Today’s world is all about the customer. According to a Wealth Management Digitization survey by Deloitte, companies who adopt a customer-centric approach were 60% more profitable than their counterparts. But what makes your company truly customer-focused?  

More of today’s market leaders are adopting customer success (CS) teams dedicated to – as the name suggests – helping customers succeed throughout the duration of their time with your product, as well as dedicated CS solutions that help guide teams through and track progress. As a result, companies are better equipped to serve these relationships, generate predictable revenue and loyalty, and scale for growth.

Why Do I Need a CS Team? 

Isn’t it enough just to have a customer service team, and should I really invest in another team solely dedicated to the customer (as sales already plays a huge role in this)? If you want to optimize your customer experience, offer lifetime value or reduce churn, then the answer is yes. A lot is said of the handoff between marketing and sales, but once a lead becomes a customer and has made a purchase, they are then passed off to CS for onboarding and to ensure that the customer gets the value they were promised from Day 1. 

Customer success teams differ from customer service in a critical way. While they both are departments that engage with the customer after a purchase is made, customer service mostly deals with individual transactions, whereas CS adopts a more dynamic approach. Customer success teams look more at the forest as opposed to the tree and focus on the ongoing relationship between customer and vendor (yourself). Their job is to align the customer’s goals with the goals of your company to ensure that value is received throughout their time using your product.

Optimizing for Churn

One of the main pillars of CS is to increase customer retention and loyalty and, thereby, reduce churn, which can have a profound impact on your company. Studies show that 73% of customers rank their experience as the most influential factor in choosing to purchase from one company over another. Engagements with CS include: product/service adoption, following up on renewals (an extension of the customer relationship), cross-sells/upsells (ways in which to enhance it), fostering a relationship between the customer and support for technical/one-off requests not handled by CS, and being the voice of the customer across business. Having a strategy to operationalize these segments makes it easier to put them into effect.

How to Build a CS Team in 6 Steps

So now that you know the reasons behind creating a CS team, how do you go about building one? Here are some tips:

1. Create a Strategy

If CS is new to your company or you haven’t created a fleshed-out plan yet, now’s the time to complete one for both your team (how it’s going to be structured) and the solution you want to adopt. Customer success directly affects your revenue stream, so it’s vital that your strategy permeates throughout the company. The strategy should be focused on how to support the customer and help them reach success with the product or service. 

2. Define Roles

Once you’ve created a high-level idea of what your team should look like, it’s necessary to define individual roles and to be strategic with whom you choose to lead your team. Because this team will be heavily focused on catering to the customer, you want to choose leaders and specialists who are invigorated by developing ongoing client relationships tied to the value of your product and what they want to get out of it. Your CS team will be constantly socializing with customers and should provide a personalized experience that boosts loyalty. 

3. Train for Customer Onboarding

The onboarding process is especially critical when it comes to your CS team, because they are essentially introducing customers to your product or service. Your CS team should be extremely familiar with your product or service, the people involved and the processes. Having an extensive training program would be greatly beneficial to your team, so they can then train your customers and provide the most seamless experience.

4. Embrace Scalable Solutions

You can save your team significant time by introducing CS technology. Having a CS solution that provides real-time visibility will allow your CS team to collaborate cross-functionally and determine the optimal time to upsell or cross-sell, amongst other things. Additionally, automating previously manual tasks like ticketing and integrating your CS solution with your CX solution (if they’re separate) can relieve teams of double data entry, enhancing data accuracy, and allow them to spend more time engaging with the customer.

5. Implement Self-Service Knowledge Base

Setting up a self-serve knowledge base can enable customers to look up frequently asked questions and save your team time from answering them. Creating a centralized information hub that hosts tips, guides and an avenue for community connections will empower your customers to troubleshoot common issues themselves.

6. Set Metrics and Goals

How will you know if your CS team is actually making an impact if you don’t set metrics? Setting goals around retention, customer lifetime value, product usage, customer health, and revenue can help determine if your CS pipeline is successful. Additionally, implementing KPIs for your clients can allow you to see if there are positive results from the customized experience.

How to Determine Which CS Solution Is Right for You

Having a CS solution can remove the burden of manual work for your team. But with the SaaS market exploding due to hyper-specialization by business function, how can you find out which is the right solution for you? Here are some things to consider:

1. What Does Your Recurring Revenue Look Like?

If you’re a software company that largely sells to teams (not individuals) and finds that most of your revenue comprises large accounts with lower churn rates, then you’ll want to choose a high-touch model that allows you to provide consistent support throughout the entire pre- and post-sales process. If you, on the other hand, are mostly selling to smaller groups and the majority of your revenue consists of similar accounts where churn is more frequent (or low recurring revenue), then you’ll want to select a low-touch model where the customer doesn’t require as much time from company staff. If you have a high-touch approach, you will have fewer accounts per Customer Success Manager, allowing them to focus more on each client.

2. What Do You Want Your Solution to Accomplish?

Determining which tasks or processes to automate (use cases) can help you choose the best system.

3. What’s Your Company’s Growth Projection?

If your company is high growth, you’ll want to make sure the CS solution you choose can scale accordingly with company expansion.

4. What Integrations Do You Need?

The types of integrations you need can narrow down your search for a CS solution. Determine which applications are critical to your processes and compare solutions based on their compatibility (and whether you’ll need an automation platform to integrate your solutions and processes).

5. How Fast Do I Need to Implement?

Some solutions are not as complex and have a faster implementation and adoption rates. Also, depending on how pervasive you need your solution to be and how much lead time you have could heavily weigh on your decision.

What Are Some Customer Success Software Options?

After weighing your requirements, you’ll discover there are a number of options on the market that could meet your CS needs. Here are a few:

  • Gainsight pulls disparate customer data into a single, unified platform. It also utilizes tracking and analytics to provide data-driven insights. Some of its top features are: 
    • Account alerts
    • Account and communication management
    • Customer engagement and lifecycle management
    • Health score
  • ClientSuccess is a CS solution that focuses on retaining and growing your customer base. ClientSuccess also offers a “SuccessScore,” which allows users to interpret individual customer scores and track progress. Additional features include: 
    • Alerts and actions on which tasks need immediate attention 
    • Automated email communications 
    • Product usage stats
    • Support for tool integration 
  • ChurnZero focuses on seamless integrations with your workplace apps, including your CRM. A unique aspect of ChurnZero is its “ChurnScore,” which allows you to analyze potential customer churn risks. Other defining features include: 
    • Ease of use, adoption and support
    • Real-time alerts and analytics
    • Individual health scores and analytics 
    • Automation for customer marketing and success
  • Planhat is a CS platform that caters to both technical and business users. Planhat aims to improve overall customer engagement and loyalty by reducing churn, increasing upsells/cross-sells and the lifetime value of your customer. Other features noted by customers include: 
    • Triggers
    • Ease of use
    • Onboarding product that lets you build customer playbooks and workflows
    • Virtual workspace for customer success team collaboration

While customer success may seem like another team you’re adding to aid the customer, it could mean the difference between growth and loyalty or stagnancy and failure.

Mary Hodges
About Mary Hodges

Mary previously worked in IT recruiting and is thrilled to bring her community building skills to the business systems community.