5 Customer Success Secrets to Retain & Grow Customers

Burke Alder

Customer Success Strategist

Retaining and growing customer accounts is one of the most important aspects of your SaaS business. It takes a lot of hard work to draw customers into your company in the first place, so it’s important that you work to keep those customers more than satisfied once they actually decide to work with you.

Here are 5 Customer Success secrets you can start to implement into your company’s Customer Success strategy today:

1. Know Your Customer’s Goals & KPIs

Understanding your customers inside and out should be your first step in cultivating a long-term, mutually beneficial partnership. And in order to truly know them, you need to spend time asking important questions of each person that you work with—top to bottom in the organization. You need to go “high and wide” as ClientSuccess Founder/CEO Dave Blake says. This means establishing relationships with every person that’s associated with your business, whether the decision-making level or the influencer-level.

What kind of questions should you ask in order to get to know their goals and KPIs – what should you seek to know about each of these individuals? Here’s a start:

  • What are their teams’ goals for your solution within their company?
  • What are their personal goals for your solution?
  • Did they have a role in choosing your solution and, if so, why did they advocate for or against it?
  • How are they personally measured?
  • What are their most important KPIs?
  • Do they have any alliances or former business relationships with competitors?
  • Do you have any connections in common? Could this help you or hurt you?

Spending time to go deep and truly understand your customers is a core foundation of your Customer Success team. And once you find out this information, you then must record this intel and truly understand it: the opportunities, the threats, the dynamics, the preferences, and so on.

Knowing the customer by understanding some of the above data points – what’s important to them and the metrics they care most about – is the right first step. But actually applying those metrics to how you manage and grow the relationship is just as crucial. It’s now your responsibility to tailor the relationship and the solution to what matters most to them and what will make that customer successful.

2. Set Expectations Early On

It’s likely that during the initial sales process, certain expectations were set – either directly or indirectly. It’s important to understand what commitments were made to your customer, what products or services were sold, what timelines were set, and any other promises that were made. It’s not uncommon, especially for quickly growing SaaS companies, to commit to certain new products or features or changes to satisfy the prospective customer. While that in and of itself isn’t a harmful thing, it can quickly escalate into a very bad situation if those promises don’t come into fruition – and on time.

There are several reasons that setting expectations early on with your customers (both what is expected from your company as well as your customer) is crucial to retention:

If your company can follow-through on what was promised weeks or even months before the “due date”, it prove to be impressive to your customer as it will mean you prioritized their relationship.

The element of uncertainty is virtually eliminated. The customer will know what to expect and when to expect it, which will give them peace of mind in the relationship with your company.

Having a clear vision early on can help your company develop KPIs around specific expectations, which will help you and your customer succeed in reaching goals together as a team.

3. Ask for Feedback, and Put it to Use

As we shared in a recent blog post, we love this advice that Entrepreneur magazine gives in a recent article. One one of the best ways you can show your customers you care is by asking them for feedback, really listening to what they have to say, responding to their thoughts and suggestions, and adapting accordingly. Here’s how the article explains it:

  • Ask customers what’s on their minds regularly. That includes their satisfaction with their most recent sales or service experience and with your employees, as well as their general impressions of your business. Invite feedback at multiple contact points – via e-mail communications, online surveys, on your website, after online sales and on paper sales receipts. Keeping a finger on your customers’ pulse is good for the heart – and bottom line – of your business.
  • Listen to what customers are saying about you in surveys, on Twitter or Yelp, or anywhere else they give feedback. Publish survey results and answers to customer questions in your e-mail newsletter. Create a sense of community around your business based on dialogue with your customers.
  • Respond to customers promptly when they contact your business, whether it’s a complaint or a compliment. Show them you’re listening and that you care. If there’s a problem, fix it so they can go away happy to return to your business.
  • Adapt your business based on customer feedback to better meet their needs. Communicate the changes you’re making based on what they’ve asked for.

4. Be Proactive Instead of Reactive

As Dave Blake states in a recent blog post, “It drives me crazy when a football team that is winning becomes too cautious too early in the game and changes their focus from an aggressive offense to a prevent defense. Many times this strategy backfires on the winning team and they end up losing the game.”

Sometimes Customer Success teams fall into a similar trap by viewing their role as “preventing defense”. Their mindset and activity is focused purely on retention, rather than growth. The CSMs will conduct a standard onboarding process and then passively manage their customers going forward – scheduling the occasional touch base, reactively addressing issues, and essentially “hoping” they get the renewal at the end of the term. Dave calls this a “maintain and retain” strategy. This type of preventative defense will likely result in the same outcome for Customer Success teams – they may end up losing clients by being too cautious in their approach.

Instead, Dave recommends approaching Customer Success with an offensive mindset, focusing on how to proactively drive value and growth within your accounts. Many Customer Success teams avoid this approach because they feel the CSMs will lose their “trusted advisor” status with clients if they display any focus on sales and growth. Dave respectfully disagrees. In fact, he states, “I’ve seen CSMs increase their trusted advisor status while still significantly growing revenue across their accounts. These offensive-minded CSMs develop deep relationships with their clients, clearly understand their client’s key business objectives, and leverage their trusted advisor status to align solutions and services to meet those objectives. That’s solution selling at its best. These CSMs become the primary lead generation source for the sales team. The result? Retention and growth.”

5. Create a Customer Success Culture

For SaaS companies, creating a culture of customer success means that every department and every role should have a part of customer success and should feel a portion of ownership, above and beyond the CSM role alone – no matter what. For marketing, incentivize the team to capture success stories from customers and to include customers in their marketing campaigns, rather than focusing solely on prospecting new business. Encourage them to capture videos and do interviews with current customers when they’re on the road for events. For product, let them communicate directly with customers to ensure they know what customers love about the product. Give product a seat (or three) at the table for Customer Advisory Board meetings or customer offsites. For finance and administration, give the team insight and communication with customers to make the invoicing or legal process smoother and less painful. And so on, across your entire organization.

The key is to ensure every role and every department has metrics or qualitative goals specific to their impact on customer success. When this starts from the top down and employees see the C-Suite interacting with customers on a daily basis, it will become part of your company’s DNA. This focus will accelerate not only your customers’ likelihood to continue doing business with your SaaS company, but they will likely invest even further if they know they are the priority and the lifeblood of your business.

What Are Your Customer Success Secrets?

Retaining customers while being proactive with customers is the key for Customer Success leaders. How is your company retaining (and growing) customer accounts?

Check out our resources below for more Customer Success best practices and insights for how your organization can put customers first:

eBook:

5 Ways to Surprise & Delight Your Customers

Blog Posts:

6 Listening Techniques of Great Customer Success Leaders

The 3 Keys to Building Relationship ROI

Learn more about how ClientSuccess can help your company develop a strong customer success methodology and strategy with easy-to-use customer success software by requesting a 30-minute demo.

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