Takeaways from Pulse Customer Success Conference 2014

This was another great conference hosted by Gainsight last week with outstanding speakers including Malcolm Gladwell who focused on the “transformation” that organizations are going through in terms of servicing its customers. I really liked the format in terms of the time allotted for Q/A and the mix of speakers. It gave you variety and real action items that you can take home and implement. I was also proud to have taken home a customer success leadership award called a Sally as well as present on a concept I call “Agile Customer Success” (that’s for another post).

SallyIt was a bit overwhelming at times but it’s only because of the vast amount of people and information. Besides the information being shared, it was the conversations and networking that was the biggest win for me. I have a number of new connections, colleagues and friends coming out of this two-day event. I’ll share some of those takeaways here.

  • Validation of issues that we all experienced. I think every attendee nodded their heads at least 10 times during the conference and said to themselves “I have the same problem!” I found that many of the speakers and attendees experienced my same problems. For example:
    • When there are too many “chefs in the kitchen”, the customer is confused as to whom to turn to. There needs to be accountability and a single person that is responsible for the success of the customer.
    • A definition of roles. Too often there is too much grey which leads to ambiguity of who does what. This creates a poor experience for customers and a bad working environment.
    • Shift from product expert to best practices expert. I had fights with a former executive over who I wanted to hire, as I wanted more “best practice focused” people.
    • We’re overworked and under appreciated. To me it seems that attendees were going all out for their customers and the status of customer success in the organization isn’t quite where it should be. Conferences like Pulse are helping to turn the tides and create this “transformation” that Gladwell spoke of.
  • There is a big rift between sales and customer success. I couldn’t attend the session on this topic, as it was completely jam-packed. That alone told me that the content was important to Pulse attendees. Here are the items that came up during the conference that came up that are causing CS / sales alignment issues:
    • Hand-off between sales and CS is poor. Not enough information is provided to CS or there is over selling going on.
    • There is role confusion on who handles renewals, upsells, cross-sells etc… This was a prevalent theme at the conference and something that will continue to come up year after year as it changes based on the size and type of organization. Always have, always will. There isn’t a single way to do customer success.
  • Showing value to customers is a problem. I spoke to many companies – those that have an established customer success organization and those that are building it. Most have issues demonstrating value and putting ROI on their tools and services. For some, it’s easier than others but this was something that came up in many conversations.
  • It’s the little things. There were so many small tips that I took away that we could implement, I could write a number of posts or even a book. Here are a few:
    • Tony Nadalin from Marketo: Be sure to keep the customer decision maker in the loop after the sale. At times, these people are dropped from the communication channels and they shouldn’t be
    • Maria Bradley from Conductor: Your CS team should be asking customers the value they received from your product and recording that in your CRM.
    • Leyla Seka from Desk.com. Just as product has a product roadmap, CS should create a service roadmap. I have this in my head but haven’t communicated it enough to our executive team. It’s on the list.
    • Jason Lemkin from Storm Ventures. CSMs should have 5 onsite meetings a month, period.
  • What’s your technology stack? Many people wanted to hear what the secrets were to managing a customer success team are in terms of technology and how do they all fit together. We do some unique things at Influitive in terms of advocacy and customer satisfaction and I was happy to hear that companies like Brainshark are incorporating customer advocacy into their overall health score. Other must have technologies included a CRM (salesforce.com), marketing automation and support software.

I still need to review the video and presentations from the conference as well as regroup with my Influitive colleagues – there was just so much content that was packed in.

If you attended, what were your biggest takeaways? Any comments/questions?

Chad H.

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