A Handy Guide to Understanding Customer Success Strategies

Imitation is the best form of flattery. Industry-leading customer service teams are prioritizing agility, transparency, flexibility, and a “beyond the support ticket” mentality. So, don’t be afraid to emulate these customer success strategies!

Zight | July 23, 2019 | 14 min read time

Article Last Updated: April 16, 2024

A Handy Guide to Understanding Customer Success Strategies

You know, those business tactics that keep customers not just happy but coming back for more, time and time again. Not only that, but your customer success teams are hitting their targets and feeling motivated. It’s like navigating a road trip, but you target long-term success and loyalty instead of just reaching your destination.

With more companies taking customer success strategies seriously nowadays, standing out in your CS approach can be difficult. Consider these simple truths:

  • Strong support is near the top of your customer’s wish list: 
    • 68% of consumers will pay more if a company has great service, according to HubSpot.
  • Your competitors are focused on customer service, too:
    • 72% of companies say improving CS is their top priority, per Forrester Research.

The status quo likely won’t cut it for your customers. That said, you don’t need to overhaul your entire customer success strategy to make meaningful improvements.

Think about it: every interaction with a customer is an opportunity to meet their needs, exceed their expectations, and build loyalty. But with so many strategies and tactics out there, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and unsure where to start.

Your organization might not have a large team or the name recognition of the companies below. But don’t worry! You don’t need to be a market giant to learn how to utilize customer success strategies successfully. So, why don’t we get started?

What is Customer Success?

The terms here can feel a little unclear, so let’s define our terms.

Customer success is when your customers are able to achieve what they want (better sales, greater efficiency, reduced injury, fewer new worry wrinkles) thanks to how they interact with your company, whether that’s products or services.

It’s more than just how happy they are with you.

Your customer moves from being satisfied to successful when they’ve met that goal. So, you still get the benefits of a satisfied customer (according to customer support statistics, like being up to 14x more likely to buy from you again). Add the cherry on top: Your customer has gained a specific value because of you.

For example, at Zight, we were specifically able to “shorten interactions that typically require at least two or three replies down to one easy GIF or video” for Gainsight, enabling their support reps to respond to more needs more quickly. They might have been satisfied with video sharing because it’s pretty awesome, but success came when our tools specifically helped their customer service team.

Another essential difference is that your customer needs to tell you about the success specifically; you can’t just look at your metrics and try to infer it.

Why Do I Need a Customer Success Strategy?

Customer success principles are straightforward: make people happy by being useful in a specific way. Executing that can be extremely difficult.

Companies, in general, can’t create a specific strategy that applies to every customer. The process has variation and adaption, even if your products or services don’t change. To adapt, you’ve got to look at what your customer wants to achieve and why they want to achieve it.

You want to create an effective customer success strategy or framework that allows you to adapt your positioning to meet different goals. Think of the customer personas you’ve created or how you talk to your different types of customers. In the B2B business model, we often speak with multiple stakeholders who want to see specific processes become more efficient (customer success managers) or achieve top-line growth (executives).

We might create different blogs, emails, or demos for these groups. But the product we offer is always the same. Our strategy is what changes, allowing us to discuss specific benefits related to those specific goals.

Track your customers’ aspirational goals (efficiency or sales) and then tie your company to a specific process that achieves them.

What you and your team will love by building out a strategy is that you get to think about all the different ways you help your customers.

They’re the perfect ideas to brainstorm for your sales calls and lead qualifiers, as well as case studies, blog posts, infographics, and more. Building your strategy is an exercise in understanding who you are and how you help.

Customer Success Journey Map

The customer success strategy itself is best thought of as a map. It’s a tool that describes the journey and makes it easy to get from point A to point B, but it allows plenty of flexibility around the exact route. Twenty people with the same map can take 20 different paths, and it’s all okay.

From your development standpoint, you’re building out to support their entire journey, not just a single aspect. Customer experiences will change and shape as they progress, giving us a need for something dynamic. Your framework requires core components you’re familiar with, such as milestones, tasks, and email follow-ups, but you’ve got to think about them fluidly to allow people to move back and forth between these.

That said, one traditional and fixed element for each item will be the measurements and metrics you need to track success to move customers further toward a sale. Metrics will help you understand if your map is detailed enough and how to improve it.

ClientSuccess has a great take on this topic, and we especially like their understanding that the map and journey change based on significant customer factors. They specifically look at how company size dramatically changes how people will move along your map.
Check out the rest of their thoughts here.

Always look at the map as if you were a customer. Do you have all the information you need to get where you’re going? Does it tell you enough about how to achieve your goal when you reach the destination? What are the milestones you reach along the way? And what’s missing?

Management and the Customer Success Strategy

Having the plan in place is the first significant piece of the puzzle. Next comes managing the process and how potential customers move along your map to achieve their desired outcome. You can do a few things to adapt your journey and funnel to help prod people along, and they’re familiar to your marketers.

Some lists may feature 8 elements or 12 steps, but when you drill down to it, there are five significant things to consider for managing how customers interact with your success strategy.

1. Segmenting Customers

Going back to our map discussion, we know that not everyone starts at the same location or takes the same path. However, you will see similarities in these when customers are similar. So, when you have successful customers who started at Point 1, Point 2, and Point 3, you can review their journey and treat new customers starting at those points similarly.

You might segment based on how someone discovers you (ads vs LinkedIn posts vs organic traffic to blogs) and serve up distinct follow-up content. Or, you might look at the questions they ask and go that route.

The element to be mindful of here is the end goal of the customer. You want to segment in ways that group customers around the what and why they’re trying to achieve. Segmenting solely on geographic or size factors can lead to a poorer success strategy.

2. Educating Customers

The free-form nature of this journey requires you to inform leads and potential customers about your company. Manage their expectations for the process, provide lists of requirements and milestones, and ask the customer to do their homework.

By pursuing their success, not just a sale, you need to take a more active approach to engagement. Doing this through the lens of educational content will demonstrate your desires to the customer and keep you both accountable. It also makes them more receptive to the prompts you built to keep people on track and avoid lost sales or abandoned carts.

One of the most important elements of education is communication. Customer success management is all about reaching out with what you think is the right message and adapting based on the yes/no response you get. Guide customers to the next steps you want them to take by engaging with them and actively listening to what they say. Collaborate with them.

The more responsive you can be, the better. That’s why you’ll want various images, videos, GIFs, and other options that quickly deliver your message in multiple ways.

Communication is also internal. Your representatives should provide as much customer feedback and information into your CRM as possible so that each interaction is informed by what’s already happened and what the customer wants to happen next.

3. Collecting Data

There’s a lot of information involved in this approach. You’ve got to define parameters for customers, segment them on multiple factors, and be able to deliver information in various ways. Plus, you’ve got to know if any of that is successful.
It’s probably time to beef up your technology stack.

Thankfully, there’s a lot of software available to help. Some specific customer success tools are designed to boost your CRM (or are contained within it) to give you structure. Look for something that allows you to track how people move and the success of each step, interaction, or content served.

You’ll want to gather as much interaction data as possible and track it across a customer’s journey. Work to give it the proper context so you can understand what’s working and what isn’t. Collect as much as you can.

4. Adjusting your Map

After you’ve collected that data, it’s time to process it and adapt accordingly. Use your preferred analytics or business intelligence tools to see what is more likely to drive someone to the next step and where people fall off along the way. Also, look for areas where you can automate to make the process more efficient.

Learn as much as possible and adapt your map when you see patterns and key drivers.

Ultimately, you’ll end up with a map with various interactions and touchpoints that allow people to move along or get help when they need it — either by asking or by intervening when certain actions aren’t taken by a certain time. It’ll be useful internally, too.

5. Being a Person

This is all still a people-centered operation.

Over-automation can make customer success strategies feel impersonal when they must be personal to understand and adapt to why your customers want to accomplish specific goals. This context is something that people can master pretty quickly, but machines aren’t great at yet.

Use collaboration tools that make it easier for you to be helpful or to get out of the way, but don’t rely on them to provide service and answer questions. While there’s a lot of customer success software out there right now, the relationship you’re trying to build is between you and the customer. It’s still people-to-people.

Keeping the human aspect in mind will help you treat the customer right throughout the entire process.

Customer Success for Any Online Business

Empathy, authenticity, and innovation are the keys to unlocking customer success for any online business. Whether through storytelling, community-building, or surprise-and-delight moments, every interaction with your customers is an opportunity to create magic and leave a lasting impression.

For instance, you’re a small business owner offering your handcrafted creations to the world through your online store. Each product you create isn’t just an item—it’s a labor of love infused with passion and purpose. And with every purchase, you’re not just making a sale—you’re inviting customers into a community where they feel valued, understood, and appreciated.

But customer success isn’t just about products—it’s about people. It’s about understanding their needs, anticipating their desires, and exceeding their expectations at every turn. Whether you’re providing virtual services, digital downloads, or physical goods, the key to success lies in building genuine connections with your customers—connections that transcend transactions and endure over time.

Businesses that prioritize customer success are not just surviving—they’re thriving. By embracing tailored strategies prioritizing customer satisfaction and value, your online business can thrive in today’s competitive landscape. From personalized interactions to proactive support and beyond, there’s endless potential to create a unique and unforgettable experience for your customers.

The Keys to a Strong Customer Success Strategy

Let’s explore some stellar examples of customer success strategy with a bonus tool to help teams close tickets 3x faster, with higher customer satisfaction:

1. Evolve your customer success strategy as you go.

Embrace the fluid nature of the customer success world! Rather than spending energy on building the perfect process, don’t be afraid to adjust your strategy on the fly.

The team at Slack, the workplace communication and messaging tool, embraces flexibility. The Slack CS team understands that customer preferences are constantly changing. Slack employees design customer success procedures to last 6-9 months. This provides constant opportunities for measurement and evaluation. The CS team can constantly improve.

Slack has also drifted away from customer success quotas, understanding that sustained growth and success require focusing on customer satisfaction and long-term relationships rather than arbitrary numerical targets.

2. Be transparent with customers – especially when things go wrong.

Trust is essential for industry-leading customer service. Respect your customers’ intelligence by openly communicating; they’ll often appreciate your openness. 

Buffer is a social media management platform that helps teams manage their accounts. In 2013, the company experienced a security breach, putting customer data at risk. Thanks to their transparency, the Buffer team managed to turn a potential crisis into an opportunity.

The team published regularly updated blog posts sharing breach details with customers. After a speedy response and sincere PR approach, Buffer gained customers after swiftly solving the breach.

Transparency is also important internally. The Buffer customer success team prioritizes an open feedback loop with product, sales, and marketing to prevent issues before they arise.

3. Let customers decide how to solve the problem.

Customers want options and crave flexibility and autonomy in engaging with businesses and accessing support.

As a customer engagement operating system, Intercom’s culture is tied to providing its clients with the tools they need to succeed tailored to individual preferences and needs.

Intercom recognizes that the perfect customer experience might look different for each of its unique partners. Some customers want to speak with a human when they’re having trouble, while others prefer a live chat tool or a Reddit-style forum to address their needs. Rather than taking a “one size fits all” approach, Intercom offers all these customer support services (and more) so clients can work on their own terms.

4. Break the cardinal rule in customer success strategy: Take a step back from the support queue. 

Stepping away from the support queue seems like a major no-no for many customer service leaders. In small doses, however, a break from ticket duty can lead to ultimately more significant wins. 

The CS leaders at Fullstory, the customer experience and tracking tool, don’t want their teammates to get stuck in a never-ending loop of closing tickets. Their team blocks scheduled calendar time for colleagues to focus on meaningful work (not meeting time!) that solves business problems or improves the product. Scheduled time might be used for reviewing documentation quality or analyzing feedback trends.

5. Focus on providing value – not putting out fires.

Falling into the “open/close” rhythm of customer success can be easy. However, extra work on each ticket can quickly reduce future problems by getting to the root of the customer’s needs.

Fullstory’s strategy closely aligns with that of Hubspot, the customer relationship management (CRM) company. Hubspot’s customer support leaders preach providing incremental value instead of stopping the tickets

Customer service specialists are encouraged to provide customers with more feedback and information than they initially expected when they called for support. Perhaps the customer can learn a new tool or feature, which gives them new ways to achieve their goals. 

6. Embrace a Proactive Outreach to Anticipate Customer Needs

Proactive outreach can demonstrate attentiveness and dedication to their success rather than waiting for customers to reach out with issues or questions.

Therefore, don’t wait for customers to reach out with concerns; take the initiative to engage them proactively. Zendesk, the customer service software company, excels in this regard by prioritizing proactive communication strategies.

Zendesk’s customer success team leverages automation tools and targeted messaging campaigns to reach customers at key touchpoints throughout their journey. Whether sending timely product updates, sharing relevant resources, or soliciting feedback, Zendesk ensures that customers feel valued and supported at every step.

Moreover, Zendesk encourages its team members to adopt a consultative approach, acting as trusted advisors rather than mere service providers. By actively listening to customer feedback and anticipating their needs, Zendesk builds stronger relationships and drives mutual success.

7. Foster a Culture of Continuous Learning and Development

Customer success is an ever-evolving field, and staying ahead requires a commitment to ongoing learning and improvement.

Investing in your team’s growth pays dividends in the form of improved customer satisfaction and retention. Take a page from Salesforce, the cloud-based software company renowned for its customer-centric approach.

Salesforce empowers its customer success representatives through extensive training programs and certifications. By continuously upskilling their team members, Salesforce ensures they can handle diverse customer needs and emerging challenges in the ever-evolving tech landscape.

Additionally, Salesforce encourages a culture of knowledge-sharing and collaboration among team members. Regular workshops, mentorship programs, and peer-to-peer learning sessions create a supportive environment where everyone can thrive and contribute to the company’s success.

8. Leverage Technology to Enhance the Customer Experience and Streamline Processes

In today’s data-driven world, personalized experiences are the key to winning customer loyalty. Take a cue from Amazon Web Services (AWS), the cloud computing giant known for its hyper-personalized customer approach.

AWS harnesses the power of big data and machine learning algorithms to analyze customer behavior and preferences. By mining valuable insights from vast datasets, AWS can tailor its recommendations and solutions to meet each customer’s unique needs and objectives.

For example, AWS utilizes predictive analytics to anticipate potential issues and proactively offer customized solutions before problems arise. This proactive approach not only enhances customer satisfaction but also fosters long-term relationships built on trust and reliability.

9. Cultivate a Community-Driven Approach

Empower your customers by creating a vibrant community where they can connect, learn, and share experiences. Look no further than Adobe, the multinational software company known for its creative solutions and community-centric ethos.

Adobe’s Creative Cloud community serves as a hub for artists, designers, and enthusiasts to collaborate, exchange ideas, and access valuable resources. Through forums, user groups, and online events, Adobe fosters a sense of belonging and camaraderie among its users, turning them into brand advocates and loyal ambassadors.

Furthermore, Adobe actively solicits feedback from its community members and incorporates their input into product development and enhancements. By co-creating solutions with its customers, Adobe ensures its offerings remain relevant and impactful in an ever-changing market landscape.

10. Measure Success Beyond Traditional Metrics

While metrics like customer satisfaction scores and churn rates are essential, they only tell part of the story. Expand your definition of success by measuring less tangible factors, such as customer loyalty, advocacy, and lifetime value.

Don’t rely solely on quantitative metrics like ticket resolution times or NPS scores to gauge customer success. Instead, broaden your perspective to encompass the entire customer journey and its qualitative aspects. Learn from Shopify, the e-commerce platform synonymous with empowering entrepreneurs worldwide.

Shopify takes a holistic approach to measuring customer success by looking beyond surface-level metrics and delving into the deeper nuances of customer satisfaction and engagement. By conducting in-depth surveys, sentiment analysis, and customer interviews, Shopify gains valuable insights into the emotional and experiential dimensions of the customer journey.

Moreover, Shopify tracks key milestones and moments of delight throughout the customer lifecycle, recognizing that true success fosters meaningful connections and drives tangible outcomes for its merchants. By prioritizing qualitative feedback and human-centered metrics, Shopify ensures that its customer success efforts are impactful, sustainable, and aligned with its overarching mission of empowering commerce for all.

How Zight Boosts Your Customer Success Strategy

As stated above, the best examples of effective customer success strategies have broken free from norms and found better ways to communicate with customers. Now, you need a tool that will help you improve customer success- Zight!

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Zight is the visual communication tool your customer success team needs to differentiate its approach.

We help CS teams create quality content for customers – from annotated screenshots to GIFs to interactive, pre-recorded tutorials

By leveraging Zight’s visual communication capabilities, Zight has enabled customer support teams worldwide to close tickets up to 3x faster – with higher customer satisfaction rates. This is thanks to the clarity and efficiency of visual communication, which simplifies complex concepts and troubleshooting processes.

We make work more accessible by making communication visual.

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