The Perils of Customer Over-Engagement and How to Avoid Them, or How to “Be Brief, Be Brilliant, Be Gone.”
In the realm of Customer Success, a delicate balance exists between engaging your customers and excessively involving them. As a Customer Success leader, you must enhance the customer experience without over-using your team and overwhelming your customers. Read on to learn the pitfalls of over-engagement and actionable strategies to deliver increased value while reducing unnecessary touchpoints and costs.
The Costs of Over-Engagement
Over-engagement leads to significant costs, both in terms of time and resources. This degrades the perception of Customer Success teams, turning them into expensive centers rather than strategic assets. I interviewed the CEO of a business-to-business SaaS solution who tracked their company’s customer engagements. The analysis revealed that customers met with at least six different internal teams, including Sales Reps and Sales Engineers, Customer Success Managers and Customer Success Engineers, Onboarding Managers, and Support Agents. “It’s insane,” the CEO told me. “You cannot have one person responsible for revenue and seven people ‘eating from that same meal.’ Plus, customers are confused. They wonder who to talk to.” As a result of these findings, this CEO reduced the number of customer-facing teams at their company and simplified the customer experience. Excessive touchpoints not only strain company resources but also lead to customer overwhelm and frustration.
To analyze what’s happening at your company, start with tracking the interactions, and then calculating the overheads for you and your customers.
1. Identify the issues. A key issue is the traditional measurement of Customer Success teams based on the frequency of customer interactions. While appearing productive, keeping active adds little value to the bottom line. To illustrate, a Customer Success leader I interviewed found her team logging and chasing down customer support tickets, even though customers could easily do this in the self-service portal. Her analysis, “People lean towards administrative tasks because clicking through the day feels productive, it keeps them in their comfort zones.” The key is to manage measurable results rather than congested calendars.
2. Quantify the costs. Simple calculations, such as multiplying the hours spent in customer meetings by the cost of salaries and related expenses, can reveal the financial impact of customer engagements. For example, if you have seven CSMs each spending 18 hours a week in customer meetings, with a fully loaded salary (including benefits and office expenses) of $75 / hour each, that comes to a cost of $9,450 each week and nearly $500K a year for nearly one thousand hours of meetings that may or may not impact the business bottom line. What else could you be doing with this time and money? Investing in a hybrid customer success process and tools is a great start. A simple cost analysis highlights the need to reduce unnecessary meetings and interactions and replace them with scalable and strategic approaches.
3. Consider the customer’s perspective. From your customer's standpoint, frequent meetings are costly and time-consuming. This can lead to customers 'ghosting' or avoiding meetings, a clear sign of over-engagement. Many Customer Success teams grumble about being ghosted. When you consider the salaries of everyone you include on the customer side, meetings become cost prohibitive. For example, if you have one stakeholder paid $200 / hour, one project lead paid $100 / hour, and five project team members paid $75 / hour, one meeting costs your customer $675. Let’s say you hold 10 meetings throughout onboarding, that one customer spends $6,750 to meet with you, in addition to product and services fees; all before they obtain value from your solution; and that doesn’t include all the other vendors they work with. Customer Success leader Greg Daines shares this high-touch approach has done a lot of damage to the credibility of Customer Success. Understanding the financial and time investment from the customer's perspective is crucial.
Four Strategies to Deliver Value
Now you know the expenditure of excessive engagements, read on to build a strategic customer engagement machine by upskilling teams, effectively managing meetings, inviting critical meeting participants, and leveraging technology.
1. Upskill Your Teams. Moving beyond administrative tasks to strategic engagements is key. Many CSMs require upskilling to comfortably engage with customers as peers, focusing on strategic planning and problem-solving rather than routine tasks. With the advent of Generative AI, it’s imperative to unlock the potential of the humans on your team by leveraging their ability to empathize, interpret, predict, collaborate, and guide customers in their unique use cases. A small investment in Customer Success enablement provides huge dividends.
2. Manage meetings effectively. Sometimes the best value you provide is to take up as little customer time as possible. I learned from Kristy Muir, the Senior Investment Associate with Pelion Venture Partners to, “Be brief, be brilliant, be gone.” Use agendas to clarify meeting objectives and experiment with shorter meeting durations. When meetings are required, always include an agenda. Agendas help attendees get clear about why to join and what to accomplish. Since meetings don’t need to be a full hour, shorten them to 45 or 30 minutes or less. I wrap up meetings after just five minutes if we covered everything on the agenda. Giving customers the gift of time ensures they will show up for future meetings.
3. Rationalize meeting participants. Critically assessing who needs to be present in meetings reduces costs as well. I have the privilege of reviewing customer onboarding journeys from companies across the globe in my Orchestrated Onboarding Masterclass. I often see Customer Success teams include every customer facing person in every customer interaction. I challenge them, and I challenge you, to engage the critical people only. For example, rather than CSMs attending every meeting during onboarding, include them in the Handoff meeting and then trust the onboarding team to engage customers throughout implementation.
4. Leverage Technology. Utilizing tools for communication outside of meetings keeps progress on track without the need for excessive contact between internal teams and customers. Investing in tools to keep your teams aligned on customer engagements and customers accountable ensures everyone is efficient and effective without wasting anyone’s time.
Start delivering value.
It’s time for Customer Success teams to move beyond congested calendars and customer delight to delivering measurable impact. The ultimate goal is to deliver value for your company and your customers in every interaction. It’s time to enhance the customer experience, reduce costs, and position your team as essential strategic partners. The future of Customer Success lies in this balanced, value-driven approach.
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.