Our new Chief Customer Officer (CCO) Rachel Orston was one of Atlanta’s early tech pioneers and helped build the thriving tech community there. Rachel leads a customer success forum in Atlanta and is an avid attendee of spin classes. Her passion for customers and the customer experience is unrivaled. She’s excited to seize the opportunities that lie ahead of BetterCloud, which is what unquestionably makes Rachel the ideal new head of our customer experience organization.
Rachel has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and a Masters in Management of Technology from Georgia Institute of Technology.
Where are you from?
I’m originally from Los Angeles, so you don’t detect a southern drawl on me, even though I’ve been in Atlanta for 25 years. However, I do consider myself a Southerner now; I really love Atlanta.
It’s been an amazing journey for me to help build the tech community in Atlanta. I’m one of the early tech pioneers in Atlanta and I’m proud to be involved in the startup ecosystem here. Seeing where it is today compared to where it was a few decades ago, it’s a 180. Atlanta has become an awesome tech town.
Can you describe what your role as the chief customer officer entails?
I refer to myself as the chief friction-removal officer. Ultimately, I exist to remove friction between our customers and our value.
CCOs are not common yet, so companies that do hire a CCO view the customer experience as a competitive advantage. My overall mission is to ensure that the BetterCloud experience becomes one of our best competitive advantages.
There’s a lot beyond that of course, which involves making sure that we’re delivering an exceptional experience, unifying the company around what that means, and ultimately building a really strong “listening path.” This is vital in making sure that we’re not just listening to ourselves, which is sometimes a challenge when you’re a category creator and you’re an expert in this space.
You went to school for journalism. How did you end up on your career path? What you do seems so different than journalism.
Even though I made a sharp left and I don’t work for a newspaper or television station, I use my journalism skills all the time in my role. The skills that I use most frequently are seeking the truth, story telling, and asking good questions.
I seek the truth with customers. Sometimes we don’t want to hear certain things. My goal is to seek the truth even if it’s not always what I want to hear. It’s important that I pursue the facts in what’s happening with our customers and what’s happening with our product in the market.
The second piece is being a good storyteller. How you hook someone, how you tell a good story, and how you build a relationship with the reader is very similar to how you build a strong relationship with customers.
Journalism taught me how to ask good questions, and it’s a skill that I use all the time. In fact, asking good questions is part of my leadership style, because there are no good answers without good questions.
What makes you excited to join the BetterCloud team?
Oh my gosh, the people! I was sold on the people. Life is short, so who you work with day in and day out really matters.
Additionally, I was really swept up in where David [Politis, BetterCloud’s CEO] wants to take the business and the story of how he pivoted the company based on customers’ feedback. So much of where the company is today is based on customer relationships. That’s what had me at hello.
What do you hope to accomplish in your role here?
Ultimately, my goal is to create a thriving, healthy community of customers—a true community, beyond just BetterIT [our Slack community]. Slack is where we’re starting, but now my job is to figure out how we expand it into a city, a nation, and eventually a global movement around SaaS Ops.
I want to look back and say, “Remember how we started with BetterIT?” at a conference of 10,000 BetterCloud fans. It’s about taking what we do to a whole other level of engagement in advocacy with our customers.
Our customers love our product, our support, and the IT community we have fostered. Is it rare for customers to feel so passionately about a software company and if it is, what does it say about BetterCloud?
It is rare. I think we’re onto something in a big way, which is why I’m so excited. If you think about CEOs, usually you have sales CEOs, product-oriented CEOs, or finance CEOs. David’s a customer CEO and those are rare. I think that the passion for our customers is reflective of having a customer-oriented CEO.
What’s the biggest opportunity in front of you right now, and then what is also the biggest challenge?
The biggest opportunity is looking ahead and seeing tens of thousands of raving fans. The challenge is: How do we scale to get there? How do we work through the growing pains ahead as efficiently as possible while driving a really convenient and value-driven experience? That’s really the challenge. I see the end game clearly and it’s exciting. The challenge is just how do we get there as fast as we can without breaking too much along the way.
Can you share your leadership philosophy with us?
I think good leaders should be good coaches. I’m a coach leader—almost a silent leader. I am not shy by any means, but I do like to lead from behind. I’m really relationship driven and I prefer that my customers and employees speak and shine for me. They’re really the face of my success and if they’re successful, I’m successful.
If you make your employees highly engaged, motivated, and successful, they’ll make your customers successful. The rest falls in place.
What makes you passionate about the customer experience?
When you feel it, you know it. Have you ever just walked into a store or a venue that you’re like, “Oh my God, this is so great”? Experiences are so personal; I love them because they’re always evolving, and they’re incredibly emotional. You can feel them and you know when you’re having a good experience or a bad experience. I think one that resonates with a lot of people in Atlanta is watching an Atlanta United Game at Mercedes Benz Stadium. It’s hard not to feel the energy and excitement whether or not you are a die hard soccer fan.
My role scares some people because there’s literally an emotional aspect to it. You’re dealing with people’s emotions and feelings, but I’m just a relationship-driven person so that’s what I like about the customer experience. I like that it deals with psychology and emotion, and I think it’s what can be a differentiator in a technology.
If you could tell all BetterCloud customers one thing, what would it be?
I would want to tell them, “No one’s more committed to your success than we are.” No one is more committed. We’re all in. We’re here for the long game too, to make sure they are successful in their job.
We’re not going to stop until we are doing everything we can to make their lives easier. The word “indispensable” is what comes to mind. We’re committed to being indispensable to them in whatever way that needs to be. We’re here to listen—we want to hear from our customers. Our doors are always open; we want to make sure that we’re doing everything possible to hear what they need and how we can best serve them.
What do you do in your free time?
I love to take spin classes and I love to cook. I try to take a spin class whenever I have time. I’ve tried out a few new places while I’ve been in New York; I’m trying to find a favorite place to go while I’m here.
I cook a lot for my kids and all their friends that unexpectedly show up at my table. I make a great pasta bolognese, gazpacho, and anything with a crust.