Customer Success Key Learning from #CSSummit 2018

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I originally posted this on LinkedIn.

Being it is Canada’s 151st birthday today, I thought it fitting to finish and publish my recap of last week’s customer success gathering in Toronto.

On June 26th and 27th, a few hundred professionals gathered for the inaugural Customer Success Summit Canada. When the Strategy Institute asked me to speak at the event, I jumped at the opportunity to be part of a community that I hope continues to grow across Canada. The two days were packed with engaging speakers across several industries and the event provided plenty of networking opportunities. The location, the Old Mill Toronto, was ideal and reflective of all the natural beauty Canada has to offer. When I wasn’t at the conference, I took advantage of the biking and hiking trails, (both days), where I discovered overflowing waterfalls and lush forests. I also indulged in some of the most incredible Peruvian food that I’ve had in a while. It felt great to be back in my home country!

Back to the conference…the line up of speakers from both the USA and Canada brought together many different perspectives on customer success – after-all, each company has a different need to fill and is at a different phase in their transformation. The speakers weren’t pushing products during their sessions, but rather genuinely wanting to help other practitioners by sharing knowledge.

Here are three key takeaways from my experience:

  • Outside-In Approach: Customer success starts with the customer, not the company. If you start with the customer’s needs, then you can build a company around helping to satisfy the need. I see companies feeding customers way too much information during onboarding which has nothing to do with what the customer’s initial pain-point. Focus on outcomes first – the customer’s end goal. If you start with why did the customer purchased the product, then you can map the customer journey. Several speakers talked about this approach and Chris Doell, of Cisco, clearly outlined the ‘customer-centricity’ thinking with this acronym, CARE –>
  1. Customer Satisfaction – start here & then move forward with velocity, anticipating customer needs.
  2. Adoption – if you can make this effortless the rest will follow. Technology like customer success platforms can help your employees understand product usage, which leads to meaningful customer conversations, and digital adoption platforms can help with ‘in-platform’ real-time contextual guidance, for example.
  3. Retention – this is a companywide effort, not just the responsibility of a CSM or AE. Get ahead of any churn problem by delivering product value early – not when it is too late in the fire-fighting stage.
  4. Expansion – this is where customer marketing, engagement, and NPS comes in. My session focused on this piece – your customers are the growth engine for your company – they will open doors for you. Don’t forget about them once they become a customer or when they renew. Reward them and leverage their voice to better your product and to sell more.
  • Customer Interaction = Customer Reaction: Several of the speakers also talked about the opportunities the customer relationship creates – from expansion to risk. Sherrod Patching focused on the customer journey she has created at Leadspace and how a proactive approach has led to risk mitigation. As she put it, when you are creating the customer journey, keep in mind “helping more, selling less.” Peter Armaly, of Oracle, talked about how his team is changing the customer interactions and it starts at the top with the following:
  • C-level engagement,
  • Tireless customer success executives,
  • Honesty,
  • CS Operations and CS Strategy Teams,
  • In-house Research Body;
  • and Broad, Deep, Consistent messaging, up, down, and sideways.”

These massive shifts in delivering customer success, at a Fortune 100 company, are clearly not small initiatives! They are ones where companies must test with pilot programs first and fail quickly when one doesn’t work. Pick up and try again until you get it right.

  • Always be G.R.O.W. -ing: This acronym (defined below) shared by Tony Brucha, of ServiceSource, pretty much sums up everything that goes into customer success. It isn’t just about the product and customer adoption but rather the employees who make it possible. To build customer engagement you need employee engagement. It isn’t about one leader but a team of leaders, or as Tony put it – ‘lead with me’ – lead your customers to success.
  1. Grow beyond expectations – dare, learn.
  2. Revolutionize Revenue – innovate, transform.
  3. Own the Outcome – accountability, measure.
  4. Win as a Team – collaborate, celebrate.

As Kia Puhm, of K!a Consulting, explained – you have to break down company silos to successfully face growth challenges while keeping the customer at the center of your strategy.

I could go on and on about key learnings from this event but I think we all walked away with the idea that there is no secret formula to customer success – it is constantly evolving with artificial intelligence, automation, contextual guidance and customer motivation. Evolving customer needs to transform what it means to deliver value to the customer.

You can find more insights, photos and a few jokes from the attendees on Twitter with the hashtag #CSSummitCA.

Thank you to the Strategy Institute who put the event together and thank you for inviting me to speak on customer engagement. This is just the beginning of more customer success conversations in Canada and beyond.


Published by Customer Growth Advisor

Emilia D'Anzica is the founder of Customer Growth Advisors. The company was acquired by Winning By Design in December 2018. She is a senior technology business leader with nearly 20 years of delivering customer outcomes. Leveraging extensive comprehension of and talent for customer success transformation, Emilia is a valuable asset for tech, e-retail, recruitment, HR, communications, and telecom industries seeking expert assistance with digital transformation, building a customer success team from scratch, customizing professional services, creating exceptional company cultures, and establishing scalable operations and processes. Prior to launching her own consulting firm, she was the Vice President of Customer Engagement at WalkMe™ for three years where she built the customer success team and customer marketing team across four global locations. The team won a 2016 Customer Service Award from Stevie's as a result of her transformational work. Previously, Emilia served as a Director of Customer Success for both BrightEdge and Jobvite, scaling programs and teams globally. Emilia has been recognized as one of the “Top-25 Customer Success Influencers” and a 'Top 100 Customer Success Strategists' by Mindtouch. She was also recently named as one of the '7 most influential women in Customer Sucess'. Emilia has served as public school board member and part of a Parent Action Coalition in San Francisco, making a lifetime commitment to supporting public schools because it was those teachers who had the largest impact on her future. In addition, Emilia served on two SaaS advisory boards, Crowdvocate, and Catalyst, and has been on other boards over the past decade. Emilia holds a Masters of Business Administration (MBA), with Honors Distinction, from Saint Mary’s College of California. She focused on global strategy and competition. She attained a Bachelor of Arts Degree with a Canadian Studies Major, and a Social History Minor, from the University of British Columbia. You can contact Emilia at

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