These days, the practice of Customer Success finds itself at an interesting crossroad. The importance and responsibility of the field are growing, yet the budget increases don’t seem to follow suit. At some point, you as a customer success manager might start to notice that you are spreading thin trying to take care of all your customers. You might find yourself being more reactive to customer’s requests and finding less time to plan activities to help manage your customer’s journey. It might be tempting to try and catch up with all the work by working more hours, but to solve these issues - it is time for your CSM team to scale.
Scaling means doing more without hiring more customer success managers. A common way to approach scaling is through process automation and leveraging technology. There are many ways to apply technology to your customer success playbooks to scale your business. The proper Customer Success term for incorporating a technology to automate the client journey is typically referred to as “tech-touch” or “No Touch” engagement model. Most of my clients, apply a tech-touch engagement model to one of the following customer stages:
Onboarding - To those who have just started using your product or service
Adoption & Expansion: Specifically to those with too small annual recurring revenue or with a large number of users
In an ideal situation, your company will have assigned a customer success manager to each account, but such allocation of resources is usually too expensive to be realistic. As such, many of my clients choose to apply a tech-touch approach beginning with the onboarding of new clients. This is a common practice, especially at SaaS companies who have thousands of users or have a large customer base with low ARR. Infusing automation into the onboarding does not only contribute to the scalability of the customer success team, it also helps your company improve profitability, reducing costs as well as improving the overall user experience.
The ensure a customer's success, it’s important to educate your customers on the value of your solution as soon as onboarding begins. When applying a tech-touch approach, this might become a bit more difficult to accomplish. Since you know a lot less about your user, it’s harder to customize your value campaigns and make sure you communicate the ones that are most relevant to each user. To make up for that, two things are important:
Tracking usage and other client data in one central database
Creating automated customer messages that are relevant and timely
One of the most typical tech-touch initiatives my clients apply to new customers is the welcome email.
A well written welcome email can make the difference between a client and an advocate. To make the user feel taken care of, consider sending the email using a real Customer Success Manager (versus a generic email address, such as: CSM@yourcompany.org). While this might not always be possible using any marketing automation solution, most customer success solutions will offer this capability.
In addition, many of my clients will introduce automation to:
An Email campaign throughout the onboarding process to increase perceived value and awareness to additional feature
In-app messages based on usage patterns
NPS surveys at the end of the implementation process
Calls to action when onboarding is taking too long to complete
Updates to the customer’s lifecycle stage (most of my clients use “Adoption”)
Record of the date in which the onboarding has been completed
If possible, monitor data patterns during the onboarding process to help identify when anything goes wrong as early as possible. Include billing, survey results, usage, support tickets, engagement with your email campaigns, etc. Note that if your customer displays leading indicators of churn risk, automated messages will only make everything worse. In such cases, engaging in person is a much more effective approach.
Adoption and Expansion Playbooks
Seamless experience of your products and services is always important, whether your client is strategic or small. In fact, it is vital to cater to different users personas. Many customers go online to do some research before they implement a new feature or try a new use case. When searching for information about your solution, your clients expect fast and straightforward answers to their questions regarding features, use cases, etc. If that information is not easily available to them, it might turn the customer away. With technology like in-app messages, you can be available for all your users and be more responsive and timely about answering their questions. In the end, it is about engaging with the customer enabling them to get the answers they need to increase adoption.
Furthermore, you may want to consider having your customer success managers contributing to your online community and knowledge base center, on an ongoing basis. This can be another way you could leverage your team’s time in a more scalable way. If they are free from answering the same questions or preaching the same use cases over and over again, they can focus on proactive activities like creating strategic account plans and proactively reaching out to more customers.
While there are many ways to increase adoption, to properly scale your customer success efforts, you will need to first and foremost, get your customer segmentation right. A tech-touch enablement model is usually applied to low-value clients, so the first step to scaling your team would be to figure out what customers fit into that cohort.
A tech-touch engagement model fits those low-value types of customers perfectly because they contribute only a small fraction of the annual recurring revenue, but still require some customer care in order to ensure they see value, adopt, renew, expand and advocate for you. A tech-touch engagement model enables you to automate some touch points and then follow up in person as needed. In such cases, applying automation to manual processes may include e-mails to congratulate your clients on key milestones or sharing usage reports that demonstrate value achieved. Such initiatives are highly appreciated by customers because they show progress and development. For example, SumoMe sends out a weekly summary demonstrating how many new subscribers had been gained, alongside other metrics to justify the investment in their solution.
Automating Customer Success playbooks might seem impersonal and many are of the opinion that strong customer relationships cannot be built using a tech-touch engagement model. That is not entirely true. As long as the messages are timely and relevant, customers will feel taken care of. However, mistakes and inconsistencies in the message can backfire and turn the customer away.
As we covered in this blog, a tech-touch approach can be implemented at any stage of a customer lifecycle. Potential and onboarding customers might need a mix of tech-touch and personal communication, while low-value customers that have been with your company for a while will require mostly a tech-touch approach.
Furthermore, there are a few key points that apply at any stage. Bottom line, your customer wants to feel taken care of. That means that even an automated outreach needs to have a purpose and be relevant. Sloppy communication that mismatches any other messages sent to the customer paints a picture of you not caring about them.
Now we want to hear from you
What kind of tech-touch initiatives do you have experience with and how have they helped your team? Let us know in the comments below.
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