Customer success is not a new concept. Focusing on customer satisfaction after the purchase decision has long been a best practice in the B2B world. In recent years, however, as CRM and other digital tools have advanced and the SaaS industry has boomed, the idea of the customer success strategy has become more formalized.
Today, many businesses have teams and roles within their organization completely dedicated to customer success. They ensure that customers reach their desired outcomes with your product or service. Customer success increases the likelihood that customers will make additional and renewal purchases, builds better relationships, and encourages customers to recommend your company to peers.
As customer success expands across industries and becomes a priority for companies of all sizes, it’s also becoming clear that it doesn’t look the same across the board. It’s important for companies to utilize customer success best practices while ultimately building a strategy that works best for their company.
- A strong definition of what customer success means for your company is the foundation of your customer success strategy.
- It’s important to build buy-in and accountability from your team members by creating a specific action plan and communicating it across your organization.
- Providing valuable customer resources and omnichannel support empowers customers to solve challenges they encounter and increases their satisfaction.
- Collecting current customer feedback is the only way to truly understand how your customer experiences your product or service and provides invaluable insights.
- Tracking your progress with specific, measurable metrics is the key to knowing whether your customer success strategy is working and making key improvements when needed.
Define Customer Success
Historically, customer success has been considered an SaaS industry strategy. However, modern consumer behavior and digital connectivity have made customer success possible (and often necessary) in every kind of industry. This means the way it is implemented often depends on industry and company-specific factors and customer needs.
The takeaway: companies need to define what customer success means specifically to their company. This definition will serve as the foundation for every step to follow in implementing a good customer success strategy.
To define customer success, look closely at your customer journey and consider what your customer is thinking at each step. Ask yourself:
- What is working well? What isn’t?
- What questions or concerns might your customers have at each step that can be proactively addressed?
- What would an ideal customer customer experience look like at this step?
Below are the main stages of the B2B customer journey:
As you can see, the customer journey extends beyond the decision to purchase, and that’s where customer success comes in. The best way to fully answer questions about the ideal customer journey is to actually ask your current customers for feedback (more on that later).
Create an Action Plan
Once you’ve defined customer success for your company, the next step is to create an action plan that ensures your strategy will actually be implemented. Being specific about the who, what, and how of your action plan is extremely important. It’s easy for everyone to get on board with a customer success strategy, but it’s more difficult to maintain accountability.
When you’re creating your customer success action plan, revisit your insights from when you defined customer success. Look at each step individually and decide what actions need to be implemented. For each action, ask:
- Who will be responsible for this action? (This can be defined by position titles or actual names of individuals — whichever makes sense for your company.)
- When will it happen? (i.e. What will trigger this action needing to be completed?)
- How will it be completed? (What are the specific steps that will be taken? What resources are needed?)
Once you have an action plan, make sure it’s communicated effectively to everyone on your team. Make sure your leadership team knows how they’ll hold teams and individuals accountable for the items they’re responsible for on the action plan. Check in periodically with both employees and managers to evaluate how the plan is working and identify adjustments that need to be made.
Educate Your Team
Cultivating a customer-focused culture is essential to implementing your customer success strategy. It takes your whole team — from marketing to sales to onboarding to customer support — to create complete customer experiences. If there are gaps in the system or varied expectations between or among teams, you’ll likely run into execution and accountability challenges down the road.
It’s a good idea to communicate your complete action plan across the organization so that everyone can see it start to finish, even parts they’re not responsible for. Companies should create resources such as product descriptions, FAQs, process guidelines, and other relevant documents to create consistent messaging throughout the entire customer journey.
More and more companies are creating customer success teams. It’s important to recognize that every customer-facing employee can embody the traits of a good customer success manager even when it’s not their official title.
Provide Customer Resources
Did you know that 69% of customers try to solve their own problems before they reach out to customer service from a vendor or service provider? The internet has created the ability for customers to find information on their own without needing to interact with an expert to provide it.
This may seem like a bad thing at first glance. After all, what company wouldn’t want to be sure their customer’s questions and issues were being solved immediately and correctly by a member of their own team?
The good news is that you can still take control of the process by providing strong customer resources that your customer can easily find to help solve their problems. You likely already have some of these in place. Instructions for product use and “help” sections on websites have been common for a long time.
But you can take it a step further by expanding your resources, optimizing their accessibility, and communicating with customers directly about their existence. This way, what a customer may have originally thought of as a problem becomes a question instead — one that they know exactly where to find the answer for.
Here are some useful resources you can provide:
- Product instructions
- Best practices (this can come in the form of general recommendations like a “Tips & Tricks” document or stories like successful customer use cases)
- FAQ documents and webpages
- Community knowledge databases (like social media groups or searchable message boards)
- Contact directories (who to contact for various types of questions)
No matter the resources you provide, there will always be times when customers need or prefer to speak with someone from your organization. In those cases, you want to make sure to have customer support operations in place that make the process easy, convenient, and pleasant.
Provide Omnichannel Customer Support
Omnichannel customer support integrates customer support channels to create a seamless, personalized experience. Different customer scenarios require different types and levels of support, and providing the right support increases the likelihood of customer success. Having an omnichannel support strategy in place empowers customers to utilize the channel most helpful for them and saves time and resources on both sides.
Omnichannel support channels include:
- Online chat
- Customer knowledge base
- SMS texting
- Social media
It’s important not to confuse omnichannel customer support with multichannel support, which often utilizes many channels but doesn’t necessarily integrate them. Omnichannel support means all channels are integrated so that a customer’s support history can be accessed and addressed consistently by any team member across any channel.
Leverage Customer Feedback
You can (and should) think from your customer’s perspective, but you can never actually be your customer. Collecting customer feedback individually and in aggregate can help you truly understand how your customer is experiencing your products and services.
Make the collection of customer feedback a consistent part of your customer success strategy. You can identify anecdotal information and larger trends that help you better understand gaps in your strategy. You’ll also discover best practices you can expand on, and other insights you may never have known otherwise.
Customer feedback can be incorporated into your individual customer interactions or collected en masse through a customer survey or questionnaire.
Measure Your Progress
Remember back in our first step when you defined what customer success means for your company? This definition is just as important at the end of your strategy as it is at the beginning.
Your definition of customer success is only truly valuable if you use it to measure your progress and continually improve where needed. You can do this by aligning your customer success definition with measurable metrics.
These are some core areas where customer success metrics have been measured:
You can see that some of these metrics are based on more straightforward calculations. Others, like your customer health score and product activity score, will depend on how you evaluate your customer journey and how success with your product or service can be defined.
You may not need to calculate all of these metrics, either. Your team and your company can decide what is most important for you to know and what you have the bandwidth to measure and address. It’s often a good idea to start with the metrics you consider most critical to your company and expand as you are able. It’s better to focus well on key areas than try to address all of them partially or in a less specific way.