woman walking a dog
Effective customer success teams align their actions with the wants and needs of their customers. PHOTO: Matthias Ripp

Customer success is a relatively new focus for companies, especially for B2B organizations.

There’s been a gradual shift in the way we think about customers, how they engage and what level of commitment represents true success.

It’s a shift customer success teams are uniquely poised to capitalize on, but only if they develop the means to monitor and manage long-term client experiences. And while building a successful CS team can be overwhelming it just might be the single most important part of your business.

Best Practices for CS Teams

Whether you’ve already established a customer success team or are committed to the idea of getting started, adopting these seven habits can fundamentally change the economics of your business.

1. Measure Success on Definitive KPIs

Your customer success team owns the adoption, retention, expansion and advocacy phases of the customer journey, all of which are revenue-generating functions.

Sure, in the most basic sense they’re accountable for keeping customers “happy,” but more importantly, they’re responsible for making sure customers are successful and hitting milestones, reaching goals and continually receiving value. If you’re just getting started, identifying key performance indicators (KPIs) is something you can do right away.

KPIs should represent your impact, not just on happy customers, but on revenue as well. Once you establish those KPIs, it’s easy to start mapping out how they impact your business model.

2. Be Proactive

Highly effective CS teams use customer health and churn indicators to identify churn before it occurs.

Most companies find out about churn when a customer cancels an account, but churn actually occurs when that customer becomes frustrated, stops logging in and decides to quit using the product, which is long before a cancellation.

How can customer success teams be proactive about churn? Rely on user intelligence to catch customers when they get stuck and then deliver targeted engagements that help them overcome challenges and continue successfully on the customer journey.

3. Let Data Drive Your Decisions

Your CS team should have access to deep user intelligence that can help them better understand behaviors, demographics, historical data and customer health. The most successful teams see the value hidden in this data and use it to make informed decisions about how they interact with customers.

4. Engage in Strong Cross-Departmental Alignment

It’s no surprise that each team within your company is likely focused on what is important to them.

However, CS teams that align closely with sales, marketing and product development teams not only improve adoption but also improve across every stage of the customer journey. This ensures that sales and marketing are bringing in customers that are a good fit and in return, the CS team can increase advocacy through marketing and sales enablement materials such as testimonials, case studies and reviews.

When you have a strong CS department, there is a warm path to product development and as the CS team develops customer advocates, sales will begin to see the impact of customer success.

5. Work With Your Customers to Set Goals & Plans

Customer success consultant Lincoln Murphy describes this as orchestration. To help your customers achieve what they need to achieve in the way that is best for them, you need to understand their path and orchestrate what they’ll expect along the way.

Essentially, it’s important to actively move your customers toward their goal by properly managing expectations, laying out joint accountabilities and teeing-up future expansion and opportunities for them to advocate for your business.

6. Operationalize the Entire Customer Journey

Use blueprinting, also known as customer journey mapping, and success plans to ensure you understand the steps customers go through while engaging with your product or service. With blueprinting, you can identify the steps that warrant logical engagements to ensure success, determine how to maximize ROI at critical in points throughout the customer journey and manage desired outcomes.

7. Segment Your Customers

Whether by journey stage, size, revenue, industry or desired outcome, segmentation is a critical component of effectively scaling as your customer base grows. It can help CS team members specialize in different areas of the customer journey, which in turn speeds up a customer’s time-to-value.

Segmenting customers also means you can engage customers with relevant messages, when the time is right and move them more seamlessly into retention and beyond.