PulseCheck turned out to be a bigger success than any of us expected — we had more than 3,300 registrations and over 500,000 total minutes streamed. We got tons of great feedback, too. Participation was high, but it meant that we simply didn’t have time to get to every question during Q&A. So many were incisive and thoughtful and I wanted to make sure they were answered. Here are the top 10:
How do you handle customers that refuse to have a cancellation/churn call?
Conventional wisdom says that if you could just get your customer on the phone at cancellation, you could swoop in with a last second save. You can prove the value of your product, solve the biggest issue, offer up a big discount, and ultimately retain the customer. Or if nothing works, at the very least you can learn from the customer and do better next time.
It’s true: the cancellation call can be a barrier to exit as well as a wealth of honest feedback. People tend to not want to bother with the hassle of making a call. They don’t often enjoy the conflict that comes with telling a CSM they don’t want the product anymore. But that’s hardly Customer Success, is it? If the only thing tying a customer to your company is that in order to leave, they would have to deal with talking to you on the phone, you’re on a collision course that will end badly.
Let them cancel — easily. In theory, you should have seen this coming and taken steps long before — that’s what Customer Success is all about, after all. You can reach out later when there’s less pressure. At least this way the chances of detraction blowback will be much less. In the meantime, you should definitely be building Cancel Flows into your product.
Any tricks on how to get a client to fill out an NPS survey?
NPS, like any survey or poll, requires mass participation to be effective. The more people who reply, the more accurate it is. But in order to get a response, you have to rely on your customer choosing to take the time to reply. There’s really nothing in it for them. Some companies offer incentives, but there’s an inherent risk involved in that. If you reward your customers, how will that affect their survey responses? Our Sr. Customer Success Manager Tracy Zundel had a great idea to donate to a third-party non-profit for a survey response. Gainsight has used this very successfully. It makes the customer feel good about helping out and it makes us feel good too.
In the same way, appealing to your customers’ altruism can be effective at encouraging a response. Quartz published a very counter-intuitive piece on how they elicited almost a thousand responses to a 65 question survey from C-level executives. They didn’t spend a dime. You should definitely read the reasons behind their success, but two of them stood out to me:
- They didn’t just ask. They gave context for the survey and made a brief case for why the results are important. If your customer doesn’t know anything about NPS, they might not know how valuable it is and how it can help you improve your service.
- They made it easy. Quartz made the survey as attractive and intuitive as possible. For a 65 question survey (that’s so long!) it only took 16 minutes on average. That’s less than 15 seconds a question. Ideally you won’t be sending out such a long survey (you should be doing six questions or fewer), but the point remains: make it simple to access and simple to submit – maybe even enjoyable if you can!
Last, but not least, timing. Timing is everything. You should be asking for NPS at consistent milestones across the customer’s lifecycle. That way you can compare trends and map them to your company’s strategy.
I believe we should limit the number of accounts per CSM. Thoughts?
Absolutely, though most companies use total ARR of a CSM’s accounts rather than the number of accounts to divide up workloads. That’s because the higher touch your customers require, the more bandwidth they demand from their CSM. CSMs are humans, and because of that, they don’t have unlimited time to spend on an unlimited number of accounts! That being said, every company and every Customer Success team will have a different threshold for how much ARR and how many accounts each CSM can handle. A very large, very complex account will eat up a lot of a CSM’s time and personal touch. But thanks to one-to-many tools and automation, a CSM in a different business model could potentially handle hundreds of accounts.
That’s why it’s so important to carefully segment your customers. Think about the level of touch it’s going to take to ensure each tier’s success and how much bandwidth each member of your team has. Consider your toolbox as well. Strategic segmentation has been a major point of conversation especially in the last six months or so. At CCO Summit 2016, there was no greater topic of discussion. In fact, at Gainsight we recently re-segmented our customers based in part on some of the ideas generated at the summit. When you segment (or re-segment) your customers, CSM touch and its implications on their workload should be a significant element in your decision.
Could you clarify why Community was aligned under Technical Success?
There are several types of online communities, and each of them can have a function in facilitating your customers’ success. Your community might include longform essays on general best practices, contributions from vendors and prospects, and overall thought leadership in your space. Here at Gainsight, our online community is where users and administrators meet to share the tricks they’ve learned, help each other solve problems, and essentially use our platform together. It’s a tremendously valuable asset for Gainsight customers as well as for us at Gainsight. To some extent, your community will evolve and gain its own identity over time just as ours has. In your organizational structure, it might make more sense for your community to fall under Customer Success. In ours, it makes more sense to be owned by Technical Success.
Can you help us understand how your touch segmentation aligns to your planetary model?
Generally speaking, here’s how our planetary analogy shakes out when it comes to how much CSM touch each segment demands:
|SMB||Tech touch||Automated||Mars, Mercury|
Is it more important to move customers from Red to Yellow, or Yellow to Green?
Obviously, we’re always trying to move every customer towards Green on this scale. But this is a very interesting question, and there are arguments for both sides. It’s true that with limited resources, a CSM makes priority decisions all the time. If you could move one customer (let’s assume same ARR, same vertical, etc.) two spots to the right, either from Red to Yellow or from Yellow to Green, which would you pick?
Would you save an at-risk customer? Red is an imminent churn risk, and could represent a major loss in recurring revenue, as well as become a detractor. On the other hand, Yellow isn’t necessarily a sure thing for renewal, and definitely isn’t an advocate. A healthy, Green customer will almost certainly renew, will possibly expand, and is a great candidate for advocacy. Ultimately, that’s what leads me to say that of those two choices, moving a Yellow customer to Green is a greater value for your company.
How do you track champions that leave one company and purchase with another? Who owns this data point?
It’s no secret that we use Gainsight here at Gainsight. Our product has been a big part of our success and it just so happens to have a feature called Sponsor Tracking built in to the platform. It monitors key customer contacts through LinkedIn, Facebook, and other sources. It automatically notifies our CSMs (who own Sponsor Tracking at Gainsight) and issues a CTA with a prescribed playbook to mitigate the risk.
When a champion moves on, it can be a big indicator of churn potential, but as the question implies, it’s also a great opportunity to sell to the champion’s new company. Our Sponsor Tracking tool can help you reach out to your advocate after he or she moves, as well as spot gaps in sponsorship at key accounts. It’s pretty cool.
Kelly DeHart wrote a very in-depth article on how she handles sponsor change. It’s definitely worth a look.
What advice could you offer to help CSMs become less reactive and more proactive?
This was a recurring question, and the answer could fill an entire book. Going from fighting fires to focusing in on expansion opportunities means increasing your efficiency, getting hours back spent doing one-to-one communication, getting better data and collecting it in one place, optimizing your segmentation and workload, aligning with Product and Sales around Customer Success, and much more.
Really, becoming proactive to prevent churn and expand your customers is the entire point of the discipline of Customer Success. But if you’re at the point where your customer base has grown beyond your ability to scale, it’s time to start looking at technology solutions.
Do you have any best practices for increasing Community adoption?
A thriving community is a lot like a garden. It grows on its own, but only if you carefully tend to it. There are plenty of tricks to getting customers through the gate. You should start by personally inviting them. Offering incentives works well, like offering up a gift card for the first post, or allowing customers to build up points for every comment. Those points can be exchanged for services or prizes. Many companies choose to “gamify” their communities by offering badges and rewards for frequent participants.
Ultimately, however, what’s going to attract people to the community is how valuable they find it. Is it informative and entertaining? What can you do to make sure that creative and effective content is being added to the community regularly? Try meeting with members who are “power users” and discuss regular posting. Give your best community members tours of your office and a sit-down with the CEO. Eventually, you won’t have to be so hands on. High-functioning communities will gain momentum as adoption increases.
How do you avoid spending all your Product resources on incremental developments at the cost of longer-term but more valuable improvements?
In her article How Gainsight Uses Customer Feedback to Drive Product Development, Julia Guyadeen quotes Henry Ford: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” As our Director of Product Management, she has to do what Product heads in all kinds of companies have to do: juggle short term gains and long term vision. Essentially, the problem is that when you spend all your time implementing customer enhancement requests, you’ll never innovate. If you only focus on big projects, your customers will revolt. It’s another case of “both/and,” but fortunately, Product-Customer Success alignment can help optimize the process.
What Customer Success allows you to do is listen to the customer, understand the heart of their problem, and guide them towards your vision of the how the product can solve that problem. Henry Ford isn’t a visionary for ignoring the public demand for ridiculous “faster horses.” On the contrary, he knew that the demand had nothing to do with horses and everything to do with a better, more efficient way to get from point A to point B. The lesson here is simple. When you get a product enhancement request, talk to your customer. Get to the bottom of what it is they want to accomplish. It might be that the specific feature they’re clamoring for isn’t what they actually want or need. Then you can show them how your long-term project is all about improving their outcome in that specific area. I highly encourage you to check out Julia’s blog post. It really gets to the heart of this question.
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