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The High Touch vs. Tech Touch Debate is Over: It's Time for a Hybrid Approach.



Are you having to do more with less these days? Likely you are shifting away from a high touch approach when it comes to engaging customers because treating every customer with special care is expensive and time consuming. As a result, teams are exploring how to scale Customer Success with a digital or technical touch. While there are countless articles and webinars pitting high touch against tech touch, stop the battle and embrace every touch type with a hybrid touch.

A hybrid touch is about delivering the right touch to the right user at the right time to ensure customers obtain the value when they need it across their value journey. A hybrid touch means mixing things up. You can present high touch moments in a self-paced journey, as well as low and tech touch interactions within a “white glove” treatment.


What are all these touch types?

Let’s start with a simple definition of three common customer engagement approaches:

  • High touch: Providing a very close relationship with customers, working at a one-to-one level when assisting them with implementations and solving customer problems.

  • Low touch: Providing a one-to-many relationships with customers where services are delivered at scale.

  • Tech Touch: Automating services with customers so individuals at your company are not directly involved with customer interactions; also known as a digital touch.


Benefits of hybrid Customer Success

The current trend is to go fully digital. However, building an impactful self-paced journey takes massive time and effort to design and build. It also requires the appropriate technology to direct customers to take the right actions at the right times. A self-paced journey done well successfully onboards and enables multitudes of customers at little cost. Done poorly, customer abandon your solution the moment they hit a snag.


There are several benefits to delivering a hybrid touch. By using digital channels, you automate basic and repeatable tasks to free up your time and provide personalized support just when it’s needed. You can also tailor how to engage with each customer segment. The hybrid approach also allows teams to handle more accounts successfully. From the customer perspective, it improves satisfaction because a hybrid touch gives them the option to choose the channel that best suits their needs.


Hybrid touch examples

Below are three examples I deployed while working with companies from across the world:

  1. High touch big data platform: Based in the United Kingdom, this company has a white glove approach when working with customers to extract, transform, and load (ETL) customer data. Since their platform is so complex, they have Technical Success Managers (TSMs): personable and smart data scientists that help customers gain insights and build machine learning and artificial intelligence use cases, as well as analytics. During onboarding the TSMs were consumed with delivering one-to-one training with each new customer. Our goal was to reduce the onboarding time frame, quickly deliver value to customers, and scale the Technical Success team; especially since continuing to hire such astute resources would be a challenge with the company’s growth trajectory. I advised them to leverage existing courses in their academy to provide customers a foundation on both ETL and their platform. This allowed the TSMs to function as specialized technical experts, diving into what’s unique for each customer, rather than covering basic enablement content ad nauseam. In addition, we included automated welcome emails the moment deals closed to engage new customers immediately and to guide them to the self-paced courses. Consequently, each TSM handles more accounts with less effort and customers obtain initial value in six weeks rather than six months. 

  2. Self-paced big data platform. This big data company, based in the United States, needed to scale for extraordinary growth. I helped them define a self-paced customer journey to handle over half of their customers. They were finding with their current approach, the moment users got frustrated or were blocked they dropped off and stopped using the system. While interviewing internal stakeholders and customers I kept hearing, “Users need to ask questions and they need to get answers.” The challenge was providing customers accurate and timely direction to keep progressing. Our solution: in product chat. This high touch interaction within a self-paced journey supplies users the information they need to reach their value moments, to continue using the solution, and then share their wins with colleagues, which is critical with a “land and expand” growth strategy.

  3. High touch tour photo platform. This Canadian company works with tour operators to take and provide photos during magical moments. For example, have you been river rafting? Their customers hang out at the big rapids to capture you in action. The company has extremely busy high seasons when they scramble to onboard countless customers in short periods of time. The consequences of handling every customer with special care led to burned out employees, a backlog of frustrated customers, and reduced product usage.  Rather than hand-holding every customer until go live, we designed weekly live online sessions to onboard and enable many customers at once. This one-to-many approach scales the onboarding team as well as builds community rapport across the customer base.

Think outside the segment

Stop assuming enterprise customers need a high touch, and small customers need a digital touch. It’s time to think outside customer segments. Sometimes your smallest customers need the most help because they don’t have the resources to clean and migrate data, connect APIs, and scope out requirements. Learn what each customer segment wants and needs and then explore a hybrid approach. Consider the moments where a high touch can really drive customers forward to obtain value in your product, while delivering automated touches keep customers engaged at just the right time.


Start scaling

Start by examining where you do basic, repeatable tasks across customer engagement. Ask yourself, “Where are Onboarding Specialists and Customer Success Managers doing the same work repeatedly?” Then, evaluate simple ways to automate those processes. One-to-many (1:M) approaches include self-paced courses, in product chat and guidance tools, automated welcome emails, live online enablement, webinars, and customer communities. See the image below to rapidly start the scaling journey.



Figure 1: One-to-many approaches


The high-touch versus tech-touch debate is over.

It's time to embrace a hybrid touch. A hybrid approach delivers a great customer experience while allowing you to do more with less. By combining high-touch, low-touch, and digital-touch interactions, you provide customers with the experience they want and need, while growing your reach. Let me know how I can help.





DONNA WEBER is the world’s leading expert in customer onboarding. For more than two decades, she has helped high-growth startups and established enterprises turn new and existing customers into loyal champions. Her award-winning book is Onboarding Matters: How Successful Companies Transform New Customers Into Loyal Champions. Learn more at donnaweber.com.





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