Cloudflare TV

Behind the Scenes with Customer Success

Presented by Nela Collins , Valentine Decamps
Originally aired on 

We're to welcome you to Behind the Scenes with Customer Success, where you’ll get a taste of what Customer Success means at Cloudflare by meeting multiple leaders and stakeholders that make up our Customer Success organization. Today, I am pleased to introduce you to Nela Collins, our Director of Customer Success in EMEA. Learn more about the Customer Success team in EMEA and our tremendous growth!


Transcript (Beta)

and we are live. Welcome everyone. This is Cloudflare TV. My name is Valentine and I am a strategic customer success manager at Conflare and I am very excited to welcome you to the first edition of Behind the Scenes of Conflare Customer Success.

This is a session where you get a taste of what customer success means at Conflare by meeting multiple of our stakeholders and leaders that make up this amazing organization.

And today I am very pleased to introduce you to Nela Collins, our director of customer success in EMEA.

So Nela, welcome to this first edition. Thank you so much.

I'm very excited to be on your debut broadcast and yeah, really excited to talk today with you about the organization and what we're up to and how it's sort of evolving.

Awesome. Thank you so much. And just before we get started, I just wanted to give a quick update for our viewers.

If you have any questions, please feel free to submit them by emailing us at livestudio at

You can also find the banner on the right below this video.

So please feel free to share your thoughts, comments and questions and we'll be happy to answer those as we go.

But Nela, back to us.

So not only are you the first interviewee for this edition of Behind the Scenes of Customer Success, but you were also one of the first members of the customer success organization in EMEA in London.

So you have been at Conflare for a very long time.

You joined in March 2016. You've seen the customer success organization develop, the organization develop as a whole, a product portfolio develop.

So you've seen it all and you've also had so many different roles from being an individual contributor to now managing over 30 people.

So tell us about your Conflare journey.

Where did you start and where are you today? Yeah. So yeah, as you said, when I joined Cloudflare, there were two people on the London team and maybe five or six CSMs globally.

It wasn't a very big team. There was a handful of accounts.

We didn't have very many well -known logos. We really just, you know, getting things started.

The products that we had were limited to application security.

So, you know, the content delivery network was pretty, it was there and growing, but relatively basic.

Our WAF and DDoS protection were also there and we were developing all those.

And what, you know, my role was managing customers, just like a CSM would do.

And, you know, we had, you know, managing incidents or managing any of the issues that would come up with them.

The team started growing. And as you said, today it's over 30 and a big part of my role was really kind of growing that team.

And, you know, hiring is going to come up a lot in this discussion because it really was the basis for a lot of the things that I did and thought about.

So apart from customers, getting the right team members in was constantly something on my mind.

And yeah, now, you know, I think we run a lot more efficiently, you know, more professionally.

We cover a product set that spans, you know, highly sophisticated application performance and security, really impressive serverless computing solution.

And now even, you know, including storage.

And then we of course have our Zero Trust offering, which is, you know, helping customers secure their network.

So there's so many new things that we're doing now and scaling and growing and teaching the team along the way has been a huge highlight, but a really exciting time for us.

Yeah, I think you're absolutely spot on.

I think in terms of our innovation, I think this is probably one of the most impressive things about Confluent.

We have a developer portfolio and we keep developing.

I think we are very ambitious at shipping quickly, making sure that our customers get access to all these new shiny solutions, platform improvements.

So I think as a CSM, we are in a really good place of showing this whole portfolio, this whole, you know, new platform improvements, new improvements to our solution, to our dashboard.

So as a customer success manager, we're always in a good position of adding more value and sharing more use cases with customers.

So great that this was, you know, along your whole journey and it keeps, and this ingredient of innovation keeps being there within Confluent.

Thanks so much for sharing.

So I think you already mentioned, right, that Confluent as a whole changed a lot in terms of growth, in terms of portfolio development.

Can you tell us about what were your biggest lessons within your Confluent journey?

Yeah, I think hiring the right people has always been one of the most important things that I have focused on.

This is where I spent the majority of my time. Developing a hiring process that's, you know, rigorous, developing a process that will raise the bar for the business, you know, learning from the types of people that come in and their backgrounds and iterating, rewriting job descriptions, all the things that you can think about.

That has been a major focus because all of this growth and all this great work that we do, you know, can't be done alone.

It has to be done as a team and the people that you bring in are the most important people to do that.

So the number one thing, you know, in growing a business or a team that's growing with a fast business, I think is bringing the right people in.

The other thing where, you know, has personally benefited me a lot is internal networking.

This has been, you know, a lot of the source of some of my personal success in Cloudflare because I made it a really big point, especially early on, to meet as many people as possible, to walk over to them and have that conversation.

Don't send the email.

We had the luxury in London of having an engineering and development team right here sitting next to us in the office.

So when you can make those personal connections, make them, and they last forever.

You know, I'll hit people up now that I first talked to many years ago.

And just because I've had that personal connection with them, it's, you know, it helps us help our customers.

And so I really encourage my team to focus a lot on that.

And then the next lesson is really being comfortable with constant change.

When you're in a really growing company, things change all the time.

And you need to be personally, mentally prepared, and you need to mentally prepare your team.

Your manager will change. Your remit will change.

The country of the customers that you're, you know, servicing might change.

The level of customers will change. That's just going to happen. And if this is something that is going to be uncomfortable, you know, maybe a more, you know, larger, stabilized sort of situation is better for you.

But in this high growth, fast-paced environment, it will change.

And the sooner you accept that, I think the easier things are going to be.

Yeah. No, I think all the three points you mentioned are incredibly important.

I think the first one, right, hiring the right people.

And I think as a team, we are all responsible for hiring the right people.

We have a process in place where everyone has a chance to talk to candidates, understand, you know, an interview based on different angles, having different questions to ensure that we have a 360 sort of coverage.

And I think as myself, I think it's a really cool thing to be part of this process because we have a say in who joins the team, right?

We want to make sure that we have the right people, amazing people joining our team.

The second one about networking internally.

I can only confirm and validate what you mentioned because I think as a customer success manager, for us to be successful, we need to have a really good network, right, of our internal organization of understanding who can help us in this, you know, situation with our customer.

How can we deliver more value to our customers?

And usually, as mentioned, right, it's not alone. We have to work in a team.

And that's the great thing about being in this organization, being a success organization.

We work with so many different teams, product teams, AR teams.

And it's just great, the variety of people that you also get to meet along this process.

And last but not least, being comfortable with change. Absolutely. I mean, even myself, you know, when I joined four years ago, I think our most exciting product was very much rate limiting.

Today, you know, it's one of our, it's a commodity.

It's not that exciting anymore. But it's really incredible.

And I think personally, it gives you a chance to be learning all the time to be on your feet all the time to be dynamic and keep on your toes.

And I think this is also what makes it exciting.

So thanks so much Nela for sharing. The next bit that we are very interested in getting into is, you know, what does customer success mean for Confer?

Because of course, this is a term, this is a role that differs a lot depending on the maturity of the organization, but also on the type of organization.

So would you be able to share your thoughts on that? Yeah, I think what does customer success mean could be a really long answer.

But I kind of think of it maybe in two ways.

And it's kind of what it means to our customers and what it means, you know, as far as our responsibility in the organization.

At its core, customer success is ensuring customers are getting the maximum value possible out of the products that they have purchased with us.

I think that principle is pretty common throughout, you know, a lot of customer success organizations, and it's hard to dispute that one.

Where my ideas are evolving a little bit more is, you know, what is our place in the organization?

And I think that depends greatly on the stage of the organization, the pace of the organization.

And at Cloudflare, you know, one of the things that I think really is our responsibility, apart from kind of the retention aspects, is making sure that our customer base is a top growth engine for the company.

With a company like Cloudflare, when we're literally shipping new products, features, capabilities every single day, we owe it to our customers, not just our organization, but our customers to make sure that they're on the cutting edge with us.

And that means that they're going to be, you know, our customer base is going to be a growth engine.

You know, they want to stay on the top of the innovation just as much as we do.

And sometimes they're slower moving, so we need to help them learn and adopt and sort of teach them what the benefits of all of these cool new technologies are.

So I think it's kind of, they play very well into each other.

Yeah. And I think just to elaborate also a little bit on what you mentioned, we want to help educate, we want to help our customers be successful, we want to make sure that we help them achieve their objectives.

So I think understanding where they are and where they want to go is so fundamental to how we deliver our customer success.

We are all about understanding their business, understanding their current situation, their goals, where they want to go, their challenges.

So it's a lot about not only being a vendor and providing a technological solution, but it's about having this partnership with our customers, right?

It's about building that relationship, that trust to help us move from just being another vendor to really being a strategic partner and help and being a significant part of their success, right?

That's what we want to achieve. And I think this is something that a lot of customers would also, I think, agree.

I mean, we have so many different case studies that show the whole value from a technological point of view, but also from a how we work together with them.

So I think it really resonates with me with what you just mentioned.

Awesome. Well, and what about the future of customer success?

Because, of course, you mentioned, you know, we're moving very quickly.

We're never, you know, static. You're at Cloudflare. We're growing very quickly.

What are you most excited about the future of the success organization? Yeah, I think when I think of like what I'm excited about for the CSMs, right?

Like the company in general, the outlook of the company brings a lot of opportunities.

Cloudflare is a company, you know, we keep talking about this. We're constantly innovating the products and services.

And so, you know, we're hiring ambitious people that match that.

And they're going to have a lot of natural opportunities inside the customer success organization and outside.

But customer success is a perfect place to kind of understand, you know, an organization.

You get to work with literally everybody.

We work with finance, legal, product, engineering, network, marketing.

I could name every department in Cloudflare. Support.

Support, of course, support, lots of support. You know, of course, you know, we work with them very, very, very closely.

And so, I think that the first thing I'm excited about is just opportunities.

Because, you know, we're going to have opportunities to learn new technologies, to even learn new roles, to kind of structure the organization.

And actually, the next thing is, I'm excited about how we get to build and scale the team.

We're, you know, we went from two CSMs to 30.

And like, you know, the next stage of growth will be a lot more CSMs. And when that happens, you know, we all play a part in building and scaling what that looks like.

When there's 30 people, you have to actually have processes. When there's two people, you just kind of do what you want.

And the great thing about Cloudflare and the success team is that we all, if you want to participate anyways, get to play a part in that.

And I think the possibilities are endless. Like, you know, we're talking about a customer community.

We do customer meetups. We do, you know, all kinds of different things to help scale and, you know, work with our customers.

And one of the things that sticks with me that our CEO, Matthew, said, I think it was our kickoff right after the IPO.

He said, this company is going to be growing a lot.

And there will be new processes. And some people don't like, you know, a bunch of processes.

But if the processes suck, it's because you did that.

Like, because you're the ones that are going to be building the processes.

And you're the ones that are going to be creating that. And I think that that's great.

Like, we're getting to not only learn about technology, we're getting to learn how to scale and grow a business.

And, you know, we're learning from other people who have done it before.

And we're kind of making our own way from things that we've experienced.

And everyone on the team gets to be a part of that if they want to.

And so, I think it's cool we can still really be involved in some of these bigger picture processes.

Yeah, I think you're absolutely right. And I think this is also what personally very much excites me about Cloudflare.

If you want to have a role in changing processes or shaping them, you are more than welcome to do that, right?

We do have a lot of team members that have their own little project going on where we kind of involve our managers and get that support to help make the organization better.

And I think not only Matthew says that, but I think also Michelle, our also co-founder, she also mentions all the time, right, that if you see an efficiency, go and change it, right?

You have the power to do that. You can be proactive.

You can play a role here. We are still in the size where an individual contributor can really make a significant impact.

And I think it's a really cool thing to actually, you know, take advantage of, right?

Because it will also give you an opportunity to learn so many new skills, to work with so many different team members, and to really have, you know, perhaps a more holistic understanding of how the organization works.

So, absolutely. And I think this is one of the most exciting things about Cloudflare.

And I appreciate that you pointed this out.

So, I think we talked a lot about, right, that systems are growing a lot and the CS organization is just moving on and we're getting more and more folks to join.

And so, a big part of your job today is really ensuring that we hire the right people, that we grow in the right direction.

Can you tell us about your vision?

Do you have a vision for a team that you're trying to build? Perhaps, you know, what is important to you?

Yeah. Just a few quarters ago, I kind of laid out what, you know, basically some North Stars for the team.

And these we want to kind of keep in our daily life.

And they're things to help us keep on track when we scale and grow, because that's what we're going to be doing.

So, the first North Star that I, you know, put on here is customer-related.

And it's, you know, constantly meeting and exceeding customer expectations.

It's pretty self -explanatory, but while they're with Cloudflare, we want to wow them.

And, you know, there's different things that we can do, you know, process improvements or, you know, improve how we deliver meetings or what tools we have or what data we can give them.

You know, lots of projects related to that. The next one, you know, also mentioned, but, you know, our customers are a top growth engine for Cloudflare.

Now, this doesn't necessarily mean that we're getting our CSMs to be salespeople.

It means, just what I said before, we're innovating and delivering such useful products that our customers can truly benefit from.

So, it's really our responsibility to make sure that there's awareness and availability.

This is working with marketing, working, you know, directly with our customers, looking at all of our content, and just making it better.

And then the third one, really, really important, probably the most important, that our team members are happy and successful doing their best work.

None of the things can happen without that. So, you know, we want to make sure that they're enabled to do that.

You know, we take feedback, too much admin work here.

This process is bad. Like, you know, we try to fix things.

Nothing's ever perfect, but, you know, keeping that as a North Star is really important to constantly get feedback and change and evolve and, you know, take things on board.

And then the last thing is developing rigor around goals, you know, for metrics that are important to us.

If we set a goal and don't measure it, or don't hold ourselves accountable for it, what's the point?

Like, it's not going to happen.

So, I think it's really important that we stay on track.

You know, if you have a personal goal, or if I have a personal goal, like, I like to tell other people, and I like to have them check in on me, because I want to make progress.

And same thing here. We're here working hard all day, every day of the week, work days.

And, you know, we should make sure that we're rigorous around our goals, and we hold ourselves accountable.

So, those sort of four things are really how I see, you know, our vision is growth, scale, you know, evolution, lots of that.

But it kind of has to stay rooted in, you know, these four things for us right now.

Yeah, absolutely. And I think, especially the last one, it's not only a great goal for the customer success organization.

I think it's a great goal to have, you know, personally to have those metrics in mind, like, how much you want to grow, how much you want to improve, and having and sharing that with the team, and making sure they're accountable.

And I also want to elaborate on, you know, your second goal, right?

You're the North Star of having our customers be our growth engine.

And this is, again, I think, as we discussed, making sure that we are really partnering up with customers.

And I think what our customers also very much appreciate from us is that they also have a say in the products that we're building, right?

So, that feedback loop, that product customer loop, you know, what do they need?

How can we ensure that we add functionalities that solve their use cases?

All that also helps us make our products better, and more helpful, more impactful.

And so, I think, in this context, I think it very much resonates with me, because it's all about that collaboration, making sure that we understand our customers, what their challenges are, and also help build solutions that support those.

So, that makes total sense. So, I know we have about eight minutes left, and we have a lot of, we still have a couple of questions to go through.

And I think for those that are hearing, you know, possible candidates that might be interested in joining Cloudflare, Nala, would you be able to elaborate on what kind of CSMs we're looking to welcome in the team?


So, all of the inside information is here, right? I won't give away too much. But I want someone who's super interested in Cloudflare.

They're on board with our mission, our ambition, our products, all of that.

Because this is a very technical product, and we have very technical customers.

And if the team doesn't have a basic interest in this, it will be really hard to connect with our customers in a meaningful way.

You know, I don't think this is everybody's cup of tea, probably. And really, any job that you're applying for, I really hope you care about, you know, the product that your company is selling, or, you know, whatever they're doing.

Because it will be very, very hard to enjoy it yourself, and to probably be successful in it, working there.

So, that's number one. Empathy is majorly important for, you know, customer-facing people to have.

For a lot of our customers, their website is their livelihood, right?

This is where they conduct 90% of their business, or maybe even 100% of their business.

And if there's any sort of issues with it, this is a really major crisis for them.

They could lose hundreds of thousands of dollars.

So, you know, having that empathy to, you know, work with them on some of their major issues is very, very important.

And our team, you know, doesn't, you know, just stop at, I couldn't find the answer in a wiki, so I don't know what to do.

Like, we uncover all the rocks, and we, you know, we find the solutions for customers when we need to.

I think, you know, there's other considerations, like skills and experience, but the previous two are really, you know, can trump experience, I think, in a lot of ways.

And they're really hard to look for in a CV, unless a candidate kind of goes out of their way to show them.

So, I would say, to get attention, that's a good thing to do.

I don't remember all of the CVs and, you know, cover letters that I've read, because there were thousands.

But, Valentin, I remember yours, because you made, you know, you referenced, like, you know, current events with Cloudflare.

You did a lot of, it was clear you had done a lot of research, and you wanted to work at this company.

You didn't just want any vendor job.

And, you know, that was very important, and you've been very successful here.

And I thought that, you know, those types of things are really important. Well, thank you so much.

I very much appreciate you remembering my cover letter.

I remember putting a lot of work into it. So, I think, for all the candidates, definitely, you know, take time to write, to do your investigation, to learn more about Cloudflare, see how you kind of can connect with us, with our mission.

And I think, for the rest, I think, Nela, you gave a very good, a lot of tips and tricks that will hopefully help a lot of people join.

So, thanks so much for that, and being so open.

All right. Well, getting at the end of our interview, I have a couple more questions.

The next question is, what do you think our customers, mostly, appreciate about, you know, customer success, or our customer success team at Cloudflare?

What differentiates us? I think, like, the top two points of what we're hiring kind of goes into this, which is expertise and empathy.

You know, this gives our team the necessary drive and tools to solve their problems, because you kind of need both of those things.

So, you know, we want to proactively help them, not just solve problems, but proactively help them on projects that they're working on.

That's kind of the next stage, if everything's going really well.

So, you know, you've talked about partnering a lot with customers.

I think our job is really to make our stakeholders look good, right? They look good in that they've made a great decision purchasing Cloudflare, and they look good because they're getting outcomes beyond expectations.

And, you know, we're giving them the expertise that they need to make them look good to their boss, right?

And that's what I think about a lot with our customers. And really doing this turns us into partners rather than, you know, a customer-vendor relationship.

And this is the ideal relationship for us.

It gives, you know, the CS team the most satisfaction.

It gives the customers the most satisfaction. We can ask each other different kinds of favors.

And it's kind of, yeah, the best kind of, I guess, evolution of that customer relationship when we can get to that point.

And in a lot of cases, we do.

And I think it really comes from this, yeah, empathy and expertise.

Yeah, I can totally resonate with that, because at the end of the day, you are, you know, dealing with people, people that, you know, have targets, are under stress, need to deliver, you know, have responsibilities internally.

And so, I think what you mean also by saying that, you know, making our customers look good is very much giving them a chance also to shine internally.

True Cloudflare, which means when we are very much delivering on their goals, on their projects, and again, overachieving in terms of their expectations and really being that trusted advisor.

And like you said, right, at the end of the day, we're all dealing with people.

We need to connect. We need to bond. And this is also when the collaboration with the customer becomes more meaningful and also more, I think, fun.

And we all, you know, we all want to spend time on the phone with people we enjoy working with, right?

I think at the end of the day, that's also an important topic, an important ingredient of having that relationship with customers.

All right, we're coming to an end, so we have about a minute left.

Nana, any last tips, tricks on how to learn more about customer success within Cloudflare?

Well, there's, if you want to learn about Cloudflare, I would say do that first.

If you're not already familiar, because if you're looking at working here, as I said before, I hope you're interested in what we do and our mission, make the Internet better.

That is kind of one of the driving, you know, forces behind a lot of the people who work here, if not every single one.

We all really believe in this. So we've got so much content online.

We've got Cloudflare TV, which you are already, you already know about, but there's tons of content.

You can, you'll learn tons about our ethos.

You'll learn about, you know, our products and all of the projects that we're working on.

There's so many and we're involved in a lot of communities. So I would say that's a great place to start.

And of course, yeah, lots of teams are hiring as well.

So it's a great place to sort of look through and see what fits. Nana, thank you so much for being here and have a good end of your day.

Yeah. Thanks. You too.