Visual Executive Summary from Pulse CxO Summit 2020
The ocean breeze. Whale watching. A morning walk to the lighthouse. I consider myself lucky to be part of a thriving Silicon Valley company while living and working (from home) in a place like Gloucester, Massachusetts. Imagine how excited I was last year when Gainsight and over 60 of the top Customer Success executives in the world decided to pay us a visit for the 2019 Pulse CxO Summit. And it took place just a short drive down the coast at the breathtaking Chatham Bars Inn in Cape Cod.
Every year, the CxO Summit is one of the most anticipated events in the industry. It is not only known for its scenic locations, such as the stunning Skywalker Ranch, in Marin, California, the historical South Lodge Hotel in Sussex, UK, or the one-of-a-kind Chatham Bars Inn. The CxO Summit is where the greatest strategic thinkers and most energetic group of customer success and product thought leaders get together, escape, and dig-in to the topics that are most important to them and their companies. In the end, they take home real advice and strategies that help transform their businesses.
If you think it sounds like an amazing experience—well, it is. As the leaders of Customer Success and Product Experience, we at Gainsight feel an obligation to the executives, customers, and the industry as a whole. We’ve witnessed how valuable the created relationships are for decision making that we wanted to continue the CxO Summit tradition despite the many challenges and complexities presented by our new reality.
This year, we would have to become more creative, thoughtful, and technically-savvy than ever before. As always, our incredible Corporate Events team was up to the challenge, and I was excited to have the opportunity to be a part of the “tiger team.”
CxO Summit 2020 – How We Did It
What happens when you put 200 executives into 25 zoom groups to tackle some of their current business challenges? A lot of valuable insights, relevant questions, and real-time workshopping. There was a great variety of discussion across the groups, but there were some clear front runner topics. We thought it would be interesting to break down what’s top of mind for customer success and product executives. We also knew it would reflect how customer success and product leaders will prioritize their teams and time in 2020.
Role Clarity: We find ourselves in a unique space where customer strategy has never been so important. Simultaneously, customer success as a practice is still taking shape, defining who does what and when, concerning customers, is still an evolving process. There is no one size fits all answer. With such a growing level of importance of driving growth from the base during a downturn, ensuring your team is aligned to the right activities and processes is crucial. Many executives were looking to understand who owned critical phases of the customer journey like renewals and expansions. Was it CS? Account Management? Sales? What are the best practices of cross-functional collaboration, and how has the increased need for customer growth impacted incentive plans? What was evident from these discussions is that Sales and CS need to be collaborating more than ever. Increasing the cadence of joint account planning and risk review sessions are a few steps companies are taking to bring these teams closer.
Defining High and Low Touch Programs: With customers front and center, deploying the right coverage model to ensure optimal experience and revenue opportunity is critical. In some of our attendees’ cases, their customer numbers were surging due to the pandemic. How then do you apply the right amount of account coverage? Most organizations out the gate focused heavily on their high touch customer segment —making sure the most prominent and brightest customers feel warm and fuzzy, 365. The question now is, how do you drive efficiencies in that process and make sure you aren’t driving up your cost-to-serve metrics. And in cases of low touch or tech-touch customers, they can no longer have a plan that is 1 or 2 years out. Now is time to determine the engagements that are easily automated and find technology that will help you operationalize.
The Marriage of CS and Product: At Gainsight, we are firm believers in the importance of the union of CS and Product, thus the excitement surrounding the advancement of our Gainsight PX product. The CS org is a gold mine of feedback and potential innovation for your product team to leverage. While you can’t enable every single request you get from customers, you must find a way to synthesize and prioritize the top feedback and put it to good use. Knowing that you are heard is one of the best feelings as a customer. As executives searched for advice on bringing these teams closer together, ideas like quarterly joint-roadmap development sessions and incentive programs for rewarding the collaboration were some of the suggested solutions.
Outcomes: This area of discussion often began with the common question, “How do you define good?” Executives are looking for ways to understand customer health beyond green, yellow, and red. We know what customers are doing in your product is still a critical initial proxy of customer health. But measuring how your product is helping them see value is more important. As we all know, the subscription economy makes it much easier to switch to a competitor when expectations are not met. Executives shared ways to help customers quickly achieve value while aiding an organization’s ability to measure this process accurately. They also explained their various customer health tactics. It was amazing to see how health measurements have evolved to incorporate overall ROI, ensuring that the business cases built in the pre-sales process are brought to fruition post-sales. Some executives even shared that their customer’s outcome scorecards include dimensions like retention, expansion, and advocacy.
Leadership in the age of COVID-19: It was not surprising that in the wake of the pandemic and current economic downturn, a popular topic for executives was pivoting to make business adjustments in a time of crisis. There was a wide variety of discussions and views on this topic, including how to monetize customer success and rationalize self-funding to lock in new headcount and resources. There were other discussions surrounding strategies like ramping up the positioning and delivery of Technical Account Managers (TAMs) as a revenue source and offering more robust premiere services packages.
Cross-functional leadership collaboration may be more challenging given physical distancing; however, that doesn’t mean it’s any less critical. Executives spoke about how their leadership teams feel more customer-centric. They were especially pleased to see that the customer success function is no longer the responsibility of a single team, department, or organization. Instead, the idea and motion of customer success continues to grow and get adopted across the enterprise. Perhaps this is a silver lining of discovery and innovation amid this crisis.
Lastly, one of the most encouraging topics of discussion across the board was the need for human-first leadership. For those of you who know and follow our CEO Nick Mehta, this topic is dear to his heart. It is one of the core values at Gainsight. Leaders have to make a change in the way that they operate day-to-day. It’s easy to get lost in the mix of back-to-back meetings and video calls while being isolated in your own physical space. Before you know it, that human-connection that helps organizations thrive is falling by the wayside.
Our executives spoke at length about the ways that their teams are getting creative to stay connected. There were suggestions of themed virtual happy hours, daily stand-ups with ice breakers, and care packages to add joy to employees’ days. On a related subject, there was unanimous agreement of the importance of being vulnerable. This time isn’t business as usual, so we don’t need to pretend that it is. Executives felt that sharing stories of their new normal and encouraging their teams to accept the challenge of change, has been effective in keeping connections healthy and strong.
We are so happy we leaped to bring this event everywhere and into our attendees’ homes. We are thrilled to hear that many individuals have set up follow-up discussions within their groups to pick up where they left off. Many folks in their feedback suggested that we add even more small group breakouts next time. So that has us thinking, let’s not wait until CxO 2021 to make this happen. Stay tuned for Pulse Conversations, coming soon!