Building a world-class digital customer success program doesn't require a lot of upfront effort. However, one of the biggest mistakes you can make when transitioning to customer success is doing it all at once as one Goliath task.
By starting small, you lean into a digital customer journey's main strength: its modularity.
In this 3 step process, you'll steadily construct a digital customer success motion that's efficient and customized to your business's exact needs, all without stressful workflow disruptions and difficult buy-in conversations.
So, let's start small and build a first Digital CS program. The journey towards a full digital customer success model — and a leap into more efficient customer success — can begin by stepping into one use case at a time.
Accompanying this guide is a Digital CS program readiness template, which can help you brainstorm how a Digital CS program could fit into your organization.
Why did we create this guide?
Transitioning accounts from high touch to digital CS and building a digital customer success program can be daunting.
First, managing a digital customer success program is a multi-disciplinary problem involving participation from customer success, account management, customer support, data teams and various levels of management.
Second, companies have historically only paid attention to their top-tier customers. Thus most of the tooling, infrastructure, and processes in the organization are geared toward helping dedicated CSMs serve their customers. Complex customer journeys and data make it hard to find a first foothold and a quick win.
We've helped numerous customer success teams, from Looker (Google Cloud) to Notion, transition thousands of accounts from high touch to digital tech-touch across many verticals.
Let’s show you how you can do it too.
Tech-touch has been around for a long time and comes in many varieties, from email blasts to video tutorials and community sites. What we are focused on here is a humanized Digital CS.
Humanized Digital CS — One that is hyper-personalized to each user and explains and convinces, to motivate the user to take a high-value action.
Think of it as a 1:1-like 1:many tech-touch that can be consumed asynchronously.
So without further ado - let’s get started.
In this guide, we'll cover how to build your first tech-touch using Cast:
- How to pick your first use case?
- How to design your first tech-touch?
- Who should receive your first tech-touch?
🧠 Part 1 - Let's talk Strategy
How to pick your first Digital Customer Success Use Case:
We believe thinking through the following sequence of questions will help you find a valuable tech-touch initiative for your organization.
- What business metric is your team focused on lifting?
- What customer actions will provide lift for this business metric?
- Where in the customer journey should we drive these customer actions?
- What resources do we have to convey a story to drive these customer actions?
- Who should receive this tech-touch?
- And data feasibility questions you can try to answer in our readiness guide.
Let’s go through each of the questions step by step:
What business metric is your team focused on lifting?
The holy grail business metric most customer success teams focus on is Net Dollar Retention (NDR). Driving NDR is about increasing retention and account expansion. Business metrics in your organization that drive retention, such as license and feature utilization, health scores, and product adoption, are great starting points to pinpointing a Digital CS.
Figuring a few of these is crucial to focusing and motivating your efforts. It answers: why should we care? Once you know which business metrics you are looking to drive, the next step is to determine what customer actions will drive that business metric.
What customer actions will provide lift for this business metric?
Typically, the business metrics that customer success teams are looking to drive are stymied by customer actions. Improvement in your business metric will usually come from customers taking certain actions.
You might find Customers adopting a particular feature, watching a video tutorial, or working with your customer success team are the customer actions that you are looking to drive the business metric.
There are a number of frameworks and methodologies by which CS teams can figure out the connection between customer actions and retention. Mature organizations like Looker at Google Cloud will lean on their Data Science teams, but for the self-starters and those early on in CS, you can start uncovering the connection between actions and retention by simply comparing metrics across features and product utilization of your best accounts with those that you are looking to grow.
For example, Looker (Google Cloud), one of our customers, determined that usage of Looker support, query and user growth, and adoption of power user features were a key driver of retention.
When you find the connection between customer actions and business metrics, it becomes apparent that your digital tech-touch should drive those customer actions.
Where in the customer journey should we drive these customer actions?
After you know what customer actions you want to drive, it's essential to figure out what parts of the customer journey are best suited to drive these actions.
If you find out that usage of power user features drives retention, it makes sense to focus on post-onboarding to drive that customer actions. On the other hand, if inviting more than five team members is key to driving retention, it makes more sense to focus on the first 7 - 10 day user onboarding.
As an example, let's say you want to drive power-user features and support usage. The best way to accomplish that may be post-onboarding via a digital business review.
When you know where and when in the customer journey you want to deliver the Digital Touch program, you can start to make sense of how it will gel with the rest of your customer journey and which customers are in that phase that are candidates for receiving it.
What resources do we have to convey a story to drive these customer actions?
The last step in building a tech-touch is determining how to explain and convince users in a scalable way to take the desired action.
When we think about driving customer actions, it is essential to look at strategies used in world-class consumer applications. Why? Consumer software companies have been using Digital CS programs from day 1 to drive customers to take actions at scale. In my opinion, all the best ideas for digital CS programs will likely come from trends in consumer software, which I talk about in length here.
Based on learnings from consumer software, two ways we’ve found that work surprisingly well in driving customer actions are:
- Data-driven strategies like gamification, comparisons, and benchmarking
- Persuasive editorials employing various persuasion theory strategies to drive desired outcomes.
For data-driven strategies, finding clean and accessible data is a prerequisite. A tool like Cast, which has narrative generation features, like conditional narrations, fields, and liquid snippets, also make it much more manageable.
Let's dive into two examples of data-driven strategies to drive customer action: Gamification and Benchmarking.
Gamification and Benchmarking - "Nothing better than a little bit of competition."
There are a plethora of ways to gamify customer actions. Some examples include:
- Comparing usage analytics for users across segments and cohorts
- Using contests and rewards based on performance
- Highlighting top performers and laggards
One example of gamification in digital CS program is to showcase top users for a feature. You can gamify this “leaderboard”, highlighting which users are performing best or employing "shamification", remarking on which performed poorly.
Besides gamification, we recommend also leveraging benchmarking. Track usage for desired customer actions at the account and cohort level and compare growth rates.
It’s highly compelling when an account sees their performance vs. similar accounts, and trust me they would be thrilled to receive this level of insights from customer success.
Now, data driven strategies are not always feasible. Suppose you are still collecting data or do not have readily available data. In that case, we recommend leveraging persuasion editorial strategies, including various rhetoric tactics from persuasion theory, to drive critical customer actions.
Robert Cialdini, in 1984 wrote his seminal book, "Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion," which influenced (pun intended) Go To Market teams everywhere, and many top sales leaders at leading SaaS companies highly recommend reading it. There are a few fundamental techniques that work when trying to convince anyone, including customers, to take actions. These include:
- Social Proof (i.e. naming reputable customers)
It is important that customer success teams are also well versed, as they take on a more significant role in go-to-market teams as larger percentages of spend move from new to recurring business, especially in the world of SaaS. And of course, the same techniques can be applied at scale by customer success teams using a digital CS program.
Using persuasive editorials is more art than science. They take time to craft and get right. We have a collection of templates that we’ve crafted that you can use right away in the Cast Designer.
Who should receive this tech-touch?
When our customers begin thinking about transitioning their high-touch accounts to tech-touch, they start with a small segment of users. We want to start somewhere where:
1) Success is straightforward to measure (i.e., account activation)
2) Improving the measure results in a meaningful business lift, and
3) There are low data requirements.
Some examples of Segments:
- Segment by ARR: Self-Service Customers, SMB customers
- Customer Journey: onboarding, renewal, implementation, adoption/activation
- A subset of data (i.e., subscription and product data)
Let’s take a breath. We have covered a lot of ground. By now, you know:
- Why you want to create a tech-touch: to drive a business metric
- What customer actions will drive that business metric
- Where in the customer journey do we want to implement a tech-touch
- How you are going to convince your customers
- Who you can sending this tech-touch to
We have a clear vision of what we want to accomplish and how we will do it. Let's now put all the pieces together by designing the actual digital CS program.
🪄 Part 2 - The Details
Brainstorm and Design Your First tech-touch
Designing a digital CS program is about storytelling. A flow of an excellent tech-touch story can be as simple as follows:
- The Hook - Welcome - typically a hook to capture a user's attention
- The Plot - 2-3 salient points backed by convincing editorial, benchmarking, or selective gamification.
- The Follow-Up - Key business actions you would like the customer to take.
And of course, we have some great templates within the Cast Designer to help you build each of these points.
Without sounding like a 10th grade English teacher, let's go over each of them :)
The Hook - Welcome
You're taking up your customers' time, so it should be for a good reason. This is where you tell them why. Phrase it from their point of view: not why you want to talk to them, but why they should listen to you. Highlight how the digital CS program will help their lives, so they pay attention.
The Plot - 2-3 Salient Points
When you've captured a user's attention, it is vital to share information they want to hear, not what you want to tell them. If it’s what you want to tell them, it's going to sound like an advertisement. If it’s what they want to hear, it’s going to garner interest and trust.
The salient points you bring up should center around the customer actions that you picked to drive, constructed by the data-driven and persuasive strategies mentioned above.
Each point should be told from the user's point of view. When going through this exercise, ask yourself questions like:
- What does the user want to know?
- What insights would intrigue the user?
Often, the insights users want to hear also require data analysis to surface, and a tool that can generate insights like Cast can make this a lot easier at scale.
The Follow Up - Next Steps
You have put in a lot of effort - "led the horse to the water" - across a treacherous jungle. You're almost done!
Now you need to convince the user to take the action you did all this work to drive.
At this point, present 2 - 4 easy-to-follow calls to actions that they can take right away and achieve your desired customer action. Reinforce the benefit it would give them, tell them how easy it is, and provide them with easy, happy paths to taking actions.
These actions of course can be hyper-personalized, down to the individual user level and/or higher account level depending on role, desired action, etc. One of the biggest values a good digital CS program like Cast can provide, versus sending another marketing email/sequence, is the level of personalization in the recommendations you can surface to your users.
🚀 Part 3 - Ship it
Send your first tech-touch to your customers
Once you have a tech-touch ready to go, there is an art to transitioning your high-touch customers to a tech-touch model. It takes gradual ramp-up and shouldn't feel sudden.
Typically our customers reach users where they are via email and text for economic buyers, and in-app for users of your product. Many customers attach the digital CS program to every email they send, so it's always readily available and updated at the customer's convenience.
If you were sending a tech-touch over email, we recommend a sequence like the one below as an example to warm up your customer base to the new tech-touch:
- Email introducing the tech-touch (1 week before)
- A reminder that tech-touch is coming (2 days back)
- Actual tech-touch
- Thank you follow up email for those that engaged with a survey (Immediately after engaging)
- Reminder email for those that didn't engage (2 days later)
We also have done some research on subject lines and in email copy that has boosted our customer's open rates by 2x and click through rates by 7x. Contact us at email@example.com, and we'd be happy to help you make a high performing email or SMS sequence for your digital CS.
We hope this helped you see a path for how your customer success team can transition from a high-touch to a scalable tech-touch first motion.
Here is a readiness guide to help your team evaluate various digital CS program ideas: Readiness Guide.
When you are ready to build a digital CS program , you can start building your first tech-touch at Cast, using our Cast Designer with the help of plenty of additional resources at Cast School, school. Cast.app.
I want to thank members of Cast Product Advisory Board, Kendra McClanahan (Gainsight), Ryan Seams (Mixpanel), Sonam Dhabolkhar (Gong.io), Graham Gill (Maestro), and Dallas Frazer (Goodtime.io) for reviewing drafts of this article.
What is Cast?
Cast scales Customer Success and Post Sales using automation and virtual CSMs. Cast is the second best solution to drive adoption, reduce churn, expand revenue, and NDR for accounts at scale — second only to human CSMs.