Welcome to Gainsight’s ‘Change the Game in Five Minutes’ series. In these conversations, we talk with customer success leaders who are role models and want to serve customers better.
In this session, Nick Mehta, CEO, speaks with Chris Port, the Chief Operating Officer of Dell Boomi, responsible for Support, Services, Customer Success, and Strategy functions. He says that one of the benefits of having a Customer Success organization is that it helps grow existing customers’ maturity, encouraging them to use more of Boomi’s products and increasing ARR.
Nick: Before we begin, on a Friday night with the family, what is your go-to board game?
Chris: I’d say Monopoly. We are a very competitive family. It gets really interesting with Monopoly. The bartering starts to happen when people go into debt and the deals they are willing to make. There are deals my kids are eager to make with my wife that they are unwilling to make with me, especially as they have gotten older.
Nick: What a great analogy for the business world. I love that. Tell us about Boomi.
Chris: Boomi connects everything anywhere, so think of it as a modern connection layer. We started as a best of breed company that could connect any application to any application in a modern way. So as SaaS adoption grew, there wasn’t a SaaS product in a middleware connection space. Companies were adopting SAAS. They were using legacy, super heavy, middleware products to pull together their application network. So that was the premise of Boomi 10 years ago, but it evolved into a data management tool to shepherd companies through a data journey. Boomi is now a true platform company connecting applications, devices, databases (really anything with data) and also helping you find that data. We also help with cleansing data, govern through API management, and ultimately manifesting it to applications on the last mile of your data journey as part of our low code app dev layer.
Nick: The business has done great and evolved so much, even pre-Customer Success. The company was a successful startup that was acquired by Dell. Unlike a lot of acquisitions, it kept thriving afterward. Why did you need to introduce these concepts of Customer Success over the past few years?
Chris: I took a Boomi hiatus after the acquisition, and when I came back five years ago as the COO, Customer Success was a concept, not a function. There was no owner of a customer’s lifetime with Boomi. As the company was growing, we started to have customers, but there was no ownership or perspective of that customer lifetime. We had aspirations to increase the business but realized that a lot of that growth would be on the backs of existing customers. That was the genesis of “How do I take a customer from $1 of ARR to $3 of ARR to $5 of ARR? How do I shepherd customers through that journey without having a proper Success organization?” That was the genesis of Customer Success: there was no apparent owner, and since it is an agnostic function within all companies (Sales has their motivation, Support does), but Success is the constant participant in a customer’s journey, and we didn’t have that.
Nick: That’s great. That does appeal to a specific type of company where it’s not just about the leaky bucket or reducing churn. It’s about growing the customer’s maturity, getting them to use more of your products, and growing their spending with you. It sounds like that was the driver.
Chris: Exactly. But in some cases, it is supposed to be that counterbalance to everybody. Maybe a customer is paying a certain amount but only leveraging a fraction of that, so perhaps we need to think of a particular deal structure. We found that for the long term health of a customer, it’s better to have those honest discussions, even if it potentially means in the near term less ARR for Boomi upon a renewal.
Nick: That’s great, it is a long term orientation (So if we drive value for our clients, and even if in the short term they are not doing much with us but in the long term they are going to grow with us then it’s worth it.)
Chris: Yeah, it’s like Customer Success is the QB or Ben Roethlisberger of the account. You always have short-term goals but focus on a long-term perspective. How do I make sure a company is successful in 3,5,10 years versus how am I optimizing for the next 90 days or quarterly or half cycle. Having a long term vision is the charter for success and bears fruit eventually.
Nick: This appeals to companies with a sticky platform and lots of products they want to sell. They need a long term orientation. Let’s talk about your playbook using sports analogy—what are the key elements of a playbook that you ran the past few years (organization, process, etc.)
Chris: I’d say it’s a few things:
Process: From a process perspective, we’ve looked at the lifetime as far back into the sales cycle as we think makes sense and gotten Customer Success engaged.
Involve Success when the deal is close to the 30% point in the sales funnel: It’s tiered based upon what type of customer it is, but for Enterprise high touch customers, we try to get Success involved when a deal gets to the 30% point in the sales funnel. (At this point, we are acclimated to what the account is trying to accomplish by becoming part of customers’ Boomi family).
- Then as we get closer to winning the deal, we focus on formalizing the handoff process. (Five years ago, when I surveyed our customers, not one of them said they loved our handoff process. They said, “I love Boomi, but I do a lot of discovery upfront with sales engineers and some service people, but then when Customer Success gets engaged, I almost have to start over with the discovery process.”
- So in the past 12-18 months, we’ve honed in on that process to make it more seamless to the customer.
Onboarding We’ve also completely overhauled our onboarding process in the last 12 months to gauge how we’re meeting and, more importantly, exceeding customer expectations with time to value at Boomi.
- We are focused on measuring our time to the first expansion dollar.
- We are more methodical about sharing the added value we offer that sits easily on top of their first purchase on the platform. For example, our Success team is on variable comp, including gross and net churn. So that net and expansion push emphasizes that once we have done right by the customer, we have earned that opportunity to talk to them about all the other things to support their outcomes.
That’s been the big emphasis from a process perspective over the last 12-18 months.
Functional: From a functional perspective, we are on the second iteration of Success since I’ve been here. The first iteration was about properly standing it up, getting a methodology in place, tiering our customers, and implementing Gainsight. The second iteration has been about the cross-functional aspect across teams. Customer Success should have deep hooks into our Product, Sales, and Support teams to represent Boomi with their customer versus representing a success function. We’ve done a lot to formalize that relationship across Boomi, almost like a hub and spoke model where Success is the hub and other functions are the spokes relative to how we engage customers.
A big part of that has been Gainsight. It’s gone from being a tool we implemented and people saying “that could be cool” to being the source of truth for all things customer. A lot of that is the customer360 and the Timelines and how it drives a more consistent customer view across Boomi. Before, there would be 15 sources of record to try to pull together a 360 view effectively, but with Gainsight, they have it all in one place.
Nick: Who are the key people/stakeholders you want to be involved in the end to end process?
Chris: (In order of priority)
- Sales: They are engaged in the next opportunity, so they should have the same consistent view of a customer journey.
- Product: They provide a view of adoption to share usage data at the macro level and at the feature level (there are hundreds of features that customers can leverage so Product can drive that macro visibility into who’s using what).
- Support: They should have a quick perspective of a customer’s overall story as they deal with a case.
- Professional Services: They have a grasp of a customer’s sophistication when they engage with them.
Nick: Your team has also done an excellent job at automating some of that lower end of your base (low touch customers). How do digital and tech fit into your strategy overall?
Chris: Our investment in digital teams accelerated by about 25% overnight because of COVID, and a lot of that focused on tech touch and mid touch. In combination with automating the initial part of a customer journey (introduction to Boomi, onboarding pack, CTAs initiated in an automated way based on initial usage, etc.) are very important. The questions are then how do we mitigate churn, and why are they churning? Initially, what we saw was that many customers didn’t get off the ground. To address that, we had to automate as much of that front end of the journey as we could to get them running off the ground so the minute they get it, they can start using it and get them to success.
Nick: What metrics are you proud of, and where did you move the needle?
- Gross and net retention
- Gross Churn: In the headwind of a pandemic, it went down to 3.75%.
- A lot of this is due to having a 360 view and being much more proactive than we have ever been.
- “Days to first expansion” collapsed by over a third in the last 2.5 years
- NPS: We’ve overhauled our NPS process this year to have more of a methodology and call to action for detractors as well as those who are neutral. This also allows us to know what we are doing right and what we are not doing right. We are always curious as to why customers are detractors, and in the past, it has been challenging to pinpoint a specific reason or pattern across all detractors. Now we can see this at a macro level, and when we identify a theme, we can address it from a macro perspective.
Nick: This is impressive but seriously, hearing it all together, please tell your team they should be super proud. You guys are ahead of the curve!