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Know WHO Your Customer Really Is – A Fundamental Foundation of Customer Success


The old cliché tells us that the “customer is always right.” While the validity of such an old business myth may ring true in many situations, it is ABSOLUTELY true when it comes to learning about who your customer is and what keeps them using your product or service. To effectively master customer success, you first need to truly understand who your customer is. Customer Success is about helping your customers achieve their desired outcomes, and if you don't understand who your customer is, what they value, and the goals they have, how are you going to make them successful?

More work needs to be done to enable a proactive approach to customer success. Operational issues, tooling, lack of visibility into customer adoption and health, and time management remain top challenges, but the one fundamental you cannot ignore is knowing who your customer is.

A lot of companies start and stop with company firmographic and demographic data but understanding your customer goes way beyond the size of the company you are working with. You really need to double or even triple click in to understand the problems they are trying to solve, their basic and complex customer needs, the challenges they are facing in the market, and the experience they are having as they partner with your company.

As you venture down the path of getting to know your customers you need to collect, analyze and organize your findings so that you can determine the best way to serve them. If you REALLY understand who they are, you’ll know what specific touch points to provide, how to provide them, and when to reach out. 

Start with Segmentation. 

Collecting, analyzing, and activating your customer data is an important task, but not a simple one. Collect customer data and analyze your entire customer base to extract like groupings of customers leveraging:   

  • Profile Characteristics. These are firmographics & demographics – this is your basic starting point, so keep doing it. Just do not stop here. 
  • Customer Value & Potential. Look at their current spend/ARR, the products/services they have purchased, and bump it up against the total addressable market value (TAM). Know what you have, but also understand a customer’s potential value.
  • Alignment to Product or Service. Different products can have different customer journeys and the customers could have different needs based on the products they purchase. This helps you know how to align the right support system to a customer based on the products they purchased today or could purchase tomorrow.

Once you have groupings, then you can assign them into different success paths. Customer segmentation is about taking like groups of customers based on that data and organizing your customer base so you can target, support, and deliver the right experience to that like grouping. Some require a dedicated CSM, some require a well-orchestrated digital success path, but EVERY customer is on a journey and segmentation allows you to place them at a starting point on their success journey. 

Commit to Building In-Depth Customer Personas. 

Customer Personas can seem daunting, but the exercise is worth it in so many ways. Go into this step understanding that within each segment of your customer base you can get to know the people, process, and technologies surrounding your customers. This is a wealth of information, and one that leads to better journey management. These personas can be built through:   

  • External Research  
  • Interviews, Surveys, & Focus Groups  
  • Customer Observation & Behavior Tracking 
  • Transactions
  • Usage Data 

A customer persona provides the backbone for your messaging and content you serve to them as they progress along their journey. Customers have different needs based on who they are and what they are looking for. A technical IT engineer, for example, relies on different information when adopting your product or solution than a marketing manager. If you could not tell the difference, you run the risk of providing too little information or too much. The important thing is understanding who the personas are BEFORE their journey begins so they can be aligned correctly. 

Map the Customer’s Journey – from First Contact to Renewal (and beyond) 

Now you know what segments to look at and the individual customer type, but do you know what the typical journey is for each customer? The final CRUCIAL step to REALLY understanding your customer is to walk a mile in their shoes – figuratively, not literally. Take all the customer data and insights you have collected and create a visual representation of the customer’s journey by segment and/or persona.  This is how you start this key process: 

  • Identify the high-level customer journey stages (example: awareness, evaluation, purchase, onboarding, adoption, renewal, expansion, advocacy) 
  • Plot the individual interactions & touch-points with your company (across marketing, sales, support, legal, finance, product, resource center) 
  • Log overarching customer sentiment at each touch-point (delights, frustrations)  
  • Overlay company KPIs (product usage metrics, CSAT/NPS, trial conversion rates, renewal/churn rates)
  • Highlight key customer impact milestones (the make it or break it moments – example: first time to value during onboarding, initial purchase transaction, adoption of key product features)
  • Prioritize Action – Decide where the biggest gap or opportunity is to improve the customer experience, and which has the biggest impact on your business objectives and key results. 

This sequential map of each and every touch-point the customer has with our company will not only shed light on gaps in your customer experience, it will also uncover key elementals that should trigger action.

Customers ARE complex but making them successful shouldn’t be. If you get your fundamentals in place (knowing your customer) then things begin to fall into place. These elements open a treasure trove of information, such as behavior & engagement insights (product usage, community engagement, innovation signals), desired outcomes (values, goals to achieve, problems to solve, needs to fill, market challenges), and customer sentiment (potential detractors, problematic trends, advocates). The next step in the process is designing business process and playbooks to deliver on this newly minted knowledge of your customer, but that needs to be covered in another set of posts (stay tuned!). 

It sounds simplistic, but by collecting this deep level of data, you can holistically understand your customer. With this knowledge in hand, take common characteristics and customer needs and segment these customers into like groups where the right touch strategy can be designed and applied to best support each customer. And if you KNOW the journey they take throughout their history with your company, then you know where the true peril lies, and, where the time to delight can be had.