Automation In Customer Success

by Feb 21, 2019Foundations

Automation has a long and extraordinary history. You could argue it started with the wheel, the first piece of technology to dramatically improve human efficiency. The revolution it started continues at an ever accelerating pace so that today, for example, we can use our voice to directly access the largest database ever built.

“Hey Google, define automation.”

“Here’s the definition of automation. The use or introduction of automatic equipment in a manufacturing or other process or facility”

Not bad, maybe not the greatest definition in the context of customer success but when you stop to consider what has to happen for this result to be almost instantly delivered it’s astonishing how technology has automated so many aspects of our lives in such pervasive ways.

“Hey Google, define automation in customer success”

“Here’s a summary from the website Customer success isn’t something you do once or someone you hire to make magic happen. Since customer success is a process , it means a few things: part of it can be automated. It can be rationalised and broken down into steps”

This first sentence I love even if some of the customer success manoeuvres I’ve seen over the years were indistinguishable from magic. As the definition continues I remain in agreement. Customer success is system and therefore it can be examined for steps that provide a great opportunity for and/or a high return from automation. When considering how to do this the essential point is that automation has to fit as part of your overall outcomes focussed customer success framework. If it’s seen simply as a way to reduce the costs or effort associated with scaling and not considered in the context of enabling or delivering customer outcomes you are gambling with your customers’ success.

Technology Options

There are numerous ways to apply technology in customer success which will help you scale. These of course have costs. The obvious ones are purchase, set-up, maintenance and training costs. The less obvious costs, should automation be applied with insufficient thought, can include a reduction in customer satisfaction, increased churn and fewer advocates for your solution. Like everything else the application of technology should have an understood rationale, clear objectives, associated metrics, an ROI and a clearly articulated and validated place in your overall customer success strategy.

The subject of automation in customer success is a large one. Rather than address all of the options in detail the rest of this article looks at some of the main classes of automation available, some uses cases of that technology in customer success and provides some examples of how those use cases might be met using a given technology. This is by no means exhaustive but shows how many opportunities you have to improve the customer experience and improve the efficiency of your customer success delivery.

Marketing Automation

A powerful and easy way to automate customer interactions, especially valuable for low value, high volume client situations where assigning CSM time doesn’t scale. Can also be low cost as most companies will already have a solution in place. Great place to start.

Customer Community Platform

A huge win once you’ve understood the role a community platform can play in supporting your customers and helping to ensure they take the shortest route possible to achieving outcomes and value. These typically take time to set up well and so can seem intimidating and easier to put off until some unspecified future point. That’s one option, the other is to pick a couple of core uses cases for a community platform and build and deploy those first. Nothing wrong with that approach at all, deploy, iterate, learn and extend is a smart way to deploy a platform like this. This doesn’t mean don’t plan and it doesn’t mean don’t be extremely clear about what you are trying to achieve.

Chatbots / In-App Support

The robots are coming. They get smarter every day. Thankfully I think the singularity is a long way off so for now we get to use them to our benefit and not the other way around. This is technology you need to be using – maybe not to dramatically improve things for your customers just yet, but to ensure you are riding the wave and understanding how and where it’s best deployed.

 Internal Facing Automation

It’s way too big a job to present all the tools you could be using to make yourself, your team, your company and your customer relationships more efficient. It’s also way too big a job to try and deploy more than a few of them but as it relates to customer success there are a few core tools to have in place.

In Summary

Pick your battles. Even this short article contains enough work to keep most CSM teams busy for months. There are many considerations at play when deciding what and how to deploy when considering automation. The trick is too look for four things when you evaluate the options:

  • How big of an impact does this have on our ability to directly improve customer outcomes and satisfaction;
  • How big of an impact does this have on our efficiency and therefore on our ability to devote more time to improve customer outcomes and satisfaction;
  • How does this support the long term objectives we have for our customer success function;
  • What’s the expected immediate and long term ROI of the investment needed.
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