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 misnumber because they refer to a part of their organization as customer success, and while that 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 do today is to create and deliver a better experience for your customers. Learn how sales, marketing and customer success experts create internal alignment, achieved desired outcomes and exceed customer expectations in a personal and human way. This is the customer experience podcast. Here's your host, Ethan Butte. Finding the customers you can serve best, removing some of the friction around data management, building an experience from the ground up. That's just some of what we'll be talking about today with a gentleman who spend time at full story, lovely and envoy, and rules related to 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 host of the customer success leader Podcast, Eric Crane. Welcome to the customer experience podcast. Thanks you really appreciate you have me. Yeah, I'm looking forward to the conversation. I'm excited about what you guys are doing and to get going. I guess we'll start where I start with everyone, which is customer experience. When I say customer experience, where does that mean? Do you Eric? I love this question because I ask something similar on customer success. Leader. Really I boil it down to just the path to value. So it says a journey that someone's on. It's not necessarily a point in time or a single experience, but rather the amalgamations of all these steps someone takes as part of a business and part of a relationship that ultimately leads them to realizing 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 conversations I've had around this. Could've had a lot of people who are focused on customer success on the show. Do you have any thoughts about the relationship between the two? Yeah, so I think a lot of times customer success kind of becomes a misnomer because they refer to a part of their organization as customer success and while that is absolutely true, that's also the ultimate goal of the entire organization, is the success of your customers, and so I think it's unfair to necessarily put all of the onus on customer success, onto your customer success 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 those customers achieving the value that expected out of the product. And ultimately that's what leads to customer experience, and ideally a good one. Yeah, I really like the way you share that relationship and really I think it's probably one of the 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 I think what it's trying to capture is, okay, we're not prepared to rename this part of the organization. This part is still is customer success, but we're trying to get above that in to blend your two responses there. What I heard is, and feel free to correct, redirect or add to it that 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 define success in a different way, but ultimately you're going to get a bully in right. 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 experience is just again, but at the end of the day, did I get this value or did I not? Yeah, and I love it too. I mean I think so much of the...

...experiences and expectation, setting an expectation management 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 customer only 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 the outcome. 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. What are y'all trying to do at flat file? Yeah, so you can kind of think of flat file like a bridge, and that bridge is between sort of messy, old, disparate, variant data and sort of the ideal, usable, happy structure data that we all want inside of our systems. And so really the challenge has been historically that we design systems, usually things like SASS 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 be formatted a certain way, and what ends up happening is that that system worse really 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 becomes how do we make that transition without the pain of having to take all of the machines requirements and fulfill them as humans? And so really, for us we put the human first and every experience that we do, because whenever data is changing hands, and that's generally where we focus, is okay, how can we ensure that the human is put first in this experience rather than the machine, and that was actually the impetus for us starting the business in the first place, was the fact that we saw all of these data import experiences that were essentially an exposure of an endpoint of someone's internal etl system. And if you've got a customer who is a teacher or firefighter and they're getting an error message that says hey, in cell see four hundred thirty seven, this is a boolean and it needs to be a string, they're not going to have any idea what that means. And so what we then do is we patch that with like, okay, here's a three page or ten page long explainer article on how to do this work yourself, and we forget about the fact that a lot of times with sufferer you have to get data in before it does anything. So if you think about like the I forget if it was and resent or Horwitz, who says software is eating the world right. Well, if software eating the world, data is what it breathes, and if you can't take that first breath really effectively, then you're never really going to get to that point of value that you ultimately hope for, and especially not a for taking that responsibility and off boarding it to a customer, an end 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 data is probably one of the biggest headaches for a lot of organizations. I think you did a nice job articulating it with the bridge metaphor. And when we walk this out a step further, when we start talking about Ai, of course structured data and clean data is like ai is nothing without all of the data 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 to classify data. Right. I'll take an example in particular. You've got a customer that's in the ARP system for emergency responders. It's like their software has being used in the firehouse to track like inventory orders and like the amount of the hoses that are in that firehouse. And well, a data scientists would have a really good understanding of the ideal structure and format of the data that works within that ARP. Firefighters not really have any idea about that, but they do know everything there is to know about fire hydrants and manhole covers and hose fittings. And what we're basically doing...

...in this bridge is we're marrying the data expertise of our customers who built these software systems, and the subject matter expertise of their users, who know exactly what their data means but don't necessarily know 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 human first concept that you were speaking to. I'm going to go out on a limb because I don't know the founding story here. So you found it the company a couple years ago. I'm going to guess that you're probably like so many of the guests that we've hosted on the show, which is you're probably solving a problem that you were encountering yourself and then realized that the problem was big enough and that your solution was good enough, for your vision for an improved solution was good enough. Like, let's do this brother people too. Yeah, my cofounder, David likes to say he raged designed is dream data import solution, which is really true. Actually. So we were working at envoy. It's a workplace management software company, so we were all about making sure visitors and deliveries and meetings were all running effectively and we just ran into this problem again, and when I say again, I mean for like the everything, everything time in our careers, everywhere we'd work, there is this challenge of getting data from outside of your organization into it. And once again we ran into it at envoy and we said, okay, can we go find someone who's built they drop in data importer for a BAB software product and we're just shocked when no one had that. Everyone had developed it custom. It was either, you know, a custom piece of software, a bunch of scripts and internal team managing this, or US putting the job on the customer and saying Hey, here, go do all this work before you can even see value from our system. And so we recognize this problem is data on boarding and really what the concept is there is that just like you have a customer you need to train how to use your software, to understand how to get value out of it, you also have to train their incoming data on how best to fit inside of that software system. And so that was the original premise of flat file is like Hey, if we can build this bridge between customers, you aren't necessarily data experts and systems who know how to use data best, then what we're doing is we're easing the oftentimes initial customer experience, but even ongoing customer experiences, to enable them to get value out of that system. Love it. So let's go into customer experience a little bit. 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 frustration and increases delight. So I've already heard you speak to essentially the delivery behind this, but what I felt like when I read that line was that I would assume that you're not large enough as an organization. You perhaps have a dedicated cxperson with a title or something, but your culture and team and leadership are 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 your team is expressing it in some of the outward facing stuff, even if it's not 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're just kind of a femeral? What are some of the things that you've done in the early days to really make sure that your customers are having a great experience understanding you, interacting with you, getting involved with you, purchasing from you 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 things that we did as a business was we actually prohibited our customers at a certain point from self serve on the boarding and paying for a solution. So what we said was no, we're going to have a conversation with every single person who signs up if they're willing to take it, and they're going to have to have that conversation with us if...

...they want to buy it. And what that meant for us was that we got to learn about all the unique and interesting ways that our customers thought about value that our solutions provide, and we're also able to see gaps in the way that we deliver our solution to provide that value. And what that meant was there were weeks, especially the very beginning of this year, which is when we started this initiative, I would be booked and end all day long thirty minute calls with folks who had signed up for flat file. But what I got to do is I got to understand who our customers were, what they cared about, where they were in their business and all sorts of information about how they perceived the value of what we were solving for them. And what we then did was that we took that and we did the more practical thing, which is turned that into systems that could then scale, whether it was hiring people to have certain types of conversations with those folks on the team or developing workflows and systems and automation that could help guide a customer through an experience that we knew was the appropriate set of steps for that customer along that journey to value. And so it's not a lot of borrowing that's happening here. I'm not going to proclaim that we're geniuses who are reinventing everything that ever was done in technology. And it's like the the read often and mine right, do things that don't scale. And really we said, let's do some things that don't scale so we can understand what the right way to do it is and then let's take the learnings from that and then scale that into the organization. So smart. I really really appreciate that. What was the trigger? Like what? I assume that you were doing something different up until the start of two thousand and twenty and then you're like, okay, we need to do this. What was this spark there? And I have another question to them. Really really interested in B I know the spark, like what? What in that moment? What occurred to 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 dollars a month when we know that they're getting tens of thousands of dollars of value a month out of this thing? And as other customer over here WHO's trying to bargain with us for like ten bucks off a month, both of those conversations with those two types of customers would take the same amount of time but very different outcomes. And so we said, okay, we clearly haven't positioned the value, the solution the right way and we haven't packaged it the right way if these are the outcomes that were getting. And so really the impetus was like hey, can we have a conversation with every customer so we can develop 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, is opposed 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 and the other value that are provided, like improved in PS, Opportunity costs that you would otherwise, you know, be sucked into this this project of managing data on boarding. And so once we are able to have those hundreds and hundreds of conversations over the course of a few months, we had a much better understanding of how our customers actually thought about value and how to convey that as part of an experience where we didn't necessarily actually have a real time conversation with them. It's great. So that's tea's up. My follow up question perfectly which is like how? So you were obviously booked backtoback, but with hundreds of meetings, I'm going to assume other people were doing so. Who else was doing this with you? And then, this is the big part of 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 and the other people doing this? Like, how did you make sense of all the super valuable qualitative feedback that you're getting from your customers? Yeah, so it'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 part of this experience, and then adjustin iterate those actions based on what we were seeing from the market. And sometimes it doesn't make sense to put a ton of structure inside of these things if they're so rapidly evolving. At the very beginning, for example, we had set some internal price points around okay, well, we're going to test out this offering at this price point, and we have three conversations and customers are go, yeah, that's great, yeah, that's great, yeah, that's great. We said, okay, we're getting zero resistance on the price here, let's just bump it up right and it wasn't like some sort of systematized thing. It would just became really apparent early on. The second part of this was it was really just me and David taking all of these conversations, and the reason why was because we both understand very well how each other think, how we make decisions, and we had full buy in into this strategy behind okay, how do we define the value our customers think of flat file is providing? And so, as a result, it was a lot of effort for the two of us, but it made that decision making process and iteration process really seamless, and so we had other teammates going in and taking those conversations and having them. The thing is is that they might have had a slightly different perspective. It would have been more lag time to organize everything, and that wasn't really part of our objective. Our objective was, hey, let's get to a decision fairly quickly so that that way we can restructure how we package our solutions, how we price our solutions and even what solutions we do offer to the market. So I 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 so excited 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, and there's a middle ground there that we're able to reach in combination. And as far as practical tools and systems we set up, we actually didn't have a crm at that point, and so what we did was we just built an air table that was like a crm. That made it much quicker for us to react to all this. So instead of having to configure workflows and journeys and 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 tag different things on a customer and then, almost on a daily basis, we would go in and review all the conversations that we'd had throughout the day and say, okay, do we are? We ready to make a decision about which direction we go next with this? Really good. I love it. I mean you've qualified a couple of your responses, you know, as far as like the proput that you know wasn't scientific. It's not genius, like you'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 and David were doing them because you knew each other well enough that when one of you says something, you know what the other person knows what you mean with that, you know, just a lot of it unspoken benefits. Really, really smart. I love the the problem solving there. Let's let's go back straight to the customer. It seems like at some point in the process you 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. Everyone wants 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 the team. What was the process of talking to all these people, looking at all your customer accounts? Probably some other feedback sources. How do you identify? Customer success is a great place to to really grow quickly. Yeah, so, a lot of times when you are building a system like this or building a company, you'll focus on like the winners, right, the ones who are like get the most value out of the solution. And by talking to everyone that signed up, it...

...wasn't precluding just a conversation with the winners. It could also be people who are signing up for some sort of other reason. And for us, you know, we had this product that was 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 to self serve on board their data. And every time a PM or software engineer would sign up, we said, okay, yeah, that makes perfect sense. But then also we'd see folks from customer success and services and implementation team signing up for this and we never had the conversation with them, they never would have really been able to get value out of the portal. It requires you to use a javascript library and embed it in a products product page age and define like some detailed, like Jason Schema around data rules that that the incoming data has to conform to. And so we took these conversations with all these success folks and realize, like, okay, they're actually responsible for data onboarding too, but it's a different type of data on boarding. It is the onboarding that happens when a customer first joins in the organization. Right, hey, we sign this new customer, we need to get all of their data in and it's not necessarily just the thing that you hand off to that particular customer. And so these the successfolks are like signing up and like trying to hack the solution. So like they could use a code sandbox so like solve 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. And so what they told us was they said, Hey, like we are responsible for this problem as well, and so we said okay, well, we have a solution for it. This solution just isn't quite organized the right way in order to help you as a customer success manager. And that was the the origin of the idea for the FLA file concierge. So if you think about the portal, it's sort of like the replacement for a self serve spreadsheet prep right. So it's like, Hey, go download this template. Customer, go fill out all the details, hope it's the right format, upload it and like, you know, if you're lucky, the data is going to get into system. If not, you're gonna get incomprehensible email thirty minutes later. 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 coming from seven different legacy systems and we're really excited to modernize everything, but our way. We've got a twenty to thirty week project ahead of us to like get access to all the data, try to normalize it, get customer feedback on where there are things that are missing. And he said, okay, this is the same problem. The abstracted just a little bit and it's exact same thing and we could use the same tech to do it. We just have 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 with a tool in a system that can do exactly what the portal does, but in more complex scenarios or scenarios where there is like a cutover or a process for like actually saying hey, okay, you're now on boarded your Datas in the system and you can get value out of it. Really interesting. It makes me feel like some of these folks who are using concierge are are getting a benefit that I've heard expressed in a wide variety of ways, kind of like an Individu it's like an immediate benefit. You're helping them look like stars to their customers. Exactly, really less painful than some of the other things that your customers, customers, have been through before. Yeah, one of the things those folks did for us as they put us in the shoes of their customers and they said, hey, for our customers worth, they have to go find a way to extract data from a system and they have to send us that data extract and then we have to take that. We have to basically run excel macros on a workbook that they sent us and then we have to send that back to them via email and then they have to comment on the places that we are highlighted and...

...then they miss something when they send it back. So then we have to go back and forth with them over and over and over again. Meanwhile our desktop is getting filled up with all these excel files and workbooks. Becomes a security problem. So then we say, Oh, set up an SFTP site, and so they set up an SFTP site and then you have to set up a reminder system to know when a file lands in there, and then you still have to notify the customer if you need any feedback from them in this process, and so just ends up becoming this recursive loop. That really, at the end of the day, one of the biggest pain points to get experienced. It is just time to value it's someone is signing up and paying for the software. They have this idea of the value they want to get and with every passing day that they can't see that value with their data it's more likely that they're going to be unsatisfied with their experience and potentially leave. Absolutely, because I'm sure that a selling point is not, you know, a three week time to value pitch, you know, and that's just goes back to the to the expectation management piece. Like my expectation is that in some reasonable amount of time and I 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 relationship and I'm sure you see it in your own business as well, which is you know that first I don't know, it depends on the nature. It depends on the nature of the business, in the structure of the deal, but just generically speaking, you know, the first seventy two hours after I swipe my card or sign the contract is like, you know, that's the buyers were morse windows. So the the more pain you can remove there, the better. Yeah, absolutely, and also just not even just removing the pain, but also layering and comfort. Right when the customer can see what's happening with that data that they sent your way and they can actually interact with that in real time and see you making it better and better. That also provides a degree of comfort for them knowing like Hey, okay, I'm not forgotten about this is actually something that's happening, and it also gets some excited instead about seeing that, as opposed to checking their watch every five minutes being like all right, when is my stuff going to get importive? When I'm I actually be able to use this thing I'm paying a hundred grant a year for? 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 interacts with 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 are like one or two problems that you've seen or observed or heard about that might be helpful for someone to like something actionable someone can do today to improve their data, their access to data, etc. Yeah, so a couple things here, I think come up all the time and I'll use some very practical examples that are hopefully helpful. So thing number one is actually not even related to the data itself, but is related to the person who's working with the data. 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 perfectly format all the data. You're asking a human to work like a machine. So, Hey, we need quotes around this this field, in this cell in order to properly import it right. Human might know how to do can cat functions and excel, but they might forget something. Maybe they had a filtered view on. Like humans are prone to mistake when they're repeatable problems to be solved. So just keep in mind that, like, the more you ask humans to do repetitive work, the more likely it is that they're going to make a mistake. And even if you say your flat files not the right thing for me, understand that, like you're still going to run into those challenges with a system where the human has to do the job. So that'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 is pretty much the standard across machines and I don't remember the last time I ever wrote UTC and coded daytime format normalized around GMT in any sort of document or spreadsheet or other system that I was using as a human. And so you have to understand that, like there's a translation that has to happen a lot of times between what the machine is expecting and what the human has and it's not that the human is wrong, like the human actually is probably the one that'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 in written language just as much as it happens in data. Is You get this piece of data. It's right from the humans perspective, is right from the verse, you know, the provider's perspective. It's correct from the recipient's perspective in terms 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 that data 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 and how machines think about data, and you have to be first cognizant of that and then second, understand. Okay, what is the bridge between those two things to ensure that folks aren't crashing and burn and whenever they're trying to use that data in that system too. Nice kind of mindset tips that are practical. Well done, shifting gears just a little bit. And this is about your 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 decades ago. But decades ago, a coo is maybe, you know, managing facilities 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 does that role mean inside a SASS company? Yeah, it's pretty funny because it can really vary between different businesses and I'm not going to say that our definition is the right one. What's interesting enough is if you look at my role from the outside, it looks a lot like what you might think of as like a seer, chief revenue officer, which is a newer term to so I'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 of solutions and provide them to the market to solve those problems? And the flip side of that, how do we learn from the market about problems and make sure that we're delivering that to a team on the product side of the business that'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 team and a customer success and customer experience team at the same time. If you take it a little bit further up from that, it's largely about how we make decisions in the organization, and I will give equal credit to both myself and my cofounder, David for this, but especially as being a distributed team right now, we need to have a very strong sense of how and when we make decisions. And again, to borrow from someone else's playbook, we have this model called informed captains. So everyone is responsible there the captain of a little shit in our fleet of flat file ships and what we want them to 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 two key things. The first is seeking descent on decisions, so like basically say, Hey, I'm not so search certain about this decision. I want to get some negative feedback that tells me otherwise, I guess there are a contrarian opinion that exists here that's informed by intuition or fact that I can use to inform my ultimate decision here. And then...

...the second is learning. So once you make a decision, learn from it. Most decisions in a business are not a one way door. You can make the decision and you can say, Hey, that was not a good decision based on what we learned and we're going to go back and do something different next time. And then that way you never really lose unless you're not making decisions. And so everyone in the organization is an informed captain and they understand what they're responsible for making decisions on. And I love to use this example because we're on a podcast and I'm the host of a podcast, and I will tell you that if we didn't have this model, we would not have a podcast for flat file that we're running today, and the reason why it's because, like jk, who is our head of performance marketing, used to work with y'all. He came to 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 busy with customer issues. I'm not so sure. I've seen this block one too many times. That's my opinion. And a week later he came back to me and he says he are, we're doing a podcast and you're going to be the host. Thing is, I didn't have any impetus to say no to 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 did it give us a significant boost in terms of awareness and excitement and interest in what flat file is doing amongst an audience that we knew would be interested in what we were providing, but also there were all these fringe benefits that we didn't even realize before. Hey, we can turn this into collateral for marketing to, you know, run campaigns on. And also almost every single podcast episode turns into a sales conversation after we stop recording because they're really interested in why 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 have to benefit of that today, and so that's why I like to say like we've really try to democratize as decisions. Say Hey, really, we're only uncomfortable when you're not making decisions and not moving things forward, because the worst outcome, alternatively, is just that we learn. So that hopefully kind of describes a little bit how we think about sort of making decisions, moving things forward and ultimately how that helps us scale as a distributed team, because you not always going to be in the same room and we want to make sure that we keep moving forward regardless. Yeah, I like the empowerment piece, of course, throughout the organization really really important and allows you to move much more quickly. The other thing that I really really appreciate what everything we shared there is the level of intent that you have in viewing your role as partly to 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 organization as 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 role and being very intentional about working that through with each person I think establishes a very strong, clear culture around decisionmaking for distributed team. Really good. I guess last question here before I tee you up for a couple of my favorite questions 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 things differently 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 a very particular theme and it was like this very structure and set of questions and you know, every time someone answers something slightly differently, and what I learned was just like hey, let's keep it...

...more open ended than that. A lot of times what I'll do is I'll say, Hey, a couple of the first questions might be the same, but then we're going to go off script and in fact I would provide guidance to guests. I had a couple of guests early on who joined the show and they had written out all their answers to the questions that I provided them, and I said that's not what we're looking for here. If you're reading this, it's not going to feel natural, it's not going to feel impassioned, and so what I said I was like, Hey, let's like reschedule for a later date. Let's you know, you can practice and think about your answers ahead of time. It's good to have scratch notes. I'm like, got some right here on the other screen, but the end of the day, you don't want to be reading about this, you want to be actually sort of portraying that as part of 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 much structure in your podcast, because then otherwise folks will not necessarily come across as 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 by ensuring that they can feel like, Hey, I know this just like not like the back of my hand, and I can talk about this from a position 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 like a 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 of the Human Computer Mastermind Academy. Really Sharp Guy and he's actually right here in time 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 a little bit earlier, episode seventy eight, with Pianca Jane, who is the President and CEO of a ring. They do a variety of work around data culture and data literacy. They have stuff you can do yourself online. They do 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 with Pianca Jane, and I think some of the themes we've talked about on both of those were present here today and I've really enjoyed it. But before I let you go, Eric, I've got two of my favorite questions. First is, who would you like to think or mention someone who's had a positive impact on your life for your career? Oh Man, there's so many people that I can mention, but I think I'm going to pull up one that came to mind recently and that's Megan Costello. So she was so BP of services is when I was working at Crimson Exagon, actually as a customer success manager, and she's taught me so many things about how to not just manage a team but to actually lead a team. And in particular, there are things that you do that I never seen managers do before. So, for example, if someone got let go in another part of the organization, she would get the entire team together and say hey, someone got let go. I want you to understand this is, you know, part of the reason why. As much as I can tell you about why they got let go and feel free to ask me any questions and I'll answer whatever I can for you as a team, and it just was really like this nice bridge between like the efficiency side of business, which is like hey, we have to understand 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 and feelings, and so that was one thing, and the other thing too, was this mindset of like letting me fail, letting me make decisions that wouldn't necessarily work out. I remember my second week on the job, I got flown out to La and was presenting in front of the entire marketing team at Toyota, 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 there was like an issue where like wasn't loading and refresh and I made a comment as 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 a lot of faith in the product when it was the first time someone was publicly presenting it to them. But she didn't just jump in and take over the rest of the conversation. She let me finish it out and after it was done she gave me explicit point it feedback and said, Hey, you did this, 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 we go 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, is something that I've carried through the rest of my career. Really good. Two things I've respected about people I've worked with before, and one of them is led to my the your kind of your first pass on on what Megan taught you was related to this philosophy that I have, which is share as much as you can, as early as you can. Write. Like as a leader you have to have some editorial judgment. You know you're facing things that not everyone should have to deal with or even think about, but to the degree that it affects people. Share as much as you can, as early as you can, and that obviously requires some editorial and some discretion, but really, really good and sharing feedback to I've been I've worked for people who've both been on both sides of that and s idea of holding things back and then, like you know, at some point they toss off some feedback on something that happened three or four months ago. A it's hard to relate to be it's out of context and see it's like, Gosh, I could have corrected that like in the meantime. Anyway, really good. I appreciate that very much. How about a brand or a company that you respect or appreciate for 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 to what they are and what they are they say, Hey, we're a great way for you to organize data about your customers into a single place so that you 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 their listening 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 forward to today and segment does all of those things. And so, without even having a direct conversation with me, they understood me as someone who cared about organizing my customer information and automating parts of the customer journey and like developing this scale within the organization and they gave us the tools in the systems to actually be able to do that effectively. And so I just really appreciate their focus on the product and I also just love what they put out in terms of content, because their founders are going through a similar journey that a lot of others do, which is like how do we understand value, how do we understand how to sell? I mean when you have four engineers get together to start a company, it can be particularly challenging, almost down saying, to figure out how do we actually translate what our business does to value in the market? And there's a lot of really great folks, are really great posts and content and information they share publicly about how best to do that. So not only do they help provide a solution that I really love, but they also back that up with just a ton of information about how they got there in the first place that you can learn from and apply as appropriate within your own company. I think it's one of the best trends that would I associate that 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 I personally 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 helpful to so many people and it and it allows you to the company, to you 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 or they want to learn more about flat file or they want to check out customer successfully 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 bit more about flat file, hit our website, hit the chat button. There's actually a button that says I want to talk to one of the founders and I 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 sit a colo at flat file dot Ioh and then for custom success leader, just thatcom and you're going to be able to take a look at all the different episodes that we publish. We do publish a new episode every week and really excited to continue connecting with other folks in leadership and customer success, product and everywhere else too. So don't hesitate to hit me up on Linkedin as well if you want to make a connection and have a meaningful conversation. Always down for that awesome Eric Crane, spelled exactly how you would think, and good get on that ur AH. By the way, Eric, thank you appreciate that. Yeah, thanks for your time. Clear Communication, human connection, higher conversion. These are just some of the benefits of adding video to the messages 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 videos accelerate sales and improve customer experience. Learn more in order today at Bombombcom Book that's Bomb Bombcom Book. Thanks for listening to the customer experience podcast. Remember the single most important thing you can do today is to create and deliver a better experience for your customers. Continue Learning the latest strategies and tactics by subscribing right now in your favorite podcast player, or visit Bombombcom podcast.

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