Behind the Scenes with Customer Success
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 Francisco de Ponce de Léon, Customer Success Manager, who leads a team of 10 CSMs at Cloudflare. Learn more about the Customer Success team in EMEA and Cloudflare's collaborative culture.
All right and we're live. Welcome everyone. This is Cloudflare TV. My name is Valentine.
I am a Strategic Customer Success Manager at Cloudflare and I'm very excited to welcome you to the second edition of Behind the Scenes with Customer Success, a session where you get a taste of what customer success means at Cloudflare by meeting multiple leaders and stakeholders at make up our customer success organization and today I'm very happy, very pleased to introduce you to Francisco Ponce de León, one of our managers in the EMEA Customer Success Organization leading a team of about 10 customer success managers.
So Francisco, welcome.
Hello, good morning, good afternoon, good evening and thank you so much for having me in your segments.
I think it's an amazing initiative. So yeah, I feel really honored to be here.
Wonderful. Well, we feel very honored to have you as well, Francisco, and before we get into the question, I do want to tell all our viewers that if you have any questions, comments, you're welcome to submit them by emailing us at livestudio at Cloudflare.tv.
You can find the banner on the right side of this video, so feel free to reach out and we'll make sure to answer all your questions.
But Francisco, back to us. I know we have so much content to go through, so I really want to make the most of this time.
The first question that I have for you is, well, you have now been at Cloudflare for about three years or more than three years.
You came as an associate customer success manager managing a book of business on your own and now you are a team leader, you're a manager managing a team of about 10 CSMs.
Tell us about your Cloudflare journey, what you have learned, and yeah, a little bit more about how it has been for you.
Yeah, so I, as you correctly pointed out, I joined Cloudflare a bit more than three years ago in a contributor role where I initially looked after 130 customers roughly scattered across EMEA, so Europe, Middle East, and Africa.
And I was actually the 11th person to join the EMEA CS team.
You were already here by that time, and now it's pretty good to think that this team has grown to 35 people.
Yeah, and the wider CS team has grown even more.
And that period taught me a lot to understand not only what customers were looking after from Cloudflare, but also to learn about internal processes, how to work things out with different teams, work with different departments.
And as Cloudflare and the whole team is growing in general, a bit more than two years ago, there was another opportunity for a leadership role.
I applied to it, and I was fortunate enough to transition to this position.
So two years later, which is now, I'm currently working with a team of 10 CSMs.
One of them actually started on Monday. So just now, we are working with multiple regions, which are Middle East, Pandox, North East, South of Europe, and what we call the scale team.
As that's another initiative to continue improving our processes further.
Yeah, thank you so much, Francisco, for highlighting that.
I think one of the takeaways that I have from you is that we're continuing on this high growth journey, on this high scalability.
We need to always ensure that our processes get smarter, get more efficient, get more automated.
So there are always opportunities to improve internal processes, to really have an impact on that.
And I know that you have had a lot of impact in terms of optimizing some of our processes.
And I do want to, before we get to that, can you tell us a little bit more about your learnings in this journey?
Because you talked about processes, you talked about high growth, efficiency.
What else do you think has shaped your journey at Cloudflare?
Yeah, so there actually are many things that contributed to that. The first one is, as a CSM, we're meant to be raising relationships, whether that's with the customers, as we are representing them internally, but also internally, because whenever we need to help a customer or represent them, we need to talk to multiple different teams.
For instance, customer support, service engineering, finance, legal, marketing, and too many more to name right now.
But almost every team could actually be related to that, and well, particularly product.
So yeah, we have to get involved with a lot of people.
So working around on how can you meet more people internally will definitely help you on the external facing side.
And that also helps a lot with the empathy and understanding why are we making some decisions here and there.
I can cover a bit more about the empathy part later, but yeah, usually customer success managers are people who really enjoy helping others, and yeah, I'm one of them as well.
It sounds cheesy, but I really like it when I can help somebody.
And then another thing that has helped me is the fact that change is a constant, and it must be embraced, especially in the software as a service environment.
We can't expect things to stay the same way because that will not be the case.
If they stay the same, the companies will not continue growing, we will not continue providing services and products for customers, and that's not what we want.
We want the customers to be happy, and for that to happen, we need to make a lot of changes, and for them to be like, oh, Francisco, or Kauffler, that's amazing, thank you.
That's exactly what I needed. And that's the kind of feedback that we want to hear from them.
Absolutely. I think the way that you define customer success is also how I see it.
It's about building relationships, building relationships not only with the customer externally, but also and especially internally, because in order to be a successful customer success manager, you have to really have those really great relationships internally, because you will need to be acting as the orchestrator of getting those resources in front of the customer, making sure that you are mobilizing everyone to have that ownership to help you.
So absolutely, I think you're right.
Being able to navigate the organization and being able to build those cross-functional relationships, if it's with the support team, the endorsing team, the product team, engineering team, you name it, we are really there to make those relationships happen and work on behalf of the customer.
So absolutely. And I think what you also mentioned, you talked about change being a constant.
I think that's really, really true.
I think also in my 4 years at Cloudflare, change has always been the thing that never changed, let's say.
And I think at Cloudflare, you really learn to be comfortable with the uncomfortable or comfortable with being outside your comfort zone.
And I think that's also a great part of being in a customer success manager role because you're constantly learning, you're constantly adapting to the business, to your customers' requirements.
So yeah, Francisco, thank you so much for highlighting that.
And I think back to the processes, because you have been somebody that has had a lot of influence in improving our internal processes, especially in the context of incident management.
I think we all know that sometimes it isn't perfect, so we do have to respond to incidents, we do have to support our customers.
What's your take on incidents?
What do you think is important in this context? Yeah, so nobody likes incidents.
Unfortunately, they happen, they will happen sometimes to a smaller degree, sometimes to bigger ones in the sense that the smaller ones could be of the users cannot access to the dashboard, which is not great, but at least the service is there, the website is not down, the traffic is going through and they're not having a business impact behind.
But yeah, whether it's small or big one, we don't like them and we want to improve that.
So the main thing is to understand the root cause of the incident and then set up processes in place to avoid this ever again.
And of course, to deal with the customers, understand what was the impact for them and whatever feedback they have for us to see what we can do differently and better.
Whenever there is an incident, especially the big ones, there is a lot of cross-functional collaboration.
So actually, based on what we were saying earlier, if you already know the organization in general, and you know which are the departments which to talk to and so on, in these cases, it's really helpful.
And what happens usually is if there is an incident, we get notified, and then there is a workroom call and a workroom chat to first of all, understand what's going on, face the incidents, and share with everyone the initial comms and put out a website in Cloudflare for instance and say like, hey, we're really sorry, we're having an incident, we're looking into it, we hope to be back with more news ASAP, and give some sort of peace of mind to the customer that we are on it.
We have, I lost count now, but we have more than 26 million domains, I think, behind Cloudflare today.
So a lot of people are relying on our service to be up and running.
So whenever we have these big incidents where the traffic was down, of course, we were feeling pretty bad.
We don't want that to happen.
And we know that for the customers, that's also horrible. We don't want customers to be down.
So what do we do here? We want to transmit as much surprise as possible to them and be sympathetic and try to put ourselves in their shoes.
If it's an e-commerce and the website is down, the impact will be massive.
If it's another kind of business, they will surely have some impacts, but the impact might be slightly different.
So getting to understand those kinds of things are really important from a customer success perspective to know, for instance, how to sell your customers and why.
So another thing we do and I actually do really like about Cloudflare is the transparency behind.
For all these major incidents, we always have a blog article, usually something that the CTO and sometimes the CEO and a few other C-level executives actually work on.
Sometimes within the same day of the incident or whatever, but we are trying to be as open as we can and say, hey, we're sorry, we messed up.
This was a root cause. Sometimes there was one case, probably for a moment, but I think it was in 2019 or 2020, that there were some wires incorrectly unplugged and that actually created a big issue.
But yeah, we put that process in place. After that, that has never happened again.
So being able to iterate on these processes every time we can and improve them is crucial.
It's a very dynamic space. We need to adapt and adopt changes.
I think we have great processes, but processes can always be improved.
There's always a new perspective to consider and there are always new things to do.
And once the incident is over, we need to make sure, how do we follow up with customers?
How do we set up meetings with them? Should we involve higher management at some point, depending on the customer, the impact it had?
What about the incident reports?
Because yeah, the blog article is amazing. We will use that.
But for the incident reports, what else are we going to share? The incident report usually takes a few more days, since there is a post-mortem that we do.
And so yeah, we want to make sure that we are looking into this and how to avoid this error.
Yeah, I think this is really spot on. And thank you so much for elaborating on this answer, Francisco.
I think you said it all. First of all, we don't like incidents.
We get hurt when our customers get hurt, right? We really feel their pain.
And I think it's also an opportunity for us to really keep being remembered that our customers really trust us with business-critical assets, right?
If we are having an incident, they are going to be impacted.
Our customers' customers will be impacted.
And so I think it's, again, an opportunity to say here that we really feel the pain for our customers.
And I think you mentioned a key word, empathy.
This is really an opportunity to put ourselves again in the shoes of our customers, understand the pain, and really understand the impact that it has caused them.
And every time we have an incident, the priority will be to fix it.
And it's really crazy the amount of people, the amount of resources that will just be collaborating together in those different channels, in those different forums, GChat, but also JIRAs, and you name it.
It's just incredible how everybody is just organizing themselves, collaborating in order to resolve it as soon as possible.
So it's really an opportunity for the whole organization, different departments to really come together with one mission, right?
Like, let's resolve this for our customers.
So I think in terms of the customer centricity of our organization, you can really see it internally how everybody comes together with one mission.
It's very powerful. And I think... Sorry to interrupt you. Something else I also really appreciate about Gaffer in those regards is that whenever there were incidents, I never saw a culture behind or a finger pointing because if there was somebody who was more involved in like, oh, this is something, like, if it was a change in the call, like in the last incident we had a few months ago, I'm sure that person was feeling horrible.
So it's like, no, like, yeah, it's not great, but we need to improve the processes.
How can we make sure that doesn't happen ever again?
So I really like as well that, of course, incidents are horrible, but how can we make it better?
How do we make that person feel like, okay, I should do it right now.
And yeah, that's it for me. Absolutely. Absolutely.
It's a process, right? I really agree with you. We never do that finger pointing that does not exist at Gaffer.
It's all about the processes and how we as a joint team cross-functionally can really support the process of becoming more efficient and bulletproof, right?
Because at the end of the day, we want to ensure that our processes are solid and not allowing those sort of incidents to take place.
So yeah, I think improving all the time, which is, I think the final message that you wanted to put forward, it's all about every incident, let's learn from it.
Like it's an opportunity to even get better every single time. So yeah, Francisco, thank you so much for highlighting that.
I think this is, as a CSM, incidents are part of it.
Like you have to know how to deal with it, how to respond.
And yeah, your work in this context has been really incredible. So thank you so much for sharing your experience.
Thank you. It makes me blush. It's a lot of teamwork, honestly.
And as you said, I'm really amazed, like as soon as something happens in those chat rooms, I've seen 5, 10 people, and then a few seconds later, like 40, 50 people already working on it.
And sometimes a few hundreds, depending on the level of the incident.
So people really, really want to help out as much as possible.
And I really appreciate that as well. Awesome. Well, now let's move on to a more positive type of context where people also still work together, the context of ERGs, employee resource groups.
So I know, Francisco, you have been very involved on that front for Green Cloud and also LatinFlair.
Can you explain what those EGRs are?
So these employee resource groups are to the audience, and perhaps what got you motivated to join?
Yeah. So these are usually employee-led groups of underrepresented employees that come from different backgrounds who join together in the workplace based on characteristics, deaf experiences, or initiatives.
They usually have the goal and focus of creating a community of support and belonging, sharing traditions, enhancing career developments of their members, networking, and being more inclusive at Buffler.
And I really like the fact that Matthew and Michelle, our founders, are really strong advocates of diversity in order to keep serving our customers best possible way and to have a great company environment.
We have customers all around the world.
The world has a lot of different cultures, a lot of different backgrounds.
So if we've got people with different backgrounds from everywhere, that helps us understand the different perspectives that the customer will also notice.
How can we get better? And they are always mentioning how important this is.
And in fact, raising diversity is one of our core values. And this is very in line with my personal values.
So I really enjoy this one in particular. Then back to the ERGs.
Last I checked, there were 14, but they keep on going. I'm originally from Bureau Y, South America.
So that's why I found that to be very interesting. I wanted to get to know more people with similar backgrounds, see what was going on.
I actually met a lot of people because of that. And then at the other times, it's not an ERG per se because it's not for a cultural background, but it is an initiative to make the environment better.
What are we doing? Are we doing enough? What about the offices?
Are we recycling? Are we not? These kind of things. How can we make things better for the clients?
Similarly, for this kind of ERGs, we will have a Cloudflarence, which is to support and give those parents coming back from parental leave, which can be really challenging.
And then we have many others. Some of the most popular ones are Cloudflare, which supports the LGBTQ plus community, Afro Flare, Women Flare, among others.
So it's actually pretty fun. By the way, it's not that you only join one or two and you cannot join anything else.
It's not an exclusive club.
It's for others as well. I have joined multiple events from multiple ERGs so that I could get to learn about what's going on on their side, but also to know new people as well.
Thank you so much, Francisco. And I think you said it all in terms of diversity.
You have highlighted that this is one of our core values.
And I always hear also Michelle and Matthew and the rest of the leadership team always say that the world is a very big place.
So let's make sure that we also have this diversity reflected within Cloudflare.
We are strong believers that diversity makes teams better, is able to help in terms of also the results, creativity, collaboration.
So yeah, I think we're all for diversity within Cloudflare.
And these AGRs are a really great way of portraying that, of having those different communities represented within Cloud Flare.
So yeah, I think this is really something really great to be part of. And I think also in terms of all the different learnings, you talked about being able to meet people from different teams, being able to understand what they do within Cloudflare.
And by understanding what people do at Cloudflare, what their teams, what are the teams' different goals and so forth, you're really able to kind of map the organization better, understand how all the different pieces of the puzzle come together.
So I think this is also a very clarifying experience in terms of meeting all those different cross -functional members.
And on that note, in terms of networking, because I know you're super active in those, how helpful was it to be part of such a team, such a group?
Has it helped you in your customer success career?
Yeah, absolutely. So whenever you know somebody, you can, if you need some help with something, it's always a search approach.
And also because you know that that's the kind of person that could help you for that particular situation.
I have had the situation that because of the ERTs and so on, I met people from a specific product team.
And then whenever a customer actually told me, like, hey, I have this situation and so on, I shared it with that product team.
And even though we have a feature request process, and we share a lot of things, in here, that person knew me.
I knew that person. I knew how to share that. Like, hey, it's not just the things that we put there.
This is a situation, oh, that's actually a really good feedback, so we'll keep it in mind.
So that helps a lot to understand how things work.
This way, you can also, by joining, for instance, other ERGs, that helps you understand different points of views, and how to work with different cultures, especially as in EMEA, we have, well, as in the rest of the world, we have different cultures.
Yeah, that definitely makes a difference. And the other thing that I really like about ERGs is that it helps me work on my empathy by trying to put myself in other shoes.
Sometimes, some teams make decisions that I don't necessarily like.
I wish I always did, but being honest, I said, oh, I wish this were a bit different.
But by understanding their goals, in here, sometimes, I mean, I have some relationships where I'm going to say, what's your goal?
What do you do? That helps me understand the reason behind it.
Probably, then, if I were them, I would be doing the same decisions or very similar.
So this translates into knowing the priorities for others, so with the overall alignment.
And that also allows me to be more flexible with change, which, again, as we mentioned earlier, change is a constant that will not go away.
And it is really imperative for our growth and to understand the bigger picture.
Let's look at this. We also have different workshops to talk about diversity and unconscious bias and how to embrace it.
We all have some unconscious bias.
It doesn't mean that, oh, I attended a workshop and now I am no longer biased ever again.
But it's something that we will slowly start having this awareness of these experiences and how to deal with them when facing a real scenario rather than a theoretical one.
Actually, I really like these workshops so much that I also started being a facilitator for them.
Anyone can do it if they want to.
And here, I've seen a lot of personal growth because what we do in those workshops is we share four or five different real scenarios.
How would you deal here?
This is happening to your colleague. What do you do? And here, you get a lot of different inputs from 10 to 13 people in each of these workshops.
And I learned a lot from that.
I'm not perfect. I still have a lot of room for improvement and growing, but this has been really useful for that as well.
Yeah, I think you're absolutely right.
I also had the opportunity to join two different unconscious bias workshops.
And I think what I really enjoyed about those is that it's also really a safe place.
Everybody comes there with the mentality, with the goal of learning something new and putting yourself into other people's shoes and becoming more aware of these different unconscious biases.
So like you mentioned, I think it's a really good initiative to keep developing yourself and keep becoming more aware because at the end of the day, this also helps you work better in a team, create a trust environment, and we all work better when we feel safe, right?
So yeah, I also really enjoy those initiatives of being popular to help promote a better workplace for everyone.
So yeah, thanks so much, Francisco. I'm just looking at the clock and we have about five minutes left.
And I do want to ask you a few more questions because, yeah, I think everything you have to say, having such an interesting journey at CalFlare, I want to make sure we get a little bit more from you before we end the session.
Let's start with, in terms of CalFlare, what excites you most?
Why are you still here? Yeah, that's a great question.
And I've been fortunate enough to be part, again, part of the growth and the change.
I've been fortunate enough to be part of over 300 interviews in the past three years, not just for the customer success department, but also for multiple others, which is another way to network and consider people.
And, well, I personally really enjoy that.
And this is the most popular question I get at the end of the interview.
And my answer so far has always been the same. There are three main reasons.
The strong mission, multicultural diversity, and people supporting each other.
And let me dive deep a bit more without extending because of the clock running out.
The first one, the first thing that caught my attention when, before I applied to CalFlare, was the mission, helping to build a venture interest.
That's not something you see everywhere. And, yeah, I do think that CalFlare is making a difference by providing free services that in the past were insanely expensive for certain companies, organizations, free SSL certificates among many other projects such as Galileo, Athenian, Pangea, Pershock, and multiple others that are coming up.
Project Galileo is a project that helps not-for-profit organizations to have protection.
For instance, if it's journalism that is being under attack and they cannot publish what's going on, then they would use this, they will subscribe to this for free and then, yeah, they will have this protection.
So, this is a lot of empathy. And with that mission, yeah, that's something I felt, it was something that was calling my attention and I wanted to join.
And up to this day, the mission is really important. On the other hand, diversity.
So, today in the team, we have, I think, 35 people in the EMEA CS group, 35 people from which there are like 22 different nationalities, including English, we speak like 14 different languages.
So, I personally love that kind of environment. And I continue learning from different perspectives, backgrounds, industry experience they have from before and whatever they bring in.
And the last one is the people, people supporting each other.
I love it that even though people are super busy, they will always make sometimes help whenever possible.
And this forces a very collaborative environment.
More than once, I also had to make really hard decisions that would impact multiple thousands of enterprise customers sometimes.
Whenever I needed guidance or an expert advice to make the final decision, I never felt like I was alone.
Other people were like, hey, well, yeah, this is a tough one, let's work on it together.
And so far we have been pleased with the outcome and the decisions made there.
Yeah, no, Francisco, I think those three points are very important.
I think you're right. We definitely have a very strong mission.
I think helping make the Internet better is definitely a very strong one.
It appeals to so many different people. So, I think that's also why we're so aligned in terms of everybody being so approachable, you being able to ask for people's help and you getting really that, yes, of course, I want to help you.
Tell me more about what your issue is or how I can support you. So, I think it really helps to make the culture so open, so helpful, so approachable.
And yeah, I think it's always very exciting to have candidates ask, why are you still here?
Why makes that culture such a nice place to work? And I think the people are definitely a big part of it.
Also in our team, we have such great CSMs, such great people to work with, to learn from cross -functionally.
People are so interesting. We come from so many different backgrounds.
So many people also ask me, do I have to be technical to join Confer?
Actually, you just have to have the willingness to learn, to be open, to adapt, to keep on your toes, because of course, it's a very dynamic environment, but it's so much characterized by diversity.
So yeah, I think you said it all. Francisco, thank you so much for your time.
We have about 20 seconds left. So I think we were right on time. So I'm very happy about how we did today.
Thank you so much for your time. And yeah, it was really great chatting with you.
Likewise. Thank you so much, Valentin. Yeah, I'm eager to see the next segments whenever you have a new person to interview.
Thank you so much.
So just for those that are still listening, it's been about a month's time.
We'll be sharing more information on LinkedIn. But yeah, thank you so much, everyone.
And we'll be in touch. Bye-bye. Thank you so much.