Customer Success.

What Is Customer Success? A Guide to the Essentials.

Customer Success Definition

Customer success is a long-term, proactive strategy typically used by business-to-business tech companies to holistically meet client needs. By establishing authentic relationships and offering support with products, customer success professionals play a part in helping clients achieve their organizational goals.

What is Customer Success?
Why is Customer Success Important?
Customer Success Tools
Customer Success Roles
What is Customer Success?


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Customer success means so much more than simply making sure clients have had their contracts fulfilled. It is a combination of professional services, support services, marketing and sales — all to ensure that the product the client bought from you helps facilitate long-term business growth. 

Adopted in large part by customer success representatives in the SaaS industry, proven customer success strategies communicate care and authenticity to clients, allowing representatives to become a resource for finding solutions to a variety of business challenges.


Customer Success vs. Customer Service

While both are committed to solving client challenges, there are many differences between customer success and customer service. Whereas customer success is a series of proactive measures taken to ensure customer satisfaction, customer service is more reactive and focused on solving immediate client challenges in real-time. 

Customer success teams look at the entire customer lifecycle to reduce bottlenecks and onboarding issues, allowing customers to meaningfully accomplish goals, while customer service teams are largely limited to solving technical and usage issues. 

Customer success representatives also commit themselves to establishing a relationship and becoming a point-of-contact for their customers. Most customer support specialists are limited to single interactions with a customer, and as a result, often lack the context to fully understand the nuance behind the present challenge. Focusing on customer success over customer support allows companies to deliver better care to customers both in the short and long-term, strengthening the value of the products being provided.


What Is a Customer Success Strategy?

A customer success strategy is the game plan an organization lays out for deliberately engaging and supporting customers at every stage of the customer lifecycle. This strategy should ensure customers get the most out of a company’s products or services so that they’re able to accomplish their goals. 

Developing an effective customer success strategy often involves collaborating across an organization and being proactive about cultivating a meaningful customer experience that starts even before a company’s initial contact with a potential client. 

The steps for building and communicating a customer success strategy can include the following:

  • Identifying the stakeholders who need to be involved.
  • Establishing metrics for measuring progress.
  • Pinpointing what customers’ needs are and how to fulfill them.
  • Determining which software and applications will best serve the strategy.
  • Finding opportunities to personalize the customer experience.
  • Providing education about what value products and services offer to customers.

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Why is Customer Success Important?

Creating and maintaining a successful customer success strategy is vital for tech companies that want to keep clients satisfied with their product or service — and eager to renew contracts. By investing in long-term customer goals, customer success representatives create tangible reasons for clients to stick with a product, even if the solutions provided take time to pay off. This can lead to a  reduction in churn year over year and simplify the renewal process for all customers.


Benefits of Customer Success

Investing time and effort in developing and carrying out a customer success strategy can yield several benefits. Research by Salesforce showed close to 90 percent of customers consider an organization’s customer experience to be just as important as their products and services. Proactively working to develop client relationships and guarantee their experience is meaningful and supportive has the potential to reduce churn and improve customer retention


Reducing Customer Churn

Customer churn is essentially the term for when a business loses customers. Companies often use churn rate, which tells them what portion of their customers have stopped doing business with them, as one of the metrics for understanding how well a business is performing. While there’s no way to halt customer churn altogether, outlining a customer success strategy can put the tools in place for combatting churn rates that are particularly high or maintaining already-healthy levels of customer churn. This can involve data analytics to gain insight on why customers decide to switch companies. It may also require offering incentives to sweeten the deal or pointing out what sets a brand apart from the competition.


Improving Customer Retention

While many organizations invest in targeting and connecting with new customers, making an effort to hang on to existing customers can be just as important. 

For example, creating a positive customer experience can increase the likelihood that current clients will leave favorable reviews and recommend products and services to others. Customer success teams can play an important role in retaining clients by employing methods to keep customers coming back for more. That may mean using analytics to identify customers that are at risk of leaving and intervening as needed or proactively looking for ways to personalize a customer’s individual experience that make the relationship more authentic.

Customer Success Tools

Customer Success Tools and Software

There are lots of tools and software that can help customer success teams improve their operations. ChurnZero’s customer success platform, for example, provides health scores that offer insight into each customer’s overall satisfaction and renewal likelihood. There’s also Totango, which allows users to build the customer journey by choosing from templates for functions like managing contract renewals or detecting risk, and the company’s platform can integrate with other popular customer success tools and software.

Making use of powerful automation tools and services, like Hubspot and Salesforce, allows customer success managers to continuously boost their value proposition, increasing account retention rate while lowering churn. Some features to consider when choosing customer success software include:

  • Can the product be used to build customer profiles for streamlined identification and documentation?
  • Is the platform able to store customer data, history and feedback like team interactions, survey results and tickets logged?
  • Does the software provide analytics and metrics on customer success scores and account history?
  • Are automation tools for accomplishing repetitive tasks included so CSMs can focus directly on client needs?
  • How powerful are its predictive metrics for analyzing customer growth potential based on interactions, payments, products used and inquiries?
  • Does this product offer exceptional scalability?
Customer Success Roles

Customer success managers, or CSMs, are instrumental to the success of not only their team but the entire business — and their customers’ businesses too. By acting as a point of contact for customers, CSMs lead the way in everything from customer onboarding and product adoption to renewals while performing periodic health checks to ensure customers are at peak satisfaction. 

Customer Success KPIs

  • Portfolio growth
  • Account retention rate
  • Churn rate
  • Referrals
  • Increase in product adoption
  • Decrease in number of support tickets
  • Maintain high account health percentage

This framework paves the way for account escalations, renewals and upsells, acting as a natural process of providing customers with value while ensuring team members are fulfilling core KPIs.

CSMs are also vital to communicating client needs to other teams within their own organization. There is no better source for meaningful business insights than the clients who interact with products and services on a daily basis and possess first-hand user experience. By establishing comfortable, authentic relationships with clients, CSMs are able to receive quick and actionable feedback and communicate it to leadership, development, sales, and marketing, leading to better customer experiences at scale.

Above all, customer service managers are advocates for their clients, helping them reach their goals and desired outcomes.


Customer Success Manager Skills

Sought after skills for a customer success manager typically include exceptional communication and relationship building, knowledge of customer onboarding best practices and understanding of how to communicate a product’s value. Developing trust-building soft skills helps a CSM work well with others both internally and externally so that they’re capable collaborators within their organization and top notch when it comes to developing a rapport with customers. Being proactive in engaging customers and practicing empathy when listening to and determining how to solve customer issues are also important traits for customer success managers.

In the customer success field, the majority of employees say they work closely with product and sales teams, according to a 2021 report from Customer Success Collective. That survey also revealed customer onboarding is the top priority for customer success representatives, but other critical components of their work include customer engagement, churn management and analyzing customer data.

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