Customer Success: What It Is and Why Your Business Needs It
Happy, indifferent, and crying faces, representing customer success
Customer Success: What It Is and Why Your Business Needs It
Happy, indifferent, and crying faces, representing customer success

Customer Success: What It Is and Why Your Business Needs It

“Customer success” certainly sounds like a no-brainer. After all, everyone wants to see their customers succeed! 

But in a business context, what does this mean exactly? How can you create exceptional outcomes for users, so they love your product or service and continue to use it? 

Let’s define customer success and explain why it’s essential to your business. You’ll also learn what a customer success manager is, what their team does, and what tools, techniques, and strategies they use. Let’s get started! 

What is Customer Success? 

Customers running into problems isn’t a sign of failure. In reality, it’s inevitable, especially with technology products that customers use on an ongoing basis, like software as a service (SaaS) products. 

Customer success is all about understanding those challenges and taking proactive steps to address them. You are, quite literally, setting your customers up for success! 

When they get great results from your product, customers are likely to use it for longer and spend more on it. The positive impacts of customer success on your business are:

  • Lower customer churn
  • Lower acquisition costs
  • Increased sales and revenue
  • Greater loyalty and retention 

Typically, companies who take customer success seriously will manage it with a dedicated team, as part of a holistic customer relationship management strategy. Customer success teams and managers use their product knowledge, as well as customer data, to help every single user get the exceptional results they’re looking for. 

Why does customer success matter?  

Attracting new customers is expensive. It costs much more to gain a new customer than to keep one you already have.

That’s why helping your customers be successful is so important. It’s a powerful way to increase customer lifetime value and build long-term, stable relationships — and revenue — based on consistently delivering value. 

It’s critical to make sure customers know your company is there for them as they tackle those challenges, and that you’re ready to provide the knowledge and resources to do so. 

That takes actively staying in touch with customers, not waiting around for problems to pop up. In fact, for each customer that does reach out for support, an estimated 26 more won’t bother — they’ll just stop using your service entirely. 

Customer success and customer support — what’s the difference? 

They both have a similar goal — helping users get the most from your product or service. But, they approach that goal slightly differently! 

Customer support exists to help users deal with issues that have already occurred. For example, if your project-management tool’s chat function stopped working, you’d reach out to the support team, who would start a ticket and escalate the issue until it was resolved. 

Customer success, on the other hand, is more proactive. To continue the above example, as after onboarding with your new project management tool, you might receive a video tutorial or knowledge database. That might explain how to best use the chat function, and offer troubleshooting tips for when you do, eventually, run into problems. 

The building blocks of customer success

Helping your customers succeed sounds like a great idea. But how exactly do we make it happen? Well, like so much else in our digital-first world, it takes technology,  people, and solid strategy.

Customer success strategy

There are many different ways to set customers up for success, depending on a company’s size, product niche, audience, and goals. 

For example, some organizations might take a highly personal, one-on-one approach, assigning each user a dedicated representative and staying in touch with regular voice or video calls. Another might refer customers to a stored library of resources, like downloadable guides and video tutorials. 

Effective customer success strategy should be centered around the customers’ ultimate goals. Why are they using your product? How can your success strategy help them address those needs more effectively? 

Customer success tools

Unless you’re working at a very small family-run business, you’ll need software to realize your customer success goals. 

Customer success software, like ChurnZero, Gainsight, and Hubspot Service Hub, integrates with the customer relationship management (CRM) tool your organization is already using. 

These solutions collect data on how customers are using the product and allow teams to help customers and resolve issues in one centralized place. They can even report on the status of your relationship with each customer, and how likely they are to keep using your service. 

Customer success managers and teams

No matter how powerful your customer success software solution is, it takes a dedicated team to realize the outcomes your users deserve. These team members will be the touchpoints through which your customers experience your success strategy, applying your resources to their real-life challenges and needs so they get the most from your product. 

Depending on the size of your company and the complexity of your product, you might have many customer success representatives, who interact with customers overseen by customer success managers. Or, on smaller teams, managers might handle most execution themselves. 

The customer success process

This process can vary widely between companies. But regardless of the specifics, customer success managers and their teams always help customers get started with their product, educate them on an ongoing basis, and use their findings to improve how they do business. 

Onboarding

This phase of customer success focuses on new users and making sure they’re equipped to get value as soon as they start using the product. At this stage, a customer success strategy could help anticipate common problems or focus on explaining any parts of the product that come with a higher learning curve. 

Assistance and education

Unlike customer support, which reacts to problems as they occur, customer success functions as a continuous process and ongoing relationship. The team stays in touch with users, both addressing issues and providing educational resources relevant to how each client is actually using the product. 

Reporting and product feedback

Customer success teams and managers generate a lot of information about how customers use their products — both which areas prove the most valuable, and where common problem areas lie. 

Data-driven, forward-thinking companies don’t let those insights languish within the customer support and success departments. Insights about customer usage, performance, and outcomes can be incredibly valuable for product and user experience teams dedicated to improving the product. They could also be shared with marketing teams, for example, to offer rewards and discounts to boost customer loyalty. Finally, this kind of user data can be invaluable to upper management and leadership, to help guide strategic direction. 

Set up for success

Customer success is a simple, logical concept. If a business’s customers succeed, it makes sense that the business will, too. It’s all about accepting that your customers will face struggles and challenges, and making sure they have what they need to get past them. In today’s digital-first world, nearly every interaction customers have with your brand, product, and team can be quantified. Success-oriented companies can leverage that data to help customers in a more personalized, useful way than ever before.