What is Customer Success and how to get started?

Customer Success is becoming increasingly popular with the emergence of subscription service businesses (Cloud Service Providers, Software as a Service, or SaaS). These companies typically sell products that don’t have much value after the first purchase. Therefore they must ensure their clients stay happy and continue using them to maintain revenue. It also introduces cross-selling and upselling opportunities and creates captive customers through annual contract discounts.

Many businesses know the importance of customer success but don’t understand it. Customer success is the process of optimizing business relationships with customers to turn them into long-term profitable customers. It’s not just about solving customer problems or dedicating all your resources to make the customer happy; it’s also about ensuring that your customer has a positive experience with you and feels like they matter. Customer loyalty is essential because, without loyal customers, you’re more likely to experience high customer churn (customers leaving).

Customer success objectives include: optimizing engagement, increasing retention rates, and reducing customer churn. It’s about making sure that you’re doing everything in your power to ensure the customer is successful with your product or service. Customer loyalty can also be cultivated by providing that customers are happy with their experience to continue using your product and talking about it with their contacts. Customer Retention is essential because if you retain more of your existing customers than lose them to attrition (customers leaving), then your business revenue should grow through expansion sales (new customers) and upsells/cross-selling opportunities (existing accounts adding new services).

“The strategic view of customer service is not to look at the function as a cost to be minimized, but as a competitive differentiator that generates revenue and positive WOM and justifies premium margins.” Goodman, John A. author of Strategic Customer Service

Step 1: Define your goals and objectives.

I suggest having the one-pager with the following headings:

  • Goal: What do you want to know when your customers talk to their friends and colleagues about?
  • Objectives: How will you achieve the goal mentioned above? What are the milestones and elements that will help you achieve that?
  • Outcome: What are the outcomes that will demonstrate your success?
  • Success Factors: What are the essential resources and conditions required to ensure your goal is achieved, and if any of them is missing, the project could or will fail?

Step 2: Determine your customer persona

Build empathy with your customers using tools like “Empathy Map” from the Design Thinking set of tools. Interview your customers and happy and unhappy ones to gain some insight, and then keep updating your empathy maps. You need to understand their pains and gains, their goals and motivations. This is the best way to understand what features and services to prioritize. This way, you know what is most valuable to the customers. This includes conducting exit interviews. You have to do it right and be organized in collecting this data and building a case with the CTO, CEO, and CFO.

The following is an example of what a completed empathy map looks like. It’s possible to list it in four columns or four rows. The concept is what we’re concerned with.

To learn more about building Empathy Maps, you can go through IBM’s course on building Empathy Maps.

Step 3: Create a strategic framework document

A strategic framework or a Customer Access Strategy document is a document that acts as a blueprint listing all the information that defines the activities you’ll be conducting, delivering value to the customers. The following headings are some of the examples:

  • Channels
  • Tiers of customers
  • Technology tools used
  • functions
  • Time-based roadmap of what will be rolled out. This would be updated regularly.
  • Availability: working hours, public holidays
  • Service Level Objectives (agreements)
  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Routines
  • Organizational structure
  • and so on…

Step 4: Build an execution plan.

Now, you’re ready to build a plan with a budget and a timeline.

Ensure you include time-bound deliverables for each building block or routine laid out in your strategic framework or Customer Access Strategy document. (We’ll cover more on setting KPIs/metrics in other articles). Also, include all the risks associated with each activity in your plan and the proposed mitigations or success factors.

Once you have completed this document, it’s time to get the buy-in of the stakeholders (CEO and CFO).

If you’re the CXO responsible, you have to ensure that the head of Customer Success completes the four steps and takes full accountability and ownership of the project because this is the person responsible for reducing the churn and increasing the lifetime value of the customers. So be firm and fair and empower this person to succeed to avoid wasted time caused by the failure.

In conclusion, the success of a Customer Success function is one of the most critical factors in determining if a company will succeed in a highly competitive and demanding market. It’s not just about customer service; it involves creating processes for monitoring how well your customers are utilizing your products and what areas they may need help with. The goal should be to reduce churn while increasing lifetime value to have happier customers who recommend your product or services to others. To do this successfully, you’ll need an organized Customer Success team capable of taking data from various sources, coming up with solutions tailored specifically for the needs of the target personas, and keeping track of their progress over time so adjustments can be made quickly.

What are you currently struggling with or would like to learn more about? Share your story in the comments section.

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Adel Hameed

Adel Hameed

Helping Companies Scale-up their Operations into Profitability | Helping Startup/ Scaleup Leaders learn how to SAUS (Skill-up As You Scale-up) .