Originally posted on Chip Luman's blog May 15th, 2014, I was invited to speak at Gainsight’s 2014 Pulse Conference on the role of customer success for HR software. After 2 days it was clear why this has become the preeminent gathering for customer success professionals as well as SaaS CEO’s, founders and venture capitalists. With 900 attendees and so many SaaS providers present, there were plenty of opportunities for networking, learning and prospecting. I left the conference with numerous new contacts, a few potential candidates and plenty of ideas to bring back to HireVue‘s customer success team. Throughout both days there were several reoccurring themes with these being my top 3.
1. Customer Success is a Chameleon
Since Salesforce introduced the function, there has been ongoing dialogue about where the role belongs in the organization and whether they carry a quota or not. In an audience poll, about 30% of companies said they assign CSM’s a revenue quota with commissions. Who they report to is really a function of several factors such as company maturity, growth stage, customer sophistication, expansion models or simply who had the interest or skills when the customer success need was first identified in the company. The bottom line is what they do matters more than who they report to. As long as they assume the assigned team’s colors and focus on churn, revenue growth, client satisfaction and adoption they add value. Several of the CEO’s and VC’s stressed the importance of executing on these core measures while also delivering value as defined by the customer.
2. Demand for Customer Success is Growing and Not Slowing
There are currently 5500 open customer success jobs and salaries are going up. There is high demand for people with the experience and skills required to interact with and influence enterprise executives. Technology and data are “flashlights” and it takes an experienced CSM to shine that light in the right place.
3. Scale, Scale, Scale
The majority of companies segment accounts based on revenue opportunity, strategic value and required touch points AND the majority of companies are trying to figure out how to give a lighter touch to the long tail. There is a consistent focus on building customer communities, knowledge bases and partnering with the CMO to drive value added client content to lighten the cost of servicing smaller or less profitable accounts. Reference was made to product based prompts similar to the way Dropbox and Evernote nurture users by automatically following up with emails for the next steps in the onboarding process. Presenters were peppered with questions seeking advice on how to best manage this transition to less human interaction from a CSM. There was agreement from the customer success leaders presenting that it has to be done because it won’t scale. This advice came with caveats and cautions, because after all, no customer success professional can bear the thought of actually causing churn.
I definitely plan to save the dates for the 2015 conference and bring along some members of the HireVue customer success team.