The 5-S of customer-facing orgs and the impact of 2nd Generation AI Agents

What is an AI agent?

In the broadest sense, an AI agent is a computer system capable of autonomously performing a large percentage of mundane and repetitive tasks or functions that typically require human intelligence. These tasks include learning, reasoning, problem-solving, perception, and language understanding and content generation.

In Customer Success (CS) and Account Management (AM) context, an AI agent revolutionizes how teams engage with customers by automating routine tasks, providing personalized customer insights, and enabling proactive recommendations. They have become increasingly relevant because they allow CS and AM teams to focus on building deeper relationships and tackling new challenges, rather than being bogged down by repetitive tasks.

AI agents can interact with your customers without intermediaries for direct customer engagement, offering immediate, highly personalized content, recommendations, and guidance. This capability ensures customers promptly receive the help they need, enhancing satisfaction and loyalty.

Depending on the level of customer interaction required (high-touch vs. no-touch segments), an AI agent can function as an assistant to Customer Success Managers (CSMs), taking over up to 75% of mundane tasks in high-touch scenarios, or up to 95% in no-touch customer segments, significantly improving efficiency and scalability.

An AI agent may also feature a visual representation, such as an avatar, which research from Washington State University suggests can significantly enhance user engagement. This visual aspect can make interactions feel more personal and engaging, fostering a stronger connection between customers and the AI agent, thereby enhancing the overall customer experience.

Generation 2 AI Agents

The diagram below outlines the evolution of AI Agent capabilities, with Generation One AI Agents primarily learning from documents and static content, while Generation Two AI Agents harness a more diverse array of data sources, including structured databases, APIs, and real-time customer interactions, to deliver a richer and more dynamic customer experience.

Customer Interactions leading to Success or Churn

Every customer interaction can be the key to success or the precursor to churn.

With that in mind, AI-driven Digital Customer Success and Account Managers are not just innovations; as we will see, they are necessary to grow and preserve your revenue to scale non-linearly without scaling teams.

Digital AI-driven CS and AMs take over well over 75% of the tasks from human CSMs, elevating human CSMs to focus on customer relationships and new challenges.

5S of Customer facing orgs

As we transition from the introduction to the core of "5S of Customer-Facing Teams" framework, let's bridge the gap between the strategic application of AI and the tangible responsibilities that drive customer engagement.

Each "S" represents a fundamental aspect of customer interaction—Success, Support, Service, Sales, and Surveys—and is critical to the seamless orchestration of AI-driven strategies that enhance every facet of the customer journey.

Now, let us unfold each "S" and its impact on building a resilient and responsive customer-facing team, ensuring that every step, from initial engagement to long-term satisfaction, is informed by AI-driven insights and grounded in genuine customer care.

Success (Customer Success)

Customer Success entails ensuring customer personas effectively use and adopt the product or service, derive value from it, and become educated and expert users. The aim has always been to minimize churn and influence expansion by having existing customers purchase more features and products.

Customer Success is both "proactive" (the standard definition from CS experts) and "reactive" (how else would surfaced problems help create new playbooks?), adapting to customer needs and improving their engagement with the product.

Today, Customer Success Orgs rely on human Customer Success and Account Managers to drive usage and adoption, manage churn, and expand revenue.

However, there are two significant problems B2B companies face that hinder growth due to this high dependence on humans.
First, Customer Success / Account Managers have way too many named or pooled customer accounts. We see 40 to 200 accounts per CSM. For example, a CSM at Pure Storage juggles 65 accounts.
Second, not all customer accounts have Customer Success / Account Managers.

Take HP Enterprise, for example. Carlos Quezeda, their VP, built the CS department with digital in mind, and they don't have dedicated customer success managers for a large segment of accounts.

AI Agents like solve both above problems.

Support (Customer Support)

Support addresses customers' needs when they encounter issues, especially in a self-service context.

Like Customer Success, modern customer support is both reactive and proactive, for instance, utilizing AI to suggest answers based on past customer questions and their accepted solutions.

A 2nd Generation comprehensive support model looks beyond simple document or help searches. It incorporates generative AI to enhance solution accuracy and relevance based on how customers ask questions or open tickets and how they are resolved.

Service (Professional, Expert, & Technical Services)

The "Services" aspect encompasses a range of tailored, paid offerings designed to facilitate customer onboarding, product adoption, and operational expansion.

These services, including technical support, implementation guidance, and bespoke project assistance, are pivotal for customers seeking to maximize product utility and efficiency. Through such personalized services, businesses not only address specific customer needs but also enhance overall satisfaction and loyalty, laying the groundwork for long-term success and growth.

To further elevate the quality and impact of these services, businesses engage Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) who bring specialized knowledge and skills. Their involvement ensures that even the most complex customer requirements are met with precision, fostering an environment where product mastery and operational excellence are the norms, thereby solidifying the foundation for sustained success and growth.

Sales (Expansion, Renewals, & Account Management)

This aspect focuses on revenue growth from existing and new customers. Expansion methods include upselling features, cross-selling products, adding seats or licenses, increasing usage billing, and selling professional services. The sales component is critical in B2B environments for sustainable business growth.

The "Sales" domain, emphasizing Sales Expansion & Renewals, is pivotal for fostering revenue growth from both existing and new customers. Remarkably, about 75% of revenue for B2B companies is generated from existing customers, underscoring the significance of upselling, cross-selling, and renewals. For instance, Salesforce reports that 73% of its revenue comes from existing clients, while UI Path sees a similar trend with 75%. This highlights the critical role of deepening customer relationships and continuously adding value, ensuring sustainable business growth in competitive B2B landscapes.

They buyer journey continues after the initial purchase.

Surveys & Polls (Customer Feedback & Attitudinal Insights)

Surveys are crucial in gathering customer feedback, atitudinal data, and insights. This involves regularly soliciting and analyzing customer opinions, preferences, and experiences to improve products, services, and overall customer experience. Surveys inform strategic decisions and help in fine-tuning the customer engagement strategy. Key metrics include:

NPS (Net Promoter Score)

A measurement of customer loyalty and likelihood to recommend the product or service to others. It's calculated based on responses to the question, "How likely are you to recommend our product/service to a friend or colleague?" on a scale from 0 to 10. Scores 9-10 are Promoters, 7-8 are Passives, and 0-6 are Detractors. Asking for referrals in realtime after a rating from Promoters is a good idea.

EGR (Earned Growth Rate)

A more recent development in customer satisfaction metrics, EGR represents an evolution of the Net Promoter Score (NPS). It quantifies a company's growth that is attributed directly to customer behavior and loyalty, combining Net Revenue Retention (NRR) with revenue derived from referrals. EGR is calculated by adding the NRR to the percentage of revenue from customers who were referred and then subtracting 100. This metric offers a holistic view of customer-driven growth and is part of the next-generation NPS, also known as NPS 3.0. I call it the NRRification of NPS, in this article:

CES (Customer Effort Score)

This metric gauges the ease with which customers can get their issues resolved or interact with a product or service. A lower CES indicates that a customer can accomplish their goals with minimal effort, which is desirable for a positive customer experience. CES is best used after a transaction and can be applied to any customer interaction.

  • Onboarding Effort Score: Measures the ease with which a new customer can start using a product or service. This can reflect how intuitive and user-friendly the onboarding process is.
  • Support Effort Score: Assesses how much effort customers must expend to resolve an issue when they contact customer support.
  • Purchase Effort Score: Evaluates the simplicity of the buying process, from finding the right product to completing the checkout.
  • Upgrade Effort Score: Gauges the difficulty involved in upgrading to a new product version or purchasing additional features.
  • Cancellation / Off-boarding Effort Score: Measures the simplicity and ease for customers to end their use of a service, deactivate their account, or unsubscribe from a platform. This can reflect the company's commitment to customer autonomy and transparency in the off-boarding process.
  • Feedback Effort Score: Assesses the effort required for customers to provide feedback through surveys or feedback forms.
  • Website Navigation Effort Score: Evaluates how effortlessly customers can find information or navigate a company's website.
  • App Usage Effort Score: Measures the ease of using an app, including the learning curve and interface intuitiveness.
  • Appointment Effort Score: Assesses the convenience of scheduling, changing, or canceling appointments with a CSM.
  • Account Management Effort Score: Measures how easily customers can manage their account settings, personal information, and preferences.

CSAT (Customer Satisfaction)

A measure of customer satisfaction with a product, service, or a specific interaction. Usually obtained through a direct question like, "How satisfied are you with our product/service?" with a rating scale.

PSAT (Partner Satisfaction)

Similar to CSAT but focused on measuring the satisfaction of business partners or channel partners. It assesses how pleased partners are with the collaboration, support, and benefits they receive.

PMF (Product Market Fit)

This metric assesses how well a product satisfies a strong market demand. It's determined by how much a product is valued and needed in the market, often gauged through customer feedback, usage data, and market trends. offers NPS (both 11-point and 5 point Likert scales), 7-point CES, 5-point Customer Satisfaction, 5-point Partner Satisfaction, thumbs up-down, PMF as both polls and generative forms.


In the transformative journey outlined in the "5S of Customer-Facing Teams," we've explored how AI-driven strategies fundamentally enhance the domains of Success, Support, Service, Sales, and Surveys, propelling customer engagement into a new era. This comprehensive framework underscores the critical role of AI in reshaping customer interactions, making every touchpoint more personalized, efficient, and impactful. As we embrace these innovative approaches, businesses are poised to achieve unprecedented growth and customer loyalty. The journey through the 5S framework reveals a future where AI and human expertise converge to create a customer-facing ecosystem that's not only responsive but deeply attuned to the evolving needs and aspirations of customers, setting a new standard for excellence in customer engagement.

"My team and I are excited about 'Ask Me Anything.'

With its Digital AI-driven CSMs, our customers get immediate, account-specific answers to their questions in an accessible ChatGPT style.

This revolutionary step in digital customer engagement and automation not only accelerates revenue growth but also enhances customer retention and expedites value realization."

Carlos Quezada,
Vice President, Customer Experience Strategy, Automation, & Enablement,
Hewlett Packard Enterprise

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