By Ella Dillon
Customer success platforms revolutionized companies’ abilities to understand their customers. These systems make it possible to identify problems, opportunities, and challenges, giving Customer Success teams an unprecedented view of all the interactions taking place across all the touchpoints. There’s only one problem. The number of conversations a Customer Success Manager (CSM) needs to have to unlock expansion while driving renewals and retention far outstrips their bandwidth to do so.
Regardless of how good your data is, your Customer Success team members can only take on so much customer interaction. With the average CSM responsible for more than 50 accounts, they often get stuck in a cycle of reacting to problems rather than getting ahead of potential issues and proactively strategizing with customers to improve outcomes.
The ‘Old Woman in the Shoe’ Dilemma—Scalability
CSMs have become like the old woman of the nursery rhyme who lived in a shoe, and had so many children she didn’t know what to do. She, and CSMs, do what human beings do when they’ve got too many people clamoring for their attention: they tend to the ‘squeaky wheels’. The squeaky wheels, however, aren’t necessarily the customers with the most potential for high Customer Lifetime Value, brand loyalty, or other things associated with high-value customers. And in many cases, potentially high-value, long-term customers are neglected due to the sheer volume of customer demands on CSMs.
This opens up companies to a great deal of risk. According to451 Research’s Voice of the Enterprise: Customer Experience & Commerce Report, 80 percent of businesses expressed their willingness to end a relationship with a company due to a poor customer experience. The margin of error for companies unable to engage with buyers at the level they expect is shrinking.
Most Customer Success teams recognize this intuitively. Giving customers high-touch, personalized attention is critical to improving retention and growth. But it’s not possible to deliver this kind of customer experience consistently when your CSMs are stretched too thin.
Scaling CSMs with AI
The next step function of Customer Success at scale? AI. AI offers a way for Customer Success teams to conduct proactive and importantly – interactive, communication with customers, closing the gap between what CSMs can accomplish manually and through standard automations, and what it actually takes to deliver the experience buyers need for retention and growth.
Effective strategy for AI technology often starts with figuring out where human beings are wasting the most time and conversely where they need to be leveraged to create the most value. What if a CSM could leverage an AI Digital Assistant to drive critical, but time-consuming tasks? For example:
● Onboard new customers, much of which involves sending forms and resources through, answering repetitive questions, and tracking process completions
● Engage based on product usage trends, and identify signs of either problems or opportunities
● Start renewal, upsell, and cross-sell motions
● Collect customer feedback, reviews, and referrals
While the data provided by most CRM systems present a wealth of information, it’s difficult for humans to keep up and determine exactly when they need to take action. Only AI and machine learning algorithms have the advantage of being able to calculate probabilities for certain outcomes at certain times and determine the best next step in the same way CSMs would do. But at scale. And now – personally tailored and empowered to drive conversations on behalf of CSMs and nurture customers to the point where they need to engage with your most precious human resources.
Strategically deployed, AI becomes a team member, freeing up CSMs’ time to focus on the activities where their interaction is vital.
Identifying the Areas of Most Value for AI
Here are a few of the potential roles of AI in Customer Success management:
● Risk management: Using such data as product usage level and health scores, AI can detect when a customer is at risk of attrition, and can automatically trigger a Digital Assistant to proactively work to initiate important conversations and resolve issues. If needed, a human being can step in and complete the process. However, the CSM isn’t spending their time on things that a Digital Assistant can handle.
● Customer advocacy: AI can also use the same metrics as well as NPSs to automatically detect customers who are achieving success, and initiate conversations that lead to case studies, testimonials, referrals, and other positive outcomes. Once again, the CSM is able to step in and complete the final stages of this interaction, where the three-dimensional thinking and finesse of a human are truly required.
The role of Customer Success is more critical than ever. As CSMs are accountable for unlocking “white space” in an account, while covering their blind spots and mitigating risk, we need to support our customers in a new way. AI is transforming the way CSMs teams are designed and work, allowing them to sidestep time-consuming aspects of their job and focus on nurturing high-value relationships (and doing important damage control as well). AI can carry a conversation up until the point a high-value human is required. By understanding where most of the time is wasted, and the data streams that provide insight into where potential success and dangers may exist, AI can free the hands of your team to spend their time on things that provide the greatest value to your business.
Ella Dillon is Chief Customer Officer at Conversica. She has deep expertise in Customer Experience design for fast-growing pre-IPO SAAS companies rooted in loyalty-driven retention and expansion.
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