Lessons learned with Digital Customer Success

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

I have been part of multiple digital customer success initiatives, including starting and managing a community, being a Community Customer Success Manager with very little guidance and freedom to experiment, and coming in and leading the digital CS initiative from nearly scratch. (It has been deployed but barely.) Here are my biggest lessons learned:

#1 Digital is a company-wide initiative and applies to all customers. It applies to those with low ARR, and digital may be the primary touch, but it is not just for those who are small, need less attention, or have less value. Limiting it will lead to failure points* and divide the team into "real" CS and that silliness with a "bunch of emails." When you build out the lifecycle program, it applies to all customers and all programs.

*Failure point examples:

The digital manager is seen as the CS rep for that portfolio. What do you do when a customer assigned to the digital near needs help? You do the same thing with one assigned to a CS Manager: email both!

Digital becomes competition for "real CS," and managers for the CS team fight to make sure resources and reporting reflect "real CS" and diminish that "bunch of emails" approach.

#2 Report high-level metrics to the top from day one. ARR, renewal rate, customer growth rate? All were increasing very nicely and proving the value of digital CS. The problem is that only my direct team and VP saw those numbers. When the VP left, and strangers to the program came in, the first question was what are you doing? Concurrently crowing about the increase in renewal rate, customer footprint growth and celebrating it but never connecting it to the digital programs in place. Swoosh went all that value-added out into the ether and left those who remained to try to connect the programs in place to the larger successful metrics.

#3 Partner closely with all other CS leaders, marketing, customer education, and support. They need to know exactly what you are doing, and you need them to understand digital and make sure you are all using the same message, not overlapping (Ed team has an onboarding strategy, too? Whoops, suddenly the same contact is targeted twice.) THIS CAN BE INCREDIBLY HARD to do. I don't have time (or I don't care). I saw what the previous team did, and they failed, are common responses. Or your time frame is such that building those relationships will happen as you launch new initiatives. Anyone who has advice or experience on successful partnering strategies here, please share!

#4 Don't let not having the data, not being sure of the exact outcome, or it not being the exact right time stop you from moving forward. Do the best job possible with what you have, but move forward. I have seen programs become molasses-like because critical data was missing or not ready (you need to wait one month, you are told, for it to be ready? Don't count on it. That month becomes many, and suddenly you are on pause forever.) Worse is when no one wants to make a decision that could fail, and then they own it. Get a program in place and then iterate. Leave room for changes, and even be prepared to trash what you have and replace it. It sucks, but doing nothing forever will kill your program. (Example: Our data was bad but being cleaned up and imported, so we could not create data-driven trigger-based campaigns right away. Instead, we crafted time-based campaigns based on common guestimates of how long onboarding takes and what those steps tend to be. It was hardly rocket science and looked at skeptically by some, but it worked. When we had the data to do trigger-based data-driven campaigns, we retired the time-based ones.)

Have you been part of a digital program? Any tips or feedback?


  • AshleyGarza123
    AshleyGarza123 Member, CS Leader Posts: 8 Navigator
    Name Dropper First Comment Photogenic

    I love these takeaways. We are very early in the digital program at my company and I love the point you made about dividing the teams will lead it to be split between "real cs" and "silly emails". I'm currently in that stage and trying to crawl out of being the team that sends silly emails and prove the point of we are customer success as a whole.

    I see a ton of benefit from partnering with a lot of different teams that can help impact the customer experience. Over communicating is the route I like to go! I think one piece of advice here is take your Digital CS or CS' team goals for the year and break that down to how you can apply it to those partnerships. Do you have a goal of 25% increase in users adopting your product? Great, how can Training help? Does that mean having a map about what it takes for Training to help get a customer there, is the training good enough to drive adoption higher, does it answer most questions a customer has when using the product?

  • Brian O'Keeffe
    Brian O'Keeffe Member Posts: 199 Expert
    First Anniversary Photogenic 5 Insightfuls First Comment
    edited February 8

    I worked hard to build those relationships and even created and managed a customer communications calendar for all customer facing groups to be part of. But there were resistors and it took time to get all key partners to participate. This facilitated us (ops, CS, training, marketing, sales and support) working together (a victory!) and there were/are endless rule breakers. For example, all communications have to be on the calendar and approved and reviewed by the group leaders thirty days prior to it being sent out or posted. The C team undermined this with endless "hurry up, now" requests (but the CEO wants it!) and it broke down the resistance of others to really care whether or not they were compliant.

    I realize that culture is hard to change. I came into a hardened, very poor and harsh customer experience culture (so typical of the old white guy/Wall Street mentality) and a dismissing of all that "girly stuff" (yes, the actual words one of the C team used) as I introduced digital as relationship building tools, the concept of seamless customer experience (a customer emailed sales but it's a support issue? Open the case for the customer, see it to resolution then redirect them to support for future issus VS. a USSR style response to go to support yourself) and making customers feel great in all interactions. ("I was an admin and I didn't care about that", one of the leadership team told me, incredelous we were "wasting time" with such nonsense). But guess what? ARR-increased, on average, over time for all accounts. Renewal rate increased, dramatically, with a few simple tweaks to how we engaged with customers and approached renewals. The advoacy program grew EXPONENTIALLY. This should be music to everyone's ears.