How to turn customers into life-long fans
Eran Aloni: Actually, really simple. Engage with your customers, show that you care, and do something about it, and if you do that, your customers will see that.
Devin Reed: This is Reveal: The Revenue Intelligence Podcast, here to help go- to- market leaders do one thing, stop guessing.
Sheena Badani: If you're ready to unlock reality and reach your potential, then this show is for you. I'm Sheena Badani.
Devin Reed: And I'm Devin Reed, coming to you from the Gong studios. Something really magical happens when all of your go- to- market teams are working together. When sales, marketing, and customer success are all in alignment, suddenly, customers become raving fans. Raving fans is something we're very passionate about here at Gong, so we brought on one of our teammates to talk about the strategy behind it. Eran Aloni is the chief customer officer at Gong and his role, in his own words, is pretty simple. He helps customers be successful. Of course, the mission is simple, but the work to get there is all about long- term relationship building, listening, and empathy. One of his core philosophies is that your customers should be your raving fans, and he shares with us exactly how to create raving fans and how it ripples positively into every area of your organization, including your sales efforts. Here's Eran sharing how our raving fan mindset got started and how it's affecting our day- to- day here at Gong.
Sheena Badani: So at Gong, we have this concept of raving fans and creating raving fans out of our customers and, actually, every touchpoint that we have, externally and internally. I'd love to hear a little bit more in your own words, what is a raving fan and how do you identify these people?
Eran Aloni: A funny story about our operating principles, we never said that this was our first or number one or the most important operating principle. It just became to be, this is how everyone talks about it, and I think part of it is because it's everyone's favorite one, maybe, or the one that they feel the closest to, which is amazing. To me, a raving fan is someone who really goes out of their way to support you, to tie their career together with your success. It becomes very personal for them, so the level of excitement, of alignment, of investments that they make, are just outsized to what you'd expect from anyone else. And that's really what we're aiming for, right, to create that amazing experience, that surprising, delight experience to our customers and to every single user.
Sheena Badani: So Eran, how do you and the team identify these raving fans?
Eran Aloni: So I think the first thing is, actually, they identify themselves. And I tend to say," If you need to really look for your raving fans, then you have a problem because a lot of times, they would raise their hand, and they would come to you, and they would send you an email, and they would volunteer to do something for you, or they would send their friends to check you out or whatever that may be." And I think that's really the first signal that you have in your business, that you're doing something that amounts to that experience. But we are looking at a lot of different metrics to see how we track. Really, the one that we track all the time and that we do at the biggest scale is NPS. We send NPS to every user who's been active within the platforms. We check on users more than once a year to make sure that it's trending in the right direction, and we look at that data very, very closely. But we're also looking at things like, what is the level of engagement of our user base with us on social, how many people actually care about what we have to say, how many people send us feedback for our product, or suggest feedback around our process, or people that reach out to us and they just want to learn, what is it that we do that's so great, right? So NPS is definitely the one that we track in the most religious way, but there are a lot of other touchpoints that we're looking at to have a pulse on this.
Sheena Badani: You know if you have raving fans because they come to you, they surface themselves. But they can surface themselves in different ways, so it could be on different channels, it could be maybe even behind the scenes where they're talking to their friends, and word of mouth, spreading that gospel in that manner as well.
Eran Aloni: Yeah, and for us, we highlight raving fans every time we have a what we call gang of Gong, right, the all- hands meeting that we have. And the challenge we have is that just choosing a few out of the dozens we get all the time, and that's a huge part of what we're looking to see, that it comes natural, it's something people... We don't have to prod them too much, right? You just have to open the door and they'll come in.
Devin Reed: Why is creating raving fans so important to business success?
Eran Aloni: I think if you really want to build something big and you want something that sustains itself, I mean, obviously, you need to have a product that adds value to your customers, but how can you build such a successful service or product if you don't have the vested interest of your customers to help you get there? It's really hard to get to product market fit if your customers are not excited about what you're doing and then help guide you towards success. And as you grow, right, it's very easy when the team is big, how do you know that you're doing the right things? How do you know that your customers are happy? You can measure that, but again, your customers are the ones that would add the color. They would give you the advice. They're the ones who help you correct the way. And sometimes, the most vocal customers are actually your biggest raving fans. They care so much that they'll come to you, and they'll just ask you to do things in a way that would help them do even better. One of the most frightening things with the customer is that customer that doesn't want to do anything with you. They don't want to give you any feedback, they don't want to tell you what they're doing, you don't know if they're happy or not, so I think that's one thing. The other thing is, especially if you think about creating category, you want those customers... And at the end of the day, it's people, it's you and me. They would move to a different role or they would move to a different company. They're the ones that would bring you to their next role, and they're the ones who would help you overcome difficulties. So to me, this is one of the force multipliers that many companies don't intentionally look for, and if you don't have that, then every new customer, it's a new night fight, right? You have to win every user and every person again and again and again. But if you have that core cohort of people that are really excited about you, they would help you in a way that no one else can.
Devin Reed: It makes all things easier, is the blanket way that I see it. And I think you could go to market and you look at sales, getting customer referrals in the middle of a sales process, all those different things, when, like you said, you've unlocked that raving fan experience or that word of mouth, which is really just how it takes shape.
Eran Aloni: Yeah, the big difference is, are you going against the grain or do you have other people pushing you forward? And that's really a huge difference, right? Are you fighting the fight every time, or do you actually have people that help you do better, not just your own team, but the entire community around you?
Devin Reed: So I've got a question, Eran. You've been around the block a couple times, and I mean that in the best way possible. You've got some good experience under your belt, but this is, I'm guessing, the first time you've worked at a company that has this raving fan DNA. And what prevents companies from adopting this?
Eran Aloni: I've been with companies where we had something like this, not anywhere near to the extent that we have it here. I think it's not something that you can fake, right? It's either it's really important to the company and it's something that comes, really, from within, from the founders, from the team that is really genuine and natural, or that it's something that, there's one person or one team in the company that's trying to do something, but they're on their own. I think that's one of the biggest differences because it's like a relationship with... Just think about your friends, think about your family. You can't just not stay in touch with people, not support them when they need you, and then when you need something, expect them to just be happy to see you and do things for you, right? It's about building that relationship. It's really caring about adding value to those customers and creating an amazing experience for them. I think that's really the core, and this is where I saw it working versus in places where a lot of good intentions, but it didn't have the foundation to allow it to really be successful.
Sheena Badani: I can also imagine that when you think about raving fans, you're thinking of all positive experiences where a company is giving you love and showering you with compliments for your product or for your services. But there are probably times when your raving fans are real with you and they may actually be providing you feedback where you could be doing better, so I'm curious if you've had any instances, either at Gong or before, where it was these raving fans that was actually driving you to do something in an even better way.
Eran Aloni: A hundred percent, and I would actually say that the number one value of raving fans is actually telling you, what are you doing wrong, where can you do better, where do we want you to go? I love products and services where customers start using them in completely different way than they were intended, right, and they push you in directions that you may not have even imagined that you'll go. I think that level of honesty is crucial, and it's crucial in both ways, right? A few examples from Gong, we have customers who are using the product in ways that were not intended and may not be the ways that we would invest in, in the near future. And it's about having that conversation with the customer, this is amazing, we'd love to support you as much as we can, but this is not where we're going, we'll be happy to help you figure it out. But I think that level of alignment and honesty is crucial, as it is the other way. I mentioned earlier, sometimes customers are really passionate and it could be scary sometimes to talk to someone who's so passionate, they're explaining to you, what are you doing wrong, you should do this this way versus that way. This is one of the best experiences you can have as a company. This is how you learn, this is how you get better, and this is one thing that our team really loves. At the time, it could be hard, but you know that the customer is meaning well. They want you to be successful and that's why they're so vested in your success.
Devin Reed: So Eran, let's get into the how a little bit here. So you shared, it starts at the top. Let's say that box is checked. How do you create raving fans at scale?
Eran Aloni: Well, I think the first level of scale is, make it everyone's priority, right? Again, if you have a small team somewhere, if it's only customer success, or it's only someone in marketing, that they're trying to create a following in social media, that's not going to work. It has to be in every experience that the customer has with every member of the team, that the person talking to them, and it could be on the business side, it could be on the support side, it could be your finance team that is working with customers to get them to pay, if they're providing that customer with a great experiences, even if there's disagreements or there's things that need to get fixed, this is the number one way to scale this, because it's genuine, it happens consistently across the board, from your first conversation with the customer, the first time you actually encounter the brand, the first time that you talk to an SDR, to a salesperson, to a customer success, it's very consistent along the way. That's the number one way to scale this. I think beyond that, it's about decision making every step of the way. If the business is or your customer is going through a rough time, what are you going to do about it? How much do you actually take that principle and apply it to decision making along the way? COVID was a great example for many companies that had to really make those decisions, are we actually, honestly, there for our customers, or was this just a slogan that doesn't mean anything when the going gets tough? So I think that's the number one way. The other way is, obviously, putting some measurements, putting some process around it, making sure that we actually take the feedback and do something about it. So I would say the level of engagements come from every single person in your team, every single touchpoint, but then you actually have to listen and you have to do something about it. So if you're getting product feedback from your customers and not doing anything about it, that's not going to scale because it's going to be a black hole of feedback that goes nowhere. So you have to have that virtuous cycle in order to create that scale, that it's not one person and it goes nowhere. I think that's really the number one way to scale this.
Devin Reed: Eran brings up some great points about how many companies don't act on their customer feedback and survey data, and how that basically squashes all of your raving fan efforts. And unfortunately, this has a ripple effect on customer trust. According to a Statista survey, 45% of consumers don't believe brands take action on the feedback they provide. This is a big chunk of people who have essentially given up hope that brands actually listen to them. It's a staggering reminder that you have to communicate your actions to your customers. If a customer survey reveals unrest in a certain area, send a follow- up email to survey respondents with your plan to act on their feedback. This extra step shows you are listening, which is crucial. Here's Eran on exactly how you can measure the effects of creating those raving fans.
Sheena Badani: You mentioned measurement. That's one part of scaling this experience. And then we talked about NPS earlier. Are there other metrics or ways that you are able to identify when this raving fan experience is working, or not?
Eran Aloni: There are a few different ways. One, we mentioned NPS, obviously, a great one. You can measure, what is the level of engagement you have with your executives in the different accounts? Again, if you don't have raving fans, a lot of times, customers don't really engage with you, even if things are going well, and sometimes when things are not going well. So what is the level of engagement with your customers along their journey? If you have a platform, like a community or an academy, where customers can come and learn more, you can see, are they actually engaging with your team and with each other? If you don't have that core experience, a lot of times, customers... I mean, everyone's busy. People don't have time to engage with a community of a company that they don't really care about that much. You can see, how many features do they suggest, if you have a way to measure that. You can see how many of the features that they suggest actually make their way into the product roadmap, right? And it's a great measurement, actually, to, how much are you actually willing to invest back in your customers? So there's a variety of different ways, and different companies may have different levels of touchpoints. But the way to think about it is, think about the touchpoints that are optional for the customer. I mean, if you're trying to get the customer to engage with you, if there's a new renewal coming, maybe they have to engage with you, but just during their life cycle, no one asks... People are busy and they probably have dozens of systems that they're using. They choose to engage with some versus the others, so everything that customers are doing that are optional, this is what you should be measuring.
Sheena Badani: That's a super interesting way about looking at it. They are taking the time out of their personal life, their professional life, to engage with a CSM, or to attend a webinar, or to go to one of your events. That's a huge ask. People don't have to do that at all.
Eran Aloni: Events are a great way. inaudible is your event. Are you struggling to get people to come, or you just struggling to find a big enough space or a platform that can handle the load?
Devin Reed: Which is interesting too, because there's a difference between brand and what you're describing. Brand could be general population, people knowing of you, wanting to interact with you. But yours is, you could throw a customer event. You throw just a customer event, you only promote it to customers. So aside from events, Eran, is there any special example that sticks out in your mind where you or maybe your team have created raving fans?
Eran Aloni: We get inbound all the time. We had customers creating videos and sending them to us with them taking memes out of our own messaging and creating a video about it, or almost doing a comedy skit around what does it mean for them to use Gong and their journey along the way. There are crazy things out there. We've had calls where, jokingly, customers said," You know what, if Gong was a person I would marry Gong." We just love those moments. We share them all the time. You know it's genuine, right, because if you're on a call with someone, you may give them a compliment, but people don't come up with that level of enthusiasm to anyone. Some of them are really out there, but a lot, they're so genuine and funny and exciting, that this is exactly what you should be looking for.
Sheena Badani: So Eran, what can professionals do, regardless of what function they're in, to keep the customer front and center and always have that raving fan in mind?
Eran Aloni: To me, a raving fan is a goal, but it's also an outcome, right? I mean, if you really care about your customers, you really need to care about engaging with them. I've seen product teams that really care about their customers, but they're not actually talking to the customer. You can argue that for us in Gong, we use Gong for everything, you can argue that our product team doesn't need to talk to customer, they can just listen to calls. But they talk to customers all the time, much more than any product team that I've seen. But it's not enough just to talk to customer. It actually influences what we do in a very, very deep way. So if you want to create that experience, it's actually like a lot of things in life, it's hard to do, but it's actually really simple, engage with your customers, show that you care, and do something about it. And if you do that, your customers will see that. And it doesn't mean that you have to do whatever they ask you to do, but just be honest, take the feedback, have a conversation. And sometimes, the answer will be," You know what, this is not something that we are planning to invest in," or," We can't do that, and here's why." People appreciate honesty. Your customers appreciate honesty. They know that you're on their side, even if the answer is no, and they appreciate that. So I think it really starts from fundamentals, and every person in the company can create that experience. The magic happens when you don't need to explain that to every person in your company, because they just get that from everyone around them. It's just how things are getting done, and you just don't have to reinforce that anymore.
Devin Reed: I'm going to put you on the spot a little bit here. We ask all our guests this question, so no pressure. How would you describe sales in one word?
Eran Aloni: Exciting. I could not do sales, I don't think, but I love the fact that every month, every quarter starts from zero. There's a thrill to the hunt, but I can see how it can get really difficult mentally, so maybe that's one of the reasons I'm not doing it.
Sheena Badani: It's definitely exciting and fun. And it's a partnership, right? You couldn't have the sales without customer success. All of it together is what makes that raving fan experience.
Eran Aloni: Well, yeah, and I think the biggest thing is, not everyone is in the inaudible role, but every single person in the company is doing sales. Whatever you are doing, you're contributing to that. That's crazy exciting.
Devin Reed: If you want to learn more, head over to gong. io for more go- to- market leadership resources. And if you like what you heard today, give us that five- star review on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you're listening.
When all of your go-to-market teams are working together, your customers become raving fans. Eran Aloni, Chief Customer Officer at Gong, shares how he helps customers be successful–from long-term relationship building, to empathy, to simply listening to the customer.
Eran believes that customers should be your raving fans–and on this episode, he shares exactly why you should work to achieve this, and the positive ripple effect it will have on every area of your organization–including your sales efforts.