2019 Pulse Conference: We’re Excited About the Future of Customer Success

by Allyson White

In May 2019, Gainsight hosted their 7th annual Pulse Customer Success Conference. 5,500 customer success and product professionals – and more than 120 from Insight’s portfolio – joined for a 4-day conversation and celebration of the vibrant customer success community.

Gainsight had a mantra for the week: “Who’s Excited?" Even reflecting one month later, I’m excited and energized to be part of the maturing customer success industry.

In 2015, I attended my first Pulse conference. Fast forward to my 5th conference, the customer success profession has grown >7x and the community and event has reached a tipping point.

It wasn’t the move to the Moscone Center, an iconic tech conference venue, the packed conference rooms or Gainsight’s bold 2020 vision for the future of customer success. The tipping point was the shift in conversation from a collection of experiments to established programs operating at scale. Leaders across industries, company size and customer type confidently presented ways that they have cracked the code to build and run customer success programs at scale.

It’s hard to capture 4 days of rich content in a few bullets. In keeping with Gainsight’s “Who’s Excited” mantra, here are 3 conversations that I am excited to follow in the coming months:

Embracing Customer Data

Data-driven approaches have transformed strategy and process in sales, marketing, and product.  Customer success leaders know that they need to catch-up and embrace data too. 

In the early days of customer success, data has been hard to access, harness and clean.  As a result, customer success leaders have relied on managing by instinct and gut while building versions 1.0 and 2.0. Logic like this quarterly touch point or email outreach just feels like the right thing to do. As the technology stacks of customer success teams improve, opportunities for data abound which will make customer success initiatives more relevant and impactful for customers.

Embracing data was Onsite’s Customer Success Center of Excellence 2019 New Year’s resolution: Spend more time exploring, listening to and responding to data from customers.

At Pulse, it was exciting to hear how companies view customer data infrastructure as a secret weapon and use it to refine their strategies and tactics. VMWare, Logmein, Slack and many others presented on how their teams are embracing data science to rethink health scoring, maturity scoring and targeting. 

Getting visibility is the first step. Encourage your team to get visibility – things like key contact information, customer objectives and feature usage – and then start to take action.

Collaborating with Product to Scale-Up

Product managers joined the Pulse conference this year with a track dedicated to product experience. The product voice was a critical addition to the conversation. A great, intuitive product always has been the most scalable form of customer success.

Best-in-class customer success teams are unlocking productivity and increasing client impact by collaborating with product managers.  In particular, these teams focus on opening communication lines, developing shared KPIs and collaborating on use-case segmentation. Slack, for example, presented about their tactics including scheduled monthly reviews as well as real-time communication on feature gaps via discussion forums between CSMs and product managers.  Box spoke about aligning the customer success and product teams around shared metrics to measure the client impact of new releases.  For example, rather than tracking the number of releases, measure how a new feature paired with customer success enablement creates stickier, more satisfied users. 

Focus on Customer Growth

We’ve long advocated that customer success is a growth lever. Customer success leaders are continuing to orient metrics and KPIs around customer growth.  In addition to talking about reactive customer saves and churn reduction, customer success leaders are quantifying the pipeline generated (e.g., customer success qualified leads for upsell, referral dollars) and the increase in adoption and client impact.

Putting aside the debate on who owns the commercial relationship, customer success, when effective, will fuel net retention and customer growth. Customer success leaders recommend you track and celebrate growth metrics as part of your dashboards.

Looking Ahead to 2020

As your teams chase retention, expansion and CSAT targets in Q3 and Q4 and start 2020 planning, challenge them to answer the following:

  • What investments in customer data should we make?  
  • How can we improve collaboration with our product managers? 
  • How can we measure and communicate our impact on business growth and client impact?

I am excited to compare notes in the months ahead and at Pulse 2020

Did You Miss Pulse 2019?

If you missed Pulse 2019, you’re in luck – visit Pulse 2019 Recap to watch and download all the presentations. You can also learn how to grow your customer success organization by watching our latest Scale-Up Hacks video and receive targeted insights by taking our online diagnostic

Check out presentations from leaders in Insight’s portfolio including: 

  • Gainsight’s Opening Keynote on the Future of Customer Success and 2020 Vision or for spark note version, read Nick Mehta, CEO of Gainsight, The Top 10 Takeaways from Pulse 2019 blog
  • Chris Holden, VP Intelligence Services at Recorded Future on “Customer Success in Cyber-Security: How CS Teams Ensure Success when Failure can mean Disaster”
  • Shrikant Sharma, SVP of Global Customer Success at Conga on “Why CS Owns Revenue at Conga and How it has Led to Growth”

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Allyson White

Allyson White

Principal, Onsite

Allyson joined Insight in 2012. Previously, she was a strategy consultant in the markets and customers practice at Monitor Group, where she advised multi-national companies on growth strategy, product innovation, acquisitions, scenario planning and pricing strategy. She worked in a variety of…

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