Your high-value customers are the ones driving your annual recurring revenue (ARR) with consistent renewals, expansions, and referrals. As a SaaS company, you need to continue providing these prized customers with preferential, white-glove service that scales along with their account and the growth of your company.
The truth is it gets increasingly difficult to provide the same high-touch customer service experience you did when you had your first 10 customers. As your accounts grow, you need a system that won’t start depending on spreadsheets and data warehouses, hoping that your high-touch customer subset continues to remain loyal. Automation is a convenient option for your low-touch customers, but your highest value accounts need close partnerships to help them achieve their goals.
And yet, few companies are motivated to maintain that level of customer service because they think it’s prohibitively expensive and requires massive organizational changes.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, but it is still possible to standardize your efforts and keep them organized. The key is to take active steps and use the right tool to build customer service into your interactions with your most valued customers — with personalized onboarding, dedicated CSMs, ongoing feedback, and a laser-like focus on customer goals.
Here’s how to create a world-class, high-touch customer service experience that will keep your high-value customers (and your business) happy and healthy.
Use onboarding to collaboratively build a roadmap to success
If your onboarding comprises just a checklist and automated emails, you are falling short. Onboarding is a critical opportunity to create customers for life by developing a trusting relationship and getting to know what they hope to achieve by buying your product.
When you align with high-value customers on the value they will be getting, it’s smooth sailing when they actually experience your product since they know what to expect. If your customers are still using a trial of your product, early support has the potential to double your conversion rate to a paid account.
A more automated, pared-down experience may be sufficient for your low-touch segment, but these techniques will help you create a curated onboarding process for your high-touch customers:
- Use a concierge approach, a custom treatment based on each customer’s specific needs. Treat high-value customers like humans, not emails, by setting up one-on-ones to help them get started and stay interested.
- Do a walkthrough of your product features to educate your customers and inform them of the value you are offering. But be careful of information overload — customers need to see the features most relevant to their success and the outcomes from those features, so underlining the results they hope to see is crucial.
- Don’t put a time limit on onboarding. It should continue until your customer feels confident using your product. Once they are ready, it is time for an internal hand-off meeting with both your onboarding/implementation team and customer success team, with assurances that they’ll continue receiving close attention.
- Collect feedback during onboarding. Most companies schedule customer feedback for a later stage, but onboarding is actually a great time to get early feedback because customers can tell you where they are getting stuck, and you gain a head start in addressing possible issues and weeding out the seeds of churn.
Create a dedicated high-touch customer success team
You have segmented your high-value customers for a reason. They’ve likely purchased multiple products from you for use across different departments or have the potential to. Your customer success managers (CSMs) should segment their efforts accordingly and prioritize their time and effort for the goals of high-value customers.
It may not always be viable to keep hiring, but your biggest accounts deserve a dedicated customer success team (or at least a dedicated CSM) that is able to focus on their specific needs and not be running in circles trying to manage too many accounts simultaneously.
Here’s what a separate team can help you accomplish:
- They jump on calls when needed so that customers can rest assured that real, informed, and human help is only a phone call away.
- They assist with implementation and spend time on complex problems, leading customers to their aha moment, the pivotal juncture when they first realize the value your product brings to their business.
- They provide access to case studies and other real-world examples to help the customer understand how they can realize value.
- They pull in additional vendor resources if/where appropriate to help the customer.
- They act as ongoing consultants, well-versed in the problem-space where the customer is looking for solutions. A stand-out CSM’s knowledge can become just as valuable to your customers as the product itself.
Identify and track customer goals as a North Star
Your customers’ goals are your North Star because 90% of your revenue comes from customer success. In other words, 90% of your revenue hinges on whether your customers meet their goals with your product or service. You need to own those goals and constantly keep them in your line of vision to make sure the customer achieves them. It sounds obvious, but most companies have not mastered this mutually beneficial transaction. Instead, they rely on retention and churn prediction models that stress the wrong metrics, such as time-on-page and support tickets recorded.
Use these techniques to keep an eagle eye on your customers’ goals:
- Set clear, measurable goals during onboarding. They may shift as you continue working together, but you’ll gain important early wins and demonstrate immediate value with a clear target.
- Define customer goals and create a living document with a collaborative customer success plan that keeps the goals front and center so that all stakeholders can easily access them at all times. A living document can grow and change along with your customer’s priorities and helps you both stay aligned on the north star.
- Scale your customer success plan from standardized building blocks based on your customer’s unique goals, and keep a record of the successes and value they received. Get their feedback, so you stay aligned with their goals.
Set up an ongoing feedback cadence to perform a pulse check
You won’t know how your product is performing for your high-value customers unless you’ve set up an ongoing feedback loop. The key is to get to know their pain points and issues through conversations and discussion threads, not just support tickets or Net Promoter Scores.
During its growth as a product, Slack founder Stewart Butterfield “made customer feedback the epicenter of its efforts.” The team “begged” users to try out the product and made changes based on the feedback they received. In just seven months, customer feedback had given the company enough insight to polish its tool for a beta release.
Collecting regular feedback takes the guesswork out of customer success. By asking your customer, you get a clear idea of what’s working and what needs to change. Plus, it gives you the opportunity to identify gaps in customer understanding and product usage that you may not be able to see in one-off support tickets. Some companies do this annually or quarterly at Executive Business Reviews or Quarterly Business Reviews. Others do it more frequently.
Here are ways in which feedback can help you grow your product:
- A hard-to-find answer can just add to your customer’s frustration. But if you’ve been talking to them all along, it won’t escalate to that point. Instead of reactionary support after the customer has experienced issues, be proactive and identify problems while your customer is experiencing them.
- Customers today expect you to gather feedback and actively provide solutions. It’s a win-win situation. Analyze your product through feedback tools built into your communication and make it better.
Record information throughout the company, not just in the CSM’s head
Life happens, and treasured employees leave. But parting ways with your customer success manager doesn’t have to mean losing your close-knit relationship with your high-value customers. A solid way to ensure this doesn’t happen is to record all of the notes and information from interactions with customers onto a living document that can serve as a knowledge base.
When the bulk of your revenue comes from big accounts, you need peace of mind that you can continue to deliver on your high-value customers’ expectations in the event they transition to another CSM.
Here’s how to retain valuable institutional knowledge within the company:
- Sound business practices, like logging weekly updates after each customer interaction (emails, calls, Executive Business Reviews) in a centralized spot, will help keep information secure and organized.
- Encourage your CSM team to log notes chronologically to make the entire customer journey visible and easy to pick up where it was left off.
- Use a tool like Coordinate that is purpose-built for high-value customer relationships with its customer portals, customer-facing playbooks, and goal-tracking features.
Conclusion: Make high-touch customer service your tool to continually drive expansion
Growing your customer base doesn’t mean neglecting your high-value, high-touch customers or reducing your interaction with them to spreadsheets and slide decks. They deserve extra attention, and the way to ensure that they remain of high value to your business is by scaling your service with the right tool that enables you to standardize as well as customize it.