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How Gainsight Applies Customer Success to Conference Participants

Written by Bill Cushard

Published on November 4, 2015

On Thursday, October 29, I had the great opportunity to participate in Pulse Europe Conference in London. Although Pulse Customer Success conference has been running in the San Francisco Bay Area for the past four years and has grown enormously, Gainsight just hosted its first customer success conference in Europe, of which ServiceRocket was a proud Gold Sponsor. Gainsight expected big things, planned a first conference for big things, and the turnout was unbelievable. 

There were a few hundred people from all over Europe and even some friends from across the pond in the United States who attended. The reason for the conference's success? Because Gainsight focused every aspect of the conference on helping participants get value out of attending. 

I just wanted to write a brief recap of my experience at Pulse Europe, since I found it such an enriching experience. 

ServiceRocket at Gainsight Pulse Europe Customer Success Conference October 2015

What Conferences Are, But Should Not Be

Too many conferences are one-way exercises in pitching products and services and are littered with sessions thinly veiled as educational talks but are really just one-way product pitches.

Yes. It is nice to learn from experts about how they do things, but most sessions are too one way. By which I mean: all lecture and no discussion. Most say they will leave time for questions, but few make the time, arriving at the end of the session leaving the audience as an after thought. "Ooops. Sorry. We only have time for one question." 

This is no way to provide value to an audience who has traveled, invested a lot of time and money, and skipped important work and personal time to attend a conference. People want to participate, learn, and take something valuable back with them so they can improve their own work.

Maybe we need a "Conference Attendee Success" movement.

I digress. 

Not all conferences need to be this way. In fact, there are a few examples of conferences going beyond the traditional conference session to help participants learn something valuable and useful. Gainsight's Pulse Conference is one of them.

How Gainsight Puts Conference Participants First

At Pulse Europe, I was asked to participate in the Success Unplugged Track, which contained three sessions in the afternoon:

  • Build Your Customer Health Score with Chris Doell, Vice President of Customer Success at OpenDNS (Cisco)
  • Develop at CSM Compensation Strategy with Jon Herstein, Senior Vice President of Customer Success at Box
  • Plan a QBR Agenda and Template with Beth Yehaskel, Vice President of Customer Success at Spredfast

Since the Success Unplugged Track was started at the Pulse Conference in San Francisco, it has taken a unique look at conference sessions with the intent of offering conference goers with a higher value session than the standard expert lecture and/or panel discussion. The purpose of the Success Unplugged Track is to give participants a chance to get hands-on with a topic and otherwise begin to put it into practice during the session.

To give you an idea of how the sessions in the Success Unplugged Track are structured, here are brief summaries of each.

Build Your Customer Health Score

In the Build Your Customer Health Score session with Chis Doell, participants spent time actually creating the beginnings of their own customer health index. People worked on their own and in groups to discuss how they would build their score and what factors they would consider. The learning was sparked by the introduction from Chris, the worksheet, peer discussions at each table, and questions at the end for Chris. 

Develop a CSM Compensation Strategy

In the Develop a CSM Compensation Strategy, participants had the opportunity to start constructing their own comp strategy. Certainly a comp plan cannot be created in a 45 min session, but what can be done is that people could use a worksheet to at least start thinking about and documenting what their own comp could look like by considering comp levers and what proportion of compensation that each should be considered. Finally, attendees had a chance to have peer discussions at each table and ask questions of Jon Herstein who shared his experience on the topic.

Plan a QBR Agenda and Template 

In the Plan a QBR Agenda and Template session, participants created an actual agenda for their next QBR. People were put in the scenario that they had a real QBR scheduled for 2 weeks from now and wrote up what their agenda would be. After which, participants shared their agenda with their peers and asked Beth Yehaskel questions who shared her experience creating and delivering QBRs.

Learn by Doing, Learn from Peers

I loved being involved in these sessions because during the activity part of each session, you could see (and hear) people at their tables start talking with each other, discussing these topics, and beginning to apply them. Participants seemed to take the activities seriously. After all, they came to Pulse Europe to learn. I believe the Success Unplugged track helped people learn. I know this because at least three people told me how valuable the activities were for them.

That is satisfying. 

As I have written about before, forward-looking companies are starting to look at conference programming differently. In this case, Gainsight wanted to flip the one-way conference presentation on its ear, by structuring a track of sessions somewhere in between the straight, one-way presentation and the formal day long, pre-conference training course. Based on the feedback I have received, the Success Unplugged Track is offering value to participants. I expect Gainsight will continue this track format. I hope so. 

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