Of course your CEO says they're "customer first". But how does that claim actually show up in their actions? 


This week, we brought together 4 trailblazing customer-focused CEOs (Yamini Rangan of HubSpot, Nick Mehta of Gainsight, Christina Kosmowski of LogicMonitor, & Andy MacMillan of UserTesting) to understand how they create a company-wide customer obsession.


You can watch the full recording here.


This newsletter includes the panelists’ answers to the question “How have you transferred your deep passion for customers to your entire organization?” Their responses have been lightly edited for clarity. 



Christina Kosmowski, CEO at LogicMonitor


I think anyone who has heard me talk understands I'm passionate about Customer Success and putting the customer at the center of everything we do.


I also believe that process is not the antithesis, but the enabler. You can say “we’re customer-focused” but if you don't actually create the processes around that claim, you can't enable your company to truly be customer-centric. That’s why we have very tight processes in place that hold our entire organization accountable to the customer experience including our red account program and voice of the customer.

In addition to those processes, we are purposeful about bringing the customer story to life—the qualitative aspect. There are 2 main ways we share our customer stories: 

#1 We have a customer story channel in Slack where our customer-facing teams post client stories so that the whole company can hear those narratives. 

#2 Once a quarter we require a customer to come in and speak live at our All-Hands. All team members know in the first month of the quarter they will hear a customer speak about the good, the bad, and the ugly. We also have customers share feedback at our executive staff meetings on a quarterly basis.  


“Being able to balance that qualitative customer story and experience piece with tight processes is key to keeping the customer truly at the center of the company you’re building.” — Christina Kosmowski


Andy MacMillan, CEO at UserTesting


I completely agree, Christina. As a leader, the things you highlight and talk about are the things that ultimately are important because people listen to what you’re saying and follow your actions. Always talking about your customers is important because it is what your organization will focus on.

I wasn’t a founder of UserTesting. So I had the benefit of joining a company that was already very customer-centric, but I tried to accelerate that culture. For example, I did an All-Hands a few days before I joined where I got introduced to the company. Then my first day was a Monday in the office. During my second day, I was on an airplane to visit our largest customer. And at the end of the week, I told everybody, “Hey, it was a great first week. I met a bunch of you and I met our largest customer in person at their site.” That set the tone about what was important to me. 


To transfer customer-centricity to an entire org, leaders need to:


1) talk about customers and then,

2) back that talk up with action


I also believe that customer-centricity can't just be about individual acts of people interacting with customers. Those moments are important too. But the companies that are customer-focused at scale are able to find narratives about what's going on with their customers that they can align everyone around. 


The core of what we do at UserTesting is to help people invite others to record and share their experiences with products or services. User videos then become assets to share internally around an organization.

We focus on how to get those stories from your users and customers, and then scale them around the organization. I think video is a very powerful way to do that because an organization can align around the same customer narratives, and then build a culture around impacting that.


“Customer-centricity can't just be about individual acts of people interacting with customers…Companies that are customer-focused at scale are able to find narratives about what's going on with their customers that they can align everyone around.” — Andy MacMillan


Nick Mehta, CEO at Gainsight


There are three very tactical things I've found helpful to promote customer-centricity org-wide. 


#1 Lead with transparency. Every employee and CEO wants to help customers. The problem is, sometimes people just don't know what's going on. That’s why it’s so important to have transparency around the customer experience. 


For example, every day I post in Slack and every week I send an email about the customers I met with and what I learned about them. This is a very obvious tactic, but to me, it's so important.

#2 Lead by example. Similar to what Andy talked about, you have to show the org your own customer obsession. I'm that super, crazy, maniacal person who still reads every NPS, meets 10-20 customers a week, and listens to Gong calls. I do everything I can to better understand the customer, and that’s visible to everyone at the company. Gainsters know that if the CEO’s top priority is the customer experience, they should also prioritize customers above all else.


#3 Lead with humanity. It's not just “this customer”. It’s “this person”. We need to highlight their aspirations and really humanize them. We can call out new roles, promotions, or celebrate wins.


Separately, for a long time I’ve hosted customer roundtables where I go visit customers around the country and have dinner with them. I do this several times a month. But one really exciting thing is that other team members at Gainsight are learning how to run these meet-ups. This is another example of how the team is learning and picking up how to be highly customer-focused. 


“You have to show the org your own customer obsession. I'm that super, crazy, maniacal person who needs still reads every NPS, meets 10-20 customers a week, and listens to Gong calls. I do everything I can to better understand the customer, and that’s visible to everyone at the company.” — Nick Mehta


Yamini Rangan, CEO at HubSpot


For us at HubSpot and throughout my career, it's come to this question: what is the guiding principle for the organization and is that guiding principle customer-centric? At HubSpot, we call it Solve For The Customer (SFTC). SFTC is not just the starting conversation—it's the way we make decisions across the company. Almost everything comes down to customer over company, team, and self. So for any decision we need to make, we start with solving for the customer. That’s how you get customer-focus embedded into the DNA of the organization.


And then it's very, very practical. 


We start every week by sharing our NPS with the larger management team and the product organization. 


Every month, we start with a customer-first meeting where we hear directly from a panel of customers. That kind of qualitative data associated with quantitative insights are great.


And then every company meeting, board meeting, almost everything of consequence, starts with having a customer panel. 


Nothing can replace meeting the human who is the customer. You see what they have to juggle. You learn about what they're struggling with. Hearing directly from the customer creates company-wide empathy that is crucial to your success as a business. 


“You must continually hear from customers so that customer obsession doesn't become just another initiative. It must be built into the DNA of the organization.” — Yamini Rangan




The best resources for Customer Success teams this week



How to Effectively Receive Feedback as an Executive


Here’s a great post with Yamini’s recommendations on how leaders can appropriately receive feedback. The TLDR is to be curious about how you can improve and use feedback as an opportunity to grow.


Read the full post





The Three Types of Customer Success Teams


Thomasz proposes a simple model for building a CS team structure. The alarming trend is that some companies are removing CSMs completely from strategic accounts and going with this account team: AE, SE, Support. Think about the impact this could have to your organization.


Read the full post





Running an All-Hands Meeting


An older (2016), but evergreen post with tips to run a more purposeful All-Hands meeting. The one big missing piece I’d add to this article is the importance of having customers consistently come to your All-Hands meetings to share feedback. 


Read the full post




The Proactive Pooled Model at Looker


Seth Wylie heads up a CS Ops group that recently had Brian LaFaille give a presentation about Looker’s pooled model. His talk is definitely worth a listen if you’re interested in learning how your low-touch CSMs can be more proactive. Skip to 4:30 to start. 


Watch the presentation





Vote on Your Favorite 2.0 Magazine Photo


This year’s theme for posting photos with the 2.0 magazine has been (unexpectedly) “Kids & Pets”. Help us pick some winners and vote on your favorite photo.


Submit your vote





Submit a comment