Customer Success: The Definitive Guide 2017

Customer Success is transformative.

Whether you have a Software-as-a-Service, subscription or membership 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.

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.

On the flip-side, if your customers are not achieving “success” in their relationship with you, 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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Customer Onboarding Success Secret: Don’t Overwhelm Customers

I’ve said this before, but it is worth repeating; Customer Success is not limited to one part of the customer lifecycle, and Customer Success Management is not limited to simply helping the customer get up and running at first or to save them from churning later.

Rather, when a company has Customer Success as their operating model, they see every aspect of the customer lifecycle and every milestone of the customer journey as just as important as the rest.

In this article I tackle one of the biggest problems I see in Customer Onboarding. It’s a problem that isn’t caused by neglecting the customer… in fact, it’s caused by the exact opposite: overwhelming the customer.

Let’s explore this, shall we?

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A QBR is NOT Required for Customer Success

There's a myth in Customer Success Management that you must conduct Quarterly Business Reviews (QBRs) or Executive Business Reviews (EBRs) with your customers.This myth is propagated by those who only work with high-touch customers, by software … [Continue reading]

Customer Success: The Importance of User or Customer Onboarding

Customer Success is not limited to one part of the customer lifecycle, and Customer Success Management is not limited to simply helping the customer get up and running at first or to save them from churning later.Rather, when a company has … [Continue reading]

How to Define Roles in Customer Success Management

Most companies just getting into Customer Success start by defining roles (well, one... Customer Success Manager), then they try to figure out the size of the "book of business" the CSM should handle, etc. That's wrong.But I won't leave you … [Continue reading]

Customer Success: High/Low/No Touch Customer Segmentation

The traditional Customer Success method of simply looking at what a customer pays us and giving them a particular level of 'touch' is old and outdated. It's time to logically segment customers based on Appropriate Experience (AX).For context, on … [Continue reading]

Customer Success: Incorporating High/Low/No Touch into Onboarding

Proper Customer Onboarding isn't done to prevent churn; it's done to ensure the customer achieves their Desired Outcome. Retention comes from that. But what is "proper" customer onboarding? Let's find out.For context, on Friday, May 19, 2017, I … [Continue reading]

Customer Success: How to help Salespeople with Customer Segmentation

The age-old issue of Customer Success and Sales alignment, only this time focused on segmentation.This is my attempt to definitively address this eternal quandary.For context, on Friday, May 19, 2017, I did a Customer Success Ask Me Anything … [Continue reading]

Customer Success: Determining Which Customers on which to Focus

From a Customer Success perspective, this is the wrong question to ask.You must "focus" on all customers since proper Customer Onboarding is critical for all customers to achieve their Desired Outcome.The way you operationalize around all of … [Continue reading]

Customer Success: Who Should Handle Upsells?

One of the great Customer Success questions - regardless of how many answers are given or by whom - that refuses to ever actually be answered is who should handle upsells... sales or Customer Success.This is my attempt to definitively answer this … [Continue reading]

Customer Success: How to Reset Mismanaged Expectations

Carefully. One of the biggest drains on Customer Success Management resources is customers that have not had their expectations properly managed and having to work around that.Avoid that where you can by doing things correctly from the outset, … [Continue reading]

Customer Success: Customer Engagement Across the Entire Lifecycle

Customer Success is when your customers achieve their Desired Outcome through their interactions with your company. Those interactions occur across the entire lifecycle.I define Customer Success Management as the process of moving customers … [Continue reading]

Customer Success: Working with Customers that don’t like Technology

Luckily this type of thing is rare, but with Customer Success as our operating philosophy, or Customer Success Management as our operating model, we need to work within the confines of our customer's comfort zone... not ours.This is a … [Continue reading]

Customer Success: How to Tell Customers What to Do

For many Customer Success Management teams, it's easy to fall into the trap of 'just let your customers figure it out.'In fact, it's easy to think that's in their best interest.Leave them alone and they'll discover what they need to on their … [Continue reading]

How to Get Customers to Help Define Engagement Models

Don't hide from your customers. Don't pretend you know everything. Talk to your customers and figure out from that discovery process what your engagement model should look like.You can then extrapolate segment-based models or, for some customers, … [Continue reading]

Customer Success-driven Marketing: Targeting Offline Customers

Customer Success should drive everything your company does, including sales and marketing.When it comes to targeting customers that aren't online, first, I'd push back on the assumption that your customers aren't online.Second, I'd remind you … [Continue reading]

Lincoln Murphy Customer Success AMA Transcript and Video – May 19, 2017

On Friday May 19th, 2017, I did a Customer Success Ask Me Anything (AMA) on Facebook live. It was awesome. The video is embedded below, along with the questions that were asked and my answers.Yep, if you don't want to watch or listen, no problem! … [Continue reading]

The Process for Discovering your Customer’s Desired Outcome

Customer Success is when your customer achieves their Desired Outcome through their interactions with your company.Desired Outcome is Required Outcome + Appropriate Experience.Each customer segment will have its own Appropriate Experience … [Continue reading]

Customer Success: How to Close the Feedback Loop with…

Customer Success Management, Marketing, Sales, Product, and the Executive team all have unique information about the customer.This includes how the customers talk about what they do, how they talk about and use our product, how any of this aligns … [Continue reading]

Customer Success and Upgrading Grandfathered Customers

If you've been in business for any amount of time, you likely have customers that you've "Grandfathered" into old pricing tiers or feature sets that are obsolete now.How can you get Grandfathered customers to move to your current pricing model in … [Continue reading]

Customer Success in Early-stage Startups

Early-stage startups think Customer Success isn't for them. Wrong!Not only is Customer Success for startups (along with established companies), it's also your key to growth without the friction of churn and bad-fit customers distracting you from … [Continue reading]

Drawing the Line between Customer Success and Support

How do you draw the line between Customer Success and Customer Support?This seems like a logical question until you understand the reality behind operationalizing Customer Success Management.Let's dig in...For context, on Friday, May 5, … [Continue reading]

The best Customer Success Management (CSM) Software

What is the best Customer Success Management (CSM) Software on the market today?As you might imagine, that question comes up frequently for me.Below, I try to give you the best answer I can on this very important piece of your Customer … [Continue reading]

Why Aligning Sales and Customer Success is Critical

The goal of Customer Success for your company is to get customers to stay longer, buy more, and advocate for you.So it's critical to remember that Customer Success begins at the first interaction with prospects by your sales team, continues … [Continue reading]

Customer Success and Charging Setup Fees

So, do Setup Fees jibe with Customer Success?Are they mutually exclusive? Can they play well together?Is there a time or place where they're more appropriate?The answer is, of course, yes. And no.Don't worry... I unconfuse it all … [Continue reading]

The Biggest Customer Success Mistake (and How to Avoid it)

Spoiler Alert: The biggest mistake you can make in Customer Success is not putting the customer first - this is CUSTOMER Success.If what you're doing isn't designed around the customer's Desired Outcome, I have no idea what you're … [Continue reading]

Determining the Ideal Customer Success Organization Structure

A persistent question in Customer Success Management is what the ideal organizational structure is.A great example of this is this question I received: In a large enterprise platform with a high-revenue customer base, do you see any pros or cons … [Continue reading]

Customer Success in Two-sided Markets

Customer Success Management is about ensuring customers achieve their ever-evolving Desired Outcome.Regardless of the model - two-sided market, partner model, direct-to-customer, etc. - every entity in the value chain has a Desired … [Continue reading]

Customer Success: The Secret to Improving Customer Adoption

Customer Success Management is about ensuring customers achieve their ever-evolving Desired Outcome.It's not about adoption.It's not about the breadth and depth of use of your product.These are big ideas you need to move past if you want … [Continue reading]

Customer Success in a B2B2C (Partner / Value Chain) Scenario

Customer Success is defined as our customers achieving their Desired Outcome through their interactions with our company.Think of that definition of Customer Success as your Operating Philosophy.That philosophy can be extended to the greater … [Continue reading]

Customer Success: How to Monitor Customer Happiness

Customer Success is not about making customers happy. In fact, there are 8 other things Customer Success is not if you're so inclined.But for the sake of this post, just know that we're here to make customers successful, not happy.But how do … [Continue reading]

Determining the Perfect Number of Customer Segments

In Customer Success, customer segmentation should be logical (take a step back and really think about it) and done from the customer point of view (think: Appropriate Experience segmentation) rather than from an internal-focused view (i.e. ARR, … [Continue reading]

The Difference between Customer Success and Account Management

Customer Success is not Account Management.In fact, there are 9 things Customer Success is not, and Account Management is one of those things.Traditional Account Management is old, outdated, and will hurt your relationship with your customers … [Continue reading]

The Secret to Defining Customer Success Coverage Models

Customer Success is not Account Management.This means using traditional Account Management ideas will either limit your (and your customer's) success... or will cause you your Customer Success initiative to fail miserably.The traditional … [Continue reading]

Lincoln Murphy Customer Success AMA Transcript and Video – May 5, 2017

On Friday May 5, 2017, I did a Customer Success Ask Me Anything (AMA) on Facebook live. It was awesome. The video is embedded below and while there seems to be an audio/video sync issue, the audio is crisp and listening to this will be time … [Continue reading]

The 5 Fatal Flaws of most Customer Journey Maps

Customer Journey maps are a favorite tool of Customer Experience (CX) and Customer Success Management (CSM) professionals around the world.Very often, they are elaborate, colorful maps - some look like movie storyboards or even children's board … [Continue reading]

The Cost of Bad Fit Customers: The $1.2M Churn and Burn to Learn Mistake

Também disponível em Português por SuperlógicaDo you need to churn and burn customers to learn? A lot of people in startups think so. In fact, a lot of people in companies of all shapes and sizes think so.Think you need to churn and burn … [Continue reading]

Customer Success Goals: Cohorts, Metrics, and Prioritization

Também disponível em Português por ConpassI asked the VP of Customer Success what her goal was for the Customer Success Management (CSM) organization, and she said, "to ensure customers achieve their Desired Outcome through their interactions … [Continue reading]

Contents of an Awesome Customer Success Playbook

Customer Success has been clearly defined and what goes into Customer Success Management has been fully documented.But when it comes to certain aspects of Customer Success Management, there are still a few things that remain a bit mysterious to … [Continue reading]

Understanding Customer Success Management Compensation Models

What's the best Comp Model for Customer Success Managers (CSM)? How can I create a compensation model that drives the type of behavior we need? What percentage of CSM comp should be variable, and what impact should individual vs. org-level … [Continue reading]