Customer Success: Definition and Key Components

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When customers purchase a product or use a service, their ability to happily achieve their desired outcome (say, setting up an appliance) is a key step in their customer journey with a brand. Satisfied customers are the backbone of any thriving business and provide the foundation for future growth opportunities. As a small-business owner, your job is to meet customers’ needs and help them achieve their goals. Here’s how to ensure your customers get what they need and become your most loyal supporters.

What is customer success?

Customer success is a business’s approach to ensuring customers achieve their desired outcomes from its products or services. It can involve educational outreach, personalized interaction to understand goals and challenges, or ongoing measurement of customer satisfaction.

Customer success teams often work closely with sales, marketing, and product development teams to understand customer needs and devise strategies to drive long-term customer value. The approach is a tried-and-tested method for encouraging the proper use of your products and engaging with clients on a deeper level while promoting customer loyalty, growth, and increased sales.

Customer success vs. customer service

While customer success and customer service are often lumped together, their approach and end goals differ. Customer service focuses on addressing and resolving customer issues and inquiries. In contrast, customer success management entails a proactive rather than reactive approach by identifying demands, improving customer experience through data-driven market research, and ensuring customer satisfaction regardless of whether problems arise.

When it comes to end goals, customer service and success aim to satisfy paying customers to promote brand loyalty and ensure business sustainability. However, whereas customer service handles the day-to-day tasks of resolving and preventing issues, customer success takes a holistic approach to managing the customer journey before, during, and after their interaction with your business.

Ultimately, customer support and success both ensure a positive customer experience.

Key components of customer success

Building a satisfied customer base requires careful planning and execution of a customer success strategy, training and development of a customer success team, and ongoing monitoring of customer feedback and other data points.

Here are a few elements to keep in mind when thinking about your strategy:

Onboarding and training

Training your customer success managers on best practices is the first step to implementing a customer success plan. This entails a combination of soft skills, such as effective communication and empathizing with customer needs, and technical skills, such as operating customer chat apps or creating product explainers to send out via email.

Customer success solutions and other tools

A customer success solution is a type of software that combines all your customer data into a single interface and offers a centralized platform for keeping track of granular insights into customer journeys. These tools include live chat, support tickets, email, and customer history and behavior, which can often integrate with customer relationship management (CRM) systems.

Using organized stock-keeping units (SKUs) integrated with an ecommerce platform can streamline upselling through automatically generated purchase suggestions, leading to positive outcomes like increased sales and valuable customer insights.

Post-sales upselling

Prioritizing customer success by teaching post-sales upselling—offering clients additional products or services after their initial transaction—can increase customer satisfaction and result in repeat sales.

Customer support and engagement

Knowledge bases—typically digital libraries with FAQs and general information about your offerings—can increase customer lifetime value as they become more informed and committed to your brand.

Creating knowledge bases might sound like a daunting proposition for small business owners, but informational newsletters or explainer videos attached to product purchases are also effective ways to improve your connection to your audience and increase a customer’s likelihood of returning to your brand.

Monitoring and measuring customer satisfaction

No customer success effort is complete without a yardstick to measure satisfaction. There are several key performance indicators (KPIs) you can use to track how happy your customer base is with your business, including:

  • Net promoter score (NPS). NPS measures how likely a customer is to return to or recommend your company.
  • Customer satisfaction score (CSAT). CSAT calculates customers’ happiness with your goods or services.

You can gather this customer data in various low-cost ways, including post-purchase surveys or email blasts. Moreover, your customer success software can integrate and employ these tools and generate reports that offer insight into the effectiveness of your customer success strategy. It can also help you stay on top of potential adverse outcomes, such as customer churn.

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How to build a customer success strategy

  1. Set your goals
  2. Build and train your team
  3. Act on feedback

Improving your customer retention rate (so they repeat buy) can improve your profits by 25% to 95%. Here are three steps you can take to begin to tap into this potential:

1. Set your goals

Determine your baseline KPIs, such as net promoter score (NPS) or customer satisfaction score (CSAT), then set markers for improvement. This helps you measure the effectiveness of your efforts, like adding a knowledge base or integrating a live chat.

2. Build and train your team

Enacting customer success programs requires a dedicated customer success (CS) team—from executives like your chief customer officer to CS operations managers—or employee training. For small businesses, well-trained employees can handle all aspects of customer success, from educational outreach to data tracking, without needing to build out a CS team.

3. Act on feedback

Customer feedback is one of the most valuable data points in customer success. Knowing what customers want more of, what they like or dislike, and what you did that improved their experience informs your customer success strategy. Ask for feedback through surveys or social media engagement, and use it to build your customer success framework.

Customer success FAQ

How can businesses understand their customers' needs and expectations?

Customer feedback is the primary mechanism for understanding customer needs and expectations. It includes survey data and behavioral metrics—such as purchase history and spending habits—which you can collect through customer relationship management (CRM) software or a point of sale (POS) system.

How do businesses deliver more value and solve customer problems?

Before you can deliver value, identify what your customers want and expect from your business. Doing so through data collection and other forms of engagement allows you to understand better what you’re doing right and wrong to shape your offerings and cater to demand.

How can businesses build lasting customer relationships?

Satisfied customers are loyal customers. They’re the result of remaining attentive to customer expectations and in tune with their customers’ journeys—individual interactions with your business. Developing a solid customer success plan and implementing it consistently while remaining responsive and adaptable to evolving market trends is crucial in retaining current customers while expanding to new customers.

How do businesses measure and monitor customer satisfaction?

There are several metrics you can use to track customer satisfaction, including net promoter score (NPS), which represents how likely a customer is to return to or recommend your company, and customer satisfaction score (CSAT), which tabulates customers’ happiness with the goods or services you provide.

How does technology support customer success?

The digital age represents a new frontier for customer success, with tools like live chats, email, post-purchase survey automation, comprehensive platforms such as customer relationship management (CRM) software, and other customer service solutions. These services can help build a satisfied customer base and, by extension, a thriving company.