Revolutionising CX in finance: Lockstep's chief customer officer
In the latest episode of our podcast series we speak to the chief customer officer of Lockstep, Rosalyn Curato, about how customer experience and customer success teams can collaborate to benefit their own departments - and the customer.
In this edition of MYC'D UP, we speak with Rosalyn Curato, chief customer officer at Lockstep.
Rosalyn has particular expertise in the financial sector, with over 16 years experience at fintech firms Lockstep and Allovue. In our discussion, Rosalyn unpacks some of the challenges she has faced and the knowledge she has obtained throughout her time working with finance and accounting customers. She also provides some fascinating insights on making immediate and verifiable CX impacts, from her time working at a startup company.
Where it works well is when people put egos aside, and their own goals, and they focus more on what's going to make the customer successful.
MYCUSTOMER: So Rosalyn, looking at your customer experience background, you've got more than 16 years of experience in the financial services industry, working in positions such as chief customer officer and EVP of customer success. What unique CX challenges are there when your customers are finance and accounting teams?
ROSALYN CURATO: Yeah, I love this question, because the fintech space, especially, is really hot right now. So you're seeing a lot of great companies look to serve finance and accounting teams. The big thing is, and I think this is not going to be a surprise to anybody, that there's a greater level of precision demanded from customers who are in finance and accounting, because they work so closely with numbers.
So everything has to tie out, everything has to be down to the penny. And you also have to make sure you're building trust moreso, with finance and accounting teams, than I've seen in other teams previously – and that's huge. Because once you can show them that your software is reliable, you pull their numbers in correctly, then they can let go of that fear. It's huge, right? And it all goes back to change management, right.
So making sure that finance and accounting teams feel like the software that you're providing them, and the solution you're providing them, is really going to help accelerate their workflow and help them achieve so much more in a short amount of time.
MYCUSTOMER: That's great. Thanks very much. So just moving on to our next question. What can customer experience leaders learn from how CX is approached and managed within the finance sector? Are there any particular lessons or experiences that would be transferable to other sectors?
ROSALYN CURATO: Absolutely, I think while I say that finance and accounting teams demand a certain level of precision and also want trust, a lot of those same philosophies can translate over to other industries. Change management is a big part of what we do in customer success and customer experience, right. So making sure that you're continuing to build that trust, and you're able to translate the customer's process or workflow into your software, and ensuring that they can start to embed that into their own workflow.
So the first lesson I would say is certainly around change management, and making sure that you are assessing the personas of your customer base effectively upfront, and then managing towards that over time. Usually, it's not a surprise, there's sometimes a sceptic – then there's the person who's so excited because they know the potential of your software, they're trying to win everybody over. So that's your champion. So making sure you identify those personas as early as possible and cater to those and leverage those as you need, especially during implementation is key. So I can't underscore change management enough.
The second thing is, as you're working on translating a customer's workflow or process into your software, communicating upfront, and having some sort of visual, especially to guide them towards the before and after state is key. And so that's how you communicate that this is how our software is really going to be embedded in your day-to-day workflow; this is how we're going to be replacing things; this is where we're going to save you some time or worry.
I think that can certainly translate across finance, accounting and to other sectors. And that's worked for us tremendously. Being able to communicate that message upfront, make it clear, and then repeat constantly until the customer feels like they're bought in on the message, and they're excited to move forward. So those would be I think the two key things I would emphasise.
MYCUSTOMER: You mentioned that repetition of the message and really trying to sort of hammer home that with the customers. Are there any tips or advice that you'd give in that regard?
ROSALYN CURATO: Absolutely. I mean, repetition can't be underscored enough because if you think about it, the customers are working for your one idea, your one project, your one meeting in their entire day. And it's probably a big deal, but it's still just one thing that's happening during the course of their day or their week. So it's important to, I would say, put things in writing, create visuals, so that you're putting that message in front of them.
Some great strategies that my team uses today are to send weekly implementation progress update emails to all of our customers in implementation – it summarises and has a good recap of what was accomplished and what's next. And especially will highlight the value so they get excited and more and more excited about going live. We also have good visuals that we start to put in front of the customer during the kickoff. So that first meeting that we have post-sale, will repeat that same message and share that visual, here's the ROI that you have already estimated achieving with us. And then we'll put that in front of them consistently during implementation, and even starting on day one.
So we have a process that we call the day one go live metrics, because our customers see value pretty immediately after they go live. And we want to be able to put that message in front of them. So we have a template that the team fills out to pull those numbers and communicate that to the customer. So having templates is key. My team knows this, they probably get fatigued with me saying this, but everything should have a playbook or a template or a checklist, right? And so embedding those practices, and you know, having that consistency so you can rinse and repeat just makes it so much easier as you scale.
MYCUSTOMER: So just for the next question, I wanted to touch a little bit on your previous position at Lockstep where you were EVP of customer success - you're now chief customer officer, how do you see the two disciplines of customer experience management and customer success cooperating together? Should they sit under the same umbrella or be two separate entities?
ROSALYN CURATO: Yeah, so I think with the role in the title change, it was really more of the domain that I oversaw, which was pretty much the same. And it started to expand my level of influence and my sphere of influence across the organisation when I was promoted to chief. And I think this is a good parallel, because you're talking about customer experience and customer success. And I think the more relevant question is, what is your company's philosophy and approach to customers being successful? Is there top down support from the CEO to the rest of the executive team on the need for customers to be successful, and for that to be a priority in the organisation? If so, I think they can sit under different entities. If you see less of that, and you feel like you need to be that driver behind ensuring the customer's experience is also going to be great, then customer experience management should sit under customer success. Because you need to have that control and that influence where it might not be a company-wide philosophy.
So I think the big theme is, how does the company approach customer success? Is it a key priority, or is it the case that you see in a lot of startups, where they're focused solely on new business, right, trying to double revenue each year, trying to bring in new customers. And sometimes customer success and retention can fall to be a lesser priority. But if you work in an organisation where both are viewed equally as important, then you'll start to see some success regardless of whether you have that leadership and oversight over customer experience.
Just to give you an example of that, let's say the customer experience does fall under CES. But what I love about lockstep where I work today is that customer success actually has an influence on product and engineering. So retention and customer happiness are very important priorities for the CEO. He always says the same phrase, ‘I want our customers to be delighted’ – that's what he repeats over and over to me as my goal. And so he's kind of giving me the support I need to be influential on our roadmap.
Also, we surface priorities in terms of: ‘here's some bugs that we should address sooner’, ‘here's some new features our customers are requesting’, ‘we think this will optimise retention’. So it's great because we control the levers for retention, and I think the most important thing to keep in mind is if customer success is held accountable for retention, then customer success should also have the right influence on the levers that will support retention.
MYCUSTOMER: You have touched on it a little bit there, but could you tell us a little bit more about that link between customer success on CX teams, what advice would you share about collaboration between those two teams?
ROSALYN CURATO: Where I've seen this work well – and this isn’t just with CS and CX but also with other teams – is when people put egos aside, and their own goals, and they focus more on what's going to make the customer successful. And that's also where having a numbers and data-driven conversation is really key. So if the focus is, ‘here's where our CSAT is’, ‘here's how we think we can bump it up by 5% next quarter’, ‘here's where our retention numbers are’, ‘here's where we think we can bump it up based on the experience our customers are having today’ – then having a data-driven conversation just takes emotion and ego out of it, and makes it more about the customer.
Because as a company, and as teams individually, we should all be striving to ensure that the customer has an amazing experience. And sometimes some noise can get in the way of that. So the biggest thing is, just taking that emotion out of the equation and making sure it's all about the black and white numbers of what's happening with your customer base. I mean, one way to ensure that that's happening on a consistent basis is to make sure that the heads of customer success and customer experience are meeting regularly, and that they are looking at the right numbers.
It's also important to make sure your teams are talking to each other and communicating as well. But at the very least, the heads of those two teams should be meeting regularly. And communicating what those KPIs are and where there are some blockers, so that we can get past them and ensure that the customer is put on a good path.
MYCUSTOMER: Without being presumptuous, you spoke there about the benefit of being more data and numbers focused. Do you think the fact that you work a lot with accounting firms helps in that regard, because people are already a little more numbers oriented?
ROSALYN CURATO: I think, to be honest with my team, especially if I think about the composition, most of them did not come from finance or accounting backgrounds, but they are quite numbers oriented, because people appreciate having that level of specificity and clarity on what their goals are, right? So if this is my retention number, or if this is the ROI we’re expecting a customer to achieve, here's how I can easily measure against those goals. right? So, and especially in the CS function, people are pretty data oriented because we always talk about ROI. So I would say that the vast majority of the folks on my team have not had experience in finance or accounting, but they just lean into data-driven decision making and being able to measure their progress against it.
MYCUSTOMER: You mentioned startups earlier. And of course, your previous role was at Allovue, which was a startup company. We've all heard the stories about the poor success rates of startups, but Allovue was a success. What did you learn there? And What strategies did you implement that you believe made it successful?
ROSALYN CURATO: Yeah, that's a great question. So I was technically the first CS employee in the team. I started as director of finance, but also with an eye towards building the CS function there. And I think there's two key lessons I learned that I want any listener to take with them. The first is that you can never invest in customer success too early. So it was not too early for me to be the first hire when we had one or two customers, because that's your opportunity to really get rich information and spend quality time with your earliest customers. It’s a chance to better understand how you can prepare for scale as you support even more customers. So being able to fly out to those early customers, and listen to what they liked and what they wanted to see more of in the product, really helped set us up for success in the long run.
The second theme I'd want to impart that I learned that's kind of carried with me is, and I repeat this often, but retention starts with implementation. So you can't overemphasise how important it is to get customers live and give them a smooth implementation experience, so that they can effectively start to see value as soon as possible. And there's a certain window of time you have based on the size of the customer to do that well, before you start to lose their interest and then they start to get disengaged. So it's so important to make sure that you nail that early experience for your customers. So here at Lockstep for example, not only do we have a strong implementation team, we also have an onboarding team that steps in right after we go live, to help give that extra bit of TLC to the customer post-implementation.
Then that allows them to let go of the reins and let the CSM step in once everything is humming along pretty smoothly. So those are the two big themes that I'd say I carry with me: early investment in CES, and making sure that implementation is an incredibly solid experience for your customers.
MYCUSTOMER: So just on to our final question, which is one that we ask all of our guests, and that is to provide one piece of advice for fellow CX professionals. So what would yours be based on your many years of experience and your time in CCO roles?
ROSALYN CURATO: So from a lot of the folks I talked to, a lot of people aspire to take on more and more leadership experience and eventually become a CCO or VP or director, right? So the big thing I like to share with people is two things actually. One is, make sure that you effectively chart your path to where you want to be, and communicate that effectively. So if you want to be a director or VP in the next year, make sure that the people who are responsible for that decision are aware of it. And you can point blank ask what are the criteria that you would like to see me reach and achieve in order for me to be considered for this role. A lot of folks will tell you that you should start acting and operating in the role before you take it on – so if you're looking to be a director, you would start embodying some of those qualities early on, so that it's a natural fit to just promote you to director. But you have to make sure you communicate that.
In the remote-first world that we're in right now, for a lot of organisations, especially with startups, you want to make sure that you are delivering that message, and you're sharing the successes that you're seeing with your team with the folks that are relevant. So whether it's weekly, or bi weekly, or monthly, make sure you have a nice summary of your successes and your plan for the next few weeks, so that folks have some visibility on what you're doing. People don't know unless you tell them right, and we take it for granted sometimes that we're cranking away working hard at our desks and people will notice. But it's important to make sure that you are delivering that message and you're making sure that that's communicated to the right people.
Then the second piece of advice I like to share with folks is, especially if you're starting in a leadership role at a new company, I think the old advice used to be, make sure you wait 90 days and listen and learn right before you start to change things and shake things up. I think that was the old way of doing things. But from what I've seen, what's helped me be successful and helped the organisations that I've worked at be successful, is that 90 days is a lot of time, sometimes you can't afford 90 days, right?
So it's really important to add value as early as possible. My challenge to everyone is when you take on a new leadership role, see where you can make an impact in your first 30 days. Jason Lemkin from Sastre has a great way of describing it, he says, if you're a leader, you need to put points on the board in your first 30 days. And that's what I view this as, so if you are a leader where can you make even just one small tweak, one small change, one small enhancement that adds value to either your team or to your customer base? Alright, and you can do that, you're certainly empowered to – you don't need to wait the full 90 days to get there.
So those are I think the two biggest pieces of advice: first, chart your path; second, on that first 30 days point, make that impact as early as possible so that you're setting a strong foundation for what your reputation is going to be in the long run.