Welcome back to Episode 4 of The inSide Scoop: The customer success community podcast from inSided. This time we're in conversation with Lila Meyer, Director of Product Education at Gainsight, who tells us EXACTLY how they use their inSided-powered community for a product feedback process that ensures they continue to develop outstanding customer-centric products!
As always, we've popped a handy transcript of the conversation below for those who prefer to read rather than listen. Don't forget to follow the inSide Scoop over on Spotify!
Show Notes + Links:
Dani Juson (00:07):
Hi guys, and welcome back to the inSide scoop—brought to you by inSided. I'm Dani Juson and today I'm talking to Lila Meyer—Director of Product Education at Gainsight. Lila is based out of Portland, Oregon, and she has nearly 20 years of experience in education. She has spent the last five+ years at Gainsight, focusing on technical communications and community management. Today she's going to be telling us exactly how Gainsight use their inSided community to drive the brilliant customer feedback process that makes Gainsight's products just so successful. So, let’s get to it!
Dani Juson (01:16):
Lila. Thank you so much for joining us today on the inSide Scoop, we are really happy to have your here. Gainsight is one of our favorite customers so I’m really excited to talk to you today a little bit about your community management expertise and exactly how you're using the Gainsight community. Maybe before we dive into the detail: How are you doing right now? Are you surviving? Are you coping?
Lila Meyer (01:43):
Yeah. First, thank you for inviting me. It's always a pleasure to work with the inSided team and yeah, these are crazy, crazy times, particularly in the U.S. where I'm based. And thankfully I'm doing well, my family's healthy and safe and I'm feeling grateful for some of the simpler things—like having access to the outdoors, a little bit more time with family... Even connecting virtually with family members who don't live in the area and that I don't ordinarily talk to as often—we've made it a priority. And I think one of the things that I've found is that it's more important than ever just to be there for each other and try to bring moments of joy to one another where we can and however we can.
Dani Juson (02:55):
Oh, that's nice. I like that, I’m glad that you guys are doing well. And as you say, it's definitely an opportunity to connect on a more frequent and also deeper level with some family—especially people that don't live close to their family, it was maybe difficult to foster those relationships anyway—but this almost affords you an opportunity to do that more. Looking for the positives and trying to enjoy the simple things. The silver lining, that's it.
Okay. Well, before we dive in, I have some interesting questions to ask you, but maybe just for the benefit of our listeners, can you give us a little bit of background about Gainsight and about yourself and your role at Gainsight? Why should we be listening to you today?
Lila Meyer (04:00):
Sure! Well, I'm sure you have other things to do, but for those of you in community management, hopefully I'll share some interesting tidbits that will be practical for you. I have been with Gainsight for a little over five years now, which seems like a really long time in the world of technology. And I oversee our technical communications team and our community managers as well. And I'm very involved with what we refer to as our product enablement processes. So all communications with customers, as well as internal preparation and enablement for people to understand the new features and adopt the new features as well. So—a little bit about Gainsight really quickly: Our customers use Gainsight to make their customers more successful and to improve their product experience. We're known for improving customer retention, but you can really do a lot with the Gainsight applications, including running end-to-end survey programs, building customer onboarding programs and improving your CSMs' efficiency, and enabling them, for example, with best practice playbooks.
Dani Juson (05:37):
Nice, nice. So you mentioned obviously that you're responsible for, was it product enablement processes you said?
Lila Meyer (06:40):
Including all of our product documentation and customer communications about our product releases.
Dani Juson (06:48):
Okay. Yeah. Basically making sure your customer base understands exactly what's new with the product, what they can and can't do, making sure they get maximum value from new releases and feature updates, if I understand correctly?
Lila Meyer (07:24):
Dani Juson (06:48):
Well, that's one of the reasons I was so keen to chat to you today. Maybe you can tell our listeners a little bit about why Gainsight decided to start a community, and how does the community relate to your role?
Lila Meyer (07:24):
Sure, sure. So our community is actually five and a half years old now. And we've been through a couple of platforms and migrated to inSided back in October last year. And originally our community was launched to help deflect some of the support questions, right. As well as provide a forum for customers to share product feedback. So that's been a core part of our community and from the beginning we've been fortunate to have the support and investment from our product team and product leadership; they get the importance of listening to customers… letting them know that we're hearing their feedback and taking it seriously.
Dani Juson (08:33):
That makes sense. Why is the community your tool for doing that? Why did you decide to use an online community like this to actually gather that product feedback and those customer insights?
Lila Meyer (08:48):
Yeah so obviously it gives us a forum for hearing from our customers, what their pain points are, what their needs are, the specific use cases or business processes and challenges that they're working through in their own words... But there's also functionality for upvoting, for example, or commenting and interacting on a community discussion thread, that allows us to better understand the relative importance or popularity of specific requests. And then in turn we get to—as product managers and as an organization—learn more about their specific use cases, business needs and show our customers that we're listening to their feedback and responding to it. So a big part of it is closing the loop as well.
Dani Juson (10:00):
Yeah, yeah, exactly. I was just about to say that: so you're using it really as the ideal forum to actually gather the feedback in the first instance, but also then it provides a great opportunity to as you say, close the loop—because you can keep your customer base informed or up to date with what you are working on, what maybe you're not working on or what you've you've tabled for now. And I guess you can help them understand why those decisions are made and make the right decisions, not only for Gainsight, but also for your customer base—because ultimately you want to create a product that is future proof for them and fits with their vision of what they're trying to do, right?
Lila Meyer (10:48):
Yeah. Yeah, and what you said reminded me of one other point, which is that we also get a chance on the community to share more proactively what we're working on and get their input early in the design process. So we make sure that what we're developing is actually going to solve those problems or challenges that the customer has.
Dani Juson (11:20):
Okay. So you're talking about calling for beta testers or just people to check out new features, give feedback... Is that what you mean?
Lila Meyer (11:32):
Yes. Formally we do run beta programs and we often announce those on our community and invite volunteers to participate. And we're looking for some degree of commitment to provide us with helpful feedback before we’ll generally release the new feature. But even a little less formally than that, when we are looking to build a new feature or perhaps close a particular product gap, our product managers might write about what that looks like right now, what the plan is, the specific use cases that it will address or won't address and ask the community for feedback. You know: “Does this sound like what you were looking for? Will this address perhaps 90% of your use cases? Is there something missing or something else critical, you know, for this to work for you?” for example.
Dani Juson (12:47):
Yeah. That makes sense. So your product team, your product managers, they're there, they're pretty active then on the community? It's quite an important port of call for them in terms of how they actually prioritize?
Lila Meyer (13:01):
Yes, and thankfully it's the case that we've had good support from product leadership all along about the importance of the product team being visibly engaged on the community. We get a lot of product feedback, so it's not of course not possible to take all of it and implement all of it, but we do try to review the more popular requests—the ones that perhaps fit in well with our existing roadmap and product plans. And again, close the loop, ultimately.
Dani Juson (13:56):
I guess also having your customers and your users able to give their own viewpoint as well on this kind of one-to-many platform like a community also really helps in terms of prioritization, because you can really see: “Okay, this idea or this request is sounds interesting, but it's really only relevant to a couple of outside use cases. Whereas this particular request or idea is actually coming through with a whole heap of…”
Lila Meyer (14:28):
Dani Juson (14:31):
And I guess it really helps with prioritizing.
Lila Meyer (14:36):
Yeah, you do see which ideas or requests really resonate with a large portion of your customer base.
Dani Juson (14:52):
Which ones they're clamoring for; that they can't live without. All of that input is definitely helpful to the team around prioritization and scheduling. So you mentioned that you get a lot of feedback... how come you get a lot of feedback? What are you guys doing to stimulate that? Do you need to do much to stimulate that? Do you find that it comes through relatively naturally from your customer base, or do you have set programs or tactics in place that you use to make sure that people are giving their input?
Lila Meyer (15:33):
Yeah, we do tend to get a lot of feedback organically, I would say. And I think that's because we are pretty consistent about introducing community to new customers during the onboarding process. Our support team for example is familiar with and helps direct customers when their issue or question really comes down to a product request or a gap that they've identified. So directing those customers to share that then on the community, since it's our centralized forum for gathering customer product feedback. We even use the community and some internal or private categories for gathering employee input as well on product requests and feedback. There are some other things that we do, like in the PX application, the Product Experience application for Gainsight, where we have links to submit product feedback that will take a user directly to the community.
Lila Meyer (17:03):
And because we have this Product Experience application, we use it ourselves for displaying in-app messages and engagements in both the PX product and the Customer Success or CS applications. So one of the things that we'll do for example, is earlier this year, we ran an engagement in the CS application that highlighted the fact that we had implemented over 100 ideas from community in 2019. So that was a really nice statistic to highlight, but also a way to remind customers about the community and the value and success of sharing their feedback and upvoting each other's ideas and so on.
Dani Juson (18:09):
Yep. Totally. So it sounds like you're coming at it with a bit of a multi-pronged approach, but that your main tactic, I guess is that you've actually baked the process of customers giving feedback right into their journey as a customer. So as you mentioned, right from onboarding they already have experience with you and their understanding of how to interact with your team and interact with Gainsight as a company is already clear. They have the space available to them, and know that ideas are welcomed, requests are welcomed—and from the absolute get go, they're encouraged to do that. That's a cool tactic.
Lila Meyer (18:57):
Yeah. And I'm glad that you helped put it into clearer wording for me, but it is baked into our DNA, I guess, as an organization—we want to hear customer feedback, and the community is the forum for sharing it, and we are listening.
Dani Juson (19:21):
Very cool. And do you have any best practices that come to mind that you guys have found helpful? Or conversely, maybe things that you’ve found haven't worked so well, when it comes to interacting with your users on the community and getting the feedback? For example, maybe you have issues with some of the feedback coming in the wrong form or an unhelpful format?
Lila Meyer (19:56):
Yeah, like inviting community members to join beta programs. Although admittedly we've seen mixed success with actually getting participants to share feedback then on the new feature directly in the community. So sometimes it looks like having to go to a platform and log in and maybe access a private forum ends up being just enough of an impediment to reduce participation. But the community has definitely been a helpful tool in terms of getting the word out about beta programs and gathering a set of participants.
Dani Juson (20:53):
I mean, you must have a whole heap of users that obviously are keen to get involved in a beta program like that because obviously… it's human nature! They want to get their hands on the new stuff first! And then when it comes time to close the loop, suddenly it's not as interesting anymore... I guess one way around that—something that just immediately pops to my mind—is to source your testers for these types of programs from community members that you already know are really active and engaged on the community, and that have been shown their engagement levels within the community already. So you may be able to avoid that challenge.
Lila Meyer (21:41):
Yeah! And I think that that works well a lot of times—sometimes, like in the last six months or a year, we will have simultaneous beta programs going on, you know, for different features. And obviously some customers are more keen on certain features, or they feel they have users who will be able to quickly dive in and start trying it out and giving feedback more quickly than maybe in another organization, who's just not ready to take on that particular project at that time. Right. There's actually something that I like; an idea I love that we haven't gotten a chance to explore yet... That's along the lines of gathering product feedback, but creating a private working group on the community.
Lila Meyer (22:53):
So there's this new groups feature for instance, on inSided. If you had a product manager who wanted to connect with a small group of customers for a specified goal and also a specific length of time—so it wouldn't be a permanent group necessarily, but I think that would also help ensure more consistent participation from all the members. And maybe the product manager is in the early stages of designing a new feature or product, and they want to share early thoughts and get input, share mockups and walk them through and get their feedback… Multiple meetings, perhaps all throughout the design and development process with a small group of customers. Anyway, that was an idea that another community manager shared with me that I think sounds great and could be facilitated well through the inSided private groups functionality.
Dani Juson (24:16):
That does sound like an interesting idea to try. I think there's something about bringing the customer in at that early stage that really helps them to feel part of the team and like they can have a significant impact on what's being designed and developed. I guess the issue that you have, possibly, if you're doing beta testing with new features that don't really have much wiggle room for completely changing the direction, but you're simply testing them out for bugs or whatever... I guess with that, people may have the feeling: “Well, it's already done. I can't really change much, apart from maybe help them fix a few things. So if it's not interesting to me and my use case, then why would I bother?” Whereas bringing them in at that earliest stage in the design stage and helping them actually shape the feature could definitely be the key to maintaining consistency of the feedback, and the input that you're getting. That's really interesting. I'd be really curious to hear how you get on, if you guys decide to try that out.
Lila Meyer (25:37):
Yeah. Maybe a topic for a future conversation. But to your point I actually would praise the inSided product team for involving us in early betas, but also early product design conversations. ‘Cause I know as a user, as a customer, I certainly feel more invested in using the feature and seeing it be a success...
And that's something that inSided has invited us to do, for instance, with the groups and events features that are newly introduced this year.
Dani Juson (26:26):
Oh cool. That's great! I'm sure our product team over here will be thrilled to hear that. So how are you measuring success with this? What are the KPIs that you're looking at? How do you decide things are going well; what leading indicators do you pay attention to?
Lila Meyer (26:46):
I think probably there are lots of community management professionals out there that are doing this a bit better than we are, but we do look at some standard things and review them on a monthly basis and try to figure out what's working well. And what other strategies can we try? So, you know, we're looking for an increase in active users, increases in page views, ideally how our average replies per post or discussion are… how we're doing over time and the number of ideas or feature requests that we actually implement per product release. And then overall, we're looking for signs of more engagement from users. So for example, are they responding to our email communications or private messages that we send through community? Are they volunteering to share content on community, like along the lines of tips or best practices or participate in different programs or offerings that are going on at the time?
Dani Juson (28:21):
And you guys are using the Salesforce integration as well... Are you doing that to help understand where the most valuable or most impactful product ideas are coming from? Or are you using that to help measure the engagement levels of different customers?
Lila Meyer (28:43):
Yeah, so we are using the Salesforce integration. One challenge for us is that since we migrated to inSided in October, our community was almost four years old. At that point, we have a lot of historical community data that we're still working on getting imported into Salesforce, so that we'll be able to present more of a unified perspective on the customer's community engagement or historical perspective. And so at this point, we aren't really trying to analyze product feedback in Salesforce, per se. We're definitely more interested, I think, in the community engagement piece and presenting views to our CSMs, for example, of their customers’ engagement on community, you know: What are their feature requests and the status of those, you know? What questions or discussions have they posted or started on community? And the goal is to be able to present those in our Gainsight customer 360 degree view.
Dani Juson (30:16):
360 degree view and helping the CSM get a little bit of a holistic viewpoint of what's going on with that customer, because their community activity is probably not something that sits directly in the day-to-day review or the data that they're looking at...
Lila Meyer (30:36):
Right! It's another measure of their customer's engagement or health adoption, all of that. So, we want to make that more accessible to our customer facing teams. And one of the big asks from our CSMs is to be able to see the ideas and the requests that their customers have shared on community and know when they get implemented, for example.
Dani Juson (31:07):
Right. Very briefly, maybe you can tell us a little bit about why you guys chose to migrate to the inSided platform? Because I know you mentioned that you had run your community on a couple of different platforms prior to that.
Lila Meyer (31:24):
Sure. So we chose inSided for a variety of reasons: Some of them around things like having better moderation capabilities, better search functionality... also simple things like easier user management. So if someone is having log-in issues, we're empowered and we have the tools to help resolve those for the user without delay. Certainly the integration with Gainsight and our Salesforce CRM… and something that's equally as important as the product functionality is the partnership with inSided and the support that we get to keep growing and expanding our community and strategy.
Dani Juson (32:24):
Oh, that's nice. That's great to hear. Well, we are nearly at the end of our chat, but just before we move on to our lightning round—our so-called lightning round—I have one question left for you. If you had one piece of advice for B2B SaaS organizations that are looking to close that feedback loop with their users, what would it be?
Lila Meyer (32:53):
I thought about this a little bit. And the question brought me back to a lifetime ago when I was a teacher. And there's an expression along the lines of, you know, in teaching you tell them what you're going to tell them, then you tell them, then you told them, then you tell them what you just told them ….! That kind of a thing! And I actually think that it translates to closing the loop on product feedback as well. So we update community posts with status, to say that the idea has been implemented, we comment on it and give them links to relevant documentation where appropriate, to help use that new feature. Potentially we identify in our product release notes which new features originated on community. And we notify our CSM team which ideas from customers have been implemented in an upcoming release. And we do other sorts of community announcements, like the engagement I mentioned earlier, where we highlight the number of community generated ideas that we've implemented.
Dani Juson (34:29):
Right, right. Okay. So it sounds like you've got a lot of bases covered there. So if I had to summarize that, I would say there's no such thing as over-communicating what you're doing to customers?
Lila Meyer (34:42):
Yeah. Especially when you want to let them know that they've been heard, that you’re taking action as well. It's great to be heard, but you also want to know that your input is having an impact.
Dani Juson (35:00):
Oh, of course. Okay. Well, before I let you go, Lila, I do have a couple of very quick lightning-round questions for you. We call this the lightning round… but I'm going to challenge you to be the fastest person that's completed this! And I can already tell you upfront that that will not be a challenge, because normally this takes us a long time! So let's see how quickly we can go through these questions. Just tell me the first thing that comes to mind. So, three questions and then I'll let you go! So, number one: What one skill do you think is vital for community managers to keep improving on?
Lila Meyer (35:48):
This is tough, but I think it's probably around strategy... for how to grow and expand your community and trying new experiments to see what works in terms of engaging your community or engaging new members and so on.
Dani Juson (36:11):
Okay. Very good. Best educational resource that you'd recommend for learning about community management?
Lila Meyer (36:23):
I have three points here... I think talking to other community managers—I've found that really helpful and learned a lot. But you can do that too via communities. For example, I’ve learned from the inSided community! And then things like the State of Community Annual Reports can help you understand how you're doing perhaps in relation to other communities.
Dani Juson (36:59):
That's a good one. All right. Final question: Favorite tool that you can't live without?
Lila Meyer (37:10):
So you said tool... intentionally ambiguous, hopefully! So I would say my phone's camera because I enjoy taking photos of food and flowers and then sharing them too. But I'm too lazy apparently to have a real camera!
Dani Juson (37:41):
Ah, yeah. I completely understand that! You don't want to walk around with one of those heavy things around your neck all day, do you? And anyway, let's be honest, phone cameras are so amazing now...
Lila Meyer (37:53):
Yeah, the quality is so good!
Dani Juson (38:12):
It is! I'm sure there are plenty of photographers out there screaming at us right now! But I can’t tell the difference…! Okay. Cool. Well, thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate you taking the time out to chat with us today. And it's been really interesting to learn a bit more about what you guys are doing with the community at Gainsight and how you're really utilizing that to close the loop with customers and make sure that you're developing awesome products and awesome new features. Really interesting, thank you so much! And I'm sure that Lila would be happy to connect with any other budding community managers that are looking to maybe have a virtual coffee or share best practices. You can find Lila on LinkedIn and I will post the link for that in the show notes as well. So, thank you so much. It's been a pleasure!
Lila Meyer (38:56):
It's been really fun chatting with you and thanks for your time, Dani. Bye!
You've been listening to The inSide Scoop. Check out more at https://www.insided.com/webinars-podcasts.
By Danielle Juson
Customer success community expert and writer at inSided. Passionate about sharing the value and impact of community, and enabling companies to get it right. Connect on Linkedin