SaaS organizations are increasingly growing wise to the importance of customer success (CS) programs. Not to be confused with customer experience or customer service, customer success is how businesses conceive of the long-term success of their clients, achieved through direct collaboration with themselves as software providers.
This article outlines how to plan and launch your customer success program.
What Is CS?
CS refers to a new way of thinking regarding how SaaS organizations strive to understand customers and then work directly with them to achieve their goals.
It began with a stark realization: given the nature of their role as software-as-service providers, companies had to align their success with helping customers realize their long-term goals. One key advantage of this is you’re using existing customers to drive business growth.
Essentially, CS is how you help customers achieve the goals they had in mind when they purchased your product or service. Instead of a narrow focus on providing functional products or services, customer success takes a broader view – how can you support your customers in realizing their real-life goals?
For all that businesses which pursue customer success are leaving behind those that don’t, each use case is unique. For some companies, this success might involve a new software rollout. For others, it may mean establishing key metrics to measure desired outcomes moving forward. The question of how your products fit into real lives, how they add value, and how they avoid pain points and frustrations will be different for every customer.
Let’s dive into the keys to planning your customer success program.
1. Ideal Customers
Everything starts with your ideal customers. These are your existing customers, smitten with your product and likely to tell others about it. Identify them – your promoters – by monitoring brand mentions.
To uncover your ideal customers’ needs, desires, pain points, and desired goals, engage them with qualitative surveys that provide a detailed picture of their experiences with your product.
Once you’ve acquired this deep understanding, enlist these ideal customers as vocal brand advocates in spreading the word and helping to sell your product.
2. Build the Right Team
Putting together the right team might mean employing experienced customer success professionals or hiring internally from the salespeople who are already versed in your product and customers.
The pivotal individual in your customer success program will be the customer success manager (CSM), so choose wisely. In a more general sense, let your customer base and intended level of customer engagement dictate your team makeup and structure.
But remember what we said about new thinking? Aim to swap out a sales-focused mindset for a more humanized approach that prioritizes the customer above all. Put the brakes on the drive to upsell for its own sake and reap trust and loyalty by giving honest advice.
3. Structuring for Success
Now it’s time to decide how many customer segments you’ll have. Fundamentally, what are your customers’ goals, and are different resources required for these? As an example, your customer could be mulling over a contact center migration.
This step is the most important because identifying desired outcomes undergirds your ability to add value. Sometimes, customers themselves might be unclear on their goals, so it falls to you to support them in defining the challenges you can solve through strategic dialogue between your customer success team and clients.
4. Must-Have KPIs
Then there’s how you’ll track customer health, engagement, and whether they’re hitting milestones. Since your customer success program is about setting goals and creating accountability, it must be specific, measurable, yet attainable.
Useful KPIs might include:
Customer Lifetime Value (LTV)
Your foundational and most important metric for increasing ROI and sustaining growth is the revenue earned from a single customer across time. Particularly for subscription-based businesses, this is the best predictor of your success.
Cost to Acquire
Having your brand advocates in tow makes acquisition easier and brings more customers to your company in the long run. This metric derives from the cost of everything it takes to get your customer to buy. Crucially, it must be lower than your LTV to ensure business success.
Net Promoter Score
An invaluable number in gauging how well you achieve customer outcomes through measuring how likely they are to recommend you to a friend.
Reducing churn is a must for subscription-based companies since holding onto customers for the duration is vital. Understand what causes churn and take action to prevent it.
All of your customer success efforts will be futile if your data gets lost in silos, so share collected data with relevant teams in sales, customer service, and product development so they can act on it. Use customer experience analytics to make sense of your feedback and use these insights as a starting point in discussions.
Now you’ve done your planning, here are a few further tips on how to inaugurate your CS program.
One Step at a Time
With so many moving parts to pin down to launch your customer success journey, this can leave teams treading water, so just start somewhere while making sure you consistently evaluate your steps as you go.
Tip: Begin by looking at your usage data and working out the best metrics to track to gain insight into customer health.
New CS Program Just Dropped!
One way to maximize buzz and exposure for your CS program is to approach its introduction as if you’re launching a new product or service. Use marketing automation to circulate an awareness email campaign for current customers and introduce prospects to your new program from the off. Splash your campaign across all relevant channels.
Create Internal Excitement
Cultivating a customer-centric mindset within your team is key to the success of your program. Set the stage with all-hands meetings to guide staff through and show them how they’ll play a part in achieving your customer success objectives.
Utilize the Faithful
This one is worth reiterating: speak to your promoters. Explain your customer success program to them, how they’ll benefit, and outline the first steps to get the ball rolling.
A Roadmap for Success
Once you’ve onboarded your customers, create a roadmap of their journey with time-bound milestones that manifest success.
Whether you’ve set up a page on their website to help customers track their progress or built an in-app how-to program, you’re steering them toward their desired outcomes while demonstrating you’re serious about their success.
Much will depend on the size of your customer base and your budget but follow these tips to get up and running and take the first steps on your CS journey.