Named one of the Top SaaS CEOs by the Software Report three years in a row, one of the Top CEOs of 2018 by Comparably, was a finalist for EY’s Entrepreneur of the Year, and holds one of highest Glassdoor approval ratings for CEOs, Nick Mehta, CEO of Gainsight, is a mover and a shaker. Especially in the Customer Success and SaaS space.
He has his Masters in Computer Science from Harvard, is a die-hard football fan, a family man and a feminist. Needless to say, my conversation with Nick was wonderfully well rounded.
M.R. Rangaswami: When you see an organization “doing customer service well” in this fast-paced industry, what are they doing?
Nick Mehta: The first and most important premise we need to establish is that “customer service” is a dated concept. Customers don’t really want you to “serve” them. They want you to own their outcome and deliver against the goals they had when they purchased your product. This fundamental shift in mindset is the core of the customer success movement.
But I still want to answer the question—I see successful companies doing four things:
They have an organization that owns customer success.
That org has a top-down mandate to move from reactive customer support toward a more proactive delivery of the customers’ desired objectives.
That delivery is powered by a cross-functional initiative involving Support, Services, Product, Sales, Marketing, etc. to make sure the end-to-end customer journey is aligned around customer outcomes.
Those outcomes are measured using key performance indicators (KPIs) that go beyond tactical cost metrics (e.g., time on the phone or cost per case) and short-term revenue objectives (e.g., bookings) and act as a leading indicator of future retention and expansion (e.g., health score, adoption, NPS).
M.R.: Gainsight is a noticeably approachable, friendly organization—not always common for this industry. In your experience, how do organizations who take a formal, serious approach to customer service compare to those organizations who present friendly and informal?
Nick: The world is demanding a different relationship between companies and society. For decades, we were taught to be different at work than we are at home. We needed to be “business-like” and “leave our emotions at the door.” As Michael Corleone famously said in the Godfather, “It’s not personal, it’s business.” But we as human beings are realizing that this needs to fundamentally change.
At Gainsight, we espouse the idea of “human-first” business—the concept that we can’t be different people—we need to authentically be who we are in all facets of our lives. I’m inspired by many other companies that take this same approach like Salesforce, Box, and PagerDuty.
Companies that take this human-first perspective in customer success are able to build deeper relationships with their clients to ride through the ups and downs. For Gainsight, this might involve a parody rap video or Carpool Karaoke session. For your company, it should be true to who you truly are. But as Brene Brown talks about, vulnerability is the true superpower in business.
M.R.: In your opinion, what is the most difficult part of customer service for businesses to maintain, 3, 5 and 10 years out from implementing?
Nick: The biggest challenge is that customer success is fundamentally “time shifted” just by the nature of the practice and the business model. Sales is all about immediate gratification—do something now and measure the results this quarter. Customer success is about impacting the future through what you do in the present. This requires patience and it requires you to trust your processes will pay off over the long term. That said, unlike traditional customer service or support, true customer success is designed to be a growth driver—not a cost center. Those investments will pay off in the lifetime value of your customers.