A robust customer success strategy needs to involve the entire customer journey – not just on boarding or renewals. To maximize customer value, all stages need a specific plan to ensure customers get the right level of engagement at the right time. The Complete Guide to Customer Retention looks at the three primary stages of the journey and shares best practices to achieve measurable results. Companies often focus on the Onboarding stage, which prevents them from maximizing the value to and from their customers.


  • Successful Onboarding metrics include time to onboard, quality of onboarding and measurement of results.  
  • Customer Growth stage focuses on best practices to grow adoption and expand revenue through upsells.
  • The Renewals section looks at how you can influence the level of renewals with proactive and intelligent programs that lead to customer loyalty.

After reading the guide, you will be able to create programs that will influence the outcome of the journey and provide the right level of engagement at every stage to ensure loyal, happy customers.

Successful Customer Onboarding

The first 90 days will decide the fate of most implementations. While the complexity of your product could shift the timeline, if a customer feels let down during onboarding, then the journey ahead could be precarious.

Onboarding is the initial stage in the customer journey - from the moment of purchase to before a customer sees their first value. To ensure a smooth start in the customer journey, you need to provide the right support and resources to facilitate implementing your solution and deploying it across your customer’s organization.

This guide offers some best practices to follow to ensure a smooth onboarding for your customers.


Identify Key Performance Indicators for Onboarding

Companies use key performance indicators (KPIs) to gauge how effectively they have achieved key business objectives. Similarly, for onboarding, a customer success department needs to ensure they have their onboarding KPIs so that they can evaluate their success at reaching goals. The KPIs include:


Onboarding should be completed within a reasonable amount of time. If it takes too long to onboard a customer, it obviously does not bode well for the company and customer.


Although quality is usually difficult to be measured, companies can use the following performance indicators for onboarding:


Companies can look at license utilization to see
how many customers have started using or adopted
the product(s).


Put the Right Processes in Place

The right processes need to be put in place to make sure companies can monitor progress and know where each customer is at during onboarding. It is important to identify the processes up front, so companies can plan them accordingly. Some definition of processes could be:


Define the goal, scope, timeline, and key milestones
for onboarding.


Understand what systems need provisions for customers, new users, data imports, etc.


Determine the type of training the customer needs to undergo and make sure it is delivered.


Have a call or in-person meeting with the customer to go over the processes needed for onboarding.


Get Visibility Into Customer Status

Once onboarding starts, it is vital to know exactly how your customers are making progress. Consistently monitoring the status of your customers will help to know if more proactive measures need to be taken.

If the account is in good health, let the customer continue along their journey. If onboarding is slow to start, it is imperative that the customer success manager reach out to stakeholders to make sure they move the process forward. If need be, follow up in a week with a scheduled progress review.


Complete Key Milestones Within a Desired Timeframe

Key milestones are a necessary prerequisite to develop a tight timeframe for your customer onboarding. Milestones are quantifiable, such as the number logged in users, usage of key features, specific business outcomes, etc. and are used to show if customers are seeing value during onboarding. Beyond milestones, it is also important to track any other key events that may need your team’s attention.


Create Just the Right Program to Drive Adoption

To drive adoption during onboarding, it’s good practice to employ nurture campaigns. Establish automated, relevant messages and content that are based on measurable goals specific to onboarding customers. Paired with the right event triggers, campaigns can help successfully guide the onboarding process.


Analyze Bottleneck Reports

It's always best practice to track business outcomes and create reports for management or customers to see if there are issues during onboarding that need to be resolved.

This is critical if there is a need for executive support or buy-in to resolve an issue. Using active, real-time monitoring will help to identify any bottlenecks quickly or even prevent them from happening in the future.


Create a Usage Report and Adoption List

With a usage report, you can see which customers are adopting the different modules of your product. It also helps to identify when a key contact has stopped using the product or a key product feature. In addition, you can create a specific SuccessPlay to notify the customer success team when there is a drop in product usage for important accounts or create ongoing campaigns to increase product adoption.


Measure Onboarding Results

Customer success teams need to be able to measure and understand onboarding results. By evaluating what they have done and how well they are doing to get customers onboarded, they can determine the effectiveness of their strategies.

Measurement of results could include the time taken to complete the customer onboarding, product adoption, usage frequency, etc. If onboarding results are less than ideal, companies might need to adjust unrealistic goals, improve processes to achieve better results, or include more training.


Perform Regular Check-ins with Customers

Because onboarding is only the first phase of the customer journey, companies must plan strategically on providing long-term check-ins with customers to make sure they are seeing value throughout their journey. A good avenue to gather feedback from customers is using campaigns, i.e., sending customers a satisfaction survey after onboarding. A success play can be created to make sure their customer success team reaches out to the accounts on a regular basis.

Once the customer is using your product/solution and sees the business impact and value, their onboarding is complete.

Successful Customer Renewal & Upsell

Customer renewal is a vital driver for every recurring revenue business. Companies invest time and resources to deliver value and help their customers succeed, but without knowing how effective their programs are, the actual renewal event can be stressful and can put their investment in jeopardy.

While it might seem like the customer has all of the decision power, customer success teams can, and must, influence the outcome of the renewal with proactive and focused programs throughout the entire customer journey. Often times companies focus too much on their key accounts (high-touch segment) and the biggest danger for non-renewal stems from the middle of the customer base. This leads to unpredictability and often large revenue losses.

This guide offers proven best practices for driving well-executed renewals for every customer and managing successful upsell opportunities.


Motivations for Renewal

Every customer renewal is an opportunity to communicate the value derived from your products and align future goals with your customer. Here are the most important criteria customers will consider during the renewal process:

  1. The product has created ongoing value
  2. The company has become dependent on the product for one or more business use cases
  3. The cost required to cancel or switch is higher than the value of a replacement product

It may prove difficult to prove #3, but your team can leverage product consumption data to understand #1 and #2. How your customers engage with your products and the features they adopt are critical to understanding and, more importantly, proving your products’ ROI. Customers would be highly motivated to renew if your Customer Success team could prove that your products helped them increase revenue, improve productivity, or generate higher quality work.


Getting Customers to Renew

Your customer success team should create a Renewal Success Program for every customer renewing in a specific time period. Each of these programs should include the vital projects and activities necessary to achieve a positive business outcome. They should always be based on your deepest level of understanding about the customer. There are three key activities associated with a Renewal Success Program:


Give your team the necessary time to review the account history and health status, and create an action plan for renewal starting well before the customer has to make the decision. This will help communicate any escalations or issues faster and more efficiently throughout the process.


Prepare for the renewal meeting with the customer by collecting all the relevant information pertinent to their account with anyone who has interacted with the customer or manages any relevant customer data.

Given this information, you should be able to estimate the likelihood of renewal and create specific assignments that will fix as many existing problems as possible before the renewal.


The CSM should document all the steps taken by your company and the customer leading up to the renewal contract. Other possible steps in the process include training, upgrades, escalation resolution, or personnel changes that are specifically requested by the customer for renewal.


Expanding the Relationship With Upsell

While customer renewal is tied to a specific window of time, customer upsell and cross-sell opportunities are not timeline-based, but rather a function of two different scenarios. Either your customer is approaching full utilization capacity, or your are launching a new product or feature that aligns with their use case or business goals. Both upsell and cross-sell could (and should) happen at any time there is a customer need.

In this case, you can use an Expansion SuccessPlay to achieve a smooth upsell or cross-sell:


Your team needs to know who is using your product across the entire organization, how they are using it, and what results they are achieving for every user on the account. By understanding the product consumption across different levels, you will have a much better chance of convincing the customer that it is the right time for expansion.


Changes in product consumption should not come as a surprise to you or your customers. By including a regular review with your customers, you are helping bring high utilization top-of-mind more frequently, which will make expansion a more logical progression.


You do not want the customer to feel as if their CSM is monitoring their consumption for the sole purpose of selling more products at the first sign of high utilization. By having another individual on the team manage the expansion, the customer will not feel that the CSM just wants to sell them more products.

Creating an Efficient Renewal & Expansion Process

Using these best practices will greatly reduce the element of surprise during the renewal process and provide your company greater revenue predictability.

With Totango, companies achieve higher customer retention rates by providing visibility into product consumption, actively monitoring for customer health changes, and driving proactive engagements so your team is well prepared for the renewal events.

Managing renewals and upsells shouldn’t be complex. Totango’s SuccessPlays and Revenue Center can automate tasks associated with your renewal plan and accurately forecast retention, churn, and upsell revenue.