“Hi! My name is Cosmin and I am your Customer Success Manager here at Cloudflare” is how I usually introduce myself and almost always I get met by a blank stare. It could be the name (it’s uncommon, to say the least) but in actual fact, many Customer Success professionals go through the same experience. Could it be that the title doesn’t give away much? What does ‘Customer Success Manager’ actually mean? Is that how they call Customer Support nowadays? And in fact, isn’t everyone in a business responsible for ‘customer success’?
Well let me explain..
Customer Success is a relatively new function that is becoming increasingly popular with XaaS businesses (XaaS stands for Anything as a Service). With any XaaS product, it is no longer the case that you make a significant investment in a perpetual license and are left to figure out how to implement it, how to use it and what else it can do. XaaS businesses operate a subscription model whereby if the product is not actually solving your problem, you can just stop the subscription and move on. Businesses operating a subscription model need to ensure that there is continuous and even increasing value for their customers. This is what Customer Success teams are responsible for.
As Success Managers, we help customers make the most out of their contracted products and we operate on the assumption that if the products are helping customers solve problems, while delivering ROI, then there is a good motive to renew the subscription. Internally Customer Success performance should, in theory, be easy to measure because customers vote with their wallets. Compound that, as XaaS companies mature, the revenue from existing subscriptions exceeds revenue from new sales (explanation), and there is a good reason why you will meet many, many Customer Success Managers in the foreseeable future.
Customer Success at Cloudflare
Cloudflare is on a mission to help build a better internet and we do that partly by replacing hardware with similar capabilities in the cloud. We are no strangers to subscriptions and Customer Success.
Cloudflare Enterprise customers get allocated a named Customer Success Manager (CSM) to help with, amongst other things: on-boarding, project and resource management on the Cloudflare side, customer training, configuration recommendations, ongoing insights, sharing best practices, point of escalation and more. Going back to what the title is, it’s not easy to come up with a name for a jack of all trades.
Our CSM team is dispersed across multiple offices and time zones. It’s no coincidence that we happen to be physically located next to (literally, a few meters away from) our colleagues in the Solutions Engineering team and Customer Support team. From this perspective, we are quite privileged that we can access resources cross-functionally and pull them into customer meetings. It’s not unusual that we show up at a customer meeting with Jen Taylor, our Head of Product, or one of our C-level execs or even a founder! It’s good for the overall business relationship and good for our senior leaders to see and hear first hand what works and what doesn't.
Cloudflare’s engineering team release changes multiple times each day so there will always be new functionality that is relevant for our customers. While we do keep customers updated via our blog, regular Enterprise features webinars and the monthly Enterprise newsletter, wouldn’t it be good for someone at Cloudflare (say like a Customer Success Manager) to filter through all this information and provide customers with specific use cases for their specific needs? If you haven’t already, make sure that emails from @cloudflare.com addresses can reach your inbox as we tend to email you from time to time with tailored recommendations and invitations to regular Business Reviews.
And it doesn’t end there..
Your Customer Success Manager will become your advocate and will coordinate internally in an attempt to influence the road map. It may sound like I am talking about double agents here, but it’s true. It is important that we continue to innovate and also work towards delivering our most requested features and product requests. The more problems we can solve for our customers, the more useful our products become. Liaising with the Product team is something that we do very well at Cloudflare but given the broad product offering, we will sometimes have specific requests backlogged.
One of things we are working on improving is our ability to be closer to our customers. We want to see customers where it’s convenient for them and we want to have the opportunity to understand the specifics of different regions in the world. It does make a difference (by an order of magnitude) when we can sit down at the same table and work together towards our customers goals. Internally we’ve been able to map regions to CSMs, but it wasn’t until recently that we have rolled out a solution that scales.
Introducing Customer Success Meetups!
Meetups, we found out, are a great medium for our customers to meet face to face with our team, within their regions and with minimum effort. While organised by the CSM team in collaboration with our Marketing team, it’s not just CSMs that make the trip to various different countries of the world. Product Directors, Product Managers, Engineers and Solutions Engineers typically attend as well as speak at these meet-ups. In addition, we also encourage customers to share use cases and tips. If you haven’t attended one yet, lookout for an invite as we do organise a few every month!
What’s the Value of Meeting Customers Face to Face?
My name is Valentine, and like Cosmin, I am part of the CSM team in London! As a CSM, the most exciting part of my role is to meet our customers face to face, shake their hands, and actually meet the people that always sat at the other side of the screen. Meeting customers in person is not only exciting, but also vital to building a strong interpersonal relationship with your customers, getting to know them and their company’s goals better. Customer Meetups are not only a great setting to further foster these relationships, but also to help customers get more value from Cloudflare, because it is a great environment for customers to get to know more about Cloudflare too.
During a recent EMEA meetup, organised in the vibrant city of Berlin, two different customers presented their story with Cloudflare. One customer shared how their Cloudflare use-case changed focus from security to scalability and how this transformation was thanks to Cloudflare Logs’ integration with their preferred visualisation partner, Datadog.
The second customer presentation was more code oriented, and they did a deep dive into their use-case for Workers: how they migrated their front-end to the Edge with Workers. This helped other customers grasp the power of Workers when integrated within their business logic, especially because Workers is a product with so many endless opportunities. Sharing how they are using Workers helped make use-cases more concrete and helped attendees understand the true added-value. Both customer stories enjoyed an enthusiastic session of Q&A, where customers could ask questions to each other directly. As a CSM, it is exciting to see how customers with the same goals and pains can relate to and learn from each other. Meetups are a great environment to give customers the opportunity to meet each other too, and discover other best practices.
During the Berlin event, Alex Cruz Farmer, Product Manager for Cloudflare Web Application Firewall, joined us. This was another occasion for customers to get more first hand information and knowledge on what happens behind the scenes from a technical perspective, and also a look into the WAF road map. During the networking session, customers could also reach out to Alex in person and get more details on topics they were particularly interested in. It is important for us, as CSMs, to make these PMs accessible and give customers the chance to give their feedback too.
So, in a flexible nutshell, this is how a Customer Meetup format usually looks: an exciting mix between customers sharing their Cloudflare stories, Cloudflare Product and Engineering team members doing demos or sharing what they are working on, followed by a networking session to make sure everyone has a chance to speak to everyone. And, in a successful Customer Meetup, the outcome hopefully is that relationships have flourished, customers have learned from each other and Cloudflare, that Cloudflare has learned from its customers, and that everyone had a good time.
So far, we have organised meetups in EMEA in locations ranging from the UK to Armenia, stopping along the way in places like Malta, Sweden and Russia. Our North America, Latin America, and Asia-Pacific teams have organised more than 11 meetups since the beginning of the year!
The CSM team are by no means professionals at organising events, but as the saying goes “Practice makes perfect”, and with each meetup we continuously iterate and learn from past obstacles to make the next one even better. That is why it really means a lot to us that you join us in our future events that will be coming up this year! We’d also like to invite you to present at our events, if you are keen to be a speaker one day. Also, regardless of where you are in the world, do let us know whether you’d be interested in hosting a Cloudflare Customer Meetup. We would be happy to hear your interest and collaborate with you!
Hope to meet you soon!
Cloudflare Customer Success team