So you signed your CSM offer letter, now what? Image

So you signed your CSM offer letter, now what?

Congratulations!  Customer Success positions can be some of the most rewarding and challenging positions at any company.  After companies spend all that money to acquire customers, keeping them delighted, renewing and wanting to buy more is absolutely critical to long-term success.  So how can you hit the ground running in your new CSM position?  Well – I suspect that you have experience drinking from a fire hose so jump right in and start learning the product, the people, and the processes that will help you drive business value as quickly as possible. A few things to remember: The good news is that when you’re new to an organization any questions are fair game.   You come to the team with the freshest set of eyes on everything.  Use that “new-ness” to your advantage! On the flip side, you basically know next-to-nothing at this point.  But keep in mind that everyone goes through a similar ramp up period so there’s no point in beating yourself up.  Identifying priorities and setting short-term goals are very important to keeping your sanity. If you thought the interview process was the hard part, think again.  Remember that you never get a second chance to make a good first impression.  And the […]

4 min readAugust 16, 2019
Business Reviews and Solution Reviews – Demonstrating Value and Impact to the Right Audience Image

Business Reviews and Solution Reviews – Demonstrating Value and Impact to the Right Audience

Solution Reviews and Business Reviews? They are not the same thing? Nope. Conducting a quarterly or annual review is critical to the ongoing development of a partnership, but the content must be relevant and important to the audience. Over the past couple of years, I have seen many templates floating around and admittedly, looked for that perfect template myself. Relationships can be incredibly complex to navigate, as we often have to work with an executive, steering committee, IT, process owners, procurement and others when selling and servicing a customer. We need to shift our mindset around what gets communicated to the customer during these meetings. Let me define two different conversations – the business conversation and the solution conversation. I don’t want to get too hung up on the titles, but want to outline that there is the potential for doing two different types of reviews/conversations. For some companies doing one may make sense, but as you scale your Customer Success initiatives and build out a relationship map or framework, you can distill the content of a business/solution review into two buckets and then adjust the frequency of delivery. The “Business” Conversation and the “Business” Review Frequency: Divide your contract length into […]

4 min readAugust 16, 2019

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Quarterly Business Reviews – Value or Fluff? Image

Quarterly Business Reviews – Value or Fluff?

This is a topic that always gets a lot of attention when I talk about it.  Invariably, when I mention the phrase “Quarterly Business Review (QBR)”, I’ll get requests for a QBR template or get asked a number of questions.  It’s a classic case of something that sounds really good and often gets mandated by management, but is not always done in a consistent or purposeful way. First of all, to answer the question in the title, I think there is real value in doing these, assuming, of course, that they are done well and with a clear purpose.  If they are simply another conversation with a customer asking them how they are doing, then please don’t waste your time or theirs. Before I go on, I’ll just mention that we’ve recently renamed our QBRs to EBRs.  That stands for Executive Business Reviews.  We do them quarterly but changed the name because we really truly want the executive sponsor at the customer to participate in the meeting and the process.  It’s a subtle change but it helps. How about if we start with some do’s and don’ts: DO Get the executive sponsor at the customer to attend and participate Make sure […]

5 min readAugust 16, 2019
The March of the Friend Image

The March of the Friend

I have been in Customer Success for many years.   During that time I have seen many changes and my role has morphed in many directions.   One thing is common with all the variations of the Customer Success position: the slow approach of your CEO with his/her eyes focused on yours.  This walk is usually followed by a variation of the words “I have a friend at one of our customers that is having challenges.”  It sounds like fingers on a chalkboard and sends a shrill up my spine. I call this walk the March of the Friend. A while ago I saw my CEO doing the March of the Friend; I contemplated doing a George Costanza and hide under my desk, but instead I listened.   My CEO heard from a CEO friend that had a challenge with our product.  Of course, I knew of the challenge, in fact the notes about the challenge were buried in our CRM. The issue was being addressed and we had the entire team working on a solution.  The customer’s CEO was using our product because we were driving adoption.  I would contend that if your customer’s CEO is speaking with your CEO about your […]

3 min readAugust 16, 2019
Aligning Customer Success and Services Image

Aligning Customer Success and Services

As companies mature, organizations that were at one time encompassed in one person, become separate and distinct.  Early on at many software companies, one person might be responsible for training, implementation, Customer Support, Professional Services, and Customer Success and perhaps even renewals and upsell.  Over time, each of those will likely become a separate organization.  And, along the way, it will make sense to start charging customers for some types of value-added services, too.  If you end up with both a Customer Success and Professional Services organization, it will be important to define and differentiate them. There are no hard and fast rules here, but, in most cases, Customer Success will not be separately charged-for but will be embedded in the contract cost while your Professional Services team will aspire to become a profit center.  Interestingly, many of the skills in these two groups are overlapping and you may even find that the people are semi-interchangeable, too.  But ultimately, the organizations will grow up to look very different and be measured in totally different ways. It’s a unique challenge to align two organizations that are filled with people who share many of the same skills and are working with the same set of […]

3 min readOctober 8, 2019
When Should You Refer a Customer to Professional Services? Image

When Should You Refer a Customer to Professional Services?

It is useful to think about Customer Success providing a roadmap and motivation to do more and Professional Services as the arm to help customers execute on that roadmap.  If you are doing both, your customers are demonstrating commitment to your product and continuing to build on the value that your product provides. So how do you do this well?  If Customer Success is talking to customers with low usage, customers that are only doing the basics, doing quarterly business reviews or addressing customers that really want to do more but are not making progress, it is important to understand why this is.  Customer Success can really help in this area– assisting the customer understand what is holding them back from doing more. Once you establish this and help the customer realize this, Customer Success can help with the plan to do more. When the customer needs knowledge, time or specific skills to execute on the plan, this is a good opportunity to refer the opportunity to your Professional Services team. Knowledge – Professional Services assists multiple customers in execution towards their goals with your product.  They have seen the details of what works and what does not in multiple […]

3 min readAugust 16, 2019
Fighting the Churnbot | A Memoir Image

Fighting the Churnbot | A Memoir

We may never have met formally, but I think we know each other quite well.  My name is Sally McField.  My family knows me as Sally or Mom, and my business card reads Customer Success Manager. However, I have a secret life that I keep hidden when I go to work everyday – I transform into Super Sally, red cape and all. Being a superhero is not easy, but someone needs to protect Techocon Town from the evil, customer-stealing Churnbot. The Churnbot preys on customers who are not receiving value from products and services. As more companies embrace the Internet of Customers trend in 2014, companies must find ways to get proactive about growing the lifetime value of their customers. The Subscription Economy has made Customer Success more important than ever before.  A company can only be as successful as their customers are.  We Customer Success Managers often work in the shadows, keeping a close eye on customer data, planning QBR meetings, evaluating early indicators of churn.  It’s sometimes a thankless job, but today, a shift is occurring. That’s why I’ve published my memoirs in an all new children’s book titled Sally vs. Churnbot.  As my holiday gift to you, the book is available for […]

2 min readAugust 16, 2019
Churn and Burn: Why “Customer Success” Needs to be a Board Priority Image

Churn and Burn: Why “Customer Success” Needs to be a Board Priority

I was sitting in a board meeting for one of my portfolio companies last month and two interesting things happened. First, the company reported it had zero customer churn (or 100% retention) in the quarter for the first time in its history. Next, the company’s CEO shared a story about a panel at a conference at which he was asked to name his most important executive. The other panelists named obvious candidates, like their VPs of sales or engineering. This CEO, however, said his most important executive is his VP of customer success. His rationale? “If I can’t make my customers successful, nothing else matters.” I tend to agree with him. The notion of dedicating an entire position, let alone a department, to “customer success” at a company might seem silly or just glaringly obvious at first blush. What company doesn’t want their customers to be successful? But as most software companies have evolved over the last several years to embrace a subscription business model, I—and certainly the CEO described above—have concluded that customer success is a critical, and often under-used, tool for most modern start-ups. Simply put, a subscription business model means customers must continually renew to keep revenue flowing […]

5 min readAugust 16, 2019
Renewals Management Image

Renewals Management

Simplify renewal management and maximize customer lifetime value with Gainsight. Why Download? Gainsight, the first and only complete Customer Success solution, helps businesses grow faster by reducing churn, increasing upsell, and driving customer advocacy. The company’s SaaS solution uses predictive analytics to drive revenue from sales, usage, support, survey and other sources of external customer data. Discover more about it’s capabilities when you download the Renewals Management guide. Align your team, processes and systems around managing renewals Optimize performance with insight into the effectiveness of the team and efficacy of specific actions Spot revenue opportunities by looking at the whitespace of products and contracts against the account health

1 min read
Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone! Image

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!

Although full bellies, football games and a giant Snoopy floating above the streets of NYC, often distract us, Thanksgiving is a time for family, friends and reflecting on what we are blessed with. We feel especially fortunate at Gainsight, having just gone through a second round of funding, a great experience at Dreamforce and the addition of several new hires. At Gainsight, we hold three key values close to heart: Success for All, Childlike Joy and Golden Rule.  As a company, we keep these in mind with anything we do. Success for All: We don’t believe in the Zero Sum Game. Customer Success is all about creating a relationship that is beneficial to everyone.  Customer Success is ensuring that your customers are happy and fulfilled by the service that you provide. Our success is tied to the success of our customers, partners and friends. A Customer Success Manager’s job is to answer customers’ questions before they even ask. It is not only our CSM team that works for the “Success for All,” every department works with this value in mind.   Childlike Joy: With an arsenal of kid-friendly junk food in our kitchen and Nerf guns and giant stuffed animals lying around the office, it’s […]

3 min readAugust 16, 2019
The Internet of Customers | Dreamforce 2013 Recap Image

The Internet of Customers | Dreamforce 2013 Recap

Well in case you missed it last week, a small company called hosted their annual Dreamforce conference in San Francisco.  The destination event managed to drive over 100,000 people to the city by the bay, resulting in a whole lot of traffic, but even more excitement over the future of the enterprise cloud computing ecosystem. At the conference, CEO Mark Benioff outlined the company’s vision by announcing the arrival of the “Internet of Customers” era.  The premise is simple—that behind all the technology and every online connection is the customer, the single most important element in any business equation. Although the moniker may be new, the spirit has been here all along.  Salesforce has put the stake in the ground, validating the CSM movement on a grandiose scale and ensuring that 2014 will certainly be the year of Customer Success. We were incredibly excited to officially debut Customer Success on cloud computing’s biggest stage this year and support the Salesforce team as they unveil their new customer-centric messaging.  For those who did not attend the conference, we filmed a recap (below) that captures all of the highlights, including the first Customer Success session in the Dreamforce agenda, a flash mob of […]

3 min readAugust 16, 2019