If you want to build a business that gives your customers exactly what they want, you need to make customer success a priority.
When done properly, customer success can enhance a number of different parts of your business, especially customer loyalty and retention. It also helps bolster your brand image and inspires your (happy) customers to spread the word far and wide about your must-have offering.
Customer success is crucial for customer-facing companies looking to compete and succeed in the modern market, and those who understand this reap the rewards.
In this article, we explore the ins-and-outs of creating a complete customer success package.
If you aren't making the most of a fully-comprehensive customer success strategy, you could be left in the dust by your competitors as they steam ahead, taking your customers with them. More than 70% of businesses say improving customer success is their top priority, so don’t get left behind.
Firstly, let’s unpack what customer success actually is, and how it differs from something like customer satisfaction or customer support.
What is customer success?
The basic definition of customer success is simple:giving your customers exactly what they want. Instead of just treating your customers as cash cows, your products and services should be aimed at helping your customers achieve their goals and solve their problems.
But customer success doesn't begin and end with your products. While creating products (or services) that solve your customers' problems is essential, everything you do should be steered by a firm understanding of what your customers actually need or want.
For example, your website layout should enable customers to find what they want easily, and eliminate any potential hiccups or bottlenecks that could be experienced along the way. Your sales funnels and processes should do the same; the aspect of your marketing function should be built with customer success in mind.
Your customer service practices should also be built with customer success in mind — something we'll look at more closely in just a minute.
So, in a nutshell, your main goal as a business should be helping your customers. Yes, you still want to make money from them but looking after your customers and making them feel appreciated is absolutely key if you’re going to win their loyalty as well as their custom. A satisfied customer is one that will sing your praises throughout their network, extending your brand reach and word-of-mouth marketing organically.
What are the key foundations of customer success?
- Building strong relationships with customers
- Understanding exactly what your customers want (and giving them more of it)
- Making sure your products and services are easy to implement and designed with the user in mind
- Helping your customers achieve all their goals (and more)
Seven tips to smash your customer success strategy
1) Target the right customers
Your marketing strategies might not need to be as broad as you think. While more customers seems like the best way forward, it isn’t the be all and end all. More of the right type of customer (your desired personas) is what you want. Maintaining an engaged and loyal customer base is far more effective than marketing to a huge crowd who aren’t all that interested in what you’ve got to say.
2) Research and communicate with your customers
To find out who your products and services should be aimed at, you need to do extensive customer research and persona building. This will help you target more of the right sort of customers, and it’ll also help you adapt and develop your products and services so that they work perfectly for what your audience are looking for.
Gather customer feedback and analyse those who drop off so you can adapt and evolve your offering as you refine your target audience.
3) Be proactive
We’ll look at this in a bit more detail in a minute, but instead of waiting for your customers (and potential customers) to complain or make suggestions, go out and ask them proactively. Get your ear to the ground and find out what your customers actually think of your product or service. Most people stay quiet whether they like or don’t like a product so it’s tricky to know what works and what doesn’t if you don’t reach out.
4) Explain what you can do for them
Some businesses will try and convince people into thinking their product works for every problem and every customer, when this isn’t necessarily the case. You need to be clear about what people are getting so they can align your offering with their needs. That said, people don’t always know what they need so it’s down to you to explain how you can solve even the problems customers don’t realize they have, in a way they’ll fully understand.
5) Increase response times
Never make people wait too long for an answer to their problem. Speedy responses are a pillar of good customer service; nobody likes to be kept waiting. Leaving a customer hanging also increases the likelihood of them giving up on you and venturing towards your competitors instead.
6) Send regular discounts and reminders
You don’t want to spam your audience, but make sure they feel valued and a part of your community by offering them real reasons to stay loyal. This might be a promotional offer, or a little something extra on their birthday. Touches like this serve as great reminders of why a customer picks you over another company or another product.
7) Test your entire sales process
Customers don’t just want successful products, they want a great experience from start to finish.
The sales process should be as fast and seamless as possible to reduce the risk of customers bouncing off your site or losing interest. Find out why people are clicking away or disengaging, establish where the bumps in the road are, and rectify any issues as a top priority.
The difference between customer success and customer satisfaction
While the two are undoubtedly related, they aren’t one and the same. Customer satisfaction is important, but to really take things to the next level, you don't just want your customers to be satisfied, you want them to be more than satisfied.
As we’ve already established, customers don't always know what they want. If you just give them what they think they want, it might not solve all their problems. With customer success, you need to explain to them what they need and more. Go the extra mile to help customers reach their goals.
Simply offering a great sales experience is good in the short term, but if your products aren’t up to scratch, it will only be a fleeting victory (and won’t transform first-time customers into loyal brand advocates).
So a customer might be satisfied if they found your website easy to navigate, your support staff friendly and your delivery options comprehensive. But if the product they bought only solved their basic needs and didn't deliver a complete solution, you're missing one of the oldest tricks in the book.
An effective customer success strategy will explain to your customer why they need more than they think they need, and why your products or services are the ones to plug the gap.
What are the main differences between customer success strategies and traditional customer support?
1. Customer success builds relationships
Customer success generally has a much broader reach for your business and has longer-term benefits (to both you and your customers) at its core.
The problem with customer support and satisfaction is that they're generally only transactional. They begin and end when a customer has a problem, and when it is resolved.
Customer success is different — it doesn't just end when you've solved a customer's problem. Customer success isn't defined by simply completing a support ticket, it's all about building a lasting relationship with your clients and visitors for as long as possible.
So a proper customer success strategy should be ongoing and it should evolve over time.
Another key thing to remember with customer success is that not all your visitors will be customers yet. Customer support only solves problems when someone has bought a product, and often when something has gone wrong. Building successful relationships within your business should start when someone first clicks onto your website, or gets in touch with you. The strongest customer relationships begin even before someone becomes a fully-fledged customer.
Customer service is generally only reactive; you can build a great support system but it's often only going to be put to use if customers have a problem. It's better for you, and your customers, if there are never any problems. That's why building an ongoing and evolving customer success strategy is so important.
2. Customer success is proactive
We touched on this earlier but it really is vital to stay on your toes when it comes to customer success. Don't just wait for customers to come to you with a problem.
How about reaching out to all your customers a few days after they've bought your products or services? Ask them if they've got any issues, or if there's anything they need help with. This is huge, as most customers will keep quiet if they weren't completely happy or had a problem. Worse still, some of them will keep quiet, and simply never return to your business again.
You need to be proactive in providing support for your customers. It'll help build loyalty towards your business and help encourage repeat sales.
Always make sure you're aware of your customers' goals and adapt quickly to help them reach them. This starts with creating products specifically for them, but also in explaining why they need what you have to offer. And it continues after a sale, to make sure they got exactly what they wanted and if not, where you could improve.
3. Customer success has a wider view of positive impacts for your entire business
As we covered earlier, customer support tends to begin and end with a support ticket. So any improvements to your support services will be aimed at improving response times and making sure the quality of help people receive is good. These things definitely shouldn't be ignored but customer success has a broader focus on your customers' entire journey and how this will impact your progress further down the line.
When improving customer success, you should look to measure things like retention rates as well as upselling and cross-selling opportunities.
4. It can be harder to measure ROI with customer success
While there are loads of benefits to creating a compelling customer success strategy, some of its impact can be hard to measure. It's easy to know the cost of your customer support services, and measure ROI effectively, but knowing how much your improved customer success strategies helped can sometimes require a bit more thought.
One of the reasons for this is that customer success is a much newer idea in the business world; it hasn't been fully explored yet. While this can make measuring success difficult, it also presents one key opportunity for you as a business owner or manager: you can get ahead of the competition by treating it as a priority when other competitors might not be.
Even though measuring ROI can be difficult when it comes to customer success, there are a few key metrics you should keep a keen eye on. This includes things like:
- Increased referrals from existing customers
- Brand mentions
- Improved retention rates
- How many existing customers use your products on a day-to-day basis
When you start spending time and money on improving your customer success strategies, you should notice most of these improve over time.
As customer success is a much newer idea than support and customer service, finding the right staff to implement the best ideas might not be as straightforward. The market for staff in customer service is huge, it's an established industry that has been around for decades. That means there isn't necessarily one definitive answer on the right type of staff to look for with customer success in mind.
As you can hopefully see by now, although there are some gray areas when it comes to developing a successful customer success strategy, it's still something that can be hugely beneficial to the growth of your business.
It's something you can't really afford to ignore anymore. The best strategy combines both customer success and customer support seamlessly, to glean the best possible results.
Customer success is here to stay, and it's something you can get ahead of the field with by implementing it immediately. It'll be good for your customers, and ultimately great for your business.