3 Takeaways from the Gainsight Pulse Everywhere Virtual Conference

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Thought Industries
July 10, 2020

Gainsight Pulse is the largest annual gathering of Customer Success and Product Management professionals in the world. The recent Gainsight Pulse Everywhere 2020 virtual conference (May 13 – 14, 2020) brought together over 22,000 Customer Success and product professionals from over 50 states and countries. Following are the 3 key takeaways from a few of the valuable sessions.

Game Changers for Customer Success

Gainsight’s Ashvin Vaidyanathan, Chief Customer Officer, & Kellie Capote, Vice President of Customer Success, in the first of the GameChangers keynote speeches: 

“We started the year with a lot of planning about what we wanted to do with the Customer Success team this year here at Gainsight. Obviously, with COVID-19 and everything else around us there have been a ton of changes.”

Gainsight implemented 4 Teams:

  1. Up-level risk management – identifying cross-functional risks and addressing them early on is essential to CS success. Gainsight developed and delivered an effective process to identify, manage, collaborate and report on the efficacy of the team’s efforts.  Central was the preparation of playbooks associated with every type of risk, such as onboarded but not adopted, to ensure a consistent approach that when improved, will yield results company-wide.
  2. Operationalizing outcomes – to create an end-to-end experience of capturing outcomes, starting in pre-sales and continuing through onboarding and the post-onboarding journey. In pre-sales, the customer’s business goals are captured and used throughout the CS process. During onboarding, Professional Services uses this information to develop the workflows that will best satisfy these business goals. The CS team is in constant touch, and reports back regarding the progress of achieving the goals into the post-onboarding period.
  3. Customer Success and Product collaboration – Gainsight is a big proponent of CS and Product teams working together to deliver outcomes at scale, to break down the barriers and perform as a single team. For instance, if a product gap is identified and flagged as a risk that is blocking value, together CS and Product delve into the gap request to understand the functionality required. This enables Gainsight to deliver better outcomes to customers and enable better roadmap decision making. Voice of Customer research provides great insight.
  4. Driving team efficiency through organizational structure changes – Gainsight needed to deliver more with the existing CS team and so they added 2 key roles. The first is the Escalations Team or “phone-a-friend.” When the CSMs get into a situation that requires cross-functional triage, this brings the needed help much faster. The second is the Content and Enablement Desk, to make sure the CS team has the right resources and the proper enablement. This has resulted in 5 to 7 hours a week saved.

Takeaway #1: Focus on your customer’s business goals and align around achieving these goals thoroughly, completely and as quickly as possible.

Managing Uncertainty: Why Customer Success is Existential

Ashvin Vaidyanathan, Gainsight’s Chief Customer Officer, and Ruben Rabago, its Chief Strategist, co-authors of The Customer Success Professional’s Handbook, presented this track session on ways to reduce churn, better engage with your customers and surface expansion opportunities in the current downturn economy.

There is no doubt that in these times corporations are looking for reasons to reduce overhead, and vendors who are seen as generating a less than stellar experience will get cut. There are 5 reasons why Customer Success is existential, and imperative to your company’s near-term profitability.

  1. New sales will rapidly decline as fear slows new decisions
  2. Your existing customers will scrutinize outcomes and experiences.
  3. Your existing customers will notice who is there for them.
  4. Your existing customers need your help.
  5. Your existing customers will look to consolidate spend.

Gainsight conducted a recent survey of SaaS leaders and found that retention is their top priority. These leaders expect that churn will increase, especially within SMB. Higher annual contract value heightens the possibility of anticipated churn and there will be “downselling” to maintain relationships. Also, there is a direct correlation between renewal and proactive customer success management, which decreases the likelihood of churn. 85% expect that their CSM resources will remain stable or grow during this period.

5 steps to minimize churn by using your resources wisely:

  1. Categorize your customers based on business impact. If your customer base is largely vertical, the impact of the pandemic is likely to be consistent throughout. For instance, hospitality has been seriously impacted where telehealth is likely to be doing well. If your customer base is horizontal, categories them by the impact of COVID-19, from serious to thriving.
  2. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Use every means possible, relying on automation and tele-touch, including Slack and SMS (if you have the relationship), and in-app, which is timely, powerful and contextual. Make sure you include all your stakeholders and personalize the communication to their needs.
  3. Revisit and leverage customer health scores to prioritize where you concentrate your spend. Concentrate on ARR (annual recurring revenue), renewal date and the categorization from step 1.
  4. Strategize your playbooks to negotiate renewals and concessions as needed. Each situation may need a different playbook. It’s important that the playbook is followed consistently. The goal: find the right behavior to drive renewal.
  5. Manage your risks and expansion opportunities. Your actions will uncover both. Rally your CSMs and sales teams around expansion and upsell opportunities. Concentrate your resources to yield higher conversion rates.  

Takeaway #2: Your investment in and commitment to Customer Success is the most powerful lever in maintaining or increasing customer retention, which is vital to near-term SaaS profitability and longevity. 

Customer Success in the Channel: How VMWare Operationalizes Outcomes for Partners and Customers at Scale

In this track session, Phil Pergola, Vice President, Customer Success, CloudHealth (by VMWare), walked us through how and why CloudHealth developed and used Partner Success to drive positive business outcomes for the channel partners by driving CloudHealth adoption within their channel customer base.

Partners, as well as SaaS companies are struggling in how they think about and deploy Customer Success:

  • According to Deloitte’s 2019 Enterprise Customer Success Study and Outlook report, 63% of large enterprise-scale technology businesses have no, or ad-hoc CS processes for collaborating with their channel partners.
  • In a study commissioned by CloudHealth, Forrester, in its State of the Cloud for Managed Services Providers report, found that 79% of MSPS cite customer retention as a top business challenge.

Partner Success and channel Customer Success are critical to CloudHealth’s profitability as they realize over 30% of their revenue through channel partners. Partners have the responsibility for driving adoption and value within channel customers, which created risk because CloudHealth had no visibility into whether or not partners were successful creating adoption. They theorized that it would make good business sense to treat these partners as if they are direct customers.

However, the persona for Partners is very different than direct customers. CloudHealth organized an entire team to focus solely on Partner Success which included helping them to build their own CS teams and systems to drive channel customer success.

CloudHealth’s Partner Success journey began in 2017, with a Channel Account Manager whose focus was on working with the partners to drive new channel customers. Investments then progressed to a Partner Technical Account Manager to onboard partners and support customer onboarding. Soon after, the Partner Health Score and a Channel Health Score, as well as a robust partner enablement methodology were implemented to leverage and provide visibility into channel customers’ adoption of the platform 

They learned three important lessons:

  1. You have to think differently about partners and channel customers than direct customers.
  2. Success will require investment and dedicated resources.
  3. Extend CS best practices to channel partners. 

CloudHealth has realized the following results Investing in Partner Success

  • Partner gross churn rate is less than 3%.
  • Net revenue retention is over 145% within the channel
  • Over 5000 channel customers have been onboarded in the past 2 years.

Takeaway #3: Partner Success is a key lever in increasing adoption, revenue and renewal from the channel.

Gainsight Pulse is a yearly event that provides Customer Success and Product Management professionals with the opportunity to share best practices, explore new ideas and network with peers and industry leaders. Here is the link to free access to the recordings of keynote addresses and sessions from the 2020 event


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