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Why You Must Become an Expert in Your Domain with Tim Smith, Stripe

FinTech is a dynamic industry where technology and finance converge. Gaining a competitive edge demands more than just innovative solutions. 

Tim Smith, Head of Global Customer Success and Product Sales, Stripe, joined the LEARN podcast to share his tactics to build professional services during his time at Box and his valuable insights on success in FinTech. 

From crafting mission-driven teams to integrating customer education, Tim delves into the importance of creating a team of domain experts and the necessity of a commercial mindset in FinTech and technology. 

Building successful professional services

Tim was in charge of building professional services at Box and he shared his keys to success 

First, it’s essential to make services packaged and easy to buy for customers to provide a predictable, straightforward experience. 

“You just want the customers to say, ‘yes,’ they often have a budget for services,” Tim says. “What you don’t want to do is make it complicated and difficult for them to buy. So we really try to focus on being packaged and predictable.”

Second, building a mission-driven team where individuals are not just passionate about services but also committed to the company’s vision. 

Lastly, leveraging the professional services organization as a talent engine, where team members can grow and transition into other roles within the company.

“It’s a place where you can take people out of other fields,” Tim says. “Out of non-tech industry companies and, find the fits for your company culture and grow them into other roles. I had a ton of people in my time at Box who went to the product org. We were a big feeder there. Certainly the SA and SE communities, even some AEs in my time there. That’s something that really worked well.”

Building this talent engine requires the right personnel, Tim recommends looking for candidates with drive, a strong sense of urgency, polish, and care, and employees who learn fast and are committed to continuous learning

Integrating customer education with professional services

Tim emphasized the importance of integrating customer education within the professional services offering at Box. By providing tailored training and support, the team could drive better product adoption and customer satisfaction. 

“There were these people that would take the same class over and over again, just cause they loved being part of that education experience,” Tim says. “So, eventually our pro-serve customers would just come back to us and be like, ‘Hey, we want some private training.’

In response to this demand, Tim’s team created custom training for different use cases, workflows, and company culture, and customers were willing to pay premium rates for these courses.

“There were like 10 people on that [customer education] team, and we just had a deep backlog of both public and custom training” Tim says. “And, it was a great product, and a lot of fun and just was part of our service offering.”

From pro services to customer success: becoming a domain expert

Transitioning to Stripe, Tim experienced the unique aspects of the FinTech industry. He realized the importance of CSMs being domain experts, deeply understanding the complexities of global financial rails and payment systems. 

“The biggest insight is I’ve realized that CSMs need to be domain experts,” Tim says. “FinTech is kind of wild in general, I don’t know what I thought FinTech was when I came in. I thought, it’s like a tech company, but you do financial things.

“It’s more than that. It’s like you’re a tech company, but you sit on the global financial rails, which is a thing that’s largely out of your control. And so you have to become an expert in that, and you have to become an expert in, payments and all the things around payments. You have to have a love of that and getting into the weeds because that’s your day-to-day value to your customers; that you understand the world they live in, the pains of it, the upside.”

CSMs serve as consultants who understand your business and can tell you how to optimize the product to get the most from your business. This level of expertise enables CSMs to deliver high value and drive customer satisfaction.

The commercial mindset in CS

CSMs at Stripe have ownership of the commercial relationship with customers, including discussions around finances and payment systems. 

While not negotiating fees, CSMs regularly discuss financial aspects with customers, ensuring transparency and focusing on delivering high ROI. This unique approach in the payments industry emphasizes the need for CSMs to have a commercial mindset and be comfortable discussing these details and driving upsells.

“The setup we have at Stripe is all CSMs work with an AE and they basically own the full extent of the commercial relationship with the customer,” Tim says. “The accounts pricing and how much they’re spending on Stripe and how much they’re spending on card network fees are just an active part of your conversation all the time. You’re part of the customer’s ROI equation, both in terms of The uplift that you bring them, the fraud you help them prevent, and also what they spend on you directly. 

“We’re not negotiating the fees, but we’re talking about them all the time. And that’s just a part of FinTech. And at first, I didn’t know how I’d feel about it, but I actually think it’s great. It’s not like the financial piece of the relationship is a secret. Everybody knows exactly what it is in the relationship, and I think it actually increases transparency with our users.”

Tim’s experiences at Box and Stripe highlight the importance of a mission-driven team, the integration of customer education, the value of becoming a domain expert, and the need for a commercial mindset in customer success. By implementing these learnings, organizations can enhance their customer success strategies and drive sustainable growth in the technology and FinTech industries.

Listen to the full episode to hear more from Tim. Subscribe to the LEARN podcast on Apple, Spotify, or YouTube for more insights and advice from top SaaS leaders. 

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