5 min read

How to Make Your Customer Success Team Proactive

How to Make Your Customer Success Team Proactive

It’s human nature to be reactive.

When the sun fails to shine on our wedding day, we curse the fates. If someone claps, we want to clap back. On not-so-rare occasions, we get bitten by a toddler; who hasn’t wanted to bite in return?

( … um, just us?)

But reactivity in a business context is a no-go. Not only because SaaS users hate a sassy customer service rep but also because that kind of approach just doesn’t get things done.

When customer support fails to take a proactive approach, the customer experience takes a nosedive. Retention suffers, and churn soars. Plus, your customer success team feels much more frustrated, and the metrics look Very Not Good.

Yet too many customer success team models are stuck in the reactive mindset, limiting your ability to meet customer needs, grow your customer base, and realize successful onboarding practices.

It’s time for a proactive customer success approach. This will help you maximize customer satisfaction, quickly build users’ knowledge base, and ensure a positive experience over the entire customer lifecycle.

While that may not sound better than revenge-biting a toddler (oh, the urge), we’re guessing it at least appeals more than a striking support team, right? So read on.


Proactive Customer Success

What Does a Reactive Customer Success Team Look Like?

Customer Success teams come in many different configurations and headcount sizes. But regardless of the company’s size, Customer Success teams have two distinct functions and responsibilities you must balance to serve customers best.

The simplest explanation of these functions is Proactive and Reactive. The cause and effect between the two are significant and measurable. When these two functions become unbalanced, the result is team frustration and a sense of snowballing toward eminent chaos – PAIN!

Unfortunately, the customer base becomes the potential victim, resulting in increased churn. (Cue booing sounds and finger-wagging execs.) Let’s look at a typical organizational chart for a Customer Success team.

CS Team Structure

See, it’s okay for Customer Care and Support to be reactive. After all, they respond to customer input, an inherently reactive process (i.e., it is initiated by someone else). Here’s the rub, though: if you leave customers to figure out how to use your product independently (or train them poorly), they’ll constantly reach out for help.

Customer Success quickly becomes overwhelmed and freaks out, and bada-bing, bada-boom, suddenly the customer success manager (CSM) is also in a reactive state.

Time for a depressing graphic. This one shows the potential for quickly transforming every function of a Customer Success team into a reactive state.

Note that even Customer Support – who is used to existing in a state of reactivity – becomes negatively affected because they must answer additional product questions and feature functionality issues.

Reactive CS Team

You know we wouldn’t present all these problems if we didn’t have a solution, however. The secret to customer success? Users who are appropriately trained from the beginning.

What Does a Proactive Customer Success Team Look Like?

Onboarding new customers without self-paced learning through digital academies significantly increases the potential to affect the natural balance of the entire Customer Success team. However, training people from the start fixes that.

The truth is that many, if not most, customer support tickets in reactive companies revolve around issues that properly onboarded users understand from the beginning. Meaning they don’t have to reach out to Customer Support to figure something out.

Even the reactive role of the Customer Support team becomes more manageable as users become more proficient in the product. This higher user knowledge delivers more time for customer support to resolve their existing trouble ticket backlog, resulting in decreased resolution time and increased CSAT scores.

So how can learning automation and digital academies help maintain the balance of proactive and reactive roles within a Customer Success department, regardless of size or configuration? Take a look.

proactive customer success team

This better way hinges on transitioning away from the inherent limitations of 1:1 instructor-led training and toward automated learning. Let’s take a look at how to do that now.

Top Strategies for Becoming a Proactive CS Team

All customer success leaders, whether they work for a startup or a Fortune 500 company, want a few things: better customer feedback, more referrals, happier reps, and raving reviews on social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter … and beyond.

Getting there is not always intuitive, but if you follow these basic strategies, you’ll be much closer to the ongoing proactive state in which successful companies exist.

It Starts With the Sales Process

Even in the most innovative, successful companies, something is lacking: education from the beginning of the marketing process.

Most organizations employ some form of training or onboarding once a prospect becomes a customer. Sales hands the new user off to Customer Support, bright-eyed and ready to receive those promises they learned about all through the marketing funnel.

The problem is, they’re like babes in the woods. They do not know how to use your platform and have no idea whether they even like engaging with it. If they don’t, they may churn then and there.

The answer is to train them from the beginning before they’re paying you. While this might seem like a level of largesse you can’t afford, you actually can’t afford not to.

Why? Because when you train users upfront, they sign on the dotted line already knowing how to get value out of your product, making them much likelier to stick around and become power users. That increases your customer lifetime value significantly.

Sales to Customer Success Handoff

Just because you train upfront doesn’t mean you don’t have to take care of the handoff. The moment a prospect transitions from Being Sold to à Using Your Product is dangerous. They may become frustrated and leave if they get set free without a safety net.

The handoff needs to be intentional, therefore. This is much easier if they’re already embedded in a training program with which they feel comfortable.

However, you must still scaffold your approach. Customers must know what will happen next, requiring a hefty dose of onboarding.

World-Class Customer Onboarding

The best onboarding is straightforward, self-paced, and hands-off but interactive. Customers need to feel you’re there without you breathing down their necks.

Therefore, you’ll want to use a system to track user progress through your course modules. This allows you to reward them, help them when they get stuck, and bucket them to meet their needs best.

Plus, combining account management with a digital academy training model makes it much easier to upsell and cross-sell your products to more proficient customers.

Training Your Customers to Get Value Out of Your Product

To get value out of your problem and reach optimal levels of customer health, both old and new customers need a few things:

  • Self-service information: Customer engagement depends on people having on-demand, 24/7/365 access to the information that will allow them to use your product well.

  • Recognition: People want to know when they’re doing well, so each module should include a checkpoint where you use quizzes, tests, rewards, and certificates to reflect their progress.

  • Advocacy: Customers need a way to get in touch when they need help, which they still will. Make the path to Customer Support intuitive and easy.

Ongoing Training for New Feature Releases

It’s not enough simply to provide a self-service training academy and dust off your hands. Customer behavior data shows that users will always 

need help with getting the most out of existing products and learning new features as they come along.

Therefore, every feature release and update requires accompanying training. This can occur through additional modules, webinars, or other methods of imparting information. The bottom line is that you must give your customers the ability to absorb those takeaways in real-time so that they can put them to immediate use.

If you’re a little daunted, that’s okay. Implementing a new method of Doing Stuff is hard, but once done, your Customer Support team will finally be able to take that deep breath.

How to make customer success teams proactive

Customer Onboarding and Training: The Key to a Proactive CS Team in B2B SaaS

Ready to help customers achieve great success on their customer success journey through automation? Want to upsell and cross-sell more products? Do you wish you could meet your CS team's needs, like yesterday?

With R360, you can. Our product ensures that the CS Operations team has complete visibility into product usage, certifications obtained, new feature uptake, and data to support new product roadmap considerations. Balance is maintained, and growth is once again possible.

Say goodbye to unnecessary reactivity and hello to success with Raven360 today.


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