Cloudside Chat Welcomes Vlocity’s Senior Director of Customer Success, Catherine Sloan
In San Francisco last month, I managed to get some cloudside chat time with the dynamic and customer-obsessive Catherine Sloan.
No small feat, as Catherine is one of the busiest people at Vlocity – between her hosting a new hire boot camp and back-to-back customer success reviews – an interview with our “Catherine the Great” provides a deep inside view into how Vlocity operates and delivers value. I learned a lot about what success means in the industry cloud, how women are leading in the advancement of industry cloud, and the key ingredient in Vlocity’s secret sauce.
That may sound like a lot to cover in a chat, but when you are fortunate enough to get a moment of Catherine’s time, you take advantage of every minute.
Rip Gerber: Catherine, it’s great to see you again, and thank you for finding time today. You must be one of the busiest people here.
Catherine Sloan: My pleasure. It’s always great to see you, Rip. And really, who isn’t busy at Vlocity? That’s one of the many things I love about this company. We’re all so busy, but it’s in service to our customers and their success. At least that’s what keeps everyone on my team busy.
Rip: And doing great work too.
Catherine: That’s why we call our services team the Customer Success team.
Rip: You’ve had an amazing career. How did you get here and into the industry cloud?
Catherine: I’ve been working in the Customer Success space for over 17 years. I began in a Montreal startup, where I ran the Customer Support and Professional Services team. After completing an MBA, I started my own company, where my primary focus was working with Bell Canada on a variety of business transformation and process improvement projects. That’s when I discovered Vlocity...
Rip: And what did you like about us?
Catherine: As I did more research, I realized how transformational their – well, your, now our! – view of the industry cloud was. Plus, the timing was right. Vlocity was then in talks with the Canadian national telecommunications company TELUS. So I would be coming in as a Canadian with telco expertise. The rest is, as they say, industry cloud history.
Rip: Speaking of history, how long have you been working at Vlocity? Did anything surprise you about this place when you started... and does anything still surprise you about it?
Catherine: I joined Vlocity almost three years ago. I was immediately struck by the pace of innovation and just the speed of everyday life, which was – and continues to be – amazing.
But I think what surprised me the most back then, and continues to surprise me now, are the people. Vlocity started with A+ players and continues to hire A+ players. Everyone in the company is dedicated to the overall success of our projects, our customers and our company. Everyone continuously goes the extra mile, whether that means attending an early morning or late evening call, being available on the weekend, or just generally giving 120% all day, every day. Vlocity’s people are truly unique, and they actually are a key ingredient of Vlocity’s secret sauce.
Everyone in the company is dedicated to the overall success of our projects, our customers and our company.
– Catherine Sloan, Sr. Director of Customer Success, Vlocity
Rip: So it sounds as if there may be something ingrained in Vlocity’s culture that enables that type of teamwork. How does Vlocity really go that extra mile to deliver for customers?
Catherine: Vlocity’s core values include “Customers First” and “People Are the Core.” So yes, our belief in collaboration, teamwork and transparency across all levels of the organization is definitely ingrained, as you say. But even beyond these core values, there are at least two areas I can immediately point to that I think highlight how Vlocity really exceeds in going that extra mile.
Rip: Care to elaborate?
Catherine: Of course. First, when the implementation work of a project is nearing completion, it’s not unusual for the project team to run into an issue for a specific use case with the Vlocity Managed Package. Once the issue is logged through our Support team, if it is deemed critical/blocker for go-live, the Product/Engineering team will immediately investigate and provide either a workaround or a patch to remove the blocker. This type of relentless response and resolution from our Product and Engineering teams really displays Vlocity’s teamwork and underscores to customers our unflagging commitment to their success.
The second example I can point to quickly is the fact that our product is evolving at light-speed, and feedback from current customers has a huge influence on our product direction. So not only are we committed to successfully completing the current scope of a project, but we are also constantly looking for creative ways to use Vlocity’s components across the customer’s business. Again, this shows the type of commitment Vlocity has – and demonstrates daily – to customers above and beyond what they’re used to seeing in their prior engagements.
Rip: Since we’ve been talking about Vlocity’s commitment to Customer Success, can you tell us about the very successful partnership between Vlocity and TELUS?
Catherine: It’s one of my favorite stories! We embarked on our transformational journey with TELUS almost three years ago, right when I started at Vlocity. TELUS was eager to completely reinvent their B2B agent experience. We initially focused our work on the order capture activities, and then also completed several other successful projects in the contract lifecycle management space, making use of our core components along the way.
More recently, we have been merging those flows into one end-to-end experience, working in collaboration with the TELUS team and with key Global System Integrators, laying out an extremely strong foundation.
The entire project team has worked incredibly hard to get to this point, and the combination of the overall strategy, the product and the people led to TELUS and Vlocity winning multiple global awards, including the prestigious GLOTEL “BSS Transformation Excellence” award last year. Their business continues to thrive, and new requests are continuously coming in. So even though we have already done so much together, we see this as just the beginning of our successful partnership.
...not only are we committed to successfully completing the current scope of a project, but we are also constantly looking for creative ways to use Vlocity’s components across the customer’s business.
– Catherine Sloan, Sr. Director of Customer Success, Vlocity
Rip: What is the next top Customer Success story over the coming 12-15 months?
Catherine: We are working today with a Tier 1 telco in the United States that will be “the next TELUS,” multiple ongoing projects with them at the moment, involving different aspects of the business, including mobility, wireless, CPQ, order management, and more.
Rip: So you are leading projects on both sides of the border. What actually makes a successful customer partnership? Do you think that you and the customer define a successful partnership in the same way?
Catherine: The one thing to realize starting out is that building successful partnerships is not easy. It takes time and commitment on both sides. There will always be bumps along the road. The important thing is how we respond to those bumps to create deeper and stronger relationships as we make that journey together. From my perspective, there are three key elements that make a customer partnership successful, but they all center around one critical core: trust.
Rip: The first?
Catherine: So, for the partnership to be successful, it’s imperative to Trust the Relationship. At all times, we need to have the customer’s pulse and know that we are 100% committed to Customer Success.
Rip: And the second?
Catherine: Trust the Team – the working team needs to have a good, communicative, and open relationship.
Rip: And I imagine the third element is also about trust?
Catherine: Yes. Trust the Product – use a "Vlocity Product” First Mindset for all aspects of the solution, or project or program. Of course, each customer is unique and might prioritize these three elements somewhat differently, but ultimately, alignment around trust is key. So while we may not define the relationship in exactly the same way as our customers, we definitely have to trust one another.
Rip: It sounds like it can be a delicate balance. Which makes me wonder, what are some of the biggest challenges you encounter when working with a customer on successful deployments?
Catherine: You’re right, Rip. Deployments can be complicated. The three key challenges that I’ve encountered most often are 1) the lack of proper environment management, 2) the lack of proper QA management, and 3) the lack of proper release management.
But by being aware of this going in, we strongly encourage open discussions and alignment on environment, QA and release management during the discovery phase, which can help uncover and avoid issues early on, so things don’t get bogged down and more difficult to correct when you’re further along in the process.
Rip: Building on the alignment topic, can talk about your unique style of leadership and driving customer success?
Catherine: As you know, the Vlocity culture fully supports and encourages strong female leaders. We have female leaders in Employee Success, Engineering, Marketing, Alliances, Sales and Customer Success. Of course, we can use the voices, talents and skills of still more women throughout all areas of the workforce.
Rip: Our partner Salesforce is leading our industry, leading an entire generation really, by advancing inclusion and diversity and equality.
Catherine: So are we. I definitely see women’s roles expanding at Vlocity and in the industry in 2018 and beyond. I believe in networking by building strong and loyal relationships with customers and internally across the organization. I feel that I have real perspective that I can – and do – provide in leadership discussions based on my involvement in projects from pre-sales to launch and in managing resources. It’s currently an important time for women in the workplace and I see things getting even better, with growing opportunities as women increasingly fill leadership roles.
Rip: Do the core value of inclusion, equality and diversity help you in delivering customer success?
Catherine: Absolutely. Not only help, they are essential.
It’s currently an important time for women in the workplace and I see things getting even better, with growing opportunities as women increasingly fill leadership roles.
– Catherine Sloan, Sr. Director of Customer Success, Vlocity
Rip: And innovation? How will future innovations in Vlocity’s software keep improving the customer experience?
Catherine: Our goal continues to be to deliver 100% customer success and to ensure ongoing business value for our customers. To make that happen, we need to continue to grow our teams as well as our partner ecosystem. We have already achieved great successes with our partners and I look forward to the successes that are still to come. Many are right around the corner. Our product continues to grow in parallel to our partnerships. And since the Product Roadmap is heavily influenced by customer feedback, every release brings great new functionality that our customers have been asking for, which naturally translates into an ever-improving customer experience.
Rip: Thanks again, Catherine, for taking the time to chat about what’s happening in Vlocity Customer Success. With your leadership, I know that success is unstoppable.
Catherine: Actually, Vlocity’s continued success is due to that secret ingredient I mentioned earlier – our people. But thank you, Rip. It’s been a real pleasure.
Chief Marketing & Innovation Officer
Rip Gerber has 25 years’ experience inspiring and leading great people to build disruptive, market-leading companies, raising over $500M in venture and IPO funds that have delivered a collective 5x return on invested capital. He currently serves as Chief Marketing and Innovation Officer of Vlocity, Inc. where he leads all go-to-market activities, brand strategy, and global business development. Gerber has helped propel Vlocity as the fastest-growing Salesforce partner (out of 5,000) for four years in a row.
Rip is also an international best-selling author and accomplished musician. Throughout his career he has driven a dual agenda of ‘pragmatic creativity’ and ‘warp-speed innovation’ in the enterprise software, mobile, and Software-as-a-Service industries, where he has served in CEO, GM, Board Director and CMO roles for several venture-backed and seed-to-IPO companies. He started his career at the CIA and has served in management roles at Firestone, American Express, Nokia, Publicis, as well as founding and selling several tech companies including @once, Commtouch and Locaid. He has a biochemical engineering degree from the University of Virginia and an MBA from Harvard University.