Chief of Growth, Chargebee
As the overall noise increases and our attention reduces, customer acquisition no longer consists of old-school techniques nor it is a choice of inbound or outbound. We spoke to Indus Khaitan, Chief of Growth, Chargebee, to understand which technologies and strategies are best suited to expand a customer base and revenue.
Tell us about your role at Chargebee and the team/technology you handle.
I run growth marketing at Chargebee. The growth team sits at the intersection of product, marketing and partnerships to drive awareness and experience for our future customers. We achieve this using a heady mix of technology, marketing data and product engineering. I have a cross-border team between San Francisco and Chennai, India.
What sales functions do you endure for high-performance ‘strategy and planning’ at Chargebee?
The growth team’s charter is to continuously look for new areas where each of them can have at least one percent impact on either conversion or acquisition of new customers. We try to run five or six such initiatives in parallel at any given point in time. Barring a few efforts, these initiatives do not have a direct impact on sales performance in the current or next quarter. For example, the growth team is working on an initiative where we would amplify product use cases by having Chargebee’s large customer base talk about how the specific features make it easy to run their business.
What are some of the core promises a global customer base typically expects you to make, and how do you deliver on them?
A global customer base comes with its expectations of support and service in their respective time zones. We have made product design choices that reduce friction around on-boarding of new customers. However, billing and subscription management products are inherently multivariate due to country-specific nuances of accounting, taxation and compliance — we try to hide the complexities as much as possible while enabling massive customizations using our APIs. Every release aspires to make the product more comfortable to use than the previous one. This product design choice is not optional, but a make-or-break for us.
What are the key pieces of advice for sales and customer success teams preparing to get ‘inbound-ready?’
Inbound-readiness for global customers is not just an institutional process readiness, but a readiness of compassion and authenticity. The question every sales and customer success leader serving global customers has to ask: Is the team malleable to work with customers where they may not have a shared platform for breaking the ice in a conversation? Is the team ready to cross the language, timezone, cultural and geographical barriers? What customers from different geographies have as their uniqueness in how they buy, what they look for as value-proposition, and how they respond to questions is essential.
Do you think CRM is lagging in innovation compared to other automation technologies?
CRM has become fragmented. There is plenty of innovation happening, but each innovation happens across thousands of individual companies. Nothing wrong with that, but it makes the life of a buyer incredibly hard. For a customer that buys a Salesforce seat or a Hubspot service, they also buy a dozen other marketing and sales tools — such as one for building better landing pages, better email tracking, better social media management, an AI-driven email drip campaign tool, a sales forecasting tool, a project management tool for managing agency relationship — and the list goes on. This fragmentation is adding to cognitive drudgery. We are working harder than ever to achieve a CRM outcome, but the dullness of task and data orchestration from one tool to another degrades customer experience. I’m surprised that the market-leading vendors do not make the integrations easier, nor build it themselves quickly.
As an international executive, what are the best practices to effectively manage a global customer base across different customer-facing teams?
Practicing empathy makes us ask why people and customers are behaving the way they are. Our customer-facing teams are spread across India and the United States, and our customers are in a total of 53 countries. It is highly likely that a phone call or an email comes from a person who is in a different time zone, speaks a different language and has their unique ways of sharing an emotion. Practicing empathy makes us ask a question first before responding to a leading question. It also makes us think about why people and customers are behaving the way they are.
The history of interactions with a customer is like a fortune teller. Digging into support tickers, product usage data and emails give us clues into where the current conversation is heading before the discussion even begins.
Get the context first and then share yours. If the customer talks about the time of the day and weather, then return the favor by sharing the same. However, if the customer wants to jump straight to the point, do the same, as they may be busy.
Which technologies and strategies are best suited to grow a customer base and revenue?
As the overall noise increases and our attention reduces, customer acquisition no longer consists of old-school techniques of farming, fishing or hunting. Nor it is a choice of inbound or outbound. In reality, conversations with future customers have become highly personalized, point-in-time, multi-channel discussions — one prospect at a time across email, phone calls, social, live chats and meetups. As a result, there is no single platform in the industry that enables this engagement.
How do you see the role of marketing evolve over the next 5-10 years?
Thanks to the proliferation of channels across earned, paid and owned media, every employee in a company has become a marketer. A ‘like’ on a LinkedIn message increases the reach of the company brand using the individual as a proxy. The same thing repeats when we post a blog or an Instagram story. The marketing department’s role would be to help orchestrate these experiences while maintaining a balance between work versus personal. I see marketing evolving as an execution machine responsible for providing every employee a tool box and a playbook to market on behalf of the company, its product and its sales organization.
How do you foresee the subscription billing and recurring payments software industry further disrupted with proliferation of AI/machine learning and IOT?
Using AI/ML technologies can predict churn and proactively engage with customers before they cancel. This, in turn, builds a long-term relationship with the customer base that transfers into revenue growth and an organic word of mouth evangelism. These techniques today are employed by sophisticated merchants with large IT teams to crunch data and predict customer behaviors. The new wave of AI/ML technologies is reducing the entry barriers for smaller businesses. On the other side, customers will continue to get a highly personalized shopping experience collated not just from the buying behavior on a specific site, but their intent from search and interactions on social media. The use of IoT will bridge the online to offline, helping track the physical footprints in an aisle.
Thanks for chatting with us, Indus.
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