AiThority Interview with Carole McCluskey, Chief Customer Officer at Tealium
Hi Carole, please tell us about your current role and how you started at Tealium.
In July of 2019, after a 35-year career, I decided that life is short and took a career break to focus on full-time endurance training. I was thinking about Ironman events and enjoying what I was calling pre-retirement. COVID interrupted the endurance sporting world and midway through 2020, it became clear that the world would eventually get back to normal, but my plans to be a full time athlete were somewhat challenged. I began doing some consulting for a startup here in Las Vegas and sometime around October got a call from Ted Purcell, Tealium’s chief revenue officer, about the chief customer officer opportunity at Tealium.
I’ve known Ted since 2009 when he was at SAP and I was running technology at Coinstar/Redbox. The idea of working with Ted sounded great and taking on a CCO role was intriguing. I’ve spent the last 15 years doing more traditional technology leadership (CIO/CTO) work, but the first part of my career was spent leading professional services and customer success for technology companies. Getting the chance to bring those two perspectives together as CCO is a dream come true.
I’m the first CCO at Tealium and I’m using the opportunity to create a culture driven by a passion for the customer and a focus on tangible customer outcomes. After so many years of being a CIO/CTO, I know first-hand the challenges of realizing ROI in technology investments, so I want my organization to offer and deliver practical and valuable services centered on value realization.
You have been an advisor and CEO to a technology company. How have these roles improved your understanding of marketing and its relationship with customer success engagements?
I have had a very unique career. I have had the privilege of working in both the buy side and the sell side of technology. My early career was spent doing technical professional services work and really honed my situational fluency. As I grew professionally and found myself with a V-title and then a C-title, I learned that success comes through shared goals, understanding and plans.
Through the years, just like technology, marketing and customer success have changed dramatically. When I first started working in technology, in the mid 80s, marketing was more often about direct mail (via mailers) and lead generation. Today, marketing done well is focused on internal and external activation and it’s key to a company’s overall success.
Collaboration between C-suite executives is critical and the digital transformation happening in businesses today often comes to life through digital platforms that ultimately interact directly with a company’s customers. Customer-facing digital platforms are most often shaped by a company’s chief marketing officer and today, those individuals are technically aware and more often than not, know more about the martech stack than the CIO or CTO.
In customer success, the level of engagement with Marketing is critical, because there is a shared set of goals around customer success that lead to brand advocacy that ultimately drives long term customer relationships.
What is the most modernized definition of customer success? How do you differentiate these with customer experience?
Customer success is defined by the degree of value a customer gets from their relationship with a company. Customer experience is defined by moments where a customer works with part of a company’s offering – software/service/support/
In my world, driving customer success for Tealium, a customer is successful when they can fully articulate the value they derive from implementing Tealium’s customer data platform (CDP). They can describe their customer experience through the ways we helped them achieve the value.
How is Tealium‘s customer acquisition strategy different from other technology-selling companies? Tell us a little bit about your strategy for 2021?
Tealium is breaking new ground in the CDP space and as such much of our strategy is helping existing and potential customers understand the power of a customer data platform. Our marketing team is building offerings intended to educate and excite customers about the power of data activation and our customer success team is enabling our customers to activate their data with our CDP in innovative ways.
How easy or hard is it to automate your work methodologies? Would you rather have an AI /virtual assistant take care of your job?
Customer success is an evolving artform. It is an art rather than a science simply because a customer-focused organization can’t solely rely on digital signals like AI to determine customer health but must actively engage with real people and real problems to show empathy and the understanding necessary for trust and long-term value to be realized. We are working with Gainsight to better organize and orchestrate our customer journey at Tealium, but the platform is meant to be an extension of our customer success organization and not a replacement of good old-fashioned relationship building.
Can you share a piece of advice to every female professional in marketing or sales in the tech domain?
“You be you!” In the tech world, men still have the majority of leadership, development, innovation, and sales jobs. When we go to apply for jobs in those companies, we more often than not see more men than women in the interview process or reflected in the leadership team. Don’t let that scare you.
As young girls, we are conditioned to be all sorts of things that girls should be: nice, polite, quiet, careful, sweet, pretty… dare I say “perfect.” Boys are more often conditioned to be smart, brave, competitive, strong, independent. In the work world, the traits that boys are rewarded for are the ones we most often equate with professional success.
Women can be polite and brave. Women can be pretty and strong. Women can be sweet and competitive. Be brave in being yourself. Show emotion when it is warranted. Be competitive and go for jobs that scare you and where you think you don’t have every skill or experience listed in the job spec.
Women come in all shapes and sizes. As an always-out lesbian, I consciously focused on being myself from day 1. It hasn’t been easy, and I faced my share of challenges, but I have had an amazing career that came from being myself, learning to embrace change, and running toward things that often really scared me.
Thank you, Carole! That was fun and we hope to see you back on AiThority.com soon.
Carole McCluskey is a seasoned executive with experience on both the sell side and buy side of technology. An empathic leader, she is passionate about making customers wildly successful and inspiring the organizations responsible for doing so.
She has been the chief information and technology officer at TrueBlue, MOD Pizza and Outerwall (the automated retail solutions developer responsible for redbox®, Coinstar® and ecoATM®) and held executive customer success roles at TIBCO Software, Sage Intacct, and Edifecs. She serves on the board of directors for Myndshft and advises a number of early stage technology companies. She earned her B.S. in Industrial Technology-Digital Systems from California State University at Fresno.
Tealium revolutionizes today’s digital businesses with a universal approach to customer data orchestration – spanning web, mobile, offline and Internet of Things devices. With the power to unify customer data into a single source of truth, Tealium offers a turnkey integration ecosystem supporting more than 1,000 client-side and server-side vendors and technologies.
The Tealium Customer Data Hub encompasses tag management, API hub, customer data platform and data management solutions that enable organizations to leverage real-time data to create richer, more personalized digital experiences across every team, technology, and customer touchpoint.