Customer Success platforms exist to make the workflows of Customer Success Managers and Teams simpler and productive. They are designed with a focus on the customer touchpoints, journey, and lifecycle with their software that are critical in ensuring customer success. These platforms help in measuring, monitoring, and predicting important customer success metrics. These include customer lifetime value, time to value, retention rate & cost, churn, net promoter score, etc. Customer success grew with SaaS software companies, but we can apply this new kind of customer relationship management approach to any organizations with a recurring revenue model.
Customer Experience, Customer Service, and Account Management are related to but distinct areas of work from Customer Success. Many companies can have some overlap between these four departments. Sales and Marketing departments are also important in the earlier part of the customer pipeline that gets transferred to the Customer Success team after the first-time sale is made.
Why has "Customer Success" become a real survival and growth factor in business?
Customer Success is not simply a buzzword or marketing ploy. It is a philosophy, a mindset, and a strategy regarding what is essential for business success today!
Customer Success = Company Success
With the advent of Internet and especially Cloud Computing, we got Software as a Service (SaaS), subscription plans, and recurring revenue models. This has made it crucial for companies to keep track of how easily new customers can use their products, how often they use them, and how good their impact is on their work and life, etc. The success of the company now depends on the success of their customer in a much more real, intertwined, and critical way.
Earlier, the common way to make money for enterprise software companies was to sell their software and supporting infrastructure that run those software modules to a customer. Weeks or even months were needed to set up everything. Companies signed long-term contracts for 5, 10 or even 20 years. Even with B2C software sales, the most common revenue model was to sell the software product to the customer once. Both these revenue models limited the problem of selling to a customer as a one-time worry.
Proactive Customer Experience Design and Long-term Relationship Building
Companies in the earlier days did have some incentive of maintaining good reputation in the market to make more sells to newer customers. So there was customer service, repairs and replacement etc. But they did not need to worry about their existing customers on a regular basis for keeping their own business afloat. The questions regarding how well the customers used their products, whether it was really making their life easier, if new trends were making their solutions obsolete etc. were not essential for their core business functions.
But now, it has become critical to maintain long-term relationships with customers, do everything to ensure their success in the goals your product is meant to help them with, and keep winning recurring revenue from them over longer periods. If customers are dissatisfied with your products and services, they can easily switch to a competitor who offers better product, more attentive guidance, and better pricing. Thus, software companies cannot afford to lose their customers during the next renewal period. They must stay alert and active in winning the vote and confidence of their active customers every time.
Essential Concepts related to Customer Success
- Land and Expand: It is a strategy to land small deals, then develop customer relationship and ensure customer success in order to retain/renew, cross-sell and upsell.
- Customer Touchpoints: A touch point is the event where a customer interacts with your product or brand. Whether it is your landing page, email newsletter, customer support chat, or purchase and usage of your product in its various formats, like mobile app, website, etc.
- Customer Journey: The entire collection of customer touchpoints, comprising all the experiences that your customer had with your company, brand, and product.
- Churn: The scary idea that your existing customers will quit. It is costly when customers churn, as acquiring new customers can be 5-25 times costlier than retaining existing ones.
- Voice of the Customer (VoC): Do we understand our customer thoroughly? The VoC process is to ensure that the product company collects comprehensive customer feedback (their expectations, issues, goals etc.). After feedback collection, we must also summarize, visualize and convey these findings about our customers throughout the organization.
- Onboarding: The process of signing up, setting up, and getting your customers to start using your product.
- Adoption: How well is the customer using your product? Are they using all the features? How often do they use it in a day, week, month? After onboarding, it is important to observe and educate the customer wherever necessary so that they are making the best possible use of your product, and deriving the optimal value from it.
Critical Customer Success Metrics
- Retention Rates: What percentage of your customers are you retaining in a given period? The formula is: (Customers at the end of a period - New customers in that period) x 100/Customers at the start of that period
- Churn Rate: How many customers are leaving your product in a given period? Formula is: Cancelled customers x 100 / Active customers.
- Retention Costs: What is the cost of retaining your customers? The formula is: Total cost of customer success and retention programs/Number of active customers
- Customer Lifetime Value (CLV): How much did you earn from a given customer? The formula is: (Annual revenue per customer x Average number of years you retain your customers) - Customer acquisition costs
- Time To Value (TTV): The time it takes a customer on average to do the onboarding and adoption of your product. It is an important but fuzzy metric, but we cannot ignore it.
- Customer Health Score: It is an aggregate score to gauge how well the customer is doing with your product. Lower scores means higher chances that the customer will churn. You must pay more attention to the low and medium score customers and find ways to improve their health scores.
- Net Promoter Score (NPS): We aggregate the results of NPS surveys "On a scale of 0-10, how likely are you to recommend our product to your colleagues/friends?". Promoters are customers answering 9 or 10. Detractors are 6 or below. 7 or 8 are passives. Now using the formula: % of Promoters - % of Detractors, we get a value between -100 and 100. That's our NPS.
The Best 7 Customer Success Platforms, Software and Tools
Let's delve into each platform and understand its offerings:
- Gainsight is a thought-leader in the Customer Success field. The top-tier team of Gainsight has been defining and guiding the community through books, talks, etc. regarding what customer success ought to entail, why it is crucial, and how to execute it.
- With over 1000+ employees, you can gauge the scale at which this Customer Success platform company is operating.
- As a whole, Gainsight is a Saas platform built with the intention of facilitating all Customer Success programs and activities.
- They have divided their B2B offerings into three main product lines:
- Gainsight CS (Customer Success) focuses on customer-led growth strategies.
- Gainsight PX (Product Experience) handles customer experience and product design aspects, comprising the product-led growth strategies.
- InSided can be seen both as a Gainsight product-line and a sister brand, that focuses on community-led growth strategies.
- Integrations supported by Gainsight to help you get 360 view of your customers and organization:
- ChurnZero is a top-rated Customer Success platform on business product review community sites like G2, Capterra, and TrustRadius.
- With 200+ employees, it is a growing company that has proven itself with great usability and comprehensive focus on Customer Success activities.
- It includes dashboards and tools to help with Onboarding, Product Adoption, Renewal/Expansion and Customer Insights.
- From a Command Center to Custom Dashboards, In-App Communicators to Walkthroughs and Surveys, Real-time Alerts and Collaboration Chatbots, there are useful tools and features to help you tackle all parts of your Customer Journey.
- ChurnZero integrates with all the essential tools in your Customer Success stack:
- CRM: Salesforce, Hubspot, Chargebee, Netsuite, Close.io, Spiro, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Pipedrive
- Support/Ticketing: Zendesk, Help Scout, Jira, Freshdesk
- Usage/Chat: Pendo, Mixpanel, Segment, Intercom, Slack, Microsoft Teams
- Email and Calendar: Gmail, Outlook, Google Calendar
- Finance/Accounting: Stripe, Recurly, Chargify
- NPS: Ask Nicely, Wootric
- Single Sign On: Google, Microsoft, SAML, Okta
- Project Management: Asana, Wrike, Teamwork Projects
- LMS like Skilljar
- Custify is a 20+ employee company that has built a top-rated SaaS platform for Customer Success.
- The top features of Custify are Customer 360, Customer Health, Growth, Automation, Tasks & Alerts, Dashboards & Reports.
- You can see all customer related information on one screen. This includes support tickets, health scores, tasks and communications.
- Using Custify you can do Customer Success workflow automation, like sending surveys, emails, planning of quarterly business review meetings, customizing notifications etc.
- You can build custom dashboards to help you analyze various metrics and KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). Customer Churn and Retention, Trial Conversion Rates, NPS, Expansion Revenue tracking etc.
- Integrations with other related tools and platforms is essential for making a Customer Success platform.
- Custify ensures that you can integrate products from your Customer Success stack with their dashboards and tooling:
- Accounting and Billing: Chargebee, Stripe, Xero, Recurly.
- BI Tooling: Zapier, Segment
- Chat: Intercom, Slack, Microsoft Teams
- CRM: Zendesk Sell, Salesforce, Pipedrive, Zoho CRM, Hubspot, Close
- Helpdesk: Freshdesk, Outlook, Gmail, Zendesk, WixAnswers, Slack, Help Scout, Jira
- NPS like InMoment
- Any missing tools that you need to integrate? Custify will take care of it during your onboarding!
- Planhat aims to modernize Customer Success and Product-led Growth platforms and dashboards, build a horizontal customer platform and solve your post-sale business challenges.
- With over 100+ employees and great ratings on G2, Capterra etc., Planhat is a high quality Customer Success platform for SaaS B2B companies.
- It has 4 pillars: Data, Automation, Workflow, and Presentation:
- Data: With all data aggregated, you get up to speed with your customers. You cannot become customer-centered without this.
- Automations: No-code automation of repetitive tasks frees up more time and attention for critical activities.
- Workflows: From planning and executing to monitoring and following up on various aspects of customer journeys, you can take control of workflows. With that, you can make sure that the onboarding and adoption of your product among different customers is happening smoothly and in a timely fashion.
- Presentation: You can make reports and slides from the results of your data and workflows. This helps in data-driven storytelling and presentation, both within your company and with your customers.
- Planhat support integrations with popular tools in your customer success stack, like Zendesk, Freshdesk, Slack, Hubspot, Google Calendar, Mailchip, Mandrill, Help Scout, Zapier, Jira, Pipedrive, Intercom, SatisMeter, Pendo, Segment, Salesforce, etc.
- Totango is a 150+ employee strong company that has come up with an all-in-one Customer Success OS.
- With modular building blocks, Totango is a composable platform that you can customize with drag and drop to suit your business needs.
- It's modular platform includes Spark, SuccessBLOCs, Zoe, DNA-CX, and Shield, which are the main modules specialized to handle the variety of functions in Customer Success.
- Its top features are Customer Health Score, Customer Experience Canvas, 360 Customer View, SuccessPlays & Workflow Automation.
- Totango offers ready-to-use templates called SuccessBLOCs. They make it very easy to get the workflows, dashboards, and strategies for common scenarios in Customer Success.
- Integrations that Totango supports include:
- CRM: MS Dynamics, Hubspot, Zoho, Salesforce, SAP Sales Cloud
- Marketing: SAP Marketing Cloud, Hubspot
- Support/Helpdesks: Intercom, Jira, Zendesk
- Data Files: Amazon S3, Dropbox, Google Cloud Storage, MinIO
- Data Warehouses: Google BigQuery, Microsoft SQL Server, MySQL, PostgreSQL, Redshit, Snowflake
- Workflows: Zapier, Segment.io
- Collaboration: Slack
- Billing: Zuora
- SmartKarrot is a modern, intelligence-driven Customer Success platform made by a 50+ strong team.
- Its top features are Customer 360, Customer Health Score, Comprehensive Touchpoints, Playbooks, Customer Portal, Early Warning System, Customer Campaigns, Automation, Task Management, White Labeled Surveys, Business Intelligence and Product Analytics.
- Using SmartKarrot, you can focus on all the essential tasks of Customer Success managers and teams, like Customer Onboarding, User Adoption, Customer Experience, Upsell & Cross-Sell, Customer Churn Reduction.
- You get a unified view, streamline and scale customer success operations, repeat success predictably, and gain insights to take timely action.
- With Smart Konversations, Success Intelligence, Smart Automation and Smart Playbooks, you can transcribe your calls and identify key phrases to trigger specific response, get timely warnings and extensive reports, and automate strategies.
- Popular third party app integrations like Salesforce, Google, Slack, Freshdesk, Hubspot, Jira, Zoho, Microsoft, Asana, Chargebee, Zendesk, Intercom, Pipedrive and more.
- Strikedeck is a Customer Success Platform built by a 10+ employee strong startup team. Medallia, a giant Enterprise Experience SaaS platform with 2500+ employee has acquired Strikedeck recently.
- With Strikedeck, you have the right tools to understand your customer health and usage trends. You can use this centralized system to monitor all important metrics, reduce churn, increase customer loyalty and advocacy, and boost your overall productivity.
- Its top features are Customer 360, CSM Dashboard, Customer Health, Automation, Playbooks, Workflow Recipes, Task Management, Customer Journeys, Customer Sentiment, Customer Segments, Collaboration, Alerts and Reports.
- Integrations with Strikedeck include popular tools in the categories of CRM, Support Issue Trackers, Product Usage Trackers, Databases & Warehouses, Marketing Automation, Billing, Collaboration, Project Management.
Customer Success departments of companies ensure that proactive efforts are taken to maintain excellent long-term relationships with customers. There are many different workflows and programs essential to see that the needs and goals of your customers are being met. They include monitoring of overall customer health scores, creating voice of the customer to guide in internal decision making, taking initiative to ease the onboarding, product adoption and other educational activities of customers to turn them into power users. Measuring various metrics, getting timely alerts, designing surveys and emails, integrating with insights from customer support and CRM platforms are some other tasks.
By using the best Customer Success platforms, all of these numerous projects and workflows become easier to handle. These platforms are designed, built, and maintained with a focus on the Customer Touchpoints, Journey, Experience and support analyzing and reporting on the essential metrics that determine how well your Customer Success program is functioning. While it is possible to configure and adapt CRM tools for Customer Success functions, it can be a daunting and time-consuming task. Hence, Customer Success Managers and Teams must go for ready-to-use and well-optimized Customer Success Platforms like Gainsight, ChurnZero, Custify, Planhat, Totango, SmartKarrot and Strikedeck.