Bhavani Prasad currently serves as a Team Lead on one of Gainsight's Customer Success Consultant teams. In this role, he has a ton of exposure to how different companies are going about implementing their digital customer success strategies. I was excited to interview Bhavani to learn what, from an administrator's perspective is imperative in getting digital cs strategies off the page and into practice.
Bhavani's LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/bhavani-prasad-v-1026a2129/
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The Digital Customer Success Podcast is hosted by Alex Turkovic
Go ahead, record a nice video of the new features which you are releasing. Put it in your community post. In that way, it acts as a reference guide not only for your internal folks, but also for the customers, and they can watch it on demand. And in that way, you are also like limiting the CSM's time on spending so much in understanding those things and then going back to the customers and explaining they can just share that link with them. It's almost like you're doing your own digital customer success for the digital customer success motions that you're rolling out, right? And once again, welcome to the digital Customer Success Podcast. I'm alex Turkovich. So glad you could join us here today. And every week, as I seek out and interview leaders and practitioners who are innovating and building great scale CS programs, my goal is to self educate and bring you along for the ride so that you get the insights that you need to evolve your own digital customer success program. If you want more info or you need to get in touch or sign up to get the latest updates from us, go to digitalcustoursuccess.com. But for now, let's get started with today's show. Welcome to this week's episode. It's a pleasure having you back here, and I wanted to start out by sharing my sincere thanks for the last few weeks. Since we launched, the response has been overwhelmingly positive, which, if you've created things like this before, you know there's an element of vulnerability associated with it. And I'm just appreciative of all the kind comments and positive feedback downloads. I was pretty much blown away by the immediate and positive response. So a million times. Thank you. I've been having such great conversations over the course of these past few weeks, and I'm almost sad that I'm only releasing one episode a week because there's so much good stuff in the can that's coming up and that I can't wait to share with you. It's been a really fun, personal, kind of learning journey for me, and I can't wait to bring you along for the ride as well. Now, if you've listened to the first few episodes, you'll know that one of the things that I'm doing is I'm asking every one of my guests for their own personal definition of digital customer success. And the reason I'm doing this is because everyone has a little different spin on it. I think for the most part, we can align around the high level talk tracks of what digital CS is and what it's becoming because it is changing, but everybody has a different spin on it, largely based on what they do today and also their background and their interests. And so the goal here is to take everybody's definition and create and maintain a word map of everyone's definition combined. And if you want to go have a look at it or track it, it is email@example.com. You'll see a link to the wordmap on the website and you can go check it out. It'll obviously grow over time, so keep an eye out for that. My guest today is someone who you might not have heard from or know. My guest is one of those heroes in the background of the digital CS world and the CS world in general. Bhavani Prasad is a lead customer success consultant at Gainsight currently and his day to day gig is working with the admins and the, I guess, owners of the GAINSITE installation at quite a large number of customers. And so I thought it was very interesting to interview him because he sees a lot of things and he knows what a lot of operators are doing. Part of the goal of this podcast from the beginning has been not just to interview leaders, but also people who are behind the scenes a little bit, your operations people, your admin folks and a variety of different personas that make Digital CS work. And Bhavani in this interview provides us with a lot of insight into what it looks like once a strategy has been developed, what it looks like to then implement it. And so to me, this is a very important conversation and a very important insight into not only the operations side and the administrative side of digital CS. But to me, one of the important bits is as a CS leader building some empathy around what it takes to actually implement some of these strategies and the importance of getting things right from the get go. So I hope you enjoy my conversation with Bhavani Prasad. I know I certainly did. How long have I known you? About a year now or so. Yeah. You have been my go to GAINSITE guru, but you've spent a fair amount of time at Gainsight, I think at the moment you're a lead technical consultant. What's your role specifically? Yeah, it is team lead for the sellix team. Yeah, exactly. Okay. But before that, you spent some time at ADP. You spent some time at some total. And I want to ask you kind of right off the bat, obviously, about your background a little bit, but I want to start with something that I saw in your LinkedIn profile that I did not know about you, which is that you studied at the Institute for Aircraft Maintenance Engineering. What is that about? I have done my diploma in mechanical engineering, so I was much more inclined onto the technical stuff. So aircraft maintenance, as you know, it's all latest technology, which you can get your hands on. So I have done this aircraft maintenance engineering where you have to clear certain papers and then you will get a BAML, which is basic aircraft maintenance engineering license. So it's pretty good to have I already have that myself. So that course particularly deals with maintaining the aircraft, which is not very well known in India at that point. In time. So it is usually the people who work in the Air Force, they were getting into the commercial side of things as well. And there are only hardly few institutes. So that kind of made me go to that particular genre or the group. And eventually what happened is after me completing that particular course, recession hit and there were airlines in India which were kind of closed out due to this recession and lot of things happened. So, as every other Indian, I jumped myself into the initial tech support and slowly I moved into SaaS and now here am I. Interesting. Wow. Did you grow up wanting to have a career in aviation or was this just a choice that you made at some point? Yeah, it's not something I dreamt in the beginning or when I was a child in India. It's always either a doctor or an engineer. That kind of mindset was there, but I have never decided on anything. When I was a child, it's much more I took it after I completed my diploma. That is where I thought, this is something pretty cool, where I can get into the latest technologies and stuff like that. And it does give me that kind of knowledge about the latest things which will happening in the aviation field, but eventually everyone does more of the software. Yeah. And did you have a pilot's license at the same time or did you strictly outside the cockpit? Exactly, I went into the cockpit as well. I've done some kind of maintenance hours as well. So I think Airbus 380 is where I have worked as well, the personal experience. So once the flight kind of flies, it comes to the maintenance hanger where you have to do certain kind of maintenance things and then pilot also does a little bit of prep checks. Yeah, that's interesting. You've been at gamesite for a while now. We try to be as platform agnostic on the podcast as possible, but for listeners out there, it's no secret that I'm a Gainsight devotee and I like GAINSITE very much. So I'm guessing it's probably going to come up quite a bit today. But regardless, it is the digital customer Success podcast, right? And I would be remiss if I didn't ask every one of my guests about what their elevator pitch, if you will, for Digital CS is. And the plan is I want to collect everybody's answer and put it on a word map on the website, basically. So I would love for you to spend a couple of sentences and just give us what your thoughts are on Digital CS and what the definition of Digital Customer Success is. Sure, Alex. I feel that it's not a process which everyone is trying to implement. Rather I look at it as a framework which can be implemented and people usually talk only about a specific set of customers. But I feel that it is not only for a specific set of customers. So it can be first is to increase the efficiency of the CSM, but also it saves a lot of time for those clients who want a self experience, who have worked with you for a long time and does not need reviews at a regular period of time. I think that is a great process for those people as well. And where there are strong admins where they have good product adoption, I think digital customer success is a perfect strategy for them. Yeah, makes sense. And I love your take on it because a big reason why I asked you to join today is because you spend your days working with both kind of the account champions, but also you spend a lot of time with the admins of the world. And I feel like that the administrative and the operations side of digital CS is a little bit overlooked sometimes in some of the content that's out there, and hence why I'm excited to have you on just because you have the technical knowledge. But also you've been speaking with a lot of admins out there who are tasked with implementing some of these grand ideas that we have about automations and flows and all kinds of things. And so very curious to get your perspective on a few things related to that. Perhaps also from a metrics perspective, I'm guessing that you've seen quite a bit in terms of different people measuring different types of metrics in relation to digital, or maybe they're adopting the same set of metrics to their digital programs, which is an interesting concept as well. Can you give us a little bit of insight into your own personal opinion and also what you've seen out there in terms of what people are measuring their digital programs on? Yeah, sure, Alex. Coming on to my personal opinion, I think you should not deviate much from the original metrics you have for all the customers, but I would say the way you are calculating things or the way you are looking at things for digital customer success is a bit different. Let's say if you are taking a classic measure like health score or engagement, when we are talking about normal customers, the engagement is much more on a call level where am I directly interacting with the customer that comes into picture. But whereas in the digital you can take some other things like how well they have responded to the emails which have been sent to you or have they read those emails. So you can take those things into consideration where the measure remains the same. It's the engagement which it is accounting to. But there is a slight change in the way we are looking at that. And I'm not a huge fan of changing all the things for digital customer success because that can throw the persons or the personnel who are handling the process off guard because you're implementing too many things and too quickly. And that is something which most of the customers do follow. They have something like the number of service sent versus the number of service the customers have opened. And another important measure I would say is how active are they in the community. I feel communities are such a great platform which every company should have, where it not only talks about the ideation request or the product request, but it also speaks about what are the use cases they have and how can other customers help these set of customers. And I feel that is pretty important in digital customer success world. Yeah, and a couple of things came to mind as you were describing some of these things. The first is that it is a combination of your classic CS metrics combined with marketing automation metrics because when you think about email flows and open rates and click rates and all that kind of stuff, that's classic marketing automation right there. And something that perhaps the CS community in large isn't really looking at. If they're really white glove and have a lot of one to one relationships with their CSMS, obviously the aspect of the community is super important. And again, that's one thing where depending on where your community lives within the organization, it might live in support, it might live in product, it might live in CS. So I'm sure that can introduce all sorts of challenges. Yes, I think that's one great means of letting we do at GAINSITE where we ask the customers to come, maybe write their success stories and things like that, where others can also see and talk about what they have implemented so far on certain processes which can help others as well. So yeah, yeah, I want to dig a little bit further into the, into the admin world because the admins of the world are a little bit undersung and I've had some conversations with other guests where it was very clear that the world just needs more CS admins. Right. We have a lot of salesforce admins out there, we have a lot of operations folks, it's great, but especially like GAINSITE, administrators need more of those. But I would love for you to kind of shed some light on what you've seen done well and also maybe what you've seen done not so well. When a digital strategy is formed, it's time to start implementing certain things and getting some customer journey elements in place and some automations in place. What have been some things that you see lead to success and failure with regards to getting things over to the ops and the administrative side to actually build the stuff out? Yeah, that's a very good question, Alex. Most of the customers have a great strategy, as you said, right? They look pretty great on the paper. The plan they have for the digital success, they have all these several processes laid out and have a definition defined for each of the process. They know what criteria, what are the processes, they do everything. Almost every company I've interacted does a great thing on the paper. But again, coming back on what needs to be changed, I think first thing one has to understand is we cannot get 100% digital customer success process set up at an initial go. That is something which one has to understand maybe once you have everything in the paper. I would suggest as you said, gameset admin or the admin is a very critical person. So what we need to do is sit with that person and try to understand, okay, these are the process we are planning to automate and maybe analyze how much time we are spending on each one of those processes. And maybe for the initial first stage or first phase I would say pick a couple of them which are like high time consuming. Discuss with him, understand his opinion of how he can automate these things because end of the day he's the person who has to do the heavy lifting. So understand from his perspective whether these things can be automated or not. So he will give you a clear idea. And also another piece Alex, I would say is the data management people have great ideas but end of the day that one application is acting like a single source of truth. If I am asking my CSM or my account manager to go and navigate with different applications and that is where the efficiency dies down. So as an admin, first thing is I need to make sure that the single source of truth is there and then implement the process where the end users can right away see some quick wins. Let's say if they have. I have automated this emails with all my customers. It is saving me like 50 or 60 minutes for an account so it can show me a quick win. Yeah. So in essence not just prioritizing based on your business case and based on the strategy you've laid out, but also based in, based on level of effort, level of impact and those kinds of things with the admin. Because we all know we go to set something like this up and we learn that the data isn't right or something is weird with the automation that causes things to kind of take longer and whatnot. Yeah, exactly. Well, you may realize that you have all the data but maybe not in the way the admin needs that to configure some dashboards or reports for you. So that is pretty much critical. Yeah, absolutely. Okay, that's super valuable. I think on the same token then it becomes a matter of okay, we've got some quick wins on the board, there are some automations that have created some efficiency internally customer facing things. I'd like to talk a little bit about the change management element of that because it's not enough just to throw something over the fence and have it appear one day and expect everybody to know exactly what it is and how to use it. So again, kind of similar question. What have you seen done well? What have you seen not done well from a change management perspective when you're rolling these things out? Yeah, definitely. Again, another good question I would say Alex, is you have done maybe you have figured out with your admin we are going to implement five processes for the entire team, but are you educating them? Are you giving them enough training? Not everyone can start right away with the approach which you have. That is one thing I would say is you have to give a bit of training for those individuals as well. Maybe they are pretty new to the digital customer success world or maybe they haven't handled the customers in that way. I know it lies with most of the automation, but maybe you are giving an alias to the customer and maybe customers tends to reach out to you where you have given one person like 100 or 200 accounts, so he should be also prepped for that. And another important element is how are you prepping the customers as well? Most of them, they do it on an email, but I would say it's a game changing thing. Why don't you put that as a nice post in your community? Or why don't you announce that in the company events that, hey, going forward we are introducing this digital success. We have identified a couple of customers who are willing to participate in this one. So I again say roll it out on a face to the customers, give enough information, enough training for the individuals who are handling the process and that is when you can achieve the success. As I said, most of the companies tend to implement things and then just give them and ask the users to use it right away. And then again, another element, Alex, I would say after you implement and do these things, collecting feedback is another critical aspect. You have to collect the feedback from the internal employees and also the customers like, are they okay with this process? Let's say if the customer is not happy, then eventually you will see loads of churns happening. So you may need to revamp the process or you may need to introduce a little bit of human touch in the process which you are doing just to save the business. And then again, maybe go back after six months and see how we can further automate those things. So collecting feedback is also another important aspect. It's huge. Yeah, it's huge because once you build something, it's not like you're done with it. You're probably going to need to iterate on it whether you want to and do the next phase of it or whether it's just not working for the way that you're set up. Okay, I like this. I kind of want to continue down that train of thought a little bit. I think with larger companies you could say it's easier or it's harder to roll some of these things out because larger sometimes means more difficult in terms of communication lines and things like that. But in general you have more resources, more people aligned to actually rolling things out. You have enablement people that can help. And whatnot with smaller companies though? Do you see a lot of admins doing this type of enablement work or do you see them kind of partnering with others? What's your sense on all of the admins that you work with? How involved are they? Post build phase in implementation and feedback phase? Yeah, that is one gap. I should say that not most admins are actively participating in the training programs or maybe admin is not their primary responsibility. Let's say if you are taking an example of a smaller organization, maybe the lead of a CSM is looking into the admin work. And that is where it is like wearing multiple hats. And that is where we are. Seeing. There is a gap happening between the knowledge transfers and then they are routing them just by preparing some documents or some videos based on that. Again, that carries forward to the customers as well, leaving that kind of not so great experience. So I would say if it is a small company and you can't spend much on the resources, maybe I would say take some time, create some nice videos and put it in your community. Let's say if you're releasing something now, you can't ask the entire product team to come and explain all those things in a webinar which is pretty time consuming and then you may or may not see a huge number of audience and then eventually that program dies down. Right? What I would rather say is go ahead, record a nice video of the new features which you are releasing, put it in your community post. In that way it acts as a reference guide not only for your internal folks, but also for the customers and they can watch it on demand. And in that way you are also like limiting the CSM's time on spending so much in understanding those things and then going back to the customers and explaining they can just share that link with them. It's almost like you're doing your own digital customer success for the digital customer success motions that you're rolling out. Right? And these things, Alex, I would say they don't happen in a day. You have to invest a lot of time. Maybe it also depends on the product you're giving. Right? Digital success, I feel it's not like one shoe size fits everyone depending on your product. Right? Let's say if it is very complex product, I would say don't expose the entire product with this digital customer success segment. Maybe they don't use all those things. Maybe give them a standard package with basic things and for that basic things, you have a proper documentation. So in that way they can use those things pretty quickly and they know where to reach out if they are having an error. Let's say if a report is you are just giving them three or four reports instead of giving them option to create a report which can lead to much more questions. So give them some base templates and then let them use that. And maybe if customers are saying hey Alex, we may need an NRR dashboard. So if you are receiving so many requests, then create another out of box report for them. Just give them that we received so much feedback and this is another thing which we are giving. So in that way you are just limiting the product and limiting the number of questions as well. Yeah. And you've alluded to kind of this specific element earlier in our conversation, which is to say kind of pace yourself, don't implement the entire digital strategy all in one go. Prioritize, implement iterate, move on to the next thing. And I think that's something that is very common, but I'd love to dig a little bit deeper and ask you what other kind of pitfalls or stumbling blocks do you see customers taking when they go to implement their digital flows? Again, I would say most of them. As I said, they want to implement all those things right away. That is one major thing. But also, let's say if a customer is benefiting out of this digital success things, are you sharing the success stories? Are you sharing them among other customers which will encourage them also to join? That way you are kind of expanding the digital success and are you demonstrating the value to your internal users? I don't see that happening with many of the companies. So let's say you implemented a phase. Are you going back to your people and saying guys, you have done a fantabulous job on this one with this process, with these guys work, we have like 25. Earlier we were handling the CSM to customer ratios, one is to 25 or 50. Now we have increased it to one is to 100. Kudos to you. Give them some kudos and some nice gifts or something like that, something they can cherish. And that kind of gives a positive sentiment among the team and among the company. And overall they will feel so happy that they are so valued with the efforts they have put in. And again, that thing is also very much needed for the customers as well, right? When you are saying hey, you've done a fabulous job with the flow and let's say if they have any some sort of success story, why can't they come and share in the events instead of just announcing that, hey, we have just this new digital thing in the picture but rather asking the customers? And also another important element, Alex, I would say is most of us only concentrate on the positive things, but we also need to concentrate on the learnings as well. Let's say if you are doing an announcement in the company event, just talk about, as you said, what are the pitfalls or what are the things which you have faced which are tough and how you came out of this. Is it with the help of the customers or is it with the help of your own internal employees and call them out? I feel that that is somewhere missing. Most of them do to a certain extent and then leave it. I think those are other important elements to have. Celebrate the wins. Absolutely. And then celebrate when you fix something that didn't work. I don't think we do enough celebrating these days. Everything seems very difficult for a lot of people. Yeah, I think we need to celebrate a little bit more. Exactly. Alex. Maybe send some followers to your customers who have done a great job because now that there are virtual most of the things happening on the virtual world, or maybe if you have something greatly done by your internal team member, just send them a box of chocolate, something like that. Swag goes a long way with me. Okay, so this is the part of the podcast where I like to kind of ask some similar questions to all my guests just to see kind of what's out there, what you're looking at, what you're ingesting, who's doing great things, all that kind of stuff. And so first at Gamesight you have the benefit of having a CEO who's extremely active in social and is out there and may or may not be joining this podcast in a future episode. But I'd love to understand from you kind of what you follow, which podcast you listen to, what YouTube channels you look at, what books you recommend for anyone out there wanting to just get not necessarily just the admin side of things, but just to keep yourself current on CS, what are you following? Definitely Alex Be at Gainside. There is this beautiful book called as the Customer Success Professional Handbook again, which was written by Ashwin Vaidinathan and Ruben Rabago. So what we do is it's a kind of nice read which we do among ourselves, where we group of people will go through a certain chapter or a certain section of that book, and then we come back and we talk about what is your take on this? So that kind of gives me a different perspective of how others are thinking about that particular read. So that is something which we do, and I've seen huge amount of change in the way we view at things. And I'm a huge fan of not only Nick, but also a huge fan of Adam Joseph who has done a lot for customer success. So he has this nice game side, game changer podcast. Whenever I have some time, I listen. To that. And this is hosted by Adam Joseph. He was talking about different processes in the customer success. He also had a nice series, nice episode on the digital success as well. So those are a couple of go to things for me. Awesome. That's great. Who would you say? I know you mentioned Adam and he's had some good conversations there around digital. Who is doing great things in digital right now is your chance to call somebody out and give them a pat on the back and celebrate them. Yeah, I would say it's not an individual. Again, it's not that I'm working for Gainsider. I would say Gainside is doing a fabulous job as our CEO. Nick Meta is making a huge impact on the CS world. He works relentlessly to keep up the pace with the latest technologies. Like when we hear about Chat GPT, we also tried to see how we can implement those things into our automated customer summaries. And as a team, we also make sure his team makes sure that we have enough strategies in hand to work with our customers in this kind of tough economic situations. And digital success is not something which we just talk or give best practices to our customers, Alex. It is something which even we follow. So even we have our own digital segment customers. So whenever we are sharing best practices, as you know, like whenever you talk about HealthCORE best practice, I would always show a Health Score card which we use in Gainsight. So we are hard believers of telling those things to the customers which work great for us so that they need not to start from the scratch. That sounds great. Yeah, I can't argue with that at all. I guess. Finally, we haven't really touched on Health Score at all in our conversation today. And it's an ongoing topic. Everybody does it a little bit differently. There's definitely some best practices out there. And I think obviously you want to have a health score that is well balanced between kind of this predictive element of predicting churn and issues, but then also reactive of understanding where the issue might lie. So I'd love to get your sense on what a well balanced scorecard looks like in your eyes. Again, those things differ for company to company, Alex. But there are some basic things which I would talk about is engagement. Engagement is very key. If your customer is going dark, it's a right of a red alert for you. That is one important thing. Then I would also see the adoption of your product. There are some customers who have excellent admins who don't come to you for every other thing, every other small thing, but they do great exploration. They use up your knowledge base articles which you supply, they use up the community resource, they join those adminars for you and they do everything. So adoption, so is the customer using the product well? So if it is green, then that's fine. But if that option is kind of dropping slowly down, that's unreal. So I would say engagement, adoption. Another important element is return on investments, is the customer getting value out of your product. If those three things are not there, whatever you do, customer would not be continuing the contract with you. Again, written on investments. If I'm seeing from digital perspective, people will come and ask, hey Babani, how we can calculate for the people we are not talking to. You can send them service, right? You can send them some predefined surveys with some predefined options where you ask them, how this feature? We've seen that your adoption is great on this feature. How do you like it? What are the KPS it is affecting? How it is benefiting your NRR. Maybe you can kind of take those things and populate into the verified outcome. And then let's say if you have the customer who is achieving those verified outcomes at a continuous pace, why can't you bring up that customer in your webinars and talk about those things? So I think those are very key elements. And another element I would say is the Reiteration Alex no health scorecard is perfect on the initial go. Give the people only the basic things at the initial steps. Like these three, I would say are the basic ones. And then reiterate. Go back to your CSMS, go back to your customers to understand whether this is giving a correct picture of the customer health. Maybe make some changes. Implement it on your Churn customers, see how they are doing. Implement it on those customers who are pretty green in nature. See if it is giving you a correct picture. So I would say it is a constant kind of evaluation you have to do on the end scores. Yeah, if your score is higher on Churned accounts than it is on active accounts, there's something wrong for sure. Are there examples where I'm going to call it a scorecard override where something happens and the score should immediately tank regardless of everything else? I mean, one example would be like executive change with your customer or something like that. I think that's an immediate trigger to say, okay, this account needs attention. So are there other elements like that that you would say are a trigger. Point you called out? The major thing is change the person who make or break the contract. I would say that is very important. And again, as I said right, it is. If the customer is quickly went into dark mode, who's not communicating you further? Like three or six months, I would say consider it as risky as possible. Maybe you have received an update on their company website that they've been acquired by someone else. So they always have those higher level management changes happening and that can eventually they may or may not use your product. That is another thing. And again, the adoption. Adoption is something which most of us kind of overlook. But, yeah, if there is a drastic change, I know there are other factors as well. Alex. Let's say if there is a holiday season, you obviously see a drop in adoption. But that's where I would say let's say if there is a drop in adoption, I would say compare it with your previous years, how the customer is doing. If it is similar to the previous year, then it's not a problem. But if it is, like, drastically going down, I would say that as another important high red alert. Sounds good. Well, I know at time of recording it is currently late in the evening on Friday for you and I don't want to stand in between you and the weekend any longer than I need to, but I want to thank you for joining. It's been an awesome conversation and I appreciate you. Bhavani thanks. Thank you so much, alex thanks for having me and it's a pleasure sharing my thoughts and the things which you're doing for Digital Success, for sure. Where can people find you? They can find me on the LinkedIn and my name is Bahani Prasad. So I think that's one unique name which I have not many Indians have that name, so they can obviously find me on the LinkedIn Bahani Prasad link. In the description in the show notes. Thank you for joining me on this episode of the Digital Customer Success podcast. If you like what we're doing, or don't for that matter, consider leaving us a review on your podcast platform of choice. You can view the Digital Customer Success definition wordmap and get more information about the firstname.lastname@example.org. My name is Alex Turkovich. Thanks again for joining and we'll see you next time. You that.