Customer success is all about taking care of your customers and fostering a mutually beneficial long-term relationship. It requires you to know your current customers in detail: their likes and dislikes as well as the ways they interact with you. And it means knowing how this information shifts across the entire customer journey.
Customer success is as critical to your business as sales and marketing are. While sales and marketing are great for forging new connections and driving new growth, it’s just as important to maintain the customer base you have, which is where customer success comes in. When customers have more options than ever before and reputation management is made trickier by online reviews, this can be easier said than done. But the value of prioritizing your customer success is impossible to overstate.
Ready to keep learning about how we tackle customer success? Read on!
Defining Customer Success
So what is customer success? It’s related to things like customer service and customer satisfaction, but it means more than this. Customer success is the process of ensuring your customers can use your products or services to be as successful as possible. This can be a complex process that involves ongoing, specialized support for your customers.
One of the key differences between customer success and customer service is that customer success is proactive while customer service is reactive.
Customer service is all about fixing problems for customers, managing the negative emotions that arise when things go wrong, and retaining customers who may be at risk of leaving. Although no business is perfect and customer service is an essential part of running even a very good business, it is a reactive process. You are often working within less-than-ideal situations and are bound by these circumstances.
Customer success is completely different. Customer success is about things going right for your customers, not about things going wrong for them. Defining and refining processes around what works and doesn’t work for your customer is a great example of a customer success process. It’s forward-looking and intended to improve the outcomes for your customer going forward, rather than remedying a present problem.
Customer Success is a Process
It could be a mistake to think of customer success only as an end goal. Of course, there is an ideal scenario you’re working toward with regard to your customer’s — and potentially your customer’s customers’ — happiness, but this is kind of like skipping ahead to the last page. You run the risk of ignoring everything in between.
Start with the ideal, and then focus on the current state of your customer success. The best way to approach customer success is to see it as constantly evolving to meet your customers' needs. Know your ultimate goal while knowing that nothing is set in stone: customer needs can change over time, and your way of meeting them may need to change as well.
It’s important to build a customer journey map that helps you understand your relationship with your customers. How do your customers find you? What do they need from you and how does your relationship change over time? Your map can be as simple as a chart with two axes: one for the phase of their journey and one for customer qualities such as what they’re thinking or how they’re feeling.
Understanding your customers in this way better equips you to deliver value and avoid disappointing or alienating them. In order to deliver a great customer experience, you must understand your customers. A customer journey map is a key tool for doing just that.
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Customer Success Looks Different for Products and Services
It can be helpful to look at customer success differently for organizations that provide professional services than for those that sell products. Customers have different kinds of experiences based on the nature of the offering they’re receiving. If you’re selling a product: whether it’s a website, an insurance policy, or a carbonated beverage, customer success will have a lot to do with the expectations around that product. From quality to availability to what can be done with your product, you’ll need to know what your customers expect.
The interactions between your customer success team and your customer will look different based on whether your customer is purchasing products or services. A CS team at an organization that provides mostly services will often have more opportunities for direct interaction and involvement in the client success process, but that doesn’t mean that it just goes away if you switch out services for products.
Customer Success for Service Offerings
Services often present a more direct customer relationship than products. This means that you need to have a different kind of customer journey map for the services you provide than the products you sell if you offer both. At the same time, if you only sell products or only offer services, you generally don’t need to create different customer journey maps for each of your offerings. The point, overall, is to understand how customers interact with your business and to come up with a process for addressing and remedying the cases in which something goes wrong.
Customer Success for Products
If you sell mostly products, you may need to be even more creative and proactive to make sure your customer is succeeding to the fullest extent that they can. This can mean gathering feedback to improve your products, offering substantial support in the form of training, or helping a customer find additional opportunities to use your product.
Ultimately, your customers come to you for your unique offerings. That means that your customer journey mapping, and your customer success process, will have to be unique as well.
Customer Success is Measurable
When you begin to focus on improving your customer success, you need to do more than just imagine your ideal; you need to figure out where you are, also. Devising a way to measure your current customer success will depend on many factors. What kind of information is available to you? Are there reviews or other records of customer experiences you can look to? Can you talk to customer service representatives or even a customer success manager in your organization?
Ask them how many complaints they receive in a day, or in a week. Out of the number of calls they receive, how many are to report problems or voice complaints? Explore the nature of these complaints. Are there patterns? Before coming up with possible solutions, decide what the benchmark will be. Find out what is typical for your industry and decide where you want to be.
Pulling from data made available to you in areas like customer service and client onboarding is a great way to improve customer success. This will help you develop actionable customer success KPIs. Customer success software makes this even easier, giving you an aggregated, legible overview of how your customers are doing, where they are in their journeys, and much more.
Who is in charge of customer success?
Usually, it’s the customer success managers (CSM) who is responsible for ensuring that customers receive excellent service from their organization. They ensure that customers are satisfied with the services they provide and also help them resolve issues or complaints.
A successful CSM should be able to identify problems before they occur, solve them effectively, and communicate these solutions clearly. This requires a deep understanding of the organization and its processes, as well as a strong knowledge of the customer base.
Customers want to be successful, and they expect your business to deliver value. Providing great customer experiences will boost customer loyalty, and ultimately increase sales. It will also help you gain new customers, because your current customers will share their experience with others.
The role of a CSM may sound similar to the role of an account manager or a sales lead, but they are actually very different. A CSM does not sell to clients, or provide customer support in a technical sense, meaning their responsibilities are very different from those of your sales team. And while both CSMs and account managers are responsible for the relationship between your organization and your clients, there are important differences here too.
To put it simply, a CSM is there to help customers succeed. It’s all there in the name. Account managers are closer to the sales team, in that they are responsible for renewals and other recurring revenue processes that happen well after a client relationship has been established.
It can’t be stressed enough — a CSM does not sell. The CSM generally does not measure their own success by data that comes from your organization, but by data that comes from the customer. That means the degree of the customer’s success, whether it’s in sales or another metric, is the degree of success for the CSM. They are entirely focused on the experience the customer has after they’ve bought your product or service.
What Customer Success Means for You
Hopefully, it’s become more clear over the course of this blog post what customer success is. Although there are similarities between customer success and other processes, customer success is unique because it is a proactive process that’s focused entirely on the outcomes your customers achieve.
The key to success with customer success is understanding your customers and what they need from you. Customer success works when you have a customer success strategy that fits your customer’s journey with your organization. You’ll know it’s working when customers achieve their goals consistently and with gratitude to your organization.
Understanding customer success is the first step to ensuring the success of your own customers. It’s important to remember that customer success looks different for every organization and finding your own process will take some time and effort. The rewards of having high-achieving, happy customers will be more than worth it in the long run.
Peter Evans joined BridgeRev in May 2022 as Director of Account Management. With a background in the nonprofit/education world, this is Peter’s first venture into the digital marketing space. He is very active in the Oklahoma City community and plans to use his knack for creative problem solving and connecting with people in his new position. He will help clients identify and reach their company’s goals and objectives by connecting them with an appropriate solution. One of Peter’s first observations at BridgeRev is the team’s phenomenal ability to strategically attack a problem and work collaboratively toward a solution.
A graduate of the University of Texas at Arlington (Go Mavs!), Peter is a member of Leadership Oklahoma City - LOYAL Class XI and Signature Class 36, and Salt and Light Leadership Training (SALLT) - Young Leaders Class 15. He is also a board member for the South Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, the Mount St. Mary Catholic High School, OKC Good, and The Wes Welker Foundation. Peter spends most of his free time at the gym, riding his bike, or walking his dog. On occasion, you may also find him enjoying the OKC brewery scene. With all that he has going on, Peter said he is most proud of being an uncle to his two incredible nephews.