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TrustRadius Trust Talks: How Gainsight Puts the Customer at the Center of Everything

July 6th, 2022 21 min read
In this exclusive interview, Nick Mehta gives tips for how companies can build customer centricity into their infrastructure and day-to-day practices.

Nick Mehta is a pioneer in the customer success industry. As CEO of Gainsight, a leading customer success company, Mehta has the unique vantage point of seeing B2B companies executing and scaling customer centricity programs. In fact, Gainsight created the customer success category that’s currently taking over the SaaS business model worldwide. 

TrustRadius’ Trust Talks series highlights B2B executives’ approach to building a culture of listening to customers, activating the customer voice, and creating a customer-driven company.

In this TrustTalk, TrustRadius’ own Founder and CEO, Vinay Bhagat, sat down with award-winning, five-time tech CEO, author, and CEO of Gainsight, Nick Mehta, to discuss how Gainsight puts the customer at the center of everything they do. Bhagat kicks off by asking Mehta what it means to be customer centric. “Customer centric is one of those phrases that is easy to say but hard to do,” says Mehta. Hard to do is right.

In this exclusive interview, Mehta gives tips for how other companies can build customer centricity into their infrastructure and day-to-day practices. Hint: It’s more than just saying it. Part of being a customer-centric organization is thinking of the customer every step of the way. A telltale sign of customer centricity is the way customers are talked about. Are they talked about with empathy?

Nick Mehta

Nick Mehta

Chief Executive Officer

Nick Mehta (he/him), is the CEO of Gainsight, the platform that helps companies of all sizes and industries drive durable growth through customer-led and product-led strategies. He works with a team of over 1400 human beings who together have helped create the Customer Success category that’s currently taking over the SaaS business model worldwide. Gainsight is a five-time Forbes Cloud 100 recipient and Nick has been named the #2 CEO by the Software Report, has a 99% approval rating on Glassdoor, and was named Entrepreneur Of The Year for Northern California Award. On top of all that, he was recently rated as the #1 CEO in the world (the award committee was just his mom, but the details are irrelevant). He is a member of the Board of Directors at F5 (NASDAQ:FFIV) and has co-authored two books on Customer Success, Customer Success and The Customer Success Economy. He is passionate about family, football, philosophy, physics, fashion, feminism, parody music videos and SaaS Customer Success. People told him it’s impossible to combine all of those interests, but Nick has made it his life’s mission to try.

Six signs you have a “world-class” customer success team

According to Nick Mehta, it’s very difficult to know if or when you’ve reached the elusive “world-class” status among customer success teams because there will always be something you can be doing better for your customers. However, Mehta says there are six signs you’ll start to recognize when you’re close

According to Mehta, here are six signs your CS team is headed for “world-class” status:

  1. On your management team, you have someone empowered to be the voice of the customer, i.e. a chief customer officer. This is someone who is thinking through the lens of the customer at all times. According to Mehta, “If you don’t have that, you have an imbalanced situation. You have people thinking about finance, sales, products, etc. but not the customer? That’s a problem.”
  2. It’s in your board deck. There’s a section about customer success. You’re talking about your customers and the value you’re driving for them.
  3. Your company is aligned around a common definition of what your value is to the customer. Your company is delivering value and outcomes to their customers. The best companies develop an end-to-end value framework, i.e. six different drivers. Inside of those drivers, no matter who you speak with across the company, everyone uses the same terminology and speaks to the values the same way. It’s ingrained in the culture and beliefs.
  4. Compensation plans or some element of them is tied to customer success or an indicator of customer success.
  5. When you look at your product development strategy, there’s some aspect to it (% of the time, a way they get feedback) that is very much working with the customer success team in the form of soliciting feedback from customers—and not just about what features are needed to close deals.
  6. You’re able to scale it to your small customers. Mehta says the ability to scale it down for your smaller customers is a good sign that it’s working. 

If you can check each of these six tips off as things your company is currently doing to incorporate customer feedback, you pass the litmus test for being a customer-centric organization or well on your way to “world-class.”

Hearing vs. (active) listening

There’s a difference between hearing and listening. You have to first hear your customers before you can listen to them, says Mehta. The same is true for all people. 

In order to practice active listening, you have to have enough dialogue. The best companies have routine ways to gain customer insights. Mehta says ways to do this are through:

  • Survey programs – Tracking via metrics like net promoter score (NPS), but also written feedback that you can analyze.
  • Recording calls – Platforms like Gong or Chorus.ai, record calls with customers and have a process to listen as well as learn from them.
  • Advisory board/executive team – Get feedback from customers through some sort of executive sponsor program. Set quantitative goals for leadership teams to interact with customers. Have them present use cases/feedback from those conversations in your town halls or all-hands meetings.

Outside of standing up programs to gain customer insights, companies can also practice active listening by:

Asking the right questions

Are you asking questions that are truly about the customer and not about you?

Do: “What’s the biggest challenge your boss is asking you to solve?”

Don’t: “I noticed you’re not using XYZ feature. Why?”

Embracing silence

Allow for awkward pauses to give customers time to think. Let the silence happen. It will allow the customer to open up more. 

Introducing icebreakers

By utilizing icebreakers, it allows the customer to get candid. If there’s a group call, you’re going to get a much more filtered view of the customer’s feedback. People are more likely to open up one on one. 

 

Activating customer insights through a CX role

The best way to activate customer insights across an organization is to appoint someone to do it, says Mehta. In an ideal situation, organizations would hire a customer experience (CX) point person and that role would report to a chief customer officer (CCO). CCOs are usually over the customer success management, support, professional services, training, and operations teams. A CX role would be underneath operations or under a separate group. This person would be responsible for taking all of the different data points (i.e. call recordings, customer reviews, NPS,  etc.) and would orchestrate how the data is collected—ensuring it’s being collected in a high-fidelity way—but also sharing insights with the rest of the company.

It’s important we’re evaluating what we are learning from our customers, says Mehta. Making sure customer feedback is incorporated into the way the company is run—from quarterly business reviews to agreed-upon initiatives, and incorporated into the goal-setting process. To successfully incorporate customer feedback across your organization, you need a CX role that takes the time to review, interpret, and incorporate customer feedback on a routine basis.

Marketing, sales, and customer success teamwork

Have you heard of the “Flywheel model?” Mehta recently conducted an interview with the CEO of Hubspot, Yamini Rangan, where they discussed the concept behind the Flywheel model—which explains the momentum gained from aligning an entire organization around delivering a remarkable customer experience. Hubspot feels so passionate around the forward momentum gained from this model that they’ve redesigned their inbound methodology to focus on the Flywheel model over traditional concepts like the marketing funnel.

The Flywheel model essentially works like this, “[Customers] buy a product, adopt it, and then they stay, grow, and buy more products,” says Mehta. It’s what happens when there’s alignment across marketing, sales, customer success, and product.

With that being said, Mehta says marketing and sales are a critical part of that process. Marketing needs to understand the value they’re promising. Mehta says marketing departments need to ask themselves, “Are we positioning the product in a way that’s consistent with the value we’re trying to drive—not just the features and technology?” The marketing message needs to be aligned and consistent with the way sales is going to sell, and how customer success is going to implement and manage, says Mehta.

Sales also needs to be aligned with the marketing message. Mehta says a big part of their job is to deliver the value promised (via marketing), capture the customer’s desired outcomes, and deliver that to the customer success team for a successful implementation. Happy customers can be use cases for acquiring new customers via marketing, and so on and so on. Hence the Flywheel model concept.

Defining your value using the customer voice

Customers don’t always know the full extent of value your product could bring them. In most situations, customers have a preconceived notion of how your product can solve their problem, whether that be from your marketing messaging or elsewhere. However, it’s the duty of sales to offer and showcase what goes beyond that initial perceived value. 

Mehta provides the example of going to a physical trainer when you want to get in better shape. It’s the duty of the physical trainer to explain the other benefits of working out and prioritize what your goals are based on those. Is it to reduce resting heart rate, jump higher, lose body fat percentage? In the same case as with a physical trainer, the end-value isn’t always straightforward, and customers are hiring you as the expert to help them get a sense of what that should be.

The fastest and easiest way to define value in your go-to-market strategy is by elevating the statements of your customers ahead of, or in support of, your messaging. “Your own messaging is a paper tiger when you don’t have customers supporting it,” says Mehta. “People want to hear from you as a vendor on what your perspective is, but they’ll believe you when a customer is saying it.”

Mehta also refers to the customer voice as “…the spark that ignites the fire of your messaging. Without customer evidence, your messaging is basically dark.”

Tip: TrustRadius customers do this by leveraging quotes from their reviews across digital channels and enabling sales to use them.

Customer success and net revenue retention 

We are no longer in the position of having to convince people of the need for customer success, says Mehta. Net retention is one of the top metrics in driving shareholder value. Every CEO knows its importance. However, people are not always able to make the connection between advocacy, onboarding, and adoption’s contribution to net retention. Mehta provides a few tips for using net retention as your north star metric: 

  • Create leading indicators – You have to get better at connecting the dots between the  activities you’re doing, the leading indicators that are working, and the end business results that you are striving for, like net retention. 
  • Create an awesome board deck – What you put in your board deck informs everything else your company does. Make customer success and net retention a focus of your board deck and the rest will follow. Check out this article, “Making Customer Success Less “Squishy.” Mehta references board deck templates created by Gainsight that make net revenue retention the north star metric for everything else.
  • Make sure you have a great operations team – All of these things depend on data and process.

“A customer success leader without operational support is career jeopardy. You’re setting yourself up with this big vision and none of the data or processes to make it happen. Get yourself a great ops leader!” –Nick Mehta

In this month’s TrustRadius Trust Talks: How Gainsight Puts the Customer at the Center of Everything, we learned what it takes to be a “world-class” customer-centric organization, or close to it. As a pioneer in the customer success movement, Mehta gives companies tools to accomplish their customer success goals. Part of being customer-centric is elevating the customer voice in your marketing, showing your value up-front, and then proving that value at every touchpoint.  Get in touch with us to learn how you can put the customer voice to work for you!

About Gainsight

Gainsight’s innovative platform helps companies of all sizes and industries drive durable growth through customer-led and product-led strategies. It offers a powerful set of customer success, product experience, and community engagement solutions that together enable businesses to scale efficiently, create alignment, and put the customer at the heart of innovation.  With Gainsight, it’s never been easier to drive acquisition, increase product adoption, prevent churn, and grow with renewals and expansion.

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