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Scaling Customer Success with Emmanuelle Skala {Hey Salespeople Podcast}

September 3, 2019

We often hear about scaling sales, but how can you ensure that customer success keeps up when you’re at the top of the S-curve?

Toast’s SVP of Customer Success, Emmanuelle Skala, is cracking the code.  Leading the customer success function for a company in hyper-growth mode is no small feat. You need to be metrics-driven and have a hiring process in place that ensures you bring on the ‘best of the best’ for the role.

In the episode, Emmanuelle shares the most important metrics to monitor, maps out how she tracks tickets to have more visibility into effectiveness and explains how Toast is using AI to support customer success agents.

Scaling Customer Success in a Hypergrowth Stage with Emmanuelle Skala

Listen to this episode for answers to questions like:

  • What are the leading and lagging indicators customer success should be monitoring?
  • How do you measure quality of implementation?
  • Can you have too few support tickets from a customer in the first 30 days? (Not-so-subtle hint: YES!)
  • How often should you survey customer satisfaction?
  • How do you get a rapidly growing success function bought-in to a higher purpose mission?

Listen here, and keep reading for some of the highlights from this episode below.

Customer Success Metrics

Jeremey: How metrics-driven are you in customer success and which metrics do you focus on?

Emmanuelle: Very metric-driven. My department covers everything customer-facing post-sale. We manage it from implementation all the way through to retention. Our metrics will change depending on the lifecycle of the customer.

On the implementation side, I’m looking at the number of go-lives every month. That’s a pretty important metric we look at, as is margin. So it’s a P&L. Then, I look at the quality of those implementations. Those are the primary implementation metrics that we look at. We also dig deeper into the productivity of everybody on the implementation team, the mix of implementation type, and a few others.

Jeremey: I always think of leading indicators and lagging indicators. The go-live, the implementation margin, and the quality metric… I would assume all three of those are more lagging indicators. Do you have any sort of leading or real-time indicators to understand how the implementation is progressing?

Emmanuelle: I have real-time indicators to understand the pipeline progression or the week’s backlog. Then they’re the exact same as you would have in sales. It’s a funnel analysis. I look at the top of the funnel, which are bookings that come from sales, and how those are progressing on a daily, weekly, monthly basis. Then I look at stage conversion through our funnel. You look at it in sales days, stage conversion, and overall conversion. Those are my leading indicators.

Instead of being pipeline, we call it backlog. Those key metrics can be the age of the backlog, basically our cycle time, or time to go live through that backlog. We can break that down by stage. I like to see if there’s a certain stage that’s tripping up certain teams and the economic course break that down by team. I look for early indicators of things getting stuck in the funnel. Managing our backlog pipeline is actually pretty similar to managing a sales pipeline.

Assessing Implementation Quality

Jeremey: How do you assess the quality of an implementation?

Emmanuelle: A couple of different ways. One is through surveying our customers. We use a customer effort score. On a scale of one to seven, how easy was the implementation process? The other way we do it is post-live. At that point, the implementation team is handing off the customer to restaurants success in our support team. We measure the number of support tickets in the first 30 days and the customer success person will also start to engage with the customer. We can look at the number of negative and positive engagements that the customer success person is having with them. By looking at all of the above, we’re able to assess quality.

Jeremey: I learned years ago that customers who have support issues that get resolved are actually more likely to renew than customers who never have support issues at all. For you guys, is there a certain threshold of too many tickets, but also a threshold of too few support tickets in that first 30 day period?

Emmanuelle: I do have it banded. We look at the percentage of customers that are above that threshold. That’s the cohort that we’re worried about. Everybody that’s in the middle of that threshold, we’re actually not worried about at all. That’s where they should be.

It’s interesting, people think support tickets are bad in general… But a lot of support tickets are good because it means the customer is engaged. A lot of ‘how to’ support tickets generally means that the customer is engaged and really wants to understand this.

The challenge is even though they’re technically showing engagement, which is a good thing, it’s still taking up time. They still have to stop what they’re doing, pick up the phone, and engage with support or start a chat or send an email. It’s still a disruption from what they’d love to be doing, which is not interacting with support. While I don’t mind that interaction – it’s healthy – I also know that we want to give customers back time.

Hiring Customer Success at Scale

Jeremey: How do you find 50 new qualified Customer Success candidates to bring in each month?

Emmanuelle: We have a kick-ass recruiting team; that really helps. Having internal recruiters has made a pretty significant difference. And Toast has a great brand reputation, so we’re able to attract a lot of high-quality candidates.

Beyond that, we do search in places that others may not normally go. One big source of great candidates are actually restaurants. On my team especially having worked in a restaurant before is really important for that customer. I think about 65-70% of my team has worked at a restaurant before. Not just as a dishwasher or hostess, but we have plenty of people who are former managers – bar managers, general manager, owners of restaurants.

We also are very focused on diversity and inclusion. We’ll go look at sources of underrepresented personnel to find those gems. We also do promotion activities. We’re pretty focused on LinkedIn ad promotion, holding open houses… we even did a billboard in Omaha where we have a second office. We did a billboard there solely focused on recruiting.

The actual funnel hasn’t been a challenge for us – we get a lot of applicants. Our challenge is more like weeding through the applicants and having a really robust recruiting and interview process so that we let the best of the best in the door. I spent a lot of time fine-tuning our recruiting processes. For instance, no candidate can get an offer with less than four interviews. We really want to spread the wealth in terms of making sure that hiring managers aren’t making exclusive decisions.

We also give hiring managers a “no” veto, but they can’t have a “yes” veto. So if they’re in the debrief meeting and there’s contention, even though the hiring manager ultimately is a decision-maker, we don’t want that hiring manager to be able to completely veto everybody. We also have every interviewee do a case study of some sort. It’s pretty intense… But that’s by design. We put a lot of effort in upfront to maximize the chance of a positive hire.

THERE’S A LOT MORE AFTER THIS! Listen to the full podcast for more on driving strategy.

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