As a SaaS company, there is a never-ending checklist of tasks to consider, strategies to implement, and, if you’re lucky, customers to onboard. This is why we’ve created this customer success best practices guide, to make it all a bit more manageable.
A lot goes into growing and scaling a SaaS company in 2021, and one tactic that can not be overlooked is how your customer success managers interact with their clients. In order to truly know what your customers need, the questions they have, and how your product or service can help them achieve their goals, you need to incorporate a customer success strategy from the get-go.
There’s no more time to waste. Let’s break these best practices down.
12 Customer Success Best Practices from Top SaaS Experts
We asked top SaaS experts to share their tried and true customer success best practices, what’s worked for them, and how they’ve gone about treating their customers.
What you choose to implement may depend on the size of your SaaS company and the resources at your disposal. But regardless of the direction you choose to go in, you won’t choose wrong.
Customer Success best practices:
- Develop a clear onboarding process
- Spend time with your customers
- Personalize the customer experience
- Prioritize customer education and training
- Be proactive
- Use video
- Implement a customer feedback loop
- Set realistic and clear expectations
- Invest in better product user experience
- Build personal non-automated connections
- Align product and customer success
- Find and leverage upselling opportunities
1. Develop a clear customer onboarding process
The first thing SaaS companies can do to boost their customer success strategy is to develop a concise customer onboarding process.
Taking the time for onboarding means that customers have a full understanding of your product, the setup, and how they can get value from what you’re offering. It sets both sides up for success as you can be sure all of the questions and concerns are not only answered, but put to rest.
Essentially, the earlier your SaaS company is incorporating customer success into its strategy — the better.
For some insight into this best practice, Srikrishnan Ganesan from Rocketlane shares,
“It’s in your company’s best interest to ensure that customers achieve critical success with your products or services through optimized onboarding. In most cases, customers fail to realize the full value of a product or service and fall short of achieving a critical level of success. Without such an achievement, customers are subject to jettisoning a product, especially in the first 90 days, or are less likely to renew, recommend or buy additional seats or expanded capabilities.
One of the most important roles a customer success team will play is ensuring there is an optimized onboarding process is in place. The customer success team needs to understand goals and objectives from the customer’s point of view and to set a course to help them achieve success immediately in the relationship as part of the onboarding phase.
By implementing an optimized onboarding process, customer success people can take the critical steps towards value realization and ways to accelerate a customer’s time to value.”
Explaining further on how to make the most out of the onboarding process is Veronica Miller at VPN Overview. Miller explains,
“Clients should be trained and onboarded on how to use your company’s products. CSMs need to take a different approach than traditional companies, which rely primarily on sales pitches to customers, explaining how a product can fix all of their problems. Your product might be great at solving a client’s problems, but they’ll only get the most out of it if they know how to use it
Acting confident about your product and your customer’s willingness to use it right out of the box can get you the first sale…but what about the next? What about the third? If customer satisfaction is a top priority for your company, you should begin communicating with consumers more freely and fully.”
Editor’s Note: You can use FROGED as your Customer Success Software to improve your product onboarding. Get Started Free
2. Spend time with customers
Once you’ve nailed the onboarding process and you’ve got your customers fully ramped, don’t expect them to now have to fend for themselves. Your CS team needs to invest in them further by spending time with them after they’re fully onboarded. Make sure to ask them what success looks for their unique organization, get a full understanding of their pain points, and what they’re looking to accomplish from your product.
Elaborating further for this tip is Michał Suski, Co-Founder of Surfer SEO.
“Your customer success team should spend as much time with clients as possible, especially in the early stages. Observing your customers shows how fast they can get to the first meaningful outcome and allows customer success professionals to find obstacles that they can work to solve.”
3. Personalize customer experience, nail customer success
What works for one customer may not work for another, and vice versa. Even if you have multiple customers in the same industry, no two are exactly alike. Additionally, your customers are smart and will know when they’re being sent messages and emails without a personal touch, information, or context.
To establish a personal touch, Raitis Velps at Corebook suggests,
“To establish a personal touch with your customers, consider adding them on LinkedIn. You can also offer them a choice for how they’d like to communicate as a way to be flexible to their needs and preferences. By allowing your customers to choose their preferred communication channel you allow them to be more confident that they will be taken care of and you are there to help them with all of their questions and concerns.”
Elaborating further is Alan MacLachlan from Improves.co who shares their expert tip for how to establish a personal touch.
“I record each customer a short video to personally say thank you. We’re a small start-up and relying heavily on word-of-mouth marketing. Taking 60 seconds to say ‘thank you’ is a no-brainer for us. It’s unique and people talk about it with their friends, which is perfect.”
4. Prioritize customer education and training
As you set up your customers for success, remember that their education regarding your product, as well as training on new features, needs to be a consistent part of the strategy.
This is especially true should there be new software updates or features that roll out, as there will need to be additional training sessions to ensure that your customers know how to use the new elements surrounding your product.
Unsure how to go about this kind of training?
Dejoey Ann from Amaka shares expert advice on how to ensure your customers are kept up to date regarding the education of your product or service.
“Offering support through video calls can be significantly more effective than going back and forth through support tickets.
Of course, this model would look different for each type of business. At Amaka, we provide 100% free, 30-minute video support sessions to everyone, regardless of whether you’re a paying customer or not. Our system tries its best to match customers with the same representative every time.
This strategy is a great way to help customers more effectively. You can have an actual chat rather than waiting hours or days between messages. SaaS businesses and other similar businesses can make the most of the ‘share screen’ function and guide customers through actual processes.
Plus, your business builds a stronger relationship with the customer!”
5. Proactive customer success
We live in a fast-paced world, and customers expect the same fast-paced energy from their SaaS vendors.
They’re not interested in waiting days upon days for a response to a support ticket or an email. They want their customer support representatives to be proactive and respond with a fast turnaround time.
Customers also expect frequent check-ins from their support rep, which shows that they haven’t been forgotten about once the contract has been signed.
Kasey Tveit from Pulley Support explains more on the topic of being proactive with your customers.
“Every customer success manager needs to be proactive. That means reaching out regularly and not waiting for unhappy customers to come to you with a complaint. The days of customers submitting tickets and waiting 48-72 hours for a response are long over. By the time an unhappy or dissatisfied customer comes to you with a problem, they’ve already been stewing over it for a while and you have already lost points in their book.
Your support team and customer success agents should be actively monitoring your product and customers for issues,” explains Tveit.
6. Use video
We’ve touched on it a few times already, but it’s such great advice it gets its own header.
If you want a comprehensive customer success strategy to be put in place, it needs to include implementing video at every turn.
This can be tricky to pull off, and you’ll need the right video editing software, in addition to equipment, to make the videos look as professional as possible.
But once you’ve crossed those elements off your to-do list, Quincy Smith from TERL Hero recommends getting started. Smith shares,
“One way to establish a comprehensive customer service department and provide a winning customer experience is to prioritize video responses.
We currently use introduction videos, how-to videos, and explainer videos in all of our onboarding (via email and help desk). We also train all of our customer support reps to create video responses to all queries.
This ensures nothing is lost in translation. Plus, users love to see an over-the-shoulder look at how to do something, how to access a feature, or just get an answer from a real person.”
7. Implement a customer success feedback loop
Customer data is priceless –your clients have a lot to say–, make sure you’re paying attention. In order to implement this best practice, consider just how far feedback will go in helping you collect top-of-mind information about your customers and their thoughts and feelings surrounding your product.
Take the time to listen to their opinions, loop them in regarding how you’re planning to respond, and always circle back to them with updates to close the feedback loop.
Going into more detail on the feedback loop is Lauri Kinkar from Messente. Kinkar explains,
“Every customer success team should ask for the feedback of the customers regarding if they have achieved their desired results by using your products or service.
For me, customer success is when you have delivered value to your customers, and your products/services gave them satisfaction. By asking the customers for their insights, you would have a clear view of what customer success looks like to them.
Collect feedback in-app or through surveys, customer satisfaction surveys, or customer interviews. But it doesn’t end in just collecting feedback. Make sure to use the data collected from the feedback to improve customer satisfaction and increase customer retention.”
8. Set realistic and clear onboarding expectations
It’s common for your customer success team to want to over-promise customers, especially new ones. The worst tactic they can do is to over promise and under deliver. This sets up all sides for failure. From the jump, your CS department needs to set realistic and clear expectations for what the customer can expect from them. It’s a good idea for the customer to do the same thing back, too.
Jo Roque over at Paperform has more to add.
“There are many practices that every customer success team should implement. One of the most important practices is to set expectations.
The worst feeling is not knowing when something is going to be solved so setting expectations is really important. The CS team and the customer share a common goal and that is to solve a problem. At times we don’t always have the answer, so keeping the customer in the loop and setting a timeframe when they should expect a resolution or an update is key.”
9. Invest in better product user experience (UX)
If you want to attract new customers, perfect the customer journey, and have high customer retention for the long haul, you’ll need to amp up your product user experience (UX) to make sure it’s the best it can be. This, of course, doesn’t happen overnight. You’ll need to consider the product UX early on, and often, in order to get it right.
Alex Membrillo from Cardinal Digital Marketing Agency stresses this point even further by sharing,
“When it comes to customer success, emphasizing the user experience (UX) is the biggest best practice I see this year. The UX is key for the customer journey, retention, and satisfaction. Communication is also an important component of the user experience and customer success.
This includes expanding how your customers can access the information most relevant to them and also receive support.
For SaaS companies, the best way to prioritize the UX in 2021 and beyond, while generating customer success, is to make sure your website and programs are up to par. This will require an even greater emphasis on technical features that make the user experience better, faster, and stronger for customers.”
10. Build personal non-automated connections
We, as humans, know when we’re getting an automated response from a customer support team.
Whether it’s a canned email response or talking to a machine over the phone when we have a support issue, it’s never the most productive way to communicate.
Because of this, your customer success team needs to do something very simple… pick up the phone. Andrew Motiwalla at monitorQA explains the importance of doing so by sharing,
“MonitorQA takes a counterintuitive approach to customer success. While the trend is to automate everything, we believe it is important to actually take the time to call new customers. We do this so we can build a personal connection with our company, and also help customers maximize the value they get from our software.
In the course of talking to clients, we often discover additional ways they can use our product and get even more value from it. By taking the time to make an old-fashioned phone call (or Zoom call) we can help clients derive more value. This leads to a deeper level of adoption and lower churn.”
11. Align Customer Success and Product Teams
Two teams working to create an exceptional customer experience is better than one. Especially when your product team and customer success team align and see eye-to-eye on the strategies in place.
At the end of the day, all departments within your company should want to see your customers succeed as they use your product.
Unsure how to promote alignment?
Dawson Whitfield at Looka recommends,
“Your customer success team should keep a log of common customer issues and work with the product team to find solutions that will help to create better customer experiences. Dealing with issues before they become issues also gives customer success teams more time to focus on delighting customers—rather than simply dealing with them.”
12. Find and leverage upselling opportunities
The main goal of customer success is to ensure your customers are, first and foremost, happy using your product.
And what happens when your customers are happy? They provide your company with more upselling opportunities.
The happier your customers are, and the more satisfied they are with your product or service, the better the odds of them wanting to purchase add-ons, or even upgrade to a premium version of your product.
If you’re looking to ensure that your customer success team has the chance to promote upselling, Ray McKenzie from StartingPoint has some advice.
“Every customer success team should have a customer-product map. A customer-product map outlines each customer and the different products that they have subscribed to or have purchased in your company.
This helps the customer success team not only drive value in the core product they are focused on, but also helps the customer use the other products or introduce the customer to adjacent products they could subscribe to or use. This brings immediate value to the customer and can add revenue to the company through upsells,” shares McKenzie.
The customer is always right
No matter what kind of product or service your SaaS company is offering, if you’re not customer-obsessed in 2021, you’ve already lost.
Take the time to implement these 12 customer success best practices to ensure your customer’s satisfaction is always trending upward.