5 Best Tips For Scaling Customer Success in 2022
If you’re building a startup, you’re probably wondering how to start and scale customer success (CS). While the first step is to hire the right first customer success lead, the next step is scaling customer success to increase the impact and turn CS into a profit center that increases revenue. Here are my top tips to help you scale customer success at your startup. Hopefully, your first CS hire has already created a culture of operational excellence and started accelerating your one-to-many strategy, as most of my tips for scaling customer success rely heavily on customer success ops.
1) Meet customers where they are.
Scaling customer success means you’ll need to make it more effective and efficient. At Liquid, we’ve found that it’s imperative to meet customers where they are and where they prefer to engage. While some customers enjoy talking to a customer success manager, others prefer to get help on their own online. Some users prefer emailing, while others like Chat. Some prefer personalized meetings, while others find more value in attending group office hours or webinars. Offering one-to-many experiences increases CS productivity — but more importantly, offering a multitude of options allows your customers to get help in ways that they perceive to be most valuable and efficient. Add new initiatives prudently; do so only when you have confidence that it fills a need. In addition, you should be analyzing the metrics of each new initiative to assess effectiveness. Experiment and iterate.
2) Build a knowledge base.
We recently released a customer-facing knowledge base (KB) based on customer requests for a dedicated help center to help themselves and to direct their additional users to train themselves up. Since its launch, KB usage has grown rapidly while also decreasing the volume of communications from customers. To be clear, our KB doesn’t prevent users from contacting humans — it simply helps users help themselves before asking for help.
When building out your KB, start with the most complex features and sticking points — get feedback from CSMs and support staff about what needs to be covered. As new support requests come in, support staff should create new KB articles. Similarly, as new features get released, work with your product team to add new KB articles at each release. Always include images and videos to be inclusive of different learning preferences. Don’t wait to put out your KB; in my experience, it’s better to put out a 60% completed solution and iterate and add to it.
Lastly, look at KB metrics to gather additional insight. For example, what are people clicking on? This might give you insight into problem areas. Who is looking? A customer with lots of KB views might need extra attention; a customer with a sudden drop in views might be at risk of churning out. What are people searching for? Repeat searches might mean your product team needs to resolve some underlying issues.
3) Create (and automate) repeatable systems and processes.
Scaling customer success also means dealing with an increasing number of customers. To manage volume, you need repeatable systems and processes. Operationalizing processes by creating playbooks and other documentation helps your team provide consistent service quickly and efficiently. When done properly, this also allows you to provide pooled CS where customers are not assigned a single CSM but instead get help from whoever is available. Start working on this early and iterate often.
As you work on this, also segment your customers and determine how your approach will differ for each segment. For some companies, it may make sense to segment by the account value but for others, segmenting by behavior may be more suitable. Growth potential should also be considered in segmentation, along with other factors specific to your industry, company, and product.
Another way to improve the efficiency of your CS department is to take your repeatable processes and systems one step further and automate where possible. Be strategic in your use of automation. At Liquid, we use Zapier to automate a few customer success emails and have a few other automation to provide more value to our customers at scale.
4) Separate customer support and customer success.
While customer success is meant to be proactive, customer support or customer service is reactive by nature. When the same team members manage both support/service and success, the most urgent requests (typically service requests) get worked on first. Unfortunately, this means the proactive work — of managing customer health and actively reaching out to customers who may be at risk of churning — sometimes falls lower down the list. In addition, the skills needed for customer service are different from those for customer success. From my experience, companies achieve better results when separating the reactive customer service team from the proactive customer success team early on.
5) Know when to grow your customer success team.
• Annual Contract Value (ACV) Target Per CSM: Each CSM should be handling about $2 million in ACV.
• Product Complexity: The more complex your product, the fewer accounts each CSM can handle.
• Volume Of Customers Per CSM: Each CSM can generally only create meaningful relationships with about 50 customers (sometimes a bit more if automation is used).
Assess these factors against your own product to determine when it’s time to grow your customer success team. I’ve found that about 30 customers is the sweet spot — with automation required to manage more than that.
Scaling customer success will allow you to deliver more value to your customers, keep them happy and ultimately get them to grow their business with you. Whether you start with operationalizing processes, adding automation, building out a knowledge base, or separating customer service from customer success, be sure to meet customers where they are. Deliver more value in their preferred channels and your customers will eagerly turn into advocates, referring new customers.