Q&A with Aruba: How We Scaled Our Customer Engagement Strategy

What do you do when you realize that 95 percent of your customer base is tech-touch and you don’t have the manpower to properly engage with and measure this group? Well, if you’re Aruba, you go digital.

In a recent webinar titled “How Aruba Scaled their Customer Engagement Strategy”, Aruba’s Director of Customer Success Operations Matt Harmon and Head of Digital Engagement Strategy Teresa Chu, discussed how Aruba leveraged Totango and a digital-first customer success approach to drive customer engagement, significantly improve retention rates, speed up their onboarding process, and improve overall customer satisfaction. During the live presentation of the webinar, Harmon and Chu answered several questions from attendees about how they managed this feat. Check out a recap of some of the questions and answers from the session below.

Getting Started: Tips for Implementing an Effective Customer Engagement Strategy

 

How many employees support digital engagement at Aruba?

MH: Within my team, we have about three or four resources to work with Teresa on the digital content because we have a lot of digital messaging that goes out throughout the customer journey. Then, we have about four people managing the Totango resource and helping put together all the SuccessPlays.

Also, something that makes our team unique is that we have a team of about four or five people who focus on the journey map and the lifecycle management of the customer. So, that team is kind of like the architect who designs the journey for the customer. If you think of it in terms of building a house: that team designs the house; I’m the general contractor so my team and I help build the house, and then the CSMs are the ones who are actually living in the house and managing the relationships with the customers.

What helped you build your customer journey map and what were the main factors you took into account?

MH: Well, it all started off on big sticky notes, just trying to figure out how we wanted our customers to experience their onboarding journey. Then, we took that information to the various other teams within Aruba. We talked with the product team and the TAC engineers to hear where customers were having challenges, and then we built our customer journey map based on their input. We didn’t use any special tool. Instead, we just started with a journey in PowerPoint and created the lifecycle from there.  


TC: Also, something to keep in mind is to make sure that the journey map is visually clear for everyone to understand because a lot of different parties are going to be relying on it to do their part of the job. So, just make sure everyone understands and can implement it. Also, I think the key thing is that it should really be customer-centric and reflect how they go through the journey, taking into account and focusing on their perspective.

What other parts of the business were involved in the user/customer journey, and how did that translate to the digital content you’ve created? 

TC: I’ve also coordinated with Marketing, specifically Campaign Marketing and Product Marketing. Due to the collaboration, our messaging is aligned, the look and feel is consistent and on-brand, and we ensure we are focusing on key product features.

What were the main challenges you found when implementing a digital strategy? 

MH: I think some of the challenges that we had with that initial digital strategy were: is this content relevant to the customers and are we hitting the right audience of people? And that’s where Teresa was able to take some of our early content and really make it shine and make it relevant. She also brought a lot of higher quality content and reached out to various teams within Aruba to make sure we were getting the right information for that customer journey to the customers.

Did you ever face any difficulties in matching resources (people and budget) with the stuff noted on the customer journey map? In that case, how did you manage that issue?

TC: Yes, definitely. Especially in the discovery phase of the MVP process when we often have numerous ideas. Part of the MVP process is determining what can realistically be accomplished and what the scope should entail. That is why we have leveraged a “parking lot” system where we essentially track and notate items that are backlogged but should not be forgotten and will be addressed in future MVPs.

How did you manage the integration of all the sources into Totango? Do you use Totango for CSM reps only or as a dashboard for everybody in the Sales/CSM and Customer Care team? 

MH: There are a lot of data sources, and for us, the value of the Totango platform is the ability to integrate data from a variety of sources in order to see what is going on with the customer and create that 360 view. Not all teams have access to the tool but we leverage many channels for sharing, including the use of Zoe on Slack. For those members that don’t have access, we share our data via dashboards in other tools like PowerBI.


When to use Tech-Touch vs. High-Touch

 

Do you differentiate touchpoints and strategies for the key stakeholders versus lower-level individual users? We have some customers with hundreds of users who may need different touchpoints than the main contacts. 

TC: A challenge we face is identifying the right contact to reach out to at an organization. Sometimes there are several contacts associated with an account. Specifically for purposes such as subscription renewals, it is ideal to track down the correct person. We have implemented forms and email communications to try and see if the right contact can be referred to us and we can update our contacts accordingly. 

On average, how many customers does each CSM manage versus how many are tech-touch only or some kind of combination? 

MH: For our Tier Two and Three customers, we’re leveraging a swarm model of pooled CSMs where we have four or five CSMs who handle a wide volume of customers. The goal is to have them manage about 25-30 Tier One customers. Obviously, that’s not set in stone because some customers are larger, more complex, and require more attention than others. Therefore, we look at the workload appropriately, but that’s kind of the ballpark of where our CSM resources are located.

Also, our team is very data-driven. The leadership group within Aruba looks at a resource calculator quarterly to assess several things from a digital point of view, such as whether or not we are making the CSMs lives easier by taking repetitive tasks off their plates, how long QBRs are taking, how much time the CSM is spending on them, etc. We use that information to adjust how many accounts we feel each CSM can handle, but we also use it to future-proof. For example, we might say in the last three quarters, here’s how many new customers we’ve had on average. If it looks like that area is growing, then we need to ramp up our resources. We need to hire two more CSMs this month because, by the time they get ramped up in the next quarter, they’re already going to be fully loaded with customers.

After one of your tech touch customers renews, would you implement or tailor a different journey for Year Two, Three, etc.?

TC: Right now, we don’t differentiate based on at what point they renew, but I think it’s definitely something that we’re considering doing moving forward. We are constantly iterating and I think it’s important to consistently review and revise your journey maps based on different changes your organization faces. So, right now, we’re revising and renewing on a quarterly cadence, but we are definitely considering doing more micro-segmentation and creating different journey maps for different types of customers. 

What’s an auto QBR?

MH: For our high-touch customers, we provide the traditional QBR (quarterly business review) with readouts of metrics and information. But for our Tier Two customers – and some Tier Three – we’re leveraging the QBR using some third-party tools to create digital QBRs where we feed information that we would normally put into a QBR deck. We’re trying to reach out to the customers in different mediums as opposed to just your typical PowerPoint presentation. So, there are some different tools and resources out there, but it’s about giving that information to them and having them come back to us when they want more detailed information on those QBRs as to what that information means.

Can you share the main differences in the expected service levels for LATAM customers vs. US customers?

MH: In our opinion, it doesn’t matter where the customer is located. Globally, we strive to give the same quality content to our customers throughout the world. We are part of HP, so we have a worldwide presence and we are a 24/7 operation. We have digital CSM outreach on-demand, but we have the ability to set up conversations and provide outreach to customers throughout the world when they raise their hands, because we’re scaling our team and we have resources in the US and EMEA now.

Can you share more about your touchpoints for Tier Two at a high level? How do they differ from Tier One and Tier Three?

MH: Tier Three is all digital. During the first 40 days of a customer’s journey, we have about six or seven emails that go out to the customer, including a survey to get their opinion after we feel they’re onboarded (which is a combination of time and certain metrics that they’ve hit within their adoption). At this point, we’re going to send that customer monthly information about their account – kind of like a monthly review – and give them the opportunity to raise their hand if they have any questions or need assistance.

For Tier One customers, in my opinion, 90 percent of the interaction that they get from us is coming from a CSM with the 10 percent just being that digital content that we would send to all of our other customers. For Tier 2 customers, it’s more of a 50/50 split. They’re not getting the regular outreach on a monthly or more frequent basis; probably every couple of months. The CSM is reaching out to them, but it’s more about leveraging the pooled CSMs for those Tier Two customers. Doing it this way also provides the career path progression for our CSM team. They can start off working in the pooled CSM world, working with the Tier Three customers and some of Tier Two customers, and then, the better CSMs have the ability to grow and mature into the high-touch systems as the opportunity arises.

How much focus is placed on Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) and Customer Retention Cost (CRC) and how do you track this? 

MH: While we segment out by what a customer currently has, knowing the CLV allows for us to help model against churn and how decisions are made. 

How to Drive Customer Engagement

 

What type of content do you get the highest open rates on in your digital campaigns?

TC: We get the highest rates on our onboarding campaigns. I think that goes back to the fact that it’s just a state of mind. The customers are fresh and excited about your product and hungry for more information, so they’re more likely to engage with your content and open the emails.

Can you give examples of email subjects to help increase open rates?

TC: Initially, I was following a generic best practice and trying out email subject lines that pique people’s interest and curiosity. But that really didn’t work. After I implemented those, I think we received the lowest open rates that we’ve gotten historically. That’s why it’s important to really understand your audience. For our particular audience, which is more network administrators, I’ve found that being more straightforward and to-the-point with what our content is going to deliver has helped us gain higher open rates.

How many touches a month do you send for a  tech-touch customer? What is a good recommendation? 

TC: We are sending about six per month. Studies show 4-8 per month as the sweet spot, but I think it is important to understand your audience. Every audience is different. What may work for SaaS, may not work for another industry. Look at the open, engagement, and unsubscribes. Those are very telling of how your audience is responding. The worst thing you can do is overwhelm the audience and then they unsubscribe from all of your communications.

Do you have any resources or advice for early-stage products that need to build a customer base and don’t have data yet?

TC: I would say that you should leverage the whole MVP (minimum viable product) framework. That’s how we did it because we were in the stage where we wanted to get to market quickly and launch these customer success resources and the program. The way the MVP framework is structured is good because it’s designed for you to get to market quickly but still produce something that’s functioning and is still going to deliver that successful experience. It’s built so that you can obtain feedback and constantly iterate and revise, so then, you can move on to the second phase and launch with a more full-fledged approach. I would definitely encourage anyone who may not have all the answers or resources to look into that framework just so that you can at least get to market and deliver something and get feedback from the customers and then come back with something even better for the second phase.

MH: The other thing I like about the MVP framework is the data side. A lot of times, early on when you’re building out your tech touch process, you may not have the data to support the information you need. So, don’t be afraid to create a time-bound messaging campaign based upon what you feel that the customer journey should be to help drive those adoptions. Just because you might not have the data in hand, doesn’t mean you can’t create that MVP based upon a time-bound campaign.

Take advantage of the pre-built templates and reports Aruba uses to run its customer engagement program. Try Totango for free today! 

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