Allison Pickens is VP of Customer Success & Business Operations at Gainsight | Barr Moses leads Customer Success Operations at Gainsight
1 new strategic project per month
1 new process per week
1 new workflow improvement per day
That’s how quickly our CSM team innovates. We’re constantly improving what we do.
Here are some examples of recent initiatives:
- New strategic project: Create online documentation of best practices for creating 25 different processes in Gainsight
- New process: Targets for moving customers from yellow to green “Habits” scorecard (AKA adoption)
- New workflow improvement: Add a slide to our New Customer Kickoff deck that illustrates which roles the customer needs to have on their team in order to successfully manage their Gainsight implementation
Velocity is our modus operandi. How do we do it?
We follow 5 principles for driving change on our team.
1) Roll out the Minimum Viable Product
Do these questions sound familiar?
“Should I trigger a Call to Action when there are 5 active support tickets for a customer, or 3?”
“Should I weight my 4 scorecards 25% each, or according to some other distribution?”
“Should that chart be a pie chart, or a bar chart?”
Our Gainsight implementation will never be perfect. That’s partly because there is no perfect answer to the questions above; we have to discover what works best for our team’s workflow and our company’s imperatives. It’s also because our company is growing, which means that our imperatives change continuously, and our Gainsight implementation needs to change with it.
We don’t aim for perfection. Instead, we aim for speed, and we aim to learn quickly. We roll out a minimalist version of a process, and then tweak the process as we gather feedback from the team.
My recommendation: Roll out the CTA with 5 support tickets. Then see if you’re still overlooking major support situations, and if so, then you can adjust the threshold to 3. We tweaked our Support Risk CTAs about 5 times before we felt really good about them.
2) Get into a Rhythm
If you’ve got a rhythm for driving change, you can move quickly while avoiding chaos. Here’s our rhythm:
- Announce new process at our weekly Tuesday team meeting
- Collect feedback and questions from CSMs during Ops Office Hours on Thursday
- Present iterations the following week
When the process requires a significant departure from our usual workflow, we ask CSMs to complete a mini-certification course, so they can make sure they’re up to speed. For example, when we started conducting Strategy Kick-offs for new customers, we asked CSMs to complete these steps (and to check them off in a Google doc as they completed them):
- Read through the Strategy Kick-off deck, including the talking points in the notes section of the PowerPoint
- Watch a recording of someone conducting a Strategy Session
- Watch Allison present the Strategy Kick-off deck during Tuesday team meeting (or listen to the recording of the meeting)
- Role-play a Strategy Kick-off with a partner
- Watch Allison lead a Strategy Kick-off with a customer
- Lead a Strategy Kick-off with a customer, with Allison listening in and offering feedback afterwards
CSMs found that this process helped them quickly adapt to the new process.
3) Make Meetings Count
Because we launch our new processes at Tuesday team meetings, those meetings are pretty important. There are 3 elements to making those meetings successful:
- Deck that explains the vision for the new process: why are we launching this to begin with?
- Slide that addresses likely questions. Take 5 minutes to anticipate what questions your team is going to ask you, and then jot down the Q&A on a slide.
- Gather feedback on the process from various people on the team in advance of the meeting. That way you’ll have a sense of how to present it.
4) Reinforce the Process
You don’t roll out a process once. You roll it out every single minute after that. That’s because processes require ongoing reinforcement. Here are a few methods:
- Use Dashboards in Meetings: Review a dashboard that tracks the process during team meetings and 1-on-1 meetings. You can see what dashboards we use here .
- Share the Implications: Explain to the CSMs on your team what your company’s executives are looking at, and how the CSMs’ activities as part of this process affect the execs’ perception of the team. We did this when we rolled out our escalation process: flagged CTAs are bubbled up to the dashboard that our CEO looks at weekly.
- Don’t Hesitate to Remind: Repetition helps people acclimate to new processes. When a CSM tells their team manager about an urgent customer situation, the manager reminds them to “flag” the associated CTA to blog post on how to use scorecards & CTAs
- Tie Rewards/Recognition to the Process: It doesn’t always make sense to tie compensation to adherence to a process, especially given the need to make incentives straightforward. That said, publicly recognizing CSMs for their excellent execution of a new process can encourage adoption.
5) Make Everyone Part of the Innovation Effort
Change doesn’t have to happen in a top-down manner. We want to make sure it also happens bottom-up and side-to-side. Often the best ideas come from the people who notice a problem in their daily workflow and come up with a brilliant solution. Here’s an email I wrote to our team today about that topic:
“Have you been at Gainsight for 1 week?"
If so, that makes you a veteran!
Heck, even if it's your first day (congrats, Grant!), you're probably observing a ton of things that we could do better as a team. In fact, sharing your fresh perspective is extremely conducive to our goal of continuous improvement.
I would love to see new team members participate more in our team conversations. Your impressions and suggestions are super valuable.”
Besides sending emails like the one above, here’s how you can make innovation a team-wide effort:
- Introduce “Process Hack-a-Thons”: Engineers aren’t the only ones who can do hack-a-thons! The CSMs dedicate 1 hour every 2 weeks to designing a process to address a pain point, as part of a small group.
- Identify Champions: Find team members who are advocates of a process ad want to take on a leadership role in championing it to the rest of the team. These tend to be people who are comfortable building the airplane while flying it: they’re happy to beta-test the process, offer lots of suggestions, and gather feedback from other team members.
- Give Them a Stake: Help your CSMs develop a sense of ownership over the initiative by explaining what metrics the process is intended to drive. In our case, we’re aiming for a 15% fully loaded cost / ARR ratio. Then explain how the process is intended to affect that metric, e.g. by influencing ARR/account or the number of accounts per CSM.
Still, given that CSMs also have to do their jobs – they can’t spend all day designing new processes! – it’s critical to have other team members who are dedicated to change management. That’s where the Customer Success Operations role comes in. The chart below from an earlier blog post describes at a high level the role that our CS Ops lead Barr plays on our team:
If you’re looking for more suggestions about how to drive adoption of the processes you implement in Gainsight, contact your CSM. You can follow Allison’s blog posts on Twitter at @PickensAllison. She also appreciates your comments on her posts, so you’re welcome to email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.