Chief Content Officer,
Techstrong Group


In this Leadership Insights video interview, Mike Vizard speaks with Karl Rumelhart, the president of products, technology and global operations at Gainsight, about how to educate customers on how to consume digital products and services.



Michael Vizard: Hello, and welcome to the latest edition of the Digital CxO Leadership Insights series. I’m your host, Mike Vizard. Today, we’re with Karl Rumelhart, who is President of Products, Technology and Global Operations for Gainsight, and they just acquired a company called Northpass. And we’re talking about how to educate customers, how to consume your digital products and services, because well, that’s often the hardest part of the whole equation. Karl, welcome to the show.

Karl Rumelhart: Thank you. Good to be here.

Michael Vizard: I think a lot of people overlook this whole space, and maybe you could walk us through what it is you guys are trying to do and how you help customers do that, because so many of these digital initiatives that people launch seem to die in the vine, and a lot of it just has to do with the fact that, hey, maybe nobody knows how to use this stuff, so they just kind of sit and wait for somebody to tell them what to do, and when that doesn’t happen, they do nothing.

Karl Rumelhart: Yeah. I think you’re right on the point there. When companies engage with their customers in a way for mutual benefit, the customers want to get value out of the products and services, and the companies that sell those products and services want those customers to get value so that that relationship deepens, grows, you get renewals and expansion. And one of the ways in which this works really well is for the vendors to offer education on their products and services to their customers. There are platforms, Northpass being a top platform, to help make that happen.
As Gainsight, we are the leading vendor in what’s called customer success, which is this broad set of capabilities that will help vendors help their customers be successful. And customer education is a perfect, perfect part of that overall vision.

Michael Vizard: Do I have to pay customers to get that education, or are they anxious to get it themselves and they’ll just do it of their own volition?

Karl Rumelhart: Many times, companies will offer these educational courses for free for their customers. In some cases, they may charge the customers for certifications or to become experts on those products. But the core of this is that it’s happening because customers who learn about the products are better users of the product, they’re more successful with the product, and then everybody wins.

Michael Vizard: How engaging are these efforts? What are the mistakes that some organizations make? I mean, how do you kind of make it sticky enough so people want to do this and they kind get excited about education?

Karl Rumelhart: Yeah. I think the key here to being successful is to understand, as a vendor, so I’m going to be offering education. The key is to be clear on why you’re doing it. You’re doing it because you’re trying to create healthier customers. And often, where maybe the mistake you don’t want to do is go off and, “Hey, do some education,” but you’ll miss on the why. The why is the customer should be better off because of it, and one of the ways that you can ensure that that’s happening is by doing what we’re doing, which is connect that customer education to the broader customer success platform so that we’re able to see that customers who are educated are in fact healthier.
And I can optimize the efforts around customer education towards making, creating healthier customers that are actually doing better. They’re using the products more, they’re using them in deeper ways. Then you’re really getting value. Of course, then you’re going to double down and triple down on those efforts because you’re seeing the impact that they have. One of the great things that we can bring to this market by combining the existing Gainsight products with the Northpass customer education technology is the ability to demonstrate the value of that customer education program because we’re tracking the health of those customers and we can see that impact.

Michael Vizard: How do I measure whether or not customers are getting the most out of that platform? I mean, do I give them a test or a quiz or something, and how do I reengage them when the first attempt might not be as successful as we all hoped?

Karl Rumelhart: Right. So, let me distinguish two things. Within the context of actual education itself, so I’m someone taking a course, learning about my product or service, yeah, you’ll have quizzes or some of the capabilities. You have assessments, they’re called, in order to make sure that the clients are moving along, or in some cases, so that they actually will get a certification and you are an expert in this thing and that can be good for their career and so on and so forth. So, within the context of education, I make sure that folks are actually getting the proper training. That’s the reason I’m doing it, so everybody gets trained, and I can ensure that that goes. And of course, a technology where we bring to market here has all those capabilities and more.
But the second point I just want to emphasize here is then, okay, those customers are getting trained. Great. What Gainsight can bring to the table now is the ability to say, “With better trained customers, I’m also seeing that I have more successful customers. And that is where some of the magic really starts happening, because then you’re helping those customers and you’re seeing how it’s helping you as the vendor actually be more successful, have more successful customers, which is, I’m more successful in the end.

Michael Vizard: And part of the ROI in that emotion, I would imagine, is a happy customer tends to buy more, and they tend to get more deeply involved in a product. So, this isn’t just an effort for the sake of being nice. It is part of a good business sense.

Karl Rumelhart: Absolutely. This is one of the things I really love about the way B2B technology, and businesses in particular, but many, many, many businesses now are progressing, which is that you have an alignment of goals between the vendor and the customer. I don’t want to… It doesn’t help me as a vendor to give you technology or give you a product and have you not use it, or have you use it badly, or have you not get value out of it because you’ll just quit. You’ll not renew, you’ll go away.
But what you want is to get value out of what you’ve purchased. You want to use it, you want it to deliver the outcomes that you intend. And of course, for me as the vendor, then I want you to achieve those outcomes because then you will grow, you will expand. So, we’re all on the same page. We want to deliver what we call customer success.

Michael Vizard: Is there somebody in particular who drives this conversation for you guys? We know that there are of course digital CXOs of many types and flavors. There’s customer success officers, there’s kind of folks who are like the chief data officer. I mean, who’s at the forefront of this conversation right now?

Karl Rumelhart: Yeah, that’s an excellent question. So, in many, many companies, they’re forming an organization under the CCO, the chief customer officer, to pull together all of the different functionalities and capabilities and teams that will drive outcomes and good experiences for customers. Within that, there are often groups that focus on different areas. So, if I kind of peel the onion back, one of the things you’ll have within the CCO’s organization will be folks who are focused on digital engagement. How do we engage our customers in ways beyond a human being talking to them one-on-one, but through scaled kinds of techniques that lots of stuff from gain size and best practices and everything operate that way?
Within that, one of those really important digital engagement tools and techniques is customer education. So it’ll be in the customer education team, customer education professionals, it’s a fantastic profession. Those folks will create the materials, run the courses that will help customers get better, and then that will feed into the broader customer success umbrella, ultimately, usually run by a CCO or similar person within an organization.

Michael Vizard: You cannot walk down the street today without somebody leaping out to tell you about their new great AI thing, so how will AI get applied to this whole space? Do you think it has a role?

Karl Rumelhart: Oh, most definitely has a role. One of the things that, if you want to apply AI effectively, the first thing you have to have is the data on which to apply the AI, the information, the what is happening. So, by bringing all of this together, understanding when people are taking courses, are they being successful with those courses, as well as all of the context for the customer success and the other adoption of the products and so on. By bringing all that together, we have a tremendous sort of fertile foundation for applying AI. Some of the kinds of things that this we will do, let me give you from different points of view.
One of them is hyper-personalization. Because I have all this information, I see what’s happening with clients, I can actually give them and guide them to exactly what the right course for them, exactly the right information for them at exactly the right time. From the customer’s point of view, from the user’s point of view, it’s kind of the reverse idea. I’m looking for some information. I’m trying to answer a question. AI, by consuming all of the content including the course content, they will be able to very quickly identify what would be most helpful for them in solving their problem, or progressing and getting more value out of the product or service.

Michael Vizard: So, in your experience, what is that one thing you’re seeing customers doing that just makes you shake your head and go, “Folks, we’re better than this.” What’s that one piece of advice that you kind of see folks doing over and over again, and it just kind of gets under your skin a little bit?

Karl Rumelhart: Yeah. The thing that I find frustrating on behalf of companies when this happens is that they don’t pull the different threads together. I may be doing a customer education, I may be doing it very well. I may be running a very strong customer community. I may be having very strong customer success manager organization, but they are disconnected from each other. They don’t coordinate, they don’t have a common view of the customer, and they don’t make sure that that customer has itself a common experience across all those things.
That’s where you’ll end up having many people doing a really good job individually, but when you bring it all together, it doesn’t have the impact that it could have. So, that’s the disappointment. What we need to do is help pull people together, everybody marching in the same direction, then magic happens. Then you can say, “Wow, the thing that all of these groups are doing adds up, multiplies really, into ultimate impact for the customers, and obviously for the vendors at the same time.”

Michael Vizard: All right, folks. You heard in here. When I was a kid, there was a fellow selling clothing who used to say, “An educated consumer is his best customer.” I think 30 years on, it’s still the same. We just need to figure out how to help folks get smarter about everything that’s going on. Karl, thanks for being on the show.

Karl Rumelhart: Thank you so much. Been a pleasure.

Michael Vizard: And thank you all for watching the latest episode of the Digital CxO Leadership series. You can find this and other episodes on the website. We invite you to check them all out. Until then, we’ll see you next time.