Inside Arena: Get to Know High-Tech Customer Success Coach Lori Austin
With continued advancements in smart technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI), high-tech companies are having to manage greater product complexity to fulfill consumer demand for more personalized experiences. To compound matters, unforeseen events like the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in part shortages and other supply chain shocks, making it difficult for companies to deliver products on schedule.
We asked Arena Customer Success Coach Lori Austin to tell us more about her role and discuss how she helps companies address these challenges through the adoption of cloud-based product lifecycle management (PLM) software.
Shelly: Please tell us about your professional background and how you arrived at Arena.
Lori: I started out providing customer support as a software engineer and then transitioned to the hardware realm where I performed configurations. Eventually, I went to work for a supply chain company that was partnering with a smart surveillance manufacturer named Pivot3. At the time I knew nothing about Arena; however, I ended up helping Pivot3 configure Arena PLM to manage their product development and supply chain activities. I also created instructions on how to use the platform and conducted trainings for their users.
From that point on, whenever a customer needed to gain greater control and visibility over their product data, I would put the information into Arena and administer it for them. I did that for quite some time until I moved to another supply chain company named Riverwood Solutions. There, I ran a group that would perform PLM implementations and admin services. After working at Riverwood for several years, I applied for the customer success coach position at Arena.
Shelly: Describe your role as a customer success coach.
Lori: I’m basically here to support customers in their PLM journey. I help them get the most out of Arena and provide best practice guidance so they can meet their product development milestones.
Shelly: How does your team partner with customer support, solution architects, and other groups across the organization?
Lori: The solution architects are the first group to engage with customers and help them implement Arena. Once the system is fully deployed, customers mainly interact with our support team and success coaches.
The support team answers day-to-day “how to” questions that are associated with using Arena PLM. If the inquiry is more complex, and it becomes more of a best practice that impacts the customer’s business operations, then my team is brought into the loop.
Our solution architects will get involved again if a customer has additional data to add to the system or if they have in-depth technical questions.
If we find that customers require additional functionality, such as a quality module, or if they want to add more users to the system, we will notify our account management team to make the necessary arrangements.
Shelly: What are the core operating principles for Arena’s customer success coaches?
Lori: Our operational experience is our guiding light. With that, we aim to:
- Listen to our customers,
- React to what they’ve asked in a timely fashion, and
- Arm ourselves with a set plan and action items to help them reach their goal
Shelly: What makes Arena’s customer success coaches so unique?
Lori: Arena’s customer success coaches have decades of hands-on experience solving real-world problems with PLM software. Most of us have been customers of Arena at some point in our careers. We understand the fundamentals and best practices for utilizing the system and getting the desired results.
As our group continues to grow, we’re able to serve our 1,400+ customers across a wide range of industries including medical devices, aerospace and defense, electric vehicle technology, clean tech, consumer electronics, and high-tech electronics which is my area of focus.
Other PLM companies may claim to have a customer success team; however, most of those individuals really function as account managers and focus on selling as opposed to coaching.
Shelly: Can you describe any programs or initiatives that your team has rolled out to optimize the customer experience?
Lori: Voice of the Customer (VoC) is a big deal at Arena. As coaches, we’ve established a process to gather customer feedback and gain insights into what new PLM functionality or enhancements are on their “must-have” list. We relay this information to the product team so they can prioritize changes to be included in future software releases.
Shelly: Is there a particular tool or process that you lean on to effectively serve customers?
Lori: Our team maintains a list that flags customers who have not been in contact with us for an extended period. I typically reach out to those customers to ensure that everything is running smoothly and that they are utilizing Arena PLM to its fullest potential. I also make it a point to remind them of our latest software releases and address any questions that arise.
Microsoft Teams and Zoom are the main systems that we use to engage with customers. They can quickly schedule time to chat with us via a convenient online calendar tool. We ensure that all our conversations are documented and distributed to customers for future reference and to keep everyone on the same page.
Shelly: What are some of the common product development challenges that you observe with companies in the high-tech electronics industry?
Lori: These days, the main challenge for our high-tech customers is navigating supply chain issues. Due to increasing product complexity, customers are now working with an expansive set of assemblies which rely on other parts and subassemblies. This interdependency makes the sourcing of substitute parts more challenging when confronted with ongoing shortages.
We help customers identify different ways they can configure Arena to accommodate supply chain variations. Most customers leverage our integrations with electronic component databases like SiliconExpert and Octopart to check parts availability and ensure they are compliant with RoHS, REACH, and other industry regulations.
Shelly: What advice do you typically offer to customers to help maximize their investment with Arena PLM?
Lori: My top advice to customers is to just give it a try! In many instances, customers will talk about ways in which they would like to use Arena; however, they are hesitant to put those ideas into action. I encourage customers to set up a test environment, get their super users together, and experiment with a new workflow. You’ll come to the realization much sooner on what works best for you.
Shelly: What advancements do you envision for PLM over the next few years?
Lori: With the arrival of COVID and shift to remote work, more and more companies are investing in a digital transformation with cloud technology. Enterprise software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions like Arena PLM have proven to be very powerful tools, enabling dispersed product teams and supply chain partners to keep the lines of communication open and maintain operational efficiency.
Building off that, customers will continue to integrate PLM with other systems that they use regularly. We’ve already seen the integration of enterprise resource planning (ERP) and engineering design solutions. Eventually, communication platforms and data warehouses will be added to the mix.
In terms of workflows, I think there will be a growing demand for additional functionality with requirements management to help speed the delivery of high-quality products.
Shelly: What excites you most about working at Arena?
Lori: Aside from the fact that I absolutely love helping customers, I really enjoy the culture here at Arena. The management team respects their employees. There is encouragement from the organization to grow professionally and yet maintain a healthy work-life balance.
Shelly: What activities do you enjoy in your spare time?
Lori: I’ve taken up running as part of my morning workout regimen, and I enjoy relaxing at the beach during my weekend visits to Florida. Another favorite hobby is taking photos of space launches.
Shelly: Thanks for giving us an inside look at the Arena customer success team. We look forward to catching up with you in the future!
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