On this episode of the Sales Hacker podcast, we talk with Emmanuelle Skala, VP of Customer Success at Toast. We talk about how to increase revenue from existing customers with a strong customer success team.
What You’ll Learn
- How to organize and structure a Customer Success team with a specific focus on Customer Experience
- The transformative moments in customer experience that driver customer delight
- How to use NPS to improve revenue growth and reduce churn
- The benefits of focusing on the post-sale moment
- The importance of investing in Customer Success early in a company’s growth
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Show Agenda and Timestamps
1) Show introduction [00:10]
2) About Emmanuelle Skala and Toast [1:30]
3) Customer Success at Toast [5:00]
4) Customer Experience vs. Account Management [8:15]
5) Balancing your Go To Market Strategy with Customer Experience [10:30]
6) The Right Time to Build a Customer Success Team [20:00]
7) With NPS, it’s all about context [23:00]
8) The numbers that matter ar Toast [26:35]
9) The right mix of revenue-focused vs. non-revenue-focused teams [29:20]
10) Advice to aspiring women leaders [36:45]
11) Quick-fire questions [39:30]
12) Sam’s Corner
If you’d rather not listen to this episode, you can read a crisp transcript below:
Sales Hacker Podcast—Sponsored by Node
Sam Jacobs: Hi, everyone, and welcome to the Sales Hacker podcast. I’m your host, Sam Jacobs, founder of the New York Revenue Collective.
Before we start, a quick thank you to this month’s Sales Hacker podcast sponsor Node. Node’s AI discovery platform can understand the meaning, context, and connection between any person or company by proactively surfacing opportunities that are highly relevant and personalized in real time.
Node is creating an entirely new paradigm for sales and marketing professions to grow pipeline and accelerate revenue philosophy.
Now on with the show.
Sam Jacobs: Today we’ve got a great show! We’ve got Emmanuelle Skala. She’s been building businesses for the last 18 years. She’s currently VP of customer success at Toast, but she’s also served in a number of other client-facing functions, and revenue generating functions.
She led sales and success at DigitalOcean. She was also VP of sales at Influitive, where she scaled the organization over 10X.
Sam Jacobs: Emmanuelle, we’re so excited to have you! Welcome.
Emmanuelle Skala: Thanks, Sam. Psyched to be here!
About Emmanuelle Skala and Toast: Baseball Card Stats
Sam Jacobs: So, the first thing we want to know is your baseball card. So we know your name is Emmanuelle Skala. Do you have any nicknames, by the way?
Emmanuelle Skala: Elle. E-L-L-E.
Sam Jacobs: Okay. So I saw that on an email once and I wanted to know if I could write an email that said Elle because I love it.
Emmanuelle Skala: Yeah, go for it. That’s all right. Emmanuelle is kind of a mouthful so, yeah.
Sam Jacobs: It’s beautiful. What’s your current title?
Emmanuelle Skala: Vice President of customer success.
Sam Jacobs: Where are you working?
Emmanuelle Skala: Toast.
Sam Jacobs: Yeah, well tell us about it. What kind of company is it? What do you guys do?
Emmanuelle Skala: We sell restaurant platforms to restaurants, obviously. We sell mostly to SMB restaurants but we also sell to enterprise and mid-market restaurants.
It’s a full suite of every piece of software that a restaurant would need from their POS system, or their back office, inventory management, online ordering, scheduling of resources, etc.
Sam Jacobs: You’ve being doing enterprise sales and you’ve done channel sales. This sounds like it’s high-velocity transactional selling. Is that accurate or no?
Emmanuelle Skala: It’s definitely high-velocity transactional. It’s also in-market. It’s a localized sale for the most part and it’s also a localized delivery, like a services delivery. That’s pretty unique as well.
Sam Jacobs: And how big is Toast?
Emmanuelle Skala: We’re a private company so we don’t do revenue range but I can tell you that it’s significant and we’re doubling every year. We have published our fundraising. Our
Sam Jacobs: Very good. That’s impressive! The post-money on $100M is significant. I’m sure that you guys are well north of $50M. What’s the size of your organization?
Emmanuelle Skala: 300 people in customer success. The company is 850. We’ve grown really fast. We were at about 300 a year ago and the two biggest teams are the sales team and then the customer success team now.
Customer Success at Toast
Emmanuelle Skala: My team is composed of five different departments. We have our services team, which does all the installation and deployments. Then we have our support team, which is your traditional 24/7 support. And then your customer success team—we call it restaurant success. These are your relationship managers, essentially. And then I have our customer education team, and then the last one is our customer experience team.
Sam Jacobs: That’s a lot of teams. Did all of those teams exist prior to your arrival? Did you create those teams?
Emmanuelle Skala: Customer success wasn’t an umbrella organization as it is now. My role is new to the company. The departments were reporting straight up to the CEO prior to my arrival in September. The support team has also always existed with a similar mission to support the inbound requests that are coming in and questions that are coming in.
I’ve changed the mission of the account management team to be much more consultative and proactive. I’ve created a very customer-focused education team and created the customer experience team.
Customer Experience vs. Account Management
Sam Jacobs: The customer experience team—how are they different the account management team?
Emmanuelle Skala: They don’t own accounts—they don’t have a portfolio of accounts that are theirs. They look across product, finance, marketing, and sales and look at ways that we can improve the customer experience. Essentially, the key metric for them is our NPS score.
Sam Jacobs: And so, the sale happens. The handoff —is it to an onboarding team?
Emmanuelle Skala: Yes. It’s a multi-step process. If you’re a restaurant, your POS system is your heart and soul. You’re taking all your orders through that. You’re running your entire business, all your cash, and your credit card transactions are going through. It’s a complex implementation. Essentially, it goes through our services team, who is responsible for the onboarding, the installation, deployment, and training.
Balancing Your Go To Market Strategy with Customer Experience
Sam Jacobs: Walk us through your thought process when you’re thinking about your next step in your career.
Emmanuelle Skala: I got into sales in a bit of an unusual way to begin with. I was in operations, and then I parlayed that into sales operations, and then I parlayed that into running sales. And for a long time in my career, I was looking at sales from a very operational angle.
I ran channel sales at a company for five years—it’s an efficient way to go to market. Then came inside sales for a number of years—that’s an efficient way to go to market.
At DigitalOcean, I was responsible for sales there. It’s a product-led model, and again another efficient way to go to market. I had this trend of looking for what are the most efficient ways of going to market, because of my sales operations background.
It was at Influitive that it really struck me—we have this fascination with the efficiency of our go to market strategy.
But we were often doing it at the expense of the customer experience, and at the experience of NPS. Customer success was then born, right? It was created for churn prevention because companies started having these leaky buckets. Have we swung the pendulum too far? Is there a way that we can have both a highly efficient go to market model and happy customers?
One day a friend of mine called me and said, “I have a crazy idea. We’d love to bring you in to Toast! How about running customer success?”
For me, it was the right time because as a sales leader who was pretty obsessed with trying to figure out how to have a great customer experience already, it seemed like a no-brainer.
When Is the Right Time to Build a Customer Success Team?
Sam Jacobs: How do you think about building different teams or when to build those team? How do you know it’s the right time?
Emmanuelle Skala: Depends on your model, whether you’re gonna do freemium, or free trial, or product-led. I think we invest in customer success too late.
If you’re an enterprise, and you have a high-touch go to market model and if you don’t have somebody whose goal is to ensure this customer gets unbelievable value from the product—you’re absolutely missing an opportunity. This will 10X your business and with a significantly less investment.
With NPS, It’s All About Context
Sam Jacobs: You’re such a big proponent of NPS. For you, what’s green, yellow, or red?
Emmanuelle Skala: The customers are still delighted, versus we’re starting to see some warning signs. You have to think, maybe we need to go back and rethink our go to market strategy versus hey, this is not the time to be investing in go to market. It looks like customers really don’t like what we’re doing.
Sam Jacobs: Are there numbers that you use in order to help inform those decisions?
Emmanuelle Skala: There are NPS standards that are across all industries, on what’s good, what’s great, and what’s excellent. You could overemphasize any one number that you’re looking at, right?
I think what’s more important than the number, is the context. I don’t like to get fixated on what number we are and how much it’s gone up or down. We do look at it, and we care about it. But, I want the context.
To me, it’s the comments that are put in, or it’s the feedback that we get when we do our post-survey follow up. We follow up with both the detractors and the promoters, if we don’t get any kind of comments. We listen, and we learn about what’s causing them to be a detractor, or a promoter, and then we make strategic decisions based off of that.
I correlate the NPS data with other data. What is our support ticket data telling us? And what are the anecdotal things we’re hearing from sales? You can’t look at one thing to get a good pulse of where you are.
The Numbers that Matter at Toast
Sam Jacobs: Walk us through your operating dashboard.
Emmanuelle Skala: The things that are across all departments are, churn. Everybody has the ability to influence churn positively.
Sam Jacobs: There’s a lot of folks out there that are not measuring churn the right way. How do you guys measure it, just so that everybody knows the exact calculation?
Emmanuelle Skala: We generally do revenue churn. I encourage people to do both revenue churn and unit churn. It’s the amount of revenue or units that have left the business that particular period, over the total amount of revenue, or units that you have, in the company.
The most important thing about churn is why it’s happening. If you can have multiple categories, that’s going help you get a better indication of what’s causing the churn, so you can fix it.
Sam Jacobs: What else are you looking at?
Emmanuelle Skala: We look at live revenue, which is our billed revenue—post-installation. We also look at upsell revenue as separate. We have a separate number for live, and a separate number for upsell, and obviously, churn is another revenue-impacting number. On the efficiency side, we look at margin, cost of goods sold. And then I have quality metrics that I look at—number of tickets after a go-live. In total, the ones that are tied to revenue, the ones that are tied to costs, the ones that are tied to NPS and quality.
The Right Mix of Revenue-Focused vs. Non-Revenue-Focused Teams
Sam Jacobs: Some companies create an account management team that is revenue-focused, but have some other part of the success organization that is not revenue-focused or revenue-incentivized. At the enterprise level, it’s even more different—you’re just saying the salesperson that sold the deal maintains that relationship at least for the first year.
Have you seen those different models? Do you have a preference?
Emmanuelle Skala: I’ve definitely seen customer success and sales starting to be under the same leader. At the individual contributor level, it often depends on how product-led you are. Some businesses just don’t have the ability to upsell—it’s just a one and done. Some organizations are gonna have one person. You don’t necessarily need to have a new-business person and an onboarding person, or a relationship person and a post-sales revenue person. We could actually blend those all into one person.
More and more companies are becoming product-led—we are starting to see those roles consolidate down to potentially even one role.
Focus on Being a Good Leader and Not a Good Woman Leader
Sam Jacobs: What advice do you have, or would you like to give to folks that are coming up through the ranks, that are women?
Emmanuelle Skala: It didn’t even dawn on me. I would say until I became VP of sales—obviously I knew I was a woman. In my early days, I just focused on getting my job done, achieving at a high level of competency, seeking out extra projects. I am looking for ways of adding value to the company. I just wanted to be a good employee.
My advice would be, is one, speak up. Your voice is valued, everyone’s voice is valued. The second one—I think women tend to beat themselves up more in terms of self doubt, more than men do. But, trust yourself, your instincts. You’ll make mistakes, but learn from them versus having the mistake prevent you from even failing again, in the future. I think that’s pretty important.
Don’t play the woman card. If you put too much emphasis on the differences, it’s going to actually do you a disservice—just focus on the things that are the same.
Sam Jacobs: Who are some of your mentors? Some of the books that had a big impact on you?
When I first became a VP of sales, I actually asked Brendon Cassidy to be my mentor. He’s been a great mentor to me, in my early days of running sales. I follow the typical people in the influencer category, in the VC world, Jason Lemkin, David Skok.
In the customer success world, Lincoln Murphy and Nick Mehta. And, women—Sheryl Sandberg.
Sam Jacobs: Thank you so much for joining us today! If folks wanna reach out to you, are you open to that, and what’s your preferred channel?
This is Sam’s corner. Great interview with Emmanuelle Skala, VP of Success at Toast. Emmanuelle really sheds a lot of light on the scale and complexity of a fully scaled customer success organization. One of the other things that she pointed out—consider not investing in any further go to market, if your NPS is below zero. Zero to thirty, that’s the yellow range. North of 30, maybe up to 50 or 60, that’s the green. And then, bright green is north of 50 or 60—all the way up to 70.
Final thought. She’s following up with every single person that leaves a comment, positive or negative. There’s been some debate in the past, whether that’s appropriate, Emmanuelle is saying do it regardless of positive or negative score.
This has been Sam’s Corner on the Sales Hacker podcast.
Thank you so much for tuning in, and I will see you next time!
Don’t Miss Episode 05
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Also published on Medium.