Customer Success isn’t something you do once or someone you hire to make magic happen. Unfortunately for those who are shy of putting in the effort, it’s a process.
A customer success process should include many of the functions we’ve talked about so far in this guide, such as customer support and NPS surveys, but also routine ‘check-ups’ on the health of your customer base.
There is, however, some good news about this. Since customer success is a process, it means a few things:
- Part of it can be automated.
- It can be rationalized and broken down into steps.
- It’s easy to train a group of people to execute it.
- It’s easily tracked and documented.
What does a customer success process look like, exactly?
In this final sprint of our guide, I’ll be telling you exactly that.
This week, we’ll look at the ingredients of a watertight process and how to set it up.
Next week, we’ll study how to refine and optimize processes, and in the last part of the customer success guide, we’ll look at something just as important as starting: keeping it up.
But now, let’s start with what a customer success process might include.
💡 – As a free bonus, check out our podcast episode talking about customer success.
What’s in a Customer Success process?
Obviously, in the eye-rolling and unhelpful words of me, all the time: your customer success process depends on your business.
I’m saying that because I can’t promise to cover everything with this guide and to encourage you to go look at what your product lends itself to and what it needs.
Maybe it’s a mostly self-service SaaS product like Trello, where Customer Success may only be brought in for huge enterprise setups.
But maybe you have a product that needs the high-touch approach of concierge onboarding. Companies like DoubleDutch — who create custom apps for industry events — have no choice but to work closely with customers.
DoubleDutch has developed a highly effective Customer Success process which allows them to give every customer as much care and attention as they require and deliver high-quality apps on a tight schedule.
(BONUS: Read until the end of this post to get a checklist version of the exact 13-step process DoubleDutch use when onboarding a new client)
Chances are, you fall somewhere between the two categories of self-service and high-touch. It might be possible for customers to use your service whilst never interacting with a human, whilst also possible( and sometimes necessary) for customers to get a little more guidance.
From what I’ve learned from the processes in place here at Process Street, my interview with Aaron Lapierre (Vice President of Client Cervices at DoubleDutch) and research from companies like Totango, Zendesk and Zapier, I’ve put together a list of systems and events which can come together to form the customer success process.
- Kick-off call
- Data gathering
- Webinar training
- Training articles
- Follow-up sequences
- NPS surveys
- Feedback loops
- Customer support
- Ensuring renewal
As you can see, some of these events or systems can be fully automated (follow-up sequences) while some need human interaction to work (kick-off calls).
Figuring out which it would be possible to automate and which will need a person or team assigned to is the first thing to do.
The kick-off call is the first phone call made post-sale. The salesperson hands off to the designated Customer Success rep who calls the customer to find out more about their situation.
For a complex product (like an analytics platform, for example), this helps the Customer Success reps figure out how the product can be set up and implemented for the customer.
For DoubleDutch, the kick-off call is focused on letting the customer know the process and familiarizing them with what’s going to happen next.
As the first point of contact between a customer and someone who isn’t trying to sell something, it’s a time where the customer feels valued and looked after.
When Zapier was just starting out, CEO Wade Foster would personally call customers and hack together custom integrations for the apps they needed to connect whilst still on the phone. Zapier used the kick-off call as a way to impress customers, secure deals and spread the word that their company is willing to go the extra mile for their customers.
The data gathering process is something which can be automated and might be partially complete before the Customer Success process starts. Depending on what your staff do pre-sale, the marketing or sales team may have already gathered data that can help Customer Success learn more about the company they’ll be working with.
Depending on what your staff do pre-sale, the marketing or sales team may have already gathered data that can help Customer Success learn more about the company they’ll be working with.
Professor of marketing at Baylor university, Jeff Tanner, says that the biggest mistake in the data gathering process is “asking for too much at one time and overwhelming your customers”.
We know that webinars generate leads. At least, if you don’t run them yourself you can tell by the invitations in your inbox every week.
What’s not so well-known, however, is how they can be used to nurture, train and engage existing customers.
SaaS company Rainmaker — who offer a marketing platform for digital entrepreneurs — use webinars at every stage of the customer journey, from awareness through the success process.
CopyBlogger, a company part of the Rainmaker platform, use their webinars to promote Rainmaker and generate leads for their membership program, Authority.
This loop of lead generation, customer education, and engagement has proven to be a powerful tactic for Rainmaker, who use a variety of cross-medium channels such as podcasts, written content, infographics and more — all with the customer success and lead generation process built in.
Just like webinars, your written content serves more than one purpose. As well as being effective lead generation, it’s also there as a source of passive customer support and a tool for customer success agents. Teams can link customers to training articles for more information while explaining 1 on 1 the idea behind it. It’s better to have a reference, which is why we have the Process Street User Guide as well as working closely with our customers.
For written content like FAQs, there’s a third benefit which is SEO. Many SaaS companies keyword optimize their support docs and bring in customers seeking to solve a problem but not knowing which app does the job.
There are many, many products that help you automate series of emails — MailChimp, Rebump and YesWare to name a few. If you use any kind of software for email marketing or sales as it is, you’ve likely got the power to automate emails based on events.
For example, a new high-ticket customer could get sent an email automatically (with you CC’d) that gets them to arrange a walkthrough session, and then it’s up to you to engage them. For big deals, it makes sense to take a hands-on approach with each customer, but that’s not always possible for every user. For your lower ticket users, you can automate a string of follow-ups which teach the product, all based on events and activity.
For a guide on how to create event-based automated emails using MailChimp, click here.
Net Promotor Surveys
There’s no reason NPS surveys can’t be 100% automated. Like above, the surveys can be sent using an email marketing automation program like MailChimp, with a string of follow-ups. As recommended by Zendesk:
“After you’ve sent your first NPS survey, chances are you’ll want to send follow-up surveys in order to track changes in your NPS over time. Plan to send follow-up surveys on a regular schedule, controlling for events like product launches or website downtime, which can bias your NPS score.” — Zendesk
The best time to trigger an NPS survey is a short time after an interaction. This might be a purchase, upgrade or a support ticket.
To find out more about the topic, check my previous article on calculating customer happiness with NPS surveys.
According to Client Heartbeat, a Customer Feedback Loop is ‘a system that you use to gather feedback, learn from feedback and make changes to your products and service based on the feedback’.
So, how do you make sure to respond, track and act on the feedback your customers give you?
From NPS surveys to testimonials, there are a lot of ways to gather information about customer satisfaction. For SaaS companies with a high-touch approach to customer success, agents are likely building a relationship with the customer. That means that it’s easy for them to simply ask:
“How are you finding all of this? Are you getting set up well enough? Is there anything we could be handling better for you?”
Again, there will be a difference in how you interact with high and low-ticket customers. For that reason, you’ll want to get systems in place which automatically gather feedback and index it.
I already talked about the customer support process for SaaS companies a couple weeks back, and detailed how we do it. For us, not a single part of that is automated. We make sure that we’re reading and responding to every ticket that comes our way, and we’re working to make the system more efficient by changing the way we work.
Support is a time-consuming function for companies, especially large ones which deal with a lot of customer requests. If you want to give tailored responses to customers, the best way to automate some of the process is by providing a quality FAQ and selection of help articles and make support a last resort.
Find out about our support process and get tips from how a small SaaS company manages support (without a dedicated department) by clicking here.
Every day is an opportunity for a customer to churn out — or fail to renew their subscription. While much of this is in the hands of the product team to ensure the ‘stickiness’ of the app, there are some things customer success can make sure they do (both automated and non-automated) to help reduce churn.
One reason behind churn that’s worth protecting yourself against is expired payment methods. This is when the customer’s card is declined, most likely because they have switched their main card or changed banks.
According to Chargebee, ‘the single largest contributing factor to payment processing errors is having an expired credit card on file’. How do you protect yourself against this kind of churn?
Well, as Lincoln Murphy said, there’s a right way and a wrong way. The wrong way is that a customer is billed, the card is flagged as expired, then a member of staff tries to contact the customer to get their new details.
The right way is to have an automated alert set up which sends an email to the customer telling them their card has expired and sends them to a page where they can input the new details. Here’s a look at the simple email we send here at Process Street:
Your bonus customer support process checklist — DoubleDutch Case Study
As I said before, we interviewed DoubleDutch to get their step-by-step customer success process, so we could both learn from them and create insightful content for you. Here’s the promised checklist template!
If you want to create your own version and run it every time you get a high-value customer, create a Process Street account to get started.
We’re getting towards the end of our customer success guide — over the next two weeks, I’ll run through taking what we’ve learned so far and creating a reusable process (like the one I embedded above) for your own company.
Update — you can now get the entire ebook:
Get the Ebook: The Complete Guide to Customer Success for SaaS Companies
Make your customers happy, and keep them paying the subscription.
This guide will teach you how to stop users abandoning your software before they’ve seen how awesome it is.
You’ve put 90% of your effort into building and promoting your app…
…But it all goes to waste if you’ve not got a system to manage existing customers. This includes a proper support and success process aimed at making sure that most recently subscription payment you got through won’t be the last.
Get the book to start keeping your customers, compounding your revenue and boosting every customer’s lifetime value.
What’s in the book?
- What is Customer Success?
- Why is Customer Success Important?
- What is Churn?
- How to Calculate NPS with the Perfect Customer Happiness Survey
- How to Shape Customer Retention Strategies That Beat Churn
- A Smart Way to Manage SaaS Customer Support
- Enhance Your SaaS User Experience
- How (and When) to Automate Your Customer Success Process
- What Customer Success Managers Actually Do All Day
The Give me this checklist button isn’t working. All it does is refresh the embed.
I was able to get it by sharing it to my email, then clicking the link.
That opened in a new window and into my PS account.
Thanks for letting us know, Chris. I’ll take a look into this. Glad you could get your checklist after all, though. 🙂
There is a lot of helpful information here–I’m already exploring some ways we can streamline our process. Thank you!
Thanks, Deb. Happy to have given you something to think about. 🙂
Informative post, thanks a lot. I think feedback management also play an important role in customer success module
Good article. Thanks for info