What Is Customer Success? – 7 Steps to Make It Happen

what is customer success and 7 steps to make it happen

Customer success is one of the main ingredients for improving your customer experience, boosting retention, and fattening your bottom line. Learn the best tactics for creating a success plan that helps your customers and your business thrive.

What does your business want?

To acquire customers? Definitely. To increase your revenue and maximize profits? Oh, yes. To scale your operations and maybe expand into other markets? Ding! Ding! Ding!

What do your customers want? 

It's simple. They want to use your products or services to satisfy short and long-term needs, improve their lives, and accomplish set objectives.

You need your customers to get the things they want so you can realize your own desires. It is at this intersection of wants that customer success resides. 

In this article, we are going to walk you through everything there is to know about customer success, from what you stand to gain from investing in it to the best strategies you can implement to make your customer success program highly effective.

What is customer success? 

Customer success is the process your business uses to help its customers obtain maximum value from your products or services. It's about putting your customers' needs and happiness first, addressing potential problems before they arise, and taking proactive steps to move them closer to their goals.

People are not buying your product or using your service because they have money to throw around. They do so to find solutions to a problem they have.

Investing in customer success means a commitment to providing value to your customers at all times. It's making it easy for them to discover your product and learn how it works, and then standing by to help them work out any kinks they might encounter.

Customer success also requires you to look beyond the moment to understand your customers' larger goals and how you can better optimize your offerings to get them there. 

As long as they are satisfied and well-catered to, they won't see the point in abandoning you for one of your competitors. Instead, they will be more willing to give your business more money and sing your praises to other people so they can become successful as well.

Why should you have a customer success strategy?

When your customer succeeds, so will your business. It's as simple as that. Having a comprehensive customer success plan can help you build an army of loyal customers by ensuring the people who buy from you or use your product are happy and satisfied. 

Happy customers are less likely to churn — leave your business — because they are not experiencing any problems that can make them resent your brand. On the contrary, happy and engaged customers are more likely to spend more and buy more frequently, leading to an increase in customer lifetime value (CLV).

impact of seller actions on likelihood of growing account

Source: Gartner

For businesses using a subscription-based model, customer success can improve renewal rates by continually proving to your customers that your product is valuable and worth sticking with. By prioritizing customers' happiness, you can turn them into advocates and promoters for your brand.

It's like having influencers or running marketing ads that you don't have to pay for. When you combine this word-of-mouth marketing with insights that you generate from your customer success program, you will be able to reduce your customer acquisition costs.

Since you already know what works and what doesn't work for your customers, you will have a better sense of where to pour your sales and marketing efforts into, allowing you to effectively target and win over new customers with ease.

An increase in CLV, customer retention, customer advocacy, and reduction of churn and acquisition costs are all actions that have a direct impact on your bottom line. This means that investing in customer success results in upticks in revenue and profitability for your business.

Customer success metrics SaaS brands should keep an eye on

You may think that you are doing a good job of creating positive experiences, building strong relationships, and providing value for your customers, but that may not necessarily be true. The only way to know how your customers are perceiving your efforts and what you can do to improve is by constantly monitoring your customer success activities.

While there are a host of different metrics you can use to measure the effectiveness of your customer success strategies, we’re going to concentrate on three in this post:

Customer Health Score

This metric allows you to determine whether your relationship with a customer is healthy or at risk as well as the chances of the customer growing, renewing, churning, or staying dormant.

Knowing your customer health scores can help your customer success teams allocate their time and resources to focus on high-value customers or at-risk ones that can be saved or grown.

The process for scoring this metric is subjective. Your company can choose to use percentages, colors (red, yellow, and green), or numbers ranging from 1 to 10 to indicate the health score of a customer.

Similarly, there are various factors you can use to create or judge a customer health score depending on the type of business you're running. These factors include:

  • Number/frequency of logins
  • Amount of time users spend on your website or app
  • How frequently they need support
  • Number of users in a given account that use the product
  • How long their payment has lapsed
  • Number of renewals
  • How many of the product's core features they use
  • Length of customer engagement
  • How the account is growing

Average Lifetime Value

Average Lifetime Value (ALV) also known as Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) refers to the projected amount that your business can expect to earn from the average customer for as long as their relationship with you lasts.

This metric helps you work out the value of your current and future customers so you can make informed sales and marketing decisions. 

To calculate your ALV, start by finding the average annual order value you get from a customer, then multiply that by how long the average customer stays with your brand. Finally, subtract how much it costs to acquire a customer and you will get your ALV.

Let's say a customer brings in $2,000 annually and the average lifetime for a customer is 15 years. When you multiply both you get $30,000.

Assuming your customer acquisition cost is $1500 and you subtract that from $30,000, your ALV would be $28,500.

how to measure average lifetime value - a customer success metric

Net Promoter Score

This metric helps you measure your customer's experience and overall brand perception. It helps you identify which customers are happy, satisfied, loyal, and more likely to promote your business through word-of-mouth.

You can calculate your Net Promoter Score (NPS) by using a 0-10 scale and asking your customers a key question: How likely are you to recommend our product or service?

Their ratings will reflect their satisfaction and loyalty to your brand as follows:

  • Promoters: (9-10) loyal customers who will keep patronizing you and referring others. 
  • Neutrals or Passives: (7-8) satisfied but enthusiastic customers who can be lured by competitors.
  • Detractors: (0-6) unhappy customers who can tarnish your brand and hinder growth through negative word-of-mouth.
improve Net Promoter Score

Source: QuestionPro

To get your Net Promoter Score, subtract the percentage of Detractors from the percentage of Promoters. NPS scores range from -100 to +100 and a good score is anything above zero because it means you have more Promoters than Detractors.

% of Promoters – % of Detractors = NPS

7 steps to build a winning customer success plan

Customer success is not something you just jump into willy-nilly and hope for the best. You have to be intentional with your processes and create a defined customer success framework that will guide you and ensure optimal results.

Are you looking to start investing your resources and time into the success of your customers? These simple and actionable steps will help your business build thriving relationships with the people who buy and use your products.

Define a customer success journey map

A customer success journey map visualizes all of the stages your customers will pass through when interacting with your company and product. It shows their needs, attitudes, problems, and engagement points they might experience as they move from their first interaction to buying your product or service.

Creating a customer success journey map will help you learn where your customers face friction, discover marketing opportunities, and predict customer behavior. Armed with these insights, you can effectively improve your customer experience, increase profits, and proactively reach out to customers at the point where they are likely to upgrade, unsubscribe, churn or encounter issues.

Without proper documentation — a journey map — it will be difficult for you to manage your customer success process efficiently. Your teams won't know when they are supposed to reach out to customers and could end up missing key contact points that could have helped you save, retain, impress, or upsell a customer.

Each department or team may not know what their responsibilities are, who to hand off to when the customer reaches a certain point in their journey, or even how to access the data they need to serve a customer better.

customer success journey map

Source: Custify

So how do you go about creating a customer success map?

Start by:

  • Understanding how your customers define success — How your products or services impact your customers' lives or bottom line.
  • Identifying the stages of the customer lifecycles across each product — Awareness, consideration, conversion, onboarding, retention, loyalty, post-purchase.
  • Building buyer personas — Who are your customers, what do they (not) want,  their pain points, etc.
  • Listing customer touchpoint — Product demos and trials, mobile app login page, website pricing, sales, thank-you pages, etc.
  • Assigning groups to each touchpoint and lifecycles stages — Who is in charge of what?
  • Writing down the necessary steps for any handoffs — What needs to happen before when information or tasks are to be passed from one group to another?
  • Reviewing and updating — Improve! Improve! Improve!

Onboarding

Your customer's onboarding experience can be the difference between them becoming repeat customers and churning at the first chance they get. When they are still getting acquainted with your product, in those first few days, weeks, or months into their journey, it is important that they have a great experience.

You have to help them see the value of your offerings and achieve success quickly so they remain confident in their decision to do business with you. Make sure your account registration and setup process is smooth and effortless.

As they make their way through the onboarding process, use in-app guides and onscreen tips to introduce them to your product's features and benefits. This will help them understand how to take full advantage of each function and make them feel like they are making progress right from day one.

Providing a visible checklist of all the steps they need to take to achieve initial results with your product and a reward for completion can help customers move through the process faster. Reaching out when they seem stuck to understand the roadblocks in their path and offering assistance can also go a long way.

Segmenting customers based on their behaviors, characteristics, definitions of success, or how they move through your product. This will allow you to tailor your onboarding process to focus on their specific needs, deliver the right follow-up content at the right time, and serve them with more effective strategies.

Customer education

Your onboarding process doesn't end after your customers have successfully begun using your product. Your next task is to help them keep unlocking additional value in your products and services for as long as the relationship lasts.

The more information your customer has, the greater the confidence they will have in their purchase, which will lead to increased customer satisfaction and the likelihood of them returning to patronize you in the future.

Your job is to supply that information and offer answers to possible questions before they start asking them. Help them learn about your business and how to leverage your full offerings to achieve even better results. 

Doing this will reduce their reliance on customer support as customers will find it easy to locate information about their issues and resolve them on their own. As such, your support staff will devote their time to difficult and non-repetitive customer complaints and queries.

Another thing to consider is how you will provide your customers with the education they need, not just at the mome, but as your business scales. Will you be offering in-person trainings, virtual workshops, interactive quizzes, one-on-one education sessions, triggered email campaigns, or website support content to help them get the most out of your product?

Nurturing proactively

To help your customers feel cared for and trigger feelings of satisfaction and loyalty throughout their customer lifetime, you must anticipate their needs and challenges. Pay attention to their customers’ health and constantly provide them with valuable information and support before they need it.

Carry out surveys from time to time to find out how they are feeling, what they would like to change, or where they could use some extra help. Monitor the features they use and how they use them, and reach out to them with information on how to optimize their processes and get more out of your products.

Top challenges for customer success professionals 2021

Source: Totango

If considerable time has passed since a customer last logged in, contact them to see if they require assistance. Share useful ideas and resources that help them solve problems they might have, even if it doesn't generate direct revenue for your company.

You can also send regular usage reports—weekly or monthly—to prove to customers that they are deriving value from your products. You want to regularly reach out to your customers to maintain a healthy relationship without coming off as annoying.

Providing support

The secret to a successful customer success framework is ensuring that your users and clients know that they didn't just buy access to a product or service. They are also getting an entire team of engineers, business developers, sales representatives, product managers, and customer success managers committed to helping them achieve their goals.

Your support team should always be ready to answer questions and help customers get past any hiccups they might have. They need to have deep knowledge of your products and features and the ability to explain complicated subjects to customers in simple language.

Use a ticketing system to keep customers — and your support teams — updated on the status of their complaints. This way, they won't feel like they are stuck in an endless wait with no idea when their issues will be resolved.

Customers expect you to respond to their queries right away, so don't take your sweet time getting back to them. Provide a mix of self-service (knowledge base content), reactive (email tickets, social media messages, etc.), and proactive (chatbots, phone calls, etc.) support options so customers have different avenues to seek redress.

Tagging all your customer interactions—e.g. “billing issue,” “bug report,” “feature request” — is a great way to organize and analyze communications, so your team knows which ones to prioritize and which to put on the back burner.

Mitigating churn risks

If customer retention is the superhero saving your business time and time again, churn is the supervillain it always has to fight and save you from. Your customer churn rate is what you get when you divide the number of customers that left your business during the month by the number of customers you had at the beginning of the month.

If your product has different prices, revenue churn is a better yardstick for measuring how much your business is losing. Revenue churn follows the same formula: revenue lost during the month divided by revenue at the start of the month.

how to calculate revenue churns for customer success

Your customer or revenue churn rate can differ between your company staying profiting or shutting down operations permanently. This is why you must do everything in your power to reduce it, and the only way to achieve that is by knowing why customers leave you.

top goals of customer success teams 2020

Source: Totango

Okay. That sounds good. But how can you find out the reason your customers are saying goodbye? Here are some ideas:

  • Make sure you are targeting the right customers from the get-go.
  • Conduct exit interviews with customers who want to close their accounts.
  • Analyze your support tickets to discover the most common complaints or requests.
  • Carry out user testing with people who have never used your product and listen to their feedback. 
  • Use NPS surveys and health scores to identify at-risk accounts and engage them while there is still time.
  • Analyze individual user behavior, as well as the behaviors of loyal customers and customers who churn to identify similarities.
  • Ask your employees why they think people are leaving.
  • Monitor what people are saying on your blog, social media, review sites, etc.
  • Talk to your loyal, high-value customers to see why they keep choosing you and what's still missing from their experience.

Gather the insights and feedback you generate and use them to refine and plug the holes in your product, user experience, and customer success approach.

Reversing negative customer experiences

Unless the negative experience is severe or has caused significant harm to the customer, you have an opportunity to smooth things over, rebuild their trust in your boost, and turn them into loyal customers.

Bad experiences are more often about how they made the customer feel rather than the problem itself. How quickly and effectively you address their concerns will make the customer decide whether to forgive the experience and keep doing business with you or cut off all ties to your company.

Don't even think about ignoring customer complaints. It's only going to worsen their perception of you and lead to more criticism. Instead, empathize with them and respond thoughtfully to show that you are listening and ready to assist.

When you receive a serious complaint, quickly reach out to those customers, apologize profusely, and let them know you are taking immediate action to fix the issue. Go a step further and reach out to them afterward to make sure they are satisfied with the solution. You can even offer them a bonus, discount, or gift to make up for the inconvenience and renew their happiness with your brand.

MediaBerry‘s customer success best practices you can adopt

Our customer success strategy is the glue holding everything we do at Mediaberry together. It's how we get to know what our clients want or need, the challenges or questions they have, and how our product can empower them to reach their goals. 

The following are some of the best practices that we have used to shape our customer experiences and help set our clients up for success. Most of these practices are company-neutral, which means you can make them a part of your customer success strategy regardless of the type of business you are running.

Send clients monthly reports of our service

Customers want to see the value that they are getting from using your products or service. They need to know that progress is being made because that is the only way they can justify continuing to do business with you.

Sending reports monthly allows you to keep proving to clients that your product is yielding positive results for them. It will make it easier for them to visualize how they are benefitting from your products.

You can email them their reports at the end of every month. If you have a web or mobile app, you can add a reports section to their account dashboards and send pop-up notifications to remind them to view their reports whenever a new one is published.

Address clients’ personalized needs

No matter how many characteristics they have in common, no two customers are exactly alike. None of them want to be treated like a number rather than a person. They want to feel known, recognized, respected, and cared for.

When new customers or clients tell you what they are hoping to accomplish with your product or service, pay attention to them. Offer them content, product suggestions, and relevant offers that demonstrate that you understand their needs and are dedicated to helping them get the most out of the relationship.

actionable customer intelligence

Source: SmartKarrot

Focus on providing value and find ways to add a personal touch to every interaction. Every time your client engages with your brand or reaches out to your customer success team, they should be able to pick up from their last interaction without having to submit their customer information all over again.

Joining calls for discussion

Always keep an eye on your customers, especially at the start of their journey. Make sure that they are on the right track and doing the needs they need to achieve success with your products.

If a customer seems stuck or confused, reach out to them and offer support. You can even schedule calls with each customer once a month or every few months to check in with them and find out what they think about your service so far.

There may be some extra effort they need you to make or a way that you can increase their satisfaction, but you won't know unless you ask. Although individual check-in calls might be difficult to maintain as you scale, your customers can benefit from just knowing that they can always pick up the phone and you will be there to answer any questions.

Proactively forecast client needs to give the right offer and avoid confusion

At Mediaberry, we don't fold our hands and wait for customers to tell us their every need so we can act on them. We anticipate their needs before they arise to help them get ahead faster. 

Having a strong customer success framework means knowing your customers very well and using that knowledge to design solutions from which they can derive value. Think about the kind of content or support that your customers might benefit from at different points in their journey based on their goals and personas, then present it to them when they get to those points.

Your job is to make sure that your customers never have to wonder what they are supposed to do next or how to get the most of your product. This knowledge should be readily available or waiting for them when they need it.

Onboard like it’s your first date

When you go on a first date, what do you do? You spend the entire time getting to know each other, asking the other person questions to find out what matters to them and what they hope to get out of the relationship. 

Every information you exchange is meant to strengthen your connection and get them to a point where they see that you can add value to their lives. That's the same way you should treat your onboarding process.

impact of customer onboarding

Source: Precursive

Present your product in a way that will help you create the impression you want your customer to have of you. Kick off the process with a welcome message and steer them towards features that will be most relevant to them.

As with first dates, save some things for later. Trying to shove all your product features in your customers' faces right away will only overwhelm and make them withdraw. Finally, reach out after they complete their onboarding journey to find out how they felt about the process.

Upsell through inspiration

An easy way to grow your revenue without necessarily acquiring new customers is by selling additional products and services to your existing customers. Yes, trying to get your customers to buy more than they initially budgeted for can seem daunting, but it gets a lot easier when you use the right approach.

The first thing to do is identify customers that are suitable candies for upselling. Next, make your full products, services, and features visible to them. They should know that there are more benefits that they can enjoy before you even try to sell it to them.

You can entice customers to upgrade their plans, buy a new product, or start using another of your services by offering discounts or free trial periods so they can see what they stand to gain for themselves.

Finally, make the ask. You miss 100% of the upsells you don't ask for. So if you think a customer can benefit from a bigger or different offering, don't be afraid to suggest it and explain how it can help them further their goals.

Pick the right communication channels

Regardless of what your business is selling, your customers or clients will need to contact you at some point. Whether it's to report a bug, suggest new product features, or ask questions about your product, there must be a way for them to reach you when the need arises.

communication channels

Source: Statista

There are many different channels for communication that you can leverage including email, chatbot, phone, forums, live chat, forms, help center, and social media platforms. However, the ideal options for your customers and business will depend on your customer's needs, preferences, tech-savviness, and speed expectations.

You also need to take your available resources and the opportunities for personalization that each channel offers into consideration when selecting suitable customer support mediums for your company.

Remember the rules of conversation

Just because you are a business doesn't mean you have to talk to your customers like a robot. Approach each interaction like a conversation with a friend or family member. 

Listen attentively when they speak and ask questions to make sure you have a clear understanding of what they want. Try to maintain professionalism at all times; even if the customer is wrong, it is never okay for you to be disrespectful or rude.

Match your tone and language to the customer you are speaking to at the time. This will help them feel more at ease to express themselves better.

Before proceeding with the conversation, find out how the customer is doing, what phase of the customer journey they are in, and how long they have been using your product. Don't be afraid to make small talk before you get down to business.

Keep in mind: not all customers are equal

Some customers will mean more to your business than others, and it's important to prioritize them in your customer communications, experiences, and support.

If you are running a subscription-based business and offering a freemium plan, you don't have to dedicate your core support resources to these customers. This is not to say that you should ignore them completely. You can allow users of your free plan to reach out to you with questions, complaints, or suggestions via a contact form or email address.

More valuable touchpoints like phone support, live chat, and dedicated account managers should be reserved for higher-value clients or your ideal target market. Ensure these customers get the fastest responses, and their issues are first in line when fixes need to be made.

Make use of customer success software

Unless your business only has a handful of customers, you can't build your entire customer success plan, implement strategies, and manage communications with all your customers on your own.

You need to leverage customer success tools to take repetitive tasks off the hands of your support team, allowing them to focus on more important and rewarding activities.

technology used by customer success teams

Source: Totango

Customer success software like Totango, Gainsight, and SmartKarrot help you aggregate all the customer information you gather and monitor each customer's progress. They can also generate insights so you see which of your strategies are paying off and which areas require improvement.

With the right tools, you can streamline your customer success processes and unlock a host of new capabilities that will enable you to provide the best proactive support and the best possible experiences for your clients. 

Be people-centered

Practicing people-centric customer success begins with mapping the key paths that customers must follow from their first interaction to the point where they achieve their desired results. Ensure your customer success strategies meet their needs every step of the way. 

Pay less attention to the product and more to how people are adopting it. When you figure out why your users are behaving the way they do, you can come up with ideas on how to modify their behaviors and drive them to take the actions you want.

Arm your customer success teams with the essential training and tools to provide efficient support and positive experiences and properly educate your customers on ways to achieve maximum results with your products and services.

Take feedback seriously

Don't just collect feedback to fulfill all righteousness. Listen to what your customers say and use the data to determine how your customer success efforts are faring across the customer journey.

If you are paying attention, your customer feedback can tell you what your clients think about your products and how easy or difficult it is for them to use. You will also understand why some customers leave and others stay and what you can do to prevent churn while raising satisfaction levels.

When customers feel heard or see their feedback being implemented, it will prompt them to become more loyal because their involvement in helping to shape your product roadmap will strengthen their emotional connection to your brand.

Build deeper relationships and grow your revenue

Customer success is not built in a day, nor is it a bandaid for covering up the issues with your product or customer experience. It's an ongoing process that requires you to think critically about your customers' needs and goals and devise value-packed solutions to address them.

You don't have to piece together your customer success plan or apply these strategies all at once. You can go slow, take it one actionable step at a time, measure your efforts, and improve as you go.

Remember, little drops of water make the mighty ocean.

Frequently Asked Questions

Michael Rarick is the CEO and Director of Sales at MediaBerry. His mission is to help SaaS companies grow their market share through white hat, relationship-based SEO. Connect with Michael below!

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