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Fueling Success through Self-Service: A Playbook for Customer Success Leaders

By: Colin Bhowmik, Customer Success Advocate

Throughout my extensive career in Customer Success and Account Management, I've witnessed the ever-evolving landscape of our field. From traditional support and escalation, use-case discussions, retention, and expansion strategies to navigating complex business conversations, the role of the Customer Success Manager (CSM) continues to adapt. However, amidst this evolution, one challenge remains prominent: the balance between high-value engagements and lower value or "calorie" tasks.

Just as we tailor experiences through customer segmentation, I recognized the need to segment my own role. I discovered that while essential, tasks like technical support and basic inquiries consumed valuable time without necessarily yielding proportionate value. It was time to shift gears towards empowering our customers to self-serve for more low “calorie” tasks.

Investing in self-service capabilities isn't just about efficiency; it's about unlocking incremental value over time. By enabling our users to find solutions independently, we free up bandwidth for CSMs to engage in meaningful, high-value conversations, particularly with our mid-market and enterprise customers. After all, customers appreciate and want the autonomy to solve their own queries if provided with intuitive tools to do so.

During my tenures at Oracle (Eloqua) and Shopify, I championed the creation of a "Resources for Success" document—a compact guide featuring "quick links" to common customer inquiries that could easily be self-served. Here's a glimpse of what it included:

  • Technical Support: Guidance on when and how to engage with support channels, including escalation procedures.

  • Help Center: Resources for platform navigation and development queries.

  • Academy: Access to live and on-demand training materials.

  • Community: Participation in forums and social communities for peer support.

  • Partners: Information on certified partners for additional assistance.

  • Apps: Discoverability of relevant applications through the app store.

Collaborate with your CSM team to identify recurring low-calorie tasks that take time away from high-value engagements. Determine whether driving towards self-service presents an opportunity without compromising the customer experience.

Setting expectations and enabling customers to self-serve, especially with new customers during onboarding and new stakeholders that come aboard during the customer journey, will have a direct impact on both the success of the customer and the CSM. Most definitely a win-win!

An ideal solution would be a dedicated "Resources for Success" online portal. That said, sometimes internal bureaucracy can get in the way of getting “stuff” done. In such cases, a concise 1–2-page document has proven effective in steering customers towards self-service. It's a seemingly simple yet impactful approach that can often be overlooked. Once you have the resources nailed down in document form, you can always engage your operations team to create a portal as a next step.

Example of self-service resource I worked on at Shopify

While I haven't quantified specific metrics such as hours saved per month on lower value tasks, anecdotal evidence—be it Leadership or CSM reach-outs over Slack, email, or appreciative pats on the back in person—indicates that it’s been a hit amongst my CS peers! It’s not only a time-saver but it allows the CSM to focus on more challenging work vs. repetitive, mundane tasks.

In conclusion, embracing self-service isn't just a trend; it's a strategic imperative for modern Customer Success teams. Let's empower our customers to thrive independently, where it makes sense, while we focus on guiding them towards their business outcomes.


This post was written by Colin Bhowmik, a Customer Success Professional with over 15 years on the industry. He's worked at companies like Shopify and Oracle and is now a Customer Success Consultant.


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