Tanya Strauss, Director of Customer Success Advocacy at ServiceNow, took the time to answer some questions after her presentation: Why Customer Success Matters Now at The Future of SaaS Festival.

Tanya discusses tips on fostering creativity in your team, aligning CS with account management, and unexpected allies.

Check out the replay in the OnDemand section of our membership area.

Q: Do you have any tips on nurturing and fostering creativity in your team?

A: One thing we’ve just introduced is ‘customer success day’. We're really emphasizing skill-building around customer success so, on this day, we have our leadership come to speak to our success resources, with lots of ideas about customer stories and the behaviors of what's working well in other places.

I also have The Customer Success Professionals Handbook on my desk. There's so many good ideas in here I don’t get any special commissions or anything, I just think it's a great book.

Creating things like book clubs around really good customer success books can really be helpful in fostering creativity and getting the team thinking about how they can work differently.

Q: Do you see an overlap between customer success and account management?

A: Yes, I do. I think that customer success and account management are partners. I know there are lots of different ways to interpret what account management does but, personally, I don't believe that customer success resources and customer success professionals should be bound by thinking specifically about expansion.

I think they need a sales or a commercial partner to be thinking about the commercial aspects.

One of my favorite models is when customer success has a partner in account management. So that customer success really tees up the renewal to make sure that it happens and everybody's receiving the value they want. Then the account management team comes in with the commercial contract.

So, from an account management perspective, I think the customer success team should be responsible for the renewal and making sure that it happens incentivized from that perspective.

Q: Which two areas do you focus the most on?

A: I spend most of my time focused on outcomes. I really want to make sure that, especially since my job is to operationalize and essentially scale customer success, I spend a lot of time thinking about how we can use data - within adoption, within customer engagement, and how we can really drive our stories and peer-to-peer contacts with customers.

That's probably my number one, and then my number two is leading with empathy.

It's really important to me that we connect with our customers, we understand where they're coming from, and we understand their pain points.

Q: How do you work with success versus service teams like implementation onboarding and CSMs?

A: I think those should really be partners. I see our implementation partners, both systems integrators as well as internal professional services at ServiceNow, as critical partners.

So whether that's because we have identified an expansion opportunity and our sales partners have sold it and then we've brought in our professional services teams to implement it, or the professional services team has just onboarded a customer with something new and we work with them, that's a critical handoff moment.

It can also be a really important partnership moment, and an opportunity to really kind of flex that teamwork muscle.

Q: Over the past few months, what department has unexpectedly emerged as your best ally?

A: Well, I don't know that I have any unexpected allies, but I'd say that our biggest ally is always our product success organization, which is part of our product management team.

They’re focused on the success of customers within their business units, they think the niches of our product set, and so they're really our product experts from that perspective.

We have these wonderful partners who can help us get down into the nitty-gritty details of how to crush it with the best practices.

Q: At what point do you think customer success as a function should have dedicated executive leadership?

A: I think that customer success leadership is one of the first things I would invest in if I had an early start-up when I had, maybe, five or six customers.

I would want to think about leadership as a kind of coach role if you will.

I really think that having a seasoned leader who can think about that organization from the ground up, and be the first boots on the ground, is really smart if that's an opportunity.

There’s a lot of writing out there on stages of maturity in your startup-to-growth situation, and whether it makes sense to have a Chief Customer Officer versus a VP of Customer Success.

In my opinion, starting with a director of customer success around the time you have a good handful of customers, and then bringing on a customer success team to fill out from there, is a good idea.

Q: Any thoughts on how to sync between customer success marketing, product, and sales?

A: I think a customer success platform is what you would be looking for.

Having a success platform that everyone has access to, and that has good data integration points with the systems of record that each of those other organizations is using is really important.

I’ll give you one example from marketing. I like to have good partnerships with customer marketing so that we can, from an operational perspective, really synthesize the messaging and create a great experience for our customers.