Customer Success Management Process - The Definitive Guide [2021]

Nick Kang

Nick Kang

5 min read

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Have you ever worked at a company where you had to use software that looked like it was from the 90's? No one likes the software, but everyone uses it and it gets the job done. It provides value. B2B SaaS customers expect to get more value from your product than they're paying. Happy customers are nice, but in B2B, it's all about value.

Customer success makes sure your customers realize the value of your software.

Customer success is not customer service. Customer service is reactive business unit. When customers have problems, they make email or open a chat with customer service. The customer drives customer service.

Customer success is a proactive business unit. The group ensures that your product is meeting the needs of the customer. Customer success makes sure customers understand the service and how it works. The group also responds to any issues, questions, or feedback users may have.

Customer service is a cost center. Customer success is a revenue center.

Customer service KPIs center around support tickets:

  • average response time,
  • first call to resolution, or
  • open tickets.

Customer success KPIs center around revenue:

  • expansion revenue
  • customer churn
  • MRR churn

Customer success programs create more positive touch points with your customers. Companies that have customer success initiatives have twice as many customer interactions. More interactions means better rapport and more opportunities to upsell and cross-sell. Customer success teams can plan for customer roadblocks and reach out to help at the right time.

Customer success decreases acquisition cost

Customer success makes sure your customers achieve their goals. Customers that get value from your product are less likely to churn. Better customer retention rates lead to lower customer acquisition costs. Rather than entertaining competitors during their contract renewal, customers return to your business. They trust that you've invested in their success.

These customers also become brand evangelists who market your product to other businesses. This leads to higher referral rates, meaning less time spent attracting new customers.

The customer success process is unique to each customer. But there's some room for standardization.

A customer success process isn’t formulaic. It’s tailored to your customers and your service. Customer success teams will encapsulate the process in playbooks. There are playbooks for onboarding, retention, and upsell.

Here are some points to think about when creating your customer success process:

1. Identify the customer's use case

First, create a list of the use cases your product solves. For each customer, determine which use cases they're to solve with your product. For example, you wouldn't buy a hammer because you wanted one. But, if you wanted to build book shelf, you'd likely need a hammer. Every customer has an end goal in mind when they subscribe to your product. It's essential that you determine where your product fits into their expectations.

With lower switching costs from the expansion of SaaS, customers are more demanding. The expect to see value immediately. For each use case, create an in-app journey that guides them to creating value. Keep the journey under 5 steps.

2. Create a Customer Success Workflow

A customer success workflow is an outline of the journey through your product. The workflow should answer the following questions:

  • When should your customer success team get involved with your customers?
  • What are customer success's responsibilities?
  • How will sales hand off the account to customer success?

After you've made the sale, customer success should reach out to the new customer. Figure out the timing and medium you'll use for communication. Determine if you want to automate first contact or have a customer success rep reach out.

3. Build a Customer Success Team

Invest in a customer success team to show customers that you are serious about their usage. In B2B SaaS, users expect more personalized guidance. The team will be able to communicate ways for the customer to maximize value. Without a customer success team, customers will view new offerings as suggestions. With a customer success team, customers will view new offerings as steps to success.

Customer success builds trust with the customer leading to cross-sell and upsell opportunities.

A customer success manager should be a team player and an excellent communicator. When hiring one look at your customer service department. They have deep product knowledge and know how to deal with customers. Customer service team members already work to achieve customer success. Prepare them customer success by refocusing their efforts to be longer term.

4. Put in place the right tools.

Determine how much manual user intervention your customer success team will have. You'll see manual intervention in B2B SaaS with high average revenue per account (ARPA).

B2B SaaS companies new to customer success will want to do manual intervention first. Figure out what works and then automate. Iterate on your onboarding playbooks, retention playbooks, and upsell playbooks.

Once the customer success team gets more experience, you can automate. Start with automating small, non-customer facing items such as alerts and reports. Then build your way up to automating customer outreach. High ARPA companies will still have manual intervention since that's what customers expect.

For the first 1-5 users, you can manage the customer success workflow in Microsoft Word and Excel. Once you have more users and want to standardize your workflow, you should look into software. Customer success software specializes in tracking customer health and workflows for you team.

5. Create the customer journeys

The next step is to create your customer journeys. You'll have at least one journey per business use-case. This is the spot to identify where your product can benefit the user.

Think about the actions a user need to do to get value from your application. Then think about the challenges to completing that action. Think of the milestones your users will do to maximize their value from your application.

  • How will you track customer usage?
  • How will you analyze customer usage?
  • How will you track customers who are not progressing through your application?
  • What is the outcome for each stage of the customer journey?
  • What action is most important for each stage of the journey?
  • What steps do users stop using your application?
  • Does the user know your app solves this problem?
  • Is the action obscure in the UI?
  • Are there many steps to addressing the use-case?

6. Figure out who communicates with the user

Think about communication between your customer success team and the customer. Who will communicate? When does sales hand off the account to customer success?

Most account will only need one customer success rep. For large, enterprise accounts, you'll have a team of reps managing the account.

Timing and communication medium are also important. Picking the right time and medium will make sure your efforts come off as helpful.

7. Establish your metrics

Quantify customer success impact before making any changes to your workflow.

Customer success aims to help the user. Make sure to include metrics for i) the customer and ii) the customer success team. Customer success-centric metrics include customer lifetime value and customer acquisition cost. Customer-centric metrics include NPS, churn rate, and monthly active users. These two metric types should give a clear picture of customer sentiment.

8. Make incremental changes

After setting up your customer success workflow, it's tempting to make frequent changes. Be patient. You want to focus on reducing churn first. Pushing out many changes can overwhelm customers, even with good intentions. Doing it one by one gives customer success the chance to figure which changes work. It'll ensure consistent growth.

Summary

Implementing a thought out customer success initiative can be a daunting task. It takes time to create playbooks and gather the data to make informed decisions. Once you do, it'll pay for itself. In this article, we go over the steps you'll need to put in place a customer success process:

  1. Identify the customer's use case
  2. Create a customer success workflow
  3. Build a customer success team
  4. Put in place the right tools
  5. Create customer journeys
  6. Figure out who communicates with the user
  7. Establish your metrics
  8. Make incremental changes

Originally published January 1, 2021, updated January 2, 2021