I advise executives on their Customer Success strategy and execution.
This past Friday in a weekly call with one of my clients the topic of how to structure support came up.
Specifically, the question was whether it made sense to move from a pooled resource structure to an account based approach aligned to their segmentation model and customer use cases.
As always, the answer is not a simple yes or no as it depends on the adoption needs of the customer base and their journey.
There are however some general guidelines to follow when thinking of how to create a customer centric organizational structure for support that scales.
Support Structure Guidelines
The following general principles are ordered from least to most labour intense usage of support resources.
Ensure CSM’s are proactively managing customers to success
Invest in ongoing product improvements so that it’s intuitive and easy to use
Invest in creating solid self-assistance tools
Have a resource pool for first line support
Look at having specialist resources
Align dedicated, premier support resources to segmentation model
Ensure CSM’s are Proactively Managing Customers to Success
The goal of Customer Success is to drive efficient product adoption and ongoing usage, and to do this proactively.
When done successfully, an organization can navigate customers around the common challenges and pitfalls that occur during the journey so that reactive support inquiries do not happen in the first place.
A well-defined, prescriptive adoption methodology (“plays”) and the use of Customer Success Plans to manage the customer through their journey are fundamental for proactive Customer Success and to ultimately prevent reactive support inquiries from happening in the first place.
Invest in Ongoing Product Improvements
It goes without saying that the more intuitive and easier to use a product is, the fewer support inquiries an organization will have.
It is therefore really important that companies create a mechanism for evaluating the aggregated feedback customers have regarding the product and how it is used.
Continually updating the product to address the top trending challenges customers have, has a large impact on the number of incoming support requests, as well as customer satisfaction and the rate of product adoption.
Invest in Self-Assistance Tools
Self-service tools such as a knowledge base, video how-to’s, educational material covering use case best practices and product usage tips, as well as building a community of users that help one another, is the first line of defence for assisting customers with their inquiries and deflecting requests to support.
An organization should invest appropriately to create solid self-assistance tools that easily answer common inquiries and increase the rate of product adoption.
The idea here is to make it easy and quick for customers to the get answers they need to continue moving along in their journey.
Automated nurture campaigns that are designed with the customer journey in mind and that feed just-in-time tips and tricks to the customer when the information is required, are really effective at driving adoption.
Have a Resource Pool for First Line Support
CSM’s are proactively managing customers to success, the product is intuitive and easy to use and the customer has a plethora of self-service tools to aid them along in their journey.
An organization will still receive incoming support requests (they will just be more specific to the customer’s business use cases which is a good thing).
To support these inquiries and meet the service level agreements (SLAs) set out in the contract, an organization needs to create a support queue and handle requests via a pool of resources.
Mathematical queuing theory (and I promise this is the only time I will reference mathematical theory) states that on average all customers will be served faster if there is one line (i.e. a support queue), then if there are multiple lines (i.e. dedicated resources for each customer).
In other words, the quickest way for customers to get serviced is to have all requests go into a single queue that support works on (and then for the rep to own a case until completion).
It also ensures that a company can meet their contractual commitments.
Consider Specialist Resources
Depending on the complexity of the product or the industry the product serves, it may make sense to have specialist resources.
These are subject matter experts that have a more detailed level of expertise and knowledge around certain areas of the product or with the industry.
These individuals serve as advisors to all of support for assistance with more complex inquiries or to work directly with the customer on an ad-hoc basis depending on the specific case.
Specialist resources allows support to handle the higher complexity cases, that naturally take longer, more efficiently.
Align Premier Support Resources to Segmentation Model
Once support is organized to efficiently service customers through proactive management, an intuitive product, self-service tools and a highly efficient support queue that calls on the help of subject matter experts when required, then it makes sense to look at dedicating resources to certain accounts.
For this, a segmentation model founded on the understanding of how customers adopt the technology is required.
Once the adoption needs are understood and the corresponding segmentation model is created, the skills required to support customers through the journey can be understood.
With this comprehension in hand, a premier support model that allocates the appropriate resources to the accounts calling for the assistance can be determined.
Premier support models are an effective way to drive adoption and retention with accounts that have more complex onboarding and usage needs and that require a persistent and more in-depth knowledge of the account.
Before making (possibly independent) organizational changes to support, look at the bigger context of the customer journey and how your organization is driving adoption.
With that context in mind, ensure that all the fundamentals are in place to make the customer journey as seamless as possible first, then review how support should be structured accordingly to best assist all customers efficiently and offer additional, premier services for those customers that require a dedicated level of assistance.