Matthew Biboud-Lubeck talks about his idea of “Customer Engagement Strategy” and how much of it could change in the next 5 years
Know My Team
Tell us about your role at Amperity.
My mission at Amperity is to help our existing and future customers maximize the value they derive from partnering with us. This takes shape in a few ways — directly on customer engagements, product design and roadmap, partnerships and training. The joy of spending my day within a relatively young software company is I get to work with an amazing team and wear a bunch of hats.
How did you arrive at Amperity from a B2C background?
My path crossed with Amperity through a somewhat random chance! A former colleague of mine from L’Oreal was running digital for Moet-Hennessy brands, one of Amperity’s earliest founding customers, and over brunch, suggested an intro to Kabir Shahani, one of Amperity’s two co-founders. Initially, I invited Kabir to L’Oreal to pitch us for some of our technology needs, and that meeting ended up sparking something unexpected.
My entire career has involved connecting brands to technology, through which you naturally meet hundreds of companies and teams. My gut was telling me this was unique. I booked a ticket to Seattle and spent 2 full days meeting the Amperity team — it was clear something pretty special was happening. They were building a product that was successfully solving a major marketing problem — data management — and one I had spent 10 years solving for brands.
But this time, Amperity was using Machine Learning and cloud compute to drastically disrupt the landscape. And I met an electrifying, really sharp team that was also having a ton of fun. Equally exciting to me, the company hadn’t launched yet, so this was a chance to build with a founding team from the ground up. The long story short is, within a month, we had put our home in Brooklyn on the market and 3 months later, I was in Seattle on this new adventure. So far it’s been an amazing experience, and I absolutely love living in Seattle — such a beautiful city.
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What is “Customer Engagement Strategy” as you see it in 2018? How much of it could change in the next 5 years?
Customer Engagement strategy is a use-case first methodology for deploying our software with customers. Why? Too many data projects are big bang, big cost, low value. Understanding what outcomes they are trying to achieve helps us work collaboratively and to define what role we should best play in their vision. We also want to accelerate customers to get the maximum possible value from Amperity. We design our roadmaps around the use cases first and then address that with our capabilities. That creates a synergy between the data strategy and Amperity’s software implementation. And then we work in agile sprints.
I think what will change in the next 5 years is the large consumer brands with whom we work are going to evolve into technology companies — at least the winners will. Today, we often serve as a bridge between expert IT teams and business teams. In the next 5 years, companies will solve this by orienting their organizational structure around the customer — the Chief Customer Officer role or Chief Data Officer role will be democratized, and that will accelerate success.
How do you prepare your Customer Success team for the disruptions in data management and compliance?
Let’s talk about data compliance first, because nothing is more important than the safety and trust of data management practices.
This is critical, and it’s pretty clear that disruption is going to come in two flavors — both highly positive: first, from consumer protection regulation like GDPR, and then most exciting, directly from the consumer.
The Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal woke up regulators, brands, and consumers to spend time more deeply understanding how data is being monetized — and they’ve correctly identified a massive gap in transparency.
Our product helps brands to be GDPR-compliant and we have a dedicated workshop designed to guide brands through this. And the software itself, while cloud based, is built on a tool called Accumulo, which is used by the NSA for storage of the most sensitive data.
Amperity is a consent-based customer data management platform. That means the data we manage came from consumers who gave their opt-in consent directly to brands, and have agreed to a mutually beneficial relationship with those brands. We have recently launched new audit features and we have push-button abilities to govern employee access levels to data so administrators can roll out Amperity to their entire organization and comply with governance.
I think we will go even further, and we’re spending a lot of time thinking about what the future of consent-based data will look like and how we can give consumers even more control.
Then if we shift gears into data management practices, the big change we will see is the increase in customer’s willingness and ability to self-serve deeply technical aspects of their software investments. This has started already and we see some bleeding-edge customers doing more in-house, and that’s not going away because companies want to begin to internalize this skill set for their own future proofing. So, we need to make it easy not just to secure an Amperity license, but to operate one more autonomously.
How tech-savvy are your Marketing, Sales and Branding teams? How do you rate them on a scale of 1-10?
We have the most incredible people — and very diverse, which is important to us. I’ve worked with dozens of technology companies and have never come across a team with this kind of brain trust — and from highly complimentary backgrounds. Not only that, but we have done more with a small team than I ever thought possible. We still have a lot to do but everyone on the team would acknowledge we were a 0 a year ago and we’re a 5 today, just 2 years in — which is huge. And we’re on a path to being a 9 or 10 very soon.
What’s exciting about the scope of our team is we can solution flexibly for different types of customers. For example, airlines have very specific operational needs for their data. They need to know you at 35,000 feet and there is specific working knowledge needed around reservations systems like a sabre or in-flight devices. If we are working with a new customer in the airline industry, we have teams that understand the relevant technology, and use cases and we will bring them in to customize specific solutions so the customer has a deeply personalized journey with Amperity. Casinos work with a tool called Patron to manage billions of dollars of gaming data and we have experts at Amperity with this relevant domain expertise. If it’s a retailer, their needs are different and we have teams that speak the language of omnichannel retail.
Our biggest challenge right now is helping customers understand the category in which we play, Customer Data Platforms. CDPs are an emerging category and frankly, the hot new item. The result is a lot of vendors who started as something else have rebranded as a CDP and that creates confusion for the customer. For example, we see CDPs who are actually tag management platforms, personalization engines, or enterprise data warehouses. These are all complimentary tools and some brands might need to buy 2-3 to achieve their needs in full.
Amperity was built from the ground up as a CDP, applying AI directly to the challenge of making customer data more useful for brands, and we’re working through the best way to help brands understand what we do best and how to embed us into their broader technology stack. Today’s modern CTOs and CIOs are savvy, and they understand and value our approach.
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What is the most powerful advice you have received on achieving Customer Success ROI? How do you improvise on that advice?
B2C and B2B share very similar values here. For me, there is one simple rule of thumb above all others- customer centricity. And I don’t mean some generic slogan around customer service. Our mission within customer success is to establish clear definitions of success with customers, align those goals to our mutual commitments to each other, and then deliver consistently. We are trying to solve a really hard problem — one that has been talked about for decades and is finally in our reach. We want a portfolio of brands that want to get into the trenches with us on the journey, and our mission is to safeguard trust with these true pioneers and become partners. We want to co-develop new products and services that help them stay future-proof.
My other piece of advice is to celebrate the little wins with customers.
There are so many amazing moments worth celebrating, and these often get overshadowed by the broader longer-term mission, which can feel daunting. But there are always wins along the journey — a new insight, an analyst lighting up because their job was transformed for the better — these are really important.
How do you think young sales professionals should train themselves to master Customer Success principles?
There is one skill that stands above all others: Curiosity. Lately, I’ve spent a lot of time ruminating that our education system is too individualistic for the modern workplace, and we’re creating generations of talent to bulldoze others with a “me first” mentality. We should teach collaboration, we should teach kids to ask questions. No customer is exactly alike and we learn so much from them by listening. It guides us to the best possible solution. Our best customer meetings are the ones where we put aside the slide ware and seek to understand each other. These almost always turn into the best engagements over the long term.
How do you collaborate with your CEO and CMO to manage the full-funnel customer success and experience management?
Our CEO and Co-Founder, Kabir Shahani, and CTO and Co-Founder Derek Slager are some of the most visionary leaders I’ve had the privilege of working with. It’s so important for me to make sure they both stay connected with our customers. We are building Amperity for the long-game, and that means we need to think 1, 2, 5 years out and build towards that. And our customers want to understand that vision and to plan with us.
Our marketing organization is critical and world class. We work with them to put on customer events that bring together new and future customers who are all trying to solve this difficult challenge of how to personalize the customer experience. For example, this September, we will host a Customer Summit in Seattle where we bring together 100+ leaders from our customers across their marketing, analytics, and IT organizations. It can be so hard for these leaders to break out of their 4 walls to ideate in a safe space, and we are creating that space — to solution today’s problems and to imagine the future.
What are the biggest challenges to meeting customer success goals? How do they impact sales?
We’re very fortunate. Our biggest challenge is hiring the strongest talent at the speed of market demand. The solution we’re bringing is critical to the mission of most consumer brands. They want to go fast and so do we — so there’s mutual alignment. We’re solving this challenge in a number of creative ways that are paying off — opening new hubs in Denver, San Francisco and New York City is one. We want to design bootcamps so we can hire motivated, talented people from outside our industry and make them effective. We want Amperity to be an amazing place to build a career.
Then, we’re a new company, which means our teams are constantly discovering the edges of the product and new demands from customers. One of our advantages is we are still at a scale where we can rapidly solution and take decisions. This is such a special time because we can uncover a customer need and get in a room to whiteboard solutions collaboratively — usually within hours. That kind of reactivity is magical.
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Which technologies can solve the above-mentioned problems?
Some really basic technologies remain pretty fundamental. We’re constantly on the go and collaboration tools like Slack, Zoom alongside a full Google Suite that allows us to collaborate as if we’re in the same room together. That sounds so basic but its a big part of what makes a distributed team work well together. We use Salesforce and are starting to evaluate some of the software innovation coming to B2B account management and project management that reduce effort and can make work a little easier.
From a tactical standpoint, how often does your organization revisit content?
At this stage of company building, we are in deep data collection mode, and are constantly tuning. Again, this ability to make fast pivots is a competitive advantage we have at this scale, so we lean in hard. We are constantly bringing feedback from customers via our customer success team, sales team, and looking at measurable KPIs to understand what’s resonating. Our teams have the tough job of articulating value across very different stakeholders across an organization. A CTO and a CMO need very different things. We work hard to try to arm our teams with the best playbooks, and this is a deep part of our focus right now as its one of the critical recipes to scale-up.
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Chris Jones, Head of Product, Amperity.
Thank You, Matthew, for answering all our questions. We hope to see you again at MTS, soon.