How to Scale Customer Success Without Losing the Human Touch

June 23, 2020

It’s no secret that customer success departments across industries leverage automation to help them do their jobs more efficiently. That said, software like Salesforce, Gong and Microsoft Teams are only effective when bolstered with genuine support only humans can provide. 

The following five customer success professionals said they rely on human connection just as much, if not more, than automation, and they’ve been focusing on how to use scalable solutions — human and technical — to better streamline workflows from the inside out.

Those solutions help them record and organize calls for training purposes, report team and individual workloads, and segment consumer groups for easy outreach. 

“Keep what’s good and let go of anything that doesn’t serve the overall mission of deeper adoption, client advocacy and retention,” Granicus’s Director of Customer Success John Duckwitz advised.
 

Greenhouse
Greenhouse
Jamie Wernet
Director of Customer Success

Director of Customer Success Jamie Wernet at Greenhouse said her team relies on automation for processes like segmenting customers and reaching out to potential users when they will be most receptive. But when it comes down to guiding clients through their recruiting software, in-person interaction is key. 

 

When it comes to scaling your customer success team, what are the most important considerations and why?

Everything starts with understanding your customers as deeply as you can. What is it that they need to get out of the partnership? How fast are they growing? What outcomes do you need to see them achieve to know that they are successful and how can you measure that? 

From there, you can use that data to segment customers and plan your interventions when and where they’ll be the most effective. Who is self-sufficient and achieving positive outcomes on their own, indicating that they’d be successful in a scaled program? Who looks like they need help and more one-on-one attention?

The next phase for our team is measuring the outcomes of individual efforts. If we run a scaled education campaign verses, for example, an in-depth personalized executive business review, what impact does that have on the customer? Does it meaningfully change their team’s performance or their usage of our product? What does that do to their likelihood to renew or advocate for us? That’s where we can make a real qualitative assessment of our impact. 

 

What tools or technologies do you use to make customer success more scalable?

Our ops team has helped us to build out our tech stack, which includes Gainsight as our core customer success management platform, Salesforce as our CRM, Guru as our knowledge management tool and Gong for call analysis and tracking. We also use Mixmax for email tracking and automation and Skilljar for customer enablement and internal training.

Building automation into your process doesn’t mean you have to talk to your customers like a business robot.’’ 

How are you striking the right balance of automation and human touch?

Automation is a powerful tool. We use it to deliver proactive messaging triggered by user behavior, events we can observe in the platform or predictable moments in the customer lifecycle.

For example, when a new administrator is added into a customer’s account, we can automatically trigger an email with a new admin guide and notify their account team that there is a new, key contact. Our customer marketing team has also put together a series of guides that deliver content to customers at the most relevant points in their lifecycle. 

We think about the role of our CSMs as being there to help move customers up the hiring maturity curve. We prioritize CSM interventions for things that help customers achieve that goal, like executive business reviews, account audits and assessments, talent strategy conversations and workflow design. We will often leverage automation to scale the more formulaic aspects of outreach but then allow the CSMs to pick up from there and do what they do best with one-on-one customer guidance.

Building automation into your process doesn’t mean you have to talk to your customers like a business robot. Sounding “human” is a core tenet of our voice, so we try to bring elements of that human touch to every interaction we have with our customers. 

 

Jay Grinde
Chief Customer Officer

At Uplight, Chief Customer Officer Jay Grinde said his team automates certain functions slowly and deliberately. For example, the greentech solutions business recently launched a program called Shine, which seeks to automate information like KPI and SLA reporting and best practices for customers. 

 

When it comes to scaling your customer success team, what are the most important considerations and why?

We’ve really relied on three primary considerations as we’ve scaled our customer success team over the past year. First, the people part of the equation should lag investments in process and tools. Adding additional people to a system that isn’t rock-solid, well-documented and running on a set of reliable tools is likely to cause more harm than good. 

Second, we always hire for culture first. We never bring in new team members if there is any question about them fitting into and embracing our culture. In the long run, they won’t be happy and we’ll be right back where we started. 

Finally, we involve our customers. We have a number of long-time, foundational clients who we use as an advisory board. Whenever we start to think about what scaling something might look like, we bring in a client to make sure the changes we’re considering are in line with what our customers have come to expect from us.

 

What tools or technologies do you use to make customer success more scalable?

We use a host of collaboration tools including Zoom, G Suite, Microsoft Teams and others. But the most critical pieces of technology we use are Salesforce and Gainsight. The more consistent information we can have access to, the more informed and better our day-to-day strategies are.

Right now, all of our automated offerings are opt-in on the client side.’’

How are you striking the right balance of automation and human touch? 

Since our CSMs are almost always the eyes, ears, voice, face and heart of Uplight, we automate slowly and deliberately. We’ve started a program called Shine, which seeks to automate a series of specific and tactical pieces of information for our customers. That information includes KPI and SLA reporting and best practices that our clients are using to drive success with our products. 

Right now, all of our automated offerings are opt-in on the client side. The majority of our automation efforts are actually targeted internally, making our CSM’s day-to-day a little easier and more predictable.

 

Joseph Castaneda
Customer Service Manager

Joseph Castaneda, a customer service manager at OnDeck, said the fintech customer portal not only helps the team provide businesses with self-service options, it also gives clients access to team members who can answer questions and address concerns. 

 

When it comes to scaling your customer success team, what are the most important considerations and why?

Customer service at OnDeck is more than just providing solutions. Our CSM team is a resource and strategic business partner across the organization. With that in mind, the first variable customer service considers when we look to scale our team today is team management. Ensuring managers and seniors are leading co-workers to success in their OnDeck careers by providing the resources to enhance mutual accountability is key. 

Our focus on defining our team priorities in alignment with company goals is the foundation of any scaling efforts we have. Next, but no less important, is maintaining a culture focused on work ethic and recognition. Promoting a results-driven work environment through leading by example, celebrating success and holding team members accountable has proven to regularly pay dividends. Scaling a team effectively depends on management’s ability to supply agents with the tools necessary to measure success.

 

What tools or technologies do you use to make customer success more scalable?

We rely on Tableau to pull together data from every system we use at the agent level to report team and individual workloads. By pulling data from our phone system, CRM and servicing console, we can quickly deliver agent progress on both daily and monthly goals. Reports are set to auto-send daily to all interested parties. 

Leveraging these technologies allow us to quickly enhance the agent experience, identify points of friction and make decisions on scalability. Additionally, leadership maintains a separate view populated with what we call “areas of focus” through Tableau. In our fast-paced environment, our business and consumer needs change rapidly. Our areas of focus help to provide a quick look into what our leaders are most interested in beyond the daily key performance indicators.

We believe technology is only part of the solution.’’ 

How are you striking the right balance of automation and human touch? 

“Strike the right balance” is one of OnDeck’s five core values. In our organization, people and technology complement one another. We believe technology is only part of the solution. Our ability to feel, engage, pivot and respond to customers sets OnDeck apart. 

However, automation can be a service center’s best friend when used correctly. We continue to see our customers’ appetite grow for self-service options so we are constantly exploring the opportunity to provide solutions wherever possible. For our team, it comes down to potential business risk and impact on customer satisfaction. 

We review anything deemed low-risk with a high request volume for automation. Our focus on NPS and customer satisfaction ratings as an organization has benefited from automation and low-touch messaging. Automating certain functions frees up our CSMs to provide customers with feedback we might not otherwise send.

 

John Duckwitz
Director of Customer Success

At Granicus, employee account ownership is such a big deal to the SaaS company that it’s baked into performance reviews. Director of Customer Success John Duckwitz said that the department encourages team members to own initiatives to help scale processes around client advocacy through both automation and more personal outreach. Overall, he emphasizes iterating on what’s been working. 
 

When it comes to scaling your customer success team, what are the most important considerations and why?

Granicus is a high-growth company. In the SaaS world, that often means a sizeable portion of growth comes in the form of acquisitions and subsequent mergers. Scaling a customer success team in this environment can mean combining disparate teams, introducing new products and aligning similar yet unique processes. Overall, it requires a dedication to iteration. 

Keep what’s good and let go of anything that doesn’t serve the overall mission of deeper adoption, client advocacy and retention. Team members must have a voice. They must feel some ownership. Have your customer success team build a customer success program. At Granicus, we make that ownership part of the annual performance goals. An individual can participate in or own an internal initiative that serves to scale or improve the entire department. This strategy also offers an opportunity for our staff to develop or hone team-building, leadership and project management skills.

 

What tools or technologies do you use to make customer success more scalable?

While customer retention and overall sentiment is vital to high-growth SaaS companies, teams that own these areas are not always the first in line to receive additional resources to meet challenges. So, customer success teams often need to be a bit scrappy. This means using all available product usage data to understand your customers’ health. 

At Granicus, we work exclusively with the government across more than 40 software products. To scale customer success in this environment, we have to develop strong onboarding programs and continuous learning opportunities like weekly lunch-and-learns. 

The simplest tool we use is often a quick Google search to understand the public servant and the issues that their town, city, county or state agency may be facing locally. Doing so allows customer success managers to focus on which data points to discuss and feature or functionality recommendations to make. 

You must iterate on what’s working.’’ 

How are you striking the right balance of automation and human touch? 

Finding the right balance between automation and human touch at high-growth companies in the SaaS industry is like trying to hit a moving target with one eye closed after spinning around three times. Basically, it’s never going to be a perfect shot. Again, you must iterate on what’s working. 

The makeup of our clients’ product profile often determines whether they receive more of a high-touch or a low-touch approach. Luckily, there are some no-brainer areas where we can apply automation, like product release updates, marketing and thought-leadership content distribution and support ticket notifications. 

However, one task we always have customer success consultants own is risk-management related to churn prevention. A CSC is the client’s best advocate internally. Whenever we uncover a risk scenario or potential churn scenario, a CSC works through a playbook to achieve a resolution. Doing so often requires an incredible amount of cross-functional collaboration between internal teams in parallel with empathetic consumer management. 

 

Matt Lindeman
Chief Customer Officer

Druva Chief Customer Officer Matt Lindeman expects customer success managers to be both internal and external influencers. He said that the data protection company’s customer-first approach means that the most efficient and effective customer service option, whether that be automated or not, is the one they go with. 
 

When it comes to scaling your customer success team, what are the most important considerations?

Our focus is on driving adoption, retention and expansion. We are a data- and process-driven organization, allowing us to be disciplined in our cadence around driving adoption. We make sure our CSMs have access to the data needed and technical and account management training to ensure a tight and valued relationship with our customers. 

Our CSMs must have a natural curiosity for data protection and management, strong communication skills and be passionate about driving success.

Our focus is on driving adoption, retention and expansion.’’ 

What tools or technologies do you use to make customer success more scalable? 

We use Gainsight, Salesforce Services Cloud and Looker predominantly, as well as other supporting infrastructure.

 

How are you striking the right balance of automation and human touch? 

We always take a customer-first approach. Our reps handle a large proportion of our customer interactions but our main objective is to provide the quickest and most efficient response while minimizing any possible friction.

 

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