What does it look like for you to have a successful customer? The answer often looks different from one business to the next, but you need to know the answer as soon as possible. For if your customers are successful, most often so is your business.

An updated and expanded version is available on the Wildbit blog. While I originally wrote this post while working at InVision, it's at Wildbit where I've spent most of my time honing my definition of customer success and treating it as a function of a business.

How does this affect your company?

Your goal as a business should be to make your customer look as good as possible.

That’s it. It’s as true for web design and software development as it is for many other industries. Kathy Sierra says it best:

People aren’t using the app because they like the app or they like you. They’re doing it because they like themselves. What are you doing to enable more of that?

So, exactly what is customer success for you?

A definition

The most obvious literal meaning? Your customer is successful in their business or work. For many of us who run design agencies or software companies, the method with which you enable your customer’s success may be different, but the goal should be the same.

At Harvest, helping their customers create beautiful invoices for their clients can enable success. For Wistia, enabling their customers to quickly add closed captioning to existing videos in their library makes the customer look badass. For each Saas company, the means may be different, but you should be helping your customer do their job better.

What this means for you

But what does this look like as a function of your business? For 4 months on the job as Director of Customer Success at InVision, I’ve been mulling on this and watching the approach of other companies. There seems to be a wide variety.

Customer success can often be tangled in with customer support. But truly, one is proactive (success) while the other is reactive (support). Both are necessary, but the focus is different.

In many organizations, success is tied closely to marketing and sales. Marketings draws ‘em in, Sales converts ‘em, then it’s up to the Success team to keep 'em happy. While I can understand that approach, the focus is on your success, not that of your customers. The Success team in companies fashioned in this manner are often focused on renewals and upselling.

We have a slightly different approach at InVision, for which I am very glad. On my first day, Clark introduced me and my position to the team in this way:

My job is to make sure each person who signs up for InVision gets the most out of the platform

That is something I can get excited about each day!

When you combine this mentality with a tool or service that can truly better someone’s ability or experience, it’s a powerful thing!

What does this involve?

How do you help people “get the most out of your platform”? That’s the fun part … it can look like many different things. You’re only limited by your imagination.

Here, my team focuses a lot on education. This can include webinars, private demos, tutorial videos, and some aspects of the onboarding experience. We focus on relationships. Caring about the people who use your tool takes you a long way, gives you motivation.

It also involves understanding your customers. What are the different personas (types of users) who make up your customer base? What are their needs and how do they differ from one persona to the next? What features are the most important to them?

Most importantly, our focus is on helping our customers grasp the full extent of how our platform can enhance their design process. Nothing beats the days where I get to talk to a customer, find out where they experience pain or frustration in their current process, then show them how they can remove that pain with InVision.

When we walk away from that conversation, I want to feel confident that this person will look smart and capable to their clients, their team, their executives. Badass (as Kathy puts it).

We talk a lot in our industry about user experience. Customer success (and support) are vital in this regard. The experience is much more than an intuitive UI, a clever, cheeky onboarding process, or a robust feature set. For the customer, it’s about how they feel when using your product or service … and it’s about how they feel about themselves.

Customer Success is focused on just that.