Human of Tech – Adam Volpe

This month, we had a pleasure of chatting with Adam Volpe, VP of Customer Success at Sortable in Kitchener-Waterloo. Adam is an expert in his field and he took some time to let us in on his secrets.

Congratulations on the recent move to Sortable (and we are pleased to have helped)! We’d love to hear about why you decided to join them.

I joined Sortable for many reasons, but mostly because it is a scrappy company that had corporate values that closely matched mine. It was also understanding Chris’ (our CEO) journey to this point in Sortable. His own values and cultural expectations felts like a great fit.

What are some of the biggest changes and trends you’ve seen in the customer success space in your career?

The biggest change I’ve seen in customer success in my career is the focus on keeping existing customers happy. Companies are really starting to get it. It’s not just about retaining customers, but truly happy customers are more loyal, will spend more with you, will help your product improve by providing great (and relevant) feedback and they are also often your best sales tool. There is really no downside to a company that puts their primary focus in finding and keeping the right customers.

What are you most proud of, professionally?

I’d say I’m most proud of my ability to assess the state of an org, quickly identify what is most critical and build a strong team of dedicated professionals to execute on a unified vision. And doing so successfully within organizations of various sizes, from startup to large, mature enterprises. I’m also very proud of the teams I have helped to build, the successes we’ve had and the close relationships I’ve formed along the way.

What are some common misconceptions people have about Customer Success? Why do you feel it’s integral to a tech company’s success?

One of the most common misconceptions people have about CS is that it’s just a re-branded sales org, focused on up-sell to existing customers. When done right, this couldn’t be further from the truth. CS’s real value is being expert users of a solution, knowing how best a customer can take advantages of all an organization has to offer and looking for thoughtful ways to continue to provide greater and greater value to our customers. If up-sell happens, it’s organic and done with the genuine perspective that that additional offering is in the best interest of the customer and will help them grow and succeed as a business.

A great Customer Success org is also able to quickly assess if a customer isn’t a good fit, and work for a way to communicate that to a customer and help point them to a solution that would be more suited. Having customers that aren’t a good fit for your product creates significant unnecessary work internal and will ultimately lead to churn – it’s just a matter of time. So, it’s integral to a companies success because it helps to ensure all resources are spending their efforts on the right customers and it builds loyalty through strong, honest relationships, both internally and externally.

Working in the tech industry can be very demanding, what do you do outside work to maintain energy?

I like to stay very active, spending time with my wife and 2 amazing kids. Outside of that, much of my energy is spend training in Martial Arts. I’m currently a Black Sash instructor in Kung Fu and train several times a week. I also love mountain biking and snowboarding when I can.

Wow! You’re an accomplished martial artist. What lessons have you taken from your outside practice and applied to your work?

Many 🙂 But the most important lessons have been that nothing can replace having a plan, hard work and building strong relationships with the people that are on the journey with you. I wouldn’t be successful in my professional life or my Martial Arts career without having a strong team to support me in every situation.

You must have interesting observations about the evolution of Kitchener-Waterloo’s tech scene. What has been the coolest thing you’ve seen develop here?

The coolest thing I’ve seen develop in KW is the amazing growth and diversity that came out of the downsizing of RIM (BlackBerry). Like many others in the region, I worked at RIM for many years and when things started to decline there, at first there was a concern that it would be difficult to find other opportunities as interesting and rewarding as the work we did at RIM. It’s amazing to see that hasn’t been the case at all.

RIM helped to draw and develop an amazing talent pool that took the lessons learned from that experience and build amazing companies and careers that further diversified the region to be stronger and even more interesting. They took a potentially devastating downsizing and made it more positive than any of us could have imagined.

What advice do you have for leaders and entrepreneurs looking to hire great people and establish a strong customer success practice?

Surround yourself with smart, hardworking people that you enjoy spending time with. Treat them like your family, support them, lift them up, help them grow and be honest with them. Teach them what it means to really be part of a strong family, then help them extend that experience to your customers. If you treat your team and your customers like your family, you can’t really go wrong