Defining Digital Customer Success (and how it’s different from “traditional” CS) Image

Defining Digital Customer Success (and how it’s different from “traditional” CS)

Originally published on on May 12, 2021.

Welcome to our new blog series – This is Digital Customer Success. In this series, we’ll talk about what Digital CS is, what’s required to build a Digital CS program, team structure and responsibilities, metrics, and so much more!

This week, we’re starting at the very beginning: What the heck is Digital CS and how is it different from “traditional” CS?

Let’s get to it!

Every company is becoming a digital experience company. And while Customer Success teams were already heading in this direction, it was accelerated by the pandemic outbreak in 2020.

We believe that, by the end of 2021, most B2B SaaS companies will have moved to a predominantly digital-led Customer Success model where automation, customization, and engagement enable teams to facilitate better customer experiences – at scale.

But what exactly is Digital Customer Success? In an industry that lacks frameworks, it’s time to get some clarity.

Defining Digital Customer Success

Customer Success is still in its infancy compared to other departments. Because of this, along with its speedy evolution, the entire industry suffers from a lack of clarity and is scrambling to play catchup with more mature functions such as engineering, sales, and marketing.

It doesn’t help that Customer Success looks different at every company. A company’s Customer Success function and how it operates depends on the company, the stage the company is in, the product, the type of customers they serve, the size of the CS team, and the number of customers (to mention just a few).

But unfortunately, the lack of clarity can cause problems. Worst case scenario, it leads to Customer Success becoming an afterthought, built in response to a bunch of issues that are too far gone.

But this is not sustainable, nor is it scalable.

As industry veteran Rav Dhaliwal points out: “How would you know how to build something if you don’t know what it is?”

So what exactly is Digital Customer Success? To avoid any confusion or misinterpretation, we define Digital Customer Success as follows:

“Digital Customer Success is a data-driven methodology for creating value for customers at scale by using purpose-built tools that facilitate a personalized customer experience regardless of segment or lifecycle stage.”

Now, that might sound long and complex, but what it really comes down to, as Looker’s Brian LaFaille pointed out in our recent webinar, is this: personalizing user journeys at scale.

Okay, so now we know what Digital Customer Success is, great! But how is this different from what is known today as “traditional” Customer Success?

The difference between “traditional” Customer Success and Digital Customer Success

Digital Customer Success is about creating a proactive strategy to serve all your customers using a customized approach based on specific customer needs.

The main difference between traditional Customer Success and Digital Customer Success is that you have no direct one-on-one contact with your customers.

Instead, in a Digital Customer Success approach, you:

  • Use a one-to-many approach utilizing channels such as email, webinar, video, knowledge base, and a customer community to deliver communication at scale.
  • Use a many-to-many approach where peer-to-peer (P2P) interactions and self-service initiatives facilitate a smooth customer experience, often with a customer community serving as the central hub for these interactions.

The goal is to help your customers get more value out of your product, achieve their desired outcome, and experience value faster. But doing so in a repeatable, scalable, and highly measurable and strategic fashion, drawing from both product and marketing mindsets while reducing your overhead costs for CSMs.

Digital Customer Success is not a “new” field. Rather, we’re simply defining its responsibilities and purpose, allowing CS professionals to create structure and clarity in the way they work.

VP of Customer Success at inSided, Anika Zubair clarifies further“Digital Customer Success is nothing new. It’s really just about taking what’s likely to already exist in your team and other key functions such as Support and CX and create structure. It’s about defining responsibilities to better serve our customers, but also create more structure and clear ownership for not only the CS team but across the organization.”

So what exactly does implementing a Digital Customer Success program mean for your team?

Digital Customer Success and what it means for your team

The structure of a digital-led Customer Success team isn’t necessarily that different from any other structures. Often you’ll find that it’s a matter of redefining structures and assigning clear ownership, rather than reinventing the wheel.

Digital Customer Success is about scaling your efforts and enabling your CSMs to work more effectively to create value for your customers.

However, the structure of your CS team will look different depending on the size of your organization. When you reach a certain volume of customers, your CSMs won’t be able to effectively deliver value on a personal level. Instead, that same value will be delivered through a digital-led approach.

But let’s not forget: Customer Success teams can never on their own guarantee a great customer experience. Because part of that responsibility falls on the customer and their willingness to participate in your efforts to create a great experience with them. Rather, it’s your CSMs job to facilitate the experience your customers are looking for.

A digital-led approach makes it easier to define, structure, and measure what that experience should look like.

Final words

The B2B SaaS and subscription-based economy have exploded. Companies are growing fast and the influx of customers can be difficult to manage.

All too often, CS teams can’t grow as quickly as the business requires, leaving CSMs stretched for time. This is where a digital-led approach can be applied to effectively manage expectations and ensure a value-driven customer journey – without sacrificing the level of personalization customers have come to expect. In short, it’s a cost-effective, scalable, and highly measurable way to deliver customer experiences that still feel personable. 

With that said, come back for our next post in the series as we tap into the components of Digital Customer Success and investigate what makes a successful digital-led strategy.

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