Top 10 Takeaways From Pulse 2019
Pulse 2019 is over, but I’m still basking in the afterglow.
Maybe it’s recency bias, but I truly believe it was our best Pulse ever and probably our best week ever as a company. If you were there, you know what I mean. If you missed it, I wanted to give you the top 10 highlights in this blog.
1. Customer Success Hit the Main Stage
We made it. Moscone Center. Where Apple unveiled FaceTime and Apple Maps. Where Google revealed Google Glass and Google Play. Microsoft launched HoloLens, Windows 10, and Cortana in the same place where more than 5,500 Customer Success and Product pros came together for Pulse. We recently worked on a study alongside LinkedIn that showed customer success has grown 736% since 2015. That was the last Pulse we did in San Francisco, at Pier 48. It’s great to be back in the city, just at a little bigger (and warmer) venue. Check out the highlight video!
2. 20/20 Vision for the Next Decade of Customer Success
As the last year of the decade, we wanted to look ahead to what our industry would look like in 2020 and beyond, and let me tell you: it’s going to be incredible. Our five tracks were built around the five transformations the customer success movement will undergo over the next five years. I hesitate to call them “predictions,” because we already see them happening, and you don’t need to be Nostradamus to see them continuing and accelerating. We revealed them in our opening keynote, and they really resonated with the community—so much so that each one is a top takeaway, and each for an unexpected reason. Take a look below.
3. From Customer Success to Customer Growth
Here’s the first trend for 2020 and beyond. 10 years ago, most CSM teams’ number one job was making saves. Finding unsuccessful customers, diagnosing the roadblock to success, and turning it around. As we move forward, that’s still going to be a task for lots of teams, but it won’t be the main mission. Instead of a churn antitode, we’re seeing more and more teams move to a relationship-expanding mission that has a strong alignment to revenue growth. A big highlight was John Gleeson’s keynote. He’s Head of Enterprise and Mid-Market CS at KeepTruckin, which is a unicorn-status fleet management software company. They’ve done something incredible with their CS organization—they’ve driven millions in pipeline through CSQLs (which they commit to driving a certain number of each quarter). And they’re doing it at scale too. They’ve grown to 400 CSMs globally and can ramp a CSM in two weeks. You’ve got to hear how they do it.
4. Product Experience Takes Center Stage
This was the first year we’ve invited Product Managers to Pulse, and to some extent, we weren’t sure what to expect. Would they feel embraced by the customer success community? Would they get new and valuable learnings from the session content? Would they feel like they belong at Pulse? We always collect robust feedback from Pulse attendees, and the answer to those questions from the product people who responded was overwhelmingly “yes.” We had hundreds of Product Managers attend, and they returned some of the highest NPS responses as a cohort. The Product track was incredibly well attended, and was even valuable to customer success people as well. If there’s one session that will convince you that this relationship between Product and CS is the future, it’s Slack’s keynote with their head of Product and Head of CS. Definitely give it a watch!
5. Human-First Leadership
If there’s one trend that will define the tech industry over the next five years, it’s this. It might not be what you’d expect, but more companies are realizing that the future of business isn’t less human, it’s more. I talked about my own feelings of loneliness and how the community we’ve built at Pulse can be one part of the antidote to that universal experience. But it’s not just me or Gainsight, we had a whole human-first track. If there’s one session I recommend to you on the topic, it’s athenahealth’s keynote. When you think about scaling, most of the conversation revolves around taking humans out of the process. But athenahealth has scaled CS tremendously while staying true to human-first principles. I hope you’ll check it out!
6. Operationalizing Outcomes
This was a special Pulse for a lot of reasons; we checked a lot of boxes we’ve been dreaming of for years. But first and foremost we finally landed Maria Martinez as a speaker. She’s one of the most respected innovators and pioneers in the customer success movement, and has been since the beginning. She gave some really valuable insight into how we truly and systematically begin to operationalize customer outcomes. This idea that we can put in place systems and tools and workflows to proactively ensure customers are achieving their desired outcomes is another trend that will become simply normal over the next decade of CS. You’ve got to hear Maria’s thoughts on how that will come to be.
7. Introducing the Gainsight Customer Cloud
We never used to do big product unveils at Pulse. We wanted to keep the content “Gainsight agnostic” so that it never felt like you were being sold something. But a few years back we hosted a small session where our Product team showcased some of the latest new features they’d been developing. It ended up not being so small. It turns out there was a lot of demand—and not just among customers—for a glimpse into our newest software builds. But this year, we did something way beyond anything we’ve ever done before. We unveiled a brand new suite of five products—the Gainsight Customer Cloud. It includes a ton of brand new features and tools, including Gainsight CDP, a customer data platform that’s actionable as well as contextual. Customer data infrastructure is one of the big five trends we’ve identified business, and you can hear a lot more on what the trend means in the keynote recording. You can also watch our product demo to get the inside scoop on what our R&D team has been up to!
8. The Spectacular Pulse Party
People said we would never top the party on the aircraft carrier. And maybe we haven’t, but this year’s party was at least as good if not better. It was a Roaring Twenties party at San Francisco City Hall. If you weren’t there, you probably don’t want to hear too much about how awesome the party you didn’t go to was, so I’ll just leave you with this picture and encourage you not to miss it next year!
9. Gainsight Gives and SV Academy
Maybe my favorite thing—at least what I’m most proud of was the partnership of our Gainsight Gives initiative with SV Academy to create more opportunities for people of diverse backgrounds in customer success. SV Academy’s mission is to break down the moat around the tech industry to help spread success to everyone—especially people with less privilege, which is a mission I truly believe in! So we started with Pulse. This year alone, we put more than 50 people who wouldn’t have otherwise had the opportunity through Pulse Academy, our industry-standard CSM training program. If you watch the keynote, you can hear all about our partnership.
10. The Passion of Pulse
Last, but certainly not least, what truly sticks with me two weeks after Pulse is really the incredibly positive energy and enthusiasm around this community. I wrote more about it in this blog, but I personally felt a little less lost and a little more found thanks to the incredible passion of the 5,400+ attendees. There’s something about Pulse that feels different than other business events—even ones with greater size and scale. It could just be that I’m biased, but I’m still “fired up” about this incredible community. Now, on to Pulse 2020!