Customer Success Scalability Model

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Hi, all! I'm a new member and stumbled upon this community while searching for solutions/best practices on scaling our Customer Success function. We are currently on a hiring freeze and, as sales continues to close deals, our need for a scalable success model is expedited. We have implemented process/engagement-related solutions like office hours and lunch and learns to drive our new one-to-many model. However, I would love to hear from others on lessons learned or successes found in scaling CS. My CSMs are currently focused on renewals, business reviews, and act as the main point of contact for their customers. We'd love scalable ways to identify risk, proactively address customer sentiment, scale communications, etc. Members of my team generally have anywhere from 30-50 accounts. Would love your thoughts!

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  • Jill Mancuso
    Jill Mancuso Member Posts: 6 Navigator
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    @Brian O'Keeffe Thank you for the response! Yes, we do, we leverage SFDC & Gainsight; I'm currently working through the easiest/simplest processes to automate for the team. Our CSMs do not implement or configure (we have a services team), they are largely strategic arms for their customers, so we do need to beef up our asset library with more strategic/best practice related items to send and drive value proactively, while ensuring efficiency through automation.

    A current challenge we're having is setting expectations with our existing customers and across our organization, as our teams are used to touting CS as "white glove service." Have you had success overcoming something similar? 
  • Ed Powers
    Ed Powers Member Posts: 180 Expert
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    Hi @Jill Mancuso--I work with several clients to help them scale their CS operations. What's helpful is to first stratify the account base into tiers and examine the financial tradeoffs of staffing 1:1, 1:many and going completely automated. The trick is the sizing and rules for how you classify your accounts. This exercise helps you break the problem into manageable chunks and reallocate resources to give better overall returns. It also helps you justify investment in any automation you need. It's helpful to do a "bottom up" staffing model in combination to narrow in on the sweet spot for each tier. Happy to talk through the approach in detail if you like.

    Regarding your comment about changing engagement levels with current customers--that's a tough one.  :( A key part of scaling is realizing that not everyone can get (or is entitled to) "white glove" service, and it's not a good business decision to attempt it from an ROI perspective. Customers don't care, of course, and change is difficult no matter what form it takes. I've seen three approaches used in this case: 1. "Grandfather" all or a set of accounts in the old model while changing primarily for new customers; 2. "Rip the Band-Aid" by announcing it across the board and dealing with the fallout--some customers won't notice or care while others will require tough conversations; and 3. "Stealth"--change it without announcing, and deal selectively with whatever blowback you get. It's a choice between the lesser of evils, and it depends on the nature of your business, your segment(s) and their expectations, competitive threats, and your own company culture and values. It's an important C-level decision, and perhaps you can facilitate the conversation by pointing out the alternatives, benefits and tradeoffs. After a decision is made, then dig deep into change management concepts and use them to plan your response accordingly. 

    Hope that helps! 

    Ed
  • Brian O'Keeffe
    Brian O'Keeffe Member Posts: 205 Expert
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    edited December 2022
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    Ed, great addition! I have been part of all three methods outlined and Rip the Band Aid worked best. Customers DO NOT CARE how, and who, helps them achieved key business goals. As long as they are meeting them it will not matter whether they get white glove treatment or not. 
  • tejash_24
    tejash_24 Member Posts: 23 Navigator
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    I wanted to reach out and share some best practices for scaling the customer success function at any organization. I hope these tips will be helpful as you continue to grow and develop your customer success strategy.

    1. Clearly define your target customer: It's important to have a clear understanding of who your target customer is and what their needs and pain points are. This will help you prioritize your efforts and ensure that you are providing the most value to your customers.

    2. Build a customer-centric culture: Make sure that every employee in your organization understands the importance of customer success and is committed to delivering an exceptional customer experience.

    3. Invest in the right technology: The right customer success software can help you manage and track customer interactions, automate routine tasks, and provide valuable insights into customer behavior.

    4. Foster a sense of community: Encourage customers to engage with each other and with your company through online forums, social media, and other channels. This can help create a sense of belonging and encourage loyalty.

    5. Continuously gather and analyze customer feedback: Regularly soliciting and analyzing customer feedback will help you identify areas for improvement and ensure that you are meeting the needs of your customers.

    I hope these tips are helpful as you continue to scale your customer success function. If you have any questions or need further guidance, please don't hesitate to reach out.


  • Natalie Challier
    Natalie Challier Member Posts: 7 Navigator
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    Agreed with @Brian O'Keeffe. When the organization has a small headcount, stretch your budget with tools that will help with automation and scalability. Salesforce, Gainsight, Hubspot, Outreach, and Intercom, are just a few of the systems I've used on high-volume teams to expand CS's reach. 

    I also cannot stress enough the importance of a vibrant community, where customers can engage with one another and leverage the expertise of other users. So long as the customer has a someone/somewhere to go to for answers, they don't care if it is an internal or external resource.
  • Allastair Meffen
    Allastair Meffen Member Posts: 14 Thought Leader
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    I couldn't agree more with what everyone is saying.

    The one piece that @tejash_24 mentioned around making it company wide is important.  In 2023, it will be all about leveraging resources outside of your organization.  I have been able to work cross functionally with our marketing, training and operations teams to help with messaging, content and automation.  You won't be able to do everything on your own if you have a limited budget so making everyone realize they are also part of the customer experience will make it more collaborative.
  • Jill Mancuso
    Jill Mancuso Member Posts: 6 Navigator
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    Thank you everyone for your inputs! This is incredibly helpful as we move into a new year and quarter. We are beginning to implement a more regular cadence and collaboration with our product, marketing, and advocacy teams to work on scaled content and newsletter-type communication.

    Another question for this group: Is anyone operating with a fully-pooled CSM model, where you are not naming CSMs to accounts at all? Currently, I'm in favor of having a pooled model for questions, outreach, etc. but would like to assign a CSM internally for accountability on things like renewals, risks, escalations, etc. I don't necessarily think that customers need to know that they have a named CSM but will help avoid confusion around responsibility. Any thoughts or recommendations would be greatly appreciated!
  • Brian O'Keeffe
    Brian O'Keeffe Member Posts: 205 Expert
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    edited January 2023
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    @Jill Mancuso I am not currently but was the inaugural team member on this model and spent about five years as a pooled team member. In that model we used community and a dedicated, closed group as the main method of contact. Need your CSM? Post here. It worked well and most resistance was internal, not from customers. (We want our customer to have a real CSM etc...) 

    I saw it work well. The key to success is having a team that can go out and engage and find issues. Do not use a model where they sit back and wait for customers to come to them. Example: if you use community those reps should be going in there every day and finding assigned customer contacts and introducing themselves, making sure whatever issue was being talked about is addressed or they are connecting the customer with the right resource. You need movers and shakers who can be nimble, are not stuck in conventional behavior. RE: teacher asks question, I raise my hand, am called on, then answer. 

    Think about what your model will look like? How will you introduce the concept internally and to customers? The great myth is that customers will feel "slighted" or "less than" but that is almost always the internal reaction that can bubble out and be transmitted to customers. The other tiers will have a vested interest in making it not work too. They want their one to one model to be the king of the hill.

    It can and does work and can be equal to or exceed performance of all other models. That is the real kick in the pants. I watched it grow from a model devised out of necessity, with groaning and very little effort or thought put into it (of course it was obviously going to fail and everyone knew it) to an active, successful sector of CS that often exceeded other sectors in key metrics.

    Happy to share more or answer any questions via PM or via a call. 

  • Jill Mancuso
    Jill Mancuso Member Posts: 6 Navigator
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    @Brian O'Keeffe This is such great insight, thank you. Curious, during your experience, did you perform Business Reviews for these pooled accounts?