As companies are putting the nuts and bolts in place for their tech-touch (a.k.a. digital-led) programs, there’s one role they can’t do without: CS Ops. The CS Ops role is critical in optimizing successful tech-touch campaigns, but it can be a daunting task if you’re just getting started.
We teamed up with Insided to hold a conversation on this topic with a panel of experts: Bora Lee (Manager, Customer Enablement at ChurnZero), Lane Holt (Director of Customer Success Operations at Gainsight), Sonam Dabholkar (Customer Success Operations Director at Gong), and Mary Poppen (CCO at Glint).
The following is a lightly edited excerpt from a portion of the discussion where the panel talks about the skill sets necessary to work in CS Ops and tech-touch, how digital-led models can benefit customers across segment lines, how to start out building a CS Ops team that focuses on tech-touch, and more.
You can also watch the entire webinar by following this link.
REMCO: Lane, it sounds like you directly contribute to both the high-touch and the tech-touch side of the business at Gainsight. But other companies will usually not have shared Ops resources for both segments, instead they’ll have an Ops team, a scaled CS team, and a high-touch CS team. Was that a conscious choice that Gainsight made or something that happened naturally?
LANE: For me it was a conscious choice, but for the organization it was something that we had to come to a conclusion on as a group. As we started building out programs, we also started looking at our user journeys. It became clear that some programs would benefit customers across the board. We found that what impacts one user can improve the health of a range of different customers.
So it just made sense to take some aspects of our scaled programs and see how all customers could benefit from them. As we look at the charter for our scale team, one of the pieces of it is making it easier to be a CSM. And so some of those user journeys that we build are just making it easier for a CSM to be a CSM. Our email communications that we send are sometimes sent on behalf of our CSMs because they would’ve sent the same email anyways, or a similar enough email where it makes sense to do it at scale. The CS Ops team at Gainsight often thinks about it from the side of ‘What can we do to make it easier for a CSM to be a CSM.’ In the long run, that means potentially increasing ratios while still servicing our customers at the same level.
REMCO: The digital CSM, scaled CSM, tech-touch CSM (or whatever you want to call it) and the CS Ops manager are an interesting pair because you could argue that the two have overlapping responsibilities and require similar skill sets. For example, both team members could own setting up campaigns, looking at data, analyzing stuff, and using that info to personalize certain flows, etc.
How should the two roles work together?
MARY: Here’s how our structure works: We created something called the Glint Guided Experience as our scaled engagement model. It's meant to be a self-serve “wow” customer journey for our smaller customers who can be successful with more of a low-touch approach. But we also leverage the entire model for all segments of our customers.
Four teams support that program: 1) our CSMs, 2) our technical Success team, 3) our customer empowerment team, which is responsible for community, training, and communications, and then 4) our CS Ops team.
We have a program manager in our CS ops team who's ultimately responsible for the overall systems, automation, and reporting of the program, and then each of the roles in those 4 teams gets involved throughout the journey. So it's one program, but it's owned, in terms of deliverables, across four different sub-teams.
We apply essentially all the resources at the very beginning of the journey, regardless of a customer’s segment. This, of course, frees up our CSMs to have very strategic conversations with customers who are more complex or have multiple products, for example.
We have found it to be an incredible efficiency lift. Last year, we grew our book of business more than 20%, while not adding any additional headcount to support that business. We’ve seen an increase in our NPS and C-SAT for both the segment on strictly Glint Guided Experience and across our customer base.
LANE: Digital-led or tech-touch (I tend to call it digital-led because I believe it goes across the customer experience and segments) has been a passion of mine for years. Here’s how my team thinks about and services our digital-led model: we really focus on making sure that we're providing customers with what they need, when they need it, as well as giving customers the experience that they need for the size of organization they are.
A lot of our SMB or fast-growing customer segment will tell us, “We’re fast-growing. I can't be in meetings all the time. I just need to know what my resources are and how to access them.” At Gainsight, we’re always thinking about what the customer needs and how we can provide that in the moment they need it.
We’re not waiting for the customer to say, “Hey, I need to figure out how to do this one thing.” We are more proactive. Based on what we know about similar customers, we want to give customers the data and information they need long before they have to go looking around for it.
SONAM: I can talk a bit about how we're building things out at Gong.
At the start of this year, we built out a customer segment within our SMB segment that we're calling ‘Scale’ which is essentially evolving into a more automated, more digital-led customer journey. And basically, we build parts of the journey as we go. Every quarter we design something new, whether it's an onboarding process, an automated renewals process, or for example, we just launched the ability for customers to purchase seats in-app (which we call ‘self checkout’).
There's little bits and pieces of this customer journey that we are defining as we go. So I wouldn't say it's fully digital, but the goal of this segment is to be the test bed for a lot of these automated digital experiences. We can test them, iterate on them, and work quickly to improve them to then be able to apply and appropriately tailor these experiences, concepts, and methodologies to our upmarket segments.
To go into how we've built out this team, we have a whole CSM team who are assigned managed accounts. But we also have a manager of that team who partners very closely with an operations program manager on my team who spends most of her time designing these flows and journeys, and then measuring, iterating, and helping co-create this vision for our team.
Because of this, we have a really unique and close Ops and business partnership. I think this relationship will continue to be essential as we learn what works well for this Scale segment and then start to apply those learnings to other segments.
LANE: One thing that I want to highlight from what Sonam just said is that they iterate quickly.
That's the biggest thing I'm looking for on my team. The best CS Ops team members do things, they learn what works, they learn what doesn’t, they change those things, and they move on to improve the next program. Because if we don't do that, we're going to end up in a spot in six months or a year later where we realize we've impacted our retention rate negatively.
Being able to iterate quickly, make changes, and analyze what’s happened are key components and skill sets that managers need to look for as they're building out this team.
BORA: To build on what everybody else has said, I think it is really about a matter of magnitude.
Digital-led Customer Success can be applied across everything. What is the magnitude at which that needs to be provided if we're talking about what we call traditionally, tech-touch customers or self-service customers? What are we talking about if we go upstream to white glove service?
The processes and the definitions and the types of things that you do for a digital-led Customer Success type of program or campaign, all of that is effective. Everybody's using the base platform. Everybody's using different types of things. But the most important thing your team can do is get the right information to the right person at the right time.
And it’s on all of us to make sure that what we’re providing is value adding, so your customer never says, “Okay, I'm getting all of this information and it means nothing to me.” Everything has to benefit the customer and it must be valuable to them.
That’s the critical component of any type of digital-led campaign—what does it do for the customer at the time that customer receives it? If there's a misalignment there, I think you start to lose the customer, and that program cannot be as successful as you envisioned it to be.
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