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The 5 Essential Ingredients For Customer Retention And Expansion


business woman communicates with customers
business woman communicates with customers
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Brand ExperienceGrowing Customers
Published 02/21/22
5 minutes read

To give customers truly great outcomes, Customer Success teams must understand a customer’s pain points, challenges, and struggles—then help solve them. It’s all about being “customer-obsessed” in manners big and small to ensure the customer feels heard and valued. This strategic process begins with customer onboarding and continues as long as they remain a customer in order to retain and ultimately expand revenue from the base.

A High-Performing Customer Success Team:

  • Successfully onboards new customers and enables them to use the product
  • Sets goals and helps customers achieve those goals
  • Drives product adoption and usage which are indications of customer health
  • Motivates customer expansions
  • Nurtures customer advocates and champions

Onboarding New Customers

They say first impressions last a lifetime. But for Customer Success, first impressions impact how long a customer’s lifetime lasts.

Onboarding sets the tone for the rest of the customer’s relationship with your business. Customers who receive proactive help, support, and tools throughout the onboarding process will come out with a better impression of you and the value you provide—plus, they’ll be better equipped to take full advantage of your product or service. This creates a feedback loop that makes them much more likely to renew and even grow their investment.

A poor onboarding experience, on the other hand, forces customers to question if they made the right decision in selecting you as a strategic vendor. Worse still, they will likely lack the education necessary to use your products or services properly, thereby deflating their results, increasing frustration, and risking churn.

Building a success plan that guides customers through each step and includes regular check-ins keeps new adopters on track and engaged in the onboarding process. That proactive connection allows you to respond in real-time to questions and roadblocks affecting your customers’ satisfaction in the early days, meaning you can adjust strategies, troubleshoot issues, and make customers feel engaged in their own success.

Ultimately, a customer that has been through a good, strategic onboarding process will be a better user of your product or service, leading to reduced churn and lost revenue.

You have the opportunity—and responsibility—to define and measure success for your customers. They want to know what kind of results they can expect from your offerings and how long it will take to get them there; known as “time to value.” A mutually defined success plan with predetermined checkpoints and measurements gives customers a truly relevant yardstick to compare against. Keeping them informed of how their performance and implementation stacks up builds trust and offers opportunities for early intervention if things aren’t going to plan.

Talk to your customers through their first use case and launch process so they see the product in action from end to end. This serves as a vital example for future use cases they add themselves. Sharing relatable case studies with your customers provides real-world examples of how a company of similar size, industry, or use case got from point A to point B leveraging your offerings. While there will never be a perfect one-to-one comparison, case studies help build customer confidence and provide ideas of how to maximize their own implementation.

If your customers are leveraging your offerings improperly, they’ll likely experience a disconnect between what’s been promised and what results they’re seeing. If these issues are caught quickly, they are hardly noticeable. But if left to fester, your customers won’t get the most out of their investment—ultimately spoiling the customer relationship.

Driving Customer Health

Customer Success teams need to keep up the pulse of communication if they’re going to drive customer health and retain revenue.

Organizations tend to flood prospects with marketing and sales messages as they try to convert leads into customers. But once that customer converts, that stream of information turns into a trickle, and customers are left confused and out of the loop—at least until it’s time to renew the contract. This is a big turn-off for customers.

Instead, Customer Success teams need to keep a close eye on customer health to make sure they’re getting the most out of their purchase. Your team needs to proactively watch for signs of trouble and step in to help customers identify issues before they blow up. To keep everyone on track, CSMs should define and monitor product usage and engagement. Keep an eye on product metrics and determine if customers are actively using your offerings, adding new use cases, or spending time to optimize their results. A well-connected CSM works with customers to get the most out of these opportunities.

On the flip side, Customer Success teams need to get ahead of low usage issues. Why aren’t your customers using your products or services? Are they ready to churn? Are they dissatisfied with your offerings? Are they unaware of how your solution works and need more education? It could also be indicative of a bigger problem. If your CSMs can step in early, they can prevent complications before they arise. Know that Customer Success is more than just customer happiness. Obviously happiness matters, but customers are making an investment in your offerings. Customer Success Managers need to strategically drive successful outcomes—which naturally leads to good feelings.

Motivating Customer Expansion

Customer Success teams don’t just retain revenue. They also identify opportunities to expand engagements with their current customers.

Despite the still-recovering economy, customers are still willing to make additional investments. But it must be the right kind of investment. The key for Customer Success teams is to best identify what existing customers need now and in the near future. Maybe the customer would benefit from increased capabilities or an upgraded package. If you’re selling to a business, maybe your organization sells services best fit for another team within the company. Identify strategic opportunities to promote upsells, expansions, or cross-sell opportunities. Good recommendations lead to increased revenue and even better relationships with customers; many of whom might become customer advocates and champions helping to attract new customers or continue expansion within their own organizations.

Nurturing Advocates

There’s a reason they call it the customer lifecycle: if you’ve done a fantastic job of ensuring your customers are truly successful with your products and services, you’ll end up with a pool of potential champions that can help you drive more business down the road.

But most happy customers don’t become vocal advocates for your business on their own. Your Customer Success team needs to work to build those kinds of relationships and seek out mutually beneficial situations that highlight the customers’ success with your business. It can’t be a one-way street; any customer advocacy programs should have a plus side for the champions, whether that’s professional recognition for super users, overall awareness for the customer’s brand, or product use ideas.

Customers that have been properly cared for throughout their relationship with your company can be the most powerful advocates for your offerings.

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