Humans of Customer Success vol. 6: Steph Townes | Scaled CS is the Name of the Game

Lauren Davis
Product Marketing Manager
March 22, 2024

Steph Townes is currently a Strategic Customer Success Manager at Vitally & has been in the tech space for 10+ years. She has been the founding member of two Scaled CS teams and has gained extensive experience in Customer Success & Account Management across customers of all sizes and spend levels throughout her tenure.

1. How are you adapting your customer success strategies to meet the evolving needs and expectations of your customers?

As an Enterprise CSM, I follow a more “white-glove” approach to customer success. I have a smaller book of business (# of accounts) and partner very closely with my contacts at these accounts on a regular basis. I am also involved in every stage of the customer lifecycle. Because of this, I offer all of my customers a shared slack channel. This allows for easier/more frequent communication & quick questions, less live meetings, and added internal and external visibility. I am able to add in folks like the Solution Architect & the customers data leads during implementation then they can just leave the channel when the project wraps. But given my customer communication is 90% slack, 10% email at this point, we rely on Thena heavily for reporting purposes & for ticket creation/tracking. Thena automatically triages & assigns urgency to customer chats & also creates a ticket board in their web app for added visibility and organization. We also enabled their Intercom integration, which allows me to one-click create a ticket for support & the responses from support are all logged directly in the slack thread. It is truly a game changer for me. Slack is no longer chaotic and stressful for me now & both myself and my customers are benefiting greatly from that.

Vitally is an extremely robust product & we are constantly shipping new releases, updates, features, new training content, etc. I use Thena’s marketing automation feature to blast these updates in one click to every channel that Thena is on, regardless of the CSM. Once I finish the write up, I select our saved audience of “All Thena Channels” (includes 3 CSMs) & send it out on everyone’s behalf. Then we can track engagement/views of that content in the Thena web app. I’ve also recently launched a “Vitally Skills Lab” series that are quick tips/tricks style format videos that I share async to drive more adoption of new features, etc. I use Thena automations to scale the delivery of those videos & it saves a ton of time for me to continue making resources for them. I’m able to spend more time thinking through creative ways to engage my customers and create a positive and unique experience for them.

One major theme I’m seeing across our customer base is that they desperately want to talk to each other! To start addressing this, we’ve been actively building out our Success Network to connect our customers to leaders in the industry. 

2. What innovative approaches are you implementing to ensure seamless onboarding and continued engagement with your customers?

As our customer base continues to grow (500 customers and counting!), we’ve been doubling down on smart ways to scale our resources, specifically around onboarding and new user activation. This includes the continued build out of our Vitally Academy for any new user to quickly self-onboard into the platform, webinar style product training and office hours, and automated email outreach for tech touch customers to book a 1:1 strategy session post-implementation with a Vitally CSM. These scaled programs have already proven to be very valuable for our customers, especially considering how quickly CS teams evolve. Our customers appreciate the growing options to be more self-serve. The scaled motions we have in place not only provide additional support to customers who would not otherwise qualify for a CSM/additional support, but also, in turn saves time for the managed CSMs. Our larger customers have hundreds of users active in the platform at any given time & new users/CSMs are hired/activated daily. Being able to direct them to quality training & enablement content prevents the need for every new user to schedule individual CSM time to get onboarded.

We also use a tool called Navattic for interactive product demos and Chameleon for in-app tooltips popups & self-guided onboarding. Our Support Team is also absolutely stellar. They receive customer questions via live in-app chat or via our support email alias. Continued growth means an uptick in customer questions. Because of this, we’ve recently launched using the Intercom Fin AI bot to triage these requests before getting routed into support. It is able to provide answers to many of the frequent questions that come in and also enable macros for popular tech/custom requests (user deletes, profile merges, etc). Tools like this allow us to keep up with our continued growth without the customers’ losing value. 

3. With the increasing importance of customer retention, what metrics and KPIs are you prioritizing to measure the effectiveness of your customer success initiatives and drive long-term customer satisfaction?

We are focusing heavily on Onboarding TTV, Driving Customer Value & Encouraging Scalable Behaviors in 2024. This will involve not only ensuring we are creating high quality & valuable self-serve resources based on feedback/questions we hear often as CSMs, but also encouraging even our larger spend customers to adopt those scalable options. We recently opened up our Product Training and Office Hour webinar series to our entire customer base and some of my customers have already expressed interest in wanting to take advantage of those resources. Which confirms that Scaled CS is the name of the game in 2024, regardless of a customer spend level. So, it will be crucial for us to have very granular tracking of this within Vitally, as scaling CS is an ever-evolving process. IMO, there isn't a way to effectively scale your CS motions without having access to a CSP. 

4. In light of emerging technologies and trends, such as AI-driven analytics and personalized customer experiences, how are you leveraging these advancements to enhance the overall customer journey and maximize customer lifetime value?

As I mentioned, we are leveraging Intercom’s AI capabilities for our support team and also as CSMs we are leveraging Thena’s AI to more effectively manage our customer-facing slack channels. Of course, we are also thinking about potential AI capabilities at Vitally, but it’s important to us to launch highly useful and valuable AI features. It’s easy to get caught up in the AI frenzy since it’s the new shiny thing. But CS orgs should continue to prioritize a human-first customer success strategy and leverage AI to supplement those efforts. 

It’s stated really nicely in this blog post:

While AI software can speed up different aspects of your interaction with the customer, it should not own all of your CS operations. After all, humans put the “customer” in “Customer Success.” 

  • "I see the current advancements in AI as a productivity enhancer for existing workflows but not as a replacement for much, at least not yet. For now, I would treat it as if it were a new, junior employee — one that needs their work reviewed,” says Vitally’s CEO, Jamie Davidson. 
  • "You can use AI tools to draft emails and content, detect at-risk customers, and perform repetitive tasks. But just like a junior employee, it can and will make mistakes, so give its work a quick review before letting it impact the customer's experience. If used with this mindset, you can optimize almost any task or process with AI, but ensure that it isn't the final step in the process...for now.”

We do have a couple of AI powered tools you can leverage today! Including our First Call Success Generator & the 5-Minute Customer Success Process Builder featured on Vitally Labs

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