Intercom blog Customer Success

Understanding customer success

Customer success is a business effort to help your customers achieve their objectives.

What does customer success mean?

As the name implies, customer success involves working with your customer to discover how your products and/or services can best empower them to reach their goals and objectives.

Often, this means anticipating your customers’ needs and wants, and taking proactive steps to outperform their expectations.

“Your company can expect less customer churn, more upselling opportunities, greater loyalty, and lower acquisition costs”

Unsurprisingly, this benefits all parties: your customers receive support toward their goals; in turn, your company can expect less customer churn, more upselling opportunities, greater loyalty, and lower acquisition costs as your customers become long-term brand advocates.

Understanding customer success

In a customer success scenario, a company isn’t just reactive to customer needs, but takes a proactive approach, finding and offering solution to customer problems before they ask for help.

An engaged and successful sales representative knows and understands their customers. They listen and look for pain points and inefficiencies that affect their customers, then find ways their product can help. That’s an example of customer success.

Why is customer success important?

Customer success is important because it adds value to the brand-customer relationship. If you let your customer walk away after their purchase and don’t reach out to them before they reach out to you for support then that customer might be inclined to switch to your competition. On the other hand, customers are more likely to stay with a company that is engaged throughout the entire customer journey. In other words, customer success breeds loyalty.

Customer success vs. customer service

While customer success is about being proactive and supporting desired business outcomes, customer service is about being reactive to customer issues to maintain positive experiences.

In those cases, customers self-serve, submit tickets, send emails, or chat with a support rep, who, ideally, takes care of the issues. That’s customer service.

Customer success vs. account management

Like customer service, account management teams offer reactive help to customers who reach out and ask for it.

“Both customer success managers and account managers have similar goals, ie. to get renewals, upsells, cross-sells, and generally keep revenue coming into the company”

Both customer success managers and account managers have similar goals, ie. to get renewals, upsells, cross-sells, and generally keep revenue coming into the company. However, account managers handle customer problems after they arise for a particular set of dedicated customers. Typically, these might be high-value accounts or accounts that have the potential to grow and expand in tandem with the business.

Customer success metrics

A customer success strategy is your game plan for successful engagement and support of customers at every stage of the lifecycle. But how can you be sure that you have an effective strategy? Here are five metrics that will give you an indication.

Churn rate

This is perhaps the most important indicator of how well your strategy is performing. The more delighted your customers are with your offering and the experience they’re having, the more likely they are to stick with you. There are two types of churn to measure: the number of customers who leave, and the revenue lost from them. So, keep tweaking and adjusting your strategy until retention and revenue starts increasing.

Net Promoter Score (NPS)

NPS  measures overall customer experience throughout the entire lifecycle – particularly how likely your customers are to recommend your company to someone else. The score is gathered via a short survey that can tell you a lot about how your customer success strategy is performing and where the customer experience needs improving.

Based on responses, you can classify customers into three groups on a scale of one to 10. For example, respondents who select 0 – 5 are classified as detractors. Respondents who select 6 – 8 are classified as passives, and anyone who chooses 9 or 10 can be classified as a promoter (but you can learn more about how we conduct NPS surveys here.)

Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)

CSAT is short for customer satisfaction. To assess this, you might ask customers how they rate your company, your products, and the experience you offer. For example, after they have completed the onboarding process, you can send a CSAT survey to determine how efficient it is and if any improvements are needed.

This customer success metric can help you pinpoint weaknesses in the experience you offer – so, it’s an easy one to understand and saves you time. If you don’t ask your consumers how satisfied they are with your products and services, you’ll start losing them. And you’ll have no real explanation for why they are leaving.

Customer Effort Score (CES)

A customer effort score (CES) looks at the amount of effort a customer has to make to have their request processed, from getting a question answered to signing a contract. It’s important because customer satisfaction is often based on how easy a brand is to work with.

“The loyalty of your customers will rise after you start measuring, monitoring, and working to improve your customer effort score”

Customers are increasingly expecting seamless interactions with brands and, according to a recent study, improving the effort score from 1 to 5 increases client loyalty by 22%. The loyalty of your customers will therefore rise after you start measuring, monitoring, and working to improve your customer effort score.

Health score

A customer health score helps customer success teams determine whether customers are healthy or at risk. Scoring systems vary from company to company, but overall, it should help you assess how likely a customer is to stay with you or churn.

This way, your team knows where to focus their time, attention, and resources before problems escalate and while churn can be mitigated.

What is customer success management?

Customer success management involves anticipating and responding to customer inquiries as well as being proactive in providing solutions and products that may add value to their experience. Customer success initiatives are often led by a customer success team composed of customer success managers, or employees with similarly related roles dedicated to customer satisfaction (think: client partners and account managers, onboarding managers, and so on).

They focus on building long-term relationships with the customer, gaining an intimate knowledge of their targets and priorities, and advising on how a given product or service can provide the most value to their business.

Key roles and responsibilities

Customer success managers (CSMs) always strive to be one step ahead –  proactively identifying how to further a customer’s business, and making recommendations that will help them achieve greater success.

CSMs play a key role in on-call support systems for the customer – they mentor customers on the best decisions and are the first point of contact if something goes sideways. As a result, customer success managers are responsible for a wide breadth of duties. This includes:

  • Representing your company: As the main point of contact for the customer, customer success managers have many opportunities to represent the business and demonstrate how and why it is the best partner or provider to meet their needs.
  • Onboarding customers: CSMs get customers set up and educate them on the best ways to use your product or service – setting the foundation for their relationship with your company.
  • Proactive support: They anticipate customer questions and develop resources that address them proactively.
  • Strategy sessions with customers: These sessions should help customers identify business objectives and discover potential ways to partner with them. CSMs help the customer tap into underused features or services to get the most value out of your offerings.
  • Driving revenue: Customer success managers also keep an eye on ways to upsell and cross-promote your company’s products.
  • High-level troubleshooting: They also address customer issues as they arise and refer customers to the correct contact (such as the support team) if they cannot resolve them directly.
  • Maintaining loyal customers: CSMs monitor customer retention by identifying signs of dissatisfaction and taking proactive steps to reduce churn, drive renewals, and convert customers into long-term brand ambassadors for your company.
  • Advocating for the customer’s needs: By gaining an in-depth knowledge of their preferences and desires from multiple data sources (which may include candid conversations, formal surveys, CSAT results, reviews, and so on) , customer success managers can ensure their team acts in the best interest of the customer so that these needs can be met.

Customer success best practices

There are a number of approaches that yield consistent results in terms of customer success, no matter the industry.

Establish what success looks like to each customer

To support your customers effectively, you need to understand their goals. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to great customer success, which means you need to get to know your customer, exactly what they want to achieve, and adjust the support you give to ensure you reach those goals together.

“Gain invaluable insights into your customer’s needs so you can keep up with what’s working and improve upon what isn’t”

With Intercom Surveys, for example, you can send short surveys to customers (offline or in the moment) to capture and automatically act on valuable customer insights. Gain invaluable insights into your customer’s needs so you can keep up with what’s working and improve upon what isn’t. Immediately turn these insights into action with responsive workflows that increase customer success in the long run.

Set them up for success from onboarding

The earlier your customer success strategy starts in the customer lifecycle, the better. Boost their success from the get-go with a strong onboarding process. The quicker and easier it is for the customer to learn how to use your product or service, the sooner they start seeing value in it.

This sets your team and your customer on the right track as you can be sure all of the questions and concerns are not only answered, but put to rest. If customers fail to realize the full value of a product or service, especially in the first 90 days, they are less likely to renew, recommend, or upgrade your product.

Our guided Product Tours work effectively to ensure success from the start. They allow you to create an engaging, interactive, personalized, and relevant onboarding experience that fast-tracks your customer to your value points. Create interactive guides that guide customers through the initial steps to get set up, personalize the experience with video, and spotlight your most impressive features.

Proactively contact customers

Make sure your team knows its purpose – as well as being reactive to customer problems, customer success should be proactive in adding value to the experience. And, if you can add value with each interaction, the process will become one of your most valuable tools.

“As firm believers that the best support is no support, we have created a way for you to resolve issues before they arise using our powerful targeted messaging”

Your team should reach out regularly to existing customers – for example, to let them know about products that might help reach their goals.  Or, if you’re monitoring your customer’s use of your product you can also reach out to help them with problems they might not even know they have.

As firm believers that the best support is no support, we have created a way for you to resolve issues before they arise using our powerful targeted messaging. Engage with customers using automated or one-off emails, push notifications on mobile app users, or in-app chat. Reaching out in a way that’s most convenient and relevant to your customers – boosting their overall experience before they’ve even run into any issues.

Monitor metrics for continuous improvement

As we have mentioned above, you need to make sure your customer success practices are having an effect. That’s where metrics and measurement come in. Tracking churn rates, CSATs, NPS, and other stats we’ve already discussed will give you this deep insight into how your customer success team is performing. Are customers moving through the onboarding process smoothly? Has NPS feedback highlighted any vulnerable areas to work on?

Our customer data platform makes this even easier, giving you the key insights you need for continuous improvement.

Customer Service Trends Report 2024 - Horizontal