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How to Build a Digital Customer Success Program That’s Right For You

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What is a Digital Customer Success Program?

There’s a lot of confusion about what Digital means when describing a Customer Success Program.

Depending on your Customer base, product, and the maturity of your program, digital can mean a lot of things. Let’s first define and clarify.

Digital vs Scaled

Often Digital and Scaled are used interchangeably. But technically, you can scale a Customer Success Program that is not digital by building repeatable manual processes and have a growing team of humans deliver the customer journey. You may notice however, that as your team grows, the processes start to break down without using digital tools. So, it’s understandable that Digital and Scaled are sometimes used for one another.

Digital vs Tech Touch

Tech Touch delivery of a Customer Journey refers to a digitally delivered Customer Success Program to either all or part of a customer base. Not all products and customer bases have the economics to support a High Touch, human delivered Customer Success Program. The economics of delivering a Customer Journey to Small and Midsize Business (SMB) accounts often determines reduced services or Digitally delivered services. Whereas, Enterprise accounts often have complex solutions, more champions, and more complex decision-making processes which more often require High Touch complex team delivery of the Customer Journey.

Another example:
Product Led Growth (PLG) companies, like Slack, deliver Customer Journeys via Tech Touch for their free accounts. If you set up a free Slack channel, you did not speak to anyone, you went through all of your onboarding steps online on your own. Tech Touch delivered Customer Journeys are done without human intervention.

Typically, Tech Touch may have a Digital CSM who manages the Digital Customer Journey, but the Customer would only potentially connect with a human in the Support team. Tech Touch may also reflect the Customer’s preferences on how to participate in the Customer Journey.

Digital Customer Success Program

A Digital Customer Success Program can take many forms. It depends on your customer base, product, the maturity of your CS Program, and the economics of how you go to market. Now that there are so many digital tools available in the market place, every type of delivery – High Touch to Tech Touch—can improve their capabilities, efficiency, and effectiveness by utilizing these tools. It’s a mistake to think that a Digital Customer Success Program only applies to the Tech Touch delivery of the Customer Journey.

But the real reason every Customer Success Program must become Digital is that data must be at the core of everything you do.

Data enables you to show impact and value to your customers to communicate the value they are achieving from your product. Without perceived value, your relationship alone cannot prevent them from moving on.

Data helps you understand how successful Customers are using your product, and enables you to identify if a Customer is successful or unhealthy and at risk.
Data also helps you understand the impact of your CS Program, where to focus your efforts, and if you are effectively delivering the Customer Journeys your Customers need.

Without data, you don’t know why, or if, your Customers are successful as they define it. If you don’t know if your Customers are achieving the success they intended with your product, you may be surprised when they churn. The foundation of a modern Customer Success Program includes data that is stored, tracked, and analyzed in a comprehensive way.

Part 1: Foundation & Structure

Customer Base Segmentation

If delivering the proper Customer Journey is key to enabling their success, correctly identifying your Customer Base Segmentation is the first step to building those Customer Journeys. Companies often mistakenly segment their customer base based on solely on their economics and use only ARR to determine their Customer Segmentation. ARR may inform how you can afford to delivery the Customer Journey, but Segmentation should also inform how to group customers by the Customer Journey that they need to ensure their success using your product.

To determine your Customer Base Segmentation, you need to understand your Customers’ goals and how your Customers use your product. It could be that different industries use your product differently, or the size and structure of a company could determine what they need from your product, or your Customers’ experience level with technology may determine their goals and ability to adopt your product. Or it could be something else entirely—it depends on your Customer Base and your Product.

Customer Journey

Now that you have correctly identified your Customer Base Segmentation, you can build the Customer Journey that reflects the Moments of Truth, interaction with your team and product, journey stages, and lifecycle for your Customers. The data you track and analyze can help you understand if your customers are achieving success in these stages, and you can iterate on how to deliver these journeys to your Customers.

CS Team Staffing Model & Ratios

Added benefit: Once you’ve built out your Customer Journey and you identify which parts are delivered by humans to which segments, and the size and projections for those segments, you can also determine how to structure your team and identify how much time it takes to deliver the Customer Journey. Then it’s just a math problem to determine how many and the types of CSMs or other CS team members you need. If your economics can’t afford that many humans, then you should reexamine your Customer Journey for anything that can be eliminated or delivered digitally.

Considerations for how you want to deliver the Customer Journey to your Customer Segments:

Customer Preference

Maybe you want to talk to every customer. But if their job is customer facing, they can’t stop doing their job to talk to you—so it’ll be guaranteed that you will not be able to deliver the Customer Journey to each of your customer facing Customers. Or maybe your Customers do not consider your product to be central to what they do and it’s not important enough for their time. Alternatively, your customer base may be tech savvy and prefer digital options. If you don’t have those digital options, those Customers will move on to another product that does offer them.

Economics

Low price point products cannot support High Touch, human intensive, delivery of the Customer Journey. Period. You may have promised “white glove” treatment. But if the economics don’t support it, you need to change your promise. You may think you’re delivering that “white glove” experience, but eventually your churn numbers will reveal that most of your customers are not getting any information and they are not receiving the human delivery of the Customer Journey from your limited CSM team.

Paid Customer Success Business Model

Some companies offer a Paid Customer Success business model by bundling a named CSM in with higher level of Support SLAs, as part of a Professional Services offering, or with a higher priced product. Depending on your Customer Base and Product this may be a way to provide a human-delivered Customer Journey.

Warning: Some companies ignore their Tech Touch segment and risk transforming and upselling potential ARR. Digital CS Programs are most successful when they fully analyze the Tech Touch segment and have a plan for getting at risk Customers back on track. Many companies address this risk by having pooled teams of CSMs who monitor and intervene with Customers as they get off track from their Customer Journey. Others have a Digital CSM monitor and provide many services with the option for paid services to get back on track.

Part 2: Your Data

So, you’ve worked out your Customer Base Segmentation and Customer Journeys and you’re ready to purchase a CS Tool that will solve all your problems. STOP. Do you have your data ducks in a row?

CRM: Your Company’s Source of Truth

If you don’t have a CRM that is cleaned up and consistently used as your company’s source of truth, there’s no need to go out and pay for a CS Tool while you go and do this work. Get this done, then you’re ready to pay for additional tools.

Contracts & Contractual Information

If you don’t have your contracts in a common searchable platform, and you don’t have the information from your contracts properly reflected in your CRM as your source of truth, then you’re not ready to start paying for another tool.

Data: Revenue, Customer, Customer Behavior, Product Usage

Where is it?
Do you have a database? Do you have unique identifiers for your Customers across all of your current tools? Do you have a way to track your Customers’ behavior and product usage? If the answer is no—you guessed it—you are not ready to start paying for another tool.

Is it accessible?
Is your data located in proprietary tools with no means to get the data out into a database or another tool so that you can properly analyze and use it? If yes, then do not pass Go, do not collect $200, get your data set up so you can use it.

Are you capturing the data you need?
Maybe you’ve identified a Customer Journey but you have no idea if Customers are achieving it. If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it. Figure out how to measure and capture the data, get it into your database and associated with your Customer. Then you’ll be able to feed it into a CS Tool, analyze and act on it.

Part 3: Tools

Congratulations! Your data ducks are in a row. Now, you need to determine which CS Tool and other types of tools you’ll want to use to build out your Digital CS Program.

The tools you need in phase 1 versus later phases will be determined by the complexity of your product, your business model, your Customer base, the Customer Journeys you’re delivering, the data and location of the data that you need to track, and your economics.

For example:
If you have a complex onboarding and implementation process, you may want to consider an Onboarding Tool in addition to a CS Tool.
If you will rely heavily on automated communications and 1:Many services (webinars, office hours, community), you’ll want to consider tools that support those activities and integrate with your CS Tool so you are alerted if your Customers are staying on track or at risk.

Step 1: Gather Your Requirements
What is your business model? Depending on the model, different tools are better at supporting B2B versus B2C, and only a few can support B2B2C. Product Led Growth (PLG) companies often have Freemium and Enterprise Customers to support which leads to very different business requirements.

Your CS Program structure is determined by how you are delivering your Customer Journeys.

Will you have High, Mid, and/ or Tech Touch CSMs?

Will the Tech Touch or Mid-Touch CSMs carry out intervention plans to keep your Customers on track? If so, will they be set up as a Pooled team or will your Customers have named CSMs?

Not all CS Tools can support Pooled teams natively without workarounds. How will you manage  Customer participation and follow up? Not all CS Tools natively support updates on

Staffing & Roles to Support Your Digital Customer Success Program
If you have CS Tools and data to analyze, at minimum, you’ll want someone who can manage your CS Operations. CS Strategy and CS Analysts will also likely be helpful.
Customer Marketing Managers ensure that your messaging is consistent throughout the Customer experience and specific to the post-sales updates, upselling, and 1:Many activities like webinars and office hours.

A Digital CS Program Manager can provide overall cohesiveness to your Digital CS Program, Voice of the Customer Program, and Customer Surveys.
Community Managers are a specific skill set that enable you to extend your brand and build relationships with your Champions. Communities can be inclusive or exclusive, can relieve some of the Support team workload, and can provide important customer insights.

Mature CS Programs may establish Customer Advocacy roles—Customer Advisory Boards and Product Advisory Boards can have both in person and online events and community.

Customer Education can provide proactive resources for Customers relieving Support team work, as well as support the Onboarding, Training, and Adoption phases for Customers. Materials may be developed in-app, video, or articles.

Finally, your Tech Touch Segment may be managed by a Pooled CSM team, a behind the scenes Digital CSM, or named CSMs with a large book of business. The skill set for these CSMs have a lot in common with Digital Marketers, but their focus is on ensuring a successful Customer Journey and expanding business with Customers who will benefit from the added Services and Products.

Step 2: Evaluate Tools
Now that you’ve identified your Customer Base Segmentation, built out their Customer Journeys, structured your team, put your data ducks in a row, and gathered your requirements, you’re ready to evaluate the Digital Tools that you’ll need for your Digital CS Program.

  • CRM
  • Support Ticketing Tool
  • CS Tool
  • Onboarding Tool
  • Communications
  • Video, Knowledge Management, and Learning Management Tools
  • In-App Guides
  • Survey Tools
  • Community
  • Efficiency Automation Tools – Business Reviews, Zoom notes/ tasks
    AI Enabled Customer Intelligence

The modern, effective Customer Success Program utilizes data and Digital Tools across all Customer Segments. The key to a Digital Customer Success Program is to build the foundation for your Customer Segmentation and Customer Journeys, and establish clean data and processes to maintain accurate data. Your Digital CS Program does not need every role and every tool mentioned above.

As you go through the steps and identify what’s important for your Customer Base and Product, you can build and iterate the Digital CS Program that’s right for you.

About Jan

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