When to buy Customer Success software (and when it’s a waste of money)
There are a lot of companies marketing their software to Customer Success teams. By some estimates there are 20+ purpose built Customer Success software products on the market. Costs vary, but you’ll likely spend from $100 to over $5000 per month depending on the functionality of the product and the number of seats purchased. As a Customer Success consultant a lot of clients ask me if they should purchase Customer Success software. My advice? Before you invest huge amounts of time and money on Customer Success software, make sure you’re ready to use enough of the product’s capabilities to see a ROI.
Customer Success teams need to define their goals before they’re able to be successful with a Customer Success product. No one knows better than a Customer Success practitioner that a partnership will struggle to deliver value to the customer if it lacks clear goals, metrics to measure success, and realistic expectations. As a result, it often makes sense to hold off on buying a Customer Success product while the team works to identify what they need in a solution. During this interim period Customer Success can benefit from digging deeper into the tools other teams have access to, and potentially co-opt one of these ‘cross over’ products for their use. Product teams often leverage analytics tools such as Looker, Mixpanel, or Kissmetrics to track data around user actions and churn rates. Support teams communicate with users in customer support software such as Zendesk or Help Scout, and share knowledge base articles using products such as Helpjuice. Marketing creates messaging flows in Intercom or Mailchimp. Sales keeps track of their pipeline via Salesforce or Pipedrive. And the list goes on. Each of these products has features and functionality that Customer Success teams can leverage for their own use. Is there purpose built Customer Success software that is more cohesive and has innovate features these products lack? Absolutely. But how will you know which features and functionality you need if you only look at the feature grids of 20+ Customer Success software products? What if one of these ‘cross over’ products can meet your Customer Success team’s needs for the foreseeable future? Is adding a Customer Success specific product worth the added cost, allocation of implementation resources, and increased complexity in your company’s operations and workflows?
My aim isn’t to convince you to swear off Customer Success software. On the contrary, there are a lot of great solutions out there that have been custom built to address the pain points of Customer Success teams. What you’ll quickly realize when you start researching Customer Success software is that supply isn’t the issue, it’s deciding what product will work best for your team. You’ll need to do your homework into the offerings of the different purpose built Customer Success software products because there’s quite a lot of variability in functionality and price. But if this list looks daunting to you, I’ll try to alleviate some of your anxiety by highlighting some all-star products that are a good starting point or accompaniment to more custom built solutions.
Products to help you get started
What it does: Customer communication software
Why it’s helpful: We’ve all received the equivalent of a “Dear valued customer [first_name]” email. It’s hugely discouraging to feel like you’re just a number to a company you view as one of your company’s critical systems (and probably charges you accordingly). So how can you avoid the type of impersonal messaging that creates distance between you and your customer base without sacrificing the scale customer communication products provide? Intercom allows you to send targeted email, in-app, and push messages to onboard, upsell, and retain customers based on actions they have (or haven’t) taken, details about their specific account, and much more.
Products that allow you to grow
What it does: Data analytics platform
Why it’s helpful: Looker is a best in class analytics company. In my experience, it can be nearly impossible to get Product or Engineering resources dedicated to a project that will only benefit the Customer Success team. Enter Looker, which can quickly become a central repository of all customer and user data. Customer Success has customized dashboards to track customer engagement, create custom health scores, and track renewal dates. Product receives automated emails that break down feature usage and daily active user counts, Finance uses it for revenue projections, and so on. When all your user and customer data is tracked in Looker, it becomes a critical dashboard for every team. This means that maintaining data integrity for your Customer Success dashboards (always a huge challenge) is now a company-wide priority.
What it does: Allows you to schedule meetings using a sharable URL
Why it’s helpful: Cut down on the back-and-forth around booking a meeting. Sync Calendly with your calendar, create different types of meetings (is this a 30 minute call customer call or a 60 minute training with a screenshare), set your availability for each meeting type, and send out a URL that allows customers to book the appropriate meeting at a time that works for everyone. No more “sending times”.
Cost: Free and paid plans
Products to help you level up
What it does: CRM software
Why it’s helpful: Customer Success teams need a way to track customer information and, as much as it pains me to admit it, Salesforce is the still best CRM on the market. Not because of an award-winning UI (although Lightening is certainly an improvement from the early 00’s design we suffered through for years), or a subscription fee that won’t break the bank (it will), but because it boasts the most robust ecosystem of integrations and apps. That means as your CSMs track their conversations and account statuses in Salesforce, this data is easily accessible to other teams through integrations with products such as Zendesk and Mailchimp. The ability to leverage your customer information outside the walls of your CRM makes Salesforce worth the cost (and the terrible UI).
What it does: Find, research, and connect with professionals contacts
Why it’s helpful: Anyone who has hit LinkedIn’s monthly search limits knows how frustrating it can be. As they’ve pushed more aggressively to increase Premium subscriptions, they’ve become even more stingy on what you can do for free. CSMs aim to establish strong relationships with their primary points of contact, but should not make the mistake of having a single point of failure. Unlocking the ability to search and connect with multiple contacts across a customer’s organization makes LinkedIn Premium worth the cost.
This post has further details on Customer Success tools that can help you scale.
What tools does your Customer Success team use? Do you use Customer Success software?