My Eloqua Story: Building a CX Practice that Drives Revenue & Scales


Revenue Growth

In November 2011 I was hired by Eloqua President & Chief Revenue Officer, Alex Shootman, to form the Customer Experience (CX) organization and lead the corporate initiative to innovate Eloqua’s customer experience.  In this two part series I share my experience and key learnings in building a CX practice that drives revenue and scales.  Here is my story.  


Part I - The Challenge


My name is Kia Puhm. I've been in the software business for over 21 years building and leading Customer Success organizations. 


The majority of my career has been at rapidly growing software companies: building every post-sales organization required in order to serve customers and scale company growth. So my biggest challenge has predominantly been how to make customers successful in the most efficient manner while scaling with finite resources. 


And I’m not alone. 


One of the biggest concerns I hear from senior executives today is how do we structure Customer Success to drive revenue and scale. Managing an ever increasing customer base can get quite chaotic and overwhelming, so how does the leader of Customer Success manage growth in a controllable and sustainable manner? 


One of the most effective ways to do this is to align business operations to the customer journey. It was at Day Software (now Adobe) where I first started to see the power of alignment by being customer focused. That insight only solidified further at Eloqua (now Oracle) where I was brought in to lead the company on a journey to becoming a customer centric organization. 


These experiences have fundamentally changed what I focus on and how I structure business practices, because alignment of business operations to the customer journey is by far the most elegant way I've seen in driving revenue and scale. 


Today I'd like to share with you Eloqua's story in the journey toward a consistent customer experience. 


But before I do... let me ask you all a question.


When you define your customer’s journey, is it an outline of your product adoption methodology or is it truly your customer’s experience?


To date, every customer journey map I’ve seen (I’ve seen quite a few) is a version of the former, not the latter.


That's the same mistake we made at Eloqua. We described the experience from our point of view, not the customer's perspective. 


This was the biggest AHA moment I had at Eloqua (with the benefit of hindsight).  We were thinking for the customer, not like the customer, and I continually see the same mistake being made with my clients. So let me share the story... 


Some background context as to problem we were trying to solve: 

  • Eloqua was experiencing 2X YoY growth for the last 5 years 

  • They had defined the market & were the market leader 

  • They love their customers (Eloqua was definitely customer focused) & the customers loved Eloqua 

But the success model was breaking, it wasn't scalable. 


Renewal rates were dropping and below the industry standard, and user adoption was longer than it should have been. 


This erosion was not only threatening revenue, it was also affecting the ability to scale the growth of the company. 


In fact, analysis found that every 1% increase in renewal rate meant approximately $10mil cash back into the business. 


This was significant and compelling. By addressing the customer experience not only would retention be addressed, but there’d be more cash to re-invest in the growth of the business. 


So we set out on the objective to increase our renewal rate by 10% and keep customers for life. 


The idea behind the corporate Customer Experience (CX) initiative was to understand not just how to tweak, but rather completely innovate how we interacted with our customers. 


Our first step then was to understand our customers. 


We retained the services of a 3rd party consultant to conduct Voice of the Customer (VOC) and Voice of the Industry (VOI) analysis to find out what customers liked and disliked about us, as well as benchmark ourselves against best of breed SaaS companies to understand where we were falling behind. 


From the analysis we developed a Customer Bill of Rights which outlined what the customer could expect when dealing with us. This incorporated their feedback and included things like knowing where they were on their journey, having their voice heard (i.e. their questions answered) and knowing who their main point of contact was. 


Then we set out to innovate our CX. There was quite a lot of work done therefore I will summarize the key areas that had the most significant impact to our journey. We: 


  • Defined what we believed to be our customer's journey 

  • We segmented our customers based on their marketing maturity & spend potential and

  • We developed the corresponding account coverage model which meant that we outlined what Customer Success Manager (CSM) skills were required to move each of the 4 customer types through the journey. 


In other words, we defined where the customer needed to get to, where they currently were and what competencies Eloqua resources required to get customers from point A to B. 


It was very comprehensive and all built upon the feedback of what customers told us. So we were all set for success.


And then we launched.


Join me next week as I review what the outcome was and what we learned from it.

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