Buying a customer success platform is hard – and choosing one is among the bigger decisions you make in a customer success career.
Gainsight & Planhat are among the most powerful CSPs on the market, but their complexity makes it difficult to understand the differences.
I’ve done the research & spoken to people much smarter than me (who’ve used both platforms). Here, I summarize the differences & help fast-track your decision.
The difference between Planhat vs Gainsight
The main difference between Planhat & Gainsight is that, overall, Gainsight can do more, and cater for more complexity – but typically at a higher cost (both in contract cost, and people cost to run it).
Planhat’s platform is still very powerful, the cost is usually lower, and it’s easier to adopt & maintain. It’s up to you to decide whether or not the advantages of Gainsight are worth it for your CS team; I’ll try to help with this comparison.
Both platforms have the majority of their customer base in mid-market, with Planhat serving more SMBs, and Gainsight serving more enterprise customers.
To give you a well-rounded comparison, I’ll continue by giving overviews of:
Then, I’ll elaborate on some key strengths of each.
For Planhat, that means:
- Why their UI & UX is often preferred
- The customer portal feature & why it’s an advantage
- More 1:1 support isavailable, especially for smaller customers
For Gainsight, it means:
- Why it is more customizable & flexible
- Scalability and broader product offerings
- The strength of a big, active user community
- The advantage of a much larger team size
1. Pricing & pricing models
- A general ballpark of where pricing starts from for each tier
- The pricing model: which factors impact upon the price you pay for each
Entry prices & tiering are very similar, but Planhat usually comes out at a lower price. Planhat price is mostly based on number of customers, and offers unlimited seats. Gainsight pricing is based on customers, full seats, and view-only seats.
Gainsight’s pricing model favors a small team with a high number of customers, while Planhat’s favors a larger team with a smaller number of customers.
The most significant factors that dictate Gainsight’s pricing are:
- The number of full seats
- The number of view-only seats (still billed per seat, but at a lower rate)
- The number of customers
There is a platform fee for the base functions, plus additional licensing for certain features (e.g. Journey Orchestrator, Surveys).
The main thing that dictates Planhat pricing is the number of customers, though the number of automations & emails sent also affect pricing.
The big advantage of offering unlimited seats is that you can bring every team into Planhat without worrying about adding costs. Leadership, sales, product, finance, marketing (etc.) – everyone can access customer insights.
Both platforms do a good job of covering the most commonly needed integrations. Gainsight has more direct integrations overall (~44 vs ~30).
Here’s an overview of shared integrations, plus those which one has natively, but the other doesn’t.
Notably, Gainsight is missing product usage integrations outside of Mixpanel. So unless you’re either a Mixpanel user, or planning to buy Gainsight PX, that might be a significant consideration.
On Planhat’s side, data warehouse integrations are limited – only Snowflake is available.
See the full lists here:
Note that both Gainsight & Planhat do have APIs so anything is possible, but without a native integration it’s a custom job – which adds engineering time to the setup.
3. Time to implementation
Implementation of a customer success platform can be a complex beast, with a ton of variables.
And the big problem with comparing implementation time, is that you’re very rarely comparing apples to apples. What do you consider “implemented”?
You can get either tool live & usable within ~2-3 months. Weeks, if you’re talking about Gainsight Essentials or Planhat Basic.
Out of 10+ full-time Gainsight admins I spoke to, the general consensus was that ~5-6 months is a realistic expectation for a “complete” Gainsight implementation. Maybe longer for an inexperienced team. Planhat says their average implementation time is 62 days.
Ultimately, Gainsight takes longer to set up because it does more.
The tool is so overwhelmingly robust
– Jen Provenzano (CS Operations Manager @ Impel)
☝ That tells you a lot of what you need to know. Gainsight does more, so it takes longer to get fully set up. Jen’s advice:
“Prioritize features and go slow. Some people do implement all at once, but the tool is so overwhelmingly robust that taking your time and creating solid admin documentation is key to success.”
Consider it a journey that will keep evolving. Start with getting customer data in, then build out customer health scores. Then start moving to automated messaging, surveys, and so on. You can start deriving value from the platform before implementation is “completed”.
Planhat’s key strengths
1. Their UI & UX
Preferences for user interface and user experience are quite subjective, but when you talk to a Planhat user, or read reviews, UI is often cited as a strength. Both for the admin experience, and for the end-user experience working in the product day-to-day.
I asked Jen Provenzano, who currently uses Gainsight but previously used Planhat about UI/UX preferences. Looking back, here’s a few things she liked better about Planhat:
- The Salesforce bidirectional & single direction sync are managed from the same place, so it’s easier to see where data is flowing between systems.
- Planhat has a single location where your customer emails & Zendesk tickets, making one communication hub with action items for the team. Gainsight doesn’t have this.
- In the health scoring module, you can manipulate the data into scores & update our scorecards from the same place. In Gainsight, you have to use Rules Engine, API, or another integration to manipulate your data & populate your scorecards.
In Planhat, the end user (CSM) has more control too. They can do more, with less reliance on administrators. To give one example, a CSM can set up notifications & alerts (such as a risk alert if your customer is inactive for X days) independently. In Gainsight it’d require an admin.
G2 reviews also back up the idea that ease of use is a winning area for Planhat.
2. Planhat has a customer portal feature
Customer portals are one unique advantage that Planhat has.
The portal feature lets you create a collaborative workspace between your customer success team & your customers. It can be used for things like:
- Creating ownership by sharing tasks, timelines, & responsibilities
- Sharing reports & trends (e.g. adoption/usage data)
- Creating transparency around what’s happening & who’s working on what
If you’re running a high-touch success model, there’s a good chance this is an advantage for you.
In Gainsight it is possible to create something kinda similar by sharing Success Plans externally, or by creating a Customer360 that is customer-facing to share reports and dashboards. But, again, it's more effort, doesn't look/feel as nice, and is little less collaborative overall.
3. Planhat offers more 1:1 support, especially for smaller customers
Of course both platforms offer support, but there’s a few differences worth knowing about, especially at the SMB end of the market.
With Gainsight’s entry tier (Essentials), you’ll be in a pooled support model, with primarily digital resources. You get technical support during onboarding, then a tracked & capped number of technical support hours per month. It’s normal that you’ll have a different technical support person during onboarding vs. after, too.
With Planhat, you’ll get a dedicated CSM & technical account manager on any plan, in your own timezone. Hours aren’t tracked or capped, and the same person will stick around & be available for help throughout the contract to support data mapping, integrations, and other technical stuff.
From speaking to users of both platforms, the general consensus seems to be that the support team is faster in Planhat too. You can expect to get a live chat answer in a few minutes, or up to an hour, vs. a more traditional ticket-based support with Gainsight with an expected response time of more like 1 day.
Lastly, to get “priority” support in Gainsight, you’ll have to pay extra – whereas there’s no such tiering for support in Planhat contracts.
To provide a balanced view of support/service, Jen Provenzano felt she experienced better strategic support from Gainsight at the enterprise level (hundreds of CSMs). Gainsight has been around for a longer time, and they have experience with several customers that are paying 7-figure ARR contracts. From sharing information & experiences internally, it makes sense that better strategic support is available at that level.
Gainsight’s key strengths
1. Customization & flexibility
In the CSP world, Gainsight is still the king of customization & flexibility.
“You can do ANYTHING. If you think of a process or workflow that can be automated, Gainsight can do it.”
Both Planhat & Gainsight bring elements of flexibility, but with Gainsight you can get more specific. If you ever find yourself wondering "Is XYZ possible?", in Gainsight, the answer is most likely yes.
The trick for you here as a CSP buyer, is figuring out whether or not you need the unique customization, and if you have the resources & expertise to handle the complexity & administration.
- What can’t Planhat do? Do I care about that now?
- What about in 2-3 years? How do we expect to scale? (switching CSPs is painful)
Since both products are evolving quickly, you’d ideally book a demo and ask directly if the things you’d like to do are possible. That said, here’s a couple of example limitations in Planhat:
- It can’t handle more than around 15 Salesforce custom objects
- The UI has some customization, but also some hard coding which can’t be changed
- Gainsight has more data transformation capabilities
I’ll elaborate to clarify the last point (data transformation) with the help of Alizée Levavasseur, an experienced CS Operations practitioner.
In Gainsight you can more easily bring data from different systems together. For example, if the data in Salesforce is “A, B C” and you need it to be “1, 2, 3”, Gainsight can transform the data during ingestion and store it as 1,2,3. In Planhat, you’d either have to handle the data transformation first before bringing it into the platform or create a formula field with IF statements to transform the data.
“Gainsight is certainly harder to use, but with the right level of effort and a touch of imagination, you can generate more insights.”
Gainsight also offers more precision & customization with health scoring
In Planhat, there’s a solid, easy-to-use health scoring system. One health score per company, on a 0-10 scale, with a customizable formula.
In Gainsight, there’s a few extra advantages for health scoring. First, you can have multiple “sub” health scores per company. They’re called “health groups”. For example, you might have a support group, a product usage group, and a CSM engagement group that you can review individually, which make up the overall customer health score.
Also, Gainsight gives you some extra precision by offering a 0-100 health score scale, whereas Planhat has 0-10.
Let’s talk scalability from three perspectives:
- Catering for the biggest companies in the world
- Starting small and growing fast
- Having additional products available at the same vendor
Catering for the largest companies
One of the big advantages of Gainsight is that it can do “pretty much anything you want” → I’ve heard this quote from several Gainsight users. With enough resources, you can make it fit even the largest & most complicated setups.
For example, Meta & HP (both have over 50k employees) use Gainsight – which says a lot. Planhat has fewer customers in the enterprise category.
Starting small and growing fast
If you’re an Essentials-sized customer right now, with ambitions to rapidly scale, Gainsight has a pretty good structure in place for exactly that.
Access to thought leadership & strategic content on best practices, in more depth / more actionable than public-facing blog content
Switching platforms is a big, expensive project. If you think you’ll encounter any limitations when using Planhat or any Gainsight alternative that would cause you to switch in the next couple of years, this is worth considering.
Multiple products at one vendor
Beyond Gainsight CS, Gainsight also has PX (a product experience/analytics tool), and DigitalHub (formerly known as InSided, a community platform).
While you can achieve something similar by integrating tools with Planhat, if you want to simplify & get everything with one vendor, then Gainsight is your only real option.
3. Gainsight’s user community is a strength
Gainsight has been around a lot longer, and they’ve done a great job building a community around the users & product. Being able to easily connect with other users is valuable.
Forums & events
Pulse is an in-person event that has been going on since 2013. It brings CS pros together for networking, learning, and sharing best practices.
Mentioned above, Gainsight has an Essentials accelerator program for smaller customers, which aims to provide a roadmap for scaling CS operations. It provides digital resources, access to communities, bootcamps, mentoring, and more.
Outside of Gainsight’s own initiatives, there are user-driven communities, such as Global Gainsight Admins, a Slack community of 2k+ Gainsight admins exchanging help & ideas.
- Pulse events
- Slack community
4. Gainsight has more engineers than Planhat has people
Planhat is a team of ~200. Gainsight has ~400 software engineers, and over 1.5k people total.
Although Gainsight’s resources are spread over multiple products, naturally, the sheer size differences still means that Gainsight can achieve a faster pace of overall progression.
AI is a great example of this – Gainsight announced in May 23 some of their beta AI features. For example, getting AI-summarized takeaways from customer surveys.
Planhat is not yet exploring AI features, but rather focusing on their core customer success offerings.
So much of what each platform can do is similar. As I've tried to make clear throughout, Gainsight is generally a little more towards the "premium" end. More expensive, more experienced required to administrate, but more potential. The trick is just figuring out if that's worth it for you, or if Planhat can handle everything you need in a simpler way.
A big part of your experience will be dictated by the people you deal with -- so if you haven't already, I'd still encourage you to speak to both teams. However, now, hopefully you're better equipped to ask the right questions and make the best long-term choice for your org. Good luck!