Feb 28, 2020

Read Time 6 min

Q&A: Digital Customer Success Strategies to Drive User Adoption


With your customers’ product usage still ramping up early on in their adoption journey, it becomes tricky to find meaningful data points. But, if you use digital communication, you have access to all sorts of “marketing” metrics to better understand your customers’ product and communication engagement.

To learn how to drive product adoption using a digital strategy approach, we hosted a webinar with Megan Macaluso, VP of Strategic Development at ESG. During the webinar, we discussed how to:

  • Use email and in-app metrics to track overall customer engagement
  • Create strategies for onboarding and adoption with a digital approach
  • Combine automated tech-touches with human interaction to craft the best engagement strategy

If you missed the webinar, be sure to view it on-demand here.

During the webinar, we polled the audience to find out their greatest digital communication need. The largest majority (65%) would like to better gauge the effectiveness of their onboarding and adoption.

digital customer success strategies poll 1

Q&A Recap

Speaker: Megan Macaluso, Vice President, Strategic Development, ESG

Q: How do you differentiate onboarding versus Customer Success, or do you consider them one in the same? When do you think Customer Success should be introduced in the onboarding process?

A: I’ve certainly seen where onboarding is owned by Customer Success, and areas where it’s owned by Professional Services or Support, where there is a handoff. From a customer experience standpoint, we always recommend making that experience as seamless as you can. If an onboarding team or an implementation team is required outside of your Customer Success team for specialization reasons, you still want that CSM to be involved from the very beginning. Even before pre-sales where possible, but I would definitely have your Customer Success team or manager introduced at the very beginning to be a customer advocate and track the customer experience along the way, even if they’re not directly owning the onboarding or implementation.

Q: What journey mapping resources and tools do you recommend?

A: There are a ton of journey mapping tools out there and a lot of them do similar things. You want to look for the ability to track different lanes of involvement from your company. When we approach a customer journey map from the inside out, we tend to look at:

  • When are customers interacting with Sales, Support, Customer Success, or Professional Services?
  • What’s happening with those disparate organizations and individuals along that line?
  • What customer experience is happening when you’re doing those things and how are you mapping to that?

If you’re getting information like NPS scores, customer sentiment, or other customer satisfaction measures have that right alongside.

customer experiences

Kerry Bodine, who built that wonderful iceberg slide (shown above), has a tool on her website, so I would look at Bodine & Co. as a potential good starting place. Otherwise, there are a lot of great journey map tools that are pretty inexpensive. Go out there and feel out what aligns best with your business. I would just say to make sure that you can capture both those different lanes of what you’re doing internally at your company and what those actions are with the customer experience layer on top of it.

Q: Do you have any suggestions for the ideal length of a digital communications sequence? 

A: I’d think through that problem a different way. Generally, you don’t want them to be too long. Anything beyond five steps, you probably want to think through. It depends on what is contained within each of those steps. It’s the density of each part of that sequence that matters more. But, if you’re talking about a brand-new customer, and part of their onboarding is going through a sequence of events, if you put something in front of a customer that seems like it’s going to be lengthy and a lot of work, they’re more likely to potentially put that off for later and now you’re burning time. Make it feel palatable and make sure that if you’re creating a sequence that there is the right weight and effort underneath each stage within that sequence. And again, take a customer-centric view and go through the sequence yourself. If we’ve got someone that’s new to a Customer Success team then have them go through it and see how they feel when they’re done.

Q: At my company, digital communications is often around newly released features and general product updates. Should Customer Success or the Product team own this?

A: It echoes back to the earlier point around making sure that you’re collaboratively working with Marketing. I’d say the same for Product. We’re generally of the opinion that Customer Success should own any customer-facing communications. If you are working closely with your product team and are aligned on the look and feel of messaging and have built trust, that may not matter quite as much, but you certainly want to be incoordination. If you’re a Customer Success team and have your own flow of in-app notifications that you’re sending, you should be aware of when a product notification is sending so that wires aren’t getting crossed for your customers and they aren’t receiving too many unrelated messages at one time.

In short, from an ownership perspective for customer-facing in-app and email notifications that are related to customer experience, I’d recommend that Customer Success owns that strategy, but work closely with your Product team.

Q: You talked about low-touch versus tech-touch engagement and we hear a lot in the industry about small business versus enterprise. Do you have any other examples of tiering customers?

A: Segmentation is a critical step before customer journeys. How are you categorizing your customers? There’s more than one dimension to segmenting your customers. The most common is monthly recurring revenue versus annual recurring revenue, but there are other dimensions like: Are these strategic accounts? Are these at-risk accounts? Are these complex accounts in a different way? Do we need to put a layer of vertical on there as well? 

I’d also note that often digital communication is reserved only for low-touch and tech-touch customers. But you can drive a very effective digital strategy with high-touch customers if you approach that segment individually. Keep in mind the order of how many dimensions you’re segmenting your customers by. After you’ve done that exercise, really understand those customer needs and create customer journeys and engagement models that marry those segments, and then underneath that is where you look at data and digital approach.

I can give you a great example of how you know segmenting can really drive whatever your strategy needs to be. We had a client who assumed equal volumes of customers across your basic high-touch, medium-touch, and low-touch segments. By volume it turned out that 94 percent of their customers were low-touch which meant they needed to really embrace digital in a big way because they simply weren’t going to be able to staff their team to be high-touch with that many customers. After that segmentation exercise, we were able to really dig in and understand the nuances of how a digital strategy should look for them.

Q: What realistic actions can in-app notifications drive?

A: You can do a lot of meaningful things. I’ve seen in-app notification do a great job of walking someone through that initial pass through the software. In-app communications can free CSMs from doing the more straightforward and mundane things. Then, they can have more value-based conversations with customers, and it’s less about helping customers understand how to click around. They can navigate you to critical places like knowledge bases and forums and areas where customers can be very self-sufficient. If you’re leveraging user data, you can build some great logic on the backend that helps them navigate through all of that and know when your customers are doing that and when they’re not.

The other thing that we like to see is encouragement. If a customer is using a feature functionality and has gotten through a whole sequence, in-app notifications do a nice job of saying “Hey, congratulations for doing this!” People like encouragement and it helps support the customer momentum in the beginning. I think about in-app notifications as a way to be there in those little moments where you can’t, and it can be very meaningful.

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