What better way to become a chief customer officer for a company than by starting out as a customer yourself? Like much else in Ruben Rabago’s career journey, it wasn’t necessary planned but has become the next natural step.
Atlanta-based Intellum, which provides a software platform to help companies offer customer education programs, formally announced the hiring of Rabago as its chief customer officer on Monday.
Rabago comes to Intellum from Gainsight, best known as a vendor of customer success tools, where he served as chief strategist. Gainsight uses Intellum as part of its own customer education efforts, which is how Rabago was first introduced to the company, he said. Among other accomplishments, he is also the co-author of The Customer Success Professional’s Handbook, which was published early this year.
Before that, Rabago admitted he had an unlikely path to a chief customer officer role, starting out as a software developer and moving into engineering, project management and eventually customer success jobs in sectors such as health care.
“It wasn’t the internal metrics that excited me. It was always the external impact on customers,” Rabago told 360 Magazine in an interview on his first day at Intellum. “In markets like health-care, for example, there’s a very purpose-driven mission you’re serving. I wasn’t doing the surgeries or the cancer research, but I was helping to create solutions and products that would help the clinicians that would do their jobs better.”
Rabago said he sees a similar opportunity at Intellum, where he hopes to foster a stronger awareness about the common sense but possibly overlooked connection between customer success and education.
“I think it’s not considered sexy,” he explained, “but if you think about it, customer success is really about closing the gap between the capabilities of a platform and how a customer uses it. How they do that is intensely educating the customer. Those in customer success can be good at talking about best practices, or leveraging the platform. What the (customer success) practice hasn’t quite figured out is how to do that at scale — doing it by default every time they engage a customer.”
Gregory Rose, Intellum’s chief experience officer, noted that Rabago was among the few with the right background and track record for this particular chief customer officer role. After all, Intellum needs to help not only its customers, but it’s customers’ customers become more successful with its platform.
“All companies are very good at selling their customers specific outcomes. That is what sales is. The truth is, they’re really bad at ensuring that they achieve those outcomes,” he said.
In a customer education context, for example, an organization might look at the number of completions for an online training program, Rose explained. A completion rate that rises from 5,000 to 7,000 completions might look like success, but that may only scratch the surface. Instead, companies should assess how customer education contributes towards a more specific business objective, like the utilization of a product.
“From the beginning, these initiatives should be structured from an engagement standpoint,” he said.
Rabago agreed, suggesting that there is a direct correlation when customers receive the right education at the right time and metrics such as customer satisfaction (CSAT). As chief customer officer, however, he likened his approach to one of an active listener who could help not only ensure that customers are able to fully recognize and leverage the full capabilities of Intellum’s platform, but to align their strategy to the art of the possible that customers don’t even realize is there.
“When I was launching my own education solution, I had a conception in my head that I wanted it to be fresh, to be really nice, to be appealing visually, to have a Spotify kind of experience,” he recalled. “I had big dreams, but nobody to bounce these ideas off of. I engaged a number of adult learning experts, and companies that built online solutions, but they were very tactical in their execution. I want to help our customers go beyond that.”
Shane Schick tells stories that help people innovate, and to manage the change innovation brings. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of Marketing magazine and has also been Vice-President, Content & Community (Editor-in-Chief), at IT World Canada, a technology columnist with the Globe and Mail and Yahoo Canada and is the founding editor of ITBusiness.ca. Shane has been recognized for journalistic excellence by the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance and the Canadian Online Publishing Awards.