Customer Success Management: Supporting Your Clients Through the Entire Customer Journey

Customer Success is when your customers achieve their desired outcome through interactions with your company.

Lincoln Murphy

Customer Success Growth Expert

According to SmartKarrot  86 percent of buyers will pay for a better customer experience and it will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. Consumers are willing to pay a higher price if it means they receive support and see success through their interactions with the product or brand. 

Your customer success efforts need to be guided by what they contribute to the customer’s bottom line, rather than their subscription dollars that service yours. In this section, we explore the journey customers take on the path to renewal and advocacy and the critical steps to get them there.

Table of Contents

The Customer Success Roadmap

The customer success roadmap doesn’t end with activation. True customer success is fully realized once your client has received first value; when the client’s pain point has been resolved or they’ve become profitable through the use of your solutions and services. It’s important for brands to have a solid understanding of what that journey looks like for their clients. Begin by asking yourself these questions: 

 

  • What is the first value your client should realize?
  • What is the time to full value?
  • How can you accelerate that time to full value? 

 

By addressing these questions and identifying key blockers and how to remove them for your client, you can begin to put critical listening posts in place at different stages to measure how customers move through that journey. From there you can implement proactive ways of pushing people to the next steps. 

Customer Success Management Success Roadmap

Vendasta Director of Partner Success, Naresh LaBar speaks to the role his team plays in driving Vendasta partners towards success:

“We need to be masters of communication, customer service, and maintaining trust when we don’t have an immediate solution.  On top of that, we must be experts in our extensive, ever-evolving platform and product set. It's an ongoing battle to stay up-to-date, but we’re always up for the challenge!  In the end, our goal is to support customers on their preferred channels (email, phone or chat) and make the experience as quick, easy, and delightful as possible.”

Onboarding: The Key to Customer Success 

Matched only by retention and churn practices, onboarding is often credited with being a top hitter, having the most impact on customer satisfaction and experience. By arming customers with the tools, know-how and deep understanding they need to find success with your product or brand at the outset, you can mitigate a host of other problems down the road.

“There’s a discovery that’s happening in the onboarding process. When we first speak to customers they often understand the platform at a surface level, but it’s our job to dig a little bit deeper with them. You can tell that’s when things really start to hum.” says Vendasta Onboarding Success Team Captain David Schultz.

“While working with a partner recently, we were looking at the functionality for adding an account, adding salespeople, and adding products. The partner was trying to add her salespeople as if they were accounts, which was confusing to me. When I started to ask why she wanted to do this, I uncovered what her actual needs were. Her team members can be booked by their customers for coaching sessions, and so the team members are also a product.”

“It would have been easy for me to say, ‘No, your salespeople are not accounts, add them as salespeople.’ and then move on. But instead, by digging deeper, we were able to develop a plan to have them as salespeople and as products, and use our automations within the platform to set up a workflow that helps notify those people whenever someone has bought consulting time with them. It was really exciting.”



Active Listening 

Active listening is a critical factor in the success of an onboarding session. Rather than completing a check-list of essential areas, the best onboarders will tune into cues given from their clients as the conversation progresses.

“It's something I've come back to time and time again throughout my career. When you  actually listen to what they're saying, what the problem is, and not assume what the problem is, that's when you can actually get to the right solution.” Schultz says. 

Principles for Active Listening in Customer Facing Roles

  1. Listen: Full focused, undivided receptive listening that includes multiple levels of input including what is being said, as well as body language if in person or on a video call
  2. Defer Judgement: Seek first to understand, then be understood
  3. Keep Calm: Keep emotions in check. Remain calm cool and collected
  4. Be Present: Give your undivided attention, put aside distracting thoughts and environmental stimuli
  5. Don’t Interrupt: Try not to think about your answer until after the customer is done speaking
  6. Use Clarifying Questions: Get feedback until clarity is reached 
  7. Respectfully Respond: Provide a well-informed response to the concern. 

Every Experience Counts 

Schultz often leans on his previous training as a barista, to inform his interactions with Vendasta partners today.

“When a customer comes in, they might be your hundredth of the day, but you're their first barista. It's important to make that experience special for them, treat them with kindness, a smile on your face and use a happy tone of voice each and every time. I think that translates to onboarding as well.

“We cover the same topics repetitively and there are days where I have five back-to-back calls on a particular feature like Business App. Even though this is the fifth business app call today, it could be the partners first time logging into it. I can't assume they know everything I told the last four partners, or breeze over anything. That's when the breakdown starts happening.”

For each product or service you provide, Schultz recommends developing a checklist of learning objectives, questions to ask the client, and elements to demo so they have a full understanding of how to get the most from their interactions with your brand. Whether these steps are built right into the design of your product or are carried out in a one-on-one interaction with an onboarding specialist, ensuring your customers complete these steps will help them reach value through your product sooner. 

Here’s an example of a list Vendasta uses when onboarding a client to the Business App, which is a single sign-on dashboard that gives local businesses access to products, recommendations, learning tools, and proof of performance reporting through the Vendasta Platform.

Customer Success Management Onboarding Checklist

Onboarding at Every Stage 

Whether a customer starts with your product or adds a new feature after being a paying customer for years, the notion of onboarding at every stage plays a big part in renewal and advocacy phases of a customer success roadmap.

Try setting up notifications and processes to follow when a customer activates a new product, or adds a feature. You can even let technology do the heavy lifting for you with marketing automations. Set up triggers to roll out training and tutorial campaigns to existing clients when they add products or services, but always include contact information so you can be easily reached when they require additional one-on-one coaching and support.


Customer Success: Support and Training

According to Fred Reichheld at Bain & Company, for every customer who complains, there are 26 customers who likewise might also complain, but don’t say anything at all. Instead of vocalizing their frustrations to your support team, they simply stop buying from you and cancel their subscription.

The support team acts as an internal advocate for partners in the organization. We're here to help throughout their entire journey with Vendasta. It's critical we escalate their concerns with care and ensure that our internal teams understand the real impact of issues from our customer's point of view,” Naresh LaBar says.  

To achieve this LaBar recommends a simple three-step process to remedy a customer concern:

 

  1. Empathize with them: Explain that you understand their frustration and that you are going to do everything you can to help them resolve their concern.
  2. Address their concern: Reiterate the problem back to the customer to clarify what it is they are having an issue with.
  3. Escalate it: If you cannot resolve their concern on your own, escalate the issue to the next person who can. Follow up internally and with the customer to ensure their concern is being resolved.

 

Working closely with clients who have an interest in providing feedback on the functionality of a product, is essential to the growth of any organization. 

“By working closely with our development team, we're able to provide valuable feedback on how our platform functions and in turn that leads to platform improvements that are essential for our partners and internal team members,” says Premium Success Specialist at Vendasta Ashlea Crane.

Customer Success Management Customer Success Workflow

Insider Insight: Discover more about how we tackle customer support and manage platform improvements at Vendatsa. Watch ‘The Path to Success’ now. In this Conquer Local Community Session Vendasta Director of Partner Success, Naresh LaBar and Vendasta Technical Support Manager Kayla Zieske provide an in-depth look at customer inquiries, the bug life cycle and more.

“Our partners always appreciate our responsiveness and ability to tackle - and remedy - a problem when it pops up,” Crane says.

Crane recommends building in frequent touchpoints with clients who’ve expressed concern, so they know they haven’t fallen off your radar.  



Customer Success: Development and Growth 

“We sell through our partner channels who support local business clients. We’re not successful unless our partners are successful,” says Vendasta Success Growth Team Lead Andrew Carson.

Carson attributes customer success to having a team that truly cares about the outcomes a customer realizes. By taking the time to reach out and gain a deeper understanding of the problems a customer might be facing, you improve the outcomes for that particular customer and create a better journey for those who come after.

To better understand where you can make the greatest impact on customer success, ask these questions: 

 

  • Why does your customer want to grow his or her business?
  • How do they want to achieve that growth?
  • What is their plan for getting there? 

 

“You can do a great deal of work to set the customer up for success, by providing a great product and the support they need to be successful. There’s also an ownership component, however, that comes into play when our partners are using our solutions and tools to serve the local business community.”

“Ultimately they’re the ones selling the solutions to local businesses and supporting those businesses in their operations. To find success our partners need the entrepreneurial drive, sales fundamentals and basic business management skills to thrive and take their experience with the product across the finish line,” Carson says. 

Resource Recommendation: Michael Gerber’s The E-Myth Revisited explores why most small businesses don’t find success and what to do about it.

Customer Success Tools 

Best Customer Success Tools for Early-Stage Business 

Solution Pros Cons
Userpilot: Offers the ability to track and analyze product growth, increase new user activation and personalize the client onboarding experience. Simple usability

Great for on-boarding new users

Customizable customer journey templates 
Some features require product support

Higher start up costs compared to other solutions 
Helpscout: Gives users the ability to manage customer inquiries, arm a website with instant answers, connect with customers through live chat and track those interactions through built-in reporting. Simple and clean design

Easy to onboard new users

Apps to integrate in software
More flexibility with satisfaction rating functionality

Lacking some in-depth metrics
Wootric: Another great customer experience management tool to drive retention, engagement, and advocacy. ✔ Easy to track Net Promoter Score

✔ Smoothly integrates with existing CRMs
✘ Needs improvement on some reporting tools
Custify: Helps improve adoption, gain a better understanding of the customer lifecycle and identifies upsell opportunities along the way. ✔ Strong Customer Health Scores and Lifecycle tracking

Excellent segmentation features
Learning to navigate the user interface takes time

Dashboard needs to include more metrics
Vendasta: With a dedicated customer relationship management (CRM), a built-in client-facing dashboard and white-label marketing services, Vendasta is an end-to-end commerce platform for selling digital solutions to local businesses.  ✔ Digital marketing fulfillment dashboard for teams

✔ Single sign on client facing dashboard to help them manage their online strategy

✔ Marketing Automations allows for more time to be spent working directly with the clients 

✘ Robust platform requires some advanced training

 

Best Growth-Stage Customer Success Tools

 

Solution Pros Cons
Gainsight: Helps customer success, post-sales, and product teams put customers at the center of their business to deliver better outcomes and grow net dollar retention (NDR). ✔One of the biggest names in Customer Success

Extremely robust, with many different features

Can cater to any kind of CS team

Employee onboarding for growing CS teams 

✘ High Cost


✘ Steep learning curve

✘ Implementation support needed

Totango: With its customer success platform, intelligent customer data and built-in data security, Totango is a great option for growing companies. 

Personalized communication at scale

 

Data-driven automation

 

Smart integration with email communication

 

Ability to include or exclude third-parties from communication from within the software

✘ Need for more survey options within the too


✘ Not enough cross segmentation capabilities

 

SmartKarrot: Their customer success software spans onboarding, adoption, operations Tracks user behaviors based on events

Events trigger personalized communication to the targeted audience

Easily customizable

Built in survey tools!
Deep integration can take several weeks to implement

Performance of the admin portal could be improved 
Churn Buster:  Works with companies to recover failed payments—and treat customers with the respect they deserve. controls churn by resolving failed payments

subscription reactivation

Mobile-Optimized to Maximize payment Recoveries
✘ Doesn’t offer multi-user capability
Vendasta: Market, sell, bill, and fulfill all from one connected platform.  ✔ Digital marketing fulfillment dashboard for teams

✔ Single sign on client facing dashboard to help them manage their online strategy

✔ Marketing Automations allows for more time to be spent working directly with the clients 

✘ Robust platform requires some advanced training

About the Author

Nicole Lauzon is a Content Marketing Manager at Vendasta and has spent the last decade of her career helping local businesses tell their stories. Kickstarting her professional journey as a writer and producer for a major Canadian television network, Nicole would later spend five years as a PR Agency Creative Director, managing brand journalism, social media, blog and video content for corporate, non-profit and local business clients. Whether Nicole is marinating over her next piece of writing or enjoying some down time with her family, she likes doing it in floral print.

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