[Q&A] Ready to Scale: The Tech Stack That Drives Your Digital Customer Success Program
Your digital-led Customer Success program will only be as good as the technology behind it. But how do you go about building your Customer Success tech stack the right way?
InSided VP of Customer Success Anika Zubair joined us to talk about the product categories and solutions that leading Customer Success professionals are embracing as they build out their digital-led programs. Plus, we cover how to ensure you don’t just add complexity with more tools, but actually use your data to enhance the customer experience through better decision-making.
During the webinar, we discuss:
- What a Customer Success tech stack is and why you should care
- The technology that drives a successful digital-led Customer Success program
- Why it’s important to have an integration strategy
- How to optimize customer retention with a comprehensive Customer Success tech stack
- How to drive revenue by combining customer data across all touchpoints
If you missed the webinar, you can watch it on-demand.
Q: How should you make a business case to purchase Customer Success tools?
[A] Anika: We’re in a very, very different space where, first of all, you’re having Customer Success departments report into different heads versus, when I think of Customer Success before, it was a part of Marketing and Sales, and it was an add-on. So, that’s the really great part. But to get budget, when we’re talking about how human resources is the most expensive part of scaling your entire org, I would propose bringing it to whoever the head is, whoever is actually holding your budget, and really proving out to them the return on investment of a tool versus how much it would cost to bring a person onboard for the same price. Because, a human could probably do the job, but it would be 2x, 3x, maybe even 4x more expensive than a tool that you need to do the job. Show whoever holds the purse strings, whether it’s your CFO or the head of the department: “This is how much I need to handle 5,000 customers, or we can hire 10 more Customer Success Managers at this cost.” Making it really crystal clear and breaking down those two costs will probably make sense to any CFO. A CFO is going to want to save money, so if you can figure out a cheaper option of how you can scale, they’ll probably allot you the budget.
Hunter: I couldn’t agree more. I would say, go make friends with the CFO or the finance person and find out what metrics they care about. Being in the marketing side, 10 or 15 years ago, all of a sudden, we could start showing value with a marketing automation platform. We can say what the cost per lead was and what the revenue per lead was. And once we could start showing the impact, it made a big difference in terms of getting money. The Customer Success team needs to define the metric they care about. There’s churn rate, retention rate, net revenue retention, and all the metrics now that SaaS organizations look at. If you can tie a lot of your performance to those, then it makes that conversation with the CFO much easier: “I can help you reduce this, or increase that, or add more expansion revenue if these tools let me do these things, then I’ll show you.” You want to be considered like a Sales or a Marketing department. You want to be valued in terms of the tools that will really make this department better, and this is how it’s going to help the overall business as a company.
Q: How can you make the human element shine through when using automation?
[A] Anika: Being intentional with how you interact, and not using the same form or method all the time. For example, only using email marketing campaigns can be very dry. Very boring. I would say mix up your medium – maybe sometimes it’s a video or an email or a roundtable where you have 10 different people coming together to facilitate a conversation to learn from each other. To make sure that your customer feels like you’re human, you have to put a face behind all the emails. Another way that a few of our customers do it is through “Meet the team” emails. They very much put the face on an email and a short intro: “Hi, I’m Anika. I’m your Customer Success Manager.” Suddenly, you’re a name and a human behind the email that’s being sent.
Hunter: A lot of it, too, is about the voice you use. There should be a voice of the company. You should work with your Marketing department or Customer Success leader. Because what you don’t want is 10 different voices coming out for communications. Everyone’s got their own style and then someone doesn’t know who they’re talking to, and it can kind of get off the rails a bit. You don’t want to dictate exactly how people communicate, but you also want people to represent your company, and how you want to talk to customers. Make sure it’s consistent, so someone feels like they’re talking to a human. Even if it’s automated, make sure that someone wrote it properly with the thought of your company and how you want to interact with people, and it’s consistent across your Support team, your Customer Success team, your Sales team, your Marketing team. Put your marketing hat on and talk about the voice. It’s important to prevent that robotic, impersonal touch.
Q: Aside from a Customer Success platform, what are your top five high-value tools to consider?
[A] Anika: I’d say Zoom is one of them, because that’s the way we interact – or GoToMeeting or Teams or whatever you’re using to interact. Aside from our Customer Success tool and community tool – because that’s how we track and interact with our customers – I have tracking data of customers but that’s also integrated with all our other tools. So, I feel like the Customer Success tool is really key and fundamental. Then, as you scale, include some other ways of interacting – so maybe it’s a video or webinar tool or community. I was also thinking chat, which is another one that’s really fundamental.
Hunter: When you have the resources and the maturity level, LMS (Learning Management Systems) is a great way to leverage all you’re doing on the Customer Success platform. Because you can integrate people in their journey, in their onboarding, and they can hit milestones. It takes a lot off the plate of the Customer Success team that has to do repetitive training and onboarding.
The community is a great resource for your customers because then it gets that self-service part. But those do take work and a little bit effort. I would recommend to everybody, go find your network of Customer Success people and talk to them and find out what they’re using and what works and what doesn’t work. Because there are a lot of tools out there, so it does take some research.
Anika: This is where Customer Success Operations would come in. We talked about this earlier, but it’s super key and fundamental to have someone who’s owning that budget, the tools that you’re using, and what else your CSMs might need as well.
Q: How can you get Customer Success team members to adopt new tools?
[A] Anika: That’s always a tough one. Your new tools should be onboarding the team – not necessarily one person. That’s my personal opinion. But I think another way is to show how it’s going to make their lives easier. A lot of times, we have so many different things open, so many different things that we’re doing, but you can showcase: “When you do this, this, and this, it’s actually going to make your life easier down the road.” Because a lot of people see a new tool as more overhead, as more admin, as more “Gosh, I have to record this here. I have to do this.” But when you do this, this, and this, and then showing them the end result of doing all of that, and how it’s going to make their lives easier down the road, it’s usually a good way of getting someone to use a tool.
We also internally gamify a lot of things. We say who are top users are, like “This week, this person did X in this tool” and they’re the shining new example of how this tool should best be used. We use gamification in community a lot. I would say encourage some sort of internal game to get people to use a new tool. But really, showing them how easy their life will be using the tool is probably the best way to teach someone to use a tool.
Q: How do you identify the right time to add a community to your tech stack?
[A] Anika: A lot of communities start from you wanting to get your customers engaged and having them talk to each other. But when you are starting a community strategy, and you are thinking of launching a community, remember that it takes a while for any customer base to start engaging in a community. You can’t expect instant, sudden growth and sudden interest. Now more than ever, a lot of people are looking to communities to find best practices and to find how other people are doing things in the similar space that they’re growing in.
If you do have customers giving you constant feedback of “What are your other customers doing?” or “I saw this new feature release, but I’m not sure how to best use it” or you’re at a point where you have so many customers that you can’t necessarily run regular trainings for that, a community space would probably be very well welcomed and your customers would really want to engage on that level where they can interact with each other.
I don’t think there’s a space where your customers wouldn’t want to talk to other customers. Because I even think of all the tools I use, and I’m always asking, “How do your other customers do that?” And that’s where community comes in. I’d say, it’s never a bad time to start. Most customers will receive community well, but it’s making sure you have that strategy to scale your community that’s really important.
Hunter: It’s also communicating well with your executives. It’s not just launch it, and everyone’s going to come and log in and it’s going to be an instant success. It is a process, and it takes a while, and that’s OK; that’s expected. People have to be comfortable going in there and sharing information and posting. We have an ambassador program where we had 13 customers volunteer to be part of it. And part of it is they need to go in once a week and post a question or answer a question. And they love to do it. There’s a certain group of customers who want to be in front of all the other customers because they like to help. That’s the beauty of the Customer Success world, too. They’re very helpful and supportive.
And then, just sticking with it. It’s not going to be an instant turn it on and it’s working. It’s a little bit of patience, but it’s well worth it.
Q: How do you ensure that communication from the Customer Success team is consistent and on brand as you automate?
[A] Hunter: Part of it is having a communication or process with your Marketing department. The Marketing department is the one who writes a lot already. They write in your voice. But you don’t want to step on each other’s toes – if you say one thing and then the Customer Success team communicates something else to the customers. Have a relationship that works well with you and the Marketing department. They do want to help and it’s worth the extra effort to make sure that communication does sound like it’s coming from one human and it’s on brand. Or if you have good writers within your team, as long as they know the voice of your company, then they can write to it. You can have confidence in that team to do it themselves, too.
Q: What will the next generation of Customer Success tools look like?
[A] Hunter: Probably the way a lot of other departments are going predictive; a little bit of AI. We already talked about how we use the data ourselves to build a health score, but is there a way for it to build a health score for you? We’re doing that on the marketing side. Sales has a lot of tools out there.
Anika: I think AI or being able to be more predictive within an already predictive Customer Success tech stack is very key. But I also think having a Customer Success tech stack that helps you along the way, in the sense of as you grow, it naturally tells you at what stage you should be doing things. Having a well-integrated tech stack that’s able to then unlock next steps as you grow, because the customer changes, and the team size changes, so what do you do next?
To find out what your top considerations should be when building your Customer Success tech stack, watch the webinar now.
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