Are you equipping your customer success teams with the right data and tools to drive growth?
If your answer is “no”, “I’m not sure”, or “I think so”, that’s a sign to roll up your sleeves and give your team the TLC it deserves.
Customer success are one of the key drivers in product-led growth companies for reducing churn and increasing expansion revenue.
Yet, most teams aren’t set up for success.
The root cause?
Your tools are creating data silos.
By only looking at one piece of the puzzle, your CS team is left with blind spots, and you’re missing out on key opportunities to increase customer lifetime value and reduce time-to-value.
To access the full potential of your sales data, increase your revenue, and stop churn behavior before it happens, you need holistic customer success strategies that look at all your data points.
Ready to take your blinkers off?
What is SaaS customer success?
SaaS customer success is when your users achieve their end goal with your product.
- For Canva, it's when a user successfully creates a design and exports it.
- For Slack, it's when a user sends their first 10,000 messages.
You risk higher churn rates and low engagement without a customer success process.
If users aren't seeing the full value in your product and using it to solve their problem, customer engagement will drop, and the "unsubscribe" button is only a click away.
That is not what you want as a PLG company with a recurring revenue business model. You need to ensure you're attracting, acquiring, and retaining customers to grow and hit business goals like $1M ARR.
Ungate product features that make your target customers successful. You need to offer enough value to attract the customers who can grow with you.Kyle Poyar, Operating Partner at OpenView
What are the results of customer success management?
If you're implementing a customer-centric strategy, you should see:
- An increase in user engagement
- A decrease in time-to-value (TTL)
- An increase in customer retention
- An increase in customer referrals
- A decrease in subscription cancellations
- An increase in customer acquisition
How can you achieve customer success?
You need to investigate your customers' wants and needs and come up with a process that will help you:
- Understand what makes a customer successful: What do your users want to achieve with your product and how can you tie their goals into your product roadmap?
- Understand their workflow: How are your current customers using your product?
- Identify bottlenecks: Where are your users struggling to get results?
- Create an action plan to increase value: What product updates can you release to help users achieve their goals?
The backbone of customer success is empathy. It's the ability to place yourself in the customer's shoes and fine-tune your processes to help users effectively, efficiently, and successfully use your product.
That's the key to happy customers who will become your biggest advocates and stay far, far away from the "cancel subscription" button.
Why is customer success important for PLG companies?
If renewals are the lifeblood of a PLG company, your product is the heart.
If you have a weak product, it will struggle to pump resources around your organization, slowing down functions until you eventually flatline.
Your customer success people are the white blood cells fighting off unwanted infections (churn) and keeping your system healthy (retention) by making sure your users see the value in what you do.
When everything is working together, you'll automatically:
- Reduce churn
- Increase your LTV
- Improve your upsell and cross-sell success rate
- Make it easier to predict your ARR
That's not all.
The key difference between customer success and customer support is the response. Customer success teams are proactive, whereas customer support teams are reactive.
Instead of waiting for users to come to you with a problem, customer success managers use sales data to gain insights on product usage, firmographics, and customer level for each user. It's a holistic approach that'll tell you where a single user is right now, their future, and how you can best serve their needs.
That's what PLG giant Canva did with its latest feature release Canva For Teams.
The company noticed a bottleneck for teams who wanted to adopt the product. Previously, you only had two options:
- Stay on the Pro version: Doesn't sound too bad, right? However, Pro didn't have important team features like brand controls and workflow approvals.
- Contact sales and buy an Enterprise plan: For smaller teams, upgrading to Enterprise is not feasible and is a scaling headache. A team of 25 would have to pay almost 5x the price and wouldn't be able to self-service.
Canva For Teams solves the problem by giving you a product that grows with your team.
How can B2B SaaS customer success teams drive expansion revenue?
What is customer expansion? It's a strategy of creating more value for your existing users, which increases your overall revenue. It involves upselling, cross-selling, and promoting add-ons and other rarely-used features that'll help your user achieve their end goal.
According to research by Patrick Campbell, CEO, and founder of ProfitWell, software companies with a customer success team can grow their expansion revenue by 50% to 125%.
…But here's the thing.
Most customer success teams only have access to tools like Intercom or email/chat.
It limits proactivity and handicaps your ability to roll out a successful customer expansion strategy.
The solution? Enriching your data with internal and external sources makes it easier for your CS teams to identify the key accounts that will move the revenue needle forward.
Here's how to do it.
Use advanced user segments
You segment your email lists, but what about your user list?
Take your segmentation strategy a step beyond "free trial" and "pro user" to trigger the right message to the right user at the right time and increase your recurring revenue.
Let's look at an example.
U.S. tax season is around the corner, and you're Head of Customer Success at Bonsai, an all-in-one freelancing suite. You use advanced segmentation to pull a list of U.S. users earning enough to qualify for federal tax but who haven't signed up for your monthly Bonsai Tax add-on.
Using the data, you can launch a campaign to target these users, demonstrate the value of your tax add-on, and increase your MRR.
Another great example is Hubspot. David Barron joined the company as an early GTM hire for Sales Hub - the first ever PLG product for Hubspot. Over 2.5 years, he managed to scale Sales Hub's revenue from less than $1M to $25M ARR.
The secret to Hubspot's rapid customer growth?
One cohort of paying customer segments retained at 90% and another cohort retained at 64%. The key insight for us was to focus on customers with 6+ employees.
David Barron Global Director of Sales at Hubspot
Become a data-driven organization
How much does your data work for you vs. you working for the data?
If you're leaning towards the latter, that's a sign you need to start your journey towards becoming a data-driven organization.
When you enrich your data, you give your CS team everything it needs to upsell and cross-sell with high success rates.
How does it work?
Instead of only looking at a single data point in your CRM like "date of renewal," a holistic approach takes into account your product usage, feature usage, firmographic and customer level data.
With multiple data points to draw upon, it's easy for your CS team to figure out which users to prioritize.
For example, would you rather have your CS team focus on:
- An 80% ICP fit account with three daily active users with high levels of engagement and the ability to expand into 200 users.
- A 50% ICP fit account with two weekly users with low levels of adoption but can only expand to 10 users.
The first option makes more financial sense, right?
The ability to identify those accounts, nurture, and convert them will set you apart from your competitors and help you reach your first $1M ARR faster.
Breyta's lead and account scoring integration helps customer success teams segment, filter, and prioritize users and accounts by product usage, engagement, and customer health scores.
Turn it on, and the tool will prioritize the highest value opportunities, helping your team focus on the accounts that will have the biggest impact on your ARR.
Every day the customer decides to use your product or opt-out. If your customer success efforts are not anticipating users' needs, they could decide to unsubscribe.
How can you leverage proactive selling in your PLG company?
A great starting point is product usage.
You might notice an account is about to hit its limit on an important feature. If you have triggers for these behavior signals, your CS team can step in and seamlessly start the upsell process.
However, there is a fine line.
You don't want to start upselling too soon. It could feel intrusive to the user and leave a bad taste in their mouth, but you also don't want to wait until the user hits their limit.
As long as you align your strategy to your customers' strategic business objectives, your proactive messaging should feel helpful and not give users the "ick."
How can B2B SaaS customer success teams combat churn?
Fun fact: The majority of customers churn within the first three months.
The good news?
You can expect a noticeable decrease in gross churn if you have a dedicated customer success manager.
Anywhere between 15% to 27% plus at least a 10% increase in net dollar retention.
How can your CS team use sales data to identify churn behaviors and take proactive action?
Let's dive into some of the strategies you can use.
I've got a story for you.
Groove, a sales productivity platform, had a churn problem. To get to the bottom of it, the company took a deep dive into the behavior of its customers and discovered that users who had an initial session of 35 seconds and logged in 0.3 times per day were the most likely to cancel their subscriptions.
The number one churn reason? Users were struggling with the set-up process, and rather than stick around to figure it out, they went straight to the "cancel subscription" button.
To fix the problem, Groove started to offer users help with the set-up process.
The result? The company received a 26% response rate, and 40% of users who went through the process stuck around after the initial 30 days.
The lesson? You don't need to wait until your customer churn rate is out of control. Start monitoring your user's behaviors today and learn the patterns of someone about to break up with you.
The earlier you start tracking this data, the more data you'll have to identify your churn signals, and the more accurate your predictions on customer behavior will become.
Breyta does the heavy lifting for you by monitoring user engagement. You can easily see if someone is heading towards churn and divert the account to your customer success team for some TLC.
Ask for customer feedback
Sometimes the best defense against churn is to simply ask.
If you want to know why your customer relationship is ending, reach out and get the answers you need to improve your business.
Yes, it's not always easy to hear why someone thinks your product sucks, but without their valuable feedback, you're condemning yourself to make the same mistakes again and again.
While you won't always hear back from churn customers, the insights you will receive are invaluable. You'll start to see patterns and figure out how to stop your revenue leaks.
However, don't limit your surveys to when a user leaves you.
Like with any relationship, communications between you and the user are key. Your CS team should check on a regular basis with users to help collect customer health score data and respond quickly when someone responds with a low customer satisfaction score.
Offer annual subscription discounts
Discounts for annual subscriptions are a powerful lever for your CS team to pull.
People don't like wasting money. If we're paying for something upfront, we want to get our money's worth.
If someone commits to a full year, they have to take the time to learn how to use your product to get the most out of it or throw that money down the drain.
You can use that emotional trigger to ensure your users see true ROI.
Plus, who doesn't love a discount?
There's a study by Claremont Graduate University that shows saving money has a direct correlation with customer happiness. Anytime you can swing a discount to your user base, you're giving them a boost of oxytocin, creating positive feelings towards your brand.
How can you deploy discount psychology in your subscription-based business?
- Offer an annual discount on your sales page to new users.
- When someone has a monthly subscription renewal coming up, offer the user a discount on your annual subscription.
Focus on creating a great customer onboarding process
You know how you take a multivitamin every morning to keep your immune system strong? Or how you get the measles vaccine when you're a kid?
Churn works the same way.
It relies heavily on prevention.
It's incredibly hard to convince someone to re-subscribe to your services once you've lost their trust. It's much easier to start relationships with customers on a good note and do everything you can to nurture the account and keep it healthy.
Your onboarding process is the first step towards a long and happy relationship. To have a great start, make sure you:
- Go over your UX and make sure it's a frictionless user experience.
- Base the onboarding experience around the one goal your user needs to achieve to see your product's value.
- Hold your subscriber's hand every step of the way.
- Empower your customer success teams to reach out to users who get stuck on their journey and don’t complete crucial actions.
- Figure out your customer success metrics and keep tabs on your user onboarding success tracking.
Remember, you need to show users exactly what they need to do, when to do it, and how. Without your guidance, you're leaving your new business revenue up to chance.
That's never a good business strategy.
B2B SaaS customer success best practices
Now that you know what customer success is, why it's important, and how it can help increase your expansion revenue and decrease churn, let's dive into a quick recap of the best customer success practices.
- CS should be a single-digit hire for your SaaS company: Did you know that most second-time CEOs are hiring customer success roles ahead of sales and revenue? Don't wait. Hire CS before you hit 10 employees.
- Figure out what success looks like for your users: You can't create a successful onboarding experience and deliver a sticky product if you don't understand the problem and what the end transformation looks like for users. Focus on the "aha moment" and watch your expansion revenue skyrocket.
- Use your internal and external data to improve your CS: Automate your data collection and analyze it from a holistic view. You'll have a much easier time spotting upsell and cross-selling opportunities and side-stepping churn.
- Create a process for collecting feedback: Whether good or bad, feedback will help you improve and become a more successful and profitable business. Ensure your CS team sends out surveys to current and churned customers.
- Offer different ways for a user to solve a problem: Empower your users through options via your tech stack. If someone has a question, offer live chat, a knowledge base, a chatbot, email support, etc.
- Never stop selling your product: Promote your add-ons, remind users about your team plan, offer annual subscription plan discounts, and create fanfare around your new feature announcements.
Value throughout the entire customer lifecycle
Product adoption is the strongest indicator of future expansion and revenue retention, but it shouldn't fall to one team.Kyle Poyar, Operating Partner at OpenView
Churn isn't only a customer success problem. It's a company-wide problem. It's something that affects your product, sales, and marketing teams.
Sure, your CS team can help, but only when everything else in the business supports the end user's goal.
- Got a wonky piece of software that freaks out every time someone logins in?
- A UX that breeds frustration instead of action?
You're still going to see high customer churn rates until you address those problems, and that's something customer success programs can solve.
In a nutshell, a team effort with a customer-centric mentality will inspire long-term customer loyalty. As long as your user's needs drive business decisions and you're committed to making their success your top priority, you'll see a spike in expansion and retention rates.