Gainsight is always excited to see our customers excel with the use of our products. But when they take a new direction of incredible growth and scale, we have a sense of pride that we are a part of their success.
That is how we feel about VMware.
Recently Gainsight’s Chief Customer Officer, Kellie Capote, host of the GameChangers webinar series, sat down with VMware’s Senior VP of Customer Success, Meenu Argwal, to talk about how they scaled successfully partnering with Gainsight. This idea greatly aligns with Gainsight and the GameChanger Community’s fundamental belief that, collectively, we can inspire, grow, and push each other to new heights. And VMware is soaring high right now!
Everyone in tech knows the name VMware. They are the leading multi-cloud services provider for all apps, enabling digital innovation with enterprise control. With over 24,000 employees and an ecosystem of 75,000 partners, VMWare has been behind the technology innovations transforming numerous industries. They are committed to the responsibility to build a sustainable, equitable, and secure future for everyone.
In this webinar episode, Kellie and Meenu’s discussion centered around two core things: scaling customer success and the related topics of CS digital motions and partner ecosystems.
The first topic, scaling CS, is something Kellie says comes up in “90% of conversations about customer success.”
To begin their conversation, Kellie explained that every fiscal year Gainsight establishes a descriptive theme. This fiscal year’s theme is “Unstoppable,” and we are leaning into the super-powered Avengers series. Kellie, in true Gainster fashion, started with an icebreaker question.
Kellie: What’s your hidden superpower, Meenu?
Meenu: That’s a fantastic question. And I know I can’t get away without a superpower here with the Gainsters. I would say that I cannot read people’s minds, of course, but responding to people based on what they’re thinking is always something very important. So listening for cues, active listening, and understanding gestures that’s something that I try to do better and better.
The conversation turned more personal when Kellie asked about Meenu’s career journey. Like so many CS leaders, Meenu’s transition into the field of customer success came from a different direction—in her case, sales. However, her interest in CS was derived from her desire always to make the customer successful.
Kellie: Meenu, I thought it would make sense just to share a little bit to get to know you more, both professionally and personally, to help set the stage for that conversation, and really bring it to life. So to kick us off, tell us more about your career journey and specifically how you found yourself in the profession of customer success that I know the two of us are so, so passionate about.
Meenu: If you asked me ten years ago, what would you like to be? Where do you see yourself? I can guarantee you my response would not have included customer success. So, having said that, I’ll also share that, usually, I like to be very purposeful and very intentional with my career and creating a path. Always at the core of it is not only just intention but enjoying new things. That’s just me. I like to do new things and learn new things. But also being uncomfortable. Pushing yourself to learn new things makes us uncomfortable. That’s a good thing.
If I look back, I started my life in consulting and consulting with clients and customers. Then, I found myself convincing customers to buy more services. I was automatically graduating towards selling services, and I always worked for software companies. So it was like, “Hey, I can sell software too. It’s not different.” I bridged that with pre-sales, from being a consultant to selling services, to pre-sales, and eventually to sales. I’ve spent a big part of my career in selling and sales leadership roles, regional, geographical, global.
As I was going through all these motions, one thing that was becoming very apparent to me was every part of every role I’ve been in, I have always cared about customers being successful. It’s not just me. That is all the roles. Very intentionally, I started taking on more experience programs, customer delight, NPS, taking customer success responsibility, support services, post-sale journey. And here we are. I’m ingrained in customer success and having this conversation today.
Customer Success Responsibilities
The conversation between Kellie and Meenu moved to Meenu’s current role as Senior VP of CS at VMware, the CS orgs charters, and her responsibilities. This segue led to an interesting point everyone wants to hear—VMware’s ARR is owned by CS!
Kellie: Double-clicking into your current role, which is SVP of Customer Success at VMware, a very big role and big organization. Share with the audience a little bit about your charter and some of your key responsibilities, which I think will help make sense of our whole scaling conversation that we’re getting to.
Meenu: Before I share more about the role, I do want to say it’s such a delight to be at a company like VMware. Our epic values, our culture, the focus on diversity, belonging, and, more importantly, equity, is one of the best in the industry. So, constantly being recognized for this through industry awards, I’m just very proud to be here at VMware. I’m also extremely, extremely proud of how the customer success team is focused, really maniacally, on customer outcomes and delivering great experiences.
If I look back to when I started, we established the customer success organization here at VMware about 18 months ago. We recently, a couple of months ago, celebrated our one-year anniversary too. So it’s a young team.
You alluded to kind of a big role. It’s a big role in that the ARR is being managed by customer success.
If I look across the industry, VMware is in the top 10 ARR sizes of software companies in the world. Our annual revenue is about over $12 billion, and we have hundreds of thousands of customers across a full portfolio of multi-cloud apps. I have a global team of practitioners. We’ve monetized customer success, also. The roles span from 10 CSMs, architects, engineers, microservices, delivery, and support managers. It’s all about the post-sale journey. Serving customers across the post-sale journey. And our mission really is to build customers for life. Not different from many others. But it’s all about value realization, seamless experiences, and making sure we are easy to do business with. They [customers] are continuously realizing that value and faster. Because if we get this right and do it well, customers stay with us, and they expand. That’s the mission and the approach here at VMware.
Scaling through Customer Success
As Kellie and Meenu progressed, they touched on subjects such as where she lives (Seattle, Washington), her passion for painting, her diverse background, and transferable skills. However, it then came to the relevant topic that all CS leaders and executives want to discuss—scale. It is often one of the most problematic issues we face in CS.
Kellie: Meenu, I’d love to hear, as we’ve talked about, given that scale is such a common problem or challenges that so many of us are working through, how have you approached that in VMware? What are some of the strategies you’ve deployed to really navigate those waters?
Meenu: This is very topical, very top of mind, and something that you’re constantly striving to do better and better. I look at it as layering.
You establish some baselines that are applicable and apply to all customers. Then, you layer some additional things that are available to a certain segment. We’ve taken that approach for sure. And not unlike many others in the industry, we have our own pyramid, a segmentation pyramid.
We have strategic and global accounts at the top. Then, we have our enterprise, and so on and so forth. If I look at the fundamentals, digital and tech-touch is here to stay, and more so, the pandemic has proven that point for us. We want self-service, importantly. Whether I’m an enterprise customer or I’m a commercial customer, it’s a very important fundamental for any business.
We have developed a strong strategy to make sure that our customers can self-serve. We share with them the state of their deployments, the state of their health, and the state of their plan to get to their outcomes. That becomes fundamental.
Layer that onto it, and it is more of a tech-touch motion; customers wanting help and needing help. We have a customer marketing and digital tech-touch. We layer that on top of it. Take it away further. It comes down to more of a human interaction. More people-led or CSM-led interactions, and therein is an interesting nuance for us with hundreds and thousands of customers.
How VMware Operationalized
“We cannot have that many CSMs, so how do you scale?” Meenu stated. That was the question that everyone wanted to hear. Then, she succinctly described her processes and methodology.
Meenu: The scaling part becomes really important, and that’s where we are leaning on a partner ecosystem system. We have our best practices where CSMs drive outcomes, value realization, adoption, stickiness, and customer technical health. They do all of that but sharing those prescriptive playbooks, best practices, and enabling our partner ecosystem is the golden thread because partners can then deliver success directly to customers. That’s a big part of what we are working on here. Then, I’ll go one layer up, which is the top of the pyramid.
Again, our customers, we have some very large customers. Our technology is super powerful, and customers are doing very innovative things for that technology. The help they need may be slightly different. And keeping that, if you think about the journey in mind, customer journey, the post-sale journey can vary depending on what customers want to do and when. Everyone wants to get to an outcome, but they may need less support, more services, less services, more support, depending on the path they take.
We launched Success 360, which is our monetized customer success offer. When was it? It was at VMworld 2020 when I think we launched it. We’ve been building on it ever since. That has parts of microservices, a full catalog, premium support, success plan, and shared view of progress, where success executives help navigate our customers. This is the layering approach we’ve taken. That is to make sure no customer is left behind. We want to make sure we are building customers for life by being right by our customers’ side, wherever they are in their journey. These are some of the approaches and practices we are deploying here today.
At Gainsight, we are delighted to hear about Tales of Scale, such as Meenu’s and VMware. Everything they are doing, from implemented processes to prescriptive playbooks, and Meenu’s innovative “layered approach” is proof that using Gainsight and best practices can help you scale no matter the size of your CS organization.
If you want to see the rest of this episode, tune into Gainsight’s GameChanger webinar series with our Chief Customer Officer, Kellie Capote.