Delivering Customer Success for Fortune 500 with Tj Randall

Nilesh Surana
The Startup
Published in
8 min readOct 9, 2018

“The secret of successful managing is to keep the five guys who hate you away from the four guys who haven’t made up their minds.” — Casey Stengel

What is Customer Success? Is it maximization of value to the customer right from onboarding to the stage where the customer becomes a product champion? Or is it the delivery of the desired outcome? Come to think of it every customer gets onboard a platform with the goal of meeting certain desired outcomes. However, when you have to deliver customer success for Fortune 500, does the meaning change?

Tj Randall, VP of Customer Success at XebiaLabs says, “Customer Success means everything post sales”.

XebiaLabs is a Leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Application Release Orchestration and is trusted by Global 2000 clients such as AIG, Bank of America, Toyota, Allianz and NASA to meet the increasing demand for accelerated and more reliable software releases.

In the webinar “Playbook: Delivering Customer Success to Fortune 500”, Tj speaks about his experiences, mistakes, and wins while setting up customer success at XebiaLabs and dealing with Fortune 500 customers.

What does a Fortune 500 organization look like?

When you are talking about a large organization like a Fortune 500 or a Fortune 2000 company, you are engaging with certain teams, and somewhere else in that company because of levels of hierarchy or offshore teams, somebody else probably has competing for ideas or goals.

So, for customer success, it is really important that you make all the teams happy and we want to be able to provide those impressions so that when XebiaLabs is not around, the team that they are working with is their spokesperson.

So, the biggest thing to remember is when we are talking about the enterprise, we are talking about thousands of employees, many different technology stacks and lots of complexity.

How do you service a Fortune 500/2000 customer base? How do you work with them?

For XebiaLabs, it’s critical to identify a customer success model that helps drive renewals. At XebiaLabs, they build products to make complex problems easier.

For example, they help developers accelerate code changes. They also help everybody else who has to consume those changes, e.g., a marketing team which has to create marketing literature around those changes.

So, Tj recommends you to approach customer success for Fortune 500 in this order.

  1. Team
  2. Teams
  3. Business Unit
  4. Division
  5. Company
  6. Parent Company

XebiaLabs works with teams and divisions across a company and making all those different groups happy is a lot of work.

What does the customer journey look like?

Tj ensures that customer success gets introduced very early in the sales process so that the customer not only gets to understand the product they are buying but also gets to meet the people they will be working with post sales.

Next comes implementation which could include services, training or just partnering with local teams to make them successful.

And in the first 90 days, customer success has to ensure that the customer has to have at least one if not three applications in production.

Then the real customer success work begins.

You want to continually engage with them so that customers renew at the end of each contract. You want the renewal to happen because your product is a key part of the solution they are providing.

The XebiaLabs Customer Success Model

Two years ago, sales were focusing on new logos, expansions, and renewals. Customer Success was talking about things like value and product adoption.

Now, XebiaLabs expects customer success to manage expansions and renewals as Tj and his team are engaged more and more with the customers.

However, as the customer base grows, XebiaLabs are already moving to a third model. They have introduced a new account management division who handle expansions and renewals even as customer success focuses on product adoption and customer experience.

Currently, there are six areas for Customer Success work at XebiaLabs.

  1. Implementation: Setting customers up for success
  2. Presales: More “sales based” activities to new teams
  3. Maintenance: Account touchpoints, roadmap calls, etc.
  4. Projects: Provide expertise in usage and extending product
  5. Training: Initial training to onboard as well as ongoing training
  6. Firefighting: Large customers have large problems. 😊

Think about where you currently are and then actually start to have that conversation. Where do you want to move to in the next 6 to 9 months?

Sign up and watch the on-demand webinar here.

Six Lessons from Customer Success for Fortune 500

Lesson 1: Enterprise Customers are LARGE

Disparity — Teams across the organization might not know about your solution. So a large organization might have 2–3 software to solve the same problem.

Competition — Large companies have ladders inside their ladders. So, it is important to recognize how these companies are organized in order to use your product.

Global Initiatives — A lot of the enterprises are desperately trying to change in the technology space to be more modern and service their customers better.

Enterprise Customers are COMPLEX

External pressures — The consumers are forcing them to think differently.

Internal pressures — There is always significant pressure to manage costs, increase delivery and more.

Career pressures — People are putting their career on the line to implement organizational change.

So it boils down to three simple things

  1. Keep pace with Customer Initiatives
  2. Continue to empower your champion(s)
  3. Protect your flanks

Lesson 2: Stop wishing for Data

Instead of wishing for data, ask these questions.

  • What makes a good customer?
  • Why do customers leave?
  • What do you know about your customers?

And then define some success criteria, red flags, and nice to have.

What jumped out was that XebiaLabs needed to know if they had a strong product champion and a strong technical champion.

Why is a champion so important?

In order to be successful, your Customer Success team needs to identify, engage and enable across the organization. In that set of contacts, you need to find champions.

“A champion is someone who, when you ask to go and do something difficult for you, they do it. They’re a champion. Otherwise, they’re a cheerleader.”

Lesson 3: Multiple Stakeholders Across Organization (aka ”herding the cats”)

Large organizations ask for a lot of complex things, from different parts of their organization. You have to have the ability to collect, analyze, plan and respond to their requests. You need to be able to articulate information that is actionable.

Let’s take the example of a fuel gauge in a car. In the past, it only gave insight into the fuel tank. Now, it gives the driver actionable information. But what modern cars are moving to is collecting information to provide real-time self-correction and advice.

So what does it mean in the context of customer success?

Past: Which metrics are you using? For example, it’s not enough to know the number of licenses.

Present: Customer success metrics that help you self-correct, e.g., customer usage, customer experience, etc.

Future: Imagine a world where as a customer success team you can talk about different teams in a large enterprise and discuss which team is actively using your product, whether there is executive support for your product within a particular team and more.

So, move towards metrics which can change the way you engage with customers.

Lesson 4: Visibility for your organization

Everyone within your company wants to know what is going on at that big Fortune 500 company. As a customer success team, you need to receive, track and manage key signals from enterprise customers.

This is where a customer success software such as CustomerSuccessBox can help. Imagine a world where you can sit with a dashboard with customer data aggregated via automation.

Action items:

Discuss with different parts of your company. How can you measure and track signals?

Think about how you store and manage this information.

Determine the way in which your CS team will present this information to your company.

Lesson 5: Talking about customers

Remember the six work areas? You need to know how you are going to talk about a work area and how it relates to your whole company. You want to be proactive and avoid firefighting.

Trust in God, but lock your car 😉

Plan for all challenges and communicate the mitigation plan if it comes to firefighting.

Action items:

1. Define your work areas that your Customer Success team manages with your customers.

2. Develop, communicate and train your company in these work areas.

Lesson 6: Get to One Number

There is an important quote from the movie Moneyball.

“People who run ball clubs, they think in terms of buying players. Your goal shouldn’t be to buy players, your goal should be to buy wins. And in order to buy wins, you need to buy runs.”

So, how do you get to this one number where you can summarize the customer experience? You have to answer your company’s question.

Take the example of XebiaLabs. Tj and his team asked this simple question, “What is the one indicator that tells me if our customers are using the software as we designed and built it?” And it boiled down to this — “How fast can a developer get a change into Production?” This number/percentage should go down if they’re using XebiaLabs’ products.

What is your one magical number? Get in the comments below.

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Nilesh Surana
The Startup

Marketer at Fyle | Writer at Hacker Noon, The Startup, picksaas | Manchester United fan | Instagram: foodie.kismet