Chapter 1

What is customer success and why does it matter

This is a chapter from The Startup CEO’s Guide to Customer Success and Onboarding.

Common misconceptions:

🚫 Thinking customer support or service is customer success.

🚫 Viewing customer success as a cost instead of a revenue center.

What is customer success?

Your customers came to you with a pain point they are hoping to solve. They have a job that needs to be done and they believe your business is going to help them get it done. That's why they are paying you.

Your job is to make sure they initially know how to use your product or service while also showing them why they should keep using it over time.

Customer success is a strategic approach that makes sure your customers quickly see the value you provide and continue to see it over time, ultimately growing your bottom line.

Customer success, or CS, is about building and strengthening relationships with your customers. It encompasses training and onboarding your customers, supporting their growth, and facilitating an environment that results in their retention.

Think about how much time, effort, and money go into your marketing and sales strategies. Your CS department is there to ensure none of that goes to waste. CS is what drives recurring revenue for your business and grows the customer lifetime value (or CLV) of each customer.

So how is this different than "account management" or "customer support" or "customer service"? Simply put, it's the proactive version of a combination of all those things. When you proactively help customers with their pain points or questions, they don't have a reason to stop working with you. They trust you more quickly, stay loyal, and are more inclined to take your future advice - all of which help increase customer retention

Whether you have monthly or annual terms of service agreements, we can agree that the goal is to show your customers enough value to stick around and grow their business with you. This partnership between your CS teams and your customers is the foundation to providing that initial value. That same foundation, once in place, is what can result in upselling and expansion opportunities. Again, more revenue.

Why should you focus on it?

The obvious benefit and goal of a customer success strategy is to make sure your customers are happy and successful. These customers are easier to retain and grow because they see the value, both from your service and now your customer success team. And if they stick around longer, you are making more revenue over time.

Let's do some very basic math to paint this picture.

IF → customer success = happy + successful customers

AND → happy + successful customers = retained and growing customers

AND → retained + growing customers = more revenue

THEN → customer success = more revenue

This is obviously oversimplified, but the intent is to encourage you to start thinking of this team as driving revenue versus being a cost center for your business. Said differently, it's an investment versus a cost.

If that alone doesn't motivate you to get started, there is an array of additional benefits worth noting:

  1. Preventing customer churn - remember those expenses to acquire a new customer? If you have a better idea of what your customers are or aren't doing, you can begin to predict churn. This allows you to proactively work towards a resolution for those at risk, giving you a chance at retaining and growing them.
  2. Collecting customer feedback - talking with your customers lets you learn what is or isn't working. The things that are working are reminders of the value you've already provided. The things that aren't working are valuable bits of feedback for your sales, success, marketing, and product teams to improve your internal processes.
  3. Optimize your approach - you can't optimize your approach if you haven't started it. You might need to add additional training resources to your customer onboarding flow. Or, you might need to have more (or fewer) business reviews. The goal is to learn from your existing strategy so you can focus on things you need to improve the customer experience versus things you might not need to change immediately.
  4. Cross-departmental internal collaboration - a customer success strategy will encourage (or gently "force") some internal collaboration, which is a good thing. Customer questions should inform future marketing blogs, webinars, or help center articles. Notes from onboarding calls give your teams the information needed to upsell a customer onto the right features, preventing future downgrades. You can help your sales teams better understand what customers really need, helping them close future deals more quickly. And, you can guide design and product teams towards shipping features your customers want TODAY, driving faster product adoption.

Opening these lines of communication between departments ensures your entire company is working towards improving the customer experience from every angle.

In conclusion…

Your company and customers are unique so your customer success strategy will have unique needs (tools, approach, team size, etc.). However, the sooner you get started, the sooner you are able to build on everything we mentioned above while setting a tone for what your customers can expect throughout the rest of their journey with you.

Being proactive will help your customers get the most from your product or service, get ahead of potential churn and ultimately boost your revenue.

Helping your customers solve their problems, especially ones they might not know they even have yet, will turn them into loyalists - ultimately, that is what customer success allows you to accomplish and why you should consider expanding on those thoughts you had about starting your own CS approach.

Download the entire CEO's Guide to Customer Success

No time to read it all at once? Read the full 50+ page guide in your own time, at your own pace.

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