Sep 22, 2016

Read Time 10 min

Leading indicators of customer success, effective success stories, email campaigns that reduce churn


As a customer success manager, you know from personal experience that there are many ways to understand whether customers are actually engaging with your products or services. Often times, you can even determine whether the customer is successful by understanding their goals and metrics and aligning your products and services to meet their needs. The concept of customer success never ends – it’s a journey that continues on and experiences ups and downs, challenges and opportunities throughout the entire customer journey.

For a CSM, it’s simply not possible to evaluate customer success once a year at renewal time or right before trying to upsell a product or service – it’s an ongoing process that you must be focused on daily, weekly and monthly. You must be able to look beyond the surface of what the customer may be telling you and seek to identify signs or laggard indicators of how successful the customer is and how happy they are with your company. Just because a customer may be hitting their KPIs and may even be surpassing their goals with the help of your company’s product or service doesn’t mean a CSM should direct their attention elsewhere. Many companies are blindsided every day by customers who decide to leave them without any explicit warning.


Here are three leading indicators of customer success that CSMs should monitor on a regular basis with each customer account:

  • Gut Instinct: “You hear it all the time in leadership books for entrepreneurs: ‘Lead with your gut!’ ‘Follow your instinct!’ ‘Listen to your inner voice!’” While it may sound rudimentary as a leading indicator, CSMs have often times developed such strong relationships with their customers that they know when something may be wrong or when a customer may be avoiding a difficult conversation. If you’ve been at your company and in the role of a CSM for a significant period of time, then reading customers can become second nature. You know each customer’s’ communication habits, the way they approach (or don’t approach) conflict, the way they handle product or service issues and so on. As a CSM, you are a trusted partner to your customers and have likely developed a keen understanding of how they look to you and your company as their provider. Relying on your gut may not be scientific, but it is certainly a leading indicator that can send off a warning to dig deeper and ask questions both internally and of the customer account.
  • Product Usage: How do you as a CMS manage customer success if you don’t have full visibility into how the customer is actually using your product or service? What if they aren’t using it at all, or only a small number of team members are logging in on a regular basis? For customer success teams, one of the best investments they can make is in customer success technology that gives them the ability to actually monitor what features the customer is using or isn’t using (like ChurnZero!). A customer success technology can help you answer a few important questions, including: How are core features working for customers? What are the areas of the platform where they get hung up? What are they not using? What are the customer’s goals, and how does their usage (or lack of) correlate to their satisfaction with your product and your business? As a CSM, it’s important to have these answers are your fingertips. Not only is usage visibility important, but so is understanding trends of what the usage patterns show over time. Usage patterns can help you understand how your customers are interacting with your product or service, which can be incredibly valuable. And that all begins with understanding your customers’ goals and managing towards a better outcome. All of which will assist you in quickly identifying indicators of whether the customer is seeing success or not.
  • Overall Engagement: As a CSM, you know that a customer’s time is the most valuable thing they can offer. Each individual contact across your customer accounts have 24 hours in a day, and the more time they give to you, the more engaged that they are. Similarly, if a customer is engaged with your company’s marketing material such as ebooks, events, webinars and so on, then they are also engaged in learning more about what your company has to offer. One of the strongest leading indicators of customer success is understanding each customer’s engagement with your company as a whole, you as the CSM, other team members across the organization, and finally, educational and marketing opportunities. If you notice a change (see the “gut” section above), then perhaps it’s time to evaluate the account to ensure the customer is indeed seeing success.

Interested in more ways to assess customers’ success? If you’re up for some math (and you should be, it’s important math!), we highly recommend this read and this read.

Effective customers success stories

What makes an effective customer success story? Surely it’s the ability to encourage your target audience to convert, right? But that’s just the end result you want to come from your success stories. You need to know the right process to get there.

It turns out it’s all in the name. Good customer success stories focus on storytelling, not selling. Specifically, effective success stories have these four traits in common:

  • The spotlight is on the customer: It’s about the client and their story, rather than the company trying to sell you. It feels authentic and real.
  • There is a logical progression: The story moves logically from the customer’s situation, to their problem, to the chosen solution, to the outcome.
  • It features real human problems and emotions: The focus of the success story is how the client for, how their problems were solved and how their life was improved. It makes the viewer feel something.
  • There are specific and unique quirks: The story is brought to life through data and figures, difficulties on the way to success and specific ways in which the customer used the solution.

This article offers seven examples of great – and not so great! – customers success stories for us to learn from, we highly recommend reading through all the examples and analyses. Here are two of our favorites to get you started:

#1 – HubSpot Stresses the Pain Point


  • Why it works: At the end of the day, people want to buy from you so they can solve their own specific problems. To successfully convince your target audience that you can help them, you need to prove that you’ve helped others who have been struggling with the same issues. HubSpot does a great job of featuring their customer’s pain points in this success story. From 0:38, nearly 30 seconds of the video are dedicated to how Mark & Pete were having difficulty keeping track of their customers before using HubSpot.
  • What to copy: Discover what problems your client had that your product or service helped to solve. Choose one or two that are most relevant to your target audience and be sure to focus on them throughout the success story.

#2 – Salesforce Explains Customer Values

  • Why it works: Effective customer success stories are always about – you guessed it – the customer. In this example, Salesforce spend a lot of time letting their client explain their values, beliefs and aims. This achieves two things: firstly, it shows how much the company cares about its customers and their goals. Secondly, it gives viewers the chance to relate to the client. The more similar the customers you feature in your success stories are to your target audience, the more those stories will resonate with them.
  • What to copy: Create success stories about those customers that are closest to your ideal buyer persona. Be sure to give them enough time to speak about their situation, values, and goals.

Churn fighting email campaigns

Churn is your arch nemesis – and it’s cutting into your profits. Research shows that 80% of your company’s future revenue will come from just 20% of your existing customers. So it is paramount for your CS team to focus on satisfying customers and ensuring they gain value.

Retention emails are designed to get customers more engaged, whether they are totally inactive or just not taking full advantage of your product or service. These emails – if done right – can re-capture your customers’ interest in your company and products.

Consider these four strategies as you plan your retention email campaigns:

  • Segment Your List: You’ve heard it before: segment your list. But what does that mean? And how will it benefit your customers? Email segmentation is targeting specific groups based on certain criteria; it is the notion is that everyone isn’t the same. Not only do your customers live in different locations and possess different interests but – even more importantly – your customers have different budgets and/or different goals. Therefore, it simply isn’t logical to send the same mass email to all your subscribers. Segmentation also gives rise to personalization. It lets you inform customers about products and offers that fit their particular circumstances. By segmenting your email list, your team can provide relevant content to multiple target audiences. But the million-dollar question: How do you go about segmenting your customers? Start by analyzing internal data to learn about your customers’ habits. For instance, segment your customers based on product usage, support tickets and/or webinar training attendance. In particular you should be trying to identify at-risk customers, as this will help you proactively engage them before they have one foot out the door.
    • Example in Action: Athletic shoe company Brooks used data to create multiple campaigns based on the weather conditions.


  • Offer Educational Content: Combat churn by actually teaching customers the value and functionality of your product; they will gain a deeper understanding of your company. And stop sending predictable emails; switch things up with gifs, video, and case studies. Educational content can include everything from a detailed guide to a Snapchat story. Additionally, the best content answers questions from customers or concerns they may have (how can I use your product more efficiently? What features can accomplish X task?). Use email as a launching pad to engage the customer. You don’t have to include every little detail in the email. Your goal is to encourage them to take action.
    • Example in Action: LinkedIn does a great job of including short snippets of their blog posts in their emails, hooking customers to continue reading with the “Read More” call-to-action.


  • Send a Feedback Email: Churn happens for several reasons and much of the time it’s preventable. A good starting point is to collect feedback from your users.  Target customers who have bought from your business before and ask them for a review or recommendation. A direct approach is often best, asking questions like “on a scale of 1 to 10, how much do you enjoy our product?”, “how can we improve our customer service?” and “would you recommend us to a friend or colleague?” Compose an email leading consumers to a quick survey. And keep the design simple. Stay away from unnecessary images or headings in the email, focus on the message and the call-to-action. The key is to reduce distractions and encourage consumers to take your desired action.
    • Example in Action: Campaign Monitor sends really clean and clear feedback emails that strongly encourage action from the customer.


  • Show Appreciation: Everybody needs a little love and email is a great communication tool to express your gratitude and remind customers how much you value their business. Your customers become habitualized to not thinking about your brand and appreciation emails are an effective way to break them out of that pattern with something special. Work with your team to determine how to distribute your appreciation. A 10-year customer may get free tickets an exclusive event, while someone who bought $50 worth of products may receive a 10% coupon. But be mindful of how you present your appreciation gifts, as some customers may consider your discount as a promotion rather than a thank you. You want to be sure the email has the desired effect of making the customer feel special.
    • Example in Action: Here is a cool example of just a simple “thank you” email from OtterBox. While the email is very simple, it feels genuine and endears the customer to the company.


Interested in more tips and tricks for effective retention emails? We recommend checking out this read.

Word to the Wise

This week’s wisdom comes from Greg Elliott, the VP of Customer Success at Vision Critical, a cloud-based Customer Intelligence platform that allows companies to build engaged, secure communities of customers they can use continuously, across the enterprise, for ongoing, real-time feedback and insight. In a recent interview about how Customer Success has evolved at Vision Critical, Elliott provides an in-depth look into how Vision Critical structures their CS team, what the team’s biggest challenges are and how they measure success (for the CS team and for their customers). The full interview is definitely worth a read, but his answer to one particular question – what do you think is the most powerful part of your Customer Success process? – really caught our attention:


“Probably one of the newest parts of our process is that we involve Customer Success very early on in the Sales process. That has been a very strategic and major change for our organization over the last year. 12 months ago, Customer Success didn’t get involved until the deal was signed. Customer Success is now usually involved before the deal even hits 50%. What that allows us to do is set expectations properly for our customers and really showcase the value the Customer Success Team will bring to the relationship. It allows us to have richer or fuller conversations with the customer during the Sales process. Before there was probably some hesitation to bring us to the table but they are now understanding the value we bring. That has been our single largest change that we have made over the last 12 months and we are seeing huge results from it. This helps our customers feel confident with the investment they are making.

How would your CS team answer this same question? Could your company also benefit from involving CS earlier in the Sales process? Food for thought for the upcoming week!


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