When I first became a Customer Success Manager I was looking to make my mark – responsible for driving customer success, satisfaction, and retention through the roof. I had hundreds of customers that I was responsible for making successful and it was proving difficult to add value beyond just “Checking In”. Trying to be creative, I started providing monthly ideas for content to all my customers to use. Working for a Marketing company – this seemed like the perfect avenue to inspire my customers and help them get the most out of their investment. It worked well for most and often they thanked me for being so proactive. The issue?
I didn’t segment my customers effectively enough and was simply blasting my ideas to all my customers thinking each one of them would benefit from what I had sent. To top it off, the emails I was sending out were not personalized in the least bit beyond the name. Rookie mistake.
I got an email one day from a gentleman that hadn’t responded to any of my communication for a good six months despite being proactive and referencing relevant news, goals, etc. I had been sending out my monthly template in batches that started with “Hello NAME” so I wouldn’t forget to replace the bold font “NAME” before sending it out. That was the idea – at least until I got an email back from him:
Probably goes without saying but I forgot to pull the “NAME” out. Awkward but humbling response from him. Today there’s simply no excuse for not using the data you and marketing have on hand to add a personalized touch and reference relevant goals in your communications – even at scale.
Below, you’ll find a few lessons that I learned because of my mistake and a few ideas for engaging your customers at scale:
Segment your Customers
Segmentation is one of the most powerful tools in your toolbelt as a Customer Success Management professional. Not only should you be segmenting your accounts based on usage, vertical, size, revenue, desired outcomes, and more – you should also be segmenting specific contacts within those accounts (users vs. points of contact for example) to ensure they’re getting the most personalized experience possible. At this point most folks tend to overthink it and put the pen down but I challenge you to charge forward. Whip out a handy dandy Excel spreadsheet or notepad and start typing out as many ideas for segmenting your customers as you can. Don’t be afraid to get too granular or create ‘sub-segments’. You can always delete them later on.
This will allow you to focus on what you feel would be the best ‘buckets’ to drop your customers into without being swayed by existing data and other pre-defined segments within your organization (from sales, management, or marketing).
- Management Exercise: Have your team run this exercise with a limit of 10-15 minutes. You’ll be amazed at some of the segments you never thought of and how different CSMs view their customers. It’s important to get those that are engaging with your customers every day involved as much as possible.
From here, work on crafting the criteria and segments that will ultimately be your jumping off point for engaging your customers proactively and adding value as a customer success professional.
Take Advantage of Automation
Automation can be a double-edged sword but when used properly can make a massively positive impact on your day and on your business. The recommendation is not to automate all of your tasks, rather, figure out which low hanging items such as training materials delivered based on usage or defined onboarding processes can be standardized and put into place without sacrifice to the value or guidance the customer receives from you and your team.
With automation, you should be able to not only knock out some of the monotonous processes that seem to plague us as Customer Success professionals – we can also use it to become more proactive in our reaching to customers instead of fighting fires all day.
Here are a few ideas for automating some processes (get the full guide here):
Onboarding – this is such a critical point in your customer’s journey no matter which way you slice it. The client was not only sold a specific vision of what they could achieve with your solution but also likely have expectations that onboarding will be as smooth as the transition through the sales process if the team has done their job.
You could not only automate your initial welcome email to the customer from the organization but you could also send along a personalized welcome email asking when it would be best for them to meet to go over some further onboarding information. Further, you can have your Customer Success platform automate a future task for you as the account owner or main point of contact to reach out in case the flurry of the day gets in the way of remembering to schedule that all too critical meeting.
Product Adoption – is your team looking at releasing a new feature that you feel would benefit a certain subset of clients or that you would like to introduce at large? Take advantage of our already granular segmentation to deliver tailored messaging over time to your customers. You can even have them removed from your automation once they’ve engaged with specific feature or move them into another series of automated engagements to ensure they can maximize the solution they’re now using.
- Bonus: Set up an alert in your customer success software to notify you via Email, SMS, or Slack when your customer has attempted to use this feature for the first time. This will give you an opportunity to reach out proactively and ask if they found it easy to use, if they need help, and get their initial reaction to then pass along to product management and the rest of your team. They’ll love you for paying such close attention to them and making sure they’re taken care of.
Customer Re-engagement – we’ve set up our segments already so we should have a pretty good idea of those customers that have become disengaged as a factor of both our engagement with them and their current product usage. If these items fall out of line with obtaining their desired outcomes then it is our job as Customer Success Management professionals to reach out and get them engaged.
For example, if we know that a customer wants to be able to run a report within your system every single week to turn into their boss then we know if they do not perform this function over two weeks then they’re either on an awesome vacation or they’ve found one of many reasons not to use your SaaS offering.
Use this knowledge to at least set up a task to call them and figure out if their needs have changed, if they could use a helping hand, or if something may have broken on your end. All good opportunities for you to be proactive.
Revisit and Refine
Being creative is one of the best traits a Customer Success Management professional can possess. Goals change, points of contacts change, and your offering itself changes. You should get creative in the way that you segment and engage with your customers so that it benefits them (and not just your organization).
While you set up a lot of processes that may work today – you should be able and willing to revisit them regularly to ensure they’re still helping your Customer Success Management team add value to your customers, helping customers meet their personal and organizational goals, and is not in some way harming your partnership with them.
- Management Exercise: Sit down with the team. Ask them to whip out a piece of paper and write anonymously two things that they feel are working very well and two things that they would like to see refined or disappear completely. This will get you candid feedback that is critical for progress and could help your customers greatly as a result.
Segmentation, Automation, and continuous Refinement will help make your role much easier and will lead to (when done properly) much more successful customers. The focus should always be to add value to your customers and help them to meet their goals. As a result, you’ll find the they’re more willing to have a conversation with you and your team, to maintain the partnership, to be more open to other offerings that will help them meet their needs, and will be more likely to be an advocate for your organization.
Customer Success Around the Web
- How 3 high-growth companies think about scaling customer success: As your product evolves and larger accounts come on board, how can your customer success team meet these new needs without ignoring smaller customers? Learn more on the Calendly blog.
- The 1 Word That Saved Salesforce From Certain Doom: To create customers for life, you must first play a part in their success. Read on to hear about how Salesforce addressed Churn with Customer Success and raced to success as a business.
- 5 Ways to Build Killer Relationships with Customers: Building relationships is key to learning your customers’ needs. And, you may gain more returning customers, referrals and net income in the process. Read over on Entrepreneur about how to build killer relationships with customers.
Word to the Wise
SuccessHACKER consultancy agency recently opened an East Coast headquarters in Atlanta. This is what James Scott had to say during an interview with Hypepotamus about the importance of Customer Success:
“Delivering value to all customers on a repeatable basis is hard! Like all hard challenges, to solve it you need a good strategy, a strong team, and well-designed processes,” says Scott. “That’s what Customer Success is all about. Customer Success is more than just a role, a team or a department – it’s the operating system of a modern software company.” – James Scott, SuccessHACKER