The first part of a two part article on how to scale customer success, including a discussion on how to segment customers based upon customer outcome-related criteria rather than (or in addition to) supplier-related criteria
I was recently given the opportunity to talk to the delegates at the Customer Success Association’s 2019 European SuccessCon in London, and another of the speakers was Jason Noble, VP for Customer Success at Vinli and one of the two Jasons in the “The Jasons Take On…” podcast series. Jason is an influential thought leader in CS and also a great guy whom I count as a good friend within the CS community, and so I was really pleased to find he was giving a talk, and I am pleased to say that Jason didn’t disappoint me!
Jason’s talk was on the topic of customer segmentation – a topic which I generally try to avoid talking about on LinkedIn or elsewhere, since I rarely agree with any of the opinions expounded or ideas proposed, although I do deal with it at some length in my book Practical Customer Success Management. But Jason’s talk was different, because instead of talking about customer segmentation per se, he instead talked about a powerful alternative, and this alternative was (for once) something I can wholeheartedly get behind, because it is an approach which I also happen to advocate.
Jason’s basic premise is that the way to increase the range of situations in which Customer Success services can be deployed whilst remaining profitable is not to segment customers into the traditional “High Touch”, “Low Touch” and “Tech Touch” options, but rather to look at a blended or what he describes as a “Tech Assist” approach of deploying Customer Success Managers alongside supporting technology, where the blend is determined not by the size of the customer or the revenue value of the solution provided, but by the specific needs of each customer.
This concept provided inspiration for me, and the analogy of a DJ’s approach to mixing music that I will be describing in Part Two of this article came to me in a flash whilst Jason was talking – in fact I was even envisaging the knobs and faders on a mixing desk as he was speaking, so thanks Jason! – but we will get to “the DJ’s approach” in good time. Before that I want to set out the challenge and describe some of the common approaches to solving it and the potential pitfalls that might be involved with these approaches.
This article will be provided in two separate parts as follows:
In Part One (of two parts) I will set out the problem that CS teams face when attempting to scale customer success services to all or at least a larger proportion of the company’s customers. I will also discuss the traditional approach to solving this challenge, which is to segment customers by one or more criteria and then provide different CS services to each segment. I will then describe some of the issues or challenges that might come with this approach.
This will set us up nicely for Part Two, in which I will outline a different segmentation approach and describe how it works (and even provide a tool for doing so), and then I’ll go on to discuss three possible approaches to delivering CS services, which I call the AB Approach, the AB Plus Approach and the A to Z Approach, and I will finish by explaining how a CS team might determine which of these CS service scaling approaches would work best for them.
The Problem of Scale
I’ve wanted to talk about “the problem of scaling in CS” for some time, but the issue for me has always been that I struggle with the conversations around and descriptions of “Customer Segmentation” in the CS conversations and articles around this topic that I overhear or read about. The problem itself is in a sense a very straightforward one. It’s an issue of finite (and expensive) assets versus diminishing returns.