Digital Customer Success does NOT equal Tech Touch!
Digital Customer Success is an engagement strategy that can be used with customers in SMB, Mid Market or Enterprise accounts. Adding digital into your customer journey will create better experiences for all customers.
We’ve interviewed dozens of CS leaders about their approach to digital CS, we shared insights on the Nuffsaid podcast, and today we’re bringing the best of what we learned.
❌ Don’t try to automate everything at once
Dickey Singh, CEO at Cast.app — “When you’re starting out your digital CS program, remember that you don't have to boil the ocean. A lot of people think ‘let's automate everything.’ You don't have to do that. You can start by automating smaller pieces like the QBR or a playbook for a specific segment. And then you can iteratively digitize additional touchpoints, playbooks, or segments.”
Marley Wagner, VP of Marketing & Digital CS at ESG — “There are foundational elements you need to have in place before you can even think about launching a digital CS program. Here are the prerequisites:
- 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.
- Legal permissions. Make sure you comply with your Legal team’s requirements for customer communication.
- Segmentation. Have you defined your segments, tiers, and 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 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 move up to Stage 1 and beyond of the Digital CS maturity model.”
✅ Do consider how your Digitally-Led CS strategy can create better experiences with customers of every segment
Lane Holt, Director of Scale Programs at Gainsight — “This strategy is reflected in our Scale programs team structure. Our team includes retention and adoption marketing. It includes customer advocacy. We have a 1:many Ops team. We have one person who handles our in-app messages, another person works on our customer emails, and then I have a team of CSMs who support our customers. All together we make up our Scale programs. Only a small portion of our team is dedicated to that SMB and fast growth segment.”
❌ Don’t work in a Digital CS silo
Brian LaFaille, Global Lead of SaaS CS Programs at Google (Looker) — “There are three key teams that influence our Digital CS program at Looker:
- Customer Marketing. They’re responsible for the messaging, the copy, and the things that we want to send out to customers.
- Product. Anytime we're trying to do anything in the product, we need to make sure that it fits the style, guidelines, and all the things that go into the product experience itself.
- Customer Success. CS knows the customer better than anyone and can bring that voice of ‘What are the customers asking? Where do they have questions? Where can we add value as customers start to mature in their journey with Looker? ’ Customer Success hears all this feedback on the front lines.
“These three teams are very collaborative. I have a weekly sync with a PM and a Customer Marketing manager to really dissect what the customer experience needs to look like. While Customer Success is accountable to and owns the cadence of how and when customers are communicated to, I'm not a copywriter, right? So I lean on the experience of the Marketing team and all their design chops to make sure that the messaging resonates and fits in with the rest of the brand. Meanwhile, I'm not a product expert, either. I lean on our PM to fix any of the hashing issues or things like that that we might have in anonymizing user data, for instance. With our experience combined, we’ve become a really powerful trio.”
✅ Do push to find new and innovative ways to interact with your customers
Meenu Agarwal, SVP of Customer Success at VMware — “At VMware, we absolutely want to meet our customers in the moment. That's where digital gives us a lot of power and capability. We've launched a collaboration platform called VMware Customer Connect, which helps provide a very personalized, holistic experience for our customers at different engagement points. There are three elements that make up Customer Connect. First, it’s a central hub and repository where customers can access any information they need—be it product, support, daily operational tasks, self-help education, knowledge, or community.
“Customer Connect is also personalized. For example, if a customer is onboarding they will see content relevant to getting started. As a customer moves further along their consumption and adoption journey their experience will change in the platform. We make it very tailored to the user.
“The third element of this platform is our use of advanced technology. We have AI components to give customers even more in-the-moment capabilities and so we can sense what they're trying to do. We want to accelerate customer outcomes at the end of the day.”
❌ Don’t assume automated content equals a great low-touch experience
Dickey Singh, CEO at Cast.app — “In most digital CS programs, customers end up turning off the emails that you're sending them because it’s not meaningful content. You're just overwhelming them with content. The same thing goes with dashboards. We have overwhelmed our customers with dashboards and now we’re overwhelming them with pointless emails, reports, and pdfs.”
✅ Do lean on 1:1 interactions to fix engagement problems within the low-touch customer segment
Brian LaFaille, Global Lead of SaaS CS Programs at Google (Looker) — “At Looker the top 3% of our customers work with named CSMs, but everyone else, north of 3,300 customers, are in a Pooled model. Sometimes these customers need a proactive human element from Looker. That’s when we deploy a light-touch team member for a short burst engagement. We're able to rotate the customer out of the pool and move them into the light-touch CSM’s portfolio for a short period of time, so they get that extra white-glove experience for a brief stint.
"The customer is ideally driving towards some desired outcome (i.e. to roll out to some new department, a data migration, escalation, etc.) Then they roll off. And we try to be as transparent as possible with our customers about this. In the CSMs opening email they’ll say, ‘Hey, I'm going to be here with you for seven days. I really want to make sure that we're able to accomplish X, Y, and Z. Here are the resources I'm going to use to do so. When can you meet?’ This approach usually lights a fire under the customer to engage with us because they know there's a time limit associated with that engagement.”
❌ Don’t be afraid to send automated emails
Elisabeth Courland, Digital CSM at Agorapulse — “Digital CSMs are often afraid of sending emails because they worry that either 1) the emails won't be well written, or 2) emails will get lost in customers’ inboxes. Here’s what you have to do: make sure that when you send an email, it provides maximum value (don’t pitch, or say obvious things).
“We all have email and we all have to weed through at least 10 spam emails a day. It's exhausting—honestly, it’s a nightmare. So when customers receive an email, they have to get the added value. They have to immediately see how the message is serving them. For this to happen, you have to understand personas before sending out an email and each message must provide a clear call to action (CTA).
“When you’re the sender of emails, it's never about your company. It's never about the product. It's about your customer and his pain point. At the end of the day, no one cares about the product or its features. A product is just a way to achieve an objective. So my advice is to not speak about your product. Instead, let your emails be the advisor that your customers don't have enough money to pay for. Train your customers that your emails are always worth reading.”
✅ Do look out for two major pitfalls when building out a Scaled program
Dan Ennis, CS Scale Team Manager at monday.com — “I see two big pitfalls people can fall into when developing a digital CS program. The first is making assumptions about your data. That’s the quickest way to ensure your data isn’t valuable. It can be really easy to see high numbers or product usage and then assume that indicates healthy customers.
“It’s also important to remember to avoid using 1:1 intervention thoughtlessly. If you have experience as a CSM, your natural go-to card is often to jump in and help customers 1:1. But that’s not necessarily the right move when building out a digital CS program. I always encourage others to intentionally hold that piece back a little. It’s a tool, not the tool. Later on you can leverage that 1:1 intervention for the truly strategic components, and focus on how to automate intervention within your Scale program.”
❌ Don’t make life harder on high-touch CSMs
Lane Holt, Director of Scaled Programs at Gainsight — “One of the key pillars for our team is to lighten the load for CSMs. How can we make it easier to be a CSM here at Gainsight? Part of accomplishing that is to help send the right message, to the right customer, at the right time. For example, my team helped develop the communication strategy around our event Pulse alongside our Marketing team.
“We sent out an announcement about the tracks that would be available this year at the event. Then we followed up with an email on behalf of high-touch CSMs. That email said, based on the user’s persona, ‘These are the tracks that you should attend this year.’ The results were incredible—some of our quietest stakeholders responded, thanking the CSM for sharing this information.
“By automating this small piece for our CSMs, we helped save their time and energy in a big way. And we hit our registration numbers earlier than we've ever hit them before because of our thoughtful approach to sending messages to our users.”
✅ Do take your working high-touch model to inform your Digitally-Led CS practices
Dickey Singh, CEO at Cast.app — “Of course, you cannot replicate white-glove experiences in environments when you have thousands of customers and not enough CSM coverage. So I recommend automating the top positive interactions or moments of truth of your named CSM experience to provide a great experience for customers at scale. For instance, take the best playbooks from your top 1:1 named accounts and consider digitizing those. That’s how you can scale this program.”
The best resources for Customer Success teams this week
Hiring Is the Lifeblood of Growing Companies
Every piece of content Boaz Maor, CCO at talech, produces is worth your time. In this article, he gives a series of detailed pointers to keep in mind when hiring in today’s competitive market. Here’s a good one: “Your hiring process conveys your culture. Are you quick? Comprehensive? Organized? Consistent with your company values?”
The Rising Necessity of Today’s Chief Customer Officer
“The CCO’s ultimate goal is to ensure the customer experience is a positive one that is also lucrative to both sides. Improving an organization’s CX can be one of the easiest ways to improve the bottom line. According to research, a 5% increase in the customer retention rate can lead to a more than 25% increase in profit.” CCO at Talkdesk, Kieran King, on the ever increasing need for strategic and influential Customer Success leaders.
Take Five (Stop Meeting Back-to-Back-to-Back!)
“As my clients begin this next chapter in which remote work will be a normal part of their daily or weekly routine, a surprising number of them are persisting with a practice that I view as one of the most toxic by-products of the hastily arranged transition to remote work at the start of the pandemic: Back-to-back-to-back meetings, without a single break in between, sometimes for hours on end.” Here’s an executive coach’s look at a problem and his simple (but not easy) solution.
Customer Health Check Spreadsheet
Bryan Plaster, CEO of Complete CSM, is giving access to his customer health check spreadsheet that he’s been using and iterating on for 10 years. Just comment on his post to get this great tool.
Success Happy Hour is a weekly newsletter for Customer Success leaders. Each week we feature one digestible piece of advice or a framework from a top Success leader, along with the best resources from that week. Subscribe here.