How often do you think about customer experience? Marketers put tons of time and energy into creating a brand to communicate a value proposition that makes people feel a certain way about their company. But good marketers know that it’s not about brand, but brand perception developed through conversations and interactions with customers.
Today, we’re talking to Chris Paul, head of customer experience at CoSchedule. He describes how different departments and employees at a company can work together to make sure they are on the same page when it comes to the company’s brand and adding value to customer experience.
Eric: Welcome to another episode of the Actionable Marketing Podcast. I want to start this episode folks by asking you one simple question. How often do you think about the customer experience? Why am I asking you this silly question?
Here's the deal. As marketers, you put all of this time and energy into creating a brand. We meticulously choose a logo, a color palette, and even the words to concisely communicate what our value proposition is, in hopes that you feel in a certain way about our company.
Here's the deal, good marketers know it's about brand perception. Yes, they’ll get a feel of who we are through the website, email copies, and some visuals. I think a big part of that comes to the individual conversations and interactions they have with your organization. Where is that taking place? Through customer support, through customer training, even through account management. I call that customer experience.
I think those interactions sum up part of that brand perception. That is why I brought on our head of customer experience at CoSchedule, Chris Paul. He owns all those three departments. I want to figure out how should we be working more closely together? How do I understand that we're on the same page about what our brand is? And where does my job end as a marketer and his as a customer experience leader to make sure that we're both working on that same messaging throughout the entire process?
It's a fascinating conversation and one that I think you'll really enjoy thinking about, how you can build a tighter relationship with your training, support, and account management team. My name is Eric Piela. I'm the brand and buzz manager here at CoSchedule and your host for the show. I can't wait to jump in to this episode. Giddy up. Let's get AMPed.
Hey everybody. Welcome to another fantastic fabulous episode of the Actionable Marketing Podcast. We're huddled in the studio here at CoSchedule, but my guest is Chris Paul. Chris, welcome to the show.
Chris: Welcome. I don't want to move my arm too much because I feel like I'm going to hit you.
Eric: We're cozy here. We're testing the limits of how comfortable we are with each other. Don't stare into my eyes too deeply when you're responding okay?
Chris: You got it.
Eric: Well Chris, I brought you in the show, I like to bring on CoSchedulers here and there because I think you guys just bring some great perspective. I think a lot of the things that we do and the challenges that we face, we are not immune to the same things that our listeners are going through.
I brought you on today to talk a little bit about customer experience, how marketing really blends into the experience of a customer. Marketing keeps taking a new form if you will. Before we dive into all that exciting stuff, I'd love for our listeners to learn a little bit more about you. If you could just shortly tell your journey here and what would you say you do here.
Chris: Yeah, I appreciate that Eric. I came to CoSchedule a bit here for just about two years here at this point. I'm around the role of what the heck is customer experience being at CoSchedule. I lead up the groups between our support teams, our product training teams, and our customer success teams.
We can go into each one of those if you want to as the show goes on, but really what that means is, customer facing activities like, somebody's got a thing that seems broken with the application and the software, that's where our support team comes into play. Somebody is just starting with the application in various plans here, that's when our product training team comes in play. With some of the folks as well, some of our customers, getting direct one-on-one engagement with our customer success team as well. What is the overall experience and the value that we can provide as those groups back to the customer.
Eric: Yeah, that makes sense. I don't know if it's extremely unique, but I like that we've taken support, training, and what would they be traditionally called account management, and put them together into this beautiful customer experience team. Lucky for you, you get to lead that all up. There's a lot there. There's a lot of touch points our customers have.
As marketers who are typically listening to this podcast, we're creating a narrative, we're providing value proposition, we're helping them [...], we're getting them through the funnel sales comes in, they do their magic show, and then boom, you have customers that land on your lap. I think we all know smart marketers that marketing and branding doesn't really end. The experience of a company and a brand transcends every employee. I think you guys have a large part of that. How do you make sure the story that we just told continues to hold water and be true when they become a customer?
Chris: In [...] terms, that funnel is kind of the customer journey. As they come and ultimately make that decision of, "Yes, this is a tool that’s going to be really valuable for us and I’m willing to pay money for it,” that's the cut-off point of when they come into the customer experience team and those groups that I mentioned. In terms of the brand, we're always learning from them as a team. We were even talking about this the other day that it's very critical for us to be interacting them with our marketing team on what are we learning from these customers.
There's things that we can build as a development team, engineering team, just the group as a whole that we make some assumptions on, here are the specific use cases, and why it's valuable to them. But ultimately the customer dictates how they're going to be using it. Let's provide that continuous feedback from our group back to marketing or back to sales, and it's not to say that our narrative one day has to be that in perpetuity. That narrative absolutely should change and let's learn that directly from feedback from the customers.
Eric: Yeah and you're on the pulse of the customers. This has come up a couple of times on the show about, you got to have marketers have to have conversations with customers. It's the way in which we could hear the words that they're explaining, how to use a solution or a tool. It's funny . You create copy in context and use cases, and then that's what you market. Sometimes, there are some surprises about how our customers are actually using our solution. Let's be honest. All customers are created equal when it comes to how much they're getting out of our solution and our tool. Have there been any surprises or learning experiences along way based on kind of like, "Here's what we said. You probably will find value from the tool," and then kind of the, "Well, here's what our customers are actually saying," and then when that feedback gets tossed back to marketing, what does that look like? How does that process look like at CoSchedule?
Chris: It's actually really interesting. I know the audience is probably with us here today, has probably followed CoSchedule for the past five years since we've been here. Even looking back, what was CoSchedule first developed as? It was a WordPress plug-in with social publishing execution. Now, where are we at? Now, we're at a marketing project management platform that delivers agile project management for professional marketing team.
Eric: Just a tiny change there, right?
Eric: Just a tiny change there. Think about all of that. That tiny change didn’t come in simply development but it comes in what have we learned the key problems that when the customer saw when they were starting, the key problems they were solving. But I think more importantly as well is, what are the key problems they still have as a marketing team, and that went back to development, went back into marketing, and all that was again being learned as we were acquiring and ultimately onboarding new customers themselves. I hope that makes sense.
Eric: Yeah, it absolutely does. I think maybe not as drastically as CoSchedule, but I think all products, solutions, services evolve over time. I think we've certainly seen our share here at CoSchedule, and understand that as our customer's pains have changed and they're using CoSchedule to alleviate, whether it is project management, whether it's content creation and calendar, editorial use, I think it's important to understand that your discussions will change.
Our head of marketing Nathan Ellering has conversations and meets with you regularly, to make sure that we don't lose the pulse of the customer that we are changing. We want to know from you, Chris, as marketers, what are the best customers? Who are the ones that are staying the long term? Who are the ones that are seeing the best of value from our solution? Because guess what, we want more of those types of customers.
Again, they're going to stay a lot longer they're going to be happier, they're going to talk about CoSchedule more, all the things you wanted to do with great customers. We may have this misconception of who we think is a great customer, but really it's your team, and I would say customer success, and support, and training, who know really who the best customers are. That intel passing from your team to the marketing team is imperative.
Chris: Absolutely. I think everything that we're talking about right now is about product marketing fit. You build a product, you bring it out to this market, you tweak it, and all the sudden, there's a day out there that ideally that you've got those things that match up, and then you're off and running. That's not to say that 6 months later, or 18 months later, whatever that might be, those things will continuously change.
That's the key thing to remember. Product market fit will always change. In order for us and any software like this to evolve with that change, that's where the feedback has to happen. In our case, our customer experience team, back to marketing and sales. How we're pivoting with them, not only marketing and sales, by the way too, it's the development team as well, and engineering. It's one gigantic feedback loop. It just doesn't stop, because you happen to acquire a new customer and you can celebrate.
Eric: Yeah, especially myself, because I come from my perspective and I'm a brand. I'm responsible for a lot of the brand perception, creating some of that, and I think I'm out there looking to see what are people saying, what are the reviews of our existing customers. I'm G2 Crowd, for example. I'm paying attention to what they're saying, and sometimes it's a reflection of the tool, but it can also be a reflection of the service, and support, and account management they get. We need to be really tied close, because your experience and what your team does, will have an effect on the brand perception of CoSchedule.
Eric: So while you were saying that Chris, I've been thinking of myself kind of selfishly as a brand person here. My job is to think about what's the brand perception of CoSchedule. I’m [...] to know that it's a new era. Any time a customer is unhappy with our product and service that your team is providing, guess what? They get to go at the G2 Crowd, or Capterra, or whatever customer review sites are out there, and they get to speak their mind. I monitor social channels so I get to hear it all.
To think that customer support and service and account management has nothing to do with brand or marketing, is absolutely a falsity. I'm looking at you saying like, “Pretty, pretty please, deliver a great experience for our customer because they're going to be our biggest evangelists as people are looking for a product.” We all know they're much more educated during the buying cycle than they ever used to be. They're going to these sites and they're looking to hear from existing customers about the product. I think that is a very big thing. We have to make sure that we don't gloss over. There's huge ramifications for bad experiences for the brand and for marketing in general to respond to that. Maybe you don't think about it on an everyday basis, but how do you focus on a good experience for the customer here?
Chris: I think it all comes back to the experience aspect but what's their appropriate experience or what's the experience that they're expecting. They come in and everything throughout their entire journey with CoSchedule—this starts even before they signed up for a trial, even before they put their credit card in and start paying for a tool like this—it comes into what's the first experience they've had within our website, the CoSchedule website, or a particular blog post, an article they looked on to, and even what's their experience with G2 Crowd, something we don't own. But those things are reviews coming in from current existing customers, and all the way continue on funnel like ideally, trial creation, ideally, we onboarded them successfully so they decide to purchase and they still are kind of trying it out and like, "Will this work for me long-term?" and all that good stuff after payment. And then the feedback loop end up like, "Oh, yeah. Now, I love this product and I'm willing to climb up to the tallest mountain and shout their praises," that's what you want to see as a brand ambassador for CoSchedule. That's exactly the feedback loop that we were talking about earlier.
It all comes back down into, again, what do they expect when they start with it? Both in terms of their experience, how easy is it to do something? Do I want to talk to somebody right now or don't I? Because there's a lot of times that everything can be more of a self-serve model on a search for something versus a live chat or something like that. Always ask yourself, what does a customer expect right now and can we give them that experience that they expect?
By the way, if we can't, then we should never be doing that. We talked about a bad fit customer. They're primarily thinking about, we can't give the customer what they're expected to do. Therefore, why are we targeting that customer? It’s going to have negative ramifications long term at that point.
Eric: Sometimes with this podcast, they kind of pull the curtain back behind some of the things that we do at CoSchedule to be transparent. I know we use an NPS score, Net Promoter Score to understand how much our customers are enjoying the platform and their experience Let's be honest. We've teamed up and said, "Hey, those that say that they love CoSchedule, like they're giving us 9s and 10s," we're saying, "We love to hear that. Would you mind providing a review on G2 crowd? Or would you mind being a case study for us?"
As marketers, we have to be smart about the opportunities of leveraging the customer teams. One of the ways we can tap into those customers that are extremely happy with the process, and allow them to be a voice for us as well. We've done pockets and talked about, people don't trust brands anymore. They trust their peers, or customers, or reviews. I think we've been proactive about that and I'm okay sharing that. As marketers, activate those people who love your product.
Chris: Yeah and even back style another example there to kind of peel that onion a little bit from us. See some perspective, our customer success perspective, so we've got our onboarding process and upon the completion of this onboarding process, that's exactly the question that we're asking. By the way, actually, to take a step back, we post that question when we start with them.
As a CSM, when we start that onboarding process we say, "Hey, we want to make this product so valuable for you that you will climb up the tallest mountain and you will shout our praises. That is my goal for this. In 90 days, that's what I ultimately want to achieve. By the way at the 90 here, I want to set up another quick discussion with you if were we able to achieve that. If we were, we would love to partner with you. We value our customers and we want to shout the praises of our partnership together, and then again, that comes back to how we can supply information back to you as well," so super interesting.
Eric: Yeah, I know it is. Maybe to shift a little bit, I think one other interesting area is, maybe it’s not talked as much about openly, but really there is the idea of we know at CoSchedule—again, I want everyone who's listening to understand what your product service is—we talked about how our product has evolved and we've got all these different features. We know a lot of times, people are coming to CoSchedule and they really have maybe one specific pain that half of the features that we provide will be able to alleviate.
Where I see that as an opportunity then for your team is like, "Hey, this is great. Absolutely, this solution is going to help you do that." At what point do you kind of say, “Okay, we've helped them be successful, but we know that there's an opportunity to grow this customer. We want to have them be happier with our solution. We want them to be stickier selfishly with our solution. There's additional opportunity for revenue to be made from a customer because we know there's more value our product can provide.” How and when do you start to position that? Do you leverage marketing to do that? Do you leverage sales to do that? Are there any automation things you've done to help surface those?
Chris: I think the key that you just said there was the word value. It all comes into continuously asking ourselves the question of what's in it for the customer. We know full-heartedly that most of the time, customers will start with solving that low hanging fruit to the pain point, actually which is great, it's probably a pretty easy problems solved for us from a software perspective.
During that conversation when we first start with them, I use the word ‘orchestration.’ We will orchestrate a discussion at that point and say, "Hey, I know that you don't want this other team maybe to be used in the start. But for you guys to actually get so much more value out of this, to solve the X, Y, Z problem in your organization, we will probably have to have this conversation, but let's not have a conversation now. We'll have a conversation in six months or three months," and we'll mutually kind of verbally agree with the customer.
At that point then, it doesn't come as a surprise if and when we reach out to them again at month three as an example and say, "Hey, remember when we talked about that?" or it's like a blind moment for them of like, "Why are you bringing this up? I didn't even know this. I didn’t expect this thing," but if we can plant that seed early and let it fester a little bit, that’s where you see the most success itself. Orchestration needs input.
Eric: That's a good perspective and I think it's something that everyone needs to consider. How are you managing those expectations, helping them understand, and planting that seed. Planting that seed so it doesn't come out of the blue when you're saying, "Hey, have you thought about this as well?" I think one thing we seem to do as well is not missing the opportunity of, at least in our particular industry is, a lot of times, we'll come in and we'll help one particular department be successful.
Then you say, “Really for our products to really sing, it works best when it's implemented across the entire organization.” That’s another opportunity. Again, if you're thinking about, how do you get the right stakeholders involved? I think as marketers, we create our personas, we're targeting this type of person. Where does that leak into what you're doing and how do you start to figure out who you should be talking to?
Chris: I think it comes back to that orchestration piece. I think that's where we can come back to that marketing organization and then come back to the sales organization. I think it's strategically aligned with both of those teams and really identify, "Hey, we've got a cross sell opportunity," or something along those lines. It's our job again to make and drive as much value as possible for the stakeholders we've got engaged at this point. But I almost guarantee you, especially thinking about the CoSchedule examples here, we've got a visibility in terms of who are these additional stakeholders that might not be directly involved today.
That's where we pick or hit the marketing team and just say, "Hey, we'd really love some help in trying to engage with X, Y, Z, person," or, “We really see that the vast majority of the customers coming from the industry, we've got these opportunities in how can we build some automation around it, and how can we become a lot more sophisticated, or strategic with itself.” Like I said, that's where all this kind of alignment comes back from customer experience, back into more of a marketing organization.
Eric: At the beginning of the conversation, you talked about under customer experience at CoSchedule you've got training, you've got support, and you talked about [...] management or customer success managers you have. We've focused a lot of our time with the customer success managers, but I think what I want to do is spend a little bit of time on the support. As we know, again to go back in the days of social media, it's really easy. People are looking for support sometimes via Twitter. Sometimes they want to reach out via email. Sometimes they actually want to talk to somebody. If they're not experiencing a great interaction, a dialogue, if their pain isn’t alleviated immediately, then they're going to talk about it. What have you learned? Because you've been here two plus years now or coming on two years. I imagine again, based on how they use the product, their needs are going to change and their demands potentially have changed. Have you created a philosophy of how to approach support at CoSchedule?
Chris: Yeah. Within CoSchedule here today, we take a look at the customer base as a whole. One customer could be very different than another customer in terms of the key problems they're trying to solve. Again, coming back to the experiences, what's the experience the customer is expecting? There's a lot of customers in various groups here that they expect more on demand-type of information. You mentioned a couple of channels earlier on email, what did you say there?
Eric: Twitter, social, via chat.
Chris: Yeah, all of these different things. Like I want to just get on something and talk to maybe a human, or maybe I don't know it's a human, it's a bot. All those different things like, how we can really think about shaping customer support, and what's that experience they need. Does it require them to write an email, actually click in their email and Gmail at email@example.com and write up this note? Think about you as a person that’s also doing that. You have to take time aside like, "Oh man, I have to click this new email. I have to click in firstname.lastname@example.org, I have to type up my explanation. Why do I have to do that?"
Some people want to do that, some people don't. We have to provide all these different channels so they can, not only successfully answer that question, or get that question answered immediately, but they also do it in a form, in a framework that they're expecting. We really just talk about that all the time. Not only how to make it efficient for the customer, but how to provide that. We talked about plus one value a lot. Honestly, plus one value could be, how do you help that customer as opposed to clicking on a plus button and create a new email? How do they simply just get the information right now when they want it and when they need it?
Eric: I want to talk to a scenario we actually went through, because again, I want to bring this back to the marketer [...] friend of mine. Under my team, we manage the social media presence. I talked about a lot of times, we're monitoring when people are talking to CoSchedule. We didn't know how to handle it because we weren’t seeing the offered support via social media.
Here I had the marketing team, the social media team trying to respond to support requests that we kind of know like, "Boy, our product is hard to do support via social, but we want to provide them service in the platform they chose," because they're kind of dictating, "I want support via Twitter." What are we going to do? We literally had kind of a snafu where marketing respond in a certain way, the customer wasn't happy, and I remember Gary kind of said, "This is not social media marketing's job to respond to these anymore, and we need to bring in customer success, and support because they know how to do it," and it was like, "Yeah, that's great."
We kind of had a bit of egg on our face, but I think that's the same challenge of when is it the job of the marketings team to respond to some of those things, and when should customer support jump in, and maybe what is sort of your experience. I think we learned our lesson and now we do a good job of handing over when we identify something as a support type of request. Having your team jump in, even though it's not technically our support channel, we kind of said, "Hey, we just need to respond how we need to respond." Talk me through that kind of learning experience and how you believe customer success [...] involved in that.
Chris: I echo your points there. Whatever channel they're going to find, it's not our job to say, "Well, we only support this one channel, email. You need to create this on a live chat," or whatever it might be, it doesn’t matter. The customer is dictating the channel they'd like to communicate with and so we're absolutely fine by that.
I think in this particular example, we were really looking at it and saying, the vast majority of responses that we get in this case in Twitter are support related requests, 90% of them, it was something like that. Let's solve this with a notion of, 90% of these ones are support subs and therefore the support team will own that channel. Not to say though that we're working on a silo. It's pretty easy to come back over and be like, "Hey Eric, I need your help on this one," because one of those 10% that we would love to use this customer as again, they're climbing that mountain and being an advocate, or it's more like influencer type of marketing, whatever that might look like. Let's still talk, we're all human, we can knock down those silos, but let's solve the 90%, and let's all solve it though again, in giving that customer the experience, they expect that response in Twitter, and they don't expect a response through email. Let's meet them to where they're at at that point.
Chris: Yeah, that's great. As the marketing team, we have our social listening tools that we use and we can respond if it's about a piece of content, or a piece of other question, but when it's product focus, we’ve allow the right avenues so that the support team can jump in and monitor those things as well. We’ve got it figured out where they know which ones they need to jump in, which ones we can cover.
We have a user group now that's on Facebook right now, where people are typically asking questions about the product before marketing was in there trying to do our best. I don’t really use it like Slack to go like, "Hey, how should I respond to this?" Let's just cut that out. Let's streamline this process. I think there was a lot of learning. Maybe it's something that all marketing and customer support teams need to find a way to work collaboratively. It's just interesting. What we haven’t done yet is we haven't gone to the point of saying we're going to have a just a support Twitter channel.
Right now, we just have our CoSchedule Twitter handle. You can talk to us about the product, you can talk to us about the content we're putting out, you can have a conversation, whatever it might be. But that's something I think that we probably are always keeping our eye on, based on the number of support hits we get via that model. It's probably something that a lot of brands are looking at as well like, "How much am I getting here and what I need to evaluate?" I think the learning lesson for us is like, “We're okay, we figured out a way to make it work, but we're always keeping our fingers on the pulse of what's the right method to provide that support.”
Chris: Back to the product market fit, that's always changing the way that customers want to communicate. It's always changing. Again, the decision you make today shouldn't be the same decision you make tomorrow or next week.
Eric: Right. Exactly true here at CoSchedule as we kind of evolve with how we manage those. I don't mind opening up the doors a little bit and showing some of that stuff. We deal with the same things everyone deals with. Maybe to kind of think about wrapping up our conversation, I asked the same thing when we had Kris Nelson who was the head of sales here. What's one thing that you wish marketers could do or would think about when it comes to the overall customer experience? If there was something that you could say, "Hey," if I could just talk to marketers and say, "From my perspective, here's what I wish you would do to make sure the entire experience as a customer through the marketing, their narrative work creating, to the experience," maybe something we should just always keep on top of mind, or one piece of advice we should hear too.
Chris: We've had a concerted effort over the last couple of years. We continue especially as this year starts up here in 2019. Even going back to when we were first talking about having this alignment from customer experience, whichever group makes customer experience back to marketing, I think that's the most critical thing. I think sometimes it's really easy to be like, “Oh, marketing is over there at a silo, and all customers are over here in a silo. There's a clear delineation because the customers bought it and therefore, my job's done.”
Let's try to squash that mentality as much as we can. I think it's probably as easy as that. When you start talking about this, like I said, it's not like what you did yesterday will continue to be in alignment with what the customer wants and expects in perpetuity. That will continuously change. The customer will dictate what they want to use that product for or how they will get value out of it and the marketing team is critical to be able to allow us to pin that message, that narrative, that brand perception. All those different things come back into play. If you're not talking, you're not going to be able to solve those things. It's as easy as that.
Eric: That's a great advice. Again, I'm the marketing team myself, but watching how often our head of marketing, our head of sales, and our head of customer experience are constantly meeting, constantly talking, constantly brainstorming, constantly giving feedback, I think really positions ourselves to be able to adapt, learn from our customers, and figure out what's best. Everyone's on the same page, everyone's communicating, we're all continually learning with that continual feedback loop.
Chris: You and I even started a brand perception Slack channel.
Eric: How timely. We did just create a brand perception Slack channel and that's great. This is advice to other marketing managers and directors that are listening to this. Find a way to connect with your teams. If you don’t, with those other teams. I just can't tell you how important it’s been. Obviously, we’re not perfect here, but I again am definitely seeing the fruition and the results of having a really closely aligned leadership.
Chris: There's just cool strategies out there like record phone calls. Record these demos that sales people are doing. Record demos that your support team is doing and the types of tickets they're responding to. Record phone calls of your customer experience, or how management teams are doing out there, your training teams are doing out there. What are the questions that your customers are asking? What are the questions that your team is asking as well? Are those the good type of questions that marketing needs to understand to basically effectively do their job, or is there some feedback that marketing can have to guarantee that’s in place as well like, "Chris, we'd love you to be doing this. Let's both work," and this shouldn’t just be backed from customer experience, it should also be backed from marketing as well. The ongoing collaboration needs to exist within these groups.
Eric: Yeah and that can even be more tangible. I know on Monday, I'm taking my first discovery call. Marketing is jumping on, having a conversation with prospects. We're listening to calls from existing customers. We're trying to connect with them in real life at conferences. Just some good learning there. Chris, this has been fantastic. Thanks for brushing your teeth this morning, your breathe sounds great. I want to thank you so much for coming on. It was a really good conversation. I know our listeners will appreciate it.
Eric: Take care.
Well, that’s all folks. Another episode of the Actionable Marketing Podcast. It is in the books. I hope you enjoyed the interview with Chris Paul. I know I enjoyed the conversation. I think it's just great to always be thinking about ways as a marketing team to look for avenues not only to, yes, extend the brand, but to collaborate with people who have interactions and conversations with the customers, because they truly are the heartbeat of your company.
I think there's so much learnings and so many nuggets that you can glean from those conversations. I hope you enjoyed it. Think about those things within your own company and I can't wait to see you back here next week for the Actionable Marketing Podcast.