Customer success has evolved over the past decade. Most successful SaaS companies now have a dedicated customer success function, a trend that’s expanding into manufacturing and other industries. Rightfully so! Businesses now understand that customers who continue finding value tend to become product experts and loyal brand advocates. Hold the phones, though: What is customer success?

Consider this an introductory guide to customer success, broken down into five sections. Aside from resources, graphics, and links, you’ll notice quotes from Mikael Blaisdell. Blaisdell is a leading voice in the SaaS/Cloud sector on customer retention strategies. In 2014, we interviewed Blaisdell about the origins and arguments for a customer success program. Many of his ideas are still relevant to customer success as we know it today.

Infographic: What is Customer Success?

A closer look at the key elements that make up customer success.

Table of Contents

  1. What is Customer Success?
  2. How to Measure Customer Success
  3. Essential Customer Success KPIs
  4. Types of Customer Success Software
  5. The Ongoing Customer Relationship

What is Customer Success?

Customer success encompasses the ongoing efforts of an organization to continue delivering value to its customers. A good customer success program aims to deliver value throughout every step of the customer journey, from pre-purchase to post-sale and beyond. This can include (but isn’t limited to) onboarding, product training, customer service, and support. A comprehensive customer success strategy requires awareness and buy-in from stakeholders across the organization.

What is Customer Success? Powered by MindTouch

How Do You Measure Customer Success?

A well-run customer success program involves many parts of an organization. As such, there is a variety of data that can help organizations measure the value of their customer success initiatives.

3 Essential Customer Success KPIs

Indeed, there are a number of ways to measure the success or failure of a customer success program. Whichever KPIs an organization uses, it’s important to keep in mind the importance of measuring value delivered to both customer and organization. Here are three customer success KPIs that capture internal and external value well. For an expanded list, see our list of six customer success KPIs you should care about.


Customers come, customers go—it’s an unfortunate but necessary part of business. As a performance metric, though, customer churn can be highly useful in understanding the reasons why customers churn. With this information, customer success managers can help organizations improve problematic customer touchpoints and churn smarter.

How to calculate SaaS churn rate – Powered by MindTouch

Net Promoter Score (NPS)

For any organization, the extent to which its customers would recommend their product or services is an important metric. Net Promoter Score measures this sentiment and offers an aggregate score for companies to keep an eye on. Question is, what part of the customer experience is creating neutral or negative NPS scores? For more tips, read our guide to what Knowledge Managers get wrong about NPS score.

What is Net Promoter Score and How is It Calculated? Powered by MindTouch

Customer Effort Score (CES)

CES is one way organizations can measure a customer’s perceived level of ease at various points throughout the customer journey. In terms of understanding and fostering customer loyalty, CES has proven particularly useful. According to Gartner, CES is “25% more predictive of customer loyalty than the next best metric.” Loyal customers become brand advocates, product experts, and—most importantly—they renew. These are all aspects of business that customer success professionals are particularly interested in. Read more about customer effort score.

How to measure Customer Effort Score (CES) – Powered by MindTouch

Types of Customer Success Software

Here’s a public list of vendors in the Customer Success Association Library.

If the rapid proliferation of vendors is any indicator, the demand for customer success software and tools is clear. According to Blaidsell, customer success solutions come in a couple of categories:

  • Usage monitors
  • Account management technology
  • Customer interaction management
  • CSM response automation
  • Customer success team management tools

The Ongoing Customer Relationship

Good or bad, a company’s customer journey is one that potential, new, and existing customers are continuously entering, passing through, and—sometimes—exiting.

Most companies now have a dedicated customer success function. Considering the demonstrable value of customer success to both customer and company, it’s not if today’s businesses will build a customer success team, but when.