Marley Wagner shared her company’s sophisticated Digital Customer Success maturity framework. Marley waslk us through each of the five stages of Digital CS maturity and cover everything from what it takes to lay the right foundations to implementing advanced digital communication channels.

If you'd prefer to listen rather than read, tune into the full episode. Otherwise, you'll find a summarized version of Marley's interview below. 



Digital CS STAGE 0 - Foundations & Prerequisites

Having these elements in place before you begin will help ensure a successful digital journey

ESG previously published four stages of Digital CS maturity, but what we realized since then is that companies need to have certain basics in place before launching a Digital CS program to enable a successful digital journey. 

We see a lot of companies that have a strong CSM organization, and their CSMs build fantastic relationships with their customers, but then for any number of reasons, they’re asked to incorporate automation and digital into their Customer Success strategy.

It's easier said than done in a lot of cases because there are foundational elements that need to be in place before a Digital CS program can get started. 

Here are the prerequisites: 

  • Automation Platform (CS or Marketing tool) 
  • Permission to Contact Customers
  • Segmentation, Tiering, Personas, and Engagement Models
  • Resources: PDFs, Web Pages, Screen Recordings, etc. 

Going through each in detail:

Customer Feedback Automation platform: This is one component that people don’t think about. What will you send automated messages out of? That system is really important.

Permission to contact your customers:  Have you considered the legal ramifications and requirements that your in-house legal team has put in place for communication? You’ll need to connect with your legal team to understand what your company's perspective is on working with existing customers.

Segmentation: Have you segmented your customers? Do you have tiering involved with that? Are there personas identified? Have you defined what the engagement model will be for those different segments, tiers, or personas? What's the best combination of automation + humans for each customer group? 

Resources: If you’re thinking about sending out emails, in-app notifications, push notifications, and other content, have you thought about what, exactly, you’ll be sending out? Do you have the resources, PDFs, webpages, screen recordings of your product, and other assets ready and available to be able to use in digital communications? 

Once these pieces are in place, you can start creating email campaigns. 


STAGE 1 - Basic Customer Success Email Campaigns

“Low hanging fruit” — start here with simple messaging that can apply to a wide swath of your customer base

Most people are hesitant to start small, especially in this area of Digital CS, I think everyone wants the moon and wants to do really complicated things, right now. I don’t recommend that. Starting small is actually a really smart way to do it.

What is the low-hanging fruit? Usually email is the simplest channel to start for two reasons: 

  1. From a technology perspective, your company already has email in place. 
  2. Your customers are likely used to interacting with you via email.

Start your Digital CS outreach with basic email campaigns. Consider this: what are the messages that everyone should be getting regardless of segment and persona? What does every customer need to know?

This could look like: 

  • A Customer Newsletter 
  • Product Announcements
  • Product Highlights (or sticky product features) 
  • Time-Based Emails 

Is there a message every single one of your customers should get 30 days after onboarding? Probably. 

When you get started with Digital CS, think about those things that are simple, that don't require a lot of complex automation, and that don't have tons of data coming into your system. We know that can be a place where you can get slowed down.

STAGE 2 - Customer Success Managers Tasks & Complex Email Automation

Automate repetitive CSM tasks  — CSMs spend less time on to-dos, more time on strategic conversations

For some companies, Stages 1 & 2 can bleed into each other. But Stage 2 is about sending more complex emails by connecting with other systems to pull in automation along with using automation to make internal stakeholders more efficient through CSM tasks and internal notifications.

Something that’s often forgotten within Digital CS is that it's not 100% customer-facing. Your automation can be so powerful for your internal team. How can you leverage the same customer messaging system to make your CSMs lives easier? Or Sales? Or Operations? 

How can you automate things like alerts? Think about a scheduling reminder for a QBR. If a CSM doesn't have to manually create a QBR reminder, how much easier is that for them? There are more complex alerts like churn risk notifications. When should someone on your team be altered if XYZ happens? 

Stage 2 also requires you to think more about usage-based emails for customers. For instance, if your data shows that it's been two weeks since a customer has logged in, you can trigger an automatic email to remind them of how long it’s been and tell them other value they may find in your product. 

In Stage 2 of Digital CS, you need to ask, ‘What does my customer’s usage of the product tell me about how I can continue to engage them and encourage them to adopt even more deeply?’

This is usually the phase that most people want to get to. And I believe as long as you can get to this stage, you’re in really good shape in terms of your Digital CS strategy.  

STAGE 3 - Self-Service Capabilities 

Enable customers to find answers & solve problems independently — both CS & Support can focus on higher priority items

Stage 3 introduces self-service capabilities in your Digital CS program. It’s an interesting stage because there may already be somebody in your org who owns a version of it. Support may own a knowledge base. Marketing might own a community.

Up until Stage 3 it’s been all about the “push” — with the emails you send out, you’re pushing information, right? But what about the pull? Where can customers go to pull information in a self-service manner? As individual consumers, we all appreciate the ability to find answers and problem solve on our own. I don't think enough B2B companies are creating that self-service environment for customers.

Your customers should be able to find answers in 1) a knowledge base or 2) from other users in something like a community. I know community is continuing to increase in popularity and prevalence in the CS world — that's a good sign. 

STAGE 4 - Advanced Channels

With a strong foundation in place, you can explore new and innovative communication channels and methods

Stage 4 of Digital CS is about those advanced, fancy, shiny channels. Like in-app notifications. You’ll likely push similar messaging as your usage-based emails straight into your product, whether that's a pop-up or a walkthrough guide. Some companies choose to build this directly into their product by working with their developers, while others use third-party tools like Pendo or WalkMe.

This is a super powerful channel. We always talk about meeting customers where they are. Guess what? Customers are in your product. Talk to them there. 

You could even consider new channels like Slack or text messaging. And more and more in the CS landscape you’ll see new tools that can do above and beyond crazy things: AI in CS, advanced if/then logic, etc. 

So if you have your CS platform in place, you have a great foundation. The next step is to think about different technologies to utilize on top of that foundation to continue engaging with your customers in all the ways that they want to be talked to.



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