Master Customer Success: 16 Tips From Industry Experts

Mastering customer success is quickly becoming the holy grail for SaaS companies, and with good reason. The results include decreased churn, increased conversions, and improved customer experiences and loyalty for recurring revenue businesses.

We’re excited to be growing our own customer success team, but we readily admit there is always room to learn more.

So we reached out to customer success experts and asked “What is your #1 tip to master the art of customer success?

As you read the tips below, you’ll notice some common themes:

Focus on the customer. More specifically, what does success look like for your customer, and how can you make their journey easier? Getting your customers to extract value out of your product quicker and with as little friction as possible is mission critical for customer success.

Customer success is company-wide. While it is beneficial to have team members dedicated to customer success, it starts at the executive level. Every department should understand the role they play in customer success.

The sale is only the beginning. It can be tempting to focus customer success goals on acquisition, but making the sale is only one point in the customer lifecycle. You need to be optimizing for customer success throughout the entire customer lifecycle funnel.

A huge “thank you” to everyone who took the time to share their tip with us and our readers.

Omer Gotlieb
Co-Founder & Chief Customer Officer

“To master the art of customer success, you need focus. Aggregating every data point or insight is not helpful. Focus on the customer data you can leverage to improve the customer journey. The same goes for processes and workflows. Do not try and make every customer happy all the time. Prioritize programs that generate tangible business outcomes for their team. When you focus on making the customer successful with your product or service, things like retention and renewal become an easy conversation.”

Lincoln Murphy
Growth Architect
Sixteen Ventures

“It starts with understanding that Customer Success is when your customers achieve their Desired Outcome through their interactions with your company.

That means you need to first understand the Desired Outcome — what the customer needs to achieve (Required Outcome) and how they need to achieve it (Appropriate Experience) — for each of your discrete customer segments before you can develop a Customer Success strategy that you’ll then execute by developing processes and playbooks, applying technology, or hiring Customer Success Practitioners.

Many companies get that backwards, forgetting that sound strategy should come first and that it starts with the customer.

You can focus on adoption, retention, expansion, or advocacy; or you can focus on the customer’s Desired Outcome and get all of those things.”

Brian Balfour
VP of Growth

“Build a detailed customer journey map that shows the path of a customer (post sale), the likely order of features they will adopt, the questions and hurdles they face at each step, and the benefit they get each step of the way. It is common for marketing departments to have an “Adoption Journey” map that starts with how a customer becomes aware and stops when they become a customer. But the journey is just beginning. You need another map that details the journey after the customer has been acquired. The map becomes a foundational reference point as you brainstorm and prioritize ideas that bring that map to life in your customer success. It forces you to always think about the problem, benefit, and psychology of the user rather than getting lost in tactics.”

Ben McCormack
Head of Support

“Customer success begins in the product. You really need to be asking, “How are we presenting our product so that customers can be successful?” For support, that means being assertive about surfacing bugs and pain points that are causing friction for customers. Keep iterating on your communication channels with product and engineering so that these insights from customers get into the product faster. For Trello, where we have 1.1 million monthly active users, it’s critical that we focus our customer success efforts in the product itself.

On the other side of the spectrum, don’t forget about the role of your sales department in providing a high level of service to customers. They may or may not have “Customer Success” in their title, but in any well-structured sales organization, it’s in the best interest of the sales representative to see the customer succeed — their commission depends on it.”

Chase Clemons
Support Pro

“You come first.

It’s tempting to sacrifice yourself on the altar of customer success. Ideas like “the customer comes first” and “the customer is always right” leads to a company elevating customers over the team. But that’s an unhealthy perspective. It’ll leave you looking for any escape route you can find.

You come first. You have to put on your oxygen mask first. You can’t help others if you’re gasping for air yourself.”

Annette Franz
VP of Customer Experience

“I believe that customer success is all about ensuring that our customers (1) get value out of the products and services they’ve purchased from us and (2) achieve their desired outcomes. The key here is to understand: who our customers are and what those outcomes are. In order to do that, we need to listen to our customers, whether that’s through regular conversations, surveys, or other listening posts. Learning about who they are, what their expectations are, and how well we meet those expectations is critical to success. And taking the time to map their journeys, to identify the steps they take to achieve certain tasks and how easy or difficult we make it, allows us to redesign the experience to ensure that they will be successful.”

Caleb Elston
Co-Founder & CEO

“We believe it’s our job to eliminate friction for customers. Many companies create rules and policies to deal with edge case customer requests and complaints in the name of efficiency and protecting the business. While this eases internal pain, it creates friction for customers and degrades the overall experience.

Your customers don’t care about your internal policies or resource constraints — they have a job to do. The best companies go above and beyond to deliver an amazing experience first, then figure out how to scale so it works for the business. For example, if your product doesn’t have a particular report, generate it for the customer manually. This will make the customer happy, and signals to your team that this report might be worth adding to the product.

Start with the amazing experience you’d want as a customer, then be relentless in delivering it.”

Emily Smith
SaaS Growth Specialist

“My #1 tip for mastering customer success is to start with the customer, and ask: What does success look like for them? Talk to your customers and find out how and why they’re using your service. Better yet, talk to lost opportunities — customers who churned or never converted after a free trial. This will help you identify your customers’ success factors, their top priorities. If you don’t understand what’s important to your customers, you can’t be sure if you’re helping them to succeed. But once you’ve got that information, you can start working out a measurable, metrics-driven customer success strategy.”

Jessica Pfeifer
Chief Customer Officer

“My tip is to use your Net Promoter Score (NPS) data to align the whole company around customer success. Here at Wootric we dedicate a Slack channel to our own NPS survey feedback. Gone are the days of gearing up for a biannual NPS campaign. Like most SaaS companies, we use drip NPS — a few of our customers respond to an in-app NPS survey every day. This gives us a constant pulse of feedback. The whole team gets to high-five when we get another “10.” And, if there is ever a customer issue, the product team is quick to offer support. When everyone is aligned around customer happiness, the CSM’s job is much easier.”

Ryan Pimlott
Customer Success Evangelist

“Customer success builds on the strong foundation of honesty and trust. And communication is key for building that foundation. Therefore, if there is one tip that I could offer, it would be to communicate as much as you can with your customers and be as transparent with them about issues as possible. Be proactive about anticipating issues and uphold the long term interest of your customers. That is the true spirit of customer advocacy.”

Keri Keeling
VP of Customer Success & Operations
Bluenose Analytics

“Start small. Great Customer Success is nothing more than “small ball.” It’s a series of little things that you do each day to improve the relationship, loyalty, and adoption with your customers. Develop a plan that focuses on the things you can do today (surveys, adoption campaigns, product road map, great onboarding experiences/fast time to first value, etc.). Once you have the small things mastered, continue to add other small things that you can do today and increase your plan and bring on other things that you can that are of a bit larger scope (customer journey mapping, quarterly business reviews, customer success team development, etc.)…and keep growing your efforts in small steps with each planning exercise. Before you know it, you will have an award winning Customer Success team and a well-baked strategy!”

Shep Hyken
Chief Amazement Officer
Shepard Presentations

“It’s what happens after the sale that can ensure customer success. Sometimes customers don’t know what they don’t know. More than delivering an amazing customer experience, you must help your customer get the most out of whatever it is they are buying from you. During the sales process, learn what the customer needs and expects. Then spend time after the sale to ensure the customer is getting the most out of the product. I bought a software program that included three sessions with a coach to help me take advantage of all that the software had to offer, thereby ensuring success. If you sell online, you may follow up the purchase with valuable content. For example, almost every week I get an email from Amazon about how to better use my Echo. As I learn to take advantage of Echo’s amazing features, it becomes more and more valuable to me. It’s what happens after the sale that can create customer success. And why is this so important? Customer success can lead to customer loyalty!”

Paul Philp

“Focus on the time to first value. When a customer thinks “Wow! I made a good decision,” it builds trust and confidence in the product. The time to first value establishes the foundation of the relationship.”

Todd Eby

“Culture eats strategy for lunch. Yes, you need to build a kick-ass customer success strategy to be successful. Just don’t forget the people that power it. Make sure that you put in place the culture and foundations necessary to support and drive your strategy. Get this wrong and it will make for tough going — unhappy employees will never generate happy customers.”

Michael Lytle
Director, Customer Success
Extreme Networks

“When it comes to Customer Success, there is no finish line to cross. Customer Success comes down to creating, nurturing and growing relationships & deliverables both internally and externally. The Customer Success program must be understood and supported from the executive team down in order to be effective.”

Suzanne Gedney
Director of Customer Success

“Develop a 360 degree view of every customer. When you have the ability to see data from your CRM, help desk, marketing, NPS replies, usage data, financial information, and feature requests in one place, it will give you the data you need to identify red flags that indicate a customer could be in danger of churning.

Implement an early warning system based on those red flags and know when you need to proactively reach out to your customers. Combine proactively managing at risk accounts with scheduled outreach when things are going well for your customer. Doing both provides you the opportunity to learn your customers’ pain points, while also establishing long-term relationships and trust to effectively reduce churn and increase revenue.”

We want to hear from you! Leave us a comment and tell us your #1 tip for mastering the art of customer success. If you liked this blog please click the green heart below or share this to help others find their way here.

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