7 Insights to Effectively Define Customer Success for B2B & SaaS

How to define customer success?
To define customer success effectively, businesses must focus on customers and not on their products. They must also know who their ideal customers are and be able to manage their expectations. Companies should involve every department on customer support and invest more in the onboarding process.

In customers’ point of view, there’s a staggering amount of choices that exist for them when it comes to choosing products or services. So what’s going to keep them from opting out of yours and transferring to others? Annual contracts can’t, not anymore. Good sales pitch and marketing strategies can reel in users, but they’re not enough to keep them. Instead, businesses must invest more in customer success.

So, how do you define customer success? For many marketers, effective customer success stops at customer acquisition, which is really just the start of the whole strategy. For others, it is customer retention. But retention is not accurate and encompassing; you may be stuck with a lot of basic plan-holders when what you want is to get more premium subscribers.

Defining customer success isn’t that simple. It involves a lot of insights to help you frame the direction your business must take. In this article, we’ll discuss seven of these fundamental insights to help you get started. You will realize that these insights should be taken as a whole, not as siloed piecemeal tactics. You’ll appreciate, too, that investing in CRM software greatly increases the success rate of your strategy following our tips here.

customer success tips

A customer experience strategy doesn’t simply mean you have the process of accommodating clients before and during acquisition. Instead, it’s a long-term strategy that aims to maximize the client’s sustainable proven value. It’s a result of joined activities and functions of training and support team, professional services, sales, marketing and other departments.

Businesses that don’t want their customer base to grow thin must give customer success a serious consideration. Looking at some informative statistics on customer support, we can say customer success means you get to improve the renewal process and drives revenue as well. This is due to the fact that customer success offers a mechanism in which cross-sell and upsell opportunities are not only provided, but capitalized as well.

Conversely, 25 out of 26 unhappy clients won’t complain about dissatisfaction and would simply just leave you. This is where the reactive approach of customer service shows what it lacks: detecting trouble before it begins. Therefore, proactive actions must be in place as well.

poor customer experience

There are several ways to provide proactive customer service. You can tie up your CRM to your helpdesk, invest in the right technology, enhance self-service and more. Also, CSM (customer success managers) must ensure that every customer touch-point is covered, especially those who provide multichannel support. That said, make sure to invest in reliable software that can consolidate your customer-facing workflows and follow our tips below.

One such software we recommend is Salesforce Essentials. It is designed for small businesses but, as a part of the Salesforce ecosystem, it scales to a more advanced feature set should you require so in the near future. It has built-in intelligence that lets you manage service across channels. The good news is, you can get to check the features at no cost. Simply sign up for Salesforce Essentials free trial here.

How to Define Customer Success for B2B & SaaS

1. Make it about the Customer, not the Product

It’s called customer success for a reason. Make it so that you help customers reach their goals and your product benefits from it, instead of the other way around. This means employing a customer-first approach for your strategy.

You must also have an understanding of your customer paths. In order to do that, walk their journey starting from awareness to retention. You must know your products inside and out, what it can and can’t do. Make sure to align the response with your cultural values at all times. Never promise beyond what you can deliver. Make sure they’ll feel that their time is valued.

When talking to customers, their perspective must be taken into great consideration. Don’t try to sound overly professional and bombard them with jargon. Communicate using the level of their understanding. Template and canned responses might be a reasonable way to go for you but customers could detect them. Therefore, you must leave those types of responses to automated messages. Also, listen very well to what they’re trying to relate. Be specific in your responses and contextual on your questions. You must always try to delight them.

Furthermore, you must also strive to reduce their efforts by proactively providing them with essential information. Show them the references, documentation and knowledge base they can use. Let them know the easiest way to contact you. Explain to them the other use-cases of the features aside from its intended purpose. Provide them with personalized onboarding session if preferred. These are just some of the little things that can substantially make their lives easier through your services and products.

2. Know your Ideal Customers

It may seem customers choose you when they decide to buy from you. Yes, but that’s only half of the picture. The truth is, you get to choose your buyers first. Then you focus your marketing on them to get their attention. Otherwise, you’ll end up with customers who whine a lot out of wrong expectations. This is why you need to develop an Ideal Customer Profile, people who are likely to respond to your offer with gusto because they see a solution, not a product with a tag price.

So who are these people, your ideal customers? They are:

  • People whose problems you’re solving
  • People who are right in the picture when you visualize your vision-mission
  • People within your reach

3. Manage Expectations

Closely tied to having an Ideal Customer Profile is the need to manage customer expectations. Success shouldn’t mean closing a sale; rather, it’s solving your customers’ problem. Customers don’t buy your product, they’re buying a solution and they have the desired outcome: solving their problem. The question is, what specific problems are you addressing?

If you don’t narrow down your product’s value proposition, customers with different levels of problems will expect different levels of solutions from your product. You’ll end up with a group of customers that your product isn’t targeting, who are frustrated and angry, and they’ll be telling your real customers about their wrong expectations.

So, how do you manage customer expectations? By being specific about your value propositions, of course. Don’t be an all-in-one deal to customers; pick your product’s best benefits–pricing? features? service?–and push these in your messages.

brand ambassadors

4. Involve Everyone

For customer success to be truly effective, it must become a company effort. This means that the voice that customers hear comes from different aspects of the business. Therefore, it would be a great idea to get every department involved, on top of dedicated CSM. For instance, you can try getting people across the entire organization to communicate with clients once in a while. With this, your customers would see improvement in not just a single area of the product or service, but in all of them.

And the great thing about this is that you’re not doing this just for the customers alone. That’s because allowing staff from different departments to experience, or at least see, first-hand communicating with clients might be a good eye-opener. For example, a product developer notices that many of the clients talk to tell about a certain feature that they find difficult or inefficient to use. He could then make improvements or fixes on that particular section. Not only will it satisfy their clients, but he actually just added a value to the product as well.

Now, obviously, the biggest issue here is that each of those personnel has a job to attend to as well. This means that they won’t be able to do it very often and it siloes any information they learn. One solution for this is making sure that every support activity is relayed to everyone. This could be done through a meeting where a person-in-charge makes a report about each session.

salesforce essentials sharing control

A CRM like Salesforce Essentials lets you share customer data across the organization so everyone is in the loop.

5. Pay Extra Attention to Onboarding

Does the adage “first impression lasts” mean anything in customer success? To answer that, one can simply put themselves in their clients’ shoes. If you do not achieve an initial value during the onboarding process then you’ll lose interest. If you get confused during the process and did not gain any result, you’ll most likely churn. First impression does matter.

When engaging customers, you definitely want to start off the right foot. Your first day of relationship with them is a defining factor on whether or not they’ll become long-term clients. Thus, investing more in the onboarding process is worth it. Automated alerts, responses and such are better left off after your customers gain their initial success with your service or product. Other customer onboarding strategy for improving retention includes bridging your customer’s desired outcome with yours and monitoring customers beyond usage data.

Furthermore, in order to effectively gain knowledge and insights about their clients, the customer success teams might want to get involved with the sales process. Also, assigning a CSM as the point of contact deepens their involvement in the aforementioned process, hence, giving them more details to work on.

6. Ask Regularly

Asking for feedback is a common business practice. Why not? It helps in creating a clear picture of how real people (your users) utilize your product. This is an essential basis for making product fixes and improvements before issues become major. It also helps in building customer loyalty.

However, it is sometimes poorly timed and insufficiently paced. Asking customers about their experience only after they initiated support might not yield the satisfaction data you’re going for. That’s because emotions might muddle things up. They could either be too happy that their problem was solved. Or, they’d be too pissed because the issue they had made them lose a substantial amount of time and money.

Like we said, customer success uses a proactive approach. Therefore, you can apply this on customers as well. Ask them how are they working, coping or feeling about your product or service? Because when they come to you instead, then you might already be in trouble. Keep an open line and flexible communication media so that users can get through to you, anytime and on their preferred method.

Aside from that, there is also a variety of ways to gain customer feedback, such as conducting a quarterly survey and using C-Sat evaluation. You can also ask for their comments and suggestion on the featured posts of your product. Use churn occasion as an opportunity to conduct exit interviews. Place popup windows asking for the NPS score on your signup page.

Moreover, you can pick particular customers that could best represent your users and then talk to them about their customer process within your company. From sales to onboarding to becoming long-term users of your products or services. This could be more effective than taking feedback from your entire customer base.

Regardless of the method, the information gained from asking your customers must be put to good use. Compile every data, map each response, correlate the MRR lost to a series of churn reasons, etc. This way, the answers become actionable insights. Consequently allowing your team to take a specific set of actions to improve retention and attract new customers.

7. Put the Right People at the Helm

We’ve already stressed how crucial success management is in increasing your bottom line. Therefore, it goes without saying that the main people you put in charge of them must be exceptional. They must be able to handle different issues and communicate with customers clearly.

At the very least, your customer success personnel must have the following traits:

  1. Experienced: Their expertise and experience in the industry they belong to must be vast enough. They’ll be offering advice, solutions, instructions and more. Imagine what they’d be telling your clients if they don’t have a deep understanding of what you do. Likewise, they must also be able to get valuable feedback from customers and experience is a key factor to accomplish that as well.
  2. Good Listener: When customers take time to take their problem to you, the least you can do is listen. However, good customer success personnel goes beyond that. They listen to the problem being said and understand the pain they’re going through, however big or small. This is the best way to manage their troubles, both on a technical and emotional level.
  3. Patient: Early customers require a lot of guidance hand-holding. Furthermore, they also have high expectations. Success personnel must, therefore, be capable of handling that. They must be able to walk their clients through all the ups and downs of the experience and answer every question thrown at them. All while maintaining a friendly and cool demeanor. Scaring your customers away by exposing them to animosity is the worst thing to do. And it would have a lot of impact along the way.

Take Your Customer Success to the Next Level

How you define customer success in the B2B and SaaS industry is important because it allows you to focus on actual methods that help you to forecast real scenarios, not just assumptions. There are plenty of other insights on framing customer success, but these tips are fundamental to anchor your marketing on solid ground.

One of the factors that lead to SaaS growth is customers. Therefore, apart from acquisition, you must also take actions to ensure retention until they become high-value users. After all, getting new clients may cost more than retaining them. The strategies presented above would work a lot more effectively when joined by tools that complement them.

Salesforce Essentials allows SMBs to leverage their customer support. This tool has enough features and integration support that enables businesses to realize the aforementioned insights and turn them into real-life strategies. You can easily sign up for Salesforce Essentials free trial here and get to know the features firsthand at no cost and without commitment.

Adam Goldberg

By Adam Goldberg

Adam Goldberg is a senior market research analyst and one of the key customer experience technology and CRM pioneers working for the FinancesOnline review team. He has been cooperating with FinancesOnline for over 5 years now. During that time Andrew has analyzed more than 2,000 CRM solutions and he’s well-known for his honest reviews and his unique perspective on challenges and opportunities posed by customer-centric innovation. He’s a strong believer in business process automation and the role it plays in customer data management, conversational intelligence, and customer engagement. His work has been mentioned in many major publications and media sites, including MSN, Springer, TheNextWeb, and CIO.

SaaS-butler says:

Customer success is achieved when customers meet their desired outcome by using your product. You can ensure customer success by using the following strategies: be clear about the desired outcome of different customer segments using your products. Then, list the success milestones on the path towards desired outcome and provide the engagement required to meet the milestones. Bridge any success gaps that hinder progress with appropriate support. For each customer segment, create a plan that includes onboarding, training, support, renewals etc. to ensure customer success in different stages of the customer lifecycle.

Reply to this comment »
Miranda says:

SaaS companies must make effective use of the free trial they offer to convert customers. They can ensure this by designing the free trial in such a way that customers achieve their desired outcome while trying out the product’s features. Provide help and support beyond the app to motivate customers to convert into paying ones. Make sure the free trial period is long enough for the customer to thoroughly evaluate your product’s features. Provide useful post sign-up processes including onboarding and engagement to enthuse the customers to subscribe to your product after the free trial ends.

Reply to this comment »
DavidSM says:

You have mentioned some good points in your article. But people must also remember that customer success starts with successful onboarding. SaaS vendors that do not provide an easy onboarding process suffer a significant customer drop-off after the free trial period and initial sign-up. A SaaS company meets with success if a customer converts to a paying one during or after the free trial period. It's a good idea to send relevant communication to customers during the free trial period to ensure they use your product productively and successfully. So, successful onboarding is an essential step to gain more customers for your SaaS product.

Reply to this comment »
DrWatson says:

You raised an important point by discussing successful customer onboarding. But the task of SaaS vendors does not end there. They should ensure customers achieve their desired outcome by using your product. To help customers achieve the desired outcome with your product you should provide the whole she-bang: sales, marketing, onboarding services, customer support, ecosystem etc. So, you should ensure customer interactions are relevant and effective to provide the above mentioned support and services to your customers.

Reply to this comment »

Leave a comment!

Add your comment below.

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.


Why is FinancesOnline free? Why is FinancesOnline free?

FinancesOnline is available for free for all business professionals interested in an efficient way to find top-notch SaaS solutions. We are able to keep our service free of charge thanks to cooperation with some of the vendors, who are willing to pay us for traffic and sales opportunities provided by our website. Please note, that FinancesOnline lists all vendors, we’re not limited only to the ones that pay us, and all software providers have an equal opportunity to get featured in our rankings and comparisons, win awards, gather user reviews, all in our effort to give you reliable advice that will enable you to make well-informed purchase decisions.