Five years in customer experience at Nutshell

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VP of Customer Experience, Nutshell

It’s not every day that we get to celebrate milestones in our lives. As Nutshell’s new VP of Customer Experience, I took the chance to reflect on my journey to this point, and wanted to tell my own Nutshell story.

I remember walking past the Nutshell office in downtown Ann Arbor a few times before I applied. At that time, I was frequenting a favorite breakfast spot next door, Afternoon Delight, before heading to a job that I thought would open doors to a career but was actually teaching me that I didn’t want to do that work anymore. I wanted to help people, but the job I was doing involved so much red tape that I never felt I could do enough, or do the right thing.

The sign in Nutshell’s window said “Despite appearances, we are not a bike shop.” It also said “We make CRM software to help people grow their business” and mentioned they were hiring in customer experience.

nutshell ann arbor office katherine mays
The famous sign, and a group of really awesome coworkers during a bike-to-work challenge.

That was actually my first time being exposed to the phrase. I wasn’t in tech and hadn’t planned to be. It intrigued me. Helping companies grow by providing them with a great experience? It sounded like the perfect blend of creativity and connecting with people. Sign me up!

I spent my first few years at Nutshell talking to a lot of customers. In fact, looking back through Nutshell’s activity reporting, I’ve sent nearly 18,000 messages to Nutshell customers (mind = blown). Through all these conversations, I have learned a lot about what is important to growing businesses around the world, and the bottom line really isn’t that different.

People want to have a human experience when they talk to a company. And knowing that, they want to provide a human experience to their own customers.

A small sample of what we get to see every day in our #madprops Slack channel.

It has been clear from the beginning that Nutshell was a very human company. Everyone, from the leadership team to everyone I met in the office kitchen, was open, friendly, ridiculously smart, and empathetic. I’d get off phone calls and get Slack messages from engineers saying things like “Sorry! We’re going to fix that!” Everyone wanted Nutshell to be a successful company, and wanted to achieve that by caring about what helped customers and fixing the things that didn’t.

Early on, I decided two things:

First, I wanted to invest in my knowledge and skillset to make my role in customer experience a major contributor to Nutshell’s growth and success. I was hearing and learning so much from our customers and wanted to be sure those voices were at the table when decisions were being made.

Second, I wanted to enrich our company culture to make sure Nutshell remains an incredible place to work for myself but also for present and future colleagues. After all, we spend the majority of our time together. Plus, I firmly believe that how we feel and behave at work towards each other directly impacts how our customers feel about working with us (whether it’s through conversations or through their interactions with our software).

With encouragement and support from my bosses, team, and local community I began to attend conferences and meetups, read lots of books and articles (book clubbing whenever possible), and look for ways to bring the insights from thousands of conversations into digestible, actionable areas of focus. In customer experience, separating the signal from the noise is an ongoing challenge. There is so much data and so little time. It can be overwhelming!

One of my earliest attempts to do this was the creation and internal sharing of a cancellation report. When customers churn, we ask them to fill in a survey sharing a little information about their reasons for leaving, but we weren’t doing anything with the information. I began to compile the results so that our entire team could understand our biggest contributors to customers leaving. I still create this report twice a year and it has guided product development as well as process changes in the way we support and communicate with our customers.

One of the consistent pieces of feedback we received was that Nutshell was too difficult to learn and use, and that teams needed training. This lined up with an early piece of advice I received—that taking helpful actions proactively would be more beneficial than reacting in our responses all the time. If we can prevent questions or issues by providing education up front, we’re helping our customers be more successful, more quickly.

nutshell crm chrun rate
Our churn rate for customers in our success program, customers who stick around more than three months, and all customers.

I’ve strived to carry this philosophy over into all of the resources we offer customers, including the content and appearance of our articles and tutorial videos, proactive messages, and training webinars. It also serves as the basis for the development of our Customer Success program. We spent a couple of years experimenting with proactive customer success before hitting the jackpot with a process that was created primarily through active listening to customer needs (check out our Senior CSM Kristen Gray’s post for the specifics!).

The core tenet of our customer experience teams is still listening. We adjust how we work with customers based on how the landscape for businesses is changing in the wake of COVID-19 and the evolution of Nutshell itself. As Nutshell develops our CRM and introduces greater capabilities, new workflows and ways to—as we like to say—do more with less emerge. Showing companies how to use these tools to earn more revenue lights our fire.

nutshell boundless 2020 core team how to create a virtual conference
BOUNDLESS 2020, our annual customer appreciation day and free virtual conference.

I’m thrilled to be in a position now where I can help facilitate customer success and customer support for Nutshell on an even broader scale, as I step into my new role. While many of the conversations we have are fairly brief and transactional, getting to know and work with so many teams in diverse businesses all over the world is an honor and very fulfilling. Each of those unique interactions are a part of the bigger journey, offering valuable perspective into how we can make our customers’ jobs easier as they grow and evolve their own companies.

I am grateful for the opportunities and the support of colleagues, family, and friends that brought me to this point, and cannot wait to see where our hard work and plans take Nutshell next.

This article was originally published on medium.com/@paperkitten. Connect with Katherine on LinkedIn.

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