We can’t be more excited to welcome Acacia Waller to the Triblio team as the VP of Customer Success! I had the chance to sit down with Acacia last week to talk about what she’s looking forward to at Triblio. She’s wonderful, brings a lot of experience and thoughtfulness to leadership and customer success, and has the biggest heart for animals. You should definitely read what she has to say.
Tell us about your journey into customer success. Was there anything that surprised you along the way?
At the time that I was assuming customer success roles, they weren’t necessarily defined as “customer success.” When I started at Fishbowl, I was put on a customer support team for managed services accounts. We were responsible for not only providing clients with onboarding and guiding them through how to use the software but also getting the renewal.
I fell into this role naturally. I had started in sales right out of college, at Vocus. Knowing that I was great at talking to people and being able to sell them, I was also excited to leverage my passion for marketing and being creative with clients. As I grew a team at Fishbowl oriented around retention and developed our services, I had a lightbulb moment–what I’d been doing was customer success. I was not only making my clients successful in using the platform but also getting them to renew, talking to them about new modules, and really owning that end-to-end experience.
You make a clear distinction between customer success and customer support. Do you see a strategic advantage in one over the other?
The companies that are really achieving great revenue and growth have put a lot of focus on customer success. Calling a support line, you’re one of many – you don’t know who you’re getting at the other end, you’re starting from scratch, and you don’t feel like that company cares about you. Investing in customer success, they know your name, your account, and your goals. It’s a very tailored journey to what clients need, and you’re getting that one-to-one experience.
Customer success makes a lot of sense in the tech space specifically. There’s this natural pattern that software companies fall into where they spend a lot of money on the onboarding process, which is the way to do it because you want to make a great first impression. But then, the client doesn’t necessarily hear from anyone until it’s time for renewal. It gives them a really fragmented experience. Having someone oriented around customer success throughout the entire time they’re onboard makes clients feel valued, trust the company, and it makes the relationship sticky.
Having a subscription-based business, you have to continuously win clients’ businesses and advocate for keeping the process. You have to be strategic and tier customer accounts to understand how high-touch and how low-touch they can be. Customer success teams can do this. They’re responsible for looking at what’s going to help each customer achieve their goals for using the product.
What you just described sounds like ABM for our clients. Is that fair to say?
Yes! Customer success as a function is very much like ABM for our clients. A lot of the things that we suggest at Triblio for how our clients manage an ABM strategy is how I look at our client base. Once you make a sale to a client, it doesn’t stop. The sales cycle never stops. We’re consistently selling the value to the existing point of contact. We’re trying to advocate within the business to show value to other stakeholders, to make sure the relationship is sticky throughout their contract and that they’re going to renew. We’re continuing to show what metrics are important and tell the right people the right things at the right time.
So we practice what we preach in customer success–that’s awesome. Is there anything else that stands out to you about Triblio’s ability to service our customers and anticipate their needs?
When I think about anticipating customer needs, you really have to have that empathy to be in sync and in step with what they’re battling in their organizations. What are they going to have to stand up for? How are they going to advocate for what they’re doing and justify the costs of a vendor like Triblio? One thing that’s positive about Triblio and the brand is that we are solely focused on empowering the marketer to be respected as a hero within their organization.
Also, I think our development team is so dynamic in nature. With agile development, they’re constantly in sync with the CSMs, understanding what our clients are asking for and evaluating what’s the next best thing to build. That’s something that I’ve been super encouraged by since I’ve gotten here–seeing that close relationship. I think it’s essential for the success of any software company to not only take feedback from the clients to the dev team but also act on it, and that’s something I’ve seen to be true here.
Let’s circle back to your impressive record at Fishbowl, where you grew services revenue by over 20% YoY. What would you say was the key to that success?
It was largely due to building more packaging to make Fishbowl more saleable. Prior to me joining, the majority of what was offered was just the software as a do-it-yourself solution. Having that support line. When I joined, we started taking it off the customer’s plate, using the software on their behalf, and teaching them how to use it along the way.
Having managed services on top to compliment the software was a very profitable way to run a business. We were able to really grow the revenue base and grow the services team by having more of that managed services component, which was a new thing for Fishbowl.
In general, what do high-performing customer success teams have in common?
A lot of what will make any customer success team successful is looking at their top clients in action. I’ve always used success stories when talking to my clients because it assures them that what I’m saying is true. It gives them confidence to hear that they’re not the first ones, and it’s been proven out by successful clients that X Y and Z will address their pain points and drive growth.
Isolating who our most successful clients are and what we did for them allows us to strategize what the playbook should be for other clients. No one client is going to be the same, so it’s a template that oftentimes requires retooling and customization. But just having the customer journey mapped out helps us think through what should be happening for each client and what information they need to act on which functionalities. Then, we’re able to strategize what we can give them and what’s timely.
I’m sure you have big plans for your team in 2020. What are you most looking forward to?
I’m excited to learn more about the things that make Triblio clients successful. From there, we can build out different offerings and packaging to make them more successful and to compliment our amazing software. There’s a lot of basic economics in customer success – defining what makes people successful, understanding the time it takes to complete different tasks, and setting the dollar value for each offering. Having that agency background, I understand how that should be modeled, and I’m excited to think through these things with the team.
I’m interested in helping us not just grow but grow in a smart way. Sharing success across the customer base and enabling customers to repeat proven tactics within their organizations are a big part of it. Every client across the board, whether they’re SMB or enterprise, wants to see who’s using your tools and what’s happening for them. I used to say at Fishbowl that our clients were very nosey. They wanted the secret sauce that made others successful. A better way to frame this, which Andre (CEO, Triblio) and I have talked about, is that marketers are forthcoming because they love to share their success. They love to talk about what’s working, get some of that shine, and advocate for themselves as being creative and innovative.
On top of that, it behooves us to keep sharing strategic ABM resources and be the experts that we say we are. Not everything needs to be Triblio based. It’s more about being there when clients ask, “How can I be better at account-based marketing?” and immediately think, “Well, Triblio’s going to tell me.”
What does success look like when it comes to CSM culture?
For me in leadership positions, hiring is the most important thing that I will ever do. Somebody who’s going to be successful wants to be here, and oftentimes cultural fit is a huge factor. Building a team with the right people at the right time is way more important than me working hard to compensate for any gaps we have in staffing.
In terms of what’s successful for CSM culture, I think teamwork and camaraderie are extremely important, especially when you have a scaling and growing team. Having people who are willing to coach up new CSMs and being able to get them up to speed and help them learn is so important.
I also like to have a diverse team that has different ways of doing things because they’ll learn from each other, and then we can isolate what’s the best way to do things here. What’s best for Triblio is not necessarily what works best in other companies. I don’t ever institute a culture of my way is the best way. I am very collaborative in nature and want to hear from the team what is going to work best with our specific clients, with this specific product.
I try to avoid any clichés like “Work Hard, Play Hard.” That’s just not something that I jive well with. A lot of customer success organizations are focused on just giving clients everything they need at all costs. I don’t necessarily think that institutes the best culture. Working smart is more important to me. It’s important that my team has the processes and tools to be successful and service clients how they need to be serviced. If they can come in at 9 and leave at 4, but all their clients are happy, and they have amazing retention rates and do it all with a smile on their face, then that’s awesome. They shouldn’t have to burn the midnight oil in order to keep the clients happy.
I’m sure the CSMs role, where you answer to so many different people, can get overwhelming. Do you have any work tips or productivity hacks that you encourage?
I’m a big advocate for time batching and work blocks–being able to focus your mind around certain sets of tasks that are related to one another within a certain period of time. We lose so much time from switching gears, and it’s easy to let your inbox completely derail your productivity. I’ve really needed to focus on mapping out my day, blocking time dedicated to certain tasks, and accomplishing them.
Another thing that I do is take all of my notes for the call in a new email so that I already have everything bulleted out to send to the client as a follow up. It helps me keep track of what needs to be done, and it’s all there in our CRM for anyone else who’s trying to find out what happened on the call. It’s like killing three birds with one stone.
What are you passionate about outside of work?
I’m extremely passionate about animal advocacy and animal rescue. The only reason I really have social media is to continue to raise awareness about animals that are in need. I personally volunteer and am on the board for a local cat rescue. Fostering and facilitating adoptions of cats that need homes is important to me, and I do all of their social media and fundraising. I volunteer with other organizations as well, but animal advocacy is what I spend a lot of time doing that makes me happy and feel fulfilled.
Have you read anything interesting lately?
I’ve recently been reading about Stoicism and Marcus Aurelius, which I think is interesting. I like learning about different ways of thinking.