Starting from scratch: lessons learned

Brian O'Keeffe
Brian O'Keeffe Member Posts: 199 Expert
First Anniversary Photogenic 5 Insightfuls First Comment

With more than ten years in Customer Success and rebooting a program from scratch and fresh to a new role, here are some of my lessons learned on how to start (or restart) a successful digital program.

1) Do not call it scale, tier three, digital touch, tech touch or anything that brands it low value, low cost, and automated. It's a strategy, not a tier, that promotes self-service, data driven campaigns and crowd sourcing solutions. Whatever branded will be repeated throughout the organization and then outside and you will hear customers told things like "you’re a low ARR customer," "it's a bunch of automated emails," etc... and it will filter down to customers. You will also be looked at as less than, not real CS, or a cheaper version of CS that does not deserve or need resources assigned to it.

2) Get buy in across the organization and over communicate every step of the way. One part feather, one part hammer, you bring in all key partners and make sure they know exactly what you are doing, why and how it will affect them. It’s a kind partnership that you are unrelentingly pursuing and won’t stop until every partner understands your vision, agrees to it (or at least accepts it) and knows what you are doing why. Leave anyone out or be limited in communicating with them and expect that they won't know, or care, and watch your program wither or worse, be undermined with inconsistency.

3) Start with a few easy wins. Look for where you can pick off a win or two and go for that first. One win and you can then tackle some of the harder parts. Automate the CSM introduction or onboarding messaging, or another manual task. This will help drive partnership and morale and set the foundation for success as you tackle difficult problems like bad data, poor internal adoption of systems and tools or missing pieces of the program you need to create from scratch.

4) Do not segment your program. Your entire CSM team and the organization are part of your scale and efficiency program. It's a company wide initiative. You need the expertise that is already on your team and if you segment (Enterprise, Mid-Market, Other) it becomes problematic to get the first two tiers to be engaged and supporting the "lower tier" or to try develop that expertise independently. It's not my job. I have a portfolio I own and am not touching that! I don't want more work. Everyone participates in the community. Everyone will be part of a customer issue if and when their expertise or availability warrants involvement. Think of it like Trader Joe's. No one specializes and is strictly a cashier. They might be a cashier on Monday, doing cart duty Tuesday and split between re-shelving and cashiering on Wednesday. You have your portfolio and will not own other customers, but you will play a role managing campaign responses, working with customers who do not have a dedicated CSM when your expertise is needed and supporting other team members on occasion. It's one team. This is how you scale effectively.


  • Heather Wendt
    Heather Wendt HLAdmin, Member Posts: 285 Gain Grow Retain Staff
    5 Likes First Anniversary 5 Insightfuls Photogenic

    Great insights, @Brian O'Keeffe! One key takeaway is that you communicate that you are not neglecting your customers, you are empowering them through this program. So much data confirming that customers want to get help without having to initiate a call, a chat, or a ticket, so all you work on should be with an aim in helping them find information to resolve issues themselves as much as possible.