Customer success in High-touch and. Low-touch models
Continuing the theme from last week, I wanted to focus again on measuring success. But while focusing on metrics, I wanted to describe the two models of customer collaboration we encounter in the work of Customer Success teams.
The fundamental difference in the approaches is how we interact with our users. For lack of a better Polish substitute, I will use the English terms low and high-touch. Briefly, what are the differences between these models and how to plan for success in each of them. Enjoy reading!
The central premise of this model is dedicating the Customer Success Manager to each customer or a narrow group of them. We can see this model often used in the B2B channel where the CSM works with one or two dedicated people on the client side, with whom he builds a long-term relationship and plans for the duration of the service. Often the contract stipulates (or if it doesn’t, it should :)) the conditions after which we can declare success. Characteristics in this model are:
Individualised, customised approach
1:1 meetings and project planning based on the client’s long-term strategy
Gathering in-depth feedback and addressing needs in new product releases
QBR sessions and communication regarding new functionality
The high-touch model is time-demanding because we want to know more about the customer. We want to address his unique needs so that he feels more attached to the product and the person he is working with. Metrics relevant to this model will focus on the product or service itself and how satisfied the customer is with the process and the team.
In the high-touch model, we can think away from the standard customer path and tailor it within certain limits to the individual customer.
It is also worth remembering that the person we are working with and building a relationship with may or may not be the decision-maker. The project’s outcome may affect that person’s personal goals and how our work affects that person’s perception of the organisation. For me, one of the essential things is to build a relationship where together with the client, we act as one team; we know what we are aiming for and the plan for it. Trust and openness are the two pillars I rely on in this model.
The last point is the excellent opportunities the high-touch model offers for cross-sell and up-sell opportunities. Thanks to his knowledge and understanding of the company, a CSM working in this model can act as a trusted advisor who can see if a product from the available portfolio can improve another area of the client’s business.
Low-touch is mostly the opposite of the previous model and assumes that each specialist on the CS team is working with many (sometimes, it’s not tens or hundreds but thousands of users). As a result, there are several limitations and characteristics of this model.
Communication is mostly remote through communication channels such as email, phone or chat.
Automated information about product news and changes
Knowledge base articles and an emphasis on self-service error resolution tools
Automated onboarding in the form of tutorials
I often encounter the low-touch model in B2C sales, but that’s not always the case regarding the similarities and differences below.
First of all, this model, because of the scale, it’s hard to have a customised approach. The CS team must be able to pick the most pressing problems and leave many for users to solve on their own.
A good solution for this model is to create a knowledge base for finding solutions and a community to support each other. The latter requires work primarily at the beginning to develop such a community, but the network effect described by J. Rohlfs can apply here.
"Network effect (…) a situation in which current consumers of a benefit when the adoption of that good by new users increases"
Read more here
In other words, the more people there are in the community, the more value there will be in it for new people, who are more likely to join it, increasing its value, which will convince more people and so on… It is also worth considering whether to reward the work of active people supporting other users not necessarily in monetary form but in different, more creative ways. A good example would be developers of computer games, who appreciate active members of the community with unique gifts, invitations to the office where they can meet the team or access versions of games or updates before their release.
Differences and similarities
Let me point out right away that none of these models is better or worse, depending on your product and how you intend to sell it.
It’s also not that these models are entirely different because we want the user to realise their needs and be satisfied with the support simultaneously.
Can the high-touch model be used for the B2C channel? Of course! It will probably be some premium service where we want to individualise customer support more. In the same way, low-touch will find applications in the B2B channel where we are developing software, for example, for accounting, which small and medium-sized companies will use. Still, it will be generic software for everyone. Finally, there are several B2B2C products where we will find models combining low and high-touch features.
Also, from the point of view of CSM development, it is not clear which model is better. In addition to planning and technical skills, the high-touch model will strongly emphasise the ability to communicate or present ideas. In this model, we can establish individual relationships and propose something out of the box. It can be worse with metrics because how do we assess creativity or out-of-the-box? Of course, we can continue to use NPS, CSAT or Customer Effort, but they won’t tell us everything about what kind of work the CS department is doing and more in-depth interviews are also needed.
On the other hand, the low-touch model doesn’t allow us such freedom and personalisation. Still, it does provide several opportunities to use our creative approach to optimise internal processes or tools. Finally, thanks to the scale of this approach, it’s easier for us to conduct research and evaluate with metrics various parameters of the product and the team.
The last point is the approach to cross-sell and up-sell. Both models allow for this, but where in the case of high-touch, a lot depends on the individual work of the CSM and the rest of the CS or sales team, the low-touch model allows for a more automated approach, e.g. creating personalised offers with behavioural patterns. Let me know in the comments if you would like to read about some ideas on how this can be implemented and measure if it works.
The last thing is a success, which I have discussed in previous articles. The customer success plan will vary depending on the model used, but I have some tips for you to use in your work, regardless of whether it is a low or high-touch model.
Set a plan for 30, 60 and 90 days
Write out 3 to 5 points you want your customers to complete within these stages. If they fail to do so, why? Was the plan wrong, or is something in the tool or our work not working?
Define what success is
Perhaps this should be the first point but try to define success for your customer or group of customers, what they want to achieve and why. How does our product meet those needs, and which does not meet them?
Create or use a customer journey to identify points of most significant impact
Consider where your work will have the best effect on the customer. Even in a high-touch model, you won’t do everything yourself, so focus on the elements that will bring the most value to you and the customer.
A key business issue is setting metrics and the level you want to achieve. If we are at the right level, we can focus on optimisation; if we fall below, what do we need to do to get back to it? KPIs (Key performance indicators) and OKRs (Objectives, Key results) are significant, which I will discuss in a future article.
That would be it. What model do you work in with your clients, and what do you think of each? Let us know what your stories and thoughts are in the comments!