Ever heard the saying “happy wife, happy life”? Well, that same idea applies to B2B SaaS companies. A successful company is built on a growing base of happy customers, so it’s no surprise that more and more SaaS companies are seeing the value of investing in the success and engagement of their customers. But someone has to give all that love and attention to those customers and learn what’s going to keep them happy, right? Please welcome Customer Success (hold for a round of applause). Customer success revolves around understanding the goals a customer is trying to achieve and then helping them understand how to do that using your product. It’s a cross-functional effort that has the success team working with Sales, Support, and Product to ensure customers’ success and create that lifetime loyalty every company hopes to achieve. Let’s jump into why having a strong Customer Success team is important and the impact they have on the company.

What is Customer Success?

Customer Success (CS) is all about ensuring customers reach their desired outcomes using your product. A Customer Success strategy lays out the definition of success for your customers and how you’ll help them achieve that success. The Customer Success plan is the roadmap that Customer Success teams use to operate. It just ensures that the right resources are being delivered to your customers at the right time to get the most value from using your product.

A CS team is made up of Customer Success Managers, whose main goal is to provide support for customers as they transition from the sales pipeline (prospects) to the support pipeline (active users). CSMs are typically responsible for maintaining customer loyalty, upselling existing customers to new features within the product, fostering long-term relationships with their customers, and ensuring that their customers are achieving the goals they were looking to achieve when purchasing your product. The reason CSM roles are growing so rapidly within the SaaS space is simple; engaged, happier customers lead to less churn and lifetime customer loyalty. Creating a strong CS team to improve a customer’s experience and ensure their success in the product pays off in the long run.

Why is Customer Success Important?

CS is one of the biggest proponents of your customer’s growth strategy. CSMs focus on high level issues, such as running a smooth onboarding process, directing customers to new areas of the product they haven’t checked out yet, or resolving issues that are blocking an upsell or renewal opportunity. A strong CS strategy makes sure to lay out the vision for how a customer can use your product and associated resources to better achieved their goals and their individual measure of “success”. But when do you start building the team? Honestly, it should be something you’re thinking about from the very beginning. Even if you haven’t hired a CSM yet, it’s important to be paying attention to the CS strategy in the early stages of a company so you can understand how customers should move through the various lifecycles stages.

While companies have started pushing more self-serve modes of products, to some extent customers do want to be served. They don’t want to try to figure out how to map out your product to get to their desired outcomes, they want help and guidance along that process. CSMs are often considered a product expert. Based on what is uncovered along the sales process, a CSM should know their customers’ current pain points and how to solve them with your product. It’s the clear vision a CSM lays out from day one via Customer Success milestones and how to hit them that keeps customers loyal to using the product.

From a revenue standpoint, good CS strategy is going to drive the future of your business. When you’re able to keep those early customers happy, make sure they’re renewing, and that a few people are trying to emphasize churn reduction, you’re supporting long term growth. Customer acquisition costs are a real consideration for companies, you’re spending a lot on sales, marketing, and success to get that customer started, so if you have an annual subscription and they don’t renew there’s a big sunk cost in even having brought on that customer. In order to drive growth, CS needs to be emphasized with the first customer and matured over time. If you wait too long and get too many customer, you’ve already built a culture in the company and internal processes. Switching over to being more customer centric is going to take a lot of time to breakdown those processes and implement new ones.

Teams dedicated to listening to customers to ensure those learners are being passed to the appropriate teams: engineering, sales, product, etc. CS helps better understand pain points and the context behind them before jumping to potential solutions, as you may miss something important without proper care, attention, and communication.

How does Customer Success Impact other Teams?

Everyone needs customers engaged and happy with the product to ensure the business keeps running. People often talk about product being at the center of a company, but customer success is like the glue holding the company together. A strong CS team works with, and across, different teams within a company to guide customers along their journey with your product. Let’s break this down a bit more to understand how CS really impacts other teams.

Sales

With sales, you want to make sure you’re targeting the minimum viable segment that you’re building for—the good fit customers for your business—that way you can properly support them and make sure that they’re going to get value from the product. CSMs are involved in ensuring a good sales handoff so onboarding goes well and the customer has a good impression of the product. When onboarding new customers, CSMs need to determine customers’ pain points and desired outcomes moving forward. This ensures that CS can plan and address their needs as they move through the lifecycle stages. Building a strong relationship between Sales and CS is especially useful when determine ideal customer profiles (ICP). As companies grow and the product develops, certain customers and industries becomes a better fit for using your product. A good CS team will track which customers are achieving high success and provide that information to the Sales team so they can better target prospectives customers that fit the latest ICP.

Support

With the more recent emergence of Customer Support in the B2B world, there can be some confusion on the roles and responsibilities of the two different team. You can simply think of Support as a reactive team; they reply to live chat messages, handle questions about where to find certain features, and answer ad-hoc questions about pricing or functionality. Success is the more proactive team; they anticipate the needs of their customers and provide resources and answers ahead of time before their customer actually runs into the issue.

While separate teams, open lines of communication are important to ensuring customer satisfaction. If support is hearing the same integration question over and over again from different customers, then you best believe a good CS team is going to start answering that question and providing additional resources during the onboarding process. A close relationship between a customer, CS, and Support just helps maintain transparency of customer needs and an active assessment of potential customer risks. The more informations that’s shared, the better a customer understand which team to direct specific questions or requests to, which in turn helps get those needs addressed faster and keep ’em happier.

Product

Product quality has a huge impact on customer satisfaction. But just as Support will pass frequent customer questions to the Success team to proactively answer, a good CS team will advocate for customer needs to the product team. PMs can get caught up in looking at the product from their own perspectives, knowing all the workflows and work-arounds that exist in-product. Because a CSM looks at the product from the perspective of a customer and how they actually use it, they can uncover product gaps that have been missed or could be improved upon, which will better inform the product roadmap. On occasions when product is backlogged, it’s often the CS team that is going to help determine prioritization since they know which customers are most likely to churn if their needs aren’t addressed first. Plus, they’re also the ones that are going to translate the product vision to the other customers so that feature delays don’t result in negative sentiment and distrust. CSMs are the customer advocate within your company and so they’re going to explain the reality of customer experiences to push the product vision forward.

Conclusion

As your business grows, your product continues to change and your customers’ needs evolve. CSMs work cross-functionally with sales, support, and product teams to ensure that customers are getting the most value out of the product. This commitment to your customers’ success isn’t always easy, but making your customers successful and keeping them happy will build trust and encourage lifetime loyalty.

For more info on the importance and impact of Customer Success, go check out our podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/takeaways-from-the-cs101-series/id1503231746?i=1000505976238