Customer success has the unique distinction of being both the #1 driver of revenue retention in SaaS companies and SaaS companies’ best kept secret. According to Jason Lemkin, founder of SaaStr, customer success is where 90% of revenue is. For such an important topic, though, the dialogue around customer success is terrible.
Most conversations about customer success tend to be very high-level, with little in the way of concrete, actionable advice. Too many think pieces, not enough case studies. With this in mind, we thought we’d take a different approach to the topic.
We talked to 5 SaaS companies whose customer success processes have lead to sustained growth, reduced churn, and improved customer relationships, and we asked them a simple question: What is the one tool your customer success strategy could not do without?
“We’ve built a process for how we work with our Enterprise customer throughout the length of our annual contract with them. There are formal checkpoints during the onboarding, growth, and renewal phases. In order to make sure we don’t miss one of these critical checkpoints, we use Totango.
Totango allows us to create ‘Success Plays’ which assign tasks automatically when a customer has met a certain criteria. For example, when a customer is applied with an ‘onboarding’ tag, all of our onboarding tasks are assigned to the Success Manager and they use the Totango interface to keep track of tasks and due dates. The tool has done a great job helping us manage our processes.”
—Alan Ibrahim, Director of Customer Success
Amplitude is a mobile analytics startup with over $9 million in funding and billion dollar customers like Instacart. Their product doesn’t order fast food for you—it provides detailed analytics—and that’s something that requires quite a bit of technical knowledge. Because of this, customers often need help tailoring their setup to specific use-cases to find success using the tool.
While giving your customers your undivided attention is easy when you’re small, it gets harder at scale. Great customer success centers around creating positive human emotions and feelings, which can be hard to replicate and turn into a repeatable process.
The key is to strike a balance between automating your communication and preserving a human touch. For example, keeping tabs on every customer and emailing them when they’re up for renewal would be exhausting to do on your own. Automating this process is the only way to engage your customers at scale, but once they’re engaged, you need to be authentic—not formulaic.
Using a dedicated customer success platform like Totango, you can create automatic processes to send the right email at the right time in the customer lifecycle. By automating the grunt work of customer success, you free up the time and resources to engage your customers on a personal level. No matter how your customer base grows, this balance guarantees your strategy will scale.
“Even though it’s not strictly a customer success or support tool, HubSpot is at the core of our customer success effort. Running a SaaS business with thousands of customers around the world, we need to be extremely efficient in identifying quickly which customer needs help, when they need it, and in automating the process as much as possible.
With HubSpot already being at the center of our marketing strategy, it seemed natural to use it for customer success as well. Through HubSpot APIs, we store all the relevant data coming from AdEspresso about users’ behaviors, which we use to start automated email flows and personally reach out to users who need it.”
—Massimo Chieruzzi, Co-Founder and CEO
AdEspresso, a SaaS company that helps you optimize your Facebook ad campaigns, put customer success front and center as they rocketed to an annual run rate of over $3 million, growing 10x on a yearly basis. Integral to their strategy was getting everyone on the same wavelength by standardizing the software used throughout the company.
Customer success is a team sport. Marketing and success teams are often collaborating, with marketing passing new customers to success and success passing leads to marketing in pursuit of upsells. And whether they need usage data or a list of customers in their renewal phase, both success and marketing are focused on reaching out to customers and developing a relationship.
If your marketing, success, and support teams are all using completely different software, your infrastructure is working against you. On the other hand, when they’re all “speaking the same language,” you can implement company-wide customer success strategies with minimal friction.
Using software with the range of features required to fit the needs of different teams throughout the company, like HubSpot, keeps everyone on the same page. This coordination is vital to incorporating customer success in every department.
“This is the first company I’ve ever worked at that doesn’t have the developers hidden through several layers of abstraction. At ScribblePost our developers are advocates for the voice of the customer.
To enable these interactions, we use Zendesk because it facilitates our unique approach. Multiple team members can respond to tickets, picking up where the last person left off. That way, the people who build the product are in direct contact with the people who use the product. ”
—Paul Berkovic, Co-Founder & CMO
ScribblePost is a productivity network that recently secured a competitive grant from the Australian government. Their customer success strategy puts each member of their team in communication with their customers.
As a customer, giving feedback can suck. You fill out a support ticket, get bounced from a support team to a success team back to a support team, and wait 30 minutes on hold for someone to tell you “Your complaint has been noted” and hang up.
Part of strategizing around your customer’s obstacles is putting them in contact with the best person for the job. Marketers can’t do anything with feedback about how confusing your product’s UI is, just like engineers won’t make your content more informative. However, if a customer can explain a flaw in one of your features to an engineer, that engineer can make the changes required to fix that customer’s problem and prevent the problem for customers in the future.
Using Zendesk, ScribblePost runs a “digital help desk” that each employee must sit on. Customers don’t just fill out support requests, they talk directly to the people most qualified to help them. As Berkovic says, they emphasize “conversations, not tickets.”
“Intercom is the most vital tool that we use at iDoneThis for many areas of our business which interact with customers. It covers our in-app welcome and onboarding, live customer chat and support, marketing and retention.
Talking to customers in real time through Intercom not only gives us great visibility to the customer’s experience, but ensures us that we get to customers with quick response.”
—Cody Teo, Customer Success Manager
iDoneThis provides progress tracking for your entire team, and boasts customers like Zappos, Uber and Twitter. Priority #1 in their customer success strategy is giving users a visible, direct line of communication.
Slow communication kills customer success. If reaching out to you is a hassle, your customers will only contact you when it’s absolutely necessary—i.e., when they’re in crisis. At that point, the best you can do is help them troubleshoot. If you engage them earlier and educate them about the product and the resources available to them, you can fix their problem before it starts.
Incorporating software that allows for easy realtime communication is key to this. If a customer can simply click a button and speak to you, they’re much more likely to ask you questions before they run into trouble. This preemptive communication gives you an opportunity to prepare them for success down the road.
iDoneThis uses a communications platform called Intercom, which brings a number of realtime communication touch points into one place. By putting in-app messaging, chat, and email in one place, you can streamline communication and wow customers with the speed of your response.
“Although there are dozens of very helpful tools for Customer Success, I have found nothing better than my cell phone to better connect with customers.
At Appcues, we use phones to learn from highly engaged customers about where they need help, how we can deliver more value, and to build rapport. Their insights drive our success process, sales messaging, and product direction.”
—John Sherer, Director of Sales
Appcues is a service that lets you build custom user onboarding experiences without ever touching a line of code. As the brainchild of HubSpot alums, with over $1 million in initial seed funding from top Boston investors, you’d expect them to put quite a bit of value on high-tech solutions.
What you probably don’t expect is the truth: they place so much value on simplicity and directness that their favorite customer success tool is a cell phone.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more direct, tried-and-true method of communication than a phone call. While every tool listed so far can do wonders for customer success, there is no substitute for the simple reliability of a phone.
This gets at something more fundamental in customer success. No matter what tools you use, the quality of your communication ultimately comes down to you. On a phone call, there will be no hiding your communication weaknesses.
Personally talking to your customers on the phone isn’t scalable. It isn’t automated. It isn’t cutting edge. Instead, it gives you the clearest, most reliable dialogue possible with your customer.
To Nils Vinje, co-founder of customer success consulting firm Glide Consulting, customer success is all about getting alignment on “people, purpose and process.”
To decide what tool should sit at the center of your customer success process, you can’t just blindly imitate what other companies are doing. The companies we’ve chosen to include all did more than pick good customer success tools, they chose tools that reflected their priorities and purpose as a company.
Originally published at https://www.process.st/customer-success-tools/