When you're starting a new business and have limited resources, staffing a couple customer success (CS) managers is a simple proposition.
But what happens when your business starts to pick up steam? What do you do when the customer load gets a bit too heavy for your fledgling CS team to bear?
At this point, you have two options: either hire more staff or invest in new software.
If you choose the staff option, all you have to do is hire a few more people. That makes sense, but it also means running through the whole HR song and dance. And what do you do as your customer base continues to grow? Keep hiring? Where’s the leverage?
Worse, throwing staff at your CS problem skips right over the vital question: “Are we getting the most out of the people we already have?” Hiring new staff without stopping to think about how you can leverage your existing team is an inefficient way to go.
To gain more leverage, you need to invest in software that'll help you make the most of your existing CS staff. But even the most sophisticated CS platform comes with its fair share of complexities.
After all, there’s no digital substitute for the analog touch of a living, breathing human being. It’s possible to leverage ourselves so much that we leverage ourselves right out of providing good customer experience.
So, what do we do?
The Golden Mean
The solution to this dilemma, as with most things in life, is to find the right balance between staff and software. The fact of the matter is that you need both—staff to personally handle customers and software to help them do it efficiently.
Achieving a balance will depend on your industry, market, the nature of your product and the level of personal touch needed to run your business.
Let’s take a look at two solutions that fall on opposite ends of the spectrum:
In B2B industries, CS is ruled, not by bespoke client relationships, but by data science and analytics. Metrics like customer health, churn and LTV are the name of the game, offering actionable behavioral insights to the product development team for implementation.
In this environment, the CS professional needs to function more like a liaison between customer support and product development than a glorified phone representative. They don’t have time to burn answering simple, repetitive requests from customers that could easily be addressed by a quick trip to the FAQ section of your website.
Here, using a simple self-service customer support solution would make more sense than hiring additional Staff. By deflecting simple, repetitive requests, self-service protects valuable CS time and reduces staffing costs.
As an added benefit, the content generated by a knowledge-base and/or self-service community forum will build a treasure trove of indexable content.
When to hire more staff
Of course, not every business runs on sheer data analysis and implementation. In environments where the emphasis is less on scaling low-value subscriptions and more on bringing in high-touch, high-value clients, the nature of CS completely shifts.
For a simple product-based business, CS is relatively simple. You can implement a self-service solution for simple requests and focus your human resources on building community and promoting advocacy.
As industries and products get more complex, however, so do CS needs.
If your products target a relatively small, yet highly technical market (robotic manufacturing, for example), then the complex nature of your service and support needs will defy a simple self-service solution.
Instead, you’ll likely need to refer service requests to an internal team with multiple players spanning different departments and disciplines. It takes human power to effectively coordinate these multiple players without losing the customer in the shuffle.
Technology certainly has its benefits here, but it’ll only take you so far. To give your clients the level of touch they need—especially the higher-value ones—you’ll need to focus on hiring more CS staff.
Back to our original question: how do you choose between staff and software when scaling customer success?Ultimately, it all depends on you and your business. What matters most is that you ask the question and then pay close attention to what your customers will benefit from the most.