The thrill of the live, in-person event is back! Last week, I had the pleasure of presenting at the Technology & Services Industry Association (TSIA) semi-annual conference, TSW 2021, which Gainsight proudly sponsors.
Held in Las Vegas, I traveled to the event with Lane Holt, Director of Customer Success, and Denise Stokowski, Group VP of Platform Products and PX. It was an honor for us to share our insights on current business difficulties and how customer success can solve them.
While I’ve learned to love the virtual environment for events the last couple of years, one thing that I missed most is the face-to-face conversations that happen post-presentation. There are moments full of ideas and inspiration that work best when everyone is in the same room.
As we left the event, Lane, Denise, and I spoke about the questions and conversations we heard over the previous three days of TSW. It was an interesting and exciting mix of strategic ideas and big-picture predictions that I wanted to share with more people.
Without further ado, here are the three most thought-provoking questions Gainsight heard while at this year’s TSW event.
Question 1: How do you make the case that Customer Success is a growth engine?
Recently, Gainsight released the 10 New Laws of Customer Success. Almost 10 years ago, we outlined the 10 Laws of Customer Success. At the time, this was our attempt to define what Customer Success is and give companies the framework they need to reduce churn.
The 10 New Laws are revised for the new Customer Success 2.0 era. While they are different, they do not replace the original 10 Laws. They are an evolved framework for more mature CS organizations. Companies still need to understand what CS is. However, the conversation revolves around making it core to your business and leveraging Customer Success strategies and operations to drive growth and momentum for your business.
In my talk, “Net Dollar Retention is New North Star,” I shared that the bar to win customers is being raised and with greater speed. The value of your product is subjective to each customer’s goals, and they judge your value every day. Customer Success Managers cannot wait for quarterly business reviews to ensure your customers meet their goals and outcomes. Similarly, their work can’t be tracked solely by churn rates or Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR). We have to expand our view of CS efforts and their business impact.
That’s where NRR comes in. It goes beyond renewals, tracking the expansion and adoption of your product from your existing customers. It ties CSMs work with your customers, as well as their strategic collaboration with Sales, Marketing, Product, and Services on behalf of your install base. It proves that CS is a critical growth engine rather than simply a way to play defense.
This question was one of my favorites from the event because it shows that the right conversations are happening around the impact and value of CS. Leadership, Boards, and teams outside of Customer Success want to know how to support our efforts. They are curious about making CS teams operationalized for efficiency and impact. Now, it’s up to us to answer those questions with real data, metrics, and strategy.
Question 2: How is the NPI process changing and what is the Product Management role in that?
When I asked Denise what her favorite question was from her session with Laura Fey, she clearly remembered this one. “How is the NPI process changing, and what is the Product Management role in that?”
The question excited her for two main reasons. First, it spoke to the ever-evolving nature of Product Management and New Product Introductions. When Product Management first started, it was primarily based on consumer goods. It wasn’t until HP took customer sentiment seriously that the PM role started to resemble what we know it to be today.
Today’s Product Management leaders are considered to be mini-CEOs. They have to determine a product’s viability, feasibility, usability, and value. Each day is full of prioritizing, collaborating, listening, and communicating to everyone, from internal stakeholders to the end-user. It’s a delicate balancing act that has a tremendous impact on the entire organization, particularly when it comes to new products.
The second reason the question stood out is that it allowed Denise to share her own experiences at Gainsight. In her talk, Denise emphasized that great PMs remain resilient and open to shifts and changes, especially when it comes to NPIs. She said, “We have to evolve to meet the demands of the process. That includes value metrics and lifecycle management processes.”
At Gainsight, she’s learned that the team spent too much time getting new products to market. In the amount of time we spent validating we had the right idea, we missed the opportunity to from our customers, making those requests actionable, and optimizing the results She’s since simplified the process to focus on a single question, “Are we moving towards the direction that the market wants?” As long as we keep that in mind, we can introduce products earlier, realize the ROI faster and make the necessary optimization decisions to get to the right product.
The result of Denise’s (and all Product Managers’) was highly strategic. Their ruthless prioritization and thought leadership created value, monetization, and growth for Gainsight and our customers.
Question 3: Can digital success models work for enterprise customers?
When I asked Lane about her favorite question, she immediately mentioned one about implementing digital success models for enterprise customers. Like Denise and I, Lane found herself driving a conversation about the nuance and maturity of customer success as a discipline and a growth engine.
In her discussion, Lane told the audience that digital-led CS models are a solution to one fundamental question: “What can we do to make it easier for CSMs to be CSMs?” This question is not simply about burnout, although that is a huge factor as businesses start to scale. It’s also a question about how to facilitate better, more strategic efforts.
The assumption is that enterprise clients are the most important. So, every interaction with them should be done by a highly skilled CSM — one who knows the history of the company and its specific goals. While it is true that your most significant contracts do deserve personalized attention, that doesn’t always mean it needs to come from a person. In fact, digital success strategies are critical for creating valuable strategic time. Strategies like training new features or tracking executive moves within (or without) the company, enable your CSMs to think about other critical actions, including their next face-to-face engagement.
The best place to start, according to Lane, is at the user level. What can you leverage to drive awareness and adoption? Find the right customer journey for your smaller customers. If they work, then it’s a safe bet to assume that those same journeys will work on your enterprise customers, as well. Remember, if you’re stuck figuring out the best first step, ask yourself, what can you do to make it easier for CSMs to be CSMs?
Join the Conversation
Obviously, we’re all still so excited about the conversations we were able to have with the attendees, both virtual and in-person, at TSW this year. We would be thrilled to continue these (or any) conversations! If you have a question or just want to connect over CS topics, please ask us on LinkedIn. We have lively discussions there and love hearing from other CS professionals.