CSM Chronicles: Focus on Tangible Value

With Rory O'Brien, VP - Customer Experience, Tonkean

With over 14 years of software technology experience across various B2B industries, predominantly in startup environments, Rory’s expertise lies in leading and scaling implementation, engagement, support, customer education, and CS teams. 

How do you define Customer Success? 

Delivering tangible value for the customer – be it increased revenue or time savings or reduced risk. As a CSM, you're doing well if customers can tell you exactly why they need you and how you’re adding value.

"How would your life be without our product?"

That’s a question we ask our customers during adoption and before renewals. 

And we maintain a living document for each customer that captures organizational insights and key metrics – to keep our eyes on the value we provide.

What are some of the most difficult things about being a CSM? 

Managing expectations – especially in the enterprise world where you can’t always control the pace, often because of requirements and constraints at the customer end.

Additionally, if you’re new at CS, or even at the company, it can be hard to coordinate with Product, Engineering, Sales, and Marketing as needed for the customer. If you struggle to navigate internal structures and pull the right levers at the right moment, you risk impacting your success metrics and KPIs. 

This is particularly the case with complex, sophisticated products and larger enterprise clients.

Any tips or tricks you'd like to share with fellow CSMs that helped you or your team?

Being technically proficient is a huge impact multiplier.  

It's about curiosity, and  adopting  a ‘maker’ mindset. Dive into the nitty-gritty of the product and get your hands dirty. 

Don't stop at understanding how the product works; figure out how to make it work the way you want. 

When you’re more independent – without constantly leaning on the product, support, or implementation teams –  your customers see you as someone they can trust.

Can you recall a time when you went above and beyond the call of duty for a customer?

While working with a customer a few years ago, we discovered an additional use case that could unlock significant additional value for the customer. Recognizing its impact on the product, future clients, and our overall go-to-market strategy, I made a strong case internally to prioritize this use case.

After its implementation, the client was able to free up six employees from monotonous tasks and allow them to concentrate on higher-value work. They have since renewed with us twice, and have experienced continuous high growth since then. 

It boils down to having deep technical understanding while being able to zoom out for a broader product perspective.

How are you leveraging AI across your work?

The major chunk of our AI focus is client-centric. We're heavily integrating AI into our product to optimize workflows. 

Internally, we're mostly using it for FAQs and internal support. We’ve embedded OpenAI into our platform; employees can simply post their queries on the FAQ channel and they get all the info they need. Or they can query the Tonkean bot and it pipes the right information or resources to them.

If you could wave a magic wand to be a better CS leader, what would you use it for?

For a succinct answer on how to price products. No questions, no gray areas, no legacy discounts – just a clear, standard pricing structure. 

It would streamline renewals, save time, and eliminate any pricing-related headaches for both us and our clients.


Stay tuned for the next installment from our CS Chronicles series.

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