Customer Success: The Definitive Guide

Customer Success- The Definitive Guide 2016Customer Success is transformative.

Whether you have a subscription business or you sell one-off products or services and simply want to do business with your customer more than once, Customer Success should be your driving purpose.

In the two years since I first published this “Definitive Guide to Customer Success,” the transformative power of Customer Success has shown again and again.

Customer Success has its roots in the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) world and my original definition was very much SaaS-centric.

But since then, companies that are not SaaS, or even technology companies at all, have recognized the transformative power of Customer Success and embraced it as their new operating model.

If you aren’t familiar with exactly how Customer Success is transformative, I’ll lay that out for you below in great detail in this guide.

I don’t know what will happen with Customer Success in the next couple of years, but I wouldn’t be surprised if sometime down the road we’re no longer talking about “Customer Success” as a separate function within a business, but simply as part of the way you do business.

Even today that’s how you should view it.

Why? Simply put; No Customer Success = No Your Success.

You make sure your customers are successful and they’ll make sure you’re successful. It’s a Win-Win!

On the flip-side, if your customers are not achieving “success” with your SaaS, your success is at risk.

Of course, what “success” looks like for your customers is 100% unique to your customers, in the context of your product or service.

So while there’s not a one-size-fits-all definition of lower-case customer success – that’s up to you to know – as far as the concept of upper-case Customer Success is concerned, I’ve attempted to define that for you here.

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Orchestrating Sales and Customer Success Alignment

orchestrating-sales-and-customer-success-alignmentIf you aren’t familiar with the concept of Customer Success yet, it’s when your customers achieve their Desired Outcome (what they need to achieve, the way they need to achieve it) through their interactions with your company.

Customer Success begins at the first interaction with prospects by your sales team, and continues across their entire lifecycle, and is required for scalable, repeatable Account Expansion.

Very often, Customer Success and Sales are thought to be on two different sides of the company, almost at odds.

But the best companies have Customer Success as their Operating Philosophy (the best of the best have Customer Success as their Operating Model), and they see that the Customer Success Management org and Sales are more similar than different, and when they bring them together, magical things (read: exponential growth) happen.

Let’s dig into this, shall we?

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Success Potential: The Foundation of Customer Success


Customer Success starts with acquiring customers that have Success Potential.Customers that have Success Potential are said to be good-fit customers. This is the opposite of bad-fit customers that cannot get value from a relationship with us now … [Continue reading]

Excuses and the Myth of Near-Zero Churn

Excuses and the Myth of Near-Zero Churn header

Churn is a drag on growth. Churn hurts company valuation. There is no good reason to have churn in your business.I did an "Ask Me Anything" on Slack as part of the build-up for my “Building an Engine of Growth” Workshop and Keynote at SaaStock … [Continue reading]

Success Vector – the KPI for Customer Success-driven Growth

Success Vector - the KPI for Customer Success-driven Growth

Customer Success is a Growth Engine. Investing in Customer Success-driven Growth is an efficient way to drive revenue and company valuation, and we need a metric that is designed to measure that growth. Introducing, Success Vector.Customer Health … [Continue reading]

Don’t Mix SaaS Free Trial and Churn Metrics

Don’t Mix SaaS Free Trial and Churn Metrics

Any metric that's not acted on is a vanity metric, right? Sure, but that doesn't cover every situation.Sometimes we measure things because we're "supposed to" but honestly don't know what to do once we have the result (add that to the list of … [Continue reading]

SaaS Free Trial Conversion Rate Benchmarks

SaaS Free Trial Conversion Rate Benchmarks

I'm frequently asked about SaaS Free Trial Conversion Rate Benchmarks; after being asked for the 97th time - this week - I decided to publish this post.First, a bit of a disclaimer. Benchmarks are neat... it's cool to see how you stack up against … [Continue reading]

Churn is a Symptom, Not a Disease

Churn is a Symptom, not a Disease

Churn is when customers cancel their account, don't renew their contract, or remain your customer but pay you less; the latter is referred to as "revenue churn" and includes discounts, down sells, etc.Now, many companies find out about Customer … [Continue reading]

7 Ways Customer Success drives Company Valuation

7 Ways Customer Success drives Company Valuation

I've been saying for years that Customer Success is transformative; driving exponential value for both the vendor, as well as the customer. In fact, it's that value growth for the customer that truly drives the value growth for the vendor. What goes … [Continue reading]

Stretch vs. Bad-Fit Customers


What are the characteristics of a Bad-Fit Customer for your business?It's great to know who your Ideal Customer is (my Ideal Customer Profile Framework is constantly updated), but it's much easier - and I say required - to first identify the … [Continue reading]

Two Ways to Reduce SaaS Cancellations

2 Ways to Reduce SaaS Cancellations

Fairy Tales have happy endings.That's why they're so popular; even if they include scary moments with monsters and evil blended family members, everything is pulled together nicely at the end when the naive protagonist is magically okay.In … [Continue reading]

The Only Two Reasons Customers Churn

The Only Two Reasons Customers Churn

Churn is the antithesis of growth.When you lose a customer, in order to grow by one customer, you have to first replace that customer you lost, and then add a new customer.And when a customer leaves, they take the revenue they were paying you … [Continue reading]

You Have to Know why Your Customers Churn

You Have to Know why Your Customers Churn

When customers churn, that’s a problem.Even if their churn was “unavoidable” it still hurts.Churn hurts on several levels: from lowering revenue to hurting employee morale.And churn means something happened to the customer (out of … [Continue reading]

Pricing Strategy Framework for SaaS Startups


Pricing doesn't exist in a vacuum and is therefore not something you can tackle on its own.Pricing is a function of marketing and determines, among other things, your market position. It also indicates - or is ideally derived from - the type of … [Continue reading]

Qualifying Leads in a SaaS Free Trial


I got this set of questions on Twitter: "Is there a certain level of activity during the free trial that is likely to predict conversion from free to paid? Also, how do other companies handle Sales vs. Marketing Qualified Leads (SQL vs. MQL) when it … [Continue reading]

Customer Success and Logical Account Expansion


Customer Success is a powerful growth driver.Sure, in the early days when you're putting out the fires of churn, Customer Success seems less like a growth driver and more like a stop shrinking driver.But once you move past churn busting - or … [Continue reading]

Reasonable SaaS Free Trial Conversion Rate

Reasonable Free Trial Conversion Rate

What's a reasonable conversion rate from free trial to a paid customer?I get some form of this question from time to time and I've answered it several times over the years.Well, I got it again so it's time to revisit this very simple … [Continue reading]

Acceptable Churn Rate for Small Accounts


What drives a company to focus on Customer Success is changing. In the past, churn (or retention, depending upon how you look at things) was generally the catalyst.Once churn is under control, the catalyst changes to expansion; driving use, … [Continue reading]

Success is Uncomfortable


I've talked before about holding customers accountable and how customer success isn't about making customers happy.Sometimes you have to push customers out of their comfort zone and - if you'll allow me to channel my inner Tony Robbins -progress … [Continue reading]