In Customer Success, Should 1:1 be the Exception?

Having worked a very long day I decided to make my way over to our local Toronto customer success group. I almost gave up a few times as the Toronto rush hour traffic was insane but I knew it would be worth it to see the speaker, Venk Chandran who is a senior manager on the Customers for Life team at Salesforce.com (Work.com) and I was right. Venk had a number of great ideas on how to scale a customer success team while providing an amazing customer experience.

1:1 is the Exception

1-to-manyAt many SaaS companies, the solution to a growing customer base is to increase head count. Venk challenged that notion and recommended a number of tactics and strategies for customer success organizations to manage a steady increase of customers without significantly growing the number of CSMs. He boldly claimed that customers should not expect that they have a dedicated customer success manager. That’s what he means by “1:1 being the exception”.

This doesn’t mean that customers should not receive the assistance they need to be successful and to fully adopt the Work.com product. It’s the opposite. Work.com is using some of the most sophisticated approaches to manage the vast number of customers that they have. Yes, they have some customers that have dedicated customer success managers but a mindset of “1:1 being the exception”  allows them to assign these resources more strategically so the customers that most require this assistance or are paying for this service, receive these resources. He also added that you will have situations that pop up in which a customer requires a dedicated customer success resource for various reasons. Use those situations by learning from them and “bottling up” those best practices so other customers can take advantage of them.

Bottle up Your Best Practices

Let’s face it, customers love best practices. Who doesn’t love getting proven tips and tricks that you can take advantage of and not have to waste time on trying to perfect? Venk outlined how Work.com focused on cobbling together these best practices and created playbooks and other materials like cheat sheets that make these best practices readily available for customers on a self-service basis.

Venk lamented that if he “could do it all over again” he would have focused on “bottling up” what they learned from their customers earlier on. Modern customer success teams need to work in unison to get the most out of the limited resources that they have. I recommend that you sit down with others on your customer success team and review the different materials that you send to customers based on certain situations.  If your team doesn’t have shared best practices and templates, it’s time to get the team together and focus on a few areas that could help achieve the highest value for your customers. Next, decide on the best ways to package up best practices and serve them up to customers.

Precision Engagement

Modern customer success teams don’t work just on hunches. There needs to be some science behind what they are recommending to their customers along with their intuition on what has worked the best in the past. Work.com has done the research and combined that with the experience that they have working with their customers to create a “Precision Engagement” model that dictates how they will proactively service their customers in their first year with Work.com. For example, a customer that has been with Work.com for 4 months will receive a call from someone on the customer success team to discuss a specific feature that they have determined that the customer should be using at that point in the customer lifecycle.

They have a number of other similar milestones that trigger alerts in Salesforce.com including the renewal discussion meeting. This results in a clearly defined process. These are not “random acts of customer success”. It’s a precision engagement process and let’s face it, it’s ingenious as it gets to the desired results. And of course, it’s not delivered by a dedicated customer success manager. They have a pool of customer success managers that pick up these alerts and complete the prescribed task.

Customer Success is All About Setting the Right Expectations

It was hard to keep up with Venk as he was throwing out so many great ideas on what Work.com does to automate and scale their approach to customer success. Here are some of the tactics that they use:

  • Email drip campaigns to help educate new customers and get them the necessary resources to get started
  • A robust customer community that has specific guidelines around the max time that a customer should wait before receiving a response
  • Office hours for customers to discuss any questions that they have. Venk says that these work the best after product releases

While all of these tactics are great, the glue that pulls this all together is setting the right expectations with customers very early on so they know what to expect when they become customers. This includes making it mandatory for customers to sign up to their community. The community is that important to the customer’s overall success so it’s important that the customer agree that they will join and participate.

In addition, because they’ve set the right expectations, they are able to have a pool of customer success managers service a customer. The right expectations drive the right results and the trust that is needed to build and maintain a customer relationship.

What are you doing to scale up your customer success team? Do you agree that 1:1 is the exception?

Chad H
@ChadTev

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