Scaling up Customer Success Teams

The challenges and solutions in scaling up CS Teams

Customer Success Teams are crucial to any company. They help you to build and maintain relationships with your customers, solve complex problems, and ensure customers receive the value they expect to achieve. They are the driving force behind customer engagement, retention, and revenue growth, and scaling up CS Teams may improve customer engagement, leading to higher retention rates for an organization. However, there are challenges in enhancing a Customer Success Team. In this article, we will discuss the issue of Finite Assets VS Diminishing Returns and “Traditional Segmentation” VS “Tech Assist Approach,” and a new approach to solving all of these- “The Blended Strategy.”

Finite Assets VS Diminishing Returns

Following the 80/20 Rule, where 80% of revenue comes from, for example, 20% of all customer engagements, the revenue the company gains would decrease when the quality of customer engagement is low.

It’s common knowledge that Customer Success Managers are expensive as they need training, tools, salaries, and more. With the increased capabilities of technology (especially artificial intelligence) and its ability to quickly and consistently deliver results at little cost, do Customer Success Managers and Teams still have a place in the field? The answer is definitely going to be “Yes!” for most companies for at least some time to come.

This is because, unlike machines, the CSMs in your team are human. They can build mutually beneficial relationships, solve problems creatively, and innovate from blue sky thinking. CSMs are generally vital in “influencing skills” and are often very well placed to develop meaningful trust relationships with key customer stakeholders. Whilst it is improving rapidly, even the best AI software is still more rigid, inflexible, and less able to solve complex human-emotion-type problems. But with that said, the benefits of automation, with its quick data gathering and insights, are potentially considerable. Technology need not compete with CSMs. Instead, by combining the “humanistic approach” of Customer Success Managers with the data-driven and much more scalable new technologies, we can potentially create an overall system whose entirety is much greater than the sum of its parts.

“Traditional Segmentation” VS “Tech Assist Approach”

It’s already a practice in a lot of Customer Success teams to segment customers using a traditional approach, where customers are divided according to their size and value to the company into “High Touch,” “Low Touch,” and “Tech Touch.” Wherein senior CSMs handle High Touch customers providing high-quality Customer Success and Experience. For Low Touch, more junior CSMs devote their time to the customers but usually spread across more customers per CSM than in the Hight Touch model. And for Tech Touch, where there’s no CSM handling the customers, everything is left with automated services via software delivering basic CS services to thousands of customers at once.

However, it could be argued that this approach focuses on the supplier’s needs rather than the customers. Suppose we would be truly considering what the customer requires. In that case, you can consider another approach: The Tech Assist Approach, wherein customers are grouped not by their size but rather by their needs for the right level of Customer Success services appropriate to varying customer requirements. Keep in mind that there’s no definite “good or bad” strategy when segmenting customers, and you are free to decide whichever works best for your organization.

“The Blended Strategy”

Incorporating any of the segmentation approaches previously discussed to scale your CS Team, Practical CSM’s CEO and Founder- Rick Adams, proposed the “Mixing Desk” Approach to Scaling. He used the analogy of a DJ’s mixer, which you can learn more about here: A New Approach to Scaling Customer Success.

In this article, we will explain the Mixing Desk Approach, which we also call the Blended Strategy, as it promotes collaboration of automation and Customer Success strategies to fulfill customers’ expectations. You may consider blending your approach to the customers according to the Three Models of the Blended Strategy:

  • The AB Model
    The most straightforward and best applicable to customers with basic needs, the AB Model has two variables in the game: A- the CSM and B- the Automation (software). As a Customer Success Leader, you have control over whether a customer should receive the service of a CSM and automation (but not both), depending on their needs. In short terms: Does the customer’s need require an intervention from a CSM or Automation?
  • The AB Plus Model
    The same variables, CSM (A) and Automation (B), are in place. However, you can consider providing both services to the customers. The AB Plus Model allows you to choose how much of a CSM and automation service a customer receives according to their segmentation. In simple terms: Should the customer receive more automated or CS service?
  • The AZ Model
    Applicable to larger CS Teams with a broader range of customer needs, the AZ model is more versatile and provides more services than the AB and AB Plus models. Herein, the customer may not only receive interventions from the CSM and Automated software, but they may also have multiple specialists and/or sub-teams within the CS Team (i.e., product specialists, change management specialists, etc.)But like any other model, the amount of service they receive from both CSM and specialist, along with automation, is dependent on the customer’s requirements and adjusted accordingly.

Summary

Automation and Customer Success Managers aren’t against each other. They complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses which is vital to maximizing a Customer Success Team’s productivity and efficiency. As a Customer Success Leader, you can consider the blended strategy when implementing your next CS Strategy wherein automation, Customer Success Managers, and specialists are needed to work together to provide only the best for your customers; however, it will require more effort.

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