Talking with Wayne McCulloch Head of Customer Success Google Cloud

May 11, 2021
To listen to the full episode, click here

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 thepsychology behind what makes an experience. So great. Thanks for joining us,

Speaker 2 (00:18):

Everyone. I am so excited to have Wayne Macola with me.Wayne is the head of customer success at Google cloud currently, and has a lotof great experienced at big and small companies and really excited to hostWayne and have him talk about customer success and tech, and also a new bookthat he has coming out, uh, would love Wayne to just give us a little bit ofbackground and we'll go from there.

Speaker 3 (00:46):

Thanks, Joe. Uh, really excited to be here. Um, so someonewho spent most of their life in B2B software originally on the educationtraining adoption space, um, based in Australia and then made the move toUnited States in 1999, uh, moved to Chicago way too cold. I don't know howpeople live here. And so I went to Austin much better, a lot more fun. Um, andthen just recently made the move out to Boulder that, uh, worked at bigcompanies, small companies, public companies, private companies, uh, made thepivot to success. Uh, while I was at Salesforce, uh, in my career, um, sort ofreally recognized the power of the entire customer experience that you can havewith all these different departments post for sale. Uh, and I've spent the lastpart of my career doing that. And of course, decided to write a book about myexperiences to save people, a lot of the pain that I went through.

Speaker 2 (01:33):

Yeah, definitely. And, you know, customer access is, is,uh, one of the fastest growing areas of business and focus for a lot ofbusinesses. As you look back on your long career doing that and kind ofbuilding that up, what is the DNA of a good customer experience? Where doesthat come from?

Speaker 3 (01:51):

Yeah, so I probably, I think a little differently to youtraditional CS people not saying someone's right or wrong, but just likeeverything I've discovered in customer success, what works for you doesn'tnecessarily work for others. But for me, the DNA of great customer experienceis, and this sounds really stupid, but delivering value to the customer, like alot of people will have, you know, it's like the unforgettable moments, it'sthe, you know, it's all these aspirational and motivational type things andthey're all great. And I'm certainly not saying don't do that. I'm advocatingfor that. But at the end of the day, in this day and age, delivering what thecustomer wants is a great customer experience. Now you can then argue that theexperience of getting there is painful and I'd say yes, and that's why thingslike having very personalized levels of service, having consistency in theexperience, creating those unforgettable moments. They're all part of it too.So I'm not saying it's one pot, but when at the heart of it, when you thinkabout it, I think a great customer experience is getting what you want. Likethat that's a great experience in itself. And I, I find people just sort ofjumped to the other things first, but that's super critical and reallydifficult sometimes to believe. Um, and so that to me is kind of the heart ofwhat a great DNA, um, experience, uh, customer experience should be.

Speaker 2 (03:10):

Yeah. What you want when you want it as well. Uh, isdefinitely a key piece of that with so many steps in that journey and piecescontributing to that experience. How does customer success fit in?

Speaker 3 (03:26):

Yeah, I said this the other day. I'm not sure if itresonates really well, but I kind of see like the customer success function isalmost like the parents of, uh, uh, in the playground that is purse post firstsale kind of organizations, because I think the customer success team is reallythinking about the entire journey of the customer. Many other functions sort ofcome in at various points of the journey. Um, and, and I was talking to myboss, uh, last week and he mentioned a phrase like these are the groups thatkind of dating, like go on a date and then they leave. Maybe they call, maybethey don't, you know, but success is kind of like getting married, like we'reinvested, we're all in on the journey and bad. And so for that reason, it givesus unique perspective of the journey.

Speaker 3 (04:08):

And so as we look to at other functions that come in tohelp at various points, whether it's implementation adoption, expansionadvocate, whatever it is, the success function can help understand what greatcustomer experience is looking like. And what's not. And part of the job ofcustomer success is to let those teams know where there's opportunities tocreate a better experience, but also to call out and congratulate otherfunctions when they are doing something great. It's to be their champion aswell. Um, because that's the role of customer success inside an organization.So that's how I think about it.

Speaker 2 (04:46):

That makes a lot of sense. And, and, you know, your bookis called the seven pillars of customer success recently came out, talk aboutthat and kind of the, how you came up with, you know, the foundational piecesof customer success and, and what led, what leads to that forming thatexperience you just mentioned.

Speaker 3 (05:04):

Yeah. So, um, I, I wrote the book because when I pivotedmy career into customer success, I was doing all the best practices and thingsthat I saw worked at a company like Salesforce, which is generally known asbeing really good at this because they've been doing it longer than anyonebecause they kind of accidentally invented it with the new business andparadigm and how to deliver software and all those things. And so I couldn'twork out why the best practices weren't working. And I was listening to thoughtleaders and I was reading blogs and I was attending conferences. And I'm like,all the time, I'm thinking, Oh, this is great. And I'd go do it. And it didn't havethe same outcome. And I was getting really frustrated that someone who'spivoted their career into success, um, was still struggling to be the best theycould be for their company, for their customers and their employees.

Speaker 3 (05:51):

And so ultimately I decided to take a step back and reallylook at the landscape of customer success, say, what's missing here. Why doesthis not work? In one example and another I've read the books, you know, thecustomer success book from Nick Mehta and Lincoln Murphy. And Dan started like,you know, everyone has that book on their bookshelf and that tells you whycustomer success crazy important. And then over on the other side, you've got aplethora of training courses and certifications and programs for CSMs to beamazing at their job. But there's this gap in the middle, which is how do Iconnect the two? How do I connect these activities I do in the field and theseconcepts like customer health and success plans and QPRs and things like that,that CSMs do with the promise of what customer success really means in a SAScompany, which is, you know, a growth engine of the organization, there's thismissing gap.

Speaker 3 (06:43):

And that was a framework. It was an industry framework bywhich success functions could build their organizations in a consistent way. Sothey could have a great narrative about what they do, how they do it, how theymeasure it, and then be able to show those metrics of success and also givethem a blueprint on how to build a very mature success function over time. Um, bystarting very simple on many of the concepts we need and then advancing them tomore advanced sort of, you know, data science and all that stuff that takesyears to go get right. That was missing. And so I ended up writing that bookfor me, but then other people are like, well, I wouldn't mind reading thatbook. And then I started putting, well then in this framework, what are theoptions for a CSA? And so I started putting that into the book and then all ofa sudden people outside of CSR reading it saying, Oh, now I get it. I want tobe part of this journey. So it ended up being for a lot more people than me.

Speaker 2 (07:34):

This, this is the lesson to all young professionals outthere is to document, document everything. And it may turn into a book.

Speaker 3 (07:43):

Yeah. And you know, what's really, this is the weirdestpart about writing book is you write something down. You're like, Oh, I believethis. And then you're like, well, do I believe that? Why do I believe that?Well, that guy said it or this lady said it. And you're just, so you start likesaying, well, do I believe it? Cause they said it or do I believe it because Ibelieve it. And then you start second guessing yourself. So you go through thisweek on our way, artists are kind of a little different sometimes because there,I can imagine this constant torture in their mind about what they believe andfeel and think. And it is a weird, um, sort of period to go through writing abook. But it was ultimately really satisfying because at the end I'm like,okay, I believe this. I can defend it. I have evidence. I can show why. Um, andnow I'm going to put it down in writing for other people to critique and eithersay, it's no good or it's awesome. It's a little scary, but I've, I've done it.And hopefully it helps other people, especially those pivoting into leadershiproles, either from success or outside of success, um, to give them anaccelerated sort of start on how they build their functions to help elevate thewhole customer success community.

Speaker 2 (08:44):

Yeah. I love how you kind of found that gap and, andfilled it in and connected the two because yeah, there is a very much a, whenyou're doing research, you see all these people thought leaders talking things,but then you don't always have the data behind it. Like, okay, well, I triedthat at my company and it's not working, you know? So it's, yeah. It'sinteresting to try to bridge those gaps.

Speaker 3 (09:06):

Yeah. I can imagine like, there's a lot of frustration.Um, and I get it. So the way, the way I described my book is I'm giving you theblueprints for building the house, framing it, foundation, all of that. You getto decide what to paint the walls and what flooring and what cabinets and whatTV. Like you get to do all that because that's unique to your company. But ifyou have a framework it's much easier to wrap your head around. Okay, well nowwe're going to do this. Oh, that's what happened? How does that interconnectwith the other parts of the frame? Okay. If we tweak it here, we can have thisimpact down here. And it really makes it easier to pivot really quickly and beagile as you create this really tailored customer success or organization thatworks for your business and your customers.

Speaker 3 (09:51):

And the one thing I've learned working at $50 millioncompanies, $500 million companies and $5 billion companies is what's inside yourhouse will change. Like the framework's still the same, but as your, youintroduce new products, as your market becomes more sophisticated, more matureas you grow and scale the challenges and opportunities you have change. So theway you, you know, what got you here, doesn't get you there kind of concept theway you run your business has to adapt. But if the framework is the same, it'sa lot easier to move the pieces rather than reinventing and trying to startfrom scratch and all the risk and time that that takes the framework gives youan ability to be agile and to evolve. And again, that was part of my learningwhen I worked at Looker, which was when I got there sub a hundred milliondollar company, but come from Salesforce. Now I'm at Google cloud, running thecustomer success for the, all the SAS products in Google cloud. They're alldifferent. Like the success functions are all different frameworks. The samethat how we execute is very different,

Speaker 2 (10:52):

Makes the sense, you know, and over the last year, we'vedefinitely tested frameworks and learned a lot of things. Uh, as we, as we've,uh, flex muscles with video and streaming and learning new things, how do youthink visuals and video, uh, can really enhance that customer experience?

Speaker 3 (11:12):

So, um, the cool thing about customer experience is everysix months, there's like some hot trend or some hot problem that everyone jumpson, which is great because we all just jump in and we're like, okay, thismonth, it's all about onboarding. All right. So what's the importantonboarding. And Donald Weber wrote this brilliant book called onboardingmatters, check it out if you get a chance. And so really thinks aboutonboarding and that was going great. And then we kind of COVID comes and thenyou start pivoting to digital customer success. Well, suddenly everyone'sdigital cause no one can travel. No one's in person. So everything promoted,everything's technology driven. So suddenly everyone's digital. So that becomesreally hot. And so when we think about digital customer success, one of thethings we often miss is we think tech touch, right? And tech touches. I don'tlike that phrase.

Speaker 3 (11:56):

I don't even know what it really means. Techniquetechnology driven or something. And I'm like, no, the cool thing about customersuccess is the human element. That's what makes it a customer success. It'sthat empathy. It's the things that technology doesn't keep you technologyallows you to scale that technology allows you to make better decisions.Technology means that you can have a bigger impact on your customer. That'swhat taking the technology. Shouldn't be the customer success function thatmakes no sense, but bringing them to give it does. So things like video givesyou the ability. I'll give you the example for me, like in the old days, allthose being 18 months ago, days like get on a plane. I fly to Florida and meetwith the customer. There, have a great meeting, go to the airport, wait around,fly up to New York, go to the hotel, get up in the morning, made another customer,have a great meeting and then fly Hart.

Speaker 3 (12:46):

That's two customers in about three days of travel. Thislast week, I met with three customers before lunch and I was able to use videoand I was able to use that, that style to actually be more impactful, to havemore reach. And then when you think about things like using visuals and video,um, when you're helping a customer, um, I remember I was using a productrecently where every time when I went into the like support or the help area ofthe software platform, every single feature had a video and it was 30 secondsand it was just clicky, clicky, clicky, almost like this is brilliant. Like Idon't want to read a document and then work out why that word doesn't matchthat word or my versions. Like I just need to get a feel for where things arevisually. I can see key click, click, click.

Speaker 3 (13:33):

Oh, I didn't even know that button was there. I didn't seethat was an option. Oh, that's really cool. Like those aha moments in 30seconds. And I keep moving on. That's really, I think hopefully something thatlasts past the pandemic, which is leveraging technology, like video, likevisuals to actually improve the customer experience and to accelerate someonegetting through their problems. Because at the end of the day, we need them torealize value. We need them to be successful. Um, and that is one sort of toolthat we can leverage more in order to drive those outcomes.

Speaker 2 (14:06):

Yeah. There was a obviously cloud app kind of fits intothis. And I, I was actually, I had reached out to their customer of ours, butwe also use their product quite a bit. And I reached out to their supportbecause we were having an issue and they sent me a cloud app video to close theticket. And I was like, Oh, that's kind of cool.

Speaker 3 (14:27):

I know that their customers can change it.

Speaker 2 (14:35):

It's a really unique connection that you just, uh, youknow, have that instant no more like going to the FAQ or in any way that, likeyou said, it's kind of the hot thing of the day, right? Yeah.

Speaker 3 (14:46):

Yeah. But also like think of this, um, new release up, Ican just record a quick video for my customer and just say, Hey, Joe, newrelease coming out here are the three features. I think you should check outfor your business. Cause I know you do these things and we've been waiting forthis. One of these was a feature idea you had and you send that off and it'sliterally six minutes of your time from start to finish, to record, to send at,send all that. But to the customer, they're like, again, short amount of time.I don't have to take a call calls a 1530 an hour long. Like why is everythingblocked like that? Like sometimes something is three minutes. Let's take threeminutes. Why do I have to break it into these chunks? You know, thank youtraditional calendar. But the reality is video allows you to break thosebarriers, just have the effective, impactful communication really quickly.

Speaker 3 (15:31):

And it allows you to CSMs to scale because if I had 10customers in one hour, I can send information out to 10 customers rather thanhave 10 30 minute calls and then fill the time stuff. Um, no, no, I'm justsaying, don't call your customer. I'm just saying, this is something you mightnot do because it doesn't fit, you know, the QVR format or whatever it isyou've got. But you have the idea. You have the capability now to thinkdifferently about how you add value to your customer relationship. Um, and so Ithink COVID has really, um, accelerated, uh, our ability to think aboutleveraging technology in ways we wouldn't traditionally use it, that allows usto scale, but add more value.

Speaker 2 (16:09):

There's definitely a lot of opportunities, a lot oftechnologies out there to make your connection points better with customers andmake things smoother. What are some ways that, um, and you can talk aboutGoogle cloud, you could talk about Looker or any other stops you've made forwhat are some things that you've done to create an experience for yourcustomer. So

Speaker 3 (16:33):

You stopped by this amazing quote that forever in a day.There's two quotes that rule my rule, my life, when it comes to customerexperience and customer success, the first one is from Scott Hudgens. Who's um,he's the chief commercial officer at Walt Disney world results. And he said,one day, no one owns the customer, but someone always owns the moment. And onceI've read that court, it's sort of now I get it, that the arguments we haveabout who owns the customer, like the conversations we have about, you know,you can't talk to the customer because they're my customer. And then you haveeverything has to go through me and a bow those days, hopefully well behind us,as we start to understand that on a journey, there are these moments of truththat happened. And as a company we have to show up and if we document that and identifywho owns that, then people can get real precision like sort of focus on how todeliver an amazing impact at that moment of truth, with the support of who elseneeds to help them.

Speaker 3 (17:31):

Right? So that's one chord. The second quote is from LloydTabb, who's the founder of Luca. And he said, great software is an act ofempathy. Now, if you just think about that for a moment, great software is anactivator of the theme. Like what does that really saying? And it's saying thatsoftware by itself, doesn't nothing right. You have to, you have to dosomething with it. You have to interact with it. You have, that's where thevalue is created. So every time the software doesn't work, doesn't do what youneed. There's a problem or an issue like that's on, that's on us. We weremaking it difficult for the customer to achieve value or making the difficultfor the customer to have success. And so if we think about the software in thatway, why not think about every part of the organization, a great softwarecompany should be an active empathy.

Speaker 3 (18:20):

And I'll give you an example. DCL, our department ofcustomer love their support organization at Looker. Um, decided that, you know,tickets of the concerts and airplanes, like we don't need tickets. What we wantis in product chat. And so if you're stuck, you just click a button, someone'sthere to help walk you through. It was like someone over your shoulder. And wewould have last year, I think our average response time is like 23 seconds. Seeschool is like 98%. First chat resolution is in the nineties. But the thing,the thing was, Oh, and we used it in pre-sales environments to help close dealsbecause we could showcase how awesome our support was versus competitors, wherethere's a ticket. And it's because it's a level four or whatever. It's a 36hour turnaround where they ask for more information and suddenly a week's goneby just do it.

Speaker 3 (19:07):

Whereas with us, like in seconds and minutes, you'vesolved the problem moved on that experience is all about knowing that this personhas to go home to a family at night. They don't want to be sitting there tryingto solve a problem and just struggling on their own. If we can make it easierfor them to be successful, get them promoted, get them home earlier to theirfamily. Then we've done our job. Right. And that was, that's what I take fromgreat software as an act of empathy, but as an organization, that empathy wascore to our customer experience. Um, and so for me, that's that, that's the,that's the, that's the guiding light for us when we think about deliveringexperiences. And so at a Google cloud, our job is to how do we help, um, spreadthat sort of thinking around a sort of relatively new organization insideGoogle cloud, to be honest. And it's, it's still forming and building its way.And so we're, we're a part of that. Um,

Speaker 2 (20:00):

I like how you said that, um, everyone takes kind of anactive role at their piece of it. Um, I remember, you know, I worked for one ofthose big companies and there were some times that people would say, you know,would you would hear people say that their customer was the marketingdepartment or their customer was design or, you know, because that's where theend deliverable went. Right. Um, and I, I had some really great leaders thatwould say no, like your customer is the customer. So find out a way thatwhatever you're doing is going to affect or benefit the customer. It's not, youknow, not the org that you're giving something to.

Speaker 3 (20:39):

It's super easy to fall into that trap there. Roger, likein the book, I mentioned this anecdote where I was talking to a PS leader at acompany and I'm like, are really customer centric. Like, absolutely it's a mainfocus. It's our mission statement. I mean, our consultants work over theweekend. They do whatever it takes to go live, make the customer successful.And I'm like, well, what's your measures of success? Like, how do you get paidyour bonuses? How do you, you know, how do you know that you're doing a greatjob? What are those metrics? And it was revenue, margin and utilization. AndI'm like, which one of those are customer metrics. So you've got these poorconsultants that care a lot about the customer and will give up everything theycan to make them successful. And yet the measure of success in the company hasnothing to do with time to value renewal rates, expansion, right?

Speaker 3 (21:23):

Like all the things that are about the customer, gettingvalue and success, which is soft in a SAS company in the cloud that is all thatmatters. The one-time sow your revenue doesn't matter anywhere near as much asthe five, 10, 20 year recurring revenue stream that can grow and expand andthen advocacy. And like, and, and I don't think we've necessarily, um, sort ofreally worked through that. Yeah, we're customer centric is easy to say, butdoing it is often much hotter. And so we work really hard at putting thecustomer at the center of all our decisions and working back rather thanoperationally. How do we get really good? Now let's try to give a greatexperience with the guardrails we've been given. You got to flip that reallyhard to do

Speaker 2 (22:05):

Well. We've had a lot of, lot of good conversation aboutcustomers and kind of benefiting them. And Wayne, this has been really funconversation. Um, I love having you on, um, I want to flip it a little bit andyou're the customer now. Uh, what's a great experience you've recently had,could be retail, travel, uh, B2B, you know, whatever. Uh, what's a goodexperience that some company provided for you.

Speaker 3 (22:31):

All right. I'm going to give one here. Um, it wasn't thatrecent because it was about travel, which was not recent. So let's just say 18months ago. But I was flying through Denver airport, um, back to Austin, Texas,and, and I, I have a clear membership. I travel a lot. I'm an all kind ofperson a year. And so I travel a lot and, and clear is really important part ofmy journey to make life easier. And I had to wait forever. It was a long lineand clear like, which is literally the opposite of what you buy. And, and, youknow, obviously I'll, I'm like frustrated and it wasn't great. Anyway, I get asurvey cause you always do. When you go through clear, you get a survey andit's like, how's your experience today? NPS? How would you recommend this to afriend?

Speaker 3 (23:19):

I like put it to my man. Like, he's a, and then it's like,do you want to put comments? Yes. And I wrote a bunch of comments, right? I'mjust sitting on the plane. I'm just filling it out. By the time I land inAustin, I got an email back from the manager of the sort of team at Denversaid, thank you for taking the time to let us know here's what happened todayand why there was a problem. Here are the steps that we're taking to ensurethat happens again. Here's my personal email address. If any other problemsever arise? I want to know like, yeah, that's awesome. Like we, we often surveycustomers for vanity metrics like let's NPS. Okay. Well, let's pick the fivepeople that give us good scores so we can get a good NPS score. And then we getup, we celebrate and we get paid bonus or whatever it is.

Speaker 3 (24:05):

Right. It's all, it's all for vanity. Or we're stillsomeone sends us back at two and you're like, Oh, we got to detract. Then don'tjoin me. Like you don't do what the clip person did at Denver. Like, so I, ifwe really think about like that to me, game changer, like that makes someoneloyal. That makes someone fall in love with a company because you care, you'relistening, even though you're a big monolithic company, you down to the pointwhere my frustration within hours is answered in a reasonable way. I don'texpect things to be perfect. I know things break. I know things don't work, butthat, to me, it just erased all the frustration and made me customer for life.

Speaker 2 (24:43):

Yeah. And even showed the next steps. Like, Hey, here'sthe plan. And it doesn't have to be super drawn out a couple of bullet points,Hey, here's two bullet points. You know, that we're going to do. And you maynot even know what they mean, but it's like, Oh, okay, cool. Then they're liketrying to solve. So it doesn't happen again. That's great. Yeah. It wasawesome. So as we're kind of closing things up, I always love to have peoplelook into their crystal ball and kind of make predict prediction. So I want youto tell us, what do you think the, you could go two paths here. What do youthink is the future of experienced business, which is really broad or what doyou think is the future of customer success?

Speaker 3 (25:27):

I'll take the first one. Okay. More challenging. And noone's going to care. It's like weather forecasting. I'm going to bedirectionally. Correct. And as long as I am that's okay. All right. Here's thebiggest challenge that I see today with customer experiences. We have moved asan industry to a SAS cloud-based deliverable in some cases consumption-basedmodels. And what we failed to do was changed the way we build out organizationsto support that journey. In other words, the old on-prem perpetual softwareworld was his support and pay a maintenance fee. Here's just services toimplement. And maybe some project work here's training to get you up andrunning on the latest version that we're going to change on you down thetracks. And it doesn't matter any way. And then he's a success function. That'scalled account management. Right. So that's how we ran.

Speaker 3 (26:13):

And then we went to SAS and created this whole new cloudmodel. Here's my training. Here's my PS. Here's my CS. And then here's my, youknow, support. Yeah. Like stop, let's think about a differently, let's thinkabout the customer journey. And if you built an organization from scratch, takeaway all the things you've known about all design and put it in the context ofSAS, how would you build a journey for a customer? You'd probably have anonboarding team and implementation team, a value optimization team that doesROI and calculations to show value. So you can get to your renewals team thatis on to an expansion motion that you have an advocacy teams made up ofmarketing and services and other component like you would design a completelyyou device. You designed for the journey, not for these operational functionsinside a company.

Speaker 3 (27:07):

And I think to me, someone much smarter than me and morebrave than me was going to go out there and redesign what the post-birth salesfunction looks like and show us the real customer experience will come from thedesign that allows the journey to be maximized from a moments of truth,perspective, and amazing outcomes, rather than us trying to cross and handoffsand all the things that we have to do on naturally to try to make a greatexperience. That's what I think would be the future. I love that. Thank you,Wayne. That was really great conversation. Thanks for sharing all your wisdomon customer success. Thank you. I'll let you get back to back to your day andback to your family. Awesome. Thanks so much, Joe. I had finally, thank you.Thanks. See you. Bye.

Speaker 1 (27:49):

Thanks for joining the DNA of an experience podcast. Wehope you learned something that will help improve your collaboration andenhance the experience you create for your customer. Join the collaboration 2.0movement today by getting cloud app, the instant business communication tooluse to create instantly shareable videos, screenshots, and gifts. Perfect. Forboth internal and external communication. Get started Thank you. We look forward to seeing you next time.