February 12, 2016
10 Customer Success Lessons From the Trenches
Customer success is pulling out all the stops to make sure customers achieve the results they want from using your product. It reduces churn, increases retention, and grows customer lifetime value. And according to SaaS enthusiast Jason Lemkin, “Customer success is where 90% of the revenue is.” I’ve seen this first-hand from years of working at startups. I’ve been in the trenches figuring out what works, what doesn’t, and how customer success grows revenue. Here are ten lessons I’ve learned along the way.
1. The first purchase is just the beginning
Think of the revenue won from a new customer as a jumping off point, especially if you’re a SaaS business with tiered plans. Say your latest signup starts on a $5/mo plan. What would it take to get them to the $20 plan, $50 plan, or $100 plan? Growing your existing accounts is more revenue without the acquisition costs. And according to findings from Bain & Company, increasing customer retention rates by just 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%. Remember this fact as you’re going about your day-to-day wearing fifteen different hats as a customer success manager.
2. Be proactive, not reactive
Being proactive is what makes customer success different than customer support. When I first started out, I made the mistake of waiting for customers to come to me. And they never did. I learned that you need to proactively reach out to customers, identify holes in how they’re currently using the product, and show them opportunities to grow. Carve out time in your calendar to do this because it doesn’t just magically happen. Here’s a screenshot of my calendar to show you what this looks like in a typical week: I reserve time to look for opportunities to help customers succeed with Autopilot. The rest is open for calls with customers that are automatically booked through Calendly.
3. Show value early on to keep new customers excited
New customers are almost always excited to get started with a new product. They’re looking forward to what they can build and the endless possibilities lying ahead. Show value early on that keeps this excitement going. This reduces the chance of customer churn. And if you nail it, there’s a good chance customers will hop on social media to tell all their friends how badass the experience was. Word of mouth can spread like wildfire – the good kind and the bad.
4. Know your product and industry, inside and out
You need to be able to troubleshoot, guide, and teach customers best practices with your product. If you don’t understand the product then you’re of no use to customers. This is harsh but true. Knowing the industry you’re in is also essential. Working at Autopilot, I have to know customer journey marketing like the back of my hand. The more I know, the more helpful I can be for customers. The same goes for your product and industry.
5. Walk the line between fun and professional on the phone
One mistake I made early on in my career was trying to be best friends with every customer I talked with on the phone. I realized that we’re not here to be BFFs, we’re here to make customers look like a badass on their team by making them successful with the product. It’s important to walk the line between fun and professional in your interactions with customers. If customers enjoy talking with you (the fun piece), they’ll be more willing to hop on a call the next time they’re trying to figure something out. The professional element gives the customer peace of mind that the strategies you’re suggesting are legit, and the confidence that you’ll handle any issues that comes up.
6. Send customers content that speaks to their goals
Use content to fill in the gaps for your customers. Giving them tangible things they can read through – like blog posts, ebooks, support articles, guides – can help them take their knowledge to the next level. My only caveat is you can’t fully rely on content. Some customers aren’t going to read what you send (trust me, I know). You still need to suggest action items specific to the customer’s situation, but content can help during that process.
7. Record every single interaction like your job depended on it
Logging everything helps you stay on top of your relationships with customers. Here’s the list of things you should have on record to access at the drop off of a hat:
The last time you interacted with the customer
What they’ve been doing with their account
The key people in their organization to be connected with
How they’re trying to grow with your product
Customers will be better off since you’re in tune with what’s going on, and you’ll feel more secure in your job with this knowledge in your back pocket. This information also comes in handy when your manager asks “Hey, when’s the last time you interacted with that customer?”
8. Build good relationships internally to get stuff done
As a customer success manager, you help customers with product implementation but you also address product problems that need to be fixed. Having the product and technical team on your side makes solving these customer issues a lot easier. You can also help product and dev by being the go-between with customers. When there’s an issue, gather all the information needed from the customer and drop it into your product team’s lap. It makes their job way easier.
9. Celebrate the little successes along the way
Customer success can be a difficult and discouraging role at times, so it’s important to celebrate the little successes. Ring a gong when a customer upgrades. Throw a party when your biggest customer reaches their one year anniversary. Or just get the rest of them excited about the things you’re excited about with a gif Slack message. :)
10. Ship flowers when a customer has a bad day (yes, really)
You’ll have opportunities to wow customers. Look out for these moments. One time, a customer had a bad day so we sent her flowers using BloomThat. Or another time when a customer was having product issues, our team sent him a swag pack that included a mug, t-shirt, and a personal note from the team. It’s not scalable to do this with every customer, but doing these things from time to time is worth it. Now it’s your turn. What customer success lessons have you learned? Anything you’d add to this list? Let us know in the comments.