July 22, 2017—That’s the date I clicked Adopt & Sign on Gainsight’s electronic offer letter.
There it was, I had agreed to become the new Vice President of Professional Services at Gainsight. The “IT HAS BEGUN!!” Mortal Kombat soundbyte rang in my ears and I was full of questions about the complexion of the upcoming opportunity at Gainsight. Having run PS and Customer Success organizations over the last 20 years at Enterprise software companies like Siebel, Oracle, Computer Associates, and Insidesales.com, I had some preconceived notions about the opportunity based on the company size, subject matter expertise, and what I’d heard from my PS/CS friends:
- Great culture
- Customer Success focus
- Catered lunch multiple times a week
As I have settled in over the last few months, I found all of the above to be true. In addition to this, I was surprised to learn:
- Culture goes beyond the ping-pong table.
- When values are truly internalized and referenced in daily discussions and decision-making from top to bottom—that’s special.
- Gainsight was applying serious time and energy into creating a scalable Professional Services engine that could effectively and repeatedly deliver outcomes for customers.
- The onus of delivering success reaches far beyond the CSM function—and demands that enterprises in 2017 apply focus to customer health, sentiment, achievement of client outcomes, and how that ties to value at every step in the customer journey.
- Workout outcomes are inversely proportional to the number of catered meals/week multiplied by the quantity of goodies in the kitchen.
- Hence—my workout operational metric performance is currently at a historic low. I think I need a success plan.
The Professional Services initiative at Gainsight caught my interest because not only was Gainsight in the process of building a world-class team to serve its onboarding and post-sales needs, it was also extending its software platform to solve those needs for everyone. Digging deeper, it was eye-opening to see an enterprise software company attempt to solve some of the challenges I had wrestled with for years at Oracle, Computer Associates, and most recently at Insidesales.com. Challenges like how do we:
- Deliver and demonstrate project outcomes.
- Continuously improve the project experience—to move the needle on retention.
- Establish a framework to predict, segment, and mitigate risk across all projects.
- Enable smooth, efficient transitions from Sales to Services to CSMs—with minimal information re-engineering.
- Leverage AI to proactively identify opportunities for Services.
Settling in at Gainsight, I found our Services team struggled with these same things. As I met with customers sharing their implementation experiences, I was convinced that we needed to focus on a few basic things: implement a standard methodology, up-level the project experience, and work on outreach. To address escalations, we urgently needed clarity on risk types and specific project risks, the best practices to create corresponding Plays/Playbooks, and to institute a system to track and manage the risk mitigation workflow. And these are the weak links I’d expect to see in any growing Services organization. However, as I dug deeper, I learned that it was more than that. I was having daily conversations with customers asking me to demonstrate how the Customer Success solution we built correlated with their needs and requirements and, most importantly, the value proposition we had spelled out in the sales cycle. Going through UAT, they weren’t sure if this solution would actually drive meaningful value. And after about the 30th conversation, it became pretty clear for me—delivering success in Services was certainly about managing projects, mitigating risk, and responding to escalations. However, we need to further evolve our framework to focus on delivering valuable outcomes for the customer. Clearly, we had our work cut out for us!
At Gainsight, we have traditionally done a decent job of “drinking our own champagne.” For quite some time, we have been using a pretty sophisticated Gainsight implementation that facilitates effective transitions between Sales, Services, and Client Outcomes—and a risk framework that guides our escalation process. We are currently evolving our solution by incorporating the Gainsight for Services Success Solution—that has Outcomes Planning, NPS, and Turnkey Onboarding automation built in. Our experience with Services Success has taught us a few things:
- Outcomes are king
- When a vendor is able to draw a clear connection between what was promised and the outcomes from the implementation, that almost always translates into higher NPS scores, better retention, and fewer Support cases.
- A risk framework enforces preparedness across the team—and drives consistency with regards to plays mobilized.
- Technology can point out opportunities we didn’t know existed—and drive bookings in unexpected ways.
Business transformation/process optimization is a journey—and we have just gotten started. As we deploy Gainsight solutions and Professional Services best practices within our own team and with customers, I’m looking forward to evolving to a best-in-class motion that consistently delivers flawless victories—with success plans that guarantee outcomes and value illustrated in a Project scorecard. Given the timing of my arrival coincided with Gainsight’s work on the upcoming release of the Gainsight for Services Success solution, I enjoyed lending my experiences to the Product team as we figured out solutions to real-world PS challenges. What’s doubly exciting for me is the opportunity to collaborate with our customers on their toughest challenges, share our customer outcomes-focused approach and best practices to delivering success, and learn from each other on this Journey to Services Success.