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Leading Indicators of Customer Success: Gut, Usage, Engagement

As a customer success manager (CSM), 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.

CSMs Must Monitor Leading Indicators Daily

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.

In the following blog post, we’ll explore 3 leading indicators of customer success that CSMs should monitor on a regular basis with each customer account:

Leading Indicators of Customer Success

1. 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!’”, says a recent article in Entrepreneur. “Sure, this kind of advice is inspiring and can usually motivate you to get up and chase your dreams or accomplish the next goal. But once that magical dose of inspiration wears off, how often do you abandon that inner voice and go back to your old habits of second-guessing yourself and going against what your gut is telling you?”

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.

2. 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). 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 customer success manager, 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.

3. Overall Engagement

A recent Forbes article explains the concept of engagement (versus loyalty) like this:

“Loyalty as a business metric is often misleading and worse: It’s difficult to correlate with other business management metrics… Customer engagement, on the other hand, is an effective leading indicator of loyalty and profitability. Customer engagement is the extent of a customer’s willingness to invest his or her discretionary time with a company for mutual benefit. It is easier to measure, easier to influence, and more strongly correlated with revenue and profits than loyalty measures.”

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.

Are You Monitoring Your Customers’ Leading Indicators?

Monitoring the leading indicators of customer success is an important daily practice for every CSM. Gut, usage, and engagement are just 3 indicators that can help CSMs understand if there’s a change in behavior, and therefore a potential red flag. Are you monitoring these leading indicators across your customer accounts? Are there other indicators that you watch closely?

Check out our resources below for more customer success best practices and insights for how your organization can approach customer success with the customer at the center:

Customer Success eBooks:

5 Ways to Surprise & Delight Your Customers

Customer Success as a Culture: Customer Success Leaders Edition

Customer Success Blog Posts:

Compensation Plans for Customer Success Managers

Who Owns the SaaS Renewal? 3 Ownership Models

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.

Announcing ClientSuccess Goals: Deliver Measurable Results for Your Customers

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