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Unchurnable, Episode 1: The evolution of customer success

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This interview has been edited for clarity.

Sarah Norton: Hi everyone, I'm Sarah Norton and this is Unturnable. Today, I am with our chief customer officer Sam Loveland, who is a pickleball enthusiast and aspiring top chef. Hello Sam.

Sam Loveland: Well, first, thanks for having me here today.

Sarah Norton: So Sam, so much has evolved in customer success in the last three to five years. What do you think is the main drive of that change?

Sam Loveland: I'm going to go back about 20 years, right, to when customer success first started out. It was all about making your customers happy without any real process. The next evolution was about driving adoption with specific processes. In the last few years, it's become more data-driven. Customers now expect real business outcomes as quickly as possible. They are smarter, more demanding, and expect significant value.

Sarah Norton: I've noticed this progression in my own experience. Customers are more invested in their success, which is exciting. Do you think this makes it easier or harder to make them happy?

Sam Loveland: In some ways, it's easier because we have more data to inform our decisions. However, it's also harder because expectations are higher. We must constantly engage with customers about their value and business outcomes. We need to understand changes in their business landscape to implement solutions effectively.

Sarah Norton: There's been a lot of focus on sales and marketing for generating pipeline. Why do you think customer success is now the secret weapon for growth?

Sam Loveland: Customer success is about being a trusted advisor. We drive adoption and business outcomes, uncovering new opportunities through our conversations. This doesn't feel like selling to the customer, but rather part of a natural dialogue. It's our responsibility to pass these insights to the sales team to nurture opportunities.

Sarah Norton: That's a great point. It seems like customer success involves a consultative approach and a collaborative "one team, one dream" mindset. How do you ensure alignment across teams?

Sam Loveland: Role clarity is essential. Understanding roles and responsibilities within our organization and on the customer side is critical. It's not just one person making decisions; it's a buying team. Through our conversations, we identify the team makeup and add value to the sales organization.

Sarah Norton: Do you feel aligned with your cross-functional partners on this vision? How do you reconcile differences in viewpoints?

Sam Loveland: Alignment starts with a company-level vision. At Salesloft, one of our main strategic pillars is customer obsession at scale. This alignment at the highest level makes cross-functional discussions easier, even when disagreements arise. It's crucial to define your purpose, mission, and strategic pillars for cohesive efforts across all teams.

Sarah Norton: Love that. Final question, if you had unlimited resources, what's one thing you would do every day for your company?

Sam Loveland: With unlimited budget, I would invest in building user communities globally. Our passionate customers could learn from each other and share their unique approaches. This would help scale our efforts and build a strong customer army.

Sarah Norton: As someone in customer education, that sounds fantastic! In our next episode, we'll discuss tactics for keeping customers happy, the link between education and retention, and some hard lessons learned over your career. Thank you for joining us, Sam.

Sam Loveland: Thank you, Sarah. Looking forward to it!

In the first episode of Unchurnable, Salesloft's Chief Customer Officer, Sam Loveland, unpacks the biggest changes that have redefined customer success over the past 20 years, including the rise of data-driven business outcomes, consultative versus one team/one dream approaches, and aligning to your customers’ vision.

Watch the entire Unchurnable series on YouTube >