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January 27, 2020 Peggy Liu

Forget customer service — aim for customer success

The goal shouldn't be providing service, it should be helping your clients find success. That's the difference that will set your organization behind.

It’s time to rethink the traditional customer service mentality. Consumer culture has evolved since the birth of the internet, and in 2019, consumers are more savvy than ever. Many are regularly researching products, services, and companies before settling on a purchase, and just as many are applying an experiences-based value system to the brands they support.

In this fast-paced digital age in which every business is competing for consumer attention, brands will have to slow down enough to take the time to empathize with their customers if they want to stand out.

Why is customer service not enough?

Businesses need customers in order to stay in business, but much like a one-sided relationship, the customers aren’t likely to stay with a business if the business neglects to make an effort to keep them. Applying this reality to customer service, it’s easy to spot why businesses that only implement customer service functions may experience higher rates of customer churn.

Every organization needs a team to answer questions, quell complaints, and guide customers through the use of their service or product. Customer service is important for those specific issues, but it’s not the best way to build brand-consumer relationships. Why? It’s a more reactive than proactive form of engagement, and as we all know, successful relationships require active effort from parties on both sides. 

Customer success is based on building relationships

For customer-facing businesses, especially B2B and SaaS companies, implementing a customer success strategy is necessary for retaining currently existing customers and attracting new ones. The key elements of customer success are as follows:

  1. Learning about the customer and understanding their needs before the sale
  2. Helping the customer achieve their desired outcomes (thereby getting maximum value out of your product/service)
  3. Following up with the customer and staying engaged with them after the sale

The whole goal of the customer success strategy is to add value to the sales journey and build a relationship with the customer. Unlike the reactive nature of customer service, customer success is involved, empathetic, and revolves entirely around the customer’s experience.

Mutual engagement for mutual success

Paying attention to the post-sale experience is crucial if you want to ensure the customer is achieving success with your product or service. This can look like providing additional resources on your company website or following up with them via phone call or email. If the customer has no problems, their positive experience increases the possibility of a subscription or sale renewal and increases your business’s customer retention rates. This is the beauty of building a genuine relationship with your customer base: the more people sense that you care about their needs and can help them achieve their goals, the more likely they are to stay with you long-term.

The customer success method will look different for each company, as the implementation depends on your industry and what you’re selling. For example, a SaaS company might have a designated customer success manager or agent because their service requires more in-depth attention. On the other hand, a retail company might train their store employees to incorporate the customer success mindset into their service. 

However customer success looks in each individual business, there’s no doubt that there’s a serious advantage to applying it to customer relationships and embedding it into your sales and marketing strategy. Consumer culture may change but one thing that will never change is the universal dislike of feeling like you’re losing out on something — and both companies and consumers can relate to this.

Peggy Liu

Peggy Liu is a freelance writer and content creator and editor. She graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in English Literature, where she was also a mental health columnist for the student newspaper. When she isn't digging her way to the bottom of a peanut butter jar or petting friendly dogs around Vancouver, she can be found sitting in cafes with a notebook and a cup of coffee.