Customer Success

3 Starting Points for Developing a Customer Success Strategy

June 26, 2015

It may be currently all the rage,  but what are we really talking about when we talk about “customer success”?

For SaaS companies that live and breath not just by acquiring new customers, but by retaining them on a month-by-month or year-by-year basis, the broad-strokes baseline seems obvious — whatever it takes to make customers satisfied enough to renew (and ideally upgrade/purchase more).

Beyond that however, it’s a challenge to talk about customer success in general terms. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to customer success any more than there’s a one-size-fits-all approach to startup sales or marketing. Invariably, any answer to “What strategy should I use?” is going to include a lot of “it depends”.

  • It depends on who your customers are.
  • It depends on what they care about.
  • It depends on what they signed up for and what they expect your product/service to deliver.

Based on those factors, the parameters of customer success can vary greatly.

So where should you start if you’re looking to build out a customer success strategy? Advice from the three customer success experts below can help put you in the right mindset.

1) Focus on Outcomes, Not Features

— Mike Grafham, Office 365 Customer Success Lead

Before you get carried away determining all the services and activities you want to provide, Grafham suggests taking a step back.

“Customer success is the discipline through which customers are helped to achieve the outcome that your service promises,” he says. “Focusing on the outcome rather than the features of the service helps differentiate between what your service is and what your service is for.

In other words, when attempting to envision what customer success should provide, it may actually be beneficial to think about what your other functions/initiatives aren’t providing first. Focus on the gaps between the promise of your product and the actual value your customers are realizing.

Or, as our next expert puts it…

2) Bridge the Gap Between What Sales Sells & What the Product Enables

— Boaz Maor, VP Customer Success, Mashery

“If the customer gets [exactly] what the sales team sold…then you don’t need a customer success team,” Maor explains. “Everything works, and life is beautiful. The reality is that there is always some work that needs to be done to help the customer maximize the value, and that’s where we come in.”

(Note: for more tips from Maor, see “The Anatomy of Customer Success: Team Structure, Metrics, and Goals”)

3) Pinpoint Where You Are on the Customer Success Spectrum

— Dave Blake, Founder & CEO, ClientSuccess

“There’s a scale and a spectrum of customer success,” Blake explains in the videos below. Much depends on the stage of your company and the types of customers you serve. On one end of the spectrum, targeting individual consumers or SMB companies means you will need to develop a scalable low-touch, one-to-many approach, relying heavily on education and automation.

On the other end of the spectrum are companies targeting enterprise businesses. In those cases, customer success can take on a very customized, high-touch approach. It can involve weekly calls or even onsite visits.

Importantly, Blake stresses that companies should recognize they may need to develop several strategies if they’re operating at various points along the spectrum. “You may have strategic customer success managers on one end that are very high-touch, and relationship based,” Blake says.  “And you may also have a long tail of SMB customers that you need to take care of. And you need to have a strategy for [both] as you continue to scale.”

“The key thing that I always say is customer success is a central point of contact, not the single point of contact,” Blake says. “Customers don’t care where they get their answers and how their problems are solved as long as they are solved and they are answered. They don’t care how you deliver the experience and how many touchpoints you have within that experience. What they do care about is that their experience is a good one.”

Photo by: Oscar Rethwill

Senior Content Manager

<strong>Jonathan Crowe</strong> is Senior Content Manager at <a href="">Barkly</a>. He was previously the Managing Editor of OpenView Labs.