CX Insights

CX Insights Episode 3: Customer Success for Enterprise AI with Bethany Ayers

Bethany Ayers is the Chief Revenue Officer and Chief Customer Officer at Peak.
Bethany is helping Peak to further scale its growth by leading an expert customer success organization, dedicated to providing customers – which include established brands such as PepsiCo, ASOS and boohoo – with a great experience from the first touch through to ongoing delivery.
She has a successful track record helping high-growth SaaS businesses succeed with experience in GTM strategy, scaling sales organizations, partnerships, and fundraising.
Her expertise as a Notion Capital expert and as a member of the London Revenue Collective.
She regularly writes and speaks on topics including leadership, SaaS metrics, fundraising, and women in tech.

Here are some of the highlights from this episode:
• GTM & Customer Journey
• KPIs & Metrics
• Scaling Customer Success Team
• Customer Success
• Customer Retention


I know it’s a bit hard to be in a profession that’s not yet defined and means so many things to so many people, but it’s means that it’s an opportunity to create it, to be whatever you want and to make a career that you would not necessarily be able to make an, a more standard industry or a more standard function.

Welcome to the show. Our guest for today’s episode is Bethany Ayers. She’s the chief revenue officer and the chief customer officer at Peak. Bethany, welcome to the show. Hi, thanks for having me. Absolutely Bethany. Tell us a little bit about yourself. yes. So as you said, I’m chief customer officer at peak, and I’m also chief revenue officer, just because I’m looking for my replacement rather than trying to hold both roles at the same time.

Because my background is actually from sales strategy, product marketing and have found my way into looking after the totality of the customers at beak. Outstanding. And tell us a little bit about what Peak does and I saw like you guys are in the enterprise AI space. So tell us a little bit more.

So we primarily serve service customers that are about a billion turnover plus, in retail, manufacturing and CPG as our three main areas. and we’re working with customers too. Transform their businesses placing AI at the heart of it. within the entire value chain. It sounds a bit jargony to say that.

So within, from marketing, through planning and, supply chain and how we interconnect all of those three areas. So you can imagine there’s some pretty big transformation mill, projects that we’re working on and solutions that we’re delivering. absolutely. This is such an exciting area. And quite frankly, there’s a lot of interest from enterprise companies.

It sounds like sits into billion. Plus you’re mostly focusing on the large enterprise, maybe a little bit mid-market is that correct? It is. and we’ve definitely, so I started at peak two years ago and at that point we were like a hundred million to a billion was our sweet spot. And we still have customers in that area.

but we have discovered that actually the customers who really want to work with us are the billion plus customers. And so we have been very much pulled. Upstream rather than making strategic decisions to do that. That’s super cool. And it’s really interesting to see that, discovery playing a role in how your, you know, looking at customers.

And, let’s talk a little bit about the GTM and the customer journey in this case, because especially when you were managing customers of those size, you know, enterprise, primarily the buyer team. Are usually a different set of players than the team that actually consumes the product or consumes the AI and puts it to use.

I don’t know if you’re seeing some of that, I would love to know sort of how you’re going about serving those customers across the life cycle of the buyers and consumers of the product are slightly different. They are definitely different. so when we go in to sell, we’re talking quite often to, head of supply chain, CMO, head of merchandising, let’s say you’re head of planning.

but in order to get sign off and to really partner with peak, they’re bringing us up to the senior management. We’re talking to boards, And pretty much anybody who has a C in front of their title, or pretty much anybody has a head of in front of the title. Doesn’t actually know what happens, day to day in a business.

So they have a very transformational forward-looking view wanting to move as fast as they possibly can. And then, we have, the discovery was actually happening. what are the processes that we actually need to enhance? Augment change in order to roll out, the AI, the technology within the solution, and then integrate it back in.

And so we actually end up with a lot of change management and, engagement with users as we’re going through this process. So it becomes taking everybody along on the journey and then through QBR, right. Reporting back up to senior management, what it is that we’re actually achieving and the KPIs that we’re delivering.

But day to day, it’s about understanding the process, process, mapping, how people actually do their jobs and how we can make their jobs better. Very cool. So you guys are able to address the actual consumers through process changes through change management and of course, taking care of the buyers, through EBRs QBR.

So that that’s, that sounds really good. You know, one of the intriguing things, at least for me in the spaces, there’s this promise of AI, which has, Hey, let’s deploy AI. We’ll get so much Valley or supply chain will be more efficient or marketing will be more effective and all of those things.

Right. And then there’s the actual reality, which is, Hey, we need to really have our data in the right place or our processes need to be well-defined before we even think about AI. So how do you guys work with enterprises who may be different? Sort of stages of readiness for AI, for lack of a better word.

Like they may like, they may want to deploy AI, but the way their infrastructure is, they may not be ready for AI. So how do you guys deal with that? Yeah, so that’s definitely, what we do all the time. Cause nobody’s ready. Like every single meeting we go into, the first thing you hear is our data’s in an absolute mess.

There’s no way you could use our data. It’s very embarrassing. The state of it. But you hear it every single time. And so you’re like, no, no, no. Like data is fine. We can help you. We can get better with it. But the good news with AI versus BI is BI. Everything needs to be perfect. You have to reconcile a hundred percent because it matters when you’re reporting how much money you’ve made.

You to the Pence that you’re accurate. Whereas AI, it’s so much broader than that. And a lot of it is predictive that you, your data needs to be accessible, but it doesn’t need to be perfect. And we can actually use algorithms to connect your data to then run. The modeling on top of it. So people’s data is a lot closer to ready than they think.

So that’s, that would be lesson number one that we hear about. And then the other one is taking people along on the journey and that’s actually where things fail rather than process or technology. And that’s the area that we focus on because if people aren’t going to buy into it or view AI as really scary and going to take their jobs right.

They will, like set up mines every bit of the way and put two out. So it’s about getting people involved, their buy-in and their understanding that we’re actually gonna make their lives easier. but they will still have a job that, where we’re focusing in on. And, and it’s that. Element that we talked to and we actually talked to senior management about, and we very much talk about being the partner in the AI journey.

So we know tons about operationalizing AI and they know tons about their business, whatever their business might be. And it’s convert. It’s the conversion of those two together. That means we can do something amazing. Amazing. Yeah, I love it because, I think it’s really important for customers to understand that yes, they may be in different stage of readiness, but AI is there to help not replace them, especially in enterprise AI.

And quite frankly, a lot of your customers would have the domain expertise. and you bring in that AI infrastructure and technology to help them. basically make, make their areas more effective. You know, one interesting part that came to my mind as I was researching questions for you, Bethany was you’re the CRL.

You are the. Chief customer officer as well. So you’re, you’re basically having both roles, at least at this point until you find your, you know, the right CRO for the company, but what’s your perspective on this unique role? I mean, on one hand you have a great vantage point that you can engage customers across the life cycle, the pre-sales as well as post-sales on the other hand, do you feel sometimes that you’re.

Negotiating with yourself. So I do have a leadership team, so, marketing sales, customer success, and then our customer operations, our data scientists all, are under my remit. And so it’s not just me negotiating with myself. It’s, it’s my team negotiating with each other.

If you think about the reason why we’re all working and what we’re trying to do is grow an amazing company that we all love working for and help transform every business, and move everybody into the fourth industrial revolution. It shouldn’t be around which KPIs. So do I sell more, but then actually end up struggling with churn or having unhappy customers?

Do I. Want to make sure we can deliver a hundred percent of every, every promise and therefore kind of underwhelming the sales and not sell as much. And neither one of those is best for peak. And so if we’re all looking about what’s best for the company, it’s actually working together and pushing a little bit to get that little bit extra growth, but in a way that is deliverable.

And so. I think it’s very important and actually really enjoying having my role where I’m looking at and making sure that we are thinking about that customer, thinking about customers outcomes, what value they’re driving, working with peak, and also then being able to deliver that and drive those outcomes and spend time working as a team to help customers rather than as a team in fighting over which KPI is more important. 📍

Absolutely. And it’s great that you’re helping them sort of get aligned in the right direction and, creating outcomes and value for the customer. which brings me to my next question, which is, you know, almost every customer is interested in valuing enterprise customers, even more so, and looking at more sort of tangible value, or at least proofs of, Hey, are we getting the ROI?

Are we creating more value? within the company? And maybe even for their customers and partners, how do you work with customers, wearing different hats and helping customers understand that yes, they are getting value. Here’s the tangible or sometimes intangible view of that value. How do you guys do that with customers?

Part of it. And I guess maybe the benefit of my wider role is that we can make sure to build it in from the very start and how we engage with customers and what are the use cases that we’re discussing and the business cases that we build in. And then those use cases and business cases and KPIs and metrics that are recorded at the beginning of the sales cycle, or then carry through throughout the entirety of.

Oh life cycle of a customer that you guys actually take a snapshot of the business performance now versus later, and kind of do a compare. Is that how that works? We do if we’re building a business case. So what we often do in our presales is get access to customer’s data and run analysis of where and create the business case through real data.

And so then we’re able to have a snapshot that we can talk through. and then the other one that we use is just something that I think all customer or not all customers, all listeners can do is we, it sounds a bit consulting aid, but we just use it. Has a concept of our vision and scope from the start.

And so we have a living document that is our vision and scope from the time it enters pipeline all the way through to delivery. So we have everything captured in a single living document that was shared with customers along the way. So it’s very easy to demonstrate in and explain value across the whole process.

Yeah, that makes a ton of sense. and you know, as you rallied your team internally, and then you’ve delivered value to customers, then you work with customers across the life cycle. What is probably the most. Difficult thing that you’ve learned, like something that has been super challenging and told us to ask, like, you may, I may have asked this question yourself, like, why are the customers doing this?

Or why is this happening or what is like the number one, most difficult thing you’ve learned in the process. And of course you guys must have overcome that, but I would love to know kind of, what’s been the challenge in this space. so I don’t know if it’s like my number one challenge, but the thing that I think I’ve been most surprised by coming from a very commercial sales background into the world of customer operations is how not commercial people tend to be.

And so it would just things like we would go for, Customer reviews, like on a weekly basis, we run through our customers what’s happening with them and the report didn’t list, how much are they were? And just like, but in the customer team was thinking about the impact of what’s the relative value of these customers too peak.

and I found that very surprising because obviously coming from a sales and marketing world where everything is measured and everybody cares about how the dollars every day, how that could even. B was very surprising to me. And so I don’t want to change the customer success team where they all customers are important.

We want to delight and make all of our customers successful, but we also need to have it in context of value to peak. So I think that was for me. And maybe I have, I will see if I’ve hit the right. Compromise there, but I think everybody should be thinking about contract value. I don’t know. What do you think?

I agree. I think that makes, does it make a difference? And I think there is also a couple of different, second pieces of segmentation. There. One is yes, large customers who may have large contracts with us. On the other hand, there might be customers who may not have a large contract value. However, their, potential to grow is super high, which means we could be potentially be able to do more business with these customers, even though their contract by lead today may be low.

And those may be sort of high potentials as well to think about from a customer success standpoint. Do you agree? Or do you see that? Yeah, I absolutely agree. but I think it’s important to have those types of thoughts rather than just, how do I make this customer successful at all cost versus with finite resource?

How do we make this customer successful? But this one really successful at all costs. I totally agree. And I think there’s something to be said about. You know, I don’t, it’s not always that customer is expecting delight in every single transaction or engagement with you, but they’re definitely expecting value.

So I think I’m looking at customer value versus customer delight is probably also a useful way to look at it. Definitely like surprising and delighting is a nice icing on the cake. But if you don’t deliver value, they just don’t really care about those other pieces. Absolutely. So now that we’re talking a little bit about customer success as well, and then of course, you’ve got the sales team, the marketing team, et cetera with you.

I think that leaves maybe product teams and marketing, marketing to the user, but product and finance, maybe a little bit about your vertical or domain at this point. So how do you coordinate with the product teams on one hand? And let’s say the finance teams or other teams that are out there. how do you coordinate and make sure that they are aligned, they’re engaged with the, with the goals and objectives that you’re driving for your customers?

Well, so we have a senior leadership team. We call it the management team because we’re quite humble at peak, but just if I call it a management team, you might be a bit confused. So I’m translating. and that is, so CIO, CTO, CFO, And so those that’s where we CEO obviously. and that’s where we align to, agree the overarching strategy and objectives we run.

OKR is like every other company I suspect in Silicon Valley and every other tech company, except for Salesforce. and so that really helps us stay aligned and then we have different interconnects. across the teams. So product works with product marketing, which works to then we, our marketing piece and enabling the sales team customer success feeds more the other way into product for customer requirements.

Our data science team are the biggest users of our products. So they are, you know, end users fit, feeding up loads of information. and then product send. The results back down and some training and new feature releases, and then finance sits on the forecast calls. We have chats with finance quite regularly on, UN what we’re expecting and, do joint end of month reporting.

So we know all of our numbers are the same and our understanding of the businesses, the same, And then the people pay him obviously helps support everybody. I knew there was, I was forgetting how I forget the people guilty. So the people’s pay, make sure that everything is consistent in the way that we train and develop, and support.

And how are you guys thinking about sort of hiring and retaining sort of the talent pool, because you have a lot of talent, but you’ve got customer success, customer operations, of course, marketing of course, a sales organization as well. How do you. How do you look at this as a strategic, you know, dimension of your company, which it is right.

The talent is like probably the number one thing. that is like an asset as you, deliver value to your customers. Yeah, it really is. So we both have, We have a standard process for hiring. So it’s like a first round interview chat around values and competency and make sure that you fit both of those.

You can do your job and you have the values shared values with peak. Second round is an assessment. And so everybody actually does some level of test including customer success. it’s not just about the presentation. It’s a proper couple hour assessment on. Hey, so you don’t get a lot of time to prepare.

And then a third interview with a founder again, to make sure that, that culture fit is there. That values fit is there. So that’s, and that process goes for all of our roles. and we’ve gotten really good at that. So we’re bringing it up on currently 10 to 20 new. Look 10 people a month, probably 10 to 15 a month.

So, so we’re fine doing everybody. Everybody goes through a boot camp and that’s not just sales, but the entire customer team and anybody else for the first week. And then the second week a specialist. And then one of our values is curious. And we view that as essential part of learning about AI growing, developing, not being afraid of change, curious to learn.

we have a big L and D program half so far, our more technical roles half a day, a week is on professional development for everybody else. and then for our managers right now, we have a. Weekly manager development course. and then every manager is responsible for running at least monthly training courses with their teams.

And so we are growing and developing everybody as quickly as we can because you can’t, you don’t have the luxury of going out and hiring a bunch of experts in AI because an enterprise AI, because it’s pretty new. And so we need to definitely build our own. That’s outstanding. And it’s great to hear that you’re, you guys are not only having a process for hiring, which is working for you, but you’re also investing in those folks as they come on board and getting, getting them onboarded, making sure that they stay curious and, help your customers.

you know, I’m interested to know sort of, since you are both the CRO and a CCO. to see how you guys are viewing business going forward. Are you guys seeing tremendous growth and opportunity in the enterprise AI space? Do you see, maybe some reserved optimism there? Like what, what is your outlook now for the next so many quarters or so given where we are with COVID and everything.

Yeah, that would be, so you have to remember where in the UK, so not only do we have COVID, but we have impending Brexit and like no real understanding or guidance as to what’s going to happen with Brexit. So other than that, yeah, absolutely. So I would say that we’re. Hitting our pipeline targets. We’re having amazing conversations with amazing brands.

COVID has definitely, and I’m sure you’ve heard this before. Sped up the need for digital transformation. People are transforming in three months, but they don’t. They take five years. We’re seeing all of that. but I also think we’re starting to experience some headwinds. So we had a furlough program in the UK that was ended and then kind of brought on a little bit, but not entirely.

There’s going to be a lot of job losses. We didn’t have the economy grow at the rate. We were expecting Brexit. And so there is a tremendous amount of desire to buy enterprise. The AI mixed with are we allowed to spend at this exact moment in time? Because we don’t know what’s going to happen. And then there’s also of course, the U S election, which affects everybody.

So we’ll see what happens in three weeks, possibly. Yeah. That uncertainty still exists, but it’s great to know that there is optimism and there is, interest in, enterprise AI. I’m quite frankly, personally, I think this is the space is poised to explode. There’s going to be a lot more AI and intelligence being driven in the enterprise.

so this is as you know, Bethany, this has been super valuable. let’s wrap up with this particular question. So if you were to share one piece of advice for the listener, What would that be? So assuming that the listener is a customer success professional, my one piece of advice is to embrace the uncertainty that is customer success.

I know it’s a bit hard to be in a profession that’s not yet defined and means so many things to so many people, but it’s means that it’s an opportunity to create it, to be whatever you want and to make a career that you would not necessarily be able to make an, a more standard industry or a more standard function.

So, If you’re bright and talented and creative and have loads of energy and good ideas, customer success is definitely Royster. Go and do something with it. Outstanding. I love that. And it’s a great field. It’s almost like you can. Pretty close to write your own job description. You can do so many things.

It can be creative, great piece of advice, Bethany, and for folks to follow you, what’s the best way for them to do that. Twitter, LinkedIn, where do you live? LinkedIn? I deleted Twitter many years ago. I don’t quite get it. So LinkedIn is definitely the place to be for me. Yeah, Bethany. It was so valuable to have you on the show.

Thank you for your expertise and advice. Take care. Great. Thanks a lot. Thanks. Abhijeet 📍