How can you overcome challenges and drive productivity in your customer success team? We discussed this and much more with Violaine Yziquel. Read the interview.

June 1, 2020
June 26, 2023
Employee Onboarding

Violaine Yziquel runs the EMEA Customer Success Management Team at Box, a cloud content management platform that helps organisations and people transform the way they work. Violaine is very enthusiastic in articulating product value back to the customer for them to achieve their greatest ambitions, as well as passionate about scaling operations.

As the co-founder of the EMEA Customer Success Network community, she believes best practices sharing and learning agility are the best way to evangelise and make customer success (CS) a great place to work.

How do you onboard and train your reps?

As everyone knows, [it’s the same] as customer onboarding, Customer Success Manager (CSM) onboarding will say a lot about the company and the team someone is joining.Box is a very well-established company and, as with many other tech companies, the whole onboarding experience is super structured—it starts with two weeks at the headquarters in Redwood City (CA), to get the culture vibes, but also to ensure the same level of knowledge is shared across all teams: product, positioning, core values and role plays. It also allows [us] to create bonds across regions, and Boxers usually keep contact with their BoxCamp mates.

Given the current [COVID-19] crisis situation, those two weeks will be replaced by virtual sessions.Once completed, we keep onboarding the new CSMs in the regions—in EMEA there are key people we want them to meet, specific tooling sessions planned, a buddy assigned, weekly reviews of the objectives so that they feel part of the team from the very beginning. As the CS department and processes evolve, our procedure also evolves and we value the newly onboarded CSMs feedback very much for this.

If, after three months in the company, the new joiner knows how to navigate in the company, where to find key (product) data through a large variety of systems, who to ask for support, how to handle a customer conversation (through multiple internal sign-offs and actual customer conversations!), then I would consider this a successful onboarding.There is nothing really new in that approach to be honest—the key tip here being to keep regular check-ins, not just to see how the new CSM is doing but also how he/she is starting to influence the way the team thinks.Now the onboarding is just the first stage in the whole enablement experience of CSMs, to me that enablement experience should be based on the skills you need to be a great CSM.

I think having a clear activity-based competency model helps you manage CSMs expectations in a better way, measure their performance in a more tangible manner, and identify gaps that you can fill in through coaching or enablement.At Box we are going [down] that path too: for example we split CSMs competencies into five key rubrics (portfolio management, business acumen, relationship management, leadership, and product and positioning) that represent the scope of the role—it is a large one! We have a very solid enablement practice team that provides global guidelines in terms of product knowledge (aligned with the releases obviously), competitive greatness and solution selling.

Most of it can be tailored for different teams like Sales or CS. And, again, the regions can also leverage that content and make it more relevant locally. I would say the challenge here is the multitude of content and the fact that you might overwhelm people with training sessions without ensuring this is fully digested.So what makes it successful is the way the team actually leverages this information to apply it to their own conversation and personal growth. Best practices sharing is, to me, the backbone of an enablement experience.

How do you share best practices with each other?

As a co-founder of a CS community, to me, best practices sharing is THE way to grow.Hearing from other people in that space, what they have done, what has been successful or not, what assets they have created is music to my ears—[the] main reason being that you are then able to leverage those learnings and apply those at your very own organisation. Be lazy in a way :)You gain time, you help level up the practice by creating a (usually) better solution, and when sharing that back with the group you ensure crowdsourced ideas are continuously being challenged.Team-wise we have monthly customer tactics sessions—topics are being listed by the team, and it is a rolling chair.

It is THEIR time to learn from each other and be better at their job, and they really value it. We have had topics on business review delivery skills, partnering with sales, but also on COVID-19 being the new norm and soon on objections handling with OBRs as guests.Identifying experts in some areas can also help spread the good practice—think of SMEs or gurus on use cases framing, success plans building or even competition! Look outside your team too if you can.

I am trying to get external speakers into the team meetings, even outside the CS space to change the perspective as well. [It’s a] work in progress!And if you want to learn and share with other practitioners, come and join the community here :)

What are your biggest lessons and challenges at the moment?

I guess with the whole COVID-19 situation, this question is even more relevant. The biggest challenge for me is to find enough headspace to think through new ways forward—that might sound pedantic, but I always love hearing about new ideas and seeing how I can implement them within the team or within the CS industry (e.g. that competency framework that I mentioned previously!).

Now with the whole remote working situation and full lockdown, the impacts on the customers that you must emphasise with, the lack of social activities, the impact on your personal life etc. it is tough! Prioritisation and taking control of my agenda are more than ever key tools to be able to juggle things around.

The biggest lesson would be that during those times you need to be even more focused and simple in the way you want to lead your team or operate your business.

  • Make yourself available — more than before if possible — and sometimes just for a chit chat.
  • Monitor your key metrics and the way they are being impacted.
  • Do not review your entire strategy, it is not worth it.
  • Align with sales and marketing on the plays they are defining and see how you can apply the same talk track.
  • Be intentional in the way you engage with your customers.

But most importantly, trust your team: they are grown ups and they will be the ones on the ground, coming up with the most creative ideas to support their customers and to manage their own agendas. Just be there to support them!

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

Again, during this uncharted COVID-19 territory, it is almost mission impossible to find the time to think about my own development—and this is definitely not something a 10-month-old baby would let you do easily!

The main thing I keep doing is mentoring CS folks—this gives me fresh air and perspective and makes me support someone in his/her personal growth. This is rewarding, refreshing and definitely much appreciated these days.