Chad Horenfeldt is the VP of Customer Success at Influitive, an advocate marketing software that helps you discover, mobilize, and recognize customers. Prior to Influitive, Chad spent over 8 years at Eloqua in Customer Success, eventually becoming the Head of the Customer Success team. A major Toronto Maple Leafs fan, Chad likes to spend most of his free time trying to impress upon his boys, the importance of hockey.
We managed to catch up with Chad and chat a bit about life and customer success.
How big is your support team?
And where are you guys based?
How many products do you support?
How many queries do you get each day? An average number will do.
Tell us about the tools you use in customer support (and success):
Freshdesk, Gainsight, SFDC and… Influitive.
The Customer Success Team, Influitive
What led you to a career focusing on customer success?
Early on in my career, I realized that I really liked coming up with unique solutions to help people. Marry that with a passion for technology and I knew I was onto something. I had an ability to really empathize with the people I worked with.
I understood early on that while technology was powerful, people needed guidance in order to fully leverage it.
You can’t just expect people to instantly start using or fully understand the ins and outs of enterprise software. And I had the right business background and patience to succeed in this area. I was also lucky to have worked with very customer-centric organizations early in my career. Eloqua recognized early on that, to build a new category in Marketing Automation, you need to help customers not only use your technology but you also had to help them change their organization.
So, what does a typical day look like for you, Chad?
As we’re a startup, I wear multiple hats and my day has me tackling multiple items at different levels. I need to ensure that we’re maximizing our resources while providing the best customer experience possible. My day typically involves the following:
– Big rocks: These are the large planning projects that I’m working on that may include creating a hiring plan for the next 3 months, reviewing how we’re progressing against our 2015 goals and so on.
-Internal 1:1s with the team: I meet with my team regularly to better understand their issues and what they’re focused on. I also use this opportunity to review the data from the various tools we use like ticket volume or the survey responses from our Freshdesk data. I like to ensure that we’re on target and that we are exceeding the 99% customer satisfaction rate that we have set for ourselves. I also need to ensure that there is nothing in the way that is blocking my team from being successful.
– Customer calls: I have my own direct customers and I also try and join as many other customer calls as I can. I want to ensure that we’re providing a unified customer experience and that our customers are finding value from our customer interactions. I’m also involved in resolving issues and helping establish stronger relationships with senior members from our customers.
– Internal meetings: Our team represents the customer and I’ve learned that saying “no” to people can be very costly.
Whenever the customer is involved, you want to be involved. You are their advocate and need to ensure that they are represented.
I try and send members from my team as much as possible to other departmental meetings but I also get directly involved in cross-departmental planning and roadmap meetings.
– Day to day customer operations: I review the different technology platforms that we have and ensure that they are optimized to provide us with the tools and indicators we need that tell us if our customers are performing optimally and where we should be spending our time.
– Interviewing and networking: I’m always looking for the best talent and future leaders for our company as well as trying to learn from others. I love the chance to interact with other people either at customer success meetups or at 1:1 meetings. It’s one of the best ways to generate new ideas.
Phew! That’s quite the packed schedule. How do you motivate yourself (and your team) day in and day out?
My team motivates me day in and day out.
I also draw inspiration from knowing that we are creating something new that no one has done before. Every day, I see a customer or a team member experimenting with our product to create a new experience for advocates and that’s inspiring.
The SAPS model as illustrated by the Customer Success and Marketing team of Influitive
Tell us about your most memorable customer interaction.
My most memorable customer interaction was receiving gourmet donuts for our entire office from a customer that wanted to thank us for the amazing customer experience that they had and the great results that they had received. Very close behind that is seeing our customers respond to questions on Quora and other review sites on the benefits of our software. Their emphasis on the impact our Customer Success team has had on them is also pretty memorable.
You run the Customer Success team at a company focused on advocate marketing. Is there something special your team does to help drive customer loyalty and advocacy?
We have the right mindset.
We look at each and every customer as a future advocate.
We also start the advocacy process early on. We try and provide the best sales experience possible which starts off the relationship on a positive note. From a Support perspective, we aim to provide extremely fast and effective assistance. We pride ourselves on resolving almost 50% of tickets with only one response from our team. We also have fostered a culture that makes it a fun experience for our customers. Having an established advocate marketing portal allows us to tailor the experience for new customers and make it easy to entice customers to start advocating for us at their own pace.
How do you measure the success of your team? What metrics do you focus on?
There are a number of metrics that we focus on.
The number one metric we look at is our renewal rate. If we’re not keeping our customers, then we’re not doing our job.
We’re also looking closely at an adoption metric that we call our “magic number”. It provides us with a good sense of whether or not our customers are achieving value. We also look at a few other key metrics which include the percentage of customers that advocate for us as well as the customer satisfaction score.
Having a team that is focused on turning customers into advocates ensures that you’re creating the best customer experience possible. We know that our current customers will refer us our future customers and that’s why we measure this so closely.
If you notice, what we don’t measure all that closely is the number of tickets that each team member completes.
We would much rather focus on quality interactions over quantity any day of the week.
What do you look for when hiring for customer success roles? Building a team from scratch must have been tough.
It can be challenging building a customer success team from scratch. I recommend hiring for attitude rather than skills – especially if you’re in a new category. If it’s a more established category where it’s expected that the customer success team will be more experienced, you will need more senior people.
That said, I would rather hire people who will adapt to the role rather than be a perfect fit.
Here are the main traits I look for:
-Do they have customer service experience? Any experience that someone has had – including retail – is extremely important. The right service orientation skills, empathy, patience and the like, can be difficult to teach.
– Do they have a technical bent? What I mean here is does the person understand how technology can be leveraged to achieve certain means. Because we are a software company, you need to be able to understand not only how technology works today but how it could work in the future based on what customers and the market are requesting.
– Do they have domain experience? In our situation, we are creating a new category so it’s not easy to find people that have experience in advocate marketing. For this reason, I don’t emphasize this item as much as I have in the past when I worked for a more mature category that required domain experience.
I’ve seen for myself over the years that the Customer Success team becomes a launching ground for careers.
It’s for this reason that I look for attitude over skill.
What’s the best piece of advice you received in the last 14 years?
The best advice I received is:
Ask other people what keeps them up at night and what their barriers to success are and figure out how you can help them.
That’s when you start to transform yourself from an amazing individual contributor to the start of an up and coming leader. That was some powerful advice.
Tell us about your toughest day at work.
The toughest day at work is letting someone go. I haven’t had to do that at Influitive but it is something that all leaders have had to do at some point in their career.
The Customer Success Team’s (winning) entry for Influitive’s annual Halloween pumpkin carving competition.
In terms of customer service, which company do you admire a lot?
I like Starbucks. I love how they provide a very unified experience across their different stores and channels and I also like how they treat their employees with respect. They are also very easy to do business with.
What has been the biggest surprise in your career so far?
How much customers appreciated what I did for them.
I had a gift basket sent to me by one of my customers, Aon, when my first son was born.
That was completely unexpected.
Is there another person you admire who you think we should interview?
Only a couple come to mind. Dan Steinman from Gainsight. David Mitzenmacher at Kareo.
One last question, Chad. If you could have dinner with any three people, dead or alive, who would they be?
This is a toughie (but not that tough as I was student of history) because I have a few things I still need answers to:
– Douglas MacArthur – This guy knew how to take risks and was decisive
– Abraham Lincoln – I really admire what Lincoln did and how he led. If I could spent a moment of time with him and have some of his wisdom rub off on me, that would be a bonus.
– Robin Williams – Wouldn’t it be great to have Robin Williams join Lincoln and MacArthur for dinner? That would be fun.
We started the Secret Sauce series to find out more about what makes the customer service of some great companies click. We get in touch with one awesome support representative and we pick their brains. We find out what a typical day is like for these support rockstars, their personal work-philosophy, support process and what inspires them to go above and beyond the call of duty to make their customers happy. Know a customer support rep you’d like to see featured here? Drop us a line in the comments or shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your suggestions.