How 3 high-growth companies think about scaling customer success

Oct 6, 2016 · 7 min read

As your product evolves and larger accounts come on board, how can your customer success team meet these new needs without ignoring smaller customers?

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Your customer success and support teams are integral to the growth of your business. They ensure clients are on the path to success with your product — expanding client LTV and minimizing churn.

But as your offerings become more complex and you acquire larger clients, scaling high-quality customer service is hard.

Big deals often require more hand-holding and attention than the self-serve customers who’ve gotten you this far, reducing the amount of time your team can devote to smaller clients. In turn, your smaller clients begin to feel like .

If you want self-serve users to stick around alongside the enterprise customers coming on board, each type of user will need their own clear roadmap to success.

Here’s how real customer success and support teams — at high-growth companies like Intercom, Salesloft, and here at Calendly — have scaled their efforts to meet the needs of high-level accounts without damaging the experience for self-serve users.

Pressed for time? Use these key takeaways:

  1. The job one customer needs your product to do may be entirely different than what another customer needs. Start segmenting your customers based on what they need your product to do.
  2. Determine which behaviors have repeatedly made past clients successful, so your team can guide new clients in each segment toward those same behaviors in a scalable, yet relevant way.
  3. Create targeted self-serve resources and onboarding campaigns to guide each segment toward those “success” behaviors.
  4. Switching from unsegmented or purely reactive support to defined customer journeys can be difficult. Give your team a framework for passing customers to the right department or resource.

Break your customers into different segments

In the early days, when everyone is scrambling and you’re still learning about your users, your team may give all customers the same level of service.

But of course, not all your customers are the same. Their needs will vary based on umpteen factors, including:

  • Their role
  • Their industry
  • Whether they’ve purchased the product for their own use, or for their team to use

Over time, it’s important to break your customer base into segments based on their needs, size, and the actions they must take to be successful. Drift provides a helpful visual of how customers of the same product might differ, based on these and other factors:

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From Drift’s slide deck

As an in-house example, we initially divided our customers into segments based on the types of meetings they need to schedule: demos with prospects, success calls with clients, interviews with candidates, advising or tutoring sessions with students, networking lunches or coffee chats with colleagues, etc.

More recently, we’ve added another level to our segmentation: the number of licenses a customer purchases.

We know, for example, that a large sales team using Calendly to will need more custom training and implementation than a freelancer using Calendly to manage a handful of clients.

Sorting customers of varying sizes into different segments enables us to…

Identify the actions each segment must take to be successful

Segmentation enables your customer success and support teams to identify patterns across a large, varied user base.

By determining which behaviors have repeatedly made past clients successful, your team can guide new clients in each segment toward those same behaviors.

For example, that clients who import custom data into their platform are much more likely to have a higher annual contract value (ACV), and to stay with the product longer. Armed with this information, their customer success team can guide clients to import that data at the outset of the relationship.

“We can ensure each new customer reaches those key ‘aha’ moments that much faster, and that they continue to move toward the right success metrics,” says Brooke Goodbary, Customer Success Manager at Intercom.

Create bite-sized content to lead individual users to those actions

Segmentation also empowers your team to scale their efforts. Once they know which features and best practices are most valuable to each segment, they can create self-serve resources and onboarding campaigns that guide each segment to the “right” actions — without sounding irrelevant or generic.

For example, Salesloft analyzed months of support tickets to identify the top five roadblocks preventing their biggest user segment from onboarding successfully. Most of these roadblocks were very basic, simple actions users could take themselves — if only someone had the time to show them why and how.

So they created a series of 2-minute videos, each designed to guide a new user through those actions, and delivered those videos to new users in a drip campaign.

“Tier 1 tickets have dropped drastically since we launched those videos,” said Katie Rogers, Salesloft’s VP of Customer Success. “Plus, our customers love them. They can speed through the series as quickly as they want, or go back a week later and review one if they forgot how to do something.

In turn, they get value from the product so much faster, and my team is freed up to focus on high-level accounts without leaving smaller accounts to fend for themselves.”

Map out the success journey for high-ACV customersand decide who on the team owns that journey

Once you’ve automated most of the journey to success for your lowest tiers, your team can spend more time driving higher-tier customers toward successful actions.

Larger teams often have more specific use cases, more challenging questions, and/or more roadblocks on the path to success (security concerns, many levels of approval, etc). To accommodate this, consider mapping out separate onboarding journeys based on which accounts will matter most to the company’s long-term success.

At the simplest level, these separate onboarding journeys could be grouped around team size. For example:

Small teams

Receive an onboarding email campaign with a pre-recorded webinar to walk them through setup, best practices and most important features for their segment, and your support team’s contact information.

Midsize teams

Are invited to a short onboarding session with a customer success manager (these sessions could even be open to multiple accounts for maximum efficiency). New teams learn the basics of product setup and have the opportunity to ask questions about best practices, configuration, etc. Post-onboarding, your support team becomes their main point of contact.

Large teams

Have a dedicated implementation manager to help them set up a custom solution, and/or a long-term customer success manager to monitor their progress throughout the customer lifecycle. The need for long-term success managers will depend on the complexity of your offering, the potential for cross-sell / upsell, and the most common factors that lead your users to churn.

Need help mapping out the success journey for different tiers of users? Brooke has for determining which customers to spend your time on.

Empower your team to set the right expectations

Switching from unsegmented or purely reactive support to defined customer journeys can be difficult for your team. Success and support managers may struggle to direct lower-tier users to self-serve resources for fear of providing a poor experience.

It’s key, then, to give your team a framework for passing customers to the right department or resource.

For example:

  • Did they successfully complete the onboarding process created for their tier and segment?
  • Are they showing multiple signs of churning — not only in what they say, but in the actions they have or haven’t taken within the product?
  • Is this customer a good candidate for an upsell within the next few months?

Says Tiffany Cosgrove, Calendly’s Director of Customer Success, “Learning to set expectations earlier is key. When account that requires more hand-holding comes on board, lay out for them what the implementation process looks like: ‘Typically, people do A, B and C within X period of time.’

Once they’ve completed those steps, verbally confirm that they’re fully ramped. Ask if they need a short Q&A session, remind them where the self-serve resources live and who their contact is moving forward. After they’ve agreed that they’re fully set up, you can feel comfortable gently directing them to the right place if they keep coming back to you in the future.”


Growing pains like these are a good sign. Your business is taking off, and everyone involved will face challenges as you adjust to the demand.

But growth doesn’t need to tarnish your customer experience or put undue stress on your success and support teams.

Do the work to deeply understand each type of customer, create content that helps users help themselves, and give your team a framework for managing their time.

Follow these steps, and you’ll build a sustainable system for supporting customers of every shape and size.

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is Calendly’s Director of Marketing.

The Calendly Blog

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