After the Deal: How to Treat Customers with a Customer Success Approach

Customer Success Strategy

You’re a salesperson, you do sales. You are sales. 

And that’s just it, you think your job’s done and you move on to the next one. Some salespeople don’t know when to stop selling and when to start managing the sales they’ve already made.

The truth is, post-sale customer relationships are just as important as presale relationships. There are several practices your business can master to better its post-sale customer relationships. 

Together, these practices are called a Customer Success Strategy and they’re designed to help your business on different fronts.

  • Return on investment (ROI): Each customer retained is one less customer that needs to be gained in order to meet revenue targets.
  • Better reviews: Brand evangelism and reviews on sites like Capterra and G2 improve brand image and bring more customers.
  • More feedback: Not to be confused with reviews, feedback is internal information that can be used to improve your product.

Sounds good, but how do we do it?

If the short answer is a well-executed, all-encompassing Customer Success Strategy, the long answer is in this article. 

It outlines the four pillars of Customer Success and how to lay them at front-and-centre of your business processes.

What is Customer Success?

A Customer Success strategy is a proactive approach to customer relationships.

Customer Relationship Management involves anticipating the problems a customer might face on their journey by knowing and understanding the customer, their needs, and their industry. It takes a mutual education of product features and usage, constant, multi-channel communication, and internal team alignment to implement Customer Success.

So, you might wonder where that fits into your business. 

With enough resources, larger businesses are able to employ both Customer Support and Customer Success teams. Unfortunately, not everybody can call themselves a larger business… yet. 

Smaller businesses can combine the Sales and Support teams as one Customer Success team. They do this by reducing the need for hands-on support through the creation of self-service customer education resources: A knowledge base, help centre articles, video tutorials, regular webinars, and ask-me-anything sessions.

This frees up Customer Success agent time to focus on building better customer relationships, understanding clients’ businesses better, and helping them to grow.

In the B2B SaaS industry especially, your own business’s success depends entirely on your customer’s success. Customers buy your product or service to improve their own. If the implementation of your service is successful for them, why wouldn’t they continue to subscribe to it? Continued cooperation keeps your tills ringing and the growth growing. 

Customer Success is business success.

Customer Success Pillar 1: Proactivity

Proactivity is the cornerstone of Customer Success. 

Proactivity with existing customers is key. Don’t wait for a customer to contact you with a problem. Set regularly-scheduled assessment calls to check in on them, hear their experience of your product, and find out whether it meets their initial expectations. 

Furthermore, when new features or products are added to your range, tell the world. 

More specifically, tell the customers who are due to gain the most out of new additions. Invite them to a personalised demo call or host a live Ask-Me-Anything session and show them around.

In fact, Customer Success is so proactive that it starts even before a customer is a customer.

Onboard sales-qualified leads

Sales-qualified leads (SQLs) are those that have the highest chances of conversion.

Maybe they already showed interest in your product’s marketing materials, contacted the sales team, or directly signed up for a free trial. These are hot leads, and it’s important to manually engage with them to reel them in while they’re still on the line. There are ways in which you can get the most out of these encounters.

  • Personalise demo calls. If the lead has already signed up to the system and started using it, check the features they’ve tested and build your demo call based on them.
  • Get to know the lead before your first call. Find out as much information about the company as you can: Size, departmental structure, industry, their recent achievements, and current struggles. Plan a demo to resonate with their specific situation.
  • Ask about the results they need from your software and build your communication around those goals. Subsequently, show them the shortest path to those goals.
  • Don’t show off all functionality from the get-go; it can make the lead being frustrated. Start with only the necessary features and explain more as they grow into the product.

Regular customer assessment calls

Regular assessment calls, for when customers do become customers, should also be part of your Customer Success strategy. 

Have Customer Success managers do their homework, review client accounts, and organise regular consultations with them to understand their implementation progress and further usage of the product. A common structure of regular assessment calls can look like this…

  1. Initial assessment call of sales-qualified leads, as outlined above.
  2. One month implementation check up, making sure smooth implementation.
  3. Six month update for guidance around more advanced features.
  4. One year review to establish any changes that are needed before resubscription.

The timing can vary depending on the product-type and business model of your company. Either way, it’s important to ensure constant communication with the customer.

Proactivity of Customer Success binarily contrasts it from a traditional Customer Support model. 

By anticipating problems, questions, and requests, we can make sure they never be a reason for a customer to leave.

Customer Success Pillar 2: Education

If proactivity is the cornerstone of Customer Success, education is the four walls keeping everything inside.

Proactivity is the education of your employees around a customer’s industry and product usage. 

Education refers to giving customers a solid understanding of how best to use a product based exactly on their needs. Customers need up to date, real time information about the product so they can develop their long-term strategy and scale their business growth with your product at the heart of it. To this end, content is king.

Content is king

Marketing is a machine, churning out relevant, valuable content for existing customers as well as prospective ones. 

Apart from newsletters and in-product notifications for significant updates and releases, run live webinars and walkthrough features that have been added or improved. Maintain a constant flow of educational and pre-boarding content on your website, such as guides, eBooks, cheat sheets, and checklists. Go even further… 

  • An FAQ page split into sections based on different product features.
  • Audio content such as podcasts offer another channel of content engagement for customers.
  • Conferences and product workshops.
  • A learning management system (LMS) with educational videos and tutorials.
  • Academies and certificates for those who want to become partners or resellers. 

Not knowing how to use a product is one of the most widespread reasons for customer churn. Proper materials to educate customers to eliminate this reason.

Customer Success Pillar 3: Communication

Customer Success or not, your business should make effective communication a priority as it strives for establishment and growth.

A conversational customer experience (CCE) means providing continuous support and guidance to customers on an individual basis. The aim of CCE is to open up a two-way communication between a customer and a brand, on a level where customers are confident enough to come to Success reps with suggestions for improvements and honest feedback.

  • Befriend customers by finding out more about them than work, if they want to share.
  • Ease off on technical jargon, speak in a language customers understand.
  • Don’t be shy to ask lots of questions. Educate yourself about their business.
  • Stay away from scripts; have a real conversation guided by experience. As an industry expert, you don’t need a script. 
  • Meet customers where they are. Use centralising technology like a customer relationship management platform (CRM) to maintain all customer context in one place, no matter which channel it came from.

A business community

Furthermore, effective communication means establishing a community around your brand.

A tangible business community is an effective tool for bringing customers together to pursue a shared purpose while using your product. 

A simple community group – either in product or on social media – can go a long way to connecting users with questions, answers, and even workarounds for certain product features. It offers bi-value to customers – the chance to network and meet potential clients or partners.

Beyond a tangible business community, there are other ways of building a community ethos around your brand…

  • Position your clients as thought leaders with user-generated content.
  • Run a brand ambassador or partner programme to encourage brand evangelism.
  • Online and offline events help clients network even more.

Good communication is basic business. Meanwhile, a business community offers a bi-benefit of a customer’s subscription to your product. It’s another reason to love your business and product.

Customer Success Pillar 4: Alignment

Communication between your business teams is the final pillar of the Customer Success pantheon. Specifically, Customer Success requires the alignment of Product, Marketing, and Sales teams. 

Whilst it’s vital for each department to have individual goals to achieve, all those goals should add up to a shared business goal. Alignment is the process of establishing a common understanding to aid better collaboration towards those shared goals. 

If they share goals, share outcomes, and share responsibilities, eventually they’ll share success.

Shared technology is the backbone of effective team alignment

Above all, alignment requires the tools in place that employees can share and communicate to different extents. 

As I say, the SaaS market is growing. Since the world went remote in 2020, these tools have become more widely available, and wider in what they can do. 

CRM technology goes the furthest toward aligning teams. By bringing all business data under the same CRM umbrella, businesses can use it to align and automate processes, communicate with each other relating to specific data points, set tasks related to individual records, and report, gamify, and visualise metrics and goals within the same dashboard.

Normalised, regular communication between teams to close feedback loops

Have sales and marketing teams meet once a week to run through their achievements of the past week. Outline the shared goals that were met and the ones that are due to be met in the next. Collaborate and share expertise on individual client accounts to overcome any potential roadblocks for their resubscription.

Similarly, product teams should hold a weekly demo to update their progress in realtime, giving Customer Success reps the opportunity to embed it in their assessment calls with clients.

Create internal feedback chat rooms where Success agents can post any bugs or recommendations from clients and Product can immediately plan for them in their product roadmap. Closed feedback loops are invaluable for Customer Success. Their nature requires hands from each team.

  • Sales or Customer Success understands the customers completely, and gets what customers need and want from a product. They speak to the customers who offer the feedback.
  • Marketing creates the content to showcase and educate about feedback implementation. If anything large enough changes, then it might require its own campaign.
  • The Product team implements those changes, physically closing feedback loops.

Team alignment helps close feedback loops quickly, meaning the customer gets exactly what they want and need from a product.

They say it’s not over until the fat lady sings.

Well, the thing is, she’s lost her voice. A customer journey isn’t over until you’ve failed.

(Customer) Success is the opposite of failure.