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The importance of customer success for your small business

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Natalie Screen

Mar 9, 2022

There can be a lot of competing priorities for a small business. But there’s one thing that shouldn’t be overlooked, or treated as a ‘nice to have’. It’s customer success. A strong customer success strategy can help you increase customer loyalty, increase revenue, reduce churn – and encourage your customers to become ambassadors for your business. 

So what is customer success? The best way I can describe customer success is that it helps customers maximise the value they can get from your product or services through their entire lifetime. Traditional customer support is reactive, while customer success is proactive, in the moment and relevant to each customer. 

At Xero, we take a digital-first approach to customer success through education, content and community to increase the skills, knowledge and confidence of our customers. Our goal is to answer customers’ questions before they need to ask and give solutions to additional business problems they didn’t even know they could solve with Xero. 

Here are my tips for incorporating customer success into your business, and how we think of customer success at Xero.  

Give your customers a great onboarding experience

Your customer’s initial journey with your business might be the most crucial. The best way to turn a customer into a repeat customer is to give them a great experience, and that starts with onboarding. In these first few months it’s essential you unlock the value of your products and services quickly and prove doing business with you was the right decision.

Develop an onboarding process that is welcoming, fast and smooth, and sets your customers up for success right from day one. Your onboarding should help them understand your business, your point of difference and how to get value from it, right from the start. 

At Xero, we understand that many of our customers don’t have an accounting background, and some have never used any software or perhaps run a business before. So we’ve created a thorough onboarding process to guide our customers through setting their business up in Xero. We want to set them up for success with Xero right from their first day – this is an essential building block for establishing a great relationship. 

Provide education that gives instant answers

After you’ve established a great onboarding experience, the next step is to ensure you have strategies in place to continue to unlock increasing value of your products and services through a customer’s lifetime with you. The more they know how to access your business, understand its full offering and its point of difference – the more likely they are to be loyal to you. 

Also consider how you’ll deliver this education to your customers. Will support content on your website be enough to help answer customer questions? Or can you hold in-person training sessions or workshops with your customers? Is virtual training a better option? Can you offer webinars, or one-to-one education sessions? At Xero, we provide education to more than three million subscribers via Xero Central. We wanted our education to support our customers’ different learning styles and where they are at in their journey with Xero. So, the education we offer includes everything from support articles, to live webinars, video demos, and certification courses

When you’re developing content for your business, I recommend that you think about how you’ll educate your customers as you scale. If you can offer one-to-one education to your customer base now, will that be possible as you grow by 10%? What about 30%? When we established customer success at Xero, we had one million subscribers – and keeping Xero’s high-growth ambitions at the forefront of our plans, we made sure that what worked then would also work at two million, three million subscribers and beyond.

Another benefit of a good customer content and education offering is that you may find the demand on customer support decreases. Your customers will be able to easily find the answer to their question – and so your support team can dedicate their time to complex, not repetitive, customer queries. 

Ensure your content is ever-evolving

Producing content to support your customers should never be seen as a ‘once and done’ task. Make sure your content is kept up to date, and relevant to your customers – you don’t want a website, brochure, or social media page with information that is no longer correct.

My tip is to first base your content on your customers’ common questions. Then use analytics to determine what they’re engaging with – and what they aren’t. By identifying popular topics, you can create more relevant content, and consider changing headlines and placement on your website to attract customers to read content that’s less popular. 

At Xero, our support articles on Xero Central are dynamic. The team reviews and updates content daily, based on what’s happening within our business, the common questions coming through to our support team, and the number of customers reading each article.

Embrace technology

Can technology support your customers and improve their experience with your business? Our customers’ expectations are changing rapidly and they expect information and answers in the moment that are fast, relevant and personalised to them. Technology and artificial intelligence (AI) are big enablers to deliver on this expectation.

As you’d guess for a software company, technology is essential to Xero’s customer success. Xero Central uses machine learning to build models and suggest support articles and education experiences to our customers based on who they are, where they are in their journey with us and what they are trying to do in our product. It provides instant answers to customer questions so they can get back to work, faster.

Communication is key

Communication among your team is key – your team should be cohesive and agree on your strategy and goals. I think it’s important to work across teams in your business to better understand your customers and how you can meet their needs: customer support, sales, marketing will all offer unique perspectives that you can use to develop your customer success strategy. Customer Success as a function is relatively new as a concept, but incredibly critical to achieving both your organisation’s commercial outcomes and customer happiness at scale, when competition in all various types of business has never been so fierce.

You may also want to consider creating a community for your customers, giving them a space to connect and share thoughts with like-minded businesses or people. At Xero, we have created a few places for our customers to connect. Xero Product Ideas is a place where they can share with us their thoughts and feedback, and Xero discussions is where they can ask and answer questions.

Most of all – keep it #human

While I’m a big champion of technology and automation to help you run customer success efficiently, it’s so important to keep your customer at heart. Don’t become so efficient that you lose your personal touch – the reason your customers found you in the first place. While we take a digital-first approach, person-to-person interactions are incredibly important in those moments that really matter.

Even as Xero continues to grow, we’re determined not to lose our #human value. We want our customers to know that we value each one of them, and strive to find ways to show this, including #delight – where we surprise a customer with a gift. 

Never miss an opportunity to thank and appreciate your customers, and they’ll reward you with their loyalty and ambassadorship.

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