How LinkedIn Provides a White-Glove Experience: Prioritization and Scaled Outreach
LinkedIn customer success manager Tracey Abrams on prioritizing customers
It’s a dirty secret most customer success managers don’t like to talk about, but segmenting customers based on their lifetime value and prioritizing accordingly are key concerns for organizations because scaling customized, one-on-one experiences is expensive and time-consuming.
Whether you’re a B2B or B2C company, how do you go about determining which clients deserve a white-glove experience and which ones can be appeased with scaled outreach? And once you do that, what’s the best ratio of white glove to scaled?
For a Saas company like LinkedIn whose clientele is mostly B2B, prioritization isn’t as simple as pandering to clients with the highest dollar spend. As the world’s largest professional networking platform, LinkedIn works with recruiters to help them source talent and showcase their company as an attractive employer.
Hiring needs ebb and flow, as does a client’s activity on the platform, so it’s important for LinkedIn to tailor the experience based on the customer’s desired outcome rather than upselling to a client at risk of churn or jeopardizing a promising relationship by reaching out too often or too rarely.
At a recent event in New York City at WalkMe headquarters, Tracey Abrams, customer success manager at LinkedIn, offered three ways companies can prioritize and scale.
1. Partner with your sales team
It’s easy to assume CSMs and salespeople have competing objectives; one wants to please the customer no matter what, the other wants to sell as much product as humanly possible.
In reality, however, when a CSM provides a great experience, the client is more likely to renew their account. Meanwhile, a CSM wants to maximize product utilization and lifetime value, so knowing when to upsell or cross-sell a client based on their needs is equally important. It therefore makes sense for these two departments to consistently collaborate.
When Abrams was promoted from LinkedIn’s sales team to her CSM role, the first thing she did was sit down with the sales partners and compare notes on which clients to prioritize. While a salesperson might be anxious about coddling a big spender or a client at risk of churn, it’s the CSM’s job to provide the right experience to the right clients by intuiting customer intent and what success looks like to them.
“You deal with the client everyday and they trust you as their consultant and advisor, whereas with sales they know they’re going to be sold,” said Abrams. “So it’s really important that you have the right relationship with the client as well and that that relationship is valued.”
CSMs and sales teams may disagree on which clients should come first, so it’s important to have an open, transparent conversation where each side justifies why they designated their top clients and attempt to reach a compromise.
At LinkedIn, the CSMs and sales reps created a collaboration page on Salesforce so they can track each other’s outreach to the client, spot potential gaps and ensure they don’t duplicate efforts or worse, communicate different versions of the truth to the customer.
2. Don’t try to please everyone
Prioritization isn’t a dirty word; it’s about maximizing utility for both the business and its customers through the optimal allocation of finite resources. On the B2B side at LinkedIn, 80 percent of revenue comes from 20 percent of accounts. From a pure dollar perspective, it might make sense to instigate a ‘20 percent white glove, 80 percent scaled outreach’ approach, but Abrams said it’s not so cut and dried.
When you’re selling a technology platform, the highest-value clients don’t necessarily need the most handholding. They could be a legacy company that’s used your service for decades and doesn’t need another education plan or tutorial video on how to leverage your latest feature.
Also, high-investment clients aren’t guaranteed to grow because their needs might change, so prioritizing solely based on current dollar spend could cause you to neglect a high-growth prospect, such as a low-investing startup that’s preparing to launch internationally and needs to fill hundreds of new job roles in a few months’ time.
Furthermore, some clients will want lots of handholding; others might prefer to use your platform autonomously but will still rely on you to respond when they need troubleshooting or advice. Either way, it’s usually best to the follow the client’s lead when it comes to communication style, frequency of outreach and the level of service expected.
“We just had a major client sign on and my sales rep and I were so excited about it,” said Abrams. “They get an email from our onboarding team and we’re ready to rock and roll.”
Two weeks passed with no response from the client, so Abrams emailed them again while also recognizing that she might need to rejigger her own expectations for the relationship, and that this client might not need to be prioritized after all.
“I’m assuming the appropriate experience for them is to do their own thing,” she said. “Obviously I want to be there for them and support them but they’re not going to be an account I prioritize because at the end of the day we need to be prioritized as well.”
3. Don’t make assumptions and don’t push your own objectives on the client
From a CSM’s perspective, it’s tempting to prioritize the clients that are most receptive to their calls and emails and use the platform most frequently, since a CSM’s performance is partly gauged by customer engagement and product utilization. Meanwhile, a salesperson wants to butter up their easily winnable prospects with a high probability to renew because they’re rated on sales. In her role, Abrams learned that just because a client didn’t always respond to her “just checking in” emails didn’t mean they weren’t happy with the product.
Also, it might make sense to rethink some of your own performance metrics. “For me it was like, they’re not using the tool, they’re affecting my utilization, this is frustrating for me,” Abrams said of her initial struggle. “But they’re having the right experience for them. It’s not about me.”
Sometimes a white-glove customer experience means providing the right tools, then stepping back and checking in once a quarter without bothering the client unnecessarily.
“It’s so simple but it’s something that’s so easy to lose track of when your email’s going nuts and you’re getting all these people coming your way and they need you now,” said Abrams, adding that it’s just as important to prioritize your own time as a CSM as it is your customers.
Finally, it’s important to make the customer feel successful by framing your communications with them in an outcome-oriented way and emphasizing what matters most to the client.
“I really like having an exciting story,” said Abrams. “Making sure that instead of saying, ‘Wow, you utilized all your jobs,’ saying, ‘Wow, because you utilized all your jobs you had this sort of impact and you were able to hire this many people.’”