Scaling for SMBs
Even though all customers are important to a business, some customers are more important than others. Small/medium sized business (SMB) customers do not have the same economic impact or potential for revenue expansion as a larger enterprise-level customer. In the early days of any business, you want to be as close as possible to all your customers. But as your company grows and matures, you will have to think about the resources you’re investing in customer relationships, and scale the investment to the customer's economic value.
This article provides tips and advice on scaling your customer success team to serve your SMB customers in a way that is financially viable for your company, yet still drives customer loyalty and helps you retain customers.
Segmenting Your Customers
The first step in knowing how to support your SMB customers is having a clear definition of who they are. For companies that have not yet tiered their customer base, it’s typical to segment customers based on the number of purchased licenses/users and/or the expected annual recurring revenue. You will also want to consider a customer’s growth potential when assigning them to a segment – it may not make sense to put a small business into your SMB segment if they have significant growth potential.
After establishing your tiering strategy, you need to know the average cost per customer segment for your post-sales support. If you don’t know the cost per customer, have your CSMs track the amount of time they spend per customer for a couple weeks. Average the time spent per each customer, and then divide your total customer success investment (salaries, bonuses, capital equipment, etc.) by this number. That gives you a good estimate of what you’re spending per customer now.
Analyze your customers in cohorts to determine the average cost per customer for your post-sales efforts. Knowing what each customer tier costs you to support will help you make decisions about investments for scalability.
It’s likely that as much half of your total customer base will fall into your SMB segment. As your company grows it’s simply not cost effective to cover them at the same ratios you’d use for enterprise customers. To scale the customer success effectively, you should use processes and technology to extend the reach of your CSM team.
There are three main areas you can concentrate on when scaling your customer success team for SMB customers:
- Automating regular touch points in the customer lifecycle
- Addressing questions and help requests using self-service technology
- Delivering web-based training
We’ll touch on all these in more detail now.
Automating Regular Touch Points
Monitoring and improving client relationships is a key responsibility of the customer success team.. Many companies have a prescriptive plan on how their senior CSMs should engage with top-tier customers. However, those plans are typically not scalable to the large number of SMB customers you have. Email automation solutions can help you reach these customers in a cost-effective way. Here are a few situations where automation may help:
- Sending new customers ideas and tips to help them use your product will reduce the amount of time it takes for them to be productive. Your CSM team likely knows the top issues that new customers struggle with. The team can create content that addresses those pain points, which can then be sent out on a weekly or bi-weekly basis via your marketing automation software.
- Your order management system will most likely allow you to automate the renewal process. With most systems (including Salesforce) you can set up date-based triggers that will automatically send a renewal letter to the customer. We recommend sending these letters between 60-45 days before the actual renewal. Your CRM also likely allows you to customize these emails so they appear to be coming from a specific resource on the CSM team rather than just a random email address.
- Many analytics tools exist to help SaaS-based companies analyze the usage behavior of their customers’ end users. Many of these analytics systems also allow you to perform notifications based on user actions. If the analysis of your data shows that a new cohort of end users is engaging with the tool, or that user adoption is significantly up or down, many of these tools will allow you to execute a workflow to send notifications, information or links to help articles.
Self-Help Service Technology
Your call tracking software should provide you with analytics that give you a deeper understanding into customer questions and issues. Review your data to determine which products or use cases generate the most service requests. From this list, you can have your customer success or technical support teams create articles that address these questions. If you find that questions about your product cluster around a specific area (setup, user administration, etc.) consider writing a series of FAQs based on your incoming cases.
Many call tracking systems also have a built-in framework for a customer self-help site or user community. All these systems operate in a slightly different way, but the end goal is the same – to help your company provide users with answers and insight on how to use your products. Not only will self-service help reduce your service costs, but it will also help reduce your overall customer effort score.
Delivering end-user training via the web is a cost-effective and interactive way to teach your SMB customers how to use your product. A client of ours offered a quarterly training session called “base training” via the web. The session was open to all SMB customers, and the CSM assigned to oversee SMB accounts walked through the basic use cases of the product. Customers could ask questions in real-time through a chat tool their web conferencing service provided. These sessions were recorded and then stored on the company’s customer self-help center. Once a new customer was on-boarded, they were directed to review the most recent “base training” recording that was available. They were also invited to the next live training if they had additional questions.
There are many other ways that technology can help your success and support teams effectively scale to your SMB customer base. Engage your teams to help determine where automation will help, and then leverage them for creating content where needed.
As you use technology to manage and help your SMB customers, make sure your communication isn’t impersonal. Emails, webinars, etc., should all come from the CSMs on your team assigned to SMB customers. The customers should also have a route to connect directly with their CSM – but if the self-help and automation tools are the customer’s’ path of least resistance, you’ll be able to direct them there first.