Customer success: How to launch & manage your CS program


This is part three of a three-part series on customer success (CS). In this installment, we cover launching and managing your customer success program. Here are links to the first two posts in the series:

Quick recap

What is customer success?

In our first installment, we discussed customer success as a concept, why it’s an important functional area to focus on today, how CS teams operate, and the need to streamline your CS efforts with a unified CRM.

Preparing to launch your customer success program

In the second piece, we discussed customer success planning. We provided a six-point checklist to help you put all the pieces in place to launch and run your own program. We covered building the perfect customer success team, measurable KPIs, using a unified CRM to support your efforts and general customer success strategy.

Now let’s dive into launching your efforts and customer success program management. Below are three tips to get started.

Launching your program in three steps

With your team in place, your strategy defined, and a solid understanding of what customer success is, you’re ready to launch your inaugural CS program. Here are three vital steps to take when introducing your program to your customers and the market.

1. Create buzz & awareness

Treat the launch of your CS program like a new service or product launch. Develop a go-to-market campaign to spread the word. Use multiple channels to raise awareness.

Leverage your CRM’s marketing automation capabilities to run a program awareness email campaign for existing customers. Run a separate campaign to introduce prospects to your new offering. Maximize exposure via social media marketing. Use every appropriate marketing channel to spread the word.

2. Generate internal excitement

To launch and drive an outstanding customer success program, it’s important that your entire business adopts a customer-centric mindset. Hold all-hands meetings to walk all teams through your new program and how they will be involved.

Be sure to communicate to employees the importance of their involvement. Give them the opportunity to ask questions so everyone is aligned around your customer success objectives. Finally, let your Director of Customer Success or a Customer Success Manager (CSM) drive this effort.

PRO TIP: Once your program is up and running, give employees feedback channels to suggest improvements or provide general feedback. This will help them feel more involved in your program’s success.

3. Start reaching out to existing customers

Start speaking to existing customers to get the ball rolling. Explain the program to them, how they will benefit from it, and discuss steps to start incorporating them into your program.

Managing your CS program in seven steps

Once you’ve launched, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to work managing your CS program. Here are seven customer success best practices to help you get started.

1. Activate your customer success playbooks

In part two of this series, we covered customer success playbooks—process documents that summarize the activities that should take place at each stage of the customer journey. Now is the time to put them into action.

Customer success playbooks involve various customer touchpoints that should be automated by your CRM solution. A few examples of automated actions include reminders, notifications, automated communications, etc. These are key to fomenting stronger customer relationships as you go.

2. Focus on onboarding

When you win a new customer, your CS team should start planning their personalized onboarding program. One of your customer support managers will own this process.

Ideally, you should have a series of meetings with your new customer to fully understand their use case, needs, challenges, pain points, etc. This allows them to tailor onboarding to meet each customer’s unique needs and increases the probability of their success using your product.

3. Deliver robust training

Training is essential to customer success. If customers don’t understand how to fully maximize the use of your product, they won’t use it. Nor will they realize the value it delivers.

Training should also be tailored to each customer’s unique needs. Training new customers is critically important. But you should also offer free product training to new users joining existing customer accounts.

PRO TIP: Make a point to record training sessions and make them available to each customer. The customer can then return and reference these training recordings when they need to refresh their knowledge around a particular topic.

4. Always be available

You can’t just onboard and train customers and leave them to fend for themselves. Ongoing support and guidance are key to customer success.

Dedicated customer support managers

Each customer should have a dedicated CSM who is always available to offer guidance when needed. Offering reliable guidance and teaching customers to drive their own success is key, so be sure each customer has its own CSM to turn to when guidance is needed.

Multiple support channels

Give customers various ways to reach customer support when they have a technical issue with your product. You can offer live phone support, as well as email support, chatbots, and even receive support queries via social media.

5. Give customers a voice & listen

It’s smart to open channels for customer feedback and product enhancement ideas. When you implement product changes based on customer feedback be sure to let customers know so they feel their voices are being heard.

A few effective ways you can provide your customers with a voice include:

  • Sending routine surveys to gain key insight into your program’s performance
  • Putting in place a cadence for regular, one-on-one check-ins between your customers and their CSMs
  • Creating a customer advisory board
  • Automating surveys after closing each customer support case
  • Developing a closed customer community and forum to give customers a way to interact with one another and propose feature enhancement “ideas.”

PRO TIP: Whensoliciting feature enhancement requests from customers, refer to them “feature ideas” rather than “requests.” This will lower the expectation that every request will become a new feature.

6. Upselling & cross-selling

Your CS team’s role is not to upsell or cross-sell products or enhancements. However, by teaching customers the ins and outs of the system, your CSMs will explain additional product features that customers might not have.

When learning what might be possible if they added a specific add-on module or upgraded their plan to access more features, your CS team inadvertently engages in cross- and upselling. This is OK, just make sure it’s not at the center of their strategy.

Customer success reps are there to help the customer achieve success, not to push a sales pitch. This can have negative impacts on their performance because it’s crucial that customers see CSMs as their advocates, not salesmen in disguise.

7. Contract renewal management

Customer retention and churn rates are key metrics for customer success teams. When a customer’s renewal date nears, your CRM’s workflow automation features should send your CSMs an alert.

This is their queue to activate their customer success renewal playbook. At this point, they will schedule meetings with the customer to see how things are going and how they can improve their service to their customers.

If they can reassure each customer that the problems that they encountered in the past year are being addressed or have already been resolved, they increase the probability of customer contract renewal.

Performance Measurement

Routine reporting and metrics analysis are key to increasing program success. During the preparation stage, you will have defined the customer success metrics you want to track. You’ll have also collected baseline data around those metrics, so you’ll know how far you’ve progressed over time.

We recommend monthly reporting and analysis meetings within your CS team. This lets the team identify areas for improvement.

We also recommend holding a quarterly meeting with other team leaders to share results and open the floor for suggestions about how to improve cross-functional collaboration as it relates to your CS program.

Here are commonly-used CS metrics to track:

  • Customer churn and retention rates
  • Customer health score
  • Net promoter score
  • Customer lifetime value
  • Product adoption and usage rates
  • Product upsell and cross-sell rates
  • Contract renewal rates
  • Customer satisfaction levels
  • Customer support ticket volume per user
  • Expansion revenue

Ready to start your own CS program?

Kickstart your program with more knowledge and preparation, and you’ll increase customer success, as well as customer satisfaction, loyalty, and revenue growth.

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