In the illustration above, the horizontal fader is set all the way to the right, so we know that the listeners can currently hear Track B. Meantime, the DJ is busy listening to the next track on Track A, queuing it up to the right spot and setting its volume level to the desired position. At the appropriate moment just as the record on Track B is ending, the DJ can slide the horizontal fader all the way to the left to “fade out” the current track and “fade in” the new one. Of course they can choose to do this with an instantaneous flick across from B to A< or they could choose to do it more slowly, or even to let both tracks play together for a while if that sounds cool.
So there you have it – how to DJ in what, five minutes? Easy! In case you’re interested, yes I have tried it and no in my opinion it’s not easy, and for the record (if you’ll pardon the pun) I was truly hopeless at it!
OK, back to the topic of customer success services. The analogy here of course is that the CS Leader is the DJ, and the listeners are the customer segment. Based upon the segment’s needs, the CS Leader sets the overall levels of access to both the CSM (Track A for example) and the automated service (Track B for example). Then for each individual customer within that segment and at any time within that customer’s lifecycle either the CS Leader him or herself or the assigned CSM if authorized, can set the position of the horizontal fader between the two types of CS service in order to give the customer the right level of CS service to meet their current needs – either completely CSM, completely automated or an appropriate blend of the two, but without ever touching the vertical faders that ensure that overall the services do not become overextended.
OK I am hoping that’s clear! If not please reread and if necessary ask me any questions you like and I will do my best to re-explain.
The AB Plus Model
The AB Plus model is the next simplest of the three models, and again I will use a DJ analogy to explain how it works because – well why not!
For many years, DJs were content with just two record decks, but in more recent years and with all the new technology available to them, DJs started using other devices such as CD players initially, MP3 players soon after, and now of course computers that can store and play whole databases of music whenever required. The idea of the AB Plus model is that if we had a simple switch box, we could set up one of the inputs – for example the Track B Input – to be switchable between two devices, for example between a record deck and an MP3 player on a smartphone. This is illustrated in the image below, and in the example shown, the DJ has switched over to the MP3 Player, so that is what now comes through to Track B on the mixer.
The analogy here is that it takes very little effort for a growing CS team to move from just a blend of two options (A and B) for customer service delivery to being able to offer a blend of one or two more options (A1 or A2 plus B1 or B2), without needing to seriously re-organize.
The AZ Model
The final model is the AZ model. Again if we use the DJ’ing analogy then this is like the modern and up-to-date DJ who is a fully paid up member of the digital age. All of the above equipment can still be bought as physical devices – record decks, mixers, etc – but can now also be purchased in the form of software to run on a laptop or desktop computer. In this model it’s easy to have as many inputs and outputs and as many tracks as your computer’s power and memory resources can handle, so the DJ is no longer limited to just two tracks, or four tracks or indeed any number of tracks. And of course sound engineers have for many years used huge mixing desks with multiple tracks to mix all the sounds of for example each instrument within an orchestra in such a way that every instrument is harmoniously balanced with all the other instruments to make an overall listening experience of the highest possible quality for the listeners. This might require a more full-on reorganization of how the DJ works and the purchase of and time spent getting familiar with new equipment, but the overall result is that the DJ becomes far more versatile and creative, and can provide a wider range of musical experiences that can be more tailored to the needs of any particular audience.
This fully digital, multitrack approach is analogous to what might be appropriate for larger CS teams that tackle a wider range of customer needs and perhaps have multiple specialist sub teams within the wider CS team, such as vertical industry specialists, product specialists, licensing and renewals specialists, change management and adoption specialists, and so on. Each of these services plus each automated service can be provided with its own track and then the fader for each track (or each service type) can be set appropriately for each customer’s unique situation, making it a truly agile customer success services, yet at the same time the overall volume going to the PA (analogous in this instance to the overall cost of the service) is still set at the predetermined level, so that again the service can be customized, yet remain within the boundaries of acceptable cost for that customer segment.
The Need for a Blended Strategy
Ultimately then, what I am advocating is a blended strategy, where “hard” limits can be set based upon things like recurring or potential revenue for example, but yet where enough overhead and agility is provided within the system to blend the necessary amount of more expensive and less expensive CS service elements to hopefully meet the needs of all or at least the vast majority of customers whilst at the same time ensuring that these precious resources are not wasted where they are not needed.
One potential downside to this strategy is that it may well require more effort to set up and to manage than the simpler, traditional approach of “High Touch for you, Low Touch for you and Tech Touch for you and if it isn’t what you need then tough”. However on the upside it provides for a much better control and allocation of resources to where they are truly needed, which in turn should result in better results from the activities of the CS team.
In essence then, this blended approach is what I understood my friend Jason Noble, the VP for Customer Success at Vinli to have meant in his talk at the European “SuccessCon” CS conference in London recently when he advocated a “Tech Assist” or what I’d describe as a “Tech Enabled” approach over a “Tech Touch” approach. Whether or not it’s what he meant, that is certainly what I got out of his excellent talk, and I should just say at this juncture that any problems, errors or poor ideas you might have encountered within this article are entirely my fault, not his.
I hope that this article proves useful to others out there who might be struggling with the best way to scale their customer success services in such a way as to continue to provide an excellent CS experience for all customers but without breaking the bank.