customer success best practices

Customer Success Best Practices: How Segment is engineering their way to success

Miruna MitranescuLast updated on January 2, 2024
7 min

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Popular among developers, Segment is a SaaS company that allows businesses to use a single API for event tracking and send data to hundreds of different tools and databases, including Google Analytics, MailChimp, KISSmetrics, Omniture, Mixpanel and many more. Their growth is due in part to the emphasis they place on customer success best practices.

segment customer success

With more than 4,000 active customers as reported by TechCrunch, Customer Success has become a priority for the company, as well as measuring the ROI of support. Like many SaaS, the team at Segment felt the need to quantify customer data and learn more about their clients needs.

The benefits of a well designed and executed Customer Success strategy include brand equity and lasting impressions on customers. Thus customer referrals can drive down customer acquisition costs, and the reputation of having a personalized, consultative success team can help close enterprise deals tend to come along.

From the typical day of a Customer Success Manager at Segment to Customer Success best practices and challenges, as well as the role of Customer Success Manager at the heart of the company, we had the pleasure to have an in-depth talk with David Everling, Success Lead. Without further ado, here’s our discussion:

What are Customer Success best practices?

Customer success is helping the customer succeed, get their desired outcome. Best practices are the most useful and effective way to do so.

As a Customer Success Manager at Segment, my role is to help our clients make use of a fairly complicated, abstract product. Segment is a hub for cloud data, customer data, which enables our clients to do a lot of things.

I guess, it depends a lot on the type of business and the type of data. It depends on the customer also: what is success for them? What are they looking for? We try to understand what their outcome desire is.

Why and how is Customer Success important in any SaaS today?

Success is pretty critical for SaaS companies because they are relying entirely on recurring revenue. Recurring customers are key for any SaaS company – if these companies want to grow they have to grow their recurring revenue.
So it’s all about growing the customer base or the pricing plans. Either way, they have to build a relationship of trust with the customer.

In this respect, SaaS trully relies on existing customers succeeding. So it’s critically important to hold on to them, especially considering the low switching cost in the Saas indusrty – it’s easy to try out a competitor.

In the end what’s important for a Customer Success Manager is to build trust with your customers. This involves bringing value beyond the sole product, or their use of your product. It’s about bringing value to that relationship.

What is the role of Customer Success at Segment?

The Segment team is split in two functions: the Customer Success Managers who provide strategic guidance and orchestrate help, and the Success Engineers who provide technical support. The mission for our two teams together, acting as the Customer Success organization within Segment, is to do whatever we can to help the people who use Segment to succeed in their effort.

There is something else that is different at Segment from other companies and that is the renewal discussion, the financial side of it in fact. It’s split into 2 different roles: we have an account manager and a customer success manager for each of our Enterprise accounts. The account manager is in charge of negotiating the contract and talking about the financial particulars.

This is great because it allows us, the customer success managers to really focus on helping the customer and advise him. We’re not incentivized by their renewal, which allows us to focus on problem solving and strategizing.

For the smaller accounts we have developed self-service plans. The documentation or the help and support base are very informative and well structured. Customers can easily find any information they need.

What is the typical day of a Customer Success Manager at Segment?

Difficult to describe an average day. There’s a million things that we can do, and we have to drill down on the most effective things that we can do to build our relationships. It changes a lot. We’re still figuring it out.

Let me give you an example. Let’s take 3 companies we’re currently working with: Hotel Tonight, Invision, and Open Table. They have very different business models, different tech stacks, they need different types of help, we talk to different people on their team, and they are at a different stage in their process. Their problems change a lot, and we have to adapt to the customer. So really, there’s no typical day.

Something that’s common to everybody on our Customer Success team here at Segment: we are very committed to providing excellent service to our clients. We try and act as an extension of our own client’s teams. That means everyday we are on google mail, on slack, on google hangout and we are doing the best we can to help our customers succeed.

How does the Customer Success Manager team work with the other teams in the company?

We surface our clients’ feedback to the product teams, which helps prioritize new integration and feature request. That’s really important for fast growing product and fast changing companies.

Mostly we try to find ways to make our clients happier and more successful on the Segment platform. This comes with anticipating product questions, finding the answers, as well as a lot of meetings internally to find ways to improve our service, especially as we are growing.

Segment customer success

What’s your relationship with your Support team?

We work closely with customer support. Everything comes in to the Customer Success manager who delegates further. For technical related questions we look into our support engineers, they’re our support team.

Internally, we use Slack a lot and also Zendesk as our support ticketing system. We organize all the information with Dropbox Paper.

And the relationship with the Content and Marketing team?

Until recently, Segment was small and communal enough that we just to each other identify and create content, often ad hoc. Now that our teams have grown, we’ve generated a lot of ideas and prioritized those in a backlog. We’re trying to create at least one piece of content every week together, mostly in the form of customer stories.

Can you talk about some Customer Success best practices used at Segment?

In general that will be :

  • Setting clear expectations early is particularly important

Even if our product solves a lot of problems and simplify things it can’t do everything. So it’s all about realistic expectations. Success means we will do anything Segment can do.

  • Start to add value with every interaction

We don’t just chit chat with our customers, we value their time, they are busy people. We want to build a meaningful relantionship with them and bring actual value.

  • Learning from your customer

Customer Success is an evolving function. We share a lot inside the CSM team at Segment. We are really a collaborative team.

  • Prioritize and plan well

For the CS team figuring out which things are important to do like which clients you should be talking to first, or what actions you should be doing first. But also with our clients: help your customers prioritize what they need to do.

What are the challenges of Customer Success?

  • Feeling compelled to be the expert on something

They want to provide the best answer right away, but if they don’t know the answer they have to recognize that. In these cases, you have to tell the customer that you’re going to find somebody else who is most qualified to answer. This is sometimes hard because it requires humility and you feel like it makes you look bad in front of the customer. In fact it earns you trust and respect from your clients.

  • Lack of control

We are trying to drive an outcome – the renewal of the customer which is not under our direct control there are far too many variables for us to be in control. You have to have proper support to actually drive towards the outcome that you want.

  • Trying to figure out how to do Customer Success

We understand what it looks like: the customer has their desired outcome, they’re getting what they want. There are some best practices and general guidelines but besides that there is a lot of testing and re-evaluating.

What are in your opinion Customer Success best practices? Something that you see emerging?

Anything is turning into SaaS nowadays. Any SaaS requires at least “some” Customer Success. It’s fascinating to see how Customer Success is evolving exponentially fast. The more SaaS companies, the more there’s a need for Customer Success. Customer Success will become more and more specialized.

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Published on May 26, 2016.

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