What is the Definition of Customer Success?

Customer Success is defined as an organization’s approach to ensuring their products and/or services can deliver the right outcomes for their customers.

Why is Customer Success Important?

Your customers are more than ever able - and willing - to switch vendors at the drop of a hat, or the mere suggestion they’re not getting great value. The methodologies behind customer success are gaining more momentum as companies increasingly focus on ensuring customers use products and get value from them. Think of how many apps get purchased, downloaded but never actually used… For B2B organizations, this can represent millions in revenue that’s about to go out the window – because they’ve not checked how their products are used, and if they deliver the value their customers expected.

Every organization is looking to improve customer retention and CLV (Customer Lifetime Value), but they sometimes lose sight of the fact that this goal can only be achieved if the customer sees value and agrees your product or service is helping them achieve the goal they had in mind when they made the initial purchase. Only then will they stay or renew, buy more, and maybe even recommend others.

What is the Definition of Customer Success Management?

Customer Success Management is a combination of all the processes an organization has in place to strengthen the relationship it has with its customers in order to reduce churn, improve share of wallet, and even drive new revenue.

How Do You Make a Customer Success Model Work?

While each approach may vary, an effective Customer Success model must have the following elements in place:

  • A defined and clear customer engagement strategy, including the right processes and technology to underpin this engagement

  • A dedication to hire the right team members (often called CSM’s - Customer Success Managers), committed to delivering success for their customers first and foremost

  • A culture of empowerment within an organization with access to the right information, in real time, including customer feedback and financial history

What Technology Can Be Used for a Customer Success Management Program?

A successful Customer Success Management program should leverage different technology solutions within your organization, to enable the right people with the means to nurture a relationship with their clients based on trust, credibility and a clear understanding of the goals they’ve put in place to define business success.

Such technology solutions usually include:

  • CRM system

  • Voice of the Customer solution

  • Marketing automation

What Are the Focus Areas to Consider in a Customer Success Strategy?

A successful Customer Success Strategy needs to encompass the following in order to deliver true results:

  • Ensuring Customer Success is a key part of the overall business strategy within your organization and not just an independent silo. A Customer Success team should be your clients’ ambassadors as part of a wider effort to drive customer-centric culture across all departments: sales, product management, marketing, finance, HR, etc. With the right processes in place, Customer Success is a great way to distil down all your customers’ feedback and behavior into improvements to prioritize, not just for the CSM’s but for the entire organization.

  • Keeping the customer at the heart of everything you do: this means understanding how you can really help them achieve their goals, and demonstrating value throughout the customer lifecycle. Although it’s important to understand key milestones like implementation or renewal, an effective Customer Success program should contain a proactive strategic customer engagement strategy that lets you keep in touch with your clients

  • Defining metrics that enable you to evaluate accurately the health of your customer relationships. To measure Customer Success we often look at renewal rates, up-selling opportunities, etc. But actually metrics like the Net Promoter Score (NPS)®, Customer Effort Score® or Overall Customer Satisfaction are also crucial. 

  • Knowing how your customers use your product at a granular level and what feedback they’ve given you along the way (through surveys, emails, social media…), that information will really give your organization what’s needed to prioritize actions and drive change.

How to Design a Customer Success Team?

Building a customer success team should proceed as followed:

  1. Senior leadership buying-in to invest in Customer Success (people and resources)

  2. Defining the strategy and key objectives of the Customer Success Team

  3. Defining how the team will fit within the organizational structure

  4. Defining the customer engagement strategy and all relevant processes

  5. Defining the key success metrics and how to monitor them

  6. Hiring the right customer success leader

  7. Hiring and managing customer success team members

  8. Defining the reporting rhythm and format

  9. Driving action in line with CS insights to retain clients and strengthen client relationships

Customer Success Questions

Can Customer Success Apply for Every Business?

The approach behind Customer Success, and its mission to achieve your customers’ goals in order to achieve your own, fits most industries, across all regions. But Customer Success Management as a practice has been developed to respond more specifically to the needs of B2B organizations, in particular those that operate on a subscription-based model (e.g. SaaS software vendors).

What is the Difference between Customer Success, Customer Service and Account Management?

With customer service, the goal tends to be centered around customer satisfaction, and therefore its role should be defined within a wider relationship-focused Customer Success program. But remember the critical goal of Customer Success goes far beyond satisfaction or customer need – it’s about achieving business outcomes for the client.

Account Management, more specifically account managers, focus heavily on creating new contracts and/or selling more products and services because this is how they are rewarded within the business. While Customer Success programs deliver these benefits, CSM’s (customer success managers) keep a laser focus on the customer’s business outcomes, not those of their own organizations.

Customer success includes all these functions, and more, as part of the overall engagement strategy.

What is the Difference between Customer Success and Customer Experience?

According to Forrester, Customer Experience is defined as how customers perceive their interactions with your company. A CX program seeks to understand and measure these interactions and improve them, in order to drive better business decisions and outcomes for the organization. Customer success is very much aligned with this goal, and CSM’s play a key role in improving CX across all customer touchpoints.

Historically customer experience has been viewed as more strategic than customer success, seeking to improve the overall perception of a brand or an interaction. Customer success was until fairly recently confined to a more tactical, product-oriented role within CX. But it has gained credibility when it comes to delivering real customer value and offers in many cases a more pragmatic road to improved customer experience for organizations struggling to infuse a customer-centric culture across all teams.

What is the Difference between Customer Success and Customer Support?

The main difference here is that customer support is a reactive process, responding to clients as they report issues and solving them, usually at a specific point of engagement. Customer success should be built as a proactive process, seeking to show value to customers throughout their lifecycle.

In some organizations customer support sits under customer success. Clearly, solving customer issues is a critical part of delivering value, but customer success goes far beyond, and is measured by how the organization delivers against the client’s desired business outcomes.

What Metrics Can Be Used for Customer Success?

We define Customer Success as an organization’s approach to ensuring their products and/or services can deliver the right business outcomes for their customers. As such, there are a number of metrics used to evaluate the performance of the Customer Success team, and key success factors:

  1. Customer Satisfaction / Loyalty: whether it’s NPS, Customer Effort, CSAT… this type of metric will give the CSM an understanding of the health of the relationship with his/her clients. Some critical touchpoints need to be included here, for example on-boarding, implementation, support call, renewal…

  2. Usage metrics: this has to be defined in line with your individual products, but an example is the number of user sessions per day, or how often decision makers access live dashboards. These metrics may pinpoint problems, at a specific customer interaction for example, that are preventing customers from achieving their goals

  3. Renewal rate and/or customer churn: a key metric around an organization’s ability to prove value is whether the client has indeed renewed

  4. Customer support issue resolution rate: how fast you respond to your clients’ issues is no doubt connected to the value they place in their relationship with your organization

Specific revenue metrics, like up/cross selling revenue, or share of wallet, will also be useful there.

In addition, an ROI model built specifically for your products/services can also really help your clients measure the value they’re receiving from your products and services and will help them justify renewing and investing further with your organization.

Can Customer Success Improve the Renewal Process?

Absolutely! Through Customer Success you demonstrate your company’s value to your clients throughout their relationship with you, thereby making the renewal process merely a formality. With a well-defined customer engagement strategy, the commitment to constantly strive to deliver in line with clients’ desired outcomes, a culture of vigilance for anything that might jeopardize those outcomes (regardless of silos), the conversation around renewals tends not to uncover many surprises.

That being said, there will be factors you have no control over: budget cuts, M&A situation, your competitors’ efforts to acquire your clients (and their own way of promising value), etc. But a Customer Success Management program will undoubtedly increase your chances of staying a head of the curve.

Can Customer Success Reduce Churn?

At its core, Customer Success is designed to address the main reason for which customers leave, which is perceived value. Since the missions of CS and CS management is to prove value at every stage of the customer journey, this strategy is primarily driven by the need to reduce churn.

It has been said that the cost of acquiring a new customer can be 6 or 7 times higher than the cost of retaining an existing one. This figure varies between industries, regions, etc. so we’ll take it with a grain of salt. But it is common sense that a focus on reducing customers churning (particularly high-value customers) will have an impact on overall revenue, regardless of the specific Customer Success Methodology you’ve chosen.

Does Customer Success Drive Revenue Growth?

As mentioned previously, customer success drives revenue growth as a byproduct of its ability to reduce customer churn and increase retention. Although, a productive Customer Success Management program delivers more than increased retention. By focusing on customer-centric measurement of value and ROI, it impacts revenue positively in other ways, for example by:

  • Fostering customer advocacy and positive word of mouth

  • Generating referral-based leads for the business (which usually boast a higher conversion rate)

  • Demonstrating the ability to pinpoint opportunities for up/cross selling new products and services, or increasing usage

  • Amplifying the voice of the marketing organization through case studies, PR, etc.

What Should a Best in Class Customer Success Solution Look Like?

The right Customer Success Management solution should empower the organizations to evaluate and measure different customer-centric insights and metrics in a single place. Since customer information is usually held in various systems, like CRM, Voice of the Customer, Support, etc., the right Customer Success platform will have an open infrastructure that will enable you to pull the right data, at the right time, in the right format to deliver action-driven insights to the organization.