With Customer Success now essential for millions of organizations in nearly every industry, the debate has evolved from “if and why” to “how and how quickly” a business can implement a scalable and effective Customer Success practice.
As a result, many CS leaders have felt pressured into a choice between power and sophistication vs. simplicity and time to value when evaluating and buying the right Customer Success technology for their business. And, in some cases, wondering whether Gainsight was the right fit for their business – or if they could and should settle for a more lightweight solution to get started.
To help us dig into these questions further, we decided to host a virtual roundtable with seven Customer Success leaders from businesses of all shapes and sizes, ranging from a global enterprise with +60k employees and 100’s of CSMs to several smaller startups with only a handful.
Here are the top trends we uncovered when we asked the group what they wished they had known when initially purchasing CS technology… and what they’ve learned since. Some of their answers might surprise you:
- Whether Big or Small, Data is Often the #1 Reason Companies Outgrew a Lightweight Tool – As one leader put it, “just because your team or company is small, it doesn’t mean that your data is unsophisticated.” The fact is, your data matters – it really matters – perhaps even more when you’re early-stage, and making the right business decisions is so critically important. While she hadn’t used Gainsight before, she did come to the realization that having a platform with the power and flexibility to integrate and ingest data from multiple sources and then display it in user-friendly, meaningful reports and dashboards was critical for standardizing and getting consistency across both their CSM and executive teams. All-in-all, the group steadfastly agreed that your data only gets more complex as you grow – and that starting or trying to scale with the wrong tool can have hindering effects on your team, your business and your customers.
- Just Because You Can Do Anything Doesn’t Mean You Have to Do Everything – One point that resonated with all of our attendees was that many teams try to stretch themselves, too far, too early. One leader expressed that she first shied away from buying a more sophisticated tool because, as she put it, she “could never take advantage of all the features,” but then quickly realized that some of the core fundamentals for implementing a consistent customer journey, the bare minimum they needed for their team. It was at that point that she realized that just because a tool can do anything, doesn’t mean you have to do everything. What’s important is that you clearly identify what’s critical and what’s nice-to-have, both now and as you scale.
- The Wrong Technology Can Stunt Your Team’s Growth – Every customer success team is different and matures at its own pace. However, as another CS Director at a 100+ employee SaaS company told us, “our decision to go with a lightweight tool was a primary reason that our team took longer to mature than it should have.” As the group dug further into this point, they agreed that the lack of consistent playbooks, standard motions, and strategy versus tactics resulted in their team often getting stuck in low-value activities and re-inventing processes and procedures that could have been automated away. Customer Success, as they put it, is about so much more than simply logging notes, having a health score, or standardizing a few basic emails. Having the right data, processes, and workflows is extremely critical to how your team and organization mature as both individuals and as a whole.
- CS Ops is Critical for Adoption and Ongoing Success… Most Wish They Had Hired Sooner – Across the board, CS Operations played a critical role in each of our attendees’ overall Customer Success strategies – and all wish they had hired sooner. From translating high-level goals into automated workflows, to driving meaningful customer engagements at scale and surfacing the right data and insights to the right stakeholders internally, CS Operations teams were critical for driving a real and tangible impact on the success of each leader’s CS teams. And all agreed that by hiring CS Ops early, you’re setting-up your entire CS team for greater long-term success and a greater return on investment.
- Scale (Whether Going Tech-Touch or Multi-Product) is a Clear Catalysts for Change – The need to do more with less isn’t just a by-product of the economic uncertainty caused by COVID 19 – especially when it comes to Customer Success. In fact, every leader we spoke to agreed that increasing efficiency as they scaled – whether as a result of adding more customers or more products -.was absolutely critical to their overall success as a business unit. As a result, each of their teams are relying more than ever on process simplification, automation and consistency to help improve their CSM:Customer ratios – both for their long tail segments, as well as for their top ARR enterprise accounts. The resulting tech-touch models rely heavily on data readiness, digital communications and journey orchestration, and precision engagements. And as each of our guests attested to, having the right platform in place to support such initiatives is absolutely critical – but easier said than done.
- You Can’t Effectively Evaluate a CS Platform Until You Understand the Outcomes You Want to Provide to Your Own Customers – Perhaps no single statement in our 60-minute discussion got more head-nods than this one, as told by the Global VP from a Fortune 100 enterprise: “Too many Customer Success teams work backwards when evaluating technology – they start with the tool, then work backwards to the processes and outcomes. When, in fact, it should be the other way around. Once we corrected that mistake and made our evaluation the right way, Gainsight was the clear and outright winner.”
Simple. Powerful. True. If you haven’t clearly identified the outcomes that your Customer Success team is trying to achieve for your customers, and those outcomes aren’t aligned with your company’s overall goals or represented at the executive table, neither your team nor your technology will be a catalyst for setting your customers up for success.
- CS Leaders and Their Teams Want More Thought Leadership and Partnership – Last but not least, I certainly don’t want to leave out one topic that factored heavily into each and every participant’s technology decision, but had nothing to do with speeds or feeds – the feeling of working with a true partner and thought leader. At the end of the day, Customer Success is a unique and ongoing journey, and as every one of our attendees attested to, having (or in some case not having) a true thought leader and partner by their side was absolutely critical to their own overall success. Whether setting and correcting courses, overcoming obstacles, brainstorming ideas, identifying best practices, connecting with like-minded peers, celebrating victories, or even sharing in a good laugh (or cry) here or there, having a true partner by your side is an absolute must-have.
If there’s one thing I truly love about Customer Success, it’s the thriving community of leaders and practitioners who are always ready to share their experiences and best practices. So, whether you’re on the hunt for the right Customer Success platform or simply looking for more tips and best practices, we’d love to hear some of your thoughts and considerations, as well – whether here, at one of our monthly virtual happy hours, or at our next Pulse event. Until then, I strongly encourage you to check out our Buyer’s Guide for Customer Success Solutions or schedule a demo to get a firsthand look and discover what a partnership with Gainsight can truly mean for your business.