We’ve talked a lot about customer experience (CX) lately, but I think we need to take a step back for a moment and talk about something a little broader: customer success.
Customer success (CS) doesn't always get the attention it deserves. In fact, people often conflate it with CX, treating both terms as a catch-all for everything that goes into making and keeping customers happy.
As a result, one of the top challenges facing CS right now is a fundamental lack of information on what they do and why it matters.
Defining Customer Success Management
The Customer Success Association defines customer success management this way:
“Customer success management is an integration of functions and activities of marketing, sales, professional services, training and support into a new profession to meet the needs of recurring revenue model companies.”
In more concise and helpful terms, customer success management is about helping customers find ways to win using your software/service.
When customers win…
- churn reduces. They don’t feel the need to go elsewhere.
- up- and cross-sells increase. They look for more opportunities to work with you.
- profit increases. Maximize each customer’s lifetime value while increasing your rate of return on acquisition costs.
- people talk. Happy, loyal customers are the best referral source for future business.
When to Start Thinking About Customer Success
According to this chart from Customer Success Advisors, the later in the customer lifecycle you wait to address CS, the more it’ll cost you to retain those customers.
The implication here is clear: by thinking early and often about CS, you’ll drastically reduce the number of resources necessary to maximize customer retention.
What might that look like in practice? Here are a few ideas about how to bring customer success into the earliest stages of product development and customer engagement:
- Design – Work with current customers to identify key friction points in their product experience. Retool future iterations to better facilitate customers’ needs.
- Marketing – Narrow down your target market and tailor your content marketing efforts to hit them directly. By casting too wide a net, the few extra sales you drag in will be a poor match for your product and more likely to fail.
- Sales – Train your salespeople to do more than just close the deal. Instead, encourage them to focus on connecting customers with the perfect solution to their specific problem.
Customer Success as Revenue Generator
CS isn’t a frill. In fact, when done right, it can be a powerful revenue generator.
We can see the revenue advantages of CS implementation by looking specifically at churn. The simple fact is, companies with CS teams in place report a 24% lower overall churn rate amongst their customers.
In itself, that number is encouraging. What it obscures, however, is the manifold nature of customer churn. Not only does it include customers who leave you altogether, but those who downgrade as well as those who fail to upgrade at the appropriate time.
It turns out, there's much more to lowering overall churn rates than offering stellar customer support. As the following infographic shows, employees dedicated to CS will work across the spectrum to identify at-risk customers, monitor product usage, learn what causes churn, and collaborate with the various constituencies within your organization to maximize the LTV of every single customer.
As we’ve briefly seen here, addressing customer success early and often in the product development, sales, and support process will lead to higher revenue, lower retention costs, and a healthier bottom line. That should be enough to make CS a vital component in any business.
Over my next couple posts, we’re going to take a closer look at customer success from several different angles: how to justify funding for CS staff, ways to get your advocates involved, and how to give CS managers access to the resources they need.