Customer success is an ongoing process that requires hands-on management at every stage. At its most basic, customer success seems simple: its focus is delivering value to customers that can be measured in terms of optimizing customer productivity, increasing revenue, or several other goals. In practice, however, customer success is complex and challenging since customer success is specific to an individual customer’s needs. Because of the potential complexity of customer success, managers can focus on the wrong goals and lose customers because of this misalignment.
As customer success becomes increasingly crucial to SaaS providers, customer success managers need to align their actions with results that translate to realizing value, reaching goals, and overall improving work or life for a customer. The following common mistakes threaten this path, making customer success harder to attain or even identify.
Failing to define success
Misunderstanding the desired outcome is the biggest trap that customer success managers fall into. The SaaS sales process should involve identifying customer success goals. If your product cannot provide value, you will never overcome the “bad fit” hurdle. No matter how great product and customer experience may be, if a value is not delivered — and by that, we mean a result that provides clear value to the customer, not what the seller believes to be a benefit — then the customer will eventually cancel. What matters most to your customers? Are they unaware of the benefits that your product can deliver? Answer these questions early and make them guideposts for your customer relationship.
Forgetting about user experience
Focusing on the desired outcome is crucial, but it is not the only consideration. For some accounts, customer success can be mostly about reaching the desired outcome, but if your solution is difficult to use, the adoption rate will be low, and use will be less than optimal. Great user experience should be a goal, too.
Keep tabs on the user experience through customer communication and in-app feedback. Track usage and ask questions. Find out what works for your customers and what doesn’t. And, build an organizational culture that accepts change, and strives to improve the product to ensure optimal experience continually.
Failing to segment
A major problem experienced by SaaS provider customer success managers is failing to categorize customers based on desired outcomes, touch level, and other factors. Failing to segment customers makes scalability difficult because growth can only occur when customer success is clearly defined, and steps towards customer goals are automated and repeatable.
When you do not segment your customers, you run into an additional problem — the risk of over-delivering. At first glance, giving customers more than they expect doesn’t seem like much of a problem. We’ve all heard the mantra “under-promise and over-deliver” but while that approach may increase customer satisfaction, it is not focused on specific customer goals and can be a barrier to scalability. Find out what your customers want, what they need, and deliver it in a way that encourages continued use.
Mistaking happiness for success
The increasing focus on customer success isn’t a fluke — it developed after years of learning that customer satisfaction provides an incomplete picture of the seller-customer relationship. Customers can be happy with a product or a company while also failing to reach their desired outcome. This happens when customers (and SaaS providers) do not fully understand what customer success means to their business. SaaS companies need to strive to do more than just provide a pleasant experience that makes customers happy. Customers may love your user experience but may find that the product isn’t working for them or providing the results they want. A survey of this customer may come back with positive reviews that mask a deeper problem.
Make sure your customers are happy, but also make sure it is for the right reason. With measurable goals, you can deliver customer satisfaction and success.
Paying too much attention to churn
Churn rate is an essential metric since it is an indicator of customer success. But, churn is a symptom. Customer success managers need to find the root causes of churn, attrition and lost revenue. Often the cause is failing to operationalize customer success so that you can track and measure whether or not your customers achieve their desired outcome. If you are only focused on churn, and not its underlying cause, then you may choose the wrong path to customer retention.
For example, let’s say a customer cancels after 60 or 90 days of a subscription. As a customer success manager, you reach out to the customer to try to win them back or at least learn the reason why they canceled. Your hope here is to win them back, but your goal should not just be to get them to stay on for a while longer. If you offer a discount, for example, is price the problem? Assuming you’ve priced your SaaS solution based on the value it delivers to customers, cost should not be an issue. And, a short-term discount may just delay churn, and that is not a solution.
Instead, dig deeper. Find out if the customer was using your product optimally, if product education was needed, and if customer success was truly in your crosshairs. Defining customer success can be tricky. It is hard to scale. It requires a balance of reaching the desired outcome and providing a great user experience. It’s, therefore, crucial to find tools to operationalize customer success. SmartKarrot’s dashboards provide insights and the ability to measure customer success. From health scores to real-time information on use, SmartKarrot helps SaaS companies make sure that customer success is navigating the customer journey.