Customer Success: Don’t Make These 5 Mistakes

Burke Alder

Customer Success Strategist

Annie Tsai, Chief Customer Officer of DoubleDutch gave a great presentation at SaaStr Annual, “Customer Success: Don’t Make These 5 Mistakes”, that focused on getting customer success right from the beginning (and avoiding some of the mistakes she and many others have made). Here is a quick recap of her presentation.

Don’t Make these Five Customer Success Mistakes

1. Don’t Ignore the Sales Handoff

Now that you have landed a new customer and understand some of the important data points, it’s important to develop a simple customer handoff and knowledge transfer process between various teams, such as implementation, services, customer success, product, and even marketing.

But perhaps the most critical is the handoff between your sales and customer success team. Once your handoff process is developed, it’s important to have clear goals and timelines tied to your customer’s objectives or milestones.

One major component of a successful customer handoff is the knowledge transfer. The knowledge transfer process will help your teams organize, create, capture or distribute important information about your customer’s goals and milestones.

2. Don’t Just Hear Your Customers

So much insight can be gathered by looking deeper into what the customer is telling you (or isn’t telling you). Listen actively and respond to what the customer is telling you. But be sure to look for other signs that may not be vocalized.

Think of customer information like an iceberg. You’ve heard that analogy before. While it’s critical to thoroughly listen to explicit customer feedback, that represents only about 10% of the information. As a customer success leader, you need to search for implicit feedback in the form of product usage and drop-off, brand engagement levels both via digital and offline, and correlated customer health from onboarding and beyond.


3. But Don’t Listen to the Wrong Customers

During the customer onboarding process and throughout their journey with your company, not every customer will experience a perfect or flawless process. Some may have a difficult onboarding process, or may have some bumps in the road in getting their users to engage. They’ll go through what Annie calls “troughs of sorry” and the “hope of the promised land”. During these times, customers will likely be very vocal about their experiences. And while it’s important to listen, it’s just as important to understand where the feedback is coming from.

Here’s a great decision tree graphic, courtesy of Annie, that illustrates this quite well:


Is the customer in your core or target market? Do they know something that you don’t about the core market? Get that feedback straight to the right internal people. Is that customer outside of your core or target market? Is it a market that you’d like to move into? No? Is the use case common or relevant to your core or target market? No? Then thank them for their feedback and capture it.

4. Don’t Skip Instrumenting Customer Success

Sure, all you really need as a customer success leader is a telephone and an email address to communicate with customers. Very quickly you’ll realize the need to track customer engagements, customer journey status, customer health, and drive proactive customer engagements that ensure renewals and expansion. Annie provides a few areas to focus as you begin to instrument your customer success processes and tools.

Best Practices to Instrument Customer Success

  1. Define a what a successful client looks like.
  2. Define subjective inputs & processes to capture.
  3. Identify data that validates a client is successful
  4. Identify the missing data and how to get it
  5. Connect the insights from the datasets
  6. Drive client adoption, success, and health

5. Don’t Treat Success & Support as the Same Thing

Traditionally, customer support has been the pocket knife to getting things done. They have “every tool needed” to solve customer issues, ranging from onboarding to proactive to reactive support. This is a dangerous world, as no one can do it all  and do it well – and it sets the customer as well as the support manager up for failure.

But when should you shift? Here’s a quick guide that Annie shared to help you determine when the time is right:

Customer Care (Support):

  1. Do customers frequently ask about the best way to do something?
  2. Is anybody already accountable for renewal or upsell?
  3. Are the “why” and “when” questions increasing over time?
  4. Are the “what” and “how” questions decreasing over time?

Customer Success:

  1. Is my work getting more reactive over time?
  2. Am I able to deliver meaningful renewal and expansion targets for the company?
  3. Are the “why” and “when” questions decreasing over time?
  4. Are the “what” and “how” questions increasing over time?

Make sure to view or download Annie’s full Slideshare presentation from SaaStr Annual 2016.

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


3 Steps to Putting Customers First This Year

Blog Posts:

3 Fundamentals for Scaling Customer Success

The Golden Rule of Customer Success – 8 Guiding Principles

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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