What are the Top 10 Pillars of Customer Success? - SmartKarrot l Customer Success Software

What are the Top 10 Pillars of Customer Success?

Customer Success is one of the biggest buzzwords in the modern SaaS industry. Subscription based economy has disrupted the ways companies used to measure their customer lifetime value (CLV). It has brought in the shift from short-term one time sales relationships to the long-term relationships be

pillars of customer success
pillars of customer success

Customer Success is one of the biggest buzzwords in the modern SaaS industry. Subscription based economy has disrupted the ways companies used to measure their customer lifetime value (CLV). It has brought in the shift from short-term one time sales relationships to the long-term relationships between companies and clients. The pillars of customer success comprise a wide variety of functional aspects in a growing SaaS business.

In a 2017 market research, Gartner predicted that the traditional enterprise application software industry is estimated to generate an annual revenue of around $300 Billion. Whereas the emerging SaaS industry was generating around $46 billion in 2017 and is expected to grow to $76 billion by the year 2020. Thus, the growing rate of SaaS industry shows that it is soon going to overtake the traditional software industry. And if you want to participate in this growth story of SaaS business then Customer Success as a function becomes indispensable for your business. 

The subscription based business demands new ways of managing your customers through their entire lifecycle. Customer’s achievement of their business goals must be your top priority while they use your products. And to ensure that they succeed in achieving those goals, a dedicated Customer Success team has to be deployed. 

The team may consist of Customer Success Managers (CSM) at mid-management level or a Chief Success Officer (CSO) at the C-Suite level. The strategies they apply to their daily as well as long-term plans should form their pillars of customer success.

Listed below are the ten pillars in customer success that you must know.

  1. Customer Onboarding
  2. Customer Engagement
  3. Customer Experience
  4. Relationship Management
  5. Value Realization of Product
  6. Using Metrics
  7. Cross-functional Coordination
  8. Customer Retention
  9. Business Expansion
  10. Brand Advocacy

#1 Customer Onboarding

Although the journey of a customer starts from the first time they hear about the product, the customer onboarding phase is usually considered the first stage of customer success. It is during this phase that you as a CSM introduce your product and configure it to their business environment. 

The training you give and the goals you set for them are going to set a tone for your future relationship. It will set their expectations from your company and over-promising on any deliverables should be avoided at this point.

Onboarding best practices

Few pointers that can help you drive onboarding successfully are:

  1. Gradual adoption of the product: While designing your training module, you must start with the simplest features so that new user gets accustomed to it first. As they get comfortable with those features by trying their hands on it, you must proceed to the more complex features.
  2. Customized touchpoints: For customers chosing the basic plan with limited features, a tech-touch onboarding is enough. That means all the the training through online content with auto-configuration facility of the product. Whereas for the high-profile customer, high-touch onboarding is must where you also hold strategic discussions along with the basic product configuration.
  3. Aim for the minimum Time to First Value: Time to first value is the average time a new customer takes post sales to start getting value from your product. All the product configuration, training and orientation should be done while aiming to reach the stage where customer starts using your product and getting value from it.

#2 Customer Engagement

Once the customer is onboarded and has started using your product, your job is not done. On the contrary it actually starts from this point on with you being a Customer Success Manager. Depending upon the size of your customer base, you can either use a high-touch or low-touch engagement model. 

This is to help them use your product seamlessly and fix any issues they face. You can use automated communication as well but in-person interaction is always more impactful to drive engagement.

#3 Customer Experience

As a CSM, it is your prime responsibility to ensure that customers are having a great experience with your service. Make sure that customers are able to reach the help desk without any frustration. Your availability means a lot to them and you should know whom to reach out for resolving their specific issues. You must resolve any technical issues they face within a least amount of TAT. 

Customer experience is more about the psychological effect customers face while using your product or service. Hence, your product team should design the UI in a simple and comprehensive manner to induce a higher state of mind of a user.

#4 Relationship Management

Relationship management is one of the most important pillars of Customer success. Customers must feel special while doing business with you. Rewarding them occasionally for reaching milestones can prove out to be helpful in cementing your relationship with them. For example, these rewards can be in the form of unlocking enhanced features of your product when they become an year old customer. Wishing them on festivals or even their birthdays could be a few ways showing how much you care for them.

#5 Value Realization of Product

Besides all the great service you provide to your customer, value realization of product lies at the core. They have to be able to earn ROI by using your product and that is possible only when they are deriving value out of it. Your product should reduce their business cost of whatever objective they are using it for. Or it should increase their profit margin by increasing their bandwidth through your product. There can be numerous implications but one thing is for sure – You must help them realize that your product is invaluable to their business.

#6 Using Metrics

To measure your growth or goals in numbers, you should be able to use industry-wide standard metrics. Few of these metrics are Annual or monthly recurring revenue (ARR or MRR), customer lifetime value (CLV), Churn rate etc. Based on these metrics you have to show to your superiors the impact that you are making before and after you joined. Only through these quantifying numbers you can set yearly goals and measure your progress from time to time.

#7 Cross-functional Coordination


Customer Success when seen as a mindset or a philosophy becomes one of the most important pillars of customer success. Hence, it is not just the responsibility of the CS team but the whole organization has to be governed with this mindset. But of course the CS leaders must make sure that every member of the organization imbibes this philosophy. Customer’s success has to be the top priority while designing the product, while marketing or even while making sales. This ensures you have the right set of customer base to serve at every stage of their journey

#8 Customer Retention

Doubtlessly, the end goal of all the strategies used in customer success is customer retention. All your efforts towards customer engagement and nurturing relationships with your customers are directed towards retaining customers for a long time. You have to be proactive in your approach to identify which customers are on the brink of churn. Hence, to prevent churn you need to make sure their pain-points are addressed well before they make the final decision.

Few customer retention strategies

  1. Focus on building trust: Customer relationship takes a long time to nurture. By adding delta value in each of your interactions, try to develop trust in your relationship. To achieve that, you need to be diligent and transparent while serving them.
  2. Proactive engagement: As a CSM you must be adept in anticipating customer’s evolving needs and challenges. And instead of waiting for them to reach out to you, you must approach them proactively for the solutions they would need. This would keep your brand always on top of their minds.
  3. Demonstrate value at every level: Remaining subscribed to your product is a collective decision of many stakeholders at your customer’s organization. All of them must see value in your product from different perspectives. An end user should have a good product experience. A mid-level manager should understand the simplification your product has brought in their workflow. While the top executives must see the business value in terms of ROI. Hence, you need to demonstrate value to all the levels to retain your customer.

#9 Business Expansion

Once you are able to retain customers for a longer period and gain their loyalty, you must approach them for business expansion. According to a research in the book Marketing Metrics, the probability of selling to an existing customer is 60-70%. Hence, when you have sensed that the customer is quite satisfied with your service, you must pitch them for selling higher versions of your product or cross-sell related products. 

Few tips for Upselling

  1. Track usage limits: Before you approach the customer for selling higher versions of the product or advanced plan, you must know their usage patterns clearly. You should be aware of their daily active hours or monthly active hours so that you can gauge how important your product is in their everyday business routine.
  2. Show in-app upsell opportunities: As the customer is using a basic version, there should be advanced features in the app which are locked. Initially the customer would be quite satisfied with the basic plan. But as they mature, their need to use advanced locked feature would arise. That would be the time to upgrade them to a higher plan.
  3. Leverage cross-functional collaboration: All the functions that are interacting with the customer must collaborate to prepare the sales pitch for upgrage. Customer support team should report if the customer ever shows interest, either directly or indirectly, in knowing about the advanced features of the product. Sales team should prepare the highest quality marketing collaterals.

#10 Brand Advocacy

A satisfied customer is the most valuable resource of your organization. Along with the above mentioned opportunities of business expansion, you must also find out there Net Promoter Score (NPS). Through this feedback you can easily gauge how likely they are to recommend your product to others. You can also ask them to leave review comments or testimonials for your website or social media pages. In the world of online marketing, customer reviews are everything.

Final Thoughts

This article consists of just a brief introduction of the pillars of customer success. No doubt, each of these points have a lot of depth in themselves and would need several articles to cover those. Customer success is an evolving science of business growth in the SaaS industry. Hence, there is a lot of scope of innovation and learning in this discipline. If you have more ideas to add from your experience then feel free to leave a comment below.

You might also like:

Get a live demo!

See how SmartKarrot can transform your customer success outcomes.

Take SmartKarrot for a spin

See how SmartKarrot can help you deliver
winning customer outcomes at scale.

Book a Demo