Customer acquisition is essential to every company’s success.
But it’s all too common for business owners to neglect the customer relationships after the sale. After all, if you deliver outstanding value to every customer, you won’t need to acquire new customers aggressively.
That’s what we’ll talk about today — the methodology and steps you need to build a customer success process that works.
Customer success is the department or team that ensures customers get what they need from your product or service.
While it’s a crucial part of every SaaS business, a remarkable customer experience ensures healthy business metrics, a happy customer base, and an unfair advantage over rivals.
Let’s jump into the various components of a customer success process and provide best practices to improve yours.
What is a customer success process?
Whether you’re a startup or an established business, customer success processes form the foundation of your company’s success.
Customer success is often associated with SaaS companies. Yet, it applies to every type of business. It goes far beyond the contact center solution you're using.
A customer success process is a methodology for delivering and reinforcing customer value after the sale. It encompasses the specific steps and checkpoints to ensure every customer is satisfied with your product and service.
Unlike a customer lifecycle, customer success is narrowly focused on retention and advocacy.
Here’s what that looks like at a more granular level.
Essential customer success management functions
A profitable customer success framework goes beyond a holistic customer experience. Instead, it ties customer sentiment to business outcomes.
It's okay you don't solve every pain point faced by your customer base. We'll get to that in a bit.
1) Reducing churn rate by improving retention
Every customer success team wants to reduce churn and improve retention.
The churn rate is the number of customers lost divided by the number gained in a given period.
Rather than tracking the number of customers, examine the underlying finances such as lifetime value, recurring revenue, and acquisition costs.
While traditionally a metric in a SaaS company, customer retention doesn't tell the whole story. You can apply it to e-commerce businesses in the form of customer complaints, returns, refunds, and chargebacks.
The desired outcome is for every customer to stay loyal, consuming more products and services along the way. While that’s easier said than done, we can optimize the customer lifecycle and improve it at every step.
Segmentation aids in finding the root causes of low retention. By monitoring which "classes" (cohorts) of customers, you contextualize metrics like NPS, MRR, CAC, and lifetime value.
Causes for a high churn rate:
- Lack of product or service buy-in
- Inability to see immediate value
- Low-quality customer acquisition channels
- Unavailability of the customer support team
- Unclear messaging and onboarding processes
The key to growth has more to do with customer retention than you might think. No matter how fast you can bring on new users, selling with faulty customer retention is like filling a leaking bucket.
2) Acting on customer feedback
To monitor real-time sentiment, you need constant customer feedback. And while your product team likely has other ways to get that insight, checking in early on surfaces friction along the customer journey. This way, customer success managers (CSM) can intervene with practical solutions.
Automated surveys tend to elicit a more candid response than a live phone call. Live surveys induce social desirability bias. A quantitative and qualitative approach to gauging customer sentiment is key to getting to the ground truth on the customer experience.
The reality is most companies merely collect customer feedback and dump it into their CRM — never to be seen again. Hiding customer data in a CRM is a huge miss. It’s essential to surface this intelligence to all employees involved with the customer.
Just because a customer hasn't "complained" doesn't mean they're not scoping out competitors. Integrating the voice of the customer into your customer success process mitigates indifference and disengagement.
You’ll also spot opportunities to improve your product, deflect customer support inquiries, increase customer satisfaction, and boost customer retention.
3) Providing value earlier in onboarding
What gets people talking about your brand? Hint: it's not your product's features.
It's how you make them feel and what it does for them. It must be tangible and real. You must deliver value early on in the customer experience.
Once you collect the first payment, the clock is ticking to demonstrate your value. After that, it’s time to deliver on your commitments and prove they’re getting their money’s worth.
Ways to prove value in customer onboarding:
- Personalized project plans with original research
- Checkpoints to review past successes and next steps
- Describe functionality in terms of specific customer needs
The more significant a role your brand serves in the customer’s life, the more worthwhile your product is to them in the first place. This creates a loop of satisfaction and stickiness of consumption, which ultimately establishes trust.
Once you've proven your value in onboarding, you are afforded more liberty to offer cross-sells, upsells, and collect customer reviews.
Developing your customer success strategy
Customer success doesn't just happen — you need to craft customer success processes from the ground up. The goal is to develop a workflow your customer success team uses to foster strong relationships with your best customers.
The process can be as formal or informal as you like. But the key to long-term attainment is to make continuous improvements to your customer success strategy.
Address these critical touchpoints along the customer journey to drive up retention and lifetime value.
Onboarding is one of the most significant parts of your customer success plan since it’s the first interaction new customers will have. But, unfortunately, it also has the highest risk.
📄 Document customer expectations. Depending on your product or service, it might be ideal for capturing customer expectations and storing them in your CRM. It's also prudent to list out desires that can be used tactfully for upselling opportunities.
🔢 Get clear on success metrics. Get on the same page with success metrics for new users and by suggesting customers disclose objective measurements (e.g., traffic, revenue, conversion rates for a marketing agency) in your onboarding process. This ensures that your team members are achieving positive outcomes, not just looking busy.
🎉 Celebrate milestones. It's a perfect time to acknowledge key moments in the customer journey and sync on the next steps. For SaaS businesses, this is where product-led growth intersects with customer messaging.
The simple truth is that customers don't know your product or service as much as you do. Education is the key to gaining confidence in how you can help customers achieve their goals.
💬 Review verbatim customer support conversations. Listening to call recordings enables you to identify gaps in your messaging and resources. Sometimes customers can avoid problems with a verbiage change. Or, maybe you need to revisit your employee training.
📊 Conduct an in-depth business review. Try to find areas with potential where you can encourage deeper customer interaction. Consider employing automation to raise interest and adoption in the customer lifecycle.
🏎 Get customers up to speed earlier in the customer journey. For example, offer bite-sized training webinars, blog posts, email campaigns, or in-app tooltips. Even if formal training is baked into your onboarding process, it might not be enough to hedge success.
Nurturing is the process of strengthening the customer relationship and developing loyalty over the long term. It’s a form of account management that focuses less on the account and more on the person behind it.
🎁 Go beyond the monthly newsletter. Nurturing is a game of touchpoints. The more often and authentically you interact with each customer at their time of need, you’ll decrease customer churn and drive more upsells and referrals.
🤯 Provide no-fluff worksheets to drive client success. Add your unique perspective for how to complete them. Doing so enhances the value you provide. The result should encourage customers to achieve said goals with your product.
🧠 Answer essential FAQs and churn drivers. You know where customers fall short. Anticipate customer needs and provide tools and tips to stay engaged. Consider hosting occasional webinars that describe why customers must change their behavior and show precisely how your product does it.
Customer success software like Gainsight can be a great way to leverage these touchpoints. It can be tempting to pass along these touchpoints to automated processes. Remember, the human touch is key to achieving the desired outcome.
True customer advocacy comes about because a customer respects the team members behind your brand — not just the fancy customer success platform you use.
There are plenty of ways to ensure client success. But one of the quickest and surest ways to keep customers is customer service. Read any one-star reviews about SaaS companies, and you’re almost guaranteed to encounter bad reviews discussing poor customer support.
So what can you do?
⏰ Increase the availability of your support team. Customers expect unlimited customer support from every company. Follow this detailed guide to implement 24x7 customer support for your business.
💪 Coach your support team to practice ownership of a customer's experience. Encourage support agents to examine customer health and offer consultative product advice. And if desired, set up a meeting with their customer success manager.
🔬Keep a close watch on CX metrics. Train your team on how to manage their behaviors to drive the right metrics. Ensure your support team is aware of their average handle time (AHT), customer effort score (CES), and net promoter score (NPS).
Mitigating churn risks
While reducing churn rate or increasing customer lifetime value is the ultimate goal of your customer success process, it’s one of many metrics. And by the time you discover a customer has churned, it’s too late.
📈 Benchmark your customer success processes. It's vital to go through your process as a new customer. This quality assurance is an excellent way to identify areas with high friction and empathy for how customers interact with your brand.
⚙️ Reverse-engineer the customer experience from accounts that churned prematurely. Identify the moments and situations where the customer experience broke down. Was it preventable? Are there trends to share with customer success managers?
🗺 Isolate and optimize each stage of the customer lifecycle. It can be challenging to attack every issue at once. Instead, focus on areas with high friction that cost you the most revenue. Beyond customer retention, you want customers to accept an upsell for professional services or cross-sells for add-ons eagerly.
Reversing negative customer experiences
The customer success process should be designed around a simple idea — problems are opportunities. They’re growth opportunities for learning and scaling customer relationships. If you don’t resolve them quickly, you’ll see a rise in negative reviews.
🧐 Keep track of customer health and watch for common problems. Deferring or skipping over them delays the inevitable: cancels and refunds. Recurring problems mean a few things. Root causes include lack of product education, unmet expectations, product bugs or defects, or simply a longer timeline to achieve client success.
🤝 Listen, act, and respond to candid customer feedback. Letting your customer success team listen openly and act quickly when a customer mentions a problem is a huge step in building the relationship. These should be elevated and benchmarked across the customer base to strengthen customer acquisition goals.
🤖 Utilize workflow automation to anticipate customer needs. Solidify the customer relationship by getting their raw, unfiltered input at key moments along the customer journey. Pay attention to qualitative responses as well as the metrics.
Quantifying your customer success strategy
Customer success tends to garner less excitement because it’s not as flashy as marketing and sales. Nevertheless, your customer success department is the backbone of a successful business. Here are some of the ways to validate your customer success program.
↗️ Grow your customer base through referrals. The key to growing your customer base through referrals is to ensure each customer receives personalized support. That is, ensuring your customer success managers are guiding their team to providing quick, helpful, and friendly support. Make it dead-simple for customers to refer and get rewarded.
✅ Measure account retention efforts over the long haul. Avoid the instinct of giving out free service or waiving charges. Instead, connect such concessions to something valuable to the client. Discuss their needs beyond the scope of a retention phone call. Practice true customer advocacy to make the customer see you’re the best provider they’ve ever known.
🧑🏫 Educate your team members on the key metrics. As a part of a customer success plan, you need to communicate data points worth measuring. Don’t skip the financial measurements — money talks. If customers leave, it’s because you’re not providing enough value, and competitors will be eager to jump in.
Making customer success count
When churn is healthy, you invite more growth opportunities. It's the ultimate form of marketing because they want your offers.
Achieving organic growth means accounts gravitate upward in terms of revenue and customer loyalty. For SaaS companies, adding seats is essential to scale. Securing an upsell or cross-sell is one of the best ways to withstand market changes. After all, it reflects the value you provide them.
Executing your customer success strategy begins with the right tools. Give every team member access to real-time account intelligence. A unified customer support platform like Nextiva can make this dream a reality.
Coach your support team on driving these numbers with the right behaviors. Shortcuts and gimmicks don't scale. Stay attuned to customer needs, especially as the industry moves around you. With the right customer success process, you'll build a more sustainable, profitable business.
Joe Manna is a content marketing manager for Nextiva who obsesses over the Oxford comma, embraces the em dash, and thrives on authoring content that compels people to take action. He is savvy with networking technology, a staunch privacy advocate, and in tune with today's business needs. His expertise helps companies large and small serve more customers.