While it’s been in business since 2011, it’s fair to say that Zoom really came into its own during the Covid-19 pandemic, between 2019–21, as an easy-to-use go-to way to help keep both business and personal communication alive and well in a brief but deadly era when face-to-face proximity was actively dangerous. Subsequently, it’s become a familiar part of the “post-Covid” working world as the hybrid model settles into place as a growing reality for most businesses around the world. But if you ever thought that’s all it is, we have a memo for you. Zoom is evolving and adapting to meet the broader needs of the post-Covid world—and the growing challenges of a world in which video conferencing is increasingly ubiquitous. We caught up with Jim Mercer, Zoom’s Global Head of Customer Success, just as the company was launching a new partnership with the Gainsight customer success platform to help expand and scale the capabilities of Zoom even further.
People often think of Zoom as a key technology that got us through the pandemic. What can a customer success platform add to its offering? And why deploy one now?
You’re right in that that’s probably how lots of people think of Zoom, but we always want to innovate, and we want to do it at breakneck speed. That’s great, but these are challenging macroeconomic times, which means there are headwinds to fight if you want to innovate and grow. We can’t do anything about those headwinds themselves, but we’re in the position to be able to govern our own response to them.
Data Builds the Certainty to Innovate
In challenging macroeconomic times, if you want to innovate at speed, you have to get certainty where you can, and where we can get certainty is through customer insights. In fact, in times like these, it’s imperative that we’re laser-focused on those customer insights. Gainsight is like an additional lens, almost like a microscope that really helps us supercharge the insights that we already have.
We have pretty robust dashboards across our product suite already, but ensuring that those insights are actionable to the relevant teams is really important right now, because they’ll allow us to be more proactive along the customer journey. Traditional customer success tools always seem to be either purpose-built and/or siloed just for Customer Success (CS) teams, where I think sometimes the challenge is how we spread and disseminate those great insights across all customer-facing teams.
Typically, there are either licensing challenges or they become just another tool to throw into the tool chest of a seller, and that chest can quickly become clunky. Gainsight really helps us to transcend that, and we always want to transcend the status quo in regard to platform technologies. This isn’t necessarily something new for us—when I joined Zoom in late 2015, we implemented our incumbent tool now. Really, using Gainsight is predicated on how we can scale our proactive outreach and engagement across a wide customer base.
An Orchestrated Journey
How do we continue to scale that thoughtful outreach to the masses? Part of our decision was predicated on answering that question and really looking at adoption. We want to elevate that digital touch, so one of the key wins for us with Gainsight was the journey orchestrator. That should give us relevant insights across the board, and guide how we engage our customers. And the visibility of those insights across our teams was super important for us, too.
So it’s kind of a case of the tool that you have right now being the right tool for 5–6 years ago. And now you need to do something more to navigate these, as you say, headwinds?
Yes, for sure. And again, customer success isn’t just the Customer Success team’s business. We’re all customer success advocates across all teams at Zoom.
The Power of Scale
Why Gainsight? There are handfuls of customer success platforms out there.
There are three broad strands to the answer. The first is that as we continue to innovate our own platform, we need partners such as Gainsight that can continue to partner at scale and innovate alongside of us.
The second is that we want to elevate that digital touch strategy I mentioned, and our previous tool was good for the time, but there were some gaps there. And as I say, elevating your digital touch strategy during challenging macroeconomic times, you need better customer insights so you’re able to do more with less. And the journey orchestrator tool should help us tie in what our customers are doing, or more importantly, what they’re not doing within our tools, to ensure that we tailor our engagement strategy properly. That’s super important for what we do. Again, just for context, we just rolled out Gainsight in the last couple of weeks, and this is by far the easiest, fastest timeline I’ve ever been a part of as far as migrating from one tool to another is concerned.
And the third strand is getting better insights across all relevant customer-facing teams. Gainsight lets us put fresh insights in the hands of our specialized teams, rather than just have them siloed with the CS team, and that cross-functional insight is extremely important to us.
Zoom—The Next Generation
So what does Zoom’s customer success strategy look like in the (hopefully) post-pandemic era?
The Five Lines of Focus
Ha. I appreciate the “hopefully.” I’m not even sure what the post-pandemic era is going to look like, but as far as our strategy for this year and beyond is concerned, a lot of what we’re doing now is future-proofing the team and running “What if?” scenarios. For example, “What if we don’t get any incremental budget?” and “What would we do to repurpose to ensure that we’re staying ahead of our customers’ needs?”
There are really five things that our team is focused on. The first is delivering customer happiness. And that really starts with us, our team is Zoom’s happiness delivery mechanism. So we’re focused on proactively engaging our customers in more thoughtful, data-driven ways. And truly driving adoption, which means ROI across the platform. That can be challenging, because as you say, a couple of years ago we were that ubiquitous video conferencing tool, but there are a lot of different options for video conferencing out there now. We’re not that one trick pony anymore. There are a dozen plus different features or pieces of that product now, so it’s super important that we’re articulating that and selling that vision to our customers.
The second is loyalty and advocacy, and really growing our methodology around promoting programs that really foster that growth through customer loyalty and community. We need to really give them the platform to speak as subject matter experts, because our customers are often doing it best, even outside the confines of what we thought was possible.
Third, and if I were to have a favorite part, this would be it (but I’m trying not to play favorites here) is protecting and growing the base. That’s really the nuts and bolts of our lifetime value. And when you think about lifetime value, our “true north” is our customers and their outcomes. Protecting and growing the base means attending to the building blocks that helped us create everything. So the outcomes that we’re building, our objectives, our KPIs, are all built around that strategy.
Thinking about that allows us to more quickly identify upsell opportunities and mitigate risk in our account base. That’s imperative. That’s customer success #101. And there are a lot of leading indicators around adoption, but over time, those become trailing indicators. Often, when you notice an inflection point around usage, it’s too late. And it’s a very competitive environment, so you can’t afford to be too late.
Gainsight and its tools should give us customer insights in time to spot the indicators and react to them effectively, to maintain and grow our customer base in a more systematic way.
Culture and Caring
And the last two areas of focus?
Fourth is operational excellence. There’s no such thing as a successful CS team without a nimble operations team. So think about the systems, data, and enablement teams. When I talked about internal enablement, during that process, we’re upscaling the talent that we have, and that really allows us to do these things. And NPI (new product introduction) is super important, not just for our customers, but for our own folks, especially when you think about the retention of our own employees and our own employee happiness. It means we’re really ensuring that we’re upskilling those folks. After all, Zoom is a much different landscape from a product perspective now than it was just a couple years ago.
The fifth pillar of our focus right now is culture and caring. That’s not too dissimilar to a lot of other companies, but really the foundational building block is caring for each other by investing purposeful, deliberate time, effort and energy into our own folks. You have to really lead with work/life balance activities, not just saying it, but leading by example as leadership teams. You put in place programs where you’re ensuring that you’re driving that accountability around taking time out. But also, there has to be career path development and team building, which often gets lost in the mix when you think about a quickly growing organization such as Zoom has been over the course of the last couple years.
That seems to be a general trend coming out of the pandemic—those companies that are investing in the whole care and culture aspect of work/life balance seem to be making faster forward strides than those that aren’t.
It’s super important, especially as you and I and they sit at home, working remotely. There’s no longer a delineated divide between work and home life, so it’s up to us to ensure that one still exists, even if the strict “location” of work and home are the same. And it’s an opportunity for Zoom to actually be better at this, rather than just having the products that allow us to do this.
We need to drive these meaningful experiences and ensure that we’re promoting these things and walking the walk of really taking time away and stepping out, so that the lines between home and work life are not so blurred right now as they would be if we didn’t drive those experiences. It’s potentially a slippery slope, because it can be really difficult to step away, and then you get elements of burnout, right? So it’s really important that we’re guiding our teams towards best practices and universal truths around workspace, regardless of environment.
Not Your Grandma’s Zoom Anymore
We’ve heard recently about office culture in 2023, and how there isn’t really a 9-5 anymore, and that hybrid working is here to stay. As an original key enabler of that, it makes sense that Zoom would be keen to establish those lines of work/life balance.
We need to do a better job of evangelizing this. But as I mentioned before, Zoom’s not just your mom and pop’s video conferencing remedy for the early Covid blues any longer. It’s just in this unique environment where we’re purpose-built for enterprise and consumers alike. And it would be almost a contradiction in terms in most technology companies, but we’re in this really interesting dichotomy of scale here at Zoom. And part of my own motivation for being at Zoom as long as I have been is tied to how quickly we continue to innovate, despite some of the challenges around us that are outside of our control.
Those pesky macroeconomic headwinds.
Yes. In spite of which, over the course of this last calendar year, we’ve launched over 1,500 features and enhancements to our platform. There are really close tie-ins there to how Gainsight helps us, because at the end of the day, think about that NPI that I talked about, and the importance of ensuring that we’re equipping our internal teams, having those data insights tied to each of our new products that we’re releasing and as close to real time as possible. I just can’t imagine a world in which that wasn’t the case.
1,500? In a single calendar year?
Right? We’ve announced Zoom Mail and Calendar, Zoom Spots, Zoom Phone—that seems to be a huge revenue driver for us, and Zoom IQ, to name just a handful. They’re all built on the Zoom platform. Zoom Rooms continues to be top of mind, especially for our enterprise customers, in our direct business around reservation enhancements, doing more with traditional room spaces, even outside the confines of leveraging the Zoom Room software. We’ve also released a contact center platform this year, in addition to announcing Zoom Virtual Agent. We’ve acquired an AI chatbot which helps customers resolve 50% of their requests without the involvement of humans. And we’re hosting Zoom events and webinars, and obviously, drive more ROI from remote and hybrid events.
When you think about just all that that’s happened, we do need robust platforms and partners such as Gainsight that can truly help us at scale, identify our customers’ needs ahead of time and really help us meet them. Zoom become that Kleenex as it were over the course of Covid, synonymous with remoting in and or having a video conference, but it’s still insanely positive to me, despite some of the challenging economic times, that we continue to innovate at breakneck speed. And again, we need partners and tools such as Gainsight to really help us achieve some of those proactive engagements with our customers.
This ain’t your Grandma’s zoom no more.
And it’ll keep developing, with better customer insights to guide its way.
To get the latest insights on the Gainsight platform, read about our recent product event Evolve.