In 1750 BC Nanni was irate. He’d paid for fine quality copper, but got junk metal instead. And to top it off, the delivery was late. So Nanni complained onto his clay tablet, where it remains in the British Museum as the first customer complaint in recorded history. And then he found a new vendor.

Companies smartened up over the next 3000 years. And when Marshall Field opened his first US department store in 1852 he coined his famous phrase: “Give the lady what she wants.” Followed by, you know it, “The customer is always right.”

These phrases echo the key concepts of outstanding customer service. And they’re still essential to building a successful business in today’s world.

But this is not customer success.

What is customer success?

Customers are not paying for your product, they are paying for their outcomes. It is not realistic to believe that customers will stay on a successful path, or discover new outcomes your product can deliver, on their own.

Jonas Stanford, Director of Customer Success at Unbounce

Customer success has its roots in the SaaS world.

Now in case you’re still living in Nanni’s ancient Babylonia, SaaS stands for Software as a Service. Think Dropbox, Slack, Trello, Moz, Zapier, HubSpot, Intercom. All software, all services, all helping people to get jobs done.

To use these services, customers pay a recurring monthly or yearly fee. And they also hold a card called “cancel anytime.”

So in this subscription economy, you’ve got to continually prove to the customer that they’re making the right decision to do business with you.

That’s right. You’re now in the relationship business.

If you’re not sure how this transformation happened, or why it matters, check out this infographic for all your answers.

Now the question is: will your customers stick around, or are they heading over to your competitor right now?

Because here’s the reality: people don’t want your product. They want their problems solved.

And that’s where customer success comes in.

As Jeff Gardner at Intercom, puts it:

The job of customer success is to make finding, learning about, adopting, and engaging with your product as easy and frictionless as possible for the right customers. The right customers are the ones who are trying to do a job that your product does well.

Jeff Gardner, Director of Customer Support at Intercom

So where do you begin?

It starts as a mindset—a shift from selling a product to delivering value. It’s dedication to creating a truly customer-centered business. It’s a long-term game built on mutual benefit.

Customer success is also a vehicle for helping customers succeed with your product, beyond expectations. How? By helping users adopt your product, by being there when your customers need you, and by reaching out with solutions people didn’t even know they needed.

And that fits right into your business goal: to proactively impact customer lifetime value by increasing retention and driving growth.

How to get started with customer success: a blueprint

If you don’t have a genuine empathic interest in your customers, you’re making a short-term sale, not a long-term relationship.

Russel Lolacher, The Upsell.com

By now you should be thinking, “Great, it’s time to get serious about this. If only I knew how to get started…”

I’m happy you asked. Here’s your roadmap for the rest of this guide. As we move along, we’ll stop off at each point to dig in a bit deeper.

(By the way, you can take shortcuts with that handy menu on the left.)

1. Design experiences through proactive engagement

The new customer journey’s got a lot more touchpoints than before. From onboarding to nurturing to upselling, you’ve got to continually prove yourself. Start by understanding your customers–who are they? What do they need from you? What are their expectations and motivations? Then work on creating the ultimate user experience.

2. Treat interactions like conversations

Lasting relationships start with communication. So ask yourself: how should I be talking to my customers? What channels are best? And how do you balance polite with professional? Just remember, they’re all humans you’re talking to. So treat them accordingly.

3. Use feedback to improve retention, reduce churn, and drive growth

The first step in retaining people? Find out why they’re leaving. And how do you drive growth? By learning the reasons why your highest-value customers pay what they do. The method’s always the same: feedback.

4. Build a best-in-class customer success team

These are the people that make it all work. Start by asking yourself these questions:

  • How should I structure my team?

  • Who should I hire?

  • How should I onboard and train new hires?

5. Define the metrics that matter

Surprise: customer success is data-focused. And data can be your best friend or a huge distraction. So what should you focus on? And why measure in the first place? Oh, and make sure you understand how it all fits into the bigger goal: increasing net retention, or reducing net MRR churn (psst, they’re the same thing).

6. Get the right tools

Handling support tickets, doing outreach, managing accounts. These aren’t things you can do with email and a spreadsheet. You’re going to need the right tools.

The right tech will let you observe user behavior at a granular level. Clicks, keystrokes, and even seconds spent on a given task can now be tracked. Companies that leverage this data are better informed to take care of their customers.

7. Reach out to find out

Feedback from tickets and analytics from product use are great sources of insight. But to know what your customers really think and feel, you’ve just got to ask. Customer feedback, NPS surveys, and exit surveys are your best friends.

Ready to go? The journey begins with experience…

How to design a customer journey

Customer experience is the next competitive battleground. It’s where business is going to be won or lost.

Tom Knighton, customer experience expert

Think about all the moments that customers bump into your brand.

It happens when they browse your website, search your help center, open your emails, chat with your support team, and of course—when they use your product.

Customer experience is the impression that’s left from all those moments. So the big job of customer success: to proactively craft those engagements to keep customers coming back for more.

And the journey’s got a lot more touchpoints than it used to.

From funnel to cycle: the new customer journey

In a recurring revenue business, it’s like constantly recruiting the customer to stay with you. You can’t do it when it’s time for renewal. You have to do it the day the person signs up.

Shep Hyken, customer service expert

The traditional sales approach was akin to a hunt. A sales team armed with a stacked rolodex scoped their prey and chased leads down the sales funnel. Then any customer that popped out of the bottom was handed over to the customer service team—a reactive team that sat perched to ease post-sale problems.

A customer success team takes post-sales touchpoints and interactions a lot more seriously.

Why? Because in a subscription business, the real money comes after the sale. And we’re not talking about a 15% tip tacked on to the end of your dinner bill. We’re talking an expected lifetime value around 10 times the initial sale price. SaaS companies take note.

Basically, the entire process has been transformed from a funnel to a cycle—from “get them coming in” to “prevent them from leaving.

Before, you celebrated when the sale was made. Now the sale is when the real work starts.

In his book, Farm, Don’t Hunt, Guy Nirpaz likens customer success to a farming paradigm.

“When farming, the goal is to profit over many years and any single plant will have many crops. This concept of nurturing and a long time horizon is the opposite of hunting with its upfront reward and short term focus.”

He continues:

“If in this new world your customers must be farmed not hunted, then Customer Success is the farming paradigm…. Your goal as a farmer is to maximize the yield from your grove over time.”

And you do this by proactively crafting touchpoints to nurture your customer through the different stages of their journey.

Let’s take a trip down customer lane…

1. Onboard like it’s your first date

You don’t need instructions for a bar of chocolate—unwrap, put in mouth, enjoy. Products like Netflix and Spotify are also pretty intuitive—find something to consume, press play, relax.

SaaS products are more complex than your average consumer product. So it takes some get-to-know-you time after the sale is made.

This honeymoon period is called onboarding.

Onboarding is like a series of first dates. Each encounter has to pull the user a little closer.

Your goal during onboarding is to get them to that “Wow!”, “Aha!” moment—when users see the value of your product, and can start using it on their own. Optimize your onboarding to speed up your user’s time-to-value.

There are lots of ways to onboard, so make sure you pick the one best suited to your users and goals. For some products, smartly designed in-app prompts will do. But more complicated products may take some serious hand-holding.

Here’s a summary of essentials to keep in mind:

  • Greet them with a welcome message

“Hey, we’re so happy to see you. And we look forward to knowing you better.” Or whatever feels right for you.

  • Find out who they are and what they want

Customers are using your product to get something done. Make sure you have a clear picture of their persona and job-to-be-done. This way, you focus on their needs, not your product.

  • Use in-app prompts to guide them to the most relevant features

Not using video yet? Here’s your big opportunity.

  • Send targeted messaging based on events or milestones

Has a user just logged in for the first time, or successfully used a new feature? Reach out to make sure they got what they wanted.

  • Don’t show them everything at once

Just help them get their project off the ground. Sure, you’re proud of all your product features. But for now, only focus on the customer’s goals and what they need to know to get where they want to go.

Or as Tyler Wanlass, product designer at Respond by Buffer, says:

It’s easy to confuse product problems with customer problems–and the latter is far more important to solve.
  • Send a post-onboarding customer satisfaction survey

This gauges the effectiveness of your process, and provides insight into what can be tweaked for next time.

2. Nurture them proactively

They’re up and running. Now what? Nurture them.

It goes beyond reactive support to anticipating user needs, wants, and pains. You basically do this in two ways:

  1. Monitor customer health signals

  2. Reach out with value-added messaging and support

How? By tracking ticket trends in your help center, user behavior on your platform, or through feedback surveys. The clues are everywhere. The trick is to use those signals to add unexpected value.

Here are some quick things you can do:

  • Observe product usage trends

Has it been a couple weeks since your customers last logged in? Send a friendly email to see if they need some help.

  • Keep an eye on feature use

Are customers not taking advantage of useful features? Are they manually performing routine tasks that could be automated with a Zapier integration? I bet they’d be thrilled to know things like this.

  • Communicate weekly usage reports to show users value

For example, I use SwiftKey on my phone to draw through letters on the keyboard rather than tapping them all out. SwiftKey periodically sends me a message showing how many words it’s predicted, and how many keystrokes I’ve saved. It’s a lot. And it reminds me of how much value I get from their product.

  • Take their temperature through periodic surveys

Feedback surveys, satisfactions, surveys, NPS surveys—there’s one for every occasion. If you want to know how someone feels, the best thing to do is ask.

  • Reach out with value-added ideas

Even if it doesn’t directly add value to your bottom-line? Yes. Remember, you’re not just providing a product, you’re providing a solution to problems.

Tip: To save tons of time, automate these processes with event-triggered emails. Using a platform like Intercom, you can easily monitor user behavior and automatically shoot off personalized communications.

How often should you check in with customers? Aim to be proactive without pestering.

There’s a fine line between being there for your customers, and being a pain in the ass.

3. Upsell through inspiration

There are basically three ways to grow:

  1. Get more customers.

  2. Charge more for the same stuff.

  3. Sell new stuff to the same people.

These levers used to be sales and marketing turf. But in a recurring revenue business, the line between marketing, sales, and support is blurred. Especially when it comes to upsells.

A recent survey by Pacific Crest Securities showed that upsells account for three times the annual contract value for the fastest growing SaaS companies. The point? More opportunity.

Here’s how to upsell through added value:

  • Identify customers with upsell potential

Do you have a customer who’s almost maxed out their plan? Reach out to mention that more seats are available.

  • Show your full portfolio

Are your customers aware of all your advanced features, complementary products, and shared workspace plans? Because it’s hard to sell invisible products.

  • Give trial periods or discounts

Freemium models let you try before you buy. The same tactic can work with bigger plans. Are potential customers unsure? Let ‘em give it a test run.

  • Don’t be afraid to ask

If you see that a customer can get more benefit from a bigger plan, don’t be shy. Not asking is the biggest reason upsells don’t happen!

Again, remember that even when upselling, the point is to bring additional value to the customer. Don’t push, don’t offer things they don’t need, and don’t be salesy.

Your goal isn’t to retain and expand customers. It’s to help people get the most out of your product.

And guess what: all of these interactions contribute to your customers’ experience, and their success with your product.

By smartly designing every touchpoint, you add value beyond the product itself—and this sets you apart from the competition.

3. How to support customers through conversations

Users are the pulse of any company. Treat each conversation as a piece of feedback. Over time this builds up a clear picture of your users and how people are using your product to bring their ideas to life.

Sophie Fitzpatrick, Research & support at Marvel App

Ever fight over a misunderstanding? Or see people break up over poor communication? Then you know it’s not just about what you say, but how you say it.

And if trust is the foundation of a solid relationship, then communication is what builds a structure that lasts.

Real world translation: start thinking about how to talk to your customers.

Let’s start with your channels.

Pick the right communication channels

“Ultimately, customers want to be heard, want their issues resolved, and want to find value in your product or services. Find the right channel for your business to achieve those three things.” - Grace Boyle director of Customer Success at FullContact

It doesn’t matter if you’re selling apps or apples. People always have bugs and bruises to report. And when they come knocking, customer support needs to be there.

Remember: customer success is not customer support. But world-class support is still a huge part of success. The question is, how should you offer it?

And that how depends on how well you know your customers.

Are they tech savvy or technophobes? Do they need in-depth technical instruction, or just a sympathetic human voice? Figure that out first. And then start thinking about your channels.

Here are your options:

  • Phone

  • Email

  • Forms

  • Forums

  • Live chat

  • Chatbot

  • Social networks

  • Help center

It’s a lot to chose from. And all support channels have their plus and minuses.

Just remember that when you offer a new support channel, you offer new touchpoints. And that means more experiences to manage. So before you add another channel, ask yourself these questions:

1. Think speed: How will it affect user expectations?

Here’s the first thing a user thinks about when asking for help: when am I going to get an answer?

The channel sets expectations for speed and personalization. So make sure you meet these expectations. Exceed them if you can.

The channel also affects your automation options. An automatic message saying “Got your message, back to you soon” might work for email. But not the best way to answer a live chat.

2. Be realistic: What kind of resources are needed?

The channel defines how many support people you’ll need. Considering real-time support, like phone service or live chat? You’re going to need a lot of hands on deck.

And be careful: channels come in unexpected places. Thinking about allowing users comments on your help center articles? Then you’ll need someone to monitor for comments that need a response, or trolls looking for attention.

3. Use common sense: Does this match my customers’ needs?

With so many channels available, it can be tempting to think that you need to be everywhere all the time. Think again.

Before you open up another channel, ask yourself: Is this channel something my users want and will use? If you provide health monitoring products to senior citizens, do you really need support staff monitoring Twitter feeds full time?

4. Be selective: Not all customers are equal

Talk’s not cheap. And the reality is that not all users are created equally.

If you have a freemium model, prioritize support for higher value customers. And direct free users to an email address or contact form embedded in your website.

You could also offer enhanced support to your ideal customer personas, no matter what plan they’re on. This way you’re focused on the highest converting users at all times.

The general rule is: the more valuable a customer, the more touch they deserve. So when Google signs up for your service, don’t put them hold.

Remember the rules of conversation

“There is a saying that ‘you can hear someone’s smile over the phone.’ I think that’s also true with email and other electronic communication.” - David Apple, director of Customer Success at Typeform

No matter what channel you’re on, treat customer interactions like conversations. Here are a few guidelines that apply to any conversation:

Listen to understand

Imagine you’re with someone who hung on every word you said. They asked questions to clarify their understanding, probe deeper, and prompt insight. This creates empathy, and a space where people feel comfortable expressing themselves. The same applies to customers.

Be polite and respectful at all cost

You may not agree with what you hear—and the customer may actually be wrong (gasp!)—but stay calm and professional.

Read, then mirror your customer

Are you talking to the 70-year-old board member of a multinational corporation, or the 20-year-old founder of the Valley’s newest startup? If the former, don’t fill your response with loose language and exclamation points!!!!! Have a customer who likes to use emojis? Don’t be afraid to drop in a smiley face. 🙂

Perform an emotional analysis

You run into a friend who’s clearly not as chipper as usual. Do you still greet them with “Hey Bob! Wanna hear the most depressing story in the world?” I hope not. Conversations ensue by gauging the others’ feelings.

You can do this with a quick question to gauge emotional analysis before beginning the conversation:

Hope for this:

But be prepared for this:

If in doubt, err on the side of polite and professional.

Know where they are in their journey

Are they still onboarding? Regular users of your product? Already pledged their eternal, unconditional loyalty to your brand? Know this before you engage in conversation.

Write like you talk

Ask for their name, and use it in conversation. Drop the corporate speak, but don’t sound like a teenager either. Aim for something between: “I’m happy to have the chance to serve you today” and “Dude, spill your probs and let’s sort this sucker out.” Something like: “Hey, sorry you’re not happy. Tell me a bit more about the problem.”

Have a personality

Ever felt the pain of talking to an automated voice system? Right–don’t be a robot. Find your own voice, be authentic, humanize the conversation with one-sentence small talk: “How’s the weather in Kansas today?” Whatever. Just don’t be overly chatty.

Wasting someone’s time is a good way to turn a customer from slightly irritated to incredibly annoyed.

Make every engagement valuable

Everything you do—from emails to campaigns—should be aimed at providing value to your customers. Before you click “send,” ask yourself: “Is my customer gaining something from this?”

Never sell when someone needs help

This is one of the easiest ways to f— up a relationship. If a customer calls to report a bug, don’t respond with “You should try our Pro Plan, you’ll love it!” There’s a time and a place to upsell—timing is everything here.

It basically boils down to general humanness with a touch of empathy. Or as Gary McGrath, Customer Success Team lead at Kayako, put it:

Customers don’t want to be treated like a number, or a nuisance, they want to be treated like real people with real problems.

4. How to improve customer retention and loyalty through feedback

In 2005, David Dempsey stepped to the podium at a Salesforce team retreat. They’d just had a year of hypergrowth following their IPO, and people were ready to party.

But Dempsey’s message was bleak: Salesforce had an 8% monthly churn rate. And you can’t pour enough business into the top of such a leaky funnel to sustain Salesforce’s growth rates. Slap!

This woke up CEO Marc Benioff: churn is a huge problem opportunity. The customer success revolution was in the air–you might say it started right then and there.

What is churn? And why it’s your hidden growth engine

Churn happens when someone cancels their contract.

If customer retention is the goal, churn is the arch nemesis. Like yin and yang, peanut butter and jelly, they go together in inverse harmony. A 5% churn = 95% retention. A 95% churn = find a new job.

This works fine if all customers are paying the same amount. But what if you’ve got people on different plans? Losing a customer paying $30 a month is a bummer. Losing a customer paying $3000 a month is a kick in the wowzers.

If you have customers on different plans, it makes more sense to look at revenue churn:

Here’s a quick refresher on why it matters:

And remember what that means for revenue:

Okay, you got it—churn matters. So the question on everyone’s mind: how can I reduce churn?

The answer: you have to know why people leave you.

Sure, bad customer service, missing features, cheaper competitor–all reasons why people walk away.

But you’re not interested in why people might leave. You need to find out why your customers are leaving.

And you’re going to need a plan. In the words of Ingmar Zahorsky, director of Customer Success at ChartMogul:

“Having a defined strategy for dealing with churn is paramount for a subscription business to maximize customer happiness and to attain predictable revenue growth.”

Find out why they say goodbye

“It’s not you, it’s me,” said the unhappy partner with a kind heart. But guess what? It was you. You weren’t providing what they needed.

Why not? Either you didn’t know, you didn’t care, or you couldn’t execute—ignorance, apathy, impotence. Not your sharpest weapons to bring to battle.

To improve retention, you have to understand customer loyalty, and why your customers are leaving. How do you do this?

Feedback. It comes in lots of flavors. Here’s where you start:

Listen via tickets.

What features are missing? What are people confused about?

Dig into data.

Analyze user behavior. Has a user not logged in for a while? Are they using the features they need? Are they having trouble finding tools they could use? Perform a cohort analysis to discover behaviors of people who leave and those who stay.

Do more user testing.

Get some people in a room who’ve never used your product before. Have them test it. Then watch and listen.

Ask your employees.

You never know where insight might come from.

Check in with an NPS survey.

It’s a gauge of loyalty, and question 2 will open your eyeballs.

Find out why they left with a churn exit survey.

Didn’t do the above things fast enough to prevent a loss? There’s still time to fix it for the next guy, or gal. Here’s how Typeform does it.

And don’t take too long to act. George Szundi, Marketing & Growth at Natero explains why:

“Once you’ve identified a potential churn situation, engage while there’s time to make a difference. A week before renewal is not the time to discover an account is in trouble–by then there is little you can do to help.”

Got it? Let’s fix it.

Take action to reduce churn

You’ve listened. You’ve observed. You’ve asked. And you’ve learned a lot. Now use that feedback to design a better user experience.

As Karina Norkaitienė, Customer Success manager at MailerLite, put it:

“Collect customer feedback from emails and chats, blog comments, surveys, and social media. But don’t be annoying. Listen and react to make customer feedback actionable.”

Here are some steps you can take to reduce churn now:

Set the right expectations.

Disappointment happens when expectations exceed reality.

Provide faster time-to-value through better onboarding.

Understand your customers’ goals. Identify their friction points. Get them to ‘wow!’ faster.

Fix your product.

Use feedback from customer tickets and platform usage to shape your product roadmap.

Reach out to users who are slipping away.

See those users who haven’t used your product in over a month? Make that phone call.

Ask earlier.

Don’t check in on day 30 of your monthly contract. If there’s a problem, it’s too late. Try asking on day 20 while there’s still time to fix it.

Educate instead of selling.

Creating education material on your help center or blog improves customer experience and reduces support tickets. Use Google Analytics to help understand what people are searching for, then provide the solutions that match.

Provide inspirational use cases.

Teach users new ways to get value from your product. Send them to your blog or your help center when they need a dose of inspiration.

Sell to the right customers.

Sales and marketing teams get people in the door. So if your main goal in customer success is retention, make sure your doormen are letting in the right people.

Talk to your ideal customer.

Talk to your best customers. You know those people who keep paying the big bucks, month after month? These people are getting value from you. What problem do you solve for them? What do they like most about you? What’s still missing for them?

By understanding your ideal customer, you can work backwards to create better experiences for all users.

Remember: there will always be churn in a subscription business. It’s normal. And not every customer leaves because they don’t like your product. The timing may be off, or that magic feature may be hiding in a menu that’s one click too deep.

And stay cool, because most customers won’t abandon you at the first sign of friction. But have some sandpaper handy to smooth out any rough edges.

Remember to L.O.A.D. up, then exceed expectations:

  • L – Listen through your support team

  • O – Observe through platform usage

  • A – Ask through proactive outreach

  • D – Design better experiences & Deliver on what you promise

Disappointment equals expectations minus reality, and disappointment is a leading contributor to customer churn. So, if you set unattainable expectations before they start using your product, it will be very hard to deliver a great customer experience.

Jonas Stanford, Director of Customer Success at Unbounce

5. How to build your best-in-class customer success team

Think about the goals and responsibilities of a customer success team:

  • Increase customer retention

  • Manage customer support

  • Drive growth through upsells

  • Increase customer lifetime value

  • Collect user feedback

  • Track success metrics

  • Monitor product usage

And that’s just a partial list. How do you handle it all? You build an all-star team.

To give you some inspiration, let’s take a peek inside the Customer Success Team at Typeform.

Structuring for success: An inside look at Typeform’s 5 pillars

Like most companies, Typeform started with support. This basically meant answering loads of emails full of feedback, suggestions, complaints, and praise. Cofounders Robert and David took it all to heart, and used this info to iterate the product and prioritize features.

Then a new buzzword caught their ear: customer success. And soon that buzz became a bang–because success for their customers was what they wanted from the start.

Enter today’s Typeform Customer Success Team, built on five pillars:

Each pillar has its own mission and metrics. And each of these feeds into the overarching mission and metrics of the Customer Success Team. That mission:

Retain and grow our customers by helping them achieve their goals.

Customer Success team mission

We’ll get into the metrics later. What’s important is that every part of the team has a clear objective. And everyone in the team knows their why—the reason for their role, and how it contributes to the overall business.

So what do these teams do? Let’s take a look at each of the pillars.

1. Support customers through team expertise

The mission of Customer Support:

Empathically solve our customers’ problems.

Remember: You’re not just looking for a friendly voice with a beautiful avatar. You need people who can solve your customer’s problems.

These are people who understand every angle of how the product works. They can visualize the customer journey, adapt to different types of queries and customer profiles, and learn new product updates, tools, and metrics—extremely fast.

Does your product have any technical components that need simple explanations? Better have someone who can do that too.

Some helpful tips to keep in mind:

  • Respond to customers ASAP.

They always expect an answer 10 minutes ago.

  • Organize people into shifts.

Typeform has advocates working from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. (CET) on two continents.

  • Engage people in projects, not only tickets.

Avoid burnout by diversifying your support team’s work day. You’ve hired smart people, don’t kill them with monotony.

  • Pick channels that make sense.

Do you really need Twitter if you don’t plan to expand your social media strategy?

  • Get the right technology.

And start automating tasks as soon as possible.

  • Tag all customer interactions.

“Feature request”, “UX issue”, “bug report,” and “billing issue” are good tags to start with. It will help you filter, analyze, and prioritize down the line.

The customer is not always right

Here's a few more thoughts from Eva Casado de Amezua, director of Customer Support at Typeform:

Remember that expression “The customer is always right?”

I’ve got news for you: The user is not always right. (Sorry Marshall Field)

Well, you can find truth even in the most confusing or polemic user communication. But this doesn’t mean you’re obliged to act on it as the user expects you to.

Customers are your clients, not your boss.

You’ve heard that the most successful people know when to say “no.” This applies to your business too. You have to put limits on how far you’re willing to go for each customer.

When you’ve got hundreds of thousands or millions of users, you can’t prioritize every request. And you can’t please everyone. Just because a feature might be useful to a few, doesn’t mean you need to redraw your product and services roadmap to please an angry voice. Trying to do so is a good way to drive your business into the ground.

Think in volumes, not individuals. Be empathetic, listen deeply, care genuinely. But put on your statistical hat and focus on the numbers.

Eva Casado de Amezua, Director of Customer Support at Typeform

One exception: high lifetime value customers. These are the people you need to cater to with extra care.

Remember: There’s no universal remedy to cure all user pains. But with the right mindset, you can mix up a medicine cabinet of antidotes, ready to apply to different user challenges.

2. Inspire users through education

Anticipate customers’ questions, and have clear, actionable answers waiting before they ask.

Zsuzsa Csuvár, Customer Education manager at Typeform

Typeform’s Education pillar is proactive and aimed at all users–free plans and paying.

The mission:

Provide resources to Typeformers that help them reach their goals and inspire them to achieve more than they had anticipated.

And they do this in two big ways:

1. Provide self-service resources through our help center

Seth Godin reminds us what you’re aiming for:

“I used to write the manuals for the educational software we shipped in the mid 1980s. The goal was clear: write exactly enough that no one would call us on the phone.”

How do you get started?

By looking at the questions coming through your help desk. Got any frequently asked questions? That’s where you start building your knowledge base.

A lot of help desk software gives you space to do this. But we were looking for more control over the look and feel, so we built the Typeform Help Center.

It’s a constant work in progress, a bit like our neighbor down the street, the Sagrada Familia.

2. Inspire users to achieve more than they anticipated

Customers might hire you to do one thing, but do they know about all those other great things you do too? Would be a shame not to tell them.

Education also checks this box. They work closely with the content team to produce inspiring use cases. These stories can live on the blog, help center, webinars, whatever. The goal: to provide new ideas and solutions that make people’s lives easier. It also helps reduce churn due to “I no longer need your product.”

Another tip: ask users to rate their experience after each interaction. Things like: “Did this article help you?” or after a chat: “How satisfied are you with how your problem was addressed?”

3. Design customer experience through feedback

Customer experience is a proactive pillar. It’s aimed at driving value through one-to-many engagement with customers.

Understand our customers’ needs to deliver more value and inspire them to achieve more than they had anticipated.

How’s it done? By taking action based on user feedback. Let’s break it down:

  1. Gather feedback from support requests, comments on help center articles, and information collected through customer satisfaction, NPS, and exit surveys.

  2. Work with the Data Team to aggregate user behavior on the the platform, and identify trends in the customer experience.

Now you’re inside your customer’s mind. And you’ve got a better understanding of what they think and feel about your product and brand.

Next step? Take action:

  1. Prepare a report for your product team. We call ours “Customer Voice,” and they use it to prioritize the product roadmap.

  2. Design a proactive outreach plan, including targeted and segmented emails based on events.

Here’s an example from Typeform:

We know that users who apply custom design are more likely to stick around. So if a user’s collecting responses via a typeform with no design (an event we track in our platform), we automatically send them an email. We let them know that applying custom colors, fonts, images, and GIFs helps boost completion rates. And we give tips on how to do it. A communications platform like Intercom helps a lot here. (more on this in the software section)

This type of one-to-many communication is a big challenge. How do you stay personal with so many users? Especially when hundreds or thousands of them are on a freemium plan, not paying a dime?

The trick is to aim for low-touch that feels high-touch. What not to do: blast tons of unsolicited generic emails to all users every 20 minutes. That’s a fast road to disengagement.

The express lane to great customer experience? Understanding what customers need, think, and feel. Where do you get this? Through feedback, curated into actionable takeaways.

Three rules for designing a remarkable customer experience

Here's some tips on experience from Angela Guedes, Customer Experience manager at Typeform:

Listen – don’t assume you know your customers. And remember that one source doesn’t tell the whole story. When sending out a survey, ask open-ended questions. It takes more time to analyze, but it will unveil new requests, use cases, and purposes for your tool that may never have crossed your mind.

Segment – because the big picture is overrated. When analyzing feature requests, know if they come from a new signup or a long-term power user. Segment the feedback by user plan, their lifecycle stage, and how likely they are to be with you in the future.

Prioritize – time and budget are limited resources. Once you gather all this feedback, you need to prioritize which projects to push. How? By focusing on the ones that will have a bigger impact on your metrics and for your most valuable customers.4

4. Drive growth through Account Management

Account managers, customer success managers, call them what you want. The mission is this:

Build relationships with our largest customers to ensure they get the value they signed up for… and more

This is high-touch, one-to-one engagement. A bit like a personal trainer who listens to your goals, helps you create your workout plan, and then jogs along with you throughout the entire customer journey.

It starts at “Hello.” With a personal call, we find out exactly what the customer wants to accomplish, and what measurable goals we can set to track their success. Here’s one of Typeform’s welcome packs for higher value customers:

During onboarding, we make sure customers get that first project off the ground. Any stumbles along the way? There’s a direct line to the account rep.

Once the customer is up and running, our priority is providing continuous value at every step.

Sure, one aim is growth. But this isn’t sneaky sales stuff. The approach? Being constantly on the lookout for ways customers can get more value.

Okay, confession: it took us too long to realize you can’t do this right without the right tech.

“It was the biggest mistake I’ve made while working here. I started with a bootstrap mentality, trying to manage everything with complex spreadsheets. But we would have saved lots of time, headaches, maybe even accounts, by investing in a proper CS tool from the start.” - Cristina Georgoulaki leader of the Account Management Team at Typeform

And make sure you’ve got enough people for the job too. How many account managers should you have? The answer will vary based on how intuitive your platform is, the size of your customers, and the tools you use to manage those customers.

As a rule of thumb, Jason Lemkin, VC at Storm Ventures and head of SaaStr, recommends one customer success manager for every $2 million in annual revenue.

5. Think bigger with Sales

This is our newest addition. This pillar looks after inbound interest at Typeform, which a Sales team is better suited to deal with than a Support team.

Does it strike you as strange that Sales sits with Customer Success, not Marketing? Often, the roles are reversed: Customer Success falls under Sales. At Typeform the reason’s simple. We don’t run sales by cold calling, collecting tons of leads, and hoping for a 5% conversion rate.

We strive to understand what customers want and how we can provide them with that value. And what better way to achieve this than by having them onboard and sit with the customer success team?

Managing the Customer Success Team

“There’s no silver bullet. Every company is different. You have to define success for your own customers, company, and culture.” - David Apple director of Customer Success at Typeform

Are you a new customer success manager? Building your customer success team and don’t know where to start? Or maybe you feel like a headless chicken, running to put out fires across your department?

Well, welcome to customer success. Where every day is a stretch in three directions:

  1. Managing the team.

  2. Interacting with customers.

  3. Reporting to execs and other departments.

Here are some tips from David Apple, director of customer success at Typeform:

Hire really amazing people.

Never hire someone you’re not sure about. If you have any doubts, it should be a no. Good people will make a good team, but great people will make a great team.

Focus on communication.

As your team grows, it gets harder and harder for everyone to be aware of what is going on with projects, product releases, bugs, etc. Create processes and hold people accountable for communication within your team.

Motivate by giving people ownership over projects and metrics.

It’s also good for professional development, and gives insight into who might be suited to future promotions.

Share strategic decisions with everyone.

People are more engaged when they know the direction the team and company are going.

Listen to your team.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in your own plans and ideas. A fresh voice can provide invaluable feedback you may have overlooked.

Bring people together through team building.

Schedule time outside of work for people to relax and get to know each other. It builds trust, the foundation of any team. Here’s something we did on a recent outing (click OOOOOOH to see more):

Get buy-in from the top.

Without support from the CEOs, it’s tough to build the team you want.

Don’t bullshit.

If a customer asks for something you know you can’t deliver, don’t make up a story or promise that “it’s coming soon.”

Better to lose a customer to honesty, then get caught in a lie later.

Work your ass off.

Self-explanatory.

Focus on data.

To solve a problem, you have to understand it. That understanding doesn’t come from intuition. It comes from data.

Focus on delivering value.

Your customers come first, revenue follows.

Oh, and don’t forget to save time for strategy—at least an hour a week.

What should you do during this time? First know this: it’s impossible to forecast everything with a timeline. Things just change too darn quickly.

Instead run hypotheticals: “What would happen ifs.” Things like: “What would we do if tomorrow our support ticket load doubled?” or “What project would we kill if we needed to dedicate more resources to building out this new feature?”

It’s a lot of info, I know. Need a mentor? Here’s 41 customer success managers you should follow.

Grow a successful team

“You start with one person in a mess, then move on to two people figuring it out together, and finally you grow a team where everyone has specialized roles.” - David Apple, Director of Customer Success at Typeform

Your team is your ticket to success. So make sure you’ve got the right people, and make sure you train them properly.

Hiring success: how to grow your customer team

Customer success begins at hiring. And hiring is hard. Even more so in a fast-growth company where new people are needed yesterday.

Two main challenges: hiring quality, quickly, and hiring the right number of people.

You’re trying to hit that happy middle between having a team of over-worked stress cases, and a team sitting around with their hands in their pants until the next ticket comes in.

More advice from David Apple:

Hire people with good communication skills, empathy for the customer, intellectual curiosity, self-motivation, ability to learn, and the desire to be challenged.

David Apple, Director of Customer Success at Typeform

And Stephen Noone O’Connor, Global Director of Customer Experience at Vend, adds some details for the early hires:

“For your first hire, industry experience is an absolute must. Without it, the feedback you get from customers won’t be as valuable.”

Stephen continues:

“For the second hire, you want to add CSM experience. By bringing in someone who’s done the role before, you reduce the onboarding time and create some healthy competition within your team, which makes everyone more successful.”

Hiring for support? Here’s an idea: present the candidate real scenarios from support tickets you’ve received.

Observe: How do they react? How well do they communicate their response? You’ll get tons of insight from this.

Remember: the point isn’t that their answer is perfect, or even right. You’re looking for thought process and communication skills.

Cover more ground with remote advocates

Does your whole team really need to be seated in the same ZIP code?

The old view: if I can’t see my employees, how do I know they’re actually working?

The real view: even if you can see your employees, you likely have little idea of what they’re doing with their time.

Our view: if you hired good people from the get-go, and you give them a sense of purpose, mastery, and autonomy, then it makes little difference where they rest their buttocks one day or the next.

We recently made the move to remote advocates out of necessity. We’re based in Barcelona, and most of our customers are in the US. So now we’ve got three amazing people handling support in our customers’ main time zones.

Onboarding success: how to prepare your team for success

You put a lot of time into finding the right people. Now give them time to find their feet.

We put an obscene amount of time into training each and every person who comes on board. Even if they have years of customer experience, they still go through the same program:

  • Three days of general Typeform onboarding, and then

  • A full month of customer success training.

WTF!? 😳 Yeah, and we’ve just added shorter 2-day and 1-week customer success onboarding programs for people who join other teams at Typeform. (and we get their feedback through this typeform) Because after all, everyone’s in customer success, right?

Here’s what all new hires should know inside-out:

Customer

Help them understand user personas and jobs-to-be-done. Walk them through the customer journey: touchpoints, frequent pains, reasons for churn. Also dream projects—how to make user’s creative ideas fly. And everyone handles tickets—it’s a goldmine in there.

Product

Make everyone a product expert. They should know more about the product than the devs who built it. This also develops empathy for the customer journey. Makes them better nurturers.

Team

Teach them all the pillars of success, not just their own. Your software, tone and voice, method for dealing with rabid customers. And make them familiar with all internal policies and processes.

Business

Make sure they’re familiar with the business goals, metrics, and trends.

People should come out of onboarding confident that they know what’s going on.

And most importantly:

Always give a why. People should know why their job matters and how it contributes to the bigger picture.

In fact, it’s the same whenever you make any change in structure, policy, roles, even seating arrangements. Don’t just order a change. Tell them why. Given them a reason.

6. How to track customer success: the 9 metrics you should know

“Data helps a customer success team operate and make decisions more effectively–it allows them to be more proactive instead of always firefighting.” - Loni Spratt head of Customer Success at Entelo

You’ve got more customers than last month. And the last user you talked to was really happy with your support. Things are going great, right?

Well, maybe. Because if you aren’t measuring, you’ll never really know.

So where do you start? What data should you track? Which metrics really matter? What key performance indicators (KPIs) should guide your ship?

Wait, metrics vs. KPIs? Good question.

Metrics are just numbers that measure some type of behavior—visitors to your site, number of logins to your platform, and so on. 

KPIs are metrics that reflect some objective or key result you’re trying to hit. So all KPIs are metrics, but not all metrics are KPIs.

The bad news: there’s a lot of numbers you could be tracking. And there’s no god-given KPIs that work for everyone.

The good news: there are some staple metrics that just about every team should have their eye on. And they fall into three big buckets:

  1. Business metrics

  2. Support metrics

  3. Product usage metrics

But hold on—why measure in the first place? 

Measure to learn, not to track numbers

The most important question is not what you should measure, but why.

So don’t set KPIs without knowing why they’re important—how they connect and contribute to larger company goals.

Just ask Avinash:

And remember: metrics are only meaningful against some benchmark or objective.

Think $20M in sales during Q2 is impressive? Maybe for your company, but if you’re ExxonMobil, you’re probably considering bankruptcy.

So before you start tallying numbers across your whiteboard, ask yourself:

  • What are my most important objectives?

  • What metrics reflect those objectives?

  • What benchmarks should I be measuring against?

Now get your slide rules out, it’s time to talk metrics.

Start with the big picture

If your customers aren’t sticking around, you’re not achieving customer success. So if you had to pick just one metric to improve, the general answer would be clear: churn.

Problem is, there are lots of ways to measure churn—customer churn, revenue churn, and more.

How should you do it? That’s for you to decide. But let’s start from the top.

1) The big one: Net MRR Churn

Customer success is about retention and growth. So if you have to pick one overarching metric—your key performance indicator—this is it: net MRR churn.

Why? Because net MRR churn not only tracks lost accounts, but also changes to different plans.

Here’s how you calculate net MRR churn:

First, let’s make sure each part is clear.

MRR Churn: Revenue lost from customers who cancel.

Contraction (downgrade): Revenue lost from paying customers who downgrade to a lower-paying plan or receive a discount. Counter-intuitively, this also includes people who switch from a monthly to a yearly plan, since yearly plans are often discounted.

Expansion (upsell): Revenue gained from paying customers who upgrade to a higher-paying plan or when a discount expires.

Reactivation: Revenue gained from customers who jumped shipped that you’re able to pull back on board.

MRR: Monthly recurring revenue at the beginning of the period–month, quarter, year, whatever makes sense for your business.

So, imagine at the beginning of January, your MRR is= $100,000.

During the month, you lost $4,000 to churn, and another $1,000 from downgraded plans. But you also managed to upsell $8,000 to existing accounts, while reactivating another $2,000.

Plug it all in and…

Wait, a negative churn? It’s possible, and it’s what you—and investors—want to see if you’re aiming at high growth. Boom! A good month.

You want that too? Negative churn takes good retention strategies and carefully targeted upsales. But it all boils down to providing customers more value.

If you’re consistently hitting <1% net MRR churn, you’re on the right track.

2) Net Promoter Score

NPS measures customer loyalty and sentiment about your brand. It’s the pulse of your company taken with just two questions:

  1. How likely are you to recommend (my company/product/service) to a friend of colleague?

  2. What is the most import reason for your score?

Question 1 gives you a quantitative measure of how customers feel about you. Separate responses into three categories: promoters (9 or 10), passives (7 or 8), and detractors (0-6). Subtract the detractors from the promoters and you have your company’s NPS.

What do you do next?

  • Find out why promoters are so happy, and keep them that way.

  • Aim to push passives to promoters.

  • And for goodness sake, have a talk with detractors to see what needs fixed.

This is where Question 2 steps in with the why—the reason for their feelings. Group responses into similar why buckets. Prioritize based on the number of related concerns, business values and goals, and available resources. Then make changes.

How often should you measure NPS? Good practice says check in at three points along the customer journey: at 1 month, 6 months, and 1 year.

But remember to send it out at least 10 days before each of these milestones. Why? So you still have time to proactively reach out to detractors and passives to stave off potential churn.

Some NPS tips:

  • Ignore your number. Question 1 gives you a number between -100 and 100. Hopefully it’s positive. Either way, put it aside until next time. Use it as a benchmark for future NPS surveys, not a trophy to write mom about.

  • Reach out to detractors, each and every one. Talk to them, listen to them, and work with them to get them to their desired outcome.

  • Don’t worry too much about passives. Focus on fixing detractors, and the tide should rise for passives too.

  • Hit up promoters. They’re great customers to target for referral campaigns and customer stories.

Nurture through support and education

The reason you provide support is to keep your customers moving toward their goals. So make sure the customer leaves every interaction feeling better than when they arrived.

But feelings aren’t enough. As Joe Daniel, director of Customer Success at Chargebee, puts it:

“You need empathy to understand the customer’s point of view. But it takes reasoning to guide them through the product. Because at the end of the day, you’re trying to solve your customer’s problems. And they will need more than, ‘I understand.'”

So what data should you use?

Support can be measured in more ways than you can hum a tune. Ticket volumes, reply times, resolution times, all of which can be averaged across support reps, topics, or user plans. Yes, it’s exhausting.

Here are the key support metrics you’ll want to keep your eyes on.

3) Time to first response

First response time is how long it takes to respond the first time a customer gets in touch.

Why should this be a support team KPI? Because first impressions matter, big time.

If you can answer with a direct solution, do it now! And if not, tell them you got the message, you’re looking into it, and you’ll be back soon.

Warning: focusing on this metric can encourage thoughtless automation.

If a customer sends a query that can be answered with “It’s in the hamburger menu,” tell them that in the first mail. Don’t auto-reply with “That’s a great question, you lovely customer! Back to you soon!” This might keep your first reply time low, but it will come around and smack you in face when users answer your customer satisfaction question.

Of course response time matters to all customer queries. So don’t get sloppy on the second response.

4) Customer satisfaction (CSAT)

How happy was that customer with the response you gave? Was it fast enough? Did your help center have the answer they were looking for? Was it easy to find?

There are lots of ways to measure satisfaction. It can be as simple as one question or as in-depth as a college entrance exam. Your best bet is this question:

“Are you happy with the support you received?”

Then follow it up with a simple ‘YES/NO’ response option. Because the more options you provide, the less likely they are to respond.

5) Help center article rating

Two-thirds of customers prefer self-service help centers over speaking with a customer service rep. And 91% say they’d use an online knowledge base, as long as it’s easy to find the info they need.

The bottom line: a better knowledge base is a huge cost-saver.

But only if customers find what they want. The easiest way to keep tabs on how well you’re doing this? One question:

“Was this article helpful?”

As with customer satisfaction, stick with a simple ‘YES/NO’ response option. If it’s a “yes,” say thanks! If they answer “no,” give them an open-ended follow-up question to find out why.

6) Ticket deflection (ticket volume per user)

Another metric to keep an eye on: the number of tickets received per user.

If this number is 1, then each user submits an average of 1 ticket. If it’s 2, then each user submits 2 tickets. If it’s 0.5, it’s one ticket per two people.

You should aim to keep this number

The fastest way to drop this number? A high-quality help center. Because better educated users mean less need to submit tickets.

7) Most common issue

Remember all those labels you’ve been using to tag customer interactions–“feature request”, “UX pain”, “bug report”, “billing issue”… You have been tagging, right? Good.

Now find out what’s eating up your support team’s time:

This will help orient your product team on how to prioritize their projects.

Peek in on the product

Now it’s time to peer under your own hood. How are users interacting with your product? What features do they use, and neglect? And which behaviors matter to your business?

8) User engagement metrics

Look for behavioral patterns tied to business outcomes. It might be frequency of logins, or number of features used. If you’re a product like Facebook, your metric might be daily active users.

The important thing? Identify the trends that matter to your business. Find behaviors correlated with churn or expansion or customer satisfaction. Then use that info to target customers appropriately.

9) Time to value

Another place to look is customer onboarding—how efficiently users get value from your product.

For example, Groove HQ finds that free users are 80% more likely to convert to paid customers if they complete all the onboarding prompts within 24 hours of signing up.

To figure out the numbers that matter to you, you’ll have to dig into your own data. Find those magic ratios. And then set targets for your new customer onboarding process.

Some data tips for beginners:

The more you work with data, the more you’ll realize what you can ask of it.

Eva Casado de Amezua, Director of Customer Support at Typeform

Data can be a huge source of insight. It can also be a huge headache. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you get started:

  • Identify your KPIs. Without these, you shouldn’t do anything.

  • Be data-informed, but understand that data alone doesn’t hold all the keys.

  • Understand why you’re measuring before you fill in that spreadsheet.

  • Focus on fewer metrics that matter more. Don’t try to track everything.

  • Start general, and segment into more refined cohorts as you move along.

  • Create tags or labels for support tickets. “Bug report”, “feature request”, “UX pain,” and “billing issue” are some good ones to start with.

  • Group frequently occurring tags into buckets to help prioritize requests.

  • Think in volumes, not individuals. You can’t prioritize every request.

With today’s tools, you can track nearly everything with virtually no effort. And while it’s nice to have the options, don’t try to measure everything at first. Pick a few key metrics to focus on.

Remember: The right metrics depend on your business needs. Start at the top, and break it down into sub-metrics that contribute to the bigger picture.

7. How to use software to manage customer relationships

You’ve got data by the gigaton, and in that stream are the keys to your customer’s long-term health. But a rich information flow can quickly turn into an overflow if not managed properly.

What do you do? You could stick to spreadsheets and email, but that won’t scale. You’re going to need the right technology to capture, understand, and use data to inform your actions.

Customer success software is like the nervous system of your business. It effortlessly takes complex signals from all around and triggers insights and actions.

Why is this important? Keri Keeling, VP of Customer Success and Operations at Bluenose Analytics, explains:

“There are two primary basis for great customer relationships: communication and trust. Trust is earned, so leveraging communication to develop a customer’s trust is the best strategy for relationship-building. Use product usage data to help you communicate to the right users at the right time for the right reason.”

Let’s start with the big picture.

What customer data and interactions do you need to manage?

Think about all the ways you interact with customers. Some obvious things come to mind:

  • Customer contact, historical interactions, and account information

  • Reactive support tickets and help center usage

  • Proactive outreach for education, upsells, and email marketing

  • User behavior and analytics from how they interact with your product

To gauge customer health, you need a finger on all this information.

Ready? Let’s find the right system for you.

Resolve problems with your help desk, support center, and knowledge base

Support is typically reactive. A customer has a problem, complaint, bug report, or feature suggestion. And if you’re doing it right, they may get in touch just to say thanks.

This is where most companies start–the next step after a Gmail account for business.

Help desk software gives you a centralized, shared inbox for handling support tickets from various channels. No more sharing passwords or having two people respond to the same email at once.

There are tons of options out there, all with their own interface, set of features, and areas of expertise.

Looking for a simple ticketing system and knowledge base for a small business? Here are some popular places to start:

Even if you don’t use Groove as your help desk software, we recommend Groove’s blog for insights on customer success and the startup journey.

Ready to step it up to a multi-agent, multi-channel tool with more in-depth reporting and insights? Here’s a few options to check out:

  • Zendesk

  • Freshdesk

  • Kayako

These also have APIs that let you hook up to your data warehouse. Useful stuff.

Are you just getting started, overwhelmed by email, but not ready to invest in a full support solution? Another option for entrepreneurs of small businesses is to create your own support center with a typeform.

Oh, and by the way, if you’re hosting your own help center, make sure you add Google Analytics. It will help you keep tabs on what questions people have, and how effectively they’re solving their own problems.

Manage the funnel with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software

Have you heard the term “CRM,” but were too ashamed to ask what it means?

It stands for Customer Relationship Management, but it’s typically used to refer to the software that manages these relations.

What relations do they manage? Salesforce tells us it’s about: “customer and prospect contact information, accounts, leads and sales opportunities in one central location.”

This sums up the origin and intent of traditional CRM systems. They’re designed to manage customer interactions as you push them through your sales funnel, from lead generation to close.

They’re not really designed to combine and interpret data signals from multiple sources, like your help desk and product platform. But most now offer APIs and powerful integrations.

Salesforce, Zoho, and Microsoft Dynamics are some of the big CRM players. Some other cloud-based CRMs we’ve heard good things about: Insightly, Hubspot CRM, Close.io, and Pipedrive.

Engage through customer messaging software

Imagine you’re sitting at your computer, staring at that empty Google search box, about to ask a questi… Shazam! The answer appears out of nowhere. Mindreading to the rescue.

Customer success isn’t quite there yet. But proactive communications targeted to specific user needs at just the right time is where you should be heading.

Email marketing, in-app chat, messages for onboarding, scheduled newsletters and updates—these are all part of the conversation.

Intercom is a great solution for scheduling outgoing messages. It hooks up to your SaaS platform so you can send automated messaging triggered by a predefined event.

Relevant, proactive engagement. Customers appreciate this.

Pull it together with Customer Success Management software

Recurring revenue companies have exploded. Data is everywhere. And this means big opportunity for a new breed of software designed to pull it all together.

Enter customer success management software, designed to:

  • Aggregate data from multiple sources: platform usage, customer feedback, support tickets, accounting systems—all in one place.

  • Indicate what’s important in the data based on your goals and KPIs. Helps separate the signal from the noise.

  • Automate actions through pre-defined workflows.

Basically, it helps you connect the dots between signals from all corners of the business, so you can focus on what matters. If used right, the technology should allow bigger growth to your customer base, without proportional growth to your success team.

As Omer Gotlieb, co-founder & chief customer officer at Totango, says:

“Customer success doesn’t require data analysts, but simply a tool that can make meaning of all your customer data–by actively monitoring for customer health changes, and driving proactive engagements.”

Gainsight, Totango, Amity, and Natero are some of the bigger names competing in this space. These aren’t solutions for the lighthearted. But if you’re serious about using customer data to drive growth, have a look.

What are the best customer success tools and software out there?

So what’s the best solution for you?

There are lots of good tools out there. We’ve mentioned some of the most popular to help point you in the right direction.

Of course “the best” software depends on your company’s needs and goals. So the first step is to do some soul searching.

Zoltan Radnai, Global Director of Customer Care at Prezi, has some pointers to get you started:

“When picking a tool, start by evaluating the business and customer need, and then research the market. Consider key factors like customer experience, scalability, third party integrations, onboarding assistance, and platform stability. Also, evaluate the company behind the tool.”

Are you a SaaS company? You’ll need a tool to peek in on user behavior. Want to support customers through social media? Your help desk better oblige. Is sales your secret sauce? You’ll need a good CRM.

The good news for SaaS products is they often offer freemium plans or trial periods. So take a few test runs, check reviews, and talk to others in your shoes.

Last thing. Just having the right tool sitting on your desk won’t make you or your customers successful. So find something the feels right to you, and put it to work for your customers.

Here are a few tips as you put technology to work for you:

  • Tag, tag, tag. Your support center isn’t just a vehicle to ease user pains. It’s a rich source of insight into what customers expect and how they perceive and use your product. So start tagging all support tickets that come in—bugs, features, pains, whatever.

  • Create feature roadmaps. Use frequent user requests to prioritize your product development.

  • Segment. It’s great to know that 55% of your customers use feature X. It’s much more interesting to know that feature X is used by 80% of designers but only 15% of marketers. This helps you better understand who to target with your messaging and marketing dollars.

  • Identify. Use this data to identify at-risk users so you can proactively reach out. This data can also help you pinpoint power users who might be ripe for the upsell or happy to advocate for you.

8. 7 customer feedback tools to get you started (with free templates)

Are your customers happy with your product, service, or support? Are they likely to tell their friends and promote your brand? Have you asked?

It’s called feedback. Collect it, absorb it, and use it to increase your business.

Because if you want to get better, you have to know where you stand now. And if you want to help your customers along their journey, you have to know where they want to go.

Here are seven different tools and ideas to get the insight you need to kickstart your customer success.

1. Get feedback with a customer satisfaction survey

Your customers’ success is your bread and butter. So wouldn’t it be great to know what they really felt about you?

Customer satisfaction survey, feedback questionnaire, whatever you call it—this is how you find out what your customers think and feel and you and your product.

What questions should I ask in a customer satisfaction survey?

Depends on what you need to know.

Ask what they think about your product or brand. How satisfied are they? What would make it better? Would they pay more for new features?

Ask about their experience with your customer service team, support channels, help center. Are they getting timely, useful responses? Through their preferred channels?

Ask how they feel about your website, newsletters, and blog content. Are you pushing useful info? Or are you flooding them with unfiltered sewage?

Ask a mix of question types. Closed-ended questions offer a predefined list of responses, quantitative or qualitative. Open-ended questions give customers a blank page to spill their soul.

Closed-ended and quantitative responses are easier to classify and benchmark against. Open-ended and qualitative answers take more time to process, but can give you big insight into your users’ minds.

How often should I send out a customer feedback survey?

To answer that, ask yourself this: have you ever changed your mind? Has your mood ever influenced the way you’ve responded to someone’s question? Right.

Now remember, your customers are people too. So their thoughts and feelings will rollercoaster over time. Think of it more like an ongoing conversation than a one-off survey. Aim to chat every three to six months.

What should I do with the results of my survey?

Got a numerical response? Quantitative answers are a great gauge for user feelings and behavior. Use them as benchmarks for future surveys.

Are people spewing their feelings through your forms? Catch those concerns in different buckets: bugs, billing questions, feature requests. Use this to prioritize updates and build out your product roadmap.

Getting some great praise? Tag these people for testimonials, and add it to your wall of love.

Top tips for designing your customer satisfaction survey or feedback questionnaire:

Remember: your surveys are another experience for your customers, another impression you’re leaving on them. So make sure you nail the basics.

  1. Start with purpose. Think about the audience and goal, then work backwards.

  2. Design with the user in mind.

    • Don’t be boring. Be different, make it fun.

    • Keep it short. Avoid the “just 1 more question” temptation.

    • Design for mobile. Because everyone has a survey in their pocket.

    • Converse, don’t demand. Be human.

    • Bake-in your brand. Show your personality, make it your own.

  3. Leave a call to action on the thank you screen. Give them something to do next.

  4. Help them find it. Email, website embed, in-app prompt–get it in front of them.

  5. Close feedback loops. Act on the data, don’t sit on responses.

Whatever you do, remember the words of Dan Steinman, chief evangelist and CCO emeritus at Gainsight:

“Feedback should be a two-way discussion with your customers. You’re setting some expectation that you will react to their feedback so you need to do that.”

2. Measure customer loyalty with Net Promoter Score (NPS)

Retention isn’t the goal. Loyalty is.

If customer loyalty is the heartbeat of your company, NPS is your stethoscope. It lets you know who your loyal followers are, who’s complacently content, and who’s sucking the nutrients out of your brand.

All with just two questions:

If you need a refresher on what to do with these responses, hop back up to chapter 6. “Track metrics & KPIs” in the lefthand menu. Everything clear? Then let’s move on.

Here are some key takeaways to keep in mind:

  1. Embed the first question in an email. If they don’t give you Q2, at least you have Q1.

  2. Don’t bury NPS in a long list of other questions. Send it out as it was meant to be asked—just two questions.

  3. Sample from various cohorts to avoid bias. Only asking your best customers what they think defeats the purpose.

  4. Setup automated workflows. Workflows should be different for promoters, passives, and detractors.

  5. Watch your timing. Don’t send at 30 days to a customer on a 1-month subscription. If there’s a problem, you won’t have time to fix it before they churn.

  6. Segment the feedback. Look separately at free vs. paying users, or new vs. established customers.

  7. Compete against yourself. Use the quantitative Q1 response as you benchmark for future NPS surveys. There’s no universal barometer.

  8. Don’t waste your qualitative Q2 insight. Categorize responses so you can act on them. Consider a tool like Chattermill.io to help you filter through open-ended responses.

3. Improve customer experience with a persona survey

Who are your customers? And what do they want from you? To give customers the features and services they want, you’ve got to know this.

How do you do it? At Typeform, we do it with a persona survey. Have a look (and make sure you click “Drum roll…” at the end for your surprise):

And once you get to know your customers, you’ll be in a lot better position to deliver what they need from you.

4. Find out why they left with a churn exit survey

You walk into the office and your desk is empty of all but a note: “It’s over. You’re no longer needed here.”

“Whyyyyyy!?” you scream. (Right after screaming “WTF!?”) Because people need reasons. How else can you accept the past and move on? How else can you improve?

It’s the same for your business. Imagine you knew why another customer just left you. Wouldn’t that be helpful? Wouldn’t you rather have answers than mysteries? Are you asking your customers why?

Enter the churn survey.

Let’s be honest—feedback can hurt. Especially when it’s the reason why they rejected you. It hurts when someone tells you your product sucks or that your brand is outdated. But feedback is how we learn, it’s how we get better, it’s how we avoid similar mistakes in the future.

And you’d be surprised at how many people want to talk, if only you ask.

What should you ask? At Typeform, here’s how we do it:

This approach has worked pretty well for us. The most common reason people leave Typeform? More than two-thirds say it’s simply because their project ended.

It’s an actionable response: we now put tons of effort into educating users on ways to use typeforms across their entire business.

Not all companies have as much luck with closed-ended response options. Like Groove, who got much more actionable responses with an open-ended exit question. Sure, it takes some manual labor to process. But what matters is getting good honest feedback, so experiment with what works best for you.

And how should you send it out? Email is the typical channel, but in-app surveys are another option. You could even make your churn survey a requirement to close an account.

Oh, and make sure you experiment with your message. It could mean the difference between a 10% and a 19% response rate.

A big key: asking “What made you cancel?” rather than “Why did you cancel?” Asking “why” might sound a bit heavy, whereas “what” pokes for a particular example. Wish I had a better explanation, but I can tell you that both Typeform and Groove have seen similar results.

5. Create your own help center with no website or technical skills

Are you a budding entrepreneur just starting out? Already see that email’s going to sink you, but not quite ready to jump to a full help desk yet? Then Andreas Sohns has an idea for you.

Andreas is an app developer who cares about his customers. But as the popularity of his award-winning designs grew, so did users’ questions and comments.

His solution? He built his own help center and FAQs using a typeform. No coding necessary, no website needed. Have a look here.

Result? Hundreds of customers self-served per month, leaving Andreas to focus on the job he loves—building products that make users happy.

Give yourself a break from the emails with these three steps:

  1. Start with a simple form to collect feedback, bug reports, and product suggestions.

  2. Build up a list of frequent customer questions.

  3. Transform your feedback form into a typeform knowledge base.

6. Check in on your team with an employee feedback survey

You know how this works. Happy employees lead to happy customers. Need I add that happy customers lead to happy shareholders?

That’s right: happiness is the new business model. And it starts from the inside.

7. Onboard your customers with videos and quizzes

You know that time-to-value is key for product adoption. And you’ve probably heard that video is the new tinsel that makes customers’ eyes twinkle. Did you also know that testing is a proven way to boost memory?

Project management company Wrike put videos and quizes together in a typeform tutorial. And it boosted product training time by 70%. Click “start” to check it out for yourself:

It helps automate their customer onboarding process, so they can focus on customer success.

9. Parting words: design for success

Customer success is a reimagining of what it means to have a relationship with your customer. It’s a relationship that can extend way beyond the initial sale, or it can end with the silent treatment.

Because churn is a luxury afforded to customers of subscription-based products and services. So in a recurring revenue business, you have to continually prove yourself. It’s a challenge, but there’s also big opportunity.

In the words of Jonas Stanford, director of Customer Success at Unbounce:

“The new subscription model is a true test of the value a business provides. The longer customers see value in a service, the longer they’ll remain a customer. So, company success and customer success are now inherently linked together.”

You’ll need a continuous understanding of customers’ motivations and barriers. You’ll need a proactive team itching to solve problems–a blend of genuine empathy and data-informed thinking. And you’ll need the right tools, technology, and metrics to stay on track.

And then? Focus on that long-term relationship. Because when you move customers toward their goals, they keep coming back. And they just might bring a friend.

READY TO BUILD A BETTER RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS? START THE CONVERSATION NOW.

How you ask is everything.

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