Customer Service

Customer Success: What It Means and How to Improve

Donna McPhee

In today’s business landscape, the success of any company hinges upon its ability to build, satisfy and retain a loyal customer base. Existing customers are just as important, if not more, than new customers.

According to a McKinsey customer success case study, SaaS businesses that spend as much time caring for existing customers as they do on customer acquisition can deliver 20 percent year-on-year growth without acquiring a single new customer.

In an era where customers have countless options, exceptional products or services alone are not enough. Businesses need to guide them toward achieving their goals. This is how companies can differentiate themselves, build stronger customer relationships, and thrive in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

This is where customer success comes in.


  • Customer success is a framework for building strong, long-term customer relationships and driving positive business outcomes.
  • Businesses that invest in existing customers as much as customer acquisition can grow 20 percent year-on-year without acquiring a new customer.
  • Through onboarding, retention, engagement, and advocacy, businesses can enhance the customer journey to increase loyalty, customer satisfaction, and business growth.

What is Customer Success?

The customer success framework is the playbook for building strong, long-term customer relationships and driving positive business outcomes. It involves taking a proactive approach to understanding and meeting customer needs, ultimately driving customer satisfaction, loyalty, business growth, and long-term profitability.

At its core, customer success is about shifting the perspective from a transactional mindset to a relationship-oriented one. Rather than viewing customers as one-time buyers, companies adopting customer success recognize the importance of fostering long-term partnerships. They strive to deeply understand their customer’s goals, challenges, and unique requirements to provide tailored solutions and support throughout the customer journey.

Customer Success vs. Customer Service

While customer success and customer service are both vital components of delivering exceptional customer experiences, they differ in their focus, approach, and scope within a business.

Customer service primarily addresses and resolves customer inquiries, issues, or complaints. It’s reactive, and it often comes into play when customers encounter problems or need assistance. Customer service teams typically handle individual interactions case-by-case, aiming to provide timely solutions and satisfactory resolutions. The primary goal of customer service is to ensure customer satisfaction at that particular moment, resolving immediate concerns to maintain a positive customer perception.

On the other hand, customer success takes a proactive, holistic approach to the customer journey. It goes beyond addressing individual support tickets or complaints and focuses on driving long-term customer satisfaction and success. Rather than just being a reactive function, customer success is a strategic and ongoing effort to help customers achieve their desired outcomes.

While customer service typically focuses on resolving immediate issues, customer success is concerned with customers’ overall success and well-being. It involves providing proactive recommendations, training, and resources to help customers optimize their usage and derive maximum value from the product or service. CS teams may also play a role in account management, expanding customer accounts, and identifying upselling or cross-selling opportunities based on a deep understanding of customer needs and objectives.

Customer Service:Reactive approach to addressing customer inquiries or issues.Focuses on individual problems or complaints.Case-by-case handling of customer interactions.Aims to provide timely solutions and satisfactory resolutions.Primarily concerned with immediate customer satisfaction.Customer Success:Proactive approach to driving long-term customer satisfaction and success.Focuses on guiding customers towards achieving their desired outcomes.Engages in continuous monitoring, analysis, and engagement with customers.Offers personalized support, strategic guidance, and valuable insights.Aims to foster long-term relationships and maximize customer value.Identifies upselling or cross-selling opportunities based on customer needs.Spans the entire customer lifecycle.

The Pillars of Customer Success

Customer success relies on four key pillars to ensure customer satisfaction and long-term business growth. These provide the template for businesses to follow to design various strategies and activities that contribute to the overall success of the customer journey. They include:

Customer onboarding

Customer onboarding is the initial stage of the customer journey, where companies aim to set the foundation for a successful and productive customer relationship. This pillar provides a seamless and informative onboarding experience, helping customers get up and running with the product or service. It involves activities such as guiding customers through initial setup, offering training resources, and addressing any questions or concerns they may have. Effective onboarding ensures that customers understand the value proposition of the product or service, leading to higher adoption rates and improved customer satisfaction.

Customer retention

Customer retention is the pillar that focuses on maintaining and nurturing existing customer relationships. Retaining customers is crucial for long-term business success, as retaining and growing existing customers is often more cost-effective than acquiring new ones. This pillar involves implementing strategies to reduce churn and increase customer loyalty. It includes providing ongoing support, proactive monitoring of customer health, and identifying potential issues or barriers to customer success. By consistently delivering value, addressing customer needs, and building strong relationships, companies can improve customer retention rates and create a loyal customer base.

Customer engagement

Customer engagement engages customers actively throughout their journey, ensuring ongoing interaction and connection with the company and its offerings. This pillar aims to foster meaningful and valuable engagement to drive customer satisfaction and maximize product or service utilization. It involves various activities such as delivering personalized communications, providing relevant content and resources, conducting regular check-ins, and seeking feedback to understand customer needs and preferences. By promoting active engagement, companies can deepen customer relationships, increase customer satisfaction, and uncover growth opportunities.

Customer advocacy

Customer advocacy refers to turning satisfied customers into enthusiastic advocates who willingly promote the company to others. This pillar focuses on cultivating a customer base that acts as brand ambassadors, driving organic growth through positive word-of-mouth. It involves providing exceptional experiences, going above and beyond to exceed customer expectations, and actively seeking customer feedback and testimonials. By nurturing customer advocates, companies can leverage their influence and credibility to attract new customers, enhance brand reputation, and create a powerful marketing force.

Companies prioritizing these pillars can establish a customer-centric approach, maximize lifetime value, and position themselves for long-term success.

Strategies for Improving Customer Success

Personalize the customer experience

Tailoring the customer experience to individual needs and preferences is a powerful way to enhance customer success. Companies can gain valuable insights into customer behaviors, preferences, and goals by gathering and analyzing customer data. Businesses can use this information to deliver personalized interactions, customized recommendations, and targeted content that resonates with each customer. Personalization fosters a sense of value and demonstrates a deep understanding of customer needs, improving engagement, satisfaction, and loyalty.

Implement proactive customer success strategies

Instead of waiting for customers to encounter issues, proactive customer success strategies involve actively identifying and addressing potential challenges before they arise. This approach includes conducting regular health checks to monitor customer satisfaction, usage patterns, and product adoption. By leveraging data analytics and customer feedback, companies can identify areas for improvement and provide proactive guidance, training, and support. Proactive strategies anticipate customer needs, prevent customer churn, and optimize the customer experience, ultimately driving higher success rates.

Invest in customer success software and tools

Customer success software and tools are vital in optimizing customer success initiatives. Platforms like CRMs provide robust capabilities for tracking customer data, monitoring customer health scores, automating workflows, and generating valuable insights. Friction-free billing tools also contribute to long-term relationship success. For example, Stax Bill helps businesses automate repetitive tasks so teams can focus on the big picture. Features like subscription management and analytics, recurring billing, and automation let businesses work more efficiently, recover more revenue, and collect payments on more invoices.

By investing in the right tools, businesses can streamline processes, improve efficiency, and enhance the overall effectiveness of their customer success efforts.

Deliver value at every stage of the customer journey

Customer success is about consistently delivering value to customers throughout their journey. It involves understanding customers’ unique needs and goals at each stage and providing relevant resources, guidance, and support. By mapping out the customer journey and identifying touchpoints and milestones, companies can ensure that customers receive meaningful experiences and achieve their desired outcomes. Value can be delivered through personalized onboarding, ongoing product training, regular check-ins, access to relevant content, and proactive problem-solving. Businesses can build trust, foster customer loyalty, and drive long-term success by continuously demonstrating value.

The Customer Success Team

The customer success team is critical in effectively implementing and maintaining customer success. They ensure customer satisfaction, retention, and long-term success for the company and its customers.

Roles and Responsibilities of a CS Team

1. Onboarding

Facilitating a smooth onboarding process, ensuring customers have a positive experience from the start, and understanding how to utilize the product or service effectively.

2. Relationship and account management

Building and maintaining strong customer relationships, serving as the primary point of contact, and ensuring ongoing engagement and satisfaction.

3. Proactive customer support

Proactively identifying and addressing potential issues or challenges that may impede customer success, providing timely guidance and solutions.

4. Adoption and expansion

Driving product adoption and identifying opportunities for upselling or cross-selling, maximizing customer value and revenue generation.

5. Renewals and retention

Renewing customer contracts and minimizing churn by closely monitoring customer health, identifying risks, and implementing retention strategies.

6. Customer advocacy

Cultivating customer advocates and leveraging satisfied customers to provide testimonials, referrals, and positive word-of-mouth, which contribute to business growth.

Essential Skills For a Customer Success Manager

  1. Relationship building: CSMs must possess excellent interpersonal skills to build trust, establish rapport, and maintain strong customer relationships.
  2. Communication: Strong verbal and written communication skills are crucial for effectively conveying information, listening to customer needs, and providing clear guidance and support.
  3. Empathy and customer focus: CSMs should be able to understand and empathize with customer challenges and goals, putting the customer’s success at the forefront of their efforts.
  4. Problem-solving and analytical thinking: CSMs must be skilled at analyzing data, identifying patterns, and offering data-driven insights to address customer pain points and drive success.
  5. Collaboration: Collaboration skills are essential for working closely with internal teams, including sales reps and product, and support staff, to ensure a seamless and coordinated customer experience.

Why Interdepartmental Cooperation Is Essential

Interdepartmental cooperation ensures a holistic approach to customer success and maximizes the potential for positive outcomes. Key areas of cooperation include:

  1. Sales: Collaboration between customer success and sales teams is vital for a smooth transition from sales to onboarding, ensuring customer expectations are met and aligning customer goals with the product or service capabilities.
  2. Product development: Customer success teams can provide valuable insights and feedback to the product development team, helping shape product roadmaps and prioritize feature enhancements based on customer needs and pain points.
  3. Support: Close cooperation between customer success and support teams allows for efficient issue resolution, escalations, and seamless communication, resulting in a positive customer experience and faster problem-solving.
  4. Marketing: Collaboration with marketing teams helps CSMs leverage customer success stories and testimonials to promote the company’s value proposition, build brand reputation, and attract new customers.

Interdepartmental cooperation allows companies to create a customer-centric culture that optimizes customer success efforts to deliver exceptional experiences at every touchpoint.

Metrics for Measuring Customer Success

Measuring customer success is crucial for understanding the effectiveness of customer engagement strategies and identifying areas for improvement. Key performance indicators (KPIs) serve as valuable metrics to gauge the success and impact of customer success initiatives. Those KPIs include:

Churn rate

Churn rate measures the percentage of customers who discontinue their relationship with a company over a specific period. High churn rates indicate potential issues with customer satisfaction, product adoption, or perceived value. By closely monitoring churn rates, businesses can identify trends, uncover root causes, and implement proactive measures to improve customer retention.

Net promoter score (NPS)

NPS measures customer loyalty and satisfaction by asking customers to rate their likelihood of recommending the product or service to others on a scale of 0 to 10. NPS provides insights into customer advocacy and serves as an indicator of overall customer satisfaction. Analyzing NPS scores helps identify promoters (loyal advocates), detractors (unhappy customers), and passives (neutral customers), enabling companies to focus efforts on converting detractors into promoters and enhancing the customer experience.

Customer satisfaction (CSAT)

CSAT measures customer satisfaction with specific interactions or experiences. It is typically measured through surveys asking customers to rate their satisfaction level. CSAT scores help identify areas of strength and areas that require improvement within the customer journey.

Customer effort score (CES)

CES measures the ease of customer experience in achieving their goals or resolving issues. It quantifies customers’ efforts to invest in their interactions with the company. Lower CES scores indicate a more seamless and effortless experience, while higher scores reflect potential friction or barriers to success.

Using These Metrics to Drive Improvements

Businesses should adopt a data-driven approach and implement the following steps to leverage these metrics effectively:

  1. Track and analyze: Identify trends, patterns, and areas for improvement.
  2. Benchmark: Compare performance against industry standards or internal benchmarks to assess the company’s standing and identify areas that require attention.
  3. Identify root causes: Understand the underlying causes of low scores or high churn rates.
  4. Take action: Implement proactive strategies to address customer concerns, enhance the customer experience, and foster long-term success.
  5. Continuously iterate: Continuously monitor and iterate strategies based on the metrics to ensure that improvements are sustained and aligned with evolving customer needs.

Future Trends in Customer Success

The field of customer success is evolving rapidly, driven by technological advancements and changing customer expectations. Several future trends are poised to reshape the landscape.

Data analytics

Data analytics is already vital. By leveraging it, businesses can gain valuable insights into customer behavior, preferences, and patterns. Advanced analytics tools and techniques enable companies to segment customers, identify trends, and personalize interactions. Data-driven decision-making empowers customer success teams to proactively address customer needs, optimize the customer experience, and drive better outcomes.

AI and automation

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation are revolutionizing customer success strategies. AI-powered chatbots, virtual assistants, and predictive analytics enable businesses to deliver personalized, real-time support. Automation streamlines routine tasks, freeing up customer success teams to focus on higher-value activities. AI-driven insights help identify upselling opportunities, predict customer behavior, and optimize resource allocation.

Sustainable business practices

Sustainability is growing in importance, and customer success is crucial in driving sustainable outcomes. Customer success teams can actively contribute to sustainable practices by helping customers optimize resource usage, adopt eco-friendly solutions, and align their goals with sustainable initiatives. By integrating sustainability into customer success strategies, businesses can enhance brand reputation, attract environmentally conscious customers, and contribute to a greener future.


Webinars are emerging as a powerful tool for customer success teams to engage with customers, deliver valuable content, and foster knowledge-sharing. Interactive learning is facilitated through real-time engagement, Q&A sessions, and demonstrations. Webinars also provide scalability and reach by eliminating geographical barriers and allowing businesses to reach a broader audience. Furthermore, recorded webinars can be made available on demand, enabling customers to access them at their convenience.


Customer success has emerged as a vital, modern business strategy from all sectors, from SaaS companies to professional services. It encompasses a holistic approach to ensuring customer satisfaction, retention, and advocacy throughout the customer journey. Businesses can build strong, mutually beneficial relationships with their customers by focusing on these pillars.

Just like the digital transformation movement of the 2010s, the whole business has to be onboard. With interdepartmental cooperation, KPIs, and comprehensive strategies in place, businesses can foster loyalty, reduce churn, increase revenue, and establish a strong competitive advantage in today’s customer-centric landscape.

For customer success in your billing department, Stax Bill offers subscription-based pricing and is packed with features, including subscription management, recurring billing and automation, ASC 606-compliant recurring revenue recognition, payment gateway and management, subscription analytics, and dunning management.

FAQs about Customer Success

Q: What is customer success?

Customer success is a framework for building strong, long-term customer relationships and driving positive business outcomes. It involves taking a proactive approach to understanding and meeting customer needs, ultimately driving customer satisfaction, loyalty, business growth, and long-term profitability. Customer success focuses on guiding customers toward achieving their goals, providing tailored solutions and support throughout the customer journey.

Q: How can you improve customer success?

Some of the things you can do to improve and enhance customer success are:

  • Personalize the customer experience 
  • Implement proactive customer success strategies 
  • Invest in customer success software and tools 
  • Deliver value at every stage of the customer journey 
  • Foster interdepartmental cooperation

Q: How do you measure customer success?

Depending on your company and customer success initiatives, you can track and measure customer success using a combination (or all) of these metrics:

  • Churn rate
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS)
  • Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)
  • Customer Effort Score (CES) 

Q: What is the role of the customer success team?

The customer success team plays a critical role in effectively implementing and maintaining customer success. Their responsibilities include:

  • Onboarding: Facilitating a smooth onboarding process 
  • Relationship and account management: Building and maintaining strong customer relationships 
  • Proactive customer support: Identifying and addressing potential issues 
  • Adoption and expansion: Driving product adoption and upselling/cross-selling 
  • Renewals and retention: Minimizing churn and renewing customer contracts 
  • Customer advocacy: Cultivating customer advocates for business growth

Written by:

Donna McPhee
Donna McPhee
Customer Success Representative, Stax Bill

Donna is part of the Customer Success team at Stax Bill. Donna has a strong track record of success of translating business process gaps and impediments into workable client-specific solutions across the subscription management and cecurring billing business model.