Transcript: How Customer Marketing Can Partner with Customer Success with Syed Hussain

On this episode, I was joined by Syed Hussain, VP of Customer Success at Indio Technologies. As you know, from time to time, I like bringing people on the show who don’t work in customer marketing, but can share valuable perspectives and help us better understand different departments that we work with closely. Syed is a good friend of mine and has seen it all when it comes to customer success. We talk about how customer marketing and success can better partner together, the biggest challenges that success teams face and how we can help empower them, and his top tips for building solid and long-lasting customer rapport. Without further ado, here’s my conversation with Syed. 

Margot Leong:  Thank you so much for joining us on Beating The Drum, thank you for coming on. 

Syed Hussain: Thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure. Making me feel special for the invite, so thank you, and I am excited to have the conversation.

Margot Leong: Fantastic. Can you give us that 30,000 foot view around your background in customer success and just some of the companies that you’ve worked at? 

Syed Hussain: Most definitely. My entire career has always been, in some shape or form, client-facing. So I think it’s a very natural place for me and I fit there really well. Over the last five or six years, I’ve gotten into the tech scene. That’s what was my first introduction to being a customer success manager, starting at the infamous Zenefits. For everything that’s known about them, I can say that I’ve learned so much in the foundation of my role today and still do and practice a lot of the things that I learned there. 

After that, I had the pleasure of working at Envoy and being an early employee there. I think I was employee  #39. There was really no CS team and so helping to start lay the foundation there, still being an IC, but stepping more into that leadership role with what I’ve learned from Zenefits and trying to apply that.

And from there, landing where I’m at today, which is Indio Technologies, a platform used for commercial insurance brokers. Employee number 20. It was me and one other person, we were scrappy, running around, crazy trying to just get clients in and set up and going from two people and doing the work myself, to scaling the team to 25 humans here in the United States. We have several different divisions from the implementation, to CS, support and customer operations and the customer operations team, all based out of the Philippines, and we have about 70 employees that roll up to me there. 

And now, stepping into that VP role, being more strategic, I tell people that really, the only difference now is, instead of being a CSM to my clients that are paying us, I’m a CSM to my team. If I do a good job there, they stick around and they do a good job for me. I know it sounds kinda cheesy, but you know.

Margot Leong: I like that. Wait, I’d love to understand that a little bit more, the idea of CSM to your team. Can you clarify or speak to that a little bit more? 

Syed Hussain: A hundred percent. So, a CSM’s main goal is retention. And you are retaining a client by showing them the value of why they bought, and making sure they’re using all the different pieces of your platform to be sticky, because you don’t want them to churn. And so I’m doing that same thing, but instead of a platform, these people, humans report to me, I need to make sure that why they came here is being met, and what brought them here, what continues to keep them here, give them growth opportunities, make sure they’re learning along that journey. And when issues come up, I’m here for that escalation, and I’m not here to be a downward manager, you’re bad, this isn’t good. But instead, again, a partner to understand what the problem is, identify, come up with a solution and execute. I don’t want my team to leave, you spend a lot of time and money hiring new employees, and so I want them to be around for a substantial amount of time. If they’re happy, they’re going to be around, so that’s kind of the comparison that I give. 

Margot Leong: It’s very meta  . It’s like a layer on top of a layer. I think it’s incredibly important, right? The ability to retain employees, the ability to retain customers. I mean, at the end of the day, probably the common denominators are probably the same in terms of how you just treat humans in general.

Syed Hussain: A hundred percent. And I think that’s one thing is never to forget that you’re working with humans. No one’s a number. And if you do that and you walk arm in arm with somebody, they’ll have your back and they’ll take care of you. And in turn, they’re taking care of those clients for you and executing on your strategic vision or goal or whatever it may be.  

Margot Leong: So I’m curious, when it comes to customer success, what is it that you enjoy the most about this type of work? 

Syed Hussain: I think the number one part of it for me is developing the relationships. I love connecting with people, and getting to know somebody on a little bit of a personal level, mixed with work. I love that connection. I’m not to the point where I’m a salesperson where I can talk to just anybody. I want to invest in meaningful relationships. And I think being a CSM has given me that opportunity to do that, not only with my clients and having a diverse array of clients and types of people, but I’m also now able to do that with a team. 

Margot Leong: I would say that like 90% of the answers I get from people as to why they’re part of customer marketing are very similar. It’s all around relationships. It’s all around taking care of the customer. And I think that’s why it’s good to have more customer success on the show because we work so closely with success. We can understand, okay, how can we help each other out? How can we be easier to work with, right? I think the first question there, Syed, would be what you believe to be the charter for customer success.

 Syed Hussain: Yeah. I think first and foremost is that the cost to acquire a client is much higher than it is to retain a client. Srarting with Salesforce way back in the day, creating this SaaS model, where there’s no more on-prem, and so it’s really easy for people to be like, I’m unhappy and I’m gonna bounce out. And so that’s kind of this origin of success coming into play, where we needed to take care of clients to a different level.

And I think that if you have a CSM and you can keep a customer by making sure that their number one use cases are met and they’re fully taking advantage of the platform that you’re working at, and this is a journey, right? This doesn’t happen overnight, but through this journey, showing value, adding value, we’ll keep that client. And so if you have increases on renewals, guess what? It’s easier to swallow that increase when you realize you can’t live or breathe without the platform that you’ve purchased. Or when issues come up, they’re like, guess what issues happen? It’s okay. We’re not going to churn because we know the kind of service they provide and the value they brought into the table.

When there’s no CSM there, guess what? They may have been implemented really well, which is extremely important to get them off on the right foot. But what happens after that? What happens if that value isn’t met? What happens if an issue it comes up and no one’s there to show them the value even beforehand. They’re like, well, why are we sticking around? I found this other platform that’s cheaper, that actually has a CSM or someone that helped me buy, you know what I mean? So I think the first and foremost is letting people know that to maintain your client is a lot cheaper, and your ability to grow them within your book is substantially higher when you have that strategic partner that a CSM comes to the table with. 

Margot Leong: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I’m sure that with all the customers that you’ve worked with, you’ve probably seen every incarnation of customer requests, customer type, and I’d love to get a sense of: what’s the different types of value they’re looking to get out of either the business or from a customer success standpoint.

Syed Hussain: Yeah. I mean, I feel like when I look at the startups that I’ve worked at over the last five years, the theme that kind of comes up over and over is efficiency. And I think that’s part of the startup world in Silicon Valley. Right. We have these innovative ideas to create efficiency, take quality to the next level, streamline. So those are those kind of high-level, 200,000 foot view, like value ads, and then, you know, as they start trickling down as a CSM, they start refining a little bit more, right. Depending upon what industry you’re in and what kind of platform you’re offering, really honing in on, what are the pinpoints that you’re having, that this platform is going to make things easier for them?

 Margot Leong: I’m assuming that every customer that you work with probably has a different view of how they see their success team as partners. I’m guessing that there’s some who are on sort of the far end of the spectrum where it’s like, I don’t need a CS team. I can just do this on my own. There’s probably some that are like, probably ping you for every little thing and there’s probably some in the middle. How have you seen customers fall along those lines when it comes to those sort of types of categories? 

 Syed Hussain: I think it depends on the industry you’re in. When I was working at Envoy and kind of that operational side of the house, especially working with so many tech companies, they didn’t need the handholding necessarily. They were taking advantage of the platform to its entirety. They were wanting to be beta customers. They were reaching out to us. So it was one of those things where the CSM needed to offer a different level of value and they come in and maybe their touch points with those clients aren’t as often, but they’re still engaging with the client in a different manner. 

I feel like in the industry that I’m in today, where we’re working with insurance brokers, it’s almost needed a little bit more. It’s an industry that’s been not touched with technology the way other industries have, or kind of on the beginning forefront of it. And they need a little bit more hand holding because that paradigm shift for them with technology is just different and they don’t just catch on. And so the CSM is even more important in these cases to make sure that we’re on track with why they bought, and what are the benefits they were looking to have, and meeting those through that life cycle. That 12 month contract is crucial. If someone’s going to churn before the 12 months, you want to know, and the CSM, if they’re doing their job, should know. If we can get them to that 12 month. I feel like their likelihood of leaving after that drops drastically because they’re seeing the value, they’re constantly being reminded and the CSM is there to also show them that. 

Margot Leong: I think that there’s so much natural alignment between what the goal is for customer advocacy and customer marketing, and obviously what the goal is for customer success. With success, it seems like it’s really, really one-to-one, that depth of the relationship there, that sort of human connection. And I think where marketing potentially comes in is to really learn from CS, to speak that language and understand, okay. What is your life cycle that you’ve mapped out with your customers, and how can we replicate that for self-serve? How can we take what we know from a marketing technology standpoint and sort of scale customer success’ learnings to try and make every customer successful because CS does not have time to talk and hang out with every single customer, you know, nor would you want them to.  And so again, I think that there’s just so much natural adjacency there, so I really love hearing about that. 

Syed Hussain: Couldn’t agree more. I feel like the way I was looking at this and partnering with you at Envoy was we’re kind of the more in the weeds. A CSM is more strategic, let’s say than a support person, right. But then a CSM compared to customer marketing, we’re more in the weeds, right? Like, why are you buying? And then making sure those use cases are met. But if we’re doing that simultaneously as a customer marketer is working with decision-makers and higher level people around the vision, like if both of those things are happening simultaneously and the CSM is successful, your customer marketer is more likely to be successful as well. Because people talk, so I definitely think they go hand in hand and there’s just so many lanes that we’re swimming right next to each other.

 Margot Leong: Yep, exactly. It’s the bottoms up and tops down, both have to be aligned, right. So something I’d be curious about as well is the perspective of what it is like to be a CSM. I really want to talk about this because I’d love for us as customer marketers to develop more empathy for what it is like to live as a CSM. I’m sure that customer marketing is not the only department that bothers customer success. I’m sure that  it’s sales, product, like literally every org that descends upon you guys with requests. 

Syed Hussain: Yeah, no, a hundred percent. I think that the CSM on a day to day is really the PM for the client and how they engage with the rest of the company, so that CSM is that kind of point person, even for support or even implementation. On that day-to-day level, they’re on onboarding calls, so they’re being introduced to their new clients, right? They’re holding quarterly account reviews or, quarterly executive reviews where we’re talking about how we’re meeting those use cases. We’re showing them how they’re engaging with data. We’re showing them where we need to kind of work on and put a plan together. We’re showing them what’s on the roadmap, so they feel special and included because they should be, they’ve helped us.  They’re on escalation calls. They live in their inbox a lot. There’s a lot of emails that are coming through that they’re filtering, whether it’s sending it off to support or following up on a project. 

We have lots of trainings. We try to make sure that we give them all the tools that they need to be successful. So definitely not a lot of time in the day sometimes to get everything done, but a good CSM will prioritize that and make sure that everything gets touched at least.

Margot Leong: What percentage of your time would you estimate gets spent chasing customers? 

Syed Hussain: It varied based on like the stage we were. When you don’t have a market presence as a company, people will buy you, but then not invest the time in to get you set up or make sure that things are working the way they were. I felt like we spent a lot of time in the beginning following up, trying to like knock on their door. Hey, I’m calling different numbers. I am emailing different people, you know, like, you’re really reaching there. And so I definitely think it’s much higher in the beginning. Once Indio became a force within the industry and we gained a name, and major players were looking at us, like, Oh wow, who’s Indio? That also changed the perspective of our clients. And all of a sudden, that shift started to happen where it was like, we want to be part of it. And so it was less about following up and them making sure that they meet us in the middle, so we didn’t have to track anybody down. 

Margot Leong: You mentioned  at the beginning, when you didn’t have much of a market presence, there might have to be more work spent potentially tracking down who would be the right contact. It sounds as though that would be, to a lay person, straightforward, when you think about it, there’s probably people that you get introduced to on the CS side that are a) I’m not interested in and b)  are very interested in liaising with you, but then they’re trying to get other teams to do things. And those teams are like, no, thank you.

Syed Hussain: And I think something else that  plays a small role in this too is, how large a company are you working with? I always remember, you know, you think SMB. These mom and pop shops don’t have the resources that the mid-market and enterprise do.  So they’re not only CEO, CFO, COO, they’re all those. Do you know what I mean? And so it’s really important to remember that and know that when you’re working with the SMB, that it’s just going to be tougher because they’re wearing so many hats.  It’s really that mid-market and enterprise size, where people have the resources to invest and they’re spending good money for this platform, and they’re going to spend time setting it up and making sure they’re seeing that value in it. 

 Margot Leong: When it comes to, the champions that CSMs work with, is it usually sort of one or can it be several, basically?

Syed Hussain: Yeah, it definitely can be more than one. This is a huge part of the CSM role as well, is identifying decision-makers and champions. We do it on the first call. It’s something where we have playbooks in place if it changes, because if your champion leaves, they’re at risk, right? So this is a hot topic. I think this depends also on the size, right? The larger enterprise ones, ones that I’ve worked on, when I worked at Volvo right. Or Technicolor at Envoy. I was working with five or six people, and they all have their specific part of the puzzle, but I had to make sure that I was meeting their needs, and it was not just one human. Versus the smaller ones, I was working with one person or my team does that today as well. 

Margot Leong: Yeah. And the interesting thing there is, when you add in more humans, you also add in more variables and more variables equal different perspectives on what value they would like to get out of the solution. 

Syed Hussain: It definitely adds, I feel like a layer of complexity that if you’re a good CSM, it’s not about just saying yes. It’s about being like, that’s a great idea. This is how it can fit into those workflows, but this idea doesn’t make sense. I get where you’re going with it, and potentially if these other three variables weren’t here, we could accommodate for that. But being able to say no, being able to push back, being able to show the value without that, because it doesn’t make sense, you know, is where a good CSM sits in and starts doing that and setting those boundaries, which can be tough. I’ve been in that seat far too many times. And I’m just like, well, Here we are, you know? 

Margot Leong: Totally.  What are some of the biggest challenges that customer success typically faces? Let’s do customer side first and then let’s move to the even more fun part, which is internal side as well. 

Syed Hussain: I think the biggest things that customer success managers face when it comes to the client piece is, we can definitely be an unsung hero when it hits the fan. It hits and you kind of take the brunt of that as a CSM, and all the 18 other things that you did that were really amazing beforehand are not forgotten, but they’re definitely not at the forefront of what’s going on.  And when those things are going good, guess what? We don’t hear from them. They’re not like, Oh my gosh, you’re so amazing. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. They’re just like, this is a great experience. And that’s what we want. But on the opposite end of that, when something does go south, it can feel sometimes, Oh, I’m putting out one fire after another and they can become taxing. 

So if you’re looking for someone to pat you on the back and your clients be like, you are amazing and a champion, it just doesn’t happen a lot. But when it does happen, it’s one of those things that just make you feel amazing. When I left Zenefits. I got so much outreach from our clients on LinkedIn saying you were the best CSM I had. I don’t want to lose you. And it makes all those 12 hour days of really tough times just all worth it. But I would say that’s probably the biggest one when it comes to facing the clients. 

Margot Leong: And then on the internal side, I would be curious to hear what that’s like. 

Syed Hussain: You know, it’s weird, it’s almost interconnected a little bit because on the internal side, we’re pushing for the bugs to get fixed. We’re pushing for the features to get made. And those are the things that are causing potential points of frustration that they’re dealing with the escalation with the client. The internal teams don’t see the importance, the internal teams have a roadmap, the internal teams have priority with other bugs. And so it’s that pushing and fighting sometimes to hold your space and your boundaries and making sure you know how to escalate that to the right people. It happens all the time where it gets to me.

I think something else that can be overwhelming is managing all these internal relationships. You have product that needs people for beta. You have customer marketing that needs somebody to talk to for an event. You have sales asking for a reference, right? And so managing all these different asks and needs. You’re already busy. You’re already working your eight hour day, and then you’re getting four different asks, and trying to manage those and make sure that everyone’s needs are being met and also prioritizing them can be really tough.

So I think part of looking at the priority of it, how big is the deal that you’re looking to close and you need this reference? What type of event, and is this touching the larger community and how is it touching the larger community? For product, what’s the priority for this specific product to be released. And when? Can we wait another two weeks because the clients that I have for it, aren’t the right fit today. And tomorrow, I think we can use this next subset. And so really weighing the pros and the cons and working with each person and letting them know that I can’t right now, my book of business that’s fits what your criteria is, is maxed out and I just can’t do it, but if you give me a month, I might be able to supply this or reference another CSM. Right. 

What we’ve done at Indio is everything comes through the manager. The manager will work with the team to figure it out, so that there’s a little bit more of a way to keep the CSMs from just bouncing from one to the next and the product or the sales person or marketing person is like, I’m tired of talking to nine of you.  I just want, who can help me, you know? And I think having one person be that person has helped us not only take it off the CSMs, but also make sure that those stakeholders needs get met. By having this single point person manage this, we’ve also realized that there’s a criteria we need. So if you’re requesting something, we need this, this, this, and this, which has helped us streamline the process on our side, and I think it’s also formalized it a little bit on their side. So they know when they’re going to come to this person, this manager, they’re going to be like, okay, I have to understand that I need to answer these six questions, which also I think helps them formulate and put some structure around what they’re looking for as well. 

Margot Leong: I think something that is potentially a struggle or question area when it comes to, not only just customer advocacy, but also other departments, is we’ve got customer success who are sort of the gatekeepers to the customers. You know, I don’t want to bother success too much, but I do want to talk to these customers. Have you ever had situations in which teams will reach out to those customers, so I can see you nodding your assent. What is the reason why that is not a good thing to do? 

Syed Hussain: Yes, it does happen. When it started happening, I curbed that immediately and I let the product team know and the sales team know that I own the customer. The customer is mine after sales and how you engage with them needs to go through the proper channels because there’s so much going on.  I get it, we all have goals and we’re all reaching for them, and so it’s hard sometimes, and you just want to go straight to the source, but showing them and explaining to them why this is detrimental to a client helps alleviate some of that frustration. 

But think about, they reach out to somebody that is at risk. They’ve asked to leave and we are in a reactive, we’re jumping, we are trying to save them and now they’ve reached out. What if the client is currently doing two betas and is showing up to a couple of conferences for us and has done referrals for sales five times in the last three months? We have a better picture of what’s happening and if it’s filtered through us, we can document that. Number one. Right? Number two, we can let them know that the experience that you’re looking for is not going to happen here because of X, Y, and Z, whatever that may be.  When they follow that process, their likelihood of success is much higher. 

Margot Leong: What do you wish people in different departments knew about customer success?

Syed Hussain: First and foremost, is to have patience, knowing that they’re dealing with a lot. Number two, to have empathy. Like you might be working on this one bug and they might’ve pinged you several times, but they’re working with 50 different individuals that could be all experiencing this bug. And so the last thing they need to do is get it from their internal teams and people that we’re all working to the same goal because they’re already getting it from the client side. 

It’s not about, you know, we need this, but instead let’s partner. How can we work together to accomplish our overall goal? Because again, we’re all on the same side, we’re all pushing for the same thing. You make a product. Do you need me to help push that? So let’s partner together. 

Margot Leong: We should not just think of other teams as basically the limiting factor or like the people that are in our way of getting to customers, it really should be around, let’s include you in our decision-making. Or at least clue you into like, why we are trying to go after these specific customers and really help you understand the wider context, because it sounds like you guys are trying to be context sponges. All of that is I think probably really important information that’s useful for you to, to know when it comes to having that of what is happening with the customer and potentially even having that wider context allows for you guys to maybe give other suggestions of customers that could potentially fit as well. 

Syed Hussain: I agree. You know, I think you’re right on too with saying it’s not just CS, right? I think every org wants that layer of, have a little compassion, have some empathy, and just be patient. I think if you approach that with anything, you’re gonna get a better result, you know?

Margot Leong: As we think about continuing to partner better with customer success, if we were to have some alignment around, what are the common goals, talk to me about how you measure success within customer success. What are the metrics there? 

Syed Hussain: So we’re looking at gross revenue retention, right? So you’re usually looking at that for the last 12 months, the clients that came on last year, what’s the percent that renewed? You’re also breaking that out by segment. So your SMB is going to renew at a lower rate than your mid-market and enterprise. And on the opposite end of that is churn, right? So you’re controlling churn, you’re controlling gross revenue retention because you want those clients that came on 12 months ago to renew. So those are two huge metrics that we’re looking at for success. 

And then we’re looking at the book of business that’s at risk. That’s us trying to mitigate churn the best that we can and also predict churn. So we have a health score of one to five, four, and five is an at-risk client. I know some people have one to a hundred, there’s just too many numbers for me to figure out like, what’s this range to this range. This is clear as day. So the four and the five is an at-risk client and they should be working on certain playbooks with their clients to get them out of risk. But then in that four and five, I can better predict what’s potentially going to churn. What’s the likelihood of someone being at risk and churning. And we have those numbers and being able to assess that and then better forecast retention and churn in the future. 

Those are some of the high level things that we’re looking at. From  my perspective, like when I’m looking at the book and I’m talking with the CEO on like, what part of the book is at risk? What churn are we projecting? And what’s our gross revenue retention? And the last one too, is net revenue retention. We have upsell capability. Of the clients that renewed, how many did we expand? And how much new revenue did we bring in, right. And trying to make sure that’s well over a hundred every year.

 Margot Leong: Yeah. And it’s interesting too, because things like churn and retention there’s a lot that your team does to try to encourage that, right. What strikes me too, is that also being responsible for these metrics, some of the stuff is also very much out of your control, right? There’s a human relationship side where you’re trying to be on top of all of these things, but then if you’re trying to work with, say, the product team to prioritize something that the customer would want built and the customer has been waiting for a year plus, that is unfortunately out of your hands, right. 

Syed Hussain: This is where I tell people documentation will save you. As a CSM, you need to document.  Document your interactions, the work that you’ve done, you know, after a client churns, we always do a post-mortem. And we go all the way back from the moment that they were implemented. So we’re looking at implementation notes. Was there anything that we could have done differently from the point of inception to the point that they’d left? And if a CSM has documented well, it’s easy for them to put this post-mortem together and they essentially can look and identify the true crux of the churn. 

And you’re right. It’s hard sometimes when it’s the bugs and the product, it’s hard sometimes with the expectations that were set and what we’re actually meeting are actually happening, right. 

But where the CSM comes in is again, building that rapport and relationship. I know there’s been so many times at Zenefits specifically where a client was not happy, but they knew I always took care of it. So I was able to leverage my relationship to keep them because of that rapport that I had built with them. It only lasts so long and if things don’t change, you lose them regardless, but that relationship extends your ability to keep them from leaving a little bit. Do you know what I mean? 

And the opposite end of that is like, we take this data and we share with the entire company. It’s churn because of this, right? And these are the parties somewhat responsible for it, right? It’s just like NPS. My team is responsible for net promoter score, but the reality is most times people are upset about it is when there’s a bug with the platform or something’s not working. That’s completely out of our control, but finding a way to kind of balance that tight rope, and making sure you give feedback to product, sales and engineering and marketing so that they can change and do better, but then also managing that relationship and hoping that it’s enough to get them through the hard time.

Margot Leong: You know, you mentioned that customer success can be a bit of the unsung hero. What would be interesting or helpful is to understand what do you think that CSMs are motivated by, right? What are the things that make them smile? Give them joy. You mentioned one was recognition from the customer that you’re doing a great job here. Right? 

In terms of being better partners with customer success, how can we lift you guys up? What can we do to showcase the work that success is doing?

 Syed Hussain: Being connected. So when you were working with a particular client, you’re checking in with the CSM, right? You always want to position the CSM in a position of power, they have the ability to make decisions and take care of you. A client will reach out to me, but I will loop in the CSM and the CSM will respond. I do this, not because they don’t want the client not to be taken care of. It’s because I want them to know that the CSM is that person. That person that will make sure that this is taken care of from start to finish, and I think customer marketing can do the same. You’re talking to higher level decision makers and C-suite, and if you know that there is success with the platform, showcasing that success, because it’s partly due to that CSM. And making sure that they know that Syed Hussein is your CSM for your account, and let me tell you, these are the reasons why he’s been a crucial and integral part of your company being successful with our platform. 

So potentially that decision-maker, who would not normally be on the phone call with the CSM, because there’s a title difference, potentially they might want to get on the phone. They want to might meet this person that has done a great job for them and the champions that they work with.

Margot Leong: What’s really interesting about customer marketing is that we get to kind of be at a bit of a remove from the situation, and so when we’re coming in and talking to the customer, sometimes it is at that VP level, but it is often at the technical level too. We’re trying to get that full story. So, myself and my team will usually layer in questions around, what was your experience like with the team as a whole? How did you work with sales and support and success? Were there specific people that you work with in success that you found really great and why? 

I’ve often found that actually they sometimes will forget to tell their CS person how great they are, but then when they talk to the marketing person, they’re like, Oh my God. Yeah. Syed was really great because he helped me with this and this and this. That gives you such a great point to not only weave in the story that customer success is an integral part of that experience and making that customer happy, so you can tell that story at a high level, but then you can also utilize that and send emails to the people that were called out, cc: their manager, right. Let them know that you’re doing that good work and if you’re going to be promoting the story internally, you should also add all the good stuff that the customer said or screenshots or something of all those nice things they said about the CS team or the support team or whomever. So you’re continually pushing for the narrative that, hey, CS is here too. Right. And that they were integral in that experience. That’s something that CS has typically been pretty happy about when we’ve done that. 

Syed Hussain:  It’s such an important piece because when you hear it from your peers, it goes the distance and makes an impact on people’s ability to continue to show up and give them that energy they need to get on that next call.

Margot Leong: There’s a very deep aspect to customer success when it comes to building rapport and relationship building, obviously when it comes to your customers. What are the ways that you can quickly build rapport with someone and strengthen that relationship quickly with the customer, because you’re trying to get them excited about the next call with you. What are some of those tips and tricks there that you have? 

Syed Hussain: Yeah. I think the two biggest things I tell people is to divulge personal information because it makes you a human and to make somebody laugh. All in context, of course. You’re not just like, my parents got divorced. No, like, what’s that conversation and do you have anything to bring to the table that you can divulge, right? I have still clients that I talked to, when I get a new job, they’re like great job. I am so excited to see your career grow. And it’s because we start to know each other and it’s not just business on the phone. You know, it’s, Hey, how are the kids? How was the new house? How’s the dog, right? And then they’re asking you about those same things.  And  really getting the door open so that they feel like their guards are down, so that they want to let you in. 

And there’s some people you’re never going to get, they’re bulls in a china shop, they’re not going to open up and that’s fine. You meet people where they’re at, but I think those two things are really important to be successful in building that rapport.

Margot Leong: Do you think that sort of more often than not like the majority of people are like that basically, and then it’s sort of a minority that are like, no, I don’t want to do that.

Syed Hussain: Yeah. I definitely feel like the majority people want some type of connection. What’s sad to me is in the world of business, the higher you go up on the totem pole, the less pleasantries there are, and it’s just all about business. I get it. My time is valuable. I’m an executive as well, but it’s important to remember that we’re all human at the end of the day, but I would definitely say the majority of times people want that connection. I also think it’s more with champions and less with decision makers. 

Margot Leong: Where do you see customer success going in the future? Right. Are there trends within the space that you’re noticing that you think would be interesting for us to be aware of?

Syed Hussain: I think that as customer success continues to develop and evolve I think that the tech touch is going to be super important. When you have a hundred thousand customers, you really have to make sure that you’re still creating great experiences. How can you, like you said earlier, duplicate what the success manager is doing with their clients, but applying that to somebody that doesn’t have a success manager, right. And what does that look like? And it can’t be all email, right? Because Lord knows we’re all victim to the endless emails you get, like take an NPS survey, how did you like us, do this. Let’s get creative. It should be in app. It should be engaging. There should be events, you know, and this is where customer marketing comes along, right? Where, for the champion levels, you have forums for them, right. Where they can engage with each other and build that community. And I think really doing that is going to be really important.

Margot Leong: You know, I think this is a great note to end on.  Where can our listeners find you if they would like to connect or nerd out with you on the CS side, pick your brain?

Syed Hussain: Yes, you can definitely reach me on my LinkedIn, connect with me there.

Margot Leong: Thank you so much, Syed, for taking the time to chat. It’s so nice to pick the brain of someone who works in a different department, and there’s so much that I took away from this when it comes to how we can better partner with the CS team, so thank you so much for coming on. 

Syed Hussain: Of course. Thank you so much for having me. This was amazing. This was so much fun to work with you in the past. I love customer marketing. I think that it’s an integral part of the business and it really goes hand in hand with CS, and we need to be able to work together and understand what we’re doing because we’re going after the same thing.

Thanks for tuning into this episode of Beating The Drum. For more interviews with advocacy leaders and tips on creating customers that will sing your praises, head on over to our website, If you enjoyed today’s show, please subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts and don’t forget to rate and review us. If you know someone that would be a great fit for the show, I would love to hear about it. You can reach out at Take care, everybody. 



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