4 Steps to Automate with Intention
Updated: Jan 18
“We need more automation.”
This is something I’ve heard over and over. As the customer delivery leader at nCloud Integrators, I speak with customers all the time who are in the midst of building and enhancing their customer success strategy. They see automation as crucial to their strategy and success, but don’t always know how to get started.
This topic of scaling with automation is not a new concept in our industry and continues to be a hot topic and one that most organizations want to pursue. Customer success organizations are accountable for more with the same or even less headcount -- all while still maintaining human-first approaches to relationship building with customers.
I once received a clever T-shirt from a conference that said, “Customer Success Expert: Because Miracle Worker Wasn’t Available.” This T-shirt is spot on with the current state of Customer Success Organizations. They are being tasked with a lot, but what is realistic for them to achieve? This is a very real scenario at many growing organizations where the search to streamline processes and gain efficiency (a.k.a. scale) is at the top of mind for most Customer Success leaders.
To become as efficient as possible, organizations quickly look toward automation as the solution to streamline workflows and processes. In my experience, customers often struggle with finding a balance in adding automation and often try to automate too much. My advice is to approach this topic with the lens that you need to automate with intention. Automation with intention is looking at automation opportunities with the mindset that you need to focus both on what you should and should not automate.
nCloud Integrators recently interviewed Jess Kitt, Vice President of Client Experience with Popmenu, where she discussed how, during a time of significant company growth, they focused on automation to ensure customer interactions were efficient, as well as meaningful. She stated, “Throughout this process of analyzing where to create digital touch points, we also looked at how we wanted our CS team to spend their time interacting with customers on a personal level. We know that their expertise lies in things like training and quarterly business reviews, and this is where we felt CSMs could make a connection with customers and really have an impact.”
These connections with customers that Jess described are what I like to call ‘magical moments’.
To get started with your automation strategy, identify and prioritize activities where automation will offer operational efficiencies for your team. Next, determine the activities, customer interactions or moments that help you make valued connections with your customers. These are your magical moments that should not be automated.
Jess offers a real-world example of how automation can allow a team to spend more time on value-added customer interactions. “Restaurant owners are so busy that they look to Popmenu to help them with marketing and social media tasks, which are necessary to help grow their businesses. So our folks create a content calendar that includes all the messages we will deliver over the course of a month. Automation was put in place to deliver an email message to the restaurant owners to say something like, “Your content calendar for the month has been created. Do you have any changes or additions to this content such as special events or holiday specials?” This may sound simple, but when you have to deliver 70 different customer content calendars, you want to spend time ensuring the content is on brand and correct."
With this evaluation process in mind, break the process of Automating with Intention into four main steps:
1. Review Your Customer Journey: First, map out a customer journey for each segment of your customer base in a way that makes sense for your organization. Keep in mind that while the activities aligned to your customer journey map may look different for each of your segments, automation is not just for one segment. Automation is segment-agnostic, with elements of automation that should be used in every segment. Within each of these specific customer journeys, take some time to review core activities, customer touch points and communications that align with each of the stages from onboarding to adoption to growth and renewal. Evaluate activities for automation, focusing on ones that will bring operational efficiencies to your team. Most importantly, start with your “low hanging fruit” and do not get overwhelmed by trying to do too much at once. Start with one thing and do that thing well. Then keep adding from there. Jess with Popmenu continues, “You don’t need to have every piece in place with a new implementation to deliver a big win. Start small with something that is going to make an impact and build from there. This is so important to get buy-in from your CS team. They need to quickly get excited about using the new solution. It doesn’t have to be big or sexy, just something small that makes a difference in their day-to-day activities.”
2. Protect Your Magical Moments: Review those core activities that are aligned to each of your stages and identify the activities that you want to keep as high-touch experiences. These are the activities that are going to make an impact and are the magical moments that allow you to stand out from your competition. Once you know what you don't want to automate, you will have an easier time evaluating everything else as an automation opportunity.
3. Align Your Data: After finding the right opportunities for automation, your next step will be to identify whether or not you have the necessary data fields to automate,and that the data is accurate. Many of our customers find it is easy to identify the automation opportunities, but find it hard to bring the automation to life as they don’t have the data ready to make that happen. For example, if you decide you want to add automation to prepare for a customer renewal date, you will need to know the system location where renewal date is documented and maintained in order to bring the automation to life.
4. Continuously Improve: As with any new process, I encourage you to follow the PDSA Cycle (Plan-Do-Study-Act) for continuous improvement: identify your plan, put your plan into action, monitor your outcomes, and incorporate your learnings into your plan.
Looking to learn more about automating with intention? Check out Popmenu's customer case study. Want to add more automation at your organization? Talk to nCloud about our Tech Touch Services Package for Gainsight's Journey Orchestrator.
The author, Kate Griffin, is a consulting team leader at nCloud Integrators, an industry leader in Gainsight implementation, Gainsight administration, and customer success strategy with a track record of improving customer journeys at hundreds of organizations every year.
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