In 2020, Gainsight’s Adam Joseph, Regional Vice President EMEA, recorded a series called The GameChanger Podcast.
Adam was joined by several guests from all over the world and all professions, from entry-level CS to CEOs. They discussed the fundamentals of customer success, from workflows and processes to startups and enterprise business. But as the COVID-19 pandemic entered the scene, Adam was moved to explore more diverse subject matters that were topical, such as mental health, family leave, life in lockdown, and the new remote reality.
As we looked back over the 2020 season, we realized there were incredible insights on customer success and life in general as people adjusted to a different work-life balance. At Gainsight, we felt some non-tech themes were so important that we wanted to share them with you.
Balance and Focus
Everyone is dealing with “the new remote reality,” as Jonathan Corrie, CEO of the software company Precursive termed it. To deal with the distance and working in isolation, here are some one-line pearls of wisdom from the various podcasts.
- Close the tabs and turn off Slack. That’s right, folks, leave one tab open at a time. It is possible to close the other 20. The effort will help provide focus and alleviate distraction.
- Work smarter, not harder. According to Samantha Samuels, Head of Partnerships at Friendbuy, prioritizing time is essential to customer success managers who sometimes feel they need to stay up till midnight and answer every email to get to inbox zero. But CS is not about that. “It’s really about how to effectively manage your time and prioritize your time. I think that’s the biggest skill that makes a really great customer success manager.” It is also a sign of balance.
- Go outside, play with kids or pets, and work in the garden. Studies have shown the benefits of sunshine and the connection to the ground. Even more, is the benefits of the ability to disconnect from screens. It is necessary to create a boundary, especially when lines between professional and personal times are blurred.
- Use technology and apps, like Head Space, to calm yourself. Finding something that centers you during a time of upheaval is not only good for your mental health, but it is also good for your environment and all the people within that space. Spending time on self-care is as important as physical care. It’s like the analogy of the oxygen mask on airplanes—you need to place it on yourself before you help others. As a CSM, taking care of yourself and creating a sense of calm will be extended to your customers, which is a form of customer success.
- It’s okay not to be okay. People in all business sectors are going through difficulties, but healthcare and tech are seeing significant burnout. Saying “It’s okay not to be okay” is not necessarily an acceptance of the status quo. Instead, it is an acknowledgment that not everything has to be perfect. You can take a break. You can ask for help. And you can especially say what you are experiencing. While it is part of life, it doesn’t have to be permanent.
The Importance of Mentors
We all have teachers, coaches, and friends that play a role in our lives. During COVID-19, the importance of mentors became more prominent, especially concerning mental health issues. In a two-part series in episodes three and four, Adam Joseph explored the topic of mental health. In episode three, it Was Gainsight’s Alex Tran who said that one thing that had helped him was relationships.
“I do have mentors, which I also call friends,” Alex said. “They’re not just career mentors, but just people whom I can process things with. And these are people who I can just be vulnerable with and process things without a filter.” Alex further explained that he could talk about struggles and other various things with his friend-mentors. That was a form of unburdening. For Alex, knowing that someone else cared and was “carrying your burdens along with you” released not only the burden but a freedom in how to live your life.
You Can’t Fake Culture
Some people question the ideas of Gainsight’s values, including “human first.” It is not easy to have values that can conflict with business. After the lockdown and remote work, what is now emerging among employees is that people want to be in an environment that aligns with their system of beliefs. They want the flexibility to deal with the issues in their lives, such as being a caregiver to children, parents, and family members.
While they may also want compensation, they believe they need the understanding to live and work in the times we do. This understanding is where the conversation with Jonathan Corrie in episode one comes in. He believed that company culture couldn’t be said in a picture on the wall.
“I think that it’s it’s those values is what should ground you and bring you and bind you together,” Jonathan emphasized. “I try to reference them internally on how they inform my decision making in specific situations with customers or with the team because it reminds the team that we’re not just making this stuff up.”
Company culture empowers employees, builds engagements that create retention, and helps in situations where employees can’t see each other face to face.
Learning from Churn is Form of Listening
At Gainsight, we have learned that everyone has a story and voice. Sometimes those two things don’t agree with your own. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t learn from them. An inclusive mindset understands that wisdom often comes from listening to all opinions and views and discerning and learning from them. That is a difference between fitting in and adding to a company.
When it comes to your customers, they may not always agree that you and your product were the best fit. But that doesn’t mean you can’t study the experience and listen carefully to what they are saying or not saying and learning from the story.
Natasha Narayan, CEO and Co-Founder at IcebergIQ, is a churn expert. Her company provides unbiased feedback about churned customers and buyers to form Go To Market strategies, improve win and renewal rates, and make their customer experience better. According to Natasha, nothing replaces hearing the customer’s perspective. You can ask the Sales Rep, Account executives, and CSMs to code things in your CRM, but that is just getting a selection of code. “Nothing replaces actually having that conversation and getting the full story from the customer perspective,” Natasha said.
She explained that customers give unbiased feedback when they’re speaking with a third party that is more rich and candid because they’re more willing to open up. Why? “They always feel, especially with churns, bad for giving you the bad news. They want to leave on a good note and leave the door open.” Natasha’s one caution? Don’t interview a churned customer too soon. Leave the interview window between three to six months to get the best details.
Learning from those who leave, customers and employees alike. It is all a form of valuable feedback. Every bit of it can be incorporated and included in new initiatives, product design, and processes, creating a better experience for your customer and you. So, have the voices of those who do not always agree with you.
Use the Principles of CS Internally
In episode 17, Adam sat with Troy Pratley, Head of Customer Success, EMEA at Amplience, to discuss “Raising The Profile Of Customer Success Internally.” Teams are squeezed for resources because of the new emphasis on retention and doing more with less. Troy shared with Adam the importance of internal relationships on your customer success team and across the organization.
“Internal relationships at your customer success team hold with other groups, such as sales, marketing, support, and product, are equally as important,” Troy explained. “It’s also imperative that senior executives within the C-level suite also understand that customer success isn’t just a name of a team, but that it’s a driving ethos that binds together the entire business around helping customers achieve the outcomes.“
Applying CS principles internally is the cultural value known as “success for all” at Gainsight. We, too, believe that our principles should not only be posted on our walls but lived every day in our company.
If you want to hear more incredible tech and non-tech insights, listen to the Gainsight GameChanger, season one.