Ever heard the saying "happy wife, happy life"?
Well, that same idea applies to a B2B SaaS company.
A successful company is built on a growing base of happy customers, so it's no surprise that more and more SaaS companies are seeing the value of investing in the success and engagement of their customers.
But someone has to give all that love and attention to those customers and learn what will keep them happy, right?
Please welcome Customer Success (hold for a round of applause).
Customer success revolves around understanding the goals a customer is trying to achieve and then helping them understand how to do that using your product.
It's a cross-functional effort with the success team working with Sales, Support, and Product to ensure customers' success and create that lifetime loyalty every company hopes to achieve.
Let's jump into the importance of a solid Customer Success team and their impact on the company is so essential.
Customer Success (CS) is all about ensuring customers reach their desired outcomes using your product.
A Customer Success strategy lays out the definition of success for your customers and how you'll help them achieve that success throughout the customer journey.
A Customer Success plan is the roadmap that Customer Success teams use to operate. It ensures that the right resources are delivered to your customers at the right time to get the most value from using your product.
A CS team is made up of Customer Success Managers (CSMs) whose primary goal is to provide support for customers as they transition from the sales pipeline (prospects) to the support pipeline (active users).
CSMs are typically responsible for maintaining customer loyalty, upselling existing customers to new features within the product, fostering a long-term customer relationship, and ensuring that their customers are achieving their goals.
The reason roles on the Customer Success team are growing so rapidly within the SaaS space is simple; engaged, happier customers lead to less churn, a higher customer retention rate, greater lifetime value, and more recurring revenue.
Creating a solid success team to improve the overall customer experience, reduce friction in the customer journey, and ensure a customer's success in the product pays off in the long run.
CS is one of the biggest proponents of your customer growth strategy.
CSMs focus on high-level issues, such as running a smooth customer onboarding process, directing customers to new areas of the product they still need to check out, or resolving issues that are blocking an upsell or renewal opportunity.
A strong CS strategy lays out the vision for how a customer can use your product and associated resources better to achieve their goals and individual measure of "success."
But when do you start building the team?
It should be something you're thinking about from the very beginning.
Even if you haven't hired a Customer Success Manager yet, it's essential to be paying attention to the CS strategy in the early stages of a company so you can understand how customers should move through the various customer lifecycle stages.
You can still have Customer Success Management without having someone with the title "Customer Success Manager."
While companies have started pushing more self-serve modes of products - PLG, for example - customers, to some extent, still want to be served. They don't want to try to figure out how to map out your product to get to their desired outcomes; they want help and guidance along that process.
CSMs are often considered product experts. Based on what is uncovered along the sales process, a Customer Success Manager should know their customers' pain points and how to solve them with your product.
The clear vision a CSM lays out from day one via Customer Success milestones and how to hit them is directly correlated to the success (or failure) of your customer retention strategy.
From a revenue standpoint, your customer success efforts will drive revenue growth and your business's future. You're supporting long-term growth when you're able to keep those early customers happy - ensuring high customer retention and a low churn rate.
It's one of the things that make customer success important!
Customer acquisition costs are a real consideration for companies - you're spending a lot on sales, marketing, and success to get that customer started. So if you have a customer on an annual subscription that doesn't renew, there's a high sunk cost in even bringing on that customer.
To drive growth, customer success needs to be emphasized with the first customer and mature over time. Because, if you wait too long and get too many customers, you've already built a culture in the company and internal processes. Switching over to being more customer-centric is going to take a lot of time to break down those processes and implement new ones.
CS helps better understand pain points and the context before jumping to potential solutions, as you may miss something important without proper care, attention, and communication.
Everyone needs customers engaged and happy with the product; they ensure the business keeps running.
People often talk about Product being at the center of a company, but Customer Success is like the glue holding the company together.
A strong success team works with - and across - different teams within a company to guide customers along their journey with your product.
Let's break this down further to understand how CS impacts other teams.
With sales, you want to make sure you're targeting the minimum viable segment that you're building for-the good fit customers for your business. That way, you can properly support them and make sure that they're going to get value from the product.
CSMs ensure a good sales handoff so onboarding goes well and the customer has a good impression of the product.
When onboarding new customers, CSMs must determine their pain points and desired outcomes moving forward.
This ensures that CS can plan and address their needs as they move through the lifecycle stages.
Building a strong relationship between Sales and CS is especially useful when determining Ideal Customer Profiles (ICP).
As companies grow and the product develops, specific customers and industries become a better fit as customers.
A good CS team will track which customers are achieving high success and provide that information to the Sales team so they can better target prospective customers that fit the latest ICP.
Read more: Aligning Sales and Customer Success.
With the more recent emergence of Customer Support in the B2B world, there needs to be some clarification about the roles and responsibilities of the two different teams.
You can simply think of Support as a reactive team; they reply to live chat messages, handle questions about where to find certain features, and answer ad-hoc questions about pricing or functionality.
Customer Service can be seen as a precursor (though, often overlapping) to customer support.
Customer Success is the more proactive team; they anticipate the needs of their customers and provide resources and answers ahead of time before their customer actually runs into the issue.
While separate teams, open lines of communication between them are essential to ensuring customer satisfaction.
Suppose customer support hears the same integration question repeatedly from different customers. In that case, a good CS team will start answering that question and providing additional resources during the onboarding process.
A close relationship between a customer, CS, and Support helps maintain transparency of customer needs and an active assessment of potential customer risks.
The more information that's shared between success and support, the better a customer understands which team to direct specific questions or requests to, which in turn helps get those needs addressed faster and keep 'em happier.
Product quality has a huge impact on customer satisfaction.
But just as Support will pass frequent customer questions to the Success team to proactively answer, a good CS team will advocate for customer needs to the product team.
PMs can get caught up in looking at the product from their own perspectives, knowing all the workflows and workarounds that exist in-product.
Because a Customer Success Manager looks at the product from a customer's perspective and how they actually use it, they can uncover product gaps that have been missed or could be improved upon, which will better inform the product roadmap.
When the product team is backlogged, it's often the CS team that will help determine prioritization since they know which customers are most likely to churn if their needs aren't addressed first.
Plus, they're also the ones that are going to translate the product vision to the other customers, so that feature delays don't result in negative sentiment and distrust.
CSMs are the customer advocate within your company, so they will explain the reality of customer experiences to push the product vision forward.
As your business grows, your product continues to change, and your customer's needs evolve.
CSMs work cross-functionally with sales, support, and product teams to ensure that customers are getting the most value out of the product.
And when they get value, you get value.
The direct correlation between an effective customer success strategy and increased customer lifetime value is manifestly evident.
This commitment to your customer's success can be challenging, but making your customers successful and keeping them happy will build trust and encourage lifetime loyalty.