💬 Interview with Syafiq: Senior Manager of Customer Success at TradeGecko

Published on: October 12, 2018

As a big fan of Richard Branson, I was always inspired by his take on customer service and its importance. But how does it work in Asia? Do founders & startups see customer service as an integral part of company’s culture and follow its core principles?

Today I tried to find out answers to those questions and there was no better way than reaching out to Syafiq, who is member of our startup community in Asia and Senior Manager of Customer Success at TradeGecko - a well known company in Singapore and in the region.

*Hey Syafiq, thanks for this interview and your time - extremely happy to have you here! Maybe let us start with your current position at TradeGecko: how did you find yourself working there? *

Hello! Thank you for this interview opportunity! I am currently the Senior Manager of Customer Success here at TradeGecko, and I lead a team of awesome Customer Success Leads/Managers over 2 geographical locations, Singapore and Canada.

My career has always been focused on Customer Services as its core Area of Responsibility, be it Client Facing Services at a mobile technology company or Internal Technology Services at a major investment bank.

I saw Customer Success as the next big move for me where I would be able to leverage my customer management skills in this New and Vital stream that is a key global focus right now, especially in the SaaS industry. So, it is no surprise that I jumped at the chance to be part of the Customer Success movement, more so with an exciting startup like TradeGecko!

What’s one thing you do at TradeGecko that you think makes the biggest difference in terms of impact to the team or product?

I harness my experience in running global teams according to defined processes and guidelines, nurturing the team to be able to be streamlined towards common goals, or OKR’s (Objectives and Key Results) as we call it here at TradeGecko.

The Success team here plays a direct role in revenue retention and growth while acting as the Voice of our Customers, providing the link between them and our internal Product and Engineering teams as we work towards building the best product in the market.

You mentioned you are a big fan of (Sixteen Ventures ) - I checked it out and loving it already! What other resources & books would you recommend to aspiring Customer Success Managers & founders?

A few books which I have recently read and certainly do recommend for professionals interested in the Customer Success space will be

  • Customer Success: How Innovative Companies Are Reducing Churn and Growing Recurring Revenue
  • The Ultimate Question 2.0
  • From Impossible To Inevitable: How Hyper-Growth Companies Create Predictable Revenue
  • Crossing the Chasm

The interesting reads above provide a good understanding of the key aspects of running a successful company with Customer Centricity at the core of it all.

Imagine you just landed a new job. What will be the first 90 days like for a Customer Service Manager like you? Where would be your focus? Do you follow some sort of framework?

While we appreciate the experience and creative ideas that we have from our new Customer Success Managers, the first 90 days are derived with the following milestones:

30 days: Learn - Be familiar with the TradeGecko, positioning, competition, and product suite. Internalize TradeGecko values and the customer success stories and Customer Success systems and processes.

60 days: Engage - Begin to engage your portfolio of Partners and/or Customers and understand what success is to them. Become fluent in their history, their goals with TradeGecko, and the TradeGecko team supporting them.

90 days: Ownership and Growth - Be fully ramped up and executing campaigns and success/growth strategies against your initial portfolio of customers. Take ownership of the engagement, retention, and growth of your customers.

What do Asian startups get wrong about customer service that you wish you could fix?

To be honest, Customer Service is seldom given the credit it deserves.

When you operate in a crowded market with lots of competitors, each barely distinguishable from the other, you need to differentiate your business from the others in a tangible way.

Customer service is an awesome bet for any company trying to set itself apart from the competition. This is even more so in the early stages of your business. By building a reputation for great customer service, you actually turn customer service into a customer acquisition tool.

The majority of customers who enjoy a positive customer service will buy from that same company again. On the other hand, once your startup builds a name for bad customer service, it can be well, a pretty steep uphill climb to rise above it. Invest in good customer service from day one!

Whatever you do, do not ignore customer service and its contribution to building a successful startup right from your initial days.

On the other side - could you give us examples of Asian companies with nailed customer service? And why?

Here at TradeGecko, we inculcate the culture of customer centricity throughout the company and this encourages Customer Advocacy from all touch points, not just customer facing teams. We truly value our customers and aim to be the leading example of how exemplary Customer Service can hugely contribute to the brand and business growth for your company!

Another Asian company that comes to mind, is Xiaomi. They have built a reputation for their great Customer Centric culture. As one of the biggest players in the mobile device market outside of Apple and Samsung, Xiaomi has carved a reputation for putting their customers first. They are known for constantly soliciting feedback and opinions from their users, and using the feedback they get to work towards improving their product.
It just shows their incredible passion for their customers.

How do I gain customer loyalty in Singapore? Is there something unique about customers in Singapore that one could leverage?

The unique attribute of Singaporean customers, I find, is that they are not the easiest to convince and they are not known to be very receptive to new or lesser known options. However, once we are able to gain their trust, their loyalty is a given.

Not only for Singaporean customers but globally, in TradeGecko, we have found that our work in improving the customer experience goes a long way in gaining customer loyalty! Every customer has a life-cycle. The relationship with a customer typically has three core stages; Acquisition, Retention and Engagement.

Not all customers will stay with us ‘forever’. We understand that and we build on loyalty to stretch that life-cycle to the maximum by learning the unique ‘sticky factors’ that enable us to not only keep our customers longer but more so to convert them into our advocates!

Singapore is a fantastic country to interact and build customer loyalty and advocacy. With the diverse range of businesses and high level of competition in almost every industry, building customer loyalty and advocacy is of great importance for businesses of any size!

At what stage of life of a company, I should think of dedicated customer success team?

As with the overall customer experience, Customer Success needs to be established from Day 1 of the life of a company. Customer Success is a key role that acts the bridge between the customer and the company. If done right, this role will have a huge impact in the customer’s journey with the company. This, in turn, will be a key influencing factor in creating advocates.

Okay, since I asked this - I am a maker and just started working on my new product. What are the first steps for me to take to stand out among my competitors if it comes to customer service?

Customer Services needs to be a Proactive movement. In my personal opinion, a Customer Services team should be broken down into:

  • Customer Success, for a smooth onboarding experience and a strong grasp of the product which will align with the customer’s goals and to support them in achieving these successes.
  • Customer Support, to correct or allay any technical challenges they may face and to continue to build on their solid foundation of product knowledge with expert tips and tricks.
  • Knowledge Management, to help our highly engaged customers better achieve their objectives by specifically creating, transferring and applying knowledge with their specific needs in mind.

This creates a complete support ecosystem that provides assurance to the customer that TradeGecko is there to support them as they continue to grow and succeed throughout their journey with us.

What are the best/most valuable skills for a Customer Success Manager today in your opinion? Do you have some tips for Customer Success Managers entering new markets?

First and foremost, the desire to understand how their customers think is the most valuable skillset. Everything else will flow down naturally. With Success, your main area of responsibility will be Retention and Expansion of your managed accounts, so how do you go about meeting these expectations?

A 360° view of your accounts will be a good start and a deeper understanding of the nature of the customers’ business, industry and technology advances in the markets would serve as an enhancement to your journey as successful CSM.

What is the common piece of advice that you find yourself giving over and over to aspiring Customer Success Managers?

Creative Agility, There will never be a single tried and trusted way to inspire your customers.

Creative agility involves quickly pursuing multiple experiments, learning from the outcomes, and then adjusting strategies.

I heard TradeGecko is hiring for Customer Success position. Are you the one who will be interviewing candidates personally?

Yes :)
Do feel free to submit your application on TradeGecko’s career page.

*What’s your favorite interview question to ask senior Customer Success Manager? Or a new Customer Success Manager? *

For an experienced Customer Success Manager, I’ll be inclined to ask what is their playbook, meaning, what strategies have they used that were successful in their CSM journey so far.

For new entrants to the Customer Success field, I’d love to ask questions around their personal mission, vision and aspirations in regards to the role and how impactful they think the role will be in the organization.