Customer success (CS) didn’t start out digital but, rather, as a collection of practices to maintain customer relationships after a sale.
Organizations felt their way toward a better understanding of their value, learning how to improve implementations and developing new solutions to serve customers as their businesses advanced. The process required a lot of hands-on attention, with new departments and customer success agents being added to meet evolving needs.
Today, organizations devote even more time and resources to building customer relationships. But as companies focus on helping their premium customers get more value from their products, leaders naturally wonder how to recreate high retention, loyalty, and customer advocacy rates for all customers—without adding customer success managers (CSMs). The answer lies in digital customer success (DCS).
DCS can scale customer success initiatives and help companies realize higher customer success rates using tech-touch solutions without a human support agent. After all, many customers already expect to access resources to help them overcome problems online. Despite customers’ widespread acceptance of digital support, building a DCS function from scratch can be daunting.
Let CSMs build the customer journey
Support CSMs as they create the prototype processes using high-touch approaches and integrated data analytics. First, CSMs can use a high-touch approach to build knowledge bases, common responses, and customer experiences for self-service customers, just as they did for corporate clients. Companies can begin automating their most successful processes later, once leaders understand each of the four pillars of the customer journey and how they interact. Let CSMs respond to challenges directly with customers in these four areas:
- Value realization
Consider assigning separate health scores to each of the four pillars. For example, at the onboarding stage, establish customer expectations among the broad range of segments and use cases you’ll find with tech-touch users. Identify key performance indicators (KPIs). How will you know if customers derive value while they’re just getting started? Build each step of the customer journey around the unique challenges you’ve uncovered to make your automations as personalized as possible.
By building your DCS operations from the ground up, your CSMs can help identify risk and growth signals where a human or hybrid interaction might help a customer through a challenge. CSMs learn the skills needed to develop digital CSMs. With integrated data on the customer journey, they can automate processes to focus on key pain points.
In the initial stages of implementing DCS, CSMs help customers through every step of the journey. They see what activities work best, what resources they already have, and what kinds of solutions customers want most. By understanding each customer’s unique situation, CSMs can individualize the customer’s engagement, giving them the personalized treatment they desire. The result? Organizations can then extend those lessons to their automated solutions.
Collaborate with key stakeholders
Data is crucial to building value into the customer journey at all stages. Some of the information you’ll need about how customers derive value from your product will come from exploring large customer segments with multiple use cases. Then look across your organization and toward other companies for inspiration and best practices when building out your DCS function.
- Tap into your customers’ preferences, connecting data about product use with marketing and customer success interactions. In-app messaging is one way to learn from your customers, but you can also look at usage rates, time spent in specific areas of your product, and the features that sit unused. To go deeper into customer desires outside the product itself, use marketing methods like A/B testing on e-mail subject lines. Experiment with different levels of personalization. Assess click-through rates. For example, do your customers prefer instant access to videos or invitations to a webinar? Data from clicks can give you this information. Knowing your customers’ preferences makes for more successful communication in the future.
- Collaborate across your organization to identify customers’ challenges as they move through each stage. Is there any unnecessary crossover? Miscommunication? For example, do your marketing and customer success teams reach out to the same customer with similar information? Collect customer data from marketing, customer support, the community team, and sales renewals. Collaboration among teams lets your organization take a step back and connect the steps of the customer journey. Analytics tools can help integrate data from across the organization, bringing together otherwise siloed touchpoints for a clear view of each customer at each stage.
- Look to other tech-first companies at the digital forefront that aren’t your direct competitors. They can help you hone your vision and mission, galvanizing teams around the exciting possibilities for DCS. Some companies can implement purely digital CS, while others may choose a hybrid model. You can identify innovative external solutions that may align with the stages of your own customers’ journeys.
When you’re ready to build technology to address the areas you’ve identified, some future approaches can include:
- Product-led customer success: Customers don’t need to leave the product to get help. More touchpoints within the product can lead to higher engagement and retention rates with faster time to value.
- Artificial intelligence (AI): Clippy, the 1990s paperclip icon that helped office workers navigate their word processors, is no longer around. But newer, smarter in-product helpers are emerging. They’re better at knowing what customers need, where, and when. Think beyond in-app messaging for more AI inspiration.
- Better personalization: The goal of DCS is not to build a single experience and deploy it to all customers. Instead, get better at individualizing resources to each customer’s unique journey. Companies need strategies for segmenting large groups of customers and using their data to make customers’ individual journeys seamless. Integrating users’ experiences and touchpoints into a single place is one way to reduce friction.
Build the digital future with Gainsight
Instead of teaching people how to use a product and get value from it, smart DCS can provide a personalized experience while both teaching customers and learning from them. But there are no genius bots we can deploy for instant success yet. Humans who deeply understand the customer journey need to build our products to serve as CSMs. With the right approach, products can be customer advocates ready to help where and when required, so customers get value faster and stay longer.
For more insight on how to scale your successful high-touch methods in a tech-touch world, watch our webinar and see how Alteryx built their own digital customer success program from the ground up.