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Camille E. Acey is the Vice President, Customer Success at Clubhouse, a fast-growing purveyor of project management tools for modern product companies.

Previously, she served in user-facing roles at companies including Boundless and Zemanta (now a division of Outbrain). Over the past two decades and across two continents, Camille has committed herself to fostering collaboration and productivity by supporting and advocating for customers. You can find her talking software, customer success, and social justice on her blog.

You can follow her on Twitter: @kavbojka.

She will be live on Nov 21 starting at 930 AM for one and a half hours during which she will answer as many questions as possible.

  • GH

    Glen Harper

    8 months ago #

    Thank you for joining us today, Camille.
    What is it about Clubhouse that attracted you to that opportunity?
    My question of course stems from the fact that many other project management tools already exist so its as much about the tool itself as much as the company.

    • CA

      Camille Acey

      8 months ago #

      Thanks to you too, Glen! I joined Clubhouse because that it was a small team with a vision for helping engineering orgs not just plan and execute but begin to understand how they work over time.

      The Clubhouse team fully recognized that there were many players in the project management space, but we felt there was still a strong desire amongst engineering organizations to have a tool that offered both ease of use and sophistication. Our ever-growing customer base seems to concur.

      • GH

        Glen Harper

        8 months ago #

        So if I interpret correctly, could Clubhouse be a JIRA (or other software development tracking software) replacement?
        If yes, what strategies work best for:

        a. peeling away customers from existing solutions? and
        b. getting in front of customers that have not yet made a choice as to which software they will standardize on?

      • CA

        Camille Acey

        8 months ago #

        Yes, Clubhouse is ABSOLUTELY a potential JIRA replacement - https://clubhouse.io/jira-alternative . Many of our most enthusiastic customers moved over from JIRA. In fact, LaunchDarkly is one of our most enthusiastic customers and their team is full of a bunch of former Atlassian engineers!

        The challenge for us is to make sure we are on an organization's radar before they make the otherwise "inevitable" move to JIRA. A lot of engineer/product managers sort of move over to that product because it is concerned the "mature" next step, but it is often something they adopt very begrudgingly.

  • JP

    John Phamvan

    8 months ago #

    Hi Camille,

    What tools are you using at Clubhouse for experimentation & analytics right now? Where does your data live (ie what system is the universal "source of truth")?
    Also, other than Clubhouse, I imagine, what other tools does your team use to collaborate?

    • CA

      Camille Acey

      8 months ago #

      We use Datomic, which is a distributed database that has cool things like immutability and built-in auditing. Using this database enables us to easily surface information about what happened in the application, when it happened, and who did it --- all really helpful information for tracking team performance!

      You can read more about why we use Datomic here. https://cognitect.com/clubhouse-case-study.html

      Rich Hickey, who is the creator of Datomic, also has a really good talk called "Deconstructing the Database" explaining the reason he built the system and what can be accomplished with it - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cym4TZwTCNU

      For analytics, we were using a homespun dashboard for a while, but we recently moved over to Pendo. We also use Google Analytics and Baremetrics.

      While we try to keep Clubhouse as the internal "source of truth" in terms of ongoing work, other collaboration tools include:
      - Slack
      - GitHub
      - Google Drive
      - Zendesk
      - Google Meet

      2 Share
  • TN

    Tri Nguyen

    8 months ago #

    How can marketing and customer success teams collaborate best?
    What are the biggest traps to watch out for in your experience?

    • CA

      Camille Acey

      8 months ago #

      Great question! I actually currently oversee the Cx and Marketing initiatives here at Clubhouse, so I think about this often. Customer Success can help Marketing in identifying interesting customer stories as well as possible opportunities for collaboration/partnership.
      We have been able to profile so many amazing customers on our blog (https://blog.clubhouse.io/tagged/clubhouse-success) and also explore different case studies on our website(https://clubhouse.io/customers), because Cx first identified those people as some of our most interesting and enthusiastic users.

      I also think Cx can help Marketing better understand the marketplace from our users' point of view so that we can highlight the right product features and also make sure we are telling the right story to potential users.

      In terms of traps, I think there is a danger in cherrypicking user feedback to tell the story you want to tell rather than the more nuanced truth. I think it is important for Marketing to take the time to explore user feedback in the aggregate and understand a range of opinions of a matter, rather than just reading one compelling support ticket and building a whole strategy to cater to that one type of user. I think Marketing should also focus on soliciting feedback from people who may have never heard of the product. Cindy Alvarez's great book Lean Customer Development (http://www.leancustomerdevelopment.com/) and Giff Constable's Talking to Humans (http://www.talkingtohumans.com/) have AMAZING guidance on how to do this.

      I think the other trap is in focusing too strongly on Net New Logos, some of our smaller customers have been our biggest and most effective champions, while some larger companies have not been much help. I think it's important to nurture relationships that you see fostering actual growth, and to highlight customers that actual have interesting things to say.

      2 Share
  • DH

    Dani Hart

    8 months ago #

    Hi Camille - so excited to have you here!
    I'm sure you must use NPS at Clubhouse.

    a. Assuming that's right, how have you been able to quantify (or correlate) the relationship between NPS and long term retention?

    b. What is the biggest mistake you think people make when dealing with NPS data and how do you correct for it?

    • CA

      Camille Acey

      8 months ago #

      We are still a young company, so we'll have to give it a bit more time before we can attempt to run that sort of analysis, but I am not particularly inclined to prioritize such an exercise.

      I truly believe that you have to take the NPS number with a few hefty grains of salt. Response rates tend to be low and the scoring system can be pretty opaque for users (e.g. people thinking an 8 is a high score when it really means they are neutral). I think what you actually end up getting -- if you are lucky -- is a sense of who is super enthusiastic as well as who is furious/about to head out the door.

      I think a lot of the people that don't respond simply can't be bothered to respond to any more badgering emails from SaaS companies but are perfectly happy to recommend your product if the opportunity arises. So you can't necessarily take a lack of response as any negative judgment of your product. I think there are more reliable numbers like customer retention, user growth, and engagement (DAU, MAU, etc.) to "hang your hat on".

      For me, the greatest value of the NPS survey is that it is an opportunity to engage customers who might not bother to reach out to support with every little thought that crosses their mind. With NPS, we are *soliciting* feedback and a lot of valuable conversations come out of that initial contact that may have never happened otherwise. So, I just think of it as another way to show our customers that we care and are still here actively working to meet their needs.

      I don't stare at the score or try very hard to move it one way or another. I'd rather put my time into delivering good product and service to our customers.

      2 Share
  • MD

    Mark Anthony de Jesus

    8 months ago #

    Many times it's not easy to get customers to share their experience with your product - especially ones that include sharing some sort of internal/quantitative data on improvements. Based on your experience, what's been the most effective approach to get customers to share their story?

    • CA

      Camille Acey

      8 months ago #

      I guess we've been lucky, Mark! We have very forthcoming customers. A simple videochat or office visit is enough to get them talking. I think it is helpful that we deal with a primarily technical user base. We can talk about our shared experiences, frustrations, and creative solutions. I LOVE talking to our customers and sharing their stories with our team and the world!

  • JF

    Javier Feldman

    8 months ago #

    Hola, Camille
    What tips or strategies do you or would you implement during onboarding that has helped most with customer retention and LTV?

    • CA

      Camille Acey

      8 months ago #

      Hola, Javier! :)

      I think the most important thing is to have a really strong, guided, in-product onboarding. When people sign up for Clubhouse they have an empty board. We want to get them set up in the shortest amount of time possible so they can start inviting people into the Clubhouse. I've tried so many tools that appear to have potential but once I login, I have *no idea* what I am supposed to do to unleash that potential.

      The other thing that we've done well is place the feedback button in a very prominent position on every page. We *want* people to reach out to us with any initial questions or frustrations rather than throw up their hands and walk away. Once they engage us, we have an opportunity to have a richer conversation about who they are, what challenges they are facing, and what success looks likes to them. We let demos flow out of those initial contacts rather than just robotically trying to force every customer into some canned sales demo.

      2 Share
  • DO

    Danielle Olivas

    8 months ago #

    How should a company evaluate whether or not to offer a free trial or have a freemium tier?

    • CA

      Camille Acey

      8 months ago #

      Hi Danielle,

      Tom Tunguz has good guidance about this here - http://tomtunguz.com/when-to-go-freemium/

      Our free plan is for 3 or fewer users. A good freemium plan should be low-cost marketing with clearly defined boundaries, "Once you cross X, you have to pay." I am not a big fan of gating features. I do think it makes sense to make it possible to ANYONE who wants to pay to give you money. Don't force people into free plans.

  • AA

    Anuj Adhiya

    8 months ago #

    Hi Camille - so cool to finally have you on!

    a. What have you found is the most effective follow up process once a free trial is complete?

    b. How frequently do you contact leads once the trial is complete, and what mode of communication do you use (call, automated email, personal email, etc.)?

    • CA

      Camille Acey

      8 months ago #

      Thanks so much for the invite, Anuj! I am honored to be in such esteemed company.

      a. We have drip email automations that go out over the duration of the trial. We have a "smart" drip email automation that messages users based on their particular behavior in the app and a "dumb" one that goes out through MailChimp and just highlights product features and encourages users to expand the tool with integrations. By the end of the trial, users have heard *quite* enough from us, so we leave the decision to convert to them.

      That said, most users opt-in to our newsletter, so that can be a good way to keep our name and product progress in front of users who may have been on the fence. Sometimes a user comes back when they see that we now have a feature that they need.

      • CA

        Camille Acey

        8 months ago #

        The smart drip email automation is triggered from our Clojure backend. We run a scheduler job and the emails are sent out using Amazon SES.

        The behaviors we listen for include:
        - Invites sent
        - Invites picked up/ Users added (a successful trial requires multiple users collaborating in the tool)
        - Completion of onboarding steps
        - Credit card added.

        The time we give people to do these things really varies depending on the action. We backed into those numbers after watching trial user behaviour for a while and teasing out the differences between successful and failed trials.

      • AA

        Anuj Adhiya

        8 months ago #

        Awesome!
        Can you talk more about this "smart" drip email automation?
        What tool do you use for this?
        What behavior(s) do you look for to trigger these?
        How long does the system wait before these messages are triggered based on what they do (or don't do)?

  • JD

    James Dunn

    8 months ago #

    Hi Camille
    Which growth lever do you believe is most commonly underutilized by companies?
    In other words, if companies were to focus more on X, they'd likely see better results.
    What is X and why should we all pay more attention to it?

    • CA

      Camille Acey

      8 months ago #

      Empower your customers to sing your praises! I think people sometimes underestimate what an impact your customers can have on spreading the word about your product.

      Some of our biggest sources of traffic/signups/conversions are just glowing blogposts written by enthusiastic users. We deal with a technical audience that doesn't fall for the usual marketing tricks; they care about word of mouth and things they hear about in their Slack communities or on blogs they follow. When I'm talking to a customer and they mention they want to write about us, I immediately ask them, "How can we help you with that?" I also give myself a reminder to follow up with them about it. These posts are gold for us!

      Other things to do:
      - Send thoughtful physical thank you notes and gifts.
      - Invite users to come by the office when they are in town. Ask if you can come visit them in their offices when you are in town.
      - Make sure your company's link unfurls in Slack.

      I also think as B2B SaaS companies we wrack our brains trying to come up with referral treats for people the way B2C companies do and forget about the "feel goods" people get from telling their friends/colleagues about something they really like/ just discovered.

      2 Share
  • SK

    S Kodial

    8 months ago #

    Hi Camille

    This may be a broad question but I'm really interested in your take on this:
    How do you introduce customer success into an organization?
    How do you ensure that what's been put in place actually sticks?
    What resources would you recommend for anyone looking to go down this path?

    • CA

      Camille Acey

      8 months ago #

      Firstly, I think your leadership has to see the value in having this team in place. Tom Tunguz has a lot of great posts explaining why B2B orgs should have a CS team in place. See here - http://tomtunguz.com/categories/customer-success/

      When I got to Clubhouse, we hadn't launched the product and didn't have any paying customers yet, but it still felt like I'd joined a bit on the late side. There are a lot of valuable systems that you want to have in place pre-launch to begin tracking and understanding your potential customer base and the personas that you are trying to attract and retain. You want at minimum:
      - a CRM
      - a support ticketing system, and
      - a dashboard tracking KPIs (even if you don't have formalized KPIs established, and trust me, you shouldn't have them pre-launch).

      I don't know if the focus should be on getting things to "stick". I think it is valuable to keep iterating and see what works for your team and user base. Different things will work at different points in your growth journey. Remember that you can do unscalable things when you are small as long as you recognize that they won't scale and you will have to either phase them out or reimagine them as you grow. Don't worry about only implementing procedures that will stand the test of time. Do what you need to do to be responsive to your existing customer/user base.

      The two books I highly recommend for anyone interested in Customer Success are:
      - Lean Customer Development (http://www.leancustomerdevelopment.com/) by Cindy Alvarez
      - Talking to Humans (http://www.talkingtohumans.com/) by Giff Constable

      I have also gained a lot from being part of the Support Driven community - https://supportdriven.com/
      There are SO MANY brilliant and warmhearted people in there, and I learn SO MUCH from them.

      2 Share
  • MT

    Manny Tafoya

    8 months ago #

    Hi Camille! I'm glad you're on today! I have a few questions:

    What is Clubhouse's biggest growth challenge from your perspective? How are you tackling it?

    Thank you!

    • CA

      Camille Acey

      8 months ago #

      Hi Manny,

      I'm glad you're here too!

      Our biggest growth challenge right now is just building brand awareness. Project management is a very bustling space and we are trying to get more eyeballs on our product. People are looking for us but not always finding us. We are going to be doubling down on our creative efforts to increase awareness in the coming months.

  • VM

    Vijay Mandeep

    8 months ago #

    Hi Camille,

    Great to have you here!

    I have an intriguing set of questions.

    1. How do you convince a customer to move onto from a particular subscription plan on your app to a higher paid plan only to use your new features/product update?

    2. It's often seen that many users don't keep up with your app. What do you think should be an "ideal strategy" where users don't feel they are being forced onto the app and at the same time we as a business get the desired result.

    3. What is an ideal approach towards your demo/free trial users to convert them into paying customers?

    4. What was the most difficult and cut-throat situation you've dealt or been in as a customer success manager?

    Looking forward to some interesting answers.

  • RE

    Rachel Esco

    8 months ago #

    Hey Camille,

    Thanks for doing this AMA. What customer success metrics, both quantitative and qualitative, do you focus on to ensure that Clubhouse is on a positive growth track and how often do you measure/or look at the metrics?

    • CA

      Camille Acey

      8 months ago #

      Hi Rachel,

      The main metrics that we focus on are:

      - ARR
      - conversions/upgrades
      - expansion rate
      - signups
      - DAUs/MAUs
      - site visits

  • PD

    Porus Daruvala

    8 months ago #

    Hey Camille

    How did you'll decide that a 30 day free trial is the optimal time frame?
    Why not 15? What is it about that time frame that takes people to see the value in the product?
    Also on a related note - what is Clubhouse's "aha moment"?

    • CA

      Camille Acey

      8 months ago #

      We analyzed trials quite a bit upon launch and found that once a customer invites a certain number of users, they almost always converted.

  • DM

    Doutor Multas

    8 months ago #

    Hi Camille, I would like to know how to set the series of customer experiences to make it enchanted and how many is advisable?

    How do you do this planning to delight the customer?

    Thank you a lot for the opportunity and congratulations for your aewsome work!

  • VM

    Vijay Mandeep

    8 months ago #

    Hi Camille,

    Great to have you here!

    I have an intriguing set of questions.

    1. How do you convince a customer to move onto from a particular subscription plan on your app to a higher paid plan only to use your new features/product update?

    2. It's often seen that many users don't keep up with your app. What do you think should be an "ideal strategy" where users don't feel they are being forced onto the app and at the same time we as a business get the desired result.

    3. What is an ideal approach towards your demo/free trial users to convert them into paying customers?

    4. What was the most difficult and cut-throat situation you've dealt or been in as a customer success manager?

  • D.

    DanTri .

    8 months ago #

    Hi Camille, thank you for doing an AMA with us. What advice would you give to a recent graduate who wants to become an elite growth marketer in 5 years?

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