A Conversation with Chris Singh, Blackbaud’s New Senior Vice President of Customer Success
Blackbaud recently announced the appointment of Chris Singh as senior vice president of Customer Success. In this role, he will oversee global customer success functions including management and support, services, operations and technology. We’re so excited about what Chris will bring to the customer success organization that we quickly got onto his calendar to chat about his priorities and approach to customer success, his background and his love of the Toronto Maple Leafs (one day his loyalty will pay off!).
Q: You've joined Blackbaud as part of our continued commitment to transforming the customer experience. What will be your initial priorities for the Customer Success organization at Blackbaud?
A: My first priority will be to really understand our customers and to determine how Blackbaud can provide an amazing experience, and I plan to do this by getting involved firsthand. Our customers believe in our solutions and services, so they take a leap of faith in purchasing from Blackbaud. This means that they also have exposure within their organization to defend their choice. We must not fail such loyalties! The ultimate goal is to unleash the value of the solutions to drive outcomes for their organizations. It’s one thing to learn from second- or third-hand information, but my style is to spend time with customers and hear directly from them. I’m really looking forward to getting to know the amazing organizations we serve.
Q: You've had a long career leading customer success and customer experience organizations. What have been your guiding principles in the past that you'll be bringing to Blackbaud?
A: In a customer-first organization, it’s really all about people—the science of people and how you interact with them. Customer success goes beyond just the likeability factor; you also need to be delivering value every step of the way. That has been one of the most important things I’ve learned—that it takes both elements. You have to work hard at not just earning the customer's business, but then at keeping it by both demonstrating good value and creating a positive experience.
Q: What made you want to create a career in customer success?
A: I love customers; they are the lifeblood of any organization. I have always liked being where the action is and the dynamic nature of serving with value and purpose. If you look at what has emerged in the last five or six years, customer success has come to the foreground because cloud software providers realized that to be successful, you need a consistent way of helping customers leverage the innovations that are constantly being implemented in the solutions. You need to pay close attention to the experience you are providing and help people optimize and expand business processes to realize their business outcomes.
As I’ve said, it’s all about the people. And, since I was a kid, it has always been really clear to me that I am a “customer person” at heart. I was helping my dad with his businesses in Guyana when I was 10. It's always been about understanding people and helping them. I’ve steered my career toward the customer, even back when I worked in innovation and engineering. I stayed very close to the customer story, what they were doing and how we could always improve and make things better for them. That’s what drives me—helping other people be successful and making their lives easier.
Q: What will be your message to the Blackbaud team members who are interacting with our customers every day? What are your expectations of them?
A: I firmly believe that you cannot have customer success without employee success. The way we treat each other and how leaders treat their teams is critically important, and I believe that leading with kindness and empathy is the first step in creating a rich team culture. For anyone interacting with customers, we should always look to put them at the center of what we do. I will also look for the team to leverage critical thinking from both a cloud mindset and a customer success mindset, using tools, technology, and data insights to drive how we bring customer value. It’s been promising and satisfying to see that these mindsets are already fundamental to the Blackbaud culture, so I will be working with my team to continue to build on the values-based foundation we have.
Q: What attracted you to Blackbaud?
A: That's a great question. For me, life is about purpose, so Blackbaud’s vision for building a better world and understanding that we can change people’s lives by leveraging technology and software in meaningful ways were powerful messages. That purpose in the company’s mission was the biggest driver for me joining Blackbaud.
Q: Tell us a little about your background and career journey and how you got to where you are today. It’s a big question, but you have such an interesting story.
A: As a child I migrated with my family from a small country in South America called Guyana to Calgary, Canada. I went from living in plus 33 degrees Celsius to minus 42 (91° F/-44° F), which was quite the shock as you can imagine. But outside of the vast temperature swing, it was great growing up in Calgary, because it really taught me about community, and I became Canadian in a really immersive way— which included quickly learning that despite being in a different country, values about integrity, faith, trust, and fairness were exactly the same. And, of course, hockey was new and quickly became a passion. Parental values and respect for people were staples in my upbringing. I had amazing role models in my parents and my four sisters...we are very community-based and people-focused. I pride myself on showing respect for others, understanding what they're going through, and figuring out how we can best come together.
In terms of my career, I’ve had a varied background and was very fortunate to have worked for one of the largest companies in the world, gaining tremendous leadership experience in innovation, engineering, and cloud solutions. But most importantly, what that job allowed me to do was to see a wide variety of customers, from small and medium-sized businesses to large enterprises, and to learn what it takes to make them successful. I've also been very fortunate to leverage my experience and team up with other customer success leaders on key initiatives to make the industry as a whole better.
I currently live in Canada again after a six-year stint in the U.S. My four sisters and my mum live here in Canada as well, and my fiancé is a lawyer in Guyana. And in true Canadian fashion, I captained a cricket team for 21 years, play hockey, and am a huge Toronto Maple Leafs fan…2022 is their year, I’m sure of it. That's me in a nutshell!
Q: Finally, if you weren't working at Blackbaud or in technology in general, and you could have any job in the world, what would it be and why?
A: I’ve always been fascinated by archeology and intrigued by people who go on quests and sort through history to come back with the story of what happened. When I think of King Tut and all of those famous archeological finds, bringing forth historical revelations, that really intrigues me from a career perspective. Of course that’s assuming that the Toronto Maple Leafs didn’t first recruit me to lead the team to our first Stanley Cup since 1967.