What’s Scaled Customer Success and Why Does It Matter?

Scaled Customer Success (CS) has been the talk of the town for CSMs and CCOs for the past couple of years. Organizations around the globe are trying to figure out better ways to care for their new #1 revenue source: their existing customer base.

In this article, we dig into what scaled CS is, share some common misconceptions about it, and most practically, offer a couple of proven scaled CS programs you could explore for your team.

Before we get to the good stuff though, here’s who I learned from as I compiled this article:

  • Steph Townes, a Senior Customer Success Manager (CSM) at Vitally and scaled CS enthusiast who’s built several effective scaled CS programs
  • Parker Moore, the Head of Customer Success at Vitally with great insight into how scaled CS should seamlessly fit into any great Customer Success strategy
  • Jamie Davidson, the Co-Founder & CEO at Vitally, who started this business years ago because he knew there was a smarter, more scalable approach to CS excellence

Let’s get to it!

What Is Scaled Customer Success?

Scaled Customer Success (CS) is a 1-to-many approach to Account Management or Customer Success. It allows organizations to operate with less overhead because they automate key customer interventions and keep certain parts of the relationship “CSM-owned.” 

Organizations that lean on a scaled CS methodology typically use a Customer Success Platform to handle automated playbooks, content distribution, programming, CSM assignment, and communication in one spot. 

This hybrid of tech-touch and high-touch Customer Success is an effective approach for large and small customers alike, especially if you’re serving a growing book of clients or if you’re trying to figure out how to “do more with less” as a CS team.

As Parker says, “You need to prove value, but you need to figure out the correct vehicle to articulate that value as a Customer Success leader. Scaled CS opens the door to way more vehicles.” 

You may be thinking, “But so many of my customers need near-constant 1:1 interaction!” We’d argue though that some of those expected touchpoints are automate-able. For example, rather than the same CSM having to explain to customer after customer how to do XYZ to use your product more efficiently, why couldn’t that be documented in a video and sent via a drip campaign three months into the relationship, when customers historically have started asking those questions?

That’s just one of a zillion scenarios where scaled CS motions would work, and we’ll show you a few more later in this piece. 

Why Does Scaled CS Work Well for Teams of All Sizes?

Let's briefly cover why a scaled approach is not just for swamped CS teams with too many small customers. 

Jamie puts it this way: “Even if you only have 20 enterprise customers, I think you should be doing scaled Customer Success because scaled CS is really just the mass distribution of insights, of thought leadership, of engagement, of communication. It’s the automation of repetitive or simple tasks, and you should be doing that across all of your customer base.” 

In other words, why wouldn’t you work smarter, not harder, from the beginning? Whether you’re at a large or small organization, it’s never too early or too late to integrate scaled CS practices. (More on those actual practices shortly!)

What Are Some Common Misconceptions About Scaled CS?

Before we share a few scaled CS programs that have been successful for Steph, I first want to dispel two common misconceptions people have about scaled CS as a whole.

❌ Lie #1: If You’re Scaling CS, You’re Always Adding Headcount or Resources

Scaled CS, though it uses the word “scale,” is not the same thing as "scaling" or "growing" a process or department. It’s not about adding headcount or resources; it’s about scaling up the efficiency of your CS organization with triggered actions, automated playbooks, and perfectly timed content delivery.

❌ Lie #2:  If You’re a Scaled CS Org, You’re Not a High-Touch CS Org

This is just not true. There are ways to do high-touch, scaled CS — it just takes some work. Jamie says it well:  “People often bifurcate their entire customer base and say, ‘Ok, these people get scaled CS, and these people get high-touch CS.’ And that's the wrong approach. Scaled CS should instead be the foundation to CS, and then high-touch is another floor you put on top of that same building.”

Parker agrees with Jamie’s sentiment here, as reflected in his simple four-priority list of what an excellent CS function should include:

  1. A well-defined customer journey: From start to finish, it’s up to the people and processes in the CS org to “usher customers to ideal ‘aha!’ moments” throughout the relationship. This is about anticipating their needs (which is much more scalable with the right tech) and providing value before they even ask for it.
  1. People allocation: This one’s fairly straightforward, but you need the right people, on the right accounts, in the right territories, with the right priorities. You also want to make sure your ratio of CSMs to customers strikes the right balance so that clients get enough attention and your team doesn't get overwhelmed.
  1. Programming: By understanding the different journeys and use cases of your customers, you can build out product education content and thoughtfully deliver it to relevant customers in a way that feels personal and tailored, even at scale. Parker says this pillar of his approach to CS is best suited to include scaled CS practices. 
  1. Signals: Last but not least, it’s vital to have an accurate way to predict risk and identify opportunities before that moment to win or save revenue has passed. (Vitally’s Indicators are great for this, by the way.)

Parker intentionally made these four pillars high-level because there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to structuring your Customer Success organization. He keeps his ideology flexible enough to layer in scaled practices and make wise decisions for Vitally’s growth with each passing quarter.

How to Give Scaled CS a Try at Your Org

OK, so let’s get practical. If you think scaled CS might work at your organization, but you’re not sure where to start, allow me to re-introduce you to Steph. She’s piloted scaled programs at the last two organizations she’s worked for with great success.

Read on to get inspired by what’s worked well for Steph.

Scaled Idea #1: Deliver Curated, Automated Experiences to Your “Small Potatoes” Customers

Steph co-led this first initiative at a previous company with one goal: retain and expand small customers who might otherwise churn.

The Fast Facts

  • Total CSMs involved: 4
  • Qualifying criteria for a customer: Spends less than $100k in ARR
  • Customers included in the program: About 1,500 total
  • Total interventions: 4-6 thoughtful interactions between org <> customer per year

Steph loved scaling CS in this way because, in her words, “I knew there was likely a significant amount of opportunity hiding in plain sight” with that volume of customers. And boy was she right.

According to Steph, the company scaled this cohort of customers from 1,500 across four Scaled CSMs to 2,400 customers (and $66 Million in total ACV) across six Scaled CSMs because of the success of the program. That’s an $11 Million book-of-business per CSM!

Steph and her three CSM counterparts were responsible for building playbooks that leaned heavily on automation to offer these customers: 

  • Mid-implementation check-ins
  • Final implementation QA check-ins
  • Two optional Technical Business Reviews (TBRs) per year, with one 120 days before renewal
  • Strategic interventions

And by “strategic interventions,” she means things like targeted emails with content based on customers’ latest product usage data. Or friendly reminders about overages with the easy option to upgrade. There were even triggers in place to quickly and personally follow up with customers who filled out surveys that resulted in a low NPS

Most notably in this scaled motion, Steph and her team created tailored landing pages based on typical customer profiles where customers could proactively book out-of-the-box product workshops and info sessions just for them.

Thanks to 4-6 excellent customer interventions per year, targeted content, and available-by-request access to CSMs, Steph and her three other teammates boosted retention and expansion by leaps and bounds. So much so that another organization swept her up to run Scaled Idea #2 for them…

Scaled Idea #2: Find the Hidden Dollars in Your Enterprise Accounts 

At first glance, using scaled CS practices on your biggest logos may sound crazy. But when the goal is to expand your big-name logos who aren’t spending as much as they probably could, it makes great sense. That’s what Steph set out to do with this second strategic scaled program.

The Fast Facts

  • Total CSMs involved: Just 2
  • Qualifying criteria for a customer: Enterprise-level logos spending <$100K in ARR
  • Customers included in the program: About 240/year, but only focused on 20-25 at a given time. It was a “revolving door” approach.
  • Total interventions: Entirely dependent on upsell opportunity and bandwidth

For this experiment, Steph and her CSM partner-in-crime worked in lockstep with sales. Every three months or so, sales leadership would determine which 20-25 accounts were ripe for conversations about broadening their use case of Steph’s software. Those would become the 20-25 target accounts. “The idea was to ‘graduate’ customers out of this band to having a managed CSM,” Steph explains. 

From there, an AE would work within those accounts to identify new contacts at those organizations to introduce one of the two CSMs to. As you can imagine, this took some serious sales <> CS partnership and tons of collaboration behind the scenes.

“We were typically very ‘single threaded’ with these customers, only working with one small team,” Steph says. “So the purpose of the AE/CSM partnership was to identify new power users and teams, and then the CSM would step in to unlock new use cases for those other teams to gain value from the platform.”

The goal here was to offer enterprise-level customers "white glove" service across use cases, and it worked. In one case, Steph’s efforts took a customer at $24K ACV to over $100K within one calendar year in the program!

Scaled CS Is Good for Everyone, Really

By taking a scaled CS approach, your business could win more revenue because it retains and grows more customers. This is important. But what’s even more important is that your customers would win, too. 

Customers crave helpful content, relevant attention, and the support of their CSM. What that looks like will vary from business to business and customer to customer, but one thing is for sure: Scaled CS practices can funnel the right content and right guidance to the right customers at the right time.

That’s too much “right everything” to try and manage alone. That’s why for teams who want sustainable, scaled CS, Vitally is the answer

Ready to chat with the Vitally team about scaled CS? They’d love to meet you

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