It was early Fall 2017 when I got a call from a former manager of mine who had just joined what he referred to as “a rocketship called Gainsight.”
His pitch was simple: “This technology is incredible and the culture is off the charts, but at the pace we’re adding customers, onboarding has gotten a bit too messy and complex. Come help me simplify the services organization.”
See, to me, there’s no greater and more gratifying challenge than that of taking the complex and making it simple. So, I couldn’t wait to dig into a big question: “How should Gainsight, aka THE Customer Success company, be onboarding their own customers differently?” This was an opportunity to set some new standards in an industry that I loved.
Off to the Races
As you can see in the chart above, change doesn’t happen overnight. And even when progress is made, you have to be committed to continuous optimization and improvement. Here at Gainsight, we’re still hard at work optimizing our onboarding experience each and every day. But I’m glad to report that the early days of sending our clients an Excel template while asking them “how do you prefer to implement Gainsight?” are far, far behind us.
To say the least, we’ve come a long way. In fact, this past year alone, thanks to a combination of strategy, process, data, and some amazingly collaborative customers, we’ve raised our NPS after onboarding from +14 to +85. In parallel, we reduced onboarding time-to-value (TTV) for our largest Enterprise customers to just 13 weeks.
So… how’d we do it? And what changed? Well… everything.
1. We Became “Intentionally Awesome”
One of the keys to upgrading our services organization was shifting from a “hero” to “intentional” mentality. In hero organizations, success and customer experience are tied to individuals. A proactive consultant leads to engaged and satisfied customers. An inadequate, ill-fitting consultant leads to unengaged customers who do not onboard or adopt well. As a leader in such organizations, you hold your breath that things will magically work out. But, too often, they don’t.
Evolving into an “intentional” approach means building out methodologies and repeatable processes that lead to incredible experiences in a consistent, predictable fashion. Or, as I tell my team, being “intentionally awesome.”
Take our “Quickstart” offerings, for example. Meant to “accelerate” and “transform” Gainsight implementations, Quickstart allows customers to easily choose their highest-priority goals and outcomes – such as fast time to value, deep discovery and design or major change management. Once the top priorities are identified and agreed upon, our team then develops clear and precise milestones aligned to building customer confidence. These can include:
- An MVP launch to get users in the system quickly
- A discovery readout to show the customer we understand their business
- Internal reviews with subject matter experts across the company to make sure we are providing best-in-class recommendations
- Design sign-off for customers to have a final “let’s go” before we craft their instance
Milestones are created to be repeatable and scalable for every project team to accomplish and, in turn, drive customer trust and confidence.
2. We Cranked-Up Our Best Practices
Make no mistake, Gainsight’s technology deserves every single award, G2 review, Gartner mention, success story, and other various distinctions recognizing it as the undisputed category leader for Customer Success software. But our “product” is more than just our technology. And a key reason that so many customers choose Gainsight as their trusted partner in their Customer Success journey is our unrivaled library of best practices and thought leadership, together with our unparalleled hands-on experience with customers of every shape and size.
Our professional services team, alone, has delivered +45,000 man-hours of consulting and onboarding services across hundreds of CS organizations. Nobody – and I mean nobody – comes even close when it comes to working with the top customer-centric organizations, teams and leaders in the world. If you have a question, chances are we’ve blogged about it. Hosted a webinar about it. Or presented about it at our annual Pulse conference. And if we haven’t – well, I guarantee you that someone in our community has the answers you’re looking for.
Our customers can rest assured that those learnings and industry best practices are baked into every single project we take on. And Gainsight teammates are asked to not only guide, but also challenge customers, ensuring that no wheel is ever reinvented. Our processes and plans are all documented in formal Design Readouts – shared slides decks that provide customers with clear insights into how we are delivering on the value and outcomes they expect from our solution.
3. We Refined our “Spidey Senses”
Another key component in our own transformation from “hero” to “intentional awesome” is what I refer to as our team’s is “Spidey Sense” – aka, our ability to proactively tell when things are starting to escalate.
We leverage an intuitive scorecard that tracks every key component of a project, allowing each member of the team to track how things are progressing in real-time. The scorecards are also shared and reviewed with the leadership team regularly to help spot potential problem areas that may need to be addressed or prioritized to avoid a future escalation.
Every onboarding project is also assigned an internal Executive Sponsor by the customer who is responsible for checking in regularly while providing an extra level of leadership perspective and feedback throughout onboarding. To further simplify this process, we leverage a Gainsight feature called Email Assist, which automatically tees up a recommended template for Executive check-ins. Email Assist enables the Gainsight project manager to easily keep the Sponsor notified and aware of important project updates, required feedback, and upcoming 1:1 meetings.
Keeping onboardings on time, on budget and engaged enables us to further scale our sponsor program with personalization across +100 concurrent projects we typically run. After all, no executive – on either side – wants to be caught off-guard. Thanks to regular communications, real-time dashboards to monitor the project’s status, and a collaborative steering committee to review critical milestones, we do our best to ensure that rarely, if ever happens.
4. We Gathered Feedback and Drive Advocacy
Best-in-class customer success – and best-in-class onboarding – are rooted in continuous, candid feedback. That’s why, as part of every single customer launch, we send a Net Promoter Survey (NPS) that includes a brief Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) section. As we identify Promoters, we also ask them to be Professional Services Qualified Advocates (PSQA) who our Sales and Customer Success teammates can leverage for references from time to time. We also meet with respondents to conduct informal post-mortem reviews on the project to better understand how and where we can improve.
Internally, we share our findings via email and/or Slack to help our team understand the good (and sometimes bad) of a project while recognizing our teammates for their performance. And host Quarterly Delivery Reviews whereby we spotlight three to four projects and invite each project team to share what went well, what could have been improved, and make cross-functional “asks” to other teams within the organization. This process again spotlights our customers, our amazing teammates, our successes and missteps, and allows our teammates to learn how they can help us – and vice versa.
5. We Bring Our Values, Including Child-like Joy, to the Forefront
Gainisight’s culture and values are the lifeblood of our organization and another core differentiator of our business as a whole. Since day one, I’ve made it a priority to ensure that one of my favorite values – Child Like Joy – is embraced and exhibited in every single one of our onboardings, proving you can win in business while also having fun and being human-first.
Here are a few examples of how our teams embrace it:
- Every project has a budget for custom swag to send to the customer.
- Our team has been known to sport our own custom “Gainsight Loves [Customer]” t-shirts.
- On some occasions, we even deck ourselves out from head-to-toe in our customers’ brand colors – orange tends to be a popular one!
- Our GIF game is strong (as you can tell) and our weekly status updates often include some amazing animations to go along with text and charts.
- Our CEO, Nick Mehta, has definitely gotten fired up for more than a few launches
- We mix in Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune, and other types of trivia for the end-users.
- ‘Ever had a live DJ join a customer launch party? We have!
And I can name so many more! The fact is, enterprise software deployment can be challenging – so, why not have some fun with it?
Our Real Special Sauce
Every company has its special sauce. At Gainsight, our special sauce is our people. From recruiting and hiring to onboarding and continued development, I’ve never worked for a company so set and purposeful on hiring teammates who not only fill the day-to-day requirements of their role, but who truly do embrace the culture, the values, the Child-like Joy, the confidence in making best practices recommendations, and the drive to ensure our customers turn into raving fans. Without our amazing team, none of this would be possible.
As a Professional Services team, we’ve challenged ourselves to lead every single customer on an “Excellent Journey” – our team motto (yes, we even had a custom logo and t-shirts made). And each quarter, through a peer-nominated process, we recognize our top consultants who best exemplify this behavior.
We’re Never Done Improving
One of the characteristics I love most about Customer Success is that it’s never “done.” To this day, there’s no customer I’ve met, no project I’ve managed that I haven’t been able to learn from. No process I can’t somehow improve. No outcome I can’t somehow make better.
On that note, as a Customer Success leader tasked with helping and advising Customer Success teams, perhaps nothing is more satisfying than seeing our own customers achieve the value and outcomes we set forth to accomplish together. And to see them leverage some of the very same ideas, best practices, and approaches to Customer Success as they, too, take their customers on their own version of what promises to be an Excellent Journey.