WordStream Optimizes Its Customer Health Score with Help From Gainsight’s Data Science Team

WordStream helps business owners, marketers, and agencies use paid search and social to turn clicks into paying customers. Since its founding in 2007, WordStream has evolved from a simple keyword research tool into a cloud-based advertising solutions suite that helps its users get more out of online advertising.

Wordstream’s customer base is small to medium-sized businesses and the marketing agencies that serve them. Its users are typically leveraging the platform to drive better results from Microsoft Bing, Google and Facebook advertising for their business, or to help their clients with advertising campaigns.

WordStream’s customer success team comprises 6 team managers and about 45 Customer Success Managers (CSMs), each of whom works with 100-150 customers. An accurate view of customer health is essential to give CSMs a quick view of their portfolios. It’s also essential so the customer success organization can automate more of its activities and customer touches.

Challenge: Evolving Customer Health Score With the Business

WordStream purchased and implemented Gainsight over two years ago, at which time it established a customer health score. However, as its SaaS-based software evolved to include additional features providing customers with more value, it recognized the need to evolve its health score. For example, its Facebook offering was an add-on when it first started using Gainsight but is now more integrated with its software and is key to the core value Wordstream can deliver to customers. As a result, WordStream needed to incorporate that into its health score.

Moreover, WordStream set up a single health score to span its agency and advertiser customer segments and wanted to get more specific with each segment to align with the different value each realizes from WordStream’s solution.

Due to these shortcomings, in any scorecard report, WordStream was seeing 70% to 80% of its customers in the yellow zone.

“When most customers fall in the middle, the scorecard is not as effective as it could be. We wanted to increase the disparity between yellow and the surrounding colors, so we could categorize those in the green as safer from churn and those in the red as being more at risk of churning.”
Phil Kowalski, Director of Customer Success at Wordstream

While WordStream’s customer success leaders were clear on their goals for making their scorecard a better predictor of churn, they wanted the data analysis to back up their hypotheses of what factors should be included in the health score. However, they weren’t certain they could handle the project from a data science perspective since their internal resources would need to get up to speed on the nuances of the customer success world.

Solution: Turning to a Trusted Customer Success Partner

Coincidentally, WordStream was up for renewal with Gainsight, which kicked off a conversation with the Gainsight Account Manager. When he heard WordStream wanted to refresh its scorecard, he pointed them to Gainsight’s Data Science offerings. Kowalski and his colleagues – Bobby Kittredge, Manager of Customer Success, and Robert Riegel, Operations Manager – felt the Scorecard Optimization option was perfect.

Gainsight’s Scorecard Optimization helps ensure organizations have the most holistic view of health across their customers, products, business units, geographies, and teams. It does this by taking the guesswork out of defining performance measures of different metrics that power your health scorecard framework. Gainsight’s customer success experts analyze the organization’s scorecard history, CTA and outcome data. By recommending health score improvements, they help ensure scorecards are optimized to address real-world complexity and deliver maximum ROI by better capturing risk.

“We’ve already gotten a lot of value from the Gainsight platform, so it was a no-brainer going with Gainsight knowing they’re so knowledgeable about the platform and customer success in general”
Kowalski, Manager of Customer Success

“When you want to refresh the customer health score that you’ll use in Gainsight, who better to work with than Gainsight, who understands the platform and customer success?”
Bobby Kittredge, Manager of Customer Success

Building upon the strong ideas the WordStream team shared during the project kickoff about how to evolve their scorecard, Gainsight’s consultants held weekly check-ins with them as they tested WordStream’s theories. As Kittredge explains, WordStream’s data can be complicated for someone outside of the organization to understand. But the regular check-ins allowed WordStream stakeholders to discuss data nuances and gave them confidence that the analysis was on the right track.

According to Kowalski, tapping into Gainsight’s understanding of customer success and best practices in designing a health score was critical. Before, the health score was an estimation on his part. Knowing where to draw the line and how much to weight each measure is something WordStream couldn’t do on its own. “Getting this guidance from customer success experts rather than just those with data science expertise was invaluable,” he continues.

Moreover, Gainsight’s consultants provided objectivity that may have been impossible for WordStream to achieve. “Since we’re so close to our data, it might have been hard for us to step back and trust the analysis. Having a third party – whose thinking is not clouded by assumptions or bias – conduct the analysis was huge,” explains Riegel.

As far as WordStream is concerned, Gainsight’s consultants went above and beyond in the engagement. “In addition to willingly testing our theories, Gainsight’s consultants ran an analysis to show how our new scorecard would be an improvement over our original one, namely giving us the ability to better predict churn,” continues Kittredge.

Impact: Gaining the Confidence to Better Predict Churn

Wordstream has two core types of customers: larger agencies and smaller advertisers. For this reason, the Gainsight consultants had to customize the scorecard optimization insights they delivered to account for each segment’s unique behavior.

The Scorecard Optimization engagement surfaced some unexpected findings for both customer types. For one, WordStream built a reporting feature with agencies in mind, but the analysis found its advertiser customers using the reporting were healthier and less likely to churn than advertisers who didn’t use it as much.

WordStream’s customer success leaders were surprised also to see customers the company considered non-primary users were getting a lot of value out of the feature and were healthier customers. Now Wordstream can feed those insights back to marketing and product marketing to inform how they promote features.

Another key finding was the number of logins was not a good predictor of customer health for agencies. WordStream theorized its advertiser customers appreciate the time savings they get by using WordStream’s software, and don’t need to log in as frequently to see value. However, it discovered that agencies can log in more often than advertisers and still realize efficiency gains.

Once the Scorecard Optimization engagement was finished, Kowalski shared with the executive team the presentation Gainsight developed. As Kowalski says, sharing the value of the new scorecard in a packaged form was a tremendous way to show the success of the engagement. Both the CEO and SVP of Marketing shared their excitement about this new ability to better predict churn.

Moreover, as a result of seeing the customer success team’s confidence in the new health score, other departments are thinking about how they can use it.

“This opens the door for many ways we can use the health score, whether triggering calls to action for the customer success team, or whether marketing and sales use it as a signal”
Bobby Kittredge, Manager of Customer Success

As Kowalski says, the scorecard refresh was a great first step forward but he sees an opportunity to go even further with Gainsight. “What other data inputs factor into customer health? This win greases the wheels for more of these projects and further optimization,” he explains.

Meantime, Kowalski is quite pleased with the immediate impact. “We are clear about how our data was measured, we know exactly what we should be implementing, and we have clear instructions on what to put in our rules engine to make improvements,” he concludes.