6 Customer Success Best Practices to Reduce Churn and Improve Retention [+Case Study]
Customer Success is THE sexy new topic in the SaaS & Software industry. We’re here to give you a detailed guide to customer success best practices.
To be a fast-growing SaaS company, you don’t just need to grow your sales and month-on-month MRR. Another important aspect of growth is your ability to retain and renew your existing customers.
Struggling with renewals and retention will increase your burn rate faster than you think.
That’s the reason why focusing your effort on what happens after you make the deal is also an important part of every B2B SaaS company.
That’s why we decided to present to you our top Customer Success best practices to take your Customer Success to the next level.
Note: This article has embedded real-life examples, strategies, and cases from the author and her company, Growbots.
Continue reading, if you want to learn:
- What is Customer Success?
- Why is it crucial for your business?
- How is Customer Success correlated with Product Marketing?
- What are some current Customer Success statistics and benchmarks?
- How to win the Customer Success game and become the leading product in your niche with 4 less known Customer Success best practices (How Growbots does it).
Let’s get started.
What is Customer Success?
Customer success is the process of collecting customer feedback, solving issues and providing necessary help. The aim is to boost your customer loyalty, improve retention, reduce churn, improve revenue and make your customers happier and more successful with your product.
Keeping this in mind, don’t put Customer Success and Customer Support in the same basket.
Customer Support is only the process of providing help and solving a customer’s problems.
Customer Success has wider functionalities and responsibilities. In other words, the mission of Customer Success teams is to make sure that your users are satisfied, happy, and that they’re meeting their goals with your product.
Keep in mind that maintaining your customers is really important since it’s 5 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one.
When we sum it all up, the ultimate goal of Customer Success is to make more successful and happy customers. You can then convert them to be brand promoters and improve your Customer Lifetime Value (LTV).
As we discussed at the beginning of the article – it isn’t enough to simply acquire users. It’s also important to retain them as long as you can. Retaining your customers for longer automatically improves your LTV – which is crucial for any SaaS company’s success.
Not to mention that LTV and your ability to renew customers at the end of each billing cycle is one of the most important things investors and company buyers are considering before writing a check.
Why it’s important to conduct Customer Success strategies?
We’ve already mentioned a couple of use cases where Customer Success can help you to create an outstanding business with a bunch of satisfied customers.
But let’s go a little bit deeper into the actual and real use cases of Customer Success:
Customer Success reduces churn and improves retention
Generally, in business, you can divide your customers into two different segments:
- Happy customers
- Successful customers
Happy customers are those who are using your product only because they like it. Usually, there is one teammate who likes your product, and the entire company is using your product because of them.
But, what happens after that person leaves the company? In a lot of cases, the entire company will stop using your product.
On the other hand, successful customers are using your product because they have big benefits from it. It either saves them money or brings them money.
If the person who introduced your product to the entire team leaves the company, the other part of the company will continue to use your product.
Long story short – your goal is to have as many successful customers as possible.
So, we can conclude that the mission of Customer Success is to create successful customers from happy customers.
When you have successful customers you will reduce churn (since you will have fewer happy customers who will churn), and improve your retention – because you will have more customers that will have the real value from your product.
It helps you improve your customer satisfaction
There’s nothing better than having satisfied customers who are more than happy to use your product.
It’s totally natural to have customers who are more satisfied than others. Bearing that in mind, the Customer Success team’s role is to identify people who are less happy, and help them to learn and use your product better.
It boosts word-of-mouth marketing
Everyone knows that word-of-mouth marketing is the most effective type of marketing you can have.
It has the biggest conversions and success rates.
Since customer success teams are creating successful customers from happy customers, it will naturally help you to boost your word-of-mouth and affiliate marketing as well.
Successful customers can easily be converted to brand promoters and ambassadors.
Customer Success Statistics and Benchmarks
In order to understand the value, importance, and impact of something for your business, it isn’t enough to simply say it.
That’s why we decided to refer to the actual statistics and benchmarks.
Oracle’s research explains how important Customer Success is for businesses.
According to Oracle, 86% of buyers will pay more for a product if they receive a better customer experience.
We know that the role of Customer Success is to convert happy customers to successful customers. In order to do that, Customer Success teams will need to deliver a better experience to its users and make the process of using their product joyful.
It’s no secret that using Customer Success best practices will improve your revenue. According to Emmet Murphy, Author of the book “Leading on the Edge of Chaos – 10 Critical Elements for Success in Volatile Times” companies who prioritize customer success can expect 60% growth in revenue.
We all know that it’s important to have satisfied customers. But, do you know that bad customer experiences will have a reach twice as large as the good ones, and that it will take 12 good experiences to make up for a single bad one.
Just imagine that your business is losing two customers per month due to poor customer service. That would mean that, in order to compensate for those 2 customers, you will need to create 24 positive experiences. That sounds really overwhelming.
Now that we know why it’s important to use some of the Customer Success best practices we will mention below, let’s see if there’s a correlation between Customer Success and Product Marketing.
What’s the correlation between Customer Success and Product Marketing?
Customer Success and Product Marketing both became buzzwords in the past couple of years.
Without a doubt, both of them are very important for the company’s growth – especially because they’re very correlated with each other.
It’s crucial for these two teams to play and cooperate smoothly with each other.
The role of product marketing in the company is to use the product-led growth practices and strategies to onboard and retain users.
Both teams will have valuable data that could help all of them take their success to the next level.
For example, the Product Marketing team will gather precious knowledge on each customer’s onboarding process. This can later be used by the Customer Success team to easily solve the customer’s problems.
On the other hand, Customer Success teams will understand the problems that customers are facing later in the product (after they have become premium users). This kind of knowledge can help Product Marketing teams to craft better user onboarding flows that will have a bigger long-term impact on customer success.
But, the Customer Success team’s role isn’t just correlated with the Product Marketing team’s job. For the best customer success, you will need to build an outstanding company infrastructure that will look like a well-oiled machine.
We will talk more about that in the next section.
We now know exactly what Customer Success is, why it’s useful, some current Customer Success statistics and how it’s tightly correlated with Product Marketing. It’s time to take a look at the best Customer Success practices for reducing churn and improving retention.
Let’s get started!
Win the Customer Success game with these 4 less known best practices
We know that not every company can afford to have multiple teams dedicated to each “growth department”. For example, in SMBs, one team will need to handle Customer Support, Customer Success and Product Marketing.
Because of that, the practices you will see below can be implemented in every company, despite their resources.
1. Build outstanding feedback loops
Feedback is crucial for understanding your customers’ journey, experiences, needs and issues. Hence, building great feedback loops is going to be crucial for your Customer Success team and your overall business.
If you want to keep as many customers as possible, you should learn why they leave you, and why they love you. Feedback plays an important role here.
Feedback will help you to gather relevant information about your user personas and their opinion of your product. Make sure that you’re collecting everything.
Feedback is also a great way to include your customers in your product’s roadmap. Let them know what you’re planning to do and listen to their opinions. At the end of the day, you’re building the product for them.
You can collect feedback in various ways:
- By conducting customer interviews — long-form, face-to-face customer interviews can be good for initial customer development and an in-depth understanding of your customer’s needs.
- By using in-app surveys — In-app surveys, such as Net-Promoter Score (NPS), Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) or Customer Effort Score (CES), can provide great value to all of your departments, not just Customer Success.
- By collecting online reviews — Sometimes, customers have a tendency to leave online reviews without you even asking for them. That can be great or bad – depending on the nature of the review. If the customer had bad experiences, it could be embarrassing for your business. On the other hand, if the review is positive, you’re a champion. Either way, online reviews can be a good source of feedback.
No matter what feedback collection method you choose, in order to build a great feedback loop, you’re going to need the following:
- Source of feedback — how are you going to collect it?
- Place to store it — where are you going to store your feedback?
- Feedback analysis — how are you going to analyze your feedback?
- Outcomes — what are you going to do with your findings?
How you store your feedback depends mostly on your infrastructure (we will talk more about that later), how you collect your feedback, and what you are going to do afterward. You can store your feedback in excel sheets, project management tools, or even in the app that you’re using for collecting your feedback.
The best way to analyze your feedback is to use verbatims. Verbatims are names that classify similar feedback. Feedback can often have multiple variations. For example:
It’s hard to navigate in-app and User Interface is confusing, can both be stored as the Bad UI verbatim.
By using verbatims, you will be able to easily categorize and analyze your feedback later on.
What you do with your feedback depends mostly on your goals. After your customers leave their feedback you can trigger different experiences (like VideoBlocks did in an example below), or, you can store your information and wait to acquire critical mass for some particular feedback.
This can be really useful if you’re collecting feedback to decide on which features to build. There is no need to build a new feature if only one customer is asking for it.
Enough theory. Let’s see what one outstanding feedback loop looks like.
VideoBlocks sends an NPS survey through email:
After users provide an NPS score, they are automatically asked why they gave that score:
When the user submits their final opinion, feedback is stored under its verbatim.
On the other side, depending on the score the users gave, they receive a new follow up:
Depending on the NPS score:
- Promoters are asked for a review on Trustpilot.
- Passives receive an exclusive bonus pack.
- Detractors are encouraged to contact the Customer Success team.
Keeping all of this in mind, it’s important to have outstanding feedback loops because:
- It will help you receive valuable feedback.
- You can identify gaps in your product and customer experience.
- You will learn more about your customers and their needs.
- It will help you figure out how to help your customers.
- It will help you realize how to convert happy customers to successful customers.
2. Build high-touch and subtle user experiences to unleash customer success
This is a great example of how Product Marketing and Customer Success are correlated with each other. Whether you have two separate teams or one, pay close attention to this. This is probably one of the most important topics in this article.
Because it will ultimately save you time and effort, and help you improve retention, onboarding and feature adoption.
User onboarding and in-app experiences became quite popular in the past couple of years. Nowadays, we can see a lot of companies that are using in-app experiences to drive feature adoption and onboard more users.
But a lot of companies are abusing the experience layers in their products.
The days when the long product tours were a must are gone. Customers now have a tendency to avoid long and dull product tours and explore the app on their own.
If this is happening for you, then you’re losing a bunch of potential customers. Why? Because you’re not able to convert them effectively during the onboarding or feature adoption phase.
So, what are the subtle user experiences?
Subtle user experiences are those that don’t force the user to take them.
In other words, subtle user experiences are context-driven experiences that are triggered by different in-app events and uses behaviors.
But, what does that mean in practice?
Instead of building one long and boring product tour across your entire product, try to build several smaller product tours (with 2 – 4 steps), that are triggered by a certain context.
If you have multiple dashboards in your products, you can build product tours for each of these dashboards, but you should only show them when the user starts to use these dashboards. Not before.
Remember how we mentioned that one of the main missions of Customer Success is to improve the renewal rate for customers (or LTV)? Well, one of the best ways to retain your customers and make them stay longer is to make them adopt a lot of your features!
So, how can we create subtle feature adoption?
A great example of this comes from HubSpot.
HubSpot has one feature called “Email Templates”. But, it doesn’t force users to use that feature before they’re ready to.
Hubspot only highlights the template feature when a user copy/pastes their email templates a couple of times.
Do you see the pattern here?
It doesn’t make sense to push your users to Feature B (or show them product tours for that feature) if they haven’t adopted Feature A.
So it’s more natural to go with:
Adopting Feature A -> Adopting Feature B
As you can see, subtle user experiences will help you to onboard your users faster and make using your product more delightful. It will also improve your retention and CLV.
Customer Success: Growbots Case Study
How does Growbots onboard users?
At Growbots, we’re using high-touch user onboarding to effectively teach our users how to use our product, and make them successful with it. Here’s what our process looks like:
- In the first interaction, we ask our customers about their goals, current pains and how Growbots is going to help them. We then review how we met their expectations on the Business Review call in the 3rd month and we simply help them build their outbound strategy.
- We’re also checking, on behalf of our customers, their email deliverability statistics. We’re doing DNS checkups so that we can be sure they have SMTP and other records set up. This is very important for us since the customer’s ability to effectively deliver emails is correlated with successfully using Growbots.
- After that, we’re trying to learn from them about what kind of people they’re looking to target with their outbound campaigns. So, we’re sending them a survey asking them about the location of their ideal customers, title, company type, and other things. Later on, we’re using those findings to create better and more personalized in-app experiences.
- Later, we’re putting our efforts into customer education. We’re helping them to create their email templates with our personal tips, blog or video content.
- Keep in mind that we’re not using transactional emails for the user onboarding, because we’re trying to personalize every email with the user’s behaviour and in-app experiences. In that way, we’re managing to deliver the perfect user experience during onboarding.
3. Always keep-an-eye on your customers
The role of Customer Success is to make your users successful with your product. That’s why you always need to keep an eye on them and their activity.
Monitoring your customers’ activities will help you to:
- Understand their usage behaviours.
- Provide better help when needed.
- Detect churn warnings.
- Understand whether the customer is going to renew or not.
Once you collect all this data about your users, you can send personalized emails to them and regularly touch-base with them every month to make sure that they’re meeting their goals with your product.
Constant monitoring of your customers will also help you to measure their health score. A health score can help you to make better decisions for each customer. Usually, customer health score is measured by these 4 metrics:
- Duration of using your product — customers who are using your product for longer will have a better health score.
- A number of users/orders or other value propositions you’re selling — customers who are paying you more are better customers than those who are paying you less.
- Nature of support requests — Larger customers will probably have more customer support requests than the smaller ones. That doesn’t need to trouble you. But pay attention to the tone of their requests.
- Indirect/Direct feedback — sometimes the customer would like to send you feedback directly, but sometimes they’d rather not. It’s important to listen to everything they have to say.
At Growbots, we’re monitoring our customers’ activity. Later on, we can send them highly-personalized emails based on their in-app activity and movements.
4. Have an “at risk” process
“At risk” is the process of contacting customers who are about to leave your product or who are close to renewal.
The purpose of the “at risk” process is to:
- Make customers who are ready to churn stay in your product.
- Make sure that the customers will really renew.
- Try to upsell other services or at least to retain the existing biling cycle with existing customers.
After you identify the customers who are either about to churn or who are close to renewal, you should:
- Reach out to them and offer your help.
- Collect valuable feedback.
- Educate them about your new features (if they haven’t yet adopted them), as well as some recent best practices in your industry. For example, if you have email outreach software, you can educate them on the best practices to create cold email templates.
- Ask for a 1-on-1 video meeting so you can be sure that your product is meeting their goals.
In this way, you will reduce the customer’s risk of churning, and perhaps even upsell more premium packages.
5. Educate your customers
Customer education is important for converting happy customers to successful customers. How are you expecting them to achieve success with your product, if their knowledge of “using your product” isn’t at the highest level?
Long story short, you can educate your customers on two different things:
- How to use your product more efficiently and achieve greater results.
- How to achieve better results in your industry (i.e. how to write better email outreach campaigns or how to create more delightful user experiences).
There are a couple of methods you can use to educate your customers:
- Thorough articles.
- With 1-on-1 sessions.
- With webinars.
- By writing release notes and product updates.
Articles, podcasts, infographics, creating a mini training course or any other content forms can be a great way to educate your customers on the state of your industry and any best practices (just like we’re doing right now).
On the other hand, webinars and release notes can be a great way to teach them how to use your product more effectively.
Intercom does a great job with webinars. Whenever they release major updates and new features, they host webinars for their users:
Slack does a great job with release notes:
Their language, voice, and in-depth release notes are enticing people to try new features or use the old features (since the bugs are now fixed).
6. Build a great infrastructure
If you’re going to make the most out of Customer Success, you’re going to need a great infrastructure.
This is especially important because Customer Success is tightly correlated with:
- Customer Support
- Product Marketing
Thus, having a well-oiled machine that can be easily accessible and used by all departments is a must.
But, before we see some of the tools that could be great for all of your departments, let’s see what makes a great infrastructure.
A great infrastructure should satisfy the following things:
- It should save your team’s time and efforts.
- It should be automated in some way (i.e. no manual tasks needed or using a lot of unnecessary apps).
- It should be easily accessible by all team members.
- It should provide relevant information about your customers that you can use later on to convert them to successful customers.
Now that we know what a great infrastructure should look like, let’s take a look at some of the best Customer Success tools for your business.
What are the best Customer Success tools to build great infrastructure?
Here are the best customer success tools that can take your business to the next level by reducing churn and improving retention.
It’s important to know why exactly we’ve chosen these tools:
- Because they gather your entire departments in one place.
- Because they save your team’s time and efforts.
- Because they’re easy to use.
- Because they provide you with real value (in terms of making your customers successful).
Let’s see them!
Disclaimer: This is our honest feedback. We’re not associated with any of these tools (except Userpilot – and even then we’ve provided our honest feedback). We’re not participating in any affiliate marketing campaigns.
Slack – your new headquarters
Everything starts with the messaging platform for your team. But the reason we chose Slack isn’t just because it’s a great messaging tool for your team.
Actually, there are various messaging platforms out there and some of them are probably even better than Slack. But they lack one thing: integrations.
Since the goal is to build a great infrastructure, Slack can be a powerful foundation for your business.
The main reason for this is because it has hundreds of different integrations you can use to automate your workflow and keep your team in Slack – which will save their time and efforts.
Thus, Slack isn’t just a messaging platform for your team members – it’s also your go-to productivity app.
Userpilot – build subtle user experiences without coding
But why do we think that Userpilot is the right tool for your Customer Success infrastructure?
For two reasons:
- It doesn’t require coding at all — you can build in-app experiences without development assistance, automatically saving your team time and effort.
- You can build high-triggered in-app experiences using different in-app events, contexts or user behaviors. This makes it suitable for the subtle user experiences we talked about earlier.
As you can see, Userpilot satisfies all the rules of a great Customer Success infrastructure. It saves you time and does the job efficiently, eliminating the need for additional help from the development team.
You can start your free trial of Userpilot right now by clicking on “Free Trial” in the right corner. A little chat window will pop up and you will automatically be registered.
Salesmachine – track your customers
Salesmachine is a powerful tool for tracking your customers after they sign up.
It allows you to find out what they are doing, and to identify customers who are having issues or those who are achieving success with your product.
Why we chose Salesmachine?
Because it provides you with valuable data that you could use later on to build your Customer Success strategy, as well as other strategies for Product Management or Development.
Wootric – collect and measure your customer’s feedback
Wootric is a great tool for collecting feedback and measuring it.
Why we chose Wootric over so many feedback tools?
We think that Wootric is one of the best Customer Success tools out there. It doesn’t just provide you with great ways to collect and measure your feedback, it also has great Customer Success add-ons that you can use in your team. Incidentally, it also has a powerful Slack integration.
You can also try to use some other Customer Success tools like Custify.
And if you’re looking for a tool that will help you collect feedback from your customers directly on your website, and at the same time facilitate communication with your customers – you should check out LiveAgent – a (free) live chat software perfect for SaaS companies.
Custify for customer health
Custify helps you to manage and oversee your customer lifecycle, so you can understand the progress of each one of your customers. You can also measure different KPIs (like Customer health), manage Customer Success tasks, automate drip campaigns and get a full 360 degree view about all your customers.
These tools will help you to measure your customers’ health, detect warnings, and then act based on that.
The bottom line
As we have seen, the ultimate goal of Customer Success is making more satisfied users, reducing churn, increasing retention and Customer-Lifetime-Value, and improving the ability to renew existing customers.
One of the first things you will need to do if you want to improve your Customer Success is to improve your feature and product adoption. Why? Because better feature and product adoption will ultimately lead to better retention and LTV.
About the Guest Author