In this episode, Allison Pickens (Chief Customer Officer, Gainsight) sits down with Ray Mitra, Global Head of Customer Success & Services at GE Digital to discuss how he and his team are driving innovation through cutting-edge customer success programs, why finding purpose outside of work is crucial to driving customer outcomes and more.
Narrator: Welcome to the Customer Success podcast: the official voice of the Customer Success industry.
Nick Mehta: Who’s excited? Who’s fired up?
Narrator: On this episode, Allison sits down with the Ray Mitra, Global Head of Customer Success and support at Baker Hughes, a GE Digital company, to discuss how he’s rolling up innovative Customer Success programs that deliver exceptional outcomes for their customers. And now, here’s your host, Allison Pickens, Chief Customer Officer at Gainsight.
Allison Picketts: Ray, thank you so much for joining us on the Customer Success podcast.
Ray Mitra: Oh, thank you so much. I’m so excited to be here, Allison.
Allison Pickens: I’m really excited for you to be here. You and I have known each other a couple of years now. I’ve seen you take on leadership roles and a couple different contacts and I’m really excited for you to share your stories with our audience.
Ray Mitra: I am so excited as well.
Allison Pickens: Now, one of the things that we were talking about just before we started this recording is at Pulse we brought up this theme of be brave, that it takes bravery to tell clients what you think they actually need, if it’s different from what they’re assuming. That it takes bravery to do certain internal cross-functional coordination when you’re starting a brand new Customer Success function. So I’d love to hear from your perspective what are the different ways in which we have to be brave in Customer Success. I’d love to hear if you have an example.
Ray Mitra: I think that’s a very, very good point, because Customer Success are, as the trusted adviser of the customer, they’re the voice of the customer in the company. They’re kind of like the soldiers, and they have to be brave, and let me give you some examples. Typically, Customer Success is responsible for that experience of the customer in that end-to-end journey. So we keep an eye on that, and if there are certain areas which may not be within our departments, say, in the sales process, if a customer is not happy and we get to know about that, we have to have the courage to be able to speak up within our company and say that, “Hey, in the sales process, this is something that’s not working.” I think that requires a lot of courage to be able to speak up. Another example, and I’ve seen this before, is in the professional services field. So in professional services, when teams are implementing, they internally report the status within our organization and say that, you know, “the project status is green on budget, on schedule, and everything,” but many, many times I’ve seen that when we engage with customers that there is a discrepancy there. A customer feels that it is not really green, it’s red, because of various reasons from a customer perspective. Now we’re the ones who actually bring that up and challenge to the professional services team that even though you’re reporting green, [the] customer’s is not happy because of the following reasons. And that can cause a lot of conflict there, but then if they do understand if the company is behind customer centricity, they understand that we are really solving for an experience. I think it is much better aligned. But then you do need the courage to be able to speak up. Another example would be escalations. When customers escalation happens, you know, you have to be brave to raise that all the way to the CEO if necessary. And it requires courage.
Allison Pickens: Absolutely. Those are some great examples and ones that play out, I think, everyday for us, at Gainsight too. Ray, you’re currently serving as the global head of Customer Success and support at Baker Hughes, GE Digital. Can you tell us what does Baker Hughes do, and why does Customer Success play such a large role in it?
Ray Mitra: Sure. Baker Hughes is the oil and gas vertical company of GE. GE has a lot of verticals, right, so this is one of the vertical compan[ies], and I’m part of Baker Hughes Digital, the startup company within BHE that focuses on SaaS-based products. So Baker Hughes Digital is a leader in the industrial digital transformation solution in oil and gas, and we leverage data from all the equipments that oil and gas uses as well as the processes, and we have created a SaaS-based predictive solutions, and it is really creating a digital revolution for the industrial organizations because the solution help us in optimizing operations, increasing productivity, and set up time. So that’s what Baker Hughes does, and as far as Customer Success, why it is important, the subscription economy is transforming the software industry, but it is not just the transformation software industry, the transformational impact is happening on traditional physical products as well. So our company is traditionally a physical products company. And we see these changes happening both on the consumer side and producer sides of the economy through digital transformation, which is the age right now. Consumers’ buying patterns are changing. For example, Tesla cars, which is a physical product, you can buy online, and software is used to serve as product updates. Therefore, with the speed of technical innovation that is happening, new competitors are coming into the market. And just because you are [a] number one brand, you cannot sit idle there, you have to be constantly on your toes and you have to innovate. But along with innovation, the most important thing is customer centricity, and also driving for outcomes, and in order to drive customer centricity and outcomes, Customer Success is key. That we all know. Therefore, Customer Success has been a key imperative within our organization.
Allison Pickens: I remember I met you previously at Apttus, at a different role that you had where you were also critical change agent. How did you come into the role at GE, and why did you decide to take it?
Ray Mitra: Well, as you know, I have been involved in Customer Success since the last five years and I was an early adopter and influencer within this space. I often speak at conferences including Pulse and that’s where I met GE. As an Apttus employee, I was talking to GE and giving them some guidance on some of the best practices that I have created on my own, and that’s how we made the connections and that’s how I got a job offer at GE Digital. They needed to set up an organization within the oil and gas. So I took that job.
Allison Pickens: That’s great. I’m curious to know, what have you learned about the Internet of Things and how it pertains to Customer Success? Internet of Things is such a big trend right now, Customer Success a big trend, and now we’re seeing these two intersect.
Ray Mitra: So Internet of Things and Customer Success… There is a deep relation there. Specifically for our industry for the oil and gas industry and the product that we are launching in the market. In order to describe that, I will have to take a little bit into the background of what we do actually within [Baker Hughes Digital oil and gas].
Ray Mitra: So oil prices started dropping in 2014, and because of that significant drop, digital innovation has become a key, that in order to survive and sustain, you need to make digital innovation as one of your number one business priority. Now look at the heavy equipment that is used in the oil and gas industries for drilling, oil production, transportation, and refining. These equipments are all connected with sensors. The sensors are constantly collecting data, and today, we use less than 1 percent of that data to drive any kind of insight.
Ray Mitra: So imagine, if we can connect all those sensors and collect the data into the cloud, which is IoT, really, right, because these sensors which give you vibration, temperature, pressure of any equipment, and they’re transmitting data, so they are IoT. So they’re transmitting these data. If I can collect all of that data and send it into [the] cloud, and from there I apply analytics, I apply historical data, physics models, math models, all sorts of modeling techniques, I can start doing predictions. Imagine what I can do with that. And that’s exactly what our product is doing. We have created a product called Predix Base Platform on top of their applications, and it is connected to all those assets, and from the asset[s], this device coming in, and from the data, we are able to help optimize production or increase the life of those assets through increased up-time. So that’s how this IoT.
Ray Mitra: We actually coined the term Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT, GE coined that term, and then so that is what created the SaaS product for our company. And then, now that this SaaS product is there, which is a fairly new concept within GE, because so far it’s been mostly hardware (we also had software but on premises), the SaaS side of things, the vectoring side of things, was mostly our M&S (maintenance and support) but now we have a full product, which is SaaS, As we all know in Customer Success that if you have a SaaS product or an existing on prem product that you’re planning to move over to SaaS product, you need Customer Success, because these are customers that are going to renew year over year. So, how do you do that without demonstrating outcomes, without ensuring they have a good experience? That’s that’s how I see that connection.
Allison Pickens: It really strikes me that, in the same way that software move to the cloud, and then we started to be able to gather all this data on how customers are using the product for the first time. So, you know, similarly, in IoT, manufacturing companies started gathering lots of data through sensors, and now we have all this data that we can then act on to support our customers.
Ray Mitra: It’s exactly that correlation, because I cannot possibly be in the oil rig in the middle of an ocean, right? However, if this oil rig, and these oil rigs are very expensive to maintain, and if they are down for like, one hour, it’s millions of dollars of losses. That’s why they plan a lot of maintenance, they schedule time to bring them down, because these are equipments running constantly. Now, if I can, instead of a scheduled maintenance, if I can plan based on data that I’m seeing. Let me give you another example, I think that’ll help. So, say you drive a car, I drive a car, OK? Typically how it is structured, [an] oil change is at 5,000 miles, for you [and] for me. However, if you are driving every single day up the mountains, and I’m driving on a plain path, then I don’t think I need to change at 5,000. Maybe you need to change at 3,000 and I need to change at 7,000. So it’s based on how the vehicle is performing you should be changing, as opposed toto that standard time. Similarly, in these oil rigs, which [are] very, very expensive and hard to manage, if you bring it down, you’re having production losses. If the sensor data from these tools, from this assets, provide me the insights and then apply analytics on that, and if I’m able to predict that, you can actually run your oil rig or these equipments for this amount of time and you don’t have to bring it down, and on that scheduled date that is so much more production.
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Allison Pickens: And now, Ray, you’ve been through a number of different transformations. Most recently, you’ve been a leader in GE Digital’s transformation. What are the top best practices that you would recommend to a leader who is currently launching one of those transformations?
Ray Mitra: Yeah, that’s an excellent question. I would say, for any company that is adapting to the digital revolution right now, some of the top five things that I would say are, one is, unable to speed to market. So, how do you do that? I think one approach is to embrace a startup culture, and I’m specifically giving examples from GE, because it’s a traditional company, [one] hundred and twenty four year old history.
Ray Mitra: But we have seen from the Silicon Valley culture how startup companies get together and they’re able to bring products into the market very quickly. So I think embracing that and that’s what we have leveraged in GE is embracing that culture, and then leveraging silos between different departments, so that’s the enabling speed to market to bring products you have to be really agile. That’s number one. Number two is a cultural change across the company. So, the concept of customer centricity outcomes value for your customer is very very important. I think many companies may not have those, and how do you drive that across that entire company, because as we know, in order to drive Customer Success and customer happiness, the whole company, along with our leaders, has to be behind this. So, basically, number two is cultural change across the company. Number three is building a Customer Success organization. If you want to deliver value to the customers and ensure customers a great experience, it is that Customer Success organization. We have seen many companies, just like GE, have started building Customer Success organizations. Number four is to have success frameworks, tools, and processes. You can have a Customer Success organization with [a] few people, but as you have more customers, you need to be able to scale for that. You need tools and processes by which you can have a more scalable solution. And so that’s why the Customer Success framework tool and process is important. And lastly, the fifth one that I would say is very important, [is] voice of the customer. So listen to your customers, hear what they’re saying through surveys, through interaction, through various customer connect programs that I’ve experimented with and have been successful with.
Allison Pickens: Ray, I know that one of the programs that you’ve developed is called Circles of Success, and I understand it had a great effect on driving product adoption. I’d love to know, you know, for the audience’s sake, what is that program and what have you learned in rolling it out?
Ray Mitra: I [had] just mentioned about Customer Connect. So customer Connect is a program, or über-program which had many programs (sub-programs) under that, and Customer Connect is the bigger initiative by which we were figuring out how better to connect with our customers. Now these connections with the customer didn’t mean just us as the vendor and the customer. It also meant, how could I connect a customer to another customer? So one of the program[s] under that Customer Connect initiative was Circles of Success. In Circles of Success, it was really about connecting a customer to another customer to share best practices. It was a very intimate setting where customers could talk about the product, or the various other processes, maybe not related to the product at all. And this was something that we had done before and it was very, very successful. And by the way, I got the idea of this based on feedback from customers during our customer advisory board meetings and also from servicing that “Hey, while we really enjoy when you share best practices from your company, we’d really love to hear what other customers who are in my similar situation, how are they dealing with this kind of change issues, adoption issues? Not necessarily all about the product features.”.
Ray Mitra: So we took that upon us to actually connect those customers and we facilitated this program called Customer Success which is really bringing about 8 to 10 customers where we have them speak. We just guide them, facilitate the conversation, we also bring our subject matter experts, but we make sure that we don’t speak. It’s really about encouraging the customers to speak. And it really became very, very successful and customer said that was the one best thing they really like about coming to several of our conferences because those were action items and tips that they could take and make an impact. And this was a physical Circles of Success meeting. We eventually, because it became so popular, that we eventually created a Circles of Success online community, that we started getting customers to come into the online community to ask questions or to get various documentation or best practices that we had actually put together based on the face to face customers’ Circles of Success. And so it drove a lot of engagement. As you saw engagementm I think it ultimately translated to advocates as well, because if their customers are engaged, plus if they’re signing up for Circles of Success, then they have a genuine interest in making sure that they can make the best use of the product and get the value that they are desiring! So ultimately, even though it was indirect, but we did see that most of the customers that came in for our Circles of Success sessions that I have facilitated so many of them, that they ultimately became advocates of ours.
Allison Pickens: Amazing. That it’s always so great when you can achieve multiple goals through a program, which I think often happens in Customer Success. We don’t just contribute to adoption, not just to expansion, but also advocacy is often the result of the great work that we do as well. Now, in addition to Circles of Success, you’ve created the Happy Customer Program, which you implemented at your former company Apttus, and you’re in the process of implementing it now at Baker Hughes GE. Can you talk a little bit about what that program entails and what you’ve learned from it?
Ray Mitra: So, the Happy Customer Program is really addressing one of the top five items that I’ve spoken about earlier. It’s about driving internal change within the company for customer centricity. Happy Customers is the program that I had created to drive organizational change within the company to ensure that every employee in the company, irrespective of whether you have a customer-facing role or not, you identify with the importance of making a customer happy and why customer centricity is important for the success of the overall company.
Ray Mitra: So, that was my intent, and some of the things that I had to do in order to drive that in my previous company, which ended up becoming a larger company with 1450 employees. Couple of things. One is good alignment with the leadership. So we got linemen from the CEO as well as all the execs ensuring, because as I said, the goal is to drive this across the company, so that was the most important thing.
Ray Mitra: Second, I created a certification. It was a certification that the employees had to take, and [was] a very short 30 minute certification. The whole point of that was to, from the certification, was to ensure that the employees understood what their role was, and that it was not just marketing and sales and Customer Success job to make a customer happy, it was their job as well, even though they could be[a] QA person sitting in India. So that was the second thing, the certification. In the certificates and we had quizzes as well just to test that.
Ray Mitra: Third as important was branding and marketing, because in a company, when you’re trying to establish this cultural change, branding was very important. So what we did [was] we created some brand items, badges, logos. So any employee who was Happy Customer certified, they would actually get a little logo with a certification hat that they would be putting in their signature in the email, and they would also get a decal sticker that every employee would put on their laptops. So that kind of drove a lot of awareness about that. And we also started talking about Happy Customers Customer Success stories during all hands in the company. We started publishing those through newsletters.
Ray Mitra: And then the fourth thing was sustainability. How do you sustain? Yes, we got everybody certified, but how do I sustain that? A couple of things we did there [were], one was we ensured that it became part of a new hire orientation. So every employee joining the company had to do the Happy Customers Certification. So that was sustaining for new hires. Second thing, for existing employees, we leveraged gamification. We created a Happy Customer champion program, and we said anybody in the company could nominate somebody else for [an] award, and they could get a Happy Customer champion or Happy Customer superstar award. Those came with lot of points, as well. Those points could get them, like, jackets, and various other gifts and all, and we would promote them, we would announce them, so that was another gamification was a way by which we could actually get them to adopt. Much like we do for our customers to drive adoption. You had a gamification side to do that.
Allison Pickens: Actually, in closing, I wanted to turn to another topic that I know is really important to you. You’ve been very involved in nonprofit work and outside of your work. And I’m curious now if you would mind sharing with the group, what have you been doing outside of work in the charity space and how has it influenced you as a Customer Success leader?
Ray Mitra: Yes. So yes, I run a nonprofit organization called Indes, and its mission is to drive innovation and creativity in children through arts and culture. And it’s a non-profit I started 14 years ago. And in the very beginning, I didn’t know whether it was just a hobby, maybe it would stay for one year and end. But no, I enjoyed it a lot, especially because the programs that we run, we run [an] international program for HIV kids in Kenya, for orphanages in India, for very very poor kids impacted with earthquake in Haiti, Nepal, and also low income schools in Silicon Valley Bay Area. And we’ve done this for underprivileged children. So how I had been able to sustain this for a long time in addition to my full time job as well as family and other passion is that it gives me immense pleasure to see the children happy, there’s no more motivation of money here. And the volunteers, they don’t report into me. So you work with people who don’t report to you, and you don’t get paid for that. So I had been able to sustain that because it makes me a lot of happy. I really get happiness in my heart. It’s almost like a high. When I see children, you know, being happy because of this privilege or this benefit that they’re getting, which otherwise they don’t get, and to see children being creative and innovative and leveraging art through our program. So I think that is really my passion and I really take this into Customer Success. While I’ve been doing this for 14 years, Customer Success I’ve been doing only for five years, so I see a similar kind of connection there because I really enjoy Customer Success. I believe this was the job really created for me. And even though I’m a computer science guy who used to do coding before, this is a job that really aligns to my belief because I generally want to make my customers happy. And there is no monetary motivation or anything else. I just want to make sure a customer has a good experience, they achieve their outcomes, and whatever I need to do to make them happy. And that’s what makes me happy. So you see the correlation between the two. I’m happy that I’m in Customer Success now.
Allison Pickens: Thank you so much for sharing. I love hearing about the passions that people in for success had outside of work, and you can tell how there are parallels between their personal lives and their professional lives too. Final question for you Ray— If Customer Success were a spirit animal, what would it be?
Ray Mitra: I would say it would be a dog, because dogs are loyal! I think we drive loyalty of the customers.
Allison Pickens: Love it! Lots of folks think it’s a dog. I can say we have a lot of dogs running around the Gainsight office, so it’s intuitive too. Ray, thank you so much for joining us today.
Ray Mitra: Thank you so much. It’s been my pleasure.
Narrator: Thank you so much for listening to today’s episode. Make sure to subscribe on SoundCloud and iTunes to catch the next episode of the Customer Success Podcast. Until next time, this is the Customer Success Podcast hosted by Gainsight.