Customer success is a method of determining performance and satisfaction based on results. It’s a way to demonstrate the real-world impact of your product. Instead of hypotheticals or projections about how your product will impact your customers, customer success initiatives seek to provide an answer to a simple question: Does your product help customers? Answering this question — and determining your customer’s successes — helps you retain customers, avoid churn, and attract new ones through referrals and goodwill.
Above all, customer success is about proactivity. Traditional customer service and satisfaction business models are reactive. A customer has a problem, and you take steps to make them happy. While ensuring customer satisfaction is still an important goal for any company, the subscription model of SaaS companies means that customers are not tied to your product. If it doesn’t deliver, customers can decide not to renew. So, you have to be prepared to sell your customers on continued use of your product every month, instead of annually or less frequently. Customer success is one way to ensure that your customers will happily remain subscribers. It is an ongoing process that can involve many factors depending on your product and your customers’ needs. However, there are a few key focus areas. Here are five of the most essential:
To know your customers’ goals, their progress, and their use of your product, you have to enable open lines of communication. Proactive communication is crucial to customer success management. Keeping in contact with customers through a well-managed process that encourages a partnership with your company as a trusted source of solutions for the customer’s needs.
Clear lines of communication help reduce frustration and highlight product areas that might hinder customer success. Communication also helps hedge against cancellation, since it brings issues to the surface that otherwise might go unanswered. Unhappy customers often don’t complain — they just move on to a competitor. It’s not that customers demand perfection; they simply want their issues to be minimal and quickly resolved. According to a study by the Harvard Business Review, dissatisfied customers that received proactive communication were willing to buy again, even if their issue was not fully resolved. With open discussion as part of a proactive customer relationship, you increase opportunities to achieve greater customer success.
Planning and Onboarding
Customer success is highly individualized. The desired outcome for one customer might be a failure for another, even if the two are in the same industry. The first element of an impactful customer success initiative, then, is to have a planning and onboarding process that identifies goals and eases users to an optimal product experience. SaaS companies must invest time and resources into getting to know customer goals and then continuously work with your customers toward achieving these goals.
Related to the planning process, segmentation is central to customer success management. It is the process of assigning context to individual customers. This context can be in the form of revenue, such as identifying the long-term value or average revenue. Still, a smarter and more customer-success focused method is to segment according to the customer’s anticipated experience. Grouping customers based on their goals and needs can help a SaaS business determine the level of individual support to apply to each account. Some customers do not wish to have their SaaS provider breathing down their necks all the time, and others need your helping hand frequently. Communication and planning help identify customer needs, and segmentation is how you efficiently manage multiple customers with these varying needs.
Customer success management also requires a well-orchestrated process that seamlessly addresses expectations, accountabilities, and future needs. Executing on a customer success management plan requires outlining what your customers can expect over different milestones. Customers benefit from knowing what your company or your product will do for them over the first 30 days, the first six months, the first year, and so on. This plan should be clearly communicated, but so should the relative accountabilities for your company and the customer.
Again, it’s most beneficial to cast the business relationship as a partnership with mutual benefits and shared goals. You are asking your customer for a new sale every month, so be sure to provide value and clarity at each step.
A final key customer success aspect involves measuring all of the elements that contribute to or reflect customer success. These can include use metrics, goal metrics, or those obtained through communication, such as Net Promoter Score (NPS). NPS is a useful indicator of customer success, as it lets a company know whether or not a customer would refer you to others. Businesses value referrals as low cost, effective sources of leads, but when your customers’ likelihood to refer also sheds light on the experience of using your product and the value that it delivers. Customer success management requires identifying key metrics, such as NPS and others. Insight is the common denominator of each of these five customer success elements. SmartKarrot’s dashboard provides visibility into the customer success journey. With tools that encourage customer engagement and analytics that identify use issues, SmartKarrot helps SaaS businesses operationalize customer success.