Capacity Planning for Front Line CSMs w/ Erika Villarreal
Speaker 3: Welcome to the Gain Grow Retain podcast.
Jeff: All right. So we've got another episode of Gain Grow Retain. I'm here with Erica Villarreal, and she is a Customer Success Manager with Smart Moving Software in Dallas, Texas. Erica, first of all, thanks for being here. Glad to see you and record this episode today.
Erica: I'm really excited to be here Jeff, thank you very much for the invitation.
Jeff: Awesome. So a couple of weeks back, I'd put out on LinkedIn, just kind of looking for people who had tools and templates and things that we could share in the community. We've kind of got a resource library, and I would say we haven't done a good job of, over the last year, promoting that. And so this is just one way we're trying to let people know," Hey, we've got this library, it's a resource for people. You can upload documents, you can share things." And you were one of the first ones to reach out and share. What we're here to talk about today is really capacity planning for CSMs. And so looking into one way that you could develop a model that really helps you say," How many CSMs do we have today? What's the type of work that they're doing? How many customers do we have? How many customers are we adding?" And really trying to bundle all that up to say," Okay, where do we need to go this year? How do I start creating an argument, so to speak, with our finance and other leadership around the organization to say what's the right head count? How do we start planning for this? How do we kind of get ahead?" Erica, maybe you just share a little bit about, what was the challenge that you were looking to solve when you kind of went to create this in the first place?
Erica: Yes. Sure, Jeff. Well, first of all, let me start by telling you that I joined Smart Moving Software about three, four months ago now. And since it's a really small company, we're an eight people company right now, three of us are CSMs. And the reason I got into creating this capacity planning template, is because we are kind of like a mix of customer success and customer support. So currently our role does both. We have some of our time dedicated for Intercom chats and the other time dedicated for CSMs. The reason I built this is that I thought with all of the activities, customer success manager handle lots of things, including journeys, onboarding journeys, calls, training calls, and plus to that, we have support chats that we have take care of, so I have kind of been thinking that my day was looking pretty full and I needed a way to show this to my manager and tell him," Hey, look, this is what I'm doing currently. These are the activities that I am responsible for. This is the time that it's taking me to complete these activities," and brought that to my manager, for him to understand why I was not able to complete certain activities during my day. So that was kind of the reason I built this Capacity Planning Report, which outlines all of the activities that I do during a day in a week.
Jeff: Awesome. Yeah, first of all, I love how you were going to do this to help think about the business, right? You're really trying to help solve for not just yourself, but" Hey, do we have the right capacity? If we have all these things that we're looking to do in our department, is that really realistic?" Because it sounds like, the type of business you're in right now, and you mentioned you've kind of got onboarding, you have support and then you've probably got real customer success duties on top of that, as well. And I know from all the work that we've been doing over the years, you really start to see how specialization starts to happen as you scale as an organization. It seems like you're kind of on that precipice where it's like, when do we start getting some kind of personalized and specific job functions, like carving off an onboarding team, maybe to take that, or carving off support to do that, and then customer success to do the last part. I love that. It sounds like you're in that kind of growth stage though, would that be accurate just to kind of where the company is you're kind of in that growing and scaling stage?
Erica: Yes, that is correct. Currently, we handle small business type of companies. And the thing here is, we're looking to scale in the next one or two years, and part of scaling means optimizing processes and building for that scale. And while we are trying to build our onboarding journey, trying to get at that the customer experience starts to flow, we are going to be dedicating more time on that, and my message to my manager was like," Hey, at what point do you think we should split customer support from customer success?" so we're able to really focus on making the experience of the customer better.
Jeff: Awesome. Yeah. I love that. Keeping the customer at the forefront, right?
Erica: Of course.
Jeff: A little bit about kind of what you built. It seems like, maybe on the input, what kind of data are we putting in here? It seems like there's a couple of key things around our customers. You're really trying to understand kind of what customers you have today and then what customers are actually being added because you're handling onboarding responsibilities, as well. At least for customers that you have today, that seems like an easy metric, right? Because you can go pull that from your system of record, but in terms of customers that are to be onboarding shortly, is that coming from a kind of a sales analysis that you're working with your counterpart in sales with? How did you kind of think about that input and getting that into the document?
Erica: That is an excellent question. Yes. So what I did was analyzed the information that I had for the previous two months, so from what we're getting for new customers from the sales team, we are getting, I don't know how many, probably three to four accounts per week. So that means that you are going to be enrolling customers three or four customers into onboarding journeys that have a four week lifetime during their onboarding that require one week of training calls each, that will book your next four weeks with training calls with this customer. So that are ultimately takes off time from your capacity for that day. I took that information from one side. And then from the other part, I understand that once you're building new customers into these onboarding journeys, well, you accumulate a set of customers. My analysis was understanding how many of these customers can a CSM right now take, given the current load that we have taking onboarding journeys and other activities besides onboarding new customers.
Jeff: Awesome. Yeah, that makes sense. And I liked the point you put in there, too, of thinking about, each customer is going to have kind of that onboarding cycle, right? So we need to take into account that they're going to only be there for four weeks before they move into maybe more of our standard support and success resources, as well. We've kind of got the inputs of looking at some of the customers that we currently have, some new customers that we're onboarding, and then it looks like you've started really to dive into, what are some of the core activities that we're doing in each of the functions that we're serving? So onboarding, support, and customer success, it looks like you kind of broke down activities that you're doing in each of those. So what were some of the core ones that kind of stood out to you maybe as you kind of broke down, maybe that stood out to say," Oh, wow. I didn't realize I was spending so much time on this, but once I started breaking down the data, it really started to help me realize that, Wow, this really does take a lot of time when you start multiplying across customers?"
Erica: Yeah. The first thing that I noticed from that analysis was actually, that's a core part, from the chats and the number of customers that we have currently, and the total number of customers from the company, we get at different sides of chats incoming from our Intercom software. Right? I didn't realize before, how much time I was spending on customer support. So these analysis allowed me to deep dive into how many chats I'm handling per day, how long does it take me to actually close out a chat, how much time does it take me to answer the questions for the customers? And then multiply that and define," Hey, I'm taking 50% of my day doing customer support." So that other 50% of my day, I have to do onboarding calls, training calls, renewal management and all of those other activities that at the end, if I'm going to be doing both things, maybe there's a point with a break point where you cannot take all of that. That was kind of my first learning. And the other thing that I noticed is that since we are doing these onboarding journeys for four weeks for our customers, each week requires one hour of training with them. I also realize that other 40% or 30% of my day went on training calls. So you can imagine 40% of my day going in support and then 30% going on trainings, where do I have time to the proactive work? So that was kind of my red alert here," Hey, I need to do all of these things that will help me guide my customer to better adopt the product. And I do not have time to do that. How, how do I fit this in my day- to- day?" It was kind of like the analysis I went on through.
Jeff: Yeah. I love that point too, because I think, even just breaking down your time like this, and even as we're talking about this right now, where my mind starts going is, just better questions that we can be asking ourselves too about, should we be thinking about doing more trainings maybe for customers and cohorts? We've got maybe three to five customers joining at a time. Is that a better exercise or a better use of our time than doing individual ones? I think the great part about doing this type of analysis and even just looking at some snapshots is, you can start to ask yourself those business- related questions. Do we have capacity to scale or should we think you'd be thinking about processes differently or events differently that we're holding with customers? So I love that so much. So you've kind of got this thesis, right? Which is how can we help understand what capacity we have, specifically between success and support? It seems like it was the real big question that you guys were trying to solve. You kind of talked about building this model. You've got some of the inputs of customers and who's coming on board, you've started mapping your activities in terms of the time it's taking you. You mentioned kind of having some of those nuggets of," Oh, we're already understanding where we might be kind of overextending time." What's been the outcome for you? Is it now that you're trying to set targets for certain events that you're holding during the week with each customer? Or is it now that you're starting to look and say," Hey, when do we need to hire next?" What's really kind of the next step, do you think in taking this and moving it forward?
Erica: That's a really great question. After I brought this to the attention of my manager, one of the things that we were able to decide is, one thing that you already mentioned, we are doing so many repetitive training calls with customers. One of the things that we said," How do we optimize these training calls in a way that we don't have to be repeating over and over again the same thing with different customers?" One of the things that came up was," Well, why don't we start doing webinars instead. Like," Hey, this is a webinar for sales, or this is a webinar for dispatch or whatever. And you just join the webinar and we do mass trainings instead of doing it one by one." That's the first thing. And then the other thing is, since we right now, have a really high touch type of model, we require those training calls and follow up with our customers. And that requires time to understand their product usage, logging into their account, getting that data, and then reaching out with those email templates that will help you drive that product production. What I was thinking is like," Hey, how are we able to automate this process in a way that these email templates come directly from the information or the data that we get from the product. And we are able to send those without actually having to spend time logging into their accounts and getting that information manually." So one of the things I also brought to the attention of my manager is that," Hey, we have a really high touch model. Our customers are low contract values ARR. If we are looking to scale, we would have to hire tons of CSMs to complete this. And that would not be profitable for the business". So what we thought is, why don't we migrate from this high touch model, into a low tech, touch model and instead of doing it manually, with this, we can have a digital led product that allows them to self- train and reduce the time and effort from the CSMs to guide them through this process.
Jeff: Yeah. Again, kind of going back to what we just mentioned about asking the right questions then. I love how that became kind of the forefront, right? Which is, not only can we have human capital, but do we have the right technology involved? And how can we start looking at making sure that we're driving more in product adoption through the use of education or training programs directly in the product. That's a thing that we're going through that exercise right now, as well, is how can we continually drive kind of that learning that experience, that positive interaction with our customers? And even if you put it in product that drives it so much more, because then you have them in there and logging in and trying to see what's the next thing that they need to be doing? How can we really help that? I think the big thing too, is just creating relevance, right? I think we talk about personalization a lot and all these individual journeys, but when you start thinking about just driving the most relevance for the customer, it really makes a difference because, then it means it's specific to them in that instance, in that moment.
Erica: Exactly. And that's exactly what we're trying to look for. And another learning now that you kind of mention about this, is that one of the things that I thought was kind of missing on this process, is that we have a kind of like an academy on our product where they can go and watch the training videos. But what was happening is that, many of the questions that customers had, kind of complex type of questions were not really explained on this video. So that's why they were reaching out to support chats and taking time from us to explain all of these that could have been explained. If we had a training video that's," Hey, go watch that video and if you guys still have questions, you can reach back out." So one of the other things that we did is, we started making changes in our academy. So if we're missing training videos for a specific module, we are going to build those videos. And the fact is that, that training or that academy will help us track, which type of video the customer has seen, which are missing and will enable us to get the right communication at the right time for them to move along on their onboarding journey or a product adoption.
Jeff: Yeah, man, that's so cool. I love this. Well, Erica, this has been fun. I really appreciate you sharing this with the community. We've uploaded it to our Gain Grow Retain document library. We're going to push this into the episode description for today, as well. But if people want to reach out and kind of learn from you and see some of the other things that you're doing, where are you active? Is it Twitter, LinkedIn, other social media? Where can people find you and reach out and say, hi and connect?
Erica: Yes, you can reach out to me on LinkedIn. I am really active and I'm always looking forward to connecting with new people and learning from their experience and sharing mine. So go connect and I'll be happy to share more.
Jeff: Awesome. Very cool. Well, appreciate the time, Erica. We'll talk again here soon.
Erica: Thank you very much, Jeff. Have a great day.
Jeff: Thanks. Hey guys, thanks so much for taking the time to listen to the Gain Grow Retain podcast. If you liked what you heard, please take a moment and share the podcast with your friends and colleagues and subscribes. We really appreciate it. Talk to you soon.
This week, Erika Villarreal joins us to talk discuss Capacity Planning for Front Line CSMs.
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