From One CSM to Another: 5 SaaS Customer Success Pro Tips

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    I’ve been in the SaaS customer success space for more than a decade now and have seen it transition from reactive procedures to a proactive approach encompassing sales, product analytics, and advanced retention strategies. One question I get often is how CSMs can take their performance to the next level to become a CS Rockstar. I listed some proven and tested SaaS customer success best practices for you.

    SaaS Customer Success has evolved from a largely responsive and manual practice into a dynamic and proactive space. CSMs, regardless of their industry, are now expected to be avid product experts, with exceptional sales and retention skills to boot. Anything less can lead to decreased growth in revenue or, in extreme cases,  accelerated churn and brand damage.

    Modern CSMs have a lot of responsibility – they own the customer journey from the moment customers onboard, through adoption, renewal, advocacy, community building, and retention. With the customer journey becoming less linear and more potent, customer success operations are now an imperative part of the SaaS business model. The CSM has become a key revenue generator today. 

    That being said, you need to be different and constantly tweak your strategy in order to stand out in this rapidly evolving space. I’ve compiled a list of 5 proven Customer Success tips that have really worked well for me in recent years. I’m confident that you will also find them useful to become a true CS rockstar. So, without further ado, let’s dive into it.

    Related: Top 10 Customer Success Tools for the Productive CSM

    Top 5 SaaS Customer Success Best Practices

    In no specific order, here are 5 best practices I suggest you implement today:

    1. Become an Industry Expert

    As a Customer Success Manager, you are obviously expected to know each and every feature your SaaS product is offering. Become an industry expert to provide your customers with added value – think industry updates, industry changes and tips to improve their performance. This will keep them engaged, improve adoption rates, and eventually push them to boost their business performance.

    CSMs are now expected to become leading brand advocates. Besides mastering the basics and creating a set playbook of capabilities, you should understand what value your customers can gain from using it. For example, you may have one top-tier customer with a unique use case. Make sure you have solutions for multiple scenarios with the ability to point customers the right way.

    Pro Tip:
    Customers are most unpredictable while signing up and during onboarding – Discovering new ways your product can be used can help you prepare better.

    2. Adopt a Metric-Driven Approach

    There was nothing scientific about customer success just a decade ago, but it’s now a mature field where you have to constantly measure your progress to stay on top of things. Net Revenue Retention Rate (NRR) is a KPI that you MUST track today.

    Also referred to as Net Dollar Retention (NDR), NRR is essentially the exact percentage of recurring revenue retained from existing customers in a pre-defined time period. It’s a metric that provides a 360 view of positive and negative changes – upsells, downgrades, cancels, and more. A healthy NRR should be somewhere between 95% to 125%, depending on your target customer size.

    NRR formula

    Pro Tip:

    Also track Customer Retention Rate (CRR), Customer Churn Rate (CRR), Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC), Renewal Rate (RR), and Net Promoter Score (NPS).

    3. Become Best Friends with your Product Manager

    Of course always be kind and friendly to all of your colleagues, but the Product Manager should be your BFF. When it comes to SaaS applications and services, customer satisfaction is key. Once you have eliminated in-app friction points, elevated the user experience, and created multiple “aha moments”, your growth and retention metrics should skyrocket in no time.

    How can you achieve this? First, CSMs need to work closely with the Product Manager to be informed about new features and all related information (Is it in beta? Are there known issues or limitations? When is the rollout? What’s on deck?). Second, you’ll need access to user analytics data. Make sure your customer management platform is pulling important and relevant information in real-time.

    Likewise, since CSMs are the closest to the customers, they need to have a say in every product roadmap planning session. The VOC needs to be an integral part of what all departments do, starting with the product team. Customer success teams are now responsible to echo real-time customer sentiment across all departments to reduce friction points and align the SaaS offering accordingly.


    Pro Tip:
    Make sure the CS and UX teams are working in tandem and bouncing real-time data off each other to ensure the best possible user experience.

    Relationship Intelligence Matters: What Your CRM is Missing

    4. Establish a Cross-Department Ecosystem

    The modern SaaS organization has to work in sync in order to succeed. The CSM today needs to work in tandem with multiple stakeholders – product teams, marketing managers, development leads, support reps, and business partners. Besides establishing a working relationship with all aforementioned personas, the CSM also needs to connect with all relevant CRMs and product tools beforehand.

    Every organization has blind spots – issues created by a lack of sync between various departments. For example, the product can release a new buggy feature without updating anyone. Optimize internal processes for best results. You can achieve this by breaking down internal silos and processes by introducing VOC into the mix. As mentioned in the previous section, start with the product team.

    Pro Tip:
    Sync frequently with product managers and break down customer insights, work closely with the UX team, and gain access to R&D sprint information.

    5. Make Customers Your Product Advocates

    Understand customer sentiment in real-time. Don’t wait till things start to deteriorate. Keep getting direct feedback from customers to stay on top of things and make sure you’re always in a proactive state of mind. Not only is it cheaper to retain existing customers, but you can also convert longtimers into active brand advocates. This theme needs to be amplified with top-tier customers.

    Spend time with customers. Touch base with them regularly to feel the pulse and make sure they are contacted via automated methods (email surveys, in-app popups, etc.). Make sure you are leveraging every success story and incentivizing written reviews and positive feedback. Establish multiple in-app milestones so that your customer can experience quick wins and become a satisfied brand advocate.

    Pro Tip:
    Use in-app milestones and touch points to track engagement and adoption levels. Contact customers if they are not collecting quick wins fast enough. 

    Looking to integrate Relationship Intelligence into your CS stack? 

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