You Don’t Have to Attend Three Conferences in Five Weeks to Learn What I Did

Updated: Jan 6

Since I’m crazy enough to attend three conferences in less than five weeks, I want to share what’s important in Customer Success right now. Irit Eizips, CEO of CSM Practice is equally crazy, by the way.


Here are my key takeaways from the Spring Customer Success conference season.


Takeaway 1: Proactive Customer Success programs save the day

Technology and Services World (TSW): San Diego, May 6 - 9  


The Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA) holds two TSW conferences a year: San Diego in the Spring and Las Vegas in the Fall. This was my first TSW and I was impressed. TSW includes tracks for CS, Support, Customer Education, Professional Services, as well as others. The audience, over 2000 services professionals, is largely from the enterprise software space and tends to have mature Customer Success and enablement programs. The sessions I attended were meaty. I most appreciated the session from Bill Watson and Edward Gilbert of McAfee. They shared how they built a proactive cadence with customers through premium onboarding packages. After the session Bill and I chatted about the struggles many companies have moving to proactive programs. Part of the reason is they still incentivize reactive heroics. We likened it to working security at an event like TSW. If everything runs smoothly then nobody even knows about security’s efforts. If you are celebrating the heroics of the security team that means they let problems through the cracks. Instead, the security team needs to be rewarded for not letting bad situations happen in the first place. In a similar way, Customer Success provides most value when we stay ahead of the curve and keep things running smoothly for customers. 


Takeaway 2: When customers adopt quickly, they renew forever

Pulse: San Francisco, May 21 - 24


With over 5,500 participants, people were everywhere at Gainsight’s Pulse. I waited in long lines to attend sessions, to eat, to use the bathroom, and even to pet puppies. At my fifth Pulse event I most enjoyed connecting with colleagues, clients, and vendors. The crowd is friendly, and the energy is always high at Pulse. My favorite session was delivered by Mark Ralls of Vista Equity. Mark shared CS best practices across Vista’s portfolio of 60 companies. I nearly jumped out of my seat to applaud as Mark declared, "When customers adopt quickly, they renew forever.” Mark emphasized that first year churn is usually due to failure to launch. As a result, driving customers to adoption can guarantee their renewal. This validates how important customer onboarding and enablement are to keeping customers over the long term.

Check out my discussion with Kirsten Brehmer of TaskRay to uncover more Pulse takeaways.  


Takeaway 3: Charging for customer onboarding is non-negotiable

Customer SuccessCon: Denver, June 4


The thing I most appreciate about Customer SuccessCon is there’s no FOMO (fear of missing out). Since all 55 participants attend the same sessions in the same room, I don’t have to stress out about which session to attend. This was my third SuccessCon from the Customer Success Association, and they are my kind of conference. I appreciate the intimate setting, the great networking, the high caliber participants, and the half-day format. Most presenters share templates and tools to implement right away. I presented a session on the importance of premium onboarding package, including a demonstration on how to have the greatest impact both internally and with customers by creating a go to market plan. Barry Kelly, CEO of Thought Industries closed the afternoon with stories on the importance of CS to his executive team. He also highlighted how the first 30 days are about building trust with customers, and that charging for customer onboarding is a non-negotiable with new customers. 


To review, my top three takeaways for 2019 so far:

  1. Proactive Customer Success programs save the day

  2. When customers adopt quickly, they renew forever

  3. Charging for customer onboarding is non-negotiable 


Next up:

Fall conference season includes the CEdMA Training Leadership conference, in Nashville this November. Otherwise, I’m a regular at San Francisco Bay Area CS meetups.

I hope to see you at a CS event soon.