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Customer success automation, like any other automation, comes along with a few challenges. Yet, there are smart ways to tackle them efficiently.
With digital transformation engulfing all the businesses in the world, there’s an increased adoption of automation by its every unit. Nearly 77% of CIOs rated digital transformation as their top-most priority in 2021. And especially, due to the challenges posed by the pandemic last year, the need for automation has become ever more important with the rise in remote work mode. As for any change to bring about, there are certain challenges involved to make it real and customer success is not excluded in facing those challenges for its automation.
During the last decade, customer success has grown immensely in the SaaS community for everyone to learn and realize its importance. But learning and understanding is just one part of the story. It is of no use until you implement those in your regular practice. And in today’s world, if you want to implement any process, automation becomes a natural part of it.
Customer success as a value has always existed in businesses from earlier times. Just that it didn’t have a name then. Only recently, it has been identified as a distinct business function whose focus has become much narrower to solely work towards realizing the customer success goal in SaaS – helping your client succeed by helping them realize value from your product.
As it became more focused, new approaches, strategies and processes have been invented to operationalize this value in an organization. Initially, customer success managers were working with the traditional methods to streamline their CS operations. But eventually, they realized their limitations and hence came the need for automation through customer success management software. In the below section, we will discuss what are these customer success automation challenges and how you can overcome them.
Customer success automation helps business lower operational cost, reduce time, be prompt in serving customers, eliminate human error and simplify complex tasks. However, the challenges associated with a customer success software for SaaS are as below.
You can set priority for your customers through Customer success software tools but you cannot prioritize the customer queries based on its importance. When you are not available and an important query comes up from a customer, then system might not be able to prioritize it for your immediate attention.
The AI/ML incorporation in a CS tool is in its evolutionary stage. Until it becomes a fully-fledged feature, you have to examine and prioritize the queries manually. But as a long-term solution, make sure you invest in a CS platform that not only just claims to be AI/ML integrated but have real embedded solutions in it that has the capability to learn your business operations over time.
When you become your customer’s partner in helping them achieve their business goals, they tend to become dependent on you and expect you to be available 24×7. However, when they contact you when you are unavailable, the automated message can serve them only initially. If they come up with a follow-up question, your automated reply would give them the response over and over again.
While chatbots can take up the most simplistic and repetitive queries, a support staff can respond to queries with an intermediate level of complexity and most advanced complex queries can be handled only through a CSM who knows the customers intimately. Hence, having a 24×7 support staff is necessary to take up the intermediate complex queries of the customer. They can also appease the customer by telling them when you will be available next to take up their more complex queries.
While creating customer segments, your software is solely dependent on the customer data it processes. If the data is wrong or incomplete, it will include the wrong customers in a segment that you wish to work with. And it is not possible to allot time for a CSM to find the anomalies in a large chunk of customer data.
Data management should be a task of the separate team in CS operations. While a CS platform can gather data from reliable sources (through integration with other tools), process it through required data validation and finally do the analysis, you still need a dedicated person in your CS team to monitor and moderate the data to ensure accuracy.
Although proactive support to the customer is an essential customer success strategy in SaaS, it is not possible to execute it for each and every client. A 360-degree customer view and real-time monitoring in a customer success management platform may provide you enough information to anticipate your customer challenges, but you can still miss-out on few customers. That results in a leakage potentially causing a customer to leave.
Few solutions to tap those left-out customers are by including a self-service section in your website/app, making more customer-centric designs through right collaboration between customer success and product management, and reducing friction at the exact points (which can be known through their navigation patterns) that cause customers to discard the transaction.
When you need to automate a task, touchpoint, campaign or a survey, you might miss out on important due care needed manually before implementation. The system cannot identify the conceptual errors that may lead to unintended consequences.
You must identify the tasks that need thorough manual efforts before automating them. For example, if you want to gather customer feedback through an automated survey, you must analyze the questionnaire in its utmost depth with respect to what impact it will leave on your participants.
All the CSMs in your team might have different approaches to work. Automation cannot work at the level of personalization for each of your CSMs. Hence, you need to decide upon a single solution that everyone adopts and that becomes a challenge.
You need to consider two things while implementing automation. First, you must think of long-term applicability of automating a process. Frequent changes in automation would create unnecessary disturbance in the team’s workflow. Second, you must allot proper time for training the team towards using an automated solution you introduced.
Chatbots can be useful in handling repetitive and simple queries with an objective viewpoint. But when the queries from the customer become complex, they tend to malfunction causing customer frustration.
The solution is to either refrain completely from using the chatbot or feeding the appropriate response for the complex queries it might not be able to handle. That response may include informing customer that a CSM would get back to them with a proper response.
While processing a large chunk of customer data to show them relevant offers, customer success management tools might miscalculate the discounted price, misjudge a right product, or mistime the display. It might not account for subtle customer information, like their current sentiments with a brand, to place the right personalized offers at the right time.
Not everything needs to be automated. Some amount of manual vigilance is necessary, especially when engaging a customer for a financial transaction. Hence, deciding the right time for displaying ads and offers considering all the factors into account manually for a customer segment would be helpful.
This is a common phenomenon seen across all digital transformation efforts. Employees tend to think technology would replace them and hence become more resistant towards adopting the change by using a software for something which they got accustomed to doing manually.
Establish employee trust by clearly communicating that the automation is only going to enhance their capabilities, not replace them. A positive work culture is paramount in giving greater customer experience. Hence, you must make sure that every employee understands the importance of automation and is happy accepting it as a regular part of their jobs.
This is one of the biggest challenges in customer success automation. How to not lose human touch while scaling customer success. It is not possible to keep appointing more CSMs for addressing more of your customers. At some point, the ratio must grow to minimize the CS cost and increase the SaaS margin.
A hybrid model of high-touch and tech-touch engagement would be useful in this scenario. Using human interaction mostly for enterprise customers and keeping a tech-touch model for most of the touchpoints with low-value customers can serve a long-term solution for scalability.39
No matter how many challenges you face in customer success automation, the way forward is to overcome them and proceed. Automation is the future and it is going to encompass every aspect of the business, including client success through dedicated software. Having said that, it doesn’t mean human efforts would be redundant. Instead, a new paradigm would gradually begin where humans are able to withhold a more complex understanding of business nuances by leaving the less complicated and repetitive tasks to the software. Automation would only enable them to transform their high-level insights into actions in the real world.
Shoeb lives and breathes Customer Success and SaaS. He has a passion to research on the latest innovations happening in SaaS and Customer Success. Shoeb hails from a Software Architecture background where he worked for many years with Indian Tech Giants like Wipro and ITC building software solutions for their MNC clients in the UK and Denmark.
Published 28 Jan 2021, Updated 28 Jan 2021
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