Every company wants their customers to sign up, adopt the product, and become advocates for the company. But what happens after a customer actually starts using the product? How do you bridge the gap between your average customer and your loyal advocates? Well, that’s where User Success (US) comes into play. US is all about understanding the humans behind the accounts so your team can take them from new user to lifelong user through, what we call, the User Success Journey. In this post, we’ll be covering the five stages of the User Success Journey and how your team can improve the customer experience each step of the way.

What is User Success

User Success is a business strategy that focuses on driving engagement, retention, and lifetime loyalty by creating personalized customer experiences through targeted user behavior trends, rather than account association. By developing segmented user personas based on characteristics that actually matter to your team, such as activity level or satisfaction scores, your organization can gain a deeper understanding of your user base that an account-level view can’t provide you.

User success managers (USMs) are in charge of ensuring User Success within your company. They are part of the Customer Success organization but act as a liaison between CS and Product. USMs are all about user-centricity with a focus on understanding user personas to improve the customer experience to drive loyalty and company growth throughout the User Success Journey. So what is this User Success Journey? Let’s dig in!

User Success Journey

Once someone has gone through the sales cycle and signed their contract, they need to start the adoption process of becoming an active user. The journey that a user takes from adoption to advocacy within your product is sometimes referred to as the “Customer Success Journey”, “Buyer Journey”, or “Customer Success Funnel”, but isn’t always vocalized and named within an organization. This can lead to certain users falling between the cracks and getting left behind, while others receive all the attention and focus, and can lead to missed upsell or renewal opportunities. Even if it is specifically outlined, these journeys tend to leave out two crucial aspects: the importance of engagement within the product, and the extent to which advocacy can be leveraged. Let’s break down this post-adoption journey in terms of User Success.

Adoption

The first stage of the User Success Journey is adoption; you’ve got a new customer account, they’ve signed the contract, and you’ve started onboarding the users. Now you’ve got to get them into the product, clicking around, and utilizing all your exciting features and functionality. Adoption is a critical stage in the journey as a user is likely to give up very quickly if they feel discouraged or confused within your product—this is also where the greatest risk of customer churn lives. The more successful you can make your users off the bat, the smoother the rest of the journey will be. Whenever you’ve got a new user entering the adoption stage, your User Success team should monitor their transition through the persona, your Customer Success team should be ready with onboarding training, your product team should be ready to fix any bug issues that may come up, and your Customer Support team should be ready to answer any questions that may arise in order to provide the smoothest adoption period possible.

Engagement

Arguably the most important stage of the User Success Journey, and the one that gets left out the most often, is engagement. It’s one thing to get a user properly onboarded with your product, but what good does that do if they never log in again after onboarding training? The key to successful users who purchase additional functionality and renew their contracts is keeping them engaged with your product, and that’s an organization-wide effort.

User Success teams need to be monitoring the engagement levels of different personas and proactively engaging with those users that are at risk or demonstrating low engagement levels compared to their peers. For instance you could track engagement for highest paying customers, completing onboarding, or up for renewal to understand which users need more attention in order to be successful.

Product teams need to be willing to add impactful user requests to their product roadmaps, ensuring that they’re building the product what their users want and prioritizing the features that are going to have the biggest impact on the company. Customer Support teams need to be ready to triage any number of questions or requests that may come in, armed with helpful documentation and tutorials to aid in efficiently resolving a user’s concerns. Customer Success teams need to be tracking individual user activity levels and satisfaction scores, proactively reaching out to see if they can offer any assistance if either of those fall to a precarious level. With every team rallied around a single goal of helping out their users, your organization can support hyper-engaged users, and remember, engaged users are satisfied users are successful users.

Retention

Retention is the stage of the User Success Journey that most Customer Success teams and tools are currently focused and optimized. We all know that high churn rates can be the number one killer of any SaaS company, so it makes sense that most of the current resources are being funneled into retention. The problem is, while this is a crucial stage, the fight for retention actually starts back in adoption, but is emphasized in the second stage, engagement. Unengaged users are the ones who aren’t sticking around in your product and renewing their subscription, so low retention rates are more likely a sign of low engagement levels or satisfaction levels than anything else. With User Success, Product, Customer Success, and Customer Support working around a common goal to proactively enhance your users’ experiences with your product, your users are going to be more satisfied, more engaged, and therefore more likely to renew their subscription with you (and maybe upgrade!).

Expansion

The move from retention to expansion is not easy, but it’s nearly impossible with unengaged users who don’t see the value of your product. If your organization has taken the time up to this point to invest in the User Success Journey, sometimes all it can take is a little nudge. Has your User Success team noticed that a number of decision makers have been unblocked by a new feature release? Have your USMs reach out to those users to get them re-engaged. Has your Customer Success team noticed that there’s a certain area of the product a user has never interacted with before? Have your CSM reach out to them and see if they’d be interested in testing it out. Does your product team have a new feature coming out in a few weeks in one of your user’s favorite areas of the product? Have your PM reach out and offer limited time free access to test it out before the official release! Does your support team know which features in your latest release were requested by the most active users in your highest paying accounts? Ask for their help in creating documentation and pricing information to send along to them once it’s live!

We all know how much cheaper it is to retain and upsell current customers than to acquire new ones, so taking the time to invest in your user’s best interests early on and keeping them highly engaged pays off in the long run, allowing you to generate the most revenue from existing customers as possible.

Advocacy

The last stage of the User Success Journey is the one that is often the most under-utilized. User advocacy, or evangelism, typically refers to a customer of yours who is so satisfied with your product that they refer others around them to sign up for your product as well. And while this is a fantastic and cost-effective way to grow new business, User Success takes advocacy one step further. Not only should advocates refer other potential clients to you, they also should be so loyal that they’ll bring you along to any new company they join in the future. The ultimate goal is to become so ingrained in a user’s workflow that they can’t imagine work without your product, so anywhere they go, they’ll bring you with them. It’s central to our idea of User Lifetime Value (uLTV), wherein the lifetime of a user doesn’t rely on the account, but continues for as long as they’re in the workforce.

Conclusion

It’s not easy to turn a brand new user into a lifelong advocate for your company. That’s why is it’s so important to understand the idea of User Success and provide the support your customers need throughout their journey with your product. If your entire organization can come together to consistently engage your users and keep them satisfied throughout the entire User Success Journey, those you’ve been able to cultivate a strong relationship with will be ready to be your main point of contact time and time again.