How we Drive High-touch Success with Strategic Customers Image

How we Drive High-touch Success with Strategic Customers

By Ashvin Vaidyanathan & David Knox

Ashvin Vaidyanathan and David Knox are Directors of Client Strategy at Gainsight and co-lead the Strategic customer segment

At Gainsight, we’ve divided our customer base into three segments based on how Gainsight can address their needs and their potential value to Gainsight.

You can read more about the segmentation on Allison Pickens’ blog post.

It all started when we began thinking about Strategic customers differently. We decided that Strategic customers are ones that either present a major upsell opportunity (e.g., into a new division/product/business unit) or help us open up a market for a new use case for Gainsight. These are our highest potential ARR customers.

As we started selling to, onboarding, and engaging with our Strategic customers, we learnt that they have very specific needs from Customer Success (or Account Management) Teams. So we created a separate team to engage with Strategic customers and called it the “Client Strategy” team. We also started developing engagement lifecycle processes to work better with Strategic customers and address their needs. Here is the story of how we did it:

What do Strategic Customers expect from Customer Success (or Account Management) Teams?

  1. Be a knowledgeable advisor

    1. Be a real thought partner on Customer Success topics, such as segmentation, engagement model design, and CS Ops teams
    2. Help the customer solve problems creatively especially when the product cannot completely solve our problems in it's current state
    3. Push the customer to evolve their best practices even if they are uncomfortable conversations
  2. Be a change management leader

    1. Help the customer manage change with end-users within their company
    2. Lead the executive change management process
    3. Be onsite for important milestone meetings and conversations

  3. Show strong ownership mindset

    1. Be the single point of accountability for all things “Gainsight”
    2. Understand the customer's business and be the customer's "voice" within Gainsight
    3. Go above and beyond when fulfilling customer needs / be one step ahead

    What is the role of the Client Strategy team given the needs of Strategic customers?

    After several pilots and iterations, we defined the role of the "high-touch" Client Strategy Team as a quarterback across the customer lifecycle.

    1 Customer Lifecycle

    • New Customer

      • Pre-Sales: Prepare and lead prospecting calls showing Gainsight’s experience and knowledge in new verticals
      • POCs: Accountable for implementation success for POCs and market its ROI and success with other BUs at multi-divisional customers
    • Onboarding

      • Business Goals: Conduct Strategy Session to confirm the success criteria and objectives for buying Gainsight
      • Implementation: Accountable for implementation success for Gainsight, working closely with the Services team
    • Adoption

      • Customer Success and Change Management: Manage training, incentives, and relationships to ensure successful adoption of Gainsight and Customer Success practices
      • Product: Heavily inform and shape Gainsight’s product strategy, working closely with the Product team
    • Seasoned Customer

      • Customer Marketing: Partner with the Marketing Team on Customer Marketing programs (e.g., Pulse-in-a-Box, enable branded CS intranet)
      • Continuous Improvement: Ensure that the customer evolves with Gainsight’s evolving product and best practice content

    The next step was to define and document our lifecycle engagement processes so that we can be more efficient and effective at repeating the best practices. Below we cover the Onboarding and Adoption lifecycle processes.

     

    Onboarding Engagement Lifecycle Processes:

    • Welcome the customer:

      1. Once a prospect signs the contract and becomes an official customer, we use CoPilot to send out an automated welcome email from the VP of Customer Success welcoming the customer to the Gainsight family and introducing the Client Strategy Manager assigned to the customer
      2. This is followed by an automated CTA in Cockpit to send gift baskets to key roles at the customer (e.g., Executive Sponsor, Adoption Champion)
      3. Finally, the Client Strategy Manager sends a manual, customized email introducing the team and the next steps (e.g., kickoff call, strategy session discussion)

     

    • Ensure a successful internal hand-off:

      1. In order to ensure no balls are dropped during the transition from sales teams to the post-sales teams, we fire a Cockpit CTA for the CSM to conduct a hand-off call/meeting with all key internal stakeholders –Sales, Services, CSM and Data Science teams, as applicable
      2. During and after the call, the team document the business objectives of the customer in Gainsight Success Plans. This is a living document of the customer’s expectations from Gainsight and how we can achieve them

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    1. In addition, we also capture other very relevant information like
      • Key customer stakeholders in the Customer Success teams as well as other stakeholders outside the CS Teams
      • Timelines and key milestones (e.g., upcoming board meetings) for getting Gainsight up and running
      • Preferences for working with the customer (e.g., open source companies prefer working with open source note taking software)

     

    • Institute a strong on-going cadence
      1. Schedule twice a week check-ins with the Gainsight Services Team and Customer Project Management Team (e.g., Tuesdays for Strategy and Thursdays for Data discussions)
      2. Conduct an onsite Executive session to develop dashboards
      3. We also instituted an Executive Sponsor program: Each Strategic customer will have a Gainsight VP dedicated to them depending on availability and best fit. Based on monthly Cockpit CTAs, they check-in once every month with customer executives to gauge perceptions and progress vs. objectives

    These conversations directly impact the customer’s health score - Implementation Risk, Customer Sentiment Risk. The conversations can also drive reference and advocacy opportunities.

    Adoption Engagement Lifecycle Processes:

    • Create and execute a high touch adoption plan:

      1. Create and follow a disciplined project plan for a “high-touch’ post-implementation adoption process
        • Introductory demos to prime the end-users
        • Hands-on training sessions (onsite, if possible)
        • Manager and Executive training to increase adoption
        • “Office hours” by region/BU/segment to provide feedback and ask questions
        • Email alias to capture support and enhancement requests

      2. We document/track these important milestones in Gainsight for future reporting purposes
      3. Enable the customer with a process to prioritize and respond to end user questions and product feedback
      4. It’s also important to remind the customer teams and the Adoption Champion to celebrate small wins and end users who use the processes the best (e.g., Hall of Fame)

    • Conduct quarterly Executive Business Reviews (EBRs)
      1. The CSM and Gainsight Executive receive Cockpit CTAs for quarterly EBRs with a playbook to prepare for these sessions
      2. We design and conduct onsite EBRs to ensure strategic alignment & maximize the return on investment - this is a great opportunity to share the customer’s business objectives (documented in Gainsight Success Plans) and how we’re progressing towards achieving them

    • Share best practices as a trusted thought partner
      1. We provide thought leadership on Customer Success org development (e.g., job descriptions, spans and layers, CS Ops roles)
      2. We also use CoPilot campaigns to share blogs and best practice articles on periodic basis
      3. We also conduct brown bag lunches (onsite if possible) to get end user feedback on what’s working and what’s not working and sharing tips and tricks
      4. We also conduct product roadmap sessions to share Gainsight’s product vision and gather early feedback

    This engagement model for our Strategic customer segment has been and will continue to be a continuous evolution process. It’s the challenges that make for a fun ride!

    If you have questions about how to create these processes in Gainsight, feel free to reach out to your Gainsight CSM or Ashvin Vaidyanathan at ashvin@gainsight.com

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Ashvin Vaidyanathan & David Knox

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