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Lee Gladish
Lee Gladish
Co-founder
4 months ago

Top 3 Strategies For Increasing Customer Success [Expert Interviews]



Welcome to the second feature in our new series, Expert Interviews, where we invite a panel of leading industry experts to answer our customer’s most burning questions relating to growing their businesses.

One of the key business lessons I learned early on is that it makes a lot of sense to obsess over the customers you already have rather than focusing your efforts on bringing in new customers. At Reply, we’re not only obsessed with ensuring that each and every customer gets the absolute maximum out of Reply, but that they are absolutely delighted by their whole experience.

And, having talked to so many of our customers who are building equally client centric businesses, I know we’re not alone.

So we reached out to some of the world’s leading customer success experts and asked:

“What are the top three strategies for increasing customer success?”


I’m delighted to say that we’ve managed to convince thirteen of the world’s leading authorities on customer success to generously share their words of wisdom with our readers.

Maranda DziekonskiHelloSignShep HykenXTRAcreditsTamar WeinbergThird Door MediaDon PeppersCX Speakers LLCSofia SapojnikovaHappyOrNotRaluca DrutaTechnology EvaluationIan StenderaArdoqRichard HarrisSales HackerChad HorenfeldtBluecorePaul PhilpAmityNils VinjeGlide ConsultingMark SilverWalkMeSangram VajreTerminus


Ready? Let’s hear it from the Experts…

Maranda Dziekonski

Maranda Dziekonski — VP Customer Operations at HelloSign
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What are the top three strategies for increasing customer success?

The success of your customer base should be owned company wide. It should never be viewed as just a department or a function of a department, even though you may have a Customer Success Team in your organization.

The ultimate goal for a Customer Success team should be guiding your customer base to success and also bringing the organization along during the process. Here are a few easy things you can do right now to jumpstart your customer’s success.

Full company involvement: Everyone owns the success of the customers! Make sure everyone owns and believes in that mindset. It really matters. Making our customers awesome is one of our core values here at HelloSign. We use it when we are making important decisions.

Aggregate the right data into a common repository: You want to be proactive with your customer base and be able to understand how they use your product. Learn what makes them successful, what doesn’t, and how can you take your learnings and engineer that success for others.

Build a product that your customers will love, want to use, and grow with: If you build it, they really will come!

If you do these few things religiously, you will quickly be ahead of the game on having a successful customer base.

Shep Hyken

Shep Hyken is a customer service and experience expert and the Chief Amazement Officer of Shepard Presentations. He is a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author and has been inducted into the National Speakers Association Hall of Fame for lifetime achievement in the speaking profession. Shep works with companies and organizations who want to build loyal relationships with their customers and employees. His articles have been read in hundreds of publications, and he is the author of Moments of Magic®, The Loyal Customer, The Cult of the Customer, The Amazement Revolution and Amaze Every Customer Every Time. He is also the creator of The Customer Focus™, a customer service training program which helps clients develop a customer service culture and loyalty mindset. (Now available as an online/web-based training program!)
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What are the top three strategies for increasing customer success?

Customer success has been a trending hot topic and opportunity for companies to take advantage of. There are many strategies that could go on a list. That said, here are three of my favorites:

Make sure the customer is aware. A customer success program can be a competitive differentiator for a company. So, make sure the customer knows that you offer a program to ensure their success.

Example: I was concerned about how quickly we could integrate a new software program into our business. I ended up going with a company that offered three coaching sessions as part of their installation. The other company didn’t offer that – so I thought. Turns out they did. They just didn’t tell me about it.

Start the customer success program before the customer knows it’s begun – maybe even before they buy. It’s part of the marketing process. Smart companies are using video and customer stories to help market and sell their products.

A side benefit to these videos and stories is that it shows potential customers how others are having success and using the company’s products.

Measure the success of the customer success program. Peter Drucker is credited to have said, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure”. Setting up a customer success program takes time and effort. The result is a win/win for the customer and the company. The customer has more success and confidence with the company and the product, which can lead to a more rewarding CX.

The company will field less support calls, which saves money. And, with a confident customer comes the potential for repeat sales. So, a good place to start measuring the result of the customer success program is to look at the decrease in support calls.

Tamar Weinberg

Tamar Weinberg was Mashable employee #6. She wrote for Lifehacker back when it was a top 10 tech blog. And she’s a significant force in making Namecheap become one of the top domain name registrars in the world where she’s currently Social Media/Customer Experience and Success Lead. Tamar is also the author of the bestselling book The New Community Rules: Marketing on the Social Web.
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What are the top three strategies for increasing customer success?

One of the most stellar tactics for customer success ties to two main issues: rapid, personal communication. That’s it. Show you care, be human, and do so quickly. :)

Don Peppers

Don Peppers — Recognized for over 25 years as one of the world’s leading authorities on customer-focused business strategies, Don Peppers is an acclaimed author and a founding partner, with Martha Rogers, of Peppers & Rogers Group. His latest endeavor is the formation of CX Speakers, a new company delivering workshops, keynote presentations and thought leadership consulting that is focused on customer experience topics. Don Peppers’ work routinely examines the business issues that today’s global enterprises are grappling with while trying to maintain a competitive edge in their marketplace. He recently released his 11th book, Customer Experience: What, How and Why Now — a collection of essays offering insights and “how to” recommendations on how to build and maintain a customer-centric business. With more than 280,000 followers for his regular postings of original content on LinkedIn, Don has been listed numerous times on LinkedIn as one of the top 10 marketing influencers. In 2015, Satmetrix listed Don and Martha Rogers #1 on their list of the Top 25 most influential customer experience leaders. With co-author Martha Rogers, Ph.D., Peppers has produced a legacy of international best-sellers, collectively selling well over a million copies in 18 languages. Peppers and Rogers are often credited with having launched the CRM revolution with their very first book, The One to One Future: Building Relationships One Customer at a Time (1993). Inc. Magazine’s managing editor called this book “one of the two or three most important business books ever written,” while Business Week called it the “bible of the new marketing.” Their ninth book together is Extreme Trust: Turning Proactive Honesty and Flawless Execution into Long-Term Profits (Penguin 2016).
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What are the top three strategies for increasing customer success?

Three Customer Success Strategies.

In my opinion, the whole discipline of customer success management can be thought of as a natural outgrowth of the customer-oriented revolution that has swept business over the last couple of decades, as information technology has made customer centricity increasingly possible.

In the consumer space, we have CRM systems, one-to-one marketing programs, and the customer experience management discipline, all designed to make customers more loyal and valuable to a business by carefully meeting individual customer needs.

In the B2B space, customer success management serves the same purpose. Ensuring our customer’s own success requires us to treat our business customer the way our own business would like to be treated — if we were the customer. And if we do a good job making our customers more successful, then our own business will be more successful as well.

There are many tactics and nuances in this task, but if had to outline the three top strategies on which to base a good customer success effort, it would be these:

Strategy 1: Don’t try to squeeze customer success onto the set of objectives you have for the customer service arm of your business.

Providing good, professional customer service should, of course, be a key operating objective for your company. Good service a prerequisite for providing a frictionless customer experience and creating a satisfied and successful customer. But the talents and skills required to operate a customer service function are quite different from those required to run a customer success function.

Customer success is a separate, stand-alone discipline designed with the objective of not just of preserving, but increasing the value of the customers you are serving, by making them more successful with our products.

At rock bottom this is a fundamental business goal for the customer, but for us it serves an outreach, revenue-enhancing goal.

Rather than the problem-solving and execution skills required for taking the friction out of the customer experience, a customer success manager must combine marketing imagination with the specialized insights into the nature of a customer’s business, in order to coach the customer in how to achieve even more profit. This is a proactive task, in sharp contrast to customer service, which is a reactive task.

Strategy 2: Never confuse customer satisfaction with customer success. They are completely different.

I have Guy Nirpaz, CEO of Totango, to thank for pointing this important strategy out to me during a meeting in his office.

Guy said one of the key differences between selling in B2B as opposed to B2C is that, in the B2B world, success will always trump satisfaction. To illustrate the point more persuasively, he drew a matrix, as shown below, with the level of customer satisfaction along the horizontal axis and the level of customer success on the vertical axis.

And then he said we all would prefer to be in the upper right quadrant, with high customer satisfaction as well as high business success. And none of us would want to be in the lower left, with low satisfaction and low success.



But, and this is the important distinction, which quadrant would be preferred if the upper right were not possible? Would a company be happier with high customer satisfaction but low business success? Or with low customer satisfaction but high business success?

If you have to think for even a second about the right answer to this, then you’ve never worked in any business I’ve worked in. The objective in every case will be high success. Success always trumps satisfaction, at least in the B2B space.

The fact that success will always be more important than satisfaction lays the groundwork for

Strategy 3: A certain level of tension and stress in the customer relationship is good.

One of the most difficult but potentially rewarding tasks a customer success manager has is to challenge her client with new thinking, and ideas that might upset the existing way of doing things, to make it possible for the customer to achieve more success.

The expertise we bring to the table with respect to our product’s capabilities is a valuable body of knowledge, but often a customer will be so focused on the way they have always done business that they will have difficulty imagining new opportunities.

Innovation and change are fundamentally subversive activities in any existing organization, and challenging the status quo will often lead to some dissatisfaction, if not outright annoyance, on your client’s part.

But posing an unwelcome challenge to the status quo is sometimes the only way to improve your client’s success.

A long time ago I worked for the very highly creative ad agency Chiat/Day (now part of TBWA). Our account managers had a kind of mantra about whether the creative ideas being presented were good enough or not.

We used to say “No idea is really creative enough unless you see the blood drain out of the client’s face”. And our willingness at Chiat/Day to push clients to the limit is what made our clients successful – from Apple Computer’s launch of the Macintosh with the famous “1984” commercial to Taco Bell’s Chihuahua spokesman.

Your job, as a customer success manager, isn’t to make friends with your clients, but to push them, challenge them, get them to think, and make them more successful. Stress comes with the job.

Sofia Sapojnikova

Sofia Sapojnikova is the Sales and Marketing Communications Manager, Americas at HappyOrNot Americas Inc – a global leader in instant customer and employee satisfaction reporting with innovative feedback smileys.
Linkedin

What are the top three strategies for increasing customer success?

Commitment from the entire organization. Effective employee engagement strategies must be present

All customer data/feedback collected must be analyzed to offer improvements. Continuous process

Engaging customers with company’s success and failures. Sharing progress.

Raluca Druta

Raluca Druta – Human Resources/Human Capital Management System Analyst with an eye on CRM/CE/CX/FSM systems of engagement – Technology Evaluation Centers
Linkedin

What are the top three strategies for increasing customer success?

Companies need to invest in technology that helps them understand customer behavior, and identify new trends in customer preferences. Customers tend to prefer providers that try to anticipate their needs.

Strong after-sales management plays an important role in ensuring customer success.

Many organizations focus on marketing and sales, but not so much on after sales (customer service, repairs, maintenance, returns, etc.). To ensure a great customer experience throughout the entire customer journey, after-sales services need to be put at the forefront of a customer success strategy.

Organizations need to manage customer expectations during and after the sales process.

Companies need to provide accurate product information and make sure that customers know what to expect. When expectations are unrealistic, it is difficult to deliver on promise—risking high levels of customer dissatisfaction.

Ian Stendera

Ian Stendera was the first hire and part of the founding team at Ardoq. In true startup form, he has been responsible for everything from marketing and sales to partnerships and support. Ian holds a BA in International Business from Washington State University and a MSc in Innovation and Entrepreneurship from BI, Oslo Norway. After a brief time interning in The Valley, he swore to never work in tech again. But, after moving to Oslo Norway and working a short time in the ski industry he is back in a tech startup and loving it. Connect with Ian on Twitter or Linkedin.
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What are the top three strategies for increasing customer success?

At Ardoq we are building a platform for a task that most professionals really don’t want to deal with, documentation. In order for this to be a success we are 100% focused on our users and their experience.

We know what it is like dealing with cumbersome tools and annoying sales teams, so we are trying to tailor every aspect of our interactions around our shared experiences. This results in a few key points for customer success.

At the end of the day all interactions are between people, not companies. From marketing, sales, design to support we focus on the user, not just their corporate requirements.

Marketing and Sales: We sparingly use automation for outreach, and any automation is compiled with manual data gathering and qualification.

This allows even our automated outreach process to be tailored to qualified potential users with relevant information. Obviously, reply.io’s features help us manage this without overly investing in cold outreach.

Design and Development: Designing a product and user experience that transforms a normally boring task into something rewarding is also key to our success. In addition, we focus on automating as much of the users documentation as possible.

The best documentation is updated documentation, so enabling users to quickly update or automate their documentation is key to their success, and ours.

Support and Customer Success: Once users sign-up, we never reach out with automation (excluding news related mails). From that point on they have a personal dialog with our customer success team. Our 3rd hire was a VP of Customer Success.

Even though we had a minimal user list at the time, we wanted to focus on customer success as part of our core team from day one.

Finally, our entire team monitors support. We utilize Intercom for in-app support chat and everyone from the founders to the interns are readily available every waking hour.

Even though our entire team is based in Oslo, we have an international support response time averaging under 10mins and under 2mins during our workday. This means that customers speak to real people to give feedback and get support exactly when they need it.

Richard Harris

Richard Harris is the Founder of The Harris Consulting Group focuses on providing real-world sales, sales training, leadership, and operational experience with companies who want to grow their revenue with proven, measurable results. Richard brings over 20 years of technology and SaaS experience in sales training, operations and sales leadership into his role as a Sales Consultant. He has built, led, and consulted with a wide range of organizations including start-ups, mid-size companies, and global organizations. Richard is also the current Director of Sales Consulting and Training for SalesHacker and is a regular speaker at the various Sales Hacker events, workshops, and SalesStack conferences.
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What are the top three strategies for increasing customer success?

Must have a solid onboarding program within first 30 days.

Must have a solid structure for monthly check-ins; or quarterly health checks

Must have a consistent training program for your CS reps to improve their own listening skill set (often very similar to sales training but with a specifically different spin)

Chad Horenfeldt

Chad Horenfeldt – Vice President, Customer Success at Bluecore. A customer experience and customer success executive with 15+ years experience developing customer success teams with companies of all sizes. Extensive expertise in customer success, customer experience, account management, professional services, customer support, consulting, team management and project management.
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What are the top three strategies for increasing customer success?

Hire the right people. Determine who are the right people you need to have on your team based on the skills that are needed for the role. This will change over time but there are a few criteria that you should always hire for:

  • People that are customer obsessed — they want to do right by the customer
  • People that are driven and that have grit — being in Customer Success has it’s ups and downs and you need people that can handle this
  • People that are team focused. Customer Success is a team game and it’s not for people that want to hide behind a computer all day. You need to be vocal and willing to help others.


Have clear indicators as to who are and aren’t your successful customers. You may not get this right at the start but you should start somewhere and improve over time.

Focus on improving the overall customer experience. This is something that will take time so it’s important to prioritize. At Bluecore, we had complaints about our responsiveness so we added a Product Support team that uses a ticketing system. We measure the team based on customer satisfaction and first response time.

We’ve seen our Net Promoter Survey (NPS) scores increase exponentially since we added that team. Now that we have added that team, we’ve prioritized improving quality.

The process of improving the customer experience never stops but you can’t take it on all at once.

Paul Philp

Paul Philp is a leading innovator in SaaS and Customer Success. As Founder and CEO of Amity, Paul has spoken with Customer Success professionals from over 1,000 SaaS providers. Paul has a lifelong passion for helping business put customers first.
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What are the top three strategies for increasing customer success?

First, start segmenting your accounts for customer success as early as possible — that’s the foundation for everything else. Second, rely on technology to help your team scale, make sure your team can focus on what they’re good at, and use automation for the rest.

Third, make sure you demonstrate the value you create for your customers.

Nils Vinje

Nils Vinje runs Glide Consulting, a Customer Success consulting firm, with his partner Alex McClafferty and they work with VC-funded startups and F1000 companies to make renewals and expansions inevitable.
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What are the top three strategies for increasing customer success?

Build A Team Aligned With Their Strengths — The highest performing teams have individuals in roles that maximize their strengths. Simply put, people excel when they focus on their natural talents. The challenge is explaining what you are naturally talented to do.

For example, if you are asked, “What are you most naturally talented to do?”, you might hesitate or say “I don’t know”. You might be able to explain the things you like to do or the things you hope to do, or the things that are interesting to you.

So, how can you explain what you are most talented to do? The Strengths framework provided by the Gallup research institute gives you an easy way to describe what you’ve always known but haven’t been able to communicate in the past.

This new language becomes a powerful bonding agent and trust-builder between employees and leaders.

Strengths bring awareness and recognition to the fact that every single person has unique strengths which present themselves in a different way. Click here to find out how to identify your strengths.

Clarity of Purpose Will Set You Free — Imagine if you could focus your team’s time, effort and energy on a single focal point.

This north star would guide how you do everything in Customer Success. It would help you prioritize the 101 different tasks in your Customer Success to-do list.

Purpose is non-existent in most Customer Success teams. Instead of focusing on a single thing, Customer Success leaders bounce around looking for problems to solve without a clear idea of what they are trying to achieve.

Instead of defining their purpose, someone else in their organization, typically an executive, defines it for them. If you aren’t clear on what you’re trying to achieve, it’s impossible for anyone else to know what it is you do and why you do it.

Become World-Class at Executing the Fundamentals
Define Your Annual Lifecycle — this process tells you exactly what you will do on a yearly basis with your client. Do not let your customer decide everything and steer you.

A lot of SaaS companies fall into this pattern, and their teams are doomed to firefighting. Yes, your customer’s goals are important, but you set the target and the cadence. You are the expert in your product, and you know how your best customers use your product.

Click here to find out the three steps to define your annual lifecycle.

Focus Your Customer Onboarding — in most processes, but especially in onboarding: less is more.

More stakeholders, more features, and more functions mean confusion, a diluted message and a lower likelihood of Customer Success.

Fight the urge to share the onboarding process with everyone in the company of the client and instead, focus your onboarding process solely on the use-case they bought your system to achieve.

Then, partner with your customer and share more of what your product does throughout the course of the year. The distinction is that you meet your first commitment of helping the customer achieve what they paid you for in the first place.

If you do overload them with information, they won’t care or remember what you walked them through. Click here to learn how to build a Customer Roadmap to Success.

Engage Throughout The Year Through Quarterly (or semi-annual) Business Reviews — lots of customer success teams use the “reach out” method to see if their customer wants to talk.

They don’t and will likely ignore the reach outs because there is no value in it for them. Instead, use Quarterly Business Reviews to focus on achieving objectives and driving customer outcomes in a structured and repeatable manner. There are 4 things every QBR must do:

  • Reinforce the value your customer gets from your product;
  • Recap and review the goals from the previous quarter;
  • Set goals for the upcoming quarter and
  • Know where you stand in the eyes of the customer.


For more details on each of these 4 areas, see this detailed overview on creating your quarterly business review.

Mark Silver

Mark Silver — Product Manager at WalkMe, the user experience platform. Mark is also Editor and Lead Author of SpecTechUlar — a Product Management Blog
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What are the top three strategies for increasing customer success?

Make it your job to lead customers over the learning curve. Customers don’t want to learn how to use your product, they want to just use it. Learning how to use a new product or service takes time and effort.

Even if you don’t have a direct competitor, you are competing to have more of your customer’s time and attention. Cutting down the time it takes to understand, acquire and make use of your product means increasing your competitive edge.

It’s the responsibility of customer success to shorten the learning curve and bring the customer value as fast as possible.

Measure yourself by measuring your customers’ success — KPI’s focused on quantity and speed appear to measure success, but for a customer success team, they don’t really matter. What truly matters is that the customers are happy.

To measure yourself, measure the satisfaction and success of your customers and use that as a benchmark to beat every quarter.

Show your customer how you are creating value for them You won’t keep your customers if they don’t understand how much you do for them. It’s not enough to quietly perform in the background.

No one else will show your customers all the value your company provided them except you. Whether you’re sending them a weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annual report – you need to ensure that your customers know that your product is worth every penny.

Sangram Vajre

Sangram Vajre — Co-Founder and CMO Terminus: Account-Based Marketing and Author of Account Based Marketing For Dummies.
Linkedin

What are the top three strategies for increasing customer success?

Make customer success a company initiative and not a department. Customer happiness is directly related to less churn. Measure metrics like engagement and how many times a day/week your customer log in to your product to find early signs of churn and address it proactively.

Focus on a scalable onboarding process that includes a series of direct mail and nurture emails for the first 10 weeks. This way, we are making sure that the customers feel empowered and delighted.

Find ways to drive the company towards the idea of customer heroism. The goal here is to make your customer hero in their organization and everything you do is to make their job easier and effective.

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What are the top three strategies for creating customer success that you’ve seen or used?

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  • Rina Venglovsky

    Very informative article. Thanks for the useful tips.

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