Transactional customer interactions alone will fail to deliver sustainable growth in the evolving market, especially for Business-to-Business (B2B) consumption. Business customers are expecting personalized partnerships with solutions that consider their business objectives, not just another product or service for purchase. Customer Success is a differentiating factor in achieving deep trusting relationships between your company and your customers. When there is trust, it becomes natural for your customers to want to share their vision, priorities, and challenges because they believe that your company will do what is right to help them succeed.
Customer Success is in a unique position to provide insights through the customer’s lens, and this perspective enables you to tailor your products and services to uniquely drive the desired outcomes your customer is seeking. Successful outcomes are the key to both keeping and creating progressive growth within your customer base. In this blog, we will explore the concept of customer success, its significance, and strategies to take the aspiration into action.
Understanding Customer Success
“Customer Success is the function at a company responsible for managing the relationship between a vendor and its customers. The goal of customer success is to make the customer as successful as possible, which in turn, improves customer lifetime value (CLTV) for the company.”1
Customer success as a discipline began around 2010 as SaaS and other Cloud services began to mature, where purchasing models evolved from transactional one-time buys to long-term subscription-based services.
Sometimes customer service and customer success get blurred as a function, however they are quite different. Where customer service activities are designed to be a reaction to issues or questions, customer success is a proactive motion. Both are valuable, but their mission is different. Customer service and customer success both feed customer satisfaction, but customer success is founded in reducing churn and growing revenue as well.
Understanding the outcomes your customer is trying to achieve and delivering services designed to deliver those outcomes is the stewardship of customer success. Creating authentic two-way relationships is foundational to the program and building mutual trust is imperative. The best way to gain trust is by doing the right thing for the customer throughout the full lifecycle of the relationship (contract). Customer success is the one consistent thread throughout the lifecycle that is empowered to focus on catalyzing this trust across the many groups internal to your organization and those many individuals within the customer’s organization that all need to interact.
The Significance of Customer Success
Customer Retention: Retaining existing customers is far more cost-effective than acquiring new ones. Whether your organization creates a dedicated customer success group, or other account facing teams such as account managers take up the mantle, a structured customer success program can reduce churn rates and increase customer lifetime value.
Revenue Growth: Satisfied customers are more likely to make repeat purchases, upgrade to premium plans, and refer others to your business. This naturally evolves into increased revenue and profitability.
Brand Advocacy: Customers that achieve successful outcomes though your services can become your biggest promoters. They are more likely to share their positive experiences with others, contributing to brand awareness and providing credibility to new prospects.
Feedback and Improvement: Taking an open look at how your customers perceive your products and services is critical in adapting and adjusting them to continue to be market competitive.
Competitive Advantage: An outcome driven posture, with a genuine mindset to deliver solutions that uniquely fit the needs of the customer, is customer success at the core, and the trusted relationships that are derived from this discipline can set your company apart from the competition.
Strategies for Achieving Customer Success
- Know Your Customers: Engaging with customers to understand their business objectives, challenges, and market headwinds can help you tailor your solutions to fit your customer’s targeted outcomes. You need the trust of your customer to gain these insights. Achieve this and it can be a win for your customer, and it will follow that they are more likely to do more business with you.
- Onboarding and Training: An effective onboarding process is crucial to get customers and your internal team started in the right direction. Use this “honeymoon” period to set expectations, particularly around processes and communications. Make sure everyone is clear on roles and responsibilities and what resources are available to help the customer utilize your product or service effectively.
- Regular Communication: This cannot be understated: Communication is everything! During onboarding the communication plan should have been established, however be intentional in your efforts to stay in touch with your customers on a regular cadence. Depending on your business this may take a variety of forms and while digital is the scalable option, where personal interactions are possible, whether virtual or in person, do it. Human contact in some form trumps email any day.
- Proactive Support: If your program is working well, you should be so in touch with your customer that you can anticipate what potential issues may arise and address them before they become major problems. Even so there will be times where an issue occurs that is significant and disruptive; the key is to approach these unpleasant scenarios with urgency and help support your internal team to quickly drive problem resolution. Don’t forget to communicate clearly and often, there is nothing worse than a vacuum of information during a major problem!
- Personalization: Approach your customers as individuals, not just numbers. Understanding the people you support, what they consider important, the types of actions that frustrate them, and the outcomes they are after should be woven into the fabric of customer success. Personalize their experience as much as possible, offering solutions and recommendations tailored to their specific needs.
- Measure and Analyze: Use key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the success of your customer success efforts. Metrics like Net Promoter Score (NPS), customer satisfaction (CSAT), and churn rates are important for assessing the impact of your customer success program.
The Future of Customer Success
Whether it’s in our workday or personal life, we expect a level of personalization when interacting with most businesses. Especially for B2B relationships, organizations are looking for partners to support them, not traditional vendors that walk away post sale.
Customer success provides a proactive and intimately customized team outlook that can be a differentiator and a competitive advantage. And for the customer, the customer success function can find ways to bring them value beyond the tangible solutions you deliver to them. This is about doing good things for all parties!
By prioritizing customer success at your company you can build lasting relationships, foster brand loyalty, and drive sustainable growth within your customer portfolio. In a world where customer choices are abundant, putting your customers first can be the key to long-term success. Beyond that, the positive culture that a customer-first organization emanates is a proven path to successful growth for both the company selling goods and the company purchasing them. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that winning formula!
Author Profile: Jessica Carroll, Chief Experience Officer at Acuative
Jessica joined Acuative in July 2022, with over 30 years of experience in leadership roles in the technology industry. She spent five years as VP, Customer Success at TenFour and prior to that held a variety of senior IT Leadership positions at the United States Golf Association. Jessica is a speaker on the topics of client engagement, team culture, digital transformation, and cloud computing, has been published in multiple industry outlets, and is a contributing author to the book, “Digital Transformation Demystified".