The 5 Pillars of Customer Success

This week, guest host and Sumeru Operating Partner Pejman Pourmousa chats with Alison Gill, global head of customer success at beqom, about strategies and challenges of creating or revamping a customer success org.

Intro to Sumeru Scaling X Podcast

Pejman Pourmousa (00:11):

Hi everyone. Welcome to Scaling with Sumeru, a podcast at the intersection of people and technology, where we explore the strategies and the stories behind scaling successful businesses.

I’m your host today, Pejman Pourmousa. You’re welcome to call me Pej.

A little background about myself: I’ve been with the firm since 2022 and I’m an Operating Partner on the Sumeru Growth team, focused on value creation within our portfolio companies to help scale their organizations.

Specifically, I focus on the customer success teams.

Today, we’ll be covering customer success, specifically the five pillars of customer success and what it takes to build or revamp your customer success organization.

For this conversation, we will be joined by Alison Gill, global head of customer success at beqom, a Sumeru Portfolio Company.

Before we dive into our conversation, I’d like to provide a high-level overview of customer success and why your organization should make sure you prioritize it.

Why should my organization prioritize customer success?

Customer success (CS) is the process of ensuring that your customers achieve their desired outcomes while using your company’s products and services.

CS can have a wide umbrella, so it’s not just customer success managers. It can really roll up a number of functional groups, and these are all the different functional groups I’m lucky enough to get to work with everyday:

Customer success management; account management, who does upsell and cross-sell; professional services; renewals, bringing in those subscriptions year over year; and technical support.

A lot of folks have customer success engineers and customer success operations.

Simply said, if you take all those groups, customer success is really making sure you have a proactive team that focuses on building and maintaining long-term customer relationships by providing support, guidance, and value.

It really helps your business not only retain but also grow your customer base, improve customer satisfaction, increase revenue, and essentially help you scale your company from wherever you are today to 2–3x the size you are or you want to be in the future.

So saying all that, I’m super excited today. Again, I want to say hello to Alison.

Alison, welcome to the podcast.

Meet Alison from beqom

Alison (02:31):

Thanks Pej. Really excited to be here.

Pejman (02:33):

Awesome. Alison and I got to meet while working together at beqom. Alison was introduced to me as a part of an acquisition beqom made and she was already heading up a customer success team.

I’ve had the pleasure over the last several months to be working alongside her on her journey and just being able to watch what she’s been able to create is pretty amazing.

Saying all that, Alison, I’ll hand it to you. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about your background and how you landed in customer success?

How did you get started in customer success?

Alison (03:05):

I’d say my route to customer success has been an alternative one. I actually started my career as a professional musician and studied music to the master’s degree level and was appointed principal flute with the Irish Professional Orchestra.

That was how I started my professional life.

After some time there, I realized I’ve always really been interested in people and business and I pivoted into the human resources space.

I worked for a couple of large global companies, primarily in HR and business partnering type roles, working with leaders in the business to understand their business objectives and how we help them deliver that through people.

It was really when I took on the role of head of graduate recruitment at Deloitte in Ireland that I had an opportunity to rip up the rule book, build a new strategy and implement new technology.

It was there that I really saw how we could bring value to HR through technology.

I then moved to New York and was approached by an HR tech startup there. I joined them as a client partner and got the opportunity while working with enterprise customers really closely to maximize value.

I also got to work with the chief customer officer to build out the new CS function and implement a new customer success strategy.

It was actually when I was head of customer success at another HR tech platform, Our Tandem. We were acquired by beqom last year, and that’s really brought me to my current role, Global Head of Customer Success at beqom.

Pejman (04:38):

Thanks for that intro, Alison. Can you take a few minutes and tell us a little bit more about beqom specifically?

What does beqom do?

Alison (04:44):

We are a HR technology platform. We bring in organizations’ compensation and performance strategies together to deliver personalized total rewards to your people that are aligned to real-time employee performance.

beqom is a leader in cloud-based comp management software.

All in all, beqom is a pretty successful company, but when I joined them, they didn’t have a customer success team.

In my new role, I was tasked with building out a new strategy and building out a new team of CS professionals who could really take over that already established customer base that beqom had.

I’ve had the fantastic opportunity, as you mentioned at the beginning of the podcast, to work with you and the team at Sumeru. Honestly, this has just been really invaluable to have your vast experience and support at the outset of this journey.

Working with Sumeru Equity

I think partnering with Sumeru has given me the opportunity to be part of a wider customer success network and really give me access to all the latest, most relevant best practices, assets, customer health frameworks, and whatever else I needed.

Everything has been there within Sumeru, so it’s really been essential to me and a huge value add launching customer success at beqom.

When I joined beqom, I dove straight in, tried to understand the business, and realized pretty quickly there was a huge opportunity for customer success to make an impact there.

In partnership with Sumeru, we developed a customer success mission and customer success strategy, and implemented that customer success journey to really try to standardize and structure the experience that customers were having with us throughout their partnership at beqom.

Next was hiring the team. We now have senior customer success managers in New York covering the US market and at Neon, our headquarters in Switzerland covering the EMEA market.

Together we are taking on the large number of already established customer accounts at beqom.

Pejman (07:00):

Thanks Alison, I appreciate the kind words. It’s also been a pleasure working alongside you and the team. Can you tell me what is your initial focus as you’re building out your CSM organization today?

Building your customer success org

Alison (07:12):

Our overarching priority really is to ensure that our existing customers are maximizing the value of the beqom platform and that we’re really acting as trusted advisors.

That new trusted advisor role at beqom, where we really understand the customer’s business objectives, will allow us to grow our partnership with customers over time.

As a new team, we’re focused on demonstrating that impact and value not only to customers but also to the beqom business as early as possible.

As the head of customer success, this year I’ll really need to focus on building out the function as well. For example, I’ve just finished building out a beqom customer health calculator, where we can take a more data-driven approach to measuring health.

I’m now leading rolling out the HubSpot CRM so we can really maximize the data integrity and transparency at the organization.

All of that will really help us to optimize our engagement with customers. Now we’re laying that groundwork for our future success as a new team at beqom.

Another key focus this year for us will be building in our advocacy programs. Advocacy and community are really essential for fueling the future growth of the business.

Customer referrals, case studies, customer product reviews, and industry presentations are all essential to building the beqom brand and supporting the sales team to grow our business.

That’s how I got here and what we’re working on right now at beqom.

Pejman (08:50):

Amazing, Alison. First and foremost, you should be very proud of yourself and the entire beqom team. Some folks might not realize, but this is all within the last six months.

To think about standing up an entire team, building out health scores, coming in with putting in a new CRM in place, and really building out the end-to-end customer journey, what the touch points are going to be across not only customer success.

But also account management, professional services — that’s a lot to do in six months and you just wrapped it all up in just a few minutes, but I know it’s been a tremendous amount of work, so excellent progress by yourself and the rest of the beqom team there.

I think it’s going to add a ton of value to your customer base and help you grow those partnerships, as you mentioned.

Implementing a customer success team in 6 months

Just to get a little bit more into the details and weeds, a lot of folks will probably be wondering and asking: How did you do all this in six months? More importantly, where did you start?

What did you use to create or did you have an existing framework that you used to build a mental model that other entrepreneurs and other CS leaders, who are either starting from scratch or revamping a whole CS team, could utilize?

I’d love your take on how you think of those areas, what they are, and what is the framework you had in mind when you started down this journey?

Alison (10:14):

I know I mentioned building a strategy is key, but really, behind a strategy, it’s so helpful to have a framework that you can call on and continuously revisit to make sure that you continue to focus on the right things as you progress on the journey.

Overview of the 5 Key Strategic Pillars of Customer Success

I like to think about five key strategic pillars, or buckets, when we’re building a team like the one that I’m building right now at beqom.

The first one is the customer, as it should be. Everything should really revolve around the customer, but that pillar is really about driving customer adoption of your tool, making sure that they’re realizing and really able to demonstrate the value that they’re getting from that tool.

Ensure that we’re getting their feedback, that it’s going to the right place, and essentially guiding them on that customer journey that I mentioned earlier at all the various stages and making sure that that the customer really is the basis of all of the activity within the CS org and beyond within the whole organization.

The second is financial — essential measuring and improving your metrics as you go for customer success.

Key metrics are things like customer retention rate, net retention rate, renewal rate, customer satisfaction, adoption rates, et cetera.

The financials really all come back to scaling and growing the business, and customer success is such a key part of that, ensuring that we’re measuring and demonstrating that value is really key.

So financial is the second bucket.

The third is around practice and part of what we’re working on now is developing that repeatable practice, building those foundations for future growth and success.

I know you and I have talked about the 80-20 rule. 80% of what we build should be repeatable content or reusable assets and then the remaining 20% can be customizable to meet the needs of individual customers, because you’ll always have those individual customer scenarios.

We can’t template everything, but as long as we’re aiming for that 80% consistency, it means we have that repeatable experience. And again, going back to that customer journey, it feels consistent for the customers and the beqom brand.

The fourth one is employees.

Behind all of this, there are lots of real people who are coming together with their skills and joining an already existing organization. We’re putting a new team into an existing business.

For us, that presents a couple of key challenges.

I think the clarity around what the team does, what our roles and responsibilities are, and what our goals are, and ensuring that the team is prioritizing what’s important this year rather than trying to take on everything at the one time, is key.

Really focusing on those employees who are making it all happen behind that customer journey.

The fifth pillar is the enablement piece. This can be applied both externally to new customers and internally to new team members.

Onboarding training enables employees and customers to make sure that they have what they need to really understand and maximize the engagement with your platform and get the best value.

It’s all about ensuring you have those structured onboarding programs and self-serve digital assets via knowledge base. They’re all key to enabling people to actually use the platform, maximize their value from the platform, and understand how to best leverage it and how they can engage with it for the long term as a future growth prospect as well.

Pejman (13:54):

I think that’s a great framework. Just to recap for everybody, it sounds like there are five main pillars here: customer, financial, process and practice, employees, and enablement — putting those five pillars really together to build that framework.

I love how in each of those pillars, you’re really thinking about different metrics and KPIs.

I think it’s excellent that the framework includes employees. A lot of folks forget that as you’re building this out, there’s a whole group and army of folks on the backend helping deliver the customer outcomes.

If you’re not all aligned and not everybody understands what their roles and responsibilities, goals, and objectives are, you really just have a lot of people firefighting all the time or doing different people’s roles and so forth.

And the second bucket I want to really emphasize is the enablement you talked about.

A lot of portfolio companies that I work across forget that taking six months to onboard a new customer success manager, when it can really be done in two with a nice enablement program, and same for the customer experience, that time-to-value and time-to-delivery are more important than ever today, especially in the SaaS world.

How quickly can you get the product up and running and utilized? Because again, just getting utilized doesn’t mean the customer has seen an ROI. ROI always only comes after the product starts to get utilized.

You’re just hitting the starting point when you get the product up and running. It’s really not the end goal. After that is when you start to see the results you can use to put together that value story.

Which pillars should you focus on or prioritize?

Looking at all five of those, are there specific focus areas that you think are more important than other ones? Because there are five big buckets, it’s a lot to focus on. Are there two areas you think you would start off with or clearly prioritize?

Alison (15:52):

For me, I’d be prioritizing the first two: customer and financials.

A couple of reasons behind that are, in my view, the customer should be the center of everything that happens in the business, from the product team to the support team to the sales team.

Everything should be factored around our customer’s needs, expectations, demands. If we’re exceeding all of those, the business should be growing, right? It’s going to result in success.

Meeting those customer needs, addressing what the customer can gain from the platform, and the value that we can bring to the customer is going to be my first priority as a CS leader.

Bringing that to the customer and then demonstrating it internally to our own business — that’s where the financial piece comes in.

Prioritizing the value to the organization and proving our value as a new team to the organization is key. To do that, from a financial perspective, we need to really understand the metrics that we’re gonna measure.

How do we measure them and what does success look like?

By doing that, we can really demonstrate not only the value to the customer but the value that we’re bringing to the business and how we’re going to help with that scale and driving that growth moving forward.

Is there a pillar you usually miss or find difficult to implement?

Pejman (17:10): When we think about these pillars, and again we talk about the five, is there one that you think is usually missed? When we worked together, I think we were trying to really balance the five, but you’ve done this previously.

Is there one that you think people don’t really think about but has a big importance to your success leading a customer success organization?

Alison (17:33):

Yeah, definitely. I think the practice bucket often gets overlooked and I have experienced this in the past with other companies.

The people who work in customer success care so much about meeting and exceeding the needs of our customers. We can really get consumed with the customer focus and day-to-day account work that we forget to put those building blocks in place to help us to grow and scale and be successful.

A couple of things that we’re currently doing at beqom that I mentioned earlier are the HubSpot CRM. Putting that in place means we’ll actually have one source of data, full data integrity, but also transparency right across the organization for customer contact, customer data, customer details.

It’s essential to make sure that we’re successful, especially when we’re partnering with so many other teams in the organization.

We’re also documenting step-by-step processes to standardize how all of our internal teams work together to optimize that customer experience.

Each team brings a unique value and has a unique role in delivering this journey, and making sure that we’re not tripping up over each other with multiple outreaches or duplicative outreaches is really important.

Standardizing those processes is key and that’s hard, right? It’s hard to get people to follow a new process and make them believe in it.

We’re also building out those standardized templates that I mentioned; making sure our experience is standardized but also that the customer experience is standardized from an assets perspective.

It all comes back to that best practice customer journey and that standard experience guiding customers through the lifecycle of their partnership with beqom.

That focus and effort — and it is effort — to build those right foundations will really help us to deliver that consistent and engaging experience and, at the end of the day, make sure that our customers are as successful as possible.

Pejman (19:34):

Yeah, I think about that a lot, especially when you think about trying to flip an organization from reactive to proactive.

One of the hardest things that gets in the way is not having a mature practice and development for those customer success managers, account managers, professional services, and tech support to land into.

You have these great artifacts and great processes, and we have the customer journey and we’re actually going to proactively lead the customer rather than get on a kickoff call, hope we can build the right customized slides, and almost end up being order takers.

I consider customer success, quite frankly, fairly close to a failure if all you’re doing is getting on customer calls and status calls and saying, “How are things going? Tell me what’s right, tell me what’s wrong,” and just take the customer’s order, because then you end up with a customized product, customized engagement, touch points, goals, and objectives.

I think one thing you’ve done a great job with at beqom is building this framework and these processes and practices, so each kickoff looks the same, and you’re approaching the beqom approach with customers as in:

The CSM is the expert, they are bringing that value, and here’s what others have done before those case studies, those flows.

Customers are coming along for the journey, and as you mentioned, sometimes they ask to customize things. It’s an 80-20 rule, it’s not always going to be perfect right down to the way we drew it up.

80% of it typically looks very similar and very process driven. How often are you going to go and have those calls? What should a status call be focused on?

Excellent job really at beqom focusing on that. You’ve made a lot of leverage that I’ve been able to see firsthand, but just knowing that that’s one that’s been missed a lot is fairly unfortunate for the CS orgs, because this is also where you get a lot of efficiency gains on your team.

Instead of having to have 10 CSMs, you might be able to do the same amount of work with seven if you’ve built a lot of these repeatable practices. Excellent example.

Stepping away a little bit from the talk about where you started the framework and so forth, how do you tactically get started when creating a CS org or optimizing an existing one?

Creating or optimizing a CS org: Where to start?

You have this framework, but we all know there’s a lot more than just following a framework.

There’s a whole change management process, top down, bottoms up, especially when you bring in a new concept.

I’m sure every other CS leader has heard this: “I don’t really know what CS is. I don’t really know what CS does. What’s the value of CS?”

Unless you get over that first, not only with other teams in a new org but also your own team, CSMs will think of themselves with many different identities. They think they’re sales, they think they’re tech support, they think they’re account management.

How do you tactically think about that and how did you get started? I’d love to hear how you get through that change management cycle with the team?

Alison (22:40):

It’s a challenge and for us, we had the particular challenge of an already established org and how you plug a new team in there and prove that we’re adding some value that they haven’t had in the past, even though they’ve been successful.

So I haven’t thought about it. For me, there are four key things that really helped and continue to help. We’re a work in progress in a lot of ways, but the first is top leadership buy-in. It’s essential. Your exec team, as you say, needs to understand: What is customer success? What’s the value that we’re going to bring to the organization, and where’s the gap?

What’s the gap that we’re filling by bringing in this new team? What is the impact that we can have not only on the customers but also, as I’ve said several times, around the growth of the business as well — really contributing to that wider strategy.
If top leadership sees the value, that really gives you the license to execute the strategy and move your way through some of the challenges of the change, which is inevitable.

Bringing some of those success stories, and even some research to back it up to your stakeholders internally, can be helpful as you’re trying to influence your way through this new change.

Try to think of that top leadership really as your supporters as you move through. Top leadership support is definitely key.

You need to have a plan. There needs to be a strategy. Once we get the buy-in, we need to be seen to execute.

In my experience, making sure that strategy links to the wider organizational strategy and maybe prioritizing some of those things that are really key to the organization, can help to align and to get that traction in moving forward.

Building the goals to align to the strategy and making sure that you’re bringing that back to the leadership team, and making sure that they understand what the strategy is and understand the goals.

Leverage things like leadership team offsites to get a spot and walk everybody through that and get their feedback as you go because the leadership team will become your advocates when driving this change.

Hiring the right team is really essential. You mentioned there that many CSMs think of themselves differently. They’ve worked in different types of organizations.

Consider the challenges that you expect to have as you build out a new CS team and hire people with the right experience, the appropriate level of seniority depending on what you need, and the right attitude, to make sure that you’re partnering together to drive the strategy and build the reputation of a new team.

Once you’ve hired them, really build that trust and partner with that team.

Hiring people who are hopefully better than you are and working together as a team and as a pod to really advance to the next level is key.

And be flexible. I mean, it’s a journey. There’ll be wins, there’ll be challenges, there’ll be pushback. There are times when you have to change your plans or you have to compromise. That’s just part of driving something new forward.

Try to see that success in the future, and be able to visualize it so that when you do have the tough days or you do have the knock backs, you are able to go back to something that you believe in and continue to push it forward.

Pejman (25:52):

You have a lot of good points there: talking about leadership, making sure you have a strategy, just double-clicking on the right team.

This is one place I’ve definitely grown and learned that not all team members are made for the journey you’re on at this time and you have to make sure you’re bringing the right ones.

As we’re talking about kind of building something from the ground up or revamping something, typically there are roles or personnel out there that you interview and you realize they’re not the ones who want to build, they don’t want to take on projects, they don’t want to build something from scratch, they’re hoping they’re walking into a model that’s already up and running and processing.

Typically that’s where you have to make the right judgment call, because they might have all of the great skills as a customer success manager (building relationships, driving adoption), but they might not actually fit into that change management cycle.

Your last point goes together with hiring the right people. Be flexible.

I know beqom is on a huge growth journey right now, which is super exciting. You’re adding new logos all the time, increasing ARR, and so forth. For that, you really need a specific type of person who’s willing to kind of go above and beyond all the time, be flexible with customers, and be flexible internally where we have new artifacts.

You and I have talked about this numerous times: We’re only at a 1.0 version of nearly everything we’re creating, whether it’s the health scores, the kickoff presentations, the EBR decks, even the customer journey.

I don’t expect the customer journey that we’ve created together to look the same way a year from now as it does today.

That takes the right hires to know that you’re entering a great system and we’re building a great company and a wonderful culture that’s supportive of building a CS, but what we have today doesn’t mean it’s going to be there tomorrow. Those team members are part of that journey of creating the new artifacts, creating the new process, and quite frankly leading us to the future.

Hiring the right team is extremely critical depending on what size of organization you are, where you are, and where their comfort level is.

You’ve done a nice job of bringing the right team in and the personalities who quite frankly want to knock down walls, build new ones, and drive things that haven’t been done before. Like you said, that will definitely cause internal friction interally, challenges, and change management like with other teams internally and externally.

At the end, you’ll look back six months from now and be like, “Wow, we were there and now we’re here,” and you’ll see yourself continuing to climb that hill.

I love the focus on hiring the right folks.

I’m going to transition a little bit here as we’ve come towards the end.

You had an incredible kickoff this year for beqom in beautiful Venice, in a wonderful hotel with wonderful scenery and people. How did you prepare for that kickoff? Talk about a little bit of pressure!

You never want to enter one of these big events where you know the organization’s really put a lot behind it to get everyone up and motivated for the year and you’ve kind of led the way for customer success.

You really partnered with other teams and did that.

Effective kickoff planning and preparation

I’d love to get your take on how you prepared for your kickoff? What was involved? How did you ensure it was going to be successful?

Alison (29:27):

You mentioned a lot of the work that’s happened at beqom in the last six months, and our kickoff took place in January. The kickoff was like a beacon in our plan, really.

It was a huge opportunity to have everything ready to unveil the new customer success strategy when everybody was under one roof, as you said, not just for customer success but partnering closely with colleagues in service delivery and support as well.

To prepare, we partnered closely with our leadership team and really amazing support from you, Pej, and from the wider Mero ecosystem to build a presentation with the right content and the right messaging to launch the new strategy that demonstrated the value to the business.

We knew that many existing employees who were there would be impacted by the changes we were trying to make.

Many of them have been in the organization for quite some time.

Really trying to highlight the value of the change to not only the organization, not only the customers, but to each individual team to some extent, trying to sell the dream on the target end state was key to really getting that engagement from our teams and making sure that the kickoff was the launchpad to getting some movement over this year and getting everybody coming along on that journey with us.

We did spend significant time fine-tuning that presentation, the approach, just to make sure that CS was aligned with services, our messaging was really aligned, that we were credible, and hopefully some level of inspiration that this was considered a journey, considered change that was for the better of all of the teams and the wider company and try to get everybody to come along on us with that, with that journey.

When I look back, really not only was it about preparation but it was also about the awareness, the messaging, thinking about who we were giving that presentation to, and what we needed to take from the presentation, and then trying to funnel it all together into a 60-minute presentation.

Pejman (31:32):

That’s true. I think you did a fantastic job there.

One thing we’re probably not mentioning here is that you also did a great job on partnering with the sales organization.

That same presentation you gave to the CS support services and account management also trickled down to the sales org aligned hand in hand, which is a big barrier. You were able to break and bring those two teams together. I think that that was wonderful.

How did you and your team adjust to changing strategy, team members, and dynamics?

What do you think helped you get through the change management?

You came in with a new strategy, almost a new team, a new alignment, and you’re entering a big kickoff stage.

How did you get the team to get through the change management with you? Not only other teams but even your own CS team?

Alison (32:15):

The opportunity we have at beqom right now is incredibly exciting to be able to build something and see it right from the beginning and see it progress and see it move from stage to stage.

As you said, we’re at version one now. We have many more versions to go. It’s very exciting, but change can also be hard in an organization.

Trying to navigate that change really requires you to be clear about your plan, about your strategy. You need to be deliberate in how you communicate, not only at a leadership level but also right throughout the whole organization.

It’s definitely something we’re still working to refine at beqom, but I think working closely with those around you and really trying to build strong relationships and leverage other people and get them involved because really, no one person has all of the skills to drive a change like this or any meaningful change really scales with knowledge.

It has to be an organization-wide effort. You need the support of those around you, you need to build those relationships.

Be vulnerable and ask for help, because it’s not always easy, it’s not always seamless.

Maybe you’re relatively new to the organization as well. There are hurdles you may not see coming, so ask for that help when you need it.

At the end of the day, I think true customer success is a team effort. Try not to focus on the “I” and focus on the wider organization and how we bring everybody along together. It was key for me and continues to be.

Pejman (33:46):

Excellent. I think a big part of the beqom culture is that there is no working in a vacuum. It seems like you bring the team along and they’re included in your workshops and your strategies and the ideas.

Almost everyone saw the presentation before they saw the presentation, which is what you want to do, So there were no real surprises. Everyone was onboarded.

I remember being in Venice, sitting in the crowd watching you and the rest of the leadership present, and there’s just a lot of head nodding; a lot of, “Yep, we helped build that.” Even some of the slides were built by the team and brought in.

I really appreciate that about beqom and the culture there.

For me, the days of this “white castle” leadership are just gone. Nobody wants to be a part of an org that has that culture anymore.

No one wants to feel like a second-class citizen. Everyone wants to be a part of a journey, part of the team and the leadership and coming up with the strategy, and they want to execute on it.

It was an excellent job by you and the whole beqom team and culture, where we are including the whole team as a part of where we’re going, what we’re gonna do.

One of the things I’ve hardly ever seen was the kickoff agenda was shared while it was in draft form with the entire organization and every day you could log in and see slight changes and people were asking questions like, “Do you want different topics? Do these sound like the right topics?”

I’ve seen many orgs just go away in a room, four people in leadership build an agenda, come out, and everyone comes to kickoff not knowing what’s going on, the strategy, and coming almost a bit nervous.

It didn’t feel like that at all with the beqom team.

It felt like the team knew exactly what the agenda was going to be. They kind of got to see what was getting developed all along and they got to give their feedback the entire way of, “Hey, this agenda item sounds great.”

I saw one not-so-interesting thing that got axed off the agenda.

Kudos to you and the whole leadership team for approaching it that way.

What do you think the biggest challenges of your job are and how do you navigate around those?

What do you love about your job?

By the way, some people might say the challenging part is what they love about their job and gets them excited to come in every day.

What are your biggest challenges?

Let’s start with the first question: What are the biggest challenges in your job today? How do you think about navigating through them?

Alison (36:23):

You mentioned one of the real cultural positives of beqom is that openness and how everybody gets to have a look at the draft agenda for the kickoff and everybody gets to input their ideas.

In a lot of ways, that can be the biggest challenge of the job, because when we’re building a strategy for customer success, it’s a huge change management effort and there’s so many people who need to input into that.

Getting to a final version of a V1 strategy, a communication effort of making decisions about when we’re doing what and making sure that all the right people are informed, is challenging.

Once you get there, it means that it’s much more successful in delivery.

The other challenging part for me is the communication piece. Because we’re putting a new team into an existing org, we’re really tearing up the rule book to a certain extent on a lot of processes that people who are still here have built and implemented.

It’s a hard message to say, “Hey, we want to do this differently. Let’s forget what we did in the past”.

Trying to convey that in the right way, communicating at the right times that people are aware in advance that the messaging is right, that everybody feels included and it’s coming along in this journey, is a real challenge.

Again, the beauty is when you come to a reasonable place and everybody is aware and there are no surprises. You just see much better buy-in coming from that.

Some of the positives of the culture make the journey more challenging at times, but learning to navigate that and then seeing the results at the other end are where you get real satisfaction out of going through that experience.

What do you love most?

What do I love most about my job?

I’ve thought about this too.

I love working with customers and I love working with HR professionals in particular.

That’s my background. It’s where I’ve come from. I’ve always believed HR done really well has a really positive impact on the business and should have a real seat at that business table.

Especially now, the last couple of years, we’ve seen key changes around working practices and attrition trends and things like that. It’s really never been as relevant for HR to have a seat at the table.

The opportunity in this role to drive value through technology for businesses and for HR is really, really special.

The Importance of Customer Success

I saw a great quote today from Nick Metta, the CEO at Gainsight, and he says, “Customer success is fundamentally about realizing your customer is not a transaction or a deal, but a human being just like you, and like you, they want to succeed in what they do.”

For me, it’s bringing that human connection and business optimization together to drive and realize success and growth for your customers and their companies.

That makes a career in customer success such a good match for me.

Pejman (39:16):

That’s a great quote by Nick. Great inspiration by yourself today. I think we’ve learned a lot, especially about how to really start to think about how you start or even revamp the entire CS org from the ground up with the existing team members we have.

I love the five pillar approach, thinking about customer, financial, practice, employee, and enablement. That gives us a great framework to walk away from today and say, “Wow, if we can fill these five buckets to get started, it will definitely drive us in the right direction.”

I appreciate your thoughts on bringing in the right leadership, winning top-down leadership buy-in, and getting those stakeholders, making sure you really have a strategy that not only asks the what and the how, but the why.

Why are we actually doing this?

You mentioned that several times today without actually saying the word “why,” but when we went to kickoff at Venice, when you’re putting in a new customer journey or health scores, it’s not the what and the how. That’s always pretty easy. You can go ahead and look that up on Google and figure out how to do those things.

It’s the why behind it and bringing the internal teams and the external teams, especially your customers, on that journey with you of why we’re actually going through this change management.

One thing I saw you do, and I just want to use this as an example of a really great idea, was after building the internal journey and the external-facing journey and what we were changing and the roles and responsibilities, the first thing Alison and the beqom team did was go back to the customer base and actually share the plans, which people forget to do.

You’re doing all of this work internally optimizing, but guess who you’re doing it for? It’s all for the customer.

Allison, I think you did a fantastic job. You called it the beqom 2.0 approach and went back out, developed that, and drove it forward. Wonderful job there driving that and making sure that everything is moving forward.

I appreciate you joining the podcast today. Was there anything else you wanted to add in before we log off here?

Alison (41:37):

It was great to come on and to be able to share some of the ideas and also just so great to have had the opportunity to partner with yourself and with Sumeru.

Bringing that vast industry knowledge and the community that you bring has just been so essential and added so much value to my experience and the beqom experience.

Thanks for that as well. I look forward to continuing to partner together.

Pejman (42:04):

It’s always great working alongside you and the entire beqom team. I think we’re making great strides and we’re seeing the results.

For everybody else, thanks for tuning in to Scaling with Sumeru.

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