Apr 23, 2021

Read Time 8 min

High-Touch Customer Success and Automation: The Perfect Match


If you are a high-touch Customer Success Manager (CSM) and simply cannot imagine a world where you actually enjoy using Customer Success software, I’m here to help. Allow me to convince you that high-touch Customer Success paired with automation is actually a match made in heaven. And follow along as I do so through a fun analogy of online dating.

CSMs know all too well the painstaking and cringe-worthy challenges that come with a bad-fit customer: awkward and one-sided conversations, forced smiles, missing sparks, and painful incompatibility.

Don’t burden your CSMs with bad-fit Customer Success software.

Like chemistry in dating, it’s all about finding the right match between teams and tools.

In this article, I’ll talk about high-touch CSMs – their wants, needs, likes, and dislikes. Sounds a lot like an online dating profile, doesn’t it? I agree. Let’s roll with that.

Then, I’ll compare that to the dating profile of Customer Success software.

Lastly, by highlighting practical use cases, I’ll show you how to turn this potential match into a power couple that plays to each other strengths. 

Will it be love at first…renewal?

You be the judge.

High-Touch CSM Dating Profile

About me:

I’m a seasoned CSM (Old Bay seasoned to be exact since I’m from Baltimore!) and this is not my first rodeo. I know myself so let’s be honest: I’m a little stuck in my ways. I’ve been a successful CSM for nearly a decade, and I don’t need or want a tool to micromanage me or change my ways. I’m amazing at my job, which is why my company hired me. I know I should embrace new tools, but they need to help, not hinder, me.

My ideal Customer Success software:

Allows me to manage my low-volume, high-dollar book of business without wrecking my flow!

My past Customer Success software relationships:

Are nonexistent. I’ve never really used one before. I’m hesitant to try one based on what I’ve heard, but I am also curious…

I’m looking for:

Customer Success software that’s customizable to my needs. I don’t want overdone processes. I’m interested in minimal but useful business rules, so I can adhere to my KPIs while still giving customers my own personal touch.

My advice for Customer Success software interested in me:

Win me over with value, not features. Don’t force anything on me. Guide me and advise me but also give me time to ease you into my daily workings. Change sometimes scares me. But I know I need to embrace Customer Success software in the same way I ask my customers to adapt to something new for them. I’m more open than you think if you just give me space to adjust.

My perfect first date with a Customer Success software:

Starts with accurate data about my accounts. I’m extremely busy and focused. I need a platform that’s ready for use and will keep up with me. Swipe right if you agree?

My personal mantra:

“The only time I set the bar low is for limbo” – Michael Scott. He summed me up pretty well with that one! Now tell me, are you superstitious, or just a little stitious?

Customer Success Software Dating Profile

About me:

I’m growing and evolving the Customer Success industry. All in all, I’m here to help. I work hard to help high-touch CSMs understand and embrace the fact that eventually most high-touch teams must become less high-touch. The only real way to stay high-touch and scale is to embrace – wait for it – automation! And that’s where I come in. I’m your friend (or dare I say partner?!), not your foe. I also enjoy binge-watching reality TV shows and drinking flavored seltzer if that helps us connect on a different level, too.

My ideal high-touch CSM:

Understands my flexibility and potential. High-touch teams may feel like they don’t need Customer Success software or automation because they have so few customers to manage. (And because they just want to use Excel, post-it notes, probably scotch tape, I don’t know, whatever tools they have used for the past decade.) But the reality is, that’s not enough.

My past high-touch CSM relationships:

Have felt forced. My gut says it wasn’t totally my fault. Maybe I wasn’t the right fit for the needs of the company’s Customer Success team, or maybe the company didn’t adequately configure me, or set expectations with their team. I just really want my next high-touch CSM relationship to last.

I’m looking for:

High-touch CSMs who understand that Customer Success software saves them time (not wastes it). I handle the busywork and help them automate repeatable processes so they can do what they do best: manage the relationship, meet with their customers, and of course, retain and renew!

My advice for high-touch CSMs interested in me:

Okay, this might sound harsh, but I’m a straightforward tool so I’m going for it: Having a small book of business is not an excuse to be inefficient. *Weight lifted off shoulders and suddenly overcome with feelings of relief* I’ve been wanting to say that for a while now. Embrace new tools, embrace automation, and embrace me! You’re a gorgeously talented, professional CSM (no really, you look great today!) but not using Customer Success software is just…inefficient? Silly? Unacceptable? I told you I was straightforward 😉

My perfect first date with a high-touch CSM:

Starts with an open mind. I’m a platform that’s here to help you. Give me a test drive and be willing to trying something new. Remember, our first date doesn’t have to be our last. If you see something you like but have suggestions, tell me! I’m adaptable and highly configurable, and I hope you’ll see that.

My personal mantra:

“Practice what you preach.” Think about it. You spend your days tirelessly working to get your customers to adopt your tool to better their lives, jobs, and processes. Why wouldn’t you do the same for yourself?

It’s a SaaS match!

Online dating prevails once again with matching up a high-touch CSM with Customer Success software. Now what?

Let’s get physical…in terms of configuring your Customer Success software to meet your needs. (Get your mind out of the gutter.)

In the section below, I’ll share three examples of common uses cases for how high-touch CSMs can use Customer Success software to build meaningful customer relationships that go beyond the surface level and keep the passion alive long-term.

Customer journeys

What’s a customer journey?

A customer journey is a map of a process (made up of milestones, tasks, and achievements) that your customer completes to achieve key goals throughout their customer lifecycle.


High-touch Customer Success teams manage high-dollar accounts. With significant, business-altering revenue at stake for each account, your company is hyper-focused on their retention.

Example use case:

Your leadership team wants a regular pulse on account health, including pivotal phases such as onboarding and implementation journeys, first-year adoption journeys, and mature customer adoption journeys.


  • Deliver consistent and customized experiences. High-touch CSMs are often apprehensive about using use Journeys out of fear of their rigidity. But this is a common misconception. Journeys promote consistency and trackability across customer accounts – allowing you to surface trends, anomalies, and best practices. Journeys give you the flexibility to customize templates to your exact needs while still creating a cohesive experience across touchpoints.
  • Show off your customer’s performance. Share Journeys externally with your customer’s decision-makers, as well as your internal leadership team, so everyone can celebrate wins together. Sharing journey milestones and achievements also elevates Customer Success within your organization by bringing awareness to how the team drives recurring revenue
  • Know your journey metrics inside and out. Using journey reports, you can track the minimum, maximum, and average days to completion for each journey. This is critical data for your Customer Success, leadership, and sales teams, as well as your board who cares about business valuation and renewal indicators such as how long it takes new customers to finish onboarding.

Engagement plays

(Get it? I promised you a fun analogy, and I’m not done yet!)

What’s a play?

Plays empower you to proactively engage with your customers at the right times based on chosen factors, such as product usage, customer lifecycle, or customer health scores. Using plays, you automatically target your customers with relevant content and messages that deliver more value.


As a high-touch CSM, you might only manage a handful of customer accounts, but are you considering the total number of users within those accounts, as well as the type of user (i.e., end users, primary POCs, decision-makers, and executive sponsors) in your engagement strategy?

Example use case:

You send communications to remind users about product benefits and features, but do they reply? If you send emails into the dark with no engagement, that’s not helping anyone. Use automation to get alerted immediately to non-responsiveness and create follow-up Plays to meet your goals.


  • Automated doesn’t mean impersonal. In high-touch scenarios, you can use automation without losing your personal touch. Trust me on this. Set your play emails to queue up for review and modify as appropriate for each customer. Did you remember to wish Angela’s cat a happy birthday? Don’t forget to add that in before approving the message to go out!
  • Make every customer feel seen. Each of your user types have different goals and needs, product use cases, and engagement styles. By segmenting against these distinctions, you can automate prescriptive guidance and relevant communications for your end users (or help your POC engage their end users) for success in onboarding and adoption.
  • Simplify workflow management. Manually tracking each user’s training, feedback, and concerns – as well as your corresponding action items – makes you prone to human errors, oversights, and inefficiencies. Use journeys and plays to align internal and external expectations and drive customer progress forward.

Real-time alerts

What’s an alert?

Alerts inform your team when high-priority customer situations arise with real-time notifications. Alerts can be triggered by multiple conditions, such as when an event occurs or when a customer enters a new segment.


Regardless of if you’re a high- or tech-touch CSM, you need access to real-time information so you can react to customer events as they happen – not days or weeks later when it’s either too late to intervene to fix an issue or when the window to recognize a celebratory moment has passed. Delayed responses to customer events ignore the immediacy of your customers’ wants and needs, as well as opportunities to mitigate churn before it happens.

Example use case:

After your customer unexpectedly churns, your boss comes to you saying, “Their usage had been dropping for a month. How did we miss this?” Don’t be the CSM who fumbles through a response to this question. Alerts ensure that no significant customer activity falls through the cracks, so you’re never caught off guard.


  • Drive more effective customer conversations and outcomes. You can prioritize your customer engagements using Alerts built upon tactical and strategic attributes. Here are a few examples of customer behavior you’d want to be alerted to:
    • Insufficient logged activities in the past 30/60/90 days. Yikes! Talk about a red flag.
    • New support ticket created or resolved, and ticket satisfaction. You need to stay on top of every support detail as it happens.
    • Usage drops, even by the smallest percentage! Every action (or lack thereof) matters.

Find your purpose (and partner)

As a high-touch CSM, you need to figure out where you make the greatest impact in your work.

If you believe your time is truly best spent crafting personal engagements to every customer for every situation, then so be it. But I doubt that’s the case.

It’s more likely that your skills would be better used optimizing your onboarding workflows, digging into a customer’s business plan, or applying that new process framework you recently read about online… in a blog… comparing high-touch Customer Success and automation to online dating… 

Use your finite time, resources, and brainpower for the hard work, the strategic work really, that improves your performance and drives results – not the busywork (temptingly disguised as “feel good” productivity) that maintains the status quo.

Customer Success software will never be able to take your place as a high-touch CSM.

It can, however, make you better at what you do, which in turn delivers more value to your customers –empowering you to bring out the best in one another. Now…who’s paying for dinner?

Author: Naomi Aiken, Manager of Customer Success, ChurnZero
Naomi Aiken, Customer Success Manager

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