It's no secret your business needs exceptional Sales and Marketing to be successful. But in a world where customers have endless options, Sales and Marketing alone aren't enough to sustain growth.
Businesses can no longer rely on annual contracts to lock customers in. Plus, the cost of customer acquisition has steadily increased over the past decade.
So, what else can businesses do today to succeed? The answer: Invest in customer success — one of the most popular, emerging growth opportunities in business today, cross-industry.
What is customer success?
Customer success is anticipating customer challenges or questions and proactively providing solutions and answers. Customer success helps you boost customer happiness and retention, thus increasing your revenue and customer loyalty.
Who needs a customer success strategy?
If you have customers, you should invest in customer success.
In recent years, it's become more expensive for businesses to acquire new customers. That's why you need to focus on keeping existing customers happy — happy customers become your advocates.
Some of today's most successful emerging and growing companies are already investing in customer success. In fact, growing companies are 21% more likely than their stagnant counterparts to prioritize customer success.
These growing businesses understand the most cost-efficient way to run a business today is by ensuring customers are happy and successful, which are both products of customer success.
Customer Success vs. Customer Support
Customer success aligns closely with customer support to take customer satisfaction to the next level. (In fact, at HubSpot, these teams sit together.)
Customer success is focused on working proactively in partnership with customers over throughout their time as a customer to help them get more value out of their purchase and share their feedback with you. It drives the customer experience forward and ensures a successful path into the future.
Customer support focuses on working reactively on the front lines — fielding customer questions, issues, and requests over phone, email, live chat, and social media. Support is the function that solves problems when customers raise them; it's reactive fulfillment to specific customer requests.
Why is customer success important?
Customer success leads to business success. It improves customer happiness and loyalty; by genuinely helping your customers succeed, they become your biggest promoters and advocates. Customer success is tied to your bottom line as it helps you reduce churn rates, improve renewal and satisfaction, and, therefore, boost revenue.
Customer success has the power to help you grow your base of advocates and promoters. If you're a subscription-based business, this will help you boost renewal rates.
In turn, more happy and loyal customers mean reduced churn rates. Reducing churn and increasing customer retention directly impacts your bottom line — you'll see a boost in revenue by retaining customers (as it's significantly more expensive to acquire new customers).
Customer Success Management
Customer success management is overseeing your business's customer success representatives and maintaining a customer success strategy to proactively assist, delight, and retain customers.
A customer success manager leads the group of representatives who work directly with customers. Depending on the size and organization of your company, customer success managers may report to a senior manager or a VP of Customer Support and Success.
Customer success management is critical to the health of an organization as it directly impacts customer retention rates as well as the rate of cross-sells and upsells. As of today, there are nearly 3,500 open roles for "customer success manager."
Customer success (CS) managers have a few key responsibilities:
- To ensure representatives are helping customers get the most out of the product or service — thus increasing the likelihood of retaining those customers
- To hire, train, and motivate CS representatives on engagement and retention best practices as well as product or service specificities
- To develop the organization's customer success strategy to actively engage and retain customers
- To lead the development of any supporting content and materials needed by CS representatives
- To segment the customer base by agreed-upon factors, such as subscription type, product adoption, business size, or the like so that CS representatives can better help them
- To address any escalated CS issues or questions
- To encourage customer feedback through direct questioning and/or customer surveys
- To analyze the feedback, performance, and retention rates of customers based on their interaction with the CS team to better understand the effectiveness of the broader customer success strategy
The internal organization of your CS team should be based on the needs of your team, size of your employee base, and complexity of your product. Let's look at a sample customer success organization and discuss how it operates to prioritize customer satisfaction.
In this sample organization, the CS managers leads a three-pronged department. One team manages customer onboarding, another heads up long-term customer success, and the third manages one-off technical issues or requests.
This type of team structure allows for more targeted solutions and provides opportunities for your team to build long-term relationships with customers (meaning a greater chance for cross-selling and upselling).
How does customer success work?
There are three elements needed for customer success to be effective. These include a customer success solution (e.g. a tool or software), a team and manager of customer success employees, and a customer success strategy.
1. Choose a customer success solution.
To proactively manage all interactions you have with customers, you'll want to implement a customer success solution on your team — meaning customer success software and tools.
For example, the HubSpot Service Hub allows you to connect with your customers on their time and grow through their success. It helps you bring customer success to the forefront so you can ensure you have happy customers who want to remain customers, refer their friends, and tell their network about your business and offerings — a.k.a. become promoters!
2. Hire and train a customer success team.
You'll need a person (or, preferably, a team) of people working on customer success. The number of representatives and managers on your customer success team will depend on the size of your business and available resources.
Note: Remember to expand your customer success team as your company grows so you can proactively assist your customer base.
3. Create a customer success strategy.
Depending on the product you sell and what your customers need from you, your customer success strategy may vary a bit. However, here are some universal steps to creating a customer success strategy for your team:
- Establish a customer success team.
- Implement the appropriate customer success tools and software.
- Identify your customers' end goals (and why they need customer success).
- Create a roadmap for success to explain your business's expectations and goals for customer success in both the short and long term.
- Share and implement the strategy on your team, and ensure everyone knows what's expected of them individually and as a team.
- Analyze your results — Do your customers have the tools and support they need to succeed?
- Make modifications to your customer success strategy and the team as your business and customer base grow.
Now that you have a better understanding of customer success and why it's so important, let's look at some ways to help your customers succeed.
5 Tips for Helping Customers Succeed
Feel free to modify the following list of customer success tips to better suit your customers and their needs. Since every business and base of customers is different, you might find that some of these tips work better than others for your specific situation.
1. Implement a customer success program.
Create a customer success program to guide your team to effectively and proactively assist your customers. Every business will have a version of a customer success strategy, so ensure your customer success strategy meets the needs and expectations of your customers.
Don't forget to modify your strategy as your business grows — the needs of your customers are bound to change over time, especially as your products and features evolve.
2. Educate your customers.
To best support your customers, you need to anticipate the questions that are bound to arise as they work with your products. To ensure they're not sitting on the phone on-hold or awaiting your response to their inquiry, empower your customers through education about your product.
This is especially important if you sell a complex product or service like software. For example, you can create a knowledge base where you list product and feature descriptions or include live chat on your site so success reps can better support your customers in real-time.
3. Onboard customers.
Onboard your customers to support them throughout the initial parts of their journey with your brand and product. Provide them with the tools, trainings, resources, and knowledge they need to get the ball rolling. Onboarding customers is a great way to delight them and get them acquainted with your product — and answer any questions proactively.
By onboarding your customers, you set the tone for what to expect from your business throughout the rest of the time they're customers. Examples of onboarding materials include step-by-step tutorials, unlimited one-on-one guidance from reps, or milestone celebrations when a customer achieves success using your product.
4. Communicate with other teams.
Keeping the lines of communication open among the various departments at your company will help you help your customers. Work with marketing to create blogs and video content to explains how a product or feature works.
Communicate with sales to understand and target specific pain points that customers approach you with. Chat with support to align your proactive and reactive efforts so all interactions with your customers are professional and consistent.
5. Promote customer loyalty.
Loyalty results from a customer's positive experiences with your business. You want your customers to feel satisfied and certain they're getting value out of their investment. There are many ways to promote customer loyalty to establish brand advocates and promoters to increase your customer retention rates.
You might create a customer loyalty program, develop a community for your current customers to interact with each other, or establish a point and discount system for current customers making additional purchases.
You Succeed When Your Customers Do
The most successful businesses are those who ensure the continued happiness and success of their customers. By creating a customer success program at your company and ensuring your customers feel supported throughout their time working with your business, you'll turn them into loyal advocates of your brand.
This will allow you to grow sustainably all while building long-term relationships with the people you depend on most: your customers.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in July 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.