I had the pleasure of interviewing Stephanie Hamilton, a gregarious woman who has dedicated the past 15+ years to the Hospitality Industry. Stephanie shared her own personal thoughts, opinions and ideas with us. From multiple positions at hotels to post-sales positions at hospitality technology companies, Stephanie lives and breathes Customer Success. Most recently Stephanie lived in Amsterdam, The Netherlands leading a Customer Success Team at Revinate, and is now back state-side leading Customer Success Operations, also with Revinate.
Thank you so much for joining us!
Can you tell us about your journey in Customer Success, post-sales and operations over the years?
From a young age, I knew I eventually wanted to own my own hotel and was very fortunate to start my career at the Omni Mandalay in Las Colinas, Texas. There were so many reasons that I cherished the days at the Omni: the mid-level management team who actually worked to train me and wanted to help me grow, the colleagues that I worked with on a daily basis, the guests that visited and allowed me to try to make this stay the best hotel stay they ever had, visiting the pet swans at the hotel, and the list goes on. It was here that I became eager to provide the best customer service around!
Fast forward a few years and I actually pursued a career away from being on-site at a hotel and moved towards hotel technology. I loved that I could use my experience and training on software to relate to hoteliers who were now my customers. If I was working with a customer and could provide them tips along the way — unrelated to our project — which could help enhance their distribution setup or even a guest’s stay, that is what I strived for. My role has progressed from working in Implementations and Training to Customer Success and finally to the role of Customer Success Business Operations, where my customers are now internal.
What is it that excites you about this space?
Camaraderie and new ideas. Every customer has different expectations for their account. Is a Customer Success person an account manager? A dedicated support person? A partner in strategy? Regardless of what the customer expects, Customer Success — and I mean good Customer Success — people come together to make expectations a reality — and, if they must, help set new expectations. Together we are always looking for new ways to innovate and make our lives easier while making the customer’s lives better.
What are some of the biggest challenges you see CS and operations teams face? And any advice on how to tackle them?
Finding a fair KPI for a Customer Success Team Member — and, operationally — how we measure it. I think the NPS (Net Promoter Score) is one of the most common KPIs assigned to a CSM. But, should a CSM take full responsibility for the survey’s results? Is that really a fair measurement? What if the customer just had a horrible experience with the product and they happened to receive your NPS Survey right after?
From what I see, a lot of customers use that NPS to provide feedback or to give an experience rating rather than giving a score based on their overall journey. I think one better idea could be customer engagement from the time a CSM took over an account and the trend over time. Is that something that can be tracked? And would it give a good idea of how hard a CSM is working with the customer? I think so. Or, if we really want our CSMs to be strategic, perhaps we measure them on software-specific trends for that specific customer. How was that customer doing in XYZ when they joined your SaaS company, and now that they have used the platform for n months, where is that number now?
Whatever the KPI, I think we need it to be based on how much time the CSM spends on that account and how that account changes over time; churn may not be the best representative — especially in the current global financial climate.
You have a long background in CS and CS operations, as well as in hospitality — how do you see these intersect?
I think it’s all about the customers — knowing who they are and knowing what their end goal is.
It is B2C and/or B2B. At the hotels my customers were the paying guests. At the hospitality technology companies, my customers were the hotels/hotel groups trying to attract and retain those guests.
In CS Operations, my customers are the CSMs, Support Team, and Implementations Team trying to attract and retain the customers who are trying to attract and retain those guests.
Having the self-awareness to deep-dive into what the customer’s end goal is will ultimately allow you to make a connection with your customer in order to strategically help them achieve their goals. And who doesn’t want help achieving their goals?
How do you see technology impact CS and the broader revenue engine moving forward?
Every customer wants to have a specific contact that they can reach out to when they need help. And why? Because on SaaS platforms the customer is typically trying to achieve something for immediate completion.
If you had to share, “words of wisdom,” with a CS or operations leader, what would they be?
Fight for your current customers. If your goal is primarily focused on new sales rather than pleasing your current customers, soon those current customers will churn and you’ll be pushing for their sale again. A lot of companies are sales oriented — which is an obvious need — but don’t forget that being the best means that you continue to evolve and solve needs for your current customers, too.
This was very insightful. Thank you so much for joining us!