Customer Success in SaaS: A Complete Guide & Best Practices

customer-success-in-saas:-a-complete-guide-&-best-practices

Customer success in SaaS differs from CS in other industries. The software service industry presents unique challenges for customer success management while also creating unique opportunities that call for specific strategies. Knowing how to capitalize on these opportunities can give you an advantage over competitors. Read on to learn the keys to effective customer success for SaaS clients.

How Is Customer Success for SaaS Different from Other Businesses

The nature of the SaaS industry makes customer success look significantly different than it does in other sectors. SaaS companies face distinctive challenges, including pursuing different goals, using various methods to measure success, and relying on different tools to deliver successful outcomes. At the same time, the distinctive nature of SaaS offers unique advantages for customer success management, including the ability to engage customers digitally, the technological means to automate successful results, and opportunities to leverage customer feedback. Capitalizing on these advantages requires an approach to customer success tailored to the specific needs of SaaS clients and businesses.

What Special Customer Success Challenges Do SaaS Companies Face?

SaaS companies face an array of distinctive challenges in defining, delivering, and measuring customer success. Some of the significant differences from other industries include:

  • In the SaaS market, customer success outcomes encompass customer satisfaction variables common to other industries, such as perceived value, service quality, and the customer’s digital experience. You’re not only obliged to deliver high value with superior service, but you also need to deliver a smooth, no-hassle digital experience to keep customers happy.
  • Moreover, the outcomes that define customer success may vary based on whether your SaaS product is B2C or B2B. For example, a B2C customer might prioritize user experience, while a B2B client might emphasize return on investment.
  • The digital nature of SaaS customer experience means that success outcomes are defined primarily in terms of digital, measurable key performance indicators, such as product usage metrics.
  • Delivering successful SaaS outcomes requires using tools to engage customers digitally, such as in-app messages, live chat, and email.
  • To ensure that SaaS outcomes are delivered successfully, customer success teams must use digital tools to track performance and make continuous adjustments.

All of these factors and more combine to make customer success a multi-faceted challenge for SaaS software providers.

What Customer Success Advantages Do SaaS Companies Enjoy?

While the challenges SaaS presents for customer success can be formidable, SaaS also offers some major advantages for software providers:


  • The digital nature of SaaS means that providers can engage with clients digitally throughout their customer journey. This gives companies an unprecedented opportunity to steer customers toward successful outcomes.
  • SaaS technology allows companies to design customer journey maps that standardize success outcomes to be automated for repeatable, scalable results. Success outcomes can be standardized for every customer journey phase, including freemium upgrades, onboarding, adoption, renewal, expansion, and brand advocacy.
  • SaaS success outcomes can be defined in terms of measurable digital benchmarks. This makes success quantifiable for objective, data-driven CS management.
  • Software platforms can promote success outcomes by leveraging digital communication tools. For example, a customer who is slow to complete the onboarding process can be sent an email prompt with a link to tutorial tips.
  • SaaS platforms can deploy digital tracking methods, such as KPI monitoring and dashboard displays to ensure that customers stay on a path toward successful outcomes. When data indicates a customer is experiencing dissatisfaction, CS teams can intervene with corrective automated or manual procedures. On the other hand, when data reflects high customer satisfaction, CS teams can extend upsell offers or referral invitations.

Despite its challenges, these benefits and others make SaaS a powerful aid to customer success.

How Can Customer Success Teams Optimize CS Strategies for SaaS?

 Customer success managers and teams can adapt their CS strategies to the needs of software clients by harnessing the advantages inherent in SaaS. A strategic approach to SaaS customer success includes several critical components:

  • Technology plays a crucial role in SaaS customer success. SaaS technology and supporting apps should be used to implement a data-driven approach to customer success, automate best practices, monitor results, and manage performance.
  • A customer journey map lays the foundation for the effective deployment of technology for CS. Laying out a customer journey map allows CS teams to set measurable goals for each customer experience stage, set benchmarks, and implement automated strategies corresponding to mapped stages.
  • Key performance indicators should be defined for each customer journey stage. These can include standardized KPIs common to a given market and customized KPIs specific to a product or customer.
  • To achieve performance goals, best practices should be defined and automated for each customer journey stage. For example, you might script an email to be sent automatically if a customer’s Net Promoter Score (NPS) falls below a target threshold within 30 days of their subscription renewal deadline.
  • Success automation relies heavily on strategic usage of digital communication tools such as in-app prompts, emails, and live chat. These enable you to convey instructions that promote customer success and intervene when customers diverge from intended outcomes.
  • Successful implementation of customer journey automation depends heavily on active data monitoring. Data for individual customers, data from customer segments, and data from your entire customer base can all be relevant to monitoring how your CS implementation is faring.
  • Effective data monitoring and deployment of automated best practices depend on data segmentation. For example, you might divide your customers into groups based on product usage levels and have different automated actions triggered based on which category a given account falls into. This allows you to deliver personalized success outcomes.
  • Practical data usage requires accessible data displays. Tools such as KPIs, dashboards, and automated reports help CS teams put customer data to use.

Applying these strategies will enable customer success teams to harness the power of SaaS for delivering satisfying client outcomes.

What Are the Keys to Winning Customer Success for SaaS Businesses?

To apply the strategies suggested above, you can leverage customer success technology to automate SaaS CS best practices. Here are five keys to doing it right.

1. Start with a SaaS Customer Journey Map

A customer journey map lays a foundation for effective automation by giving you a framework to document best practices and establish key performance indicators (KPIs) for each stage in your customer lifecycle. A complete map can encompass:


  1. Product awareness during marketing engagement
  2. Product consideration during the freemium stage
  3. Conversion from freemium to paying customer
  4. Onboarding of new customers
  5. Adoption of product features
  6. Renewal of product subscription
  7. Expansion of product usage through upgrade, upsell and cross-sell offers
  8. Brand advocacy through promoting customer referrals

For each stage of the customer journey, your map can define variables such as what the customer should be experiencing at that stage to enjoy a successful outcome, what thoughts, feelings, and actions define a successful experience, and what underlying factors contribute to their experience. Ideally, it would be best to build a map for your entire customer journey, but you can even benefit by mapping out a single stage, such as onboarding and optimizing it. To help you get started, we’ve provided a customer journey map template you can build on.

2. Establish Your SaaS CS KPIs

To measure customer success, you’ll need KPIs corresponding to each stage of your customer journey map. Examples of important SaaS KPIs include:

Review your customer journey map and identify the KPIs for each stage essential to measuring your customers’ success. The Totango platform provides you with modules called SuccessBLOCs, which include built-in KPIs you can use.

3. Design SuccessPlays to Achieve Your Target Outcomes

A SuccessPlay is an automatically or manually triggered action that embodies a best practice to help your customer achieve a successful outcome. For example, if a customer has recently purchased your product, automatically sending them an email with onboarding instructions can speed up the time it takes to start deriving value from their purchase.

SuccessPlays can be set up to be triggered automatically when customer KPI data meets specific conditions. In the above example of customer onboarding, emails might be scheduled to go out at set intervals after purchase if the customer has not finished setting up their profile.

In this way, SuccessPlays help you automate the process of delivering customers with successful outcomes. Totango SuccessBLOCS include SuccessPlays designed to help you optimize specific stages and aspects of your customer journey.

4. Create Templates and Tools to Support Your SuccessPlays

An effective SaaS CS strategy relies on support from key technology tools. Communication tools such as emails, in-app messages, and live chat messages are critical for guiding customers toward successful outcomes. Creating templates for emails and messages will help you automate your customer success strategy so that you can manage more customers at scale without diminishing your quality of service. Other tools, like tutorials and FAQ guides, play a similar role in helping you provide preemptive answers to customer questions and resources to assist customers who contact you.

5. Use KPI Monitoring to Guide Your Implementation

Activating your SuccessPlays at the right moment requires active monitoring of customer data. Both automated and manual tracking serve a role. Automated monitoring provides real-time data to your customer success platform to trigger SuccessPlay scripts when they are needed. Manual monitoring lets your human representatives review individual customer accounts and provide relevant support and assistance. Manual tracking can be supported through automated tools such as dashboards and reports. Totango SuccessBLOC modules incorporate dashboard and reporting tools to help your CS team track customer data in real-time.

Adapt Your Customer Success Strategy to SaaS to Maximize Client Satisfaction

Customer success for SaaS clients is distinguished from CS in other industries by its focus on digitally defined outcomes measured by digital KPIs and delivered through digital tools. Because of this digital emphasis, an effective SaaS customer service strategy relies heavily on technology. Strategies such as customer journey mapping, KPI tracking, and scripting of SuccessPlays and email templates can help you leverage CS technology to deliver satisfying results to software clients. Use the methods recommended here to improve your SaaS customer satisfaction rate and increase client retention.

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