Customer Success Playbook: What to do When your Sponsor Leaves Image

Customer Success Playbook: What to do When your Sponsor Leaves

By Dan Steinman

When it comes to Customer Success, amazing things happen when you use - and I mean really use - your own product.

Call it whatever you like – "eating your own dogfood", "drinking your own champagne", whatever. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

At Gainsight, we live this to the fullest. We are committed to being the best, most active, and most demanding customer our Product team will ever encounter. Let me talk about how this manifests itself with a specific example.

Customer Champion Departure is a Red Flag

Everyone in the Customer Success world knows that it's bad news when your champion leaves one of your customers. The only good thing that can come out of that is that they are a great lead wherever they land. But what they leave behind is likely to be challenging.

It's possible that your product or service is so ubiquitous and so loved that this departure doesn't change anything. But, even if that's true, the arrival of the replacement leader might result in a different story.

So, this event is ALWAYS a red flag!

Because Gainsight is a Customer Success application, the details of how we handled this very situation recently are telling.

Sponsor Change is a Customer Success Risk Factor

First off, let me admit that we knew this type of event was always a risk factor but we weren't equipped to handle it as well as we would have liked until we recently released two new pieces of functionality – Sponsor Tracking and Lifecycle Cockpit.

Let me briefly explain these as it will help the rest of the story make sense:

Sponsor Tracking – this feature simply allows you to track individuals or job titles for changes. For example, you could choose to track a person - Joe Smith at Acme Manufacturing - and also track a title - Chief Information Officer - at the same company. If Joe Smith changes job titles or any person moves into, or out of, the CIO role, Gainsight Sponsor Tracking will notify you.

Lifecycle Cockpit – this capability provides the operational functionality for all Customer Success Manager activities. Here is where Calls-to-Action (CTAs) are created, reviewed, managed, and completed. It is the one-stop-shop that drives the daily lives of CSMs.

Now, back to our story.

Playbook: How-to Handle Sponsor Change

One of our customer's Business Owners recently left the company for another role.

Two months ago at Gainsight, this would have resulted in a spirited email thread between execs and CSMs and some loosely tracked activities to try to determine who our new champion was and get an executive relationship started with them.

But here's how it worked last week using the new Gainsight functionality:

  1. Gainsight Sponsor Tracking detected that our champion (Business Owner) had changed companies.
  2. An automated Call-to-Action (CTA) was created in Cockpit and assigned to the CSM for that customer.
  3. The CTA included a Playbook which outlined, step-by-step, our process for dealing with this exact situation. Here are the steps in that Playbook:

    1. CSM - notify Gainsight Executive Sponsor of the change
    2. CSM - contact customer, verify change, and get introduction to new Business Owner
    3. CSM - update Salesforce with new contact and role
    4. Gainsight Executive Sponsor - make connection with new customer Business Owner
    5. CSM - schedule next Executive Business Review (EBR) with new Business Owner
    6. CSM – create new rule in Sponsor Tracking to track where previous Business Owner lands and notify Sales when that happens
    7. CSM - in the next EBR, reaffirm ROI and goals with new Business Owner and with customer Executive Sponsor

You can see the details in the Playbook that allow nothing to slip through the cracks. You can also see that at least one of the tasks belongs to someone other than the CSM (Gainsight's Executive Sponsor in this case).

All CSMs know that they are ultimately responsible for ownership of their customer's issues, but that they often need to delegate some of the associated tasks. Gainsight's Cockpit allows the CSM to designate the owner of each task and delegate the responsibility for closing that task to that owner. The delegation can be to anyone in the organization from a Product Manager to a Support Rep to the CEO.

Every task then has an owner and a due date and anyone else at Gainsight can look in Cockpit at the CTA at any time, and see which tasks are complete, which have not yet been done, where the incomplete ones are in the workflow, and what their due dates are. Nothing slips through the cracks and management has complete visibility into the progress in closing this CTA.

At most companies, this set of actions is tracked poorly, if at all, and usually involves several different non-integrated systems – Evernote, Asana, Salesforce, manual to-do lists, etc. Gainsight not only consolidates all customer health information in one place but consolidates all of these activities and their necessary collaboration in one place as well.

The Virtuous Cycle: Customer Success and Product Team

The coup de grace' is that, once this event and associated actions were completed, the Gainsight Product team immediately picked up the new Customer Success Playbook for this event, built it into the product as a template, and will ship it in our next release for customers to use or modify as needed. The virtuous cycle is indeed complete.

One more serendipitous aspect of this virtuous cycle is that now, Gainsight AND our customers are often using the same Playbooks to deal with these common red flag situations. That makes for much more effective communication between CSM and customer.

It also means that, when an at-risk situation like this one occurs, our customers are seldom surprised by our actions because they are often following the identical steps with their customers.

Learn more about Lifecycle Cockpit and Sponsor Tracking in Gainsight's Summer 2014 release.

gainsight-summer-2014-launch

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Dan Steinman GM, Gainsight EMEA GM, Gainsight EMEA
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  1. […] within our customer. It’s a big red flag when a sponsor or champion leaves — and here’s exactly how we deal with that at Gainsight — but it’s a red flag for a different reason than what I just […]

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