Creating content, segmenting customers, deciding on an automation platform, looking into engagement models, understanding personas…when you’re just starting out with a Digitally-Led Customer Success motion, knowing where to begin can be the biggest obstacle.
That’s why it was refreshing to speak with Elisabeth Courland recently on the Nuffsaid podcast. The Digital CSM at Agorapulse was an integral part of launching Talentsoft’s Scale CS program and she is currently working on building Agorapulse’s digital CS motion from the ground up. Because of her experience, she is able to get tactical about the process.
In this newsletter, Elisabeth shares five easily digestible tips that any leader working on digital CS can use right away.
Tune into Elisabeth’s Nuffsaid podcast episode, if you’d rather listen than read.
TIP #1: Before jumping to tactics, listen to Product, CSMs, and existing customers to prioritize digital CS efforts
When you’re starting a Digitally-Led CS program from scratch, the first thing to do is to take a step back. Understand that you cannot deal with and implement everything you want to in the first week, so I suggest making three priorities per quarter and sticking to those priorities.
Step 2 is to look at what's already happening at your company in terms of a digital CS program. This step involves speaking with three different stakeholders:
1) Current CSMs. I send out a form to existing CSMs asking them a number of questions:
- What is the current customer journey?
- What does onboarding look like? Adoption? Retention? Expansion? Churn processes?
- What are the main responsibilities of a CSM at XYZ company? What activities aren’t in a CSMs' wheelhouse?
- What areas does a CSM add real value and where can it be automated?
2) The Product team. It’s important to speak with Product about expectations for what the customer can do with the product and what the ideal experience would look like (i.e. Digital CSMs should learn what Product wants customers to understand and be able to do first with the product.)
3) Existing customers. Contact as many customers as you can because you need to deeply understand them before you can help with digital CS. Whether it be customer advocates who are super successful with the product, or even customers that recently churned, I ask questions like:
- What is the experience like of using XYZ product?
- What was your objective? Did you reach it?
- If yes, how did you reach it?
- If not, why not? How could we have helped you?
The objective of talking to all these stakeholders is not to have a single source of truth. It's your job to see how each department, how each persona (either internal or external) views the customer journey.
Then translate all your conversations with Product, CSMs, and customers into data. That means collecting and aggregating all the feedback from stakeholders into a spreadsheet that you can use to inform your digital customer journey mapping, segmentation, & tiering, and prioritizing tasks. This process will help you better communicate with customers in a newly launched 1:many motion.
TIP #2: Don’t be afraid to use email as your main touchpoint in a Digitally-Led CS program
People are really afraid to send 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 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, or going to help them. For this to happen, you have to understand personas before sending out an email. And each email 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. Each message should add maximum value.
TIP #3: Don’t overcomplicate gathering Voice of the Customer feedback
Customer sentiment can be a tricky topic because anyone in CS knows how often we send out customer sentiment surveys. The problem is that we don't really know if we can rely on it or if it's useful.
Let's be honest, when it comes to NPS (i.e. How likely are you to recommend us on a scale from 0 to 10?), the question is inherently misleading. No one sits around and recommends software products to their friends.
In digital CS, use automation. Send a one question survey in the body of an email that customers can answer in one click.
And the question should be simple:
- Are you getting value out of our product?, OR
- This is the promise we made, and the outcome we wanted to deliver. Did you achieve that outcome?
This is dangerous because it's a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’. And if it's ‘no’, you may see churn. But if it is a ‘no’, at least you can act on it. You can say, “Okay, do you want some help? How can we help you? Should we schedule a call? Do you want more content?”
This way, at least you’ll have some visibility into an account. Don’t send surveys you won’t act on.
TIP #4: Digital CSMs and Product should work closely to communicate product changes clearly and transparently to customers
The reason your company is utilizing a digital CS approach is to give a large number of customers a great experience at scale. Your customers need to be kept in the loop. That’s why in digital CS, it’s crucial that when a new feature is launched, or the product changes customers are notified.
Product and CS can work together on the following activities so digital CS customers have a great experience:
1) As soon as a new feature is implemented, an internal presentation should be created so:
- Customer-facing teams understand the desired outcome, why the feature was developed at that particular time, and so they can test the feature. They need to be able to help their customers adopt it seamlessly.
- Customer-facing teams will then be able to address any potential issues or misunderstandings, and prepare a self-help guide, content for a webinar, etc.
2) Then, a live session or webinar should be scheduled to address and train the customers on the new feature or change. This requires the following:
- An email should be sent to the right persona so they know a new feature is available, but more importantly, how this feature will help them achieve their desired outcome.
- The webinar should present different use cases, basic setup, and gather any questions.
- A self-help guide should be available and promoted right after the webinar with use cases, best practices, setup, etc.
- As a Digital CSM, you can also create short videos to explain a feature but keep these videos should be short to remain appealing
TIP #5: When hiring for digital CS, it helps to have operationally-minded people who are comfortable with analyzing data
If you’re interested in investing more heavily in digital CS, your first few hires are important. I see a few skills that can do really well in Digitally-Led Customer Success.
#1 Data-driven: Digital CSMs shouldn’t be afraid of digging into data. To run automation and a large number of customer communications, you should be excited by looking at data.
#2 Curiosity: You need to have a desire to understand your customer deeply, and you should be good at asking for information (either from the customer or from internal departments working on the customer experience).
#3 1:1 CS experience: I think having prior experience as a high-touch CSM is also important. It’s helpful as a Digital CSM to simplify what you've experienced in the past and be able to verbalize it for this new, 1:many audience.
#4 Social: In digital CS, the ability to collaborate with other departments is crucial to you and your customer’s success. We are always teaming up with Product, Marketing, Support, Data, high-touch CS, and more.
When it comes to skills in Digital CS, I believe that everything can be learned over time. I don't have any degree in CS. I've obviously had some certifications when started, but it’s more about soft skills (like communication, organization, etc).
We are also in a world where resources are free. Everything you need to know is on the table, you just have to go look for it.
To hear more from Elisabeth, go follow her on LinkedIn.
The best resources for Customer Success teams this week
Ultimate Guide to Customer Success Org Structures
Gainsight CEO Nick Mehta breaks down some common models for CS org structures. (His pdf, shared at the bottom of the post, is worth bookmarking.)
Your Team Needs a User Manual (On You)
Everyone works differently and it helps to know how your peers or manager operate. What are their strengths and weaknesses, and their “default” ways of working? At Nuffsaid every manager shares their strengths and weaknesses openly. This article outlines how you can take a similar approach, and write a manager README.
Tips for Handling Renewals from Gong and Gainsight
Here’s a quick article worth sharing with your team. It shares a few tips CSMs can use in QBRs to reduce churn risk (e.g. “frame the renewal in a way that ‘avoids change’”).
The Silicon Valley Executive Who Coined Customer Success
Here’s an exclusive conversation with Marie Alexander, the woman who came up with the terms Customer Success and CSM. It’s a lengthy interview so jump to each guest question and Marie’s corresponding answer for some key takeaways. For instance, Wayne McCulloch asks if there were any missed opportunities in the evolution of Customer Success. She responds, “what causes me the most angst is that Customer Success became a role rather than a philosophy or a corporate goal…Instead, it should be built into the product, built into each of the processes in your company. Customer Success Management is merely ensuring the focus.”
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