These terms taken from the blog post The Customer Success Dictionary of Reference: Part I by Burke Alder, ClientSuccess VP of Marketing.
Onboarding is the first stage of a customer relationship with a new brand. After the sales process, onboarding is the first impression a customer has with a brand’s internal team, its processes, and the general working relationship. Onboarding is a combination of implementation, training, and success. A SaaS-focused CSM will help a customer get implemented or activated on their new platform or product, train individual departments to ensure long-term success, and then work with them through any immediate issues that arise.
After the onboarding process, usage can be an indicator to determine customer health. Usage refers to how often customers are logging into their new platform and how they’re utilizing the Isolution to their advantage. For CSMs, usage can sometimes be a tricky metric to track and measure. If only a small number of individuals at a customer company are logging in on a regular basis and actually using the product, it can skew the metrics for an entire organization. CSMs should track usage at an individual level, department level, and organizational level for a clear picture of customer operations and an indicator of account health.
Engagement, in the world of customer success, is a little different from usage. Engagement refers to a customer’s willingness and openness to interact and engage with a brand after the onboarding process. This means engaging with the CSM and team through supplemental trainings, webinars, and more, as well as with the rest of the team through activities like downloading marketing content, being available for advocate interviews, and even engaging with executives at the C-level. Engagement, on top of usage, is a great way to gauge customer loyalty and affinity.
A customer health score is an extremely useful metric for CSMs, as it combines individual stats such as usage, engagement, and satisfaction into a single, quantifiable score. Customer health scores are a good way to determine the big-picture health of a client, since there really isn’t any way to single out individuals or specific departments. Most customer health scores are an average look at all activity in an organization, so it includes those on both extreme ends: evangelists and agnostics. Health scores are a great place to start when determining an action plan for a customer account, but CSMs should be sure to dig into the individual metrics and engagement of specific users or departments.
The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is an official metric used to gauge the likelihood of a customer promoting vendor or product to others, though hotly debated as to whether or not the number is a good representation of customer health. Since this is such a widespread number, it’s easy for organizations to see where their brand stands against others in the industry or sector. NPS scores are determined by customer-facing surveys, so they can be serve as a way for organizations to receive feedback and measure customer health straight from the source.
Customer satisfaction (also often referred to as CSAT) is an over-arching look at how a consumer feels in a brand relationship. It is a more relative metric, and often CSMs base customer satisfaction on other more established measurements, such as a health score or usage metric. Customer satisfaction can also be determined by a CSMs gut feeling or even a 1:1 conversation with a customer. CSMs should be aware of any red flags or contributing factors in a brand/customer relationship that could affect satisfaction and work proactively to nip it in the bud.
Churn might just be a customer success professional’s least favorite word. Also called attrition or turnover, churn refers to the loss of a customer account. In order to reduce customer churn, CSMs must be on top of all of the previous metrics (engagement, health, usage, etc.) to pinpoint exactly when a customer account begins to go downhill. When an issue is identified, a CSM can then work directly with a customer to determine root cause and corrective action.
A renewal is when a customer decides to re-sign or renew a contract with a vendor. Renewals are a critical goal of most SaaS customer success departments, and they are an achievement that is often celebrated and rewarded. Oftentimes, customers waver between renewal and churn, and it’s the CSMs responsibility to sway an account towards the renewal. Staying on top of customer success metrics and customer health is a good way to achieve a steady customer renewal rate.
Upsells are what most customer success professionals strive for daily. An upsell means that not only did a customer see enough value in a product to make them want to renew, but they also wanted to expand usage and collaborate with a brand in even more ways. Most CSMs are rewarded for upsells through compensation plans, which makes an upsell even more of a win not only for the CSM but also for an organization in general.
Today’s SaaS organizations commonly utilize a subscription business model, where customers pay a recurring fee to gain access to a certain software or cloud-based platform. Subscription revenue refers to the overall amount of incoming revenue from customer subscriptions over a set period of time. Customer success teams should track subscription revenue over time to keep tabs on big-picture customer accounts and relationships. It’s also important to remember that subscription revenue doesn’t make up 100% of an organization’s revenue—there are also non-subscription services like training, customization, or professional services.
Cross-sell is a customer success term that refers to selling a different product or offering to a consumer. A cross-sell differs from an upsell, which often increases incoming revenue or expands on a current product offering. Cross-selling has more to do with lateral growth, or switching between one product and another. It’s often a sign of complete trust between a customer and a brand to attempt a cross-selling transaction, as it often requires a Customer Success Manager (CSM) presenting an entirely new workflow to a customer and them accepting the suggestion wholeheartedly.
Green Zone Status
For SaaS organizations that rely on incoming Subscription Revenue (see term #1) and recurring revenue, Green Zone Status refers to revenue numbers that are trending positively. Green Zone Status is oftentimes represented graphically to make it easy for customer success professionals to quickly identify where ‘red zones’ are occurring. Many customer success teams monitor Green Zone Status to stay in-the-know exactly when a customer account starts trending downwards and immediately begin building a plan.
Customer Lifecycle Management
The customer lifecycle refers to the entire customer journey, from sales to onboarding to engagement and beyond. Customer Lifecycle Management, then, is the understanding and facilitating of this process to ensure the perfect customer experience every single time. CSMs should track and learn what they can from every single customer journey and then work from best practices or benchmarks to optimize the customer journey for every individual and organization alike.
Deployment is a stage in the customer lifecycle that is often lumped in with onboarding a customer, although it’s actually it’s own step. Deployment is any change on the back end of a platform or product, and occurs when a customer begins using a platform for the first time, as well as when a vendor organization needs to update code behind the scenes. For sophisticated SaaS organizations, deployment is a seamless transfer of data between an online host and the pre-built platform.
Adoption is a customer success term with two possible definitions associated with it. On one hand (and probably most commonly), adoption can refer to the number of internal employees at a customer organization who use a SaaS product on a regular basis. As product usage spreads from the decision makers to the end users, the user adoption can be easily measured. However, adoption can also refer to the adoption of new product features by an entire organization. Just as product usage can spread throughout individual customers, an organization can spread it’s use case across an entire platform, slowly adopting all of the features and use cases it offers.
KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)
Key Performance Indicators, or KPIs, are an extremely important for any team or department in any organization, not just SaaS companies. While this blanket term is standard, however, the actual KPIs tracked often differ throughout teams, departments, and organizations. That’s one of the perks of KPIs, actually—being able to track exactly what’s important to a specific team, without being bogged down by unnecessary metrics. Customer success teams can track KPIs like engagement, usage, and even satisfaction.
Risk factors is another customer success phrase that can be called different things depending on the team. Risk factors are anything that can possibly stand in the way of a customer succeeding or renewing with a vendor. Also known as ‘red flags’ or ‘roadblocks’, risk factors are predetermined issues blocking the path to success. Customer success professionals can proactively identify these risk factors early and then work to remove any obstacle or potential of these risk factors occurring.