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My Top Takeaways from Pulse 2016

  • 10 June 2016
  • 1 reply

Userlevel 7
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  • Gainsight Employee: ACE
  • 461 replies
I've been telling folks that attending Pulse was like spending 4 days plugged into a 240-volt outlet. It was a thrilling experience of absorbing ideas and frameworks for both thinking about and attacking customer sucess. I wanted to share the lessons I learned that, at the moment I heard them, made me scribble them down furiously. Hopefully it's instructive for folks who couldn't go to Pulse, and I'd love to hear what rose to that level for other attendees!

Top Takeaways
  1. We can always do better at knowing how our product is used. Ask 10 different employees what the most common usage flows are for successful customers, and you'd get 10 different answers. That's a problem for those of us trying to craft the "correct" experience for each customer, and is setting up our less experienced CSMs for strugglesville. Research & decide on the best customer experiences/journeys and use cases. And aggressively compile and internally share the stories that our customers have to tell us about how they're successful with the product.
  2. Clarify the mission of the Customer Success sub-teams. Ensure that everyone on each sub-team understands the same vision for their work, and same definition of success. Be precise. It's too easy for a team member to just think of their marching orders as "Be helpful, and make renewals happen."
  3. By the same token, Consider renaming "CSM" to "Customer Success Coach". Language matters, especially when we're imagining the skills and resources that they need to do their job well. It's more important that they [i]coach (which implies that the customer is a team of competent individuals that need coordination & direction from an expert who's on their side), not that they [i]manage (which implies that the customer is a wild steer that needs lassoing from an external individual in a position of power). Similarly, consider renaming "Ops" to "Enablement". 
  4. Speaking of doing their job well: Craft awesome CSMs and awesome tools for them to use. Our CSMs should be known to our customers and known internally as the most adept story-tellers of how our customers can use the product to generate positive outcomes. That means that they should be [i]well-educated in the stories that we have to tell (see point #1, above), and [i]impressively compelling in their style of delivering them. Yes, provide training for product knowledge, product use cases, presentation skills, and communication skills. Also, though, establish a culture of communication & cross-learning between CSMs (and other departments, like the skilled story-tellers in Sales), and facilitate structured opportunities to promote that collaboration.
  5. Revise our definition of the customer's experience. Design the customer's journey(ies), then slot the software into it. Otherwise, the software has free reign to be needy or complex, and we're scrambling to try to make it not feel that way for customers. Decide how this should vary between different CSMs ([i]e.g., those that own many accounts vs few accounts) and between customers with different goals and 'situations' ([i]e.g., lifecycle stage; many stakeholders vs. few)
  6. Always communicate when you succeed. Failures are obvious, but it's easy for [i]successes to fly under the radar, and our group's [i]goal is to provide nothing [i]but success! Never forget to remind both colleagues and customers of the value that you're adding, and the achievements you've helped them reach. Also expose the CS team directly to successful customers. They will be motivated, inspired, and educated by hearing the real positive outcomes that they have created for real people.
  7. Give the rest of the organization responsibilities for making customers successful. Ensure that you've defined clear roles & processes for the other departments, and for the executive team, to contribute to customer success. They're far more likely to provide concrete & direct contributions if you tell them how they can be useful, and work with them to craft a clear set to steps that they can follow over and over again.
  8. None of this needs to be a big ol' coordinated project. Just start taking good-ish steps in the right direction.

1 reply

Userlevel 6
Great insight, Seth! Thank you so much for articulating it here. You make a good point with # 8, "none of this needs to be "a big ol' coordinated project." It's easy to fall into the trap of trying to get getting everything done perfectly at the same time, typical analysis paralysis. It applies to rolling out Gainsight, too, so I advise my customers to take a step back and identify a few pieces that can effectively be put in place to get things going in the right direction, then look at the next aspect and so on. No need to wait until every concept and process is fully baked before introducing it. And on the flip side, throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks can result in confusion and mayhem. I'm with you on taking good-ish steps in the right direction. I'm also a fan of giving something a chance to work, as the kinks are smoothed out. Don't toss out the baby with the bathwater, as my mom used to say (weird expression but it works here). Refine, assess, refine, then, if needed, scrap and try something new. 

Your #4 so resonates with me as someone who has been a CSM for a very long time. We [i]are great story tellers, so it's critical that we have the right ones to tell. Sometimes we are so caught up in GSD that we don't take time to share the wealth of stories we have with one another, so that our library will grow and flourish. I feel like there are so many little gems in our heads which can benefit team members, and by extension our customers, so we need to make time to show and tell. Continually, not just every once in a blue moon. And, YES, get with the other great story tellers like sales!!