What is “Customer Success”?

In recent months, the term Customer Success has been getting more interest from companies, particularly for those focused on online sales. “Customer success” however is still a largely ambiguous idea, one that few companies have actively explored and engaged with. In light of this week’s Pulse Customer Success conference, we thought it would be helpful to discuss the term in detail, explain what it actually means, and outline how your company can strategize around it.

From Customer Service to Success

No company will doubt the value of customer service, whether it is to help customers use products, answer questions, or even sell more products. Many companies have grown quickly and made headlines through incredible customer service. Links to screenshots showing the wonderful customer service agents of companies like Amazon, NetFlix, and Zappos abound (see Amazon and Zappos examples). Good customer service, many would argue, is key to a successful business.

Inbound Service to Outbound Success

The drawback of customer service, as typically implemented by companies, is that it is an inbound channel. Customers need to decide that they have a problem, and then to contact the company to actually receive any service. Unfortunately, only a minority of customers actually reach out when they need help. Some choose to abandon the product, others decide to write a poor review on a website, and finally some just suffer and slowly fade into disillusioned non-customers.

Imagine that you could instead track your customers and their use of your products. Through the use of advanced tracking technologies, particularly with technical products, this is possible. Using tools like MixPanel, Google Analytics, Canopy Labs, or even your own homegrown customer tracking, you can now see exactly how customers use your products, and whether they seem to be confused, bored, or otherwise unsuccessful in their attempts.

Such tracking enables two important changes to customer service:

  • Enabling customer service automation. With the tracking above, you can see when customers make mistakes or experience errors. More importantly, you can set business rules to automatically inform your customer service team about problems to help the customer.
  • Turning service into an outbound channel. With such automation, customer service becomes an outbound channel. Your business can now reach out to your customers when they have problems, and help them when they need it most, rather than waiting for them to contact you and complain for a refund.

Enabling the Customer Success Vision

Are you interested in making the above a reality at your company? These three steps will put you on a path to happy, successful, and loyal customers.

  1. Start tracking customer activity. Regardless of whether you are tracking customers in an online environment, storefront, or elsewhere, you can build profiles and understand what individual customers are doing.
  2. Determine the warning signs. Your business likely has specific customer actions that imply lack of long-term interest. For a website, this is lack of logins. For a store, it could be fewer purchases over time. Decide what your warning signs are so you can prioritize these at-risk customers.
  3. Reach out. Decide what your outreach strategy will be for these customers, and ensure you follow through. Some companies reach out to every at-risk customer, while others only do so for their valuable or revenue-generating ones.

A customer success strategy enables a company to ensure more of its customers achieve their goals with whatever product or service they are buying. Unlike traditional customer service, this sort of approach is an outbound one and requires proactive tracking and response. It’s not easy, but it’s well worth it!

Written by Wojciech Gryc

Wojciech Gryc is the CEO of Canopy Labs. Prior to Canopy Labs, Wojciech was a consultant with McKinsey & Co. and a researcher at IBM Research. Wojciech is a Rhodes Scholar and Loran Scholar.

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