How Gainsight’s Customer Success and Product teams work together towards a common north star metric.

Ashvin Vaidyanathan


Author and CCO


Ashvin Vaidyanathan
Ashvin Vaidyanathan

Episode Summary

Today on the show we have Ashvin Vaidyanathan, author and CCO at Gainsight.

In this episode, we talked about the power and impact that Customer Success and Product teams have when joining forces, why Ashvin created a Customer Experience position to act as a liaison between the two teams and how they have a common north star metric they focus on.

We also discussed how the CS team determines which pain points are important to act upon, what that process looks like, how they measure the impact of multiple teams sharing one metric, and how a customer success team of over 150 professionals is structured.

Humankind: A Hopeful History

Mentioned Resources



When Customer Success and Product join forces. 00:04:20
What is a Customer Experience manager and their role within the CS and product team. 00:07:03
How Customer Success and Product have a common north star metric to work towards. 00:07:58
How the CS team determines which pain points are important to act upon, and what that process looks like. 00:14:26
Measuring the impact of multiple teams when they share a metric. 00:20:36
How is Gainsight's customer success team structured 00:23:01
Why Ashiv decided to write his books 00:28:52
How Ashiv would reduce churn by focusing on an executive sponsorship program. 00:32:02
The one thing Ashiv knows about churn and retention today that he wished he knew when he first got started with his career. 00:34:39


Andrew Michael: 

Hey, Ashlyn. Welcome to the show. 

Ashvin Vaidyanathan: [00:01:34] Thank you, Andrew. For having me excited about it. 

Andrew Michael: [00:01:37] Yeah, it's a pleasure for the listeners. Uh, Ashwin is an author. And currently the chief customer officer at Gainsight, uh, he's responsible for all post-sale functions, including a global team of more than 150 people, uh, across customer success management, professional services and support.

And if you don't know, Gainsight helps customer success post-sales and product teams put customers [00:02:00] at the heart of their business to deliver better outcomes and grow net. Dollar retention. Uh, so my first question for you Ashvin is what's it like leading a team at a company that's building software for teams like yours?

Ashvin Vaidyanathan: [00:02:14] Yeah, it's a, it's a great question. It was partly the reason I even came to Gainsight, um, because the post-sales team or the customer success team at Gainsight has a dual job. One is making our customers successful obviously, and, um, improving outcomes for them, which in turn improves. Net dollar retention for us as a company.

And then the other part to our business is almost like trying out new things, uh, sharing ideas across the community, pushing the college collective customer success community forward, um, using best practices, et cetera. So, um, my team and I myself have a. Um, privilege and responsibility in a way, uh, the privilege of [00:03:00] seeing what people are doing across the community.

So we can learn and connect the dots, et cetera, and the responsibility of then taking it back to our customers. It's also a hype. A pressure job because every meeting that my CSMs presenting they're constantly judged for, are you doing everything that you prescribed to us? Right. Like, so it is, it's a fun, a fun place to be.

And there are lots of folks on my team who enjoy that type of, uh, limelight as well as the opportunity to teach. Um, Um, maybe even practice what we preach. So it's, it's fun all in. Um, yeah, 

Andrew Michael: [00:03:34] absolutely. I could imagine it must feel like something like a designer that's working for someone like Figma of a framer.

Right? Anytime you put something new out, everybody's going to be super critical. Like. 

Ashvin Vaidyanathan: [00:03:47] Are you doing exactly what you tell us to do? You know? 

Andrew Michael: [00:03:50] Exactly definitely is a super interesting place to be from your perspective, especially when you look at like customer success and it's a [00:04:00] relatively new practice, uh, when you, if you think about like business in general and how many years, like more traditional, um, practices like marketing and sales have been put into place.

So in a lot of ways, I think. You're even like helping define and shape, uh, what the practice becomes. Um, uh, and I'm interested then as well. Like how closely are, does your customer success team then work with the product team? So you mentioned like your, you have a dual purpose, like one is really making sure your customers are successful then, but how does your team then work with product themselves?

Like what are some unique practices that you think you've implemented, uh, against that? 

Ashvin Vaidyanathan: [00:04:39] Yeah, I'll call it three. And actually, like, we. Um, I'll even preface this by saying, uh, what we're telling the broader. Community, not just CS, but companies who want to be more customer centric is what sales plus marketing did.

At one point sales was doing their thing and marketing was doing their own thing. They combined [00:05:00] forces to say, this is how our pipeline should look. And this is what marketing contributes to sales. I think that new power couple, if you will, in the business is sales is CSN product. If CSN product can join forces.

I think we can do a lot with, um, converting freemium customers over to paid customers. We can do a lot with prioritizing roadmap based on usage patterns and input from the customer success world. Like all of those things can unlock a ton of value for customers. Hence unlocks a ton of value for vendors who sell into customers.

And a few tactical things to your question that we've, um, had started doing at Gainsight as one. Um, we do a bi-weekly meeting every other week. We do a product CS interlock meeting, and this is like about an hour long in which the first 30 minutes is. And it has this meeting has two objectives. Product creates products and they want the adoption of those newer [00:06:00] products, college to be as high as possible, as quickly as possible.

So the first 30 minutes is the CSS team telling the product team what they're doing to enable the team. What challenges are they facing when they roll this out? What help do they need from product compare metrics? Uh, around the usage of these newer products, et cetera, so that we are helping product realize ROI on the investment that they made.

Um, we meaning the CST. And then the second thing that we do the second half is the other way around where CS gifts. Uh, feature and product requests back to the product teams, certain teams, it's not any one customer input, but teams that we are seeing across multiple customers with respect to, let's say a use case, and let's say high touch customer success management inside product team.

We want you to do X, Y, and Z and high touch customer success management, right. Or low touch. Customer success management. And so bringing that level of insight is very helpful for the product team when it comes to teams. So we're doing a lot more of [00:07:00] that. So that is one tactic that we've executed on. The second big tactic that we've executed on is actually I created a role within my organization called customer experience, who almost sits on the border of, uh, is the liaison between CS and product.

And so what he does on a regular basis is brings together. Multiple, um, stakeholders at our customers call it like administrators or operations team members at our customers, and then dives deep into any one product or use case product line or use case. And then has conversations about like you, it looks like from your.

Uh, usage data, you started doing a particular journey, but then stop telling me all about like, why you stopped. Then it's almost like acting like a voice of the customer into the product organization and into the CSR organization so that both teams can then take action on driving, on solving some of these issues.

So that was another big transformational project that we took on and has yielded great results. And then the final thing [00:08:00] I'll. Call-out is, um, my chief product officer and I have agreed for our teams to take a common,  north star metric, which we are calling as the breadth of adoption of the many things you can do in Gainsight are, is what percentage of customers are doing the top five or six things.

And so this is a measure that both of our bonuses and compensation is tied to. And so we are saying. Um, product, I need your help to do everything possible to drive this adoption forward and see us. I'm going to do everything to drive it forward. So alignment, I guess, between the two teams has been, um, instrumental.

Andrew Michael: [00:08:35] Yeah. I really like how you started as well in the sense of like how marketing and sales sort of joined forces and said, okay, this is the funnel and this is the pipeline, how we get through and let's work together to sort of pass the Baton and make sure we closing more deals. Um, it does a thing that does matter quite a lot of sense in drawing the analogy between our customer success and product, and really how the two teams should be working a lot [00:09:00] closer together.

That's right. I'm interested though. The second point that you mentioned, sort of the customer experience, um, the person that you bought on to like dive into customer's problems, deeper and things, how would this be different? I can a typical organization where you have user researchers and, uh, like, do you have user researchers against sites?

How do they work together with them? 

Ashvin Vaidyanathan: [00:09:22] Yeah. I mean, um, it, they combine again, they combined forces, um, we, we didn't staff someone like a user researcher for a long time and now have that role also in the product team, which at this point meant that this person, so, yeah. In a way this head of customer experience was acting like a user researcher to kickstart that process.

Now that we have that role fully staffed up. Now he's gone on to do another cross-functional project, which includes sales and CS and sits at the border of sales NCS, and also brings in the product. So a very clear example of that would be, um, launching what we're [00:10:00] calling is like the customer effort score, which is a very, um, industry known term.

It's a seven point scale. How easy was it to do what you were doing at any point in the product. And so using that type of, um, survey insight in the product itself, we do an in-app survey as an example, if you are on a page for greater than X minutes, and then that data, then tying it back into the, the product team and the user researcher team and the user experience team to say, like, this is the level of insight we are getting.

Uh, feeds it back to our customer success team to say you have an upcoming renewal with a low customer effort score. Like, how are you thinking about joining these two data points? Cause you shouldn't be surprised. How about the level of effort when it comes time for renewal. So, um, he's doing things like that.

So, um, once, so it's almost like he's the pilot for a new engagement and then we create a function credit function. 

Andrew Michael: [00:10:55] Very interesting. I think actually this, like the role itself sounds a little bit [00:11:00] similar, like to discussion I had previously with David Sakamoto, from the VP of customer success at get lab.

Um, And what we chatted about net episode was like the concept of like CS, uh, often not being, um, in a position to have an impact, and then often like being responsible for something like general attention. Um, but he argued, uh, to the point that really, it should like as customer success, you should be the one obsessing about like orchestrating the perfect customer experience.

Um, and if anybody in the organization needs to be doing this, it needs to be a CSO. If a sales is not doing a great job and they selling to bad qualified leads and that's hurting retention, like that should be part of customer success job to understand and work with them to improve. Like if marketing is overselling and they're coming through the door and then the products end delivering, like that's where they need to step in.

And, um, his argument was like, if any. Uh, team and the organization needs to own this experience. It needs to be customer success. Who's like [00:12:00] super close to the customer, always speaking to them. And then through each stage like Abel and, uh, he changed my thinking as well on like the impact of customer success and like its role this, like, how do you see the, like within your organization?

Like, is this something similar that you practicing against it? 

Ashvin Vaidyanathan: [00:12:15] Yeah. Um, love David Sakamoto as a friend, as well as like a customer of Gainsight. So, uh, yeah, we go back a long way. He's he's got some awesome things going at his company too. Um, so at Gainsight, like, yes. So I agree with the similar notion to what he described.

Um, I'd say, um, Like in terms of orchestrating that customer experience, um, that, that customer experience role that I spoke about definitely has a huge role to play in it. I'll give you a very tactical way, um, that we started doing this, which yielded a ton of results. So the first one was. Um, we do like net promoter score, NPS type surveys that a lot of companies do.

We actually pipe that data through to our Slack, to a Slack [00:13:00] channel, which is open to everyone in the company. And so what that is yielded is like the survey goes out from Gainsight. If the response comes in, it is stored in Gainsight, but also pushed through to Slack. And every day there is a constant feed of net promoter score responses with the comments.

And then that then starts surfacing up. Someone might say my sales process was completely broken, or I love the product, but the renewal process was not very, um, Like I didn't enjoy it. Right. So then that, in that, that Slack dialogue, then there is a dialogue with, between the account manager and the CSM and the product team about like, Hey, why, why did this happen?

And like the people start chiming in and it's very productive early on. Um, it got a little defensive, but over time now, People have started realizing that we all have to work together to solve this. And it's all very transparent. We are a very transparent company in general. And so, um, this notion of showing all comments to everyone, and sometimes it's a very [00:14:00] uncomfortable comment from the customer too.

Uh, and that's okay. Um, we don't. Absolutely. 

Andrew Michael: [00:14:06] And then like in the context of that, because I also, I really love this idea of like we see, uh, previously coming from Hotjar we were a super transparent company and also super qualitative, I would say, like, in terms of like interactions, getting close to customer, really understanding how then do you sort of quantify.

Um, the areas and impacts that need to happen. So NPS is great. You've got, uh, insights flowing through, like, how do you avoid, like people just jumping onto maybe problems that might show up because there's an angry customer versus knowing, okay, this is really a big problem. And it's, it's impactful because it's impacting several customers.

Like what methods and processes does your team currently, uh, work on to sort of pass the Baton onto product and say, okay, these are the biggest pain points we're hearing. This is why this is how things are changing over time. 

Ashvin Vaidyanathan: [00:14:50] Uh, yeah, I mean, I, at the end of the day, it has to tie back to a couple of things.

So, um, first is when we do any form of churn, [00:15:00] um, like at the end of the quarter, when we do any form of like a churn retro on what were the root causes of the churn, we classify that based on root causes that can be assigned to any one particular. Function within the company. So if you're churn reason is not getting value.

That doesn't mean anything because no one knows what to do. If you say a customer churn, because they didn't get value that, like, what do I do with that data? It has to get like the right, like, it has to go two or three or five levels deeper to say, okay, The actual issue was there was no qualified administrator at the customer who could take the ball forward and do this, or like the onboarding didn't go well, which set them off on a wrong path and then let the churn.

So our goal and product is one of those things where we could say we could come back and say the product didn't solve for the use case that we sold into, which means sales stop selling this use case. Still the product can actually solve that problem and product. This is interesting to us as a company, right?

Fix it, right? [00:16:00] Like that's the general idea. And so what we do on a quarterly basis is shared that information. And what percentage is coming from each one of these functions in a way, or attributable to each one of these functions. And then over the last year or two years, we've now trended it so much that we can now with confidence, say if we solve problem X.

It can potentially yield one or two points in retention or one minus churn basically. And so then it creates a focus for the product team to say, okay, simplification of product of feature X is what we need to focus on versus not. And it gets prioritized. Then the second thing is like, this is unavoidable, but for our largest customers, that is a process that we follow, which we call as a product risk process.

It's almost like product team has your roadmap, but. Every now and then like it's only like the top 1% of cases, the CSM team will push something as a product risk, which means it has to take priority over [00:17:00] most other things being worked on in the product that jumps the queue in a way. And so our chief product officer and I have now gotten to an alignment on how many these can, how often these can happen.

How many of these will be, uh, because it's obviously disruptive, but it's only the cases, uh, where either it. If not solving, it means churn for our largest customers, which obviously impacts this business or not solving it, uh, impacts expansion opportunities, which obviously impacts sales and everything else.

So it has to have like meaningful dollars associated with the ask, um, in order to jump the queue. 

Andrew Michael: [00:17:35] Yeah. Okay. How do you go about that? Like a, what is like a flag look like? What are some of the details like product to wanting to know in order to jump the queue and, uh, yeah, just start with that. 

Ashvin Vaidyanathan: [00:17:46] Yeah. Um, so, uh, I'll give you the college, like the template and then the process followed.

So the template is basically when, um, and we use something called call to action and Gainsight. So the CSM creates a call to action [00:18:00] for the product team in Gainsight that says customer name, um, like what's, what is the actual task? What, uh, in the product, uh, what's the problem faced actually, even before what the solution is, but what is the problem faced?

What, why can't we try out any alternative things or have we tried out any alternative ways of solving the problem and what's the dollar impact of not solving the problem, which could be an upcoming renewal generally tied to. Having an upcoming renewal within the next six to 12 months. Otherwise it becomes less important than that context, because again, this is very reactive firefighting, right?

So, um, and so next six to 12 months, and then, uh, the process that is followed as part of that, uh, thing is that is automated. An email gets sent to me, my VP of CS. Uh, the head of product, as well as the product operations team. And then, uh, all of us on an email chain debate, whether this qualifies or not.

And like there is some amount and if we need a meeting, we [00:19:00] bring it into a meeting. Um, and then following that once it's accepted, then the product manager is responsible for updating the call to action on a weekly basis on what's the progress related to that product risk. So we've accepted it. Um, we are, uh, identifying the level of effort required this week.

Next week, we'll update you on what the timeline looks like for a release or have we said Q2, but it looks like it's actually going to be Q3, so manage customer expectations or whatever to, um, 

Andrew Michael: [00:19:34] so. Yeah, very interesting. Uh, and it definitely sounds as well, like, uh, from the outside that the customer success team is heavily involved in product development and working close.

And I liked the fact as well that you have a shared metric as like the North star between the two teams. Um, I think obviously as well, like having a metric that, uh, looks to get breadth of usage across. So a wide range of features, uh, it makes sort of sense as well, [00:20:00] in terms of like increasing engagement.

I think like, um, retention engagement is like the breadth and retention is the depth and like increasing the breadth in terms of engagements and increase their retention overall. So that's right. It makes sense in that context as well, uh, that you both responsible because then it's like the team, uh, responsible, but how do you go about measuring then the impact between each team that's having on the metric?

Or is it just like a shared ownership and everybody just like celebrates the success or do you have, uh, individual metrics that you like that are in the inputs that you're focusing on? Uh, for each team. 

Ashvin Vaidyanathan: [00:20:36] Uh, so our CS team owns the retention number, uh, and that's the way we've kept it. But then to David's point and what I was saying earlier, then it's their responsibility to scream as loud as possible to call out to any team within the company, wherever they need help.

Right? Like, so if it is the product team that they need help with, then they, but at the end of the day, the buck stops with the customer success team [00:21:00] on. The retention forecasting as well as delivering on whatever we need to, um, to solve that. So, um, yeah. And, 

Andrew Michael: [00:21:07] um, the, the, the side of things as well, from the engagement perspective that you mentioned where it's like the breadth increasing like adoption of features when it comes to that, because this is like a shared North star metric that your own together with product and customer success, um, how are you measuring the impact from each team?

Or is it like a collective measurement where we say, okay, that we were successful as a team? Or is it like, okay, Customer success contributed in this way and product contributed in this way. And this is how we got to the North. Yeah. 

Ashvin Vaidyanathan: [00:21:36] So like, it's basically like the way to think about any of these metrics is that our activities that has leading indicators and then there is lagging outcomes.

And so this breadth or engagement as you call it, the breadth of adoption is the leading indicator. The activities that need to go into it from product management side would be like prior to making it easier doing user research or like things that actually improve the [00:22:00] breadth of adoption from a product management standpoint, from the CS standpoint, that could be like release notes that are very crystal clear.

It could be, um, like in-app communication that is very contextual or an email communication that is very contextual. It could be a webinar that talks about that particular product. So what we do is. The eventual goal is improving that leading indicator. But then we also measure and talk about in those interlock meetings that I was talking about is the CS team comes prepared to talk about what activities are we doing to actually make sure that the engagement has changing.

And we measure those activities like open rates on let's say email about feature X. Um, and, 

Andrew Michael: [00:22:41] uh, I have so many questions and I see we're running up on time as well. No, no. Um, so the next thing I'm interested as well then is psych when it comes to, uh, customer success and like, Building in a high touch and a low touch model and a like tech touch, um, obviously building [00:23:00] software to cater to all these I'm interested.

Like how has Gainsight's customer success team structured? Like it's a big team. So, uh, what is the breakdown between sort of your high touch tech touch, low touch, uh, and the responsibilities. Yeah. 

Ashvin Vaidyanathan: [00:23:15] Um, so we in the CSM team, uh, we are basically split into two or three, actually three different, um, Customer facing teams and then an operations team does that does like things at scale.

And so I'll call out both, especially for the tech touch program. So in our CSM delivery organization, meaning the people who actually work with our customers, uh, it is split into college, like a growth and global segment, which is college like the top tier segments or places where regardless of your current ARR to Gainsight.

It's like, what is the expansion potential in those customers? And so that is a separate team, which is that's called the high touch team. In that sense. Then we've got another [00:24:00] segment which is, um, college, like the mid market segment, where the volumes are much are slightly higher than the global growth.

They're still enterprise segment, enterprise customers. And we have, um, we, uh, compliment some of the human effort with some. Digital and tech touch, uh, as part of that. Right? So if we were to do. For, um, business reviews in the high-tech segment, we'll do two business reviews in the mid that segment, but then send usage data on a regular basis into that segment so that you always know how your usage of Gainsight is trending.

And so we've complimented human with some digital, and then you go to the low end. Um, like the general need in that market is there are no operations team members that are no administrators. And so, uh, at our customers for that SMB segment. And so. We've basically hired technical CSMs who can dive into the product and actually help the customer configure things.

And so, uh, India is a huge office for us and, um, we [00:25:00] are, we have like awesome technical talent. That's available in that office as well, working with our customers to solve those types of challenges. So that's on the CSM side of the house and then the CS operations team, their job is obviously maintaining our.

Instance of Gainsight and making sure that it works for all of these teams that I spoke about. But then in addition, they do a lot of the one to many type approaches. So they lead technical webinars on a monthly basis to drive feature adoption, et cetera. They do. Um, things like, uh, all our one to many communications.

I publish a CCO newsletter as an example, where I talk about best practices as well as. New product features that are coming out over the next couple of months. And so they help pull all of that together as well to send these out. So these are things that does not make any one customer specific, but applies to multiple customers.

And for our tech, that segment, it's super valuable to do that. Um, so one, one new role that we are [00:26:00] building internally is this. Um, almost like a digital life cycle manager. And so what their job will be is to create lifecycle for our non-managed segments in a way non-managed customers or not, not human managed customers.

And so, um, creating that life cycle, saying what usage data can we see at different points in that life cycle? And hence what type of messages should you get? Uh, from. Uh, emails in app, as well as maybe the support team to talk to you about, um, certain features and Gainsight. So, uh, we are finding scaled processes to do some of that.

Andrew Michael: [00:26:38] That's interesting as well, because I think typically that would maybe be a role that lives within marketing. And now you're sort of bridging the gap even further so that it blurring the lines between. Uh, specific teams and focusing more on functions. And I think definitely is, in my opinion, that's the, the future is less about like a specific department and more around, uh, rolling, like your company around like a [00:27:00] company's pain points and what needs the job that needs to be done essentially.

So, yup. 

Ashvin Vaidyanathan: [00:27:03] And the most interesting, by the way, um, just sort of thing on that, the most interesting area that I'm seeing, where there is still the jury's out. Yet on who owns that communication, which is in product communications because CSMs have a stake or CS teams have a stake because that is so contextual and so powerful.

If done right in the product product team obviously owns the product. And so it's a very sacred space. Right. Like you shouldn't be over spamming in the, inside the product. And so they have a stake in the game and they obviously PM's want to drive their individual feature adoption, et cetera. And then marketing is really qualified as engaged, like qualified to create engaging copies and like sticking with the brand team and everything else.

So these three teams are approaching the problem from three different angles and yeah. In like, w that governance for what should go, what qualifies as a good in-app communication? When should you do it? Who [00:28:00] should run it? It's still like undecided in several places. And so that is an area where, um, at least I've come to the conclusion that no one team can own this.

And it has to be more like a. Cross-functional governing team that decides what to do well, or 

Andrew Michael: [00:28:16] you're like a function, the team around these things, or like have adoption, a team around adoption and the team is really focused on these sorts of things. For sure. Yep. Um, so you're an author as well. I mentioned at the beginning of the show, uh, the book, the customer success professionals, a handbook.

Okay. Um, give us a quick overview. Cause we as well getting running short on time, um, like, uh, why did you decide to write the book? I think obviously like, uh, the subtitle being like how to thrive, uh, in one of the world's fastest growing careers while driving growth for your company. Uh, give some context, like where did the inspiration come from?

Ashvin Vaidyanathan: [00:28:52] Yeah. Um, so we, don't the first book on customer success a few years back. I want to say five or six years back. [00:29:00] Uh, about the Y customer success, right? Like, so this was, um, we didn't invent customer success, but we evangelized it in a big way in the community. And so I'm creating a talk track for why CEOs and CEOs and CFOs should even start caring about customer success.

As a profession was what the first book did. There was a, what I was seeing was there was a gap, um, in converting that Y into the house. Which is now if I'm a CSM and I'm, I'm maybe a new CSM, or I've been doing my job for the last two years, but I want to grow in my career. What should I be doing day in and day out?

Like, how do I know if I'm achieving the impact in my profession that I am or not? Like all of that were open questions and I was answering them one-off for every customer, because like people would come and say like, Hey, you see this across the community. Tell me more about. Um, what a CSMs day in the life should look like.

And I would refund that on my team would talk about it. So we said, why not package it all up in a book? [00:30:00] And I was fortunate enough to be asked by the publisher to, uh, write on this, um, given again, the privilege that I have across the community. And so, um, it made very natural sense to dive into it and like CSM as a profession for the last three years now has been the top 10.

Uh, LinkedIn fastest growing role. So there are more and more people coming into the profession, not knowing what to do in the profession. And so this made logical sense. 

Andrew Michael: [00:30:27] Yeah, absolutely. That's something we chatted about an episode it's coming out soon, uh, with Rav. Well, um, if you. Yeah, I did success at Salesforce, yamas, Zendesk, Slack, like really incredible Korea.

Uh, we, it was interesting the discussion we had about how he's actually now an investor, but somebody questioned him and said like, you're actually a really good investor of your own time. If you look at the companies you've picked, choose and work at, but, uh, it was just sort of the compensation was this, is that like a customer success really?

Is still [00:31:00] not clearly defined, uh, in most parts and for a lot of organizations, it means a lot of different things. So this is one of the biggest problems. And biggest challenges says still in this space is that it's not just like a clearly defined cookie cutter model that everybody clearly gets and understands and says, okay, yes, I need to start customer success in my organization for X, Y, or Z.

So I think definitely like having more content like this, uh, like the book that you produce having a little bit more like thought leadership coming from. Uh, like the likes of yourselves and, and Ralph, I think is definitely going to help push the message forward. Uh, so, uh, it's a very, very interesting, and I think the one thing that I wanted to ask as well, just to make sure we have time for it is a question I ask every guest.

I actually recently just got some feedback on this question as well. So I'm going to mix it up a little bit. Which is great, but typically, like I ask every guest that joins the show, let's imagine a hypothetical scenario, um, that you join a new company. Turner attention is not doing great. And you have 90 days to make an [00:32:00] impact to improve, uh, retention.

And typically then I would ask you, like, what would you do? Uh, what did you at the time. I'm going to ask you that question, but I don't want you to give me the typical answer of, I go speak to customers and try to figure out what's your next. What I'd like to hear is maybe something that you've tried in your past that was extremely tactical, um, that had a big impact on retention and what there would be.

And let's imagine this company that you had is facing the same problem and you feel that the solution is going to work. 

Ashvin Vaidyanathan: [00:32:27] Yeah, totally. So being hypothesis driven, I would say one, the biggest challenge that I've seen, um, that causes some churn again, like the first thing to note is where. Compared to the benchmark is the churn in this company?

Like, is it way off the benchmark? Like, let's say 85% plus retention or 15% churn. 10 to 15% churn is like where a lot of companies are. If you're greater than 90% retention, gross retention dollars, then you are generally in good company. Right? So if you're at 70, my [00:33:00] answer will be very different. And if you're at like 85 or 90, then my answer will be very different, but I'll just give you a hypothetical for.

Um, uh, um, uh, a use case that I think. A lot of companies don't invest a lot of time in, and it has a lot of impact, which is executive sponsorship program. So people get blindsided by churn because they haven't been talking to the key decision maker. Well in advance and throughout the customer life cycle and or they haven't been talking to multiple decision makers and stakeholders within the company, they've been focused on.

Let's say the operations person in the company and they're working towards it, but that hasn't translated over to the person that actually owns the writing of the check. And, um, and they are only spoken to a few months before the renewal, which obviously is not a great experience, so that creating a very systematic exec sponsor program, if it doesn't exist in the company is the first thing that I would do.

[00:34:00] Andrew Michael: [00:34:00] Very nice. Yeah. And that's definitely like something we hear on the show. I think happened maybe around episode 12 was the first time I really like heard about this. And then it just became a recurring theme is like how important it is to have like really good executive sponsorship, to know who your customer champions are and not to just rely, but with one person on the company, because that's typically like a biggest reason for churn is like when one of these people leave, then, uh, you're stuck flat.

For nobody to explain within the organization why they're using your product or service, why it's valuable. So when the time comes around to rewriting the check for renewal, it's like nobody has the context to understand like what the value is and why they should keep you. So I have that. Uh, and then the next question, uh, I ask as well as I'm interested is what's one thing that, you know, today about general attention that you wish you knew when you got started with your career.

Ashvin Vaidyanathan: [00:34:49] Hmm. That's a good question. Um, I'd say, like, I think back to the team of the entire conversation that you and I had [00:35:00] had, um, I think product plays such a huge role in. The churn and retention. Um, you could like the CS in, don't get me wrong. The CS team can do a lot of things to get some quick wins, to improve churn and retention.

But, um, I think, uh, the, if I was to do things differently, I would have parallel process the product part of this like five years back. So that. Things could have changed five years back, which then yielded results in the subsequent years, because product is a much longer game than CS actions. And so our actions can produce pretty quick impact in the CS world, but then we need product bought in to do certain changes, which then yields results a year or two years down the line.

Andrew Michael: [00:35:45] Exactly. I think that's one of the, like the main themes of the show as well, is that like churning is such a lagging metric and decisions that you're making like two, three years ago are having an impact today. And it's all these different inputs, I think, uh, that really impact the app, [00:36:00] uh, put, which is the funnel metrics.

So, uh, well, it's been a pleasure having you today on the show. Is there sort of any final thoughts you'd like to leave the listeners with shouldn't. 

Ashvin Vaidyanathan: [00:36:10] Uh, yes, absolutely. So, um, we are, uh, like at Gainsight, our mission or our purpose to exist is to win in business while being human first. And so we always believe that CSN in general business is a very human first profession and human first endeavor.

And so a book that my CEO recommended to me that I'm loving right now is called humankind. If folks haven't read it, I highly recommended the author basically, um, challenges the world to say. That actually our natural state is not the cost strive not to cause Wars. The natural state for human beings as a species is to actually coexist and, uh, love each other and live in harmony.

And I think with everything that's going on, uh, extremism going on all over the world, I think everyone should be reading this book and getting [00:37:00] empathy for each other. 

Andrew Michael: [00:37:01] Absolutely. Is that a humankind or hopeful history by Rebecca Bregman? Is that yes, exactly. That's the, that's the book. Yeah. Obviously linked to it in the show notes as well.

I'm definitely adding it to my reading list. Uh, I was also thanks for that recommendation. Uh, yeah. And also just a big thanks as well. I mentioned, uh, got some feedback from a guest recently. Uh, his name is actually Jeremy Donovan. Yeah. Uh, he's going to be joining us on the show as soon as well. He's the VP of sales strategy, um, at sales loft.

Uh, so, uh, thank you very much, Jeremy, for the feedback. I think it was great to hear as well as Finn's, uh, perspective on how we go about approaching the problem. And I'm looking forward to your others as well, guests going forward. So thank you so much for joining today. I really, really appreciate the time.

It was great learning from you. And obviously I think you. The super interesting space that has interesting time and a sort of a lucky and fortunate to be able to help define some of the best practices in customer success going forward. So really, really appreciate the time [00:38:00] and, uh, best of luck going forward.

Ashvin Vaidyanathan: [00:38:02] Thank you so much, much, Andrew, and thank you for everything you're doing for the community, sharing this podcast as well.

Andrew Michael: [00:38:07] Thank you. Cheers.


Ashvin Vaidyanathan
Ashvin Vaidyanathan

The show

My name is Andrew Michael and I started CHURN.FM, as I was tired of hearing stories about some magical silver bullet that solved churn for company X.

In this podcast, you will hear from founders and subscription economy pros working in product, marketing, customer success, support, and operations roles across different stages of company growth, who are taking a systematic approach to increase retention and engagement within their organizations.


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