Leaders have the unique opportunity to shape culture and support change in a way that not every employee can. Customer success leaders, in particular, have a responsibility to be the customer’s champion throughout the entire organization. What sets top customer success leaders apart, though?

There are, of course, soft skills that great customer success leaders have. For example, empathy, flexibility, and critical thinking go a long way. But it isn’t always these skills that set apart the great from the good. Based on some recent research from Bain & Co, extremely effective customer success leaders approach their work in a few key ways.  

Proactively help customers 

Customer success isn’t just about putting out fires. Ideally, a great customer success strategy prevents as many issues as possible from happening in the first place. A proactive approach is only possible with the right tools, though. 

The top-performing customer success leaders are 46% more likely to use predictive analytics to identify accounts at risk. Enabled with these insights, customer success managers can prioritize their outreach to help customers who are struggling the most. 

Predictive analytics and tools such as health scores and product engagement also help the best CS leaders identify trends. Rather than relying on scattered qualitative feedback or random, one-off NPS scores to make company decisions, analytics provide concrete proof that can confirm or deny CSM hunches. Ideally, they also encompass a variety of data-driven criteria for health scoring so you can see exactly what makes a healthy customer healthy (and what levers to pull for at-risk accounts or users). When combined with user segmentation, product analytics add a layer of certainty to your strategy. 

See connections from a high level

In addition to using tools to work proactively, customer success leaders understand customer success connections from a high level. Your company may function as separate departments, but from the customer’s perspective, you’re one force. That’s why it’s essential to understand the impact of customer success on the entire customer journey.

Great CS leaders are 29% more likely to have a 360-degree view of customer data. What does that mean? Let’s break it down: 

  • Sales & marketing data from your CRM (this one often the most comprehensive dataset for most companies because it holds everything from basic account information and public company data to sales notes, activity records, and so much more) 
  • In-app engagement data and health scoring from your customer success platform
  • Customer journey and pathing intelligence
  • Support ticket data from your help desk system

Not every team will need or use every one of these tools or data points to give them the complete view of the customer that they need, but the more you can get the better, especially if you’re thoughtful about how to combine tools and data to weave together a full picture that provides useful information (rather than just data points upon data points). . A holistic view of customer data is about getting high-level summaries of the entire experience, while also being able to drill down into specific problem areas.

Empower users to get the help they need

Customer success teams are focused on helping users achieve their goals, but you can’t be everything to everyone all the time. That’s where automated and self-service tools come in handy. There comes the point when all customer success teams need to scale their efforts, and leaders are 30% more likely to offer digital self-service tools to customers

Self-service resources are available to users anytime so they’re tailored to a user’s own pace, and can even be customized based on segment or behavior. Depending on your customers and product, high-tech options may be better received than high-touch customer success management. 

What self-service tools are leaders using, though? Certainly, they’re using a knowledge base so users have access to support questions immediately and include a variety of content types (like videos/webinars and community-driven content). In addition,uided product tours strengthen the ever-important onboarding period by getting the most relevant information in front of new users immediately (or new information about a feature release or update to current users). Launchers and tooltips also give information boosts where and when a user needs it.

Act as a link between teams

Remember how I mentioned that customers don’t think about your company in terms of different departments? Your organization needs to be a unified force that’s centered on customer success. This change in culture is no small feat, but executive leadership can lead the way. 

Customer success leaders can strengthen alignment between teams by connecting with department heads and setting up routines and processes to share feedback between CS and other teams, like product, support and, sales/marketing. Another primary role of customer success leaders is providing insights and reports that are easy to share between teams. After all, the incredible customer engagement data you gather can only do so much good if it’s locked away for customer success manager eyes only. 

McKinsey and Company have identified the current iteration of customer success as “Customer Success 2.0.” While customer success efforts of the past may have been all about fighting churn, there’s now a realization that customer success is a growth center for SaaS companies. One of the core elements of this framework is analytics that helps predict customer risks and opportunities. 

It should come as no surprise, then, that the customer success teams that are most confident in their efforts use tools to ease their load and scale customer support and success efforts. They know that sometimes there’s no replacement for the relationships built between CSM and customers, but that the right tools and data can deliver insights that help CSM prioritize efforts and see important trends or warning signs, and ultimately make the most out of each relationship. There’s a common thread between the top four ways that customer success leaders work different, and that’s “work smarter, not harder.” 

Selecting the right tools and data for your team is a big decision, though. You need to assess both your current needs, as well as where you might be headed in the future. Overwhelmed by choosing a customer success platform? We have The Buyer’s Guide to Customer Success Software to help you sort out exactly what you need.