Chapter 1

What Is Customer Success?

Table of Contents
Blank
Introduction: Who's this Customer Success Guide For?
Chapter 1: What is Customer Success?
Chapter 2: Customer Success Everywhere: An Organizaitonal Philosophy
Chapter 4: What’s the Difference Between Customer Success, Customer Support, Account Management, and Professional Services?
Chapter 5: Why Is Customer Success Important to SaaS?
Chapter 7: What Does a Mature Customer Success Organization Look Like?
Chapter 8: Does Customer Success Need Its Own Tool?
Chapter 9: How To Get Started with Customer Success

Most definitions of Customer Success try to capture the sentiment of helping customers get value from your product, reach their goals, and find success. Which is correct but leaves much to be desired in way of understanding and application.

Because Customer Success rhetoric draws from overused business words like “value,” “goals,” “outcomes,” and “success,” definitions of the practice make most of us none the wiser and left wondering: but what does that really mean?

As a newer organizational function, people unfamiliar with Customer Success often try to compare it to other well-known functions they do understand, such as Customer Support or Sales. This is reasonable given that we all need a frame of reference to build context from when trying to understand new concepts. And while likening the functions can serve as a helpful point of orientation, doing so also paints Customer Success in broad strokes and invites the wrong assumptions.

As a result, we’re frequently made to define Customer Success by what it’s not.

  • Customer Success is not Customer Support or a call center.
  • Customer Success is not Account Management with a trendy name.
  • Customer Success is not just about the renewal.

So, what is Customer Success?

Customer Success connects why customers buy your solution (their purchase intent) with what your customers get (realized value and outcomes) using a proactive and prescriptive customer management approach to reach both your customer and your company’s goals.

To help unpack this definition a bit more, we’ve broken it down into three main parts which we outline in the remainder of this chapter.

1. Customer Success connects why customers buy your product with what your customers get.

How this connection materializes in terms of real-life application looks different for every company based on their solutions, their team, and their focus. This dependency adds to the ambiguity around what Customer Success actually does. (Don’t worry, we cover this in Chapter 3.) Regardless of whether Customer Success is delivered to the customer in the format of face-to-face consulting or self-service guidance, the same tenet applies: Customer Success is not only about the how-to of your product but also, and more importantly, about the why.

At the end of the day, you don’t retain customers by showing them how to use your product – although a necessary requisite. You retain customers by showing them why your product makes their life better and then showing them how to put that expertise into practice. For instance, let’s look at ChurnZero’s customer health score feature. The value isn’t in showing customers how to add a criterion (say, product usage) to their customer health score. The real value is in educating customers on why this criterion matters in the first place. In this case, it’s because product usage is a leading indicator of a customer’s likelihood to churn. It’s a critical component of measuring customer health, which helps you predict churn and deliver forecasts that your executive team trusts. To grow in your role or life, it’s not enough to know how to do something, you need to know why you do it.

Customer Success amplifies your customers’ “why.”

When you begin to understand why you do you what do, instead of blindly following along or only half understanding, you become more competent. Your competence gives you more confidence. Your confidence allows you to act with greater  conviction and vision, which in turn allows you to make more informed decisions instead of letting the status quo and generic best practices dictate the trajectory of your work and success. You no longer jump from template to template in search of answers and reassurance. Instead, you have the foundation and skillset to build them on your own.

This is the power that Customer Success gives your customers. When you focus on making your customers the best versions of themselves, the renewals and the expansion and the advocacy naturally follows. But it starts and ends with the customer.

1. Customer Success connects why customers buy your product with what your customers get.

How this connection materializes in terms of real-life application looks different for every company based on their solutions, their team, and their focus. This dependency adds to the ambiguity around what Customer Success actually does. (Don’t worry, we cover this in Chapter 3.) Regardless of whether Customer Success is delivered to the customer in the format of face-to-face consulting or self-service guidance, the same tenet applies: Customer Success is not only about the how-to of your product but also, and more importantly, about the why.

At the end of the day, you don’t retain customers by showing them how to use your product – although a necessary requisite. You retain customers by showing them why your product makes their life better and then showing them how to put that expertise into practice. For instance, let’s look at ChurnZero’s customer health score feature. The value isn’t in showing customers how to add a criterion (say, product usage) to their customer health score. The real value is in educating customers on why this criterion matters in the first place. In this case, it’s because product usage is a leading indicator of a customer’s likelihood to churn. It’s a critical component of measuring customer health, which helps you predict churn and deliver forecasts that your executive team trusts. To grow in your role or life, it’s not enough to know how to do something, you need to know why you do it.

Customer Success amplifies your customers’ “why.”

When you begin to understand why you do you what do, instead of blindly following along or only half understanding, you become more competent. Your competence gives you more confidence. Your confidence allows you to act with greater  conviction and vision, which in turn allows you to make more informed decisions instead of letting the status quo and generic best practices dictate the trajectory of your work and success. You no longer jump from template to template in search of answers and reassurance. Instead, you have the foundation and skillset to build them on your own.

This is the power that Customer Success gives your customers. When you focus on making your customers the best versions of themselves, the renewals and the expansion and the advocacy naturally follows. But it starts and ends with the customer.

2. Customer Success uses a proactive and prescriptive customer management approach.

One of the defining traits that sets Customer Success apart from its more reactive counterpart (Customer Support) is that Customer Success was designed to be proactive at its foundation. This means Customer Success does things like:

  • Prevent customer dissatisfaction and churn before it happens.
  • Preemptively clear roadblocks to customers achieving their goals.
  • Answer the questions customers aren’t asking.
  • Anticipate customer needs by understanding their journey and tracking their behavior.

But being proactive isn’t enough to keep your customers. Knowing that customers don’t renew on generic experiences, Customer Success must also be prescriptive in their guidance and approach. This means Customer Success does things like:

  • Consider the customer’s context when sending engagements and consulting.
  • Design customer journeys that prioritize the customer’s goals before the company’s goals.
  • Send highly relevant messages based on an individual customer’s usage, setbacks, wins, company news, industry happenings, and so on.

Customer Success delivers exactly what a customer needs, exactly when they need it. This may sound like a tall order, and it is. Which is why real-time customer usage data, defined customer journeys, predictive customer health scoring, and accessible customer touchpoints are fundamental to both your success and your customer’s success.

3. Customer Success drives the success of your customers, and when done strategically, the success of your company.

Now, everything we’ve discussed above goes into making your customer successful. Customer Success drives your customer’s outcomes by fulfilling the reason(s) why they purchase your product and ensuring they reach their goals.

But that’s not the only reason Customer Success has emerged as a high-demand function for SaaS companies. Customer Success has excelled because it also benefits your business. (We discuss why Customer Success is essential to SaaS in Chapter 4.)

Because Customer Success is often defined solely through an external lens of the customer, its internal value within the organization can suffer. Customer Success activities become seen as “soft touches” that organizations feel they can’t put real value behind. But if you thoughtfully design and align your Customer Success program with your organization’s broader goals, it becomes a critical cog in how the business operates.

IN THE NEXT CHAPTER, we discuss our philosophy on Customer Success, including why it’s a myth that Customer Success is solely responsible for customer retention, and how you undercut your success by confining it to a single department.

Table of Contents

Blank
Introduction: Who's this Customer Success Guide For?
Chapter 1: What is Customer Success?
Chapter 2: Customer Success Everywhere: An Organizaitonal Philosophy
Chapter 4: What’s the Difference Between Customer Success, Customer Support, Account Management, and Professional Services?
Chapter 5: Why Is Customer Success Important to SaaS?
Chapter 7: What Does a Mature Customer Success Organization Look Like?
Chapter 8: Does Customer Success Need Its Own Tool?
Chapter 9: How To Get Started with Customer Success