The Customer Experience Podcast
The Customer Experience Podcast

Episode 113 · 1 year ago

113. Building A Customer Experience From the Ground Up w/ Eric Crane

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Would you gateway your product behind requiring anyone who signs up to have a 30-minute conversation with one of your two founders? As in, you won’t sell to them unless they agree to talk to you?

Eric and David did, and it utterly changed how they thought about value.

 

In this episode, I interviewed Eric Crane, Cofounder and COO at Flatfile, about how he and his team constructed a whole new picture of customer success based on customer experience and value. Eric talked with me about:

 

- The relationship between customer experience and customer success

 

- The impetus behind his conversation strategy — and its outcomes

 

- 2 new ways to think about the human/machine relationship

 

- What a COO in a SaaS company does all day long

 

Subscribe, listen, and rate/review the Customer Experience Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play or Google Podcasts, and find more episodes on our blog.

Customer success kind of becomes a misnumberbecause they refer to a part of their organization as customer success, and whilethat is absolutely true, that's also the ultimate goal of the entire organization,is the success of your customers. The single most important thing you can dotoday is to create and deliver a better experience for your customers. Learn howsales, marketing and customer success experts create internal alignment, achieved desired outcomes andexceed customer expectations in a personal and human way. This is the customer experiencepodcast. Here's your host, Ethan Butte. Finding the customers you can serve best, removing some of the friction around data management, building an experience fromthe ground up. That's just some of what we'll be talking about today witha gentleman who spend time at full story, lovely and envoy, and rules relatedto product partnerships, marketing and advising. He's cofounder and COO at flat file, the Elegant Import Button for your web ap serving customers like hub spot, toast, black bought and many, many more, and he's the hostof the customer success leader Podcast, Eric Crane. Welcome to the customer experiencepodcast. Thanks you really appreciate you have me. Yeah, I'm looking forwardto the conversation. I'm excited about what you guys are doing and to getgoing. I guess we'll start where I start with everyone, which is customerexperience. When I say customer experience, where does that mean? Do youEric? I love this question because I ask something similar on customer success.Leader. Really I boil it down to just the path to value. Soit says a journey that someone's on. It's not necessarily a point in timeor a single experience, but rather the amalgamations of all these steps someone takesas part of a business and part of a relationship that ultimately leads them torealizing value that they were hoping to get out of that relationship. Cool.Do you have any thoughts on the relationship between customer success and customer experience?I've had there are a couple like differing mindsets around this in terms of conversationsI've had around this. Could've had a lot of people who are focused oncustomer success on the show. Do you have any thoughts about the relationship betweenthe two? Yeah, so I think a lot of times customer success kindof becomes a misnomer because they refer to a part of their organization as customersuccess and while that is absolutely true, that's also the ultimate goal of theentire organization, is the success of your customers, and so I think it'sunfair to necessarily put all of the onus on customer success, onto your customersuccess team. They might be doing particular things to enable ongoing success of customers, but that does not mean that the organization should be ultimately aligned around thosecustomers achieving the value that expected out of the product. And ultimately that's whatleads to customer experience, and ideally a good one. Yeah, I reallylike the way you share that relationship and really I think it's probably one ofthe reasons that customer experience is bubbled up in in the conversation, feels like, pretty dramatically over the past three to five years or so, and Ithink what it's trying to capture is, okay, we're not prepared to renamethis part of the organization. This part is still is customer success, butwe're trying to get above that in to blend your two responses there. WhatI heard is, and feel free to correct, redirect or add to itthat the experiences is what it feels like along the journey, and success,of course, is the outcome that we want for customers in general. Yeah, absolutely, and I think the interesting thing about this as every customer definesuccess in a different way, but ultimately you're going to get a bully inright. Did we get value out of this relationship or did we not?And so customer success is guiding them towards that positive outcome, but their experienceis just again, but at the end of the day, did I getthis value or did I not? Yeah, and I love it too. Imean I think so much of the...

...experiences and expectation, setting an expectationmanagement and you know, if I was expecting get a fifty percent lift,but I only got a thirty five percent lift, even though your average customeronly gets a thirty percent lift and that's more of ad enough for them,they still might feel like they had a negative experience or didn't achieve the theoutcome. So it's expectation meant to be a big piece of that as well. For people who aren't familiar, tell us a little bit about flat file, like who's your ideal customer? What do you solve for them. Whatare y'all trying to do at flat file? Yeah, so you can kind ofthink of flat file like a bridge, and that bridge is between sort ofmessy, old, disparate, variant data and sort of the ideal,usable, happy structure data that we all want inside of our systems. Andso really the challenge has been historically that we design systems, usually things likeSASS businesses or enterprise software, with a particular way in which they use data. The data has to be structured a certain way, it has to beformatted a certain way, and what ends up happening is that that system worsereally well, but only when the data's right. And so if you're saying, Hey, we want to move our organization from this, you know,legacy system or this manual process into a modern software solution, the challenge becomeshow do we make that transition without the pain of having to take all ofthe machines requirements and fulfill them as humans? And so really, for us weput the human first and every experience that we do, because whenever datais changing hands, and that's generally where we focus, is okay, howcan we ensure that the human is put first in this experience rather than themachine, and that was actually the impetus for us starting the business in thefirst place, was the fact that we saw all of these data import experiencesthat were essentially an exposure of an endpoint of someone's internal etl system. Andif you've got a customer who is a teacher or firefighter and they're getting anerror message that says hey, in cell see four hundred thirty seven, thisis a boolean and it needs to be a string, they're not going tohave any idea what that means. And so what we then do is wepatch that with like, okay, here's a three page or ten page longexplainer article on how to do this work yourself, and we forget about thefact that a lot of times with sufferer you have to get data in beforeit does anything. So if you think about like the I forget if itwas and resent or Horwitz, who says software is eating the world right.Well, if software eating the world, data is what it breathes, andif you can't take that first breath really effectively, then you're never really goingto get to that point of value that you ultimately hope for, and especiallynot a for taking that responsibility and off boarding it to a customer, anend customer, who doesn't necessarily understand the technical INS and outs of your system. Yeah, Gosh, I I feel like just the whole world around datais probably one of the biggest headaches for a lot of organizations. I thinkyou did a nice job articulating it with the bridge metaphor. And when wewalk this out a step further, when we start talking about Ai, ofcourse structured data and clean data is like ai is nothing without all of thedata to train it initially and then to continue to teach it. Yeah,and if you think about the types of folks that our customers are working with, they're not going to be hanging out on Mechanical Turk waiting for jobs toclassify data. Right. I'll take an example in particular. You've got acustomer that's in the ARP system for emergency responders. It's like their software hasbeing used in the firehouse to track like inventory orders and like the amount ofthe hoses that are in that firehouse. And well, a data scientists wouldhave a really good understanding of the ideal structure and format of the data thatworks within that ARP. Firefighters not really have any idea about that, butthey do know everything there is to know about fire hydrants and manhole covers andhose fittings. And what we're basically doing...

...in this bridge is we're marrying thedata expertise of our customers who built these software systems, and the subject matterexpertise of their users, who know exactly what their data means but don't necessarilyknow how it should be structured and formatted to fit inside of a machine.Really good and I get that brings it back to the kind of the humanfirst concept that you were speaking to. I'm going to go out on alimb because I don't know the founding story here. So you found it thecompany a couple years ago. I'm going to guess that you're probably like somany of the guests that we've hosted on the show, which is you're probablysolving a problem that you were encountering yourself and then realized that the problem wasbig enough and that your solution was good enough, for your vision for animproved solution was good enough. Like, let's do this brother people too.Yeah, my cofounder, David likes to say he raged designed is dream dataimport solution, which is really true. Actually. So we were working atenvoy. It's a workplace management software company, so we were all about making surevisitors and deliveries and meetings were all running effectively and we just ran intothis problem again, and when I say again, I mean for like theeverything, everything time in our careers, everywhere we'd work, there is thischallenge of getting data from outside of your organization into it. And once againwe ran into it at envoy and we said, okay, can we gofind someone who's built they drop in data importer for a BAB software product andwe're just shocked when no one had that. Everyone had developed it custom. Itwas either, you know, a custom piece of software, a bunchof scripts and internal team managing this, or US putting the job on thecustomer and saying Hey, here, go do all this work before you caneven see value from our system. And so we recognize this problem is dataon boarding and really what the concept is there is that just like you havea customer you need to train how to use your software, to understand howto get value out of it, you also have to train their incoming dataon how best to fit inside of that software system. And so that wasthe original premise of flat file is like Hey, if we can build thisbridge between customers, you aren't necessarily data experts and systems who know how touse data best, then what we're doing is we're easing the oftentimes initial customerexperience, but even ongoing customer experiences, to enable them to get value outof that system. Love it. So let's go into customer experience a littlebit. So I read this line. I forget where I read it,but it was somewhere on the flat file website or your personally dinner, whatever. It's a flat file offers an elegant, easy to use experience that reduces frustrationand increases delight. So I've already heard you speak to essentially the deliverybehind this, but what I felt like when I read that line was thatI would assume that you're not large enough as an organization. You perhaps havea dedicated cxperson with a title or something, but your culture and team and leadershipare behind me, a tuned to the experiences your customers are having.So you know it's a cofounder who appreciates the importance of customer experience and yourteam is expressing it in some of the outward facing stuff, even if it'snot necessarily in that term. What are some things you did early on,whether their practical, whether they're structural, whether their process based or whether they'rejust kind of a femeral? What are some of the things that you've donein the early days to really make sure that your customers are having a greatexperience understanding you, interacting with you, getting involved with you, purchasing fromyou and and and getting going well? I wouldn't necessarily call this practical.It takes a lot of time and effort, but one of the most important thingsthat we did as a business was we actually prohibited our customers at acertain point from self serve on the boarding and paying for a solution. Sowhat we said was no, we're going to have a conversation with every singleperson who signs up if they're willing to take it, and they're going tohave to have that conversation with us if...

...they want to buy it. Andwhat that meant for us was that we got to learn about all the uniqueand interesting ways that our customers thought about value that our solutions provide, andwe're also able to see gaps in the way that we deliver our solution toprovide that value. And what that meant was there were weeks, especially thevery beginning of this year, which is when we started this initiative, Iwould be booked and end all day long thirty minute calls with folks who hadsigned up for flat file. But what I got to do is I gotto understand who our customers were, what they cared about, where they werein their business and all sorts of information about how they perceived the value ofwhat we were solving for them. And what we then did was that wetook that and we did the more practical thing, which is turned that intosystems that could then scale, whether it was hiring people to have certain typesof conversations with those folks on the team or developing workflows and systems and automationthat could help guide a customer through an experience that we knew was the appropriateset of steps for that customer along that journey to value. And so it'snot a lot of borrowing that's happening here. I'm not going to proclaim that we'regeniuses who are reinventing everything that ever was done in technology. And it'slike the the read often and mine right, do things that don't scale. Andreally we said, let's do some things that don't scale so we canunderstand what the right way to do it is and then let's take the learningsfrom that and then scale that into the organization. So smart. I reallyreally appreciate that. What was the trigger? Like what? I assume that youwere doing something different up until the start of two thousand and twenty andthen you're like, okay, we need to do this. What was thisspark there? And I have another question to them. Really really interested inB I know the spark, like what? What in that moment? What occurredto you and your team members are like we need to change this.Yeah, it was really mostly a pragmatic question which we wanted to answer,which is why do we see x company over here paying US three hundred dollarsa month when we know that they're getting tens of thousands of dollars of valuea month out of this thing? And as other customer over here WHO's tryingto bargain with us for like ten bucks off a month, both of thoseconversations with those two types of customers would take the same amount of time butvery different outcomes. And so we said, okay, we clearly haven't positioned thevalue, the solution the right way and we haven't packaged it the rightway if these are the outcomes that were getting. And so really the impetuswas like hey, can we have a conversation with every customer so we candevelop the system that we know can scale with the value our customers realize.I am, like one of the biggest advocates of value based pricing, isopposed to cost base or outcomes base. I mean values are part of outcome, but it's not necessarily just usage. It's what are the other costs andthe other value that are provided, like improved in PS, Opportunity costs thatyou would otherwise, you know, be sucked into this this project of managingdata on boarding. And so once we are able to have those hundreds andhundreds of conversations over the course of a few months, we had a muchbetter understanding of how our customers actually thought about value and how to convey thatas part of an experience where we didn't necessarily actually have a real time conversationwith them. It's great. So that's tea's up. My follow up questionperfectly which is like how? So you were obviously booked backtoback, but withhundreds of meetings, I'm going to assume other people were doing so. Whoelse was doing this with you? And then, this is the big partof the question, how did you organize your learnings? I assume you know, in these thirty minute meetings you're getting your note, you're probably keeping notes. Like how do you blend your own notes together? How do you andthe other people doing this? Like, how did you make sense of allthe super valuable qualitative feedback that you're getting from your customers? Yeah, soit's really more of a challenge and I can't proclaim that it was super scientific. But a couple of things that we did was we wrote out strategy documents. So when we went into this,...

...we said here is our hypothesis,hypothesis, here are the steps that we're going to use to test that hypothesis, and then here are the actions that we're going to take as a partof this experience, and then adjustin iterate those actions based on what we wereseeing from the market. And sometimes it doesn't make sense to put a tonof structure inside of these things if they're so rapidly evolving. At the verybeginning, for example, we had set some internal price points around okay,well, we're going to test out this offering at this price point, andwe have three conversations and customers are go, yeah, that's great, yeah,that's great, yeah, that's great. We said, okay, we're gettingzero resistance on the price here, let's just bump it up right andit wasn't like some sort of systematized thing. It would just became really apparent earlyon. The second part of this was it was really just me andDavid taking all of these conversations, and the reason why was because we bothunderstand very well how each other think, how we make decisions, and wehad full buy in into this strategy behind okay, how do we define thevalue our customers think of flat file is providing? And so, as aresult, it was a lot of effort for the two of us, butit made that decision making process and iteration process really seamless, and so wehad other teammates going in and taking those conversations and having them. The thingis is that they might have had a slightly different perspective. It would havebeen more lag time to organize everything, and that wasn't really part of ourobjective. Our objective was, hey, let's get to a decision fairly quicklyso that that way we can restructure how we package our solutions, how weprice our solutions and even what solutions we do offer to the market. SoI can't say that there was not a lot of pain along the way because, yeah, there were occasions where we'd have a call with a customer and, like we, you know, forget to take notes because we are soexcited about the conversation. I'm not going to drag on David too much,but like he shies towards fewer notes, I shy towards more notes, andthere's a middle ground there that we're able to reach in combination. And asfar as practical tools and systems we set up, we actually didn't have acrm at that point, and so what we did was we just built anair table that was like a crm. That made it much quicker for usto react to all this. So instead of having to configure workflows and journeysand things like that, it was literally just drop the notes in the crm. We built out a little form or you could put stuff in and tagdifferent things on a customer and then, almost on a daily basis, wewould go in and review all the conversations that we'd had throughout the day andsay, okay, do we are? We ready to make a decision aboutwhich direction we go next with this? Really good. I love it.I mean you've qualified a couple of your responses, you know, as faras like the proput that you know wasn't scientific. It's not genius, likeyou're identifying a problem, you're coming up with a solution, you're developing hypothesis, testing against them, organizing your thoughts. Just even the idea that you andDavid were doing them because you knew each other well enough that when oneof you says something, you know what the other person knows what you meanwith that, you know, just a lot of it unspoken benefits. Really, really smart. I love the the problem solving there. Let's let's goback straight to the customer. It seems like at some point in the processyou came to understand you could probably provide great value to customer success leaders.So what is the process like? You know, in looking at it,or obviously most teams within an organization are using data at some level. Everyonewants it to be good and up to the second and clean and structured,properly inaccessible, even for, you know, the least data oriented person on theteam. What was the process of talking to all these people, lookingat all your customer accounts? Probably some other feedback sources. How do youidentify? Customer success is a great place to to really grow quickly. Yeah, so, a lot of times when you are building a system like thisor building a company, you'll focus on like the winners, right, theones who are like get the most value out of the solution. And bytalking to everyone that signed up, it...

...wasn't precluding just a conversation with thewinners. It could also be people who are signing up for some sort ofother reason. And for us, you know, we had this product thatwas largely geared towards product teams, and it's still it's the flat file portal, is an embeddable important button that makes it really easy for your customers toself serve on board their data. And every time a PM or software engineerwould sign up, we said, okay, yeah, that makes perfect sense.But then also we'd see folks from customer success and services and implementation teamsigning up for this and we never had the conversation with them, they neverwould have really been able to get value out of the portal. It requiresyou to use a javascript library and embed it in a products product page ageand define like some detailed, like Jason Schema around data rules that that theincoming data has to conform to. And so we took these conversations with allthese success folks and realize, like, okay, they're actually responsible for dataonboarding too, but it's a different type of data on boarding. It isthe onboarding that happens when a customer first joins in the organization. Right,hey, we sign this new customer, we need to get all of theirdata in and it's not necessarily just the thing that you hand off to thatparticular customer. And so these the successfolks are like signing up and like tryingto hack the solution. So like they could use a code sandbox so likesolve this problem for them. But it was really hard because they weren't,you know, they didn't know javascript and we could expect them to. Andso what they told us was they said, Hey, like we are responsible forthis problem as well, and so we said okay, well, wehave a solution for it. This solution just isn't quite organized the right wayin order to help you as a customer success manager. And that was thethe origin of the idea for the FLA file concierge. So if you thinkabout the portal, it's sort of like the replacement for a self serve spreadsheetprep right. So it's like, Hey, go download this template. Customer,go fill out all the details, hope it's the right format, uploadit and like, you know, if you're lucky, the data is goingto get into system. If not, you're gonna get incomprehensible email thirty minuteslater. Like that's what portal solving for and it's doing it really well.What we couldn't solve for was more for data on boarding as a project.So, Hey, we've got this piece of enterprise software and our customers comingfrom seven different legacy systems and we're really excited to modernize everything, but ourway. We've got a twenty to thirty week project ahead of us to likeget access to all the data, try to normalize it, get customer feedbackon where there are things that are missing. And he said, okay, thisis the same problem. The abstracted just a little bit and it's exactsame thing and we could use the same tech to do it. We justhave to change the presentation. And so that's what connciers is all about,is saying like Hey, can we take these projects and actually help you witha tool in a system that can do exactly what the portal does, butin more complex scenarios or scenarios where there is like a cutover or a processfor like actually saying hey, okay, you're now on boarded your Datas inthe system and you can get value out of it. Really interesting. Itmakes me feel like some of these folks who are using concierge are are gettinga benefit that I've heard expressed in a wide variety of ways, kind oflike an Individu it's like an immediate benefit. You're helping them look like stars totheir customers. Exactly, really less painful than some of the other thingsthat your customers, customers, have been through before. Yeah, one ofthe things those folks did for us as they put us in the shoes oftheir customers and they said, hey, for our customers worth, they haveto go find a way to extract data from a system and they have tosend us that data extract and then we have to take that. We haveto basically run excel macros on a workbook that they sent us and then wehave to send that back to them via email and then they have to commenton the places that we are highlighted and...

...then they miss something when they sendit back. So then we have to go back and forth with them overand over and over again. Meanwhile our desktop is getting filled up with allthese excel files and workbooks. Becomes a security problem. So then we say, Oh, set up an SFTP site, and so they set up an SFTPsite and then you have to set up a reminder system to know whena file lands in there, and then you still have to notify the customerif you need any feedback from them in this process, and so just endsup becoming this recursive loop. That really, at the end of the day,one of the biggest pain points to get experienced. It is just timeto value it's someone is signing up and paying for the software. They havethis idea of the value they want to get and with every passing day thatthey can't see that value with their data it's more likely that they're going tobe unsatisfied with their experience and potentially leave. Absolutely, because I'm sure that aselling point is not, you know, a three week time to value pitch, you know, and that's just goes back to the to the expectationmanagement piece. Like my expectation is that in some reasonable amount of time andI get to define what's reasonable, unless you manage my expectations, you know. Yeah, such a and it's such an important time in the customer relationshipand I'm sure you see it in your own business as well, which isyou know that first I don't know, it depends on the nature. Itdepends on the nature of the business, in the structure of the deal,but just generically speaking, you know, the first seventy two hours after Iswipe my card or sign the contract is like, you know, that's thebuyers were morse windows. So the the more pain you can remove there,the better. Yeah, absolutely, and also just not even just removing thepain, but also layering and comfort. Right when the customer can see what'shappening with that data that they sent your way and they can actually interact withthat in real time and see you making it better and better. That alsoprovides a degree of comfort for them knowing like Hey, okay, I'm notforgotten about this is actually something that's happening, and it also gets some excited insteadabout seeing that, as opposed to checking their watch every five minutes beinglike all right, when is my stuff going to get importive? When I'mI actually be able to use this thing I'm paying a hundred grant a yearfor? So it definitely kind of helps reset that paradigm to a degree.Good. Let's let's just give a practical data tip, because everyone listening interactswith data at some level. You know. We obviously hygiene is a thing.You've talked a bit about structure in like lay person's terms. What arelike one or two problems that you've seen or observed or heard about that mightbe helpful for someone to like something actionable someone can do today to improve theirdata, their access to data, etc. Yeah, so a couple things here, I think come up all the time and I'll use some very practicalexamples that are hopefully helpful. So thing number one is actually not even relatedto the data itself, but is related to the person who's working with thedata. Is You have to understand that if you hand someone what you need, that's not necessarily how they're going to perceive it. So, for example, you hand them a template that has all these instructions on how to perfectlyformat all the data. You're asking a human to work like a machine.So, Hey, we need quotes around this this field, in this cellin order to properly import it right. Human might know how to do cancat functions and excel, but they might forget something. Maybe they had afiltered view on. Like humans are prone to mistake when they're repeatable problems tobe solved. So just keep in mind that, like, the more youask humans to do repetitive work, the more likely it is that they're goingto make a mistake. And even if you say your flat files not theright thing for me, understand that, like you're still going to run intothose challenges with a system where the human has to do the job. Sothat's thing number one. Another practic example that's more on like the data side. I love using dates as an example...

...because it's something that everyone gets.Machines don't read dates like humans are. So you seeing coded time format ispretty much the standard across machines and I don't remember the last time I everwrote UTC and coded daytime format normalized around GMT in any sort of document orspreadsheet or other system that I was using as a human. And so youhave to understand that, like there's a translation that has to happen a lotof times between what the machine is expecting and what the human has and it'snot that the human is wrong, like the human actually is probably the onethat's right and the machine is also right. The challenge is just in that translation. You know, you get lost in translation, and this happens inwritten language just as much as it happens in data. Is You get thispiece of data. It's right from the humans perspective, is right from theverse, you know, the provider's perspective. It's correct from the recipient's perspective interms of like yeah, that's a date and I can know that.That looks like a date, but then you make a decision based on thatdata and you get a spaceship that crashes into the surface of Mars right.So that's one of the things that we try to solve for is like hey, there is this translation problem between how we as humans think about data andhow machines think about data, and you have to be first cognizant of thatand then second, understand. Okay, what is the bridge between those twothings to ensure that folks aren't crashing and burn and whenever they're trying to usethat data in that system too. Nice kind of mindset tips that are practical. Well done, shifting gears just a little bit. And this is aboutyour role Chief Operating Officer, obviously cofounder as well. All you know,a lot of the titles that we have today are titles that people had decadesago. But decades ago, a coo is maybe, you know, managingfacilities and distribution centers and other you know, physical logistical things, you know,flat files, a distributed team. So there aren't really any facilities.Is it text st AC like? What are you coo over? What doesthat role mean inside a SASS company? Yeah, it's pretty funny because itcan really vary between different businesses and I'm not going to say that our definitionis the right one. What's interesting enough is if you look at my rolefrom the outside, it looks a lot like what you might think of aslike a seer, chief revenue officer, which is a newer term to soI'm responsible for everything on the growth and go to market side of our business. So thinking about like how do we take what we're doing in terms ofsolutions and provide them to the market to solve those problems? And the flipside of that, how do we learn from the market about problems and makesure that we're delivering that to a team on the product side of the businessthat's actually building out solutions to those problems? And so for me, like it's, you know, things like managing a sales team and a marketing teamand a customer success and customer experience team at the same time. If youtake it a little bit further up from that, it's largely about how wemake decisions in the organization, and I will give equal credit to both myselfand my cofounder, David for this, but especially as being a distributed teamright now, we need to have a very strong sense of how and whenwe make decisions. And again, to borrow from someone else's playbook, wehave this model called informed captains. So everyone is responsible there the captain ofa little shit in our fleet of flat file ships and what we want themto do is be making decisions, but there's a prerequisite to making those decisions, which is that you be informed, and you really get informed by twokey things. The first is seeking descent on decisions, so like basically say, Hey, I'm not so search certain about this decision. I want toget some negative feedback that tells me otherwise, I guess there are a contrarian opinionthat exists here that's informed by intuition or fact that I can use toinform my ultimate decision here. And then...

...the second is learning. So onceyou make a decision, learn from it. Most decisions in a business are nota one way door. You can make the decision and you can say, Hey, that was not a good decision based on what we learned andwe're going to go back and do something different next time. And then thatway you never really lose unless you're not making decisions. And so everyone inthe organization is an informed captain and they understand what they're responsible for making decisionson. And I love to use this example because we're on a podcast andI'm the host of a podcast, and I will tell you that if wedidn't have this model, we would not have a podcast for flat file thatwe're running today, and the reason why it's because, like jk, whois our head of performance marketing, used to work with y'all. He cameto me the summer and said, Eric, we should really do a podcast.I think that'd be great for developing awareness amongst this customer success audience.And I said podcasts and bed to be aren't normally the greatest and like,especially if you know like folks aren't really listening to podcasts because they're so busywith customer issues. I'm not so sure. I've seen this block one too manytimes. That's my opinion. And a week later he came back tome and he says he are, we're doing a podcast and you're going tobe the host. Thing is, I didn't have any impetus to say noto him. He is the captain of making that decision and I said,okay, let's go with it. Let's make sure that we measure the results. And, Lo and behold, we measure the results and not only didit give us a significant boost in terms of awareness and excitement and interest inwhat flat file is doing amongst an audience that we knew would be interested inwhat we were providing, but also there were all these fringe benefits that wedidn't even realize before. Hey, we can turn this into collateral for marketingto, you know, run campaigns on. And also almost every single podcast episodeturns into a sales conversation after we stop recording because they're really interested inwhy we're doing this and you know what is behind all everything at flat file. So if we'd had that hierarch goal decisionmaking process, we would not haveto benefit of that today, and so that's why I like to say likewe've really try to democratize as decisions. Say Hey, really, we're onlyuncomfortable when you're not making decisions and not moving things forward, because the worstoutcome, alternatively, is just that we learn. So that hopefully kind ofdescribes a little bit how we think about sort of making decisions, moving thingsforward and ultimately how that helps us scale as a distributed team, because younot always going to be in the same room and we want to make surethat we keep moving forward regardless. Yeah, I like the empowerment piece, ofcourse, throughout the organization really really important and allows you to move muchmore quickly. The other thing that I really really appreciate what everything we sharedthere is the level of intent that you have in viewing your role as partlyto manage this what is typically just kind of a cultural a aspect, right, like we learned to make we learn how decisions are made in the organizationas we watch other people make decisions, and sometimes it's an explicit conversation,but the idea that you're taking it on specifically within the context of your roleand being very intentional about working that through with each person I think establishes avery strong, clear culture around decisionmaking for distributed team. Really good. Iguess last question here before I tee you up for a couple of my favoritequestions on the podcast and we're you're right on the doorstep of it. You're, by the time this lease has probably twenty episodes into customer success leader.What are one or two things that have surprised you or make you see thingsdifferently that you've learned from some of your guests as a host of the podcast? Yeah, so, I think originally we kind of designed it around avery particular theme and it was like this very structure and set of questions andyou know, every time someone answers something slightly differently, and what I learnedwas just like hey, let's keep it...

...more open ended than that. Alot of times what I'll do is I'll say, Hey, a couple ofthe first questions might be the same, but then we're going to go offscript and in fact I would provide guidance to guests. I had a coupleof guests early on who joined the show and they had written out all theiranswers to the questions that I provided them, and I said that's not what we'relooking for here. If you're reading this, it's not going to feelnatural, it's not going to feel impassioned, and so what I said I waslike, Hey, let's like reschedule for a later date. Let's youknow, you can practice and think about your answers ahead of time. It'sgood to have scratch notes. I'm like, got some right here on the otherscreen, but the end of the day, you don't want to bereading about this, you want to be actually sort of portraying that as partof a natural conversation. So that was something that I learned. was like, Hey, you can have some structure, but you don't necessarily want too muchstructure in your podcast, because then otherwise folks will not necessarily come acrossas like an actual leader, and all of these folks definitely are leaders,and so I want to make sure to paint them in their best life byensuring that they can feel like, Hey, I know this just like not likethe back of my hand, and I can talk about this from aposition of expertise. Good. So if you are listening to this episode,which obviously you are because you're hearing me right now, you might also likea couple other episodes we've done recently. Episode Ninety seven was with Bob Barry. He's the principal user experience researcher at answer lab and he's the founder ofthe Human Computer Mastermind Academy. Really Sharp Guy and he's actually right here intime with me in Colorado Springs, and we titled that Episode Episode Ninety Seven. How U X drive CX and the entire world economy. And then alittle bit earlier, episode seventy eight, with Pianca Jane, who is thePresident and CEO of a ring. They do a variety of work around dataculture and data literacy. They have stuff you can do yourself online. Theydo deep dive consulting and we call that one three ways to improve data literacy. Again, that's episode ninety seven with Bob Barry and episode seventy eight withPianca Jane, and I think some of the themes we've talked about on bothof those were present here today and I've really enjoyed it. But before Ilet you go, Eric, I've got two of my favorite questions. Firstis, who would you like to think or mention someone who's had a positiveimpact on your life for your career? Oh Man, there's so many peoplethat I can mention, but I think I'm going to pull up one thatcame to mind recently and that's Megan Costello. So she was so BP of servicesis when I was working at Crimson Exagon, actually as a customer successmanager, and she's taught me so many things about how to not just managea team but to actually lead a team. And in particular, there are thingsthat you do that I never seen managers do before. So, forexample, if someone got let go in another part of the organization, shewould get the entire team together and say hey, someone got let go.I want you to understand this is, you know, part of the reasonwhy. As much as I can tell you about why they got let goand feel free to ask me any questions and I'll answer whatever I can foryou as a team, and it just was really like this nice bridge betweenlike the efficiency side of business, which is like hey, we have tounderstand that we're all part of this larger sort of machine that's working together,but the same time we're all people and we all have thoughts and emotions andfeelings, and so that was one thing, and the other thing too, wasthis mindset of like letting me fail, letting me make decisions that wouldn't necessarilywork out. I remember my second week on the job, I gotflown out to La and was presenting in front of the entire marketing team atToyota, or at least a big chunk of the marketing team at Toyota.And I've worked with large healthcare systems before, but not necessarily large marketing teams.And I was up there and I was talking about the product and therewas like an issue where like wasn't loading and refresh and I made a commentas an a side that was like,...

Oh and yeah, by the way, you might just have to do a hard refresh every now and then,and it was absolutely the wrong thing to say. Did Not give them alot of faith in the product when it was the first time someone was publiclypresenting it to them. But she didn't just jump in and take over therest of the conversation. She let me finish it out and after it wasdone she gave me explicit point it feedback and said, Hey, you didthis, this and this well, these were things that you didn't do well, and I expect to see these types of imfermit provements the next time wego through something like this, and so that that trust in someone's ability,but also willingness to provide feedback that would help improve my own performance, issomething that I've carried through the rest of my career. Really good. Twothings I've respected about people I've worked with before, and one of them isled to my the your kind of your first pass on on what Megan taughtyou was related to this philosophy that I have, which is share as muchas you can, as early as you can. Write. Like as aleader you have to have some editorial judgment. You know you're facing things that noteveryone should have to deal with or even think about, but to thedegree that it affects people. Share as much as you can, as earlyas you can, and that obviously requires some editorial and some discretion, butreally, really good and sharing feedback to I've been I've worked for people who'veboth been on both sides of that and s idea of holding things back andthen, like you know, at some point they toss off some feedback onsomething that happened three or four months ago. A it's hard to relate to beit's out of context and see it's like, Gosh, I could havecorrected that like in the meantime. Anyway, really good. I appreciate that verymuch. How about a brand or a company that you respect or appreciatefor the way they deliver an experience for you as a customer? I really, really do love what segment does for us. They're very clear as towhat they are and what they are they say, Hey, we're a greatway for you to organize data about your customers into a single place so thatyou can then extend all the different things that you do on a regular basis, and I think their their product direction has been a direct reflection of theirlistening to the market. Like when I think about using segment three years ago, they're all these things that I wish segment would do, and flash forwardto today and segment does all of those things. And so, without evenhaving a direct conversation with me, they understood me as someone who cared aboutorganizing my customer information and automating parts of the customer journey and like developing thisscale within the organization and they gave us the tools in the systems to actuallybe able to do that effectively. And so I just really appreciate their focuson the product and I also just love what they put out in terms ofcontent, because their founders are going through a similar journey that a lot ofothers do, which is like how do we understand value, how do weunderstand how to sell? I mean when you have four engineers get together tostart a company, it can be particularly challenging, almost down saying, tofigure out how do we actually translate what our business does to value in themarket? And there's a lot of really great folks, are really great postsand content and information they share publicly about how best to do that. Sonot only do they help provide a solution that I really love, but theyalso back that up with just a ton of information about how they got therein the first place that you can learn from and apply as appropriate within yourown company. I think it's one of the best trends that would I associatethat that with thirty seven signals, I think and base can like those guys, Jason Freed and David hindemier hands and I think we're the first guys Ipersonally remember documenting their journey and opening up how they got to where they are, and I'm so glad that so many people have followed because it's so helpfulto so many people and it and it allows you to the company, toyou to and dear yourself to them, or they are endeared to you.Either way, like you understand them better and you're more connected. Great responses. I appreciate it. Eric. If...

...someone wants to connect with you orthey want to learn more about flat file or they want to check out customersuccessfully or where some places you would send people to follow up on this conversation? Yeah, for sure. If you just want to learn a little bitmore about flat file, hit our website, hit the chat button. There's actuallya button that says I want to talk to one of the founders andI can't promise an immediate response there, but if you leave your email,either myself or David will get back to you. You can also just sita colo at flat file dot Ioh and then for custom success leader, justthatcom and you're going to be able to take a look at all the differentepisodes that we publish. We do publish a new episode every week and reallyexcited to continue connecting with other folks in leadership and customer success, product andeverywhere else too. So don't hesitate to hit me up on Linkedin as wellif you want to make a connection and have a meaningful conversation. Always downfor that awesome Eric Crane, spelled exactly how you would think, and goodget on that ur AH. By the way, Eric, thank you appreciatethat. Yeah, thanks for your time. Clear Communication, human connection, higherconversion. These are just some of the benefits of adding video to themessages you're sending every day. It's easy to do with just a little guidance, so pick up the official book. Rehumanize Your Business. How personal videosaccelerate sales and improve customer experience. Learn more in order today at Bombombcom Bookthat's Bomb Bombcom Book. Thanks for listening to the customer experience podcast. Rememberthe single most important thing you can do today is to create and deliver abetter experience for your customers. Continue Learning the latest strategies and tactics by subscribingright now in your favorite podcast player, or visit Bombombcom podcast.

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