I had the great opportunity to serve earlier this week as a panelist on UserIQ’s “Customer Success & Trends for 2017” webinar alongside Alex Obikhod of VMWare and Lawton Ursrey of Sage. We had a great turnout and discussed some of the most pressing trends in Customer Success (recording link to follow). The one trend that is foremost in my mind, and is applicable to every trend we discussed, is CS scalability.
As most subscription companies now understand the revenue impact of CS teams, the focus has shifted to how to implement a scalable and financially viable CS organization. Ideally, you hire 1:1 CSM on each account. Unless all of those accounts are majorly profitable, enterprise accounts, that strategy is not scalable.
So how can you scale CS without sacrificing the success of your customers? I argue the answer is found in segmentation, automation and excogitation.
The first step is to realize that not all your customers should be treated exactly the same. While this is a no-brainer in modern marketing, it still lags in post-sale interactions. We focus on Customer Journey Mapping, but not all customer journey’s will be the same. It’s easy to segment by market size (SMB, Mid-Market, Enterprise) as those fall into nice ARR buckets and often have very different business structures for CS engagement. However, look for more elegant segmentation models that may involve vertical/industry or even domain/function expertise.
Again, something that is taken as gospel in modern marketing is not as aptly applied in post-sale customer interactions. Based on your segmented customer journeys, you need to identify all of the touch points that can be automated. The success keys to these automated actives are personalization and value reinforcement. For example, a training email/in-app message that is triggered based on feature usage (or non-usage) should be addressed to the individual user and make reference to the activity that triggered the email. The rest may be more general audience, but it should resonate in context with user activity and provide value in content.
excogitate (verb): 1) to think out; devise; invent; 2) to study intently and carefully in order to grasp or comprehend fully.
This last effort is part art and part science. This involves using technology and repeatable processes to know when and how much time a CSM should invest with any particular customer. By providing these calls-to-action to your CSMs, along with segmentation and automation, you help them maximize the return on their invested time with a larger assigned customer base. Instead of the old rule-of-thumb, 1 CSM : $2MM ARR ratio, you can start cranking that ratio higher to 1:$3MM or even 1:$5MM ARR, without sacrificing quality of service nor retention rates.
Sounds easy right? The reality is that this is a very time-intensive process. Just remember to fast fail, regroup, retry and realize incremental successes. The long-term results will significantly outweigh any short-term pain.