Customer Training: The Secret to Scale in Customer Success

June 19 2019 0comment

The commonly used and highly effective customer success approach for early stage startup companies remains the high-touch model, in which every customer enjoys dedicated attention from their assigned customer success manager, throughout the their customer journey. However, as startups grow into larger companies with more customers, the white-glove service becomes unsustainable, posing the challenge of maintaining optimum customer experience while scaling the customer success team.

The process of scaling customer success usually includes optimizing the CSM ratio to accomplish more with less through better customer segmentation, technology based automation, or one-to-many program. Scaling the customer success practice entails consistency of processes and reducing low-level activities to specialized roles or creating specialized roles to ensure the ‘high touch’ team can be more proactive.

A typical concern of moving some customers to a lower touch is that some customers might churn if the change is not well-received. At CSM Practice, we have empowered a number of high growth organizations at this strategic stage by improving their scalability while increasing their lower customer segment satisfaction using a customer-centric approach.

Customer Success Training Plan

No doubt, customer training improves customer success and can greatly reduce churn by increasing user adoption and supporting a successful onboarding. Increasing perceived value during customer training will typically result in account expansion for existing customers and improve user adoption for new features.

For example, we were hired to determine the best onboarding strategy for one of our SaaS clients that needed to scale their customer success operations. The original assumption was that customer prefer on-site training and that their users did not like online videos.


As part of our research we surprisingly found that certain personas and specific cohort of clients preferred having better control over their success journey and expressed a strong interest in additional online training and videos in order to be more self-sufficient in their ability to learn and use of the software.

On-site Training or Online Training?

Offering live on-site training for all your new clients is great, but as your company grows the model is likely to become unsustainable. It hinders proper scaling in your customer success organization.

In addition, an onsite training delivered by the customer success manager, cannot always cover a deep drive review of all features and advance modules. For a high growth company with a growing customer base, the solution to scaling customer education might a calculated blend of on-site and online training for different account segments or customer stakeholder roles.

For instance, a customer success manager may promote the creation of on-line recorded videos or on-line community workshops to introduce an additional learning path for new features or specific use cases. By making training videos readily accessible to your customers, removes your customer success manager from the critical path to growing user adoption.

In fact, most customers want to do more within your product and learn how to do so at their own pace. Providing them better control over their own adoption journey, enables your customers to scale their ability to adopt your product efficiently.

Offering customer training in a scalable manner places you in a better position to charge premium fees for live training and convert the Customer Education efforts into a profitability center. Live training can then be tailored to meet customer-specific needs, which might not be available for your lower tier customers using the online platform.

Training as an On Going Strategy

In a B2B2C model or when dealing with large enterprise accounts, a customer success manager would be typically be responsible for ensuring that a highly large number of end users adopt the software solution. The number of new users due to employee attrition or new hires is ever a challenge.

As such, the customer success manager could easily become engrossed in multiple training efforts as they attempt to strive for high utilization rates. Instead of offering additional on-site training on an ongoing basis, you may wish to consider focusing your customer education efforts on updating your train-the-trainer program once or twice a year.

Train the trainer programs are a great way to empowering your champion by equipping them with materials (like online videos, slides, step by step articles, etc) to custom tailor the end user training program, support new users in learning the solution as well as teach existing users how to use new features.

The biggest advantage of a ‘Train the Trainer’ program is that it removes the CSM from the critical paths to conducting the training, allowing for better scalability on both sides.

As such, it is no surprise that many SaaS companies offer train-the-trainer programs for their customers during the onboarding process. However, offering updated train-the-trainer programs with major product releases allows your customer to conduct user training more frequently and with more flexibility, which in return promotes end user adoption.

Formulating a Training Strategy

The customer success team needs to consider the customer feedback in the scaling process. This approach ensures that your customer success practice is on the right track towards customer retention, while introducing new training options. Here are a four steps that will produce great results for your company and its customers:

CSM Practice framework for launching new customer success initiatives

Listen

The first step in determining the training strategy is asking your customers what they want. Conduct surveys and follow up with conversations to get a clearer picture of what they expect from you and to discover what attracts them to other vendors. CSM practice has a long record of conducting customer research. The feedback we get from our clients is that having a third party involved in this process produced more honest answers from their customers.

Plan

Assess and define your strategy goals and adjust playbooks based on the information available to you from the inquiries. Plan and prioritize what you think might work for your different customer segments.

Assess

Test your new training offerings and playbooks with a small cohort of customers who are receptive your new engagement model. Assess the feedback from those that have had a better experience with the more scalable solution. If there are any negative experiences, adjust your customer education offerings and test the model again.

Deploy

Use client success stories (from your initial pilot) to garner executive interest and launching the newer and more scalable model to your customers. Once approved, use feedback and quotes from your pilot customers to position the new model in a positive way at your next QBR. State the business benefits other customers experienced and highlight improvements that the new model offers in their ability to control the pace in which they can now adopt existing and new features for a large number of users.

The customer success team needs to consider customer feedback while scaling with new training options to ensure higher retention and customer satisfaction

Summary

To achieve continuous growth in user adoption, new and existing end users should be educated on your product. Scaling from the white-glove service is necessary for high growth companies to a more efficient model. To be successful in both the customer success team should research customer preferences and provide a balanced blend of live training, recorded videos, and train-the-trainer programs where it is most effective and appreciated.

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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.