A conversation with Trish Sparks, Demandbase
Trish Sparks is an experienced customer success leader who is passionate about enabling customer success. At Demandbase, a targeting and personalization platform for B2B companies founded in 2006, Trish has led the customer success and strategic services organization for the past 10 months with the goal of driving customer success outcomes and fostering long-term relationships.
Trish recently took time to answer questions for Software Business Growth about Demandbase, her role as CCO, what she’d do with another workday added to the week, and more.
Q: What teams do you oversee at Demandbase?
Sparks: The Customer Experience Organization (CXO) Teams include Customer Success, Implementation, Consulting, Project Management, Support, and CX Operations and includes approximately 60 team members currently. The Customer Success team has revenue responsibilities related to renewals.
Q: As CCO you are peers with the CRO and you both report to the CEO. Why do you like being parallel to the sales org and does this work well?
Sparks: It is incredibly important to have a thriving acquisition business as well as a strong customer base with high retention. When the sales organization and the customer experience organization work in parallel, the structure provides a healthy balance in decision making to ensure that our acquisition and customer businesses are equally successful. Similar to the worlds of finance and government, a system of checks and balances in a SaaS company can mitigate risk and drive a sustainable organization long term.
Q: How do you ensure the post-sales team can deliver on the promises made by the sales team?
Sparks: Sales and CS leaders work best together when there is a strong foundation of trust and a genuine desire to achieve success in both teams for the health of the overall business. If both leaders can exchange their functional hat for a business leader hat at the appropriate times when making decisions, the company wins. Creating a culture of accountability and collaboration in both sales and post-sales will serve as a forcing function in eliminating the tendency to set inaccurate expectations or make promises that can’t be kept.
Q: What metrics do you use to measure the success of your CS team?
Sparks: I love data and I embrace the opportunity to have multiple data points to leverage in decision making. Measuring product usage, CSAT, Customer Health and logo retention are all important to provide a wholistic view of the customer business. That said, it is important for a Customer Experience Organization to have a single, true north metric. For us, renewal rate as the metric on which all teams anchor to measure success.
Q: If you could stop time and magically add another day to every work week, what would you have your team work on that they currently don’t have the time for?
Sparks: I would have them work on forward-looking initiatives that would assist in scaling the CX Organization for 2020 and beyond. We have a few folks in our operations team that live and breathe scale but imagine what progress could be made if all 60 of our team members spent one day a week focused on driving customer success at scale!
Q: What’s one recommendation you can give when it comes to hiring for your CS team?
Sparks: I’ve leveraged several interviewing methodologies over the years. Some with success and others, not so much. For a Customer Success organization specifically, I believe strongly in focusing on behavioral interviewing and vertical questioning. Going deep on how a candidate handled a particular situation instead of shallow and broad questioning has proven very successful for hiring CSMs.
The final step of the interview process is always a 90-minute panel interview with a diverse panel of three to four interviewers and requires the CSM candidate to deliver a scenario-based presentation. When a seemingly strong candidate struggles with the presentation portion of the interview, we can determine if the skill gaps are coachable or if we should continue the search for a CSM with excellent communication skills that would be successful in providing our customers with a world-class customer experience.
Q: What other advice do you have for CS leaders at software companies that we haven’t covered?
Sparks: Do not underestimate the power of intentionally defining a strong culture in your organization. By setting clear expectations on core cultural tenants such as integrity, compassion and accountability with each team member from day one, you can provide a clear line of sight to achieving excellence as a business and as humans.