If you’ve looked at our Job Board lately, you’ve likely noticed the increase of customer success roles in Indiana tech companies.

You likely have customer success managers who represent your company, regardless of the position or title they might possess. Think about every software-as-a-service application you or your company purchased in the last few months. Somebody on the other side is managing your account to ensure not only you are happy with the product, but that you renew your subscription and use the features you are paying for. That customer success role has become critical for software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies and their recurring revenue and services model.

As SaaS-based companies in Indiana grow, there comes a time when they move from just a few sales reps (or a founder making the sale) to a dedicated staff that keeps customers coming back for more — and tells their friends.

Enter Tim Butler, a born and raised Hoosier and Purdue Boilermaker, who leads the customer success team at Lumavate, including implementation, services delivery, and the customer relationship journey. Tim spent a short career stint in Austin, TX, which is where he first saw competitors getting together to commiserate over their similar challenges and come up with solutions.

Tim Butler

Tim ButlerVP Customer Success

“I remember working at Aprimo in Indy in 2007 and somebody would say ‘who is your customer success equivalent at ExactTarget?” and I would say “I don’t know, should I even be talking with them?  Down in Austin, it was so crazy because people were competitors and they would talk with each other anyway,” said Tim.

Tim didn’t think there was enough co-opetition, as he calls it, at that time in Indy. People would talk in silos, even though it wasn’t intentional.

The value of co-opetition

Bill Godfrey, founder of investor group 4G Ventures and 2016 TechPoint Mira Awards Investor of the Year recipient, is the board chairman of Lumavate. He asked Tim whether he knew his counterpart at Sigstr, another company he is on the board for. That person at Sigstr was Vice President of Customer Success Dave Duke. Dave helped develop ExactTarget’s first-ever customer experience team.

At this time, Lumavate was also actively engaged with Bolstra, the customer success management platform provider founded in Carmel, Indiana. Bolstra’s Vice President of Customer Success Tim Conder wanted to know who in customer success they should talk to locally, and Tim Butler was left scratching his head thinking of who that would be.

After meeting with Dave Duke and Tim Conder, Tim decided to gather other 4G Ventures companies to start talking and gather ideas. That group included Kate Elliott of Bolstra, Brennan Walker of DemandJump, Joseph Loria of Emplify, and Lauren Hlavin of Lumavate. “We got together and said, ‘hey, we should all meet and get to know each other, and let’s find a way to start talking, gathering ideas and sharing best practices about customer success,’” said Tim.

Given Bolstra’s product for customer success, the company decided they’d be a perfect fit for hosting the first meeting. “It started with that first meeting and those core companies, and with the second meeting we opened it up further. Now, we hope all tech companies who are interested can join,” said Tim. The community first developed the need and desire, and Tim and his team took that further.

Tim Butler speaking to attendees at Assure Success meetup.

Success for companies and customers

Assure Success has a goal of stimulating two conversations – company-focused and customer-focused.

How should you scale a customer success team, not just by team members but by team members per manager? How many customers can a single customer success rep manage? Those are questions that many tech scale-ups in Indiana are tackling together and could benefit from hearing how others are scaling up.

Customer-focused topics could be about strategic questioning, the process of asking your customers questions that help build relationships. Another hot topic is objection handling and what to do when your customer says no.

“It can be very difficult to say no,” said Tim. “Some of the best customer success managers have the personalities of counselors. Objection handling is something that helps the entire customer success community in understanding when is the right time to say no.”

Kate Elliott

Kate ElliottCustomer Success Manager

Another new topic is quarterly business reviews. Kate Elliott gives the tip that “you should have a theme in mind, whether it’s a new product feature you want to make sure your customer is taking advantage of, or something they are underutilizing. Some people under plan for these conversations and others over plan. It should just be a conversation.”

Customer success might be a new role for many, but the environment that was created with the Assure Success meetup is one of knowledge-sharing and support. “I started my photographer business in 2003 and we didn’t share any tips with anybody. But by the time I left photography, there were monthly meetup and networking groups where we shared ideas with each other. All of a sudden everyone said let’s figure this out together,” said Kate.

Networking up the ladder

“Customer success isn’t easy. Not only do you have to think about being efficient, but you have to have a support network,” said Tim.

Lauren Hlavin

Lauren HlavinCustomer Success Manager

Lauren Hlavin is an Orr Fellow at Lumavate and is early on in her customer success career. “Having the opportunity to take part and learn from these guys has been influential in scoping my vision for customer success. Figuring out what works for other companies has been huge for me.  There’s so much brainpower at the meetup, everyone figures out what can they adopt and make their own spinoff of. They’ve made waves in customer success in Indy.”

Assure Success is hosted every 60 days and currently boasts 138 members on meetup.com. Meetup topics are chronological in how a company would go about creating and managing customer success. During the June event, Bill Godfrey discussed why companies need customer success to grow revenue.


Bill Godfrey speaks to Assure Success meetup at Bier Brewery

People have been coming to us from everywhere. “I spoke to someone who works from home and contracts his services, heard about the event through word of mouth, and was super engaged during the event — asking questions, met great resources, and later posted on the meetup site how thankful he was for meeting everyone,” said Lauren.

“I met a few people who are looking to get into the customer success field, one who is in human resources right now but is drawn to this field and attended to understand what this role means. Younger people coming into this industry and people who have been doing it for years are learning from each other,” said Kate.

“My vision is to get more people involved to host events and build an engaging community that produces industry experts & thought leaders within Customer Success. With Bolstra’s expertise and the platform, Assure Success could be a branded local event for many customer success managers outside of Indy,” said Tim.

Interested in attending the next Assure Success meetup? RSVP to the next event on Monday, August 14!