The most successful software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies have one thing in common — they lead with a customer-centric approach that prioritizes their customer’s needs. They’ve learned that developing deep relationships with customers isn’t just considerate; it’s a necessity for driving long-term customer and revenue growth.

Customer success has become synonymous with SaaS. Gone are the days when the finish line was getting someone to purchase your product and offering a limited amount of support after the fact. Today, the starting line appears once the customer has purchased your product. It’s now critical to continually prove to your customers that they made the right decision to do business with you.

When you proactively give your customers the right tools and information to successfully solve their problems, you significantly increase the probability your customers will stay with you for the long haul.

What is Customer Success?

Customer success is the people, process, and support your company invests in to advance your customer’s goals and help them achieve the results they’re aiming to get by using your product or service.

Commonly lead by a customer success manager, a customer success team is tasked with reducing churn and increasing retention by providing an exceptional experience throughout every stage of the customer relationship. They jump in as soon as a customer gets serious about signing up for your product, then once a prospect converts, they oversee customer onboarding and training, assist with support, and offboard customers as they churn.

The underlying strategy of a customer success team is rooted in the analysis and understanding of your customer’s goals and, in turn, being proactive in helping them achieving success with your product in whatever way they can.

Customer Success vs. Customer Support

Customer success and customer support can overlap at times, but they are not the same entity. Support is issue-driven, while success is mainly goal-driven. Support is more reactive — like responding to a trouble ticket — while customer success teams are more proactive by seeking out potential red flags and fixing issues when a customer becomes a churn risk.

Why is Customer Success Important for SaaS Companies?

Companies with strong levels of customer success grow faster by reducing the revenue decline caused by churn. Decreasing uncertainty through after-the-sale service and building deep relationships with customers increases the probability of renewals. Happy customers lead to additional selling opportunities and more referrals, which increases revenue with minimal extra effort.

Establishing a customer success team will also help you build better products and services by identifying with and understanding the needs of your customers. Customer success can act as the voice of the customer inside your organization and educate your sales, marketing, and product teams to make sure everyone has accurate information about your customer’s needs and requests.

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3 Tips for Creating a World-Class SaaS Customer Success Strategy

The best customer success efforts are built on a solid foundation of internal data, insights from customers, and a well-thought-out strategy that addresses every stage of the customer journey. Use these best practices when ramping up your customer success efforts to help you build a solid foundation inside your organization.

1. Build a Dedicated Customer Success Team

Building a dedicated customer success team is the best way to show your customers you are committed to helping them reach their goals. A dedicated team has the bandwidth to be present for every step of your customer’s journey and offer personalized support when customers need you most. This degree of support is difficult to achieve if you don’t have an independent customer success team.

Great customer success teams are more than just product helpers — they can also act as consultants. For example, if your product is marketing automation software, your customers should be able to turn to you to improve their marketing efforts. Your customer success team can advise customers on how to craft and execute strategies using your product, which leads to greater product adoption and higher retention.

If you don’t currently have the resources to build a stand-alone team, you can start by prioritizing high-value customers and assign members of existing teams to provide high-touch support to those specific customers.

2. Develop a Customer Success Playbook

A playbook acts as a framework for your team and should include guidelines and processes for how you plan to reduce churn, improve retention, and solve customer’s problems. Developing a robust customer success playbook allows you to train new hires very quickly, provides a structure for your team, and ensures all customers are getting the level of support they desire.

Your customer success playbook will be unique to your internal goals and customer needs, but a sound playbook will include:

  • The problem your product solves for your customer and their desired outcome.
  • Internal company goals and the metrics and KPIs you’ll use to determine if you are meeting those goals.
  • Your customer communication strategy, including the decks, scripts, or email templates you’ll be using when you interact with your customers.
  • A plan for onboarding your customers and converting them to habitual, happy users of your product.
  • How to properly offboard customers and the data to collect during offboarding so you can improve your processes.

3. Use KPIs To Measure Your Customer Success Efforts

KPIs and metrics are the life force of customer success — every plan you create and action you take should be based on your customer’s actions and behaviors. You can establish a single source of truth for your customer success initiatives by measuring and tracking these KPIs.

  • Churn rate is the number of customers who unsubscribed or stopped paying in a given period of time, often calculated in a 30-day rolling window. Calculate how many customers you had at the end of the month compared to last month using a 30-day window.
  • Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR) is the amount of recurring revenue you generate in a given month. To calculate MRR, multiply the average amount you make from customers by the total number of customers for that month.
  • Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) is the amount you can expect to make from a customer over the lifetime of your relationship with them. For a SaaS product, the simplest way to calculate CLV is to multiply customer revenue by the amount of time you will have a relationship with a customer, minus the cost to acquire (CAC) and service them. This calculation can be done on a per-year basis.
  • Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) and Net Promoter Score (NPS) will give you clues on how pleased customers are with their experiences inside your product and provide a high-level view of your customer’s sentiment about your company. Both can be measured with surveys — CSAT after specific events like onboarding, and an NPS survey can be sent quarterly or once a year.

Balance your quantitative measures with qualitative measures to get a sense of how well you’re engaging your customers. Send open-ended surveys and talk to customers one-on-one to find out what they love about your product and what’s causing frustration. Checking in and collecting qualitative feedback can let you know whether your efforts are working, whether you need to make adjustments, and, if so, in what area.

TIP: Check out our guide to customer success metrics for a more comprehensive deep dive on KPI and benchmarking.

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How to Build an End-to-End Customer Success Roadmap

In order to build a stellar customer success team, you need to create an internal road map to ensure everyone in your organization is on the same page and you don’t miss any steps in the customer journey. Here’s a chronological walk-through of each step in the customer journey so you can plan your strategy.

  • Study your customer’s goals to understand what success looks like to them.
  • Determine the handoff point between your sales and customer success team and craft a communication plan starting at day 1.
  • Map out the touchpoints your customer success team will focus on during onboarding and implement a feedback loop to drive product and process improvement based on customer’s opinions and suggestions.
  • Implement self-service support options for customers who are transitioning to regular users so they don’t have to choose between annoying you and flying blind. Check out customer onboarding software tools such as digital adoption platforms to ease this transition.
  • Plan the steps you’ll execute when transitioning a customer from onboarding to a regular user.
  • Identify churn risks by studying your data and talking to customers, then devise a plan to mitigate those risks with a proactive customer service approach.
  • Use your data to uncover customers who would be especially receptive to upselling or cross-selling opportunities and set up a way to offer them additional products or services.
  • Design a plan for when a customer wants to cancel and build an offboarding process that includes a communication strategy in order to maintain a good relationship.

Level Up Your Customer Success Game with Specialized Tools

Customer success involves a considerable amount of tracking, analyzing, and planning, so you need to build in some breathing room to stay ahead of your customer’s needs. Take advantage of tools like customer success management software, in-app guidance tools for onboarding, customer monitoring solutions, and data analysis tools to offload some of the heavy lifting and provide the data you need to make sure your customers are genuinely satisfied and are achieving their desired outcomes while using your product.

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