Customer Success Responsibilities
Introduction: Who's this Customer Success Guide For?
Chapter 1: What is Customer Success?
Chapter 2: Customer Success Everywhere: An Organizaitonal Philosophy
Chapter 3: What Are the Responsibilities of Customer Success?
Chapter 4: What’s the Difference Between Customer Success, Customer Support, Account Management, and Professional Services?
Chapter 5: Why Is Customer Success Important to SaaS?
Chapter 6: How Do You Build a Customer Success Strategy?
Chapter 7: What Does a Mature Customer Success Organization Look Like?
Chapter 8: Does Customer Success Need Its Own Tool?
Chapter 9: How To Get Started with Customer Success
In this chapter, we’ll cover the main responsibility areas of Customer
For each responsibility area, we discuss its value, objectives, and common pitfalls.
Customer Success Operations
Why Customer Success Operations Matters
As your Customer Success team matures, and your need to scale and automate grows, having your own designated operations function is essential to maintaining high performance. Poor strategy, organization, and execution will hurt your productivity, and therefore, your scalability. Customer Success Operations focuses on how to get things done faster, better, and more efficiently – bringing order and logic to busy, results-oriented teams. As a newer addition to the Customer Success team, sometimes the need for and viability of an operations role is questioned. But if you’re searching for a proof of concept, look no further than Sales and Marketing where operations roles are a now a standard and indispensable part of the team. So, why would Customer Success, a function of equal capability and complexity, be the exception?
Customer Success Operations Objectives
- Make better decisions with Customer Success data management including revenue forecasting, customer segmentation, account health scoring, adoption monitoring, customer satisfaction, and usage metrics.
- Create a consistent and scalable customer experience with standardized process implementation. Design customer lifecycle playbooks and journeys for onboarding, renewal, adoption, and expansion.
- Make individual and team performance measurable and aligned across the company by implementing Customer Success goals, KPIs, and workplace planning.
- Promote team productivity by managing the Customer Success tech stack. Determine what tools are necessary to support the customer and ensure those tools can inform each other in real-time.
- Position Customer Success as a strategic partner within the organization. Identify and drive strategic engagement initiatives with Product, Sales, Marketing, Development, and Revenue Operations.
Common Pitfalls with Customer Success Operations
- Waiting to add an operations role until you hit a specific headcount. There’s no magic team size that warrants an operations role. Operations becomes viably and financially beneficial when adding a resource focused on process, procedures, and automation more than pays back your investment in that resource. If you have a five- person Customer Success team, and adding an operations role makes each Customer Success Manager 20% more efficient, then do it.
- Setting an inappropriate scope for Customer Success Operations. The range of your operations role can be as broad or narrow as needed depending on your company and its processes. Organizations that spread Customer Success Operations thin – doing many things at a decent level rather doing a few things exceptionally well – can hurt themselves in the long term.
- Assuming a Customer Success Manager will have the skillset and personality needed to take on an operations role and vice versa. It’s important to acknowledge that Customer Success Operation roles and Customer Success Management roles require different strengths. While transitioning a Customer Success Manager into an operations position can work, it more often leads to burnout, stress, and ultimately rehiring specifically for the role.
Why Customer Onboarding Matters
Although onboarding marks the beginning of a customer’s post-sale journey with your company, this pivotal phase plays a significant role in their likelihood to churn. Onboarding isn’t just about product training and implementation deadlines. Onboarding requires a deliberate focus on customer strategy including setting clear expectations and building a shared understanding of what success looks like for each customer, not only in the coming months, but in the long term too.
Customer Success Onboarding Objectives
- Get the customer to value. Onboarding is your first touchpoint with a customer in their lifecycle. Some onboarding processes consist of one or two training calls while others require a data implementation before you even discuss training. Regardless of your onboarding’s length and complexity, there are a few cornerstones to its success. Ultimately, the customer must realize the value behind why they purchased your tool.
- Set a clear timeline and process so the customer knows what to expect leading up to launch. This includes activities like the welcome call, data implementation, training schedules, and so on. Setting the correct expectations from day one is the best thing you can do for the relationship.
- Set clear roles. Who should own what from the customer’s end? It’s possible that the customer you’re working with during onboarding was not involved in the purchasing process. Get them up to speed on what needs to be done and what roles need to be filled to ensure a smooth transition.
- Get to know your customer. Before jumping into all the details, timelines, and expectations, learn more about your customer. Ask questions to gain surrounding context so you can better understand and serve them.
- Set expectations. Have the customer explain their expectations for onboarding.Then, come to an agreement on what needs to happen during this phase to meet their needs. We often start by outlining our expectations (“this is how it’s going to go”) but we need the customer’s buy-in. Resetting and confirming the customer’s expectations increases their accountability and decreases their likelihood to disengage.
- Create customer-centric goals. This comes with the caveat of setting REALISTIC goals. If you, as the Customer Success Manager or Onboarding Specialist, don’t think the goals are realistic, it’s on you to reset the customer’s expectations to something that’s achievable.
Common Pitfalls with Customer Onboarding
- Getting ghosted by a customer. This is where it’s helpful to have defined roles. If you’re dealing with an unresponsive customer, you can go up the chain of command to reinitiate contact. You can also try varying your contact attempts. Switch up the day of the week and the time of day. It’s possible you’ve been trying to reach the customer during a time when they have a standing meeting.
- Stalling due to a customer’s internal blocker which prevents you from making progress. Barriers of this nature are particularly difficult to overcome as there’s little you, the Customer Success rep, can do to move the customer forward without the cooperation of their team and processes. If you know these types of blockers are possible, voice them early and often.
- Failing to correct unrealistic expectations. When customers enter onboarding with incorrect expectations of the process and timeline, it’s detrimental to the personnel involved in the process. Keep it reasonable and realistic.
- eBook: How to Crush SaaS Customer Onboarding: A Roundup of Expert Advice
- Webinar: How to Streamline Onboarding to Reduce Churn (or check out the blog recap)
- Blog: How to Create a Great User Onboarding Experience
Why Product Adoption Matters
Customers need to consistently use your product to realize its value and become loyal advocates. But consistency is hard, and adoption doesn’t just happen – it requires changing habitual behaviors. Users must give up their old, engrained way of working to make room for new methods and modes. To drive ongoing user adoption beyond onboarding, you need an engagement strategy that delivers prescriptive guidance to grow user confidence and competence within your product in pursuit of their goals.
Customer Success Adoption Objectives
- Understand your customers’ goals. Have the goal-setting talk, it’s important. It’s nice to have customers use your product, but without understanding what objectives and impact they want to achieve, it’s difficult to truly guide and advise them on the best outcome.
- Build small, meaningful wins into the customer journey. Think of this akin to achieving a fitness goal – if you only see results at the end, you’re less likely to have the motivation to keep moving forward. Setting your customer up with small celebrations along the way is critical to keeping your customer moving forward under their own steam.
- Make your Primary Contact(s) a rockstar. You should know what’s important to the success of your POC’s individual goals. Partnering together to achieve those goals creates a product advocate and helps the customer to determine the value of the product in the renewal decision.
Common Pitfalls with Customer Adoption
- Training only the admins. In this scenario, you don’t think about your end user and only think about the person you work with on a regular basis. When it comes time to get backup and prove the value of your solution, you may fall flat.
- Failing to define initial success or benchmarks. You can’t succeed if you have no starting point, no point of comparison, and no understanding of what constitutes a “win” for the customer.
- Starting customer training too late. Once your customer has access to the product, the clock is ticking. Would you rather they learn the easy way to use your platform, or the hard way?
Business Relationship Management
Why Business Relationship Management Matters
For any relationship to be successful, especially one between a vendor and customer, there must be value in every touchpoint. Managing your business relationships is vital to keeping your customers engaged in their own success and excited to reach their outcomes. That means the customer should never look at a call and think about rescheduling, and never see your name in their inbox and want to delay reading it until next week.
Customer Success Business Relationship Management Objectives
- Ask for feedback, whether through formal surveying or casual conversations. You need to collect customer feedback before you can do anything with it. Determine the plan that makes most sense for your business to open channels to receive feedback.
- Never schedule recurring calls to “check in.” Recurring calls are useful, but if you don’t have an agenda, cancel the call, and reschedule for when you do. You should never host a call if you have nothing to discuss. Also, don’t ever hesitate to end a call early if your agenda is done.
- Talk to customers about more than just your product and services. Your customers are fellow humans with incredible potential and diverse professional backgrounds. You should treat them like the valuable resource they are. Discuss recent challenges of your own with your customer, and occasionally ask for their advice. You can also share your own learnings when you know they’re experiencing a familiar challenge.
- Build context to deepen relationships. Ask the customer about everything that sits around your products and services. What do they talk about with their boss? What’s their board interested in? What do they need to start doing in the next quarter? What do they need to stop doing ASAP? What keeps them up at night? What are they most looking forward to? CONTEXT is the most potent tool in relationship building.
- Share your customer’s success and learnings with other customers. When possible, enable your customers to connect with one another to share their experiences, network, and learn.
Common Pitfalls with Business Relationship Management
- Acting only on the positive feedback you receive. It’s easy and glorious to take the positive feedback, but it’s painful and tough to take the negative feedback. You should want to hear and act on both. Is there anything you can do for this customer to ensure their voice is heard? Is there product functionality you can submit internally? Is there a feature that you have that the customer doesn’t know about? Is there a better way to alleviate the customer’s pain points that hasn’t been addressed? Make sure that unsatisfied customers know that you’re listening.
- Using the calendar as your guideline to meet with your customers. Guidelines are helpful, especially for people new to the role or customers who are newer to your services. But as your team and customers move past the tactical and into the more strategic, every customer touchpoint must deliver value. Every call should have two things: a prepared agenda shared with your customer ahead of the call to identify any high-priority items they want to focus on, and a value-point to share with your customer. Whether it’s information on a new feature or a blog post written by their competitor, aim to surprise and delight in every meeting.
Why Customer Renewals Matters
Recurring revenue is the lifeblood of SaaS companies. As such, Customer Success teams need a clear plan and process to facilitate their renewals. By accurately forecasting renewals, Customer Success teams can better prioritize their customer outreach and intervene before it’s too late to save a churning customer – eliminating unwelcome surprises and lost revenue.
Customer Success Renewal Objectives
- Always be renewing. Begin the renewal process immediately after the current renewal has been signed. There’s no excuse to take your foot off the gas when providing a customer value, even if they’ve just signed on for another term.
- Maintain clarity and transparency with your internal team. No one on your team should need to guess where they or the team stands regarding renewals. Determine how you’ll forecast and report on renewals, and broadcast this wide and often. Your team needs clear objectives and benchmarks if you want them to deliver.
- Communicate, and communicate often. It’s never too soon to mention the renewal to your customer. Don’t assume that your customer is budgeting appropriately. Be transparent about renewal timelines and costs. Remind your customer to allocate budget correctly and early to avoid any issues.
- Provide options. If your company offers various renewal options – perhaps different term lengths, packages, or other incentives – discuss with your customer what makes the most sense for them. Providing options makes a customer feel supported by you and presents yourself as their advocate who’s there to ensure they get the best deal possible that meets their needs.
Common Pitfalls with Customer Renewals
- Renewing bad-fit customers. Sometimes it’s necessary to count your losses and let bad-fit customers churn. It’s in everyone’s best interest as they can be a drag ongrowth, a waste of resources, and harmful to employee morale and industry word-of- mouth.
- Allowing your emotions to negotiate renewals. Just because you love your customer and have a friendly relationship does not mean they get to renew at a larger discount than other customers. Renewals are a business transaction, and you must detach emotion from the process.
- Pretending everything is fine when it’s not. If you have a gut feeling that a customer might not renew, don’t let it linger. Act on it. Strategize internally with your team on best next steps, and then have a frank and honest conversation with your customer about it. Encourage your customer to be candid and forthcoming so you can have a productive exchange.
- Not asking for help. As the Customer Success Manager, although you’re responsible for renewing the account, you’re not entirely alone. You have a team of colleagues who might also have relationships with your customer. You have a manager who can step in and assist. You have company leadership that can help foster relationships at the executive level. Everyone at your company wants your customers to renew. Tap on others as needed and appropriate if it will help solidify the renewal.
Why Expansion Matters
Customer expansion has a substantial impact on your company’s bottom line – helping to recover revenue lost to churn and rising customer acquisition costs. Expansion increases your customer lifetime value, and therefore company profits, while decreasing your company’s reliance on revenue from new customers. Expansion is also the quantification of a value-realized partnership. The most successful partnerships are win-win: the customer sees success, so they want to do more business with you.
Customer Success Expansion Objectives
- Understand the value prerequisites and buying signals to know when and how to present expansion opportunities. Customer Success Managers need to be confident in their customers’ growth indicators and strike while the iron is hot. Expansion conversations should always derive from a customer’s realized value and be substantiated by their success with your solution. Consider buying signals that happen both inside and outside of your product including product usage, knowledge base searches, resource downloads, website and third-party review site searches, support tickets, customer satisfaction surveys, and license utilization increases.
- Develop internal strategies to identify what works and what doesn’t. Your team that’s engaged in expansion opportunities will have constructive insight into what works and what doesn’t. Collect their knowledge and distribute it to the broader team.
- Target your expansion efforts. Not every customer needs every add-on or upsell you have to offer. Work with your team to identify and discuss the attributes of customers who would benefit from each expansion item. Then, design communications to those customers. Focus on value-adds in your messaging – the why is more impactful than the how when convincing a customer to expand their spending with you.
- Forecast the short-term and long-term gains. A short-term “no” might lead to a long-term “yes.” Just because a customer declines an upsell now, doesn’t mean the expansion opportunity is entirely lost. It might not be a possibility this quarter (for any number of reasons) but could resurface later down the line. Set yourself tasks to follow up in a few months and revisit when appropriate. Remind the customer that the door is still open if and when they’re ready to upgrade. Remain approachable so the customer feels comfortable bringing it up when they’re ready.
Common Pitfalls with Customer Expansion
- Selling too soon after signing. It’s poor form to get a new customer and immediately ask them to consider buying additional licenses and/or products. But it’s always the right time to start preparing them to be aware that there’s more value to be had. Use data to your advantage. If your pricing model is based on user licenses, and the data shows your customer is overutilizing, talk to them about it. Don’t surprise your customers with an unexpected invoice. Have a conversation and, together with your customer, determine the best path forward. Demonstrate that you’re their partner and advocate, build trust, and future expansions will naturally follow.
- Having customers see you as a salesperson instead of their advocate. Timing and value are incredibly important when it comes to expanding your client base. It’s wrong to sell for the sake of selling. But it’s appropriate to provide value at every corner and keep your customers informed about what other value they could get from your relationship.
- Being unprepared to sell. Before pursuing expansion with your customer, do your homework. Be ready to speak to the value of the upsell and to demo the feature with confidence. Practice your talk track and value points ahead of time. When you present to the customer, you’ll be organized, prepared, and professional in your delivery.
- Assuming the customer won’t expand. Customers can’t read your mind and you can’t read theirs. Don’t write off a customer as never wanting to expand until you have the evidence. Instead of not approaching the customer to expand, tailor your wording and presentation, and have a candid conversation. You never know what opportunities it might surface.
Why Customer Advocacy Matters
You need outstanding reviews, references, and referrals to bring in new business. And you can’t have these compelling, trusted word-of-mouth sources without building customer advocates. Not only do customer advocates help to sing your praise, but they also provide you with honest feedback about your product and service. Advocates are genuinely invested in your product and their candid advice is central to driving product enhancements that bring practical and relevant value.
Customer Success Advocacy Objectives
- Identify your existing customer advocates and provide convenient ways for your advocates to share their positive experiences.
- Develop advocates from your customer base by providing consistent and exceptional service. Make sure every customer is informed of any escalation path should expectations be misaligned or issues arise.
- Develop a plan to build evangelists from your detractors. Keep a close eye on those customers who’ve had a negative experience with your product/services. Plan to reach out regularly to learn what more you can be doing to set their experience right.
- Incentivize your customers’ advocacy. Create an incentive plan for your customers who are providing testimonials, case studies, referrals, reviews, and more.
Common Pitfalls with Customer Advocacy
- Only identifying advocates through public sources. While it’s a great idea to identify your advocates through the channels where they’ve blatantly expressed how much they like your product or value your services, it’s vital to seek out these advocates through other means, as well. Consider querying your team for their happiest customers or using other datapoints like customer tenure or accounts with mild but consistent expansion.
- Not having a mechanism to thank your customers for their advocacy. Identifying your advocates is step one. But it’s even more vital to create a methodology to thank them for their advocacy so they continue to be your advocates. Start small by providing incentives for referrals (SWAG, gift cards, customer spotlight articles) or go big with a discount on their next subscription/service purchase. Whatever avenue you take, make sure your advocates are extremely aware of how much you appreciate them.
- Focusing entirely on your vocal advocates and ignoring your passives or detractors. Your biggest evangelist can come from the most unintuitive of places: your biggest detractors. It’s easy to ignore the customers who haven’t had a perfect experience with you. But the most appealing story to any customer or prospect is when something doesn’t initially go right but you turn the situation around and provide true value. Pay attention to your former detractors and cultivate an advocate out of them. Create a plan to turn current detractors into your future evangelists.
Table of Contents