Creating More Brand Advocates w/ Gurdev Anand

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This is a podcast episode titled, Creating More Brand Advocates w/ Gurdev Anand. The summary for this episode is: <p>Today Gurdev Anand is on the show to discuss mitigating churn and how to create brand affinity and engagement.</p><p><br></p><p>If you want to join the discussion with thousands of other customer success leaders, join Gain Grow Retain: <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"></a></p><p><br></p><p>This podcast is brought to you by Jay Nathan and Jeff Breunsbach...</p><p>Jay Nathan: <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"></a></p><p>Jeff Breunsbach: <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"></a></p>
How to save brand integrity when you're experience churn
02:59 MIN
Finding themes of why people leave through surveys
03:25 MIN
How to bring in the other leaders in your organization together to talk about specific churn reasons
02:49 MIN
Having the mindset of listening and understanding
01:40 MIN
Giving focus on the right items
01:51 MIN

Speaker 1: Welcome to the Gain Grow Retain Podcast.

Jeff: Hey there Gain Grow Retain, this is Jeff. Just wanted to take a quick minute and let you know that the annual conference for Higher Logic called Super Forum is back and happening. It's October 19th through the 21st. It's a free and virtual event and we wanted to make sure and spread the invite to all of you. It's going to be a chalked full of stuff around community, customer success, customer experience, really trying to help you all think about 2022 and make sure we can drive retention initiatives. So drop into the description of this episode and sign up. So we're back with another episode of Gain Grow Retain, and I've got Gurdev Anand from Gentem, but I'm excited to have you today. And I appreciate you coming on we're both just talking about taking vacations and getting time off. So I know that this might be a little hard, and so I appreciate you hopping on with us today.

Gurdev Anand: Yeah, no, I'm very excited to be here to talk all things to CES and more specifically churn. It is a fun topic to talk about, at least I find it fun.

Jeff: Well, I like to start off with a couple of icebreakers, and let's get to know you a little bit more. So one of the questions that I always like to ask it's off the cuff, not really sure why or how I came about this, but if you're in the morning, having breakfast, what's your favorite fruit?

Gurdev Anand: Oh, recently plums. I eat like seven plums a day.

Jeff: Whoa.

Gurdev Anand: Which is super aggressive, but they're very a good balance of sweet and tart.

Jeff: Yeah.

Gurdev Anand: So I like a good plum. Stone fruits in the summertime are my favorite, so I can crush through any fruit that's a stone fruit in the summer. And then a good old classic nice cold watermelon, or really there's no fruit I don't like, I don't think. I'm realizing that right now, like bananas, apples everything.

Jeff: I've tried to keep like mental note of people's answers and you're the first person that's said plum.

Gurdev Anand: Hey, plums are underrated. But you know, part of it though is you have to find a good plump.

Jeff: Yeah.

Gurdev Anand: So you got to find one that's either from a farmer's market, because they don't have all the other stuff on it. The grocery plums, for some reason just don't hit the same because they don't have the same tartness, I think.

Jeff: I just had somebody before this, they had mentioned cantaloupe and that was the first person I had that had mentioned cantaloupe. And I was like, I feel like cantaloupes underrated. I feel like plums are underrated. So two in a row. I like that.

Gurdev Anand: Yeah. Cantaloupes would be one that I wouldn't say though.

Jeff: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I like that. Well, the other question the other fun question I've been liking to ask people is if you have to describe your perfect summer weekend night, what are you doing? Is it hanging out with friends? Are you going out to a movie? Are you sitting on the couch and hanging out with your pets or whatever? If you had to describe your perfect summer night, what is it?

Gurdev Anand: I'm a home body. So probably just hanging out at home, maybe sitting outside, maybe watch a movie, hang out with a pup.

Jeff: What kind of dog?

Gurdev Anand: A little Maltese Poodle Terrier mix. He's nine pounds, the cutest thing in the entire world. Of course, I'm bias. He's probably also the best dog in the entire world. Again, probably very biased world, but yeah. No, just hang out at home, watch a movie, hang out, decompress.

Jeff: Yeah. I'm pretty much the same. If I could go play golf, I'd probably throw that in there, but I'm kind of a homebody too. My wife and I, we like making fun, kind of fancy cocktails every once in a while. So to me it's like, " Hey, can we make like a fun little cocktail and sit on the couch?" We have two dogs, so if we're sitting on the couch with two dogs and listening to some fun music or something like that, that's nice ender to the weekend, especially to the week from work. So that's something that we like to do.

Gurdev Anand: Yeah. I'm sure your dogs are the cutest in the world too.

Jeff: Oh yeah, but I'm not biased though. They are the cutest. Yeah, I've got a little Cockapoo named Toby and then we rescued Izzy, she's kind of like a Chow Chow mix. She's been very sweet recently. She's been very cuddly, so that's been fun, for sure.

Gurdev Anand: Awesome.

Jeff: Well I was excited to get you on, because I know how much you love talking about two things, which I think we're going to touch on today, which is churn, and then also how to create some brand affinity and create people, almost just creating more brand advocates, of how do you get people to like your brand and just engage with you? So I think, the first one that we were going to talk through is just around mitigating churn. I think there's a lot of things that people talk about, right? Getting ahead of churn, we needed to get health scores and do all this stuff. But I think we're going to talk about maybe some of the things that people don't talk about a lot, which the first one that came up was, how do you save brand integrity while you're experiencing churn? And thinking about the experiences of off- boarding a customer. And so I'm curious if you've spent some time thinking about that and and what comes to mind?

Gurdev Anand: Yeah. So look, I think the first thing to recognize is customers are going to leave the business service or product that you have. Right? It's a natural part of a business. The key part though, is figuring out the why. And alongside that showing genuine intent to understand the why, because a brand that cares about why a customer leaves, it's going to leave a really good experience for that customer. And I think about it this way, right? So customer success traditionally has primarily three key functions, sometimes two. You'll have onboarding, account management, customer success, sometimes those two are fused together. And then you will probably have a support function. Not many organizations really think about the one to 5% of your business a month that's leaving, but I think that's actually one of the most important parts of customer success that probably, I think arguably should be built out in every CS function. And so for me, yeah, I think like you said, I don't see it... and part of it's just been in the environments that I've been in, being more in the early stage startup environment. I'm not as focused on health scoring or thinking about algorithms and large data sets to crunch and drive conclusions, just more so, taking it back to the basics and thinking about brand integrity. How do we preserve our brand integrity? And honestly, along the way, how do we save some business? A customer might say that they want to leave, but that doesn't mean that the door is shut to them staying. Maybe they just need to be heard, and that's their way of being heard. So there's a lot of ways to do this in a way where you start to really protect your brand. I think you do that organically. I think you can't force that. And then along the way, you'll start to find reasons, and cohorts, and buckets as to why customers are looking to leave. And so once you collect that data, the really fun part is getting everyone internally rallied around solving these key pain points or challenges that customers are facing, and really listening to your customer. It's not something that just CS does. I think if you're in an organization that truly is customer obsessed, everyone in the organization is going to ask the question of what do customers want. And part of that's going to be from churn customers. It's a part of your cohort, it's part of your business. So I think there's a lot to unpack outside of the algorithms, and the health scoring, and operational setup where it's just going one- to- one. Solving for churn a lot of times isn't really scalable. I think you can prevent it in a scalable way, , meaning you found 100% or 50% of your customers are leaving for one reason, solve that reason you solve that at a scalable fashion. But when a customer wants to leave, I actually think that has to be a one- to- one activity, because there's so much knowledge that a customer can give you that you wouldn't know if you don't ask the right questions or even ask any questions.

Jeff: Yeah. There's a couple of things that pop into my mind as you talk about that, especially word of mouth becomes so big, right? I mean, especially when you start thinking about how, two things come to mind for me, which are communities are becoming bigger, not just the communities for your customers, but they're in broader communities for practice, right? I mean, we have Gain, Grow, Retain, it's technically not really tied to a specific product, right? So it's like, hey, people are in there talking about all the customer success platforms every single day. And so just to your point, how you let somebody probably leave your organization and the way you treat them on the way out, that's going to be something that resonates with them because they might go share that and say, " Hey, you know what, this company, as we were off- boarding they were super helpful. They gave us plenty of time. They gave us ways to navigate and stuff, and that's great, because they're leaving the door open if we need to come back, we'd be happy to do so, it just didn't fit at this time." That kind of thing, so I think about that quite a bit, is that word of mouth and communities are becoming a big thing. So that really needs to be thought about of the way your off- boarding works. And the second thing that I was thinking about too, is just like you mentioned, I don't think there's a lot of... I haven't really come across a lot of companies that have thought quite a bit about what are the types of questions that you're really asking as part of the off- boarding plan, right? I think people have playbooks for churn quotes that are kind of your standard, " Hey, what's it going to take to keep you here?" Right? "What can we do to work this out?" But okay, say you go through those and those are done, right, what are those next level questions that are like, " Hey, help us understand a little bit better. Sure, you're leaving because the product didn't fit your specific use case, but let's dig into some of those, if you don't mind. Can you help us understand why?" And then because I love, the other thing I've thought about quite a bit, and I love, is that you can also reintroduce, as you ask them those questions, you start seeing why, you can leave the door ajar a little bit. You can actually say, " Hey, if we were to go fix that and build that, could I contact you and let you know about that? Can I come back to you and say, 'Hey, we fixed X, Y, and Z.'" It just, again, keeps the dialogue open. Like you said, especially in today's world, right? Switching costs are becoming lower, SAS businesses in the Cloud. Moving and switching is going to become probably a lot more natural. And so it's like, " Hey, we need to leave the door open so that somebody can come back." And so those were a couple of things as you were talking, especially about brand integrity and trying to make sure that you're easy to do business with, those come to mind for me.

Gurdev Anand: Yeah. Community is huge. And I think, so I've specifically been working in healthcare in my career. So I work with an SMB private practices. And so physicians have these networks, they have these communities. A lot of them are offline too. And so what's interesting is we, in both organizations I've worked at, we hear a lot of, " Oh, I've heard of you guys through my network or through referring providers, or whatever.: And that's both very powerful, but very dangerous because there can be an environment where you have one customer where maybe they feel, whether right or wrong, they feel like they were slighted or something went wrong. That one provider is going to go talk to five other providers, and I am speaking in healthcare, but this same activity happens in different verticals and different industries. And so when talking with churn customers that are thinking about leaving your business, or have concerns, I think the biggest question that I always ask myself when I have these conversations with customers is, " I genuinely want to understand where we fell short of your expectation. Let's start there." I've talked to a lot of people in CS who have asked, " Hey, how do you have convers-... what's your playbook?" And the funny thing is when I was in a function that literally talked to customers that wanted to leave, all day, every day, our playbook was simple. Start a conversation, explaining what you know, and then ask an open- ended question like, " How do we fall short of your expectation? What's gotten us to this point where we're having this conversation? Customer, I understand that you're set on leaving our service or our business, totally respect that, but I want to invest a little bit more in learning and understanding how we fell short." And you'd be surprised how many conversations I've had with customers who were like, " Yeah, I'm leaving," to at the end of the conversation, they're either renewing their agreement, they're staying in their agreement, or in a lot of times we're actually able to upsell them a service or a product that we have to solve a gap or a need that they expressed. And so you can imagine environments and organizations that go from having these churn dialogue conversations to actually expanding revenue. It's the dream in CS, right? You're expanding accounts and potentially doing that with customers that are wanting to leave. So community is important. I think recognizing that your community is offline is super important, because it happens through word of mouth. And then I think, being genuinely curious as to why a customer is at this situation. I've heard a lot of companies have exit surveys. You send a form, customer fills out this form, maybe they don't. Right? I think that's what I was alluding to earlier, when I said you can't have a one- to- many topic. It really has to be one- on- one, because that's a very personal intimate conversation. Imagine that customer, I mean, you think about the customer journey, right? The front end of that journey, the sales process can be anywhere from 30, to 60, to 90 days, there's a human or multiple humans that are invested in that customer and signing up for your product. And if I'm a customer and I know that this company invests so much resource in getting me, but they're investing very little resource in keeping me, or understanding why they fell short. Is that organization really customer obsessed, right? It's a tough question to ask, but you have to ask that, because I would argue not. I think you should have that conversation. Someone in the organization should own that churn conversation, because it's important to invest in those, it's important to understand why a customer is looking to leave. You can take actions from those conversations, and you can put solutions in place within your organization to help solve that at a scalable level. Or you can potentially turn that customer into being a severe detractor into being not just a promoter, but an advocate. I had that happened six months ago. Took a customer who was dead set on leaving said, "I don't want to talk to you. I just joined the organization." And now she's our advocate. She's actually sending us referrals. We've expanded revenue with her through other goods and services that we provide. And that just happened from asking the simple question of, " Where do we fall short?" And once we listened putting a solution in place. Because a lot of playbooks also have credits, they have discounts, they try to incentivize through monetization, and that's just the wrong tactic. I talk to a customer and you tell them, and sometimes they'll say like, " How are you going to solve this? Are you gonna give me a credit? Are you going to give me three months credit?" I actually tell a customer, " Hey, there are ways that we can help with your invoice and your contracts, and we'll talk about that at the end, but if I simply jumped to that, I'm actually not doing you a service by solving the pain point of the problem. So let me make sure that we have a solution in place to solve the concern that you have, and assuming that we get consensus on that, I promise you we'll get something figured out." And part of that is the organization willingness to give us those resources.

Jeff: Yeah.

Gurdev Anand: And the other part of it is a customer being thrown for a loop because they're not used to that, right? They're used to someone just being like, " Oh, we'll give you 30% off." Or you call a cable company, " We'll give you HBO for free for a year." Right?

Jeff: Classic. Yeah.

Gurdev Anand: And you're not really understanding why, that's not why they're trying to leave and there's something else, right? So solve that pain point first, and I think you'll have better outcomes with those conversations and customers. And maybe they leave, you're not going to save all of them, but when they leave, they're going to, like you said, they're going to say, " Hey, this was a really good experience. They actually care." And in six months, they'll come back. When we invested in this part of the business at the previous organization I worked at, so much of the conversations that I had with customers ending up leaving, I would have them call me back in three to six months and be like, " I made a mistake. Can I come back? You guys genuinely care. You showed that. The product actually works," whatever. And we kept that door open, so churns shouldn't ever be seen as the door is shut, right? Churn should always be seen as how do we keep that door open even after they leave?

Jeff: Well, the thing I keep sitting here thinking about quite a bit as well, is some of my mind keeps wandering a little bit because you had mentioned earlier, you were like, sending an exit survey, it's kind of a one- many strategy and it's really, I don't know, 5% of people might fill it out. It's such a low percentage, but even when you think about other surveys you send right, it's never going to be 100% response rate. You're always sitting there wondering, " Why don't people want to respond to surveys?" And I always go back to two things, it's one, because no one ever really tells you what they're doing with the survey data. They don't say, " Hey, thanks for filling out our NPS survey. Here's actually what we did based off of your NPS response. And this is why." That's why playing that back for people is such a big thing, because it can actually start to say, " Hey, when I respond to X, they actually do something about it with Y." And I think the second thing is that, the questions are so predictable these days that people just don't even, they just gloss them over. It's like, " Sure, I've gotten this NPS question. Now, I work with 10 vendors, twice a year, so I get this 20 times a year. Cool. Yep. Here's a seven whatever, onto the next one." So I was just thinking maybe one of the ways like you said, I think having the conversation definitely has to happen, right? We need to have some of the one- on- one and we need to do some of that, but maybe also rethink your survey strategy and start asking questions that are really going to get people thinking and also send it in a way that is going to get that person thinking ahead of time that they want to open that email, that there's actual, genuine intrigue in there. And it's not just a, " Hey, here's your generic NPS survey," or" Here's your generic off- boarding survey," Right? For churn, what's a great subject line that's going to hook them? How do you write something in the text, that's actually going to hook them and then ask them the questions, like you were saying, genuinely show through your question asking that, " Hey, this isn't just a survey that goes into something that spits out a number." It's like, no, we actually read these responses. The open text fields are actually, something of value. Because I think that's something I've thought quite a bit about too, which is people always say, " Oh, we need to eliminate as many of the open field text boxes because it's not as useful, because we can't just dumb it down to a number," right? But really that's where the most useful part is, because people actually expound and they actually give you feedback and thoughts. So I don't know. I'm sitting over here daydreaming about why surveys suck. crosstalk

Gurdev Anand: The thing with surveying too is, most customers, and this is why when you go through this exercise, you're going to find themes and buckets of why customers leave. A feature sucks, or they don't have a feature, or service sucks, or whatever it is. But what it takes to get a customer to tell you that is different for most customers, which is why surveying is so hard, because the survey tries to find a common denominator among, your hundred thousand, whatever customers that you have. The reality though, is that to even get someone to tell you that information, there's usually a one- off thing that happened. " Hey, my email didn't go responded to for two days." It's like, okay, let's go down this thought process of having a survey. How can we create custom surveys? How can we create experiences where the customer feels like, " Oh, this company sends me an email saying, 'Hey, I understand that you're upset about this, and we didn't do this. Can you help us understand where else we fall short? Here's a survey.'" And like you said, having really intelligent questions. I think the part that's missing in a survey is there's no sense of accountability, or no sense of acknowledgement that something actually went wrong, other than you just sent a survey. So that's part of the reason why I actually shy away from surveys as a first point of touch, because it's not personal at all. I found that surveys can help afterwards. " Hey Customer, we talk about this, this, and this is a problem. We've put these solutions in place and we've also agreed to do this to your contract. Can you help us understand if there's any," A month later, " Hey, how are we doing against this plan?" Right? I think there's a lot of power in automating the post- plan creation stage. Right? But having that first conversation, I strongly believe has to be a one- to- one conversation. If you do that, you're going to have close to 95% of your customers actually responding to you, because it's a conversation you show your genuine interest and care. Most customers will be responsive to that. A survey, you and I both know surveys go unanswered like 80, 90% of the time. Right? So unfortunately I think that the numbers don't play well, if you compare a survey versus like sending an email. " Hi, my name is Gurdev. I lead our customer experience team and I'm really interested in understanding how we fall short. My team tells me that this, this, and this happened, and I'm interested and invested in figuring out a solution," or just collecting feedback and discussing the off- boarding. And sometimes it's important to lead with that too. " Hey, I understand you want to leave. Let's talk about what those next steps look like to make sure that you're set up for success after you leave our platform." And that could have nothing to do with the business I work for. It could have everything to do with best tips and tricks on how to migrate data or how to make sure you're onboarding with them properly. Or here's a gap that you might have, I want to make sure you fill this gap. And to peel it back, if you have someone that's in this customer experience role and that's the term that I think of that makes the most sense, right? It's not a retention specialist, you're really thinking about the customer's experience, then you're invested in understanding what the customer needs to be successful. And ideally your product supports that, but if it doesn't, being honest about that and helping get them on the right track.

Jeff: Yeah, man. The other thing that I was just sitting here thinking too, like you mentioned, is you're starting to gather this information, this data, you're starting to say, " Okay, hey, we're collecting these churn reasons that people are leaving. We're starting to realize maybe here's two or three pain points that are starting to pop up more and more." So how have you worked maybe to A, bring that information together? Where's that happened for you? And then how do you think about going to gather different leaders across the organization to buy into that and say, " Hey, we're starting to have a problem. This is one of the reasons that customers are leaving most. How do we start solving this?"

Gurdev Anand: Yeah, so I was really fortunate. When I was in that customer experience role, I actually joined a couple of members of the team that had already built the framework of this function, if you will, and it was built basically off of a spreadsheet. So, the traditional MVP version of this is, if you put your notes, your qualitative notes, you document everything in that conversation, and then every month or quarter you look at those qualitative notes and you bucket. So what are some thematic reasons? The key part of this exercise though, is being able to assign a theme to a function. And at first you're actually not doing much externally. You're not doing much outside of your core group in that organization with that data. You're just collecting that data, because what you're hoping to do is at the end of the quarter, you're hoping to basically present this or show this to your CS leader or another executive in the organization that's thinking about churn or thinking about net revenue retention, and saying, " Hey guys, I think there's an opportunity for us to solve some of this pain, may not be a pain today, but it could be tomorrow. Let's be proactive about it. And let's hear the two or three big themes that we're seeing." And I think just presenting that in and of itself, the first time is very impactful, because you're not going to them with the answers. You're just saying, " Hey, we're noticing this from the customer." And then allowing those functions. A lot of times, you want those functions to be able to come up with their own processes or solutions to these challenges. But typically if you're the one showing the challenge, that function might actually be inclined to ask for your input and help too. And so this is actually almost an organic way for CS to be plugged into every function within the organization, which I think has to happen anyways. But this is one way to formalize it a little bit. So yeah, I think you have buckets and reasons created. You ideally tie those to different functions within the organization, and then when it comes to just advocating for it, part of it's going to be leaning on your leaders, your leadership to advocate and say, " Hey, look, we are the voice of our customer, and we're noticing that 5% of our customers are leaving, and of that 5%, 20% are because of this reason. Let's bring this down. Let's focus on this one thing." And other executives get bought in to this as well. It doesn't happen overnight though. It took us almost nine months to get to that point where the leadership level was invested in it. We had it on our OKRs, and we're making progress against it. But you start small first, just collect the data. have these conversations, collect the data, put it in a spreadsheet, and then you can start to actually operationalize this in sales force. You have tickets, you have objects, you have automation in place, follow up, and all that stuff.

Jeff: Yeah. I think it's such a good point about the starting small, right? Just even having the conversations is I think, half the battle sometimes is just changing the mindset and getting people adopted to the fact that we are collecting things like this, that this is things that we can start to count on and that we can use. Half the battle is just getting them bought into that fact, and so even just starting to have the conversations like, " Hey, we are collecting this. I just wanted to start filling you in on a couple of things that we're noticing. And maybe now is not the right time, but we're going to start bringing these up and figuring out, what are the right solutions? Is it a product solution? Do we have a stop gap? Is there a long- term solution? What if this happened?" But I think people sometimes just often forget as a leader, I mean, really, you're just trying to gather a momentum on the right things, at the right times, and keep them going. And so sometimes if you were to come out and say from day one, almost like, " Hey, we're getting all of these surveys in, or we're getting all this data in, we're getting survey responses in, and we need to go start changing X, Y, and Z right now. It needs to be a big program. We need to go do, everyone in the organization needs to be involved." That's probably the easiest way to kill momentum right from the beginning, right? So it's like, how do you start small, get some momentum, get people involved? And even to, I was going to say one other thing that we've done recently, that goes down your route of getting other people involved and empathetic to the customer and starting to think in the customer lens. So we are doing, this is the second time we've done it, but we're doing a customer listening tour. And so we're doing 100 customers in 50 days. We've got 15 of our leaders, including all of our C- suite, we have our Chief People Officer going to have conversations, we have our Chief Financial Officer. Obviously, they're not going to be talking to customers every single day, but it's been pretty shocking for me to hear our Chief People Officer, like, " Oh my gosh, I enjoyed having that conversation so much." And it might not impact 99% of what she's doing, but she came back said, " That was so enjoyable to learn really about what our customers are trying to achieve, how much they value the platform." She just got some nice insights out of it that she would have never really gotten before because she doesn't talk to customers every day, but she gets to go now have five or six customer conversations and get some of those stories that she can talk about. And so I was going to say, that's another piece that, again, we're just trying to get people bought into the idea of like, " Hey, the customers should come first. The customers matter." Right? And we're starting to put our money where our mouth is because we all need to go have these conversations and get these stories here right from the customers, so that we can start to draw upon these things and that we are empathizing. We can put ourselves in the customer's shoes because we're sitting there hearing it face- to- face.

Gurdev Anand: Yeah. The fact that your team is doing that outside of CS is huge. And that you're having a listening tour is awesome. I think a lot of CS leaders I've talked to have said, " My organization just doesn't care. At the end of the day, it's 3%, a month of our business." The 80/ 20 rule, right? At the same time though, most people will agree that churn is a leaky bucket. You want to avoid that, right? So even for solving 20% of that 3%, it's still a big impact to the organization. And so sometimes you have to find ways to quantify why this is important from that top line or bottom line perspective. And then, I think getting everyone and bought into, let's have customer conversations, let's have you listen in, let's have you make a couple visits to some of our customers who have had issues in the past, or have brought up some concerns." It's huge, and you don't have to solve them today. Let's actually not go in with a mindset of solving it. Let's just go with the mindset of listening and understanding how we got to this point. And then putting some of those solutions in place. And I actually think that what that ends up doing, going back to what we talked about in the beginning, it shows that you, as an organization, care about your customer. And what does that do for your brand, right? How does that create a lot of world- class brand experiences? Because those customers realize and recognize that these people actually care about me as a customer. And at the end of the day, the best businesses in the world have probably some of the best experiences with their brand service or products. And so, once you have that intersection, and you have the product obviously to support it, I think you have this huge momentum of a business that can really take off at that point.

Jeff: Yeah. The the other thing I was just going to ask you too, you talked about this a little bit earlier, but as you're having some of these conversations, have you worked with your team... we've got verbatim from the customer, right? We're kind of doing the one- to- one conversation, and we're kind of taking notes, jotting it down, but then are you translating that into kind of a sales force object where you have standard pick lists and then it becomes kind of operationalized internally? Is that the way that you all work that out is, " Hey, we're taking notes, but then we're into the objects that we can then start at least reporting out on certain things and getting some standardization." Is that how it typically works?

Gurdev Anand: Yeah, I mean, it takes six to nine months to get there, to be honest, because you take a quarter to just get the initial qualitative data. And also figuring out like, what's your email cadence? How do you reach out? What works for our customers? What's going to get them responsive? Once you have that initial list and you create your initial buckets, then you have to validate the next quarter that the data that you collect fits into those buckets. And once you've validated that, then you're probably in a situation where you can operationalize it. And it's kind of what we did, is we had sales force objects, we had a cancellation, or customer experience objects. The object was created by the CSM, the account manager, it was then sent to the CX team. CX team would pick up the object. We're separate from the CSM structure, we reported into CS directly. And so what that does is it kind of allows for a little bit of checks and balances. They annotate, here's what's gotten this customer to this point. Here's what I think will help. And then we start reaching out to the customer, we log that activity and that object. Once we have that conversation, we'll take notes. And then the last part of it is we create a case that has the, " Here's what we're going to be doing to solve this. And billing, you do this," and it might be multiple tickets, right? " Billing, you do this, CS you do this." " Hey, you need to be aware of this. This might have impact." And then everything kind of gets reported. And then for each in our objects, we actually had it broken out into child objects by line item. So is this customer just looking to cancel a professional service? Are they looking to cancel the whole thing? So you can segment that, and then you can also segment the reasons. And we created reasons by product type. So, your core products, right, the core thing that you're selling probably has different reasons than your professional services. And so you can create different types of buckets, and then you have different types of save tactics. So the other part of this too, is if you're able to save a customer, we should understand why we save that customer, and creating those buckets. Anecdotally Jeff, when I first started in that role, this was almost two years ago, or just maybe over two years ago now, I had joined this team was very excited. I was saving like 17% of customers I was talking to, and I felt terrible. Our goal was 20%. My VP pulls me in a one month into the job, and he's like, " How are you doing?" I'm like, " I'm really struggling. I'm really trying to save customers." And that was the intention, right? Obviously you want to save business, and both she and my manager at the time actually pulled me aside and said, " Don't worry about saving customers, just try to understand why they're not happy." And the minute I had that switch, I ended up saving 50, 60% of business a quarter. We're not losing customers, we're keeping customers and we're potentially expanding customers. And so that was a key turning point, I think in that role for me, was changing and shifting the mentality from being this person that was trying to save you, to just listening and understanding the pain points and then putting solutions in place. And then you can operationalize the solutions and make sure that we're actually getting things done and completed in time.

Jeff: Yeah. And I love your point too, just about the time it takes. Right? I think sometimes people think that you can do these things a lot faster than you can, right? Like, " Hey, I'm going to go just create churn codes. We're going to do this next month." Right? Where I mean, you're talking about how, hey, it took us six to nine months to actually get everything that we needed to, in terms of the qualitative information first, and then we had to go put it into sales force, then we had to use it a little bit, then had to validate. I mean, again, I think sometimes people just underestimate how long it will take you to do those types of things. And so like for me, that's just another thing that goes along the things that you're talking about, which is, " Hey, like put the proper planning and time in, don't just cut corners and try and do things quickly." Like, " Hey, what's it really going to take for us to do this?" Because again, I think, I don't know, you're always going to find a manager who's going to say, " Hey, can we do it faster?" But at the end of the day, they're going to look at, " Hey, what do you really think that this is going to take," right? They're going to trust you. If you have a good leader, they're going to trust your instinct. They're gonna trust what you're saying. They're going to know that you went to do your homework to figure this out. And so that's the other thing to think about quite a bit. I just know that that also comes along with, hey, there's so many other things going on in the organization, right? So how do you provide focus around certain things? So yeah, I don't know. I just didn't want to gloss over that, because I think people sometimes just forget about, hey, there is actual time that needs to be put into this and we need to do validation. We need to come back and revisit these as well. It's not a said it and forget it, right? We're going to come back and kind of keep validating these things over and over again.

Gurdev Anand: Yeah. Quarterly scrubs is how we did it. At the end of every quarter, or at the beginning of the quarter, we would look at the previous quarter and look at, what were the churn reasons. We put together an executive deck that was maybe no more than five or six slides, share it with our VP, and just be like, " Here's our findings." We actually in- between this time, what was a really cool lesson learned for me was, we saw more success in getting things done if we just presented what we saw, not the proposed solutions. It's very easy to get into solution mode, especially when you're in CS, because you know the customer, and your solutions may be right, but organizations aren't typically responsive or receptive to that. They actually, they want to have that ownership and control as they should, right? It's like someone in sales coming into CS and saying, " Here's how you should onboard a customer." It's probably a conversation is probably not going to go very well. So similarly, CS telling product, " Hey, you need to build this feature." PM's probably going to look at you and say, " Hey, I have a process that I go through to validate whether we should build this, once you go through that process totally fair." So I found that if you're having these conversations and documenting it, just prepare to show the insights. Don't be prepared to show the solutions unless you're asked. Obviously if someone's asking, you should have a solution prepared, but lead with the problem statement first. You'll have more success, I think with that.

Jeff: Yeah. Man, this has been awesome, Gurdev. I had a good time talking through this. I think there's definitely a lot of good actionable pieces in here for people to think about. Being a good steward and trying to make sure that you're all in a good light. Trying to make sure that customers can move on gracefully, keep the door open. I think that might be the title of this podcast, or the name of this one we put out there, right, is Keeping the Door Ajar, Keeping the Door Open," because there's always going to be people that want to come back. To try to think about that brand integrity. And then just the points that you just talked about, think about the timing and how long it really takes, get the qualitative data, then try and figure out what's the right system of record for us to collect this in. How do we get it into the right types of objects, get people adapted to it? And then how do we continue to validate over time? But good, actionable pieces that are in here, so I was glad you came on to do this, especially around this topic. And so, are you on LinkedIn, Twitter? Shameless plug, where can people find more of you? Where do you spend a lot of your time, that people can come and engage with more stuff?

Gurdev Anand: Yeah. I tried the whole like LinkedIn content posting on Twitter thing, and it was tough for me to be honest. So, I mean, you can still find me on LinkedIn and find me on Twitter. My LinkedIn is my first name, Gurdev, last name, Anand. And then my Twitter is G U R D 3 V, I'm probably one of very few Gurdev's out there, so hopefully shouldn't be too hard to find. But yeah, I mean, I encourage people to reach out if they have questions. If there's anything I can do to help, I'm always open to having those conversations. I think it's really important to connect with other folks and leaders that might be able to even give me some tips and tricks on other things too. So yeah, that's where you can find me.

Jeff: Awesome. I like it. We'll have to find some more topics over time to get you back on here and doing this, because I think once I have somebody on once they're pretty hooked, because this is just a conversation and hopefully people get some good insight out of it. We just storytell a little bit, so I'm excited. I think, at least for me, it's about to be four o'clock on a Friday and I'm looking forward to having a nice weekend. So I might go start my weekend a little early. I might hop off and maybe go take my dogs for a walk or get outside. I've been at my desk quite a bit. So I've enjoyed this though, I appreciate you spending time.

Gurdev Anand: As you should. And thanks for having me. This has been this has been a lot of fun. Hopefully I can come back soon.

Jeff: Cool. Hey guys, thanks so much for taking the time to listen to the Gain, Grow, Retain podcast. If you liked what you heard, please take a moment and share the podcast with your friends and colleagues and subscribe. We really appreciate it. Talk to you soon.


Today Gurdev Anand is on the show to discuss mitigating churn and how to create brand affinity and engagement.

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Today's Host

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Jeff Breunsbach

|Director of Customer Experience at Higher Logic
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Jay Nathan

|Chief Customer Officer at Higher Logic

Today's Guests

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Gurdev Anand

|Head of Customer Success, Gentem