Last week I had the opportunity to attend Gainsight’s Pulse conference. I always love to attend this conference because Gainsight has done a great job of building a community around Customer Success and the topics covered are all dear to me. Customer Success as an industry is relatively young, so you find real passion in the presentations and conversations. It’s a group of customer focused professionals who still get to experiment with their approach and stay on the leading edge of building phenomenal customer experiences based on business outcomes. There is so much great information to share!
Here are a few takeaways:
The keynotes were fantastic this year, starting off with Alex Rawson from McKinsey and Company. He really motivated his audience by sharing information and data indicating how CS Professionals are well positioned to lead and be at the center of their own company’s transformation. The Customer Success Playbook is still being written. For companies that started with a SaaS offering within the last decade or so, establishing Customer Success comes fairly easy. For companies that are not SaaS providers, and originally took a more traditional approach to building their operations, transforming the business to keep the customer at the center is more challenging. Alex told us Customer Success professionals can and should be the catalyst to shepherd this change. He also introduced the idea that central governance is a critical underpinning of an effective Customer Success operation. This includes governance across all functions of the business.
Allison Pickens, Gainsight’s Chief Customer Officer echoed this point when she discussed aligning all functions around the customer and developing a scorecard for each business function that ties back to customer experience and retention. Alex warns us though - be a quarterback, not the police. My favorite point of all -- something that CS veterans like myself have been saying all along -- is use your CS Team to keep reinventing your product. Customer feedback is essential, but along with that, your most customer facing people must be at the product planning table.
Allison also offered operational advice that any business can count on: tier your customers and design the experience in a way that makes sense. For example, hire a lead for your one to many business (sometimes called small business). She also recommends hiring an operations lead for Customer Success. In addition, since CS demand is growing so quickly in companies, focus on keeping your hiring pool of candidates warm.
Alex also shared some wonderful survey data that McKinsey gathered. One of the data points centered around the top journeys to map and do well for your customers. They were expecting a lot of different answers and even allowed a free form text field so they could really gather all of the customer journeys people are thinking about. Surprising to them (not necessarily to me or other veteran CS professionals), was that only two topped the list in a meaningful way: onboarding and product experience. I love being validated. The most important things to get right for your customers is getting them easily onboarded and using your product, followed immediately by an exceptional product experience.
I came away from my third Pulse conference rejuvenated. I want to remind us all: Customer Success is the best feedback mechanism you have from your customers. Use it to build your business around your customers. Make it as effortless as possible to use your customer designed product or service and keep innovating based on your customers’ desired outcomes.