Jul 22, 2020

Issue #13: How Gong creates raving fans

Chris Hicken By Chris Hicken
CEO at 'nuffsaid

From an interview with:



Where Sales reps have traditionally been resistant to recording their calls, we've created a customer base that are not just “bought in” to the idea. They love it. They bring our product with them wherever they go. 


A significant part of the reason for that is due to one of our company’s operating principles, which is to “create raving fans.” That company-wide goal filters into every department. But it also has to do with how we’ve oriented our Customer Success team’s structure, metrics, and culture around the customer. 


So for others looking to borrow ideas on setting up a customer-centric organization, here’s how ours works:  



  • To start, our Customer Success team’s number one charter is “value delivery,” which supports our company’s operating principle of “create raving fans.” 
  • Our Customer Success team includes CSMs, Customer Education (a team focused on helping customers adopt the product and how, why, and when to use the product), Customer Success Enablement (an internal team that serves as a central repository of content, assets, and other materials that help CSMs), and Customer Success Operations. We’ll be adding technical account managers soon as well, and we’re looking to peel some of the implementation and training responsibilities off the CSMs by hiring in those areas as well. Support is a specialized function that doesn’t live within CS.  
  • Any time we want to change our setup or invest in something new, we look at two things: 1. Does this improve the customer journey? That’s the number one priority. And then, 2. If it does or doesn’t, does this improve our efficiency? For example, this could look like investing in initiatives or resources that help CSMs onboard more customers. 



  • The Customer Success group has four main metrics, and they’re designed so there’s overlap with our counterparts in Sales. The first two are lagging indicators: 1. logo churn and 2. net dollar retention. The next two are leading indicators: 3. NPS, which we obsess over as a business (if we get an 8 or below, we have automation and messaging that goes out to get additional feedback) and 4. product utilization. This last one changes as the product changes, but we’re essentially looking to see usage in areas of the product that grow the value that customers are getting out of the product. 



  • The company’s operating principles: I mentioned one of our company’s operating principles above, “create raving fans,”—another one is “challenge conventional wisdom.” We work to empower people internally to think differently about everything they’re solving. One example of how this has benefited our customers is a couple years ago, our Head of Support came up with the Mastery Series—a program that gamifies onboarding—and onboarding wasn’t even in Support’s responsibilities. 
  • Hiring: When you’re a scrappy startup, you need CSMs to be agile. Startups are in survival mode, in full learning mode—and the company’s strategy and positioning can change quickly. At Gong.io, we’ve made an effort to hire people who are both intellectually curious and okay with things changing on a dime. 
  • Prominence at the executive level: I’ve always been an advocate for Success leaders to sign up for a number—to be tied to a dollar amount. That alone will give them more of a “seat at the table.” Ultimately, if you can’t show the ROI on an investment you want to make, you turn Success into the group that makes asks without substantive reasons for them. If you instead sign up for a revenue target and position Customer Success as a machine, just like how a Sales machine works, you build trust and credibility and you’ll be able to make the investments necessary to provide a great customer experience.  


The top articles this week: 

This week's newsletter features posts on: 

  • There's No Such Thing as Post-Sales
  • Avoiding Burnout on Your Customer Success Team
  • The Best Three Pages on Leadership I've Come Across
  • Feedback is Not a Gift




There's No Such Thing As Post-Sales

Rav Dhaliwal, Venture Partner at Crane (and former Head of Customer Success at Slack), highlights three patterns seen amongst their portfolio companies in how they’re retaining customers. The most important, he says, is they believe that “success is everyone’s business.” “There is the first sale with a customer, the next sale with them and so on, and in order to maximize the conditions for this, Customer Success has to begin in the sales cycle.”

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Avoiding Burnout on Your Customer Success Team

Brooke Goodbary, Manager of Customer Success at Roku, explains how Success teams can decrease the chances of burnout during this time. She says, “Customer Success burnout in particular is tied to two factors: unrealistic expectations and an inability to imagine a time when things will improve.”

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The Best Three Pages on Leadership I've Come Across

Zack Kanter, Founder/CEO at Stedi, pulls pages out of the book One From Many by Dee Hock, including this one: “True leaders are those who enable the unconscious values and beliefs of every member of the community to emerge.”

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Feedback is Not a Gift

An insightful piece by Ed Batista (Executive Coach) that argues against thinking about feedback as a “gift,” and instead framing it as “data.” For one, feedback is filtered through the giver’s perceptions of reality—it should not necessarily be accepted as the truth (although we shouldn’t reject feedback outhand). He says the framing, “feedback is data allows us to be more judicious and intentional about whether and how we respond to it.”

Read the full post