Customer success is a hot topic lately.
In the past, companies invested heavily in customer support teams but it’s all very reactionary. Answering support questions as they arise, escalations, etc.
Today, companies are understanding the value of having a team that’s proactive with their customers.
The success of your business goes hand in hand with your customers. If they are able to use your product or service successfully, they will continue using it and thus your business will thrive.
To do this, you must have an understanding of what customer success is, why it is important, and how to develop a high-performing customer success team.
First off, What is Customer Success?
Customer Success is ensuring that your customers achieve the outcome they desired while using your service or product.
In short, it’s a team dedicated on following along with the customer’s journey. Understanding their business goals and making sure your product provides the value they need to accomplish those goals.
It’s a business method that focuses on the relationship with the customer and aligning their goals to the company. All with the mindset that this will provide mutually beneficial outcomes.
Often times, companies tend to hyper-focus on generating new sales through customer acquisition. It makes it easy to forget that retaining existing customers is just as, or even more, important to the success of the company.
While the need for customer success teams is evident in SaaS businesses, there’s also a need for them in other industries.
Every business depends on customers for its success, so every business should have people dedicated to understanding their customers and how they can feed that relationship to help the company grow.
Customer Support vs Customer Success
Many people often think of customer success as being the same as customer support, but that is not the case.
In fact, they serve two different but important functions.
Customer Support = Reactive
Customer Success = Proactive
While the customer support team traditionally focuses on technical support. The customer success team takes building a relationship with the customer to the next level.
The customer success team goes beyond basic troubleshooting and fixing bugs. Their goal is to learn the customer’s needs on an ongoing basis to build an understanding of how they use the product or service.
It’s helpful to think of customer service as reacting to customers needs. Whereas customer success, you’re proactively trying to fill the customer’s needs.
The Goals of Customer Success
The goal of customer success is building a relationship with your consumers.
This can help you meet and anticipate their needs, thus further growing your business. This can also be broken out further into more concrete goals.
Gather Consumer Feedback and Monitor Product Usage
An important goal your customer success team will be tasked with is obtaining customer feedback.
This allows the business to gather insight into how their customers feel about their products and services. From there your team can work to improve your product based on feedback. Lastly, it helps give you a gauge on how you line up against competitors.
The consumer data collected will be used as the foundation for the strategic moves the customer success team will make.
Increase Customer Retention and Lifetime Value
After the customer success team gathers customer feedback and product usage, they can use it to make improvements. It can guide the team to help increase customer retention and maximize lifetime value.
Depending on what feedback they receive it will most likely be a collection of various improvements. In other words, to help increase retention, it’s not always just one issue. It’s a group of enhancements that slowly build into something more meaningful.
Along with all of this work, the customer success team starts to build and maintain relationships with customers. You’ll find you’re creating loyalty and enthusiasm towards your brand in an organic way.
Promote Growth through Up-Selling
Additionally, customer success aims to promote growth through up-selling and cross-selling. This involves leveraging an existing customer’s support to sell them an upgraded subscription or an additional service.
This is a great way to increase revenue and customer loyalty.
How to Build your Customer Success Team
Now that you understand what customer success is and what type of goals are associated with it, it is time to take a look at how to actually build the team.
Your goal should be building a dedicated customer success team. It provides a clear-cut focus for the individuals on the team.
Also, it’s important the team members have the skills and training to build and maintain relationships with your customers.
The Customer Success team’s day-to-day activities will include the following:
- Promoting customer satisfaction and encouraging their loyalty.
- Training customers on the best way to use your products so they can get more out of them.
- Work with customers to solve problems and create solutions.
- Up-sell and cross-sell customers to create business growth.
Hire Quality People
One of, if not the most, important pieces to building a great customer success team is hiring the right people.
It is important to build your team right away, but you want to make sure that you take the time to hire the most qualified candidates.
The size of the team will vary depending on the size of the customer base that needs to be served.
Jason Lamkin, a SaaS customer success expert, recommends:
If your business has around $1 million in annual recurring revenue you should only need two people on the team: one person will manage customer service and customer content, and the other will manage onboarding and engagement with existing customers. Jason Lamkin
As your customer base continues to grow, you can change your metric to how many daily customer interactions each person has.
The target should be between 50-100 daily interactions per customer service employee and about 100-500 active accounts for the account management employee.
Look for Industry Experience
The first person you hire should be someone with experience in your specific industry.
This is vital because he or she will be able to take the feedback from your customers and generate valuable information on how that compares to the rest of the industry.
They can add insight into what type of feedback can be expected and how they have found success in the industry in the past.
This individual will work hand-in-hand with the customer success manager to guide the direction of the team, providing industry knowledge every step of the way.
Customer Success Manager
As your team grows, you will want to hire someone with customer success management experience.
This will give you an advantage because they will already have ideas of how a customer success team should function. When interviewing for this position, you should ask the candidates about real-life scenarios to determine their thought process and how they communicate.
This role is involved with everything from helping demonstrate value to the customer, setting up new accounts and onboarding clients after a product is purchased.
He or she will need to have a sound understanding of the customer’s needs so that they can help them achieve the most from a product or service.
In other words, they nurture and expand accounts.
Additional Support Staff
While an individual with industry experience and a customer success manager are the two most important hires, as your company grows you may want to add additional team members.
These positions can include up-sell and cross-sell representatives, learning teams that assist with best practices, and professional service experts that can help with customer software customization.
Focus on Training and Communication
Now that you have your team set up, you must focus on building their knowledge base through training and consistent communication.
Even if the individuals have previous customer success experience, you will still want to train them on the specifics of your brand. That way they have a deep understanding of your services and products.
This is essential when communicating with clients and trying to build those relationships.
The focus of your training should be emphasizing the goal of delivering value to the customer.
You want your team to understand the thinking that if you put the customer’s needs first the revenue will follow.
Their training should help them understand who their customers are and how they interact with your brand’s products or services.
The customer success team should be able to walk through the customer’s journey from purchase to end-use. They should also be an expert on your products and how they are used so that they can better relate to the consumer experience.
It is also important for different teams and departments within the company to maintain a strong level of communication with the customer success team. They must be in tune with the direction that the brand is moving in, as well as participate in strategic decisions.
Use the Proper Tools
You may have built a world-class customer success team, but without the right tools, they will not be able to help you grow and build your company.
It is necessary to prepare for growth and the future by using the correct tools and technology to help your customer success team achieve their goals.
There are great customer success management tools available, including some well-known products like *cough* Weav, Gainsight and Client Success. These programs will help your team manage customer interactions on a large scale, which is very important as your business continues to grow its customer base.
The right tools will help you prioritize customer requests because you can’t make everyone a priority when you have hundreds of thousands of users and open help tickets.
They can assist you in prioritizing high lifetime value customers who are important to your business successes, as well as larger-scale issues that need to be dealt with immediately.
Another great advantage of using customer success tools (like Weav.com) is the ability to tag customer interactions. You can create specific tasks for certain requests, such as a bug report or a billing issue.
This will improve the efficiency of the customer success team and will assist in building a knowledge base from customer feedback.
How to Measure your Customer Success Team
High five! You’ve now built your world-class customer success team. Now it’s time to dive headfirst into understanding how impactful your new team is being.
Below, here’s a quick checklist of what areas you can measure your team with.
1. Track Success Key Performance Indicators
Tracking key performance indicators, or KPIs, is vital to gauge how well your customer success team is doing.
These important measures can indicate anything from customer satisfaction to how likely your customer is to refer your product or service to someone else.
Some of the main KPIs used for measuring a customer success team are the Net MRR Churn Rate and Net Promoter Score.
More on that… right now.
2. Net MRR Churn Rate
The KPI most often associated with customer success in a SaaS related business is Net MRR Churn Rate.
This stands for Net Monthly Recurring Revenue Churn Rate.
It is the measure of how much revenue is lost, month over month, due to cancellations or account downgrades. Also any revenue from existing customers that have upgraded their memberships.
In other words, this tracks lost accounts and changes to different plans and the lower the churn rate, the better.
Contraction is revenue lost from customers who downgrade or get a discount, while expansion is revenue from up-selling a customer to a higher plan or when their discount expires.
MRR Churn is revenue lost from cancellations, while MRR at the beginning of the period is the monthly recurring revenue at the beginning of the period which the Net MRR Churn Rate is being calculated.
3. Net Promoter Score
Another great metric to gauge customer success is your Net Promoter Score (NPS).
This metric looks at existing customers and their experiences to predict business growth.
This KPI is great because any business in any industry can use it – it is not just for SaaS driven companies.
To collect the data needed to calculate your score you must survey your customers and ask them, on a scale of 0-10, how likely they are to recommend the brand to a friend or colleague.
A score of 0 means that they are not at all likely to recommend your brand, while a score of 10 indicates that they have had a great experience and are extremely likely to recommend your brand.
Anyone who gives a rating from 9-10 is considered a promoter. They are a loyal customer who will continue to purchase from your brand and refer others.
These types of customers are key to fuel growth.
Customers who rate you from a 7-8 are called passives. This means they are satisfied but not enough to recommend others and are at risk of accepting other competitive offers.
Further below that, a rating of 0-6 indicates the consumer is a detractor – they are unhappy customers who can hurt your business with negative reviews.
The net promoter score can range from -100 to +100. Anything above +70 is considered “world-class”. Once you have received the customer feedback, you can calculate your NPS as follows:
Net Promoter Score = % Promoters – % Detractors
Checklist for Building Your Ultimate Customer Success Team
Wrapping up this guide, here’s a final checklist to creating a successful customer success team.
Define Your Company’s Vision for Customer Success
Understand what customer success means and why it is important.
More importantly, what does it mean for your brand.
Hire and Train your Customer Success Team
Focus on your customer experience and put people at its core, from developing your product to formulating your strategy.
This includes investing in the right technology to help your team succeed.
Customize your Customer Success Strategy to Fit Your Industry and Business
Analyze your business model and customers to determine what their needs and wants are.
Your strategy must strive to achieve measurable benchmarks of success which can be developed by mapping the current customer experience.
Determine your Customer Success Process
Identify the different steps in the customer journey and create a customer communication plan.
Schedule customer surveys and use your CRM tools to create workflows and manage customer relationships.
Set Specific Goals and Determine how Success Will Be Measured
It is important to set actionable goals and use KPIs to manage progress and success.
This will help your brand manage a continuously evolving strategy and changes in the market.
In the end, what matters is having a team that’s focused on your customers from the beginning. Gone are the days where you only engage with customers when they finally decide to submit a support ticket, live chat or call you out on social media.
Building and maintaining a successful customer success team will get you as close to the customer as you can.
And your customers are all that matters.