Is it me or are the semantics of a customer success lifecycle confusing?

August 13, 2015 Jodi Schechter

Is it me or are the semantics of a customer success lifecycle confusing?

Have a look at a few of the many customer success lifecycle descriptions below and let’s agree to disagree on the wording:

   Onboard → First Value → Grow Value → Increase Users & Usage → Expand Functionality

   Acquire → Onboard → Engage → Retain

   Deliver → Develop → Retain → Grow

   Onboard → Deploy → Adopt → Grow → Renew

   Acquire → Engage → Convert → Retain → Upsell

   Land → Adopt → Expand → Renew

When it comes to the semantics of customer success lifecycles there seem to be a lot of different takes on the many phases and stages involved. Let’s agree, however, on the end game.

It’s the goal of every SaaS solution provider who relies on subscriptions to achieve at least these three things during the customer lifecycle:

  1. Successfully onboard the customer
  2. Help the customer leverage the most applicable and effective product features for their business
  3. Achieve a level of customer satisfaction that results in renewals

This is the trifecta of the customer success lifecycle.

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and suggest that we could simplify the customer success lifecycle even further—into just two phases. That’s right…just two, with Adopt and Adapt.

Adopt and Adapt

First, adopt.

Let’s help customers come aboard. And let’s make it as painless as possible. Even if your SaaS solution is jammed with cool features and offers more functionality than any one customer could ever use, the onboarding process should be simple. Set the first bar relatively low so every new user has an easy time of it and sees some value (very) soon after they login.

Second, adapt.

Once on board, the rest of the process is all about adapting. For your customers, there are functions to learn, a dashboard to grasp, reports to customize, shortcuts to master. And among the many product features, they must discover (with your help) the ones that enable them to be the most productive in achieving their business goals.

Adapting is key for the customer success manager, too, as you adjust to your customers’ pace and changing support requirements along the way. Early on, there will be more involvement needed. As they become more proficient, less so; and some of the contact with your customers may be automated. Finding opportunities to introduce new features and expand usage means adapting your thinking about each client so they grow and thrive.

Oversimplification? Maybe. But recognizing and adapting to these two key phases of the lifecycle will go a long way to making your customers successful—and secure that subscription at renewal time.

So here’s my very pared down take on the customer success lifecycle:

  1. Adopt
  2. Adapt
  3. Ante up!

Is it me or are the semantics of a #CustomerSuccess lifecycle confusing? #SaaS
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