To the Customer Success Advisor Knowledge Base. Our guide to the world of everything customer success.

What is Customer Success?

A guide to customer success

Customer success is the proactive strategy of creating the best customer experience possible. The goal of customer success is to improve client retention, engagement, and loyalty to increase revenues. It involves educating the customer, ensuring they are gaining value, quantifying and tracking their experience, mitigating challenges and risks, and identifying opportunities for growth.

what is customer success

Customer success is important in a business because it:

  • Improves the customer experience
  • Reduces churn rate
  • Increases customer loyalty
  • Improves opportunities for upsells or sequential purchases
  • Increases strength of influencer and referral marketing
  • Increases annual net dollar retention

When successful, a good customer success strategy can increase revenues and profits by improving customer retention, increasing margins through upsells and add-ons, and bringing aboard new clients that require less marketing and sales spend.

Elements of Customer Success

Customer success is multi-faceted, engaging multiple pedagogies of business and interacting in most stages of the customer experience. While customer success teams often engage directly with clients, they are also working hard behind the scenes to track customer experiences, proactively resolve challenges in customer experiences, and to identify opportunities to grow relationships between clients and the company.

  1. Onboarding

Onboarding is a big part of customer success. The onboarding experience has a significant impact on the customer’s first perceptions of your product or service. It’s also crucial in determining whether a customer will have the knowledge and interest to use your product or service to its full potential.

The better your customer’s onboarding experience and the more effectively they can use your products and services, the higher chance you will have at increasing customer loyalty and engagement.

  1. Customer Enablement

Onboarding should not be the only time your customer success team helps to improve how your client engages with your product or service. Customer enablement means helping the customer get the most value out of your product or service possible at all times. This can include introducing new features, helping upgrade outdated functions, and more.

  1. Identifying & Mitigating Churn Risk

One of the long-term goals of customer success is to identify and mitigate churn risk. This begins in the early stages when customer enablement and education help to communicate and reiterate the value of your product or service. It is also done by identifying overall as well as individual challenges and roadblocks and helping to resolve them before they become a problem. Additionally, a customer success team will often use customer success platforms and tools to identify individual customers who are at risk of canceling or defecting.

  1. Identifying Growth Opportunities

The goal of customer success is to create enthusiastic fans of your company, not just to reduce churn, but also to increase opportunities associated with happy customers. This means identifying clients who have a high likelihood of success with add-ons or upsells, as well as those who have a high potential for referral marketing opportunities and acting as references for new potential customers.

what is customer success strategy

What are the KPIs of Customer Success?

Customer success experts often consider the following KPIs:

  1. Health Score: Customer health scores are often the most talked-about KPIs in customer success. This is an aggregate score of your customer’s experience. This score is most accurate when it is based multiple things such as depth of usage of your product or service, level of engagement between customers and your internal teams, responsiveness to communications, topics being discussed, level of support interactions, tone of communications, and more. Health scores are often based on rules weighting these factors, and can also be based on correlating these factors with historical customer outcomes such as renewals, expansion and churn.
  2. Churn Rate: Churn rate means how many customers or subscribers leave during a given time period. The goal with customer success is to keep this number as low as possible—that’s because it costs less to retain a client than it does to close a new one.
  3. Customer Engagement Rate: means measuring the intensity and quality of communications between the customer and your organization.
  4. Net Dollar Retention: for a given group of customers, how much are they paying today versus a previous time period. Ideally this should be at 100% or more i.e. expanded relationships should more than make up for customer churn.
  5. Net Promoter Score (NPS): A net promoter score is used to gauge customer satisfaction and referral power. It measures the likelihood of your client providing referrals or passing on positive information about your company. You’ll often see the question, “how likely are you to refer this product/service to a friend?” This is one of the indicators used to measure NPS.
  6. Customer Satisfaction (CSAT): Customer satisfaction scores are a numerical quantifier of how satisfied a customer is with a specific product, transaction, or interaction with a company. These questions usually include phrasing such as "how satisfied were you with…"
  7. Customer Effort Score (CES): Customer effort scores refer to how easy or difficult it is for a customer to fulfill a certain goal, such as getting an issue resolved, purchasing or returning a product, getting a question answered, etc.

What is the Mission of a Customer Success Team?

The mission of a customer success team is to create as positive of a customer experience as possible by maximizing the value the customer is getting from your product by preventing challenges, increasing engagement and enthusiasm, and strengthening the relationship between you and your clients.

A customer success team has a long-term goal of transforming every customer into an enthusiastic member of your fan club. They know that one of the most valuable ways to drive growth and success in business is by having enthusiastic clients who stick with you for the long haul, sing your praises to their contacts, and provide referrals. They do this by doing the following:

Having Success with Customer Success Teams

  1. Decreasing Customer Churn

One of the main missions of a customer success team is to decrease customer churn. While customer support handles emergent issues on the frontline, a customer success team is working diligently behind the scenes to prevent or resolve issues before they become a problem.

  1. Increasing Customer Engagement

Quietly doing your job and doing it well is great, but the greatest benefit to your business comes when a customer is enthusiastically engaged in using your product or service. A customer support team works hard to ensure your clients are getting the most value out of your product or service, feel comfortable and confident in knowing how it works, understand its value, and have a great relationship with their support team so they may resolve challenges quickly and attentively.

  1. Creating the Most Positive Customer Experience Possible

Creating a positive customer experience is less about resolving issues quickly (that’s the job of a customer service or customer account rep) and more about preventing challenges from becoming issues in the first place. This takes not only an ear toward the customer, but also a direct and strategic eye toward data and processes.

Customer support teams will use data-driven tools and analysis to identify repetitive challenges, roadblocks, and stick-points. Then they will work directly with the appropriate branches of the company to resolve these challenges wherever possible.

  1. Proactively Strengthening and Expanding Customer Relationships

Customer support teams are pros and getting customers to take the “next step in the relationship.” They use data-backed indicators to be able to predict when a customer is primed for an upsell or add-on or when to ask the customer for referrals and reviews.

Who Needs a Customer Success Strategy?

Any company that has customers will benefit from a customer success strategy. However, the companies most in need of a customer success strategy are those for whom subscriptions are a major part of business, especially high-ticket B2B subscription services. Customer success strategies are key for businesses that:

  • Have longer, more labor-intensive sales cycles
  • Depend on retention for some or most of their revenue strategy
  • Would benefit from having an enthusiastic referral marketing strategy
  • Have products or services that contain a learning curve
  • Have a target audience particularly receptive to word-of-mouth

Why is Customer Success Important?

Customer success is important because it offers an opportunity to improve revenues, profits, and success. A good customer success strategy will not only reduce revenue leaks by reducing customer churn, but also improve profitability and revenues by offering more opportunities for upsells and increasing referral rates.

NEXT: Customer Success vs. Customer Support »