Client Success: Checking our Pulse

Gereint Collier

Published by Gereint Collier
June 11, 2019

Pulse 19

I recently had the opportunity to attend the largest global gathering of customer success professionals at Pulse 19 in San Francisco. The Pulse conference is an annual event run by industry leaders Gainsight, bringing the entire customer success community together to network and learn from each other over the space of four days. Over 150 industry leading speakers shared their unique insights and advice on best practice throughout numerous keynotes and more than 130 breakout sessions. It was not my first time at Pulse, but this year’s conference was the largest ever. Seeing 5,500 attendees in the same room, all gathered for the same cause – the success of their customers, was an incredible sight and evidence of the exponential growth and importance of customer success.

Going the distance

As a technology partner, we are constantly refining our technical expertise and keeping up-to-date with the latest advancements from Cisco. This is supported primarily through our great relationship with Cisco (where we often have the inside track), and reinforced at industry events such as Cisco Live and Enterprise Connect. Our intention from the outset has always been to blend our rich Cisco expertise together with a unique focus on delivering tangible outcomes for our clients. We work closely with Cisco to take their guidance and ensure that we are aligned in delivering success, but we also strive to take our client experience one step further. That is why Pulse is right up there with the likes of Cisco Live on the calendar for us. We underlined our commitment by travelling some 5,000 miles to Silicon Valley, to embrace the unrivalled opportunity to learn from some of the most respected industry leaders at the forefront of delivering success to their customers.

My week at Pulse was incredibly insightful, engaging, and highly relevant. I’m grateful for the opportunity to attend and very grateful to Nick Mehta and Gainsight who invest so heavily the community. The event provides such an amazing platform that champions customer success and delivers on everything from thought leadership to personal and professional development. Here are some of my key takeaways from the event:

Operationalising outcomes

A key role of the customer success function is to close the gap between the value the product delivers alone, and the customer’s business outcomes. Put simply, a business outcome is the reason for a customer investing in the first place, and what they hope the new product will enable their business to achieve. In a session on how Box take an outcomes-based approach with their customers, they shared some pretty powerful research that indicates that only 30% of technology projects are deemed a success. Let’s just take a minute to digest that… 70% of all technology projects are considered a failure. What separates out the successful ones is the joint focus on understanding desired outcomes and driving user adoption. Taking an IT-only approach to deployment, where the goal is to simply install the technology and move on to the next project, will not deliver the results intended. User adoption is a critical ingredient in delivering the business outcomes sought, and requires complete buy-in across the organisation.

‘Customer success is not only about adoption, but delivering value at every touchpoint in the customer journey’ Maria Martinez – Head of Customer Experience, Cisco

Maria Martinez was announced as a keynote speaker after ITGL had signed up for the event, so it was a particular highlight to hear from her and to have the opportunity to meet her in person ahead of her keynote. Cisco is currently undergoing a massive transformation, with a renewed focus on the experience of its customers, and Maria Martinez is driving this change. It was great to hear about her past successes from her time at Salesforce and how she is leading the transformation at Cisco. Maria shared the progress already made in harmonising the services teams under the CX organisation, and how the customer journey for Cisco is not linear, but rather like a racetrack that takes the customer from ‘choosing’ to ‘using’ to ‘loving’.

Product experience

Another key theme of this year’s event was the disconnect between the customer and the product. Both customer success teams and product teams are working towards the same goal – a better experience for the customer, so there needs to be more effort made in joining the dots. We take pride in the fact that we offer our clients Cisco’s best in class solutions. As a valued partner we work with Cisco to help close the feedback loop. Through select programmes such as the Webex Masters, we are able to champion our clients’ feedback directly into the business unit and impact the future product experience.

A human first approach

In today’s technology driven world it’s easy to think of the people using IT as ‘users’ rather than humans.  As technology has advanced and people are connected to devices and applications throughout what seems like every waking hour, it’s crucial to take a step back and consider the human. This applies to everything from product development and ‘user experience’ to leadership and culture and our everyday business interactions.

Both Allison Pickens COO and Nick Mehta CEO of Gainsight, encouraged us to think about how we engage with friends, family, colleagues, and customers, and they championed the notion of ‘community.’ We can utilise technology to collaborate and connect, but it can also be an isolating factor. Social media for example, while connecting people, can often fuel anxiety (fear of missing out, self-worth) and encourage the feeling of isolation. Nick shared an intimate story about loneliness and the impact it has had on him in his family life and how it impacts all of us in the workplace. This struck a particular chord with me – on a personal level as a father of two, and also on a professional level. As a remote worker it’s easy to feel isolated and disconnected. I’m lucky to work for a company that practices what it preaches: embracing a culture that is inclusive, flexible, and supportive, and also utilising technology that promotes human interaction. We use Cisco collaboration technology to meet remotely, face-to-face over video, not just for our meetings but on every call. We also use Webex Teams which provides persistent virtual workspaces that allow me to work fluidly with my team throughout the day despite not being in the same location. This helps enormously. I feel deeply connected to my colleagues in the office or at other remote locations and have an open platform to collaborate and contribute to projects and daily business.

Externally, the concept of ‘human first’ should apply to every one of our business transactions. Business is built on human relationships. Nick channelled his inner Michael Scott to deliver the message that ‘business is the most personal thing in the world’. And as amusing as the source is, he’s absolutely right. It is widely accepted that 80% of our decisions are driven by emotions, and we use the other 20% of logic simply to justify the decisions that have already been made. We must ensure that we use technology wisely to empower and enable these relationships, rather than using technology as a idle tool that becomes a relationship blocker.

Partner delivered success

I was honoured to spend some time with podcast legend Bill Cushard who invited me to join him on his ‘Helping Sells’ podcast (one of the best there is in customer success). We spoke about partner driven customer success, how Cisco enables this, and how ITGL is leading the way. What Bill astutely observed was that there appeared to be a distinct lack of partners at Pulse – not just Cisco Partners, but partners in general. The observation was a valid one. While the industry as a whole is growing, the vast majority of attendees at the world’s leading customer success event were vendors who were directly applying customer success. I attended an insightful session hosted by Phil Nanus of the TSIA that supported this. Phil advocated that partners could add considerable value in this area, and vendors should look to scale their success teams through the channel. It made me realise that Cisco are ahead of the game here. Cisco are putting in considerable work to enable their partners, arming them with content and data, and they absolutely understand the additional value that partners can deliver. While Cisco drive focus in this area, we will surely see more partners starting to explore the additional value that they can deliver to customers. Our commitment to Cisco and our clients continues to lead in this area, providing our clients with a unique experience from the outset of their relationship with us. We take the time to truly understand the results our clients set out to achieve, build a plan to help them get there, listen for their feedback, and work together in partnership to ensure delivery of outcomes not just solutions.

Gereint Collier

Published by Gereint Collier
June 11, 2019

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