Really, if you followed the advice in just one of these articles, your business would change for the better – in real, measurable ways. I’m talking about increasing acquisition and retention, and turning your Customer Lifetime Value charts into something that looks like an artistic rendering of Jack’s magic beanstalk.
These aren’t empty promises. They can be backed up with hard data, like this article from Shopify and RJ Metrics: What Sets Top Performing E-commerce Companies Apart? Customer Success is heavily focused on retention, and companies that nail retention grow faster than their competitors by leaps and bounds – making 2.5x more than other companies within their first three years, primarily by marketing to existing customers. Marketing to existing customers only works if those customers are A) Happy, and B) Have already achieved success.
Forbes called Customer Success “The Best Kept Secret of Hyper-Growth Startups” – an article that begins with an even more impressive number, supplied by venture capitalist Jason Lemkin: “Customer success is where 90% of the revenue is.”
But what is success, exactly? Is it satisfaction? Is it happiness? Is it something else entirely? To answer that question, we turn to Lincoln Murphy, the man who coined the phrase “Customer Success” in the first place, and then spent roughly 6300 words defining it. Surprisingly, it’s not an eBook. It’s a blog post. One that will tell you everything you ever wanted to know about Customer Success in SaaS – and then some. Read Customer Success: The Definitive Guide here. Highlights include:
Customer Success has its roots in the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) world and my original definition was very much SaaS-centric.
But since then, companies that are not SaaS, or even technology companies at all, have recognized the transformative power of Customer Success and embraced it as their new operating model.
If you aren’t familiar with exactly how Customer Success is transformative, I’ll lay that out for you below in great detail in this guide.
Simply put; No Customer Success = No Your Success.
If you’ve read this far, you might be wondering “Well, okay then – how do I start?” I’ve written a few thousand words on that topic myself, including: Customer Success for Dummies – What Every SaaS Startup Founder Should Know, with sections like “how customer success works, with real, actionable tips.”
It’s the real, actionable tips that are missing from many discussions about Customer Success. The one you have to begin with, however, is this:
Identify your ideal customer.
This is where Customer Success and Customer Development come together, because both require that you answer the same essential questions:
- Who is my audience?
- Why are they here?
- What are they trying to accomplish?
You can read more about the intersections of Success and Development here.
From there, you have to take a long, hard look at your product to find out where Success Gaps may exist that you need to bridge. A Success Gap is the space between what your product does, and what your ideal client needs to accomplish. For example, if your SaaS product handles mass email communications – your customer’s success isn’t sending those emails, it’s in their open rates. To fill that Success Gap and ensure that your client is achieving his or her desired outcome, you might want to host a webinar on writing email titles that guarantee higher open rates.
Get it? Not quite? Don’t worry, Lincoln Murphy is ready and waiting to explain why the Success Gap is “A Huge Opportunity You Haven’t Considered.”
Now that you’ve identified your ideal customer and uncovered potential Success Gaps, it’s time to create Success Milestones.
As a wise manager once said: What doesn’t get measured, doesn’t get done.
These Milestones should, ideally, be built into your app so that users can track their own successes (and your sales team and/or success team can keep tabs on their progress as well). Typically though, companies get this backwards.
If you think Success Milestones look like this…
Trial ➔ Sale ➔ Onboarding ➔ Use ➔ Upsell ➔ Renewal
We need to talk.
Those are YOUR milestones! They track your success, not your customers’! Each of your customers might have their own set of Milestones, and it’s your job to ensure they can track their progress towards reaching them, whatever they may be.
Even if it’s:
Buy product ➔ Send emails people love in less time ➔ Get home in time for daughter’s soccer game
If you’re still confused as to exactly how this tracking works, Jason Lemkin explains “Client Success owns the customer from point of inception (sometimes pre-close) all the way through the entire life and lifecycle of the customer. Sales closes the customer, and Customer (or Client) Success takes it from there.” Considering Jason Lemkin founded and grew EchoSign within a scant few years, it’s advice well worth heeding.
Need the Cliff’s Notes version? Totango claims to have developed “The Simplest Guide you will ever Find” to Customer Success. I think they may be right. In 12 slides, they take you from what the Customer Success process should look like, what trouble signs to look for, and how to maximize Lifetime Value.
If you still have to sell the idea to the Higher-Ups, you’ll need one more link: The Real ROI of Customer Success Management: Expanded Revenue, Preserved Revenue, and New Bookings. Alternately, you could sell it as a new and improved marketing program.
Here are a few fun catchphrases to use in your pitch meeting from Gainsight’s Why Customer Success is the New Marketing.
“triple digit retention numbers”
“turning customers into advocates and creating new revenue streams”
And, “These numbers tell us that building a marketing program around customer success is arguably more profitable than acquisition programs for mature businesses. In fact, the data shows that it’s a 5x more cost- effective use of your time.”
It’s compelling stuff. Once you understand what Customer Success is, and what it can do for your business, it’s hard not to love it. After all, when you do it right, your customers will love you.