The Center of Customer Experience w/ Rhonda Keller

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This is a podcast episode titled, The Center of Customer Experience w/ Rhonda Keller. The summary for this episode is: <p>Today, Rhonda Keller, Sr. Director Education Services, Community, &amp; Internal Enablement for Customer Success at Apptio, joins the show today for a discussion on customer success with host Jeff Breunsbach.</p><p><br></p><p>If you want to join the discussion with thousands of other customer success leaders, join Gain Grow Retain: <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"></a></p><p>Connect with Rhonda Keller on LinkedIn: <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"></a></p><p><br></p><p>This podcast is brought to you by Jay Nathan and Jeff Breunsbach...</p><p>Jay Nathan: <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"></a></p><p>Jeff Breunsbach: <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"></a></p>

Speaker 1: Welcome to the Gain, Grow, Retain podcast.

Jeff: Hey, Gain, Grow, Retain. Let me tell you about the MarTech podcast, hosted by Benjamin Shapiro. Brought to you by the HubSpot podcast network. Episodes are 30 minutes. He talks all about strategies and stories from world class marketers, on how they're using technology to generate growth and achieve business outcomes. One in particular of late, is unifying and activating your customer data. Something that we talk about all the time in customer success. Go listen to the MarTech podcast wherever you get your podcasts. Welcome back to another episode of Gain, Grow, Retain. For today, I've got Rhonda Keller. She is the senior director of education services, community, and internal enablement for customer success at Aptio.

Rhonda: Well done, Jeff. You got the whole crosstalk title.

Jeff: I got it all in there. Hey, I was reading off of something. It's hard to mess up. Rhonda, I'm excited about today and doing this. I appreciate you jumping in.

Rhonda: Yeah, thanks for having me.

Jeff: I always like to start off with a couple of icebreakers. They tend to change based on seasonal, time of year, and what's happening. Coming up on the holiday season, I think the big thing for me is I always look at what I celebrate, which ones are my favorite. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday coming up. I love watching football, love eating food. Maybe do something active in the morning, but really just having a nice lazy afternoon. I don't know. For you, what's your favorite holiday of the year? It doesn't have to be one of the ones upcoming, but what's your favorite or go- to holiday for you and your family?

Rhonda: Wow. That's funny. It's a running joke on my team that I never know when the holidays are. Literally one of my managers has to send me an email and say," Hey, Rhonda, don't come to work on Thursday because it's a holiday."

Jeff: That's funny.

Rhonda: It's a challenge because part of what we do is instructor enablement. We're running an education calendar, so at least someone on my team has to know when holidays are coming. I don't know, man. I just try to live my life like it's a holiday. I will say that I like Christmas. People generally around the holidays, whichever holiday they celebrate at that time, tend to be a little bit more kind.

Jeff: Yeah, a little cheerier.

Rhonda: I dig that. Yeah.

Jeff: Yeah, a little more pep in the step. All right, question number two for you before we jump into the real content. We're coming up on the weekend here, we're recording this on a lovely Friday. Looks like the weather here in Charleston's going to be great. If Rhonda was describing her perfect Sunday morning, what's your Sunday morning go- to routine? Is it getting up early? Is it going to work out? Is it being outdoors? What's a perfect Sunday look like for you.

Rhonda: It's definitely not getting up early. That was almost offensive. I had a physical reaction to that. You said that on a Sunday? No, I'm not getting up early. We kind of hang out. I have a 17 year old daughter and she just got her first job. She works on Sundays, so she gets up early, at seven. Then my husband and I are like," Hey, keep it down." crosstalk Then we roll out of bed at 10, get some breakfast going downstairs. Sunday mornings have slow TV. News shows, the way I imagine they were 20 years ago when I was a kid, and we'll watch one of those deep dives. Sort of 60 minute style, but it's not. It's Good Morning Sunday. I don't know. It's slow TV. They literally end with just," Here's some fish." You're just looking at fish for 60 seconds. That's my kind of Sunday.

Jeff: I'll throw my mom under the bus here. CBS Sunday morning is her favorite show of the week.

Rhonda: I think that's what it is.

Jeff: It is.

Rhonda: It's got a little fun.

Jeff: Yeah. And it does, that's how they end. Every episode has some sort of nature shot, animals, or crosstalk somebody does something. It's very common. She might not have missed an episode in three or four years. She is there every Sunday morning. Even when we're on vacation. If she's here visiting us, she's there watching it. Luckily my mom doesn't listen to this podcast, so I don't think I'm going to get and do it any trouble.

Rhonda: Me and your mom are watching that show.

Jeff: Yeah.

Rhonda: inaudible.

Jeff: All right, last icebreaker and then we'll actually dive into the content. For you, when you looked at where you live in Florida, have you been there a long time? Was it a conscious choice? For you, have you been there a long time and give me a fun fact about Florida that you know, or want to throw out there?

Rhonda: Yeah. Hopefully not a lot of people from Florida listen to this podcast, but I always say," I'm not a Florida fan, but I love where I live." I live in this place called Downtown St. Pete. It's not Tampa. In fact, I have a t- shirt that says inaudible Tampa. It's not Tampa, but it's in the bay area. It's really progressive, really walkable. We've got great weather, so I can go out my front door and walk to 50 different restaurants. That's not an exaggeration. crosstalk Really nice museums. We have a Dolly down here. I've got a couple of theatre in walking distance. Proper theatre, T- R- E.

Jeff: Yeah.

Rhonda: Classy theaters. I just love the area. I grew up in a town called Lakeland, which it's a cow town in Florida, and it's about 45 minutes from here. I met my husband at Florida state, and he was from this area. We came back here after I graduated college, and I taught high school for a couple of years. Then I was like," Okay, I want to get into the corporate world, corporate education." We found an opportunity around here and stayed ever since.

Jeff: That's cool. Fun fact for you, one of our good family friends, their son played Juco baseball down there. My parents have been down, and they talked about how St. Pete was awesome. They came to see some games. Then my wife did one of her rotations down there at Tampa's Children's Hospital, which I think is really well known.

Rhonda: Yeah.

Jeff: She lived in St. Pete and commuted down. She said she had loved it up there, so a couple of connections there. I have not been myself, but now I feel the need to after you described it.

Rhonda: Need to check it out. It's very cool.

Jeff: Awesome. All right. I wanted to jump into this because we were kind of on a conversation on LinkedIn. There were some comments and stuff flying around. You had thrown out there one of the big elements that you all have tried to work through at Aptio, is how to really use the community as a way to onboard customers. And make sure that it's become like the hub. I'm describing this, you can correct me, but maybe it's becoming that center of the experience. I almost think of it as your customer can remember one place to go, and then they can figure out from there where they need to be, and what needs to go, too. I think what tends to happen, or at least the experience I've had before as a user or a customer myself, is I'll get onboarding emails. I get a ton of links sent to me, and it's very dizzying. I'm like," Okay, they sent me links in this email, am I supposed to go there? There's all these other emails and now I've got 20 links. I don't know what to do." That's the experience I've had before. The way you described yours, it reminded me of," Okay, let's give the customer one place to go, and really make it the center of the experience. Where they know they can go there to get value. Then we can figure out the right paths for them after that. But at least if we can get them in there, it's the right launching point. And it makes it a very cohesive experience from the beginning." Did I get that right? How do you think about it as?

Rhonda: You did. Some of it is aspirational. Some of those pieces are a hard nut to crack for a lot of people in the tech industry. So many platforms have core competencies in different areas of the customer's experience, and so we end up with a platform for support cases. Then of course, I work for a SAS organization. We have our platform, then there's multiple products inside of that platform, and then we have a platform for product documentation. Then we have an LMS, and we have our community. I still struggle, especially because we don't have SSO across all of those pieces, and it's been one of my big goals this year. We didn't make it happen, so now it's going to push into next year to just give the customer one login.

Jeff: Yeah.

Rhonda: Let's just be kind to people.

Jeff: Yeah.

Rhonda: Not give them seven passwords. I haven't gotten there yet, for full transparency. One of the reasons that I like onboarding customers on community, we have multiple products, so I'm not doing this for all of our products. It's in the roadmap.

Jeff: Yeah.

Rhonda: For all of the products. I've started with some products that have fewer complexities, because it's more possible for us to do digital tech touch pieces.

Jeff: Yep.

Rhonda: When we don't have a bunch of custom requirements in an crosstalk implementation. I've started with these easier to use products, and for me the driver for community was certainly to give them that one stop shop. Like I said, I haven't really gotten there yet. To me, the driver is more about giving them a community of customers that they can interact with to be successful. When it's embedded in the onboarding experience, then it starts to stick right up front. It's not," Go do your product implementation, and then you're going to start working with your CSM. When you get a chance, come check out community." No. We want, from the get go, to get into this community of customers that are excited about value that they're getting for our product.

Jeff: Yeah. Man, so many good points that I want to jump into just off that good description. I think the first one that you laid out at the end is there's really a big change management aspect that you have to get your customers involved with. The point that you just made, I thought was a really big one, which was let's start that early. Let's start reinforcing," Hey, you should be coming back to this community at regular intervals." I always like to put it, people will come back to where they get value. If I go to your community and I don't get value, it's less likely I'm going to come back. If I come there and I've come three times or four times, and each inaudible. Maybe I can easily navigate to an article, navigate to a blog, or maybe there's a discussion thread that's really valuable. Like," Wow, great. I got three awesome, valuable moments. I'm probably going to keep coming back because I expect that now." It's going to become repetitive. I think getting that change management early on says," Hey, you can get value here. Here's the place to come. We're going to make sure we can get you on to whatever track, or wherever you need to go." That type of mindset shift for them, I like the way you put it. Let's just get it started early. For four months or six months into this thing, and they haven't been to the community yet, that's not a good place for us to be. Now we're kind of fighting uphill. They might have already established other tendencies before that. I thought that was a big piece that you just mentioned of that process.

Rhonda: Am I good? Can I keep-

Jeff: No, sorry. Go for it. Yeah.

Rhonda: Yeah. To that point around value, for these customers that have started onboarding on our community, we roll out the red carpet. If you'll just log in, then right on the homepage it says," Welcome, Jeff. Here's step one."

Jeff: Yeah.

Rhonda: You're not guessing, you're not clicking around. We do this in the community industry, we are really comfortable onboarding customers to community. That's a common practice. We're always like," Oh, get your profile filled out. Do your things." Yes, but I'm onboarding with the product.

Jeff: Yeah.

Rhonda: My step one is more about," Here's your Aptio team that you're going to be involved with. Here are the little pieces of information that you need, so I'm not bombarding you with this massive learning plan."

Jeff: Yeah.

Rhonda: "Right up front, just do this one little thing. If you do it, then you get to see your progress bar move forward." You're like," Yes!"

Jeff: Yeah.

Rhonda: What is happening.

Jeff: Everybody loves that, right? When you can see you're making progress, that's another big element. I don't know if you've seen this or how you've maybe thought about this. For our customer community, what I try to do with our community manager as well for some of the early moments, is introduce more names and more people. I know sometimes people say," Hey, that could be confusing if you throw too many names, too many people," which I get. The reason I did that is I kind of made three distinct things. One, is we've got an education team, and we have a leader of that." Hey, let's make sure we get their name in front of that person, so that they can associate that. We have support, which is led by a great person. Who leads our global support? Okay. Let's make sure that they know that name." Then the last, is our community. Who is the community manager? That might be first, but now you've got three names to introduce. I also think, again, you don't want to throw too many names and confuse the people, and you have to go to these seven spots. But, I think when you also introduce more people, it shows the breath of the team." Hey, we've got multiple people here who are doing things to make your experience better." That's the way I've tried to approach it. Hopefully, it doesn't make it too complex, but at the same time we don't want people to feel like there's just one person doing everything. Then you start saying," Okay, is that really happening? How's that happening?" I don't know how you've tried to navigate some of those early moments. If you've tried to introduce people or if you've tried to keep it contained." Hey, here's your one avenue," or not, but how have you thought about that?

Rhonda: Yeah. There's value just from demonstrating the breath of support like you said, but there's also value, especially when you're creating these programs that are digital, that are tech touch. There's value in making sure that people are aware that there are people on the other side of this. Right?

Jeff: Yeah.

Rhonda: You're not alone, with you and a chat bot. There's humans that are here to help you, and it's really important to me that we let our customers know that upfront. Even when they get into our learning tracks, so we give little micro pieces of learning. Then depending on what their role is with the product, they may need to go deep. They may need to take a couple of three hour classes to really become proficient. A lot of our education is self- paced, but we make sure that they get an instructor- led experience very early in the process so that they can see a human. If they have questions, even if they're posting those questions to community, they have more confidence that there's a human that's going to be there to catch them if they fall.

Jeff: Yeah. I actually saw a quote recently that said, you can't automate human connection. You can automate the things around it maybe, but at the end of the day, like you said, there's got to be a person and feelings on the other end of that for it to be a connection that's real. I think that makes a ton of sense.

Rhonda: The for now, until AI gets so good.

Speaker 3: That's true. crosstalk.

Rhonda: We might run out of jobs, but for the next two years, you can't automate that.

Jeff: We're solidified. Hey, Gain, Grow, Retain. What does it mean to be customer centric? Building and growing relationships, maintaining unique customer needs, and personalizing the customer experience are three things that come to mind for me. HubSpot CRM platform is designed to help build, maintain, and personalize your customer's experience. They've been releasing new features, such as new payment tools like native payment links and recurring payments that directly embed into HubSpot's quoting tools. Custom feedback surveys, capturing feedback unique to your business and sharing insights with your team. A CRM powered CMS, that means both your marketers and developers can personalize that customer experience. Connected to your shared inbox, you can also use secure customer portals. Keeping ticket conversations going between customers and reps. Offering access to your knowledge base, and that can be customized if fit your brand. No coding required. Learn more about how a HubSpot CRM platform can help build, maintain, and grow your relationships at hubspot. com. I loved how you mentioned you're in the midst of rolling a lot of these things out, which I think it tends to be the case. I know for me, and a lot of our audience. You're doing a lot of things on the fly. You've got project plans and things, but really you're trying to adapt to the situation. Trying to figure out," Okay, what's the right approach?" You're constantly looking and evaluating those things. You had mentioned earlier, you made sure to focus on some of the products that were a little bit more straightforward, less customization or configuration that you really needed to get in there. How did you go down that path? As you go forward, it sounds like maybe the products are getting more complex. How does that tweak what you're you're looking to do?

Rhonda: Yeah. Anyone who tries to walk this path, a primary thing that I would say is make sure that the journey that you are trying to program and digitize, make sure that it is standardized. That is so essential. You would think," Of course this is standard. We roll out to 50 customers every month." Really, when you start poking around what you find is smart people that are holding hands, and ushering the customer from one set to the next, and they're all doing it slightly differently. We, like many other tech works, really focus on hiring the best, so our people will get it done. If you get them all in a room and say," How'd you get it done," there's 10 answers, even if there's only five people in the room. You can't package that.

Jeff: Yeah.

Rhonda: I made a couple of runs out, even before community, where I was just going to do a simple nurture program off Marketo. I'm going to recognize when you have purchased, and based on that I'm going to give you a drip campaign of information based off of your purchase date.

Jeff: Yep.

Rhonda: No way. Right? Even if the process is standardized, the customer is a person and they're throwing their own timeline into this. I give you the email you're supposed to get at three weeks, who cares about that? Everybody is in a different phase within three weeks. One of the powers of our community platform is I can recognize what actions you've taken. I can serve you information based on the products you purchased, and where you are in your journey. Step one was making sure that customer journey was set. Every customer gets the same journey for a particular product all around the globe. Now, I just need to figure out what those gates and milestones are inside of the journey. When you hit a milestone, I know it in community. Then I give you your next piece of information.

Jeff: Yeah. I think where you're going with this is if we just relied solely on timeline of X amount of days since you've signed the contract. I might be going faster than the other customer, or I might be going slower, and now I'm getting information out of order. Maybe I'm confused at why I'm getting something when I'm not at a stage yet, like you said. I think that's oftentimes something that people hesitate at, is this idea of standard standardization. It sounds like we're trying to box everybody into the same thing, but really what you're trying to say is that there might be certain configuration steps or things that are happening for you to get to that milestone. At least we can recognize that you're at the same milestone as another customer. It's not saying that you are doing the exact same thing, or that it's configured in the exact same way. It's just saying," Hey, you've both reached this milestone. However many days, the decisions you made to get there is on you. Now that you've made it, let's tell you about the next milestone you're going to get to and how we can help guide you there." The other thing that I've been talking about with a couple of people recently as well, is that I think sometimes, and this is just beyond implementation in some of the early parts. I think maybe even early in my career, sometimes it's hard as a CSM, or somebody who's working with customers a lot, to feel confident enough to kind of push back. You get into this space where," Okay, the customer wants to do it a way. They're kind of dictating to me." I was getting into a conversation recently where I was talking to somebody saying," You know, we need to be conveying confidence a lot more in our communications and our style to say, Hey, we've got 1000 customers, whatever the number is. 500 customers, and we've made them successful. Here's the way that we've made them successful. There might be moments where you can adapt one or two things to fit your timeline, or how you want to do things. We can't be full scale changing this because we've made customers successful. We can kind of guide you and bring you along. I'm curious, if that's a part of that journey work you were doing, is kind of saying," Hey, we've been really good at making customers successful by hitting these certain milestones. This is how we're going to bake it in. We're going to convey confidence." Was that a conscious aspect as you guys were going through that exercise?

Rhonda: Yeah, absolutely. Customers certainly want to feel like they're getting a custom experience. They want to get the value. They don't necessarily want to do it their way. They just want to know that they're going to come out on the other side of this getting value. We do them a disservice if we don't take them down the direct path to that value. If you hired a guide to take you to a mountaintop, and the guide's like,"I don't know. What do you want to do? Let's figure it out together." No way, man. Have you not done this before?

Jeff: That's why I paid you.

Rhonda: Yeah.

Jeff: That is a really good analogy. I'm going to have to steal that. That's the tricky thing though. I think that's something that you also learn as you go through your careers and you get more experiences, is that you start saying," Hey, the customers that respect you at the end of the day are the ones where you push back," or you say with confidence," Hey, this is the best path forward or the recommendation of what we need to be doing." If you can do that artfully and do it well, that's when you start to develop the right relationships throughout it. You kind of mentioned, you're using this community to drive that experience for some of the products, some of these certain milestones. It sounds like you are bringing in data from different systems. How has that been navigating and trying to figure out what are the right data points to be bringing in? I think nowadays, we're capturing data for everything. It's pretty easy for you to kind of look at everything and be like," Oh yeah, I'm just going to use it all." Then all of a sudden, I feel you get into a situation where you're like," Now I have a hundred data points, and I don't know which one I should be going off of." How did you approach,"Here's the journey that we want to create?" How did you start mapping the technology, the data, or systems that we need to be bringing in at each of these moments? How has that process developed for you?

Rhonda: Yeah, just because I needed the ability to be able to control all of the pieces. And because I own the community platform, almost everything sits inside of this community platform. I do break in, from our CRM, I know what product you purchased. I know that you're a customer. We have a closed community.

Jeff: Yeah.

Rhonda: You can't be in the community unless you are a customer, internal, or partner. I can validate that you have rights to the community, that you have purchased a particular license, and automatically create an account for you in the community. And put you in the appropriate spaces inside of our community. Like I said, we have multiple products. We have a different space for every product. I can automatically put you in the appropriate spaces, but it's not automated today to put you into that onboarding. We still have our, what we call, our professional services. Everybody has it. Our engagement manager and our consultant, they're interacting with the customer. They do the first touch to say," Okay, let's get started crosstalk with this." Then they drop the customer into this nurture program.

Jeff: Oh, cool.

Rhonda: Onboarding. When they do that and the customer logs into community, that's when they see, right on their at the top of community, they see the first step in their program. I brought in that information from the CRM, but now I'm done. I'm keeping it that's inside of community. The steps are just noted in community. I'm actually using a demographic functionality that a lot of communities have crosstalk to know when customers have gone through certain milestones.

Jeff: That's super cool. Actually, to some degree like you said, you kind of have this human intervention with your implementation manager, your project manager who's dropping them in. In some cases too, that actually works in your favor. Now the implementation manager, or the project manager is having that first touch point before you're sending communications. Sometimes I've seen that, where you have stuff automated and all of a sudden the PM is like," I haven't even reached out to this customer yet." Now we're confusing them.

Rhonda: Yeah.

Jeff: They're getting dropped into something that they don't even know about. It also, I think, sometimes solidifies. The other thing that I've seen as part of that, sometimes the implementation manager can actually pick up people as part of that working team. That maybe we haven't already had as contacts in sales for, or of drop them in. We've also tried to make sure," Hey, if you see other people that are in there and you feel like they're going to need to be involved. How do we make sure and drop them in, so they're in the right thing." I think it actually works in favor, in some cases, if we're going to have somebody who's leading that implementation for them to do that.

Rhonda: Yeah. We're not trying to, and really we couldn't possibly, go completely digital and self inaudible. We need people in the process, but by having it all wired through community, we free up our EMs or our CSMs. Previously, they might say, " Okay, next time we meet review these things." Now, that's not on the CSM. The customer logs in the community, they see sort of their homework, the things that they're supposed to do. Then the CSM can tell whether or not they've actually done it.

Jeff: That's cool. Yeah.

Rhonda: It's not," Oh, did you look at those links that I sent you," and they're like," Yeah, whatever."

Jeff: It's like," No, I can see if you've done this or not." That's cool. The other part that I think is just interesting about the role that you have, too, is you've got education in there as well. I'm curious. Obviously, it sounds like you're kind of directing people through this community experience. They're most likely, I'm assuming, consuming that content that you're teams are creating through the community and through that automation flow and some of the stuff that you talked about earlier. The education team, are they creating content based on those milestones that you've already outlined for the journey? Are they just solidifying that content and saying," Okay, here's the best time for them to be going through this information to reach the next milestone." Is that how they sit alongside the community and make sure that those two things are tying together?

Rhonda: That's right. It's a cross- functional effort. If you're taking one of these onboarding experiences, then you're getting collateral from my team, from the education team. Our implementation team has templates, and collateral that they use with the customer. We're working with them to make sure that they give us that stuff. We Polish it, give it an instructional design look and feel, and then we serve it through the community. Anything that you would have to do, you have to identify the roles within your organization that are going to be part of the project team. You have to give a certain data. All of that is driven through community, through this onboarding experience. Then my team is also creating content that goes critical moments inside of the onboarding. Then they go," Education extends beyond onboarding." They're also this team. The way that I'm organized. I have a team of instructors, a team of instructional designers. Then I have a couple of folks that are helping us with the infrastructure, they're like guidance counselors.

Jeff: Yeah.

Rhonda: If a customer is like," Oh, I can't enroll," or" What certification should I go after," They're helping with customer service. The team that is responsible just for instructional design, they're creating content. Seed content on community, they're creating for free education content. Some of it's in onboarding, some of it's not. Then they're creating for fee education for our certification programs.

Jeff: Very cool. Yeah. I like the roles that use outline, too. The way you've been trying to make sure you can build that education team alongside of that. What does your community team look like right now as well? Do you have just one community manager?

Rhonda: You are looking at the community manager. It is me.

Jeff: I like it.

Rhonda: Yeah. It's actually me, and I have one other person who is a literal wizard. She can go and figure out anything. She's on that infrastructure team that I mentioned.

Jeff: Nice.

Rhonda: She'll help me with figuring out automation rules, demographics, or stuff like that. In some ways, I'm the world's most expensive community admin. I'm in there coding on the backend. What I like about it is I'm also talking to our customers.

Jeff: I was about to say that.

Rhonda: Direct touchpoint that I have with our customers.

Jeff: Yeah. I was about to say that actually. Especially, in the early days of rolling something out like this. Like you said, this probably isn't the long term solution, but for now when you're rolling things out. You're getting them off the ground, what better way than to be in there yourself. Are these things hitting, are we missing the mark, and getting some of that feedback and knowing. I also think now you're in the tool, and kind of seeing how these things operate themselves. I always found this, at least in my career, you want to do the job that you're asking somebody else to do a little bit. You want to be able to do it to some degree before you bring them in, and kind of know what needs to happen. You know the depth of knowledge, you can hire that person a little bit better. You've been in there hands on, knowing the things that need to get done in the right manner.

Rhonda: Yeah, I agree.

Jeff: The last point, just to dive in, you kind of mentioned that there's this idea of looking at some of these metrics regularly, and trying to start building a picture. I know you're still pulling that data together, but what has become top of mind for you, in terms of metrics? Is it kind of knowing timing between stages? Is it knowing the completion or the stage that they're at? For you, what are some of the level one metrics that you might be reporting up? Then what are some of the operational metrics that you're looking at day to day? Just at a high level, if you don't mind jumping into some of those.

Rhonda: Yeah. Before we automated all of this, obviously we had individuals that were going out and doing it. Like I said, they were doing it in a variety of different ways, but they're also recording their time. We have a baseline of how much time it's taking from our humans to onboard someone. When we get a nice data sample of people that have onboarded, which I expect we'll have by the end of this year, we really like to compare. Hopefully, what we'll see is that the time they had to invest in just telling the customer what stage is next, or chasing them for the right template, all of those pieces, that should go away. One of the big metrics is just reducing the level of effort, internally, for our customers.

Jeff: Yeah.

Rhonda: Internally reducing level of effort, and then for our customers, we want to see them get to time to value faster.

Jeff: Very cool.

Rhonda: You had asked about information that I'm bringing into the community. It's not that much, but I do take information out of the community and write it back to our CRM and that goes to gain site. It's correlation. It's not causation, but I can tell you that customers that are more active on the community are more likely to renew. They have higher NPS scores. Customers who consume my education are more likely to renew. We're sort of triangulating all of those factors into the scorecard.

Jeff: Yeah. That's the holy grail now. I think community has become obviously a big topic because of what's happened over the last year in the pandemic. I think it's really accelerated online communities, and so now there's, like you said, this first jump where you're just saying," Okay, can I get some of these correlations, or these metrics where I can talk about influence. Hey, we're influencing these things while I'm building that long term picture." That says," Now that I know what I've influenced, here's what we have actually done, if I can start to look at this over longer periods of time and be able to dig into certain metrics." One question, I think metrics related, and this is just because it's something that we've thought about recently. But I imagine you've already taken care of this because of the workflow. It sounds like you have, but one thing we've looked at as well is almost like acquisition into the community. We have a customer community as well. We look at percentage of accounts that are in the community. Then we look at percentage of contacts that are in the community. It sounds like with your workflow you might have taken care of some of those things. Are those two things you look at as well, to try and make sure that your sales teams, or your implementation teams are capturing the right people and getting them in to the communities? Is that's something that you're also looking at too, to make sure you're getting as many people into there as possible?

Rhonda: Yeah. I've had the community now for four or five years, well before we rolled out this onboarding piece. I've had a customer community and I had it on my previous platform, Jive, which was sort of the industry leader at the time before it was sunsetted. At the time, we would track a lot of industry specific metrics that most communities track around what's the size of your membership, how engaged are those members? What I learned at Aptio, is I'm less excited about the overall size of my community, and more about the activity of our customer base inside of the community. I could have a really large customer, that's got 150 members inside of the community, and they're super active, but that's the one customer. I need a picture of my entire customer portfolio. The way that we do our metrics today is around at least one account inside of every customer engaging in the community. Then it's somewhat artificial for me because, like you said, our workflow forces them in to begin with. I care more about not did you log in, but did you stay? After three months, are you still in the community?

Jeff: Yeah. Are you coming back for more and more value? Are we delivering value each time you're coming back? Awesome. Well, Rhonda, I know we're just at time, and this has been super enlightening for me. There's been a lot of stuff, I jotted down some notes earlier of some of the things that you were talking about. I loved the idea of trying to make business the center of the community. Really thinking through how does this align to the customer journey? How are we making sure that these milestones are measured out and that we can get these things done. Then let's make sure we got the metrics to back them up. If people are interested in finding you or talking to you, I always let people plug at the end. I don't know if it's finding you on LinkedIn, if you're active on Twitter, or other social accounts, but feel free to throw it out there if you're open to it.

Rhonda: Yeah. LinkedIn is really the best place. Just hit me up there, Rhonda Keller.

Jeff: Awesome. Cool. We will get this out shortly, but I'm excited about this episode to get out there.

Rhonda: Yeah. I appreciate it, Jeff. Thanks for the time. It was great talking to you. I just realized that we're not doing video and I was constantly using my hands, so hopefully people hear my hand gestures in my voice.

Jeff: I think it'll come through. Awesome. Hey guys, thanks so much for taking the time to listen to the Gain, Grow, Retain podcast. If you liked what you heard, please take a moment and share the podcast with your friends and colleagues, and subscribe. We really appreciate it. Talk to you soon.


Today, Rhonda Keller, Sr. Director Education Services, Community, & Internal Enablement for Customer Success at Apptio, joins the show today for a discussion on customer success with host Jeff Breunsbach.

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Today's Host

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Jeff Breunsbach

|Director of Customer Experience at Higher Logic
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Jay Nathan

|Chief Customer Officer at Higher Logic

Today's Guests

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Rhonda Keller

|Sr. Director Education Services, Community, & Internal Enablement for Customer Success, Apptio