Guy Nirpaz, CEO, Totango


As SaaS companies expand their Customer Success initiatives and teams, what advice would you give them on thinking about the role of Customer Success?

Over the last few years, the conversation around Customer Success in SaaS and subscription businesses has gone through three major shifts. First, the discussion was around why we need Customer Success and justifying its establishment as a separate function. Then the conversation moved to what is Customer Success and its role in the company. And now the focus is on defining the “how” of Customer Success -- how should companies implement best-in-class customer success organizations.

In this new phase, what we really must ask ourselves is what is the end game that we are striving for? In a recent study, 79% of participants stated that their number one goal for customer success is to reduce churn. Now that’s a fantastic goal but it can end up limiting Customer Success organizations because it leads to very defensive tactics and strategies. When we put all our focus and efforts on fighting churn, we are playing not to lose.  As an industry, we need to shift the focus and play to win.  To use a metaphor from politics, sports, and the military, the best defense is a strong offense. The following are three essential components to shift Customer Success from “playing not to lose” to “playing to win.”

Focus on Growth

Rather than simply reducing churn, look at new ways that you can grow customer lifetime value. This can be offering new services, adding additional users, or simply increasing the number of times that a customer uses your service.  For example, as new and useful features are rolled out, make your users aware and properly trained to adequately implement these features.  This ensures that your customers derive increasing value from your product and achieve the business results they expect. As each account grows this will ultimately lead to new users, more engaged users, and your ability to grow revenue from within your customer base.

LinkedIn demonstrates this in how they work with business clients of their Marketing Solutions.  Customer Success programs are set in place to automatically send tutorials of how to better use the product and understand the data you receive at different stages of the customer journey. By sending out videos and clear instructions on the insights you can receive from their dashboard, they are ensuring you are equipped to fully utilize their tool. Their strategy of focusing on their customers’ usage and encouraging them to use more features sets each account up for potential upsell in the future.

Drive Innovation

Build out unique and amazing customer experiences that raise the bar across the industry. One example of this is anticipating a customer’s needs before they even know they need it and offering them the right solution at the right time.

An example of this is Amazon’s video streaming service. For those who opt-in to HD streaming, they have systems set in place to ensure that your experience was the best it could be. If there is longer than normal load times they automatically follow up through e-mail and credit your account. This perfectly demonstrates anticipating a potential customer issue and optimizing the customer experience by staying a step ahead. By taking this forward thinking approach you can preemptively have processes set in place to keep customers happy even as unavoidable issues arise.

Celebrate Success

When we focus on simply reducing churn and “saving” customers, it’s hard to remember the incredible impact Customer Success can have across the business. Focusing on innovation and growth gives us the opportunity to celebrate how we make a difference. Just as Sales celebrates success, it is important to remember to celebrate the success of our customers. Whether a customer is successfully completing onboarding, adopting a new product feature that improves the effectiveness of their operations, or achieving higher productivity or revenue from using your product, it is recognizing these achievements that will help build a culture of customer success.

By focusing on growth, driving innovation, and celebrating the success of your customers, you can fine tune your customer success strategy with an offensive approach that encourages the organization to win big.