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Customer success: definition, strategy and best practices

8 min read
What is customer success, and why is it important? Read on to understand customer success management and why it is a vital part of the customer experience, and for your business


What is customer success?

Customer success is the practice of meeting customer needs when using your products or services. This might mean positioning your team as thought partners, strategists, and the customer’s advocate internally to make sure those needs are met.

However, it encompasses more than just making sure customer outcomes are fulfilled. It’s also about making the customer relationship your focus. Customer success management involves planning for and answering customer questions and concerns and being proactive in providing solutions and new offerings that could increase value for their organization.

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What’s the difference between customer success, customer experience (CX), and customer support?

Customer success and customer experience (CX) are closely linked. The difference between customer success and customer experience (CX) is that one focuses on customer outcomes (did they get what they wanted from their interaction with your brand?) and the other focuses on customer sentiment (were they satisfied with your product or service?).

Customer support also plays a large part in the success of a customer. Assisting customers in finding what they need and resolving issues can turn a negative customer interaction into a positive result. It’s an important factor in making sure that customer outcomes are achieved whether through self-service channels like FAQ pages or costlier services such as telephone support with an agent. But whereas customer support is reactive, customer success management is a proactive relationship.

A true customer success strategy will take support and experience into account to ensure that customers achieve their goals and recognize the value in their programs.

Why is customer success important?

Customer success is vital for ensuring customers have an experience that meets or exceeds their expectations, as well as increases their return on investment. Given that just one bad experience can lead to customers turning away from your brand, focusing on customer success as your main goal can significantly strengthen your customer relationships and increase their likelihood of renewing and expanding into other areas.

How does customer success help businesses?

Customer success can directly influence the growth of a business, and the chances of customers returning for repeat business. When a customer has an experience they expect from your brand, they’re more likely to feel satisfied, and the likelihood of them recommending you to others and purchasing more increases.

Businesses that invest in customer success increase customer satisfaction and loyalty, reduce churn, and help fuel business growth. By focusing on helping customers achieve their own goals, brands not only set their customers up for success, but themselves too. Their success becomes your success.

Customer success best practices

The best approach for customer success is to integrate related metrics into all of your business processes – in particular, renewal rate and expansion.

Below are some best practice suggestions for achieving customer success:

Create a customer success strategy

To ensure that you can offer customers what they need when they need it, a customer success strategy should be put in place.

The main goal of your strategy should be to determine your customers’ end goals and create a roadmap towards achieving these goals. It should have analysis built in to ensure that you can tweak your approach as needed.

The process of setting up this strategy can include:

  • appointing a customer success manager to oversee progress
  • aligning your customer service, sales, marketing, and product teams to put customer success at the forefront of decisions
  • ensuring there’s an escalation process for any customer success issues
  • collating and sharing customer feedback
  • developing supportive materials to help your team achieve customer success
  • training customer service representatives so that they know how to achieve customer success
  • evaluating your current customer success metrics and the present customer experience
  • planning ahead for customer success initiatives based on insights gathered

Make customer success the goal of account management

Rather than making your business’ bottom line your focus, changing the way you handle your accounts to ensure their program is a success can have a potentially greater impact. By offering the customer what they need – rather than what you’d like to sell them – your accounts will grow as customers view their relationship with you as indispensable.

Make it easy to communicate between internal teams

As mentioned previously, customer experience and customer support are a huge part of ensuring customer success. However, brands can run into problems when the different areas of their business are working without communicating with one another.

For example, if customer support knows of a common issue that isn’t being flagged to a customer success manager, then proactive solutions can’t be offered and this puts the relationship at risk. Its vital issues are surfaced quickly, communication between internal teams is streamlined, and solutions can be proffered by collaboration between teams.

By transforming internal observations into actionable insights, you can greatly increase customer success. Make it easy for your internal teams to share these actionable insights, which starts by building easy means of communication into your strategy.

Ask the right questions and be receptive

Your customer success strategy will be judged largely on whether customers renew and grow their account. But customer satisfaction plays an important part in evaluating how well your customer success strategy is working, too.

Ensuring you’re asking your customers the right questions– rather than just getting generic feedback – can go a long way to helping you tailor your strategy. Rather than applying the same approach to all customers, tailoring your questions to determine what they want and what they need to succeed is critical.

Additionally, being receptive to their answers – rather than pushing what you want them to buy or do – will help foster an honest and open relationship with your customers. They will feel heard, and you can offer them the right product or service for their requirements.

Dedicate resources to customer success

Having a dedicated customer success manager or customer success team to oversee the success of each customer can help you to not only build loyalty but ensure your internal teams are working cohesively and towards the same goal.

Your customer success manager or team is essentially your internal customer advocate, representing your customers’ interests across all departments. It can make a big difference to have people familiar with customer needs giving their insights for product development or sales strategy.

 Use a customer success platform

Rather than having insights and data spread across your business, aggregating all the information you’ve gathered and automating your insights through a platform can greatly reduce the amount of legwork required.

A digital platform designed to collect and understand customer feedback can help you to see clearly which areas need focus, and which are working as planned. It can also help you plan ahead – making your customer success strategy more proactive and efficient as you get ahead of issues before it’s too late.

Using customer success to improve the customer experience

Customer success is the process that lies behind great customer experience. When customers find that their needs are met and their goals are achieved, their experiences become more satisfactory and can even exceed expectations.

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