Customers + Success: Leading in Success, Advice from APAC
Join our learning journey as host Kate Fleming explores all aspects of Customer Success with guests from across the industry.
We’ll be talking with three Customer Success leaders from different backgrounds: delving into their own philosophies around what constitutes “Customer Success”, observations around the different challenges their territories present in terms of delivering value to customers, and sharing their advice on skills and attributes that they look for when hiring staff.
All right, good morning, good afternoon, good evening. Thank you for tuning in to Episode 5 of Customers and Success.
My name is Kate Fleming and I'm joining you from Singapore today and I'm pretty happy to have three of the leaders from the global customer success organization Cloudflare joining us.
They all happen to be managing APAC portfolios but we've actually got people, one guest who's going to tell us about it in a minute, who's joining us from San Francisco and giving up some of his evening for it.
So thank you Jim for your time. Let's get started. So the session today is about getting a sense of different leadership views.
So different leadership views in customer success.
How people in the industry view customer success and if you've watched episodes of this show before you know that that's a recurring theme.
We're still, as a professional organization or professional body, we're still defining really the role of success.
So we're going to get everyone's opinions on that.
We're also going to move on to some of the nuances that they see in their regions.
So we have people, managers on this call that are between them running teams that manage every single one of the countries in the APAC region with some really divergent business practices and also expectations from customers.
And towards the end, hopefully we'll have some time to then go into tips and tricks.
So these are the three hiring managers at Cloudflare in the customer success field.
And so I know that there's often been a lot of questions around how to get into customer success or what type of attributes can make it successful.
And we'll hopefully hear from these hiring managers about the things that people.
So enough from me. I'm going to hand over first to J-O. So J-O, thank you so much for your time this morning.
And I'd love you to start just sharing a little bit about about your background and how you got into success.
Yeah. First of all, I'm on the cloud TV live.
So my name is J-O.
I'm a native Korean. So somehow I had the experience to work in Korea in a telecom industry around three years.
And I moved to a Japan office in the same company, same telecom industry and worked for there around 10.
And then I eventually come over to Singapore to join a new industry, totally new, which is an online payment.
And in online payment industry, kind of very similar like a cloud basis because all work over API.
And finally, I joined Cloudflare because I personally see clouds, I think, can conquer the world.
And now I see that momentum.
So that's it.
And I just ask you, so from a success or in terms of success, were you in a success role before you came to Cloudflare?
Not at all. Not at all. So I started as a field network engineer.
Normally, I carry some Cisco router, Jupyter router, and then I changed to pre -sales.
So somehow I well understand what pre-sales always consider and what is their challenge also.
But at the same time, move to post-sales, now I see what is the post-sales challenge and what we have to do, what we can for the company.
Got it. Got it. Thanks, Jairo. Nice to meet.
Well, I know you quite well, but nice for other people to meet you. Jim, let's go to you.
So for people that have joined in, can you let us know a little bit about your background, especially in success?
Because you've been in the field for quite a while now.
Yeah, correct. So actually, I'll go all the way back. I did my undergrad in engineering.
And right after undergrad, I started working for Accenture doing software implementations for big industrial clients.
And that was actually my first experience with what I think today we would call customer success.
So I spent four years in the trenches doing these big software projects.
Later on, I did my MBA and I came to San Francisco and like everybody moved into the tech industry.
And there I found myself after a series of startups working in a customer success role.
And actually, the previous experience I had with those big software implementations really lent itself to the sort of SaaS cloud-based software that people are working with now.
So I've done customer success or well, they weren't called customer success at the time because the title wasn't around yet.
But customer success worked at two previous companies and then came here about three years ago.
Got it. Thank you, Jim. So we've got Jairo who's literally followed almost like the lead from pre-sales and the life of a lead into post-sales and Jim who's really built a career in various parts of the post-sale organization.
And Yana, last but not least, can you tell us a little bit about yourself, please?
Hi, I'm Yana. I actually came from a very similar function to customer success.
I used to be an account manager. So before I joined Cloudflare, I was originally from Taiwan.
So my college major is Russian. And also I have a master's degree for journalism.
Yeah. So before I joined Cloudflare, I was an account manager in an IT hardware company in Taiwan.
I mainly work with channel partners to try to sell our hardware product to their region.
I keep remembering to take myself off mute.
Lovely. So I'd say that we've got Jairo at one end of the spectrum and then Jim at the other.
And Yana is probably in the middle.
I was going to say, I knew you spoke Russian, but I didn't realize that your major was Russian.
Yeah. Major is Russian. Petersburg mug.
Okay. So we've got broad backgrounds, professionally, culturally, physically in terms of where we've resided and worked.
But at Cloudflare, you also manage quite divergent regions.
And each of you has quite a breadth within your own portfolios that your team manages.
And so I think I'll kick off with Yana this time, but I'm sorry, actually, no, let's kick off with Jim, because I think you've got the broadest experience right now, because not only have you got the ASEAN APAC experience, but you've also been a success manager in North America.
So what are some of the key standout differences that you see between...
Firstly, let's go both sides of the Pacific and then let's go into ASEAN.
Yeah. So, I mean, comparing and contrasting them is very easy because the US is a big homogenous market where everybody shares more or less the same culture and certainly the same language and the business norms are all the same.
And you can be in New York or California or any place else.
And it's very, very easy to work. ASEAN is very different. It's 10 countries.
It's like 500 million people. It's actually bigger than the US. 10 countries, 10 official languages.
But some people count hundreds or thousands of different languages and drastically different cultures as you go from one side to the other.
So it's a very diverse and interesting place to live. And I think that does lead to a lot of challenges with respect to just the way we do business and how we're servicing customers.
We have some customers, I'd say some regions tend to be more Western.
And so it's closer to what I've been used to in the US. And then other customers specifically have really demanding service requirements, which is something that we're not used to or that I'm not used to coming from the US.
So it's a really interesting space to be.
Right. Thank you. And can I just jump for a minute on that service requirements piece?
Because that's going to be a theme that we hear come up from the others.
So in your experience, you say that there's the level of after-sale engagement is, the expectation for after-sale engagement is a lot higher in Hotspace Act?
Yeah, certainly in my experience. I think, again, coming from the US, we're much farther along sort of this adoption and comfort level with cloud services.
And so people have been using it for a long time. It's a very mature model.
I think depending on where you are in ASEAN it's less so.
And I think that I know that a lot of our customers need or expect a higher touch service model sort of to make them more comfortable because they're trying something new and there's risk associated with that.
And I think that they need to be reassured.
Thank you. And then let's go to Jana. So Jana, you've got greater China, some mainland, a whole bunch of countries.
And I'll get you to talk about that.
And then you also have another vertical that you handle, which is our 888 vertical.
But before we go into that, talk us through some of the differences or some of the observations you've seen from your team and your portfolio.
Yeah, so I'm currently managing a greater China region. So I can actually add on to the level of post-sales engagement that Jim just mentioned.
So actually, for example, taking like mainland China as example, because my observation is that because Internet business is actually already quite mature and also a very advanced industry in China.
So when we work with customer from mainland China, we sense that they actually have a very high expectation for their vendors because in China, they are already used to work with most like big guys who providing good quality of service and also who is always ready to respond to any of their inquiries or requests.
Yeah, so when we start to working with customer from mainland China, we also see this kind of expectation coming from customer.
Yeah, set a very high bar for us to meet.
And then what about your vertical? And I'll digress for a minute just to give people some background.
So at Cloudflare, customer success globally at the geographic line.
So we work within certain geographies and we pot around the geo so that we match what the sales teams are doing.
One difference in APAC is that the sales team has recently formed a separate vertical called the 888, where we can really bring specialist skills to gambling and gaming and crypto and some particular industries that carry certain characteristics that need to be managed in a particular way.
And so that we can service the customers coming in from the sales side.
Yana's team now have under her a 888 pod.
And one of the unique differences, Yana, is how often do you get to meet or see your customers in that particular vertical?
The answer will be almost zero.
Yeah, we don't really get to meet our customer in person very regularly.
Yeah. So my own takeaway is that to work with customer like this. So very important is that since you are not able to meet them in person to build this rapport and relationship.
So the value you can actually provide them become really, really matters.
For example, the quality of our service, our response time. So I think that that becomes a major factor for customers to evaluate whether they are going to continue using us or use us more.
And the other, the second takeaway I would say, we always try to over-communicate with customers because we don't get to meet them often.
So we do regular checking, maybe even more frequent to make sure customers are okay to make sure if they have feedback, we can, we make sure they know that they are heard of.
Got it. Thank you. And then let's go, well, North and West.
So JR, you've got Japan and Korea right at the North of Asia. And then, well, from a Singapore perspective anyway, you have our furthest reaches in the West over, you have the India team.
That's right. Talk to me a little bit about that and the expectations, the different expectations between the markets.
Yes, it is. Yes, it is. I mean, for example, I work with the Korea team and Japan team and India team.
And initially I thought Korea team, Japan team could be similar as a typical Asian Pacific people.
But in reality, even Korea, Japan, very different business culture.
And also there, they are very different approach when they are dealing with a provider.
And initially I a little bit struggle to understand a Japan market, Korea market, but that was some kind of piece of cake when I take over India market.
That's a whole another level. Seems like India for me is not a one country.
Seems very different culture, different business mindset and different way of thinking.
So I think I'm still struggling to understand some, to find out some uniqueness in India.
And one thing in India, the good thing, they are very keen for the new technology about cloud industry.
So whenever we talk to our India customer, they are pretty much open to learn some new technology.
So that's why I personally believe Cloudflare should keep focusing India market for further growing.
And Korea, Japan as a merchant, as a Internet merchant society, I think steady and keep growing market.
So not only for larger account, medium-sized account, Japan, Korea, they are keep moving to cloud industry.
So it's a whole different story, but it's a lot of fun, but at the same time, many challenge.
And I suppose, so we've got markets here that have got different levels of maturity right across the region.
In maturity, we're talking about cloud adoption here and maybe how in a cloud adoption and focus on cybersecurity, as opposed to maybe focus on CDM, which you see in different markets have different flavors and different interests, I suppose, or characteristics.
And can I wind it back a bit?
And I want to then go into the customers. So I am going to come back to this original question that I'd said, I'd ask you, which is your view of customer success, but let's talk about how do you make customers successful in your market?
And let's start with you, Yana. What can you, what are some of the things that, you talked about what triple eight, so you talked about being responsive and over-communicating, but in a pre-COVID world or in a normal world, what were some of the things that mattered most to your customers in the greater China region, in terms of building relationships and making them successful?
I think for customer from greater China region, I think they do the trust between the buyer and vendors actually matters.
So customer actually prefer to prefer for us to have regular visit on-site visit to them.
So I think it's really important.
And I think typically customer also expect us to, apart from the official communication channel with us, like our ticketing system, customer also prefer to have some like private, like chat group or something to, to be able to reach out to the person he knows he is familiar with on vendor side.
So that he can ask question or to like, if he has anything urgent, he would like us to know or to get feedback.
He has a channel to reach out to the vendor. Yeah.
Yeah. What about, and Jio and Jim, I'm just going to kind of throw to both of you here.
What, what can help make a successful customer or what can help make a relationship with a customer successful?
Let's go, Jim. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I totally agree with what Yana said.
I mean, in a pre COVID world, we build that by flying to the customer or driving to the customer and like being in front of them.
And not just, you know, not just my team being there, but me being there, Kate, I mean, you were there for us.
We would have executives who would come to speak with, with customers as well.
So it's that, that like in-person engagement and that real relationship part of relationship management.
I think it's tough and it's, you know, I think we're doing a good job with it now.
I mean, everybody is forced into this, you know, very awkward space.
I really, as Jio did like this square right here, we're all here now.
And so I think everyone is adapting to that and probably expectations have changed.
And, you know, when things, it'll be interesting to see when things open up again, like do, do customers want us on site once a quarter or more frequently?
I don't know the answer to that. But I, but I, Yana, I think it's, you're right.
It's trust and it's relationships is really what matters. Yeah.
It's, it's funny because people, you know, always say, you know, there's certain markets where it has to be about relationship.
I, I'd almost argue that definitely for APAC, I mean, that's, that's first and foremost.
Jio, from, from your perspective, do you, do you have a different view?
I, in my understanding, US or Europe, they are contract driven society.
So that's why my understanding relationship is one of the factor, but in APAC relationship is the, the, the basic to do a business because APAC customer, in my understanding, they want more flexibility.
For example, of course they have a contract, but if they want to change something or they want to do something, they want to ask that kind of things, which needs some relationship.
So if our customer fully trust customer success, then they are not agitated to say something.
Oh, I need this. Can you do something?
Then we can be more flexibly approach that. I assume Western culture is more like a contract driven.
So if no contract, then we can easily say, oops, there is no contract.
So we have to talk about that part, but APAC, I think most of APAC customer in my experience, they want to do faster.
So the contract should be covered later.
So that's why we need to build very strong relationships for the successful in this industry, in APAC specifically.
Yeah. I think that's a good observation.
I mean, having, having run accounts myself in, in Australia for most of my career as an account manager, and then also having relationships right across APAC with customers and partners, I had noticed that, you know, one thing that I noticed in particular with Sydney, even, even difference between say, Sydney and Adelaide.
So two cities in, in Australia, Sydney was much more business oriented in terms of no one was pretending to be friends.
We were polite to each other and we care about each other, but we're, we're here to do business.
I mean, we're happy. We know each other through business and we're here to do business.
And I'm going to have a business value proposition for you.
It's going to work for you. And then we're going to, we're going to go from there.
And then once that contract's established at the time, of course, I mean, basically life ends at the pub, but you started with that business contract, right?
Like a commitment, whereas in, in other markets, even in Australia where the markets might be slightly smaller.
So Adelaide, or definitely when I started doing work in Malaysia, it's almost rude to, to, to, to even talk about business.
Like you don't even get business until you've been through, you know, at least what, you know, in Melbourne, it's half an hour of coffee talk.
And then in Adelaide it's an hour. And then, you know, in Malaysia, it's like two hours plus a meal, you know, it's, it's much more.
And then they go, okay, cool.
Now, now we can talk business. And I, I just found that it's really interesting is, yeah, we, I think in Australia or maybe in Western societies, we use that, that business contract as a way to then forge a relationship, but it's.
Yeah. Yeah. Okay. I can actually, yeah. I can actually, I can relate to that.
I recall that we are doing like some dinner with customer and try to insert the, the part about business when customer is already bit like tipsy.
I've seen that work really well in Japan, actually.
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And it's a very, very small part of all the, all the event in that evening.
Yeah. So, okay. So relationships matter.
I mean, we like, I think that's universal for the, for the region.
You know, we've got about eight minutes left and I suppose I'm curious, I'm going to, I'm going to try and squeeze in, gosh, I always get carried away.
You know, relationships matter, but it's a COVID world.
Let's, let's say everything, okay.
Everything will go back to normal tomorrow. And to Jim's point, we might all be back on airplanes.
Let's say we've got another 12 months as a, as a leader in customer success and you're coaching your staff and you're looking at your book of business and you're looking at how you build relationships with new customers that have just come aboard.
So you don't have any legacy there with them or the existing customers where maybe there's been change of contact.
How, how are you thinking about keeping that trust going with your customers and keeping that relationship going?
So in my view, I mean, building relationship is not an easy thing.
So we have to show them, we can fully understand your business. That's the very, very starting point to build a relationship.
For example, just visiting multiple times that doesn't build the right relationship.
So that's why we are keep reviewing our customer's business.
So we try to understand what our customer looking for.
So whenever we are confident, then we are visiting them. We are actually sharing what we believe you have to go this way.
Of course, sometimes that is not right, but I sense our customer might think of Cloudflare success team, keep consider what is their pain point.
And then we can build the right relationship. Once we build the right relationship with the existing customer, then we are sure they will keep staying with us because APAC, the good thing and bad thing, once we build the relationship, we can go as a longer partner.
Thanks. And I, you know, I see Jana and Jim nodding their heads and in the interest of time, guys, I'm actually, cause we've got about five minutes to go.
I know that there are people that are looking for work in customer success and they want to join the industry.
I'm going to get fast around the clock. No, let's start with you, Jim. As a hiring manager, what attributes are you looking for when you're hiring staff?
So in general, I think Cloudflare is growing and changing quickly.
And I think for any generic hiring manager, you got to know where your team is going to be in a year and then build goals around that.
For me specifically, I'm looking for three things.
I think the first one is empathy. So we kind of touched on that with all of this, you know, difficult to engage customer.
We got to have that empathy. But then second, I think organizational skills and the ability to execute are the next two ones, because there's, I think in every post-sales organization, there's way more to do and there's time to do it.
And you've got to be able to filter and then get it done.
Love it. All right. Thank you. Jana. I think for me, the ability to build relationship with people, not only with customer, but also with internal stakeholders is very important.
They should be able to, like Jim mentioned, should be able to emphasize with people and always try to reach a win-win outcome.
I think this ability will be important for hiring people. Thank you. And JR, you get to be last, last.
Lucky last. What do you look for in hiring people?
So as a hiring people, I'm really looking for someone who really concerned with around, for example, as a people, we see one direction, that's a normal, but as a CSM, we need a capability to check around our environment.
So that's, I believe, very important things.
You know what, that's, that's, that's not an answer I get often, but that's, that's really important, actually.
And it's probably something that, that, that becomes more and more important.
And it ties into what Jim and Jana talked about as well.
It's, you know, half the trick to getting to executing and getting things done is understanding the big picture and understanding other people's point of view, and then maybe stepping back and working out what the other dependencies are.
And for you, Jana, you know, talking about relationships and internal stakeholders, just understanding their point of view can be, can be one of the most important things.
And, and I know J.O. personally from work that you and your team have done with certain of our big customers, understanding say the cryptocurrency industry and knowing what's happening at a macro level or Jana, the geopolitics between China and the U.S.
and how, you know, WeChat or other bands might impact your customers' businesses.
And, Jim, there's all kinds of regulatory issues that come up in your region all the time.
So having that broader picture is actually really important for CSMs.
That's a good point, a good point to end on. So we've got about a minute and a half left.
And I wanted to just, just thank you all for your time and recap.
So it sounds like relationships are key. We get that for APAC.
And as divergent as we said that all of the businesses were at the beginning of the conversation, it seems to boil down, it still boils down to trust, doesn't it?
And it still boils down to relationships.
Let's leave Australia aside for a minute. And then it's maybe how you form that trust in those relationships that can change region to region.
You know, probably over a meal in some places. It's over a coffee somewhere else.
It's over a lot of drinks in other places. And then in terms of what we see for skills for CSMs, it's increasingly that project management piece, I think, as it becomes more complex, certainly from a Cloudflare point of view, as well as empathy, problem solving and getting a 360 degree view.
Is there anything else?
We've got a couple, we've got a little bit of time left. I'm just curious, is there anything any other attributes that you think an aspiring CSM person listens to this show might want to emphasize with their next interview?
Yeah, I think for us at Cloudflare, curiosity is so key because we're building new stuff all the time.
And just understanding how it works, honestly, can be just a challenge to keep up with what's shipping this week.
So you got to have that drive for personal learning.
And in my view, Cloudflare, we can ask anything openly. That's, I think, Cloudflare power.
Yeah. Willing to have open conversations. All right.
On that, speaking of opening, we're going to close now. Thank you all for your time.
I really appreciated it.