Our new VP of Customer Happiness and Success, Cliff Cate, sat down with me this week to chat about his new role, his vision for ToutApp this year, and why his passion is helping customers get the most out of technology.
Well actually, I sat down with him. He’s the type of guy that on his second day in, made an effort to plan 1:1’s with each member of the company. If you were to ask me my first impression of him, I’d say he was immediately friendly, happy, and smart; someone that we’re all going to use as a resource. Funny enough, my instincts were right. When I asked him to name three words to describe himself, he said, “Driven, Humble, and Analytical. The same words, but said in a different way.
We started by getting real from the get go. I asked him, “Cliff, give me your honest answer, why ToutApp? And, why now?"
Cliff has a seasoned background of being an Executive in the Customer Success field for the past 19 years. He helped his last company, GoodData, grow 12x in terms of customer growth to 130,000 users. Before that he worked at CaseCentral, Oracle, Stellent, Viant and Accenture.
So Cliff, why now?
There are two reasons: “Historically sales tools have mainly been designed for sales management with little focus on the individual salesperson. There’s a huge opportunity to help salespeople be more effective and productive; sales is changing to have a more systematic element to it. The second reason is ToutApp’s Culture. Companies thrive or die based on their company culture. ToutApp’s strong culture is apparent immediately when you meet the team, and reinforced the more time you spend with them.”
He told a story about his first coffee meeting with our CEO TK. TK got him when he started talking about the team and how much our customers loved the product.
“I did research and looked at all of the great customers ToutApp already has and it was clear that ToutApp has a huge opportunity.”
In no more than two words, I asked him to describe what we do. “Kick-Ass Salespeople.”
I thought that was the perfect answer.
I asked him to describe to me his journey into customer success in more detail:
“I’ve always loved technology, but more so, I've always loved helping people use technology. I started my early career working for technology consulting firms. That evolved into providing a broader focus on everything that it takes to support customers in a Saas company: onboard, training, support, proactive advice, usage analytics and renewals.”
He worked his way up through software companies.
“To me Saas is a game changer for customers because, as a subscription business, the customer’s success needs to be aligned with the software company’s success. We have to be providing value every day or customers can vote with their feet and leave.”
I asked him what his main focus will be at ToutApp, and if he could tell me the three goals he has upon entering this role.
“I will be making sure that customers get the most out of ToutApp and it’s improving their job. That’s our number one priority.”
My other top priorities include:
Continue to grow our great team of Happiness Officers
Develop easier to consume training and best practices for our customers
Make sure we are always responsive to our customer needs and we are funneling their feedback into our product roadmap
So my last honest question for him (and probably one that is on all of our minds), “Why do you love Customer Success and where do you think that it is going?”
Without a beat, and with a genuine answer, he said:
“On occasion, you’ll run into unhappy customers, but I wouldn’t say that’s the majority of the issues. The positive aspects greatly outweigh everything else. It’s about helping the customer discover the product and using it to it’s capacity. Every time they reach out is an opportunity to help customers be better at their job. The moments when a customer gets it, or can do something they weren't able to do before, is what gets people motivated.”
After chatting with Cliff, I decided to shoot over a quick question to TK. After all, he spent all of Q1 leading the search for this position. I asked him, “What got you excited about Cliff?”
TK wrote back:
“In case our customers haven’t figured it out by now, we’re the visionaries in the business. Our mantra has always been to question everything, think in terms of first principles, and come to the best solution. When it comes to leading an organization that is obsessed about Customer Happiness in terms of Service, Support and Lifetime Revenue, there are only a small handful of people that have the vision, foresight and knowledge/experience to do the job. Cliff has all three and we are super excited and lucky to have him joining Team ToutApp.”
1. Favorite Song: Wilco, California Stars
2. Recent Books he’s read:
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