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Key Steps & Business Challenges

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5. Request For Proposal (RFP)

What functional and platform requirements do we need?
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When implemented well, CSM platforms integrate deeply into your data stack and business processes. That’s why we recommend you carefully evaluate your requirements and vendor capabilities. Our customers typically make their assessments based on the following “buckets” of capability:

ROI-driving functionality

The end-value of a CSM platform is its functionality via features that generate actionable product-usage data to drive business outcomes. Our customers consider the following seven buckets to be the core pillars of a CSM platform:
Health: Tools for viewing your customer’s health “scorecard” based on the metrics that matter to you most (e.g., support health vs. adoption health vs. relationship health) and across various customer entities (e.g., by product, segment, business unit, etc.). Truly understanding customer health also requires analyzing underlying details like account notes, support history, survey responses, key sponsors, or usage statistics. Granular insights allow end- users to see all the tracked metrics, how they’re trending, and how each one contributes to the overall health score.
Workflow: Tools to turn health insights into action. Best practices include automating CTAs (calls to action) based on risks, opportunities, and lifecycle events and prioritizing workflow with AI-driven priority scoring. A CSM solution analyzes which activities have the greatest impact, provides a step-by-step playbook to deliver a consistent customer experience, and helps users parse out work between CSMs and other team members. Workflow often involves providing visibility by integrating with internal communication systems like Salesforce Chatter. Increasingly, CSM platforms provide tools to proactively define desired client outcomes and the plans to achieve them.
Communication: Playbooks and other tools for automating and personalizing communications throughout the Customer Success lifecycle. These should span all relevant “touch models” including:
High-touch (1:1). Often used with high-value accounts, capabilities including success plans with CTAs; templated, trackable emails that integrate into typical email workflows (for example, through your Gmail and within your CS platform)
Tech-touch (1:many). Often used for smaller accounts and engaging the long-tail at scale; automated, personalized, data-driven nurture emails, dynamically adapted to customer behavior (branching) and allow for conditional waits
Mid-touch (just-in-time). Often used with mid-sized accounts; includes playbooks that combine the above communication tactics for specific scenarios; journey orchestration that incorporates critical events from other platforms for just-in-time response where the customer needs it, whether in-app, via email, or through a CSM touch
Analytics: Robust analytics capabilities. Most customers buy CSM platforms not only to optimize day-to-day operations but also to make strategic decisions to improve long-term customer health across the business, including funnel- and path analysis. Best-in-class CSM platforms provide deep insights into how customers interact with a product and drive meaningful comparative retention analysis. Dashboards are your book of business at a glance. A flexible CSM dashboard supports drill-downs and keeps key insights right upfront for quick and easy reference. Cut through the noise and get straight to the actionable data, including churn rates and upcoming renewals. Flexible product analysis solutions provide fully customizable reporting with graphs and tables, integrated data processing/aggregation/pivoting/trending, simplified cross-data-set joins and views, and personalizable per-user dashboards.
Surveys: Tools for capturing customer feedback from surveys such as NPS, CSAT, and more. Typically, Customer Success efforts involve bringing together an objective (data-driven) and subjective (sentiment-based) view of client health. That’s why most businesses consider survey capabilities when making a CSM-platform decision. Customized, visually appealing surveys may be sent after individual transactions like a sale or project closure or on a regular basis to assess the overall relationship. Surveys should use best-practice templates and may need to be sent in multiple languages across multiple time zones. Look for advanced analytic tools to follow up on survey feedback and to process and assess survey results (including survey text analytics) to get actionable insights.
Mobile integration: Insights on the go. Stay on top of actionable customer information, insights, and data, as well as notifications about meetings and events.
Apps: Capability for app integration. Customers want to make sure CSM doesn’t become an “island” and that the platform reaches all of the parts of the company that can drive Customer Success. CSM platform evaluations often include the app and user experience for each stakeholder:
CSM
Sales Rep (in systems like Salesforce Sales Cloud)
Support Rep (in systems like Salesforce Service Cloud and Zendesk)
Services Manager (in Professional Services Automation systems like
Clarizen and FinancialForce)
Marketing Manager (in terms of reference management capabilities, for
example)
Product Manager (in terms of product analytics)
Finance Team (in terms of revenue and renewal forecasting)
Partners (in systems like Salesforce Community Cloud)

Platform

Business users care about the end-user functionality covered above. For their part, IT and Operations need to understand key aspects of a CSM platform to assess what they can deliver.
Integrated ecosystem: CSM platforms depend on data. How does it feed other systems of record? What can be done with shared data? Can it trigger events or create CTAs? What data sources are supported? Common sources for integrated customer data may include:
CRM (Salesforce Standard Objects, Salesforce Custom Objects, Salesforce Third-party Apps)
Services & Support (Salesforce Service Cloud, Zendesk)
Marketing (Marketo, Salesforce Marketing Cloud, Salesforce Pardot,
Oracle Eloqua)
Professional Services Automation (FinancialForce, Clarizen)
Web Analytics (Gainsight PX, MixPanel, Segment, Google Analytics)
Finance (Netsuite, Zuora)
Surveys (SurveyMonkey, Medallia, SatMetrix, Qualtrics)
Business Intelligence
Data via Amazon S3
Data via API
Open data model: Every business takes its own approach to customer modeling, so data models in a CS system must have the flexibility to support different strategies based on customer needs. Verify that the platform allows you to add custom tables, fields, calculations, and other factors in administrative UI. Can handle data processing (e.g., aggregation, pivoting, trending) or does data need to be pre-processed? Finally, determine how flexible the customer model is. How many levels can the hierarchy handle? Can you add multiple dimensions (such as products) at various levels of the hierarchy? Does the scoring model allow you to track multiple elements of a health score at a granular level (e.g., support health, services health)?
CRM integration with Salesforce, Dynamics, and more: Every CSM platform should integrate with CRM systems such as Salesforce or Dynamics. The key is to dive into the depth of the integration. Is the data in the CSM platform integrated in real-time with the data in Salesforce or is there a sync with a related delay? Are all custom objects available at all times to users? Is the CSM platform 100% available through the Salesforce UI? Is it available through Salesforce apps like Service Cloud and Community Cloud? Is data in the CSM platform available in Salesforce Reporting? Can your users update Salesforce fields directly from the CSM platform? Are all security controls (e.g., account- level permissions) automatically enforced in the CSM platform?
Self-service: Customer Success is evolving rapidly and CSM teams need to be agile in changing the platform configuration. Leading customers demand a CSM platform that allows for easy configuration of reports, dashboards, rules, custom attributes, formulas, tables, and other factors without having to call the vendor. They want to get support fast through online resources like a knowledge base, support chat system, and an online community.
Best practices: No CSM team wants to reinvent the wheel. Customers are looking for platforms with built-in best practices—pre-configured playbooks, email templates, surveys, an active community serving as an open-source information exchange, and reports that represent the best of what’s possible in Customer Success.
Role-based access: A CSM platform should be able to reconcile the dichotomy between having role/team/function-based tailored view and access and the free exchange of relevant information across teams. Your CSM platform should support:
Page layouts tailored to the needs of each function. Different teams need a tailored view of the customer so they can bubble up the right issues and opportunities to the relevant person. Custom page layouts eliminate clutter while promoting cross-functional collaboration.
Federated access. Any reasonably sized company with multiple business lines faces a tough choice: deploy each of its business lines on its own customer management system or force them all to operate within one restrictive, shared environment. You can avoid making that choice altogether if each team can use and configure the platform to meet their specific needs while working within one shared, 360-view environment.
Security: You’re entrusting the CSM platform with sensitive customer data and business-critical information. Your CSM platform should have:
Sophisticated user access permissions based on roles/profiles.
Independent security certificates such as SOC 2 Type 2.
Compliance with key regulatory requirements for your business now
and in the future, including GDPR and HIPAA
Product Experience: A CSM should provide power without compromising the experience. Think: simple, intuitive, efficient, and beautiful. Your CSM product should:
Reduce choices a user must make
Create a clean, light, and open space to work
Eliminate configuration barriers to admin productivity
Provide quick filters based on the most common use cases
Progressively disclose more while moving users through complex
workflows
Let users know where they are, what to do, and how to get started
Ensure users never feel like they have made errors or worry about
making mistakes
Behave like commonly used consumer applications
Include in-app guidance and microcopy

Company (Partnership with the Vendor)

Selecting a CSM platform is a long-term decision, so customers often evaluate the company as much as the product. CSM platforms are evolving rapidly, so customers want to assess not only where the technology is today, but also where it will be over time. Here are some key questions to ask when evaluating a CSM vendor:
Customers: Who are your other customers? How big are they? What industries do they represent? Do any represent the industry we’re in? How do customers typically expand their use case as their usage improves?
CSM Profile: Tell me about the background and experience of the CSMs we’ll be working with on your team. How many people are on your CSM team?
Services: What technical services will you provide to set up the platform? What advisory services are available to help us with our CSM strategy? What ongoing Technical Account Management and other services do you offer? How many people work in Services? How many hours of professional services were delivered by your company last year?
Partners: What partners are enabled to deliver services around the platform?
Community: Tell me about the community you’ve established? Are there local chapters in my area so I can interact with like-minded peers? Which customers are already members of the community? How robust are the company’s events? How active is your online community?
Vision: What’s your three-year road-map? What’s your investment in R&D to enable innovation? How do you manage releases? What’s been the pace of adding new capabilities? How do you develop your roadmap?
Viability: How big is your company today? What does your balance sheet look like (request audited financials)? How much capital does your company have? Who are your investors? Can I talk to them if needed?
Growth: How much has your company grown over the last two years?

Scoring

Since most of the above aren’t yes/no questions, we recommend scoring each response:
Vendor doesn’t have capability
Vendor can customize/stretch to meed need
Vendor has strong capability
Vendor has strong capability with demonstrated evidence
Vendors has strong capability with strong demonstrated evidence

After reading through the above buckets, add the average ratings for the vendors your wrote in based on the criteria below:
My vendor ratings
4
Vendor Name
ROI Avg. Score
Platform Avg. Score
Company Avg. Score
RFP Total Average (Calc)
1
HubSpot Service Hub
3.86
3
3.5
3.45
2
Gainsight
3.7
4.2
3.76
3.89
3
ChurnZero
4.1
3.4
4.2
3.90
There are no rows in this table

RFP Criteria
0
Bucket
Dimension
Score
ROI-driving functionality
Tools for viewing your customer’s health “scorecard”
Workflow: Tools to turn health insights into action
Playbooks and other tools for automating and personalizing communications
Robust analytics capabilities.
Tools for capturing customer feedback from surveys such as NPS, CSAT, and more
Mobile integration
Capability for app integration.
3.86
Average
Platform
Integrated ecosystem (feed into other systems)
Open data model
CRM integration with Salesforce, Dynamics, and more
Self-service
Best practices
Role-based access
Security
Product experience
3
Average
Company (Partnership with the Vendor)
Customers
CSM Profile
Services
Partners
Community
Vision
Viability
Growth
3.5
Average
3.43
Average


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