Unlocking Growth Through Proactive Churn Analysis: Secily Selert, Shogun


Ibby Syed

Q: Can you walk us through your career journey and what led you to your current role at Shogun?

Secily: My path into customer success was a bit unconventional. I actually started my career in journalism right out of college - I loved talking to people, uncovering stories, and communicating. From there, I transitioned into PR, doing a lot of brand management, crisis communications, and media coaching. 

But after a few years, I found myself a bit burnt out on the corporate world and eager to explore the tech startup scene. So I literally googled "best startups in New York" and stumbled upon my previous company, Conductor. They had an opening for a customer success role, and it felt like a natural progression from my background - still very focused on relationship-building, problem-solving, and communication.

I started as an individual contributor but quickly set my sights on moving into a leadership role. I saw an opportunity to bring my experience in developing soft skills and building strong relationships to the team. So I moved into a manager role, then a director role, before eventually taking some time off to start a family.

When I was ready to re-enter the workforce, Shogun really appealed to me because of their startup mentality and growth trajectory. I was excited to come in and build out the CS function and make an impact quickly. So while it wasn't a linear path, I feel like each step of my journey has informed my approach to customer success in a unique way.

Q: What do you think are the key traits or skills that differentiate top-performing CSMs?

Secily: If I had to boil it down to two things, I'd say customer empathy and a focus on driving value. The best CSMs are the ones who can really put themselves in their customers' shoes, understand their unique challenges and goals, and build genuine rapport. 

But empathy alone isn't enough - you also have to be able to translate that understanding into tangible value. I think a common mistake CSMs make is assuming that a friendly relationship or positive feedback equates to a secure renewal. But at the end of the day, if the customer isn't getting real, measurable value from your product, they're not going to stick around.

It's also important to remember that the person you're interacting with day-to-day often isn't the ultimate decision maker. So you need to be able to speak the language of the executive suite and tie your impact back to their key priorities, whether that's revenue growth, cost savings, or operational efficiency. The CSMs who can make that connection and quantify their contribution are the ones who really stand out.

Q: As you've stepped into more strategic CS leadership roles, how have you maintained visibility into frontline customer needs and pain points?

Secily: It's a great question, and something I think a lot of CS leaders grapple with as they move further away from day-to-day account management. For me, one of the most valuable tools has been really digging into our churn data and using that to inform more proactive risk mitigation.

It's easy to take customer churn at face value and assume it was just a budget issue or some other factor outside your control. But when you actually peel back the layers and analyze the data, you often find there were warning signs or missed opportunities to intervene.

So one exercise I like to do, both in previous roles and now at Shogun, is going back and auditing customers who have churned over the past few years. We'll categorize the reasons they gave for leaving, but also look for common behavioral patterns or red flags that happened during the engagement. 

For example, maybe we find that the vast majority of churned customers had fewer than two active users in the platform, or that they hadn't completed certain key milestones that we know correlate with long-term success. We can then use those insights to build out risk profiles and early warning systems, so we're reaching out proactively when customers start to exhibit those behaviors.

The other piece is making sure we have open lines of communication with our support team, who are often the first to hear about product issues or frustrations. We use shared Slack channels to surface those conversations in real-time, and then look for patterns or recurring themes that we need to escalate to product or engineering.

I'm a big believer in the power of qualitative feedback to add color and context to the quantitative data. So we also do a lot of churn interviews and post-mortem analysis, especially for our larger accounts, to really understand the story behind the numbers. It's time-consuming but so valuable.

Q: Looking ahead, how do you see the role of CS evolving, particularly when it comes to being more data-driven and proactive?

Secily: I think we're just scratching the surface of what's possible with data-driven CS. The tools and technologies are evolving so quickly, from in-app engagement tracking to sentiment analysis to predictive analytics. The challenge is figuring out how to harness all of that data in a way that's actionable and impactful.

One area I'm really excited to explore further is the intersection of product usage data and CS engagement. Historically, those have been two separate data sets owned by different teams, but I think there's so much value in bringing them together. 

For example, if we can see that customers who adopt certain features, take certain actions, or hit certain usage thresholds are far more likely to renew, that's a powerful insight we can use to shape our onboarding and success planning. Or if we notice a drop-off in usage for a particular customer segment, that's a prompt to reach out and understand what's changed in their business or what barriers they're facing. These insights can also help influence how we coach and compensate our teams to ensure they are training customers in ways that drive outcomes and ultimately lead to renewals. 

I also think automation and AI will play an increasingly important role in helping CSMs be more efficient and effective. We're already seeing things like chatbots and in-app guides being used to deflect common support issues and guide customers to resources. But I think there's also huge potential in using machine learning to analyze sentiment in customer communications, or to surface at-risk accounts based on a combination of factors.

The key is to never lose sight of the human element, though. Data and technology are incredibly powerful tools, but they're not a substitute for real relationships and customer understanding. The best CSMs will be the ones who can marry that quantitative rigor with deep qualitative insight and genuine customer advocacy. That's when the real magic happens.

In Conclusion

Our conversation with Secily underscored the vital importance of taking a data-driven, proactive approach to customer retention and growth. A few key themes emerged:

  • The best CSMs combine deep customer empathy with a relentless focus on driving measurable value and business impact.
  • Churn analysis shouldn't be a surface-level exercise - digging into the behavioral patterns and underlying stories is key to developing effective risk mitigation strategies.
  • Breaking down data silos between product usage, customer engagement, and business outcomes is a huge opportunity for CS teams to be more targeted and impactful.
  • While automation and AI will undoubtedly play a larger role in CS moving forward, the human element remains critical.

As Shogun continues to scale and evolve its CS function, Secily's unique background and customer-centric approach will undoubtedly be a major asset. Her journey is a powerful reminder that the skills and mindsets that make for great CSMs - empathy, adaptability, a growth mentality - are often cultivated through diverse, non-linear career paths. 

For anyone looking to level up their own CS organization, Secily's insights offer a compelling playbook: Embrace the power of data, but never at the expense of genuine human connection. Constantly question your assumptions around churn and retention, and don't be afraid to dig deep for the real story. And always, always keep the voice of the customer at the center of everything you do. That's how you build not just satisfied customers, but true advocates and partners for growth.

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