You likely already know what the typical buyer journey looks like. The semantics may vary, but it generally begins with awareness and then follows the path through consideration, decision, and, finally, purchase.

Back in 2016, we published a whitepaper on Driving Growth Beyond the Funnel: Why the Customer Journey is the Future of Business, where we described the shift in focus toward what happens after a customer purchases your product. Once a customer makes that initial purchase, the journey doesn’t end where sales and marketing leave off. It continues where customer success takes over. That’s where the customer journey begins.

Hourglass Pipeline


We call the joining of the buyer and customer journey, as depicted above, “the hourglass pipeline.” Customer success is critical for driving movement through this journey.

This concept is still relevant today and will stay relevant for a long time to come. Just like marketing and sales teams have worked to optimize the stages of the buyer journey, so too are customer success teams the world over optimizing the customer journey. 

Because we know between 70-95% of company revenue is generated by renewals and upsells rather than the initial sale, making and keeping customers successful is critical for the growth of your business. This is even more urgent when you consider how easy it is for a customer to switch vendors at the click of a button if they aren’t seeing the value they expect from you. 

It’s also important to know that the customer journey isn’t linear and not every step happens for every customer. Users can adopt your software and become an advocate before they renew or expand, or they might successfully adopt and be retained but never expand or advocate. 

Here are the four stages of the customer journey and why customer success is critical for making the most out of each one.


Adoption is the stage in which customers are just beginning to learn your product from a user’s perspective as they make the transition from the hands of the sales/marketing team into the hands of the customer success team. This is when product implementation and exceptional onboarding take place, and it can last anywhere from 7 to 90 days depending on the complexity of your offering and the types of users you sell to. 

This is where customer success can really shine. They know the product better than just about anyone else and can help not just show product value (like sales and marketing do), but actually deliver that value to new customers.

Read our Adoption Playbook to learn best practices for making the most of this stage in the customer journey.


The retention stage technically begins the moment a prospect becomes a customer and is in continuous motion throughout a customer’s lifetime. Retaining customers means mitigating the risk for customer churn by ensuring users are successful with your product and that they consistently see the value added.

Keeping customers successful so they stay longer is a core function of customer success teams across nearly every organization, and is ultimately the reason customer success was created. It’s up to customer success to ensure users are hitting milestones, achieving goals, and consistently seeing value.

Get the Retention Playbook to learn how to reduce churn by continually delivering value to your customers.


Account expansion happens in a variety of ways—converting from trial or freemium, upgrading to a new pricing tier, purchasing an add-on feature or complementary product—but all of these mean that a customer is spending more money with your company. When you consider the fact that the probability of selling to an existing customer is at least 50% more likely than selling to a new prospect and that they spend about 31% more, expansion is a key revenue driver from beyond the traditional sales and marketing funnel.

While expansion may seem like a sales function, and perhaps it is structured that way in your organization, customer success is critical to paving the path. Your CS team’s hard work and understanding of customer needs ensures expansion can happen naturally.

Download UserIQ’s Expansion Stage Playbook to understand how and when to begin the expansion conversation with your customers.


Getting a customer to become an advocate for your product or brand means a job well done by your customer success team. It means they have been so successful with your product and/or company that they’re ready to share their experience with their peers which helps send new, highly qualified leads back to the top of your hourglass.

Similar to the expansion stage, the hard work done by your customer success team makes it an easy decision for customers to become advocates. 

Download the Advocacy Playbook to find out how to build a successful advocacy program for your organization.

Ready to take the next step to do all of this and more? Discover the right customer success solution for your needs with the Customer Success Technology Buyer’s Guide to find out what to ask, what to expect, and where to start.