How to Scale Your Customer Success Teams

September 19 2017 0comment

When we approach addressing this question, we should ask ourselves if the Customer Success Management (CSM) team mainly focused on high-touch or are we looking to scale the efforts that are already working efficiently for our high-touch engagement model and proliferate that to the Small and Midsize Business (SMB) client segment.

Watch this YouTube video in which I discuss ways to scale customer success:

Scaling Customer Success for the Strategic Client Segment

So first, let’s start with how can you scale a high-touch enablement model, meaning a strategic customer success team. The first thing I recommend focusing on is an enablement training and collateral so that every Customer Success Manager gets to be trained quickly. Your enablement should also include shadowing your CSMs to provide specific feedback on how Quarterly Business Reviews (QBRs) are handled by each individual CSM. CSM Shadowing could also include other discussions with clients. This is an important aspect of having the team work effectively with customers since often times playbooks are not implemented properly by all team members. Enablement and peer shadowing is an effective and important way to help propel the entire team to embrace the program and its playbooks in the spirit they were written by.

The second thing that you can do is to look into investing in productivity tools. Some of you might also have a Customer Success Operating System in place, which can do wonders for your team’s ability to scale. However, in addition to that, I’d like you to take a hard look at incorporating pure productivity tools like aText and collaboration tools like Slack, to take your Customer Success team’s productivity to the next level.

Finally, it is important to carefully strategize around playbooks automation. You can scale strategic CSM teams by automating the email messages that are expected to be sent to clients based on your customer journey milestones and playbooks. For example, instead of having a CSM manually send out the same email to every client, write it up as an email template. You could write a template for an email that should be sent out after a customer submits a promoter score, another template for after they finished onboarding, or at the completion of any major milestone. You can then automate the email process by sending the email out as if it was personally sent by the CSM, using your Customer Success Operating System. By sending the email out automatically your customer experience will become more consistent, and your strategic CSM team will become more efficient (and thus proactive).

Scaling Customer Success for the SMB Client Segment

What should we do with the rest of the client base? You know, those clients that are considered either midsize clients or small clients of yours… What you really want to do here is to take a second look into how you segment your client base and re-evaluate opportunities to increase the CSM coverage (by which I mean increase the number of customers handled by each CSM). By increasing the CSM ratio (also known as CSM Coverage), new opportunities for efficiency and scalability could open up. However, managing a high CSM ratio without increasing churn is an art.

Let’s suppose you’ve already segmented your client base in the most efficient manner. What you want to do next is to take your high touch engagement approach that you have already tested out and know works, and begin looking into how can you take that approach and implement at scale with the rest of the client segments.

Now I’m not making any new bold statements here. I bring this up to make sure that as you go through this process, and you take the time to think about how high can the CSM to clients ratio be. It’s been proven, that a complete ‘tech touch’ or ‘no touch’ approach (see Gainsight’s approach to customer segmentation) could potentially increase churn. In other words, you don’t want to ever get into a situation where there are no resources dedicated to communicating with that client base at all. The question then is: How do you convert powerful high-touch processes into automated one?

One of the techniques that make a SMB engagement model successful, is the creation of automated triggers to flag out a client when they need help, are at risk, or ready for an up-sell. The flagging process should be based on predictive analytics if you have thousands of clients. Alternatively, they could be based on business intelligence reports that your Customer Success Operations team should be responsible for producing on a periodic basis.

The results of these reports should produce a list of clients the CSM team should reach out to proactively. In order to scale the CSM team and ensure their time is spent on value creation related tasks, some companies have created a dedicated team, who are basically ‘client success meeting setters.’ This team  consistently calls customers and sets up meetings for the CSM with clients who need attention (or are due for a QBR). This approach helps the CSMs become more productive and strategic with their time. Watch the recording of Pulse Local discussion panel video (July 2017) where Henri Schultz, CEO for DiscoverOrg demonstrates this approach in details.

Of course, there’s a slew of self-service programs that should be part of your efforts to scale your customer success approach for your SMB segment.

The key takeaway in developing your SMB strategy is that you always want to find the right balance between technology and a CSM intervention in managing a large portfolio of clients. Salesforce came up with a new role called Portfolio Success Manager, who is responsible to manage a large customer base effectively.

Hope you find some of these tips helpful. If you have additional questions or advice related to scaling customer success programs for SMB or enterprise, please post them in the comments area.

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For more thought provocating ideas, watch my recorded webinar and blog series on the topic of Scaling Your Customer Success Team, which includes 5 blogs and 4 recorded webinars.

For personal coaching and tactical strategic advice, check out our CS Navigator Program.

Written By:

Irit Eizips

Irit Eizips brings deep expertise in the area of Customer Success. As an early member of Gainsight's executive team, Irit has been pivotal in shaping Customer Success methodologies and best practices. For the past 3 years, Irit has been voted as a top Customer Success influencer and is frequently featured as a speaker at conferences and Customer Success public events. Irit serves as CEO for CSM Practice, a global Customer Success consultancy firm. The firm specializes in working with customer success leaders to accelerate the creation and implementation of Customer Success strategies, derive extensive value from Customer Success technology solutions as well as certify and train customer facing teams in becoming more proactive and efficient.