Creating Self-Service Customer Success That Works for Everyone

Editor’s Note: This article is Part 1 of a 3-part series. 

Part 1: Onboarding and Customer Marketing

Your self-service customer success model can benefit all size businesses and yes, Customer Success Managers (CSM), if it’s done correctly. There are seven essential elements, and this three-part series will show you how to integrate them so that all of your customers, large and small, will become more successful with your application.

Many of my clients, and even some of my professional peers, tend to think that self-service resources only work for SMB clients. That’s not true. In fact, they can be just as valuable to your enterprise customers—even ones who have a complex or customized installation.

Driving deep product adoption builds your business, but for that to happen, your customers need to know what’s possible and they need to be guided, in multiple ways, to deep adoption. This doesn’t happen by itself.

In my customer-facing leadership roles at large companies such as Microsoft, at startups of all sizes and at my consulting clients, I have often seen customers who use less than 20% of the features in the application. This means they are “light” users, the opposite of deep adoption, and they are at risk.

Your CSM team can’t change this on its own. They can’t be the Lone Ranger, arriving at exactly the right moment with exactly the right insight.

Excellent self-service customer success resources can solve this problem. If they are implemented correctly and if they are marketed properly, they can lead all of your customers, small and large, regardless of how much CSM attention they receive, to deeper engagement with your application.

The seven elements are:

  1. Guided Onboarding
  2. Motivating Progress Bar
  3. Actionable Customer Marketing
  4. Straightforward In-App Guidance
  5. Awesome Webinars
  6. Killer Knowledge Base and Videos
  7. Epic Community

These elements work together and support each other, but not all of them may be suitable for every one of your customers or your business. We’ll go through them one at a time, but remember, they are parts of an integrated whole.

Balance Is Everything

You will consistently reiterate the same messages and the same ideas across all seven. You never know which element(s) are going to click with any one user, so you need to be consistent and supportive in several different ways simultaneously. A field service worker, pinging your app for metrics or to communicate updates, will probably never hang out in your online community. A loner IT-type may learn everything they need from your knowledge base without ever talking to anyone. A gregarious salesperson might not want to read how-to articles, preferring to ask questions at the end of your webinars. Different users, different self-service.

These seven elements give them options on how to learn your application, encourages them to engage with your resources and gets them to use your application.

You want every interaction to be a “Wow!” moment, so your customer thinks, “I love this product! I love this company!” A great self-service model drives customer engagement and product adoption in a scalable way by accomplishing exactly that.

1. Guided Onboarding

To create your model, you have to start way ahead of your customer. You need to know how to guide them to success. So you map out the first five to seven features that they must use in order to “move into” your product. Those features are the essence of your onboarding. Once they understand them, guide them deeper into your solution, trailblazing a path for them that will make them into power users and expert guides to others on the customer journey.

When I created a map like that for a Customer Relationship Management solution, common sense told me that customers were committing to our product when they imported contacts, downloaded the mobile app, integrated our solution with a financial application, set up a sales pipeline process and began customizing the app.

Those were the first five. The next ones became apparent with the help of a data scientist. By looking at the evolution of our most successful clients, we determined that setting up projects, modifying editing rights and using a few other key features were also essential to ensure great onboarding.

2. Progress Bar

One of the best ways to help a customer moving through all of those critical onboarding and customer journey steps is to include a motivating “progress bar” in the app. A progress bar lets them know how much they’ve accomplished—and how much more they have to go. Your progress bar can also show when they have “graduated” from onboarding, can display their progress through the next phase of adoption and so on.

Progress should be fun, and it should feel like an accomplishment. So keep it light, have a sense of humor, and give them a prize, like a gift card to, or a virtual trophy, when they graduate from each phase of your process.

All of those cues give your customer confidence. And they make them curious about what more they can do—two psychological impacts that will help you have a great self customer success.

3. Actionable Customer Marketing

Imagine how poorly your sales team would be doing if they didn’t have any marketing support. If you expect your CSM team to deliver, as well as move along SMB customers, then they need Customer Marketing support as well.

Customer Marketing makes sure your customers are always learning, and it does that by engaging them with your self-service resources. It ought to start right away, supporting every aspect of your onboarding process.

For one client, I hired a Customer Marketing Manager who helped design and execute the onboarding communications and ongoing marketing communications. This person was expected to hit very high targets of engagement. To get it, they sent out three communications in the first seven days. For other clients, I’ve recommended seven communications in the first 14 days; the pace depends on your solution and your customer base.

Each communication focused on the key onboarding and customer journey steps that we knew were critical for customer success. We provided a video or an article that empowered them to act on their own. We increased engagement with “how to” articles and videos. We used thought leadership to educate customers on the product category and show our leadership. We used product usage reports that compared the customer to their peers. We shared survey results from our market research and great case studies highlighting real-world successes and returns.

Don’t be shy about marketing your product to your customer. They need guidance; you aren’t annoying them. Customer marketing broadcasts all of your resources and helps you stay in touch with multiple users and executive decision-makers.

They want to succeed with your solution, and by showing them exactly how to do it, and by showing them how others are already doing it, you create a “buzz” around your product. That “buzz” will help draw your customers into your application.

Great Start

Remember, the customer success elements that you deploy must all work together. They are essential for onboarding and they are essential for the customer journey. You may not need all seven, but the ones you use should work together to make sure that your customers are so fantastically successful that they become your advocates and champions. More to come in the next post!

About Lynn

Lynn Tsoflias currently consults and advises growth startups and non-profits to help them build and advance their customer success to retain customers and increase revenues and NPS.

She has held customer-facing leadership roles at global enterprise companies, such as Microsoft, Linkedin, the World Bank and startups, such as Insightly and ArrowStream.

Today she is also serving as the interim VP of Sales and Customer Success – Enterprise Solutions,  She helps companies develop a giving strategy to connect employees to purpose and company missions, as well as drive corporate brand lift via cause marketing. She helps sell multimillion-dollar employee and customer engagement programs to CXOs.

Growth Startup Advisor & Consultant
Interim VP of Sales & Customer Success,
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