How to Use a Pooled CS Structure to Serve a Global Customer Base

Tyler Diderich is the Manager of Customer Success Engineering at runZero and a founding member of Vitally's Success Network.


All of our customers are important, but they don’t all deliver the same revenue to our bottom line.

Some account for tens of thousands of dollars in ARR, while others contribute a fraction of that — as is pretty much the case for every SaaS business. This reality informed the type of CS model we’ve adopted at runZero. 

But first, some quick backstory…

I started as the sole Customer Success Engineer at runZero, and it was that way for six months. At that time, we weren’t ready for a scaled CS program

However, as we hired other CSEs and the business scaled, we started thinking about providing a more mid-touch service to our global customer base. We wanted a way to deliver personalized value to customers who were paying us a lot of money while maintaining a consistent experience for small and medium accounts. That’s how runZero’s pooled Customer Success program evolved. 

Now, we’re a four-person team serving 500 accounts globally. In this article, I’ll walk you through our exact process of implementing this model successfully. 

A Disclaimer

We’re lucky. runZero is a relatively simple product that makes it easy to implement a pooled CS model successfully. If we were selling a complex product for which customers required a little more hand-holding, our CS approach would be quite different. 

Nevertheless, I think some aspects of pooled CS can work for every business. Take documentation, for example. If you have a knowledge base where you can just send people document links whenever they ask a question, your CS team becomes more efficient and scales faster. 

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get back to the crux of this discussion.

What Is Pooled Customer Success Management? 

I’ll start with a simple definition for the uninitiated. Pooled Customer Success management is a CS model where a team or pool of CSMs manages customers on a rotating basis rather than every customer having their own dedicated CSM.

Here’s what it looks like at runZero: Accounts over a particular revenue threshold get a dedicated Customer Success Engineer (what you might call CSMs). Everyone else who falls under that ARR level goes into our robo-CSE funnel. Here, they receive emails, documentation, and collective support from our CSE team to help them succeed with our product. It’s pretty simple. 

Implementing a pooled CS model helps us cater to a global customer base. We cover all U.S. time zones as well as EMEA and some stretches of the APAC region, especially Australia.

The Three Pillars of Effective Pooled CS

The success of our pooled CS program comes down to three things: automation, health scoring, and really good documentation. 

1. Automation 

One of the first things we set up was a standard process for engaging customers in the pool post-sale. 

Immediately after the sales handoff, a 30-day welcome email sequence kicks off. It comprises five emails with links to useful customer-facing documentation like our online training and deployment plan. (I’ll tell you more about our documentation process in a bit.)

There’s also a shared link for booking a one-on-one session with a Customer Success Engineer if the customer wishes. We use a Zoom scheduler, which will round-robin to whoever is available on our CSE team. 

In my experience, about 10% of people book a call — usually customers who are spending 20–50k per year on our tool. runZero is really easy to use, so most people get the hang of it after a call or two. It’s pretty much smooth sailing from that point. 

Related: 3 Customer Success Touchpoints You Should Be Automating 

2. Health Scoring 

Health scoring is important for us because we want to monitor how customers engage with our product from day one. We use this data for account checks, usually 90 days into onboarding and six months to renewal. This process is automated at first. However, as it gets closer to renewal, we put in more effort, especially for larger accounts. 

90 Days

Based on health scores, we segment customers into green, yellow, and red accounts. Then send out a simple NPS survey to get general feedback from the green and yellow customers. There isn’t much to worry about here, as the account signals are mainly positive.

For red accounts, we send out a series of what we call “the robo CSE red account save emails.” They’re pretty similar to our welcome email sequence. Only this time, we’re saying, "Hey, let's do a customer health review. Let's talk about all the runZero use cases you might not be exploring today.” We only send about three emails because we don't want to bother people. 

About 20% of the people who get these emails flip from red to yellow. We’ve also recorded some conversions from yellow to green after administering the NPS surveys. And it’s not like we did anything special in these cases; we simply reminded customers of the product. 

Six Months 

At this point, the customer is halfway to renewal, so the check-in process is more personalized. 

We’ll segment $10,000 ARR customers still in red and look at their activities in our SaaS console. Based on that data, we can share personalized recommendations to increase account usage and help them get more value from our product.

Learn more: How to create customer health scores with four metrics

3. Documentation 

Documentation is the backbone of our pooled CS strategy. When I say documentation, I'm talking about videos, click-through demos, and the like. I think it’s very important to embed different content formats here. For example, customers can watch a video and get the same experience they would have enjoyed on a call.

Initially, we struggled with striking a balance between being high-level and in-depth. If a document is too detailed, people just skim through it or don’t bother reading it at all. Similarly, they won’t get anything from it if it's too high level. You need to find the sweet spot where you share exactly what the customer needs in a quick and easy-to-understand format. 

Something that has helped is encouraging our CSEs to post their work publicly. They openly share their customer-facing knowledge with the rest of the business. And we use this information to create helpful documentation for our pooled CS organization.

We also have a solid internal note-taking process for preserving the context of customer conversations. While customers are likely to reach out to the same CSE who helped them in the past, there are instances when they’ll need to speak with a different person entirely. Having a single source of truth for customer conversations helps us deliver a consistent experience every time. 

Related: How to use Vitally Docs to collaborate with your team

How We Differentiate Customer Success For Larger Accounts 

“If you’re doing all this for smaller customers, how do you make your large accounts feel special?” 

That’s a good question. We provide frequent one-on-one support to high ARR customers. They get a dedicated CSE plus weekly meetings (or more) during onboarding. From there, things taper out to monthly and potentially quarterly check-ins as they renew. At this point, they’re in more of a maintenance state. 

Use Personalization as a Success Benchmark 

The north star of our pooled CS program is to deliver the same experience as if the customer were handheld throughout the process. This is why we succeed. 

For other CS leaders considering this model, ask yourself: If the customer reads all the emails and documentation we shared, would they be successful with our product? If yes, then you’ve done a great job!

I hope I’ve piqued your interest enough to consider a pooled CS model for your organization. If you have any questions or want to chat more, reach out on LinkedIn, and I’ll be happy to discuss this further. 

Meanwhile, check out the other resources in Vitally’s Success Network to help you manage your CS organization efficiently.

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