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Product-focused afterthought! – that’s what most Customer Success clients get wrong about Customer Education according Lincoln Murphy of Sixteen Ventures

But what does this mean, exactly? 

In recent episodes, SaaS executives and investors perceive Customer Education as a growing and integral part of scaling their organizations.  This begins our “Customer Success Series” where we’ll talk with prominent leaders in the Customer Success space, starting with Lincoln Murphy – Customer Success Growth Expert, Consultant, and Thought Leader.

Customer Education, as we know it today, is undergoing the same kind of Category Creation that Lincoln experienced in the early days of the Customer Success industry.  And it’s even more critical as COVID-19’s “been like five years of change and evolution” to the Customer Success market.

In Episode 55 we explore: 

  • how we have in common with Customer Success leaders the role of playing detective to uncover our customers’ core needs
  • how customer education fits into a customer success strategy
  • whether CSMs do training, or do we centralize that function into a Customer Education team?

And, of course, we get back to the question of what is product-focused afterthought!

Listen in for another great episode, or enjoy the full transcript below!

(Disclaimer: Transcripts may contain some errors and inconsistencies w/respect to the audio recording)

Adam Avramescu  00:00

Welcome to CELab, the customer education lab where we explore how to build customer education programs, experiment with new approaches, and exterminate the myths and bad advice like fruit flies on a trash can. I’m Adam Avramescu.

Dave Derington  00:14

And I’m Dave Derington. And welcome Lincoln Murphy. Hey, thanks for having me. This is awesome. We’re glad to have you here. Today, we always do this thing. It’s a tradition. We do the National Day of Today is National Education support professionals’ day How appropriate.

Adam Avramescu  00:32

Wow. hi to our friends in learning ops.

Dave Derington  00:36

Indeed. And we have a couple of alternatives if you’re in a Mickey Mouse, it’s National Mickey Mouse day and national vicious wild day. So sounds great. I haven’t had a lot of lunch today.

Dave Derington  00:48

Oh, okay. Let’s get into this. This is a special episode. Lincoln, you know, we’re really thankful to have you on this. Today marks a new series of podcasts for us. So, we just hit Episode 50. This is 51. we’re transitioning into expanding our conversation. And Adam and I both worked in CS orgs. In fact, I worked with you, we had a brief overlap at Gainsight. And we want to pivot our conversation into the land of customer success. Having spent time at Gainsight, Adam, you’ve spent time and working with customer success teams pretty extensively as well. We feel this discussion is interesting. Because Okay, one, I have a copy of your book that you co-authored on customer success sitting by me, I have to have you signed it someday.

Adam Avramescu  01:37

Sure, got it above me, right now we’re looking, we have a place to keep keeping such literature.

Dave Derington  01:45

So we’d like this to be less formal, we really just want to get inside your head. And we want you to tell us what you’ve been up to. And then we’ve got a series of questions around so we’re gonna turn the mic over to you. And can you give us a background of what you’ve been up to over the past few years? You know, what you’re seeing, you know, what about your company 16 Ventures, we’d really like to get to the heart of where you’re coming from, and how you’re fitting into the Customer Success universe these days.

Lincoln Murphy  02:11

Yeah, for sure. It’s, it’s the last, well, this year 2020 has been about five years’ worth of change and evolution in, you know, in the companies that I work with, and how I approach things, it’s, it’s been interesting. So, it’s almost like, you know, what happened in the before times is not as relevant as just what’s happened in the last year or so, you know, look at the last, you know, who knows, when I left Gainsight, in 2016, I went back to doing consulting, company 16 Ventures, and, you know, I’ve worked with lots of companies around the world of all different sizes and shapes. And, and, you know, I always say that, while I, I like to think that I bring some expertise and some experience to the table, you know, I’m also learning a lot from the companies that I work with and seeing things. And that’s a really, that’s that, of course, helped shape the way that my view of customer success has evolved. And what I you know that my idea of customer success is very simple. It’s when your customers achieve their desired outcome through their interactions with your company. And that really hasn’t changed in a very much very substantially over the last few years. The key element there being desired outcome, and but that just over the last few months, during COVID, desired outcome, my definition of that has changed. And just, you know, just a little bit, but enough to where I think it’s material – desired outcome, historically, was this concept of required outcome plus appropriate experience. And I thought that was okay. I mean, you know, yeah, it’s a little redundant with desired outcome being, you know, made up of retired outcome, but you know, whatever it’s stuck in, but then, once we got into COVID, and a lot of things, you know, just had to become crystal clear, in terms of what we were providing our customer required outcome was not enough. It wasn’t a strong enough or straightforward enough term. So, I’ve actually gotten rid of that. And I just say result. Nothing fancy, simple. Yeah, like, what does our customer need to need to do? What do they need to achieve? So, we talked about result, and then we talk about appropriate experience. But even that has changed. Appropriate experience is simply the experience that a customer’s going to have that would make them feel like I’m getting what I need in the way that I need it. But you know, what was appropriate in January 2020 became completely inappropriate in March, right? You know what you might have, you might have been contractually obligated to go on site with a customer quarterly. And all the sudden it was, don’t you dare come near us. That’s and that’s, you know, it’s like it would have been unthinkable for us not to have the super high touch in person relationship and all of a sudden, it’s like, No, man, we’re doing Zoom. So, it shifted and even the weighting of result and appropriate experience shifted to the extent that the appropriate experience not that important, you know, are you giving us the result that we want? Or we need? Yes. Okay, cool, we’re good. I think, as we’ve come out of like, the initial panic and stuff, and I don’t want to say that we’ve, you know, I don’t like, you know, it’s not completely new, normal or right. As we’ve come out of that initial panic, though, we’re at a point where I think the appropriate experiences is becoming something that’s important. Again, in the after times, we’ll also kind of be weighted the same or even equal with with result. But what that appropriate experience is going to be has shifted, will continue to shift and will never be the same as what it was. So, you know, that that’s some of the kind of higher level like, things that have changed in and that’s only been in the last what, whatever, 10 months. Yeah. It’s crazy. So, in the last few years, or one thing, but this has been a wild year, especially from a customer success standpoint.

Adam Avramescu  06:38

Yeah, so much. So much has changed so quickly.

Lincoln Murphy  06:40

Yeah. For sure.

Adam Avramescu  06:45

So Lincoln, I’m really excited that you’re on the show. You know, first of all, we refer to your work quite a bit, there’s a quote of yours that comes from an old service rocket interview that you did with Rob Castaneda, where you talk about the importance of customer education, not just being education on the product, but kind of education on the space and that, that always sticks with me, the idea of the desired outcome always sticks with me. And the third lesson, I feel like I’ve taken from you, this might have been from the before times, is when you were commenting on how naming your company ventures 16 ventures, ended up getting you into the room with a bunch of VCs for some reason. So, I’m gonna take that advice at some point. But part of the reason why we’re excited to have you on the show today is because in customer education, at least, the way that we know it today is going through the same kind of category creation moment that customer success did, in a way like customer education, the way that we talk about it, in the way that the community has been building up, is if I draw an analogy, customer education is to the old world of education services, as customer success was to kind of the old world of account management. Like they’re related, they have some of the same motions, but they’re pointed at different outcomes in different contexts. So, we’ll definitely have some questions for you around that, and around the parallels, and I’m excited to talk about, you know, what you saw with the evolution of customer success and how we might apply some of those lessons to customer education.

Lincoln Murphy  08:17

Okay, very cool.

Adam Avramescu  08:18

Yeah. And, and, you know, we’ll also talk a little bit, I think, customer education, obviously lives in customer success. Increasingly, it’s being incubated in customer success teams instead of services or even marketing. So we’re working to refine this term of customer education. We’re working to refine the discipline and define its place in relation to customer success. And in fact, one of the things that I always like to say is that, you know, customer education is the scale engine of customer success if it’s done, right. So, you know, maybe laying out some topics that we’ll dive into.

Dave Derington  08:50

That’s I wanted to add in here, too. I love the word incubated. Because, you know, Lincoln, I was there. I wasn’t there really in the early days of Gainsight. But I felt it I came in what was I came in about 2015. And it was this palpable energy, this real excitement about a category of field that it was, it’s not new, but it is new. And there’s energy behind it and character and I feel like we are starting to, to externalize and converse about what how education happens in this space. And it’s different, it’s unique. We’re born out of customer success. I’ve got the DNA all running through me every day, right? I mean, all the stuff I learned at Gainsight and beyond the people I work with, it’s warped my thinking, in a way I don’t I’m not saying that it’s never be the same again, I will never be the same again. Because I’m always thinking about like the customer success Manifesto. The things we need to do the you know, we’re there to help the customer we need to channel the voice. And we built a manifesto about that. So but one of the things that really in Adam, I’m not gonna put words in your mouth, I’m speaking as me is that I feel like we’re a bit other and In fact, he and I were talking about this today, because my team is currently in customer success under professional services. But positioning, you know where you live in the organization is particularly interesting. And if I can put this another way, I think one of the challenges that plagues plague SaaS, and we’ve been starting to use XaaS instead, because it’s even expanding further, it’s straightforward, your new company, you’re moving really fast. You’re getting venture capital seed funding and different rounds, hopefully, and your team members know about the product. This is how education starts at companies. And I’m sure you’ve seen this, where you go, Okay, well, some person who is really good, let’s say, Jane comes up out of support, she knows everything, or john is in implementation, and he’s seen all the things you just have training happen. And then CMSs tend to train. And then somewhere around the 150-to-300-person mark, you get into this crazy town, where I called it a death spiral in my notes, where CSMs are training more and more and more, and they are excited about it. But we’re here now, we’re in education teams appeared. And now we’re trying to this is kind of the setup. We’re still training people one on one, but we’re trying to get to scale. And there’s chaos, right? And we’re trying to get synergy. So I guess the warm up question I might have is, in your mind when I say we say customer education? What does that evoke? What context Do you have, from your position as an evangelist to consultant to thought leader? How does that how does that kind of fit in?

Lincoln Murphy  11:37

And I mean, to me, I see. So, I sort of look at things from a, I don’t know a little bit, start out with a higher level picture of it, and I see education as something that’s going to happen at various points across the entire customer lifecycle. And as just part of that lifecycle, so I don’t immediately go to a particular modality of training, I don’t, I don’t go to a particular. And we’ll just say, you know, a way that you’re going to train your customer, whatever that looks like, I don’t go there, I just look at it as this is, this has got to be a part of it. And, you know, to your, your point from earlier, when you’re saying something that I’d said around, you know, it’s not just about product training, it’s about training the customer, really on all of the context, that it’s that surrounds just the functional use of our product, that that’s, that’s going to happen again, like at various parts of the lifecycle. And, to me, where we start to where we go from there is to that the appropriate experience aspect of desired outcome, we know the result that the customer needs to achieve, right, most companies know that, like, that’s, that’s kind of what we built our product around Initially, the problem is a lot of companies and you know, use the example of the startup, you know, that’s, that’s just, you know, they, they’re, they’re starting out and they’re running a million miles an hour, they’re focused on the result that they can give their customer. At some point, customers start saying, Hey, this is, you know, this is a great functional product, but man, you know, it, the, the experience is terrible. So then you have to start listening to them where they start churning out. And that’s, that’s also, by the way, kind of the first lesson in, oh, experience matters, you know, like they’re getting the results they’re looking for, but when your first customer that’s getting the result churns out, you go, this is not good. So you start to see that the experience is really important. And and once you understand how important it is, then it will start to guide all of your decisions, or should you know, all of your at least your customer facing decisions, including how do we train our customers? What should we train them on functional product centric stuff, things that have to do with just, you know, sort of bridging what I call the success gap, which is you can functionally use my product, but you may still not get the result you’re looking for, you know, I use the email marketing as the simplest example of that. I can go into an email marketing product; I can add my mailing list. I can write an email, I can send the email, and functionally it looks like I was successful. Right? I did all the things was I did I get the result I was looking for, you know, probably

Adam Avramescu  14:39

Outputs, not outcomes there. Right?

Lincoln Murphy  14:41

Exactly. Right. So, I and here’s the thing, the product and while products like this are getting more and more sophisticated, you know, I still have to know how to write an email that gets a result. I still have to know how to write a subject line that’s going to get people to open that email. I still need to have a landing page that’s going to you know convert that that person that’s clicked over to it, you know, to take to take the action that they need to take. Those are all things that what I call the, you know, that’s the success again, I can give you the functional product. And I can I have two choices, I can either leave you, you know, on your own, and you can use the product until it doesn’t work anymore. And then you go to another email marketing platform. Or I can recognize that in order to get the result you’re looking for, I need to provide you with something else, that’s going to give you that additional context. You can actually be successful with this with within your relationship with me as the vendor. How how I do that, how I give that to you, what that looks like the training, that’s part of the appropriate experience. So, we need to understand our customers. Now, like I said, in COVID times, you know, where we went where we might have had a new customer send 10 of their people out to our, our campus to do in person training for a week. Yeah, maybe not now, right? Maybe it’s, maybe it’s gone to zoom, we’re still going to do live training, but it’s, it’s on, it’s online, or maybe we were we might have done a lot of zoom training or whatever we used before COVID. Now, I don’t have enough time to do that, because everybody that was doing the live training in you know, in a group, now they’re on online. So now I have to do like a synchronous training, maybe I’m doing using CloudApp or Looom or something like that, to send these short messages in and, you know, maybe that’s augmenting a library of longer form videos. So yeah, I mean, we have to understand what our customer needs. And then we design essentially the appropriate experience with him. And that applies across the entire lifecycle and all of our different touch points, customer education, simply being one of those very important touch points along the way.

Adam Avramescu  16:59

Yeah, that’s, that’s a really great framing Lincoln. And I think one thing that people tend to get wrong about this is, you know, they kind of to your point, they think about format first. And when they think about format first, that also means that sometimes what they’re designing around is not actually the appropriate experience for the customer. But rather the experience that day, the purveyor, you know, thing is appropriate, but you’re so being a mismatch.

Dave Derington  17:25

So you’re saying that, Adam, maybe I hired an instructional designer, and then they go out and articulate this really fine detail, beautiful thing, but it wasn’t what the customer needed at the time?

Adam Avramescu  17:36

Yes, or maybe you have a CSM. And the CSM is really insistent that the customer get, you know, on site training, because they perceive it as being personalized, and, you know, more, you know, kind of kind of deeper adoption driver for the account. But that’s not actually what the customer wants, the customer wants, something that’s going to scale out to all their employees and going and doing an on site training actually isn’t the right way to do that. Right.

Lincoln Murphy  18:03

So that’s a, that’s an important distinction. In, I tend to look at that as the need to over deliver, we have, we have big customers who we feel like, because they’re big, and because they pay us a lot. They deserve this, you know, a lot or or maybe, you know, that’s almost an altruistic way of looking at, if we don’t give them a lot, they’ll leave. And so we tend to over deliver, and we tend to look at that as being something positive. The problem with over delivering in this context, in a business-to-business context is that we’re not over delivering, we’re Miss delivering, we’re giving them the wrong thing. So to your point, a big complex customer might absolutely want something that would seem like what we would give a low revenue, customer, a customer that has, you know, has more of a self-service relationship with us. But that’s what they want. It’s what’s appropriate. So yeah, we got to get out of our own way in some of these.

Adam Avramescu  19:07

So maybe this this kind of frames up a different articulation of the question, this will kind of take us down the line to the fireworks factory. So how can how can customer education professionals, we have a lot of customer education professionals who listen to this customer education leaders? How can they best support getting customers to their desired outcome if they had to pick kind of like, I don’t know one way of thinking about it to start.

Lincoln Murphy  19:30

Yeah, well, I mean, this is I kind of that get that question a lot, just from a customer success standpoint. And I would say we have to start with the customer. We have to understand what do they need, and how do they need it? How do they need to receive that? So, you know, again, we can’t start with format. We can’t I can’t even really start with what we’re going to what we’re going to teach them. We need to go back and understand what it is the customer is trying to achieve. And all of that. So, start with a customer. It sounds so obvious; it sounds so simple. But I repeat it constantly. Because people just have a tendency, it’s not a bad. I mean, they’re not doing, they’re not on purpose doing something wrong, we just have a tendency not to start with the customer. And so start there. And again, now we get into segmentation and things like that not all of our customers are the same. So, you know, that’s one of the places we have to start is, you know, do we have some logical groupings of customers based on a shared experience? You know, so some customers are going to want that higher touch education, in some are going to be okay with self-service, and some are going to have, you know, both a mixture. So, yeah,

Dave Derington  20:46

Let me ask you a sub-question that on that. So if so, Lincoln, let’s put on your consulting hat. Yes. And this is a question. Like, I know how I try to solve this, but I’m really curious from your perspective. Okay, we need to determine that desired outcome. What are it kind of in broad strokes? If you have an engagement with a customer? What are the first kinds of things that you do to get that customer information? Is that a survey? Is that calling people? Are you looking at support data from like Zendesk, what do you find the most valuable within that to get that get to that outcome?

Lincoln Murphy  21:22

Probably all, all are some of those, depending upon what we have, you know, generally speaking, unless we’re starting from absolute scratch, which, you know, I just don’t usually come in that early, would be nice sometimes. But you are, you are, you know, it’s a tradeoff, because you’re lacking that that context. But you do get to start planning things from the beginning, you generally, you know, you come in, there’s, we already have a lot of customer data. So we generally know a lot more about our customers than we think we do. So, I kind of have a framework where we start looking at, at what we have, and looking for those patterns, we’re going to look for things like, you know, company, customer company characteristics, we’re going to look at, at use cases, use cases, yeah, yeah, things, things like that. So, we’re gonna get a picture of, you know, a better picture. So we can start, like I said, grouping our customers together by essentially, a shared set of characteristics. And that’s going to be able to tell us, okay, these companies, even though they may not be in the same industry, they’re all sort of this size, and, and have these have these other characteristics, and we can kind of group them together. One of the things that I like to do, so he said, my consultant hat, actually, generally, I’m putting out I’m taking my consultant hat off and put it on my detective hat. Oh, is it’s it’s kind of a, you know, we have to do some digging around, we have to do some, some, some detective work here? And one of the things that we can do is look at other products or services that our customers use, that are similar to us. So we’re not looking at competitive products, necessarily, right at adjacent products. So you know, if I have if, if I have a customer, customers that are just grouping here, that that all are using, go back to email marketing. They’re using us for email marketing. But they, you know, they’re also using like, an, I don’t know, if we’re talking about marketing, they’re using another customer engagement platform, they’re using an analytics platform, and all of these things are purchased by the marketing department. What I’m going to do is look at those things, and see, you know, how similar we are to that in terms of price in, like I said, they’re there, they’re purchased by the marketing department. So I’m going to be able to say, okay, we’re pretty much adjacent to those products. Now, what I can do is go to these customers, and say, Hey, I know you guys are using this analytics product or this this other, you know, marketing engagement type of product, what what’s been your experience with them? And then they’re gonna say things like, Oh, you know, it’s, it’s okay, they won’t get on the phone with me, that’s, that’s been kind of a problem, or, you know, they’re there. They don’t really offer much in terms of training. And then you can use your active listening skills to you know, dig deeper. Well, that’s interesting. What would you like to see with the training part, you know, or what is it about them knocking on the phone that kind of is kind of bothering you? Yeah, I can infer from that but go into detail. And then, you know, you kind of shut up and listen, and they’ll start telling you things about what they would like, in an experience with those companies. And you say, Okay, well, since we’re adjacent to them, they would probably like the same experience from us, or a different you know, whatever they’re telling us they would like this is what they would like. So, you know, we have to get a little bit, you know, do some detective work. That’s that plus all of the characteristic information we have plus usage information, use cases and things like that we can pull together a pretty strong, at least hypothesis about how we should be engaging with our customers. Adam II heard he used the word hypothesis. Yeah,

Adam Avramescu  25:18

I love me a good hypothesis. We are the customer makes me sound smarter all

Dave Derington  25:23

we know, you’re smart. But I mean, there’s,

Adam Avramescu  25:25


Dave Derington  25:27

what I really, really enjoyed working at Gainsight. And outreach, and other companies we’ve worked with is that scientific trend, you know, the tendency to say, I’m going to make a hypothesis, and I’m going to try to prove it with data. It’s that that kind of wraps up what I like to see in asking customers what they really want. And, you know, I’ve done things like run surveys, or actually we picked up the phone and talk to some of them in different cohorts and learn so much. So that’s, that’s great.

Lincoln Murphy  25:57

Yeah, I mean, just on surveys, I mean, what surveys are great for finding out things you don’t know that, what I like to do is to start with what we do know, and we generally know a lot more than, than we, then we think we do. And then there’s ways to find out things without surveying the customer until we have have sort of reached the end of what we can gather on our own. And then we can go to the customers and, of course, to more discovery, but also validate our findings. And, and that’s, that’s, I think, a much more powerful way, a lot of people want to jump to a survey. I also don’t want to jump to a survey at first, if I have a cohort of customers, what I’m going to try and do is start a conversation. So you know, don’t survey your entire customer base, find 10 or 20 people that are willing to talk to you. That’s hard.

Dave Derington  26:46

Well, it is but you totally validated it, because that’s what I did at Gainsight. When I was coming in to build the education program from first principles. I started with admins, because I know if you were there at the time, you knew how hard the product was for admins to learn. Yeah, and when I talked to a bunch of our team Professional Services, CSM, and they gave me angled in on certain individuals in certain areas, who were having good success and bad success and middle of the road. But having those conversations with people. And I felt like you a detective, but sometimes more like a therapist. Sometimes you got to be a therapist, you better have a lot of hats.

Adam Avramescu  27:24

I get your “investigative journalist” one too Dave.

Dave Derington  27:28

I love that one. Okay, we could draw on this one forever. Well, let’s come up with some other questions here. The next one that we had on our minds that we were curious about is we see that you recently created a Udemy course. And we’re really curious, you know, online on demand courses are now all the rage. What’s your experience in like with that? How is it presenting for you?

Lincoln Murphy  27:52

I didn’t; it’s not great. Great, to be honest. Yeah. I mean, look Udemy came to me last in the middle of last year, and said, “Hey, we want to, we want to create a customer success course for our business subscribers”. And I said, Okay, I really don’t want to, like make it public. Because it’s just this kind of thing is fraught with, with issues. You know, putting something out that’s relatively inexpensive, and for public consumption, will tend to come with, you’re not by definition, you’re not going to be able to be very specific with any, you know, with your, with what you’re talking about. And so I haven’t really promoted it much Udemy promotes it to their subscribers, it was kind of their thing. And you know, it, I went along with it, I’ve probably made enough money off of it to pay about back about a third of what has to fly to San Francisco to do it. So, um, yeah, it’s, it’s it. Look, I mean, it was an overview of customer success, you know, the main complaints have been, it’s not specific enough. You know, and they’re like, well, I don’t know how you get specific for everybody. But the other thing is, it’s, it’s much more it’s too high level. And one of my problems with, with getting too specific on training has been that I didn’t want to be the guy that told you, hey, do this, and then you go try it and it doesn’t work. You know, from maybe that’s my consulting hat, or, or whatever. But, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s, and you guys probably mean from from a training standpoint, this is probably something you deal with a lot. Oh, yeah. You know, how do you say something that that is generic enough for people to understand but specific enough, you know, to make them make it resonate? And I just never felt like I could really strike that balance. lately. I’ve been doing more with my clients on CSM specific training, that, that doesn’t have anything to do with strategy. And really, you can implement these things are very, very low-level tactics, you can implement these things, even if you’re the company you work for, really has no structure, you know, has no no processes in place, you know, if you’re just a CSM that wants to take control of what you’re doing, you know, that’s, that’s what I’ve been focused on. And I think that’s interestingly dropping down to that level is actually more effective. And I just met, I didn’t realize that so this whole thing has been an interesting study for me into how to how to create training. So, I have that’s not something I’ve put out publicly just stuff we’ve been doing with my clients has been working out really well. So yeah, it’s, um, it, you know, it was an interesting experience. Udemy was great to work with but wasn’t really my idea. And I, you know, I wouldn’t do it again.

Dave Derington  31:04

Well, I think on on demand content is particularly hard. Exactly for the the thing you said, getting the specificity getting the bespoke custom nature is what say what some customers I’m working with are grappling with right now, with us right now, we have a lot of customers that say, hey, well, we want this bespoke custom thing. But then, sometimes when we actually get into that motion, and we’re engaging with the customer, and in fact, my training manager said, we calculate it, it’s about 80% of the trainings we do are really general generic. Yeah, even though somebody is asking for it to be specific to them. So our strategy is we’ve split the difference, we do a lot of on demand work, getting as it as detailed as we possibly can get. But then we have different grades have content, and that’s where you’re, you know, Udemy is what it is, it’s a MOOC, or on demand concept content is similar. We can only go so far, because what you miss in the on demand is that personal touch that integration, that they’ll be able to ask questions and, and go deeper. So, it’s sort of there.

Lincoln Murphy  32:05

Sure. So one of the things we’ve been doing is, is adding that that personalized touch by throwing some, some async videos, like, like you said, looms, or cloud app videos around sort of canned generic content, you know, so if we have training, that’s, that’s sort of, really generic, a CSM, or somebody else can be like, you know, hey, hey, specific client, I want you to watch this video. But but here’s a couple of things you can do to take that and apply it to your unique situation, that’s a really cool way of working. The other thing is, and this applies in so that the enemy thing is hard, because it’s just really, it’s, it’s such a generic audience. And, you know, for what we’re doing inside of a company to our customers, we can, obviously, and hopefully be much more specific, clearly, you can’t get specific enough, you know, to the, to the, to the customer level, we still have to be general, but at least it’s not like, you know, crazy general. Yeah, um, but but one of the things we do with just generic products or product processes in general. So let’s say we’re working a customer through onboarding, we’re gonna walk that customer through a process that is basically the same for every customer, how do we keep them engaged in that, what we keep them focused on, on their desired outcome, literally, keeping them focused on what the result they want to achieve. And like, you know, laid out clearly this is the process to get there. But always keeping their eye on the ball, the ball being the result, the prize, the thing that they want. That’s what motivates them. And that’s how we can motivate them through a generic process. Or I would say, we could apply that same principle to in we have to a more generic training. So you know, setting it up, positioning it the right way, and telling them this training is going to help you get to this point. And that’s, I think, a really important positioning element.

Adam Avramescu  34:07

Yeah, you’re pointing at something really interesting here, Lincoln, I think, because if you if you reduce this, you’ve got the idea of like, when someone asks for something that’s super bespoke. Sometimes they’re asking from irrelevant standpoint, but sometimes, what they’re really just asking for is tactics. They want a script to follow tactics to do but there’s no framework for those tactics. So if that’s the model, you’ve got an inherent tension between framework and tactics. And you need a way to make sure that you know the tactics level up to a framework that actually makes sense. And you know, people have a schema, and you know, valleys for it to fall into, you have to be able to, to make sure that if you only give them tactics, well, they’re gonna pick up those tactics and to your point, it’s not going to be relevant to them. If you only give it give them the framework. This is kind of what it sounds like you’re describing in the Udemy course where it’s not really going to resonate with people when they try to specifically Bring those skills into the world. Sorry, I like that you’re, you’re really pointing at at the intersection of both of those.

Lincoln Murphy  35:05

Yeah, it’s it. You know, it’s something that I thought I, if I went back, I would say that I sort of knew that. But to sort of experience, it really firsthand, it really opened my eyes to that I like to think of somebody that doesn’t have to experience something firsthand to understand it. But there are things that you can do until you do it. You don’t, you don’t really, really get it. And I think I think I understand it better now, because of all that.

Adam Avramescu  35:34

Yeah, totally makes sense. I’m just getting hands on you, you get it, you get a deeper appreciation and understanding of the problem, for sure. So I think this kind of this pivots us a little bit to we’re thinking about the you know, the evolution of the field and how someone teaches customer success to new folks coming into the field and how people learn and grow with these concepts. You know, one thing I’ve seen you do, Lincoln is kind of play the role of, of the truth teller, you’ve, you’ve taken aim at a lot of CS leaders and thought leaders out in the world who claim to be experts, but maybe don’t actually know what they’re talking about. And so, I’m curious, you know, customer education is, I would argue, you know, a few years behind customer success in terms of the evolution of our industry in our community. This is sort of an if you could turn back time question, but also maybe some advice for those of us in customer education? What can we do to to combat the same thing from happening in our own community?

Lincoln Murphy  36:35

Yeah, well, I don’t know that you’re gonna, you’re not going to stop it from happening, there’s, there’s a lot of there’s people have their own, I don’t, I don’t even know how to say I like to hire people that have a desire to be relevant in a particular field, whether it’s money driven, or ego driven. And as a field starts to become bigger, you know, like, it’s starting to attract attention, then those, those things are going to start to happen. So, in customer success early on, you know, everybody’s kind of playing nice and, and trying to build the, you know, the, the industry trying to build the category. And then, and then money starts flowing in. And all of a sudden, you get people coming in that don’t seem to have that same interest in mind, they really just have their own interest. And you start seeing this, this, you know, different factions. And it’s, it was just a weird thing. And I don’t think it’s unique to customer success, I think you will experience that in customer education, I am sure that you experienced this in every industry. The thing for me, though, is I never was a part of an industry from essentially, the beginning. Yeah, customer success was around since like, 2001. But when I came into it was really not because of me, necessarily, but just the timing was such that it was pretty much the beginning of the industry, as we know it sort of in modern times. So, I got to see this firsthand. And it was wild, man, I mean, and I and I got to see it in like so, you know, I did a lot of work in Brazil, where it was literally one company doing this. And now you have people, it’s a one company doing this in 2015. And now you have people, you know, on LinkedIn that have been doing customer success in Brazil for 20 years. So it’s, um, it’s

Adam Avramescu  38:33

Was that that RG station?

Lincoln Murphy  38:34

Yeah. Yeah, has with us digitized was the was the first company that that was doing customer success there. And they brought me down for the first time. And then, um, you know, I went back to Brazil. My last trip was in January of this year, and you know, it’s like my 14th or 15th trip there. So, I mean, I spent a lot of time there. And it was very interesting to see. So I mean, talk about, you know, being there for the kind of the beginning of an industry and then watching almost a secondary beginning of an industry in another developing economy. Very, very interesting stuff. So I got to see that stuff happened first firsthand in a way that, you know, yeah, maybe this happened in sales, but like, I wasn’t around in the 1800s. So, I didn’t get to, I didn’t get to see it happen. Look, you know, again, people see money, they’re gonna do stuff, what are they going to do? Well, they’re going to copy other people’s work and pass it off as their own. That’s the simplest way and that’s one of the things that I like to call people out on because I think it’s it’s a bunch of crap. And it’s happened in customer success a lot. Now, is it just that I’m mad that people take my work and make money off of it? Maybe, is it but there’s a secondary problem with that. And you mentioned the book that I was a part of? That book was written in 2015. It was published in early 2016. Why does that matter? Because that was like five years ago. It was it was a long time. To go in this industry, before that, we put out a training program at Gainsight Customer Success management certification program. You know, the probably the first one that was then handed off to other people to manage in and if you look at a lot of the training out there, it’s all derivative of that work from like, 2014. Yeah, why? So, the problem isn’t that you’re taking stuff that I did and, and other people did and passing it off as your own. Yes, that that’s, that sucks. You shouldn’t do that. But you’re actually holding back in industry by passing off old, outdated stuff as like new content, new training new material, you’re bringing up a whole generation of new CSS, using stuff from 2014. And, and that’s, that’s what pisses me off. That’s why I get upset by that. It’s not just about me, it’s about the industry. Um, but then it just looks like I’m, I complain a lot and whatever. But you know, part of my positioning is that sort of truth teller, and, and so I don’t really care.

Dave Derington  41:08

I laugh at “not so popular”. I don’t know if that’s true, but I feel like we fall into the same kind of thing where we’re constantly learning. The thing that we talked about when we, when we started talking today was you had mentioned that you’re always learning. And I think that’s a big differentiator in leaders and people that are out there and actually promoting that cutting edge and trying to get people to understand that and with SEALAB, look, we’re practitioners, we do this every day for a living. We do this for this podcast, because we’re learning. And there’s a whole up like groundswell of people like us who have no guidance, they have no help. And I think this is where the sensitivity comes from, for us is because it’s really easy to get one or two individuals now early on when there may be three or four. And if they’re not resonant, and we’re not collaborating and working together and playing nice, like it said before, first to get things going great. And one thing we’re careful of, and we tried to do is give attribution. So, if you were to say something, we use that quote, I’m going to say, look, Lincoln, Murphy did this, we’re not stealing his work, we’re giving appropriate attribution and carry it forward. And maybe say, we would expand on this by saying x, but I think we’re with you, Adam,

Lincoln Murphy  42:25

there’s nothing wrong. Yeah. attribution and taking work and expanding on it. That’s awesome. But there are literally people out there that have not done that. So, you know, that’s the irritating part.

Adam Avramescu  42:39

I think that’s an issue. And so is I think, speaking from speaking from a place that that has nothing to do with your lived experience, right? Like if you’re trying to come up with what is customer success from the abstract and never having done the work like you’re not really in a you’re not speaking from a position of credibility, are you?

Lincoln Murphy  42:56

Right, and the problem is, and so I talk a lot about confidence with my CSMs. Confidence is such an important aspect. And, you know, I always make the the comparison that that, you know, con artist, the con and con artist means confidence.  And, and, you know, don’t forget that a lot of people can get away with a lot of things by simply being confident. And when you didn’t have to go through that lived experience, and you didn’t have to spend hours coming up with this concept, you have a lot more energy to be confident. In fact, I think those of us, I’m not gonna speak for anybody else for myself, the more that I learned, the more I realized, I don’t know. And so actually, over the years, my confidence level has gone down. Because I’m like, wait, wait, I don’t know what I’m talking about, you know, like, it’s, it’s, it’s kind of a wild ride. So, you know, it’s just, like I said, it’s not just about me being upset that they’re because it’s not just my stuff that people take, I mean, if it was, maybe that’d be different, but I just see it, people passing everybody else’s work off on their own. And then that just continues to spread. One of the things that that took off was just as a quick example was, you know, the ratio of revenue per seat or not ratio, but like how much revenue a CSM should manage. A VC said this, like 10 years ago, that a CSM should manage $2 million in ARR. Cool story, bro! What’s the context there? Like, and, and how does that apply it just, but it’s one of those things that has just stuck. Why has it stuck? Not because he said it 10 years ago, but because people repeat it so often. And then people will use that as the basis for their own, like, training and their own, you know, talking points and it just perpetuates. So it’s that kind of thing. Right, right, when in fact, maybe it worked for the company he was talking about, but I’m not even sure that it would have worked back then. And I don’t even know the context of that. Maybe it was he said this doesn’t work. But we heard the number we just passed off. So the bottom line is You know, what you guys need to be careful of is that you have those kind of people that are that are taking your work and passing it off as their own make, you know, sort of keeping then what you have what you’ve bypassed, you know, in your evolution, keeping those things still unfortunately, relevant in the market. And then you’re going to have just, you know, potentially legacy players in the education market that are going to try to keep their message, again, relevant. And they might do that by talking down about what you’re doing. So, this is almost a you guys got to be in for a fight. And I don’t mean it in a negative way, like, like, but but there may be some situations where you’re gonna have to be like, are we in this? Yes, okay, then we get a power through this, you know, don’t worry about their nonsense, you know, they’re, they’re gonna try to drag you down. They’re scared of change. Alright, cool, I understand where they’re coming from. My advice to you would be, honestly, to probably not engage, I just had a, I’ll be, I’ll just be straight up with you. I had a, a prospect say that he watched a YouTube video of mine, and was concerned about my tone, because it felt very combative. And I was like, wait, wait, are there consequences to things that we do online?

Dave Derington  46:20

No! (Laughing)

Lincoln Murphy  46:21

But I had to explain to him that, that I was being combative, to the the sort of the consultants and the experts out, quote, unquote, experts out there in the customer success world, not necessarily to practitioners. But I was like, oh, interesting. I didn’t think about it that way. So, you know, my advice to you would be to just be careful there that you don’t position yourself that way. I don’t think overall that unnecessarily I’ve done that, but there, I can see where that could be where someone could interpret things that way. Or straight up understand it.

Adam Avramescu  46:56

Or we don’t, we won’t be like the wrestling hills either. You know, just not being contentious for the sake of it. But I think it makes it more important. Like what I’m really taking from your advice here is, you know, building this community and highlighting the great work of people who are doing the work and who are discovering new and innovative things, like being able to give more of a voice and a platform to the people who are doing the cutting-edge work. Seems like it’s going to be you know, most important. So,

Lincoln Murphy  47:21

absolutely, yeah. build that community around you. empower them, you know, lift them up in in an authentic way. That’s truly based on helping them and I think you’re gonna, you’re gonna be in a great place.

Adam Avramescu  47:36

I love it. All right, we’ve continued this he’ll face turn and maybe a few questions about the relationship between customer education and customer success.

Dave Derington  47:44

Yeah. How about we do a lightning round? We’ve only got, I don’t know if you can go. Can you go over a little bit? Either?

Lincoln Murphy  47:49

You have a couple minutes? Yeah, yeah, yeah. Okay, good.

Dave Derington  47:52

We won’t push it too far. But okay, let’s do this. We’ve got four more questions. Let’s try to go through them quickly. And then we’ll wrap up with anything else you’d like to say. So I’ll do the first one. How do you see customer education fitting into a customer success strategy?

Lincoln Murphy  48:08

So if I’m looking at a customer success strategy, what am I trying to accomplish, I’m trying to help the customer achieve their desired outcome, the result they’re looking for in there, and, and getting that result in an appropriate way, when I call the appropriate experience. Customer education is a part of getting them to that, that result, how I deliver that education is part of that experience. So I see customer education, fitting into customer success, because it is required to both help them functionally use the product, but also to help bridge any of those success gaps that sort of end at the functional use, but in prior to them actually getting the result they need. So, we have to fill in those gaps. The way that we’re going to apply that totally depends on the customer’s appropriate experience. Great,

Adam Avramescu  48:57

excellent. Okay, question number two, what do you see most of your customer success clients get wrong about customer education?

Lincoln Murphy  49:05

product focus / afterthought

Adam Avramescu  49:12

yeah, I mean, it’s, we’re still waiting around. Yeah.

Lincoln Murphy  49:17

It’s like a lightning, you know, slow lightning. Look, if we’re so focused on just the product, I would say we’re not even focused, if we’re looking at desired outcome. It’s, it’s, you know, result plus appropriate experience. Most companies, you know, at least not initially focused on, they don’t focus on appropriate experience, they only focus on result. I would say, actually, that’s not even true. Most of the time, they only focus on the functional use of their product, which is not necessarily going to get you to the result. So it’s product focused. And then the afterthought part is just that, I mean, it’s, oh, wait, we need to have training, you know, like, Okay, so then they start, he started throwing just random stuff together. You know, here’s a Google Doc

Dave Derington  49:59

you Throw a CSM on it and say go make me some train, go do it. And then that’s, that’s this a perfect answer. It’s very validating to hear it because I see that all the time. And it’s an no blame anybody for it. It is what it is really fast. But what we’re trying to do to evangelize for is that look, if you follow these tenants on customer education is very formulaic. And it’s not scary, and it’s not hard. And you’ll end up with a much better product that talks about best practices and workflows and stuff that’s way beyond just the click path. The functional stuff.

Lincoln Murphy  50:30

Yep. Yeah, I think like you said, it’s not people aren’t doing things wrong. Like, they’re not intentionally doing something wrong here. It’s they don’t know; they’re not thinking about it this way. It’s not something that they’re, their mindset is not built around this. And so, you know, you’re one of the things you’re gonna have to do is sort of change people’s mindset and thinking about, like, where does this fit in? I think that’s, that’s, that’s what’s missing there.

Adam Avramescu  50:56

It’s, it’s the curse of knowledge, right? Like, if you read, Made to Stick by the heath brothers, and they talk about the curse of knowledge, you get a customer success team or CSM who’s deeply knowledgeable about the product, their idea is if I can just get all of this knowledge out of my head into the customers head that they’re going to get it. Right, that’s never ever works like that. Okay, no, lightning round. Number three, Dave,

Dave Derington  51:17

why do you think more CS teams are starting to invest proactively in customer education?

Lincoln Murphy  51:24

Well, I think I think the starting to invest is probably the the key word there. I think, in you know, I still say this a lot, you know, with customer success. Unfortunately, you know, we still have a lot of companies that are not doing this. But for those companies that are doing this, the reason they’re they’re starting to invest in this is because they recognize the value of this, I got asked a question recently of why we should do customer success, essentially. And I said money? Why? You do it? Because as money, yeah, right. I mean, so I want my customers to stay longer, I want them to buy more, and I want them to go out and advocate for me. So, I can bring in more customers to stay longer and buy more. That’s the reason I do this revenue, and ultimately revenue leading to the value of the company going up. The same thing applies here. This is not, you know, customer education is not a nice to have, it’s not something that you just do, because it feels good. You’re doing this because it’s going to make the customer successful, they’re going to get value. And value being in this context, they’re going to get the result they’re looking for. And you do that because that will cause them to stay longer and buy more and advocate for you. Which means more money. So, I mean, that’s the simplest thing. If we want executives to buy into this stuff, which is another thing, you know, reason to, you have to understand this so we can get real change to happen. You want executives to buy into this, you want investors to get behind it. You talk about things that matter to them, which is ultimately money.

Adam Avramescu  52:55

That’s it. Yeah, that’s actually why we start the conversation a lot of the time in customer education, not talking about learning objectives, but talking about CAC/LTV ratio. Yeah, that’s where it starts for a lot of people.

Lincoln Murphy  53:06

I love it. I love it. Yeah, I mean, you know, that’s not what it’s not what a CSM is gonna care about something with a customer success manager or customer education leader is necessarily going to matter. care about but their metrics will roll up to that KPI. And if it doesn’t roll up to that KPI of, you know, net revenue retention or something like that, then it doesn’t matter.

Adam Avramescu  53:29

That’s Yeah, exactly. That’s, that’s how you’re gonna get funded. Okay, so that actually brings us I think, to lightning round question number four.  Let’s think about, you know, CMSs versus centralized customer education. Should CSMs spend more time training? And should we invest more in that? Or should we invest in training as a centralized function as a customer Education team?

Lincoln Murphy  53:48

Yes. Depends. Look, if you are in a position to, I think, ultimately, I don’t even I don’t even want to say yes, you should definitely have a centralized customer Education team, because maybe that’s just not going to matter. That said, So that sort of disclaimer, you know, like matter in a in a, in that, you know, maybe your CSM have all the time in the world. Like I just don’t want to give a blanket, yes. to one of those. I would say, though, that you need to give a, a, you need to look at this the right way. And so going back to the you know, the first question, how do you see this fitting into? How do you see education fitting into a strategy of customer success? Well, if it does fit into that strategy, and we understand the value of it, then we’re going to invest the necessary resources into it. And if that means, if we look at this whole thing, and we figure out, we need a centralized customers Education team, to augment or power, the individualize training that our CSM is, might be giving, then we’re going to do that. So we need to just look at what we’re trying to accomplish here and pick the best structure. Now, I say it like that, because I don’t know. So I mean, this is where I would turn to experts like you and say, Hey, you know, help me help me understand what all is available. From a customer education standpoint, there are things that I may not know about that. So, but but to me, I don’t ever want to create an organization type, just like I don’t want to invest in a tool, you know, until I understand what I’m trying to operationalize. That makes sense.

Dave Derington  55:26

That makes a lot of sense. In fact, I think it’s gospel. I don’t advocate for anybody to go and build a customer Education team if they’re asking about it. Because at first, I always ask I, one of one of the listeners of this podcast is asking this very question, like, should we build up? Or should we do, and I go? Well, what I would recommend you do first is talk with your leadership, and figure out what all your goals are, what are your, you know, KPIs, what are you trying to get to? And then back into that, it might mean, hey, you know, you could steal a couple people from different departments and assemble something temporarily until you get a team, maybe you don’t need instructional designers, maybe you don’t need trainers, it just depends. But we, we tend to think that at a certain level, you will start to formalize and get grouping. And then as you bridge the gap, post IPO, if you’re at a startup, or maybe even later, if you’re a regular company, you may have a formal education services function, you know, it’s an evolutionary thing. I think. That’s my

Lincoln Murphy  56:26

Makes sense. Yeah. Yeah. And I think that’s, I mean, that’s, that to me, when you give that sort of answer. People don’t like it. People don’t want to hear it depends. But it does. It has to,

Dave Derington  56:40

And that’s a consultative thing. It’s not a no, you’re always going to do this. It’s it. You know, who you are matters a lot. If you’re a I’ve seen, so let’s pick up an app I love to work with, it’s called toggle Toggl, it’s a time tracking app. they’ve gone a lot further than that. I don’t want to, you know, deprecate or minimize what they’ve done. But their training is really cool. And it’s very minimal. But it works great. I don’t think they need a training team for that. Gotcha. Right. But then if you’re looking at outreach that, you know, I’m working with right now, it’s a platform, it’s fundamentally complicated. And it’s all about the workflow and the output that you know, you want to get to these results. How do you do that? Well, we have frameworks, we have best practices, we have change management, there’s a lot more fruit hanging off the tree of understanding.

Lincoln Murphy  57:30

I love that. Beautiful! Fruit of the tree of understanding.

Dave Derington  57:34

Oh, man, we got a couple soundbites here. Okay, let’s, let’s go ahead and be cognizant of everybody’s time, Lincoln, this is absolutely the conversation that I had hoped to get out of that is, you know, we look to you, as a leader in the industry, we thank you for your time, this has been a really great, hey, we got to the meat of what we’re looking for, we really wanted to open up the space about this interface of education in the world of customer success.

Adam Avramescu  58:01

So, I agree, we really got to the meat of the tree of of knowledge. And I also I also really appreciate I’m not

Dave Derington  58:05

I’m not gonna live that one down!

Lincoln Murphy  58:06

That’s yours. Just own it!  Get a shirt made.

Dave Derington  58:11

It’s mine. Good deal. Before we wrap up, is there anything else again, you’re our audience here is an overlap between customer success in customer education, primarily customer education practitioners, people making the training, anything else you’d like our audience to know about? About you and what you do?

Lincoln Murphy  58:31

All About me? Now, I think we pretty much covered me. Look, I mean, to know me is to know that I mean, my focus is, is on the customer and giving them what they need in order to be successful. And that means we have to know what it means to be successful from their perspective. And that’s the desired outcome. And you know, so if I if I was going to make a shirt for me, it would be desired outcome is result plus appropriate experience, just like yours would be something about the tree of knowledge. So look, I mean, that’s, that’s, that’s really it, you know, if you if you want to follow me on Twitter, it’s at Lincoln Murphy. Perfect. I don’t say much there anymore. I just, I always get in trouble. But, but feel free to follow me, I’ll share, I’ll share it when I post something. My website is 16 ventures calm, all spelled out. And that’s where I post all sorts of stuff. So you can, you can read my ramblings there about about customer success processes and strategy. But otherwise, I just appreciate you having me on here. And this was this was a great conversation about a great topic that I think is, is going to really play out. Not to say that, you know, the new normal and you know, the after times are gonna be weird or anything, but I think you know how this all plays out post COVID is going to be interesting. I think obviously, education is always important, but I can see it playing even a bigger role going forward. It’s good to hear.

Adam Avramescu  59:59

I love it. Whatever. What a beautiful note to end on. And so listeners, if you want to learn more, we have a podcast website at customer dot education, where you can find show notes and other material on Twitter. I’m Adam Avramescu.

Dave Derington  1:00:11

And I am at Dave Derington. And special thanks to Alan Koda for our amazing theme music. And if this helped you out or friends, you can help us out. We really hope that if you have some time, and you haven’t done it already, rate us give us five stars on Apple Podcasts or whatever pod catcher that you listen to overcast, Spotify

Adam Avramescu  1:00:32

Mail us star stickers!

Dave Derington  1:00:33

that I’d like that I’ve got kids in the house, they love little sticky notes. That really helps us if you leave a positive review. It helps us even more. Those two things really expose us to other people. share this with your friends get the word out. We’re trying like Lincoln; we’re trying to help the customer and help you. Adam, you wanna close it out?

Adam Avramescu  1:00:55

Yeah. Thank you for joining us, Lincoln. Thank you so much. Audience should you so much and go out and educate, experiment and find your people.

Dave Derington  1:01:07

Thanks, everybody!

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