Customer Success at Scale: 4 steps to build the right mindset in your organization

Customer success has been a trendy topic in the last years. The necessity of saas companies to deliver success to their customers in order to grow and prosper has led a mindset change in every subscription business. Consequently, most of the saas organizations have evolved their customer care departments into proper customer success structures with many people holding the job title of customer success manager (CSM).

Being a customer success manager is essentially getting to know your customer’s definition of success and use the resources your organization has made available in order to provide it. These resources can be your own time, education content, user voice portal, communities, your product team, professional services, … Ordinarily, you will have a QBR calendar, organize your renewal dates, monitor customer support tickets to ensure your customer is happy and manage crises and conflicts it may occur. At this point, you are probably executing it at some level, but let me bring you one certainty: customer success is not just about having customer success managers. In fact, customer success can be delivered even without any customer success manager.

Having the same service level for all your different customers may not be cost-effective, especially if your price range is broad. At one point you will segment your customer base according to some criteria, most companies do it based on how much the customer pays (those who pay more also receive more customer success investment) in order to protect recurrent revenue and get smaller customers to grow bigger. That’s when you will start to consider that some customers should not have a customer success manager of their own — nevertheless you still need to steer these customers towards success, right? That’s the challenge. Here are some key points to keep track in order to scale your customer success delivery.

1 — Bad fit Customers Should Stop Coming to You

Bad fit customers set your customer success managers to fail: CSMs invest more resources on those customers, deal with more crises than usual and those customers churn faster. Bringing bad fit customers is already a mistake in terms of brand, resource management, and team leadership; and they are your biggest challenge when you need to scale.

You should remember sales representatives are told to do one thing: closing deals. Always closing, as they say. If a lead comes to the sales rep, he/she will work to close that deal no matter what. You should not fight sales reps, but take a step back and try to find out first why those leads are being handed over to reps. Which are your criteria to qualify a lead? Are sales reps giving feedback about the kind of deals they receive from marketing or sales development? Analyse your whole sales funnel and check where you are allowing bad fit customers to go down the funnel.

Moreover, if you have a high touch product and you are moving towards a low touch approach with new customers, the chances of your marketing team has built a premium service branding awareness are high, therefore you should monitor those customers that are with you just for the CSMs services — they will not make it in a scalable model. Be sure that you are marketing your saas as a software, not a service pack or the promise of success with little or no work.

2 — Get to know which parts of your customer journey depends on your customer success managers

A revealing exercise is to draw your customer journey “as is” — it means, don’t try to define your ideal scenario, just face your reality. Write down the proactive outreaches your organization has with your customers staring on signing the contract, passing through onboarding phase, then adoption, growth, expansion, renewal and churn request. How many of those proactive outreaches are operated by a CSM, instead of the product itself or some automated messaging?

Have it clear where you can replace the human touch with a tech touch in a way that delivers the same customer experience — or even a better experience. Can you try first sending an automated email and, if necessary, escalate the situation to the CSM? Working on one phase after the other, testing and learning how your customers respond is the best way to scale starting today.

3 — Build a World-class Customer Support Organization

Your reactive response to customers is paramount to build a relationship, hence that’s when they need you most. Whether the customer has a high touch or a no touch service level, they expect to be valued and well treated — they are humans after all.

Notwithstanding, customer support is also one of your main levers to scale your customer success organization. When customers feel confident they will get proper help from your support team, they will refrain from demanding support activities from your CSMs. That’s even more critical when you are building a tech touch or no touch service level — customer support may be the only way to get in contact with your company, and if it doesn’t work they may have to appeal to social media in order to get your attention.

4 — Be Sure There is a Feedback Channel from your Customers to your Product Team

We expect our CSMs to represent their customers throughout the organization. It means they will bring their customers frustrations to the product team and follow whether the roadmap is evolving to be what their customers need or not. But is it the most scalable way to get product feedback?

If you will start to scale starting with those small accounts, have in mind they will be hardly represented to your product team as they used to be when they had more human attention from a CSM. Conversely, small accounts can count as being the majority of your customers; which makes them critical for being represented in your product roadmap. How can we solve it?

Investing in community management and user voice portal can be suitable options. You can even empower your product managers to interact with the customers themselves in order to democratize the customer communication and make the customers feel important.

Scaling success delivery depends very much on your business choices, but these steps should help you to have a start point towards a more productive customer success organization. What are your learnings about scaling customer success so far? Let us know commenting below!

Paulo M P dos Santos

Written by

Customer Success Advisor @ Resultados Digitais