A conversation with Mark Kirstein, BitTitan
Mark Kirstein is the Vice President, Products at BitTitan, leading product development and product management teams for the company’s two SaaS solutions. Prior to BitTitan, Mark served as the Senior Director of Product Management for the Mobile Enterprise Software division of Motorola Solutions, continuing in that capacity following its acquisition by Zebra Technologies in 2014. Mark has over two decades of experience overseeing product strategy, development, and go-to-market initiatives.
Mark took time recently to talk with Software Business Growth about customer success, KPIs, and metrics, as well as offers advice to software companies on how to achieve buy in to the company’s customer-success team’s goals and how to onboard new hires.
Q: What attracted you to taking on customer success at BitTitan?
Kirstein: As the name suggests — success. I structured my team for success, which includes solving the challenge of how to get customer feedback into the organization and bridging the gap between feedback and product development. Owning customer success is an opportunity to be agile while at the same time continuously addressing key customer issues and concerns in the product.
As a company, we can’t focus on just making the customer happy. That’s a one-off issue that’s not sustainable. Instead, I look at why we have a problem in the first place and how I can prevent any product issues from happening again. If I can do that, and I think we’re well on our way, I will have happy customers 99.9 percent of the time.
Q: How is the customer-success team structured at BitTitan?
Kirstein: Part of my objective is to optimize our support operations and build, in parallel, a customer-success team that specializes in onboarding. We want to start with making sure every customer’s onboarding journey is a positive experience. I’m currently building a small team of customer-success managers who focus on the onboarding experience. As we measure our results, we’ll continue to expand that team. But it’s important not to get ahead of ourselves and to make sure we start off with an MVP approach. As we reduce support costs, we drive new revenue, gain new success stories and really show the value that the customer-success team can bring.
My team is now building new knowledge-based articles as well as email campaigns that will engage our customers from day one. We love our customers, we’re invested in them and we believe our products deliver amazing value. We want our customers to realize that experience up front. We value our customers’ time, and ultimately, we want to answer their question before they have it. And of course, If they do need to contact support, they’ll get a great experience.
Q: How do BitTitan’s customer-success and customer-support teams work together to ensure your customers are getting what they need?
Kirstein: They’re two distinct teams, but both roll up under me and the product organization. We conduct weekly meetings to review metrics, discuss our customers’ needs, reveal key insights and highlight product features that customers need to be successful in the cloud. We can’t just focus on making the customer happy. We must look at the data and the experience to continually adjust and build the product to enhance that customer experience over time.
Because customer success roles up under product, it’s an opportunity for my teams to work across the organization to strengthen the customer experience. We work directly with the marketing, sales and finance teams to communicate our needs. We’re always advocating for our customers to get fast and helpful results throughout their journey.
Q: What are the top metrics/KPIs you rely on to measure the effectiveness of your customer-success team at BitTitan?
Kirstein: I am constantly reviewing our metrics to see how we’re doing, how our customers view our products and how they view BitTitan as a company. For us, the key metrics include:
- Customer satisfaction and Net Promoter Score (NPS)
- Time to onboard
- Increased usage of our learning management system (LMS)
- Greater usage of our knowledge base
- Higher community engagement
- Decreased support tickets
All these metrics give us insight into the customer journey and experience, as well as the areas where we’re thriving and where we need to improve. This provides us with the data we need to make the best decisions for our customers.
Q: What are some customer success lessons from your time at Aptify, E.phiphany, Gryphon Labs, Antenna Software, Motorola, and Zebra Technologies that you’ve brought to your current role at BitTitan?
Kirstein: First and foremost, love your customer — always do what’s best for the customer, not what’s best for you.
Second, set expectations. Be clear about what the customer can expect — specify what, how and why. Educate them on the journey, paint the picture and deliver on your promises.
And third, realize the world is constantly changing and so are customer expectations. Redefine your customer expectations every year, work to continually evolve and improve, and constantly work to drive a better experience. Work the way your customers work.
Q: What advice do you have for ensuring that a company’s entire organization buys in to the customer-success team’s goals?
Kirstein: I’ve been asked this question a lot. And it’s a critically important question, especially for organizations that are experimenting with bringing on customer success. My advice is simple: Socialize it and socialize it often. The CEO and executive team must believe in the vision and plan for customer success and be willing to invest in it. Secondly, the leader of customer success should present their vision and plan to the whole organization for how they will drive return on investment for the company.
There are also dependencies that should be clearly understood and communicated. For example: Sales, marketing, product management and customer success should be all joined at the hip, working in lockstep to review customer analytics and implement market strategies along with the product roadmap. They need to be in harmony about shaping the messaging and assisting customers.
It’s a mindset and a team effort across specialized teams to deliver a memorable customer journey. It leverages everyone’s expertise and insights. You cancel out each expert’s blind spots and you break down silos when you commit to customer success. If you’re doing it right, you’re going to get great results. Every department can have a hand in that.
Q: What advice do you have for young software companies that are just starting to build their customer-success teams? What kind of attributes do you look for in new hires for your team? What tips do you have for onboarding those new hires?
Kirstein: First, be self-aware and understand what stage of startup you’re in — it matters. Don’t try to solve every problem at once. Inevitably, you won’t solve any. Create a plan and start small using the resources you have. Engage with your customers and learn as much as you can.
Secondly, ask questions often and aggressively follow the path to where the answers lead. It is imperative that you understand your products, market, goals and expectations. And absolutely align with your sales, marketing, engineering and product departments on what they’re building and the go-to market strategies.
Third, everyone — CEO, CTO, CMO, engineers, sales, support, marketing leaders and interns — can and should wear a customer-success hat, and they’ll be better for it if they do. Your company will be more invested in the business from the experience of getting to know your customers firsthand, understanding their business and understanding how your solution fits into their journey.
Some of the top attributes I look for in new hires include passion for delivering an amazing customer experience, a belief in the company or product and its capability to drive huge value for people, and proven success in providing customers with great experiences in prior customer-success, sales, marketing and support roles. They must be a team player, they must have a desire to continue to grow and they must be driven by results.
When it comes to onboarding, I think it’s important to let new hires live in customer support for their first few days and learn from their colleagues to better understand the customer experience — the good, the bad, and God forbid, the ugly. Take new hires through the customer journey internally — have them spend time with each of the teams they’ll work with in order to help them understand how they’ll drive value for customers and those teams. Get them out of the office to visit customers in person and attend events. And give your new hires ownership of projects and the bandwidth to be successful in completing them.