Customer Success at Scale w/ Peter Armaly

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This is a podcast episode titled, Customer Success at Scale w/ Peter Armaly. The summary for this episode is: <p>This week Peter Armaly, Senior Director of Customer Success Enablement at Oracle, joins the show to discuss customer success at scale.</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><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>
Critical leadership dimension for customer success
02:38 MIN
Is leadership a lonely place in an organization?
01:29 MIN
Key elements to focus on from the operational and the leadership perspective
02:45 MIN
Helping CSMs drive impactful actions
01:51 MIN
Creating a culture of collaboration
03:52 MIN

Speaker 1: Welcome to the Gain Grow Retain podcast.

Jay Nathan: How's it going everybody, this is Jay Nathan. Welcome to the Gain Grow Retain podcast, I should say. Got Jeff Breunsbach here as well who usually hosts this, but he's letting me take a shot at it and improve my skills. And today we've got a very special guest Peter Armaly. Did I say it right, Peter?

Peter Armaly: You actually said it perfectly.

Jay Nathan: Okay, okay. Good, good. I should have asked you that before we started recording. So Peter and Jeff and I have been friends for, I don't know, a couple years at least.

Peter Armaly: A couple of years, yep.

Jay Nathan: It's really cool. I feel like we have a lot of friends that we've made a through LinkedIn, and Peter's definitely one of those. We've never met in person, but I feel like we know you really, really well. And I'm just looking forward to chatting with you. So Peter is the senior director of North American customer success at Oracle. So in our prep conversation for this, there's some really cool things going on there at Oracle. And I think the thing that's most interesting is that this is customer success at scale. So I'll let Peter dig into that a little bit more. But we're going to be talking about, what initiated our chat was this whole idea of how do you really drive leadership through customer success and how do you expand what you're trying to do from a customer success perspective through building leaders in the organization? So Peter, welcome to hanging out here with us, it's good to see you.

Peter Armaly: Yeah. Thanks Jay. Good to see you again. And Jeff, nice to see you again too. I think the last time Jeff you and I spoke we were actually having some sort of a panel a few months ago.

Jeff Breunsbach: I think that's true, yeah.

Jay Nathan: That's great. All right, we got an icebreaker question for you, Peter, before we get started. And I didn't prep you for this.

Peter Armaly: No, you did.

Jay Nathan: All right. So the icebreaker question is besides customer success, what jeopardy category would you absolutely just dominate?

Peter Armaly: Ironically, since some Canadian, I think American history.

Jeff Breunsbach: Wow, that's funny. I love that you said ironically because I'm Canadian.

Peter Armaly: I took in university political science and history, and I kind of minored in American history in and the civil war. So it was kind cool.

Jeff Breunsbach: Oh my gosh, wow. Very impressive.

Jay Nathan: What made you want to do American history out of curiosity?

Peter Armaly: I grew up in a border city and most of my upbringing was just bombed with American media, and I was just fascinated by the politics of your country and stuff.

Jeff Breunsbach: Yeah, we are too at times.

Jay Nathan: All right, second icebreaker question, what's your favorite fruit?

Peter Armaly: My favorite fruit. Oh, a really good one, I'd say mango.

Jay Nathan: inaudible in my own heart.

Peter Armaly: Anything you can eat in a bathtub like a mango or a juicy peach, it's fantastic.

Jay Nathan: I'm going to have to think about that for a minute. Good one. Have you heard that one before Jeff?

Jeff Breunsbach: What's that?

Jay Nathan: Have you heard that one before?

Jeff Breunsbach: Let's see, mango I've gotten a couple of times. I recently just got peach for the first time, I also recently got grapes. I'm trying to think what else. Oh, I think Maranda Dziekonski, Dziekonski?

Jay Nathan: Dziekonski, yep.

Jeff Breunsbach: She had a good one that I had... She had cantaloupe, which nobody had really said before. I'm pretty sure.

Peter Armaly: Is that a fruit? Yeah, it is a fruit.

Jeff Breunsbach: I think it is.

Jay Nathan: More of a vegetable to me but whatever.

Jeff Breunsbach: Bt yeah, there's been some good ones for that too. I like your icebreaker question though, Jay, I'm going to steal that, the jeopardy category, that's-

Jay Nathan: No, I stole it, I stole it from somebody else. It was in one of these daily newsletters. It was The Hustle or something, they were interviewing like that is a good question-

Peter Armaly: It is a good one, yeah.

Jeff Breunsbach: Here's another one that I've gotten recently, and we'll see if Peter agrees or not. But what's the one thing that's on your calendar that you wish wasn't?

Peter Armaly: Oh my God.

Jay Nathan: This could be inaudible, this could be inaudible.

Peter Armaly: Exactly. There's a meeting tomorrow, a global meeting.

Jeff Breunsbach: I figured I don't think I'm going to get a lot of responses on that one.

Jay Nathan: By the time this airs, that meeting will be long. Nobody will even know what you were talking about. All, let's jump in. So Peter when we talked last time, you were telling me about a leadership development program that you're starting to put together for the customer success org at Oracle. But why don't you talk a little bit first about what that org looks like, kind of the structure, the size, that kind of thing so people understand the scale we're talking about here?

Peter Armaly: Yeah, sure. Yeah, because we're talking something big here. And I'll say that in its present iteration, this organization is really only a year old. It's important to talk a little bit about the history because under Catherine Blackmore, my boss, this organization has moved under different executives. So from support to sales and then to services, we're under product now. And it feels to me where Oracle is at in its mission around increasing its market share of not just cloud, but the cloud application space and truly taking ownership of that. It makes sense for us to be in the product area because we're really tight now with the development team and support. And so we're really getting really more intimate. And so it's forcing us to get the CSMs really much more up to speed about being conversant with the product and stuff. What it means is that we're growing our organization really well now, really big in a big way because Oracle is doing really well in the market. The quarterly earnings are quite good. And so we got budget now to do a lot of hiring. And so we're doing that in north America, but we've also created, we call it our Romanian hub team. It's getting quite large. And the Romanian team is just part of our organization. So we've got peer managers and peer directors and all that kind of stuff and CSM is being hired. And they're focused on the lower segments of the market. The North America CSMs are focused on the top tier highest ARR value customers. And so what that means is that the teams are growing. We have a mandate actually from our EVP of product that he wants all of our accounts covered. And so that's going to force us in the next year, year and a half to figure out how to cover about 7, 000 customers. And we're not there obviously yet, we're probably covering about maybe 15%, 18% of that, so we got a lot of growth ahead of us. We have to do it not through hiring exponentially, so we have to do it through digital practice. I like what ESG just said on LinkedIn. Some people think of digital as just spammy marketing, we don't either. We think of it as really sophisticated touch engagement and all that kind of stuff. And so we have to figure out how to scale the high touch and model through the conventional means of customer success managers but also build out a really sophisticated digital touch as well. And have the Romanian team fit in the middle with the higher ratio account low of say 1 to 20 or something like that.

Jay Nathan: Peter, real quick, I know at the top end we're probably talking about multi- seven figure deals, but give us a sense on the low end. You don't have to be too crosstalk, but what are we talking about in terms of contracts?

Peter Armaly: Yeah, like under 250K ARR.

Jay Nathan: Okay. I mean, these are reasonable size accounts.

Peter Armaly: Yeah, still good size, still important, obviously everyone's important. But we're a business, we have to figure out where to put our energy. That makes the most sense. So back to where this is coming from now. I kind of raised it with Catherine, I said, " I think we need to pay a lot more attention to helping our leaders, our managers not just to manage but to lead." And I see the two things as kind of distinct. So managing in my mind is being able to manage a team operationally, making sure everyone has clarity about their role and how they fit within the mission of the organization but also of the team and how to get their arms around their portfolio of customers and execute the service model and all that kind of stuff. That's managing, and doing the day-to- day time management and all that kind of wonderful stuff that's critical. But leadership is different in my mind, and that's what separates fantastic managers from the average manager. The fantastic managers will have an eye to seeing what's ahead, working well with senior executives, really better a strategic kind of brain that is trying to help their team understands, yeah, you're doing the job great, but we need you to grow in these ways because the business is growing this way. The business is evolving this way, and we have to figure out how to evolve the way you deliver the service and how you're going to grow as an individual to be with us. And we'd love your contributions to keep growing and being as impactful as they are today five years from now. So that's the leadership dimension I think that is really critical in the customer success landscape. And I say that because I think customer success, we're all in this business together. We've been at it in high energy fashion in the last, especially the last three or four years, I would say. It's really generated a lot of juice out in the market. But I feel like customer success management has to be more a leadership now because we keep saying it's a really critical function in companies. And I think a lot of companies are finally getting that and realizing, yeah, customer success is important. Now I feel like the imperative is for the managers and leaders to really step up and be more visible and vocal about not just wanting more responsibility or respect or all those things but to demonstrate how they're going to incorporate the strategic dimension into their daily operating rhythm. I'm being a little bit vague, but that is the overarching overview of how I'm thinking about the program. So I look at it as two dimensions, operational. I talked about that a little bit, which is managing. And then the second half of that overall development program is strategic. And I see them as managers and leaders, but the two should work together. The two brains should work together. I'm just starting to build this, getting approvals and all that kind of stuff. But I've kind of sketched it out as operational is really how manager manages the team of customer success managers. So we're just talking about the high touch now. The digital piece obviously would be a little bit different because you're talking about different profile person who's operating the model. But let's talk about the high touch customer success managers who historically have been relationship based. You guys know this because you're always talking to people in the community about this. You're engaging in a big way all the time in your wonderful posts that you put out there, you generate a lot of interaction, a lot of conversation, which is really beneficial. But all those people in that audience are the ones I'm talking about, those CSMs and managers who have to figure out how you're going to deliver the service to customers and drive successful outcomes in a programmatic way. Back to what you said at the beginning, Jay, we're talking about that scale. So our challenge is always how are we going to scale this effort so that a CSM in our high touch model, the ultra elevated accounts. These are large customers with sometimes multiple different products, so they might have ERP or HCM and HCM or they might have some of our CX solutions like service cloud or marketing cloud and all those things. So the CSMs are forced to figure out how am I going to support these, the customers who have varying needs? And that causes the manager to be in a position where they have to help guide and coach, and that's all part of the manager's job. When I talk to people managing, I always go back to when I first became a manager about 20 years ago. My VP called me and said, " Congratulations for taking on the most difficult job in the entire company." I still believe that that managers... And it's not just because stuff flows from the top, all that saying that people have. It's actually because as that's where strategy actually has to be proven through the frontline individual contributors. If that doesn't happen, if that synapse doesn't connect, then the strategy doesn't mean anything. I think the manager's job is super critical to actually make sure that that last mile of strategy actually runs and executes. And so that's how I'm thinking about the leadership development program is that operational dimension, all about what are the goals of the team, what are the goals of the individual? The goals of the team would be I guess manage this specific set of portfolio of customers, make sure that the service delivery model has specific milestones that the customer needs to achieve. And how is the CSM going to be measured over a span of time to see if those milestones are being achieved? So using tools. We've looked at a lot of third party tools, but at the end of the day, Oracle is Oracle, they like to build their own stuff. So Oracle has built a customer success platform, which is pretty sophisticated frankly. And I've got a lot of experience in this tools business now, and I'm really impressed at the iterations that's gone through to the point where now we feel like we're just about at the place where managers can run their business from this platform. And CSM should be able to come in on a daily basis and just operate their business of working with their customers off of data and playbooks like a lot of companies do deploy these things. But it feels gratifying to us to have to work with the product teams to build this thing. And now it's at a place where we're really optimistic is going to bring a lot of results that address that operational piece that I'm talking about.

Jay Nathan: Are you going to sell it? Are you going to sell the customer success platform?

Peter Armaly: I haven't heard that yet.

Jay Nathan: You and everybody else.

Jeff Breunsbach: There's two questions that come to mind for me. The first one might seem a little off the beaten path, so I'm going to maybe describe why I'm thinking about this. When you started describing those two things, operational and the managerial pieces and then also thinking about leaders differently, I think I'm definitely a believer in that. I think Jay has solidified that for me too like interacting, engaging with Jay. He talks a lot about how you don't need to be a manager to be a leader. That's the differentiation you start thinking about in trying to make sure your teams, kind of influence on your teams. The other thing is you were describing that, and this is where this might feel like an odd question. Let me ask the question first and then I'll tell you what I was thinking. But in your opinion, are leaders sometimes lonely in organizations? Do you feel like it's a lonely place to be when you are a leader in an organization? Maybe answer that. Actually, I would love to know both of your responses to that, and then I'll maybe explain why I'm thinking about after what you kind of talked about Peter.

Peter Armaly: Yeah, that's a really interesting question, Jeff. And I guess I can make it a little personal. I'm a leader, I'm actually a specific manager too. I have a small team for enablement, so I manage. But I'm more of a leader in the sense that I'm responsible for the program, but I'm also looked upon by senior people as someone who's got a lot of industry knowledge that they'd like to tap into. So I get brought into a lot of conversations, strategic conversations. But in a sense, I agree, I think it's true. I think being a leader can be, you said lonely, right?

Jeff Breunsbach: Yeah, yeah.

Peter Armaly: And it's because I think leaders, genuine leaders are very curious. They're always thinking of how things can improve. They tend to be, I'm trying to not be boastful at all. Generally speaking, leaders are courageous, and that's what it means, you're head of things. So I think the way you think is you're passionate about your role, the impact you potentially have. Hopefully you're thinking really altruistically, meaning that you're doing it for the company, for the organization and not so much just for your own advancement, although that's nice. I think a leader in that sense, because you're out front, and oftentimes voicing an idea maybe people have thought of but haven't really articulated in their own minds, the clarity of it, but you have. So you're standing out, and sometimes you have to suffer some slings and arrows, which brings me back to that global meeting I'm not looking forward to tomorrow.

Jeff Breunsbach: The reason why I was asked, as you were talking about it, I think sometimes I think sometimes people have trouble being a leader because what they start to realize is that you have to operate in two realities. One, which is we have to get work done here and now like the operational pieces a lot of times. Hey, we need to make sure that these things run, but I also need to live one year, two years, three years in the future and be asking myself, how am I going to make sure that our company is staying ahead, that we're doing things that are going to be innovative and pushing things? And so when you operate in that one to two to three years ahead, you're trying to describe realities that might not be true yet, you're trying to bring people along. And so that's why I was just curious if you thought about it the same way because I think leaders find yourself in a lonely place.

Peter Armaly: Yeah, absolutely. Thinking that far ahead, it's exciting, but it's also terrifying in a sense that you have to really be strong. If you really believe in it, you have to really be strong and try to persuade people to a particular point of view. And sometimes it's not going to work. And sometimes when you think about, it's more peaceful to not be a leader. Because you can do your job and you can do it great, but if you're not concerned about advancing some idea or a notion that you believe in really passionately, then you can be at peace. My concern with that sort of strategy is it's entirely about the future of your role relevance. I think to be really relevant in this business world these days, it's like everyone needs to lead in a sense.

Jay Nathan: That's right, that's exactly. I think we have too few leaders in the world. If you look at any management team, if you ask any executive, what's the one thing? They need people to step up and lead underneath them. And sometimes we don't do a great job of enabling it, and that's on us. Some of the things you said Peter really resonated because if back up a little bit, customer success really sits at the center of everything. And I think it's funny that customer success... The word hot potato came to mind for me when you described the different places that customer success has been in the organization trying to crosstalk. Probably not fair. The fact that it is at the center of what happens from the sales and go- to- market perspective. It is at the center of what happens from the product, which is part of go- to- market. The engineering side of things, the finance side of things. It all sort centers around the customer, so that can be a very, very difficult place to be, which is why it's even more important in my mind that we have strong leadership in customer success. And I think there's a big difference between customer success in a startup where you're just really focused on taking care of customers and customer success at scale where you're taking care of people first, the people on your team first so that they will treat the customers well. And then you know that's going to help the business in the long run, which is what we're all in this for, we want the business to do well. I want our business to do well as our people grow, as our customers reap the benefits because then it's a beautiful virtuous thing. Jeff, those are my two cents on it. But yeah, it's a lonely place to be because sometimes we see where things are off the rails and we know we have to step in to solve for those things. And sometimes we're the only people with those opinions and that can see all those pieces coming together, so it can be an awkward for place.

Peter Armaly: Yeah. And I would just add that in large... You mentioned startups, and that's true. I think in been around longer term companies like Oracle and a number of other large enterprise vendors, I think it's safe to say a big part of the customer success leader's job is actually internally evangelizing. So it shouldn't be left up to the Catherine Blackmores. Obviously, she's doing a great job at that at the senior level. But there's so many other layers of a company that need to understand about why it's critical for every role in the company to think about the customer as the primacy, as the middle of why they're in their role. And someone's got to do it, and I feel like customer success because of its proximity to the customers and access to data and the goals of the customer is the best position to be that internal educator, evangelist, whatever. Again, that's back to being lonely because you're standing out as an organization, you're standing out as a leader. So I get invited to a lot of internal meetings from other teams like sales teams or services teams to talk about customer success. To their credit, they want to learn. It all goes back to the leaders of all these organizations trying to figure out alignment around this stuff. But I like to think of it as, well, I'm attacking, maybe attack is not the right word, I'm addressing certain layers and just trying to persuade people around to get a particular point of view on the customer.

Jeff Breunsbach: And I think the reason why I just brought that up too about being a leader is, again, I think the notion if we're living in the future is that we're programmatically looking at customer success more and more as becoming a part of that future. And I think when you looked at people saying, hey, we're doing digital customer success. If you would've said that in the last number of years, a lot of it really was like, " Hey, we're just creating some triggered emails, and we're sending this, it's happening." Now when you start looking at that future, it's very different. We have such a different tool set. We've got in- product notifications, we have email, we have text messages, we've got so many notifications and distribution channels. Now, we have to be thinking about AI and how do we deliver real content that's in real time and the right content, and do we have all the content created? And so when you start living in that future and you start thinking about that, that's why I was just curious because you start thinking just how complex this really becomes if you want to do it well. And so what you're also trying to do though is you're trying to look and say, how are companies really going to navigate that chasm of going from this customer success model that's very human driven, one customer success manager to six employees or six customers in some cases to even 200 or 100? Now, we're going to be operating in such a different way. And a lot of the value that we're going to be delivering, or maybe I'll say it like this, a lot of the value that we've delivered up until now, I think could be delivered programmatically. So how does that evolve what the customer success manager actually does to deliver the value? That is such an interesting question.

Peter Armaly: Yeah. I think part of the manager's, leader's job is to help individual contributors understand that they can be part of that new world. Jeff, you just encapsulated exactly what the future is going to be. It's not going to be hiring legions of CSMs to each have five accounts. There will be that for probably forever, a top echelon of customers because that's what those kinds of customers expect. And they probably deserve it because of the amount of investment they're making. But for the vast majority of accounts, that's not going to be possible. If I'm a CSM, I'd want to know how should I be thinking about the future? I love this role, I love the organization, I love the customer success practice. And I want to be part of the future where that can be beneficial to all the rest of the customers. And I don't know what that's going to look like, but I imagine, and Jeff, you just said AI is going to play a big role. And I've been saying this a number of speaking engagements at conferences and stuff, the cultural shift needs to happen to become more scientific. And I think most CSMs are capable of adopting more data- driven mindset within their own accounts. I think there's lots of room to do that within their own set of accounts, but to also maybe participate in helping drive the digital practice by providing good ideas, good guidance of what works, what doesn't work, and maybe what can be done in a more modular fashion, more automated way. Don't resist that, I would recommend to people just embrace it because that's where the future is. And if you really love the practice of helping your customers achieve successful outcomes, you should want to embrace really that scalable digital model part of that.

Jay Nathan: So Peter, let's jump back to the program that you're building because I'd love to hear more about it. What are the criteria? What are the key things that you're focused on from the operational and the leadership perspective within the program you're building? What makes a good leader at Oracle?

Peter Armaly: So when I think about operational, I think we'd want our teams, our managers of teams to have a dashboard that provides a glimpse or a display into how their team is doing for all the accounts in the portfolio in terms of milestone achievement per account, but also what's the retention? What going on with renewals obviously? And which accounts are maybe in a growth or expansion area and who's involved in those things. In our mind, we imagine, we know, not imagine, we know that whenever we have expansion conversations, sales needs to be a part of that in a much more ownership way, but we want involvement there. So for our manager, they need to have a view you into those activities as well. So it's not just about making sure that CSMs on top of the job of executing service deliverable and that we can understand the health risk of customers and that the appropriate playbooks are being triggered and all that kind of stuff. Those are all good. But at our business level, this is where we want the managers to start playing more of a role is to really have a much earlier view into the renewal propensity and be able to make sure that the CSMs are well aware of their role and making sure that that renewal goes more frictionless and with us successful outcome in the end. We want to see our managers start operating more off of the platform to drive those conversations, those weekly team meetings. And so we're going to encourage them to choose an individual, to maybe highlight some certain accounts. So start behaving more like some sales teams do. I wouldn't say it's universally adopted in the sales organizations that they do this, but I've seen it, and I've been part of that where sales teams have a much better operating rhythm around looking at sales data, forecasts, and then having an account manager talk about stuff. And I think we need that more, we need more of that sales operating rhythm within our teams. At the end of the day, we're talking about data and people need to just be comfortable about looking at data, talking about data, defending decisions based on conclusive data facts.

Jay Nathan: Yeah. Jeff and I just got done on another live stream that we do every Wednesday, and we were talking about MEDDIC. You ever heard of MEDDIC, the sales qualification process?

Peter Armaly: No.

Jay Nathan: It was an older sales qualification methodology developed by actually Brian Halligan, the guy who... I don't know if he's the one who actually invented it, but I know he used it as they scaled PTC from like zero, got a million dollars. And I'll probably butcher it a little bit if I try to run through it, but it's like, what are the metrics? Who's the economic buyer? What are the decision criteria? What's the decision process?

Peter Armaly: I actually know this because PTC executives came to a previous company, they implemented that.

Jay Nathan: To your point, and I think the beauty of that is the simplicity. If a CSM can answer those five or six questions, you know they've done all the work to go figure out what's happening in that account. You can't know a lot of those things and be right about them if you haven't been in contact, had the discussions. I think when you talk about operations, that really resonates with me because to me there's this confluence of operations, the habits that you have as a team or as a leader, they really shape the outcomes. And that is the culture of the business. You lead by driving change to those operations, by maintaining consistency in those operations. It all very much goes hand- in- hand.

Peter Armaly: And I think you said the right word there is consistency. I always like to take the customer's point of view. At the end of the day, it's about them and their experience. If you talk to them you guys do, and I've talked to hundreds of customers. And universally, they'll say we just want an ease of experience, we just want to be able to get our answers and get good guidance. We don't want to talk to a ton of people, we just want whoever we're talking to be really credible with good information that is accurate that we can operate with. Factored into that then is how do you make sure the CSMs are credible? It's obviously through training, product training. And that's what I'm big on and own the program of. One of the things I'm doing is making sure that whatever dashboard we're delivering to managers includes a view into all their teams certifications, product certifications,. Again, we have a big portfolio of applications that our customers buy, and CSMs, we're encouraging them to get certifications in more than one or two of these products. It's a big ask, some are doing it though. And so it's good for a manager to know at a glance what the accounts bought and where they're at in the adoption phase. And Oh, his other CSM has great experience in here, and this CSM is overloaded with these other three accounts, maybe I'll just have the CSM boost or come in and boost that adoption a little bit, just even help the CSM out a little bit. So having that skills certifications factored into the overall capability of the team dashboard I think is would be really helpful for managers.

Jay Nathan: That whole idea of having a scoreboard. Yeah. If you go read The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni or 4 Disciplines of Execution or Traction, there's probably five others of these books of just operating methodologies for executives. They all have a scoreboard concept.

Peter Armaly: It doesn't have to be divorced from personality and warmth or anything, it can still be very human. Because I think the conversations can be much fuller and richer if it's grounded in some sort of empirical data, some proof of what's happening, could be good, it could be not so good. But let's have a conversation about this stuff.

Jay Nathan: There's a quote that I butchered last week. I tried to say this to my team, and I butchered. I'll see if I can get it out here. But if we have data, let's use data. If we're using opinions, let's use mine. I mean, it does make the discussion so much more rich. I can't remember who it was, I didn't-

Peter Armaly: I'm going to borrow it.

Jay Nathan: Yeah, go for it man. inaudible.

Jeff Breunsbach: What you're saying about the operational rhythm, there's a couple things that come to mind too where-

Jay Nathan: Man, it was going to be so good. Oh, you're back, you're back, Jeff, keep going.

Jeff Breunsbach: You can hear me now?

Jay Nathan: Yup. No. And he's frozen. Well, we we've started incorporating, while Jeff gets his internet act together over there, we started incorporating scoreboards in our management team, my management team meeting. We look at it for five minutes at the beginning, we look at the customer success renewals, we look at support. We're going to be moving implementation data into those scoreboards. It's just a quick read. But it just keeps it top of mind for everybody. It's like, okay, I'm going to be talking about this every week.

Peter Armaly: And Jay, this is where I think you'd appreciate this is where I see the leader dimension woven in. It's one thing for a manager to bring their scorecard out up or the dashboard and talk to the team about the information. But the leader ones, the ones with the real leader brain will start telling maybe some stories around how this data is tying into the strategy of the organization or the company. The all- hands, the EVP of product talked about the next 6 months or 10 months of development. And you know what, this data is pointing in this direction if you look at it this way. I think that's the kind of conversation a leader would really be really great at stimulating. And that's a way of, what I call informal education, informal training that an enablement program like mine can't easily do. so we have to rely on the leaders out there to take that knowledge and the knowledge that they augment themselves with their own independent reading and observing, and then incorporate it into the way they manage your teams.

Jay Nathan: It's got to be modeled. Go ahead, Jeff.

Jeff Breunsbach: The other two things that I was just thinking about too along those same lines is knowing when to stop having meetings. Sometimes we get into the recurring meeting cycle of death where you start all of a sudden going and then all of a sudden you're showing up and you're like, okay, is this really accomplishing anything here? Again, I think when you find great people and they're like, hey, we're going to stop having this meeting because it's not effective, we're going to wait until it is. The other thing that comes to mind too is trying to make sure that you're also continually looking for more leading indicators of metrics that you're looking at. A lot of times we might be looking at renewal data or retention forecast or things that sometimes are already baked out. And so then what you're trying to always consistently do is how do we get ahead of that? How do we make sure that we're driving a good experience which is gonna lead to the renewal, which is gonna drive up retention? So how do you, like you said, tell the story, but also how do you consistently look ahead to try and say, hey, what can my teams' in impact on a daily basis that can drive X, Y, and Z to happen for the business?

Peter Armaly: Yeah. And that's, and that's where some senior CSMs who've been around for in our case, we've got CSMs who've been at least in the business world for 20 to 30 years. That's when they can apply their wisdom and really help the model grow. You're right, renewals, those are lagging indicators in the sense of how well the company account is doing. Someone who's been through working with a partner and watching the implementation, overseeing that, watching them go live handling being the single point of contact for all these service requests and getting people over these escalations, that's trial by many fires. And that can really build up scar tissue that can in a good sense be tapped later on to help improve more of a programmatic approach to figuring out which accounts are going to be more successful renewing because they haven't experienced these things as much. Maybe the go live went pretty smoothly, we have an executive sponsor who's very engaged, the relationship is good. Those are all good health indicators. But maybe there's other factors that a very seasoned CSM would say, well, we should also think about these other things. Where they are in their own market, the customer, how well they're doing as a business. Those are hard for a strategy team or an operations team operating in a lab to build out a model. That's when the more serious, not serious, more seasoned CSMs can really impact the business. And I would really encourage people to think that way. And that's where the leader thinking comes out.

Jay Nathan: And it is up to the leaders to draw that out because the other thing that can happen is when... I guess maybe on the flip side of what you just said, Peter, people can get sort of jaded and down into, well, this is always what happens and X, Y, and Z, which may be true. But the leader's job is to draw, okay, well, when that happens, what could we do differently to actually stop it from happening or could we do something differently six months earlier to go prevent that from happening in the first place? What would that be? And I think leaders have to really understand the data, the different segments of customers so that they can look at that and say, okay, where's our biggest problem right now in terms of whether it's retention or expansion.

Peter Armaly: And I get faced with that pushback a little bit sometimes when I talk and people say, well, we tried that before. And I say, yeah, did you try it when we're fully cloud? Did you try it when all of our customers are on SaaS application?

Jay Nathan: Did you try it and just suck at it? Seriously. You might have not tried very well because you'd never done that before and you just crosstalk after one time. Guess what, somebody else has actually done it successfully before.

Peter Armaly: So let's learn from that.

Jay Nathan: Yeah. So real quick, before we wrap up, touch on this Mavericks program crosstalk because it's pretty cool.

Peter Armaly: It's actually tied a little bit to leadership when you think about it because, and this is really Catherine's brainchild. She's really sensitive to culture. And what she's trying to do is create a culture of collaboration. And these are cliches, we all use these words, but I think she's trying to really be genuine about creating an environment where people feel they can collaborate, generate ideas together outside the boundaries of the structure of their formal teams. So it's an organization- wide effort, and it's called Mavericks. And it really focuses on three things, yeah, three characteristics that she's trying to drive. She calls it grit, swagger, and disruptive. So these are the behaviors she wants to promote, tenacity, perseverance. Really disruptive is a really good one because she wants to challenge always the status quo stuff we just talked about, things that always been done, do they always still need to be done that way or are there better ways to do things? So she encourages the conversation across the organization. And so this is all operating at a flat level. So she's got people like me and a few others who are not at the most senior level managing or leading these various initiatives. Oracle has a big corporate mentor program like most companies do. And at the team level, they run their own small mentor shadowing processes I'll call them where new CSMs will buddy up with another CSM, and that's fine. But there's a middle ground that's never been really addressed for customer success, meaning how do people grow themselves and their ability to be great CSMs and they can't do it in the Oracle program, they can't even do it within their team because it's too limited? So I've designed this mentorship program with an app, we've got an app that matches up volunteers, people who want to be mentors and people who want mentoring. So mentees and mentors can jump on this app. The mentees look at, okay, these mentors are all listed and they say they're willing to be mentors for these various career building, career development ideas like professional presentations. How do you create a great profile for yourself on LinkedIn? How do you use communities better? That sort of stuff, which is more around building a brand and being great at evangelizing your own development, your own career. So those things are all listed. And then they just choose someone. And we limit it to a mentor can only have three mentees at any particular time and they run in like two- month periods. And at the end of two months, we wipe it off and they start over again. If you want to be another mentor again, then go ahead and register for it. It's just starting, but it's received a lot of acclaim, people love it. And it's really hitting that sweet spot of customer success, career development within our organization. And Catherine is really excited about the To again, then go ahead and register for it. So it's just starting, but it's received a lot of like a claim. People love it. And, and I think it's really hitting that sweet spot of Cora customer success, career development within our organization. And Catherine's really excited about this. So that's just one initiative and there's other initiatives that we started around a newsletter that I edit a lot of the thought leadership stuff, but there's all the news that your organization needs to know about various kind of practices and tactics and that kind of stuff. So that's whole part of the newsletter. We redesign the all- hands to make them a lot more fun, there's music and stuff like that.

Jay Nathan: Oh man. I'll have to get some tips from you on that because we started out like very sterile like let's look at the business metrics once a quarter, and everybody's like crosstalk the worst all- hands meeting ever.

Peter Armaly: It's important to point out Jay that all this Maverick stuff came from an employee success survey that we did. Catherine drove across the organization, it was a detailed survey. Most people responded. And so we just had a small tactical team look dive into the data, produce PowerPoint presentation for the executives about all the findings and all the percentages and all that kinds. And then from that flowed a lot of conversations, which flowed into these initiatives. So we're doing another survey soon. We are hopeful that the next one will produce even more positive. It's not that it was negative, it's just there was a lot of ideas people had for what was weak, what were the gaps? And we're hopeful it flows a lot, but we're also hopeful that maybe new stuff is being exposed too.

Jay Nathan: That's great. I mean, it's awesome to hear that a 100, 000- person plus organization is innovating their customer experience, sure, but their employee experience. It makes such a huge difference, and none of us can afford not to no matter how big or small we are because there's so much competition for people.

Peter Armaly: And one more initiative I want to mention is about Slack. We use slack for messaging of course like a lot of companies do. But what we did was created a little team that's focused on how can we improve the way we leverage Slack as a communications vehicle but also as a cultural building mechanism. And so we're focused on not just the tactical stuff naming of channels and all that kind of stuff, but we also brought in our Slack CSM for a 90 minute... And one thing I do, I created these knowledge cafes, they run once a month or so, and I host some. And I brought them in for 90 minutes, the whole organization joined. And all he did, he used Slack to just show, he was demonstrating, he was answering questions. It's have been our most popular knowledge cafe in a year and a half.

Jay Nathan: Wow, that is cool. I mean, there's probably so many little tips and tricks you can use to improve engagement, especially with everybody being remote. Is everybody still remote at Oracle?

Peter Armaly: Yeah, we're all remote.

Jeff Breunsbach: There's one I was going to throw your way too Peter that we just did because I like doing stuff like this too, I like trying to figure, just like you were saying, doing an internal newsletter. We just started doing something for our education knowledge base and our community where we start sending out stuff internally so people have links, they know when stuff's coming up, they can send it to customers. We just did a survey, first time I'm trying it, but we just did a survey about four questions. Anybody who's customer facing can take it. And the questions are all centered around, hey, what's something important that you feel like you've talked to your customer about in the last 30 days? And so we're leaving it open- ended right now, we're probably going to get the survey maybe a little bit more crisp in the future. But the idea is how can we continue to allow our teams who are on the front lines talking to customers to share those insights a little bit more broadly so that we can then create the right content and create the thought leadership and spin it back around and say, hey, you go share this with your customer now and get this back out.

Peter Armaly: That's fantastic, Jeff. It's good to hear because I was on a call this morning with one of the CSMs who I'm mentoring. And he was asking for ideas on how he can grow his presence in the organization, how can we become more visible? I've given him some ideas, and one of them was related to what you just said. Sharing is the simplest thing. You've been in this role for a number of years, you've got tons of information, lots of experience. Don't be shy. This is where the leader thing comes in. And it's also important to state that the leadership development program isn't just for managers and executives, it'll be for everybody. Well, not everybody, it'll be for those formal roles, but also there'll be specific top talent that will probably tap into there as well. Ask them to be part of this training too.

Jay Nathan: Another one to give you for that person is spending a little bit of time to write a one- page memo for a problem that maybe doesn't even live on your team just to get your name to other people. I heard that from somebody recently where they said, hey, I heard about a challenge in another team, and I just spent 20 or 30 minutes ideating how would I go solve that if I was on that team or if I lived in that organization? And it wasn't done in a way to kind of stand up that person, it wasn't like they were sending it to the CEO or the bosses to say, hey, you should do this. It was like sent to the person who's running the project or owning the problem and said, " Hey, I had 20 or 30 minutes, I just wanted to give you some ideas. Use these as if they're your own-

Peter Armaly: That's the first perspective, right?

Jeff Breunsbach: It's super helpful, just pure helpful. That's awesome. Jeff, you've also talked about, I don't know if you want to talk about the source for this or not, but you've also talked about writing your own personal newsletter to people who were like, maybe you want to influence them, maybe not. But I think that's a really cool idea too just like, hey, here's three thoughts I have this week after working all week and sharing that-

Peter Armaly: It's a lot of work, but I think if you've got the energy, it's a great outlet.

Jeff Breunsbach: Especially a big organization to feel like... When you've got organizations that are really big and broad, how can you make a name? How can you make sure that people get around, hear different stories, hear different things. I think that's an awesome idea to spend a little bit of time doing that. Jay and I follow a podcast, one of the guys worked at Amazon. And he talked about one of the ways he stood out is he went to the distribution list, he basically just found everybody who was on a vice president level, which is the level he was on. He doesn't know them, he doesn't know all hundred, I don't know, thousand of them, I don't know how many... It was probably 10, 000. But what he said he did is he did a one, two, three where he said I would share like my one thing I was going to do that weekend, the two business thoughts that I had, and the three tweets that I saw that really impacted my thinking that week. But he just it gave people a glimpse into the way I thought. Started to approach he him about projects to work on. He's like, " I kind of became a mercenary because they were kind of like, " Hey, can you come work on this project?'" And so he kind of got to pick and choose. I think it's the similar thing you were talking about.

Peter Armaly: That's awesome, I love that.

Jay Nathan: All right, Peter, this has been awesome man, really excited to follow what you're doing there and maybe we'll have you on as you continue to-

Peter Armaly: Yeah. I'd love to circle back at some point and let you know the progress, maybe show you some stuff.

Jay Nathan: Yeah, that would be great. Anything that we could share like a tool or a template that comes out of it would be huge, anything you could open source. I mean, the Gain Grow Retain community at least eats that up as you know. Thanks for taking your time to do this, this is a lot of fun.

Peter Armaly: You're welcome. And I got to give you guys credit, fantastic job you've done with the community especially in the last year, year and a half, it's been amazing. Good to see.

Jeff Breunsbach: Thank you.

Jay Nathan: Well, we're really proud to have you as part of it, and hopefully other folks from Oracle as well. Just keep plugging away, consistency.

Peter Armaly: Thanks for the opportunity guys.

Jay Nathan: crosstalk Peter, have a great afternoon.

Peter Armaly: You too. Bye- bye.

Jay Nathan: Bye- bye. 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.


This week Peter Armaly, Senior Director of Customer Success Enablement at Oracle, joins the show to discuss customer success at scale.

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