Skilljar Blog

The Customer Success Stack

Posted by Sandi Lin on October 29, 2015

Sales, marketing, and development teams have had their own software stacks for years. 

  • A full-stack developer is fluent across front-end, back-end, and database languages and tools.
  • A full-stack salesperson can do lead research, prospecting, demos, proposals and closing.
  • A full-stack marketer is expected to run online demand generation, content marketing, SEO/SEM, lead conversion, scoring, nurturing, and even manage offline channels. 

In all of these cases, there are dozens (if not hundreds!) of software tools that are combined to create a complete and robust supporting software stack. 

customer-success-stack

Customer success management, however, is a fairly new discipline that is still in its infancy when it comes to software. Customer success combines elements of account management, customer relationship management (CRM), onboarding, training, implementation, and support in order to help customers successfully adopt and use a product in the long-term.

What are the must-have software tools in a modern customer success stack? Read on to find out!

CRM 

A customer relationship management system (CRM) is the first essential tool for collecting all the data about your customers in a centralized place. Historically, CRMs like Salesforce, Zoho, and Dynamics were used to manage the sales process and store customer contract data. Today, many of these providers are transitioning to the needs of a SaaS world, where post-sales relationships are just as critical as pre-sales activities.

In some cases, vendors are building on top of CRMs with new functionality that is specific to customer success organizations. For example, Gainsight is built on top of Salesforce and integrates post-sales analytics with existing customer data to create an ongoing customer health score. In other cases, vendors like ClientSuccess are building new solutions that are separate from CRMs but integrate with data from these legacy systems.

Customer Marketing 

In a SaaS world where every billing cycle is an opportunity for renewal or churn, communicating with your customers on an ongoing basis is just as important as nurturing prospects for the initial sale. Not surprisingly, many customer success teams are extending their marketing automation systems for ongoing communications, including:

  • A tailored series of onboarding emails
  • Product newsletter updates
  • Nurturing campaigns based on in-app activity

Popular customer marketing automation software vendors include Marketo, Hubspot, Eloqua, Pardot, and ExactTarget.

Engagement Analytics 

A major indicator of customer success is product adoption and use. For online businesses, there are many ways to collect metrics on how your customers are using your product. Generic web analytics packages include Google Analytics and Mixpanel. More advanced options that can track activities on a user-level basis include Kissmetrics and Intercom. There are even technical frameworks like Segment.io that enable you to reuse event tags in your application with multiple analytics software packages.

Customer Education

Onboarding & training is the critical first step to customer success. There are three types of software tools commonly used to educate your customers.

  • Quick hit tutorials: For online businesses, tools like WalkMe and Pendo enable you to construct tool-tip like walkthroughs around a software application. Great for simple tutorials.
  • Learning management systems: An LMS enables you to deliver and track comprehensive customer training courses. Skilljar, for example, is an LMS that powers on-demand and live customer training. In addition to content management, Skilljar offers a certifications engine, e-commerce, detailed analytics reporting, and systems integrations that can be used for both online and offline businesses.
  • Live meeting software: Software like Join.me, GoToMeeting, and WebEx are effective tools for your customer success team to host live, screenshare-based training sessions.

Community/Advocacy

Customer communities are great ways for customers to learn from each other and share best practices. Social communities enable you to grow brand advocacy and increase customer satisfaction while also generating new ideas and reducing support costs.

One of the challenges with customer communities is encouraging members to participate. Incentives and gamification are ways to jump-start the community ecosystem. Popular software vendors include Jive, Lithium, Salesforce Community, and Influitive.

Customer Service

Even with the best onboarding and training process, there will be inevitably be support questions handled by the customer service team. Many customer service teams use a multi-channel approach, for example a self-service knowledgebank, live chat, social monitoring, and numerous productivity tools. While this area is typically handled by a different department than the customer success team, customer service is still an important part of your customer’s overall journey and experience. 

Conclusion

Customer success is an emerging discipline with many software needs across the customer journey. Today, organizations are trying to adapt existing sales and marketing tools, as well as to leverage new solutions being developed for customer success management by innovative software vendors. What does your customer success stack look like? Let us know in the comments!

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