Customer Success can be defined as an organization’s approach to ensuring their products and/or services can deliver the right business 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 does customer success work?
There’s no shortage of methodologies and business books that cover the topic, but your Customer Success model must have some key elements in place in order for it to deliver results:
- 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 tends to leverage different technology solutions within your organization, in order to empower the right people 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 is crucial here is the ability to empower customer success managers to have a clear and holistic view across the customer journey by consolidating information from all customer touchpoints, so that they can focus on delivering value to their clients, in line with their business outcomes.
Forsta offers a comprehensive Customer Success solution that collects customer feedback data at any touchpoint, through any channel, and integrates it with your own systems in order to deliver true insights on the customer experience, thereby empowering your customer success teams to identify any at-risk customer relationship and drive your clients’ desired business outcomes.
What are the areas to consider in a customer success strategy?
A successful Customer Success Strategy needs to encompass the following key areas in order to deliver true results:
- Ensuring Customer Success is a key part of the overall business strategy within your organization: if it ends up as just another silo, it will fail. 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. Finally, 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 you the organization what’s needed to prioritize actions and drive change.
How to build a customer success plan is different for most organizations. But following customer success best practices and defining how the program aligns to your business goals will be key to its long-term viability.
How to design a customer success team?
Key steps should be followed to ensure your organization can build a powerful Customer Success team:
- 1. Senior leadership buy-in to invest in Customer Success (people and resources)
- 2. Definition of strategy and key objectives of the Customer Success Team
- 3. Definition of how the team will fit within the organizational structure
- 4. Definition of the customer engagement strategy and all relevant processes
- 5. Definition of key success metrics and how to monitor them (real-time dashboards, alerts)
- 6. Hiring the right customer success leader
- 7. Hiring and management of customer success team members
- 8. Definition of the reporting rhythm (usually quarterly) and format
- 9. Driving action in line with CS insights to retain clients and strengthen client relationships
With the right processes and with buy-in at executive level, the Customer Success Team will need to deliver to its original objectives, in line with the overall strategy, and report on the success metrics that have been defined.
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?
First, let’s take the case of the customer service department. Its 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.
When it comes to Account Management, again it comes down to the ultimate goal. Account managers tend to be rewarded based on whether they can renew a contract or sell more products and services. 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.
In short customer success doesn’t replace functions like customer service or account management. However a strategic customer success plan includes these functions as part of the overall engagement strategy.
What is the difference between customer success and customer experience?
According to Forrester, Customer Experience is 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! The Customer Success approach in itself is meant to demonstrate your company’s sustainable proven 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.
Saying that of course 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.
Can customer success reduce churn?
A key factor in customers churning is lack of value (whether real or perceived) that your clients are getting from your products and services. Therefore Customer Success Management, with its mission to prove value at every stage of the customer journey, 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?
Even if you focus simply on reducing churn, then Customer Success has a definite impact on revenue growth. Basically churn erodes your ability to grow your business efficiently, by counterbalancing the revenue you’re getting from new customers. Retaining more customers will therefore help you build more revenue. This might seem basic, but it’s worth reminding to the large proportion of organizations out there still focused primarily on acquisition.
A productive Customer Success Management program delivers more than increased retention though. 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.
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Many feedback programs measure Net Promoter Score movements, but few can reveal the “why” of customer behavior. Forsta’s HX Benchmarks puts performance in context so you can understand what great experiences look like for your customers. Learn more about the human-centered intelligence you need to outperform the market.
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