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Arundhati Balachandran 2

Chargebee’s Senior Director of Customer Success on How to Operationalize CX with Technology

Picture a high-growth, fast-scaling organization. It’s adding new customers rapidly from over the world; 35% are high-value enterprise clients. 20 new CSMs have joined in the last year to help the organization keep up with the demand. More than 80 tools have been deployed to manage business operations, customer data included. Strategies are getting updated quarterly, so is the product roadmap. But while the organization is doing everything to meet customer expectations, delighting them is getting harder. This is the situation Chargebee – a leading recurring billing and subscription management tool for SaaS businesses – was staring at just a few years ago. 

“Customers begin their journey with you even before they become a prospect,” notes Arundhati Balachandran, Senior Director of Customer Success and CX leader at Chargebee. “If they can walk away with a delightful experience right from the start – whether that’s through you showing up and demonstrating product value upfront, or by going that extra mile to personalize their journey –  they are likely to not only become but also remain your customers,” she continues. 

Arundhati has been with Chargebee since 2018. She has developed and structured the customer success function from scratch and is now leading the customer experience mandate for the organization. She sat down with Freshworks to talk about principles and technology that power Chargebee’s CX strategy and offer a perspective on how fast-growing organizations should pursue technology to aid and abet delightful customer experiences.

Freshworks: You mentioned that creating ‘moments of delight’ right from the start is important for winning and retaining customers. How did you conceive the first steps towards this? 

Arundhati: It started with us putting together a dedicated customer success function that would be responsible for customer happiness, not just customer service. Before their role was clearly carved out, our CSMs were handling support tickets alongside agents. However, solving tickets is a moment-in-time activity that’s reactive and largely transactional. Making (and keeping) customers happy requires proactive effort. One needs to identify problems before they arise and act proactively towards preventing or mitigating them. That itself is CX 101. And technology helps predict if the customer is getting antsy or unhappy.  

How has technology helped your CSMs become better at their role as ‘experience agents’?

Arundhati: Before we brought in technology like Churnzero, Spendo, Freshdesk, and Freshsales, the way we used to learn who was most engaged or unhappy at any given point was by looking at their level of product usage. A product like Chargebee, which sits at the locus of a business’s revenue, customers use it every day. Any deviation from this normal is something that concerns us. So we make it a point to look at things like the rate at which our customer’s revenue is growing. If it’s slowing down, a customer could face a budget shortfall and churn. If they’ve raised a lot of high-priority support tickets recently, that’s a telling sign of their frustration. How deeply integrated they are with Chargebee? How many champions are logging in? How many power users do we have? These are important parameters for us to establish the health score of any customer. 

But we realized that for a CSM to do this for their 300+ customers manually is impossible. Technology helps us measure product stickiness and capture sentiments and risks across all 3600+ customers far better. 

Can you underscore just what technology does to aid CX? 

Arundhati: Put simply, technology helps us identify the level of engagement for a customer segment.  

While we did start out with an SMB-only focus, Chargebee caters to organizations of all sizes and scales. And the way we segment customers is based not on the revenue they give us but the revenue they generate for themselves. As a customer grows, the level of engagement from our end must adapt. Automation usually takes precedence for SMBs – it’s a relatively low-touch segment. As they keep growing and scaling, dedicated CSMs and technical account managers come into the picture. Humans and technology start playing tag team to ensure this customer is on a suitable product instance and set up for maximum ROI. Enterprise accounts are always high-touch, high engagement. Given the scale, risk, and complexity of these businesses, a dedicated CSM presence, in addition to technical support, is critical. And proactive support is a priority. 

Because we concern ourselves with customer outcomes and their happiness, and obsessively so, it matters that CSMs – irrespective of whether they handle SMB or enterprise clients – have a solid grasp on customer sentiments. We have a customer health score model that factors in 2-3 [weighted] product usage data – frequency of usage, recency, rate of revenue growth, and more – to dish out which customers are happy and growing and which are at-risk at a given point. This data is also passed to the product team to design and update the product roadmap. 

As an organization that’s heavily oriented towards customer outcomes, technology enables us to keep up and gives us the intel to stay proactive.

Given this orientation, is it fair to assume reverence to CX is baked into Chargebee’s org structure? 

Arundhati: Absolutely. Given the fact that from MQL to renewal a customer moves across multiple marketing and support touchpoints, with functions like product, finance, engineering cutting across, everyone is on the hook to ensure customers have a good experience.  

From the recess of our own function, we may be able to drive incremental wins. But a truly memorable experience gets made when every function delivers on the CX mandate. This is why our Director of CX works closely with GTM, Product, and Engineering today.

Does technology also help in ensuring cross-functional collaboration on CX? 

Arundhati: We are in the process of deploying Qualtrics for a single-view dashboard that will distill NPS feedback to pinpoint promoters, passives, and detractors. This dashboard will exist to give pointed feedback to functional teams on what is working and what needs improving as the NPS data comes in. This data comes in at the segment level, which means we can pinpoint promoters, passives, and detractors in a function down to the segment. 

With such a robust, function-wide dashboard, they see it clearly if there are detractors for support. If there are promoters for the product, they see that too. We are also working on a team-wide playbook on how to act on an NPS score. 

NPS is the leading indicator of customer sentiment, something we care deeply about. We use the [function-level] NPS feedback to identify when and where we need to show up and close the loop. And today NPS allows for enough depth, and room to slice and dice data in various ways. Over time we may integrate CSAT and CES.

Technology like this helps assemble the entire organization around a CX mandate quite effectively. It also helps ensure high levels of responsiveness, especially at key touchpoints and moments. 

At Chargebee we act fast and with trust to avoid any delay for the customer. 

This is such a thoughtful approach to leveraging the power of technology to act on a CX mandate. What outcomes do you hope to achieve? 

Arundhati: Quantifying any CX-related efforts is a challenge. It’s hard to pinpoint success criteria. But we have led with a singular, north star goal from the start – how do we make more champions and advocates of Chargebee? How do we increase that pool? What will it take (and by when) to turn all 3600 customers of Chargebee into advocates and champions? Because more advocates translate into more references, more new customers, more LTV, and high NRR. 

But to put it elegantly, experience-driven customer success is what we are after. Which means investing in customer retention, development, and advocacy. This is how you measure the ROI of your CX efforts.

I am personally curious to learn why is someone a promoter of Chargebee. And how do we retain them as promoters? Because this is something I can pass on to marketing and product in an effort to demonstrate/enhance the value proposition. 

Never lose sight of your happy customers.

How much do you currently depend on technology to drive CX outcomes? 

Arundhati: A dashboard, like the one we are implementing, is just a collection of data. Insights come from people. The POCs from each team, the CSMs working with customers – through their intervention, data gets translated into insight that finally gets shared org-wide and with customers during business reviews. How do you know if this insight makes sense for the customer? That’s something a human can tell best.

Judgment is best embodied in a human. Sometimes, a customer lost interest in a business review presentation because we kept spewing templatized data at them. It’s because they didn’t care for the data. They cared for insights. Specific insights. And such expectations are commonplace.

How essential is a dedicated CX leader for a fast-growing company? 

Arundhati: When you are an organization like Chargebee, which is heavily sales-led, it makes sense to have a dedicated CX leader. They can hold a lot more intelligence about the customer and champion the importance of building relationships, communicating value, and ensuring moments of delight. These are the 3 pillars of CX in my opinion.

Building a relationship matters because even if the product falters sometimes, it is your relationship that will save you. Customers can be forgiving. 

When I say value, I am asking you to think about whether you are able to translate the ROI successfully. A dashboard with data is not enough. Insights are meaningful. So it matters how well and how often you or your technology is conveying the real value generated from this relationship you’ve built. 

And finally, how do you bake in moments of delight in your engagement. We use Intelligenze to get real-time news of all our customers – from funding raised to people hired. And we send gift baskets using Reachdesk. That’s a moment of delight right there. Small moments add up to great CX. 

If there’s one piece of advice for fast-growing organizations like Chargebee looking to act on CX, what would you say? 

Arundhati: As you scale, each functional team – marketing, sales, product – should have an internal CX champion. Every team should have someone thinking about how their function impacts a customer’s experience at whatever touchpoint they act on.

At Chargebee, our CEO is so heavily concerned about NPS that he has an NPS OKR. In fact, all C-Suite leaders now have an NPS OKR. 

The minute CX becomes an OKR, everyone takes the time to discuss it regularly and across leadership. When you discuss it, it becomes a priority. When it becomes a priority, and you have a technology like Qualtrics that delivers real-time updates about what a customer is doing/feeling/commenting, we know where to close the loop and how quickly. Showing up counts. Making your presence felt matters. This is the essence of CX. 

Capture your philosophy on technology in a brief sentence or two

Arundhati: 

Keep it simple. Frontier tech like AI sure helps, but in my experience, up to 2 million USD worth of portfolio can be managed with very basic tools that integrate with most standard CRMs.

Integrate. Integrate. Integrate: Whether you are working with 8 tools or 80, it matters how you get your tools to connect and converse with one another. 

Reimplement regularly. Especially if your goals are changing rapidly. At any given point, your tech stack must reflect and respect your strategy. 

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