How scaled CS can help your team get more done
First of three articles explaining digital CS or scaled customer success, why it's important and how to spot and leverage customer success scaling opportunities in your own organizationLearn More
Digital customer success, or scaled CS, is a relatively new term for an existing discipline - the transition of some customer success activities to more scalable workflows using automation tools, which provides personalized value to customers without spending as many manhours on direct interactions. The shift from linear, high-touch flows to scaled, automated journeys is a very wide spectrum, but we believe every company must actively find ways to make the switch wherever it is possible.
As part of working on our bi-directional workspace, we met with customer success leaders in multiple SaaS companies. One of the pains we heard repeated the most was a simple one: In traditional CS there are always too many accounts and too few CSMs, and they find themselves having to cut corners or provide less-than-optimal experiences for lack of time. It seems that while SaaS sales and marketing ecosystems have evolved plenty of robust automation and scaling solutions, customer success still relies heavily on a human touch all across the process.
This growing trend was pushed into overdrive after the onset of COVID as well as due to the recent slowing down of the SaaS economy: Startup funding is becoming harder to secure, growth rates drop across the SaaS industry, and many companies have downscaled their manpower in ways that were considered extreme just a year or two ago. In order to maintain a high quality CS experience, SaaS companies must adopt digital CS practices to compensate for the reduction in resources.
Moving to digital customer success requires careful thought and planning for several reasons - but the biggest is how specific each workflow is to the company which designed it.
Since processes and goals can vary greatly depending on the stage your company is in, the type of product and the customers for whom the product is built, each company has to build a tailored CS process rather than copy an existing model. Mapping your current CS efforts and what takes up your team’s work hours is a great starting point when trying to decide what to scale first - tackle high volume and low complexity issues first.
Naturally, since good CS workflows tie multiple departments’ operations together, this effort needs to be supported and planned for on every level of the organization and by multiple teams including support, customer experience, sales, content, community. It’s also worthwhile to look for tools that are customizable enough to change with your organization and support your new scaled CS initiatives.
To summarize, digital CS is the collection of automated processes that generate value for customers by cohort - instead of for each individual user, focusing on the highest impact and most commonly repeated issues first.
That is also why scaled customer success strategies rarely stands alone - it's great for handling groups of similar users with similar needs and taking the load off of CS teams, but there are always edge cases and special needs that automation cannot cover, so the personal touch of a professional is still crucial for most SaaS companies.
How can automation feel like personalization for the customer? How does a company replace parts of the traditional high-touch, one on one customer success workflow with a scalable lower-touch process? The game is all about scale, so as a rule, you're looking for channels where each professional can reach many customers, but where there's no two-way communication that will require their full attention.
Therefore, it's no surprise emails are a huge part of most digital CS initiatives - you can send assistive content when customers hit a product challenge, engage with upsell offers when they run out of freemium allowance, or suggest useful complementary tools based on their particular usage patterns. Triggering helpful emails for customers based on usage data and specific in-app triggers can solve issues before they ever become critical and reduce the load on your CS team.
The other category of channels is more passive, focused on making it easy for the customer to instantly find the right solutions for themselves - creating knowledge base entries, sharing webinars or tutorial videos, or setting up a helpful user community are all great ways to empower customers to 'do their own CS' and free up your organization's resources.
Traditional CS KPIs were often separate from other departments', focused on simple account metrics like churn reduction or upsell revenue for existing accounts. In contrast, digital CS ties all customer-facing teams together around product adoption and engagement, trying to build processes that involve many teams and generate value throughout the customer's lifecycle. Like any automation or optimization effort, you're going to want robust data infrastructure and full journey analytics - without data, optimizing your scaled channels will be virtually impossible.
When it comes to key indicators, the goal is to encourage customers to engage with our scaled channels - read posts, watch tutorials, respond to emails and participate in a community, therefore it's obvious that engagement is a critical metric. Engagement means different things depending on the channel - for example, you can look into your email open and click rates for email campaigns, check how far down an educational blog post customers scrolled and read, how active they are in the community, or even dig into your videos to understand whether viewers are dropping off or watching all the way through.
By optimizing engagement you can fit your content and channels closer to what your customers actually need, and when you solve real pains, your performance will rise accordingly. Getting feedback from customers via interviews or polls is another great way to fine tune your digital CS to particular needs, and if your product supports it, implementing product analytics and finding the in-app engagement signals (or drop off signals) can give you a great starting point for digital CS efforts.
Glad you’re still with us and hope you found this post helpful! In our next article, we’ll dig deeper into researching your current process, spotting scaling opportunities using web assets and getting the ball rolling in your company.
We’d like to thank Rav Dhaliwal for his insights shared for this article