Okta has had “Customer Success” as its #1 core value since day one — from what I hear, even before the company had any customers. Why is this value so important to the company? And what do you see as the downstream effects?
Yeah, that’s absolutely the case and it’s one of the reasons I joined. It’s why today, five years later, I say that my job as a Chief Customer Officer is often a lot easier than my peers. It’s because that value of customer success and loving our customers and making them successful has absolutely been here since day one.
And I think two things really drive it— one, obviously Todd and Freddy both came from Salesforce, so they understood this concept of customer success and why it was important, but I also think it’s a little different here and one of the prevailing descriptors of our culture here is we are very human first. I always describe it to people I’m interviewing for roles here—we’re good humans, we’re good people. And part of customer success, as a value, is good people who genuinely want to do the right thing for the customer in pre-sales, post-sales, anywhere through that cycle. And that has been the case from day one and still is today. It’s something I’m really proud of.
Qualitative feedback systems such as Customer Advisory Boards (CABs), user groups, Executive Advisory Boards, etc can be a way to get terrific dialogue and discussion around the product or company direction and strategy. Is that something you’ve found useful as a tool for your overall customer success initiatives?
We find CABs absolutely useful. The way that we think about it is there are three layers to them. Our executive CAB consists of small groups, say 10 customers in a board room for a day. And that’s where we really talk about the future. “What if Okta decided to move into this ancillary security technology or what if we started to move away from this thing in favor of that thing? Here’s what we’re thinking about: Validate or invalidate.”
We also have a program that’s called the Exec Sponsor Program where we stay in touch with all of our largest customers. So it’s typically a subset and we sometimes bring some prospects in there.
The next level down is what we call Product Advisory Boards. They are the next level of detail within each of our product lines. “Here are the 10 features functions that we’re thinking about delivering in the next six to 12 months. How should this work?” Those run anywhere between four to six times a year and they’re larger groups, typically 15 is the max versus 10 in the Executive CABs. The profile of individuals who attend that is the folks who are responsible for identity and access management at their organizations or security at their organizations.
The third piece is our user groups and those are a little more organic and sometimes they spin up on their own. So it goes from a really high level to a great level of specificity as you move down those three groups
Okta went public a couple of years ago and like all companies that go public know, it’s a moment of reckoning of sorts. You need to be able to scale but also maintain or even improve the quality of your service. Your team has been very successful with this — you simultaneously scaled and maintained a high quality of customer support. What’s your secret?
Since we went public in 2017, we’ve experienced an incredible amount of growth and so in order to keep up, there’s no way you could hire to keep up with that growth. So we’ve had to employ a bunch of technologies and think creatively about technologies that are going to help us scale.
We implemented three projects. One was to do an inventory of all of our public-facing knowledge documentation and let’s make sure that it’s up to date and searchable. Then, let’s tackle the UIs across our disparate properties, unifying them so that customers didn’t feel like they were experiencing something different with a different company depending on where they went. And then, the third piece was just new search technology to find results across our different properties. All this has made a significant difference in our ability to scale our support organization without people.