Pooled CSM Model

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[Deleted User]
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At Higher Logic we're deploying a pooled Customer Success model for certain customer segments. We're looking for inspiration on how to structure it.

Do you have a pooled CSM model? If so, how have you structured it to handle both outbound proactive activities and reactive "hand-raiser" requests as customers need it?

Also, how do you describe the program to your customers? 

@Darcy Wodzinski
@Jeff Breunsbach
@Jennifer Kirkland




------------------------------
Jay Nathan
Chief Customer Officer, Higher Logic
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  • Kevin Mitchell Leonor
    Kevin Mitchell Leonor Member Posts: 248 Expert
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    edited October 2020
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    At RingCentral we had a team called the Customer Success Response Team. This is for smaller accounts that don't meet minimum requirements of MRR for a CSM.

    so there is an email distribution that sends the emails to a CSRT Rep and they answer as a CSM
  • Matt Myszkowski
    Matt Myszkowski Member Posts: 143 Expert
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    edited October 2020
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    To add to this....

    Does anyone use a "virtual CSM" to answer common questions?
  • Elisabeth Courland
    Elisabeth Courland Member Posts: 10 Contributor
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    edited October 2020
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    What a cool topic to discuss !!!

    Indeed, concierge might be a good option. What we started to implement is proactive communication sent from "Elisabeth from the CX team" pushing best practices and providing more transparency when it comes to journey, help, and transparency.

    As @Jeff Breunsbach once said, these communications indeed need to be the opportunity to be "hand raiser" for the client. And hand raised are redirected by a pool of CS Concierge. 

    As long as we are transparent and clear with the client, explaining the journey, key contacts and touch points, we are good to go !!!

    I bet @Alex Tran and @Kristi Faltorusso have amazing best practices about that
  • Matt Berg
    Matt Berg Member Posts: 3 Seeker
    edited October 2020
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    Hi Jay,
    I've been running a pooled CSM engagement model for 4 years now.  We used a shared inbox behind an email alias.  We round robin the emails that come in and maintain CSM to email threads by using a signature (ex. Matt Berg CustomerSuccess@abc.com).  You have to maintain train of thought otherwise it becomes a huge mess.   

    We created a proactive framework around the customer lifecycle loading most of our outbound call interactions in the first 90 days a customer goes live.  In the first 90 days the CSM work hard to engage customer to achieve success outcomes and product mastery. 

    The other component of keeping this clean and streamlined is that we internally "assign" a CSM to an account for the "onboarding" phase.  I've found that most customers in the beginning want consistency and familiarity.  After 90 days we'll graduate the client into the "Pool environment", where they interact in the round robin engagement.  All along we've trained the customer to use the email alias to get our attention so the handoff is really non-existent.  

    To consider:
    Step 1 - have a CSM Certification and Training process, only as strong as your weakest link
    Step 2 - Define the KPIs, this can be tough.  We look at customer engagements over the phone in first 90, we also look at attrition team metric.
    Step 3 - figure out a way to route email, Microsoft PowerAutomate, Frontapp, slack, etc
    Step 4 - define the touchpoints in the journey that warrant a proactive outreach, probably front loaded based on experience
    Step 5 - Start with small customer base, test, reiterate, test, reiterate
    Step 6 - Monitor all your performance metrics, and make sure that everyone is contributing, can be easy for csms to hideout

    Long term we lean on marketing, product training, one to many webinars and customer experience listening posts to make sure that customers continue to receive value at their own pace.  

    Lastly, I will say that we are moving into our next iteration of this model, which is actually taking the pooled approach and moving it to what I'm calling the Community First engagement model, which is coaching community within a private group powered by CSMs.  Having customers interact in a group is the ultimate way to scale, especially when you want to stop answering the same questions over and over.  We'll be creating a hybrid approach with proactive onboarding and 1:Many coaching sessions, but we are shooting to reduce our emails by 50% next year by leveraging the coaching community.    
  • Renee Murphy
    Renee Murphy Member Posts: 18 Thought Leader
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    edited October 2020
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    Super interesting.  What is your current rations and how are you looking of doing the community/cohort ratios?
  • Joanel Bernardo
    Joanel Bernardo Member Posts: 1 Navigator
    edited October 2020
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    I've been part of this model where were had 26,000 customers and 60 csms. 

    Every month each CSM would get a number of customers leads to reach out to and complete what we called an account review and optimization call. If a customer had additional questions post the optimization call they were handled but support who could manage 90% of the questions unless it required additional optimization/if the customer wanted to cancel. If it were either of the latter the support team would route it like an inbound and it would got to next person on the team who had bandwidth. 

    When mentioning this customers we'd let them know we have an entire group of CSMs that are available to you for support post implementation. We also schedule a quarterly call with you to review x and ensure that you're getting continued value from x platform.
  • Will Stamatis
    Will Stamatis Member Posts: 9 Contributor
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    edited October 2020
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    I'll echo what @Matt Berg said in his detailed post.

    If you're looking for an easy and low-fi way to get started, you can assign accounts individually but with a Team KPI.  With our Tech Touch segment this past year, we added many new members and some employees even transitioned to other roles at the company. As the manager, my book of business never changed--let's call it 3,000 accounts set to renew this year, and we had the flexibility at each juncture of getting a new CSM to keep divvying up the pie (so when we were 4 CSMs we each had 750, when the 5th joined each took a haircut and the new CSM got 600 accounts, etc.). Our KPIs are GRR and NRR, so we've always been tracking those metrics for the book as a whole. This allowed us to have some degree of individual performance tracking without worrying about switching books too much.
  • Alex Tran
    Alex Tran Member Posts: 38 Expert
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    edited October 2020
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    @Jay Nathan We've built this out at Gainsight leveraging both Gainsight CS (which Higher Logic is a customer) and Gainsight PX (our product experience platform).

    The high-level overview is this:

    • REACTIVE:
      • Our product team created a widget within the app (like a Help Center) and customers can submit "best practice" questions which will be routed to the CS team (me). I take 3 weeks out of the month, and someone else takes the last week to answer the queue. 
      • Customer Support handles technical issues
      • # of support tickets is part of the health score for tech touch customers
    • PROACTIVE
      • Monthly mass email to key personas educating customers on how to use the product even more (best practices, pro tips)
      • Weekly office hours
      • Monthly webinars
      • Exec check-ins 2x per year
      • In-product tours
      • Automated emails reaching out to users who haven't logged in in 30+ days
      • Quarterly in-app NPS surveys --> Risk CTAs are created if Detractor
        • CSM takes action on risks
    Hope this helps! cc @Elisabeth Courland @Jeff Breunsbach
  • [Deleted User]
    [Deleted User] Posts: 0 Navigator
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    edited October 2020
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    Alex, thank you! What is the frequency and format of the office hours sessions you do? How many attendees do you typically have show up?

    Jay Nathan
    Founder & Managing Partner
    m: 843.323.8125
    w: www.customerimperative.com | e: jay@customerimperative.com

    image

    Join the CS Leadership Community: Gain Grow Retain

    Read our blog to find out how Customer Success is driving revenue growth in B2B software companies.


    -------------------------------------------
    Original Message:
    Sent: 10/6/2020 7:33:00 PM
    From: Alex Tran
    Subject: RE: Pooled CSM Model

    @Jay Nathan We've built this out at Gainsight leveraging both Gainsight CS (which Higher Logic is a customer) and Gainsight PX (our product experience platform).

    The high-level overview is this:

    • REACTIVE:
      • Our product team created a widget within the app (like a Help Center) and customers can submit "best practice" questions which will be routed to the CS team (me). I take 3 weeks out of the month, and someone else takes the last week to answer the queue. 
      • Customer Support handles technical issues
      • # of support tickets is part of the health score for tech touch customers
    • PROACTIVE
      • Monthly mass email to key personas educating customers on how to use the product even more (best practices, pro tips)
      • Weekly office hours
      • Monthly webinars
      • Exec check-ins 2x per year
      • In-product tours
      • Automated emails reaching out to users who haven't logged in in 30+ days
      • Quarterly in-app NPS surveys --> Risk CTAs are created if Detractor
        • CSM takes action on risks
    Hope this helps! cc @Elisabeth Courland @Jeff Breunsbach
  • Alex Tran
    Alex Tran Member Posts: 38 Expert
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    edited October 2020
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    The weekly office hours are open-ended, so come with any questions! I typically promote on our Community.

    For the monthly webinars, they are topic-based. Since launching our webinars as of December 2019 to present day, we've had ~50% of our customer base attend these!


    -------------------------------------------
    Original Message:
    Sent: 10/6/2020 7:59:00 PM
    From: Jay Nathan
    Subject: RE: Pooled CSM Model

    Alex, thank you! What is the frequency and format of the office hours sessions you do? How many attendees do you typically have show up?

    Jay Nathan
    Founder & Managing Partner
    m: 843.323.8125
    w: www.customerimperative.com | e: jay@customerimperative.com

    image

    Join the CS Leadership Community: Gain Grow Retain

    Read our blog to find out how Customer Success is driving revenue growth in B2B software companies.
    • REACTIVE:
      • Our product team created a widget within the app (like a Help Center) and customers can submit "best practice" questions which will be routed to the CS team (me). I take 3 weeks out of the month, and someone else takes the last week to answer the queue. 
      • Customer Support handles technical issues
      • # of support tickets is part of the health score for tech touch customers
    • PROACTIVE
      • Monthly mass email to key personas educating customers on how to use the product even more (best practices, pro tips)
      • Weekly office hours
      • Monthly webinars
      • Exec check-ins 2x per year
      • In-product tours
      • Automated emails reaching out to users who haven't logged in in 30+ days
      • Quarterly in-app NPS surveys --> Risk CTAs are created if Detractor
        • CSM takes action on risks
    Hope this helps! cc @Elisabeth Courland @Jeff Breunsbach
  • John Henwood
    John Henwood Member Posts: 3 Seeker
    edited October 2020
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    Hey Kevin,

    Interesting insight, thanks.  How do you distinguish this from Support? Is there any proactive work they're doing too?
  • David Jackson
    David Jackson Member Posts: 36 Expert
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    edited October 2020
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    Jay,

    In my experience, the biggest challenge to the success of the pooled model is the quality of the history with a customer.  You never want to be in a position where a customer has to repeat info they have already shared.  Ignore this at your peril.

    Dj
  • Meenal Shukla
    Meenal Shukla Member Posts: 2 Navigator
    edited October 2020
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    I have seen some customers deploy this model: Payscale, PTC. Information on PTC: https://drive.google.com/file/d/10pJG77XO7enwmzohU3XB6pYHgkto6vw5/view
    I think the relative success of the pooled CSM is the complexity of the solution. Can the interaction with the customer be transactional or does it require a more white-glove approach? if the customer interaction can be transactional (and you are ok with that experience for certain segments), it becomes more support like a relationship with the CS org. Continuity around strategy can be a challenge. These will be some considerations.
    Incidentally, Gainsight just hosted a webinar on this topic today:
    https://info.gainsight.com/DoMoreWithLessSuccessfulTacticsforDigital-FirstEngagementsandPooledCSMs.html
    From Okta, 
    Melissa Allen, Customer Success Operations Manager and Alana Stoltzfus, Digital Customer Success Manager will describe their tech-touch program to onboard new administrators and drive product adoption. Glint's Customer Success Operations Managers, Thuy Koo and Valery Skvirskaya, will share their tactics on how to transition from a 1:1 to a "pooled" CS model, by building customer intimacy through a virtual journey supported by a small group of CSMs who proactively engage customers at scale using predictive automated health scoring.
  • Matt Timmins
    Matt Timmins Member Posts: 5 Seeker
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    edited July 2021
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    @Jay Nathan - super helpful thread, thanks for kicking it off and for everyone else's thoughts! I'm embarking on building out a pooled approach at Culture Amp - I wondered if you'd had any key learnings or reflections from starting this model over the past few months that you might be willing to share back here? Thank you!
  • Kevin Mitchell Leonor
    Kevin Mitchell Leonor Member Posts: 248 Expert
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    edited July 2021
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    Much the same way our CS team does it by setting expectations with the customer that we are strategic /outcomes/escalations and support is more of a troubleshooting and how to.

    all "cadences" is just an email thread when the CSM group is pooled.
  • Elisabeth Courland
    Elisabeth Courland Member Posts: 10 Contributor
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    edited July 2021
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    Hi there, 

    Feel free to look at thedigitalcsm.com
    I created thèse pages to help companies get started with their straregies
  • Celine Bocchi
    Celine Bocchi Member, CS Leader Posts: 11 Contributor
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    edited July 2021
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    Hi Jay,
    We have a pooled CSM model for our mid market accounts.  And within that we have a couple of different levels of support that the client can purchase and the support differs a bit country to country.

    But in general the client gets some CSM support when they finish implementation.  The CSM wither 121 or in a 1 to many session takes the client through all the resources which are available to them based on their support package.

    We have a nice website with all these resources as well as a calender for the many different types of one to many sessions that are offered.  There are different formats of training, Office Hours (several times a day in some countries, 2x week in some countries), best practice webinars, User Groups, online community to ask questions and exchange with other customers...

    In the USA we have a ticketing system for the client to raise a case to either get one of the deliverable from their Package like a workshop, or for some functional support.  Technical support is another ticketing system. In Europe, the client should speak with their Account Manager, who then makes the request on behalf of the client to a shared CSM email box.  The Account Manager can also be proactive and track if the client has used all the deliverables in the customer's annual pack and suggest the customer to request it.

    If you would like to go through this in more detail and answer let me know and we can set up a video call.

    Cheers
    Celine Bocchi
    EMEA Customer Excellence Program Manager
  • ianwelles
    ianwelles Member Posts: 17 Navigator
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    The pooled CS model is on my mind this week as I am working on a plan to implement this in the near term.  The question I am stuck on today is how do we differentiate between the pooled CS team and support?

    I would start by having clear definitions of the roles and responsibilities of both teams internally - also including examples of what each team does not do.  These should be socialised with the whole company, not just these 2 teams.  Anyone with customer contact should know the difference.

    I would follow this with clear information for the customer.  It would be introduced during the sales process, reiterated during customer onboarding, and easily accessible where our customers come to us for information.

    What I am getting a bit stuck with is the handover of a "case" from support to CS or the other way around.  Customers just want answers and they are going to go to the channel, email address, or person they know.  They aren't always going to take the time to consider if their request is CS or support.

    How have any of you that have run pools CS successfully managing the handoff of a case to the right team - especially if those teams are using different software, or not software at all beyond a shared inbox?

  • kmcmullen
    kmcmullen Member Posts: 14 Navigator
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    @ianwelles The age old question of how to differentiate & have a "smooth" handoff when it's not your team's responsibility. I think there needs to be a little subjectivity in how you handle the request... but in order for clients to start to "learn" who to go to when and not just default to the pooled CS team because they are the path of least resistance. You need to push back to clients when they need to open a case with support. Put it back on them to take the action. They will start to learn technical/configuration = support, how to/best practice = CS.

    Now I say subjectivity because obviously there are times where suggesting a client go to support could create a bigger headache than just doing it for them (by introducing directly, opening a case on their behalf, etc.)

    We use MSFT Forms, PowerAutomate, & Sharepoint lists to have external teams engage our pooled CSMs. If the reason the other team needs help isn't on that list... it's not CS. There's some ability to auto-forward requests from Support to us or vice versa, to auto-create a case via email & PowerAutomate with support so the client doesn't feel like they have to take that extra step yet get them in the right hands with little effort. This still doesn't fully solve for teaching clients the right paths of who to go to when, but it's a step in the right direction!

  • ashley_martin
    ashley_martin Member Posts: 30 Navigator
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    Question - @Jay Nathan how is pooled CS different than digital CS? Does digital CS have no involvement from CS at all? I think we have a blended approach where we use both pooled CS and digital CS to service our smaller customers that do not necessarily need a full time CSM. We have mostly automated services around sending information to our customers, but if they have a question they can email in to our shared email box and one of the CSM's will respond.

    It would be interesting to dive more into the differences of these two models.

  • Brian O'Keeffe
    Brian O'Keeffe Member Posts: 209 Expert
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    My favorite topic!

    Community Success is the key to how to scale, do a lot more with a lot less and meet every single CS objective and perform equally and even exceed other methods in many/most metrics.

    I am part of something very similar and we started with a very poorly thought out pooled model and moved to a Community Success model. All customers had access to the community, but our smallest were directed to the Community Success team available in the community. We set it up so a thread could be started and responded to via email, enabled PMs to take private information off-line (the big fear that proved unfounded was that it would be unmanageable) and then slowly made sure every customer and every internal customer facing employee and subject matter expert had access. We partnered with the training team to move all training announcements, updates and follow ups to the community, which proved to be the biggest boon. Having the training team engaging directly was a powerful way to leverage existing expertise and turbo charged the community.

    Here is what didn't work:

    Making it mandatory for all CSMs to participate. Some managers tried to role it into a required part of the job, but many did not (or did not care) and the blowback and resistance was strong. Instead we starting linking CSMs to issues or updates they needed to see and limited all product updates, training events, resources and updates to community collateral. Most resistance to community and the community model was internal: it's dial up service, it has less value, it's just a bunch of postings and emails etc... Customers DID NOT RESIST at all and as long as they were meeting business objectives and had a way to engage, were fine with it.

    Creating messaging that said "you are now part of community success" and trying to explain what that was. What worked is letting customers know that the new CSM team available (insert names) are all available here: link to a dedicated group we had set up for just that product suite. Of course the entire community was available, but that was the starting point and monitored very closely.

    Establishing dedicated groups by product resulted in the Community CSMs often only looking at those groups. Many did very little else day to day and if it wasn't there, they didn't see it. Monitoring the group is key but finding issues in the larger community had to be taught and trained for. Here is where hiring counts: if a checklist is needed for your CS team member to be successful, this is not the role for them. Community CS team members have to be able to skillfully pivot from direct engagements and escalations, to community posts, connecting customers to other customers or subject matter experts and then be able to hold a full account review. (We did not offer them as a routine service but were able to do them when needed.) Waiting to check off a task? No, this is not the team for you.

    Eventually we were able to create a very flexible model where community customers were ALL CUSTOMERS and then some had a one to one experience too. Originally it was all by ARR, but we realized that was not necessarily the metric to always use and if a customer was successful, did not need ,or did not want, one to one service, they were community only. With the ability to move back and forth when needed. (example: new module that requires complex configuration and roll out for a community only customer: back to one to one. Then when done, back to community only.) It allowed us to do more with a LOT LESS.

    My next big move is to move all CSMs into community. Some will have a portfolio, some will be community but all will be handling community only customers some of the time. This allows us to leverage the existing expertise and not add any headcount.

  • Brian O'Keeffe
    Brian O'Keeffe Member Posts: 209 Expert
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    Easy. How do you introduce your CSMs now? That is exactly how you introduce your Customer Success team available [in the community/whatever method you are using]. Dave, meet your new Customer Success team! Jay Jones, Edna Flamingo and Fred Jones. They are dedicated to your success and can be reached anytime [insert method] and will be reaching out directly with more information shortly.

  • Brian O'Keeffe
    Brian O'Keeffe Member Posts: 209 Expert
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    Digital and pooled are one. Many only have digital and make it impossible or there is no option for a "real person." Pooled has direct engagement by a person when needed.

  • kmcmullen
    kmcmullen Member Posts: 14 Navigator
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    I always think of it as digital is how a pooled environment prefers to communicate. Digital doesn't always mean robots/AI - there are still humans and intent behind the digital models. The digital communications/touch points are supported by a pooled environment of CSMs in the background.