Kicking Off New Digital CS Program

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Hello there, first time posting here so thank you for taking some time to engage.

I'm currently a Manager of Customer Success for a SaaS company and I've been tasked with creating a new Digital CS Program. I currently have one Digital CSM to support this effort and my company does not currently have a true CSP (Gainsight, etc.) to leverage, which makes this task challenging.

This is not only my first management role, but also my first time creating a Digital Program from the ground up. This process of creating a Digital program is inclusive of the creation of processes, KPI tracking, etc.

Knowing that there are a wealth of leaders in the GGR community, I was hoping to learn from others that have created a Digital Program. I would like to specifically learn about the following:

  • Which metrics are most valuable to track within a Digital Program
  • Resources you used to create the customer engagement schedule/roadmap
  • Which tools within your tech stack were the most valuable?
  • Did you have a CSP while the program was being developed?
  • What were the roles of your other cross functional teams and how many people were supporting those efforts? ie. Marketing, Sales, Developers, etc.
  • How are you supporting strategic conversations outside of day to day interactions
  • How often is your Digital CSM interfacing with customers

Thank you so much for your assistance and I look forward to learning from the GGR community!

Comments

  • Andrew Shoaff
    Andrew Shoaff Member Posts: 25 Thought Leader
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    Hi Garrett,

    Great topic - and we could spend days discussing. I've done this a couple of times, most recently creating a 5 person team managing 13,000 customers and $50M ARR. High level tips:

    1. Start with the data you have, and not the data points you want. Chances are you don't have the data that is most valuable. Build to it. Think about what metrics you can easily pull now that you can use to determine actions.
    2. Define the channels available to you right now: 1:1 contact, 1:M group webinars, automated in-app messaging, segmented emailing, all customer email, etc. Each channel is different and will require a unique strategy. Don't try to do it all at once. Start with one channel, iterate and take those learnings to another channel.
    3. Start with the comm that is most important to you now. Is that post implementation adoption to new customers, or renewal risk to existing customers, or something else. Doesn't matter what it is, but think about #1 and #2 above and start the comm with what is most critical today.
    4. Move fast and don't be afraid of making a mistake or making a few customers cranky. The beauty of digital is that it's volume work. You can try things out with lots of customers and get pretty good data back quickly. It will take you a bunch of tries before you really figure out any one strategy or channel or segment. But make constant iteration a cultural element to your team.

    Happy to chat anytime as this is a massive topic. Hit me up 1:1 if you want to connect.


    Andrew

  • Cheryl Luft
    Cheryl Luft Member Posts: 13 Contributor
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    Hi Garrett,

    We launched our many:1 model earlier this year and are continuing to expand as we move into 2024. I tried to focus on your questions to get what you're looking for, but I'm happy to continue the conversation.

    • Which metrics are most valuable to track within a Digital Program - I'd say this really depends on your success criteria; we ran a survey a few months in to gauge sentiment for example, but we have various metrics that generally show us a healthy vs unhealthy customer, which can apply across the organization.
    • Resources you used to create the customer engagement schedule/roadmap - We trigger specific engagements based on time/activity on the account, so someone is reaching out for a purpose. We also coordinate a lot with marketing on this, they have a calendar, so we work with/around that to ensure that we don't over-communicate to customers for bulk communications.
    • Which tools within your tech stack were the most valuable? - Front - this is a shared inbox tool that has a UI very similar to Gmail, this has been invaluable in ensuring that incoming messages from customers don't get lost; We also use Gainsight as our CSP which is how we are able to create Calls to Action for the team, the round-robin assignment of these CTAs are a big part of the strategy, as well as run programs for outreach, and being able to create specific views for this team compared to the 1:1 CSMs
    • Did you have a CSP while the program was being developed? - Yes, Gainsight
    • What were the roles of your other cross functional teams and how many people were supporting those efforts? ie. Marketing, Sales, Developers, etc. - Sales still maintains a relationship, there are assigned AEs to the accounts in the pooled model, but they have had to alter their pitches to ensure they don't use language specific to a 1:1 customer success relationship; Marketing is a big partner in getting out communications and creating webinars targeting this group of customers, we're going to start focusing on community as well; Things emerge on an as-needed basis, as well.
    • How are you supporting strategic conversations outside of day to day interactions - We expect the team to have 1:1s with the customer at least once a quarter (really some form of a meeting every 6 weeks or so), we still have Account Plans, but they are scaled back to ensure to maintain the collaborative relationship ; The Calls to Action are triggered based on specific information, so that allows for the team to receive a signal for an engagement; We also temporarily assign a 1:1 relationship for customers just starting out, or if there is a specific reason that this is required
    • How often is your Digital CSM interfacing with customers - As noted above, we aim for meetings at least once a quarter, but generally every 5-6 weeks, but there are still emails on an as-needed basis, so it depends on how autonomous the customer is in a lot of cases.
  • Brian Aherne
    Brian Aherne Member, CS Leader Posts: 9 Navigator
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    Hi Garrett,

    I'm coming from a smaller SaaS business but even then Customer Success is super important.

    To answer your questions from my point of view with a small team/resources, we have less than 100 customers.

    • Which metrics are most valuable to track within a Digital Program This depends on your product and your customer journey. Start with the current customer lifecycle and identify bottlenecks etc. For us the no.1 KPI is usage and 2nd quality of content created. Also recurring revenue is linked to recurring impact so make sure you start building a QBR process. This will help you identify the metrics that are important.
    • Resources you used to create the customer engagement schedule/roadmap. We just used an excel and linked documents which showed the process.
    • Which tools within your tech stack were the most valuable? Look at what you already have, we used the Dev Teams monitoring tool (LogRocket) to provide engagement data and identify super users. It also helped us identify customers with Network issues that would have not been picked up. Also it helps us look at adoption and feature usage. Second is the CSR platform we use Hubspot.
    • Did you have a CSP while the program was being developed? No, we 1st did it manually to look at the business case for a CSP. Some CSP are amazing but a designed for larger businesses. There are some startup focused CSPs that might be worth considering as a interim solution. Gainsight is amazing but we could never afford it at our scale. Start building your playbooks as soon as possible once you have a CSP then you can slot them in.
    • What were the roles of your other cross functional teams and how many people were supporting those efforts? ie. Marketing, Sales, Developers, etc. Sales gives us our customers and we expand them by delivering recurring impact, if the business case from the sales team is not good then you will have an issue. So the earlier CS can be involved in the sale the better. In CS we only want happy customers who love our product as they are super easy to manage. Giving Marketing intelligence on which are the best user types makes a massive difference. You need to think of what data they will need. Finally with the Dev team they really understand how the product is used and how to improve through the CS team, ideally the CS is helping to reduce the support tickets by learning and improving the processes with the developers.
    • How are you supporting strategic conversations outside of day to day interactions. Every tactical conversation you have with customers or prospects is building that strategy. For example how Marketing can talk about the product or how Sales can close faster. Mapping org charts in customers, understanding who their suppliers and customers are can help identify new sales or growth opportunities.
    • How often is your Digital CSM interfacing with customers. We try as much as possible to interface directly, at least quarterly. We avoid automated messages and only use a basic chatbot as customers hate talking to them. We only communicate with the customer if it has a connection to their impact needs.

    Don't try and shoehorn your business into a CSP. Start with your product and your customers, work out whats important and track it manually to start. Then when you go to market for a CSP you can easily justify the business case.

    Good luck and feel free to reach out if you wish.

    Brian

  • PiperWilson
    PiperWilson HLAdmin, Member Posts: 37 Navigator
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    Choose what you measure carefully and make sure it's useful. Just because you can measure something doesn't mean you should.

  • LouiseC
    LouiseC Member Posts: 8 Seeker
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    @Brian Aherne We're using Hubspot too and just starting to scale up our digital approach. Are there any particular Hubspot recommendations you have for this?

    We have used workflows alongside the service hub to automate 1:1 reach-out activities, are you using sequences as part of your digital approach? I haven't started to look at this just yet.


    @Garrett_Mesa In a similar position here, we've always done a lot of 1:1 but it's just not scalable, so a big focus next year on 1:many approach.

    We have started by splitting the cohorts of size/value - the larger value clients will still get 1:1 for now whilst we build out digital approach in the smaller accounts. The plan is still to invite the smaller accounts to a 1:1 review once per year and the renewal whilst semi-automated, will still have the human interaction to maximise the renewal of every account.

    We use hubspot for our service desk, so will be launching the chatbot, which is very basic, but will hopefully allow us to reduce even a small percentage of the questions/give clients the prompt to use our knowledge bank.

    Our biggest challenges are:

    1. in our market, open rates/engagement with comms whether it's emails or pop up's in-app is relatively low - so needing to try to find a way around this, as anything we've done in the past around webinar series etc hasn't always got the most return for this reason. Not figured out a solution to this yet

    2. We have minimal usage data which i am trying to work with the product team/ceo on their understanding of how valuable this/why we need it - but as someone has said above, just because you can track something doesn't mean you should. So i am working with product to understand our stickiest features and upsell modules/features as to what we're all in agreement we should be tracking rather than looking at every area.

    Happy to have a chat through any thoughts as we build out!

  • Brian O'Keeffe
    Brian O'Keeffe Member Posts: 199 Expert
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    A lot of the comments include my thoughts: go with the data you have, don't be afraid, and trial and error is a good thing. Be very flexible, measure what you can, and be sure to have a solid data set to report regularly! Do not overlook this; it will put the entire program at risk if you do not. Digital is seen with skepticism at the C suit (and others) and somehow less than other initiatives, disposable, the equivalent of fliers under the door, and somehow second rate. Showing the data will change this perception.

    Get your renewal rate now. Map that over time to the digital launch. It will move the needle.

    ARR-digital will help you grow your customer footprint. Map ARR over time.

    Advocacy- The most immediate and significant impact I have experienced is massive growth in the advocacy program. Find those fans, enroll them, and capture, track, and manage the goodwill/fan base you expose. Here is where I have seen digital beat all other sectors, and a key is to see every customer as a potential advocate. Immediate and obvious ones, ones that might grow into it, and ones that we need to turn around and turn into them. Work all three pools all the time! Watch the basket fill up.

    Have a merry Christmas if you celebrate; the happiest holidays and a wonderful new year!

  • PiperWilson
    PiperWilson HLAdmin, Member Posts: 37 Navigator
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    @Brian O'Keeffe - You said, "measure what you can..."

    My understanding is that there are vanity metrics that are not useful and can complicate (for lack of a better word) matters.

    For example, I read a blog article about an executive who wanted to see how many new members the community had every month. One month, the number of new members dropped. The executive reacted negatively, blaming the community manager for doing "something" wrong.

    In reality, the community manager had implemented a CAPTCHA that kept out spammers. After a few months, the spammers figured out how to bypass the CAPTCHA. The number of new members went back to "normal," and the executive was happy again.

    I've heard other stories like this, but I read this one yesterday, so I found it easily. What do you think?

  • Brian O'Keeffe
    Brian O'Keeffe Member Posts: 199 Expert
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    I have not had experience with a wide-open Community. In my experience they have all been invite only and required a verifiable valid business account in another application (Salesforce, etc...) and have never had a problem with fake sign-ups. It starts with automatic access for active main application users that we bundled with case access. Invitations were used concurrently for some, including additions or updtates outside synch periods.

    Here is what I started with measuring:

    NPS for dedicated community pool over time.

    Number of tickets submitted by dedictated community assigned CSM customers over time.

    Renewal/growth rate over time.

    Number of activities (posts) for all users. (This is all we had to start with.)

    Number of advocates enrolled per month from the Community. (This took off like wildfire and obscured the lack of other initial data.)

    NPS, renewal, growth rate all grew over time. I loved watching the graph chart and see it go from 102% to 106% growth rate for current customers. NPS was the hardest. We surveyed current customer users and administrators and users always gave us a lower score. Administrators understand the business value and users are solely focused on experience. I strongly advise a differnt survey for each. It did not make sense to send them the same one.

    I was an idiot and did not realize how important it was the the C team see all the numbers and know what we are doing. I assumed my VP was providing them. BIG MISTAKE. When the VP left I had to scramble to show what we were doing and the results. New management loooked at my very skeptically. Hope this helps!

  • Ed Powers
    Ed Powers Member Posts: 180 Expert
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    Hi @Garrett_Mesa

    Over the years I've helped many consulting clients scale Customer Success, and if there's one thing I've seen time and time again it's that most CS leaders aren't crystal clear on how customers in their primarily Digital tier are alike and different from customers in other tiers. There are usually important differences in needs, how they operate, and how they perceive value that must be accounted for to deliver an effective and efficient experience. So if there's one piece of advice I can share, it's not to assume you already know the answer--assume you don't and then go find out!

    When you investigate, pay particular attention to:

    1. Why some customers in this group cancel and why others renew and buy more
    2. Who exactly is involved in each phase of the lifecycle, what's important to each member of the Decision Making Unit, and why
    3. What's challenging to go from Point A (the value promise) to Point B (the realization of value), not only the technology, but implementing and managing changes in people and processes to get the end results they're after

    Your customers are your anchor, and everything good follows from them: metrics, processes, tools, technologies, staffing, needs from other functions, etc. Let them be your guide.

    Happy to talk more any time.

    Ed Powers

  • Brian O'Keeffe
    Brian O'Keeffe Member Posts: 199 Expert
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    I have been part of a team that started from scratch and led digital programs from inception.

    1. Creating digital journeys from post-sale to renewal. 
    2. Using templates and incorporating other touchpoints into the lifecycle (community, training, etc...) and mapping out the journey. We are creating separate and unique plans for different customer types. One is for Enterprise, one is for Mid-Market, and one is for SMB. Never, ever, ever do this. Create one journey to start. Copy, iterate, and apply. 
    3.  I would start with community for all customers and make that the baseline. Incorporate all training, updates, announcements, and every customer-facing element into your community. Community access is a default, not an option.
    4. II wish we had measured and reported on the direct dollar impact of CS-enrolled advocates on new sales. This alone exceeded the cost of ALL CS efforts. The dollar value of safe revenue by adding a survey to renewals. Again, more than the entire program cost! All CSQL and the growth rate from each. I would make sure the C-suite sees these numbers regularly. When value and impact are questioned, nothing beats pointing to those numbers. 

    I'm happy to chat! DM me?

  • PiperWilson
    PiperWilson HLAdmin, Member Posts: 37 Navigator
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    @Brian O'Keeffe - Thank you for your answer. I apologize for taking so long to answer. I went on holiday for a couple of weeks, and I'm still digging myself out.

    Number of advocates enrolled per month from the Community. (This took off like wildfire and obscured the lack of other initial data.)

    This is an example of the cautionary tale I mentioned. After a while, this number is bound to stabilize or go down. Then what does the C team think?

    NPS, renewal, and growth rate all grew over time. I loved watching the graph chart and seeing it go from 102% to 106% growth rate for current customers. NPS was the hardest. We surveyed current customer users and administrators, and users always gave us a lower score. Administrators understand the business value, and users are solely focused on experience. I strongly advise a different survey for each. It did not make sense to send them the same one.

    Oh, yes! Completely this!!! In fact, I just spoke to another member about surveys over here. It may be relevant to you in the future.

  • Brian O'Keeffe
    Brian O'Keeffe Member Posts: 199 Expert
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