Customer success 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, etc. In practice, however, it’s complex since customer success is specific to an individual customer’s needs. Because of its complexity, customer success managers can focus on the wrong goals and lose customers. In this guide, we’ll cover some common mistakes CSMs make that can make CS more difficult to attain or even identify plus their solutions.
Failing to define
Misunderstanding the desired outcome is the biggest trap that customer success managers fall into. Ideally, the sales process should involve identifying customer success goals. But if your sales reps are placing their internal goals above your customers, you might face an alarming amount of bad-fit customers. No matter how great your product and customer experience may be, if your customers aren’t getting value from your product—and by that, we mean a result that provides clear value to the customer, not what the company believes success is for their customer—then the customer will eventually cancel. One way you can address this issue is by creating a more streamlined sales to customer success handoff and creating a feedback loop that lets sales know which are the best fit for your product.
Another way that CSMs struggle with helping customers reach their desired outcome is by not digging deeper into your customer’s definition of success. Yes, your customer told you they want a solution that would free up their marketing department’s time. But why? What does their marketing team need more time for? How would more time impact their goals? The business bottomline? By asking more questions about what your customer consider as success, you can create a strategy that helps them reach their true desired outcome.
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Forgetting about user experience
Focusing on the desired outcome is crucial, but it’s not the only consideration. If your solution is difficult to use or you’re delivering subpar service, your customers might take their business to your competitors.
Keep tabs on 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 a continuous optimal experience.
Failing to segment
A significant problem SaaS CSMs experience 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 toward 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 and 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 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 must 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.
Make sure your customers are happy, but 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’s 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 reason 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 focused only on churn, not its underlying cause, you may choose the wrong path to customer retention.
For example, a customer cancels after 60 days of a subscription. As a CSM, 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, which isn’t a solution.
Instead, dig deeper. Find out if the customer was using your product correctly, if product education was needed, etc. You don’t want to focus on a temporary solution, you want one that’ll help you create more customers for life. 15
Defining customer success can be tricky. And even with all the plans in the world under your belt, you’re likely to still face one of these mistakes. But the first step to being a better CSM for your company, your customers, and yourself is being aware of your mishaps and actively working towards being better. Because, after all, progress over perfection, right?
Rakhin has over 10 years of experience driving business development and client services. In his prior roles, he stayed close to customers to understand their requirements and help them achieve their business goals. He is passionate about customer success.
Published February 04, 2020, Updated November 18, 2022