How to scale a customer success team with a low-touch approach
Does your Customer Success team struggle with managing all of their customer accounts in a proactive manner and lose clients regularly? Is your annual churn rate above 5%? From our work with more than 700 companies it emerges that your company may find it difficult to grow and stay profitable in the future.
Published June 23, 2021
Last updated June 23, 2021
Contribution from Raphael Presberg, Co-founder, Nalia
Many B2B SaaS startups struggle with scaling up their CS team: Where early on they used to assign each new client its own customer success agent providing a highly personal customer experience, they usually need to start increasing the number of clients per CS agent to keep up with growth. Frequently, this is achieved by moving to mostly automated digital communications to the customer. This change from high-touch to low-touch CS model can be rocky if your CS team does not have the right organizational processes and customer data analytics tools in place to succeed.
So how can you successfully scale a CS team to a low-touch model, retain your customers, and keep your company's annual churn rate low?
What is a low-touch customer success team?
In both high-touch and low-touch models the role of a customer support agent is to retain customers, manage onboarding and adoption as well as upselling and renewals. Indeed, Bain & Company found that improving customer retention by only just 5% can increase a company’s profits by as much as 95%.
A low-touch strategy is a one-to-many approach to customer success. It is usually used by companies with high numbers of customers, where each customer support agent manages hundreds of accounts. While with a high-touch approach there's a personal relationship with each client, a low-touch model relies on digital engagement, and customer support agents can use automation, alerts, and triggered messages to train customers, promote product use, and deliver best practices.
The biggest downside to a low-touch approach is that CS agents often don't have enough visibility on all their customers' accounts, and become reactive instead of proactive. Today, in most low-touch models, once the onboarding stage is over, customers go into a CSM portfolio, and usually hear from the customer success team only when their subscription renewal date is coming up. This can lead to customers leaving the product before an agent has had a chance to inquire about their needs. For SaaS companies, an annual churn rate over the average 5-7% will have a dramatically negative impact on revenue. In order to avoid such a high churn rate low-touch CS teams need to efficiently anticipate customers' behaviours and proactively communicate with them.
A 3-step approach to low-touch customer success
From our work with clients we found that the customer success team will need to be organized to efficiently and proactively manage customers' needs when using a low-touch approach.
The onboarding team
For the first 3 or 4 months of a new client account a specific team is needed to proactively onboard them and make sure they are adopting the solution. After that period of time, a health check is advised to make sure the customer is feeling well taken care of and to check that they are using the product regularly.
The low-touch CS team
After onboarding, customers are moved into a pool of customers, and CS agents can proactively manage all their customer accounts by using an early warning system that alerts them to upsell opportunities or at-risk customers. This low-touch CS team, through digital engagement, can automate and personalise communications to their clients based on customer segments.
The customer care team
The third team focuses on responding to incoming customer demands through the use of a ticket support solution. This team is different from customer success, they are reactive rather than proactive, and only interact with customers who have reached out first with an issue or question.
Tools to support low-touch CS teams
To efficiently manage this low-touch customer success model, a data-driven onboarding journey is needed, with automated processes based on customer personas and segments. Simultaneously, a ticket support solution will help the customer care team to manage incoming customer issues as well as an early warning system that automatically notifies the customer success team to upsell opportunities and churn risks, so they can reach out to these customers in a timely manner.
According to our experience, using this 3-tier approach when scaling your low-touch customer success team is the key to successfully support all of your customers accounts. In a time where it counts to be agile it can help reduce churn, and enable you to act on upselling opportunities, which in turn will maximise your company's revenue.