The Customer Success Dictionary of Reference: Part II

Burke Alder

Customer Success Strategist


What are the Definitions of Customer Success Terms? – Part II

You asked and we listened! After the positive response to our “Customer Success Dictionary of Reference: Part I” post, we wanted to provide further opportunities for education and growth. In this post, we’ll dig even deeper into some common customer success terminology and phrases that many teams utilize every day. Although the exact term names might differ between specific organizations, verticals, or industries, the main ideas remain consistent throughout. Let’s take a look:

Subscription Revenue

Today’s SaaS organizations commonly utilize a subscription business model, where customers pay a recurring fee to gain access to a certain software or cloud-based platform. Subscription revenue refers to the overall amount of incoming revenue from customer subscriptions over a set period of time. Customer success teams should track subscription revenue over time to keep tabs on big-picture customer accounts and relationships. It’s also important to remember that subscription revenue doesn’t make up 100% of an organization’s revenue—there are also non-subscription services like training, customization, or professional services.


Cross-sell is a customer success term that refers to selling a different product or offering to a consumer. A cross-sell differs from an upsell, which often increases incoming revenue or expands on a current product offering. Cross-selling has more to do with lateral growth, or switching between one product and another. It’s often a sign of complete trust between a customer and a brand to attempt a cross-selling transaction, as it often requires a Customer Success Manager (CSM) presenting an entirely new workflow to a customer and them accepting the suggestion wholeheartedly.

Green Zone Status

For SaaS organizations that rely on incoming Subscription Revenue (see term #1) and recurring revenue, Green Zone Status refers to revenue numbers that are trending positively. Green Zone Status is oftentimes represented graphically to make it easy for customer success professionals to quickly identify where ‘red zones’ are occurring. Many customer success teams monitor Green Zone Status to stay in-the-know exactly when a customer account starts trending downwards and immediately begin building a plan.

Customer Lifecycle Management

The customer lifecycle refers to the entire customer journey, from sales to onboarding to engagement and beyond. Customer Lifecycle Management, then, is the understanding and facilitating of this process to ensure the perfect customer experience every single time. CSMs should track and learn what they can from every single customer journey and then work from best practices or benchmarks to optimize the customer journey for every individual and organization alike.


Deployment is a stage in the customer lifecycle that is often lumped in with onboarding a customer, although it’s actually it’s own step. Deployment is any change on the back end of a platform or product, and occurs when a customer begins using a platform for the first time, as well as when a vendor organization needs to update code behind the scenes. For sophisticated SaaS organizations, deployment is a seamless transfer of data between an online host and the pre-built platform.


Adoption is a customer success term with two possible definitions associated with it. On one hand (and probably most commonly), adoption can refer to the number of internal employees at a customer organization who use a SaaS product on a regular basis. As product usage spreads from the decision makers to the end users, the user adoption can be easily measured. However, adoption can also refer to the adoption of new product features by an entire organization. Just as product usage can spread throughout individual customers, an organization can spread it’s use case across an entire platform, slowly adopting all of the features and use cases it offers.

KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)

Key Performance Indicators, or KPIs, are an extremely important for any team or department in any organization, not just SaaS companies. While this blanket term is standard, however, the actual KPIs tracked often differ throughout teams, departments, and organizations. That’s one of the perks of KPIs, actually—being able to track exactly what’s important to a specific team, without being bogged down by unnecessary metrics. Customer success teams can track KPIs like engagement, usage, and even satisfaction.

Risk Factors

Risk factors is another customer success phrase that can be called different things depending on the team. Risk factors are anything that can possibly stand in the way of a customer succeeding or renewing with a vendor. Also known as ‘red flags’ or ‘roadblocks’, risk factors are predetermined issues blocking the path to success. Customer success professionals can proactively identify these risk factors early and then work to remove any obstacle or potential of these risk factors occurring.

Learn More About Customer Success Metrics

Watch this webinar recording, “The Ultimate Guide to Customer Success Metrics” to learn more about these common Customer Success phrases as well as to see how tracking metrics can help your team grow and thrive. Watch the webinar here.

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


The Ultimate Guide to SaaS Customer Success Metrics

Blog Posts:

The Customer Success Dictionary of Reference: Part I

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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