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A guide to building a Digital Customer Success Program

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Every company is becoming a digital experience company. And while Customer Success teams were already heading in this direction, it was accelerated by the pandemic outbreak in 2020.

Introduction

We believe that, by the end of 2022, most B2B SaaS companies will have moved to a predominantly digital-led Customer Success model where automation, personalization, and engagement enable teams to facilitate better customer experiences at scale. This will also help Customer Success to continue to establish itself as a strategic function that drives sustainable growth by decreasing Time to Value.

We’re in for a world of more personalized customer experiences made possible through automation, but most importantly, facilitating self-service and allowing for the autonomous customer to create their own experience.

That’s why in this guide, we’re outlining how Customer Success teams can build their first digital-led models, what that entails, and what they need to succeed.

 

What is Digital Customer Success?

Customer Success historically suffers from a lack of definition. The reason behind this is because Customer Success looks different at every company. A company’s Customer Success function and how it operates depends on the company, the product, and the stage of maturity.

But unfortunately, this lack of definition can cause problems. Often, it leads to Customer Success becoming an afterthought built in response to a bunch of issues that are too far gone. But this is not sustainable, nor is it scalable.

So what exactly is Digital Customer Success? To avoid any confusion or misinterpretation, Looker’s Brian LaFaille defines it as follows: “Digital Customer Success is personalizing customer journeys at scale.

But what does this actually mean in practical terms?

How would you know to build something if you don't know what it is? If something isn't understood and doesn't have a clear definition, it's quite natural for someone to not think about it.

Rav Dhaliwal

Customer Success veteran turned investor

The difference between "traditional" Customer Success and Digital Customer Success

Digital Customer Success is about using technology and data to create a proactive, customized strategy to serve all your customers based on their specific needs.

The main difference between traditional Customer Success and Digital Customer Success is that you have no direct one-on-one contact with your customers. Instead, in a Digital Customer Success approach, you:

  • Use a one-to-many approach utilizing channels and tools such as email, webinar, video, knowledge base, and a customer community to deliver communication and engagement at scale.
  • Use a many-to-many approach where peer-to-peer (P2P) interactions and self-service initiatives facilitate a smooth customer experience, often with a customer community serving as the central hub for these interactions.

The goal is to help your customers get more value from your product, achieve their desired outcomes, and experience value faster. But doing so in a repeatable, scalable, highly measurable, and strategic fashion, drawing from both product and marketing mindsets while reducing your overhead costs for CSMs.

Digital Customer Success is not a "new" field. We're just defining its responsibilities and purpose, allowing CS professionals to create structure and clarity in the way they work.

Digital Customer Success is nothing new. It’s just about taking what’s likely to already exist in your team and other key functions such as Support and CX and creating structure. It’s about defining responsibilities to better serve our customers and creating more structure and clear ownership for the CS team and across the organization.

Anika Zubair

VP of Customer Success at inSided

The components of Digital Customer Success

Digital Customer Success consists of five key components which all contribute to creating a personalized customer experience at scale:

Frame 1

Let's take a closer look at each. First up, personalization.

1. Personalization

In the context of Digital Customer Success, personalization means delivering the right content at the right time, helping your customers to effectively solve problems, complete tasks, and move forward in their product experience.

A common misconception is that personalization can't exist in an automated, digital-led customer experience. But that's wrong. A digital-led strategy does not mean removing personalization or delivering communication that doesn't add value.

A well-executed Digital Customer Success strategy creates an experience that ensures personalized support is available to customers when it's needed by, for example, utilizing in-app prompts, self-service features, or peer-to-peer support.

Historically, tech-touch strategies have been viewed as appropriate for only specific customer segments, such as those with lower ARR. When, in fact, this isn't how you should be segmenting your customers at all. Instead, using a digital-led Customer Success strategy across the board based on their specific needs – that's what personalization is really about.

CSMs are busy with phone calls, emails, and meetings. They can't be on standby 24/7 to help customers, and they don't want to repeat customer FAQs continuously. But a digital-led strategy can. CSMs exist to offer specialized support to help customers achieve their desired outcomes, but they're not there to handle busy work. Instead, leave that job up to your digital strategy.

Traditional approach of segmentation based on ARR (1)

Image A: breaks down the traditional approach of segmentation based on ARR.

Digital-led approach based on customer lifecycle stage and customer needs (1)

Image B: a digital-led approach based on the customer lifecycle stage and the customer needs.

2. Automation

The idea behind automation is to deliver personalized content that helps customers get more value from your product at the right time – it facilitates personalization and drives engagement.

This starts with looking at the customer journey and identifying the areas of engagement that can be automated to amplify the work your CSMs are doing. It's important to understand that a digital-led approach doesn't eliminate the role of the CSM – instead, automated engagements exist to support their objectives, not replace them.

With that in mind, let's look at an example.

You're the VP of Customer Success for a SaaS company. You're growing fast, and while customers are encountering some challenges in the onboarding process, you also know precisely what actions they need to take to be successful during this process.

Knowing this, you map out the automated touchpoints that will guide your customer through the onboarding experience in a way that helps them realize value faster.

How and when you choose to apply automatic engagements will depend on the complexity of your product and how you triage customer actions throughout the customer lifecycle, especially in crucial stages like onboarding and adoption.

Onboarding touchpoints and actions

3. Content

Customer Success has to take ownership of the content they need to deliver throughout the lifecycle stages. That means mapping out content needs and providing that content in a suitable format. Whether it's delivered via email, in-app prompts, a knowledge base article, on-demand video, or your FAQs – content is what carries the strategy.

Invest in content. And do so early. The best way to do that is by asking your existing customers and the customers you're currently onboarding about their experience. What questions do they have? What challenges do they face? When do they need help? What stops them from achieving the actions you know will make them successful?

So, we have personalization, automation, and content. But what's going to drive your digital-led strategy comes down to one thing and one thing only: engagement.

4. Engagement

While content is the lifeblood of your Digital Customer Customer Success program, engagement is your north star metric. And here, you want to consider all touchpoints; from email open rates, CTR, and the number of walk-through videos watched, to knowledge articles read, product usage, surveys, questions posted, feature requests created, and so on.

Why? Because this is what truly helps you understand the health and success of your customers. Customer engagement drives adoption, revenue and ultimately defines the customer experience.

Remember how we said that Digital Customer Success borrows a lot from marketing? That's very much the case when it comes to engagement. For example, as a Digital CSM, you might want to send out an email based on engagement with specific topics or articles in your knowledge base. In terms of metrics, the first thing you'll want to look at is open rates and click-through rates to understand how well-timed and targeted your content was. (Tech stack, KPIs, and channels are a huge part of Digital CS, but we're saving that for another eBook!)

Ultimately, the goal is to understand preferences better and needs to continuously iterate on delivering the proper communications at the right time and treat customers how they want to be treated.

Now, engagement brings us to the backbone of your Digital Customer Success program: data.

5. Data

In a Digital Customer Success program, data is in the driver's seat. Without data, you can't make improvements to your digital-led strategy – let alone scale it.

While Customer Success teams may struggle with the 360-degree customer view, it's not necessarily a do or die in a digital-led strategy. By, as mentioned, focusing on the customer lifecycle stages and delivering what's needed at the time, a 360-degree customer view (or lack thereof) isn't the be-all and end-all for CS teams.

Instead, with the desired outcomes in mind, CS teams can look at data based on the lifecycle stage, their specific needs during that stage, and focus on meeting those needs by delivering the right content. But more importantly, measure the success of that content and product usage by looking at engagement KPIs.

Simply put, without data, you can't quantitatively measure whether you've created value or not.

Building your Digital Customer Success program

Building your digital customer success program

Step 1: Mapping out the customer journey

Mapping out the customer journey is not just about understanding what happens in each phase. It's about identifying the outcome that will enable your customers to experience and realize recurring value from using your product.

So, how do you do that? You start by identifying key product behaviors that customers need to achieve to obtain value.

It's time to rethink the customer journey as we know it.

(Re)building the customer journey

There's a lot to say about what a customer journey could and should look like.

However, a frequent pitfall for SaaS companies is to create vendor-focused customer journeys. Often, when we map out customer journeys, we tend to include very vendor-focused activities designed to ensure that we're doing the right things, rather than making sure that the customer is doing the right things. Looker's Brian Lafaille notes, "I see many companies that have vendor-focused customer journeys. And it's disappointing because it's not thinking through the customer's lens."

For example, you might have the usual suspects on the agenda, such as monthly check-in calls, QBRs, and additional training sessions. We're not saying they're not necessary, but they're often tick-the-box activities from the vendor. It's the typical cadence your customers go into, one that doesn't necessarily create value because you haven't identified exactly how that value is achieved.

If the customer journey map (as we know it) goes out the window, what does a customer journey look like?

Identify key product behaviors

To move away from a vendor-focused approach, rather than customer journey mapping in its traditional sense where you focus on activities – you'll do behavior mapping.

Behavior mapping really comes down to one simple question: What customers are achieving what behaviors in what period of time?

If you break this down, you have three distinct attributes you need to identify:

  • What customers (or customer segment)?
  • What behaviors?
  • What period of time?

Even if you haven't crunched the numbers before, you'll probably still have a good idea of what customers are doing well and are getting the most value. Start with those.

The great thing? These are all quantifiable product behaviors. Product adoption and usage are the prerequisites that result in value creation for customers. Identifying exactly what the key product behaviors are and when they need to happen is what ultimately will drive success.

So next, the question is, how do you identify key product behaviors? You start by creating a number of hypotheses.

Create hypotheses

To identify key product behaviors, you first need to create hypotheses. It's important to note that any company of any size can do this. You don't need to have thousands of customers to ensure the result is statistically significant. You just need to start somewhere and work with what you DO have.

Gather people from Success, Sales, Product (the more teams and input, the better!) and start formulating hypotheses for these behaviors.

There are two rules:

  1. The behaviors have to be time-bound
  2. The behaviors have to be trackable

A good starting point is to map out what behaviors customers need to achieve during the first six months. You could map this on a 30-day basis or every week, depending on the nature of your product or service.

You can also choose to tie the hypotheses into the customer lifecycle. For example, at inSided, we know that after we complete onboarding and customers launch their communities, they need to take certain actions to make their communities a success.

Below is a simplified example of what that could look like.

How to create hypotheses for digital customer success

Once you've collected all the hypotheses and agreed on which ones to try, it's time to go out there and test them.

Can and will the data back these up?

Test your hypotheses

If you have a data team in place – great! Hand over the hypotheses and ask them to do cohort analysis to see if the key behaviors you've mapped out lead to greater retention and expansion down the line.

Are you working with limited resources? No worries, as long as you can track product usage (remember the rules!) and can tie that into your CRM or CS platform, that's all you need. The data doesn't have to be fancy; it just has to be there.

Your data will come back in two formats:

  • Positive indicators – greater engagement, adoption, or retention
  • Negative indicators – less engagement, adoption, or retention

Once you know what behaviors are positive indicators, you then have an idea of what "good behavior" looks like in the context of your product or service. Now you have a roadmap that tells you exactly what behaviors you need to help customers achieve in a certain period.

That means you can start looking at what channels you can use to help influence and drive those behaviors. Whether it's in-app guides, email communications, webinars, or a customer community, your next step is to identify what digital channels will be the most effective in helping customers take the actions needed to drive those behaviors.

It will look different at every company

The path to creating a behavior-led customer journey map will look different at every company. It will come down to your resourcing, size, data capabilities, and so on. In a smaller company, a single individual could be responsible for building this out, while in a bigger company, several teams would be involved, such as Customer Success, Customer Marketing, and Product. As we mentioned earlier, start with what you have and go from there.

Guest section

Gainsight on creating human-centric customer journeys

Christine Friscic, Product Marketing at Gainsight

 

Customers in today’s world expect vendors to know them. They know that vendors are constantly collecting information – when they visit our website, how they use our product, what content they read, and much more. And, they expect us, as the vendor, to use that information to create a better experience for them. However, the challenge that many vendors face is in taking all of that data from their different systems and leveraging it holistically. What vendors need is a consolidated view of all of the information they have on their customers to deeply understand them and what they need.

 

Once you can aggregate all of your customer data and create an accurate, 360-degree view of your customer, you can then better understand your customers’ journeys and the outcomes they need to achieve at every stage along the way. For example, leveraging usage data will help you understand where customers get stuck in adopting your product and need a little extra guidance.

With a deeper understanding of which outcomes your customers need to realize along their journey, your team can more effectively support and guide your customers through it. You’ll also understand better where human touchpoints will be most needed and where you can get by with digital engagement such as emails or in-product communications.

By approaching your customer’s journey and the engagement along the way in a thoughtful way, you can effectively optimize your journey with automation without losing the human element that your customers want and need to be successful. For example, you may be able to automate their onboarding journey – sending automated emails, videos, and in-app engagements to guide them through the onboarding process – but, down the line, if that customer is coming up on their renewal and the account health isn’t great, you’ll want to reach out directly to discuss the renewal.

By intelligently combining human and automated touchpoints, your customers can still have that personal experience while your team can work more efficiently.

Here's what you can do to bring in that human element:
  • Take stock of what data you have on your customer base and identify where gaps may exist.

  • Map out what your customer journeys look like, identifying key milestones (or outcomes) that customers need to hit at each stage so that you can plan for how you'll help them get there.

  • Pinpoint where you can lean into automation, and where you can expect to have more one-to-one communications to optimize your customers' journey and your team's time.

Step 2: choosing your channels

You’ve completed the first and most crucial step in building your Digital Customer Success program: you’ve mapped out the customer journey. You have a roadmap for what behaviors need to be achieved in a given timeframe. Now it’s time to start thinking about the digital channels that will help drive those behaviors.

Audit existing behaviors and channel performance

When you start developing the channels for your digital CS program, there are a couple of things you need to think about:

  1. What channels are you currently using, and which ones work well for you?
  2. What channels could be the most effective in driving the behaviors you’ve identified?

This is when you go back to your roadmap and carry out an audit. Look at the key customer behaviors and ask the following questions:

  • What actions did customers take to achieve those key behaviors?
  • What channels did they use? Is there a pattern?
  • What type of content did they engage with? Did that content cover certain sections of your product or areas of interest? And what can you learn from that?

If you have enough data to identify trends, then use that data as a baseline to develop your channels and the content you’re pushing through them. If your Customer Success organization is less mature, start simple (more on this below!), work with what you have, and iterate as you learn more about your customers and their preferences.

Develop channels for your digital CS program

One of the most important aspects of Digital Customer Success is to have the resources in place for customers to self-serve. It’s simple, your customers don’t want to call your CSMs for every little question, and your CSMs also need the time to focus on high-value conversations.

When it comes to developing your digital channels, remember that every touchpoint is an experience. The goal? To make every experience through those touchpoints a positive one while your customers are working toward the key behaviors.

So how do you choose the most effective channels? Yes, you guessed it. It starts with the customer:

  1. Ask your customers
    Always ask your customers what works for them. Do they want email prompts? In-app guides? Or are they perhaps happy to self-serve using a knowledge base? There’s never a wrong time to ask customers about their communication preferences. Do it consistently to understand how preferences might change as they mature with your product.
  2. Opt for easy over effective
    A full-fledged digital CS program is typically centered around a resources hub such as a learning management platform, help center, or a community platform where you centralize all of your customer success content. But if you’re just getting started, start by addressing the common questions and pain points in the quickest and most accessible format, such as help articles. To have resources in a format is better than having no resources at all.
  3. Value over production
    Now, articles might be the quickest content to get out the door and publish in your FAQ section or your help center. But that doesn’t mean you have to shy away from including other types of content in those channels. There’s a lot of snazzy videos in SaaS, from product tours to feature walk-throughs and how-tos. But a simple screen record can bring clarity and add the value customers are looking for. The point is, don’t get too caught up in cosmetics! Think about what the learning value is rather than what something looks like.
  4. Evaluate your tech stack
    Your channels will only be as good as your tech stack. And your tech stack will only be as good as your budget. An issue for Customer Success historically has always been the lack of purpose-built tools. They’ve had to borrow tools from other departments and make do. But as Digital Customer Success finds itself at the intersection of Support, Marketing, Sales, and Product – this is suddenly where the past borrowing becomes a blessing. As Customer Success adopts more and more marketing and product metrics as their own, their tech stacks also need to reflect this. And while your tech stack is likely to change over time, the best tech stack is one that scales as you scale.
  5. Track, measure, and test everything
    In a Digital Customer Success program, data is in the driver’s seat. Whatever channels you choose, you need to make sure that everything can be tracked so that you can measure impact and keep improving. Engagement metrics are the starting point for driving behavior. E.g., if your customer opens an email but doesn’t take action, you have to evaluate why that didn’t happen. Was it unclear what they were supposed to do? Was it the wrong action? The point in the experience where the engagement and the behavior stops, that’s where you’ll need to investigate why.
  6. Clarify ownership
    But it’s not just about choosing the most effective channels – it’s just as much about using them effectively. That’s why, before anything else, you need to clarify ownership. Whose responsibility is it to build out the digital channels? Who is the best person to create the content? This mostly comes down to resourcing. In a smaller company, it’ll likely be one single person, whereas in a larger company, the responsibility would stretch over a set of teams, such as Customer Success, Customer Marketing, and Product.
  7. Start simple
    The key to getting started is trying to not overthink your channels or your content. Think about the behavior you need to drive and what could be the best channel for the job. If your customers are already engaged with your emails, start there. If your customers spend more time on your blog or in your knowledge base, start there. Wherever your customers spend most of their time engaging with content, that will give you a good idea of where to start.

A fully developed Digital Customer Success program consists of channels and content that allow customers to onboard, adopt, and get to a high level of maturity with no human intervention whatsoever. And while that might sound like quite a feat, the truth is that, well, it isn’t. Why? A lot of today’s professionals are digital natives.

We’re used to working in the cloud. Plus, most of us don’t just want automation – we expect it. Customers often like to create their own experience and get set up; they don’t want our help. However, our job is still to guide them toward meeting the behaviors we have identified as achieving value for them.

Creating a step-by-step approach

The goal of your channel strategy is not just to drive the key product behaviors you’ve identified, but also to put the power into the hands of your customers and enable them to get to value faster.

Read the blog post to discover how you can build a step-by-step approach to enabling key product behavior and reaching your customer journey milestones.

Choosing channels based on phase

The ultimate vision for a digital-led strategy is this: the ability for your customers to choose their own self-guided journey. Read the blog post to discover how you can break this down into onboarding, adoption, and retention and focus on a few key channels for each phase.

The role of a customer community in your digital CS strategy

The key to enabling a self-guided journey to value is giving customers access to the resources they need when they need them. Now, part of that comes down to creating a tailored and personalized digital-led journey based on where the customer is. But even the best automation can’t meet all customer needs. So what can? Let your customers take the lead – it’s time to embrace many-to-many.

Creating one central hub for your customers to self-serve

A customer community (when done right) is self-sustaining. And who better to understand better what a customer needs than other customers? Plus, what automation lacks, a customer community makes up for flexibility. It’s not easy to get frequency right when it comes to automation.

Of course, creating a successful community doesn’t happen overnight, but when you get it right, it won’t just take the load off your CSMs, it will also serve as a central hub for your customers to access everything they need to reach more value milestones and, in return, yield the business outcomes they were promised.

So how does a community fit into each part of the customer journey? In simple terms, it could look something like this:

Community in each part of the customer journey

While a mix of channels often achieves the best result, be careful. More isn’t better. The channels you use should work together to help the customer unlock value, not make them lose sight of what they’re trying to achieve because of message overload.

And lastly, with all this automation in place, you’ll be sitting on a wealth of data. Leverage that data to iterate on your channel strategy as you learn what customers are responding to. And remember, what your customers don’t do, is just as important as what they DO do.

Step 3: measuring impact

Digital Customer Success is all about data. Your ability to succeed will be determined by your ability to leverage your customer data in a scalable manner.

As you build out your digital-led program, you’ll likely have plenty of data points to tell you if you’re on the right track. Once again, it’s time for Customer Success to borrow from marketing. Because while the end game is, as always, positive Net Revenue Retention (NRR), it’s the metrics that will get you to that point you’ll need to look at first.

Your customer journey milestones dictate your KPIs

Your customer journey milestones are the key to identifying your KPIs for your digital-led program. Because once you know what they are, you can assess what data points you need to track against those milestones.

For example, during the onboarding phase, the bigger questions you’d want to answer are probably:

  • How quickly are we onboarding customers? (Can we do it faster?)
  • How good are we at onboarding customers? (Can we do it better?)
  • How soon do customers see value from our solution(s)? (Can we help them see value faster?)

But within those sits other questions such as:

  • Are we reaching the right contacts?
  • Are we using the right channels?
  • Are we reaching out at the right time?
  • How effective is the content we’re using? (Do customers take the actions we want?)
  • Are we using the best format? (Can/should the content be delivered in other or multiple formats?)

The ultimate question you want to answer is how fast was the Time to Value (TTV) during onboarding?

Next, during the adoption phase, you’d want to know:

  • Are customers successful in using the product? (Are they achieving desired outcomes? Hopefully, the ones written down in their Success Plan.)
  • Are customers using key product features? (Do they understand the value of the features?)
  • Are they utilizing all of the features they paid for?

When you mapped out your customer journey, you identified key product behaviors that you hypothesized will make customers successful with your product. Now the question is, what exactly should your Digital CSM (or whoever is responsible for your digital-led program) look at when they log in every morning?

Your digital-led KPIs: Reach, Effect, ROI

In a digital-led approach, your KPIs can be split into three main categories that represent a simplified customer journey.

The first two categories are leading indicators, whereas the third is a lagging indicator.

  • Reach: Did I manage to identify and reach the right contacts? (Leading indicator)
  • Effect: Did I manage to make them do what I wanted them to do? (Leading indicator)
  • ROI: Was the outcome what we wanted it to be? (Lagging indicator)

The ROI is the most important category. However, the KPIs defined in the other two categories will be used to arrive at the ROI.  Simply demonstrated: the VP of Marketing (Reach) adopted feature x [Effect] and decided to add 3 more seats to their plan (ROI).

DCS KPIs

Reach - Leading indicator

Getting your message in front of the right people is the first step.

That’s why your first KPI should answer the question: Did I manage to identify the right contacts?

Depending on the type of product, its complexity, the number of seats, team roles, and so on, getting the right content to the right people might be easier said than done.

Reach comes down to effective segmentation. It’s the hardest part of the job (ask any marketer). Except that here, unlike marketing, you have your contacts in front of you already. It’s just a matter of what type of content should go in front of whom.

So what do you want to segment by? It should come as no surprise: behavior.

You want to make sure that your customers are getting closer to the customer journey milestones. You’ll track this against the key product behaviors you’ve mapped out. But it’s not just about product usage, you also want to track behavior on all relevant platforms to better understand what content they’re consuming.

Effect - Leading indicator

Define your effect metrics based on your unique customer journey milestones. For example, during onboarding you’d want to look at:

  • Did the customers attend training sessions and webinars?
  • Did they access your knowledge base?
  • Were they active in your customer community?
  • What content did they consume and did it achieve the desired outcome?

This is where you want to look at both engagement metrics and product usage metrics to answer questions such as:

  • Can your customers easily find your content? (Pageviews, interactions per visit)
  • Are your customers consuming your content? (Time spent on page, % exit, scroll depth, content downloads)
  • Is your content perceived as valuable? (Video views, drop-offs, and interactions, webinar signup, attendance, and drop-off rates)
  • Does your content achieve the desired outcomes? (Product logins, feature usage, actions, revenue)
ROI - Lagging indicator

This is the moment of truth. If you’ve reached the right contacts and delivered the right content, this is when you reap the rewards. This could be:

  • Increased logins
  • Increased product usage
  • Feature adoption
  • Added integrations
  • Upgraded user permissions
  • Increased revenue (added seats, plan upgrades, renewals)

These should always be tied to a specific period of time, if they’re not it can be more difficult to identify the specific actions that led to those outcomes.

Pro tip: If analysis paralysis hits, take a step back and focus on the data points of one thing you want your customers to achieve in their journey.

Clarity above all

It’s easy to go down the path of looking at too much data. You need to be clear in what you’re looking for and what you want to achieve. That’s where it starts. Identifying and categorizing your KPIs will help you stay focused and on track.

And remember, there’s no one north star metric in the land of digital-led. The key metrics are the ones that drive your decisions and get you closer to your milestones. The task of the KPIs in each category is to help you create context around what’s happening in the customer journey, ultimately allowing you to serve your customers better and create more value by delivering what they need – when they need it.

Step 4: structuring your Customer Success team

Back in the day, Customer Success teams were formed as a result of a need to provide high-touch guidance to your most valuable customers (read: highest paying customers). But as your customer base grows, so does the demand for CSMs’ time and expertise. Plus, in the age of digital-led, customer needs are different, and, as a result – so is your CS team structure.

No common structure in place for Customer Success teams

There’s no one-size-fits-all structure for Customer Success teams. It depends on size, maturity, and even industry. But the main issue isn’t necessarily the lack of a common structure. The lack of common structure is simply a symptom of a bigger issue, one that the Customer Success industry is struggling with as a whole.

In a recent webinar, Cognite’s Alex Farmer stressed that "Customer Success can mean so many different things to so many different organizations. We don't have that one common structure of KPIs or an accepted way of demonstrating value. As a result, it drives discord between the different teams within the organization."

It’s not just about Customer Success

How does a function that’s comparatively young, find its footing when it comes to building a team? Well, it’s not just about the Customer Success team, is it? The entire company should rally around customer success, from the top-down.

  • It’s not just about the Customer Success function. The entire company needs to have a top-down customer-centric philosophy.
  • Customer Success has to be a priority. Because if not, you’ll struggle when it comes to structure, responsibilities, and KPIs.
  • Make a conscious choice about the role of Customer Success at your company, and make sure that’s accepted across the board.

Now, we recognize that the above isn’t always easy to get to, and it doesn’t happen overnight. Ultimately, the entire company needs to adopt a customer-centric philosophy and with that, a customer success mindset.

So, what can you do in the meantime?

Assess your existing Customer Success team structure

Assigning roles and responsibilities is a big part of your digital-led model. It’s where the divide and conquer aspect of your strategy really starts. It’s time to execute your plan. In order to do so, you need to make sure you not only have the right people in place, but also the right resources at hand.

So once you’ve identified the activities that will make up your digital-led program, ask yourself this:

  • Does my team have the expertise and know-how to implement the strategy?
  • Does my team have the right tools to implement the strategy?
  • Does my team have access to the data they need to implement the strategy?

Now, the structure of a digital-led Customer Success team isn’t necessarily that different from any other structure. Often you’ll find that it’s a matter of redefining structures and assigning clear ownership based on your strategy, rather than reinventing the wheel.

Try working backward by looking at how Customer Success could drive the company's overall goal. Because if you start by looking at the overall goal and your strategy, you can then start thinking about how you can connect the dots all the way to the top, and what the team should look like to help you get there.

Take three steps back and don’t just focus on what the ‘accepted’ KPIs for a CS team are, but instead look at the particular things that your team can do to drive the company's overall vision and value.

Liz Stephany

Director of Customer Success at Close

Roles and responsibilities

Roles and responsibilities

Structure starts with ownership

Many CS teams still find themselves trying to justify what exactly you do for the company. And the challenge often is that if you haven't defined this for the CS function and on a company level – someone else within your organization will (or perhaps they already have). That's when you start running into issues. Because if you didn't take ownership of the opportunity to define your own KPIs, that would snowball into other problems, such as limiting your team structure. Because how do you define your team structure without clear goals?

Find the KPIs that align with revenue and align with growth. Because if CS can demonstrate that it's a growth engine, not just a cost center, then it will immediately become more evident not only what your actions are but what your team should look like to achieve those goals.

Step 5: building your tech stack

Technology is an integral part of your Digital Customer Success program – it's the facilitator that makes it successful.

But it can be challenging to identify and implement the right tools.

That's why we've put together the essential tools to help you run a Digital Customer Success model program that enables your team and never loses sight of what matters – creating value for your customers.

Digital customer success Tech stack

Guest section: Skilljar on a Customer LMS

Michael Freeman, VP of Marketing at Skilljar

What's a Customer LMS?

A Customer LMS is a software solution used by organizations to house, deliver, and track training content for customers and partners. It's different from an Employee LMS, which is designed for internal training of employees.

A successful Customer LMS should deliver:

  • Excellent user experience and easy discoverability of learning content
  • Integration with your existing customer tech stack (CRM, Community, Marketing, CS, SSO)
  • Monetization for paid training
  • Flexible authoring for custom content about your product vs. off-the-shelf courses typically used for compliance training

Where does a Customer LMS fit into the customer journey?

A Customer LMS delivers value throughout the customer lifecycle and improves the customer journey by providing a streamlined and self-service customer experience from the start:

  1. Onboarding: a Customer LMS gives all customer onboarding and training content a single home for a faster, easier ramp-up period.
  2. Product development: help customers stay up-to-date with product innovations and enhancements, so their experience improves as your product evolves.
  3. Upleveling: expand accounts by helping customers understand the value of your product and why more people in their company should use it.
  4. Certifications: help users demonstrate their product knowledge and domain mastery with certification and credentials.

How a Customer LMS drives impact in a digital-led program

1. Reduce the burden on CS, Implementation, and Support teams with self-service

When you empower your customers with self-service opportunities, you free up time and energy for your CS team to focus on more valuable tasks.

Help your customers help themselves by equipping them to find answers independently. When your customers better understand how to use your products and get the most value from them, you'll reduce the volume of support tickets.

Whether you're supplying self-service content yourself or facilitating peer-to-peer user-generated content, self-service is a game-changer, and your frontline teams will thank you.

2. Offload repetitive training to focus on higher-value conversations

A Customer LMS lets your CSMs focus on high-level onboarding and have strategy-led conversations instead of product tutorials.

Now, you can begin onboarding by reviewing metrics, goals, and timelines rather than a boilerplate walk-through of your product and platform.

3. Speed up time to value and increase customer satisfaction

New customers are on an adrenaline high of finally finding the product they've been looking for — now, it's up to you to deliver value. The faster they can be trained to use their new purchase, the quicker they will adopt it and enjoy the benefits it provides them.

With a Customer LMS, you can help users hit the ground running toward product adoption on Day 1. Create more value by delivering what customers need – when they need it – in one seamless experience.

4. Drive deeper product adoption

Adoption is a constant process of learning and education. And the key to driving deeper adoption is to provide users with as much educational content as possible and make it easily discoverable.

A Customer LMS helps you deliver excellent product education content combined with top-notch marketing emails to keep customers engaged. After all, customer engagement drives adoption, revenue and ultimately defines the customer experience.

How a Customer LMS complements community

Unified search and discoverability

Having one location for customers to access all of your Customer Success content is pivotal. For unified search and discoverability, make your community the central hub for all customer needs.

As the single source of truth for CS content, community will be the go-to destination for customers to get more value out of your product without additional barriers like trying to understand disparate systems.

Your community will also help you close the loop by communicating important product updates and allowing your customers to share ideas and best practices with each other.

Create directed support paths with deep linking

If your community is the hub, deep links are the spokes that direct your customers to different types of educational content.

Help your customers find the exact content they need, such as important topics, how-to articles, explainer videos, and best practices.

Directed paths help users pick and choose the right content, courses, and materials to help them on their journey to master your product.

A digital-led approach to your Customer LMS

A company is only as successful as its customers' ability to successfully use and derive value from their product. A digital-led approach to customer education empowers customers by providing them with the right knowledge at the right time.

By giving customers a central hub that facilitates self-service and provides them 24/7 access to answers and educational content, you set them up for success, growth, and satisfaction.

Summary

There are a lot of moving parts in a Digital Customer Success program, no doubt about it. And while the goal is to marry the aspects of personalization, automation, content, engagement, and data, everything doesn’t have to happen all at once.

Start with the customer. Start with what you know. Building out the first iteration of your Digital Customer Success program (especially with limited resources and budget) will take a lot of work – but it will be worth it.

You might think you’re starting at the very beginning, but you’re not. Digital Customer Success is already happening across your company. It's happening in pockets of your business (such as marketing and product), but there might not yet be a way to understand and see what's happening from a holistic perspective.

Remember, customers care about outcomes more than features, and a successful digital-led strategy will enable customers to experience value faster and drive outcomes for their business. Ultimately, the faster your customers experience value, the faster they will rely on your product and integrate it into their day-to-day.