Office Hours with Dan Darcy, Chief Customer Officer, Qualified

Dive into the mind of Dan Darcy, our Chief Customer Officer, and learn his strategies for ramping up customer support when they need it most.

Office Hours with Dan Darcy, Chief Customer Officer, Qualified
Shelly Weaver
Shelly Weaver
May 22, 2023
min read
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Before he was our Chief Customer Officer, Dan spent 13 years at Salesforce, championing the voice of the customer in various roles throughout his tenure. 

He took some time recently to field questions during a LinkedIn Live about his strategies for showing our customers extraordinary support during these unpredictable times, how to approach working cross-functionally within your organization, and why it’s so important to make the customer experience a priority no matter what team you’re on, from sales to engineering. 

Check out the interview below ⬇️

What advice would you give to someone that just took the CCO position for a tech startup starting from the ground up? 

One of the first things I would say is if you took on this Chief Customer Officer role I would start with understanding what success looks like. What are the metrics and the data that we need to understand and build to be successful for the company overall? 

The second tip I would have there is about how you work cross-functionally with the other executives at the company. We have this concept here, the flywheel, where all of the movements and motions that happen help support and complement each other. 

Figure out where your team falls on the flywheel and embed the culture around Customer Success because it isn’t just one team driving the overall success of the customer. 

It's everyone at the company. 

Of course, the Customer Success team is really responsible for a large part of it, but it starts with the product. It's in marketing, in sales, to success, and then back into product again. Talk to the other department leaders on your team and understand what they see Success to be, and go from there. 

And then the third piece is to shape your team according to the cultural goals you’ve set.

And I think it starts with the hiring profile.

What’s the type of person that you want to work in your Customer Success organization? What's the mantra that you want to embody that's going to be out there? Do the people that you're hiring embody that mantra as well? 

For example, we have the mantra: Whatever It Takes. We do Whatever It Takes to help our customers drive pipeline and ROI. So how do we think about that from a strategic perspective and be more consultative with our customers?

What are some best practices for success in tough economic times? 

It’s definitely hard right now. 

Be proactive with your customers–reach out to them, double down, check-in and make sure you understand how things are going for their program. Make sure you have the right tools to help support your customers. 

Build a culture of empathy with your employees and recognize that in these tough economic times, we need to drive that culture of empathy because our customers are going through a lot, as we all are.”

What we do here at Qualified is empower our employees to use the right tools. If there are feature flags that are not turned on for a customer and it's going to get them through this time, why not turn that on and take care of the customer first? We empower them to really do what it takes to help drive that value and ROI for our customers.

The last thing is to get really strategic with your customers. We have what we call an Executive Strategic Review with their whole team. We bring our entire team, from the account manager, or account executive to the actual individual Qualified Success Architect to myself, as well as getting their executives on the line to talk through how the program is going. 

What trends are you seeing in the world of Customer Success?

One of the bigger trends I see that's happening out there is the evolution of the traditional customer success manager role. The CSM role has to evolve–customers are looking for a lot more from their vendors and we have a responsibility to keep up with those needs. 

At Qualified, we have Qualified Success Architects, which is a combination of a Success Manager, a consultant, and a Success Architect. They're really technical, hands-on keyboards, and know how to get things done in the tool. It’s awesome because they're also strategic advisors with our customers, which is incredibly integral to the success of their program. 

I also see the democratization of customer data and exposing more data internally to demonstrate what's happening on the front lines of customer success. How do we really focus on the customer and tell the story of what they're seeing and the trends we’re seeing with them to the rest of our teams so that sales knows what’s happening, or our product team understands how our tools are used?

The entire company is becoming more responsible for the customer experience.

How do you get the great mojo that's happening on the front lines with customer success into the hands of the rest of the company? And it comes back to that Whatever It Takes mantra. 

It's not just a Customer Success mantra, it's actually a company-wide mantra. Like, how do we deliver an incredible customer experience from the moment they first hear about us throughout their entire lifecycle with our team.

What is your favorite song on your pump-up playlist? 

Actually, it's by Taylor Swift. In my get-pumped playlist it’s 22 because even though I'm getting older, I don't know about you, but I'm feeling 22. Okay, next.

How do you celebrate the small wins? 

I think celebrating the small wins right now is paramount. There’s a lot of negativity and difficult things impacting our entire industry, and that’s hard not to let impact your mindset. 

We do this in a number of ways. We’re propping each other up in Slack. We have fun competitions internally. We have a monthly company-wide award called the Fireballer award that celebrates who has really made an impact on the business. 

Our Success team does quarterly awards. We have a Lessons Learned award we call Rellaberif (which is Fireballer backward) which takes a moment to celebrate the lessons we learn alongside our customers. I think that's always great to celebrate those moments so that everyone can learn.

We have our Whatever It Takes quarterly award for the Success team member that really stands out. We celebrate a lot of wins and are constantly helping each other get better.

Do you have a recent success story or customer review that you are particularly proud of? 

I'm incredibly proud of the team that I work with.

If you go to any of our G2 reviews that are out there for Qualified, in the headlines they all say, “Great product, but even more incredible success team.” And they mention each of the different Success Architects that are in there helping them with the account and saying that they've never received this level of support from a vendor or partner before, and that makes me so proud of the team. 

I know how hard they all work, and I also want to thank the customers too for those incredible reviews because obviously if it weren't for the customer, we wouldn't be here.

I'm proud every day of our team, but it's things like those reviews that come through that really make me even more proud of this team and what we're doing in the market out there.

Check out our G2 reviews here ➡️

What are your strategies for building and maintaining trust? 

Setting proper expectations from the get-go with the customer. Our Success team leadership joins a lot of our pre-sales calls to make sure we’re laying that foundation for every one of our customers. 

We've heard a million different times those stories about terrible implementations that are long, confusing, and at the end of it the customer doesn’t know what to do. 

Hearing that from a lot of customer who have had bad experiences with previous vendors, we've adjusted our process to drive that Whatever It Takes mentality, and one of those key differences to our customer experience is setting those expectations right up front. 

We listen. We're accountable. We're proactive, and above all, we're humans too. If we make mistakes, we're vulnerable and we admit where things went wrong. It’s all about setting those right expectations, making sure we're delivering on those expectations, and proactively checking in with the customer.

We build trust by having this mentality across the organization, from sales to engineering.

To put it simply: do what you say you're going to do. And if it's something that we can't solve for, we'll tell you that we can't solve for it, because that’s just who we are.

What are you learning about leading customer success in an unpredictable market? 

First things first is that it's actually really effing hard. 

We’re learning so much right now and coming out of this market (because it will eventually turn around), we’ll be a much stronger team because of it. We’ll be more resilient and more understanding of how to deal with difficult situations. 

One of the biggest things I've learned is just how badass the team is, and how amazing our customers are.”

When we have that real conversation with them on where the market's at, and what's happening–it's no joke how many of us out there are dealing with slashed budgets. Our customers are seeing value with Qualified, but how do we work with them to make sure that we’re continuing to show that value and stay flexible in order to be a great partner in driving that ROI.

What we're really learning is what really matters to the customer when times get tough, and that’s ROI and pipeline. And you might go, “duh” but it really is the thing that’s keeping our customers up at night. We can work together to make sure they’re seeing the kind of success we know we’re capable of creating for them. 

We’re learning an incredible amount, and I know it will make us stronger as a team. 

How is Qualified thinking about using generative AI to expand the product for customers

I was actually just talking to one of my leaders about AI this morning. There’s so much to learn and it feels like a firehose of things that are coming at us–it’s a monumental shift in the market. 

If you watched Google’s recent keynote, I don't know how many times they said AI, but if you put it to a drinking game, I don't know that you'd make it out.

But AI is here to stay, and it’s our job to understand from a Qualified perspective how generative AI is going to make our product stronger, and the people engaging with it superhuman. 

We have a lot of great use-cases beta testing now, and if you’re one of our customers and have any feature requests, we’d love to hear what you’re thinking. 

Read about QualifiedGPT here ➡️

How often should Customer Success check in with customers? What does that look like at Qualified? 

Let me give you a framework for how I think about this. There's a tactical check-in, there’s a strategic check-in, and then there's a pulse check-in.

A tactical check-in happens post-implementation. Our baseline for fine-tuning our customers’ programs is at least once a month, but it depends on where the customer is at. Maybe they need a few times a month, maybe every week. We take that on a case-by-case basis. 

We have a strategic check-in on a quarterly basis, where we get the execs on our side and the execs on their side on a call to really talk through how things are going and the big initiatives that are coming for that company down the road. That’s always a really powerful conversation with the executive on both sides of the aisle to cover what we’re seeing internally and out in the market in general. 

The third is the pulse check-in. We have one-on-one conversations with the actual economic buyer and dig into how it’s going, what they’re seeing, and how they’re feeling. We understand what challenges they are up against and how we’re addressing those struggles. We work with them to make sure we aren’t dropping the ball anywhere and if there’s anything else we could be doing to maximize the success of their program.  

You learn something different from each level of check in. 

Hear how we structure Executive Strategic Reviews with our customers with our QSA, Genise here ➡️

What’s one piece of advice someone gave you that has had the biggest impact on you? 

A big piece of advice came from George Hu, a mentor of mine. He is the former COO of Salesforce and Twilio, and he told me to be relevant. 

And what I mean by that is really staying on top of the things that are happening out there. I’ve taken that with me everywhere I go. I know it's pretty simple, but it's really about how you take the latest things happening and trends in the market, and how do you incorporate them into your everyday workflow, and everyday life.

Be relevant.

Watch the recording of Office Hours with Dan Darcy over on LinkedIn.

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