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Client success - 8 min READ

The Ultimate Guide to Customer Success

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Author photo: Brent Barnhart

Brent Barnhart


We all want our customers to succeed.

Here’s the thing, though: we often fight so hard to score that initial sale that we lose sight of what happens next.

And just because you have a killer product or service doesn’t mean you’ve automatically set up your customers for success.

Not by a long shot.

The reality? Your business’ ability to guarantee that customers reach their goals through your product represents a make-or-break situation for your company.

And if your company is able to help your customers achieve their desired outcomes and prove those results to future prospects, you’re golden.

In this guide, we’re going to take a crash course in customer success and look at:

how businesses can roll out their own strategies ASAP. Bonus: the tips and concepts highlighted below are fair game regardless of your business size or scope.

What is customer success?

Customer success isn’t a buzz-phrase or complicated concept.

In fact, it’s exactly what it says it is. But here’s a quick definition we can work with:

Customer success represents the process of businesses helping their customers achieve positive outcomes.

(Note - Don’t get it twisted: customer success is not equal to customer service. Customer service is something reactionary—it occurs because a customer needs support due to a problem or roadblock. On the flip side, customer success is the active process of helping people achieve positive outcomes.)

From sales to marketing and beyond, customer success highlights the actions that businesses take post-sale to ensure that buyers are, simply put, successful.

For example, if you sell a car to someone, there’s an expectation the vehicle’s going to perform as advertised and not burst into flames as soon as it leaves the lot.

That said, what makes a product or service “successful” may vary from industry to industry. Here are some general benchmarks for success for any given product:

  • The customer plans to rely on the product (and brand) long-term
  • The customer would recommend the product to others
  • The customer would be willing to purchase from the brand again

With so many variables determining what makes a product “successful,” much of customer success boils down to people versus products.

In other words, relationships. Communication. Back-and-forth.

Rather than treat customer interactions as one-and-done affairs, it’s crucial for businesses to form meaningful relationships beyond the scope of a sale. Customer success is about making both a personal and financial investment in the people that support your business.

The benefits of having a customer success strategy:

Now, some of this might seem like a total no-brainer.

And honestly, some of it might sound like fluff.

So, is there hard evidence that this success stuff matters?

Fair question. Here's what Charles (now our Director of Strategic Customer Success!) thinks—in the context of today's relationship-focused world:

While we obviously want to create feel-good experiences on behalf of our customers, the financial question is always looming in the back of our minds. Below are five concrete, data-supported benefits highlighting the power of customer success.

1. Reduce customer churn.

There’s the oft-cited statistic that it costs five times as much to acquire a new customer than it does to retain an existing one.


In other words, letting a long-term customer slide because they weren’t successful using your product is the equivalent of burning money.

On the other hand, when you are making your customers successful—and they can see that you're invested in their success—they’re more likely to return the favor with their commitment.

Image for post Destroy churn.

Destroy churn.

Learn strategies to reduce churn and keep customers longer with this handbook.

2. Increase your customer lifetime value.

On a related note, the longer that any given customer sticks with you, the more likely they are to spend their money on you.

As a result, each one of your customers becomes more valuable. Literally.

Creating more valuable customers means fostering a sense of loyalty and a customer success strategy is central to that.

3. Customer success is a marketing goldmine.

In an increasingly transparent era of marketing dominated by recommendations and customer reviews, businesses need all the praise they can get. With word of mouth and reviews influencing up to 88% of online purchasing decisions, success inevitably leads to brand advocacy and makes your positive interactions with customers more visible.

And on that note, your customers often serve as your best billboards in a world where people are sick of traditional marketing messages. From customer photos and stories to testimonials and beyond, authentic costumer success stories are arguably your most compelling marketing firepower.

4. Get positioning power.

Finally, consider that today’s consumers want to have a personal stake in the businesses that they support. Emphasizing customer success in a personal and professional context immediately sets you apart from faceless competitors in your space.

Who’s responsible for customer success?

If you’re interested in emphasizing customer success in your company, you’re probably wondering where to point the finger in terms of responsibility, right?

The reality: customer success is a company-wide effort from top to bottom.

Everyone is responsible in some way, shape, or form.

For marketers, it means authentic experiences and personalization.

For your sales team, it means getting to know your customers and their specific wants, needs, and goals.

For analysts, it means digging through data to find out where your organization can improve to create better outcomes on behalf of your customers.

In short, customer success should be something integral to your company culture. When teams make a conscious effort to emphasize success together, the process becomes much, much more streamlined.

What do you need in a customer success strategy?

Acknowledging that customer success represents a company-wide effort, let’s quickly break down what makes the foundation of an effective strategy.

Clear customer success goals

Just like any other sort of campaign, concrete goals are a must-have versus treating success as something vague. Highlighted below are some examples of success-specific goals you could set between your sales and marketing team:

  • Increasing how often you’re going to follow up with customers (via phone, email, social, etc)
  • Increasing the average LTV of your customers by a certain percentage
  • Reducing your customer churn rate by a certain percentage

These goals will obviously vary from company to company, but are based on hard numbers.

And that leads us directly to our next point.

Emphasis on customer data

Customer success campaigns need to be rooted in data.

For starters, consider that each and every customer has a unique history with your company; your sales and marketing teams shouldn’t treat them as one-size-fits-all cases.

Besides, gathering actionable data on individuals and customer bases at scale has never been easier given what you can learn from your CRM—here's how it looks in Copper for example:

From first-time buyers to long-term customers, CRM data can help you track interactions to keep a better pulse on what you need to do to help customers reach their respective goals.

Beyond that, consider additional touchpoints via email and social media that you can use to enrich your customer data. Every interaction with a customer online is an opportunity to help them succeed, but these interactions are moot if you aren’t tracking them.

Relationship-driven sales and marketing

Last but not least, bear in mind that being personable goes a long way when it comes to customer success.

And while your end-game might be to increase your earning potential, your customers are obviously so much more than dollars and cents. Again, consumers crave personalization and authenticity. Your buyers deserve to be treated with warmth to reinforce that you're invested in them as people, not just as customers.

What does customer success look like in action?

With a base understanding of what customer success is, let’s talk about some common tactics businesses use to empower people to be, well, successful. The following examples via email, social media, and the blogosphere are all effective for emphasizing customer success.

Educate your customers.

Whether through blog posts or email newsletters, providing specific and actionable advice to your customer base can help you follow through on making them successful. MailChimp’s specific and actionable newsletter gets signups because it's tailored toward busy email marketers, and is a great example of this education:

Pay attention to onboarding.

Think of onboarding as quite literally setting up your customers for success. This onboarding email from SquareSpace is a strong example, highlighting action items for new users to take and how they can start scoring sales with their platform from the get-go:

If nothing else, onboarding is an opportunity to make a strong first impression and signal a positive relationship with your customers.

Update and inspire. Frequently.

Businesses should aspire to not only educate their customers, but also inspire them. After all, sometimes a good dose of motivation is just what someone might need to get up and take action. For example, this email from Trello highlights other success stories and ideas for users in the future:

Offer exclusive content.

Along with positive relationships, customers deserve VIP treatment—yes, simply by being part of your community. Member-exclusive content like this webinar from Constant Contact offers tangible perks and helps reinforce the idea that your community is truly valuable:

Open the lines of communication.

Last but not least, you need to make yourself as available and accessible to customers as possible to help them reach their goals. Whether it’s through conversations through social media or email surveys, anything you can do to pick your customers’ brains is a major plus:

This email from Slack shows customers they appreciate their feedback and keeps them top of mind:

The common thread between all of these tactics is that they’re centered on getting to know your customers and providing the resources they need to make the most of your product.

And with that, we wrap up our introduction to customer success!

How are you ensuring your customers' success?

From increasing revenue to positive positioning, customer success is integral to how companies today do business.

With a concrete customer success strategy in place, you can both boost your earning potential and guarantee that your product is making a positive impact on your industry. Given the wealth of platforms we have to connect with customers and collect data, implementing a customer success strategy should be easier than ever.

What are you doing to measure customer success? Any roadblocks along the way? Tweet us @CopperInc and let us know!

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