The key to improving customer retention and unlocking long-term growth lies in building a customer success strategy alongside a growth strategy.
While a growth strategy keeps your pipeline full, customer success ensures that your users get maximum value from your product and transforms them into champions.
Plus, it gives you the insights you need to release new features and create personalized experiences that improve customer loyalty and lower churn rates.
But creating a robust customer success framework can seem like a lot of work, especially if it’s your first time. If you aren’t sure where to start, follow along as we outline the steps you need to take to accelerate revenue, boost loyalty, and build stronger customer relationships using expert tips and advice.
How to create a customer success framework
A successful customer success process predicts customer concerns so you can address them beforehand and keep customer satisfaction intact.
And while your strategy should be tailored to your organization and customer data, most frameworks include the following steps:
1. Acquire customer data
Most SaaS companies send out customer surveys and feedback forms to uncover customer pain points and discover problems with their products and services.
And although this approach works, it’s more reactive than proactive — instead of preventing potential issues, it depends on gathering negative feedback from dissatisfied customers.
To stay ahead of the curve and identify problems before they surface, you need to be proactive to consistently deliver the best customer experience.
Acquiring the following data from your existing customer success software will give you a clear picture of the roadblocks preventing customers from achieving their goals with your product:
- Product usage data: Gives deep insights into how customers use and engage with your product. You can use this data to build features and add resources that help customers get the most out of your product. For example, if your product usage data shows that one of your product’s features is most used by customers from a specific industry, consider any improvements you could make to have it better suit their needs.
- Billing data: Helps uncover customer purchasing habits and disengagement, which ultimately leads to churn. While you may have stellar product usage stats, it could just be because your customers aren’t all that impressed with your product but have yet to find an alternative. Checking your billing data to see whether past customers are renewing their subscriptions or not is always a good idea. If they aren’t, you’ve got a churn problem.
- Customer support data: Allows your team to find recurring patterns in customer support queries and resolve them promptly to avoid churn. If you find that a lot of your customers choose not to renew their subscriptions, analyzing customer support queries will help you understand the issues at hand. For example, ask your customer support team which questions users ask the most. You may find that some of your product features aren’t very user-friendly, or that a specific bug pops up frequently.
2. Agree on key metrics and KPIs
Because customer success can be tracked in a variety of ways, it’s important to define key metrics and decide how you’re going to measure them. This will help you to reduce confusion between teams and get everyone on the same page about desired outcomes and what customer success looks like for your organization.
Some of the most common customer success metrics that companies track include:
- Customer health score: A customer health score tells you where a customer falls on your retention scale and how likely they are to churn. To measure customer health scores accurately, track metrics like website activity, product usage, and engagement, then create a scoring system to segment customers based on their potential churn rate. For example, add points to the health score when a customer engages with your product and subtract points when they give you negative feedback. Once you’ve implemented a scoring system, collect data for a few weeks, and segment your audience based on their scores. The ones with the lowest scores are more likely to churn, while the highest scores are potential brand champions who may be willing to give you referrals or make introductions to new accounts.
- Customer engagement: Customer engagement is a measure of how effectively your business communicates with customers and builds a relationship with them. The most common customer interactions include visiting your website for answers, liking or interacting with your posts on social media, and opening your emails. You can engage with customers via social media, email, website, forums, or any other platform they’re using to communicate or consume content and measure their engagement with metrics such as website traffic, number of likes, email open rates, etc.
- Customer satisfaction: Customer satisfaction simply measures whether your product meets customer expectations or not. You can measure customer satisfaction by sending out surveys or using metrics like the Net Promoter Score (NPS) or Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT).
3. Create a best practices list
Beyond the functionality of your product, having a list of best practices for your customer support team to follow is essential to customer success. Consistent messaging and clear priorities will not only improve customer interactions but foster a healthier, happier support team.
Some best practices include:
- Segmenting your clients in such a way that your customer support team caters to your top accounts and the accounts with the most potential for growth. One way to do this is to use a hybrid approach involving automation and one-on-one time with a customer success team member for both types of accounts. For example, your top accounts may have a straight line of communication to a customer support representative, while smaller accounts are directed to an automated chat.
- Optimizing your customer support team’s bandwidth so they don’t get overwhelmed with requests using the right customer success software and tools. For instance, if most of your customers submit queries through your website, you may want to create a chatbot or help center so they get answers faster.
Unfortunately, building a customer success framework isn’t enough to increase your customer lifecycle and grow revenue. You also need to pair it with effective customer success strategies to maximize impact.
3 customer success strategies to try
Customer success strategies are essential for any SaaS organization that wants to improve customer retention and loyalty. Using the right initiatives can transform your customers into champions, open up cross-sell and upsell opportunities, and help you reach your revenue goals.
But which ones are the most likely to get you the results you want? We asked the experts to find out what they recommend.
1. Create personalized experiences
Too many SaaS companies make the mistake of following a cookie-cutter approach to retaining customers to save time and resources.
But to foster a long-term relationship with your customers, you need to adopt a personalized approach and tailor experiences to suit their individual needs.
Brandon Schroth, Founder of Reporter Outreach, recommends using customer segmentation data from sales and marketing teams to create personalized messages and offers.
Another strategy that works, according to Brandon, is customizing product features by utilizing tools like cookies, surveys, and analytics.
“This type of personalization helps create an emotional connection with consumers and makes them feel valued by the company,” he says.
You can also go a step further and make time to learn about your customer on a personalized level to improve customer loyalty and build a lasting relationship with them.
Ravi Davda, CEO of Rockstar Marketing, goes above and beyond to increase customer success and improve retention.
“I learn about them [the customer] as a person, why they started their business, and sometimes even go the extra mile and send them a gift on their birthday or a postcard when I'm on holiday.
“This approach works because it helps build trust beyond the working relationship, but you must spend the extra effort to do this,” he adds.
2. Use a data-driven approach
Being proactive is crucial to customer success. But staying proactive is difficult, especially when you’re managing several client accounts.
At UserGems, we use a data-driven customer success approach — we send our users auto-generated emails based on trigger events. And all our customer success team needs to do is review the data and hit send.
One trigger event is when a client doesn’t meet the minimum outreach rate, which is the percentage of customer job change leads they reach out to.
“When the outreach rate is below 35%, even after the customer has used UserGems for over 30 days, we send out an automated email sequence that gives the user recommendations on how to improve this number. Of course, we also offer to work out a solution over a real-time call as well,” says Steven Farina, UserGems’ Senior Customer Success Manager.
Another important customer success playbook is when a prospect changes jobs just a few months before their renewal date. When this happens, our customer success team reaches out to the sales team to get them up to speed on how we worked with the account before they reach out, so they have everything they need to continue the conversation about a renewal.
3. Collect feedback at every touchpoint
Collecting and analyzing feedback gives your customer success team insights into customer satisfaction levels and enables them to:
- Strengthen the relationship with existing customers, or
- Change the course of the relationship with a dissatisfied customer
“We systematically collect product feedback and feature requests from users at nearly every touch point of the customer journey.
“We make a note of the requests and suggestions people make in our CRM. Then when we implement a feature, we send a personal note to everyone who requested it,” says Austin Shong, Marketing Lead at Loomly.
“This builds a strong relationship by letting users know their feedback is welcomed and heard. We always hear from customers that they feel more valued as customers at Loomly than they did at competitors because of this strategy,” he adds.
Chip Royce, Growth Leader at Flywheel Advisors, says their organization adopts a similar strategy.
But instead of relying on a more passive method like customer surveys or satisfaction scores to obtain feedback, they opt for a more direct approach.
“If a customer has a poor onboarding experience, we offer to call them up and get direct feedback. We don't stop there. We do this for every customer,” says Chip.
“The callbacks prove our commitment to providing a great experience. The timely response to customer concerns reinforces that the customer matters to us. The result is a less-skeptical customer with greater loyalty to our company and willingness to share feedback,” he adds.
3 real examples of customer success strategies in action
Implementing customer success strategies that multiply customer retention and revenue is easier said than done — it requires time, resources, and commitment. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing.
Take a look at these real-world examples of companies that have used the strategies we’ve outlined to achieve amazing results.
1. Instrumentl - Personalizing customer onboarding
Bringing potential customers on board is the most important part of the customer journey — 63% of customers think it’s key to subscribe to a product, and 74% will switch to other solutions if this process is complicated — yet companies don’t pay enough attention to it.
Instrumentl, a fundraising platform for nonprofits, is trying to change this. Will Yang, the company’s Head of Growth and Customer Success, says they’ve personalized the onboarding process to build a strong relationship with customers, gain valuable feedback, and improve customer retention.
“Personalized onboarding is the most effective customer retention strategy we’ve used. Whenever we sign a new customer, our team makes sure to have an individual onboard them within their first week with us."
“This process includes comprehensive training sessions that explain how the platform works and setting up meetings with the customer to answer any questions they may have about our software. We also provide detailed follow-up emails and calls to check in on their progress and make sure they’re getting the most out of our product. As a result, we have seen an increase in customer retention rates as customers are more likely to stay loyal when they feel like their needs are being heard and addressed quickly.”
Will Yang, Head of Growth and Customer Success, Instrumentl.
2. UserGems - Going the extra mile
We’re tooting our own horn here but for a good reason. Our customer success team helped Bynder, a leading digital asset management platform, add deals worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to their pipeline.
Like many other organizations, Bynder went through the build vs. buy dilemma — they tried to implement the sales intelligence use case manually but found it to be challenging.
So, they decided to add UserGems to their technology stack to reach their sales and marketing goals.
Dónal Ó Mearáin, the company’s Director of Lifecycle Marketing, explains how Steven Farina, our Customer Success Manager at UserGems, worked with them to help them get the most out of UserGems.
“We have a lot of different personas that have bought and used Bynder. So, what was crucial for us was making sure our sales team had accurate information. So, when we sent over tens of thousands of records to UserGems to track and discovered that most of these people had left their company, we knew we had a data problem.
“We quickly realized that how we had set things up wasn’t how we wanted to run our business. At this point, Steven Farina, our UserGems CSM, stepped in and helped us fix those really quickly. He went above and beyond to help us understand how our product data works. And how relevant and accurate it could be by doing some segmentation for us pre-enrichment. So, UserGems was crucial for us to build quality data for our sales team and an understanding that there was alignment with Marketing. Then we started getting deals and meetings pretty quickly.”
Dónal Ó Mearáin, Director of Lifecycle Marketing, Bynder.
Steven’s proactive customer success approach helped Bynder see a 3X ROI from closed won deals without experiencing any pipeline anxiety.
3. Napta - Implementing customer feedback
Napta is software that allows organizations to optimize project planning. Estelle Barthes, their Head of Content And Communication, explains how they turned customers into their biggest fans by taking their feedback seriously.
"We highly value customer feedback on our product and combine them with our own expertise to build a strong and ambitious roadmap during the onboarding process. We have also implemented business reviews every 6 months to discuss how the relationship is going and how to improve it.”
Estelle Barthes, Head of Content & Communication, Napto.
The result? They’ve had no churn for 4 years in a row and their clients advocate for them — some even get on reference calls with prospects without the involvement of a salesperson, according to Estelle.
Foster brand loyalty with customer satisfaction
By investing in customer success, businesses can build better relationships with existing customers and attract new ones through word-of-mouth marketing. This translates to more revenue and less churn.
One of the best ways to win at customer success is to take a proactive approach and solve problems before customers experience them. UserGems helps with this.
UserGems is a pipeline generation software that helps revenue teams generate and protect revenue efficiently. With UserGems, companies can track and automate outreach when their champions change their jobs, and capture the buying groups to find the warmest path into every account.
Companies like Mimecast, Greenhouse, Medallia use UserGems to reach their revenue goals, quickly and efficiently.