The Customer Success Dictionary of Reference: Part I

Burke Alder

Customer Success Strategist


What are the Definitions of Key Customer Success Words?

Customer success, with all of its ups and downs, is a constantly changing and evolving field. There are new, innovative trends popping up all over the place. And, like most industries, every single SaaS company is different. Especially in the days of the ‘unicorn startup,’ many companies are redefining roles and workflows within individual organizations, effectively decreasing uniformity that was so common in the customer success world.

Now, a Customer Success Manager (CSM) can be the same role as a Client Advocate or even a Customer Relationship Rock Star. It’s not just the role naming conventions that are different, either. Below, we’ve compiled an introductory list of some of the most common customer success terms and phrases that every customer success team deals with—no matter what they call themselves internally.


Onboarding is the first stage of a customer relationship with a new brand. After the sales process, onboarding is the first impression a customer has with a brand’s internal team, its processes, and the general working relationship. Onboarding is a combination of implementation, training, and success. A SaaS-focused CSM will help a customer get implemented or activated on their new platform or product, train individual departments to ensure long-term success, and then work with them through any immediate issues that arise.


After the onboarding process, usage can be an indicator to determine customer health. Usage refers to how often customers are logging into their new platform and how they’re utilizing the Isolution to their advantage. For CSMs, usage can sometimes be a tricky metric to track and measure. If only a small number of individuals at a customer company are logging in on a regular basis and actually using the product, it can skew the metrics for an entire organization. CSMs should track usage at an individual level, department level, and organizational level for a clear picture of customer operations and an indicator of account health.


Engagement, in the world of customer success, is a little different from usage. Engagement refers to a customer’s willingness and openness to interact and engage with a brand after the onboarding process. This means engaging with the CSM and team through supplemental trainings, webinars, and more, as well as with the rest of the team through activities like downloading marketing content, being available for advocate interviews, and even engaging with executives at the C-level. Engagement, on top of usage, is a great way to gauge customer loyalty and affinity.

Health Score

A customer health score is an extremely useful metric for CSMs, as it combines individual stats such as usage, engagement, and satisfaction into a single, quantifiable score. Customer health scores are a good way to determine the big-picture health of a client, since there really isn’t any way to single out individuals or specific departments. Most customer health scores are an average look at all activity in an organization, so it includes those on both extreme ends: evangelists and agnostics. Health scores are a great place to start when determining an action plan for a customer account, but CSMs should be sure to dig into the individual metrics and engagement of specific users or departments.

NPS Score

The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is an official metric used to gauge the likelihood of a customer promoting vendor or product to others, though hotly debated as to whether or not the number is a good representation of customer health. Since this is such a widespread number, it’s easy for organizations to see where their brand stands against others in the industry or sector. NPS scores are determined by customer-facing surveys, so they can be serve as a way for organizations to receive feedback and measure customer health straight from the source.

Satisfaction (CSAT)

Customer satisfaction (also often referred to as CSAT) is an over-arching look at how a consumer feels in a brand relationship. It is a more relative metric, and often CSMs base customer satisfaction on other more established measurements, such as a health score or usage metric. Customer satisfaction can also be determined by a CSMs gut feeling or even a 1:1 conversation with a customer. CSMs should be aware of any red flags or contributing factors in a brand/customer relationship that could affect satisfaction and work proactively to nip it in the bud.


Churn might just be a customer success professional’s least favorite word. Also called attrition or turnover, churn refers to the loss of a customer account. In order to reduce customer churn, CSMs must be on top of all of the previous metrics (engagement, health, usage, etc.) to pinpoint exactly when a customer account begins to go downhill. When an issue is identified, a CSM can then work directly with a customer to determine root cause and corrective action.


A renewal is when a customer decides to re-sign or renew a contract with a vendor. Renewals are a critical goal of most SaaS customer success departments, and they are an achievement that is often celebrated and rewarded. Oftentimes, customers waver between renewal and churn, and it’s the CSMs responsibility to sway an account towards the renewal. Staying on top of customer success metrics and customer health is a good way to achieve a steady customer renewal rate.


Upsells are what most customer success professionals strive for daily. An upsell means that not only did a customer see enough value in a product to make them want to renew, but they also wanted to expand usage and collaborate with a brand in even more ways. Most CSMs are rewarded for upsells through compensation plans, which makes an upsell even more of a win not only for the CSM but also for an organization in general.

What Are the Most Common Customer Success Terms Used in Your Organization?

It costs much less to keep a current customer than to find a new one, which is why these metrics are so important to innovative SaaS companies of all sizes. What are the most common customer success terms used in your organization? What types of metrics do you use to gauge success? You can learn more at this upcoming webinar, “The Ultimate Guide to Customer Success Metrics.” Learn more and register here.

Check out our resources below for more customer success best practices and insights:


Customer Success as a Culture: Customer Success Leaders Edition

Blog Posts:

4 Product Challenges That Stand In The Way of Customer Success

6 Listening Techniques of Great Customer Success Leaders

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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