Emma Tiegan talked us through developing a learning culture, remote teams, creating customer success managers. Read the interview here.

June 1, 2020
June 26, 2023
Learning And Development

A curious and entrepreneurial spirit, Emma Tiegan — Head Of Customer Success and Operations at SmarterQueue — believes in holistic leadership and is excited by the ever-evolving craft of management. She leads a fully distributed, global team across business operations and customer success at SmarterQueue—a social media management platform used by some of the world's biggest influencers, famous brands and renowned institutions.

What is one customer-guiding principle you and your teams try to live by?

The SmarterQueue Team lives by feedback. We have a very “Sherlock Holmes” style of working, asking a lot of questions to our customers on every interaction, in a fun way! We segment the feedback into personas so that our product and service is always aligned with the market, and needs of our customers, trials and leads.

What have been the main challenges you and your team have faced during the COVID-19 lockdown and how have you overcome them?

As our team has always been fully remote, I feel very grateful that our processes have not changed, but considerably tightened due to COVID-19. The main challenge we have faced is that people and customers are scared, and understandably so. Many are trying to cut costs where possible, and are acting out of fear. This reverberates in their messaging to us, at scale.

To overcome the challenge of increased volume, and the emotional ‘unloading’, the first thing we did was hop on a call together as a team. It was an important time to talk about our fears, frustrations and then make an action plan together. I expected before the call that the Customer Success Team would want fewer, and more flexible hours to adapt to life in lockdown, to organise family life, schooling, travelling home, etc.

Turns out I was completely wrong!They actually requested I set a team hour-by-hour structure for their day, that we switch to monthly goals (instead of quarterly), and a weekly, agile sprint way of working towards those goals, similar to our Development Team.

It just goes to show how important it is to always ask your team what they want in a collaborative environment.

Not only are we now working more effectively, the team are really excited to see their ideas in action and have the comfort of a consistent routine during the crisis.We have also scheduled online all team games three times a week, which is a fun way of bringing everyone together.

How do you onboard and train your reps?

Onboarding and training have always been fully remote at SmarterQueue. In Asana, I’ve created a comprehensive training checklist template which is filled with engaging educational tasks. We duplicate this template for every new hire. The checklist contains detailed instructions with some tasks linked to our dedicated onboarding area in our internal wiki.

This is filled with the information every new starter needs, starting with culture and expectations.We use Loom, a screen video recording tool that is amazing for training. This makes it possible for anyone on the team to record training videos in their area of expertise.

Promoting a learning culture is important, how are you maintaining yours during this period?

Being curious is something we heavily screen for during hiring. Our Customer Success Team have naturally curious personalities, which makes maintaining a learning culture almost effortless. I can not recommend screening for curiosity highly enough.Here’s how we work;

  • New learnings are shared constantly via Slack, usually in the form of a Loom video walkthrough, or a URL to an interesting study/article.
  • Then, we capture and turn the Slack message into a task immediately using the Asana extension and put it into the relevant project.
  • We celebrate and praise all learnings as they come in on Slack (think lots of clapping and party emojis!).
  • We bounce ideas off of each other on the Asana thread, between departments, so no information is lost.
  • We turn the Asana task into an action, then assign, prioritise and set a due date. The action could be anything from making an educational video for our customers using the inspiration from an article shared, to launching an A/B test to see if pink buttons increase conversion! This way, we’re learning and scaling rapidly, without the need for management setting any tasks, or driving the adoption education.

As our customers are looking to have an effective social media presence, our Customer Success Team are subscribed to social media influencers YouTube channels, newsletters and are on the pulse of the latest trends and market news.

What productivity hacks do you use daily for your personal development?

  1. I write down what must be done by the end of the day before I open my inbox or Slack. Looking through my inbox or Slack messages puts me into reactive mode, at the beginning of my day, this is a productivity killer for me!
  2. I use a Pomodoro Chrome extension to track my time in 25-minute intervals. I make sure I get up, walk around and take an eye break every 25 minutes.
  3. I listen to a YouTube podcast every day across a wide range of topics. I really love Eric Weinstein, Ray Dalio, Joe Rogan and London Real’s podcasts as their guests are so diverse and interesting.

How do Customer Success Managers build authority and become trusted advisers as well as leaders among their teams?

  1. Have a weekly, one-hour one-on-one with your direct reports, do not skip them.
  2. Listen more than you talk, always.
  3. Every week, ask your team what you could be doing better. Praise them for being honest and be concerned if they have nothing to share.
  4. Always discover what the desired outcome of any project is first. Get metrics and ask a lot of questions.
  5. Be courageous and trust your gut instincts. If you disagree with the direction of the product, marketing, or any other area of the business, make your voice heard (and documented, with the team member in charge of the decision.) With no customers, there is no business. You may have insight that they are unaware of.
  6. Be genuine. Don’t ever impersonate others you admire, be yourself!

How do you teach yourself and your team to deal with failure?

I’m wrong all the time!A routine I’ve set is to record myself talking through my thought process at the kick off of every larger task or project we’re working on. That recording will then be sent to the entire Customer Success Team for them to share their feedback, suggestions, ideas, [and even] jokes sometimes! That recording won’t be edited, chopped or changed.

I’ll celebrate team members who spot mistakes, come up with better ideas, pick holes in my logic and give constructive feedback.Setting the tone that I’m often wrong, I fail, I miss details from their perspective of “having an ear to the ground”, and that I didn’t consider how X may affect Y, is absolutely crucial in promoting a mentally healthy work culture.

We want the best for each other, the freedom to explore and test new creative ideas is more important to us than the fear of failing.We’ve learnt our best lessons through projects that didn’t work out as expected, through plans that fell through. Failure, after all, is just another word for learning.