Last month, we teamed up with with Kayla Murphy, Director of Customer Success at Trustfuel, to discuss how customer success leaders can transition their departments from reactively handling support to proactively managing success.
One essential aspect: understanding how to assess your customers’ health.
“Customer health should be the foundation of all your customer relationships,” says Kayla. “In SaaS especially, this is one of the top things you should be measuring.”
If you don’t know a customer’s health, she says, “That’s probably an unhealthy account.”
Getting started with customer health
“For teams totally new to customer health,” Kayla says, “the first step is to set up a measurement system.”
Depending on your company and business model, this could take many forms — like a 0–10 scale (0 being extremely unhealthy, 10 being extremely healthy) or simpler categories like red, yellow and green customers (red being unhealthy, green being healthy).
The next step is to identify how many customers you can confidently place on that scale.
“The number of customers you can or can’t add to your categories should be a big indicator of whether you need to refine your processes and be more proactive,” says Kayla.
At this point, you can begin choosing which data points should determine where a customer falls on your scale:
Data point 1: NPS (Net Promoter Score)
“Evaluating your NPS helps you understand who’s at risk of churning, who’s passive, and who’s a promoter of your product,” says Kayla.
She recommends creating a plan for reengaging at-risk customers (those with an NPS between 0–6), many of whom may be “suffering in silence.”
“We’ve all been there: we’re so frustrated by a product, we don’t want to waste time asking for help,” she says. “And then we abandon. So it’s really important to reengage as quickly and as personally as possible.”
Kayla recommends putting a standard process in place for engaging with at-risk customers, such as an email sequence inviting them to share frustrations or schedule a 1:1 phone call.
“Calendly is great for this,” she says, “since you can add it right into an email campaign and send that to your at-risk users automatically. It gives them access to your team without your CSMs having to drop everything and go back and forth in email.”
Customers with a score of 7–8 are your passive accounts: they’re doing fine, but aren’t excited about what you offer. These are the customers you should be surprising and delighting, whether by sending swag, showing them love on social media, offering to feature them in a case study, etc.
Customers with a score of 9 or 10 are your promoters: they’re huge fans of your offering and would make great marketing partners for blog posts, webinars or case studies.
Data point 2: Product Usage Data
“Monitoring product usage helps you identify patterns in your customers’ behavior,” says Kayla. “Once you’re doing that regularly, it’ll start to become apparent which actions a customer should take to be successful.”
If you have no tools in place to monitor product usage yet, Kayla recommends:
Getting insights from these will help you understand: who needs extra attention? Which actions indicate that a customer has fully adopted your solution?
“Once you’ve got your baseline for what healthy product usage looks like,” she says, “you can start to break your customers down into segments, and guide each segment toward the actions they need to take to fully adopt.”
Data point 3: Support Tickets
Like product usage, support tickets can help you establish a threshold of how often successful customers communicate with you.
“Take the average number of support tickets you get from an account, and divide it into thirds,” says Kayla. “You’ll want to tier those — the lowest number of tickets being healthiest, the highest number of tickets being unhealthiest.”
However, the volume of one account’s support tickets shouldn’t be used as a standalone health metric.
“CSMs may think that zero tickets is ideal, but be careful,” says Kayla. “An account may not be communicating because they’re failing to use the product.”
Instead, pair support ticket volume with other metrics to create a more holistic view of each account, such as…
Data point 4: “Gut check”
“The gut check is by far the least data-y point on the list,” says Kayla, “since it really boils down to: what does your CSM think about an account? And why should you trust that?”
Despite how subjective a CSM’s gut check may be, it’s incredibly valuable information, since your CSMs are more likely than anyone else on the team to understand the context in which your customer is using your product.
“CSMs are more likely to build personal relationships with your customers than anyone else,” says Kayla, “so it’s worth noting that subtle changes—skipping calls, a small downshift in how much they’re using the product — are will most likely be caught by your CSMs. And that’s something we haven’t quite been able to capture yet with automation.”
Bringing it all together
Assessing your customers’ health is key to spotting at-risk accounts, reducing churn and accurately forecasting renewal rates. For teams new to the process or in need of a revamp, Kayla’s tips are a strong place to start.