In this newsletter, you’ll get an interesting sneak peek at Jyo Shukla’s new book about building customer-centricity into the DNA of your organization’s growth strategy.
The excerpt below is from Chapter 8 “Delivering Value at Scale” where Jyo breaks down the importance of personalization within a digital Customer Success program using the HEART framework (Humanize, Empathize, Align, Respond, Track).
We are fans of this approach, especially the suggestion to actually ask the customer about their experience with your company and product.
Customer Success Mindset is offered on Amazon in both physical and Kindle versions.
Delivering Value at Scale
I love automation! It is such an amazing and powerful way to save time, increase efficiency and help people focus on things that need their attention by taking a few repeatable tasks off their hands. And being the forward-thinkers that they are, SaaS companies across the world have leveraged the power of automation to scale touchpoints with their customers.
The tech-touch motion, also popularly known as digital Customer Success, is a game changer for companies looking to scale their CS program.This strategy makes use of automated touchpoints via digital channels to deliver success outcomes to customers.
I love automation! (not a typo, I said it again because I really do love it) But, like most of us, I’m also very frustrated with unwanted emails, webinar invites, SMSes, and other forms of digital outreach coming my way, even from brands I love and constantly buy from. Because all of them are generalized, they mostly don’t speak to what’s important to me.
"If your digital customer success strategy means sending a flurry of emails with generic information after someone signs up and pays for your product, it is highly likely that you are clogging your customers’ inboxes with irrelevant information."
They are more likely to ignore all of it, which means even if you send them something relevant, they might miss it because they simply wouldn’t care to read it.
I recently joined a popular online forum for professionals. Within the first couple of days of joining, I received an email that looked like it came from the founder of the community, asking me what are the main goals that I’d like to achieve from my membership. It was a great email and though I knew the founder didn't write it on their own, it was a great example of a digital touchpoint and I was quite impressed. Given the intent of the email was to hear from me, I responded and sent them a couple of things I’d like to achieve from my time and interactions in the forum. Guess what happened next - nothing!
And I don't mean anything as I didn't hear back, I did. But it was not in response to my email to say my goals had been acknowledged or even something relevant to the things I had stated in regards to my goals. It was just another generic email that was probably “email number 2” sent out to a new user. What followed was exactly what you’d imagine, a series of templated updates, none of which really spoke to me as a member of that community. Disappointing right? It made me wonder, would I have had lower expectations if I hadn’t been asked what I wanted to achieve and still have received a generic mix of relevant and irrelevant content?
This is the perfect example of the right intentions turned into undesirable results for your brand image because the implementation of the idea did not take the customer’s needs and the importance of closing the feedback loop into account.
"How do you scale trust and operationalize the empathy displayed during human interactions in the digital world?"
So, the biggest question isn’t—do you need a digital CS motion? The answer to that is yes, definitely! The big question is—how do you scale your CS program in a way that keeps the basic intent of CS alive, which is to retain and grow your customers by delivering value and helping them achieve their outcomes? And most importantly, how do you scale trust and operationalize the empathy displayed during human interactions in the digital world?
A good first step is to start simple. Like every other process or strategy you build, there is a maturity curve to digital or low-touch / no-touch models for CS, too. Instead of trying to automate everything, start with a few repeatable tasks that can be digitized.
Many things you have done in your CS strategy so far will help you in taking the next steps in the digitization of your CS program including:
- Your customer journey: A good digital strategy for Customer Success begins with your users. A digitally-led model for CS should focus on the journey of the end users and how you can guide them towards their outcomes using meaningful content. From a self-serve onboarding to continual self-serve touchpoints, and even automated renewals (we’ll talk more about these in the next chapter), look at parts of your user journey that can be digitized.
- Customer data: Your customer data makes your strategy for digital Customer Success smarter and more meaningful. Sending communications to a customer after certain moments that define activity or inactivity can trigger meaningful action on the customer’s end. For example, you can send an email helping the customer with some self-serve material with next steps once they complete their product setup successfully. On the other hand, if a certain period of time has passed and the customer still hasn’t completed their setup, you could send communication offering resources and even manual help from your team if they need it.
- Account segmentation: Your account segmentation strategy can become a great feed into your digital CS program. As your customer base grows, the volume of their activities, goals, and outcomes become larger. Handling such a large volume of behavior patterns can be quite challenging, and that’s where your segmentation strategy comes into play. You can group customers according to commonalities in their sentiments, goals, outcomes, interests, etc, and tailor communications you send to them based on the segments they belong to. It makes sending relevant content at scale so much easier.
The above points make it really clear that your high-touch strategy has a great role to play in your low-touch / no-touch strategy for Customer Success. It also indicates that a digital CS program is not just for customers in the mid or low-tier revenue segments. When done right, this program can serve your strategic and high-value accounts equally well.
The HEART of Digital Customer Success
There are several low-touch or no-touch ways to execute your digital Customer Success strategy, ranging from but not limited to emails, webinars, ask-me-anything sessions, customer summits, customer communities, social media etc. Irrespective of the medium of delivery, the same core components that make your high-touch Customer Success program a success are also the heart of your digital customer strategy. HEART is an acronym for Humanize, Empathize, Align, Respond, and Track. Let’s look at this in more detail:
Humanizing digital CS is a crucial step. People can often tell if a communication sent to them is coming from a real human being or an automated process. They are also more likely to respond if they think it’s coming from an actual person. Think of the welcome email I mentioned in the example I stated earlier in the chapter, asking about my goals. It looked like it came from the founder’s email address, urging the addressee to respond and asking very clear questions about their goals. That’s how you want your digital communications to look like (it was the only great part of my experience in that whole scenario!).
Stop using no-reply or generic email addresses when corresponding with your customers. Sending emails from addresses that customers can respond to by simply replying to the email sent to them are much more seamless than no-reply addresses that redirect customers to look elsewhere for help if they need it.
Secondly, never lose the human touch. Letting your customers know that they can contact one of your actual team members if they need to speak with a human being is very reassuring and encourages two-way communication. The digital world can often be a lonely one, despite the vast majority of information available. A bit of a human touch when it’s needed can make all the difference.
Empathy is a huge buzzword in the CS industry, and while most organizations promise empathy, very few are actually able to live up to the hype. So, how do we make our digital touchpoints empathetic? It starts with the little details such as simplicity in delivery, ease of use in your resources and staying in context when it comes to your customers’ needs.
Keeping these things in mind will enable you to tailor your touchpoints in a way that customers feel like they’re receiving value in a timely manner, make it clear and easy for them to understand how they can make your product work for them, and they walk out of that experience (whether its an email, a webinar or a help page on your website) feeling like it was a good use of their time. Your digital content can help nurture positive emotions if it is clear, easily accessible and well-aligned with what customers need.
Alignment is important both internally and externally. Internal alignment is necessary to keep track of the outreach to your customers via different channels and from different teams to ensure they’re not receiving duplicate information or similar instances of messaging through different methods (it’s the quickest way to end up in your customers’ spam folder).
When it comes to aligning with customers, the series of conversations created through your digital touchpoints should speak to their needs and outcomes. Again, it goes back to understanding your customers well and ensuring relevance in your communication strategy.
If your digital touchpoints ask your customers a question, or for feedback, please don’t let them feel that it goes into a blackhole. You wouldn’t leave your customers hanging if they opened a support ticket, gave you a phone call, or had a conversation with you in person. Your digital strategy needs to replicate that behavior.
"Opening up the channel for two-way communication and responding to your customers is a great way to scale trust."
You know your customer’s goals and you’ve sent them resources and information that you think will help them achieve their desired outcomes. But do you have a way to track if they actually did? You can rely on your customer health and usage data to predict the answer to this question, or, better still, you can ask the customer.
Use feedback mechanisms to track whether they were able to accomplish what they wanted to using your product and how your digital touchpoints played a role in that journey, and how you can improve. If you’re using self-serve materials, be sure to track which ones are being used by customers. Closing the loop and showing that you care about your customer’s results even when it’s through a scaled program shows your customers that they matter to you.
The insights and analytics that come from tracking your customers’ interactions with your digital touchpoints are a gold mine of information for continually improving your overall program.
The intelligence in automation and artificial intelligence comes from humans who create these programs. As such, your digital programs continually improve by learning from human interactions. Even when you’re leading with digital touchpoints, make sure you make it easy for your customers to contact a human when they need to. This is a key part of making the digital-first experience seamless for your customer base. These simple options instill positive emotions and behaviors in your customers, even when they’re not always talking to you in person.
You will also always have customers in every segment that are unresponsive to any form of outreach, but that doesn’t mean they need you any less. I had one such customer who hadn’t responded to any emails, marketing outreach, webinar invites, survey, and feedback requests in months. Their usage stats showed that they were logging in and using our platform (less than regularly, but this was the only sign of a heartbeat their sentiment was showing).
So, I picked up the phone and gave them a call. I was surprised when they said they hadn’t been receiving any communications from our team. A bit of a nice chat followed by a gentle request for investigation from their end revealed that their “very advanced” company email filters were somehow blocking all communications from our company’s email domain. My chat with them revealed that they were very happy with what our product did for them. They were the kind of customers that kept quiet, used what they needed, and didn’t have the time to go exploring the product beyond what was important to them. But the point here is that we would have never found out, had it not been for that one phone call from a very curious person in the CS department who wanted to know why there was no response to any outreach going their way.
So, my suggestion to all my SaaS-y friends is to never forget the humans at both ends of the automation. When planned and executed well, your digital-led (and human-supported) strategy can not only increase retention but also lead to increased advocacy and expansion across your account base.
The best resources for Customer Success teams this week
How Are We Going to Deal With This Economy?
I believe now is the time to invest in Customer Success, not reduce team size.
Nick Mehta thinks you have to focus on strategies to make your product more "sticky".
Predicting a Stakeholder Change
Guy Galon, VP of CS at Hysolate, shares a great framework to help predict the “stakeholder role change” scenario. This is one of the better articles I’ve read from the CS space recently.
Stop Overcomplicating It: The Simple Guidebook to Upping Your Management Game
“Managers are failing everywhere, and no one is helping.” Here’s a First Round Review article focusing on the lessons within Chief People Officer, Russ Laraway’s, new book titled When They Win, You Win. He claims that a simpler management approach is needed today where leaders concentrate on the “big 3” elements of leadership including helping their team members with direction, coaching, and career.