What can customer success do for your organization?
What sets successful companies apart from their competitors isn’t just the quality of their products and services, it’s the experience they provide to their customers.
Customer success is essential for growing your business and retaining customers – but few businesses fully understand what customer success is, why it matters and the best customer success strategies to use to improve.
To help you boost customer success in your organization and master the art of keeping your customers happy, we’ll break down everything you need to know about top customer success strategies and the best tools for the job.
Let’s get started.
What is customer success?
Customer success is a method businesses use to help customers achieve their aims when using their products and services. Customer success works to optimize engagement for customers, increasing their chances of success with your products and improving retention rates.
Customer success is tailored to your organization and your products or services. What customer success looks for you will depend on what your customers’ objectives are and the specific features of what you’re offering.
When it comes to online courses, for example, increasing customer success includes improving completion rates for your courses, tweaking the learning experience to help with knowledge retention and supporting customers with any challenges they face in accessing and engaging with the course content.
In short, customer success is about helping your customers to hit the key goals they set for themselves when they first started using your product or services. If you can do that, you can increase revenue for your company and boost brand loyalty.
What’s the difference between Customer Success, Customer Experience and Customer Service?
Customer success is often confused with Customer Experience and Customer Service – but how do they all relate to each other and what’s the difference? Here’s what you need to know.
Customer Success vs Customer Experience
At its simplest, the difference between customer experience and customer success is the customer journey people have with your brand compared to their journey with your products and services.
Customer experience is centered on customers’ interactions with your brand from their very first interaction. It’s all about the small details that create a positive experience for customers from the start of their journey.
From their navigation through your website to their communication with your customer service team, customer experience is the sum of all the tiny interactions someone has with your brand. By making every interaction a positive one, you increase the likelihood that someone will purchase from you down the line.
Customer success kicks in after a customer has made a purchase. It is the journey your customer takes while using your products and services and ultimately their ability to achieve their original objectives. Customer success aims to provide your customers with everything they need to reach their goals when using your products and services – and increase the chances of them buying from you again and recommending you to others.
Customer success is about making your customers’ interactions with your products and services smooth, straightforward and tailored to their needs. This is where features like one-to-one calls and video tutorials are really important.
Customer Success vs Customer Service
Customer success and customer service are also different, though the two concepts are closely linked. Customer success is proactive, focusing on the long-term experience customers have with your products and services. On the flip side, customer service is reactive, responding to problems as they come up.
At its most basic, Customer service is all about helping your customers with any problems, challenges or questions they have. It’s about reacting to the needs of your customers in order to support them in their use of your products and services.
Customer success is about making it as easy as possible for your customers to use your products and services to their best effect – with customer success, you’re aiming to make your customers’ lives so easy they rarely need customer service and when they do, it’s a positive and enjoyable experience that connects them with exactly who or what they need to help them.
Think about customer success like the big picture for your business. It involves setting up strategies to help your customers achieve their business goals – including creating a comprehensive and responsive customer service strategy.
Why customer success is important for your business
You might be asking why you need to worry about customer success and what difference it will make for you. One key thing to keep in mind is that if your business has a subscription-based business model, customer success is critical to the long-term health of your business.
If your customers are succeeding in their objectives, they are also more likely to keep using your products or services and recommending them to other people. If they’re not having success, you run the risk of losing customers and struggling to attract new ones.
When it comes to subscription-based businesses, this is especially important because better customer retention means more revenue for you. Your customers will continue paying month-on-month and may purchase add-ons and additional products too.
That being said, customer success is important for every business. After all, no organization ever complained about repeat sales! Customer success strategies can be hugely beneficial for your business, helping to drive up Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) while delivering a better experience for your customers.
5 strategies to improve customer success
If you’re starting out with customer success strategies for your business, there are a few key things to remember. These strategies are relevant whether you’re a solopreneur or have a whole team dedicated to customer success.
Here are 5 strategies to improve customer success that you can implement immediately.
1. Focus on onboarding
Customer success starts the second someone converts into a customer. The first step to improving customer success is improving your customer onboarding process – enter customer education.
Set your customers up for success by introducing them to your product in a clear, concise way that covers all the essentials they need to know to use your product. This includes making sure they understand how to use the key features and have access to the help and support they need.
The best and easiest way to improve the customer onboarding process is to create an online course. An online course lets you put all the information in one place – and after the initial set-up it requires minimal input from you or your team. A customer onboarding course can boost customer engagement, increase the adoption of features and improve retention rates.
Alternatively, if you’re a small business and solopreneurs can personalize their onboarding process to each individual customer by creating a tailor-made introduction to your products or services that’s specific to their objectives. At Thinkific, we assign our Thinkific Plus members with a dedicated Customer Success Manager to provide one-to-one advice whenever it’s needed.
Some other methods you can use for customer onboarding include:
- Video tutorials
- Automated emails
- One-to-one video calls
- User guides
Onboarding is an essential step to set your customers on the right path and help them get comfortable using your products or services for their needs. Get your onboarding right and you’re on track to improve customer success long-term.
2. Keep up communication
Of course, onboarding isn’t the only step for better customer success. It’s important to keep up communication with your customers throughout their journey with your products or services.
That means setting up a routine of regular check-ins to see how they’re faring and where they need assistance. Beyond the regular “hey, how’s everything going?”, add value for your customer by providing product tips, hints and even short training videos to help them utilize all your product features.
If your business has a dedicated customer success team or you have a relatively small customer base, your communication strategy could include one-to-one calls to offer personalized support to your customers. If that seems like a stretch, setting up an automated email campaign with different embedded video tutorials is also a good alternative.
3. Create a customer success feedback loop
Setting up feedback loops for your customers is also a really good idea to improve customer success. Creating a customer success feedback loop is a great way to gather information from your customers on what you could do to support them better.
Your customer feedback may be positive – but without a specific focus on customer success it’s hard to see what can be improved. For example, surveying their customers, an e-commerce company may hear something like this:
“Your platform is great, I created my first product! But I don’t have any orders yet…”
Technically, these are satisfied customers. But since they’re not yet achieving their objective with the product (to sell products to customers), they are not successful customers.
As we charge recurring subscription fees to use our software, these types of ‘unsuccessful customers’ are the ones that are most likely to cancel their subscriptions.
A feedback loop based on customer success involves digging deeper into the “but…” portion of the feedback to find out exactly what’s going wrong and where our customers’ pain points are.
If you can set up comprehensive feedback loops to monitor customer success, you can hear straight from your customers what they need help with.
4. Monitor key metrics
When you’re trying to improve customer success, you need to get a clear picture of what’s happening in your business. This means monitoring key customer success metrics to see where your customers are doing well and where they’re struggling.
Some helpful customer success metrics include:
- Customer retention rate: The percentage of customers who are still customers after a given period e.g. 1 month, 6 months or 12 months.
- Customer Lifetime Value: How much revenue is generated from an average customer over their entire relationship with your business.
- Repeat purchase rate: The percentage of customers who make another purchase or reorder.
- Customer health score: A scoring system combining how much time users are spending in the product, how many of the product’s key features are being used and the number of renewals.
The best metrics for your business will depend on your business model and your specific products or services.
By monitoring key customer success metrics, you can find trends in your customers’ journeys and where the sticking points are. This gives you an opportunity to adjust your products or services to help improve customer success and make it easier for customers to achieve their goals.
With Thinkific, you can see exactly which module your students are getting “stuck” in, and how many people have completed your course. If all your customers are getting stuck on a specific module, that’s a clear sign they need extra support or that your content needs adjusting. At this point, your customer success feedback loop can tell you what’s wrong.
5. Make customer success a company-wide priority
Regardless of the size of your organization, it’s important to position customer success as a top priority for your business. By setting customer success as your primary goal as a business, you can build your goals and targets around giving your customers the best possible experience of your products and services.
This mindset shift can make a huge difference to your business, helping you put customer success above everything else. This is especially beneficial if you have a subscription-based business model, like an online course academy or community membership space, as better customer success means more revenue for your business.
As a business, it’s helpful to take your time to educate your employees on what customer success means, why it’s valuable to your organization and what they can do to improve customer success outcomes in their specific role.
Customer Success Examples
Top Instagram marketing platform Later transformed customer success in their organization by focusing on their customer onboarding process. Faced with an increasing number of users, Later set about updating their customer onboarding process to increase the effectiveness of their product training and improve user engagement with key features.
The Later team created an online onboarding course using Thinkific Plus and tested it against their original onboarding process of onboarding webinars, emails and in-app messages.
After just 3 months of running the onboarding course, Later found a 320% increase in customer retention, 467% increase in the adoption of features and a 368% increase in purchasing paid plans. What’s more, the customers who took the course were more engaged overall.
Thanks to the flexibility of the format, they can also update their onboarding course over time and the hands-off method means the team has time to focus on other customer success strategies.
Learn More: Read the full Later case study here.
Data discovery and security specialists EchoSec Systems launched a new online customer education program to improve EchoSec users’ adoption of their products and improve customer expertise with outstanding results.
The customer success team at EchoSec found their original onboarding methods weren’t providing customers with the education they needed to utilize their full range of product features and capabilities. They transitioned from using materials like quickstart guides and video tutorials to a fully online course using Thinkific Plus.
By repurposing their existing training content, EchoSec was able to set up their online training course quickly and easily. The program improved the learning outcomes for new customers and improved product utilization by existing users too. Customers can learn how to use EchoSec’s complex tools in a straightforward, in-depth way that requires minimal input from the team.
Read the full EchoSec case study here.
Starting with an online handbook for customer education, online tuition business MyTutor quickly realized they needed a better way to educate tutors. That’s when they set up their online course using Thinkific Plus.
By uploading their existing education content to Thinkific, MyTutor was able to dramatically improve their training courses to benefit both tutors and pupils. The extra features also meant it was quick and easy to change course content, query feedback from parents and teachers and track tutor progress.
In just 8 months, MyTutor has successfully trained 15,000 tutors and seen a 20% increase in the number of tutors passing lesson quality assurance checks – a framework designed by professional teachers. The online course has also reduced customer churn for MyTutor and improved retention rates, completely reshaping their business into a more successful and efficient model.
Learn more: Read the full MyTutor case study here.
Tools to manage Customer Success
If you’re looking to target customer success in your organization, you need to have the right tools for the job. Here are 5 tools and programs you can use to improve customer success – and make your life a lot easier.
1. Thinkific Plus
Thinkific Plus has easy-to-use features let you build scalable customer education programs in no time at all. Use it for every stage of your customer success journey, from onboarding to introducing new features and problem-solving.
By creating a dedicated customer education space on Thinkific, you can provide customers with all the information they need to reach their objectives. Thinkific Communities also gives you features for monitoring customer success in real-time, responding to queries and encouraging social learning.
Another handy tool to use for customer success, Zendesk is software that’s designed to improve customer relationships by bringing all your customer interactions into one place. This tool lets you resolve customer issues quickly through live chat, social, email and more.
Zendesk also makes it easy to automate customer interactions and collect analytics on key customer success metrics. It’s suitable for small businesses, startups and established businesses too.
Like the name suggests, LiveChat is customer success software that lets you chat live with customers on your website. With LiveChat, you can respond to customer queries immediately, giving your customers the support they need for better success with your products and services.
LiveChat is a great tool to help your customers feel closer to you – they don’t need to pick up the phone or send you an email, they can ask a question and get instant support. Add this to your customer success arsenal to improve the customer support experience.
Dedicated to customer success, Gainsight is designed to put customer success at the center of everything you do. Their software features allow you to collect detailed customer data insights, analyze customer feedback, personalize your customer journey and more.
If you have a larger team, Gainsight is also really useful for collaboration across your customer success specialists and external partners. In short, it’s got what you need to improve retention rates and increase customer success across the board.
Key customer success leadership advice
Expanding your team? Here’s how you can make customer success a priority across your organization.
Highlight the impact of customer success
If you’re trying to improve customer success in your organization, it’s important to highlight the impact that customer success can have. Customer success can have a huge influence on growth so it should be at the center of everything you do. Encourage your team to think about customer success holistically – everyone has their own role to play in improving customer success.
Define what customer success involves
For the members of your team in charge of customer success, it’s important to define exactly what they are responsible for doing and where they fit in your organization. If you have a small team, this is especially critical to make sure that essential areas are covered and reduce overlap with other individuals or departments.
Over-communicate between departments
Customer turnover is a company-wide problem and it’s not just down to the customer success team to deal with the consequences. As customer success is still a relatively new concept for many organizations, it’s important to encourage open, consistent communication between all departments – and/or individuals – including those responsible for sales, marketing and more.
Practice active listening
At the heart of customer success is the ability to collect, analyze and act on customer feedback. That includes active listening when talking to customers – make sure you listen to and record what they are actually saying, not just what you think they are saying.
Feedback should also be collected at every stage of the customer journey, from onboarding to cancellation questionnaires. If you can show you are truly listening to your customers, they’ll be encouraged to share more.
Be open to experimentation
Customer success is tailored to your organization and your products or services – that means you’ll need to experiment with what customer success strategies work for you. Don’t be afraid to try new things and don’t worry too much if some strategies fail. Keep creating, experimenting and evaluating the outcomes to see what works best.
Transform your business with better customer success
Customer success is essential for the health of your business, helping you encourage customers to keep using your products and make repeat purchases. To improve customer success in your organization, start from the very first interaction someone has with your products right through to the end of their relationship with you.
Ready to improve customer success in your organization? Download your free Ultimate Customer Success Guide now.
This article was originally published November 2018, and was refreshed June 2022.