Successful SaaS companies grow in two ways: by acquiring new customers and by retaining existing customers (i.e., having them renew). Renewing customers contribute significantly to your annual recurring revenue (ARR), which is an important part of the revenue stream that allows businesses to predict and strategize their internal investments.
From the moment a lead becomes a customer, it is critical to provide value and ensure that a good product experience is achieved. The most successful businesses create repeatable processes that lead consumers to become advocates. This is referred to as a customer success framework.
But adopting or working to embed customer success management principles across organizations typically encounters several challenges. These are some examples:
- Internal teams that are not entirely focused on clearly defined customer outcomes.
- Because there is no defined outcomes-based success framework, each CSM delivers ‘success’ in a different way.
- There is no clearly defined method for planning, developing, and managing a customer success segmentation strategy.
- There is no structured repository to consolidate, manage, and access best practices.
- Busy customer success teams can’t figure out how to build a framework and strategy.
As a result, the ability to identify and maximize the value derived from all customers is lost.
What is a Customer Success Framework?
Without a framework, or even if a portion of the framework is missing, there is no stability, and your structure will eventually fail. So, as long as you have a basic customer success framework in place, you have a solid foundation on which to build your custom processes.
A blueprint is not what a framework is. Because every business is unique, it is impossible to apply the same strategies for doing Customer Success to multiple businesses. In contrast, a framework covers all the best practices & fundamentals that should be present in all B2B SaaS businesses.
Create Frameworks for Customer Success
While the concept of a customer success framework is appealing, it can be difficult to know where to begin. Here are the 4 recommended steps for developing an effective customer success framework:
- Define your customer lifecycle stages (Setup, Launch, Use, Renewal, etc.).
- List your customer’s actions at each stage.
- At each stage, try to anticipate the customer’s expectations.
- Determine the roles, processes, and tools required to support the customer objectives at each stage.
Your customers are not all the same. If you serve a variety of customer types, don’t limit yourself to a single framework. Create multiple frameworks for the various customer segment and product tier offerings you have; this will result in a better customer experience and satisfaction.
For example- Imagine your customer has approached you to set up a “Renewal Framework”. The customer wants to have a robust ‘renewal’ process in place. They want to set up a renewal process that includes different use cases. As a CSM, you must-
- Study the customer account health.
- Create a renewal plan after analyzing the health.
- You can then connect with the right decision maker and share the plan for further discussion.
- Update the contract in line with the new commercials.
- Once a week, follow up if the decision has NOT been made.
- Sign the renewed contract once the customer makes the decision to renew with you.
Check out the Renewal template for a detailed explanation of the above steps.
When developing these frameworks, collaborate with your customers to define success for both parties. Determine your customers’ objectives, learn who measures their success or failure, and validate how your product helps them achieve their objectives.
So what are the stages to optimize when building a customer success framework?
The 6 Stages of Customer Success Framework
A great customer success framework is built on the various stages a customer goes through throughout their relationship with the company. Customer experience, which is an essential component of Customer Success, is optimized at each step along the way.
This is the first stage in which customers interact with your brand, mostly passively. It is the marketing team’s responsibility to provide a great experience to your ideal customer personas (ICPs) through your marketing initiatives. Some of the most important decisions they can make for effective outreach are how they design their marketing content, which target audiences they reach, and which channels they use.
The look and feel of your ads, the aesthetic sense of your web content, and promoting your USPs to the right audience are just a few of the decisions that can result in a positive or negative customer experience in their first interaction. According to Gartner’s research, 57% of the customers have already decided whether they will buy your product or not according to their first impression of your branding.
Building ICPs is critical in distinguishing between short-term and long-term customers. If your marketing efforts show the right value to the right people from the start, it can guarantee a long-term relationship with those who respond to those ads and convert.
Customer acquisition is the process of acquiring new customers for your company. Many people associate this with the point at which a customer completes the checkout process and clicks the “buy now” button, or when a contract is signed. However, it is much broader than that.
Customer acquisition begins with your go-to-market strategy, which directs how you sell your product, which includes:
- How your pricing strategy appears
- Who your target customers are and how you plan to reach them. This process will continue until you have converted prospects – or even free users – into paying customers who are actively using your product.
- How consistent are your branding & efforts
The perception formed in the first stage should not be compromised during interactions with your sales and marketing teams. As a result, a clear agreement about your sales team’s roles and responsibilities should be made right from the start in order to implement the right framework aimed at customer success.
You understand your product. You also understand how it would solve your customers’ problems, but your customers are unfamiliar with your company and product. “SIMPLIFY” is the golden rule here.
Simplifying your product for your customer is one of the first steps in a successful onboarding process. They do not want an information overload. Your product’s initial setup should be as simple as possible while still covering the critical aspects of your customer’s business.
Walk your customers through the product walkthrough step by step. You could always start with the basics, such as how to sign up, what each element on the dashboard means, and so on, depending on the type of customer you are onboarding.
A structured onboarding flow will help your customers understand what pain point your product is attempting to solve for them, giving them a reason to stick with your product because they can see the value you provide.
Learn about the onboarding mistakes you should avoid.
A foolproof onboarding procedure addresses all aspects of:
- Finance: The payment process, as well as invoicing and billing, should be as simple as possible.
- Training: Ensure that all user manuals, tutorials, and orientation documents are available and simple to understand for a first-time user of your product.
- Engineering: If the product needs to be configured with the client’s internal systems, it should be done quickly and efficiently by experts.
- IT: If the customer needs to be set up in your systems and given login information, this should be done with caution.
Time to Value
The value of your product is proof that it works. It keeps the promises made during the sales process & onboarding and serves as the foundation of your customer relationship. Delivering results quickly gives customers confidence that they made the right decision and increases the likelihood that they will continue the partnership in the long run.
In contrast, if your customer has to wait longer than expected to see value from your product, they are more likely to churn. Why should they continue to invest in a partnership that isn’t achieving their objectives?
Driving time-to-value with Customer Success
The CSM should ideally have domain knowledge of the client’s business in order to demonstrate and evaluate the product’s ability to achieve its business goals. They must constantly monitor their customers’ satisfaction, reevaluate their business KPIs, hold quarterly review meetings, and recommend unused product features to drive higher customer engagement with their product. This is the stage at which customer adoption occurs, and once that occurs, customer retention becomes a natural result.
When a customer has fully adopted your software, as evidenced by their real-time usage data, and your product has become completely integrated with their business ecosystem, you can be confident that the customer has become a loyal one. Once you are certain that your product has become their first choice for meeting their business needs and that they will renew their subscriptions, you can leverage their loyalty in a variety of ways.
You should recognize that the time has come to reap the harvest. Because of the immense value, they derive from your product, they naturally become brand advocates. A customer success organization should design its brand evangelism strategies at this stage by reaching out to testimonials, reviews, case studies, and more.
When a customer has completed all stages of adoption, recognized the value of your product, and agreed to become a brand advocate, there is no better time to upsell or cross-sell your product to them. You can use data to determine the best time to push upsells to your customers. This will allow you to reach out proactively, reinforcing the message that you care about your customers. It will also help you gain their trust.
Personalization is something that data excels at. You can use product usage and customer data to personalize upsell offers, increasing the likelihood that customers will complete the purchase.
Best Practices to include in your Customer Success Framework
- Meet with clients to talk about how to best match your objectives with theirs. We advise beginning this process early in any new relationship and fine-tuning your strategy as you go.
- Plan to check in with your customers frequently. The majority of customer success managers use this approach.
- Pay attention to your clients. We suggest paying close attention, especially when they are providing information or answering your inquiries on how you may help them succeed.
- Take initiative. Don’t wait for your clients to request assistance.
- Introduce a fresh perspective to your clients. The majority of the clients will value your genuine interest in assisting them in achieving their objectives rather than just your interest in selling, maintaining, fixing, etc.
- Provide essential team members with specific training. Customer success must be prioritized, which calls for new skill sets and a shift in perspective across your entire organization.
- In order to succeed in business, make an effort to gain a deeper understanding of how you can help your clients get the most out of your goods and services.
- Last but not least, figuring out your framework is only half the work. Make sure your company culture embraces it. Everyone must support the plan. This entails encouraging each department to reevaluate what they do and how they do it in light of your framework for customer success.
Customer Success is currently firmly in the spotlight for SaaS companies, particularly B2B ones. With increased importance come increased accountability and scrutiny. Customer Success must have its ship in good condition and be able to show that there are no holes in the hull and, even if there are, that it is aware of their location and how to use the plugs in the event that there are. You can show this by making sure you are operating within a well-thought-out framework that addresses all the key causes of customer churn.
The optimization of the customer journey sits at the core of any Customer Success paradigm.
Actively engaging with your clients will ensure that they are able to get the most out of your offering. Engagement must be planned and will vary depending on the stage of the customer’s journey and the segment they belong to.
Make sure the CSMs understand what success entails for themselves and the team as a whole, which includes KPIs and targets.
Last but not least, don’t be shocked if some clients require quick recovery action to stop them from churning. Churn is the entire company’s responsibility, so set aside spaces where you can assemble the necessary executives to respond to urgent customer situations.
P.S.- The image is from pexels.com.