Balance customer success at scale with high touch when new demand spikes

I’m extremely lucky to work in a space that supports remote working, where demand is booming. COVID-19 has driven demand in the opposite direction for many, effecting their very existing. For the lucky few, it can also be something of a double edged sword. Supporting your customers the right way regardless, is crucial.

All platforms that support remote working at the moment face the challenge of spiking demand. Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Slack for instance, have all had to grapple with unique challenges. Customer Success plays a crucial role in guiding customers to the right solutions as they grapple with their challenges.

Your response needs to be mindful, I’ve written about that before: How to respond to global challenges mindfully and the 3 stakeholders in success.

COVID-19 will herald an automation boom in the field of robotics. Those approaches make sense when in person work can be better met by robots. One instinct when demand spikes in technology support and service work might be to meet it with highly scaled automation.

I believe that automation is and should play an increasingly important role but I think it would be a mistake to forego the human and high touch approach entirely.

In this post I want to share what I have been doing for my pool of customers and how I am trying to pivot my support to them as the circumstances call for it.

A. Scale

Scale activities should always be a part of your armoury. It generally makes sound business and process sense to drive repeatable activities in an automated way. It makes sense when you have a large amount of activities, complex platforms to support and many customers you cannot possibly deal with equally, with white gloves. It makes even more sense when demand spikes.

Here’s what I’ve been doubling down on with my team.

  1. Build and maintain a list. The right customer contacts, segmented for the right info.
  2. Build a customer portal. I use SharePoint, searchable and well organised. Similar to this.
  3. Drive traffic to the right info. Newsletters do this well.
  4. Manage events at scale. All customers, virtual, record, share.
  5. Automate. I use Power Automate to curate news.
Some of the activities I am using to drive learning for all customers.

Here’s a little more detail on some of the elements. For obvious reasons, I cannot share too much.

I use Microsoft Forms to maintain and build new subscribers. I tie this back in to our CRM system. I also provide clear opt out options in all newsletters I send, on the SharePoint site, everywhere I communicate with customers. Feedback is also important and I use Forms and a simple NPS query to get that. Screenshots below capture this.

Microsoft Teams for collaboration

I use a SharePoint Comms site for all customers, effectively as an extranet. I work with an internal team (using Microsoft Teams natch 😁) and we each own and maintain sections of the site related to our area of responsibility. We create news posts that aggregate Microsoft content and categorise it so it automatically goes to the right section.

We use the site events function and web part to set up customer webinars, again using Microsoft Teams as the video conferencing function.

What goes out the window? All the nice fluffy stuff that does not help save time, money, jobs, etc.

B. High touch

White glove service for your biggest and most valuable customers is a standard part of customer success operations. At a time of special need, this needs to be relooked. For instance, in the COVID-19 crisis Microsoft is looking at how it can support health services and government functions better. Education is also getting special attention. More on that here and other things they are doing.

What I am doing is documented in a post I referred to earlier but here’s a little more, specific to customer success.

  1. Additional resources. Bring in the cavalry for right customers.
  2. Segment further. Customers with biggest need, highest intent and can manage attention most.
  3. Stakeholder management. Executives are leading company efforts. Help them to help employees and customers.
  4. Business critical functions. Focus on these, e.g. customer support, sales, etc.

Again just a little more detail on some of these points, at least what I can share.

Click to enlarge

I am drilling down on certain functions of our technology for certain stakeholder groups, similar to what I documented here: Microsoft Teams Live Events and the new channels of work. For instance, executives and how they can and should use the Live Events function to communicate company wide, at this time of need. Microsoft have recognised the special role this can play and have set up a specific program to help customers. That may be disbanded at some later stage so here is a screenshot of the landing page for posterity.

I am also using the SharePoint site mentioned earlier to point out specific solutions that I know my customers can use but I am deep diving with specific customers to educate them, together with the team. And I am pulling on additional resources to align them to customers that have shown the need and willingness to engage with them. So I have a hit squad of customer success resources to quickly align to customers around the right technology solutions for the right need, at the right moment.

Examples of the right need are quickly deploying and setting up Microsoft Teams for users that did not previously have access and onboarding them at scale. Microsoft’s FastTrack service is an existing program that takes on a new significance and value at this challenging time. Its being doubled down on for customers in exactly the right way.

Any questions about any of this, just ask in a comment and best of luck in your customer success efforts.

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