Part I-The Morning Session Keynote
Day One of Pulse Everywhere brought with it, once again, a new Pulse experience. Just two years ago (has it really been two years?!), we packed into Moscone Center.
The first day of Pulse Everywhere showed that Gainsight’s Pulse events are ever-evolving and still presenting attendees with the best content in customer success. Every year, we are honored by our participants and sponsors’ trust in us to provide a blockbuster of CS stars that are better than any mini-series. Who knew that we’d be able to offer a hybrid-style conference with over 20,000 attendees? The excitement was palpable, safety was assured, and the presenters were A-list!
Imagine a star-studded debut, with entertainers walking the red carpet and searchlights beckoning people to the event. Well, it wasn’t exactly like that at August Hall in the heart of San Francisco, but everyone present at the venue could feel the electricity in the air. It was not just the thrill of gathering some of the most outstanding thought leaders in CS. It was the idea of “Could we be getting back to normal?”
There was a sense of elation being in a group of people, most of whom had worked remotely for over a year! Did someone say 447 days? It was a very “human” moment. Then there was the anticipation of hearing what is new and what advancements are coming for our field. For actual practitioners of CS, being around creative and visionary professionals compels you to take what you learn, level up your methods, and execute newly acquired skills.
Netflix and Net Retention
The opening keynote was a live premiere event and started with a strong storyline. Gainsight CEO Nick Mehta began by communicating how Customer Success has transformed over the past year, despite the effects of the COVID pandemic economy.
He used the analogy of streaming services, specifically Netflix! The transformation of Netflix went from a DVD delivery service into a streaming subscription service that not only hosts movies, but also a movie and entertainment production company. Just like Netflix, CS has transformed from a nice to have, to a necessity for companies to survive and thrive. Also, Netflix is a disruptor and there is nothing more exciting to watch than companies that are trying to disrupt the incumbents
Nick gave eight parallels to the evolution of CS and Netflix:
- The story of disruption
- Incredible personalization
- Shift of power to the customer
- It’s a story for companies big and small
- How technology works for all of us
- Get new subscribers while keeping existing ones
- Keep going-Business is hard, but keep going
- Make the whole company a priority with everyone working together on net retention
The end of this part of the keynote came with a fantastic reveal: a new study is being released today on the subject of retention, and how it affects value, and revenue of publicly traded companies. What an important and exciting justification for the existence of CS—the effect on customer retention and net dollar retention (NDR).
Nick began his morning conversations with a series of GameChangers. There was a familiar theme surrounding implementing customer success in an agile and rapid way to transform your business. So many of our keynote morning speakers shared how their scalable processes are significantly influencing their customer relationships and retention.
Launching and Growing World-Class Customer Success Organizations
Takeaway #1: If you’ve built a deep customer connection, it’s no longer transactional, it’s a long-term relationship.
Our first guest was Rowan Trollope, CEO of Five9. Rowan’s passion for how digital transformation is revolutionizing the way we communicate and how it contributes to the customer experience was very evident. The two CEOs discussed the difference between CS and CX. For Rowan CS is Customer Experience. “Well, the way I think about it is that customer experience is everything that a business does and in every way that they touch their customer,” Rowan said. They also discussed measuring ROI on a CS team, and who they believe is accountable for net retention in their companies. Rowan and Nick agreed that the customer success team is accountable with metrics and numbers in terms of usage and retention and churn. “But,” Rowan shared, “it’s really the whole company’s job.” And we couldn’t agree more.
Takeaway #2: Driving end-to-end value across the customer journey is the top strategy for impacting NRR.
Next, we heard from some of Gainsight’s own leadership, CCO Kellie Capote, and VP of CX, Tyler McNally. They shared reaffirming details on the current and future trends of Net Revenue Retention as being the “ultimate financial measure of the recurring business model.” According to Tyler and Kelly there are three core reasons behind this thought.
- Growth Revenue Retention does not capture the performance and growth potential that NRR.
- As a result of the pivot away from GRR to NRR, takes the team from defense to offense. It’s a winning strategy centered on growth.
- NRR is all about outcomes. That means understanding the customer’s desired outcomes early in the customer journey.
Takeaway #3: Practice a human-first approach internally and externally. Focus on the culture and challenges of your team, build cross-functional partnerships early, and start with the ‘Why’.
Nick also spent time with Emilia D’Anzica, Founder, Managing Partner, and CEO of Growth Molecules, Amanda Berger, SVP Customer Success at HackerOne, and Jeremy Evans, Global VP, Customer Success at Zuora. Each brought a unique perspective to the conversation centered around implementing a CS program and team quickly in 90 days, utilizing cross-functional relationships in your organization, and accomplishing it proactively in Gainsight.
Takeaway #4: As you undergo digital transformation, you need to get people excited and paint a picture of the value of customer success to back it up. Play close attention to infrastructure so you can back up your business plan.
With telecommunications being like the original subscription industry, we had to invite some telco greats onstage to discuss their journey and how they’re tackling digital transformation. Laurinda Pang, President of Global Customer Success at Lumen, and Alfonso Pulido, Partner, McKinsey & Company, chatted with Nick about how telcos are transforming, embracing Customer Success to lead the charge.
Takeaway #5: The customer success team has a unique, advantageous perspective into the customer journey and can be leveraged by the whole company to drive innovation.
François Locoh-Donou, F5’s President and CEO, made a very special appearance in a fireside chat with Nick. From CEO to CEO, the two exchanged their views on the role they both share, acquisitions, and are there different expectations when that CEO role also impacts a Global Head of CS. They also touched on the digital transformation process within a business, how that transformation leads to Customer Success, and measuring its ROI and value.
The morning was filled with a bevy of perspectives embedded in conversations that emphasized improving customer experience, driving significant transformations, and building impactful CS strategies—all with a human-first mentality. We hope you found them as uplifting, informative, and inspiring as we did!
Part II-The Afternoon Session and Closing Keynote
After Nick’s interview with Mindy, which was so good we believed it deserved its own write-up, the second half of the afternoon was filled with industry leaders from IBM, Xactly, Salesforce, and PTC to discuss building, compensating, and scaling your teams.
Takeaway #6: Digital transformation requires customer success resources and education.
Janine Sneed, World Wide VP of Customer Success at IBM Technology, visited first to talk about CS at Scale. IBM has been a long-time innovator and leverages Customer Success in their SaaS businesses. However, recently they scaled out CS to ALL their CS businesses. “What was the impetus?” Nick inquired. Janine honestly replied, “It starts and ends with our business strategy.” With the new model came the addition of CSMs to help customers adopt, use, and get value out of your product. But to make this process successful for scale, Janine recommended the right people for those roles with resources, education, mentorship, and access to Gainsight. All have to be in place to make your CSMs and business a success.
Takeaway #7: As customer success roles are skyrocketing, so is the trend to make CS compensation performance-based.
In the next scene, Nick is joined by Gainsight’s Senior VP, Robin Merrit, CCO Kellie Capote, and Bernie Kassar, CCO of Xactly to discuss Customer Success Compensation trends. The great news is that at a high level, CS is becoming prolific not only among SaaS companies but within their customers, as well. There is also an increased amount of requests by “head hunters” looking for recommendations for CCO and CS executive candidates. Bernie noted that, as companies are investing in CS, they are paying CS professionals more because they see the CS organization just as important as Sales. There’s also a huge trend in CS compensation becoming increasingly performance-based. Many organizations are moving from 80/20 to 70/30 comp ratios because it is “an effective way to drive the right behavior.”
Leaning on the same theme of the explosion of the CS profession, Nick and the team sat with Neeracha Taychakhoonavudh, Executive Vice President, Global Customer Success & Strategy at Salesforce. As the CS role becomes more mainstream, with more demands on it, there is the understanding that a career can be built on it. That means having the skills to match customers in particular fields, like security. Neeracha refers to them as “skills to succeed” and believes that this leads to specializations for the CSM not only in products, but entire fields.
Takeaway #8: You have to take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else.
We wrapped up the day with inspiring conversations led by Robin Merritt on mental health and helping others in the customer success community. She sat down with Alyson Watson from Modern Health to tackle the stigma that still surrounds mental health and share ways that we can take better care of ourselves as we go about our daily lives.
Takeaway #9: BIG things are happening in the world of customer success careers and CSYou is making big strides to bring the industry the best and brightest candidates with diverse backgrounds.
Robin shared how our customers are becoming more diversified with an increase of women, black, and hispanic owned companies who want the same representation in the companies they work with and prioritize social values. There is also a burgeoning need for CS professionals. Gainsight has helped create the answer to the diversity and education needs: CSYou, a program run by the partnership of Gainsight and SV Academy. This program is educating the next generation of customer success professionals. We have also partnered with Hire Heroes to help assist veterans entering the civilian workforce. Gainsight revealed Pulse Impact, a commitment from Gainsight partners to create roles in their workplaces for this new generation of customer-focused superstars. The training result is $2.2M of annualized wage expansion to date with over 75 CS You graduates. Robyn also announced the launch of a new CS admin and ops training program overseen by our own Seth Wylie, Head of CS Ops at Gainsight.
Takeaway #10: To be human is to be an ‘And’
Nick closed the day with a conversation around being human and being seen. Everyone has a story and unless we ask, that story is not always heard. He shared his personal story from the point of view of his family. While you may see him as CEO, you would not know that two members of his immediate family identify as LBGTQ, that his son is on the autistic spectrum, that his beautiful and accomplished wife-Monica, has experienced cyber hatred as she shares their family’s journey, and his father is a cancer survivor who is battling Parkinson and dementia. What we see is not the complexity in other people’s lives. In complete honesty and vulnerability, Nick shared that even he doesn’t always have the time to take to heart to listen to other’s stories. If we don’t, we do others and ourselves a disservice.
“I think what we should all take away from all this vulnerability is to be human,” Nick said. “It is to be an ‘and.’ It’s to have highs and lows. It’s to have hopes and fears. It’s to have love and loss. And we should recognize that everyone around us is an ‘and.’ We should celebrate the complexity of their story because if somebody is only highs and hopes and love and joy, they wouldn’t be human. They’d be a puppy dog.”
A perfect ending to a perfect day. Tune in tomorrow for another exciting episode of Pulse Everywhere when Gainsight’s Product team takes the stage to share Gainsight’s New Releases and Product Innovation. See you there!
Special thanks to Michael Pegram Photography for the photos from the event.