Q&A: Why High Touch and Tech Touch Should Be Friends, Not Enemies
Today’s customers expect (and sometimes demand) a never-ending wheel of attraction, engagement, and retention after purchasing both the simplest and most complex of SaaS offerings. So, when the volume of customers creeps up, how do you incorporate automation to scale, without sacrificing that personalized white-glove experience you’ve worked so hard to develop? While high-touch and tech-touch are often pitted against each other, there’s a way to use automation without losing that quality human interaction we all know and love.
ESG joined us for a webinar to discuss how automation and human touchpoints can not only coexist but amplify your outreach and efforts. In the webinar, we cover:
- Tips for making automated messaging feel more personal and relevant
- Strategies for determining and incorporating the right level of automation by segment
- How to use automation for scale and efficiency in a way that complements existing human interaction
If you missed the webinar, you can watch it on-demand.
- Madeline Evans, Digital Customer Success Manager, ESG
- Britt Layman, Customer Success Operations Manager, ESG
- Marley Wagner, Sr. Director of Marketing & Services, ESG
Q: How do you incorporate digital aspects into your existing customer journey?
A [Britt]: A lot of times, what you’re doing is moving from something that is very human touch into something that is maybe less so. The easiest way to do that is, don’t necessarily automate stuff to the customer at first. Automate the repetitive tasks. What areas, as a CSM, am I having to do all the time? What things am I spending all my time on?
If I, as the CSM, am being very vocal about my pain points, those are your quick and easy wins. If you’re talking about developing a customer journey and automation touchpoints, start with the internal stuff and work out some of the bugs. Then, you can move into things like automating product updates and things that are going to your customers. That’s probably a really good thing to talk through, especially if we’re talking about product updates. You can make it seem a little human touchy. But at the same time, it should look like a product update. It shouldn’t look like something that’s necessarily coming from your CSM. That way, [the customer] knows that, as a company, we need to communicate something to you. Then the action item out of that, from a CSM’s perspective, might be to call and make sure the customer understood that this is a new thing and educate them on it.
A [Madeline]: Map out what that customer journey looks like and then attribute triggers and data-driven events that will start each journey stage for your customers and apply customer segmentation. For example, you can start any customer in the onboarding phase based off a trigger, like a closed-won opportunity. Then you can associate an onboarding playbook which incorporates that series of automated tasks and emails that then follows the onboarding flow and apply that to that specific journey stage. Consider what does it look like when a customer has transitioned to adoption or value realization, and then associate events with that. Maybe it’s a usage events, product features, or adoption events. Put them into a new process with an adoption playbook. What does that workflow look like? What does that task sequence look like?
Q: How do you orchestrate a communications schedule between automated emails and direct CSM outreach to avoid overwhelming customers with too many touches?
A [Marley]: The key here is visibility in all directions. And it’s not just within Customer Success. Some product teams are sending their own product updates. Some support teams are sending their own surveys. Some companies have their own dedicated customer marketing team for cross-sells. But it’s all about the visibility. It’s an important exercise for anyone who’s sending any kind of messaging to your customers, whether they’re Customer Success or not. Make a calendar. I’ve seen it done just on a shared Google Calendar that everybody has access to and there are certain parameters of who’s allowed to add or change or move and when and why. There certainly are tools and systems that you can use for that, too. But regardless of what you’re doing it in, the key here is just that visibility. Usually there’s a priority level of this department gets first dibs, this department is next, and so on. Then, everyone can see what those are. If there’s something that comes up, and we’re like, “Hey, I’m so sorry, can we move this because of this reason?” have those communication channels open internally among the various stakeholders. It’s never easy. Sometimes, it gets sticky, and you have to move stuff. It can be stressful, but I think it’s important enough and worth the extra work to overcommunicate.
A [Britt]: That’s the beginning of a good customer journey map exercise post-sale. Once they truly become a customer, we need to know what other departments are working with our customer because that does affect our overall customer experience. Customer experience dips because of overstepping and people sending automated emails that seem easy but that can lead to churn risks that you can’t manage as a CSM. I can’t help that four teams sent an email on the same day, two of which had the same information, and the other ones were kind of useless. But then you can also start pinpointing where some of your other teams might not realize that what they do affects the customer and the customer experience. That’s a huge thing, especially as you grow as a Customer Success team and grow as an organization that’s adopting Customer Success. A lot of times, you’re retrofitting Customer Success into an existing organization, which is a lot of people who we work with. So, getting executive leadership and buy-in from the higher-ups to say, “Hey, we know our customer experience is really good when these things happen. This calendar is a really good way to point to all the successes we’ve seen from this.” Especially, if you can track metrics on customer open rates, and when customers respond, who they’re responding to, that kind of stuff.
Q: How can CSMs send out product-related information to customers without seeming spammy?
A [Madeline]: At my last company, we had a similar pain point, and so I can totally sympathize with the sentiment here. There are ways that you can make a product update email and automated alerts come across like they’re coming specifically from the CSM based off that customer’s specific experience. This can also help to reduce potential CSM touchpoints with the customer and reduce call time. One way we did this was to have the CSMs record a Loom video that served as a how-to guide which came across as very personable to the customer. It was more like, “Hey, I noticed that you haven’t been using this particular feature within the product. Here’s how you can do it.” It reduced the amount of training and enablement and onboarding that we had to do for our customers. There are ways to get creative with it where automation can really make it seem like it’s coming directly from the CSM. It’s also considering how much engagement the customer is getting and how you might be able to make it as relevant as you can.
A [Britt]: You’re really starting to ask questions that are good for those second two tiers of automation. You’ve moved past the quick wins and now you’re starting to think about other channels we can reach your customer on. Any kind of email is going to risk sounding like spam, in the sense that you’re sending an email to someone with a bunch of information, regardless of who comes from sometimes. You can drop them a video or a link to YouTube and automate, “Hey, did you see this?”
Q: What’s the recommended ratio of CSM touchpoints to automation touchpoints in a tech-touch model?
A: Product maturity, customer maturity, and the ease of self-serve are all huge factors that go into it. I’ve seen opposite ends of the spectrum where even with a lot of maturity, some CSMs can only manage 20 accounts – and we’re talking about a pretty complex product, and we’re talking about accounts and a retention space of millions of dollars. Maybe you don’t want a ton of customers to go to a CSM when customers are spending that much. You want to give them that full white-glove service. The flip side is a relatively simple product. The customer is spending a couple hundred bucks a year. It can be an infinite number of customers because what you’re trying to do is automate everybody as much as you can to streamline and keep costs low. That’s ultimately what you’re after. Business, in general, is like how can we increase our revenue and increase our bottom line and keep costs low? Those are the things that companies always end up talking about, whether it’s at the Customer Success level or not. Those are always the things that the CEO and CFO are having conversations about behind closed doors and sometimes very publicly. But those are the things that you really have to take into account. We definitely can’t say one CSM per 150 customers and say that’s it. It’s really going to be dependent on that time and spend. If you see that 100 accounts are blowing your CSMs out of the water and they don’t have any time and they’re leaving miserable, then it’s time to evaluate. On the other hand, if they seem like they’ve got a lot of time, that’s another evaluation point. Maybe we can find other ways to grow and that’s a good thing.
Q: For high-touch CSMs, are there any points in the customer lifecycle that are ideal to setup automated communications?
A [Britt]: Onboarding and renewal; the bookends. The onboarding piece is huge because when we’re talking about standardizing the customer journey and the customer experience, you can really find a way to automate basically everything up to the point that they’re moving into adoption. Everyone’s adoption might look different. And then, the renewal piece; getting that started early, so you’re not waiting to reach out the month someone renews. But you make standardization along the way to keep the customer engaged.
To learn more about how to strike the right balance between automation and human touch, watch the webinar now.
Update- The speakers from ESG generously took the extra time to address the unanswered audience questions from the webinar on this topic. Check out their insights here as an additional follow-up resource.
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