

Joe: (31:30)
Thanks for joining the DNA of an experience podcast. We hope you learned something that will help improve your collaboration and enhance the experience you create for your customer. Join the collaboration 2.0 movement today by getting cloud app, the instant business communication tool use to create instantly shareable videos, screenshots, and GiFs. Perfect for both internal and external communication. Get started for free@wwwdotgetcloudapp.com. Thank you. We look forward to seeing you next time.

Caro Griffin Podcast Transcript

CloudApp text in black with speech bubble/cloud in various shades of blue

Joe: (00:00)
Welcome to the DNA and experience podcast from cloud app, where we discuss how and why creating an experience is so important and the psychology behind what makes an experience. So great. Thanks for joining us, everyone. I am thrilled to have Carol Griffin with me here. Kero is the VP of operations from a tech ladies and I connected with the founder of tech ladies on Twitter, um, a couple of months ago, and I thought the kind of concept was really cool. Uh, I’ve kind of been involved with similar groups, uh, in my, my 15 years in tech and thought it’d be really interesting to host, uh, someone from their group here and was able to get with kero. I’m excited to kind of talk a little bit about tech ladies and also her experience with remote work and customer experience and hiring. Um, but I’d love to kind of pass the time more to kero, to introduce herself, uh, give a little bit of background of what’s going on with her and tech ladies, and we’ll go from there.

Caro: (01:10)
Great. Yeah. So, you know, I said I’m third Griffin. Um, but I’m, uh, most often known as Carolyn syrup on the internet. People are forgetting my last name and he’s getting that mixed up. Um, but, uh, you know, yeah said I’m the senior operations leader. I’m working at a tech ladies right now. Um, I started my career as a developer before making the shifts operations. Um, so that’s kind of my background and I’m really passionate about building sustainable businesses. So most of my experience has been at small mission driven companies. Um, most recently I was the director of ops at Skillcrush, which is a fully remote company in the tech education space. Um, and then after working part time with tech ladies for awhile have recently, um, come on full time with VP of ops. So, um, for those of you who are familiar, we’re a community of over a hundred thousand women working in tech and, you know, all kinds of roles. Um, and our goal is to really help women and other gender minorities level up in their careers. So we have an online community that’s really active and, um, weekly webinars as well as an active job board. And that’s really where we do a lot of our work on kind of the company partner side. Um, and then, yeah, I mean, I’ve worked remotely for most of my career and after spending several years traveling full time, I now live in Mexico city. So that’s why I’m calling it Sunday.

Joe: (02:23)
That’s wild. Yeah, it’s really cool. I love the mission and kind of values of tech ladies and, you know, I, why I’ve kind of always been, uh, connected to that, like community is I’ve had really great mentors and managers along the way that were women, um, and, you know, taught me so much. And they were definitely like mentors for that space. And so I’ve, uh, striped tried to stay connected, uh, there as well. Um, you know, with, you mentioned your, your remote, you’ve worked remote a long time, you’ve done a lot of remote hiring remote management. What is kind of the workplace look like to you? A, remote’s definitely a piece of that, but what does it look like to you?

Caro: (03:05)
Yeah, I think first and foremost, it’s asynchronous and flexible or at least that’s the future of what I want to see in a modern workplace. Um, I think remote work obviously became the norm overnight for a lot of us. Um, but we were headed in that direction anyway. Um, and there will always be people and companies who want to share a physical space. I think we’ll see that a bigger and bigger percentages of, uh, workplaces are at least partially remote and then even coal, coal located team. Um, in order to stay competitive really will have to embrace more flexibility in scheduling and work from home days. And that asynchronous work, um, will be required to make that happen, which I think is good for business and employees.

Joe: (03:45)
Yeah, I think that makes a lot of sense. Um, you know, I ran this survey a few weeks ago and overwhelmingly it was people talking about the hybrid workplace as being kind of the new, the new normal. Um, it was just almost around 70% said they preferred this like hybrid where you can kind of have the option to go into work. You can stay at home. Maybe you don’t feel that pressure to be in the office at eight 30. You can come in at 10 or whatever. Um, how has kind of moving toward remote, uh, really helped accelerate that helped businesses create playbooks and, um, really advance kind of the modern workplace.

Caro: (04:30)
Yeah, I mean, I think, uh, like I said, we were, I think I was like, especially tech particularly was moving in that direction already. Like I remember when I started a school crashing, this would have been almost six years ago now. Um, we used to ask students all the time why they wanted to make a career change and work in tech. And I remember seeing that there was, there was always a good pitchers that wanted to learn tech skills specifically, so they could have more flexibility in their careers and ultimately find remote jobs and stuff. Well, most of them are, but seeing just how big that group thought over the years was just really something to see. Like it became more than just the people in remote areas and those who were caretakers who were living with chronic illnesses, it really became the norm. And I would say from like 20 to 90%, um, and just the course of a couple of years and now, you know, remote is everywhere in tech and whether it’s here to stay or not.

(05:16)
And so I think, um, you know, there’s always been companies who’ve been really resistant to the idea of remote because they don’t see how it’s gonna work. Um, and I think forcing all of us to like, see how it’s gonna work and figure it out and see, you know, like it gets kind of, didn’t give us a choice in a lot of ways. Um, and I think that’s shown a lot of people that they don’t want to work remotely and companies that they don’t want to be remotely. I think it’s shown just as much. And I hopefully more people that like, this is totally possible. This is the thing that a lot of companies have been doing for a while now. And I’ve been doing well and have been using as a competitive advantage. Um, and so I think it just kinda, it just kinda forced us to figure it out in a lot of ways.

Joe: (05:53)
Yeah. And certainly like true remote work is easier than working from home during a pandemic. Uh, which is what I always say.

Caro: (06:03)
Yeah, it’s that distinction. I keep seeing that everywhere. And it’s so true. Like if you’re not working remotely, you’re working during a global pandemic and, and like reckoning in the U S and just like in a recession and like all of these other things. So this is something we also used to tell students at school crunch a lot twos last couple of months is that it’s like, if you can work remotely now and prove to your boss that you can do it with all of this other stuff happening, then like you have so much leverage to like negotiate remote work or flexibility. After the fact,

Joe: (06:31)
You know, I have a huge, uh, like corporate crush on get lab and how they’ve kind of been able to be, uh, the flagship remote company forever. Um, and I had, you know, I have Emily [inaudible], who was a, uh, strategy lead over there on the podcast, um, earlier in the year. And she talked a lot about how they still try and bring people in and keep people together. Uh, there’s still kind of that personal element that needs to be there. We are humans. We still like to be together and hang out and do things it’s not work related. Um, what do you think from you, what you found, what is like the number one tip you have for remote work? Um, and let’s take, let’s take that two ways. Let’s say like for you as a remote worker and also as a remote manager, uh, what are, what are too? Yeah.

Caro: (07:27)
Yeah. So I guess for companies, I would say my number one tip is to embrace asynchronous work early. Um, I think there’s a difference between remote work and flexible work and they’re not necessarily the same thing. Um, and I think the more we all get accustomed to working remotely, the more candidates are going to recognize that difference. Then the more team members are going to recognize the difference. And so I think a lot of the advantages you have now just for being remote, um, you’re gonna, you’re gonna lose if you don’t adapt to also being flexible and, and synchronous. And I think, um, you know, flexibility is one thing that I think asynchronous work is how we embrace that flexibility and really support it. Um, and so, um, what I like really mean when I talk about, I think it’s just like don’t default to zoom calls, try to solve things, um, without having to be in the same room at the same time, instead of sending that Slack message, you know, one line at a time taking someone’s attention, then the full two paragraph and just normalize, letting people respond when they hit a natural wall and whatever they’re working with, you know, context switching takes such a huge toll on our productivity.

(08:26)
Um, and the more we can hire good communicators who really have good written communication skills, um, and can that we trust our employees to be getting work done, even if we don’t see their little green actives on Slack. Um, it’s just gonna take us so much further.

Joe: (08:43)
Awesome. So how do you kind of enable that, um, what what’s kind of some training you can do to both managers and employees to really help facilitate that and create that culture?

Caro: (08:56)
Yeah, I mean, I think, um, the, one of the things that I think we really have focused on on my teams is this idea of outcomes versus output. Um, and I think it’s important in anything but especially important in, um, a remote context, because, you know, at the end of the day, I don’t care how many sales calls someone did. I care how many clients they closed. And so like just trying to be really transparent and clear with my team about, you know, how, um, like what I expect from them and what metrics they’re going to be measured by, and then hold them to those, right? Like, and it’s hard, it’s a hardship for some people to make and some people can’t make it, but the best employees can. And those are the ones you want on your team, because, you know, we’re programmed to want to check things off the, to do list that’s really rewarding.

(09:45)
Um, but like who cares, how many tasks member of your team finished? They didn’t accomplish anything. So if there’s just always the one that comes in at eight 30 and leave and stays until seven, if they’re getting half of the results, someone who works like a six hour day and takes a full lunch hour, you know, like, um, and I think obviously you have to make sure that there’s like parody and fairness across your team and that, you know, one person is employing the whole team, but, um, but I think really focusing on what, uh, outcomes you want versus like sustain, like, you know, um, is important.

Joe: (10:18)
Yeah. That makes a lot of sense in it. It’s kind of like a, definitely like a top down model where like I’m here at cloud app, SAS companies are really focused on annual recurring revenue. That’s kind of like one of the key key things that, uh, businesses, you know, keep their doors open with, but we turn that into an acronym for like the three goals that we care about, which is acquisition, retention and revenue. Um, and so activation is our acquisition, you know, is getting new people in retention is loyalty community, keeping our customers happy. Uh, and then revenue, obviously it’s kind of, you know, the last one. So I think to your point, like having that top down and then orgs kind of fit into those, uh, overall outcomes, uh, really, really helped drive the culture.

Caro: (11:14)
Exactly. Yeah. And I think you can have, you know, we have a similar, um, that’s why I said the teams I’ve worked on and thinking about, you know, like what’s the turn is and what refunds are like. And that’s really been my focus on kind of operation side and having, um, you know, teams on those, but also individuals, um, who are responsible for certain aspects and just really trusting them to get the job done and setting expectations around what you expect them to get done. And what goals do you expect them to hit, but also like when you expect them to ask for help and like raise a red flag, you know, that they need more support or, um, and I mean, I think you mentioned when you initially asked me two sessions, but then I went down that tangent. But, um, I, again, another way to do that is really, it is important to connect with your team and especially remotely.

(11:56)
And, um, I think something I’ve always been really proud of is trying to think we had a, um, pain on my last team that was anything you can do, we can do remotely. Um, and we really like took that probably a little too far sometimes, but, um, we’re really trying to make sure that we got to know each other as people and that we were friends on top of being coworkers. Um, and so, and, and setting, um, like the expectation and like the culture of the fat is like something we’ve been encouraged. Um, I think when a long way, and it meant that we had a lot of really fun traditions, my favorite of which was baby shower. So we used to do remote baby shower for 14 members, went on leave. And, um, we did a lunch and learn that come with like ball Brock style painting class.

(12:38)
We’ve had remote bar classes that someone hosted, you know, we’ve done a lot of things remotely. Um, and, but I don’t think it’s all about just like events and hanging out. Right. Especially cause you don’t want people to feel obligated to spend our personal time at work. And so, um, something I really try to think about as a manager is finding ways for my team, um, to grow together and learn together. So whether that’s lunch and learns or kind of the more fun hobby version, we call it second chairs or reading, uh, having book clubs, um, but also celebrating whether that’s baby showers or happy hours, um, and then like working together. Um, because I think there’s a big push back. I know I’m going to contradict myself a little bit, cause I just talked about like the beauty of asynchronous work, but sometimes like you do need a meeting. Sometimes you need a face to face and also video on and like into just have not every dream college meeting, some of them are replacing those, like I’m walking up to your desk and asking you a quick question or like pairing. Um, and so really encouraging, like pairing and mentorship across, um, so that you’re not just communicating asynchronously via Slack all the time.

Joe: (13:42)
Really great. Yeah. I think those are some really good examples. Um, you’ve got some really great experience with tech ladies. I want to spend a little bit of time there. Um, thank you for, you know, kind of some overall broad 10,000 foot view comments as well. Um, two part question, we’ll start with part one and then let you answer and then go into part two. Um, what are some tips for really hiring and finding a diverse talent? Um, we mentioned, or we’re talking about Utah before we jumped on. And the challenge with Utah is that one it’s a small state. So there’s just less people to draw from, um, to a lot of women choose to stay home when they have children. Um, when Utah, Texas, you know, lots of Midwest States probably have that similar challenge. So you get, you know, 50% of the workforce that would be qualified, kind of pulls themselves out, um, how you kind of find that talent, certainly being remote friendly helps. So you’re not stuck with, uh, only people around your footprint. Um, but go dig into that little bit.

Caro: (14:52)
Yeah. I mean, I guess the first question I have when you, especially when you talked about Utah specifically is like, why are those women choosing to opt out? Because I think a lot of women don’t opt out because they want to opt out and opt out because they, even if, I mean, you could argue the word why, but like they opt out because they feel like for whatever reason, that’s the best alternative for them because it’s like, is it because they, they only option is they feel like it’s a 45 hour work week or because their childcare is so expensive and you know, or like whatever those cases may be. And so how do you solve for that? And so I think, um, like the ability is a really big driver there and across men and women, we’re seeing more and more. And with HR side that that’s like flexibility and parental leave or some of the biggest desired benefits for both genders.

(15:36)
And so, I mean, I think, but overall I think the number one thing that I stress to teams all the time is that you can’t expect, okay, I’m underrepresented groups, whether that’s women or be ICRC or chronically ill or veterans or whoever that is like, you can’t expect them to come to you. Um, you have to go to them. So you can’t post the job on your careers website and expect them to apply. You just can’t, you have to, um, go find them where they’re at and convince them that you’re worth working for. And that you’re trustworthy. Cause a lot of these people are underrepresented in industry, like, and have probably had some toxic experiences. And so, um, you know, like as a hiring manager, I relied, I never posted, I like don’t want to name names, but like I never posted on like the really big job boards that were going to, those were never the good sources of candidates.

(16:23)
Anyway, I was always posting on diversity boards like tech ladies. I’ve hired several ones, tech lady before I worked there. And um, but also there’s diversity in tech and people of color in fact. And, um, there’s a lot of really good job boards and we would even just like bit more niche job boards that are a little specific. Um, those are all good places to look. And then also just like specifically reaching out to candidates, um, whether that be on LinkedIn or get hub or Twitter, um, and encouraging them to apply, um, can go a really long way. And I’ve seen the difference between, you know, having a, uh, candidate pool with 10% women and 80% women. Um, but I do think your employer brand, um, and the fact that you’re remote can go, can go such a long way, but that it really helps to start with, um, making sure that your job description is inclusive, um, which I’m happy to talk about. That’s a separate note and, um, and then really getting it in front of the people that you’re trying to attract, um, and, and tracking who’s looking at it and who’s applying and making sure that you’re also not disqualifying them at a disproportionate rate that like, even if you manage to get, you know, a 50, 50 pool of men and women for your roles, that you’re not, then that when you move on to the next stage, it’s not 90% men. Um, because that, that should be a red flag. All of us.

Joe: (17:40)
Yeah, definitely any bring us a really good points. I think, uh, locally here in Utah, and I know in the tech community, I I’ve seen like the paternity and maternity we’ve, um, I, there’s a couple of local kind of larger companies here in Utah, like Qualtrics and one named podium that, uh, has daycare as a part of their headquarters. Um, and yeah, so I think it is, it is partly like that brand, uh, making sure people know like, Hey, if you come on, you know, you, you have these options. Um, one other cool thing that, that Adobe was working on that I was a part of and never materialize while as there, uh, was something called the returnship. Uh, so it was women who chose to take out five years or whatever it might be to have the workforce. And Adobe was working with probably Microsoft and some other tech companies to have this like return program where they would bring women in, have an internship, like a three to six month engagement to give them kind of that skill set back that they may, you know, maybe didn’t keep going. Uh, but I thought that was another kind of cool idea that, that,

Caro: (19:00)
Yeah, I would love to see returnships become a bigger and bigger part of the industry, especially at bigger companies that have the resources to support them. I think it’s, there’s so many good wins there, but I also think even smaller companies, something that, um, I’ve done a lot as a, as a manager is hire people at 80% or 90%, um, and just give them, um, shorter work days or, um, Fridays. I mean, I would say a four day work week is a lot more disruptive to the team, but we’ve had a lot of team members who’ve come on and because they’re remote, they have been out of the workforce for years. Um, but because they’re remote and more flexible, um, they’ve been able to like kind of reenter the workforce because that works for them and their schedule in their family for whatever reason. Um, and so I think anytime you can do that, especially if you can even just force yourself to not have like a knee jerk reaction of that, we can’t do that. We need someone full time and it’s like, but do you really like, can you get by with like five hours, less hours a week? Um, and like figure out a way to make that work because I mean, the return on a diversity, you know, like the studies have been done, they’re more profitable. So like, how can you facilitate that? Um, so

Joe: (20:07)
Yeah, good to have that diverse thought, um, that diverse background, people thinking differently, really challenging each other to, you know, good environment. What, what part of that part to the question, um, say you’re able to bring on, you know, a good background, different, different background of people. Um, that’s also its own unique challenge when you’re not hiring the, say you have a team of five and you’re not hiring the same five people that all have the same professors at whatever school and are all kind of the same cultural background. How do you kind of support that? How do you provide a good culture that can, um, you know, take the benefits from that versus, uh, you know, some of the downsides there might be?

Caro: (20:55)
Yeah. I mean, I think first, um, it really is about building that strong, positive culture. And I think, you know, some of the things I mentioned before around finding ways for your team to learn together and celebrate together, whether that’s like we’re launching a new feature, let’s all get on a zoom call and do a countdown clock for five minutes, which is something we’ve definitely done before. Or like, you know, those are, are things that build camaraderie. And, um, I have a friend who always uses the term, like it puts credits in there in your account. Um, and so I think, um, as much as I don’t always want to think of, you know, work relationships is all transactional. Like it’s true. You know, when you get to know someone you’re willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. And so I think that can really provide a good foundation.

(21:34)
Um, and I also think it’s important to provide lots of avenues for feedback because different people be comfortable sharing things in different ways. You know, I’ve had team members who feel so comfortable telling me like anything and everything, and then I’ve had some that I feel like I still have a good relationship with who are still a little bit more, um, try around being critical or saying something they didn’t feel comfortable. And so having an anonymous way for them to give that feedback. And I think also, especially if you’re bringing in your personal man or your first black engineer or whatever the case may be, I think it’s important to also, um, to recognize that and to name it, that they’re the only one in the room and say that, like, you want them to tell you how things are going to give the real answer and also should try to provide them with alternative support, whether that is, you know, a, um, a coach that looks like them, or has their experience, if there’s no one at your company that can provide them with that.

(22:23)
Um, and, or, um, thinking them up with someone from the other team, um, and just like giving them that, so that they have that resource to, to, um, say, you know, like, Hey, I’m having a problem with you have that problem. Um, having those buddies, um, can really go a long way. And I also think it’s like from an institutional level, thinking about everything you do with the company sends a message to your employees. And something I talk a lot about with teams is thinking about the benefits you offer. Um, and this comes actually back to job descriptions. Cause I always recommend that teams put their, like information about their team and their culture and their benefits on the job posting, um, cause the job posted the job ad, you know, it should be an advertisement of why someone wants to work there. Um, and if you are listing like free lunches and you don’t mention your parental leave or you offer different amounts for men and women, like that’s telling me what you value. Um, and sometimes, um, I think companies, especially ones who are a little more just, and just haven’t realized how something comes across with a certain group of people, um, can, can make a lot of mistakes. So having, um, so really looking at all of those critically and asking for feedback from people who don’t look like you can really go a long way.

Joe: (23:34)
This is awesome. Yeah. Kara, there’s some really great tips. I appreciate you kind of digging into that and providing some knowledge there. Um, I always, I ask kind of the crystal ball question at the end, we touched on modern workplace a little bit. Um, what do you see the future of the modern workplace looking like, um, you know, what is it five years from now when we are out of a pandemic hopefully, and we’re all kind of back to normal with, you know, quotes, what does that look like? Do the Googles of the world still support remote work? Do we get more of the like Shopify guys and it lasts scenes that have said, Hey, we’re remote forever now, or Twitter as well, jumped on that. Um, the kind of like, you know, back to business per usual, that we were before,

Caro: (24:27)
Um, I think it depends on the size of the company. I think some of these is expected that they have to feel out of these big companies go fully remote. I think a lot of them will, will, will go back to the office, maybe not a hundred percent, but I think, um, particularly bigger companies like that who are, um, trying to be really disruptive, um, and, you know, take big things. I think we’ll have always had some in offices, especially for their more executive leadership, um, and like the more senior team members. But I think that, um, and I hope that the modern workplace, um, is more flexible even when, when companies do go back to the office. And I like to think that we’re also having a push towards more sustainable businesses. Um, and I think those companies that are focused on that, um, kind of runway and who are focused on, um, you know, the more mission driven, um, stuff I think will, will really embrace them at work. And I think we’ll see more of these like get labs, buffers, you know, base camp kind of stuff. Um, more skill crutches. I hope we’re tech ladies. Um, and that, uh, and that that’s just gonna help bring people who’ve been excluded from tech into tech at a higher rate, whether that is, you know, women are BI POC or, um, people who have different needs and

Joe: (25:42)
Awesome. Yeah. I think we’re on a similar, similar train of thought, which is great. Yeah. I think, I think we’re moving toward that direction, which is kind of fun to see it evolve.

Caro: (25:53)
Yeah, absolutely.

Joe: (25:55)
Caro, uh, you’re, you’re great. I appreciate the conversation and taking some time out time out of your day. Um, good luck with everything we’ll be in touch and everyone definitely check out tech ladies. Um, great place to find that diverse talent like Carol mentioned, and lots of other resources there as well. Um, and yeah, thanks again for your time. Thanks for joining the DNA of an experience podcast. We hope you learned something that will help improve your collaboration and enhance the experience you create for your customer. Join the collaboration 2.0 movement today by getting cloud app, the instant business communication tool used to create instantly shareable videos and GiFs. Perfect for both internal and external communication get started for free at www dot [inaudible] dot com. Thank you. We look forward to seeing you next time.

Ryan Steinberg Podcast Transcript

CloudApp text in black with speech bubble/cloud in various shades of blue

Joe: (00:00)
Welcome to the DNA and experience podcast from cloud app, where we discuss how and why creating an experience is so important and the psychology behind what makes an experience. So great. Thanks for joining us. Hey, everyone, I’m thrilled to have Ryan Steinberg with me. Ryan is the head of global customer support operations at Intercom. Um, and I’m really excited to talk to him. Intercom is doing some really cool things, uh, with a lot of ways to connect with customers and also provides a little bit of automation. So I think Ryan will be able to give us some good insight into how they’re providing an experience for their customers, and also really just how they’re leading kind of a piece of customer experience business. So Ryan, if you wouldn’t mind giving us a little bit of Intel about yourself and talk about Intercom and how you ended up there and what you’re doing over there.

Ryan: (00:58)
Sure. Thanks for having me, Joe. Um, so it’s Joe said work at Intercom. I lead our support operations team, a small but mighty team that handles, uh, you know, our customer support org of around 60, 70 people around the world, uh, supporting our global 30,000 customers. So a lot of complexity there that we might get into, uh, in terms of how I started out, um, joined Intercom about five years ago, started out doing just frontline support. It was a small team then, and then eventually just worked my way up into the operation space and to where I am now. So for those who are not familiar, Intercom is a customer communication platform. Basically one of those little, uh, chat messengers on bottom right hand corner of a site that allows support teams to talk to you, marketing teams, to talk to sales teams, whatever it might be. It’s a two wave way, a two way platform for you and your customers to get to know each other, get in contact with each other.

Joe: (01:56)
That’s awesome. You know, it’s, it’s definitely unique time. Um, there’s lots going on and obviously in the tech space and a lot of other areas, it’s all about customer experience, really finding ways to connect with your customers. So they aren’t churning. So they’re staying with you during, uh, times where they may need to cut back on budgets. What do you think is really the DNA or the root of a good customer experience?

Ryan: (02:24)
Yeah. Um, well, let’s see, uh, probably the, the foundational thing, everything from, you know, your marketing side to your sales team interactions, your support interaction comes with the foundation of respecting their time and respecting them as individuals. And that comes in a bunch of different forms. So specifically thinking about the support side of things, a lot of that is just around setting proper expectations, making sure that people, uh, aren’t basically expecting one thing and getting something completely different. So managing that from the second day, get to your site or the second day right into, I think that’s really important for support teams, but overall it’s, it’s giving people options. It’s giving people the ability to do things the way that they want to do it to a certain, you know, to a certain level that, you know, we can’t have people running wild, then, you know, sales teams need to sell.

(03:15)
So at some point they’re going to step in, but it’s giving people, uh, the ability to self serve. If they want to self serve, it’s giving people the ability to talk to a human and really go deep that way. Um, a lot of it is just about respecting that we’re all individuals that we all are likely not going to be spending our weekends going on SAS sites, trying to buy new products. You know, some people might be sometimes it’s a full time job. Uh, but most people are not really interested in doing that for many hours in the day. So respecting their time in the way that they want to approach that problem.

Joe: (03:48)
So Intercom provides a great way to quickly get questions answered. Self-serve like you mentioned, or connect with the knowledge base that you may have as a company or also, uh, you know, chat with a live person. How, how is inter Intercom using Intercom? We always called it Adobe on Adobe internally when I was there. And we definitely dog food a lot here at cloud app. A what are you guys using Intercom for yourselves and how has that been helpful?

Ryan: (04:19)
Yeah, we call it, I fry. And so there’s some consistency there, um, in terms of how we’re using it, we’re using it across all of our different products. So, uh, obviously our support team is in there pretty much, you know, 95 plus percent of their day. They’re talking to customers almost exclusively through Intercom. Occasionally we’ll hop on a call. Um, but almost all of it is happening through the messenger through Intercom, uh, when it comes to our marketing and sales teams, a lot of that stuff is also happening through Intercom. So our sales team is going to be talking to customers in a mixed between email their own, you know, private work email as well as Intercom and the messenger. So all of our, like top of funnel SDR work goes through Intercom. Um, and then on the marketing side of things, uh, we use a blend between Intercom and Marquetto is probably the other major tool that we use, I’d say, uh, are, you know, proactive kind of outreach campaigns to leads cold or hot is probably going through Marchetto. Uh, but when somebody has an actual customer and they’re in our product and we’re trying to reach out to them about, you know, a world tour event that we are doing and we want to get them tickets, or we released a new product or they just added a new product and they need to figure out how to use that. All of that is happening through Intercom.

Joe: (05:40)
That’s really cool. Yeah. It’s I love, I always love to hear how, uh, you know, businesses, it’s easy. Sometimes it’s easier to sell than it is to use. Um, so I love to hear how people are trying to find ways unique ways to use their product and make it better and really be customer zero.

Ryan: (05:59)
Yeah. Yeah. And, you know, we’re always trying to, to basically remove those hacks or move those other products and, and use our own, uh, you know, use Intercom. Uh, but at the end of the day, we’re realistic. We’re adding people who have come from other companies and done really, really well at other companies using tool X, Y, or Z. And they’re going to come in and be like, okay, we can use Intercom and this and get this thing, which is greater than the sum of those parts. Awesome. Yeah. We’re, we’re, we’re we try to be realistic, you know,

Joe: (06:29)
So in a, in a digital age with customer support, uh, now in tools like Intercom, great knowledge bases on customer support tools, uh, Google videos on YouTube, lots of opportunities for people to troubleshoot on their own before they finally get to someone on a, you know, the customer support team. Um, how is, how does Intercom and, and how does your team help support the customer support team? When, you know, you have someone who’s probably spent an hour searching for step ways to not have to contact you, uh, before they actually contact you.

Ryan: (07:10)
Yeah. Uh, so before they actually get to the realization that they do need to contact you, we’re doing a couple of things. So we have that knowledge base, like you spoke about, uh, which is an Intercom product that, you know, we have a team of a couple of people that are curating that and managing that and adding new things and old things. So, uh, it’s, it’s pretty damn UpToDate and pretty good. You can get a lot of information there. Uh we’re we already have a, a community that we, uh, have invested a little bit in, but we are really excited that in the next, uh, what was the day, a couple of weeks, actually, we are going to be launching a bigger community. I actually might be breaking news here. So anybody who’s watching, uh, not sure if I’m supposed to be talking about it, but you know, we’re here.


(07:54)
Uh, so yeah, we’re going to be revamping and relaunching our community, which is launching in a couple of weeks. And it is really, really, really damn good. Uh, the team that, you know, that’s adjacent to my team, but I’m the sales and support operations group that’s been working on. This is top notch in this thing. It looks, it looks really great. It looks just like an extension of our site, which is really, really cool. Um, so that’s before people actually realized that they needed to talk to us, hopefully those two things can knock out a lot of different individuals, but when they do realize that they needed to talk to us, we give them a, a bunch of different platforms by which they can write into us. So on the knowledge base, there’s that message, or there you can write in barely easily there, if you’re just on our site and our app, obviously the Intercom messengers, they’re really easy for them to talk in.

(08:37)
And then from there, conversation comes in and, uh, you know, gets routed accordingly within the support org in terms of what my crew is doing there. I think I’ve answered the question exactly. I have. My crew is doing there. Uh, we have on my team who specifically focuses on automation. So this is everything from, uh, working with the team that is managing our knowledge base to automatically suggest articles out to people based on what they’re writing in, about what URL they’re writing and about as well as, uh, managing the suite of basically like pre-canned answers, uh, tiny little like replies that you can send to people based on a machine learning model, uh, within EUROCOM that looks at the text, looks through other conversations and sends out something that we think might be helpful there.

Joe: (09:24)
That’s awesome. So, so as far as, uh, let’s, let’s look at the journey a little bit and you know, what it, what does it look like if I’m having an issue with Intercom? Um, and I, you know, finally get to someone on the customer support team and you’re able to close the issue. What’s kind of like the followup process, um, to make sure that, you know, they don’t have an issue in the future or everything was, uh, you know, fixed, I guess, um, kind of that extra level of customer experience. What are you guys doing?

Ryan: (09:59)
Yeah. Yeah. So on the micro, just within that conversation level, um, we have a workflow that basically we will, when we get to a point in which we think the conversation is actually resolved, that we’ve answered the customer’s question. We’re not going to just immediately close it out. It creates a little bit of issues with our stats and something that my team has to work on to adapt those and learn from those. But what we’ll do is we’ll basically just snooze that conversation for a day and then another day follow up, uh, throughout that process being like, Hey, I think this conversation think this issue is resolved. Let me know if otherwise I’ll be here. And then at that point, we actually closed the conversation. So we’re giving people opportunities, you know, again, like once you’ve gotten your issue solved with the customer support person, most people aren’t like this, but there’s a, a, you know, a decent chunk of people who are just gonna walk away and not say anything else and like, not give the thumbs up.

(10:51)
Yes. That would tell us that was helpful. It’s like, you know, again, their job is not to talk to customers. More people, their job is to use Intercom to talk to their customers, whatever it might be. So once they’ve gotten their answer, they’re moving on. Uh, so we’re just following up to make sure that, that people are actually getting the answers that they were looking for. Um, on a, on a, on a bigger level, uh, we’re doing like pretty, uh, sophisticated sort of tagging of all of our conversations at which point that information is going all throughout the company. So my team is looking at it. Uh, our product team is looking at our marketing team, the team that’s handling those knowledge base articles is looking at it. This information is spreading throughout the company, uh, taking that voice of the customer, uh, aggregated it up, uh, and sending that out to a bunch of different teams so they can act accordingly.

Joe: (11:43)
Awesome. Yeah, that’s really cool to see, uh, you know, results democratized across different groups and help them really understand so that everyone kind of has that customer feedback loop. Um, one thing we kind of do here at cloud app, that’s kind of fun. Uh, and it definitely interesting is taking a turn at customer support, uh, once a month. And so it really gets us really close to, you know, complaints people might have or struggles people are having. Um, and also like we get really good feedback. That’s actually really valuable for marketing like content. I mean, when people have good things to say, it’s like, Hey, that tagline that you just mentioned is actually really cool. I’m going to use that for some, for some in the future. So that’s really interesting.

Ryan: (12:33)
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, no better way to learn how your customers talk about your product than talking to them.

Joe: (12:40)
So, you know, we’re, we’re streaming live right now. Uh, everyone is using video conferencing tools and maybe fatigued by this point. Um, but how, how can video visuals, uh, screenshots gifts, other things be helpful, both in a knowledge base and also with reps, uh, closing tickets.

Ryan: (13:02)
Yeah, definitely. Um, a bunch of different people on our team. We have like a somewhat central gift repository of our most common kind of questions. So that’s a super efficient way to get that information out, uh, based on whatever the conversation is, a support rep on our support team will create a custom gift annotated, so on and so forth and send that along. So I think it’s a really great way when you’re in that conversation to, uh, you know, give it an extra little, uh, boost of confidence in the answer and boost that, you know, this person’s gonna understand what you’re actually talking about. So it’s, it’s, you know, it’s more effective than just the picture or just words. So, uh, when you have the time to do that, I think it’s, it’s definitely a good thing to do. Um, on the broader sort of like video and visually indicating things, we have a product that actually does this really well, just called product tours, which basically just allows you to send pointer messages and walk people through your product when they either first get to, uh, you know, first start paying you or add a new product a couple of months later, uh, this is a really great way to just walk through a feature set and lead people through the clicks necessary to do whatever it is they might be doing.

(14:18)
So that’s been really helpful for getting customers onboarded onto new products, adding old products, whatever it might be to get them understanding like the motions of how this actually will work in the day to day.

Joe: (14:31)
That’s really great. Yeah. They’re all repeatable tasks. I like that you said that I think it’s, um, helps automate speed up. I’m sure that improves satisfaction, uh, and also just fatigue on the rep, uh, to be able to get through now, everything that’s asked of them to get to zero tickets. Yeah, definitely. What is, you know, this is a kind of the point of the conversation where I flip it on its head a little bit and take you as a consumer. What is the recent experience you had, um, that made you more a loyal customer, uh, take us through kind of that journey and maybe, uh, you know, things you, you learned and things you enjoyed that a brand or a tech tool or whatever, uh, provided for you.

Ryan: (15:18)
Yeah, that’s a good question. Um, the first one that comes to mind is around just the travel industry right now. Uh, obviously there’s a little bit of chaos and in that world right now, but I think that, you know, I, I, with our global support team and, you know, five different offices around the world, I am lucky enough to travel a decent amount with our jobs. So with that, you know, I’m playing the loyalty game with United and Marriott. So I’m very, very much impressed by how they’ve communicated out, how they’re going to be treating their, you know, their customers that spend a lot of time with them throughout the year. Um, in this case specifically, uh, extending the whatever benefits or tier level you’re at this year through next year. Um, I think that’s just like a very simple thing that they did. I’m not going to be traveling for business for the rest of this year and probably for the foreseeable future.

(16:13)
Um, but just thinking about that and the way that they proactively messaged, uh, the people that, you know, spend the most money with them, but most valuable customers to them. I’ve been very happy with that on a, on a smaller scale. I think funny enough, it’s the grocery store down the street from me just like three blocks away that, uh, basically I’ve been, I’ve been going to once a week to get all of our stuff. And when all of this started, you know, when shit started hitting the fan back in, in March and April, um, I was very much impressed by how they, they took their employee safety really, really seriously, but the way that they were actually communicating to that customer to their customers was what impressed me. So they had, you know, the, the, the face shields, the like the glass between the customer where you’re checking out at like the cashier or the person checking it.

(17:10)
You had somebody at the, at the front of the store, basically making sure that every single person that came in was wearing masks. There’s somebody like wiping down all the cards, 24 seven, like all of those little things, they did it from such a early stage of all of this and active with such confidence there to protect their employees and protect their customers at the end of the day, that, that, you know, when that was the playbook that everybody started using a couple of weeks later, it was like, Oh, crap, luckiest, lucky, like old school Lucky’s groceries was the thing that started all this in my mind.

Joe: (17:44)
Yeah. That’s really cool. It’s been really fascinating to see innovation for sure. And, and kind of, especially at that small business level, uh, just trying to figure out how to keep people safe, how to provide a good, uh, good, uh, experience and make sure people come back. And it definitely creates some of that loyalty. I want to, you know, I’m, I’m, I’m sure. Uh, well, I’m, I’m not sure, but maybe your support team is a lot of them is remote or spread across a us or the world. Um, how has it been kind of like onboarding new talent, uh, during, you know, remote work shift, um, what are some tips and tricks that you guys have, uh, for, you know, bringing new people on and interviewing virtually and hiring remotely, um, and just making that, you know, a good experience for your employees.

Ryan: (18:37)
Yeah, that’s, that’s a really good question. Um, so we are lucky enough that what was it probably nine months ago now? Uh, our sales and support operations enablement team, uh, basically took a giant ax to all of our onboarding materials and, uh, let’s call it modernized. It there’s a whole bunch of, you know, video added and gifts and made it a lot more like our knowledge base with ton of self-served materials. So, uh, we actually had a dedicated stream of work. That was, that was last year, basically thinking about when we were adding a bunch of support people, uh, that onboarding all those support people is a really, really expensive task. It takes a lot of your best people, uh, best Tibor people out of the inbox, out of away from talking to customers and has them dedicated to onboarding these new people. So we wanted to basically move the shift from real life one-on-one in person kind of trainings to, uh, the more asynchronous, uh, do it yourself kind of training. So we were lucky in that when everything sort of went fully remote, uh, we were well prepared when it comes to bringing on new employees, uh, in a way that doesn’t rely entirely on those one on one interactions.

(19:56)
Yeah. Um, on the hiring front, I think, you know, just maintaining the same sort of as best we can maintain the same sort of experience, which is, you know, making sure that people have enough breaks throughout the day, making sure people are, uh, sort of taken care of that. They know that, you know, despite the fact that you’re doing it from your living room, maybe with four roommates, uh, that, you know, we still care about the experience that you have, that you have the time to think and process throughout the entire, uh, interview, uh, experience.

Joe: (20:26)
Awesome. I appreciate you kind of diving into that a lot. Um, you know, it’s, it’s definitely unique. I have a couple of interns this summer on my team and I haven’t met them. Uh, everything was done virtually. I definitely relied a lot on referrals for those, a little heavier. I, um, but it was, it’s been definitely interesting and kind of like figuring out how to lead in that situation and, uh, you know, a very junior person, uh, making sure they’re having a good experience.

Ryan: (21:00)
Yeah. On that note, have you, have you realized or recognized that your ability to pick up on all of like the key body language and in person interaction, things that we rely so heavily on in social situations, have you, have you realized that you’ve made progress there since this whole thing started back in March, April?

Joe: (21:20)
It was a great question. I think a little bit, um, I do appreciate, uh, that no, a cloud app, obviously a lot of, you know, most of what we do is, is video based, uh, or visual base. Um, but I feel like you definitely have that added layer of context and tone, which is helpful versus just like an email. Um, so it’s nice to be able to connect with people. It, I do see the future being more of a hybrid, not like fully a hundred percent remote because there is such a value to getting people together and an energy that it’s really fun to do, like a virtual scavenger hunt, like we’ve done on zoom. Um, but you know, we, we had an offsite in January right before, you know, everything came down and we built these bikes for like this service project and we all went skiing together in Utah and it was just, it’s just different. So you can find ways to try and replicate it, but I definitely see it being like a, you know, a new hybrid. Uh, but I do appreciate the skills work. We’re all building.

Ryan: (22:32)
Definitely, definitely. Uh, the thing I miss the most by far is white boarding with people. And because of that, uh, thankfully my girlfriend that this happened, I don’t know how she did, but she let me, uh, put up a whiteboard in our bedroom. So I have a four by three foot whiteboard just right next to where she sleeps that I gotta get real or yeah, yeah, yeah. We’ll see. There’s only three misplaced holes in the wall. So I think I did a pretty good job. Uh, all things considered,

Joe: (23:06)
You know, Ryan, I want to, this has been a great conversation, a lot of fun talking with you, getting your tips and tricks on things going on. I’d love to kind of have you look into your crystal ball and see, you know, what you think the future of experience businesses, or we could talk about the modern workplace, you know, really just where, where do you see things kind of moving on?

Ryan: (23:29)
Yeah. Um, I think, I think the thing that most companies are going to move towards is creating more of that in person kind of interaction that we have online. So what I mean specifically by that, you know, thinking about customer experience is that let’s say you have like a regular that comes into your shop. Um, and you know, let’s say you’re a small grocery shop to, to stay on that example. And they come in and, you know, every single week that they, they go and pick out gala apples, cause then their wife just loves gala apples. Uh, one week, like the gala apples just look like crap or maybe there’s none. So they talked to like the managers, like, Hey, come here every week, get five gal apples for the week. Like what’s going on here. Um, and the manager talks to them and get some information.

: (24:20)
They there’s like, okay, well we’ll, we’ll figure it out next week. And then the next week they come the next week they come in and the same managers there and they know that have the gala apples. And at that point, like the manager walks over. It’s like, Hey, look at these, like these, these look really great. Just like, you know, obviously that’s not a super-low of example, but, um, it’s stuff like that, which is that knowing the context of previous interactions and allowing that to inform how you’re going to service or talk with somebody in that particular interaction that’s about to happen. So on the customer support side of things, like sometimes, you know, we have like every single business has their own sort of like second patient and how they want to cut up their customers, whether it’s by spend some other metric product suite to that determines what kind of customer experience they’re actually going to get, uh, whether it’s, you know, just based on the topic that they’re writing and about, but bringing all those things together, getting a holistic picture of where they’re at, where they’ve been, the experience that they’ve had in the past, and then adjusting, potentially breaking the rule of your, your sort of constant segmentation to account for the fact that maybe the last time they talked to your team, they talked to somebody who, you know, gave them a crap experience.

(25:31)
You need to want to really like show them that you’ve improved this time around, or maybe they’d been with you for five years. And you want to, you know, despite the fact that they’re not paying you all that much, you want to sort of bump them up into the next year of service. It’s knowing the history, knowing the past, uh, knowing where this person has been with respect to your cuts, your company, and the people that work for your company and allowing that to affect what you’re doing today.

Joe: (25:58)
Yeah. I think that was a great analogy. It’s kind of like the, trying to create that one to one experience, um, without being creepy in the digital space. Um, it’s, it’s a fine line for sure to provide that personalized experience. Um, especially when you’re not like talking to someone it’s like, uh, you know, I, I searched for shoes and now I’m getting a display ad everywhere. I look for the same shoes. Right. Can be annoying. Um, it can seem disingenuous, uh, but it’s kind of like [inaudible] of personalization. It’s like finding someone when they’re in the moment of wanting to, uh, engage with your product or purchase your widget or whatever. Um, yeah, I think that’s really, really great. Yeah. On that note, like I think most people consider, you know, if last night I was talking about Cheerios and didn’t look it up on my phone and then today I log into Facebook or Instagram or Google and all I’m seeing are these damn Sherry I was at.

Ryan: (27:03)
I don’t, I don’t really think that people are necessarily blaming Cheerios for that. I’d say most people lean towards like, damn Facebook damn Google, whatever ad network it might be. So thinking about the creepy side of things, like how do you kind of manage the balance between leveraging that information that, you know, one person might be like cloud, I have to say, how did they figure this out? Like that’s still creepy and also like needing to generate leads. Yeah. I mean, I like, I like to take people on a journey. So, um, if, if people read a blog post, they will maybe, you know, we’re, we’re not necessarily spending much right now on advertising, but if you came to our blog, you may get served up an ebook or webinar invitation. So it’s kinda like, um, less so direct, Hey, unless it was like a cloud app, you know, learn how to use cloud app blog, then it’d be different, but it’s the thought leadership blog you’re going to be served a different piece of content, um, to engage with. And then we kind of, you know, take people along a journey, um, with the content versus just like sign up, sign up, sign up, um, for the product, uh, you know, I like to provide people different opportunities. And obviously we look at the data to ensure that, um, those, we kind of, you know, find the right levers for the right, uh, offer depending on how they came in. Um, so that’s kinda how I look at it is more, um, customer journey type stuff. Yeah. Yeah. I guess we’re, we’re sort of lucky in that we’re, we’re bounded by the fact that we’re doing B2B, you know, most of the time like B a C like the whole world is your oyster. Everything can serve an ad. So, uh, or a little bit more restraint there where you’re very true.

Joe: (28:08)
Well, Ryan, thank you so much for your time. Lots of great stuff. Um, I’m a big fan of Intercom. Keep up the good work over there and we’ll talk again soon. Thanks, John. Thanks for having me. Thanks for joining the DNA of an experience podcast. We hope you learn something that will help improve your collaboration and enhance the experience you create for your customer. Join the collaboration 2.0 movement today by getting cloud app, the instant business communication tool use to create instantly shareable videos, screenshots, and GiFs. Perfect. For both internal and external communication. Get started for free@wwwdotgetcloudapp.com. Thank you. We look forward to seeing you next time.

Nick Mehta Podcast Transcript

CloudApp text in black with speech bubble/cloud in various shades of blue

Joe: (00:00)
Welcome to the DNA and experience podcast from cloud app, where we discuss how and why creating an experience is so important and the psychology behind what makes an experience. So great. Thanks for joining us. Hey everyone. I am thrilled to have Nick Mehta with me from Gainsight. Nick is the CEO over there, and I’m a real big fan of Gainsight. Um, it’s kind of the de facto leader in customer success, uh, and customer sex. Success is such an important piece of the pie right now. What, with what everyone is dealing with, um, keeping your customers close and avoiding churn and, and creating loyalty. Uh, so I’m really excited to have Nick with me today. Nick, if you wouldn’t mind, uh, telling us a little bit about yourself, what kind of brought you to Gainsight, uh, and then we’ll kind of just go from there.

Nick: (00:55)
Yeah, Joe, it’s great. Great to meet you. I can give you the background. It can be the five hour version or I’ll do the two minute version probably accordion. So the quick version is kinda, you know, I been around tech, my whole life grew up, grew up in Pittsburgh, which you can kind of, it’s a little bit obvious from what you see here. Uh, and my dad was a tech entrepreneur and never do anything big, but just some kind of small companies that, uh, so I grew up around computers and all that stuff. And I was wanting to go into tech. Um, I started a company in college, uh, which is an internet company back in the first.com long time ago, before many will stairs, uh, were even working or perhaps born. Um, and, uh, that one was kind of a boom and bust. It was actually doing really well then unfortunately, what the.com ended up shutting down.

(01:40)
Um, but then I worked in enterprise software and, you know, enterprise software prior to cloud the model was you sell a customer, they pay you upfront for the software and often that’s a lot of money and then they might pay you a small amount for support later on, but you got most of that money up front. And so in that model, the core thing in those companies was building products and selling those products, right? And then once you sold the product, you wanted to support the customer, but it wasn’t kind of the center of the company. It was just something that you did kind of more of a cost center. And then I got hired to run my first SAS business in 2008. There’s a company called live office. It was a software as a service for storing customers, emails and documents for legal purposes, kind of a niche esoteric area, but a good business.

(02:26)
And we grew at, but our customers didn’t pay us all upfront. They paid us as they went. They could leave at any time, just like we all know now. And in running that company, I realized that as the CEO, I spent way more of my time, not on building the product or selling it, but on our existing customers and with our customer success team, we call them a client services team back then because we didn’t have all this fancy lingo that we do now. Um, I saw that and I was like, wow, this is like total change in the way you run a company. Um, and I also saw that we had great technology at, at my last company for marketing. We’d read technology for sales are great, great technology for billing and product development. And we had nothing to manage our customers. So, um, kinda put two and two together.

(03:08)
I sold my last company to Symantec in 2011. I was taking some time off. I was an entrepreneur in residence at Excel venture partners. Um, and, uh, EIR is one of those, uh, cushy Silicon Valley jobs that you have to do for a while where you get to pontificate what you want to do next. And I actually didn’t, I didn’t come up with the idea for Gainsight. I met there’s two founders who had the idea and they had basically had the same experience I had. They’d been a SAS company. They saw the way things change. And then I met them through our investors and we decided to partner up and launch the company in 2013. And we launched our series a with battery ventures in 2013, and now it’s been about seven and a half years, and it’s still a long way to go, but it’s been fun.

Joe: (03:49)
That’s really great. I mean, I feel like you just brought up a whole bunch of avenues that I can go down from. Uh, you know, I, I had some time in Pittsburgh when, as Adobe I worked at, or we worked with CMU projects and I went out there and there’s a pretty cool little tech scene, uh, popping up, which is,

Nick: (04:07)
Yeah, my, as my mom tells me all the time, cause she’s trying to convince me to move back to Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, California. And she says, there’s tech companies here. You can move back.

Joe: (04:17)
Yeah. As you know, that’s a long drive from the airport to the city. You talk to the Uber driver, just kind of like here, you know, the history of, he knew really well, the history of like moving from, you know, steel to tech. That’s awesome. And obviously all those schools are, you know, right in downtown Pittsburgh are really great.

Nick: (04:36)
Yeah, absolutely.

Joe: (04:38)
So, you know, you brought up a few different things about customer success and you know, how it, uh, enterprise software and how we’ve kind of moved to these, the SAS models, which I was definitely know firsthand part of it, Adobe, what do you feel like? Um, why customer success is so important? It’s definitely had different names over the years, but you know, we’re kind of going in with customer success at the moment. Um, when, when did it kind of start to explode as the current title that it is and why is it so important?

Nick: (05:11)
Yeah, it’s interesting. Cause so just take you through the history a little bit. First of all, Gainsight did not start the concept of customer success by no means it was really started out of necessity by the early cloud vendors. And there’s some dispute about which one’s dead at first. We think it was Salesforce, but you could argue there’s a few other companies in that same era, but the, all those companies basically had the same realization, which was, they’d all come from the older model I was telling you about where you sell software upfront and people pay you. And, um, then they, then they launched these cloud businesses and frankly, they didn’t change anything about the way they ran the business. They just put the software in the cloud. But what they realized was Whoa, if customers pay us on a yearly basis or month to month and they pay us based on the number of seats they’re using, the reality is if they’re not using it, they’re not going to stay with us.


Right? Unlike the old model where even if you bought and you never deployed it, you kind of still stuck with it. And so that was a big wake up call. So companies like Salesforce and others in the, in the sort of 2004, 2005 timeframe created the first customer success teams. And those there’s a handful of them early on, you know, companies like box and Salesforce and Workday and the really early kind of cloud pioneers. And then, then what ended up happening. And when we launched Gainsight in 2013, we kind of looked at the landscape. We said, Hey, we think there’s an opportunity here. And then we looked at LinkedIn and said, how many customer success people are there in the world? And there was like 500 in the whole world, uh, people, not companies, right? And so I was like, that’s hard to build a business, uh, 500 potential users.


Well, our job is not to market Gainsight. Our job is to market customer success and explain to people why it’s critical and this new business model. And so we spent a lot of our time still do today, talking to CEOs, talking to boards, talking to investors, talking to teams about why customer success is existential. And as you probably know, that showed up in things like a conference that we do every year. That like the first year in 2013, we did it 300 people showed up. Uh, the last year we did it in person for the most recent time, 5,000 people showed up this year. We did a virtual 23,000 people. Customer success management now is the sixth most promising job on LinkedIn across all jobs. Um, so it’s, it’s become a real job and he’s not just 500 people anymore. There’s well over a hundred thousand people in the CS world and it’s growing super fast. And so that’s evolved a lot. But the other thing that’s evolved is CEO’s realizing that this is not just a tactical thing. You go need to go do. It’s not just, you go hire somebody and Hey, do you do customer successful? Keep doing all their old job. It’s actually kind of almost a way to reinvent the company around the customer, which we can talk more about.

Joe: (07:46)
Yeah, it’s great. It is really interesting that, uh, you know, like one of the first like five hires we made here in the, in, uh, uh, no cloud app after we raised some money, last spring was a customer success person. So it was like, like a customer success. Cause we had enough accounts that it made sense, you know, to have someone and yeah, it’s like, exactly like what you said, it’s, it’s a crucial piece of, you know, a starting company.

Nick: (08:16)
Yeah. And if you really look at it in a broader sense, it’s just a crucial part of the disruption playbook. Um, so you think about the disruption playbook, like how is all this innovation happening, right. And there’s just a few things that companies are doing differently, right? And those are the companies that are doing those things differently are succeeding amazingly. Well. One of them is being extremely product oriented and building great products that have sort of great experiences from the beginning, right? Another one is rethinking your go to market to have it be more low friction and more free trial and more freemium, just like you all do it. Right. Another one is having a culture. That’s all about transparency and values and openness, right? That’s another of the playbook. And a fourth one is having the customer experience and customer success be central to the whole company.

(09:01)
And so those things, honestly, as you can, attest are just now second nature. If you’re starting your company, you would not start a company that wasn’t transparent, that wasn’t customer centric, that wasn’t product centric. It’s just not even possible. You wouldn’t get funded, it wouldn’t happen. And so what’s happening is all of the bigger companies are having to wake up and say, we need to adopt those practices. You went your way at Adobe, the poster child of actually making that transition where they are now transparent customer centric, very product centric, changed their go to market and check out the stock price if you want any evidence of the value. Um, and every other company now is having to do the same thing. They’re trying to adopt those playbooks that the younger companies like cloud app are doing kind of by second nature.

Joe: (09:44)
So what is the good, what’s the DNA of a good customer experience and take me inside Gainsight HQ in March. What were you Nick CEO doing with your head of sales or, you know, wherever success lives and saying, Hey, these are, you know, things that we need to immediately do to our customers during this chaotic time.

Nick: (10:12)
Totally I’ll answer the first one that kind of more generally than the second one. So broadly an anatomy of a good customer success strategy has kind of three core elements to it. Um, number one is you, you, you do need a team that’s actually focused day in, day out, waking up and thinking about customer success, right? People build those. We can talk about the charter of that team and how you compensate them and what their roles are. But you need a team it’s just like sales. You know, you can’t just say, Hey, everyone’s in sales, you need salespeople, right? But then you need this kind of cross company strategy that says we’re going to make customer success and customer experience part of the end end process, from the way we develop the product, the way we sell it to the way we market to the way we actually service the customer.

(10:53)
And then you need a kind of a culture that supports customer centricity. So those are the three core ingredients, a team, a company wide strategy and a culture. And so have you look at those, let’s say in the micro lens of COVID-19 at the beginning of March, so what was happening? Well, first of all, for our customer success team, obviously this was kind of prime time for every CS team in the world, right? Your job is to protect your customers, make sure they’re successful right now, their customer, you needed to go like 10 X on that. Right? Because a few things were happening. Number one, every customer was thinking, Hey, do I really need this vendor or not? I’m sure. You know, you saw this. Everyone saw like, Hey, CFO’s desk, right? Spreading spreadsheet. Exactly. We had the one, everyone had one, what do we need?

(11:37)
What do we, what can we cut? Second thing is, um, even if they weren’t cutting the vendor, they might’ve been cutting the amount of licenses or the amount of usage or whatever, right. 30 is, um, the customers also needed help. Right? They also needed help to maybe like re implement or maybe some customers to move faster because their business was actually exploding because they’re an ed tech or something. Right. And so for those reasons, customer success became even more important during the downturn. So what did CS teams do at like a Gainsight? What do we do? Well, number one is we operationalize this playbook to reach out to our customers and just be able to kind of categorize them and understand the impact of COVID because we all know that some businesses have exploded because of covenant in a positive way. And some of that’s, it unfortunately a negative way, right.

(12:21)
In both ways and some are in the middle. And so we kind of had this very orchestrated process of reaching out to customers, using hurricane site software and categorizing them. We actually ended up taking those playbooks that we did, and we put them online into our products. Other customers could do the exact same thing. And one of the other tactical things we had to do is understand what’s the financial situation of this customer, you know, do they need a relief of payments? You know, maybe deferring the payment for a few months. I’m sure you dealt with that too. So we kind of orchestrated all that we could see out of all of our AR how much has impacted positively, how much has it impacted negatively? How much is the amount that’s going to be asked for payment relief, et cetera. And so kind of that triage process was the first thing.

(13:00)
The second thing then was kind of getting ahead of the renewals that were coming up, right? So normally you might work 90 days out, 120 days out, how do you get 180 days out and start a process? So we used some of our automation technology plus our grade CST to basically have those conversations about, you know, how are you thinking about renewal? You know, renewal is not until December, but how are you thinking about it? Right. And so get alignment on what that means. What is it going to take to get through renewal done? Third is really focused on adoption. So we used a combination of some of our automated kind of email technology, as well as our in-app technology. That kind of drives basically usage in the application to get people, to use more of the functionality, more of the seats, because the biggest challenge most vendors are facing now is not people leaving all together. It’s them saying, you know, I don’t need to spend as much money with company a, B or C because I’m only using half the seats I bought, I’m using half the functionality. Right? So triage our customers, get those confirmatory renewal conversations, drive up usage and adoption. Those are the three things we focused on.

Joe: (14:04)
That’s really great. I think those are all so important. Um, and I always love hearing the, you know, Gainsight.

Nick: (14:12)
Yeah. Right. Kind of see the company you’re specializing in it and all you’re doing. It’s like the movie, if you like the Christopher Nolan movie inception where it’s a dream room, that’s basically all the time we actually find, in fact, as we call our internal instance of Gainsight Gainsight on gain. So that’s gong G O N G will be more fun trivia. One of our customers is the company gong, which is a call recording software company. We love your views. Uh, and so we sometimes are in our own instance of gone looking at the customer gong. Uh, so it gets a little bit confusing sometimes. Awesome. Yeah. I was always customer

Joe: (14:52)
Zero. Was it Adobe? Um, but I like gong, gong.

Nick: (14:56)
Great acronym.

Joe: (14:59)
How can, you know, obviously, uh, we’re talking over video conferencing kind of software, uh, zoom calls have gone through the roof. Obviously blue jeans was bought by Verizon. Those are kind of covering your real time feed. How can kind of like async tools like a cloud app, um, help to connect with your customers and also internally, uh, and, and kind of make sure that that connection is still there when we can’t be together.

Nick: (15:26)
Yeah. I mean, you, you, you know, it and hopefully are benefiting massively from it, which is this sort of like digital transformation of the customer engagement process where you’re not able to meet anymore. Um, I think that, that is, uh, I think it’s not just the temporary thing. First of all, we’ll talk more about that. But I think right now it’s become so important. And I, I would argue it’s not just important because of COVID-19 what’s happened is that buying processes have become more decentralized. And there’s a lot of people that you need to talk to in a company. And a lot of those people don’t want to get on a call with you, right. They don’t want to get on an hour long demo for the two minutes that irrelevant to them, which is literally often happens. And they also, um, don’t want to spend like half the time doing the intros for the call and seeing your PowerPoint slides or Google slides or whatever they want to see that one feature.

(16:16)
And so I think even pre COVID, I’m sure you’re, you’re seeing this big way. There’s this move to like show me versus telling me, and video is an awesome way to do that and doing these snippet videos, I’m a massive fan of these like short videos like your company enables. Um, and so that, to me, that’s like pre COVID and then you have with Kobe, it’s like, well, I really need an ability to reach people. And by the way, they’re also kind of tired of doing so many zoom, zoom, great technology, but it’s just no matter what technology, no matter how good is it gets tiring to do this synchronous video, but to quickly kind of consume content. Um, you know, we personally in our company as well as I think for our customers are engaging more and more on that. And then I think that’s not just to pre-sale, but increasingly post-sale in my world where if you’re a customer success person, you want to get that client to engage. You can say, Hey, can we get on a 45 minute call? Or you could say, Hey, here’s a two minute video. I just made of like, how, in your own instance, you can set this up and use this particular feature. Right. And I think that that idea of very, very personalized, short kind of content asynchronous is, is the future of how people are going to sell it.

Joe: (17:22)
It’s interesting. Like, uh, so it kind of just started our sales team last summer, you know, hired a head of sales and kind of started bringing people on. So there’s, you know, a little bit of a ramp last Q three Q four last year. And we S in Q four, we started using cloud app ourselves in the sales process. And the conversion rate was 10 X.

Nick: (17:46)
That’s a short line and a not

Joe: (17:50)
Like, you know, I’m sure you’re getting blasted your whole team, getting blasted, like hope you’re safe and sound ever, right? Like with this massively long email that just, I don’t want to read.

Nick: (18:01)
I sent, I sent videos in some money emails to executives, because I’m like, I want to save you time. Like this is going to show you, you know, and I do think it makes the difference. The other thing is, as you all know well, and it’s, I’m sure driving a lot of the foundations of your thinking. I do think as business people, our main mindset is evolved by who we are as human beings and our kind of human connection is evolving more and more to video. And like, I will say that we’ve been infected by ticktock at home as an example, as I’m sure everyone has it. I love it myself too. I got to admit guilty pleasure and my wife and my kids. And like, when you start seeing people consuming short form video content, your original YouTube, now things like tech talk, you can see that that is the future. That’s how people want to consume. And I, so I definitely believe in kind of what you’re doing.

Joe: (18:52)
Awesome. I want to, I want to spend the last little bit of our conversation has been great. Uh, chat, first of all, um, talking about your book, uh, I just got myself, I’m excited to kind of dig in

Nick: (19:04)
Oh, nice.

Joe: (19:09)
The customer success economy. Uh, so it’s out and I want to kind of talk about, first of all, you know, your inspiration to kind of put some pen to paper and get something out and kind of unload your brain. Um, and then let’s go into kind of some key insights. I’m sure you’ve already touched on a few along the way, but you know, what can we learn from

Nick: (19:32)
Totally. Yeah. So the inspiration, um, first of all, uh, if you’re running a company and thinking about some point doing a book, I was happy to chat about it. It’s been amazing for us. So we’d done three books. So we did a book in 2015 called customer success, which kind of the become kind of like the authoritative, like intro guide to CS. And, you know, actually it sold like 70,000 copies has been translated. It crazily enough into like Mandarin Portuguese, Spanish, Japanese it’s really nuts. And so, and that was just like, literally, if you can believe it, literally in 2014, we got a call, an email from our publisher Wiley. And they’re like, do you want to write a book? And we were like, Dan Steiman, who did a lot of the writing. And I helped, uh, who was one of my executives. We, we were, we were both like, why do they want to start a book?

(20:16)
Is this a scam? Is this like one of those things where you put in money? And like, they take it as this, one of those wire transfers to like some other catchy. And, but then we get on the phone and they’re like, yeah, we actually really want you to write a book. So we were like, okay, we’ll do a book. And it turned out customer success was a hot topic that was getting a lot of executive attention. And so that first book I kid you not, it’s been one of the biggest things we’ve ever done. Our company’s history, executive team has made it mandatory reading. Some companies made like everyone in the company has to read it. Um, so it’s really driven our sales cycles, our customer engagement, the movement, people getting into the career. And then basically we said, okay, let’s do some more books.

(20:52)
So we actually did a second. And a third, the second book was called customer success, professional handbook. And that’s really for like a day to day CSM that wants like really tactical advice about like executive business views and writing emails and things like that. And then we wrote this third book customer success economy, because what ends up happening is our thinking on the space evolved a lot from, you know, when we wrote the first book in 2015, and now things have changed a lot. And we said, okay, let’s write a new book, Allison Pickens, who was my COO at the time she, she just stepped down, but she’s been with us a long time. And she, and I wrote this together and we basically said, let’s take all of the conversations we’ve had and turn them into a book because I mean, you probably know Joe, like I love talking to customers.

(21:36)
I probably have maybe a thousand per year of customer prospect conversations, CEOs and executives. Let’s take all that put into a book and basically cover three themes. So the three things we’ll cover in the book. Number one, let’s take the kind of random experimentation that was done in CS early on, which is what naturally happens, you know, around things like, do you give people a quota or not? Do they report into sales or be a separate org that let’s put that into standard kind of a decision tree of how you make the decisions on those things? There’s not one answer, but there’s kind of a framework for making decisions. That’s number one, number two, we called it customer success economy because we show that customer success. Isn’t just for tech companies anymore. It’s we interview companies across lots of different industries from healthcare to manufacturing, to financial services, telco, and talk about how this is going in lots of different places. And then number three, we talk about how it’s not just a function anymore. It’s not just a CSM team, it’s a company wide mindset and it changes the way you build products, the way you sell them, the way you market them. And we have a chapter on each department and how that changes in the world of CS. And so that’s why we wrote it. And yeah, it’s gotten some pretty good reception so far.

Joe: (22:49)
That’s really cool. Uh, what are some of the kind of key insights from the book, um, that you would want to dig a little deeper on? You kind of did the broad overview. Um, let’s, let’s talk, maybe let’s talk a little bit about some of the keys to setting up the framework for setting up a CS team.

Nick: (23:08)
Yeah, totally. So I think that in creating a CS team, if you’re creating one for the first time, one of the big things is like, what is that CSM going to do? And I know that sounds pretty trite, but your success is too broad to raise a great umbrella, but it’s too broad. Right? And, um, I’ve talked a lot of clients of CSMs, meaning like for example, CEOs and people that buy software, and they’ve said, Hey, the CSN needs to have like a real value add. Um, you know, sometimes CSMs can end up being the nice person that helps route my email to the person that can really help me, which is not a very efficient or effective, uh, situation for anyone, including the CSF. So I kind of want one best practice is I define that there’s kind of four ish paradigms for being a great CSM and you don’t need to do all four, but yet typically at least one of these four.

(23:56)
So either, you know, the product inside now and you’re going to help the customer get from their idea of what they’re looking for to value, right. Not just supporting them, but actually helping them figure out how to do what they want with the product. Right. Really understanding number two. Um, sometimes the CSM has walked in the shoes of the customer, meaning you sell HR software and they used to be an HR practitioner, so they can empathize with the customer and connect to them. Now, sometimes the CSM is a great consultant where they can go into a big company, understand the whole landscape, understand their processes, figure out how to fit in the software into their world. That works really well in enterprise type customers. And then number four, sometimes the CSM is a great kind of almost like an account manager or sales person, but with a little bit more of a value empathy kind of side as well.

(24:41)
And so they can kind of drive commercial and, and the, the adoption as well. So one of those four, but if you don’t see any of those four, if you’re not, you know, product knowledgeable and you’re not a consultative and you’re not in the domain of a customer and you can’t do the renewal and expansion as, as to quote office space, which one of my favorite movies of all time, what would you say you do? And it seemed like that idea that like you have to have some value add, that’s kind of one big thing. And then you can define your comp model based on that value add, are they a product person that’s trying to drive adoption? Are they a consultative person that’s trying to drive like executive alignment, you know, really understanding the role and then kind of what’s the way to measure that role. Basically.

Joe: (25:24)
That’s really great. I mean, this, this conversation chock full of great insights and tidbits really appreciate your time today, Nick, I always like to kind of have you look into a crystal ball at the end and make your, make your bold predictions on experienced business customer success. Uh, what is, what does the future look like?

Nick: (25:46)
All right, let me find it. I think the crystal light. So I love it. I love I’m sure like you and a lot of people, I kind of, you know, read every single Jeff Bezos thing and it’s like, it’s such amazing wisdom about business, right? And so he has this like famous quote about like, uh, don’t just think about the things that will change radically over the next 10 years, thinking about the things that won’t change or we’ll just keep, keep going on the trend that they’re on now. And I’d argue, there’s two things that are almost indisputable that will happen over the next 10 years, five years, whatever you want. Number one, customers will get more power in every business model. So they’ve gotten more power over the last five, 10 years because of more choices, they can try things out. They can leave, they’ll get more power even than they have enough.

(26:32)
Number two vendors will have more data about their customers than ever the more information about their customers to be more proactive with them. So there is no doubt that given those two things, customer success will become more and more important because it’s just essentially the union of two things. It’s using data to be more proactive with your customers because they have more power. That’s what customer success is. Right. And what that, what that means is if you look at a pie of all of the stuff in a company and each wedge is like sales or marketing or product, right, right now the websites, the website for a CS might be maybe the smallest slice for some companies. That’s just going to get bigger. And at some point maybe five years from now, it’ll be as big as sales because more and more of the kind of actual life cycle of a customer will happen after the sale. Think about a free trial model. You think about consumption based model, like an Amazon or Google. Like it doesn’t the sale doesn’t mean anything. It’s about actually getting the customer to use it, you know, with AWS, I can sign up for an account and they sold me. But until I turn on my AC two incidents, like they’re not making any money. Right. So we believe, and I believe firmly that it’s just pure kind of physics that the world is going to get more focused on customer success in the next five years.

Joe: (27:45)
Yeah. You can definitely see a future similar to like where we’re in now, where CIO and the CTO kind of like own a lot of the purchases.

Nick: (27:55)
Yeah. Where customers,

Joe: (27:57)
Like you said, grows and becomes equal, if not more powerful than so.

Nick: (28:02)
Totally. Yeah. That’s what I think it’ll happen at the end, I think will happen is we’ll reinvent sales because sales is also important and you kind of reinvented for this new world as well. Awesome.

Joe: (28:12)
Nick, I really appreciate your time today. Uh, definitely hope that we all get an NFL season.

Nick: (28:18)
Yeah. And great talking to you. Thanks to you. I really appreciate it. Thanks to all of you. Thanks Nick.

Joe: (28:27)
Thanks for joining the DNA of an experience podcast. We hope you learned something that will help improve your collaboration and enhance the experience you create for your customer. Join the collaboration 2.0 movement today by getting cloud app, the instant business communication tool used to create instantly shareable videos, screenshots, and GiFs. Perfect. For both internal and external communication. Get started for free@wwwdotgetcloudapp.com. Thank you. We look forward to seeing you next time.

Aubrey Cattel Podcast Transcript

CloudApp text in black with speech bubble/cloud in various shades of blue

Joe: (00:00)
Welcome to the DNA and experience podcast from cloud app, where we discuss how and why creating an experience is so important and the psychology behind what makes an experience. So great. Thanks for joining us.Excited to have Audrey Cattell with me from Adobe. Aubrey is a VP of product and also, uh, one of the masterminds behind Adobe spark and has really helped build that with his team to what it is today. I’m a big fan of Adobe spark from the days when it was a Marvel before it was kind of known to the world. Uh, so I’m excited to have Aubrey on today to talk a little bit about products, uh, remote work, the modern workplace, and, uh, really how it’s kind of, um, how he’s helped build a customer led product. So Aubrey, if you wouldn’t mind telling us a little bit about yourself, um, and how you kinda got to Adobe, tell us a little bit about Adobe spark and what’s kind of on tap for that. Sure. Yeah. Well, first of all, thanks for having me. It’s great to be here and, uh, and chatting, you know, certainly, uh, you know, more conversations are better at this time when we’re all, uh, you know, individually isolated.

Aubrey: (01:12)
Uh, so a little bit about me. Um, you know, as you said, I, I’m a VP, a product that Adobe, I run a product called Adobe spark, which you can think of is, you know, really a design app for non-designers. Um, we make it super easy for our users to create things like graphics, videos, web pages. Um, they can do that right in the browser or on their mobile device. Uh, and you know, I’ve been, uh, I’ve been at Adobe now for five years, so it’s been a really fun journey, sort of growing this product. You know, we, we started with a handful of mobile applications. Then we brought them to the web, uh, you know, from there we’ve launched our business model and, and started monetizing. And, you know, now we’ve really been, uh, been scaling it up, um, you know, exploring channels and some cases that are new growth channels for Adobe like SEO.

Joe:(02:30)

You know, I remember, uh, very vividly five years ago or around when you started meeting in your office in San Francisco and chatting about kind of your vision for Adobe spark. And, and, and I feel like I’ve seen most of those things you talked about like five years ago, like you’re hitting each of those. This has been really cool to see, uh, develop. How do you say, or how do you think that Adobe spark kind of fits into the modern workplace? And what does, what does the modern workplace look like to you?

Aubrey: (03:01)
Yeah, that’s a great question. I mean, I, I would say the way we fit in is now more than ever. I mean, you know, w w we’ve come through this wave where, um, productivity, uh, was really the key, right. And sort of how users, uh, how basically everybody communicates with one another and that’s been with, you know, slides and, you know, word documents, you know, spreadsheets even, um, certainly three text driven. You know, I think the way we’re evolving is more towards, um, visuals and, and, and richer visuals. Right. So when you think about, you know, you know, how an image can tell a fantastic story, right, how animation and motion find their way into, uh, to what we’re doing nowadays, um, video typography. And so, you know, I really think that, you know, for everybody, who’s trying to communicate their ideas, and that’s definitely true for, you know, entrepreneurs, you know, to modern marketers, you know, people who are trying to communicate outside the company, but also even inside the, inside the walls of a, you know, small, small and large companies, knowledge workers, you know, they’re really looking to communicate their ideas, you know, more impactfully. And I think that, you know, what we’re seeing is this is creativity and design really exploding, um, you know, beyond just, you know, traditional creative professionals. Um, and that’s a huge opportunity, uh, that we see for, for Adobe and specifically for spark is, you know, really, uh, enabling the rest of us, uh, to, to stand out with, uh, you know, with visuals and with other types of creative outputs that, that can tell a story, um, and really, uh, really communicate an idea, um, you know, in terms of the, the, what the modern workplace looks like. I mean, I think we’re, we’re writing that story in real time right now. Uh, you know, I don’t think any of us could have imagined a couple months ago where we’d be, but, you know, I, I think there were some, some trends were already underway at that point. Um, you know, I think that, you know, for companies being able to get their message out digitally across a variety of channels, um, and keep up with the velocity of content that you, that you need to have to stay relevant. Um, you know, it’s always been the case on print, but now more than ever on digital channels, on social platforms. Um, and so I think that’s a big part of what companies are struggling to keep up with. And then I just think in terms of collaboration and how people work together, I mean, we’re going to all gonna to go back to work, uh, at some point physically, but I think that’s going to just look different. And so, you know, the, the questions that, you know, I’m asking, uh, cause I, I not only have, you know, my organization at Adobe, but I’m also the, the site leader for San Francisco is, you know, what, what things need to happen in person and should happen in person versus, you know, where can we be more efficient, um, you know, working, working remotely. I mean, you know, I live in the East Bay and I have an hour commute into the city. That’s two hours every day. Um, you know, so in some ways, you know, my productivity has enormously increased, but you know, it’s also hard being away from the team and, you know, dealing with, you know, what we all experienced in terms of, you know, zoom fatigue. And so, you know, you got to counter that as well. I mean, I think for, for ideation and brainstorming and workshopping ideas, you know, really driving that level of alignment, um, you know, there’s really no replacement for, in person interaction. So that, that hybrid is what’s interesting to me. And then, you know, for companies like cloud app, right? How do you, how do you build the right kind of tools and experiences that facilitate, um, you know, that new workplace

Joe: (06:33)
I really liked that you said, um, with the kind of the hybrid model, you know, he had, uh, Chris Kohler, um, who had left Adobe before you got there, but all the Adobe guy now COO at box, um, talked with him a couple of weeks ago and he was kind of on that train as well. Um, talking about, you know, collaboration, productivity, design, uh, take, take me in a little deeper on that, with how that kind of fits into your product roadmap, um, strategy, you know, things that you’re looking to do at, with spark and beyond.

Aubrey: (07:07)
Yeah, that’s a, that’s a great question. I mean, I think some of the stuff that, that we see is, you know, certainly for, you know, individual users in, in small businesses, you know, a lot of them are, you know, they’re looking for that, uh, that digital agency in their pocket. Right. You know, how can they create professional looking content, um, but too much faster, you know, with an easier and more approachable solution, that’s really gonna guide them to the right answer. And, you know, we do that with, you know, content, for example, right? The way we’re able to give users starting points that help them pass the blank canvas. But once you get past, you know, that that’s sort of one, one woman or one man band, you know, really creativity and content production, um, is, is a team sport. And, you know, so some of the stuff that we’ve tackled, um, are, are things like co-editing right.


How can users work together on the same project? Um, you know, more than that, you know, how can they create a brand, um, and w you know, multiple brands, for example, that support different campaigns. Um, and, you know, I think where we go next from here is, you know, we’ve already integrated, um, with creative cloud libraries, which is really, uh, Adobe sort of interstitial glue that connects, uh, you know, different designers, but also, you know, uh, more downstream content producers, um, with the same set of assets, right? How do you go to a common library and, and pull, um, you know, an asset or more importantly, like a, you know, a brand template that you can utilize anywhere. And so, you know, that’s an area where Spark’s going to be integrating even more tightly. Um, you know, we want, uh, our entire, uh, all of our users to be able to collaborate with their peers around, um, all of their branded assets around templates, um, you know, that they can use the, to stay on brand even a shared workspace.

(08:51)
Um, that’s specific to a, to a given campaign. So you, one of the advantages we have at Adobe is we have this incredible install base of, of, you know, millions of creative professionals. And so if we can link them up to the folks who were working across the company, creating, you know, everything from marketing materials to presentations, to brochures, to pitch stacks, um, and get all of those people creating, you know, on-brand, um, you know, more visually compelling stuff, that’s a win, um, it’s a win for our users. And, you know, it really leverages, you know, some of the unique advantages that Adobe has.

Joe: (09:27)
Yeah. I mean, it, it benefits everyone overall, uh, you know, consumers, customers see better content. Uh, it’s faster, um, pitch decks are better. Yeah. I think there’s a lot of, um, you know, effects on small to enterprise businesses. Absolutely. So, you know, uh, Adobe, Salesforce, Oracle, IBM, Microsoft, all these companies were talking about digital transformation for like seven years. Um, and it was crammed into, I think, I think Satya from Microsoft said, um, two or three years of conversations crammed into two months. So, you know, take us inside what it was like a little bit to, um, create these playbooks, uh, to, you know, move to a remote workforce, uh, supporting kind of your team. Um, and how, you know, a big company has been able to create this modern workplace environment with these remote playbooks that we have. We have.

Aubrey: (10:27)
Yeah. I mean, again, I would say that the playbook is still being written and sure. Of what that looks like, you know, it’s interesting. I mean, I think in some ways, I mean, Adobe, like many companies was, you know, really moving in a, in a specific direction. Right. I mean, we were, we were sort of pulling back from remote work, you know, we were, we were moving towards open office concepts that allowed for more live collaboration. And so, you know, now it’s not just, you know, how do you rethink remote, but also, you know, when we come back to the office, what does that look like? I mean, you know, you’re literally talking about putting back up partitions that we took down to collaboration, but we have to do that in, in the name of safety, um, you know, so that we can preserve distance and, you know, keep people from, you know, actually, you know, when they’re not having a conversation, you know, not infecting one another.

(11:23)
And so it’s just off, right. I mean, we’re, we’re navigating all of that. I mean, I think, you know, from a [inaudible] perspective, I mean, a big part of what we’ve done is, uh, and certainly what I’ve done with my organization is really just try to be, you know, authentic, um, and honest in terms of what’s happening, you know, how we’re handling what we know, you know, and a lot we don’t know right now, I mean, they continue to be in flux. Um, and so, and then, you know, you add to that, you know, a significant, you know, social upheaval that, you know, in many of our, in, in many of our minds was frankly long overdue. And so, you know, that, that factors into it too, in terms of how I talk to my team. I mean, I, I benefit, uh, from, from having been a, uh, U S history major in college.

(12:11)
So I put a little bit more insight into some of the historical and institutional sources of, of, you know, uh, racism, frankly, and, and social injustice and inequality. But, you know, one of the things that we’re definitely trying to do at Adobe is channel frankly, the, the direct voices, um, of some of our black colleagues in the black community at Adobe. Um, you know, it’s one thing to understand on paper, you know, what’s happened in the past and, you know, or, or what’s happening now. It’s a very different thing to hear from people directly. And so I think, you know, part of what we’re, we’re addressing, you know, I think, uh, with forward looking companies is, you know, how can we not only listen and learn, but how can we be a positive force for change, um, know, and make a society that, you know, those of us who benefit from working in technology that we’re you, it tends to be more Galatarian, um, or at least we aspire to that, uh, you know, how can we not only, you know, live that, uh, but how can we be a force for change?

(13:12)
And so I feel like that’s, that’s part of it right now as well. I mean, if you’re a leader and you’re tone deaf, um, you know, or not addressing, you know, directly what’s happening, um, you’re missing the boat and it’s hard, right? I mean, you’re all, we’ve already got the dislocations of, of being a quarantine, you know, to that, you know, the, the pain, the real pain that many people are feeling and that, you know, that’s bubbling over and as a leader, it’s your job to really acknowledge that, create an outlet for that, you know, figure out how you’re gonna, you know, help your team through that. Um, but also, you know, continue to, to, to do the work and, you know, the, you know, the, the one phrase that, you know, I, I definitely encourage people to avoid is business as usual, things are as usual, right.

(13:57)
And we just have to acknowledge that. Um, but what we can center on is the customer, right? I mean, we, you know, I’ve been fortunate to have a fantastic team I’m on Adobe spark and we’ve really made the customer, the center of everything we do. And so when we talk about, you know, where we still have responsibilities, we tend to bring it back to them, to the user, you know, what, what are their problems, you know, how we stay in that problem space and understand, you know, what we’re doing now, does it still make sense where we go next? Right. What’s changing. Um, you know, and, and how do we serve their needs? And so that’s, you know, I don’t know that that’s a playbook, but those are definitely some of the things that are, that are bubbling up, right. Ongoing communication, keep it authentic. You have to talk live to people, keep it authentic, you know, listen to where people are coming from, you know, give people the opportunity and make sure that, you know, as much as you can, you’re, you’re doing things that affect change, um, and keep it about the customer. Um,

Joe: (14:55)
I w I always love how, um, Adobe, you know, support supported and was always kind of a, uh, Ford facing leader with, with, uh, things, you know, everything really, uh, that comes up. Um, and I also, I remember, um, you know, five, five years ago, or so, uh, you, and you still talk about it this way, but you kind of mentioned Adobe spark as a startup within an enterprise. Um, which I think is pretty fun to think about, um, how have you kind of, you know, adopted the Adobe culture, uh, that you were talking about, but also, um, how do you kind of run this startup within the enterprise, um, with the enterprise resources at times, um, to really be effective and continue with that, you know, customer led product, like you mentioned.

Aubrey: (15:49)
Yeah, it’s a, it’s certainly been a fun journey and it’s, it’s always a tricky balance. I mean, I’m a big fan of thinking, uh, in terms of sequencing, um, and how you, you know, what, what needs to happen along the way in each of those steps. Um, you know, what I would say is, you know, where, where, where spark was at first, um, you know, really addressing, um, you know, what we call it, the communication gap, right? We, we, we have our flagship applications like Photoshop and premiere, uh, illustrator, uh, that, you know, really, uh, address the needs of, of creative professionals. But, but for a lot of folks, they’re overserved by those applications, but they’re also underserved by productivity apps, right? Like office or G suite, um, even some social first applications when it comes to creating standout content. And so, you know, we set out to build a product that was, you know, cloud native, uh, that worked in the browser and on mobile devices, um, that, you know, offered these content based, starting points.

(16:47)
And so a lot of the stuff we did early on, you know, we, we, you know, I, I built a cross functional organization where we had design embedded, you know, we brought it in growth as a new function to think about, you know, how are we going to scale users and how do we create the loops that, that ultimately generate our success. And that was great for, for a time. Um, and now we’re at a point where we’re scaling further. And so the trick there becomes, you know, how do we leverage other parts of Adobe and the strengths that the company has, um, to really achieve the, the scale and the, the escape velocity that we want to achieve. And so, you know, there’s some things that we’re actually, you know, graduate moving out of our org that we’ve proven work. Uh, but now we need, um, you know, we need the help of, you know, other parts of the company.

(17:30)
Um, you know, some of those are, are absolutely related to marketing. Some of them are related to, you know, platform technologies that we need that, you know, we, we can’t build ourselves if we take a sort of longer term view. And so it’s, you know, the, the, the startup, uh, the, the startup analogy works to a point, but it’s really about how do you incubate a new business inside of a larger technology company, and, you know, how do you sequence your way to success? There’s certain things that you, you know, you just need to move quickly on and achieve that velocity and time to market and, you know, extreme focus on the user. Um, but then hopefully you do develop a playbook, um, for example, around content, uh, that allows us to scale, you know, more broadly leveraging other parts of the company. Uh, so that’s kind of where we are and that’s, you know, that’s been interesting to navigate, right. You know, part of it is, is working with my team to understand that, you know, there’s stuff that, uh, you know, we got to move to other parts so that, you know, ultimately we can be successful in and best serve best serve our users. And, you know, what that means is there’s just new challenges for us to keep that customer centricity and then, you know, translate that to other organizations that can support us.

Joe: (18:42)
No, that makes a lot of sense. I think it’s a, you know, you nailed the strategy right on, um, kind of keeping the core focus on your customers, but also recognizing that you want to build and scale, uh, use those resources you have as a company. And we, we touched on this a teeny bit earlier. Um, but how do you think, uh, tools like, uh, async tools like cloud app or you’re recording videos or screenshots, or a tool like zoom or blue jeans where you’re more real time? How do you see those kind of fitting into the digital landscape? Um, you know, spark is a piece of that as well, creating visuals on the fly and having, I always loved the design filter, um, PC, you guys mentioned how Instagram made photo filters famous and spark, you know, makes design filters a thing. So how do you think those tools like those, uh, can really, you know, accelerate, reduce, uh, meetings or increased productivity or collaboration?

Aubrey: (19:43)
Yeah, I mean, I, I, again, I mean, it’s, it’s all about how we’re fitting into this, you know, sort of hybrid world pride and, and, you know, how do you, you know, trade ideas and, and ultimately, you know, move, move new ideas forward. Um, and, and, and it’s a tricky thing, right? I mean, not everything can be alive, meaning, um, but I think especially now, you know, people need the ability to still communicate synchronously. And so, you know, uh, you know, something like a zoom or blue jeans, I mean, you know, we’re all on those meetings, you know, for the better part of the day. In some ways I see meetings have gotten more efficient, right. Uh, you know, I think, uh, you know, there’s only so many people that you can see on the screen at once. It’s harder, you know, for everybody to get a word in.

(20:26)
You know, one of my tricks is always a at the outset of a meeting, you know, especially if there’s a lot of information that needs to be communicated, but there’s, I know there’s going to be discussion is direct people to put their questions in the chat pod, right. And then a lot of times, you know, one person can be presenting, um, while somebody else can be responding to those questions in real time, you know, or you’ve got, you know, that running list, uh, at the, but that’s for synchronous communication. And I think, you know, you, you, you, you draw an important point around asynchronous communication, um, because a lot of things that, you know, need to be consumed don’t need to be done live. And I think that’s where, you know, uh, I, I’m one of those people who has a love, hate relationship with, uh, with Slack, right?

(21:05)
I mean, it lends itself so much to text or instant messaging paradigms that a lot of times you feel like you have to reply right away, but it’s, it’s obviously meant to be an asynchronous tool, um, and a way to, you know, to sort of, um, uh, you know, Chronicle, um, you know, some stuff that’s come before, so tools like cloud app, or, you know, how we, you know, you’re able to add imagery or videos and, you know, have it unfurl right there, you know, live, you know, people then can take a minute to, to consume the content, think about it, um, and share back. And that’s really, you know, what you want to achieve is, is that, uh, that mind meld between folks and, you know, people can do that on their own time, but, you know, consume it in a channel that’s germane to their work. You know, you’re able to accomplish a lot more because you can get people on the same page. Um, but you can, people can do it on their own terms. And, you know, you can reply, you know, back and forth with questions or comments, um, and go from there.

Joe: (22:03)
Awesome. Yeah, I think it’s a very much, like you mentioned a collaboration piece, it’s a being mindful that synchronous is still, still very valuable. And, you know, I’ve had a lot of leaders say, uh, similar things this year where like, uh, nobody’s traveling. So like everybody’s around, right. Like people are in meetings that may not have been, cause they may have been traveling in Europe or Asia or just meeting with customers or whatever, and those aren’t happening. So, you know, like, uh, I bring up the example of getting you on the podcast. Like there was no rescheduling and you were available, right. Like you’re available within a month. Um, there was no rescheduling and like you’re here. So it’s like, uh, to think of that happening, you know, six months ago may not have been the case. You know, it may have been three months out and you may have had to cut it or do something different, uh, and definitely nothing against an executive at a big company, but that’s just, you know, the life you live is you kind of have to pick and choose what you’re able to do. Um, so it’s been kind of cool to get access, you know, really get access to, uh, people. And, and it sounds like you’ve had similar experiences with having, you know, people in meetings and people there,

Aubrey: (23:18)
Which is cool. It is. And I mean, obviously, you know, for conversation like this, that’s got to happen live. Um, funny, I also have more time to dive into the stuff that people share with me asynchronously, right. So, you know what he’s, uh, you know, recording a back and forth with, uh, um, you know, like in a customer support interaction or sharing with me a screenshot from a design comp, uh, you know, and, and you know, where there’s a tricky interaction, uh, paradigm, you know, I, I have time Always, uh, ends up being with Actual clothes, Borders and months, but it’s been, it’s been great. Right. I mean, the skip flow.

(24:31)
That’s really great. I appreciate you kind of diving in on that a little bit. I think as we’re kind of closing up, you know, it has been really fun conversation having you on Aubrey, lots of great insights. Um, I want you to kind of look into your crystal ball, you know, look and what do you see? One kind of the modern workplace looking like, um, we’ve touched on this a little bit and to, you know, what is, how do you make sure to keep the customer at the center of that and really provide a good experience? Yeah, I mean, as I look forward, you know, I, I think it’s, uh, the return to work is definitely going to be phased and that’s going to look different than what it’s looked like before. And I think the that’s sort of the hybrid that we talked about and the balance is going to be interesting, right?

(25:18)
I mean, there, there’s still gonna be the need for, um, you know, to have folks, you know, together, um, physically, and we got to facilitate that at the same time, you know, it’s tough out, it’s still a war for talent, uh, you know, and, and, and sort of recruiting, you know, the best folks, um, especially diverse talent, um, who can bring in different viewpoints and, you know, really help you, uh, move the product forward. Uh, and I think they’re, you know, we’re just going to have to embrace a reality that, you know, world’s gonna do a reset and, you know, some people, you know, we’re still gonna want to be in, in cities. Uh, you know, we’re in major metropolitan areas and others are gonna look for, you know, a different lifestyle and, and some of those folks are incredibly talented and I think companies are gonna make a mistake if they don’t figure out a way, uh, to make them part of their workforce.

(26:06)
Um, so I think that’s one, right. I mean, I, and I think that’s how that modern workplace piece will evolve. Uh, you know, the second part of your, uh, T remind me the second part of your question, just customer centered centrists, gosh, I mean, you know, there, I don’t know that, you know, things necessarily changed just they become more true, right? I mean, do you really, you know, when I think about the customer, right, like it’s, it’s less about the solution than, than the customer’s problems. And I think, you know, when you think about the modern workplace and really think about, you know, uh, how, how the world and our interactions are changing, I think that’s where, you know, we kind of need to challenge some of the assumptions that we’ve had to date, uh, in terms of, you know, where the importance lies, um, for different things, right.

(26:56)
And, you know, there’s no substitute for the type of, you know, not only quants, but also qual research you can do to really understand, you know, how things are trending. I mean, I’ll give you a perfect example, right? We, uh, with spark, you know, a lot of our, um, our user acquisition, especially on web is, is based on a SEL, right. We rank for a lot of different keywords that have to do with, you know, tasks and verbs that that users are searching for. Right. They want to create a flyer or poster. Um, you know, what’s interesting is, is the, the, the types of things that are digital or social related, um, you know, are obviously increasing significantly. Whereas, you know, we’re actually seeing a reduction in some cases in print workflows. That makes sense. If you think about it with everybody remote, you know, businesses especially need to connect with their customers via digital experiences.

(27:47)
Whereas, you know, print is, you know, becomes a little less apical in a world where people aren’t in and out of stores or, you know, or being a little bit more careful with their mail. And so, you know, it’s, it’s sorta keeping an eye on those things. Um, you know, that’s certainly a signal. And then, you know, we doubled down on that by just having conversations with our customers, you know, what’s changing, right. Where, you know, where do you have new needs or, or where do the problems that you were trying to solve for before, you know, how have those changed? Um, I just think there’s, there’s no substitute for that. You know, that’s the work of building a great product.

Joe: (28:21)
Yeah. I think, I think you nailed a couple of really good points, especially on the customer side it’s it’s right now, it’s the time of, of a lot of listening and understanding, you know, if, uh, you have small businesses who are your customers and they’ve had churn, and they’re just trying to keep employees on the payroll and they’re like, Hmm, do we like, look at all these tools that we’re using? Uh, maybe we need to make some cuts, you know, it’s listening to them, it’s trying to find ways to keep them as a customer and working with them. And then, you know, with, with the other people that are good with money, it’s, it’s making sure that you’re making the improvements and things that are helpful for them and help them to achieve their goals.

Aubrey: (29:02)
Yeah. I mean, one of the things that we decided pretty early on, um, you know, in, in, in this quarantine and, and coronavirus moment was we realized that the sort of pressures that some of our smallest, uh, business customers were under right now from a cashflow perspective, um, when we made, um, spark available, uh, for a 60 day free trial, and that’s still running right now. So, you know, for any listeners who haven’t given it a try yet, they can go to spark that adobe.com and sign up for 60 days free and, you know, check out all the great content that we’re providing, you know, set up their brand, start collaborating, um, you know, and hopefully, you know, they can create some content that’s going to help their business

Joe: (29:42)
Stand out a little bit better. Awesome. This is great, Aubrey, thanks for your time again today. Uh, hope you have a good weekend and we will talk soon. Great. Thanks for the opportunity to chat YouTube.

Joe: (29:57)
Thanks for joining the DNA of an experience podcast. We hope you learn something that will help improve your collaboration and enhance the experience you create for your customer. Join the collaboration 2.0 movement today by getting cloud app, the instant business communication tool used to create instantly shareable videos, screenshots, and GiFs. Perfect. For both internal and external communication. Get started for free@wwwdotgetcloudapp.com. Thank you. We look forward to seeing you next time.

Kyle York CEO of York ie

CloudApp text in black with speech bubble/cloud in various shades of blue

Speaker 1: (00:00)
Welcome to the DNA and experience podcast from cloud app, where we discuss how and why creating an experience is so important and the psychology behind what makes an experience. So great. Thanks for joining us, everyone. I am excited to have Kyle York with me. Kyle is the founder and CEO of York. I E also a long time, a user investor and board member for cloud app. So I’m excited to talk a little bit about, uh, the companies he’s built. Also, we’ll talk a little bit about cloud app today and some of the things we’ve been doing over here, uh, Kyle, you want to give a kind of quick background on yourself and kind of where, where you got to, or how you got to where you are now.

Speaker 2: (00:48)
Yeah, sure. Great. Thanks for having me, Joe. It’s exciting to be here. Uh, you know, I’m a huge fan of yours and cloud app, so awesome. Um, yeah, so Kyle York, uh, cofounder CEO and managing partner of York III, we’re a strategic advisory investment and operational growth from, uh, we’ll get into more what that means. Uh, we’ve got a sort of hybrid business. That’s building a SAS platform, it’s advising and consulting with startups on growth and also investing in early stage rounds, uh, predominantly focused on B2B software companies. Uh, I, uh, have had a long career in SAS. Uh, I guess I can say long, but you know, the reality is, um, I’ve only worked in the recurring revenue, SAS business model. So that sort of dates me. Uh, I started an education technology, SAS company for private schools, uh, called the Whipple Hill that was eventually sold to black, bought a public company in Charleston, South Carolina.

Speaker 2: (01:40)
That’s where I got my start, you know, uh, cut my teeth in marketing sales business development roles spent a bunch of time in California for that company. And then moved back home. I’m actually talking to you today from Bedford New Hampshire, my home. Uh, and I moved back here for a company called dine, which was a, at the time a consumer kind of infrastructure company that enabled people, uh, in the early two thousands to basically name their home network. So they could remote access back into their, uh, you know, uh, their music or their files, you know, inside their home network. Um, it turned out that domain name system we specialized in. I was really good at doing maiming performance, routing security around, uh, cloud end points and modern websites that were globally distributed. Um, and we ended up building a very successful company and dine.

Speaker 2: (02:29)
I was chief revenue officer, uh, had marketing sales services all under me, uh, ended up becoming the GM of that company when we sold the Oracle in 2016, uh, for a rumored, uh, rumor $600 million. Um, and, uh, you know, along the way, just actively angel invested, advised, um, you know, a business guy, a sales and marketing guy. Um, obviously technology companies tend to be founded by technologists and engineers and have made a career out of helping translate them into value for their customers. And, um, just love, love working on the earliest stages. Oracle wasn’t really, for me a little too little, too little too big, um, and several excited to be building what I’m building in New York IAE, which I’m sure we’ll talk a little bit more about today.

Speaker 1: (03:12)
Definitely. Yeah, that’s really great. I think you mentioned no, a key piece of your career has been focused on recurring revenue and obviously like a big piece of that is having loyal customers and, and having people that want to keep paying you. What’s, what’s kind of the DNA of a good customer experience. And how have you kind of tried to focus on that and provide that so that companies want to keep, you know, being part of your full

Speaker 2: (03:41)
Yeah, absolutely. Um, I think it all starts with the strategic customer and I always work with startups, especially in the earliest stages about the funding, what that is and what I mean by strategic. I think of it kind of like a triangle, um, a brand, you know, you know, that everybody knows that you can Mark it around. Um, so in your case, you know, it’s the XenDesktop, it’s the, Adobe’s, it’s the, it’s the customers that we know in love. It could be even in startup land. Um, it’s also a company that is paying you something and paying you something consistently, uh, something that is landing and expanding and not just retaining, but also growing. And then number three, they find strategic value in the capability that you offer. These ended up being your lighthouse, customers, your referenceable customers, uh, the customers that not only you put a logo on a webpage, but will actually take a call from a prospect and, you know, sit on your customer advisory board, you know, do webinars, which you do frequently, uh, collaborate with you on cross marketing functional stuff.

Speaker 2: (04:42)
So I think when it comes to that, I think a lot of startups struggle with that trifecta, right? And getting customers that fit into those three things. It’s many times you’ll see a company that’s a big logo and might find a company to be strategic value, but they pay you $50 a month, right. Or, Hey, they might pay you 10 grand a month, but no one’s ever heard of them and they don’t even find the product or capability valuable. So I think once you nail that trifecta and you, and you build your sort of go to market to make that repeated ball across market segments and industry verticals, um, at that point in time, I think is when you can really start to focus on, um, that customer experience and happen, uh, in the customer experience, as they analyze the documentation, support, customer service, customer success, those types of things, and it, but until you nail that trifecta and you can make that repeatable, it’s almost premature to even overly obsess over that. So, and that’s a, that’s a rise of a startup, uh, type of challenge, and when to sequence that out and, and, and nail that. But I think it really comes down to all those things and the moment that those companies can be referenceable, um, you’ve got obviously, uh, not take advantage or overuse each individual customers and they actually do it. Um, I think that’s when, you know, you’ve nailed the customer experience and the relationship experience with those guests.

Speaker 1: (06:07)
Yeah, definitely. It’s, it’s getting your house in order, like you said, having that strong foundation and, and, uh, being able to kind of really connect uh one-to-one uh, initially, and then being able to scale that and find ways to really make it more efficient and design those experiences.

Speaker 2: (06:26)
Yeah. And I think don’t underestimate the relationship building. I think so much these days, especially in software, um, is sort of hands off and you hear a lot about like product led growth and all those things. They’re all wonderful, but I think your company and its life cycle will ebb and flow when you’re the technology leader, when you’re the relationship leader, when you’re the brand leader, when you’re the customer experience leader, um, these things kind of are a little whackamole meaning they don’t always expose themselves all at the same time. Obviously the best companies have all functional areas of the business at the same time, but in my run at die. And I mean, there was times where we were hands down the technology leader times when we had the best API APIs and the best user experience in UIs. Um, there was times, you know, the only thing we really could control was the relationship cultivation, the support, the customer experience. Because again, if you have a good relationship, if the product has issues or bugs, or you launch a new gooey and it’s, you’re getting customer complaints, you can work through it. Um, so I think you really need the root that in building your organization to make, um, relationships first and foremost, and be able to expose executives. Um, it can’t, you know, you can’t just push relationships down in the New York. It needs to be up, down, down, up across the board.

Speaker 1: (07:45)
Yeah. And so, you know, we’re, we’re kind of in like a relationship, obviously key, but we’re in this like business travel is obviously way down people aren’t connecting their way, the way they used to currently, how can video and visuals, obviously talking maybe a little bit about cloud app here, enhance your connection with the customer when maybe you can’t fly out and have dinner with them.

Speaker 2: (08:11)
Yeah. I mean, well, first of all, even pre COVID, um, you weren’t flying out and meeting every customer face to face anyway. So I think you certainly were in the, in, in that trifecta, I just mentioned, or maybe you had, you know, a hundred thousand dollars client or maybe all, it’s a no brainer. I need to go sell Netflix, uh, as a customer. Um, you know, I, so I think, I think you have a different sort of tiered relationship structure that we’ve always had as it relates to. How do you build those relationships? I think now more than ever, um, something that, you know, I’ve seen talked about it a little bit right now, but not as much as you think the personal brand and the personal accessibility uh relate-ability um, no kind of conduction you make, um, is more important than ever for companies because people are so clearly representing, uh, the companies.

Speaker 2: (08:59)
Um, that’s always what it was face to face, but if you think of big conferences where there’s 40 by 40 booths or 10 by 10 booths, it’s like, you’re actually engaging with the company. There happened to be representatives of the company at those live events. I think now what you’re seeing is the, the individual power of, of, uh, of an account director of a head of solution architecture of a marketer of a customer success person, actually more and more power is being put in their hands because of the tools like cloud app that enable that direct connection. Um, and it’s all about access, transparency, genuineness, authenticity, um, your people are becoming even more important, um, stewards and, um, cruise missiles for your brand building, right. And your customer engagement. So I can tell you from my perspective, it’s, it’s just shining an incredible light on personal brand, on the need to, uh, be who you are at home, who you are at work, uh, have those things inter intersect and have, have it be all the same.

Speaker 2: (10:00)
I mean, a kid could run in here at any minute and I need to be the exact same person with my family that I am in my work setting and my work environments are on, on a, on a podcast interview. Right. So I think it’s never, it’s never shined a bigger light on that. And it’s why you’re seeing such a boom in, you know, uh, enterprise software. I mean, the public markets are up nearly 25%. Um, since the beginning of COVID this calendar year, um, you know, private companies, you know, I’m seeing just investments continue to shine. Um, and companies like cloud app or just poise because from day zero, they were built, um, to help people communicate and collaborate and connect. And, you know, that’s really, that’s really what is required and what brands really need to, um, I don’t know, open up on especially large enterprise brands. I spent a long time in Oracle. They gotta get comfortable with lots of foot soldiers, uh, out there in the wild, and they’re not going to control it the same way. So they better have the rates through my process, guardrails, brand guidelines, engagement, guidelines, and tools to make them all, make them all sing.

Speaker 1: (11:06)
Yeah. There’s just like that layer of authenticity that you mentioned, like, uh, one of the programs as helping build that Adobe was, was, uh, building up those executives as thought leaders and people that were had a public face. And there was industry interesting stat. I always say, like, we would do this brand push and we put $500 behind the EVP of sales, like a tweet or Facebook post or LinkedIn or whatever. And we’d get 10 X the engagements that we would for like $5,000 behind a brand post. So it’s like less money, more efficient. People want to connect with a human. Um, it, it, and, and right now, like, especially you said kids running in, like it’s authentic, you know, we’re having board meetings and kids are running in and dogs are barking. And, uh, you know, it’s just, it’s just the way it is. And we’re all kind of on the same plane and it’s really kind of, kind of in kind of fun and, and interesting to see those worlds collide.

Speaker 2: (12:08)
Yeah. I feel like in like startups and entrepreneurship, those worlds collide more just because it’s like this always on sort of gritty, you know, the, the work life balance is a weird one. So, I mean, I’ve always felt that in my startup career, I think in, in, in larger companies, um, that humanization of like corporate America or, you know, it, or the global 2000 is, is actually where I’m finding it the most fascinating. I mean, I’ve also, you know, to your point on executive programs and things like that. I mean, I’ve always complimented and worked with technical founders. My bosses have always been engineers and entire career. Every single boss I’ve ever had has been an engineer, um, and by nature, an introvert and, uh, personality wise kind of intrinsic. Um, and so, you know, being that translator as a marketer and having tools like cloud available to you to help you do that, um, is critical.

Speaker 2: (13:05)
I mean, we, we would do things like, you know, um, at Oracle, for example, we’ve recorded internal meetings, um, because that was the only time some of our technical leaders would speak out loud in front of, and then we’d synthesize out, um, the key components of their talk and turn them into public facing content, both micro and, and long form. And so, you know, all of a sudden, you know, they’re a celebrity on the internet and they’re helping us drive our brand forward and helping us relate to our customer base and grow our revenue. Um, and they don’t even necessarily know, no, it, um, that’s the thing I think about personal branding is not, everybody’s going to be good at it, but companies need to put together programs, leverage tools and capabilities and help, uh, the people who aren’t get good at it by, by managing, managing it systematically. Um, and the best brands in the world, um, have always done this incredibly well.

Speaker 1: (14:02)
Yeah. I agree. I think you, you catch lightning in a bottle definitely. When you find that tech leader, that’s, that’s willing to kind of be on stage. Um, I want to talk a little bit about your ke, um, kind of, I obviously saw you kind of launch it and, uh, you know, the success you’ve been able to have early on with it. What, what do you guys, what’s kind of like, your, your customers are kind of like the people you invest in. So how are you kind of differentiating yourself from all the other kind of growth launching a startup advisors out there, uh, that provides, provides a different experience?

Speaker 2: (14:44)
Yeah, so I mean, our vision is to reshape the way startups are built scaled and monetized. Um, the Silicon Valley culture of fundraise, fundraise, fundraise, uh, diminish founder equity and dilution. Um, you know, the cap table imbalance, um, the sort of growth at all costs mantra is very different than how I was raised. I was raised in a small family business. You know, we, if we didn’t make a profit, we didn’t eat dinner. Right. I mean, it was that basic. Um, and you know, as you, as you grow, I mean, dine actually bootstrapped itself, the 30 millionaire, or without raising a single dollar of outside capital, we happened to do it in Manchester, New Hampshire or headquarters, whenever when told us we couldn’t. Um, you have a lot of this experience being in Silicon slopes in Utah, and, you know, in a burgeoning scene that’s been created over the last two decades.

Speaker 2: (15:34)
Um, very similar here in Southern New Hampshire, North of Boston. I mean, I’m 45 minutes from Boston, but people think we couch tip all day, right? So, so you take that sort of, uh, product Yackey pragmatism and you take that sort of family business roots, and you bring that to a startup culture. That’s very, very different. Um, but by default you have some differentiation there. Um, also because we work in deep technology and up to stack and to Apple SAS applications like cloud app, um, you know, we have just a lot of domain expertise in layers of the technical infrastructure that people don’t understand from storage to compute, to dev ops, to dev tools, uh, cyber, uh, to DNS, right? I mean, we have a different level of technical competency, um, that I think a lot of startups do, which demands a lot of credit commands, a lot of credibility from technical entrepreneurs who are looking for help, right?

Speaker 2: (16:23)
It’s not that we’re just really good functional marketers are really good functional sales and BD or finance team. We really bring that to bear. Um, I think our model is just incredibly unique. I mean, we’re trying to go after everybody from investment banks to management, consultancies, to PR they are firms, uh, to VC, um, you know, to, to really the gamut of, of players, including even analysts firms that support startups. I don’t think a lot of these have really down scoped appropriately for the speed pace, urgency, uh, accountability on low budgets, um, flexible budgets, flexible engagement models that startups command. I mean, I can remember paying 10 grand a month for a CFO consultant and eight grand a month for a sales consultant and 20 Gantt grand that aggregate a month for analysts firms. Like this is, this is like not okay, unless you’ve raised $10 million in your Silicon Valley, you know, series a darling.

Speaker 2: (17:21)
Right. So how do you help create a different model of engagement? The only way we could do this is based on the track we’re going to have as an angel and as an advisor. I mean, I joined with cloud app while I was still working right. 1% of my time. So we’ve taken a lot of what we’ve done historically, uh, helping these companies kind of be a shot in the arm from a growth brand, a scale perspective. Um, and the only way to make it scalable is for me to build a large team that I’ve self-funded as well as, um, build technology, a technology layer to help automate a lot of the mundane and, um, basic workflows. So we have a market data and analytics platform currently an internal beta, um, that we plan on launching in the spring of next year, that really helps companies, um, you know, discover a track report on, um, companies, markets, uh, go to market activities.

Speaker 2: (18:10)
Uh, I think it’s gonna really kinda come at, come at the world from market competitive intelligence perspective very differently, um, and also enable us to create more engagement models because there’ll be like a self service way to work with York IIE that isn’t so heavy handed. We also, don’t only work with investments. We have about 25 active engagements right now, uh, about 15 of them are, uh, investments as well. Um, so we layer on the advisory consulting and we call them modules because we’ve kind of productized it. Um, and then on top of that, we’ll, we will work with companies that are later stage or too early or not in our director. We have a couple consumer and marketplace brands who predominantly invest in B2B SAS, but we can still help. Right. So we try to find different kind of engagement models and be super flexible.

Speaker 2: (18:59)
And that’s possible because we don’t have outside VCs for Yorkies management company. Um, we also don’t have a traditional find. We operate a evergreen syndicate model. Um, so we have high net worth individuals, family offices, who give us a five-year annual pledge, and we’re able to go to that in our investment model. So again, without collecting management fees from them, it gives us even more flexibility. So there’s lots of different angles we take on it. Um, I think at core though, you know, we’re not, um, retired operators, we’re active operators, we’re building our own SAS platform. We’re an extension of the operating teams that we are working on. I just passed a million ARR last week, um, you know, on nine months of, you know, our go to market and, you know, my goal is to grow, build a great company. Don’t let me kept cloud app, you know, um, and built a great, great company. And I think, um, the companies you back, whether through investing advisory or consulting or product eventually appreciate the fact that we’re coming from the active school of hard knocks, not just the career legacies we created on top of our past experience.

Speaker 1: (20:04)
Definitely. Yeah. I mean, I think you pointed out a lot of really cool things that that is doing. Uh, what, what is kind of like, take me in the evaluation process, like when you decide to invest in someone, how do you kind of figure out what’s step one, what’s playbook, one for, uh, probably different for each company, but how you kind of assess, uh, what to do first with, uh, with a startup you’ve invested in?

Speaker 2: (20:29)
Yeah, well, I mean, frankly, this is really, really difficult because of our inbound deal flow. Um, the one thing we do not have a problem with is deal flow. Um, we see somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 to 50 inbound software companies per month that come to our website or come to us on LinkedIn, come to our social channels or read our newsletter and engage with us about a funding round or potential funding round. So, so imagine that. So we had to really get really rigid about creating a team and a process and a structure to evaluate the tippity top of the funnel, to decide who we’re even going to take to the next step. So my team doesn’t really even bring me in until it’s a company that they can see us investing in and they want me to learn more. So it’s kind of like no different than, um, a sales pipeline of when do you bring in your executive sponsor to help close a deal or to evaluate a deal or a negotiated deal?

Speaker 2: (21:23)
Um, that’s kind of the way we run York IIE. We take everything less as we aren’t investors by Draymond and grew up in, you know, the ibanker, you know, kind of investment VC community. We grew up as operators. Everything we do is operationalize like a, like a company, right? Um, when it relates to that, getting through the noise, I think number one is we call it our market and approach to company evaluation. Every single company we look at it’s typically founded by a product or engineering person. Um, who’s sitting in the seat, founding CEO, technical COC, um, all of these people think of product I would approach. It’s why they built the company they built, right. They saw a problem in the market, a gap technically, and they knew they could create it. What we look at is, okay, how’s that interplay in the market?

Speaker 2: (22:07)
How large is the market? How disruptable is the market? Are there established players, are there new players? Does this company have a go to market bottoms up plan to attack the big vision, but in a systematic pragmatize programmatic programmatic way. And that’s really how we have we cut through the noise. Um, and then the rest is like every other investment company. We look at, um, market opportunity. We look at product technology, IP, moat, uh, we look at traction and go to market plans. Uh, we look at the team and we look at financial financials, right. Um, but you know, lately we’ve, we’ve had to almost make it even more simple. Um, you know, if this company sold in five years for a hundred million dollars, um, would we go to the closing dinner, it’d be thrilled for their success? Do we like these people? These are the people we want to collaborate with.

Speaker 2: (22:57)
Right. Um, is this a company that I could see myself being the CEO at? And they got more, I’m not, I’m the CEO of my own ever bring company. I’m going to do what I’m doing for the next 20 years, but do we think we can be helpful that we fit in? Joe went out on my partners are very different. You’ve met, have very different skill sets and background Adam’s come more of a skill set like you, uh, Joe is more corporate development, finance, FP, and a, um, do we actually compliment these teams? Can we play a role to help them get to the next level? Because we want to feel reward out of the work we do. We don’t just want to see a company grow and they never call us and we make money. That’s great, but that’s not what we’re what we’re playing for. So I think some of those angles are really how we think about, you know, cutting through the noise and getting to the 10 to 10 to 15 deals, investment deals per year. Um, we’re going to work with, and the ones we don’t, again, we want to have much a bunch of mechanisms through our SAS platforms, through our consulting modules, um, through our network that we can still work with a ton of companies. Um, even if it’s just about creating content and curriculum about growth and, you know, getting people to buy into that.

Speaker 1: (24:01)
Definitely. But I, you know, I think you touched on a few of these things along the way, and it’s been a great conversation, uh, really enjoyed kind of learning some things from you and, uh, our audience as well. Um, I, I like to kind of have you look in your crystal ball at the end and, uh, you know, you’ve touched on a few of these things, but what do you think the future of experienced businesses? Where, where do you see, uh, you know, asynchronous video obviously is a piece of that real time, video relationships, uh, designing experiences, where do you see things kind of rolling out?

Speaker 2: (24:39)
Yeah. I mean, I think at the end of the day, um, the world is flattening big time and, you know, even before COVID, I mean, people are living and working where they want to live and work. I mean, I think I’m proof of that. I mean, I love my life, you know, in new England and, you know, I’m glad I live here and can raise my family here. Um, there’s people in my career told me I’d never be successful in technology if I wasn’t in Silicon Valley. I mean, you know, so I think you’re seeing a flattening of the world. You’ve seen Steve Case’s rise of the rest. You’ve seen what Brad Feld and guys have done down in, in Boulder. You know, you’re seeing, they call them ecosystems in second and third tier cities all over the place. But I think what you’re actually going to start to see is more communities built in other places of people who work for the Adobes, the Oracles, the cloud apps that you work, I use that are just distributed everywhere, which means that the technology we’re using today, um, is going to need to be innovated upon.

Speaker 2: (25:39)
And new norms are going to be created around how we work and how we live and how we engage. Um, you know, and that’s just gonna require more and more technology and capability, um, and more and more automation, right? I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s hard to fast track getting to know somebody when you’re not actually seeing them, um, even in our investment decisions. We’re making, going back to the last question a little bit, Joe, I have to do way more, way more. Backchanneling black ops sketchy stocking, where when we decide to invest in someone I’ve never met in person, and I can’t look eye to eye and shake their hand, right? So, so, you know, the world of like research and data and tracking individuals and companies and markets, I mean a lot of what we’re building in New York, I use fuel platform that we’ll bring to market, or eventually it’s less about the human to human and more about market spaces and trends and companies, but it’s just, it’s just automating that and making it faster and quicker and making us all more prepared and more, um, context, low lead, um, than we’ve ever been before.

Speaker 2: (26:48)
Um, so that when we get on calls like this, we actually know about the people we’re talking to, where they live, what the weather’s like, you know, what the sports scores were last night, what the local news is, you know, is there, you know, a community on rests happening right now in your neighborhood? You know, um, I think we just need to be a lot more aware. And so I think it’s going to be the manifestation of that, you know, being more prepared and making sure people are filled with context, as well as the collaboration tools coming together, um, and innovating, that’s really going to be the next, the next gen. I think of experiences amongst, amongst each other, in our careers and lives.

Speaker 1: (27:27)
Great stuff. Really appreciate your insights on experienced business York, IIE,

Speaker 2: (27:33)
Lots of different stuff going on and appreciate your background and kind of taking some time out this morning. Thanks, Jerry. Appreciate it. Keep up the good work. Especially with that hairdo. It’s really, really coming together, grow it, grow it out until there’s a vaccine. That’s right. I love it. All right. Thanks God. Thank you.

Speaker 1: (27:54)
Thanks for joining the DNA of an experience podcast. We hope you learn something that will help improve your collaboration and enhance the experience you create for your customer. Join the collaboration 2.0 movement today by getting cloud app. The instant business communication tool used to create instantly shareable videos, screenshots, and gifts. Perfect for both internal and external communication. Get started for free@wwwdotgetcloudapp.com. Thank you. We look forward to seeing you next time.

David Hunt VP of Customer Support at Hubspot

CloudApp text in black with speech bubble/cloud in various shades of blue

Speaker 1: (00:00)
Welcome to the DNA and experience podcast from cloud app, where we discuss how and why creating an experience is so important and the psychology behind what makes an experience. So great. Thanks for joining us. Hey everyone. I am excited to have David Hunt with me today. David is the head of customer support at HubSpot, um, we’re users of HubSpot over at cloud app, and I’ve also just been a big fan of their top of funnel content, lead management, um, and just kind of how they do marketing. So I’m excited to have David on with me today, and we’re going to talk a little bit about customer experience and kind of the modern workplace and other things that David sees on, on the front lines of customer support. So, David, if you wouldn’t mind, uh, tell us a little bit about yourself, how you got to HubSpot. Uh, tell me, tell us a little bit about, um, you know, what you’re doing there and, uh, we can go from there.

Speaker 2: (01:01)
Awesome. Thank you for having me, Joe. Um, so I been at HubSpot for many years now. Um, I actually started as a temp, um, so I kind of stumbled into HubSpot. It wasn’t really something I was planning on pursuing. I was working for a temp agency and I got, got a chance to work on the support team and, and help with some, some integration upgrades. Um, and ultimately I think what I, probably, the reason why I’ve stayed over all these years is I’ve gotten to see like the impact that we can have on small and medium sized businesses. And like from a very early stage, I was able to take some of my at the time, pretty limited tech skills and, you know, really help people, right. Be able to, to get their website up and running right. And help them with their marketing. And so I found a lot of satisfaction from that contribution.

Speaker 2: (01:49)
And then over time I’ve been able to, you know, work across pretty much every job in customer support, uh, to a point where I now lead the department. And, um, a lot of that, that sort of passion for contribution has shifted to how do I help people, you know, grow their careers and have, you know, uh, have remarkable opportunities like the ones that I’ve had. Um, and so that’s kind of where I’m a bit of a bit of how I have approached my career over the past couple of years, um, outside of work, um, I’m a father, uh, and so working through this period of remote working and parenting has been a challenge, especially when running a large global support team. Um, and so there’s, there’s been that and, um, you know, but that’s, that’s, it’s also been, there’s been a lot of really amazing moments over the past couple of months of getting to see things that I would have, I might have missed otherwise. Um, and so that’s been, I’m very grateful for that. Um, in that I work at the kind of company that’s been able to sort of be flexible and, um, and, and just kind of make it work, we’re all kind of making it work together. Um, so that’s a little bit about me and, um, yeah, so I am looking forward to just sort of talking about whatever, um, aspects of customer support, what insights I have and anything else I can offer.

Speaker 1: (03:07)
Awesome. Yeah, it’s been pretty wild, definitely like have blending those two lives of, uh, being a parent and, um, you know, taking on leadership roles and I’m sure that’s, uh, you’ve, you’ve experienced similar things to me.

Speaker 2: (03:22)
Yeah. My daughter is pretty much running the department now, so, you know,

Speaker 1: (03:28)
Um, I love, I love it. I’m sure it’s, you know, I’m excited to dig in on a few things about customer support. Um, a lot of, a lot of things I’ve been thinking about leading up to this conversation, uh, you know, as, as kind of the front lines of, um, customer support, you know, in a digital space, chances are pretty high that people have probably Googled how to do something. They’ve probably gone through your, uh, help docs. They’ve probably, uh, reached out to your support team and they probably complained about you on social, um, how, when they get to an agent, you know, what is really the DNA of a good customer experience? How do you kind of manage that someone when they finally get to your team is probably pretty fired up about fixing something. Um, obviously there’s people that are just, you know, cordial, but, uh, how do you kind of make that a good experience? How do you help them come away feeling good that they were able to connect with someone on your team?

Speaker 2: (04:30)
Yeah, I think that, you know, one of the things that’s really important in a customer experience, or, you know, are if you’re in a customer facing role, right. Is to always have that empathy and recognize that like you’re dealing with a person like we’re, we’re B to B, or we’re dealing with people who are running in their businesses. It’s obviously a stressful time, um, to, to, to be navigating that for many people. Um, and you’re helping them with their livelihood. You’re helping them with their day to day to get through their week. Right. I think that that’s really critical. And with that, I think comes to the recognition of just like how valuable customer time is, or just time for any of us, right? Like time is one of those things where it’s like, you’re, um, we, we have more, we have, we’re doing more than we probably ever have, right.

Speaker 2: (05:11)
In terms of our commitments, both personal and professional. So, so I think that one of the things that’s really important that DNA is like that the speed at which we can help somebody. Right. And that doesn’t just mean the speed at which an agent can solve a problem, but also like all, you, you, you referenced all those other stages along the way, right. Getting help from, by Googling something, finding something on your knowledge base, you know, finding a video that walks you through something very quickly, right. Time is such an important commodity in the customer experience. Right. But I also think like part of it is, is that human connection right. Is recognizing that like you’re helping somebody. Right. And you’re able to actually hopefully contribute something to their day, contribute something to their, their, their livelihood in the case of, of B2B. Um, and that’s, that’s, I think really important as part of that, that DNA makes a

Speaker 1: (05:58)
Lot of sense. Yeah. I liked how you pointed out time. Um, you know, it can be frustrating when you’re so reliant on a tool and it’s especially like automation, you know, with HubSpot and if something breaks and you have either emails that aren’t going sent out or, you know, things that aren’t able to happen as a part of your Mark marketing system, it can be really frustrating. I think it’s important that you mentioned, you know, acknowledging that and, and the time that people are having to take to reach out to you and also fix the problem.

Speaker 2: (06:31)
Yeah. And I think too, like, you know, if you’re because you are taking that time, right. It’s like, how can you add value? Right. How can you move from beyond, from just being about fixing a problem to really contributing something in that interaction. Right. Um, so I think like that’s a lot of times what we’re trying to instill across, you know, our team around the world is like, how do we move away from just being this sort of like, you know, having these transactional interactions to where we’re really provide providing value. Um, and so somebody is walking away with maybe more than they, they, they initially came into that interaction expecting.

Speaker 1: (07:03)
I really liked that. So, you know, as, um, customer support is really so important and you’re kind of going in on this a little bit, but how can you really try and stand out when someone reaches out to you and you mentioned, um, you know, adding in elements that maybe they didn’t know about before, uh, take us through that a little bit more and, and maybe share some experiences there.

Speaker 2: (07:26)
Yeah, I think, um, I mean, I think part of it is like recognizing, like what, like what makes your team special, right. Not every customer support team is set up the same way and not every business is going to make sense, but I think like understanding what are those strengths? Like, what are those things that, that maybe set your team apart or set your experience apart, right. It’s not all just about the, your, your, your human support, but also everything around your, you know, helping, helping your customers. Um, and I think really going after those strengths in doing even when that might be contrary to, um, some of, some of the kind of business metrics or business constraints. So, like for example, we, we, we make sure that, like we see support as central to our customer experience. And it’s been a big point of investment, not just financially, but also in terms of like resources, innovation, making sure that we’re, we’re really growing the team in terms of their, um, the skills that they’re developing.

Speaker 2: (08:18)
And I think like that’s all a recognition of, like, we see this as like there’s a world where we could be trying to do less for customers and we’re trying to do more. Right. We’re trying to, how do we like challenging ourselves that even within constraint, how can we reach more customers? How can we get, you know, drive more impact? Um, and so I think like that’s kind of how I think about that problem is like, what are ways that we can once again, provide that incremental value versus just trying to be like, how do we stop, stop the tickets? Right. Um, we’ve seen even that, like, how are, um, how support interactions, impact retention, right. So customers who, um, you know, they, they buy HubSpot for a number of, one of the reasons they stay with HubSpot is because of the support. And so like, that’s, once again, it’s like really trying to, to lean into what we’re good at versus trying to say like, well, we, we, we need to save on costs. We need to drive down our tickets. Like we want to work with customers. We want to work as many customers as possible, but we want those interactions to be valuable and not something that they’re, you know, they’re, they’re frustrated, or they’re forced to have to work with us on.

Speaker 1: (09:17)
That makes a lot of sense. Do you, do you guys, um, you know, obviously tickets is hoping to get to ticket zero, you know, as, as frequently as possible, what are the, what are the things do you try and guys try and focus on? Is it like a NPS customer satisfaction scores? Uh, what are, what are some metrics that you try and lead your team with?

Speaker 2: (09:36)
Yeah, I think on the ticket zero one, like, we’re, we’re really trying to make sure that like, we’re like, like once again though that like, we, we want to be mindful of what our incident rate is, right. That like customers are, you know, interacting with us because they want to be interacting with us versus because they have to. Um, but then we’re also tracking things like customer support, MPS, we’re tracking things around resolution time, a number of other kinds of like industry standard metrics. Um, but I think a lot of it too is making sure that like, we’re then using those metrics as like an objective starting point of a conversation to make our experience better. Right. It’s not just about, you know, MPS on, in an, in a vacuum is interesting directionally, but it’s, it’s more about, okay, what are we learning from those insights and those friction points in the experience and what are we doing to sort of eliminate them upstream. Um, and that’s a lot of, a lot of where we spend our time kind of operationally is trying to refine the things that will, will help all customers and drive more value.

Speaker 1: (10:37)
Um, it makes a lot of sense. You know, I, I think, uh, HubSpot is really excellent with, um, onboarding videos, how to tutorials, uh, product videos and other things. And we have a lot of people that use cloud app on customer support teams, um, to kind of, you know, close tickets, faster, uh, use videos and visuals. I’m not sure if you guys are doing that now, but how do you think visuals and videos and not just kind of pushing someone to like an FAQ page or whatever can be helpful to, um,

Speaker 2: (11:09)
Yeah, I think they’re like from a, one of the things I think that’s really important about, um, creating a good customer experience is, is being contextual right. And understanding how do I like, yes, the customer has a question, but that cost, that question is very much, you know, not going to always be able to be answered by the generic or, or the sort of high level doc. Um, they have specific use cases. They’re trying to get you to help them design solutions and video can really speed up that communication. Um, text-based communication is misunderstood like 50% of the time, right. So we spend a lot of time trying to write these long emails and then, you know, the answer is an email, but it just gets missed. Right. Um, and so that’s so much of that I think comes down to like, how can you very quickly and visually communicate some of these concepts? How can you, it, um, I think that that’s one of the great things about, you know, capture, screen capture software, like, like cloud app, where you can create this video that can be personalized and somebody, you know, in their app and their instance, right. With their information. And they can really see then, okay. Like that’s how I do the thing versus maybe having to explain that over the course of five or six emails.

Speaker 1: (12:14)
Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. I think there is a connection that can happen, like you said, and that, that personality, um, especially, you know, automation is awesome and we all believe in it, but it also can sometimes feel like it’s automated. So finding ways to create that, like one-to-one connection is really important.

Speaker 2: (12:36)
Yeah. And like, I think it’s also, uh, I mean, it could be a bit of like a creative expression too. Right. It allows you to communicate in a different way. Um, and I think that, that, that it’ll be exciting to see how that evolves over time, right. To, to be able to, you know, we’re all communicating through, through different, um, teleconference software right now. And we’re all communicating like there, there’s going to be, I think a lot of evolution of how we communicate in this sort of digital video world. So I think it’s a really cool space to kind of explore and think about, you know, how do we continue to, to push the envelope there

Speaker 1: (13:11)
For sure. What are some of the, you know, you talked a lot about, uh, people coming into HubSpot and, you know, trying to add value and other things, um, what are some strategies as a whole, at HubSpot looking at the entire customer journey where you really try and create a loyal customer, someone who is going to go out there and gonna stick with you and really push for you when they move companies and, you know, be a, be a real champion for HubSpot.

Speaker 2: (13:41)
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. I mean, I think a big part of that right. Is, is that they’re sort of one of the things I like about, you know, where we’re positioned in terms of the market who we’re trying to sell it to and how we’re, you know, we’re really trying to equip marketers and salespeople and service people with a ton of power, but make it easy. Right. And, and that’s sort of fundamental to trying to help everybody be successful. Right. You don’t need to be a, an admin with a ton of technical experience to get your marketing campaign off the ground. Right. Um, so I think about it is sort of, you know, someone said recently, you know, we’re in the business of selling careers, right. Not just software. Um, and I think like that’s kind of part of how we think about it, right? How do we help that marketer look good, good look good for their, to their boss, with I, you know, proving the value of this campaign or how do we help, you know, a sales person who’s starting out become more productive?

Speaker 2: (14:31)
How do we level the playing field? And so I think about that a little bit. It’s like, that’s part of how you create promoters is like, you’re actually, you’re impacting the people at the end of the day. Um, and that’s, I think a big part of kind of like what we set out to do is like, you should, like, everyone should be able to do some of this stuff and like yes, where there’s still a ton of complexity and it’s, you know, it’s dense software, that’s powerful, but at the same time, there’s a lot of things that like, it shouldn’t require, you know, a web developer to be able to get your work off the ground. And that, that’s kind of like where we’re, what we’re pushing towards.

Speaker 1: (15:03)
That’s a, yeah, that’s really insightful. Uh, and I want to kind of dig in on that a teeny bit with, with you guys, you know, being spread across, uh, you mentioned kind of like someone being able to just really set something up pretty easily. Maybe that’s like a small business or something. Um, certainly, you know, we’re a small tech company that’s using HubSpot and getting value out of it, but you also have, you know, many medium and, and uh, enterprise companies. Um, how do you kind of segment, you know, how to help different, uh, users and personas, um, at different size companies and, and, uh, do you see much differences there? Yeah,

Speaker 2: (15:43)
I think like, you know, we, we’ve, we’ve experimented with a bunch of different strategies in the past, on, in that space. Right. And I think that, like, we’ve seen sort of like less, um, less differences than you might expect. Right. And part of that is because, I mean, if you’re, if you’re a more complex company, if you’re, you know, an enterprise customer, if you’re using more of a software, like you’re going to have, you know, more complex needs, but even then I’d say that like, you know, in the startup space, you have some people who are, you know, using very basic products and really pushing the envelope. So some of it is less about like the subs, your subscription level and what you’re paying, but also is about like your, your business context. So I think that, like for us, we, we try to add these first and foremost, get really clear on like, w like what’s a really high base level of service we want to provide versus trying to be like, well, you know, with some exceptions, like we, you know, for our free CRM, we provide a community.

Speaker 2: (16:34)
We don’t provide access to human support. Right. But for pretty much any other product, right. We’re giving you, uh, you know, a really high level of service. And so that’s sort of been our, our place to make sure that we’re like we first and foremost have a really high baseline. And then we’re sort of layering on additional, um, you know, behind the scenes offerings. Right. Cause it’s not, I think one of the other challenges with when you’re running a support team, as it comes really like, well, if you pay for this additional service, you get X and Y and like, and one of the things that I think we’re trying to be as like fairly transparent, but also simple, right? Like if, if you need to layer on this whole additional services packages and all this other stuff, right. I think it just gets that much more, that’s much more complex. So, um, it’s always this balancing act of trying to make sure we’re tailoring to meet the needs of different customer segments and recognizing that like, you know, a customer who’s paying $50 probably, you know, from just an economic standpoint, we’ll need to have a different level of service than somebody who’s paying, you know, thousands of dollars every month. But like, we, we don’t want it to feel like we won’t, like, we’re fundamentally committed to everybody having that sort of opportunity to grow and that access access to help when they need it.

Speaker 1: (17:43)
Cool. Yeah. I think, uh, having elements, like you said, culturally, that are like, we’re just going to provide good service regardless of if you’re a free user or, you know, our top paying customer. Um, I think that really helps when it’s integrated and then, um, you know, just providing, uh, a tailored customer service to someone who comes in, but the strategies are kind of the same. Yeah.

Speaker 2: (18:08)
I think like, you know, on the sort of like in the free space, right. We spend a lot of time in our product and engineering, Oregon investing in like, how do we still create a remarkable experience, but that could be totally touchless, right? Like, ideally you’re able to come in and do everything that you want to do within sort of a free suite or even a starter suite without having to talk to, you know, a support person, a bunch over the course of a month. Um, and so I think like that’s another thing is like making sure you’re, you’re making investments in that freemium space to really create that, um, you know, that ease, that ease of use experience from, from day one.

Speaker 1: (18:42)
Awesome. I like to ask, um, you know, what a recent experience that you’ve had as a consumer is, um, could be retail. It could be tech, could be, you know, really whatever. Um, what’s, what’s a brand that’s really stood out to you, uh, recently with, with you as the customer.

Speaker 2: (19:01)
Yeah. I mean, um, I think like a lot of my, like were more, my head goes on that question is probably things with response, like, like different companies responding to the current coronavirus crisis and how they, you know, and there’s like one end of the spectrum where people are taking like a very non, um, human approach. And on the other end, it’s like, people are very empathetic. And, um, and I think that’s been kind of our approach is trying to help customers, weather the storm and make it work, whether it’s through, you know, discounting or some other means to just try to like help them, you know, with cashflow issues and get through it. Um, the, um, like for me, like, like on a more personal note, like even something like our rec reentry into daycare, right. The they’ve been very flexible about, Hey, we, we know that you, like, it’s a weird time, right.

Speaker 2: (19:50)
We’ll hold your spot for X until X date, that type of thing. And so like really giving that consumer, the, the flexibility there. And it’s like, that’s a kind of a more personal example where I feel much more like, you know, when we will definitely continue to, to work with that, that daycare provider. Um, I also think about like experiences that, you know, on more of a consumer level where it’s just like, it’s, it’s very personalized and it’s, um, where it’s kind of like, you, I’m always amazed when, like you can, you know, if you do have to contact support, they have all the contexts. So like, and it’s, it’s, it’s it’s then like that whole interaction it’s like, they’ve got, they basically know what you’re calling about and they’re able to solve it like super fast. So, um, you know, brands that you’re working with where it’s like, you’re, you’re, you’re going in expecting to have like your traditional customer support experience. And then it’s like, um, you, you, you go in there and you’re just blown away. Right. Because they have so much information, they have access, they have really smart, talented people. Um, and, uh, like I think those are, those are the kinds of interactions where you’re like, wow, like that’s, that’s how you get a promoter from a support experience.

Speaker 1: (20:54)
That’s really good point. I think it’s just focusing on little things, not just giving the baseline experience. Um, I love that example of the daycare, you know, it’s, it’s been pretty cool, obviously small business and local businesses have been hit pretty hard everywhere. It’s been cool to kind of see innovation, um, with like curbside pickup for food and, uh, you know, people like we have this like local bookstore that we love to go to. And they were like, um, they were wrapping up books and then writing like the plot on it. So it was like wrapped in this, um, paper bag type style, and then the plot was written. So it was like they were selling a mystery basically, like you were, you didn’t know what you were buying, but it was like recommended by the editors or the people that worked there. Yeah. I thought that was kind of cool and just all kinds of innovation, um, with trying to connect with people and really, uh, that’s been, you know, one good thing to come out of this, which has been kind of cool to see. Yeah.

Speaker 2: (21:54)
I like transparency too, is another thing, like, I think that, like, it’s, I’m always impressed when companies are willing to sort of say like, Hey, we’re, um, we, we know like, we’re like we have a backlog we’ve, we’ve had supply chain issues. We’ve had some of these things and like just like kind of leveling with, with customers and, and, and hopefully customers are understanding and those situations where it’s like, you know, there’s been an influx in demand in this new world and we’re, and we’re um, so I think also just kind of like transparency and communication, something I’ve been really impressed with various businesses around as they sort of like their, you know, the other end of the spectrum where they’re getting totally hammered with demand. Um, and so it’s always cool to see sort of how do people navigate that and be transparent and hopefully, um, you know, speak to sort of customers, um, you know, empathy of what they’re going through.

Speaker 1: (22:42)
One thing, one thing I got to got to know before we get to kind of our last question, this has been a great conversation. Really appreciate it, David. Um, what is onboarding been like? I’m sure, you know, customer support is one of those that may have higher churn, uh, kind of like sales and customer success. And, you know, marketing can have churn as well. As far as employee retention goes, what is it like onboarding remotely? And I’m sure you do this a lot already, but what are some tips and tricks for like, um, people that are hiring still right now, um, to make sure people are brought into the company, they feel comfortable, they feel ready and they’re, they’re moving day one without necessarily, uh, uh, you know, face to face.

Speaker 2: (23:24)
Yeah. So like we started at least in support a couple of years ago, we started like hiring remote, which like we were the law, the company, most of the roles were in office roles and we started to at least build out kind of that remote team. And I think we probably missed a lot of opportunities early on or where we just kind of thought things would just transfer one-to-one it’s like, okay, this structure of this thing that works in the office, right. Like we don’t really need to be really mindful about that experience the same way, because it just happens. People just, you know, you come in with a new hire class and you get to know each other and you have like the coffee chats or whatever. Right. And I think, so I think part of it is like, you have to really look at it as like, what are those touch points that you lose along the way and how can you kind of recreate them in some way that’s, that’s fairly inclusive and engaging, um, because like there’s a lot there where I think, yes, we can probably get up to speed and do a job.

Speaker 2: (24:16)
Um, but some of what you may be missing along the way is, is that connection or is the, um, you know, the, the, the feeling like you, you have access to other people for help. Right. Some of those things that maybe you take for granted, so it’s important to look at like, well, how do you sort of recreate some of that in the remote context? Right. Little things, even like, you know, daily standups or, you know, you’re using some kind of Slack or some other software to communicate throughout the day. Um, and that, I think also you’re, you’re really thinking about how do you make sure that people are getting the opportunity to, I think, get into the work as soon as possible, but then sort of apply and apply what they’re learning. Right. Because I think it becomes that much even harder to be like here’s three weeks of like video content to go through and now you’re, then you’re going to apply to a job it’s like really adults learn through doing, and you need to make sure that like, you know, as, as, as quickly as possible, right.

Speaker 2: (25:08)
So we actually like redid our whole onboarding program to make it work for remote. And now that’s kind of become the standard of for everybody. Um, so, and, and we found two people actually in that onboarding program were ramping up faster and they were becoming more productive, but it took a lot of like growing pains and iteration to make some of those changes. But I definitely would say like trying to give people the opportunity to apply what they’re learning as quickly as possible, um, you know, is really, is really key there because otherwise I think it’s like, you, you kind of lose people in terms of that engagement. And, um, yeah. And I think also just making sure you, you have, like I said, access to, to individuals, access to leaders, making sure you’re creating that inclusive environment.

Speaker 1: (25:50)
Yeah. That’s great. That’s nice that you guys had already kind of been moving that way, so you could have some, you know, iterations of playbooks and see what was good and what was bad and, um, make some, make some choices there. Yeah.

Speaker 2: (26:03)
It’s been nice to it kind of leveled the playing field though, too, or is that everyone’s remote, every manager has to manage remote. Right. So it’s, it’s just, it’s actually, I think been in, in many ways it’s been a challenge, but it’s also kind of catalyzed probably the direction that we were going to head as a world in many, many situations. So I think that that’s, um, that’s definitely been a positive cause we’re all trying to get better and to think more about like that experience of each person, you know, who’s sitting all across the world.

Speaker 1: (26:31)
Awesome. David, I just got one last question for you as we kind of close things up today. Um, what advice do you have for customer support leads out there? Um, you know, you, you, you said worked your way up from being attempt to lead, um, you know, the, of the, uh, one of the larger departments I’m sure at HubSpot, um, what, what are some tips and tricks? Um, some advice just kind of give your parting words of wisdom out there.

Speaker 2: (26:59)
All right. I’ll give it a shot. Um, so I think like for me, I never thought I would be running a customer support team. It wasn’t really like what I aspire to or anything like that. Um, I think what, what it was always about is, you know, stepping outside my comfort zone for the sake of growth and where could I have impact. Right. So a lot of that was like, you know, that starts out when you’re getting started. It’s like taking the scary case, right. Or taking the thing. You, you have no idea what the, what the customer is talking about. Right. But you’re going to get through it. And on the other side of that, you’ve learned something on the other side of that you’ve, you’ve helped somebody. Um, and I think about that kind of like is a consistent theme where it’s like, I, when I got into managing people, right.

Speaker 2: (27:37)
That was really scary. And I probably had other opportunities. I could, could’ve gone a different route and taken a, um, you know, Ben maybe better from day one, but that was gonna challenge me. And the opportunity for impact was greater. So I think like that’s kind of how I’ve approached it. It’s like, I’ve never done most of the things that I’ve done in my career. And so then it’s like always coming through, getting to the other side of that and to do that, you also need to surround yourself with people who are gonna kind of help you, right. Who are going to challenge you to be better, whether they’re they’re people who are working for you or that you’re working for, or your peers. Um, I think like getting to work with really smart, interesting people who are pushing you to do your best work is, is critical.

Speaker 2: (28:17)
Um, and then I think like also just, um, the, I’m trying to think of other, other parting words of wisdom. Um, yeah, I think like, like for me too, it’s about like, how do you always, you know, like how are you leaving things better than you found it? How are you helping others and giving others a voice? How are you being inclusive in your, like in your day to day? You know, um, I think that that’s, this is like really important. It’s like, if you want to work at the kind of organization where people can bring them their best selves and be authentic, right. Every single person I think plays a role in that. And you know, and it’s even that much harder, I think, in the remote context and some of those things, but always, I think thinking about like, like who am I being for my team and how am I in inf for and for customers. Um, and, and how am I, how am I facilitating that kind of environment where people can do their best work.

Speaker 1: (29:11)
Awesome. David. Yeah. We’re, we’re all making it up along the way. So it’s always good to hear other leaders say that. So yeah. I appreciate your time today. I’m big fans of HubSpot and keep up the good work and look forward to talking again soon. Yeah. Thank you, Joe. I appreciate it. Thanks David. Bye bye. Thanks for joining the DNA of an experience podcast. We hope you learned something that will help improve your collaboration and enhance the experience you for your customer.

Speaker 3: (29:42)
Joined the collaboration 2.0 movement today by getting cloud app, the instant business communication tool use to create instantly shareable videos, screenshots, and gifts. Perfect. For both internal and external communication. Get started for free@wwwdotgetcloudapp.com. Thank you. We look forward to seeing you

Speaker 4: (30:03)
Next time.

Dan Watkins and Deon Nicholas Podcast Transcript

CloudApp text in black with speech bubble/cloud in various shades of blue

Joe: (00:00)
Welcome to the DNA and experience podcast from cloud app, where we discuss how and why creating an experience is so important and the psychology behind what makes an experience. So great. Thanks for joining us. Hey everyone. I am thrilled to have something a little different today. I’ve got two guests with me. Uh, got a little webinar style format going on with the podcast today. I’m excited to have Deon Nicholas and Dan walk-ins with me. Deon is the co founder and CEO of forethought. And Dan is the current president of forethought. Uh, just moved over from Qualtrics. Um, we have a lot of good friends over there at Qualtrics, so I’ve, I’ve stayed in touch with Dan and some other people. We brought over to forethought with him, um, and have been trying to get this for quite some time. So I’m excited to have you both with me today.

Deon: (00:55)
I’m excited to be here. Awesome job. Great to great to be here.

Joe: (00:59)
Thanks guys. Hey, I wanted to give you both a chance to kind of give a little bit of background on yourselves. Um, we’ll start with Deon, um, give us a little background on forethought and where you kind of, um, where the idea, I always love to hear kind of the background of how a company started, um, from the founder and how, where are you kind of at now and then we’ll kind of get into some of the things.

Deon: (01:24)
Yeah, absolutely. Thanks, Joe. So hi everyone. I’m Deon, Nicholas CEO and co founder of forethought. Um, I, uh, we started forethought on a mission to make everyone a genius at their job and we’re starting with, uh, customer support agents. Um, and so the idea behind forethought, um, a little bit of background on myself, I’m an engineer by training. I’ve built products and infrastructure at companies like Dropbox, Facebook, uh, and most recently pure storage. Um, the idea behind forethought is really near and dear to me. Um, I’ve always been interested in how AI can help people become smarter. Um, it actually goes back back to high school for me actually. So being a math and computers guy, um, I was decent in math and computers, but very bad at subjects like history. Um, so at the time I built an AI that would read my notes and quiz me on the material and that’s how I got through history class.


Um, and so that was my first foray into AI, into natural language understanding. And since then, I’ve just been obsessed with this idea of like, Hey, if AI can help me at school, can we use AI to help people at work? And so, you know, you fast forward a zillion years, um, being an engineer ramping up on new projects or having friends who are customer support agents or in it groups, I realized that everyone has that, that information problem where if you could have AI or technology help you, uh, quote unquote, be a genius at your job, you can do so much more. Um, and so that’s kind of the backstory of forethought and why, uh, I co founded forethought with my cofounder and CTO Sammy. Um, and, uh, yeah, we’re, we’re really excited being on this mission.

Joe: (03:00)
Awesome. I really love that. You know, the cloudapp screen recorder is, is a key piece of a lot of customer support teams and it’s so important to not only have the, um, technology to help them, but also, you know, the training and, and certainly been able to get through things quickly. Um, with simple question answers that, you know, forethought can provide and, and, you know, advancing things. It’s really cool to have lots of great tools in that space. Dan, I want to hear, uh, you know, your journey to forethought. Um, how did you kind of first connect with Deon, uh, what really ignited your, you know, fuel to leave, uh, Qualtrics where you were for a very long time and, uh, you know, what most excites you about what’s going on?

Dan: (03:50)
Yeah, so my story, it sounds like it’s all connected, but I think in a lot of ways, I got really, really lucky about 18 years ago, I started with a company called focus services where people would outsource their customer support and sales. It went really, really well. I eventually started, I led a site there and then a friend of mine who I’d been friends with since we were kids like, Hey, Dan, there’s this survey software company. I’m going to go work there. You should come. And I was like, no way, I’m not going to go work in survey surveys. Aren’t interesting that I met the CEO, Ryan Smith, and I just, there was something different that we could do that we were going to go help organizations make data driven decisions. We were going to go help customer support teams, market research teams. That sounded really exciting, went and did that 13 years there, some of the best years of my life, where all five of my children were born, some of the best friends I could have possibly made.


And after 13 years I looked back and said, what were my favorite things that I did and is when I got to lead the entire business units. So one of my favorite groups is the research services team. And we’ve got to lead sales operations, go to market, every element of that and had teams all over the world. And I started thinking about, what do I want to go do next? And I wanted to go lead a company. And I thought originally I was just going to go start my own thing. Then about a year ago, I was walking in San Francisco with a good friend of mine to meet. And we walking across this intersection and he’s like, damn, stop for a second. I’ve got to introduce you to this guy. And so we went backwards a little bit and he’s like, Dan, meet Deon.


He’s one of the best leaders in engineering minds I’ve ever met. Deon, meet Dan. One of the best go to market operations leaders has ever met. You guys should exchange phone numbers. I don’t know what this is going to mean, but you guys should exchange phone numbers now. So we exchanged phone numbers and I started to become good friends. And for six months, we’d just talk, catch up kind of what was going on. Uh, talked a little bit more about what he was doing, go to market and how to go start sales work that way. And he’s like, Dan, we should work together. I was like, Deon, we should work together. How would this look? And he’s like, come and do this with me. And I said, what does that mean? He’s like, look, I need somebody that is really strong and go to market operations and business processes. And that wants

Deon: (05:58)
To go and be part of this. And I said, okay, let’s do it. And, and it was really easy and nothing to do with culture. Culture is one of the best companies out there on the planet. I’ve got nothing to say, but incredible things about the entire team there. It was more about going and being part of AI, being with a CEO that cared so deeply about their people, had a vision for how customer support in so many ways could be augmented. Other elements of it that the customer support teams don’t like can be fully automated and be able to expand that across the whole business. So that got me really excited to go and not just impact customer support, but sales internal ticketing and the needs of the entire business.

Joe: (06:34)
That’s really cool. Yeah. I mean, it is definitely an impactful company and product has a lot of opportunity, uh, integrates with AI and that’s a core element of it. I also think, you know, I talked about all the time, the customer supports like the last line of defense, but also maybe one of the most important pieces of the customer experience, a really, really cool piece to be a part of.

Deon: (06:58)
Yeah, absolutely.

Joe: (06:59)
Get into some questions. Deon. I want to ask you, you know, with, uh, kind of everything. So I was kind of part of Adobe’s, you know, shift to experience business, digital transformation. I saw like Microsoft and Salesforce and Oracle and everybody talking about digital transformation and AI and machine learning and everything for the last, you know, seven years. And we all kinda got crammed into seven or eight weeks, uh, at the first kind of part of this year, the end of Q1. Uh, what do you kind of see the modern workplace looking like both internally with maybe remote work? I know you guys have, uh, multiple offices and then also externally with how you’re kind of integrating with customers and, uh, you know, tool sets and other things.

Deon: (07:46)
Yeah, absolutely. With respect to the modern workplace, I think there’s a ton of shifts happening that we’ve kind of been expecting or were promised, uh, for many years. So for example, you know, uh, artificial intelligence, automation, things like that, um, as well as like we’re seeing a lot of changes to the way people are getting work done, right. With work from home. I think even in a year or two years from now, a lot more people are gonna get work done remotely. A lot more people are going to be using technology to do work and have, you know, conversations like this over the internet, um, rather than, uh, directly in person. And the part I’m most excited about is how AI is involved in the modern workplace. Again, it’s a technology that we’ve been talking about, you know, since like the first neural networks were invented, I believe in the eighties.


Um, and so we’ve been talking about artificial intelligence for a long time, but now is when we’re seeing it come to fruition. And so whether that’s as Dan was talking about before automating tasks that, um, humans or people don’t really want to be working on, or whether that’s, um, helping them augmenting them, them, um, in their workplace. Uh, so, you know, customer support agents, helping them get work done, uh, helping engineers write code and things like that. Um, we’re starting to see that artificial intelligence and particularly natural language processing, natural language understanding, um, is becoming something that can really be a companion, a tool, um, for, uh, for all knowledge workers. Right. And so I’m super excited about being able to help kind of tackle some of these really previously uncrackable tasks.

Joe: (09:26)
Yeah. It makes a lot of sense. You know, I, uh, kinda in the tail end of one of the teams I was managing and Adobe was this, um, team in India and they were working on natural language processing, really fascinating to kind of see the tools they were building to kind of understand those things. Um, and do you feel like, you know, where do you feel like we’re at with that with in terms of, um, businesses being able to deploy things that are related to AI and also just them integrating into, you know, an existing workflow?

Deon: (09:59)
Yeah, absolutely. Um, what’s interesting is I think, um, AI has really taken a big leap forward since right around 2017, I would say right around when we were starting forethought. Um, it started with, uh, data sets around question answering around information retrieval, uh, like you saw the squad data set coming out of Stanford and a few other things there that really helped natural language understanding, take a big leap, um, kind of similar to how computer vision, you know, about half a decade before it started to take a big leap. And you started to see things like autonomous vehicles and an entire new entirely new industries crop up. I think natural language processing and natural language understanding is, is just starting to get there. Um, and then there was another big leap in terms of, um, models like Bert, uh, which came out, which basically became state-of-the-art, uh, across many different, uh, human and natural language understanding tasks.

Deon: (10:51)
Um, and so with kind of this advance or all of these advances in AI and natural language understanding, we’re also seeing the cost to kind of deploy, uh, new systems come down. There’s a lot of tooling, for example, with AWS and in a few other places. Um, and so we’re starting to see a ton of really, really good tools. Obviously, you know, we’re building Agatha at forethought and we’re seeing a lot of other companies in the space as well. And so I’m very excited that, um, it’s actually becoming a lot more easy or a lot easier for companies to deploy. I th I think it still takes engineering minds or engineering talent if you’re going to try to build this stuff internally. Um, but we’re, we’re definitely seeing, like, if you can use a vendor like a forethought or others, uh, you’re gonna start to see a lot of, uh, previously uncrackable tasks being tackled

Joe: (11:38)
Really cool. That’s, that’s great to kind of get an update on, you know, where you’re at with, uh, thoughts on AI. I think it’s really important. Definitely a part of the modern workplace as we’ve kind of shifted no to this wildly remote, uh, area, you know, we actually, so we ran a survey last fall at, at cloud app and we found that over 50% of younger generations were working remotely anyway. Uh, the majority of the time Bay area is really expensive. Uh, commuting’s hard, you know, so people were already trying to find ways to not necessarily go to the office. What have you kind of learned as a leader? Uh, what are tips and tricks you’ve learned? Uh, first thing I always say is this is not remote work. This is like working from home during a pandemic. Um, but what are some things that maybe you’ve learned during this time that will really be helpful as you, uh, you know, lead your company and, and kind of move towards that?

Deon: (12:38)
Yeah, so I think I have learned three really important things in kind of this shift and with everything going on in the world. Um, the first I would say is invest in and focus on your people. Uh, one of my friends, the way they described it was like during times of uncertainty, you bear hug your people. Um, and so what that means is, um, you know, a lot of people are, are having uncertain times, whether it’s, um, questions about, uh, their own employment, things like that, uh, just with everything going on with the shifts to work from home and, and being in a pandemic. Um, and so just like focusing on, Hey, we’re going to help you set up your home office. We’re going to help you, uh, make sure that, um, you’re getting, you know, um, help or, or, uh, support in any way you need.


Um, and basically giving people stability and security, uh, in a time like this. I think that’s the first, most important thing. The second I would say is over-communicating, we’re in unprecedented times across many different fronts. And so, um, as a leadership team, we’re adapting and learning, um, all the time. And so it’s okay to share that with your team that, Hey, here’s the thing that we have not encountered before as a company, as a leadership team, uh, we’re communicating, this is the stance that we’re at right now, and this is what we’re learning as we go, and we’re going to keep everyone updated. And again, that’s in the, um, in the interest of, uh, making sure people have security. And even when the answer is, I don’t know, they, they are kept in the loop. Um, and we work as a team in order to kind of get these problems solved.


And then the last thing I’ve learned in that I’m really starting to grow on and really starting to internalize is that vulnerability can be a superpower as a leader. Um, and what I mean by that is, um, during times of uncertainty, uh, people look to a leadership team, um, but not to just quote unquote, be leaders with a capital health, um, but again, to be people, to be people that they can trust, uh, to be people that, uh, they can relate to. And so sharing what’s on my mind, uh, the places where, uh, I’m struggling or any vulnerabilities I have, I found that it’s helped me connect with my team. Um, and, uh, and I really think that that becomes a powerful, that can

Dan: (14:52)
Help you kind of move through these times of uncertainty.

Joe: (14:55)
I really love that. I love that you focused, um, no on, on really recognizing what people need, uh, both within your team. And I think that segues really nicely to a question I want to ask Dan, uh, it’s also a time to protect your customers. Um, you know, we all kind of turn into, uh, whether you like the term or not like a wartime CEO. Um, so, you know, protecting your customers considering ad spend maybe a little differently and really just making sure you have the runway you need as a company, Dan, what’s something that is really kind of the, the root of, or the DNA of a good experience that can really help you guys during this time to make sure that customers stay happy. Uh, they don’t churn and you can kind of work with them to make sure that you keep the customer set. You have.

Dan: (15:51)
Yeah. So as you think about that, the root of a good customer experience has to go down to where they actually experiencing it, their experience, again, the product, make sure that your product team takes it seriously. Are they listening to the customer feedback that’s happening, but then it’s what are their interactions with your people? And so if I look at the very core of what creates an incredible customer experience, it’s the people that you hire. And it was another thing, one of the main reasons why, like, for thoughts so much, this is Deon introduced me to each member of his team, whether it’s the head of engineering, Sammy, whether it’s the leader of customer experience Rose the head of operations, Jenny, each one of them at the core of who they were, were kind and good people that actually cared about the customer. So any organization out there that strikes like Dan, our customer SATs really low, our NPS is really low.


It’s probably because your people need a change. You need people at the very core that are supporting your customers that are selling to your customers that actually care about that customer. Because when the times are against you, you’re going to come up with something like, you know what? I actually agree customer, you can’t afford this right now. We’re going to give it to you for free for three months. But then my first week of starting here, Deon announced, we’re going to go out and roll out this product for free for anybody that needs it because so many companies are struggling. So the very core of who your people are, then once you have a good core team, people that care, they genuinely care about your people, your care about your customers. Then you start laying on top of that technology that empowers them. It’s not that exciting for an employee that really well educated, they’re bright, they’re hardworking, they care. And then all of a sudden you have them do work that they could, that could be automated. That could be completely automated and they don’t want to do so. What you do is, and that’s where I think companies like forethought come in, we’re able to go in and automate the stuff that people don’t want to do, and then help them on the hardest problems that are actually mentally stimulating. Because if you can go and just offload this stuff that nobody really wants to do, it’s mostly busy work, but the customers need, nonetheless,

Deon: (17:50)
They need an answer. How do I reset my password? It gets old. If that’s the hundredth time, you’ve answered that, that, that day, then you go into it and we provide them with the best answers and the best way to go and solve really complicated customer problems that they’re solving. So I think great people then on top of that, you like really good technology that empower those great people, and you’re going to have a great customer career.

Joe: (18:11)
I like that. I like that you kind of went with the, you know, internal, external, I think it definitely starts with the company. Like you said, a cultural, like obsession with, uh, retention and loyalty and, and C-SAT NPS or whatever. You’re kind of doing to monitor those things and no action as well. So you’re not just saying, Hey, we’re a customer experience led business. Um, or, you know, we changed all our product names like Qualtrics or Adobe. No, we trained all our product names to be this experience product, but, you know, we’re, we’re terrible at customer experience when you look behind the curtain. So it’s so important to not just give the lip service, but really do it behind the scenes as well,

Deon: (18:57)
A hundred percent as you go focus on that, it’s a big deal. You, what are you going to go and do to walk the talk or to walk the walk, talk the talk. And I think great companies like forethought care about it. And I saw it at Qualtrics as well, where they focused a lot on that

Joe: (19:13)
Deon. I’d love to actually have you jump on in on that too. What do you kind of determine, uh, you know, what’s the DNA of a good customer experience? If you have anything to add on to Dan?

Deon: (19:23)
Yeah, no, I think Dan hit it on the head. It’s like employee, um, kind of your team starts, uh, that culture. And then that kind of bleeds out into how you treat your customers. Um, the only other thing I would add is, is really just, um, Dan touched on this a little bit, but in the product really listening to your customers, one of our values at forethought is put customers first, um, and really listening, uh, when you’re building products before you’re building products, doing user research and just getting as many people in the company as possible to spend time with the people, you’re building tools for the people that you’re serving. And so I think that’s the only other thing I would add is really just creating a customer centric product as well. Yeah.

Joe: (20:05)
A cup. I love that a couple of things we were doing at cloud app that kind of makes me think of that is we all have a support day, uh, once a month, you know, from the CEO, which he’s actually doing more than one day. Um, cause he enjoys it for some reason.


Um, but it’s really cool to like, see, you know, obviously we experienced the product and we have our own bugs that we report, but like seeing customer’s frustrations and really trying to figure out how to, um, improve them. And then also like, I am obsessed with reading the reviews on like G2 and TrustRadius or Capterra or whatever, and actually are great for like marketing and content fodder. I mean, from the five stars to, you know, the worst ones are really help us know, hone in our messaging, hone in our content and make sure that we’re putting out a good product.

Dan: (21:02)
I got some amazing CEO down. Everybody’s spending a day on customer support that actually reminds me like we actually did the same thing, not the same thing where it was the day, but every single person at Qualtrics when a customer called. And if it rang more than three times, these sirens would go off and that meant anybody should just now go pick up the phone to go and support them. And so the entire sales team needed to be trained on being able to support the customers because more important than getting that next customer was caring for the one that we have. And I think that makes a ton of sense. That’s exciting to see what you guys are doing to cloud up. I’d like to hear more about that. Maybe we should do the same thing to you. Yeah, exactly.

Joe: (21:40)
It’s pretty fun. Um, it definitely like helps you have some empathy for being a customer customer led product. Um, I’d love to Dan getting back to you, I’d love to get into, you know, you mentioned, um, some things you’re doing obviously with when COBIT hit, what are some other things you guys are doing to create an experience, you know, from the, from the, through the entire journey, from hitting your website to contacting sales or what are some things that you guys are doing internally to really focus on customer experience?

Dan: (22:15)
Yeah. So a big part of what we’re focusing on is hiring in advance so that as we win new customers, they trust us. They just said, you know what, we’re going to go and use forethought that we’ve already built out the infrastructure to handle them. I think a lot of companies, they hire once they’re in pain. And so then it’s like the customer struggling with you through that pain. What we’ve tried to do is to go in advance and say, okay, we know how many customers are going to be moving forward over the next six months over the next year, based on our forecasting, based on our go to market motion based on our targets, how do we go and hire an advance ideally six months in advance. So that by the time that customer needs to be onboarded supported, implemented, you already have a trained person ready to go and do that.


Whether that’s your first customer support rep your first implementation person, your first professional services engineer, your additional product, people, your additional engineers, but hiring and advance. So one of the things that Deon aligned, Deanna and I spent a lot of time in is how many people were going to go and hire because we want to go grow revenue. How do we go? Make sure those customers are loved, they’re cared for, and they’ve got enough to go do that. And then Rose who leads our customer experience team is making sure that every one of them gets trained and onboarded in a way that represents what she learned from Deon was she brought herself as just a customer care organization or an organization that cares from the beginning and cares deeply. Then the second thing that we go and do is make sure that the onboarding experience that you don’t have to go wait for one, I work for a fortune hundred company to have an onboarding experience that you actually get all the information that you need.


So we spend a lot of time working on how are we going to onboard each and every employee that comes in so that they’re trained, right? So that very first either deal that they’re working on, if they’re in sales project that they’re working on, if they’re in a, in engineering or customer support or customer experience, they need to handle if they’re in the customer experience or that we go and onboard them. And then as an organization, we’re looking at data all the time. We study our net promoter score, we study our C-SAT, we study our employee engagement. And then as we look at those, if those three are all going well, then we know that the organization, our customers are going to be cared for.

Joe: (24:28)
That’s really important. Yeah. I think it’s, you, you hit pretty much, you know, every organization. And I think that’s the important thing. It’s not, it’s not just a customer support issue. It’s not just a sales or like external facing issue. Um, it’s really getting everybody on board

Dan: (24:45)
A hundred percent got it’s a whole company thing.

Joe: (24:49)
So as we’re kind of, this has been a really fun discussion. Um, you guys have been great. I really appreciate your time today and kind of diving in on some things I want you to, um, kind of put on your, uh, magician’s hat, pull out your crystal ball, look into the future, make some bold predictions. Uh, we’ll start with Dan. Uh, what do you think the future of experience business is? And maybe even include, you know, how forethought is a part of that?

Dan: (25:21)
Yeah. So the future of experience, I think if you go and you read a lot of the reports that are out there, like Zendesk just came out in their 2020 trends report and said 74% of people that are loyal to at least one brand. If you go and read reports coming out by McKinsey’s stuffed by the customer experience professionals association, what it also talks about is the vast majority of people, every single quarter leave a brand that they used to be loyal to. And so if you have these conflicting reports, you have every, almost everybody’s loyal to a brand, but that loyalty is very short lived. If the customer experience doesn’t go well, I think the times of the past, where you could see with Twitter now with all the different data that’s coming out on social media, that ability to go and screw up once isn’t really there.


You’ve got to go in and from the beginning as an organization, you’re so committed to your customer that you’re already working on those things. And so I think one thing is just that we have to be aware that it’s not like where you stick with your bank for 30 years, you don’t have a good experience with your bank. You’re going to move. People are sticking to the same car brands, even like they used to. And so as you go look at, I think that’s going to go across tech net retention rate is going to be something that investors are going to be paying attention to even more than before, because it’s so easy to jump from one technology to another. And then last but not least,

Deon: (26:44)
I think employees are not going to accept that they’re going to be required to do mundane work, whether you’re working in a factory, whether you’re working in the fields, whether you’re working in a tech company, they’re going to expect that as an organization that employs them, you’ve done everything in your power to let them work on interesting projects. I think that’s a really, really great spot for forethought to be, and it gets exactly what we do. We’re going to go and empower the most entry level employee, the most sophisticated employee to be a genius in their job. We’re going to offload the work that they don’t want to do. And we’re going to empower them with the knowledge at the right time so they can provide experiences that customers care about. Okay.

Joe: (27:21)
Yeah. It’s like, it’s kind of like you have your paying customers and then Deon Dan, and your, you know, aggressive, your management or executive team has your like internal employee customers. And you need to make sure that you are engaging them and, um, training and providing what they need so that they can be effective, but also, you know, really endear to the brand and the company.

Deon: (27:45)
Exactly. You’re constantly faced with this tug of war. Do you go and invest in more product? Do you go and invest in your people? Do you go invest in your customers? You go invest and go to market. And the answer is yes to all of them and you’re going to have to do it. Right.

Joe: (28:01)
I love that Deon, let’s go up to you and you can get kind of a closing word. Um, what, where do you see the future of experience business going?

Deon: (28:12)
Yeah. So when I think about the, uh, the future of the experience business, I think about two things. One is that customer experience is going to become proactive rather than reactive. Um, and, and to, um, I think there’s a lot of data that’s finally gonna start to get pulled together. And so I’ll tackle kind of both of these two things. So what I mean by proactive is that a lot of customer experience happens when somebody is tweeting at your company and they’ve had a bad experience already. But what if you could predict, um, when they’re about to have a bad experience before they do, um, what have you could predict, um, what you need to build into your product in order to help your future customers and, and, uh, you know, future customer experience. So I think like with AI, for example, we’re starting to see that, but in general kind of teams are starting to realize that customer experience is really the forefront of your brand.


Um, and so becoming more proactive about it, making it a mandate within your company. Um, I think that every modern company is going to have to do that. Um, and then in order to do that, the means by which you do that is really by tying together feedback loops. And so again, customer experience can be the bleeding edge, uh, the leading edge of your product, knowing what people, what problems people have and what problems people are going to have, can really inform what products you should be building three, six, nine months from now. Um, and it’s, it’s, it’s kind of this like, well, kept secret within customer experience is that that’s actually where the best data, the best product ideas come from. And so I’m super excited at forethought at being able to do that with, um, our AI in the loop, whether that’s helping, um, automate mundane tasks or, uh, reply to questions, or even assist agents, we’re able to see what are the main, what are the main problems that customers are having that are not being addressed. Now, imagine if in three, six years your company would have the forethought in order to take all of that information and turn that into product problems so that your future customers never have to experience those problems. Again, that’s the future. That I’d be very, very excited to be a part of and, uh, quite frankly, to potentially bring it out.

Joe: (30:22)
Awesome. Yeah, it’s kind of like the, you know, the knowledge bases that the Zendesk and help Scouts and whatever brought about has been really great for people to find what they need and self-serve, but then the next step is like what you said, Deon finding those triggers of like, Hey, this person had just had an error uploading. They had to close their program and reopen it. And they’re obviously trying to troubleshoot before they connect with us. So what is something we can serve them up that, you know, AI is helping identify and, and serve up that will solve their issue. Or maybe it’s connecting with an agent like, Hey, are you having a problem? Uh, you know, how can we help you? And it’s like that next level of, of Zendesk help scout, you know, for thought those types of things.

Deon: (31:12)
Exactly.

Joe: (31:15)
Gentlemen, it’s been a pleasure, uh, great insights for both of you. I really appreciate your time. And you know, one of my favorite things about doing this type of thing is just learning from great leaders out there. So I appreciate your time today. Um, definitely everyone listening, go check out for thought. Uh, I’ve been playing around with a lot of it the last couple of weeks since we set this up and really cool opportunities there, and I’m excited to see what Deon and Dan and the rest of the team figure out.

Deon: (31:44)
Thanks so much, Joe. It’s great. Okay. Thanks guys. Bye bye.

Joe: (31:50)
Thanks for joining the DNA of an experience podcast. We hope you learned something that will help improve your collaboration and enhance the experience you create for your customer. Join the collaboration 2.0 movement today by getting cloud app, the instant business communication tool use to create instantly shareable videos, screenshots, and GiFs. Perfect for both internal and external communication. Get started for free@wwwdotgetcloudapp.com. Thank you. We look forward to seeing you next time.

Chris Koehler Podcast Transcript

CloudApp text in black with speech bubble/cloud in various shades of blue

Joe: (00:00)
Welcome to the DNA and experience podcast from cloud app, where we discuss how and why creating an experience is so important and the psychology behind what makes an experience. So great. Thanks for joining us.

Hey everyone. I am thrilled to have Chris Koehler with me. Chris is the COO at box currently. Uh, we also were colleagues at Adobe for quite some time. Um, I worked a lot with Chris’s team and was glad to connect with him and be able to get them on the episode today. Chris has a great background in marketing, uh, customer success, and really just engaging with customers would love to kind of have him take a minute to introduce himself and give us a little bit of background.

Chris: (00:49)
Yeah, thanks, Joe. Um, yeah, as you said that I’m currently the CEO of box and box about two years after spending, uh, many, uh, many a year at a Adobe, uh, 10 years at Adobe proper and prior to that Omniture, and so, uh, has spent, uh, you know, the last 15 plus years in this space, uh, both as a practitioner, but also, um, you know, advising a lot of companies around what modern marketing looks like. So yeah, in a lot of different roles. So I’m a unique background, uh, Niagara traditional, uh, have come up only through the marketing ranks, but I’ve been in customer success and run product and been in presales. So I really think about that, uh, customer experience and, and the role of marketing through the entire customer life cycle. But thanks for having me, it’s great to great to reconnect.

Joe: (01:36)
Absolutely. Yeah. You know, at Adobe it was always, uh, you’re a part of, and me and you are part of, kind of the movement towards customer experience and kind of doubling down on a customer experience is even more than important than product is something then, uh, Sean knew, always said, um, what do you kind of see as the modern workplace, both inside at box and then also, you know, facing customers and kind of connecting with customers on an experience level and marketing level.

Chris: (02:06)
Yeah. I mean, I think it’s, it’s, uh, it’s interesting. Uh, it’s shifting a lot for B to B companies as well, right. Where, uh, I think, uh, traditionally you’re you were seeing, you you’d create a product and you say, Hey, here’s what it is. And, and product features were like the core of this, but, um, as, as more and more, you know, uh, you know, enterprises are thinking about this, it’s really now about what is that customer experience? How do I facilitate a journey? Um, that makes us really, really easy to use, just like in your personal life, any of your consumer apps, you, you want to have that same level of experience, um, with the products. And so this, this idea of sort of the commercial consumer B2B, uh, is, is really critical. And so, um, the way that we think a lot about it is really from end to end, but both from a product experience, how do you think about the CS and, and making sure they’re successful the product.


Um, but also are we talking in marketing to these folks and creating experiences that they want to engage with the brand? And so I do believe, you know, this, this notion of a chain know Adobe was talked a lot about changing the world through digital experiences. We talk a lot about, right, how do we empower sort of the next modern generation? How do we make sure that, uh, that, that employees can be as productive and have access to all of their content, regardless of what systems they’re using, um, to really drive efficiency and employee experience. So, uh, yeah, it is all about, uh, experiences. Now it’s not just about products and features is how we think about it.

Joe: (03:39)
It’s really important. I think as you kind of dive into a certain group, you know, what is a way that you let’s say you enter box enters with like a customer support team? Um, how are you kind of trying to connect with other teams, you know, once you’re say you, you spider into Adobe’s customer support team, they’re your first customer, how do you kind of expand, you know, to other groups and make sure your marketing’s kind of hitting on with, with other groups as well?

Chris: (04:07)
Yeah, I mean, I think we’re actually doing a lot, um, one of the, one of the challenges and I, I took over this demo role about a year ago, and we’re still working through this is what does that sort of self service experience look like? And, you know, from when I enter the website into, you know, our product is so tightly coupled with, with our website, because it is, you know, obviously a SAS app, um, but we had a great community applications. You’ve got a separate support experience. And so we’re doing a lot of work around how do you make that, that sort of seamless experience that says, if they’re on the website, can they quickly find what they need, if they’re in product, how do they find the information they need? Um, if they’ve got questions, you know, how do you make that as easy as possible to get answers to that?


And it’s not just around the human experience, but also how do you create that self service? Because people don’t necessarily want to in interrupt what they’re doing and they just want to find the answers to it. And whether they talk to a human, they talk to some sort of a, we’re looking at chat bot technology that allows them to interact and really get real time answers to this. Um, so for us, we’re spending, we we’ve spun up a huge project around just self service in general, right? Whether that is, I want to buy something, uh, digitally, and I want to be able to do that without maybe not interacting with, with a sales team. Um, and so we have to, we have to create that experience, um, and the same way as I want to be able to find the information that I need, whether it’s, how do I, how do I implement a new integration that you’ve got? How do I actually, you know, do this task or set up this workflow, um, you know, our customers are saying this needs to be as, as seamless as possible. So a lot of what we’re thinking about is how do we leverage technology with humans as the overlay on top of that? Um, so it’s an additive and they work in conjunction together. So that’s sort of our, to this as well.

Joe: (05:59)
Yeah. You know, better than anyone having done customer success so much that probably, uh, the majority of people are searching online for an answer first. And by the time they get to you on Twitter or your customer support line or your sales, they’re probably pretty fired up that they haven’t been able to find an answer and, you know, they’re ready for a quick response. Um, what’s kind of a way that you’re trying to help that with self serve is that, uh, improving knowledge base, um, just kind of training early on.

Chris: (06:32)
Yeah. So there’s a few, few different things. One we’re doing a lot of surveys just to understand as people come to the site, you know, are they finding what they’re looking for? And we definitely are making changes based on some of that data. Uh, but you’re right. If, if they’re getting to this support line, they’ve already tried to figure this out, probably, you know, through multiple channels and then they’re frustrated because they can’t get access to it. Um, we’re, we’re actually going through a whole project of revamping our knowledge base. Um, we’re gonna, uh, rethink the community, um, site. And how, how do you actually, um, longterm build a community that, uh, you know, other customers can bounce ideas and thoughts off, not just from a global perspective, but I think, um, there’s a lot of, uh, there’s a lot of, you know, sort of interest around, um, best practices. And so in this world where everyone’s working from home, you know, and you don’t have as much, you know, over the shoulder conversations, a lot of people are just asking like, Hey, how can I find out from my network, from my peers? Like, what are they doing instead, there’s a lot of this that I think we could be doing a better job of longterm. Um, but I do think that the self service experience is going to be important moving forward.

Joe: (07:41)
You know, we, we, uh, did a survey at cloud app last fall, uh, on remote work. And we’ve, we looked at younger generations, older generations and kind of wanting to understand what the trends were like there, and more than 50% of gen Z and millennials stud, uh, that they were working remotely the majority of the time, obviously that’s like almost a hundred percent of the time right now for a lot of at least office workers. Um, but how do you think these conditions have accelerated things and maybe, you know, take us in box has a lot of employees. Um, how did you guys kind of shift things from, you know, having all these people come into the office to suddenly remote over, you know, a, a week span?

Chris: (08:34)
Yeah, yeah, it was, um, I mean, luckily we’re, we’re sort of a cloud first enterprise across everything that we, you know, every tool set that we have. Um, so it was a bit easier for us than probably most, but we, we did, I would describe, um, we had a work from home. Uh, we, we had a healthy office culture, um, and we had hubs across the, across the globe and we spent a of time sort of building those experiences and, you know, and, and all the amenities that a Silicon Valley company, you know, has to, to provide to compete. Um, but w and we had folks that were working remotely, but it was, you know, it was like maybe a day a week and sometimes two days a week. Um, so we were already set up for that, but it is a very different environment when literally every employee, when we make the decision, we say, Hey, this is working.


We’re realizing what’s going on here. We actually have to pivot, and now we’re going to close the offices and globally, everyone’s going to work from home. Luckily we had the tools already in place where, um, you know, our Slack and a zoom customer and an Opta, and we partner with them closely. Um, you know, we’re a three 65 shop. So again, you know, we already had all the tools in place, but there were a lot of like norms they changed as well. Right. How do you, um, how do you make sure you keep that cultural aspect of the, of the company intact? Um, how do you make sure your teams are in touch? There’s no more of, as I described the, over the shoulder that, you know, the water cooler conversations and all that, we spent a lot of time, not just, you know, making sure that the people had the tools in place, but what are the new norms that we have established?


Um, what are the standups we’re going to do to make sure that people, you know, can understand what the priorities are and the communication is there? How do you create the culture? Um, one thing that we pivoted as a company really quickly is we always did. Um, we always did this Friday lunch in, in our, in our headquarters in Redwood city. And if you were, you know, if you were in the office, people went and, and, you know, ate lunch and heard the presentations, but you didn’t necessarily have a lot of global participation just because it felt, it felt awkward because, you know, you were listening in, on a cafeteria, huge cafeteria, and there was, it was hard to hear, you know, to a fully virtual. And now we have the participation across the company, um, is amazing. We have more than 50%, 60% of the company every Friday on a call hearing, you know, what’s the strategy of the company what’s working.


What’s not, uh, we’ve had guest speakers, uh, we’ve had fun entertainment. Um, we have a lot of really cool eMoney customers. So we’ve had, you know, we’ve had some celebrities come in and, and, you know, do some fun, you know, a song here or there. Uh, so it’s, I think the important piece is like, how have we, how have we kept the culture, um, going very, very quickly. Uh, and that’s been sort of our internal view. And then, you know, obviously externally, we, you know, we did a lot around customers and how we’re thinking through that too.

Joe: (11:35)
Yeah, that’s really cool. I feel like the digital transformation talk was, was pretty thick at Adobe, obviously in Microsoft and Oracle and Salesforce were all pushing it pretty hard. Um, you know, seven years of conversations spanned into seven weeks. I’m excited to see when it comes back to a hybrid of some people in the office, some people decide to stay remote, like what that looks like. Cause to your point, like Adobe tried to connect the offices all the time. Like there were those cameras in San Jose that linked to Lehigh and you could like walk past them and try and say hi to people. Um, but it always felt a little awkward. Like it never felt super authentic, and it was probably a lot because we weren’t used to that type of experience. Um, so we interesting to see what kind of comes out of this

Chris: (12:27)
Well, and I think, um, you know, I think what, what works really well, and one of the things that we’re, we’re noticing one, I mean, you know, employee productivity has gone up and we don’t know if that’s just because people are working longer hours and work more like that’s, you know, something as we’re in this sort of sprint. And is that it, is that something we can maintain that momentum, you know, longterm is, is a big question. I think we all are, are, are grappling with, but whenever one it’s it’s equal when everyone has their own screen. And, you know, I think the mixed environment, it’s something that we’re noticing is when you have say 10 people in a conference room and five people on, you know, video conference, it’s just really hard to you’re connected, but when everyone has their own screen, um, you, you can, you can look at everyone, you can engage with everyone.


Um, you know, I think that’s, uh, that’s the equalizer, uh, that I think is, is allowed for, you know, the productivity to happen and feel like you’re connected with people. Video is obviously super key to that. Um, whether, again, whether it’s asynchronous or, you know, live, I think having that connection with people in the video, um, is what people are craving. Uh, so I, I’m not sure how you maintain this when you do have people that do want to go in the office, you’re going to be some, there’s going to be cohorted. People’s like whether they enjoy an office environment or their workspaces are just not conducive to, you know, working from home, you know, they might have roommates or small apartments or other things. So, uh, we’re not sure what it, what the future is going to look like, but, um, we do believe there will be some sort of hybrid as you described.

Joe: (14:01)
Yeah. We saw, we saw a big, you mentioned, you know, video being a key part of that. Like we saw a big spike in a scene, you know, cloud app is a screen recorder tool. You can have your face in the corner and record your screen talking to a document or whatever. We saw spikes in work behavior, like three X increase during the former morning commute time, four X increase in after hours. And also executives were like the highest, uh, usage growth, um, was like four to five X. So like more communication between executives and their teams or managers and their teams making sure they’re staying connected when they can’t necessarily do a zoom call.

Chris: (14:47)
Yeah, I think it’s, I think that the key pieces, because, um, you don’t have people traveling as much as well. So a lot of, uh, access, right. We’re seeing that both with customers, um, we’re seeing that internally, like as our leadership, uh, we’re probably, uh, communicating and engaging more now than we ever did for, you know, the years prior, because we’re all, we’re all available. Like people aren’t in different, you know, in different, on different continents, they’re not traveling. Um, and so we connect actually I think probably two to three X times more how, and so we’re, we’re, you know, from a strategy perspective, more we’re more aligned than we ever have been. And it’s the same thing with my leadership team, you know, across the marketing organization, you know, we started doing daily stand ups, but then it was like, okay, now this is maybe overkill, but we meet a couple of times a week where we’re just constantly connected. And, and the ironic part of this is, you know, a lot of us feel as connected, if not more, you know, although we haven’t actually seen anyone in person than we did when we were all sort of passing each other in the hallway from conference room, the conference room, um, and engaging for 30 seconds as we walked past each other. So it’s it’s yeah. It’s pretty interesting.

Joe: (16:00)
Yeah. I mean, this, this conversation right here is a perfect example, like to get, you know, a COO of a growing startup to kind of join, uh, in like two weeks or like 10 days, that’s like, that’s insane, right. There would have been probably you may have been traveling or you would have had more meetings or something would have had to get rescheduled. Um, you know, this is, this is exactly like a, a key piece of something that wouldn’t have happened back in like February.

Chris: (16:31)
Yeah. I think it is interesting, you know, um, especially early on and it’s, and we’re trying to maintain this, that, um, the number of meetings at, in the beginning actually dropped pretty, pretty quickly. Cause it was like, you have to be laser focused on what is it, what are the priorities, what do we need to get done? Um, and, uh, you know, so we, we had a lot of, we had a lot of examples where we could actually get stuff done via Slack and say, Hey, can we make a decision quickly on this? Let’s let’s chat about this and let’s not have another meeting. I think, I think those norms are so hard to break and you’re certain, you’re like, Hey, let’s get on a call and a video and do this. And, and there’s examples where I think we just naturally have to say, do we need to get on another call, uh, to answer this? Or can we do this in a way? So that’s, that’s the other thing where, you know, uh, habits are hard to break. And so, uh, that’s what, uh, we’re, we’re trying to do with this new medium.

Joe: (17:27)
So my, my, uh, my story of when I started switching and eliminating meetings at Adobe was as managing some, some, uh, resources in India. And also I had some people in APAC, uh, Singapore and UK. And so it was like really funky time zones, right? Like 12 hours, exactly. For India, nobody’s really happy at seven or 7:00 PM on a phone call. And that’s when I first discovered, uh, you know, kind of like async video was like, I can, we can, let’s cut this like 45 minute call and I’ll just send you guys a quick video of me, you know, talking to the project or whatever. And then you can respond with video when you’re able to, and it connected, this, created this great connection. Um, and then also, um, I dunno if you knew Maria, Poveromo very well, uh, over at Adobe, but she was my VP for awhile. And I started sending her videos of updates and she’s like, this is great. I get like 15 of these update emails every Monday. And I don’t really watch the video piece, but I listened to it in my AirPods, you know, walking into the office, uh, from my car and I can get the quick update versus having to read, you know, 40 emails on your team’s updates. So there’s really some nice advantages to finding different ways to communicate.

Chris: (18:50)
Yeah. I mean, I think, um, what’s, what’s been interesting too is just from a international perspective. Uh, you know, I would typically do, you know, six times a year to London and several times a year to, you know, to Tokyo. Um, but now, you know, I’m speaking with my, you know, with the European teams two to three, four times a week because it’s like, I’m not commuting, I’m not in the car. Hey, you want to do a quick video at 8:00 AM? Sure. Um, let’s do and get on or, or we do an all hands call, whether it be every two weeks at 7:00 AM on Monday, well, typically would have been commuting in and now I can be on video and sync with them. So yeah, it’s, it is, uh, there are benefits to not, uh, you know, not doing the commute. Um, and then the other thing with like eight with an APAC teams, you know, I’m willing to like, I, I do a trade off of having lunch with my kids, uh, and then doing, uh, an eight o’clock, you know, 30 minute video with, with the Tokyo team. Like, I’ll take that trade off all day. Right.

Joe: (19:54)
Absolutely. You know, so what are some kind of tips and tricks you’ve learned as a leader? Um, you know, first of all, like we’re all working from home during a pandemic. This is not necessarily what remote work normally looks like. Um, but what are some tips you’ve learned? Uh, you mentioned the daily standups that, you know, change to weekly or whatever, but some connection points, collaboration points that you’ve learned.

Chris: (20:19)
Yeah. I mean, I think there’s, there’s quite a few, um, as we’ve evolved and, you know, our, you know, very, very quickly in the last three months on some type of crisis, right. Um, communication is key, right. And, um, communication in general as a leader is critically important, but in a time when there’s so much uncertainty, there’s so much, um, so much worry and stress in the system, uh, you have to just over-communicate. So we’ve, we’ve done that a lot. So whether that is sort of ongoing, I send out comms every, every week, like here are the priorities, here’s what we’re doing. We’ve done a lot of all hands calls. We’ve done a lot of, you know, ask me anythings, like literally, um, over-communicate is probably been the number one thing. And we’re doing that both at a company, but also within the marketing organization.


Um, I think another point, um, is just having empathy, uh, both for employees and customers. Um, you know, this is a, like you described as, uh, a very unusual time. Um, and it isn’t like normal work from home or remote work. You know, a lot of people are dealing with, you know, stress or family members that are sick. A lot of people have kids that are at home, uh, that, uh, they’re trying to homeschool at the same time of, of, you know, um, doing their day jobs. And you just have to give that empathy and flexibility, um, and understand. And, and I think that, um, the time shifting, like you described, we see it happen a lot as well, where people are, you know, I’ve got folks on my team, two working parents, you know, um, younger kids that, that can’t just be self directed, you know, four hours at a time.


And so they’ll do things like a shift, like, Hey, from nine to 11, I’m offline, I got to go, I’m working with, you know, um, I’m on kid duty helping them for two hours and you’re like, great. Um, okay, block it off of your schedule. I know that you’ll do something, you know, we can connect later at night or you do it in the morning. Um, so I think that’s, that’s been critically important as making sure people have the time and flexibility to deal with this. Um, this pandemic is, is, is challenging. Uh, um, I think the, um, the other thing that, uh, we spent a lot of time on is getting focused and what are the priorities, um, in a time when there’s, there’s a lot of uncertainty, you just have to be crystal clear on what are the priorities that we, um, we need to focus on right now.


Um, because also what happens, and, and this, this happened a lot when we were responding to this. So all of a sudden we’re like, Hey, how do we, how do we just make sure that our customers are okay? And we did a lot of programs around, you know, free offers, like turning off averages, um, really creating experiences and helping them in any way possible. Um, so I think, I think that was another, another key piece of this is customers matter, you know, no matter what, right now let’s stay focused on helping them and let’s put things into, into place. And we’ve gotten a lot of tremendous feedback of, um, you know, from our customers in this time, you know, that we actually care and it’s part of our core values. So I think that, um, that, that is, uh, equity critically important as well.

Joe: (23:27)
That’s awesome. Yeah. I think, I think that’s so important because it does, if you don’t focus on that, like all of us as businesses, there’s such a snowball effect. Like if, you know, you have your 10 biggest customers at box churn, um, no, then you guys have to churn from other tools and the save your money, and then it just creates this massive, you know, sass snowball. So if we all kind of focus on preventing churn, you know, giving leniency, giving empathy, I think that’s so crucial.

Chris: (24:01)
Really good point. Yeah. And I think, I think for us too, is, um, simplicity of messaging as what we, we focused on to obviously flipping, you know, we, we had a pretty, uh, pretty healthy field marketing, you know, organization doing a ton of activities. Um, we spend a lot of time repeating that, but we also spent a bunch of times rethinking the messaging and simplifying it because when you start to think about a way I would describe it as is someone’s hierarchy of needs from a business perspective, it isn’t, um, you know, these complex, you know, use cases like that all goes out the door and all of a sudden you get down to, okay, do I have access to my content? Do I have, can I share? And I video, like how do I actually do my job? Um, so we spent a lot of time, like how do we get to simplicity and making sure that we can help customers?


I think the next phase of this, um, you know, and, and we, and you described it as this notion of digital transformation. Uh, everyone’s been talking about that for so long. I think it’s going to be, how do you accelerate, um, business processes? You know, what, what does, you know, you’re going to have this mixed environment for some period of time, if not forever. Um, but, uh, how do you start to think about, you know, how do you digitize the processes within your business that became very clear that were bottlenecks for your productivity as a business, not just about boys,

Joe: (25:26)
That’s really smart. You have that, you know, you have, when the, all the Costco, the CFO, and he’s like, Hey, what’s this, you know, box line item. Um, you need, you need a, the team to be able to quickly say, including the CFO, like, Oh, that’s an essential business. You know, we, we need that for this, this, and this thing

Chris: (25:43)
Really smart. We started like quite a bit as well, where, um, yeah, I think there was a period of time where, you know, a portion of an organization might work from home, right. There might be departments. They kind of, you know, to have more flexibility, obviously if you’re in a sales organization or CS organization, you know, you’re going to have a lot more work from home stuff that you see. Um, but what we’re seeing is like departments that didn’t necessarily ever work from home, whether that’s an accounting organization or that is, you know, a, a, an engineering organization. Now, all of a sudden they’re all working from home. And then, uh, you know, there are a lot of questions like in engineering is can, can you have engineers work from home and still drive and be productive and everything else? And what we’re finding is yes, the answer is yes. And so how do you actually provide the tools for them longterm? They may not, they’re not going to work from home forever, but they might say I was so productive. I won’t want to work from home for three days a week and we’ll have operation in the office for two days. So now it’s not like a niche thing that only some people need it. It’s like everyone in the organization needs access to this. And what does that flexible model look like to make sure that people can do their jobs

Joe: (26:57)
Truly smart. Chris has been a fun conversation. Great to reconnect with you. I have one more question, uh, what you’re looking into your crystal ball and kind of make some, uh, predictions on what you think both the modern workplace looks like, and also how marketing, uh, is kind of fitting into, um, the next few years.

Chris: (27:19)
Yeah. So I think, um, so from a, what does the modern workplace look like? I think we will have some hybrid environment. I don’t think, uh, the office environments of years past will be the same. Um, I think what’ll end up happening is you almost have to have these as collaboration, hubs, where people can go in and they might go into the office a couple days a week and I’ll collaborate and they’ll get that human interaction. And it, it’s almost the way I keep describing it as like, it’s almost like a lounge where not everyone has like an assigned desk or whatever you’ll go in and you’ll have access to a cool environment, uh, that you can go and collaborate with people. And you might actually have like zoom pods or WebEx pods or whatever, where, you know, you can go in and, and work, you know, um, and have an environment where it’s, it’s your own.


I think there’s just employees. I mean, you already said it with sort of the, the gen Z of feeling comfortable work from home. I think employees are just going to demand this because, um, it’s opening up all sorts of options for them. And so I think this is the new modern workplace is going to be this hybrid environment. But I think that the corporate, uh, those companies that go back to a corporate environment, um, are going to be at a disadvantage versus those that are, that are, um, allowing the flexibility of, of the future. I don’t know that it’s going to be, everyone is working from their house and that we don’t have offices anymore. I don’t think we’ve, that’s what will happen. Um, but we think it will be some hybrid as it’s sorta my guess of what that looks like.

Joe: (28:52)
Yeah. I would agree. I think, um, there, there’s a big opportunity to just kind of support that growth and, you know, it could be a generational shift. Um, but certainly like it doesn’t change. The people like to go to their, their Googleplex and get their dry cleaning and go to the gym and, you know, do everything they need to do. And that can just be kind of a creative hub or a collaborative hub, like you mentioned. Yeah.

Chris: (29:19)
Yeah. And then I think, I think from a marketing perspective, um, you know, obviously one that we’ve been talking about for a very long time is just, um, digital. And I think what’s, what’s really interesting. And I think what, um, us as marketers have to think through is, um, when you start to put on these digital events, what does that, what does that evolve into? And, um, you know, obviously we, you know, major conferences, it’s very, very expensive. I’m not doing that obviously for, you know, this year and, and likely next year as well. But then the big question is do big conferences come back. Um, and you know, it’s their millions of dollars to run these things, you know, can you replicate that experience in a digital environment? Um, can you ultimately create that digital experience as we described, um, that, that morphs sort of your traditional in person, you know, ad out of home advertising all of that, uh, does digital replace this and, and accelerate even faster? I think that’s, that’s the question we’re all trying to work through. And then, uh, when does the fatigue set in? And so how do you, how you differentiate that digital experience? And I think a lot of new companies focus on whether that’s event platforms or engagement platforms or whatever this is, uh, to really, um, replicate that person to person in person, you know, small collaboration in a way that, uh, you know, you can foster that, but everyone can do that from a different location.

Joe: (30:48)
Yeah. It’s interesting. Like, I, I, as things were unfolding, I kept telling our CEO, you know, he’s like, Oh, look at all, these, these conferences are starting to cancel. And I said, I’d be ultimately shocked if summit ever got canceled. Like, I know how much pipeline is driven at those events. And obviously it, it, and everything else got canceled. Maybe it turns into like a more regionalized comp smaller conferences. Like you mentioned, where you can get together with customers and send out your sales teams and do some, you know, experiences for people that are using the product. Um, but it’s like not the hundred thousand people at Dreamforce, uh, type deal.

Chris: (31:29)
Yeah. And I think what, what could be an interesting model is you’ll have, you’ll have like regional gatherings that are part of the global digital event. Yeah. Interesting hybrid hybrid. Cool. Where you can, you can imagine like hubs all over the U S or in a, in a Mia watching main stage, but being together and then breakouts in person. Uh, but again, the facilitation of that, like what’s, the flap is, is heavy and hard. And I don’t know that anyone’s figured that out yet, but a cool market opportunity for, for some folks.

Joe: (32:02)
It’s really great, Chris, thank you again for your time And today and everyone check out box. I’m a big fan have been for a long time, great company, great product, and a great leader.

Chris: (32:14)
Thanks, Joe. I really appreciate the time. And, uh, and, uh, thanks and good luck. Have a good weekend. Thanks man. Alright, cheers.

Joe: (32:22)
Thanks for joining the DNA of an experience podcast. We hope you learn something that will help improve your collaboration and enhance the experience you create for your customer. Join the collaboration 2.0 movement today by getting cloud app, the instant business communication tool use to create instantly shareable videos, screenshots, and GiFs. Perfect. For both internal and external communication. Get started for free@wwwdotgetcloudapp.com. Thank you. We look forward to seeing you next time.

Karen Budell Podcast Transcript

CloudApp text in black with speech bubble/cloud in various shades of blue

Joe: (00:00)
Welcome to the DNA and experience podcast from cloud app, where we discuss how and why creating an experience is so important and the psychology behind what makes an experience. So great. Thanks for joining us, but I’m really excited to have Karen Budo with me, uh, VP of brand at survey monkey. Um, I’ve been a big fan of survey monkey for a long time, and I’m excited to have Karen on her and I connected on a call a few weeks ago, and it was great to kind of just, uh, share some stories about marketing and brand, and also just kind of this crazy workplace environment we’re in right now. So Karen I’d love if you took a minute to talk a little bit about yourself and maybe your journey and what you’re excited about working on at survey monkey survey monkey.

Karen: (00:51)
Awesome. Well, first of all, Joe, thank you so much for having me really excited to be joining you today on, on the LinkedIn live and for the podcast as well. And I too have been a long fan of survey monkey over the years, having used it while I was in grad school and at previous jobs. So it’s so exciting to be a part of the troop at survey monkey, but I will say that, uh, when I joined in mid January, um, I certainly wasn’t expecting to, to join a new company and lead a team through really uncharted territories and, and, uh, a world that none of us could have prepared for a year a year that has continued to bring new change and challenges. Um, but I’m excited to be here a little bit about me. I am a very proud native Chicago and who grew up on the city Southwest side.


Uh, but for the past six, a little over six years, I’ve been proudly calling myself, um, a native or I’m sorry, a Northern California and, and now the Bay area is home to me. So, um, you know, that, that is those cities are really part of, um, why I have grown to love marketing. I’ve had the opportunity to work at some incredible companies like Chicago Tribune company, uh, in the storied Tribune tower on Michigan Avenue for over nine years and now working in the Bay area. Um, you know, I’ve, I’ve had the opportunity to work at Google and YouTube and now survey monkey. And it’s just been a really exciting, really exciting journey.

Joe: (02:28)
Yeah, that’s so wild. I still think it’s crazy. Like I imagine, you know, I jumped into this role at cloud app a year ago and kind of like the first 90 days were pretty chaotic, especially going from a big company in Adobe to a startup and kind of like prioritizing and, you know, you’re reestablishing yourself and you’re trying to like prove your credibility to new people and, and establishing yourself. And so it’s, it’s crazy that, uh, you know, you made that jump and then kind of jumped straight into, uh, you know, this, this chaos. So it’s, it’s really a pretty cool skill set. I’m sure you’ve learned.

Karen: (03:08)
Yes. Um, it’s kind of interesting because I’ve, I’ve long had on my LinkedIn profile for those of you watching live long, had that I’m, I’m comfortable leading through change and I’m comfortable in ambiguous environments. And part of that was having worked at the Tribune company when they filed for chapter 11 and then, you know, rolling through all the changes that, that followed that. Um, I never thought that that would apply to, to leading through this level of change and uncertainty. Um, they’re a global pandemic, but, um, I I’ve been learning a lot, uh, and have, have been trying to pull from that ability to, to kind of roll with it, um, to, you know, you, can’t, there’s a lot of things that you can’t prepare for, um, but finding ways to be resilient and to tap into your peers and your team and other leaders to find a path forward is, has been really great stuff. I’m, I’m very grateful for, for the team and, um, truth that I find myself in at survey monkey.

Joe: (04:11)
Absolutely. You know, w the trend was, was kind of moving to this remote work anyway, what do you think kind of the modern workplace looks like? You know, you’re at home right now. Um, some people are opening offices back up. A lot of companies are saying we’re going to support working from home for, for quite some time, what’s your own opinion on kind of modern workplace and also, uh, you know, how marketing and brand kind of fit within that.

Karen: (04:41)
Yeah. Well, it’s been super interesting to watch how different companies are responding to the evolving situation and how they’re changing policies. I think the modern workplace to me is really about increased flexibility. It’s about finding ways for, for teams and people to have more autonomy and distributed decision making. One thing that I’ve, I’ve always thought was key to the modern workplace, but probably even more so moving forward is greater cross functional alignment and collaboration. Um, you know, being able to work across functions or teams or business lines has always been critical, but more so, uh, now today and moving forward. Um, and then I would also say with that because everyone is, or has been working virtually for awhile, you know, may move back into physical office space at some point we’re, we’re in this truly global virtual workforce. So chasing the sun, uh, and, and working with your, your colleagues in different time zones and offices is a new thing to get used to.


Um, and, and being a little bit, going back to flexibility, you know, you might have to change your schedule and when you start and end meetings these days, um, and, uh, I would say, you know, one other thing on the virtual kind of nature of work, um, is that those lines between work and life are really blurred and it’s, it’s harder to find that balance, uh, when you, you know, are you can’t really escape the office so to speak you’re, you’re living in it day in and day out. So, um, that piece is a question Mark for me, I don’t know how that will change moving forward in a, in a modern workplace, but I do think that it’s allowed more people to bring their true selves to work. So we’re getting to know each other more as people and as humans and individuals versus just, you know, a title or someone that comes to the table with, uh, an area of subject matter or functional expertise.

Joe: (06:50)
That’s a really good point. Yeah. I think there’s a lot of good comments in there on, uh, flexibility finding, you know, we’re, we all have lots of stories of what it, what it’s been like to have every call kind of be at home over zoom or whatever over the last four months, um, you know, with, with, uh, we did this actually survey through survey monkey, uh, last fall, and we had a thousand respondents, uh, U us office workers, and we’re focused on remote work and kind of understanding what the trends were like. And when we sliced it by demographics, uh, we found that younger generations, um, were already working remotely more than 50% of the time. Um, so with the trend kind of moving that way, uh, what, how do you think this has kind of accelerated that, um, what are the skill sets we built as people and Mark marketing leaders, or, you know, leaders of brand, um, that can help us, you know, with the future of remote being a piece of that?

Karen: (07:59)
Yeah. Um, well, I will first say that I have worked on teams or at companies where management has had a discomfort with work from home, or, you know, disbelief that people could be productive in that environment. And I think what’s different now is that everyone’s in the same boat. Uh, and now we’re seeing that we all have to, you know, work virtually and trust, uh, our colleagues that maybe we’re not keeping the same, you know, traditional hours as we’ve got other personal or family obligations, but we are finding ways to, to be productive, to work smarter, to still hold ourselves accountable to teammates. And so I think that’s certainly changed, um, you know, working in a creative field, especially in brand and marketing. There’s always that, that belief that getting together in a room for that brainstorming and working session, um, I’ve loved participating in design thinking workshops when she cut out the colored post it.


Now it’s in, you’re putting them up on the wall and grouping them. And, and just that energy that is created in working together now, who you are, we are trying to figure out is Brandon creative leaders. How can you continue to inspire that same level of creativity and productivity in a virtual environment? Um, and that’s been a challenge, but we’re lucky to have so many, um, you know, SAS solutions and, and, um, tools to help us with virtual white boarding or collaboration, obviously video, um, who who’s not on zoom calls these days while simultaneously slacking and you know, what have you. So, um, it’s been an interesting challenge for sure, but working from home, I think now we’ll see more people doing it. I also do things well when, when people feel ready and comfortable, there will be a new, um, new way that we’ll all cherish that time together and in face to face meetings or in the office. And so I’m really interested to see what that is like. I think we’ll have a different level of presence and commitment to each other as his teammates and colleagues when we, when we do show up in the same space at some point in future.

Joe: (10:23)
Yeah. I really liked that. You know, one of my favorite, I love that you touched on design thinking. One of my favorite classes at Stanford was, was design thinking and really kind of finding ways to implement that. And it has been challenging to replicate, not just the ideas, but that energy. Um, now here at, on my team, we’ve mostly tried to do zoom zoom calls with like, yeah, like the G suite collaborative doc open or Slack open, and then, uh, using know cloud app screen recorder in between with like a async stuff. Uh, you dug in on some tools I’d love to kind of hear, you know, how, how you guys are trying to create those creative moments, uh, that are crucial for brand, um, pairing up, you know, what is, what is the value of like a zoom with, with like an async tool or like task management or collaboration, uh, how are those kind of pairing together to, to really help you get what you need done?

Karen: (11:27)
Sure. Um, well, the good news is that survey monkey had recently moved to zoom. Um, you know, the week before we all moved to a shelter in place and, and work from home scenario. So we’ve all gotten quite good at switching on our virtual backgrounds and figuring out how to use the chat. Um, I I’ve actually hosted a virtual workshop with our executive leadership team over zoom, which was quite nerve wracking, you know, being, being still new to the job. I haven’t even been on the job five months yet, um, and had to find a way to, to foster an engaging and lively discussion with our executive team and other folks from brand. Um, but we’ve been, I think what our team’s been doing well is, you know, learning, learning, zoom and its capabilities, and it kind of has, you mentioned how to pair it with other tools.


So we do use Slack as an organization and figuring out how to best set up channels and threads with the right teammates. So you can have that continuous conversation, especially when you have teammates and other time zones or cities. You know, we have, um, a global footprint at survey monkey. So it’s important for us to be able to, uh, keep our teammates and Amsterdam, for example, up to date on the latest discussion around a project. So you want to keep to move things forward, but find a way to have that continuous conversation, um, sharing, sharing docs and finding ways to, you know, provide feedback and comments and edits when one team might be signing off or going to sleep and keeping that moving. I think that’s been helpful for us, and it’s really caused us as a brand organization who does a lot of our, um, most of our creative work in house to look at the processes that we use for project management.


You know, we have a high volume of creative requests running through our content design and video teams. Um, and I think this new virtual environment, sure. You can have a five minutes stand up on a zoom call, but we haven’t quite cracked that one where figure out, we’re trying to figure it out. Um, but you know, trying different tools, um, Miura we’ve used as, as whiteboards as a creative team to, to capture ideas and do some of that virtual design thinking. Um, and then just getting better about how we present our work, um, through whether that’s, you know, a designer pulling up, um, a mock and envision and walking us through or finding a way to, um, communicate the different evolutions of, uh, of a design or a piece of content. Um, we’re, we’re, we’re experimenting.

Joe: (14:09)
Nice. Yeah. You bring up envision there they’re like one of our larger customers. They they’ve been using us for a long time. We love working with those guys that were there.You know, you, you’ve definitely, I think one thing I’ve learned is, um, that it’s, it’s good to have some authenticity and, you know, we’re all, this is kind of a global moment that everyone’s going through and, uh, recognizing that, um, you know, really empathizing and growing together, uh, I think has been really interesting and kind of struggling through it together, you know, like, like you said, uh, everyone’s trying to figure it out. Everyone’s trying to figure out what works for them. Um, it’s been pretty cool to see like massive companies that were able to completely shut down in a couple of days and, you know, are developing playbooks for remote work and working from home. And how do we enable our teams, you know, with tools and desks and monitors, if they need ’em or whatever. Uh, it’s been really interesting to see, um, what are some tips that you’ve really kind of learned as a leader? Uh, you mentioned some standups and trying to find ways to connect as a team and, and, you know, these brainstorms and other things, what are some things you’ve learned about yourself and also your team that, uh, kind of leading virtually?

Karen: (15:36)
Yeah, well first let me say that I joined SurveyMonkey in mid January, and I think I had only been on the job and in our San Mateo headquarters for about eight or so weeks before we started moving to shelter in place in the Bay area and worked from home environments. So I am very fortunate that I did have that time to meet my brand team and my peers and teammates in person. Um, one thing that I prioritize as a new leader, um, that I’d recommend whether someone’s starting in a virtual scenario or just in general, was, um, I made time for one on ones with every person in the brand marketing organization. And it was really important for me to get to know them as people, um, beyond you know, who they are as a designer or maybe what product line they’re working on. I scheduled those within my first 30 days. And I’m so glad that I did, because I was able to have a little bit more detail about their, you know, who they were as people, what their passions were, what they enjoy doing outside of work to help foster more of that connection as we move to a virtual scenario. Um, and I would say beyond that, I I’ve tried to really flex my style and frequency of check-ins depending on the circumstances. So every week has, has brought, um, you know, new challenges and new ways of thinking about our world and how we work together as humans in the beginning, it meant I was having daily, um, check-ins daily end of day, check-ins with my creative directors, because so much was happening in a day that slacks or emails or any other mode of communication, wasn’t gonna be able to capture all of the, um, emotion and urgency happening.

So we started doing daily checkups and then after a while, that felt like too much. So really just, you know, being flexible. Um, and in terms of what works, uh, I wouldn’t say that one thing that’s been helpful with my large brand org is making myself available through office hours for the team. So we all, what our calendars look like with back to back zooms, uh, during any given week, there are two hour slots, two, one hour slots that I hold each week, uh, where anyone in the brand organization can schedule time with me for any topic whatsoever. Some people might drop in to get feedback on some designs or, or copy. Um, I’ve had people use it to spend time just talking with me and seeing my dog on camera. So, you know, just having that, um, availability, uh, for the team to, to check in as they need to, and making sure that I’m still holding a monthly, a monthly meeting for the entire brand organization to get together, uh, to talk about whether it’s business, um, business updates or our brand strategy, um, or, or just fun topics, we have that standing time together. And, uh, and then one thing I did to surprise them, um, I don’t know if they all know this, but it was a little bit of my calendar mistake. I somehow the April monthly meeting fell off the calendar or disappeared. And it was really important to me that we stay connected as an organization.

So I put a one hour slot on calendar for a Friday at 9:00 AM, Pacific time. It actually was the first day. I think it was like the first day of may, but that’s okay. It was close. And, um, instead of putting a zoom link and then meeting invite like normal, it was blank. And instead I shared a little video update with the team through our, um, brand Slack channel and told them that the agenda was their choice and they could use that hour for whatever they needed at that moment in time, if that was sleeping in, if it was calling a family member playing with their kids or their pets, um, or just sitting outside and, you know, having, having breakfast with some fresh air, it was their choice. And so I tried to turn a mistake into a little bit of fun and flexibility so that I think that went over well. But, um, those are, those are different ways that I would say we can as leaders think about how to use our time and make ourselves available to our team.

Joe: (20:00)
That’s really great. Yeah. I think, I think we’re on kind of similar wavelengths. Like when I w I, like you said, you had kind of daily, no touch bases. Uh, I was kind of the same way as like, let’s have a daily, standup, Intel, we’re all kind of acclimated and then figure things out. Um, and then, yeah, I mean, our cadences are pretty similar. I like that you did that, um, skip the monthly meeting and kind of give yourself an hour. Um, do you feel like your meetings have gone down being virtual? Um, I’m interested in the big, the bigger company. Um, you know, I’m at a startup, so like I gained probably four hours of my day back when I left a big company, uh, for a smaller one. Have you seen some meetings drop off or is it kind of business as usual? And you’re just in like six hours of zooms every day?

Karen: (21:00)
Uh, that is a good question. And I would say it, it has changed. It’s, it’s really been, um, there have been peaks and valleys in terms of meetings. There have been some weeks when I’ve been able to really reserve good chunks of time. I would say from 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM for deep thinking work, um, you know, strategy our, our brand evolution and, and spending time whether that was alone or just with a small group and in more of a collaborative working session. But I’m, I’m back in a time where the zoom calls just keep piling up

Joe: (21:40)
A little bit, like back to normal.

Karen: (21:43)
Exactly. So the nature, um, of, of meetings has changed. I would say it’s forced us to think through those recurring meetings that everyone has on calendar and you just, they just sit there because they’ve always been there. We’ve gotten better about thinking through that, trying to shorten meetings by five or 10 minutes. So people have a chance to get up and move around. Um, I really miss all of those serendipitous run-ins with colleagues and teammates, just, you know, on the way to the cafeteria, the migration in the bathroom, not only was it a chance to interact with and get to know other people in the company, but I realized how much work actually got done just within a couple of minutes, you know, whether it was a quick burst of communication and update on a project. Sometimes you’d get a decision, um, if you ran into the right person. And so I do miss that a lot, but, um, trying, trying to be mindful about zoom meetings and really only attend or invite people to ones that are critical.

Joe: (22:47)
Yeah. It’s really funny. Like there were so many times that Adobe that I would be, you know, walking the halls in San Jose and I’d walk past someone that I had emailed like four times and they’re like, Oh, shoot, I need to like, get back to you. And then, you know, the problem was immediately solved cause they saw me. Um, yeah, it’s really interesting. You bring that up. Uh, we also had a saying at Adobe that was, uh, this meeting could have been a cloud app. Video was like, you know, I’m sure there’s always like, you’ll be halfway into a meeting. You’re like, Oh man, why am I even here? I’m not really a part of this. Um, so hopefully virtual has kind of made people think, Hey, does this need to be a meeting? Could it be some other, you know, non real time, medium. Yeah. With, uh, kind of looking into the future, I’m wanting you to pull out your crystal ball. Um, this has been a really great conversation. I’ve loved kind of learning some things that you’re doing at survey monkey with a brand. And I want you to kind of look into the future and make your, you know, bold predictions on what you think the future looks like in marketing brand. Um, you know, how that fits into what the modern workplace is that you mentioned earlier and, you know, final parting tips and tricks.

Karen: (24:12)
Okay. That’s a lot, that’s a lot. Let me see, I’ll say just on the, on the crystal ball question and in terms of a modern marketer, I, I think what this time is teaching us is, um, you know, kind of what I mentioned earlier that we’re all humans. So that building, um, building skills and empathy and understanding as human, uh, understanding each other as fellow humans can help us be better marketers because sometimes we forget how important it is to, to know your audience and to understand your audience. And so this brings a, a different level to understanding who you’re talking to or who you’re trying to reach on the other side of the video. I think that will be key. Um, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention data. You know, I had previously worked on Google analytics, analytics three 60 suite and data driven marketing is, is an incredibly important, and we’re a time we’re at a time now where more data is available and of interest to us as marketers and business leaders. But I think what I’m working through our pandemic has taught us is no matter how much data you can have, that’s, that’s not enough to make a decision. So finding that balance of, you know, having enough data, um, to move forward, but not waiting for all of it to make decisions. So I think I I’m curious, but I feel like data driven marketing will take on a new meeting moving forward. Um, and then I think creativity, you know, kind of related to data, data can inform creativity and inspire creative thinking. I think we’ve all been, um, forced to be much more creative thinkers and this environment, whether it’s how to inspire the team or how to come up with a campaign, that’s going to resonate in the moment knowing that we’re in such a fluid environment and situations change daily. So, um, I think creative creativity and creative thinking and problem solving is going to be really critical to modern marketers and also just that comfort and ability to work and any medium, uh, with, uh, you know, video words are important, whether you’re saying them or writing them or slacking them. Um, so I, those, those are areas to me that I think will continue to be, to be critical for marketers moving from.

Joe: (26:34)
That’s really great. I love that response. I think, you know, we’re, we’re all kind of learning on the go. Um, we’re trying to find ways to connect with our audiences right now. Um, you know, and that will be, you know, recognizing that along with the data, uh, and really being open to communicating with our communities early on.

Karen: (26:55)
Crucial. Yeah.

Joe: (26:57)
Awesome. Thank you, Karen. It was so great chatting with you, apologies for the technical difficulties earlier and, uh, and I appreciate your time today.

Karen: (27:09)
Thanks so much for having me, Joe. It was great chatting with you, um, and, uh, interested to hear how this all comes together. Yeah, for sure. Thanks Karen. Thank you.

Joe: (27:23)
Thanks for joining the DNA of an experience podcast. We hope you learn something that will help improve your collaboration and enhance the experience you create for your customer. Join the collaboration 2.0 movement today by getting cloud app, the instant business communication tool use to create instantly shareable videos, screenshots, and gifts. Perfect for both internal and external communication. Get started for free@wwwdotgetcloudapp.com. Thank you. We look forward to seeing you next time.