For SaaS companies in 2023, it simply isn’t possible for Customer Success Manager (CSM) headcount to keep pace with business growth. Today, CS teams must adopt digital tactics to scale efficiently, while serving their customers the seamless blend of digital and in-person experiences they’ve come to expect from technology providers.
That means self-service resources that guide customers through onboarding to fast value realization have become table stakes, for both low-touch and high-touch CS models. According to the 2023 Gartner® Market Guide for Customer Success Management Platforms,
“To scale CSM practices across different customer segments and product types, the platform must be able to support tech-touch or low-touch models driven through data-driven automation. Integrated digital engagement is also becoming an instrumental component of higher-touch models.”
That being said, let’s take a deep dive into one of the most effective strategies to efficiently scale Customer Success: digital customer education.
What’s Digital Customer Education?
Digital customer education refers to using a learning management system (LMS) and a digital customer academy to increase the reach, impact, and efficiency of training.
Unlike traditional customer education, which is the discipline of training customers manually via ad-hoc sessions, PDFs, webinars, and 1:1 calls with CSMs, digital customer education delivers high-quality, interactive, and on-demand resources to customers at scale.
Digital customer education also creates operational efficiencies and elevates the customer experience by moving beyond ineffective, labor-intensive, and expensive training processes, giving customer-facing teams more time to focus on retention, revenue, and managing more accounts.
What Digital Customer Education Is NOT
Digital customer education is NOT delivering training via help desks, support articles, and how-to documents that focus on “how” to use a product. True digital customer education focuses on “why” customers should make the choice to use a product or feature.
How Digital Customer Education Can Help You Scale Your Customer Success Team
With that said, how can digital customer education and a digital academy help you scale your Customer Success team?
Let’s dive in.
…at least part of it.
Onboarding is, far and away, the most important step in the customer journey. These first few days, weeks, and months when your customers are expecting value will directly influence not only early product adoption, but renewal talks down the road. A poor onboarding experience can even put the lid on the likelihood of a renewal before the conversations even start.
Key Customer Onboarding Stats
- 63% of customers consider the company’s onboarding program when making a purchasing decision.
- 70% of customers say understanding how they use products and services is very important to winning their business.
- Over 90% of customers think that companies could do better when it comes to onboarding new customers.
Companies know onboarding is important. According to Precursive’s Customer Onboarding Benchmark Report, 74% of enterprise organizations have a customer onboarding team.
But asking these teams—or individual CSMs and implementation managers—to do it all manually will spread them too thin. Avoid this all-to-common challenge with digital customer education.
With digital customer education, you can automate key moments along the customer journey—moments that have historically been the sole responsibility of your CSM (to do manually). For example, you can automate an email to go to every new customer with links to relevant courses that can get them up and running quickly.
By doing this, you can help new customers get up to speed quickly while reducing amount of time and effort required by your CSMs. It’s a win-win. It also allows you to deliver consistent training and messaging, ensuring each of your customers receives the information and guidance they need to become wildly successful with your product.
Use Insights to Deliver Proactive Training
Ask any CSM what arcade game best describes their day-to-day and I bet most of them would say whack-a-mole.
A customer can’t figure out how to use a new feature—or they broke something.
Their boss is breathing down their neck about how the product isn’t “returning value.”
They just stop using the product altogether.
“Reacting” is a huge part of Customer Success, but asking your CSMs to hit up the arcade every morning, noon, and night is no way to build a well-oiled Customer Success engine. It’s definitely no way to scale one, either.
Your CSMs shouldn’t be firefighting. They should be thinking ahead and putting out any spark before it has an inkling of becoming a fire.
One of the ways they can do that is by leveraging the insights offered by a digital customer education program. These insights—think course enrollment, course progress, quiz scores, learning path progress, and instructor-led training (ILT) registration—can all give CSMs insight into how a customer is behaving and their sentiment around the product.
Have they failed a quiz a few times?
Have they stopped a learning path at a certain course for a certain amount of days?
Are they not enrolling in new courses?
All of these insights and analytics can help CSMs understand what’s going through the customer’s head—and they can reach out accordingly.
For example, if someone continues to fail a quiz, the CSM can reach out with related content ot help them get over the hump. Even better—time permitting—they can schedule a call to to discuss it live.
Remember: 1:1 meetings aren’t the enemy. But they’re more impactful when used for strategic consultations, not basic troubleshooting.
Here’s the ultimate way to scale your Customer Success team without increasing headcount: create power users who are self-sufficient and rarely—if ever—rely on their CSMs to unlock product value.
Certifications—think those offered via the HubSpot Academy—provide a relatively low-lift way to help your average customer take their product knowledge to the next level. A customer who understands the ins and outs of a product is inherently less likely to reach out to their CSM and submit a ticket to customer service (or message the chatbot).
Because these customers are essentially “off leash,” CSMs and support reps can dedicate most, if not all, of their time to aiding customers who are struggling, at risk of churn, or may not be realizing product value the way they should.
On top of that, creating power users via certifications fuels customer advocacy. Just scroll through LinkedIn and count the number of people who are posting about a recent certification. They’re doing this to level up their career, sure, but they’re also exposing your brand—and academy—to their networks, giving you the potential to win more business.
Why Does This All Matter?
It comes down to two things: efficiency and performance.
The goal of digital customer education is to create self-sufficient customers via on-demand and relevant learning. Your customers should be able to access related resources as easily as they can go to YouTube and learn how to cook their family a meal.
Doing so directly impacts product adoption, time to value (TTV), and customer satisfaction. It frees up your CSM team to take a more strategic, consultative role instead of firefighting. And it allows CS teams to scale their impact without increasing headcount—which is critical to emerging from these market conditions as one of the companies on a path to durable growth.
Learn more in our ebook, The Business Case for Digital Customer Education.