Customer Success Best Practices In 2018

We want to continue sharing valuable content from the conferences we attended as we did in our previous article about the value of SaaS conferences. This time we want to talk about customer success and what are the current best practices in this field.

These notes are from the Customer Support panel at SaaStr Europa, with Katherine Barrios, Emilia D’Anzica and Sue Duris. If you are looking for some practical advice on ways to improve your customer loyalty — read on.

Let’s start with some staggering numbers. More than 1.6 trillion dollars — this is the amount of money companies lost in 2018 because customers switched to competitors due to poor customer experience. This means that there is more than enough room for improvement across all organizations, but this is especially true for SaaS companies.

Most growth in revenue is happening in the post-purchase phase of the customer journey. Jason Lemkin himself believes that 90% of revenue is located at that stage. An effective onboarding program can lead to a 25% reduced churn rate and drive the most important metric today — customer LTV.

So what are best customer success practices of 2018?

Hire early

Many companies do not start building their CS team until there are already fires to put out. When the new VP of Customer Success comes in, they deal with fixing the issues rather than building proper processes from the grounds up. 

Tip: Hire customer success people sooner rather than later

Of course, you need qualified people for the job. Make sure they understand your technology and can clearly demonstrate to your customers why they would want to keep paying the subscription and not leave for the competitor’s offer.

Balance your teams

Customer success, marketing, sales, account management — all must work in sync. Customer success manager (CSM) is first and foremost an advisory role for your customers, but it can also bring in revenue and identify upsells.

Tip: Develop cross-team communication

To better sync the teams, leaders must communicate with each other. When teams are transparent in what their goals are, what measurements of success they have, what obstacles they face, and how they are planning to solve them — the communication among departments is a lot smoother and positively impacts your revenue.

The right skill set

This may come as a surprise, but most people do not think of customer success managers as leaders. This is a mistake because this is, probably, one of the most important qualities they should possess. Customers rely on CSM to lead them to their desired outcomes, so leadership trait is very important here.

However, leadership alone is not enough. Excellent communication skills — being clear and direct with the customer — is also essential.

Another good quality to have is empathy — being able to step into someone else’s shoes to feel the customer’s needs. This will also help anticipate issues and questions that may arise in the future. Empathy also plays well into understanding the needs of other departments (which is arguably the hardest part) — otherwise, it creates chaos and misalignment.

Tip: Look to hire empathetic leaders with good communication skills

Use and track NPS

Net Promoter Score will help you monitor customer satisfaction and improve processes. Track changes in NPS to identify when customers switch between promoter, passive and detractor status. Pay very close attention to passives because they do not say anything and therefore you can’t know what’s wrong, which leads to a high probability of them moving to a detractor.

Tip: Utilize NPS to allocate team efforts where they are most needed

You can also set individual account value to help your team focus their efforts. Send NPS to decision makers and day-to-day champions on your team. A high-value account in a passive state might need more attention or personal contact to make sure they are not considering switching to a competitor.

Also, when going through an onboarding process with a new customer, send out surveys to make sure they do not feel any buyer’s remorse. Feedback is key here.

Future trends in customer success

We want to wrap this up with a couple of interesting trends for 2018.

People who approve the purchase of your product (decision makers) for the company are usually business owners or executives — not the ones who will be using it. The ones that will are mostly in their early-mid 20s, fresh out of college. These groups have different approaches when it comes to onboarding: the younger generation often wants self-service, they want to figure out the product on their own. So making your product as self-service as possible is becoming a trend for SaaS companies. Having an academy about your product or service is a great way to teach your customers in an interactive, yet completely self-paced manner. This is where AcademyOcean can help you drive your customer success.

Another trend is to have more customer success involvement in marketing and to move it to a more strategic role within the organization:

  1. Bring CSM into the sales cycle early.
  2. Get feedback and determine happy customers.
  3. Help your marketing team create proper content.

What were your best practices in 2018? What are your plans for 2019? Leave your comments below, we’d love to hear from you.

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