In less than two years, Jess Jurva went from managing a regional Customer Success team at Lucidworks to running the entire Customer Excellence organization as CCO—having evolved both her organization’s structure and processes and Lucidworks’ perceptions of Customer Excellence as a whole.
Jurva kicked off her career in customer-facing roles over 20 years ago, having built her career in Fortune 500 companies. Jurva says these companies would introduce new products to their customers, and she’d lead the effort to roll the products out and get customers to adopt them. Now as CCO, she leads the Customer Excellence team which encompasses the Customer Success, Professional Services, Knowledge Services, and Support teams.
“I’ve been in account management roles, in Sales, and in Customer Success,” she says. “In each role I’ve been focused on bringing brands closer to their customers through technology intent on driving personalization, relevancy, and predictability. I’ve always been drawn towards building customer relationships, so as I progressed in my career I began to focus more on building out teams and organizations around the customer journey.”
In this interview, Jurva shares the changes she’s made that help Lucidworks provide a world-class experience across a wide range of customers. She breaks down how she evolved the Customer Excellence team structure and defined their customer experiences, and how she pushed her organization to be a more strategic player at Lucidworks.
How Lucidworks’ Customer Excellence team has evolved
When Jurva first joined Lucidworks as VP of Customer Excellence, her role was focused on Customer Success and Professional Services in the West Region. Her group was responsible for onboarding customers and ensuring they had the right professional services resources needed for implementing the platform. Also under the same “Customer Excellence” umbrella were two teams that didn’t fall within Jurva’s oversight: Knowledge Services (which handles training, documentation, and knowledge management) and Support.
“It wasn’t long after I joined the Customer Excellence organization that I began to notice our West and East teams were not managing our customers in the same way. The experiences were disjointed,” Jurva says. “Even though we had 300 plus enterprise customers and were growing significantly in ARR, it didn’t make sense for us to be split up regionally in that way. We were too small. And we weren’t achieving the optimal customer experience across the board because the different territories were doing very different things.”
Jurva moved into the Chief Customer Officer role and transformed the way Lucidworks’ Success team was working. She broke down the regional silos and merged the disparate groups into one Success team, one Professional Services team, and they now deploy those resources geographically as needed.
“Now, we look at our operations from the standpoint of the customer journey,” Jurva says. “We aim to organize our teams to create accountability across the customer journey.”
The unified Customer Excellence function—including the four teams of Success, Professional Services, Knowledge Services, and Support—rolls up to Jurva as the CCO. She works hand-in-hand with the CRO to ensure that incoming renewals align with the Sales strategy, to map territories with existing accounts, and develop strategies for upsells.
Jurva says Customer Success still contains regional teams—but they are not siloed. Jurva still wants CSMs to be close to their customers, so she’s hired reps in areas where Lucidworks has large pockets of customers. (Sales reps are similarly distributed.)
This proximity eliminates a lot of travel expenses. But more than that, it keeps the company top-of-mind with its customers.
“In every organization that I’ve worked with, we’ve had a combination of both in-person and remote reps,” Jurva says. “It’s really about knowing your customer. Some customers don’t care if we’re on site; they just want us to be in touch frequently. And others really value us being present. Seeing our faces. It shows them that we’re invested in their success.”
The three customer experience tiers
In addition to breaking down silos and unifying the Customer Excellence teams, Jurva defined the customer tiers that determine the type of experience different customers get. In short, customers are grouped according to 1. revenue, 2. growth opportunity, and 3. engagement.
Here’s Jurva’s breakdown of the three tiers:
These are the customers that are either driving the most revenue for the company and/or have high growth potential. They’re also the customers who are interested in having the most contact with a strategic Customer Success rep.
Customer Success directors are assigned to these accounts, and each rep manages between 8-12 accounts. These reps are more senior, have a deep understanding of the product and customer use cases, and can speak about the product to different audiences in different industries. They’re also able to effectively prioritize their time and keep a pulse on how customers are experiencing the product.
Mid-tier, medium-growth accounts
This group includes customers who have medium growth potential but do not require a Success rep to provide a high-touch experience. Instead, it requires the rep to dig in to discover where there might be expansion opportunities.
The CSMs and Senior CSMs assigned to these reps are generally focused on running communication programs with customers and being there for assistance. If a customer has a problem or, say, has a new person join their team, the CSMs are there for training. They’re also looking for potential growth opportunities where there may be smaller upsells.
“Then there’s the final tier which includes our least engaged customers,” Jurva explains. “These customers are smaller, lesser-known brands, low revenue generators, and have been with us a long time and are ok with staying on an older version of the product.”
Jurva’s team assigns Customer Success associates to these accounts. “These reps tend to have one or two years of prior experience. We bring them on, train them on how to run programs with the accounts in this tier that boost engagement with the product. They’ll come to our annual conference, look for incremental upsells, and they own renewals,” Jurva says.
How Success works with Sales
Customer Success at Lucidworks drives renewals and upsells. The team collaborates with Sales—and collaboration is particularly high with the strategic accounts described above—but ultimately the ownership comes down to CS.
Success handles straight renewals (including annual increases) of the mid- and low-tiers. The reps simply let Sales know that there’s no upsell opportunity here, and then they close those opportunities.
“When we’re driving renewals for our strategic accounts, we’re very much aligned with Sales reps to provide context into what we’ve been doing with this account and what we think some upsell opportunities are,” Jurva explains. “Any time we see an upsell or expansion opportunity, we bring in Sales. Then the salesperson will drive that transaction.”
Salespeople at Lucidworks are not compensated for renewals. They get a portion for upsells and the first-year comp when they close a deal. But renewals go strictly to the Success team. And both Sales and Success get compensated for upsells because it’s technically new ARR.
The real magic, however, is how smoothly Jurva has brought Success earlier into the Sales process.
Bringing Success earlier into the sales cycle
Many Sales orgs can be resistant to bringing in Customer Success before the deal is closed. It’s only natural; Sales wants to be in control of every aspect of the deal, so bringing in an additional person to talk to the customer can add a level of uncertainty.
“Since I joined Lucidworks, we’ve evolved our process from having a distinct handoff between Sales and CS to one where the AE brings in the CSM when they’re around 70% to closing the deal,” Jurva says.
This provides a much better experience for the customer for two reasons:
- The customer doesn’t have to repeat anything. The Success person gets looped into the customer’s situation and goals early and can help them get value out of the product much faster.
- The customer gets to see what it’s like to work with Lucidworks. That’s going to give the customer much more confidence and increase the AE’s likelihood of closing the deal.
But evolving this process requires a cultural shift and it doesn’t happen overnight. Here’s some of Jurva’s advice for others looking to make this transition:
- Positioning to Sales: “Since Sales can get territorial, we needed to continuously tell them, ‘Hey, we’re here to add onto what you’re doing—we’re not here to take anything away. We want to help close the deal by making sure the customer feels comfortable that when they sign the contract, they know they’re going to be taken care of,’” she says. This takes time and a lot of relationship-building with your peers and the sales reps, but it’ll start to get easier when they see you prove the value—and when they see how the customers respond to being able to work with their CSM before the deal is closed.
- Positioning to customers: Sales and Success should also explain to customers why the CSM is joining calls before the deal is closed. Jurva says, “The idea here is to say, ‘When you come to Lucidworks, we’re going to take care of you. We already know your situation and the goals you have—you won’t have to repeat every single thing you’ve told Sales, then the Sales engineer, then everyone else you’ve talked to. We document these things and they’re handed off to everyone working with you. And your CSM has already been working with you so they can help you realize value quicker.” Then, you can also position this as doing a proof of concept with the CSM. “Think of us as part of the POC. You get the chance to understand what it’s like to work with us before you commit.”
- Show the value at every chance. As Sales starts to bring in Success earlier, Jurva recommends making sure to get qualitative and quantitative feedback—from the Salespeople, the Success team, and the customers. “Ask the Success team to share all comments they’re seeing about the change in process,” she explains. “Then, report back on what your team is seeing on the front lines. If you can show that customers appreciate being able to meet the CSM, that will help other (more hesitant) Salespeople see the value.”
Making customer meetings valuable
“Customers are looking at every dollar they spend, and what they’re going to get out of that dollar,” Jurva says. “It’s important to have touchpoints like QBRs, especially in times like these when many customers are cutting or freezing budgets. QBRs are one channel for understanding the customer’s goals, coaching the customer to use your product to reach those goals, and then reiterating the value of the product.”
QBRs sound great in theory, but they can often evolve into a meeting that’s much more company-focused (“Here’s the value of our product”) than customer-focused (“Here are your goals, here’s how we’re helping you get there”). Jurva recognizes that when they head in this direction, it’s not uncommon to see key champions or sponsors avoid attending QBRs. Here’s her advice on making sure these meetings stay valuable for the customer.
1. Prioritize strategic clients and bring metrics to the table
“For strategic accounts, the touchpoints are more around getting customers the education and the services they need from us,” Jurva says. “These meetings are less important for mid-tier and low-engagement customers.”
Lucidworks pairs each strategic-level account with an executive sponsor at the C-level. That executive sponsor attends each QBR, and the customer gets personal engagement with their sponsor as their own internal advocate. The executives participate in examining what’s working well (and what’s not), and how the customer can move forward with your company’s product and service. That extra presence can help close renewals and drive expansion opportunities.
“These meetings help ensure that if you’ve spent a couple million dollars with us, we are focused on getting you the ROI on that spend,” Jurva says. “That holds weight when you get together with decision-makers and stakeholders.”
2. Tailor the conversation around the customer’s goals and objectives
“It’s a natural tendency for CSMs to want to go into one of these meetings and just vomit about everything new their company is doing and why it should matter to the customer,” she says. “Instead of doing that, we need CSMs to both listen to business’s goals and objectives and prove that they’re listening by focusing the conversation around those goals. That helps the relationship. It also helps make sure that executive sponsors want to come to the meeting.”
3. Share what’s working for other customers with and outside of your product
To the level that confidentiality and consideration allow, Jurva encourages strategic CSMs to share with customers what their peers in the same or adjacent industry are doing and how they are leveraging the platform.
“I can’t tell you how many customers actually love having those data points and learning from other customers,” she says. “Of course they should share how other customers are succeeding with the product, but customers also love hearing about general practices other customers are using as well that don’t have much to do with your product. What helps one customer succeed can help more customers succeed.”
For Success leaders striving to build teams, processes, and culture around the customer journey, here’s Jurva’s distilled advice:
- When deciding to split teams regionally, pay attention to the differences in customer experience being provided between the regions. If you’re a small to midsize business, splitting teams in this way may not be necessary.
- Your low-engagement or low-touch customer experience tier can be a perfect place to train and develop junior Customer Success reps.
- Advocate for bringing Success earlier into the sales cycle. This will take time and a lot of communication with Sales and with customers. When your team starts to see results (qualitative or quantitative), make sure you’re reporting back on those frequently.
- Strategic meetings can easily slip into being company-focused and not valuable for the stakeholders attending. To keep those meetings valuable, 1. Bring metrics to the table, 2. Tailor the conversation around the customer’s goals, and 3. Share what’s working for other customers with and outside your product.