We recently announced that Chris Singh has been named Blackbaud’s first ever chief customer officer (CCO). When Chris first joined Blackbaud a year ago, we sat down with him to get to know him better and talk about his priorities. We thought it was time to chat with Chris again to hear a little bit about his new role, his reflections on the past year, and what’s still to come.
Q: You were just recently named Blackbaud’s first ever chief customer officer. In this position, you will oversee strategy and execution of the customer experience across Blackbaud under a shared vision to deliver at every stage of the customer life cycle. What does it mean to you that the company created this position?
A: The creation of the chief customer officer role really solidifies Blackbaud's commitment to its customers and recognizes how our approach to customer success has advanced in this past year due to the hard work of many teams across the organization. This role will ensure that throughout the customer life cycle, we are delivering on outcomes and great experiences in a seamless and consistent way. It will ensure that investments are made to scale and continuously transform our end-to-end customer experience as technology and businesses evolve. And ultimately, it means that Blackbaud Customer Success will have board of director visibility and be fully accountable to deliver on the promise of great customer experience and value realization.
Q: You came to Blackbaud with vast experience leading customer success organizations and took a keen eye on how we could transform the customer experience. What are some of the changes you've made in the last year, and what is the current vision for the future of Blackbaud customer success?
A: We’ve really made changes that impact the entire customer journey. Our sales team helps guide customers to the right solutions based on the outcomes they want to achieve and their needs. Those desired outcomes are documented and then follow the customer through to their interactions with Blackbaud Customer Success, including the creation of customer-specific success plans. Our customer success managers work with each customer to ensure they are connected to the resources they need to achieve those outcomes, and progress is transparently and cooperatively documented in those success plans – this focus on documenting and measuring progress toward outcomes is at the heart of what we call our Success Assurance® commitment.
Another way we’re bringing this commitment to life is through the creation of a new resource team of functional experts that fully understand the business usage of our solutions and how they can be used to their maximum potential. These functional experts have deep insights into the industry's best benchmarks and what innovations can be adopted and consumed to realize those benchmarks. As a cloud software company, we are constantly innovating and releasing product updates. The functional experts are dedicated to helping our customers understand what is coming and how they can fully leverage product updates.
Our Onboarding team is another key part of our strategy - this team navigates our newly signed customers through the implementation process seamlessly, including walking through the product capabilities and connecting them to the initial trainings to get the customer set up and ready to use the product. This way we simplify the upfront journey and set the table for a good understanding of what the customer has purchased from Blackbaud and what associated services they can expect from us.
Another area we have doubled down on is the creation of a critical response center, which is responsible for triaging critical support cases. This team has established clear channels within the company for collecting and disseminating relevant information so they can quickly identify the root causes of issues and find resolutions.
Ultimately, our team has really undergone a cultural mindset shift from focusing on servicing customers to putting them at the center of everything we do, in very concrete ways. All the changes we made were implemented by employees who directly service our customers. Everyone has a deep sense of pride in what we have created. We will continue to evolve as feedback is given in customer surveys. We have instituted a new accountability model of “listen, learn and act,” focusing on how we respond with action to our customers and partners.
Q: In our Q&A last year, you talked about how it was important to you to get to know our customers by speaking to them firsthand. Can you share how those conversations have shaped your strategy?
A: It was important for me and our team to make sure that we heard from customers themselves what they needed from our evolved customer success model and didn’t just base our strategy on experiences at other companies or on theory. We took the time to understand our customers’ missions, what pressures they were faced with, and what was important to them, and we then leveraged our own sets of experiences in evolving a new success model. We solicited feedback from customers across the organization types we serve, including healthcare, higher education, nonprofit, and arts and cultural. All of these have helped us to create a model where the customer has informed us of what they want.
Q: Your family is very community-focused and people-focused and showing respect and understanding to others is something you’ve learned and prioritized from a very young age. How have you integrated this mentality that has been so core to who you are into Blackbaud’s approach to its customers?
A: It comes down to two main things: trust and honesty. Each one of our customers put their trust in Blackbaud when buying our solutions and services, and it’s critical that we deliver on that promise. We know that value is a two-way street and takes strong collaboration. We also need to acknowledge when we make a mistake and aim for continuous improvements. Conversely, we need to make sure our employees are empowered and feel respected, even when disagreements may arise in how to approach an issue.
Q: bbcon 2022 will be happening in a few months. Last year was your first bbcon – what did that experience of being together with so much of our customer network at one time mean to you?
A: Being surrounded by so many customers early on was hugely important. You realize that a lot has been entrusted to you and being on stage at bbcon brought this sharply into focus for me. There is something to be said about collective energy and being together, even virtually, enhanced the importance of our work. To hear so many success stories on how Blackbaud made a difference solidified my decision to join the company.
Q: What has been your biggest surprise at Blackbaud?
A: The biggest surprise has been the force and passion of the employees for the customers they serve. I knew it existed, but the strength and magnitude of it is greater than I had even anticipated. For me, it really highlights that when purpose meets passion, there is greatness that's born out of it. One other big surprise for me, not having previously worked with nonprofits in a professional capacity, was the magnitude at which customers are generating resources by leveraging Blackbaud solutions.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share today?
A: I'm grateful that as someone who has been steeped in technology throughout my career, I’ve now found a company that leverages technology with purpose. You can see in a visceral way what organizations such as shelters, food banks, children’s hospitals, and others are doing, and you know that the impact of your work transcends technology and goes into the space of humanity. For me, this doctrine of knowing that because you exist, somebody else's life has been made easier, is key.