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Rise of the Digital CSM! 

10-21-2021 21:36

In an ideal world, it would be amazing to see every customer getting one-to-one attention from your customer success managers. However, in the real world, both time and resources do not permit this level of interaction. It means it’s time for your business to adopt a digital-led Customer Success model! This model ensures quick engagement with your customers, provides training support and drives the adoption of your product. 


SaaS businesses around the world give different names to the ‘Digital CSM’. Some call it the ‘Tech-touch CSM’, some prefer ‘Low-touch CSM’, and for some people, it is the ‘CSM at Scale’. 


Irrespective of the nomenclature, the digital CSM, as a role, is gaining popularity which is great for the customer success markets globally. It has become super important for SaaS companies to have a digital-led CS strategy to march ahead in today’s day and age. 


This is a new frontier for many SaaS companies. In SaaS, a low-touch engagement is mostly automated. As the firms scale in business, it becomes quite difficult, if not impossible, to do without automation or low human intervention. Hence it makes perfect sense to hire a digital CSM for scaling up the business. 


Who is a Digital CSM?

This role comes into the picture where the regular CSMs do not get in touch with the customers at regular intervals. S/he, as a CSM, provides the same scale of service as ‘one-to-one’ in the high-touch business model. It’s the ‘one-to-many’ approach where a group of customers (who have similar needs to be addressed) is assigned to one CSM. 


Customers who don’t subscribe or pay enough to have a dedicated CSM can be brought under the umbrella of a digital CSM. The aim should be to get enough information from those customers to turn them into your brand advocates.


Providing enough resources and documentation to the customers to help them throughout the CS journey is another potential objective of a CSM at scale. 


It’s basically the role of providing automated, programmed communication to the customers in helping them achieve their desired outcomes. It’s the ‘proactive’ way of approaching the customer before they ask for help in the tech-touch customer success model.


Skills required for a digital CSM

Understanding customer journey is really important in any SaaS business model. The customer journey is the process by which a customer interacts with a company in order to achieve a goal. Missing out on a touch-point in the journey can quickly become a probable cause for customer churn. As a high-touch CSM, you would be mapping every step of the customer journey. In the digital space, the same mapping can be done through automation. 


Data analysis is another skill crucial for a tech-touch CSM as compared to a regular CSM. Since the tech-touch model requires relevant, timely, programmed, and automated communication, it’s imperative for the CSM to get acquainted with the data. 


Another key trait to develop, for a digital CSM, is to be aware of the CS strategy employed by the business at that point in time. Understanding customers’ desired outcomes and going back to know why they chose you over your competitors is important.


All the other relevant skills of a regular CSM are, undoubtedly, vital for a digital CSM as well. The CSM- whether high-touch or tech-touch- needs to be proactive and should fix things up before they become a problem.


Transitioning  customers from high-touch to tech-touch CS process

The transition of a customer from a high-touch CS approach to a tech-touch CS one is not easy. In the initial days, the customer might still want the CSM to talk and have a touch base there. To navigate such challenges, you need to be transparent about the changes in the approach that will come along. 


The first and the most important step to take is to identify the right personas for your digital CS strategy. Customers who are not will soon become uncomfortable with the process and may find excuses to go back to the high-touch CS approach. 


Once you identify, be transparent and honest with them about how the process is changing and what it means to them. You need to ensure that they’re still comfortable with automated and programmed in-app notifications and messages. Give as many resources as possible to educate them. Don’t make them go to 20 different platforms for 20 different resources. 


The other advice would be not to make them angry. If they feel they’ve been put into automated programs as they’re low-paying customers, it won’t be good. You might find yourself having those difficult conversations which you were dreaded about. It always helps if you provide easy-to-access and easy-to-use digital platforms for communication.

Digital CSM and Marketing

Now, an important relationship that needs to be understood correctly here is the one between digital CSM and the marketing team. A digital-led CS strategy entails a lot of proactive communication which is helpful for the customers in every step of their journey. 


Using a lot of materials, documents, tooling, etc. which already exists in the marketing organization helps the CSMs to reach out to the large customer base with minimal effort. Touch-basing your customers in the tech-touch world isn’t easy and you need automated yet personalized emails, messages, etc. to reach out. 


Marketing can help the digital CSM in preparing such texts related to your product features, software, etc. They have the expertise for content, hence, it makes sense to keep them in the loop. It does not mean that you should always depend upon them for each and every transaction. 


The programmatic approach helps both the marketers and the tech-touch CSMs to update customers with the relevant information. The use of tools and tech stack ensures that the triggers are sent on time for the relevant updates. As you can see these two departments have shared responsibilities for their customers. 


The crucial point to note is that marketers have a lot on their plates. The job of effectively communicating with the current customers is super valuable for customer success, which is not a ‘high-priority item on the marketing team’s list of priorities. Hence, it is not advisable to assume that the marketing will do your job! Keeping them in the loop is important but make sure that you’re responsible for taking the lead. 


When is the right time to get started with Digital CSM?

If you feel that your CSM is not providing value to your customers, it’s time to rethink the strategy.  Many digital CSMs recommend that you think about the strategy as soon as possible. 


You can probably start with a high-touch CSM to touch base with the targeted customers. Once you have the required data and other resources you can easily transition into a digital way of approaching customers. When the business starts scaling, it will become imperative that you automate your processes to some extent. Here, the automation will help you target the right audience with the right tools and relevant content.


Digital-led CS tool features

Another important dimension, not to be missed, is the use of CS software like CustomerSuccessBox. The AI-empowered platforms can help you transition to Digital CSM smoothly and effectively. Some of the characteristics which the tool needs to empower digital CSMs are as follows:


  • Facilitates targeted, repeatable, and scalable CS automation
  • Never misses out on a touch-point with the customer.
  • Drives product adoption with automated engagement. 
  • Sets up automated workflows for repeatable tasks. 
  • Gives out alerts when a human needs to be brought for intervention if required.

It’s important for the digital CSM to understand the technicalities of the CS tool being used. If you want to be a successful digital CSM, use a tool that possesses the above-mentioned characteristics. 


Final thoughts about the Digital CSM

To be successful as a digital CSM, you need to take a step back and identify real challenges that plague customer success at your firm. In today’s day and age, where we move Ensure that as a digital CSM you or your team possess the required skills to help your customers achieve their desired outcomes. It is good to know when and how exactly you want to transition into digital CSM. Understanding your personas and how to make the transition without actually making customers uncomfortable is really important. 


#CustomerJourney
#CustomerSuccess
#Strategy
#Technology

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