Your Customer Success Manager (CSM) team is in place and is running smoothly. Customers love your CSMs because they work hard to ramp up each customer. Renewal rates are high and your company is doing well. It all sounds great. So, what’s the problem?
The problem is you can’t scale. With a CSM focused approach to enabling customers, the only way to grow is by adding additional CSMs to the team. This is not a sustainable, effective, or affordable way to scale Customer Success. When you add new CSMs with every new set of accounts, your margins stay the same. Zack Urlocker, COO at Zendesk, emphasizes that scale is the ability for a business to grow revenues faster than expenses.
The secret to scaling customer success is Customer Education. Customer Education scales Customer Success in four ways: with a one-to many model, and with offerings that are repeatable, role-based, hands-on.
1. One-to-many model. While Customer Success starts as a one-to-one, or a one-to-few approach, Customer Education is designed to be a one-to-many approach. Courses are developed for repeatable delivery, provided by many instructors, and attended by multitudes of customers. Once eLearning enters the picture, the reach scales exponentially, with little to no cost for each additional user enabled.
2. Repeatable content. Instead of each CSM creating unique classes for each customer, dedicated resources design and develop repeatable content that enables customers along their lifecycle.
3. Role-based. Rather than ‘drinking from a fire hose’ to learn the whole product at once, customers access courses designed for specific roles, at specific points in their customer journey. A best practice is to modularize learning, to provide just-in time enablement. The result: reduced load on CSMs and Support agents.
4. Hands-on. Student retention increases to 75% when hands-on labs are included, according to the learning pyramid. Building small interactive courses means customers won’t need to lean on CSMs to repeat what they learned.
How to Get Started
1. Assign a dedicated resource to build re-usable content. This might be a dedicated CSM or your first Customer Education resource.
2. Talk to CSMs to understand where customers need help, focusing on the general use cases.
3. Talk to Support Agents to learn the top ten “how-to” cases, logged.
4. Build a few courses to address the top use cases gathered from CSMs and Support agents, focusing on what users need to do in your product, rather than on feature and functionality.
5. Set up a process for the Customer Success and Support teams to point customers to existing, standardized courses, rather than build and provide the content themselves.
Two approaches I use to help my clients scale are eLearning and flipped classroom.
1. eLearning. At one of my clients, CSMs were on the treadmill of delivering basic product overviews and training. To alleviate this pressure, we designed modularized, easily consumable eLearning courses. Each course contains several modules, and each module includes a lecture, a demo, exercises, and a quiz. The result is that CSMs focus on use cases unique to each account rather than repeating the basics.
2. Flipped Classroom. The Director of Customer Success and her team at another client spent much of their time coaching and enabling large enterprise customers. In addition, expensive engineers and product managers deliver the few classes provided. We established a “flipped classroom” approach to educate customers on the complex product, which includes self-paced pre-requisite courses, followed by an instructor-led deep dive workshop with use case scenarios, to build technical expertise and best practices. The outcome is an offering that scales as new customers come on board, without the need to continue using Customer Success and other teams to deliver each class.
Use your Customer Success teams for what you hired them for, strategic, high-value tasks, specific to each customer. Move CSMs out of the repeatable tutoring and coaching, and keep them focused on building stellar relationship with their accounts. Move beyond ad hoc customer enablement and start scaling. Leverage the scaling engine of Customer Success, Customer Education.