How Appropriate Levels of Value Helps LinkedIn Scale CS

Daniel Hayward
Head of Customer Success, Americas

Interview Highlights:

  • “Appropriate level of value” is providing value to a customer in line with their needs at their current stage. 
  • You have to understand the customer journey before you understand what value looks like for them
  • Appropriate Levels of Value and Delighting the Customer are complementary, not contradictory

* As of publication time, Daniel Hayward has moved on from LinkedIn and joined the team at Degreed.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do for LinkedIn?

I’m Daniel Hayward, and I lead LinkedIn’s North American Talent business. I’ve been with LinkedIn for about eight years now and have led teams across the world. My team currently consists of about 150 people, and we support implementations, customer success, and some technical consulting teams as well. 

You’ve spoken before about the concept of “appropriate levels of value.” Can you explain what that is?

You should really think about “appropriate levels of value” in three ways. 

First, think about who your customer is. More often than not, we talk about the customer as a single entity, but when you break it down, they actually represent three or four separate entities. 

  • The person who uses the product
  • The client-side admin
  • The decision-maker
  • The person who’s paying for it all

Second, identify the expectations and needs for each of these entities. Generally, the goals of the end-user will be different from those of the key decision-maker.

Third, determine the best way to deliver on each of their respective goals and expectations. The appropriate levels of value will be unique to each stakeholder. 

Back in 2013, we really tried to solve problems through people. We weren’t really clear on what the customer journey looked like, but we always tried to ensure that we had low ratios. Everybody had a named CSM. But as we matured and went through several strategic reviews, we learned to listen to customers and really take the time to map out the journey together with them. We evolved from a product with a set of features to more of a solution. Through that process, we were also able to identify the appropriate level and type of CS experience that customers needed - what value looked like at each of those different stages in the journey, and most importantly, how to do that at scale. 

Could you please define “delighting the customer” for people who aren’t familiar with the term?

I define it as going over and above what’s necessary for the client. It’s ensuring a level of satisfaction that has a positive effect on NPS and CSAT. The focus is on doing whatever it takes to ensure the customer is satisfied, happy, or delighted. 

So it’s similar to an “end justifies the means” approach. Whatever it takes to ensure the customer is happy. 

That’s certainly how we saw it in the early days. 

I think the challenge with that is that over time it just becomes a matter of consistency and scalability. You may have had myself as your CSM for the first 12 months of your contract. I may have had one view or opinion in terms of what would delight the customer, but then when a different CSM comes in with a different skill set or focus, and operations have scaled, then it becomes far harder to deliver those intangible moments of delight. 

What we would now do instead is sit down with high-touch clients and understand their overall objective for their organization using a very simple model. 

“What is it they’re looking to achieve as a business entity?” Obviously, we’re supporting their talent team. So then what are the specific goals the talent team has for that quarter, or six month period, even four-year period, and then really get into the nitty-gritty around the strategy. 

What strategies are they looking to deploy? How could our product help them achieve that level of success? And then, most importantly, quantify that. What are the specific measures of success? We use the OGSM model of Objectives, Goals, Strategies and Measures to mutually agree on what success looks like. 

You can call that “delight” if you like, but now we’ve quantified how that connects from the TA team all the way up to the overall business entity.

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What was the catalyst for making that switch from delight-focused strategy to prioritizing appropriate levels of value?

Part of it was the rapid growth that we were seeing in our clients, both in terms of net new logos, but also in terms of current customers expanding.We sell recruiter licenses, and when we released Enterprise Agreements, we saw a 10x increase in interest in that product set, which meant that we really needed to think differently about how we scaled. That’s when we took a step back to better understand the customer journey, and also to test and pilot other areas where we could leverage technology, product solutions, etc. to deliver the same level of success for those clients but in a far more scalable and repeatable fashion. 

What are some practical steps companies can take to change direction on that scale?

The first thing I would say is that AX (appropriate experience) and customer delight are not mutually exclusive. I think you can have both - it’s just that you really need to focus on what that appropriate value looks like. If one client is spending 10K, and another is spending 1.5 million, their expectations are going to be vastly different. 

There’s three things you need to do in these cases:

First, understand all of your different customer personas and journeys. Every journey will vary depending on the size of the client and the complexity of the product suite. 

Second, you have to understand what value looks like for each of these businesses. You should be working directly with Product & Acquisition or your Finance partners to determine some of the internal cost-to-serve constraints, but also from a service tiering perspective. Are there logical ways to bucket based on spend or complexity, where we feel that we’re able to service those customers and deliver the appropriate level of value for their investment? 

Third, you need to test and pilot your changes. We’ve been fortunate enough to be able to do that at LinkedIn - not many companies allow for that testing phase, and instead just roll changes out immediately. You have to have a mindset of continuous improvement. Identify those areas where you feel that you’re going to get the biggest bang for your buck; where you’ve got the biggest, most challenging hypothesis, and then test it as best you can. 

I have a good example that illustrates what I’m talking about. 

When I first started at LinkedIn, every customer had their own assigned CSM. When the client had a product or a feature query, they would phone their CSM and try to get an answer. The query would normally be answered within 24 hours. As we continued to grow and expand, the number of users kind of just exploded by ten, maybe a hundred times. The reality quickly set in, where that level of service was no longer sustainable. 

So we implemented a live chat via our support center. And now, the current average response time is less than three minutes. 

Does it really matter to the client that they speak to their named CSM? Or does that end user just want that product feature question answered in the shortest amount of time? Now, you can have your questions answered within a three-minute window from anywhere in the world in real-time. 

What practical benefits of making that change have you seen?

We’ve seen product engagement increase at all levels - small business, mid market, and our largest clients. We’ve been able to shift and focus our internal resources, which are finite and fixed, to far more meaningful interactions with our largest clients. Those are the ones that have the greatest risks, greatest growth, or the highest degree of complexity. 

What are the challenges you had to overcome in order to get your CS team to where it is now?

One big challenge was helping shift the mindset away from “every customer is equally important” and “every dollar counts equally.”

There are different ways to service different clients based on either their service tiers or their level of complexity. That’s something we had to very tread lightly around because everything is in-house. One of the ways we got around that was by providing sales and CS professionals the ability to flag or prioritize any accounts. 

Regardless of that account’s size and our perceived understanding of what value would look like for them, if the sales rep wanted to flag this account for either significant growth or as a churn risk, we have a mechanism in place. Flagged accounts get four times as much outreach and support as those that aren’t flagged. It’s kind of like a “breaker” in the support system. 

Do you have any final thoughts you want to share?

I just want to reiterate that I definitely don’t think it’s a choice between delight or appropriate levels of value. I think it’s both.

It’s understanding what value looks like; what “good” and “great” look like for your customer. It’s about knowing your clients’ different personas and helping them understand all the ways you’re going to be supporting them. 

We need to make sure they understand the value of the self-service options, the webinars, and the online learning, etc. Not just relying on a human being to be there at every point. That’s why I focus on getting to that mutual level of understanding and that up-front social contract in terms of how we’re going to partner.

About 
LinkedIn

Founded in 2003, LinkedIn connects the world's professionals to make them more productive and successful. With more than 756 million members worldwide, including executives from every Fortune 500 company, LinkedIn is the world's largest professional network. The company has a diversified business model with revenue coming from Talent Solutions, Marketing Solutions, Sales Solutions and Premium Subscriptions products. Headquartered in Silicon Valley, LinkedIn has offices across the globe.

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