Customer Success tools to help you scale

customer success tools

Create your own toolkit of Customer Success tools















Humans have known for millions of years that tools allow us to make a greater impact without exerting additional effort. Whether your team has been around for years or is just getting off the ground, tools can level up your team by allowing them to accomplish more with less and to easily scale your existing efforts. Below is a roundup of the best Customer Success tools on the market- from some usual suspects to some lesser known upstarts.

Internal tools

Customer Success never works in a silo. Sometimes a few hundred Slack messages and some shared Confluence docs just aren’t enough to facilitate the level of collaboration needed to operate at maximum output- hence the need for the tools below.


What it does: Data analytics platform

Why it’s helpful: While there are a lot of Customer Success-specific products on the market, the reason I like Looker is that it’s value isn’t limited to Customer Success teams. In my experience, it can be nearly impossible to get Product or Engineering resources dedicated to a project that only benefits one team. When all your user and customer data is tracked in Looker, it becomes a critical dashboard for every team. Customer Success can customize dashboards to track customer engagement, create custom health scores, and track renewal dates. Product uses it to track daily active users, Finance uses it for revenue projections, and so on. That means that maintaining data integrity for your Customer Success dashboards (always a huge challenge) is now a company-wide priority.

Cost: Varies


What it does: Creates flowchart diagrams

Why it’s helpful: Easily map out everything from engagement models, or the customer lifecycle, to an individual customer’s implementation plan. Don’t underestimate how much you can learn by creating a well thought out decision tree. If nothing else, you might have new empathy for the hoops you ask your users to jump through to do something as basic as adding a teammate to their account.

Cost: Offer a free plan


What it does: CRM software

Why it’s helpful: Customer Success teams need a way to track customer information and, as much as it pains me to admit it, Salesforce is the best CRM on the market. Not because of an award-winning UI (although Lightening is certainly an improvement from the early 00’s design we suffered through for years), or a subscription fee that won’t break the bank (it will), but because it’s supported by the most robust integrations. That means as your CSMs track their conversations and progress with customers in Salesforce, this data can also be visible to other teams through integrations with products such as Zendesk. The ability to easily liberate your customer information from your CRM makes Salesforce worth the cost (and the terrible UI).

Cost: Varies

Customer-facing tools

Customer Success teams have a lot on their plates. Onboarding new customers, maintaining the value existing customers receive, and identifying customers at risk of cancelling are all part of a day’s work. Because time is a scarce resource, Customer Success should evaluate which touch points in the customer lifecycle bring the lowest value, and employ tools to accelerate or eliminate them. The tools below provide a great starting point.

What it does: Virtual meeting software

Why it’s helpful: Meeting software that’s so simple even a Microsoft XP user can figure out how to use it. You also get a personal telephone conference line for when you’re not feeling camera-ready.

Cost: Offer a free plan


What it does: Knowledge base software

Why it’s helpful: If your Support team doesn’t have a knowledge base, or they won’t let Customer Success add content, sign up for Helpjuice. Aggregating educational and training content in a centralized location saves CSMs the trouble of answering commonly asked questions multiple times a day. This help content can also be much more rich (videos, step by step screenshots, etc.) and consistent than what CSMs have saved in some Evernote.

Cost: $199/mo


What it does: Customer communication software

Why it’s helpful: We’ve all received the equivalent of a “Dear valued customer [first_name]” email. It’s hugely discouraging to feel like you’re just a number to a company you view as one of your company’s critical systems (and probably pay for accordingly). So how you can avoid this type of impersonal messaging that creates distance between you and your customer base without sacrificing the scale 1: many communication provides? Intercom allows you to send targeted email, in-app, and push messages to onboard, upsell, and retain customers based on actions they have (or haven’t) taken, specific details about their account, and much more.

Cost: Varies


What it does: Allows you to schedule meetings using a sharable URL

Why it’s helpful: Cut down on the back-and-forth to book a meeting. Sync Calendly with your calendar (to avoid double bookings), create different types of meetings (is this a 30 minute call customer call or a 60 minute training with a screenshare), set your availability for each meeting type, and send out a URL that allows customers to book the appropriate meeting at a time that works for everyone.

Cost: Offer a free basic plan


What it does: Presentation software

Why it’s helpful: Meetings usually benefit from having a visual component. Use Prezi for everything from new feature trainings to QBRs. You can also track who views your prezi, which parts of it, and for how long.

LinkedIn Premium

What it does: Find, research, and connect with professionals contacts

Why it’s helpful: Anyone who has hit LinkedIn’s monthly search limits knows how frustrating it can be. As they’ve pushed more aggressively to increase Premium subscriptions, they’ve become even more stingy on what you can do for free. CSMs aim to establish strong relationships with their primary points of contact, but should not make the mistake of having a single point of failure. Unlocking the ability to search and connect with multiple contacts across a customer’s organization makes LinkedIn Premium worth the cost.

Cost: $60/mo


Are there some must-have Customer Success tools that I missed? Add them in the comments.

5 common Customer Success questions — answered

Common Customer Success Questions















The topics in this post are the most common Customer Success questions I’m asked by friends and colleagues who also work in Customer Success, as well as questions I’ve received via Twitter and LinkedIn. Don’t see an answer to one of your burning questions? Send me a message and I’ll tackle your question.

1. What metrics should Customer Success teams track?

The phrasing of this question makes it seem like a given that Customer Success teams should be tracking user and account data. However, I think it’s worth taking a moment to touch on why it’s so important companies take a data-driven approach to Customer Success.

The value of tracking user and account data

Every good Customer Success Manager (CSM) knows the characteristics and behaviors that lead to a successful customer. Data allows them to link anecdotal feedback with indicators that allow them to be proactive and develop a deeper understanding of the customer’s use case. Having easy access to these metrics should influence how CSMs engage with customers and measure the overall health of an account. As UserIQ reports in their 2017 Customer Success Trend Report, nearly 40% of Customer Success teams say that increasing visibility into customer health metrics and user behaviors is their biggest challenge. Account and usage data allows CSMs to be strategic in their outreaches to customers (“Hey, just checking in, how’s it going?” becomes “Hey, need some additional training on X feature you haven’t used yet?) and get a snapshot of the health of their accounts in seconds. It also paints a more complete picture of the customer’s use case, including which features they use most often and in what sections of the app they spend the most time in.

Nearly 40% of Customer Success teams say that increasing visibility into customer health metrics and user behaviors is their biggest challenge.


Now that you are keen to start tracking user and account data, where should you start?

  • Usage activity: logins, time in app, number of active users in account; metrics that are unique to your product such as number of X feature live, number of Y feature created, etc.
  • Feature adoption: successful adoption of new features that are relevant to the customer’s use case; participation in feature betas
  • Support interactions: frequency and type of support requests
  • Revenue: monthly spend; renewal date
  • NPS: response and feedback
  • Responses to previous outreach: in-app messages, email, in-person meetings, versus phone calls (ensures you’re talking to customers via the channel they’re most comfortable with)

Data in action

Wondering how this data could be incorporated into a customer interaction?

Hi X,

Brooke from the Company Customer Success team . You might have heard that we recently launched a new feature that allows you do XYZ. Our customers are using this new feature in ABC way.

It looks like some folks on your team started poking around with this feature but that X feature isn’t live just yet. Did your team run into any hiccups or have any questions about how to get started? I’ve found that with a quick 15 minute call customers are able to get their X feature live in just a few minutes.

Would your team be interested in scheduling a quick training to learn about how you could be using X feature?

2. How can CSMs re-engage customers who stop responding to emails and calls?

Common Customer Success Questions











One person going dark is concerning but not necessarily cause to panic. People go on vacation, change departments, or switch companies all the time. It’s important to have multiple contacts within a customer’s organization to ensure you are not capturing a single point of view- and that you don’t have a single point of failure. If everyone at the company goes silent, that should set off alarm bells. Review the customer’s usage metrics to see if they are still engaged with the product, and if so, identify their most active users. I’ve found that reaching out to active users via an in-app message is a quick and painless way to get a pulse on what’s going on.

Assuming those users don’t respond, or that usage has slowed to a trickle, see if anyone internally knows more information about this customer. Does the Sales team have any recommendations for who I should contact, or did the Support team communicate with the customer over Twitter? Finally, it pays to get creative in your outreach. In the past I have sent a customer balloons, a funny GIF of our team acting out the chorus to “Call Me Maybe”, and stopped by a customer’s conference booth. Ultimately it’s up to the customer if they want to engage with their CSM, but it’s a good idea to exhaust all possible angles.

3. When should a customer be approached about a possible expansion or upsell?

Excellent Customer Success teams are not a cost center, but are a source of additional revenue for their company. “If you want to expand growth, customer success is where you should focus your resources. As your company grows, more revenue comes from current customers, which places a greater emphasis on customer success driving revenue,” Jeremy Gillespie of The Success League (source). Of course, there is a balance between capturing additional revenue as a result of customers seeing increased value in your product and services and upselling customers on products or features they are unlikely to realize benefit from. Customer Success teams who view customer expansion as an extension of the value and services they provide on a daily basis need to carefully evaluate a customer’s expansion potential before broaching the conversation with a customer.

Evaluating expansion potential

  • What was the problem this customer was hoping to solve by using our product? What metrics do we have that indicate how we have delivered against these expectations?
  • Which plan is this customer on and how close are they to outgrowing it? Would a different plan be more in line with their usage and the value they receive from our product?
  • Which features is this customer using? If they’re on a lower tier plan, have they evaluated our enterprise features?
  • Is there another team within the customer’s organization that we think could see value in using our product?
  • What are some upcoming strategic initiatives or projects that the customer is focused on implementing? How might our product be better incorporated into their longer term company vision?

Avoid pitching upsells/ cross-sells to customers who won’t see additional value

If a customer does not meet any of the expansion scenarios above a CSM shouldn’t be reaching out about expanding their account. The CSM should instead take note of how they’re currently using the product and consider if they’re capturing their maximum value. Are there any best practices that can be gained from this customer and shared with other customers or across the company? Depending on their use case and their enthusiasm the CSM might introduce them to the Marketing team to discuss working on a case study. If during discussions the CSM discovers that they are not a good candidate for an upsell because they have not captured value, the conversation should shift towards strategies that will help them achieve their goals for the product.

4. What are some quantitative ways to measure Customer Success?

Customer Success teams are constantly asking themselves if they are helping their customers better achieve their goals and objectives- but how do they know if their work is having an impact? How do they know if all this Customer Success is… well, successful? The nature of Customer Success is that you never work in isolation. Your customers’ problems (inability to raise funding, low sales, etc.) are by extension your problems, and your work is heavily impacted by the performance of other internal teams (introduction of new key features, support response times, etc.). So while these KPIs are a good way of measuring quantitative measurements of success, you will always need to include a few qualitative measurements that reflect the relationship heavy nature of Customer Success.

Net Churn

The single best metric to measure the impact of Customer Success is net churn. Some teams like to break out churn and retention separately, which makes sense if you’re particularly worried about one or the other. The beauty of net churn is that it’s a metric that quickly summarizes revenue coming in across all existing customers. Focusing on net churn allows teams to concentrate on growing usage, adoption, and ultimately value across their customer base. It also allows CSMs to offset healthy or inevitable churn through the expansion of successful accounts. This article outlines strategies for hitting negative churn rates. More sophisticated analysis should dive into per capita churn (how many customers churned versus how many renewed), churn by contract value, as well as revenue segmentation and cohort analysis.

Focusing on net churn allows teams to concentrate on growing usage, adoption, and ultimately value across their customer base. It also allows CSMs to offset healthy or inevitable churn through the expansion of successful accounts.

Customer Satisfaction

NPS is the most common measure of customer satisfaction. NPS’ benefit — that it’s an all encompassing metric of a user sentiment — is also its shortcoming. There is no systematic way of diving into a user’s NPS (short of reaching out and asking for additional feedback) which makes NPS hard to attribute to the work of a single team. For that reason, it should be considered just one part of a Customer Success team’s success or shortcomings.

Product Usage and Adoption

Tying back to Question #1 “What metrics should Customer Success teams track?” , Customer “Success teams can measure their impact based on customers’ usage activity and feature adoption. A major responsibility of most Customer Success teams is to guide customers through implementation and onboarding, and over time CSMs should aim expose new features or products that will deepen the value customers receive. Since it’s common for Customer Success teams to undertake an initiative to increase usage of a particular feature or product through additional trainings and education, teams should track whether usage increases as a result.

5. Can a customer who has requested to cancel be saved?

When a customer submits a cancellation request it always feels a little bit personal and can quickly spiral into a flurry of questions such as “how could we have prevented this?”, “are they moving over to a competitor?”, and hopefully “is it not too late to save them?” I don’t suggest looking at this type of situation through rose tinted glasses- the majority of customer who request to cancel follow through with it. But there are some customers you will be able to save — whether or not you want to save them should also be considered (for more on this topic read this awesome post by Kissmetrics).

Empathy and demonstrating value

The two most powerful tools you have in your toolbox to circumvent a cancellation are empathy and demonstrating value. Why is empathy so important? Most customers who are thinking about cancelling want to be reassured that you hear and understand their problems. They want to know that things are going to get better, whether that’s in the form of faster support response times or releasing a feature they really want built. Listening and empathizing with their concerns can do wonders to strengthen the relationship and build the necessary credibility to save their business. The second strategy (hopefully used in tangent with the first) is to effectively demonstrate the value your product has delivered to the customer. CSMs should be constantly looking for opportunities to tie the value of their product to hard numbers: an advertising analytics product increased conversion rates by 10% which resulted in an additional $120k ARR; a HR product increased employee retention by 5% decreased staffing and recruiting costs by $50k; and so on. Being able to make a case for why their product is worth sticking with puts CSMs on solid footing during a contract negotiation or cancellation request.

How I saved a major account

I received a call from a key account out of the blue one day informing me that they were considering cancelling their contract when it was up for renewal. It turns out that their company was looking for ways to cut costs and one executive in particular didn’t think our product was worth keeping. I had a strong relationship with my contact who was also a huge internal champion. He agreed to work together on a plan to demonstrate the value our product had delivered to date as well as highlight opportunities that would generate more value in the future. It was revealed that the executive’s major concern was that usage and adoption was concentrated in just one department. The executive agreed to a 30 minute meeting where we would made a case for continuing their contract. I presented data that tied our products to upsell revenue we had generated for the customer. We also presented case studies and best practices that outlined how additional departments could benefit from using our products. Our head of Product discussed our product roadmap and highlighted items that were relevant to their use case and industry. We listened to their feedback and brought the conversation back to concrete objectives they had vocalized throughout the meeting, namely to drive adoption across more departments. We were able to agree on goals and next steps for a 3 month “re-launch” across more departments. The customer was able to see more value from our product and renewed their contract shortly after our “re-launch”.


Have common Customer Success questions that I didn’t address? Send me a message and I’ll respond with a follow up- who doesn’t love free advice?

First 90 days in Customer Success

90 days in Customer Success







You’ve been brought in as the founding member of the Customer Success team — congrats! Your company is making a major investment in helping customers derive more value from its products and services. Now you’re faced with the inevitable question: where to begin?

This roadmap will outline what you should expect to accomplish in your first 90 days in Customer Success. At the end of this timeframe, you will understand your product’s use case, know when and how to encourage customers to take actions that drive value, and have a vision of where you want to lead your team in the future.

30 days in Customer Success: Get a Lay of the Land

“The primary goal of this initial phase is to establish a foundational understanding of your ideal customer.”

Become a Product Expert

This is your starting point. Having an in-depth knowledge of your product will ensure you are able to share relevant best practices, weigh in on how to optimize configurations and workflows, and identify potential case studies. Everything builds on your foundational understanding of the product.

Speak with Customers

While you will learn a lot from diving into the product, you will learn even more by speaking to real life customers. Look through your customer roster to identify some folks who might be willing to walk you through their use case, discuss any challenges they’re facing, and review how their progress compares with their purchase goals. Pair these customer calls with discussions across Sales, Support, and Product to create a holistic view of these customers. During this fact-finding phase, I find that managing a simple spreadsheet with basic information such as number of users, business vertical, use case, pricing model, etc. is the way to go. You won’t get a lot of value out of a Customer Success product this early on.

Understand Ideal Customer and Use Case

Ask Sales, Marketing, Product, and Support to describe your company’s ideal customer and use case. Then, compare these responses to what you heard on your customer calls. If your business really wants to deliver value to its customers, everyone needs to agree on at least a basic outline of your ideal customer and use case(s). Customer Success is in a unique position to facilitate this type of collaboration between siloed teams. Share the resulting profile across the entire company and make sure it gets updated over time.

Because Sales and Customer Success work together closely there needs to be a process to share key customer information. Closer coordination with Sales decreases the time it takes for you to start adding value and ensures any critical insights gathered during the sales process are shared with Customer Success. The customer’s pain points and buying reasons can also highlight any holes in your ideal customer profile.

Review Pricing Plans

Connect the value customers are receiving from your product to the money they’re paying. Startups often tinker with pricing models in their early days. Experimentation is a great way to figure out what works, but it also means that Customer Success teams can be left juggling numerous cost structures and incentives. If one customer is charged per seat and another is paying by API traffic, you need to be mindful of these factors when making recommendations. You should also provide feedback to the team that manages pricing. An important consideration is how each pricing model lends itself to future expansion / upsells. Successful SaaS companies often have pricing models with both fixed and flexible components which allow them to capture additional revenue when customers receive additional value from the product (great piece on SaaS pricing here).

Let me be blunt — you should be prepared for only mixed success when it comes to getting in touch with existing customers. Some folks will only reach out when they need you, while others might never respond at all. The goal is not to speak with every single customer in the first 30 days. The primary goal of this initial phase is to establish a foundational understanding of your ideal customer. In the next 30 days you will develop strategies to deliver on the customer’s goals and expectations.

60 days in Customer Success: Establish a Success Baseline

Map the Customer Experience Lifecycle

The customer experience lifecycle outlines the various phases of the customer’s relationship with your company. The fundamental stages of a SaaS customer lifecycle are: Acquisition, Engagement, and Retention. This map will allow you to customize your interactions with customers depending on where they are in their lifecycle. For example, it’s probably not a good idea to suggest an annual pricing upgrade to a customer who has yet to complete the setup process.

90 days in Customer Success























Connect Characteristics of Successful Customers to Data

Product usage is a key component in both the Engagement and Retention stages of the customer experience lifecycle. Through your initial conversations with customers you gathered examples of how your product is being used. But how do the workflows and implementations your customers described translate into product and feature usage? More importantly, how do you know which characteristics and behaviors lead to a successful customer? Linking anecdotal success indicators to cold, hard data allow you to drive value systematically and at scale. What does this look like in practice?

Recognize which users need additional education about new features.

Example: a customer says they use your product to message their users. When you check their usage data, you see they haven’t used new features that allow them to send messages with richer content and more easily segment their user base. Do they understand how these new features work?

Provide better feedback on which features customers want prioritized.

Example: a user only logs in once a month to export the data in your system to a separate reporting software. What features would allow them to run these reports in your product?

Identify customers that aren’t seeing value and might churn.

Example: a customer that has an average of 3 active users per week has been inactive for a week. This customer also used your reporting export feature 5 times in the past month and their most recent NPS dropped to a 4. Are they considering moving to a new product?

As these examples demonstrate, the first step towards implementing a data-driven approach to Customer Success is figuring out what data you need to track. Because this data is only meaningful if it actually helps drive customer value, it’s worth spending some time considering what data will be most relevant for your product and customer base. This article does a nice job explaining how the team at Twitter determined that a key indicator of long term growth was that a user had followed at least 30 accounts. Aim to identify similar milestones in your product.

Create an Engagement Model

By now you should have an idea of what characteristics and behavior you want to direct customers towards at each stage of the customer journey. The next step is to tie these desired actions to an engagement model. At a high level, an engagement model includes meeting such as QBRs, monthly calls, bi-weekly monthly usage updates, and trickles down into individual user-level communication via user onboarding and product updates.

Identify Opportunities for Expansion / Upsell

As part of your engagement strategy you should use data to identify which customers might be ready for an expansion or upsell. If a customer is hitting their monthly data limit on the 15th of every month, getting in touch to discuss upgrading to a plan that includes higher data limits isn’t sales-y or spammy, it can actually improve the user’s experience and show that you have their best interest in mind. Or you might reach out to customers that have consistently responded with a high NPS to propose they take advantage of your 12-month pricing discount. Customer Success is focused on encouraging user behavior that is known to drive additional value for the customer — reaching out to customers about upsells and expansions should not be an exception.

90 days in Customer Success: Begin to Scale

Focusing on net churn allows Customer Success teams to concentrate on growing usage, adoption, and ultimately value across their customer base.

Solidify KPIs for Customer Success Team

There are a lot of great resources that discuss which KPIs and metrics Customers Success teams should be tracking. Here are a few articles that outline the KPIs each of these companies uses to measure the efficacy of their Customer Success team: Groove, Drift. If you want to start simple the single best metric to measure the impact of Customer Success is net churn. Focusing on net churn allows teams to concentrate on growing usage, adoption, and ultimately value across their customer base. It also allows CSMs to offset healthy or inevitable churn through the expansion of successful accounts. I recommend reading this blog post by Tom Tunguz on the impact of net churn.

Expand Customer Success Team

After 90 days in Customer Success you will likely identify a few skill gaps on your team. Possibilities include the need for an analytical mind who can crunch numbers and ensure the integrity of your user data, a customer education person to create help desk articles and case studies, or a new Customer Success Manager to assist customers in realizing more value. Which hire should you prioritize? And at what stage do you need to worry about having too many accounts per CSM? This blog post outlines my views on the appropriate CSM to account ratio and shares some lessons from scaling a Customer Success team.

Evaluate Tools to Help You Scale

As soon as your team starts humming along smoothly, you’ll want to start thinking about how your current processes and workflows can scale. There are a lot of great Customer Success products out there that can help you amplify your efforts (here’s a breakdown of my recommendations). Good Customer Success products leverage usage and behavioral data to allow your team to move towards proactive customer engagement. Exceptional Customer Success products merge machine learning for predicting behavior and big data analytics for deeper customer insights. Looking for a Customer Success solution? Check out Natero. I also encourage you to consider how to scale your engagement strategy using a customer communication product. Tools such as Intercom allow you to message segments of your customer base depending on where they are in the customer journey and / or their behavior in the product.

Being the first member of a new Customer Success team can be simultaneously thrilling and overwhelming. Having a 90 day roadmap ensures you will be able to solidify a company-wide ideal customer profile, increase the value your customers receive from your product, and create a foundation for scaling your team in the future.


First posted on the Natero blog.

Growth and Customer Success should work together to create value-based pricing

Growth and Customer Success













Pricing is one of the most important decisions a company can make. Revenue, sales velocity, customer satisfaction, and the longterm viability of the business are all wrapped up in pricing. But even with such high stakes, many startups either leave pricing as one of the last items on their pre-launch to do list, or forget to iterate on pricing as their product matures. Enter a newish discipline focused on optimizing growth, aptly called the Growth team. Neil Patel defines this team’s overarching objective as “every decision… is informed by growth. Every strategy, every tactic, and every initiative, is attempted in the hopes of growing.” With this singular goal Growth teams have naturally turned their attention to one of the core components of growth- pricing. Tactics to optimize their company’s pricing might include creating a scraper that aggregates the pricing plans of all their competitors. Or perhaps A/B testing the pricing page to see which copy resonates more with prospects.

While these types of projects help provide useful data they overlook a crucial question- how do customers feel about current and past pricing models? Exclude this priceless real-world feedback at your own peril. It’s easy to “optimize pricing” in a way that results in a failed business. Customer Success teams are in a unique position to provide insights into how customers view a company’s pricing model. Growth and Customer Success teams should work together to create pricing plans that are in line with the value customers receive from the product and maximize revenue.

A value-based approach to pricing

Exceptional Customer Success teams are obsessed with providing value to their customers in order to help them achieve their goals. When this value is directly tied to their company’s pricing model it’s a win-win for them and the customer. However, only 41% of seed stage companies take a value-based approach to pricing (source). Starting off with simple pricing is a viable strategy for an early stage startup, but as the company narrows in on its ideal customer profile the pricing model should match up with expected use cases.

Pricing along a value metric that aligns with usage ensures customers get more of the service as they grow — and that the company captures more revenue in sync with this increased value.

For example, a document storage company might start off by offering 3 storage tiers. The Growth team has ensured that their pricing is slightly below average and they can feature-match their main competitors. Over the following months the Customer Success team discovers that customers want the ability to control where their data is stored. This company’s pricing plan could be missing a key value component because by not accounting for the value derived from localized data storage. Pricing along a value metric that aligns with usage ensures customers get more of the service as they grow — and that the company captures more revenue in sync with this increased value. Additionally, other teams across the company might not be aware of this element of their company’s value proposition. Product Marketing might not be prioritizing changes that will enhance this feature. Marketing could be attracting more customers by highlighting this feature. And so on.

A pricing model that includes a 3 Part Tariff (3PT)

Components of a 3 Part Tariff (source):

1 Part Tariff/ Linear Pricing (LP) — Each hosted document costs $0.10.

2 Part Tariff (2PT) — The software has a base platform fee of $10,000 and each hosted document costs $0.10 more.

3 Part Tariff (3PT) — Again, the software has a base platform fee but the fee is $25,000 because it includes the first 150K hosted documents are free. Each additional hosted document costs $0.15.

3 Part Tariffs capture more value from customers while also leading to higher customer satisfaction rates. Opting into a predetermined usage plan removes psychological and financial barriers customers might face when they have to pay for each incremental usage tier. Providing an element of fixed cost allows the customer to adequately budget and increases the likelihood that they will commit to annual pricing for a plan that might be even be larger than they initially need. Because the variable pricing element tied to value remains customers are willing to pay for incremental usage that surpasses the base platform fee. Figuring out what is a reasonable base platform fee, what incremental increases to the value metric should cost, etc. are the bread and butter of brilliant Growth teams.

Growth and Customer Success










Customer Success driven growth

Early stage companies who are most concerned about attracting new customers might be less focused on capturing more revenue from their existing customer base. However, hugely successful companies know to tap into this revenue source as much as possible. Companies bringing in $10MM-$40MM ARR attribute an average of 23% of new revenue to upsells and expansions. Attracting this revenue also requires a lower Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) with the average SaaS company spending $.93 less to expand $1 of ACV for an existing customer versus bringing in an additional $1 of revenue from a new customer (dig into more SaaS revenue and Customer Success insights here). This is Customer Success driven growth. When Growth and Customer Success collaborate on pricing the customer and the company win.

Incremental deployment needs to be accompanied by incremental onboarding

incremental onboarding












Consider the last time your company released a new product, feature, or UI tweak. Was it last week, last month, or just yesterday? As software teams shift towards more incremental deployments made easier by things like continuous deployment, users can feel like they never have a chance to truly master a product. When you’re constantly releasing new changes and features, is user onboarding ever truly “over”?

Back in the days when major software updates required you to install 10 different floppy disks, users were conditioned to expect a new onboarding cycle that would make them a total newbie. These types of releases rarely happen anymore and companies that use this strategy are chastised for it (I’m looking at you, Salesforce Lightening). Lots of small to medium releases allow your existing customers to navigate changes more easily than the jarring feeling that accompanied a major overhaul. The tradeoff of launching incremental improvements is that existing users are constantly demoted back to newbie status.

“All of us will be endless newbies in the future simply trying to keep up… because new technology requires endless upgrades, you will remain in the newbie state. Endless Newbie is the new default for everyone, no matter your age or experience.” –Kevin Kelly

When it’s harder to become an expert, how do you prevent users from missing major feature releases or becoming so frustrated that they simply give up on your product? Customer Success and Product Management teams need to support incremental onboarding.

Focus on all stages of onboarding

New user onboarding is where the majority of software companies allocate mindshare. These new users enter your product with a problem they hope to solve and you need to deliver value immediately. Over time you will introduce users to more in-depth features and educate them on how your product can solve additional tasks. Depending on the user’s actions and segment, this entire onboarding cycle might take as long as 6 months of outreach spanning emails, in-app messages, and knowledge base materials. But what about users who have exited this traditional onboarding flow- how do you continue to demonstrate value to them as you add new products or features?

There are two major risks of not properly educating your existing users. First, users might lose the ability to perform the tasks from which they were previously deriving value. Second, users will miss out on additional value your product is able to provide because they are not aware of new features or do not understand how to use them. The end result is the same- frustrated users who churn.

If a feature falls in a product but no one knows about it, does it add value?

Your team has spent week or even months to get a new feature live. Everyone expects this feature to allow your customers to derive even more value from your product and allow you to continue to maintain a strong position in market. When it goes live you exchange some well deserved high fives. A week later you pull the usage report and find that only 5% of your users have used your shiny new feature. Wait a minute, that can’t be right. User research and support conversations showed that people wanted this feature. Product Marketing said you needed it to ensure customers don’t leave for a competitor. And yet hardly anyone is using it. What gives?

Quick question- how did you announce this feature to your users? A full-page takeover that extolled the huge changes you’ve made and how much time your team spent to make it happen? There’s the problem. Feature and product announcements should focus on the expanded capabilities of the user. Highlight how the usage of your product has been improved. Users will not bask in the glow of your awesome product- they will bask in the glow of what they can actually do with it. The goal is not to build 100s of shiny new features that you release once a week, it’s to continuously push the bounds of how much value your users can derive from your product. That doesn’t include spamming your users about every minor change, there is a balance between communicating nothing at all and being annoying. The appropriate messaging channel is dependent on the size of the change you’re releasing. Here’s a simple framework for announcing product changes.

  • Minor change: change log
  • Low level change: in-app announcement, support documentation
  • Mid level change: email, demo video
  • Major change: pull out all the stops- custom landing page, training webinar


Onboarding is not something that you do once and forget about it. It’s not a feature that is included in a sprint and then moved to the “Done” list on your Trello board. Just as your team releases new features, you need to release new onboarding campaigns and materials. For every feature release there needs to be a complementary plan for how to appropriately notify your users of this change. But if you don’t pair incremental deployment with a Customer Success and Education framework that support incremental onboarding, even your expert users will start to fall behind.

Why Sales and Support should be friends, not foes

Sales and Support teams usually aren’t seen as having much in common. In fact, at most companies a certain amount of tension between these two teams has come to be expected.

sales and support friends

Illustration credit: Sarah Robbins for Intercom










When salespeople will say nearly anything a potential customer wants to hear in order to get them to sign up, support teams are left with the mess of having to readjust customers’ expectations post-sale. Salespeople worry that support won’t follow through with their value pitch to customers, which increases the risk of churn. From a management perspective these tensions are exacerbated when sales folks are given a directive to bring in new revenue at all costs, and support is written off as a cost center (a position we don’t share).

Here at Intercom we’ve reevaluated the dynamic between Sales and Support and created workflows that allow our teams to collaborate in ways that better service our customers. We also acknowledge that our support team spends more time talking to customers than any other team, including Sales. Companies regularly squander the knowledge their Customer Support Reps gain from the hundreds of hours of conversations they have in just a single week. We incorporate feedback from our support team not just into our product, but also into our sales process. Here are a few things we’ve learned along the way.

Supporting the front lines

Sales and Support are the face of your company’s 1:1 communications with current and potential customers. Demand generation drives people to your site, product marketing outlines the jobs your products do, and growth helps these people sign up. But the first human interaction people have with your company is with a member of the Sales or Support teams. With so much on the line these teams need clear workflows that remove any ambiguity about which team covers what.

Support will own the vast majority of these conversations because their directive is to be on the front lines providing real-time answers to leads and users who reach out via livechat, email, and social media. When the conversation strays out of the realm of a straightforward inquiry, the Sales team steps in. Sales teams have to be selective about which conversations they jump into since the number of salespeople sourcing new opportunities (we call them ADRs) is typically a lot smaller than the number of Customer Support Reps. In addition to providing customers with a speedy reply, having the majority of conversations owned by support also preserves the bandwidth of the Sales team by restricting conversations to topics where they can provide value.

sales and support friends















Sales takes the lead

One of the workflows we’re always trying to optimize and improve is the way we communicate with leads who initiate a conversation with our team. After running a few tests we established that our Sales team is the most appropriate starting point for all conversations with leads.

Our research team found that leads place a huge premium on the speed of a response, but they are also more likely to have questions about which products are best suited to help them achieve their goals, how much the product costs and how to schedule a live demo. However, some of the people that write in as leads have in-depth technical questions about how our integrations work, our API rate limits and other topics that are generally out of the area of expertise of our sales ADRs. At that point our ADRs are relieved to be able to pass the conversation over into the capable hands of a Customer Support Engineer.

Context is key

What does it feel like to be the lead or customer in the middle of this process? Do we risk alienating them by making them feel like they need to explain who they are and what their problem is over and over like a broken record? Nothing is more frustrating than being passed to yet another person who has no more power to help you than the last four people you spoke with. That’s why a key step in this process is to provide context to our colleague to whom we are passing the baton. We do a lot of this through custom attributes we’ve set up in Intercom with fields like “Account Owner”, “Monthly Spend”, and a breakdown of which products and features this account has access to. When Sales is passing a conversation over to support this data should be paired with internal notes that help take away the guesswork behind who the customer is and what they need help with, as shown below.

sales and support friends












Know when to escalate

Because we don’t believe in Sales abandoning customers after they sign up, this workflow also encourages support to pass conversations over to Sales when a customer raises questions about their pricing plan, is having a hard time finding value in a product or feature, or explicitly asks to speak to the person assigned to their account. Escalating a conversation to a salesperson allows us to work with the customer over a longer timespan to resolve the problem. This also ensures that our Sales team doesn’t have to worry about customers fuming about issues they’re experiencing and these concerns never making their way back to them. Sales reps hate finding out that a customer has been unhappy at a later date (like during an annual renewal) when it’s too late to make a meaningful impact on these issues. When support shares this candid feedback with Sales, we can ensure our team doesn’t lose touch with the end user.

Collaboration with support improves our sales process

Our support team improves our sales process similar to the way they improve our product, by providing feedback on where customers have expressed frustration or confusion around our product offering, pricing, or the value proposition of our products and services. Our Sales team prepares for new product and key feature launches similar to the way our product and marketing teams do.

sales and support friends















We spend a lot of time crafting a playbook for how we plan to position and sell this new product or feature and train our Sales team so that they can hit the ground running when we launch. However, anyone who works at a startup knows that a launch is just the beginning. This playbook goes through many iterations based on the feedback our team receives. These incremental changes allow our team to land on the most effective strategy for positioning and selling, such as how to tell a compelling story and how we compare to competitors. If our Sales team iterated in a silo, it would take us 10x as long to make meaningful progress. The feedback and insights our support team provides allow us to avoid making the same mistakes more than once, and together we learn twice as fast.


The bottom line is this: When Sales and Support, your largest customer-facing teams, work together closely your customers get more value from your products and your Sales team is able to create a more effective sales process. It’s simply better for business.

First posted on the Inside Intercom blog.

The Value of Account Executives who don’t just sell

The typical Account Executive is more focused on prospecting new clients than driving value for existing customers.

Account Executive sell










By allowing Account Executives to pass off clients after the sale, you’re also allowing them to pass on an opportunity to reduce churn, increase profits, and create a meaningful customer experience.

Far too often the post-sale experience doesn’t involve the person who closed the deal. What happened to the value that was promised? Loop in the customer success team. The client needs help rolling the product out to their team. Put them in touch with professional services. You see where this is going. These muddled lines of communication are disorienting and frustrating for the customer. It’s the unintended consequence of segmenting a sales team into highly specialized roles. Unsurprisingly it can lead to a decrease in annual contract value (ACV) and an increase in churn rates.

Account Executive sell










Here at Intercom we’ve organized ourselves differently. Our Account Executives (AEs) not only work on closing deals, they also continue to manage these accounts after the deal is signed. We leverage a “land and expand” sales model that allows us to get in the door at a company, prove the value of our products, and grow the relationship (and by extension, revenue) over time, through a relentless focus on customer satisfaction.

Reimagining the Account Executive role

When you have a team of Account Executives quickly signing up new customers but then passing responsibility for their success to other internal specialists, it’s no wonder sales starts to carry a negative connotation. Companies have tried rebranding the salespeople as “Account Managers” or “Business Development Associates” in an attempt to present these teams in a more favorable light. But beyond the name what’s really changed?

Title changes are rarely paired with a shift in goals and incentives for the folks in these new roles. How is Intercom’s approach unique? Let’s take my background as an example.

In my previous role I was an Account Manager focused almost exclusively on post-sales implementation and ongoing project and relationship management. In traditional sales speak I wasn’t a “closer”, and was hesitant to enter into a typical sales role. The AEs I knew seemed to care little about their customers’ long-term success. After they closed a deal, they were all too happy to pass customers off to an Account Manager, who would often have to clean up the misconceptions or misalignments the AE had swept under the rug while zeroing in on getting the sale.

That was before I joined a team that believes sales doesn’t have to be a battle with prospective clients. Being an AE at Intercom still means working to sign up new customers, but we equally balance that with driving additional value for these accounts.

Selling to a more educated customer

A major shift underpinning this is that AEs enter the sales conversation later in the process. Marketing owns more of the product evaluation and education that has traditionally been considered the AE’s realm. Account Development Representatives (ADRs) use various inbound marketing channels such as live chat conversations on our website, abandoned trial sign-ups, and, yes, this blog, to pre-qualify leads before passing them to AEs.

This allows AEs to focus less on educating prospects and instead on providing thoughtful recommendations on how our products could be leveraged to meet the customer’s goals. The customer has a single point of contact, which allows them to establish a relationship with that person over time. AEs are also incentivized to sell products customers will actually use. If a customer decides to cancel their subscription the AE on that account has that churn taken out of their next commission check. When we gave our AEs the time and monetary incentives to focus on maintaining and growing customer satisfaction we saw a decrease in churn rates and an increase in ACV.

An ongoing conversation

It’s easy to throw out sales management buzz words and say your team uses approaches such as “land and expand”, “flywheel”, or “bottoms up.” To successfully leverage any of these structures you need Account Executives committed to the management of their accounts.

Let’s say a customer requested a feature a few months ago that we’re now ready to roll out. Maybe they never saw our in-app message announcing it’s release and are still pining away for a Facebook integration for Support. Enter an AE who can introduce the customer to this new feature and start a broader dialogue about how their customer support team could be using Intercom more efficiently. By having our AEs ingrained in their accounts they are able to identify upsell opportunities for products or services that could bring additional value to the customer — effectively generating their own pipeline from our existing customer base.

It’s all about the customer

A customer-centric culture means selling customers just the products they need, providing them with resources if they hit a snag with implementation, and creating expansion tiers that make sense for their business. Every team that interacts with them, from Finance to Support, needs to buy into this. You can have the most customer-focused sales team, but you risk not seeing the long term upside of your customers growing with you if you’re alone in this mission.

When customers have a better relationship with their single point of contact on your sales team, they’ll churn less often and bring in more revenue for your company. It’s better for your customer and it’s better for your bottom line.

First posted on the Inside Intercom blog.

Customer Success must articulate and identify “Why”

customer success articulate why

Does your Customer Success team know your company’s “why”? Even better, do they also know their customer’s “why”? Customer Success must articulate why to their customers














Every company knows what their products or services are, and most have an idea of how they differentiate themselves through a unique process or value proposition. But the majority of companies stop there. They don’t dig deeper into why they do what they do. Why their company exists, what their overarching purpose is, and what issue or cause drives their decisions.

Inspirational companies have a clear and compelling why. In his book Start with Why Simon Sinek makes the argument that “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Articulating why allows a company to move away from attempting to stand out through short- term appeals like promotions, aspirational messaging, or feature matching. It builds loyalty within the company and outside, and increases the likelihood that employees and customers will stick out rough patches. According to Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, research has found that the best companies in terms of long-term financial performance are ones that are able to combine profits, passion and purpose.

An organization’s why trickles down into interactions with current and prospective customers at every level. Marketing materials explain why someone should buy your product or service, Sales demonstrates why it’s worth the cost, Finance breaks down why their bill is $X. Customer Success is no exception, and in fact, might be tasked with addressing the most impactful whys. Why should we move forward with your recommended changes? Why allocate engineering time to implement your product? Why is scheduling a QBR worth my time?

Customer Success must articulate why to their customers. Most CSMs are able to express their company’s vision, but they also need to identify their customer’s why. Speaking a common language around shared goals drives stronger relationships and increases the likelihood of success. Having this context also allows CSMs to navigate customers towards actions that are in sync with each company’s mission. The need to understand and express why is bidirectional between Customer Success and customer.

When a company is focused on its vision all employees are empowered by why and make decisions within the context of this vision. While on the Accounts team at Intercom this manifested itself in a few different ways, one of which was that our Accounts and Support teams would not provide advice to help our customers hack our API to send transactional emails. This sounds counter intuitive- why wouldn’t you want to help your customers get more value out of your products? Transactional emails have a time and place, but our team took a stance early on that these types of messages did not line up with our mission to make internet business personal. Sure, some customers were disappointed that we didn’t offer this functionality, but we were also mindful of the fact that these customers might not be the right fit for us in the long term (Chargify has a great piece on the cost of supporting the wrong type of customers here). I was surprised to find that the vast majority of customers accepted and appreciated our honesty and focus, and we even built additional trust. It let them know where we would stand on future feature development and what they could expect from us in the future. Unsurprisingly these same customers were much more likely to have a why that was in line with our own.

Customer Success isn’t just a feel-good name for Account Management

customer success and account management

Photo courtesy of Amity












Customer Success is still a relatively young discipline, and as a result, leadership teams are often unsure about where it fits into their organization. Companies that don’t want to miss out on the trend of branding themselves as “customer-centric” might consider repackaging an existing team, like Account Management, as Customer Success. This would be a short-sighted move since Customer Success and Account Management are distinguished by more than just a naming convention. Customer Success teams drive user adoption and engagement through onboarding, training, and a compelling user experience. Account Management teams build relationships and align the value their products can bring with the customer’s goals. Companies that only have one team or the other will find it more difficult to manage critical phases of the customer lifecycle. This inevitably leads to higher churn rates and missed expansion opportunities. With so much of a company’s long-term success riding on retaining and expanding their current customer base, having both teams is a necessity.

Customer Success and Account Management working together

The work of Customer Success and Account Management teams is so interconnected that it can be difficult from the outside to note where one begins and the other ends. This is because there is never a clean handoff from one team to the other. Their responsibilities change throughout the customer lifecycle, but even when one team is at the forefront, the other is not far behind. The rest of this post will outline the responsibilities of each team during different phases of the customer lifecycle.

customer success and account management


Phase I- Contract signed (Day 0–7)

A key focus for Account Managers (AMs) is building strong relationships with their customers. AMs will tell you that one of the best parts of their job is building meaningful professional and personal connections with their clients. These mutually beneficial relationships come from a foundation of mutual respect and accountability. When AMs are brought in post-sale the first question they should ask the customer is “what outcome do you hope our company will help you achieve?”. The obvious answer will be a list of goals and success metrics that were created during the sales evaluation process. But AMs often need to dig deeper to uncover the motives and incentives that will drive a customer’s behavior. Is this launch part of a special project overseen by the CEO? Are they hoping to pass this project off to a lower-level colleague? This context will be important as the AM builds this relationship moving forward. To ensure there is accountability on the customer’s part, the agreed upon goals and success criteria should be clearly documented.

Phase II- Implementation and onboarding (Day 21–45)

Once the AM has an understanding of what the customer is hoping to achieve, a Customer Success Manager (CSM) is tasked with tying these goals into a launch plan. This project plan details how the two companies expect to meet these goals through specific milestones and launch stages. Implementation and onboarding are critical to setting customers up for success. Getting a new product integrated into a company’s spiderweb of internal systems and workflows doesn’t happen over the course of one 15 minute phone call. Products on the periphery of these core systems find it hard to generate adoption and demonstrate ROI. Effective onboarding demonstrates the product’s value to the end user. CSMs will spend the majority of their time in this phase focused on driving adoption and engagement with end users. To scale this 1: many relationship, Customer Success teams look for ways to leverage data and systems to drive a compelling user experience across a broad user base. These systems should allow your Customer Success team to impact almost every user in some fashion. The AM’s primary contributions during this phase are to secure leadership buy-in for the launch plan and keep all parties up to date as things progress.

Phase III- Maintaining success (Day 45–200)

Creating a simple framework that details which person will be managing each aspect of the customer lifecycle and relationship post-launch reduces ambiguity and confusion for customers. CSMs handle all training and optimize the integrations between systems. AMs demonstrate value across the customer’s organization. They manage all strategic business conversations such as QBRs, discussions around price, and are the escalation point for any major issues. Ultimately, the AM is the customer’s key point of contact. Over the course of the next few months, the CSM and AM work to ensure the customer has been successful towards reaching their goals. The two teams regularly brainstorm strategies to improve ongoing product adoption and engagement. The AM continues to maintain a positive business relationship between the two companies. AMs provide internal feedback on what features and systems will be necessary to support their current customers in the future. CSMs work closely with the Product team to address user pain points.

Phase IV- Upsells and cross-sells (Day 200–230)

AMs and CSMs are able to identify opportunities for additional product usage and cross-sells because they have such a clear sense of the value their products bring customers. If their company offers another product that the customer would benefit from, or their products can successfully support an additional use case, only then should the AM initiate an upsell conversation. These upsells and expansions make Account Management a key source of new revenue, with the median SaaS company bringing in 15% of new ACV from upsells and expansions. With this upsell, the process starts all over again from Phase II.


Customer Success is much more than just a feel-good name for Account Management. Companies who support their customers with both Customer Success and Account Management teams allow each team to focus on how they can best serve the customer. AMs do this through building 1:1 relationships, while CSMs empower companies and end users to be successful. Unless companies invest in supporting customers across both dimensions, they will not be able to effectively optimize their customer’s success in a way that coincides with their own.

First posted on the Amity blog.

2016 in Review

The end of the year presents a natural opportunity for reflection on how things have changed and what we’ve accomplished, and after reading so many inspiring 2016 recaps, I felt compelled to compile one of my own. Diving into the archives of the past year has been a rewarding and occasionally uncomfortable journey (a sample of my thoughts during this process: what was I thinking when I wrote that blog post back in June, how many hours did I waste watching Netflix instead of reading, why didn’t someone tell me those sunglasses looked terrible). 2016 certainly had its ups and downs, but I’m a firm believer that you are destined to repeat the mistakes of the past unless you properly identify what behaviors you want to change. So here’s to 2017 being (yet another) year of growth and change.

“Know from whence you came. If you know whence you came, there are absolutely no limitations to where you can go.” – James Baldwin

Customer Success Highlights

Since this blog is about Customer Success 95% of the time, it seems appropriate to start with a rundown of what I’ve learned and contributed to the subject over the past 365 days.

Articles I learned from:

  • “The one thing worse than a low NPS score” by Typeform (link)
  • “95% Of Your Churn Should be Ignored. Here’s Why” by Chargebee (link)
  • “De-Risking the First 90 Days for Your SaaS Customer” by Amity (link)
  • “How To Create Competitive Advantage For Your Startup With Proxy Metrics” by Tomasz Tunguz (link)
  • “Don’t assume new users want to learn how to use your product” by Chameleon (link)
  • “Introduce process only as a last resort” by Yan Lhert (link)
  • “2016 Pacific Crest Survey” by David Skok (Part I: link Part II: link)
  • “Personas in Customer Success” by Trey Davis (link)

Favorite books I read:

  • Losing the Signal
  • Never Split the Difference
  • Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

Where my work was featured:

  • Calendly blog posts: “Intercom’s Brooke Goodbary on Customer Success vs. Customer Support” (link) and “How 3 high-growth companies think about scaling customer success” (link)
  • Inside Intercom blog posts: “The value of salespeople who don’t just sell” (link) and “The case for sales reps as project managers” (link)
  • My post “Startups need to work smarter, not harder” (link) was featured the Medium publication Startup Grind- powered by Google for Entrepreneurs
  • 11 posts on Medium over the past 11 months

Personal Highlights

As the type of person who loves to stay busy and be constantly challenged, I am always on the lookout for new hobbies and projects to keep my free time interesting. I decided to level-up a passion I’ve had for almost 10 years and completed a 200 hour yoga teacher training program over a 6 month period. It was a physically and mentally demanding process that I’m incredibly grateful to have experienced.

Skills acquired:

  • Became a certified yoga instructor
  • Started beginner Spanish classes
  • Learned to meditate
  • Continued to improve my letterpress skills

Favorite books I read:

  • Red Rising Trilogy
  • The Neapolitan Novels
  • The Harry Bosch Novels
  • A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy
  • Ego is the Enemy
  • Inside the Yoga Sutras
  • Just Mercy

2016 by the numbers:

  • 12 Medium posts containing 11,686 words
  • 200 hours of yoga teacher training
  • 19.5 hours meditating
  • 142 ClassPass workouts
  • 3,080,638 steps taken over 1,282.05 miles (via Fitbit)
  • 62 hours toiled away in a letterpress studio
  • 2 custom made letterpress polymer plates
  • 19 beginner Spanish classes
  • 34 fashionable boxes from LeTote

Best 9 photos from 2016:

A sincere thank you for reading my work this past year. I’ve learned so much from writing this blog and have been humbled by the feedback and encouragement I’ve received. To everyone who has made an impact on my personal and professional life in 2016 (you know who you are)- I don’t tell you enough how much your support means to me. As Jay Z says, on to the next one!