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A guide to customer success software

Customer service alone is no longer cutting it in the CX market. Find out how to use customer success software to fully reinvent your company’s customer experience.

Understanding and choosing customer success management software

When most of us think of the customer experience, we jump to customer satisfaction. After all, customer satisfaction is a loud and influential factor in the 21st century. With online reviews holding sway over 93 percent of your consumer base, it’s no surprise that so many companies work so diligently to create a responsive post-purchase experience.

Sure, customer satisfaction and customer service are essential parts of your CX strategy. And employing smart reps who are able to solve problems and calm tempers is a proven way to please customers and protect your brand.

But even better than addressing customer issues proactively, is having no customer issues at all. This is the superpower that customer success and customer success management tools strive to give your company.

In this piece:

What is customer success software?

Customer success management (CSM) software is a highly specialized software that analyzes your existing customer data in order to give you a well-rounded view of your customers and their experiences. Essentially, CSM software gives you an in-depth look at your customer experience and allows you to improve your strategies.

These days, those strategies are everything. According to a North Highland survey of 700 senior business leaders, 87 percent of leaders said customer experience was their top growth priority, but only 1 in 3 felt prepared to implement growth strategies. CMS software is the first step to not only implementing CX growth plans, but ensuring those plans align with your brand, your company, and your sales and marketing strategies.

CMS software might sound redundant if your company is already using customer service software, but it’s actually far more specialized and designed to pinpoint your top areas for customer service improvement.

Customer success vs customer support and customer service

Customer success and customer support both work tirelessly to improve your customer experience, but they approach it from opposite angles.

customer success vs customer service

Differences between customer success and customer service. [Source]

As you can see in the graphic above, customer support is what we all think of when we hear ‘customer service’ — fixing problems, satisfying customers, and generally solving issues after they’ve already happened. Reactive customer support is a necessary part of any business, but it shouldn’t be solely responsible for making customers happy. After all, it makes far more sense to address the root cause of customer dissatisfaction than to keep pulling up individual weeds.

Customer success is there to prevent customer support issues before they occur in the first place. Some problems are inevitable, but with a proactive approach to customer experience, your company can significantly reduce negative experiences and increase revenue, brand reputation, and service value.

This is important to remember as you look at CSM software. Struggles with customer success don’t necessarily mean your company is struggling with customer support or service. You can have a fantastic CS team with absolutely no customer success plan at all — they just might be a tad overworked from problem-solving. CMS software spreads out the workload and ultimately cuts down on issues that also improve the customer service side of your company.

How is customer success typically measured?

The three easiest ways to measure customer success are in referrals, customer churn, and customer service workload.

Referrals

Referrals come from happy customers. You can generate referrals from customers who’ve had issues successfully resolved, but more often than not, referrals come from customers who’ve had a positive experience from the very beginning.

We know this because we’ve studied it. Psychological research shows that humans are more likely to remember negative experiences over positive experiences. Additionally, 17 percent of customers will walk away from a brand they love after just one bad experience.

If you notice referrals increasing in your sales department, your customer success plan is doing something right. Customers are enjoying their experience and recommending your company highly enough that qualified prospects are coming directly to you. But if referrals seem thin on the ground, it may be a hint your customer success strategy needs improvement.

Customer churn

Despite the difficulties of customer service work, the fact is that most unhappy customers don’t complain. In fact, 91 percent of unhappy customers won’t say anything about their experience — they just won’t come back. If you’re noticing a decrease in customer churn, then your customer success plan is working like a charm.

With well over 400 million companies in existence around the world, no customer needs to give yours a second chance. If they didn’t like their experience, there are five other options for the same products. Repeat customers are a reliable sign that your customer success strategy is…well, successful.

Customer service workload

Customer success is all about solving issues before they reach customer service. Because of that, the greatest indicator that your customer success plans are working is a steep drop in customer service chaos.

In a customer experience study, we found that nearly 60 percent of customers feel that long holds and wait times are the most frustrating parts of a service experience. A lot of companies put long waits on the slowness of their CS staff, but the fact is that if customers didn’t have as many issues to report, they wouldn’t be clogging up the phone lines.

Strong customer success strategies eliminate issues all together. That means less pressure on your CS team and more happy customers.

What are the features of customer success management tools?

CSM software can overlap with multiple other sales softwares, so features can become a bit muddy. As with all sales software, not every company needs every single feature a product offers. That said, any CSM tool worth investing in should have certain key abilities.

According to G2 analysis, in order for a CSM tool to qualify in the customer success category, it must include the following features:

  • Customer profile building and identification
  • Customer data capturing (including history, feedback, invoices, marketing engagement, and team interactions)
  • Full customer lifecycle engagement
  • Data analysis and customer success scores generated by historical data
  • Customer growth predictions based on interaction, payment, and inquiry data
  • Scalability per size of your company and method of customer engagement

Keep in mind that these are the base features required, not the bonus features you should be looking for. Your software should also be able to capture and share customer information across all company channels. As with any business strategy, alignment is everything. If you can’t share your plans and data, your company can’t work together as a single unit.

Benefits of using CSM software

CSM tools integrate with customer relationship management (CRM) software to create the ideal customer observation platform. Using their combined powers, you can use your CSM software to:

  1. Gain customer interaction visibility (understanding where time is being spent and which accounts it’s being spent on).
  2. Identify and strategically prevent customer churn (seeing where customers fall off the grid and addressing the issues leading up to that fall).
  3. Improve the customer onboarding process (ensuring your customers fully understand how to use your product and/or service before leaving them in the lurch).
  4. Capture quantifiable customer feedback (turning observations into actionable insights).
  5. Align your teams (streamlining the customer success process so that everyone is on the same page, no matter what deal they’re working on).

Summary of Best CSM Tools

Now that we’ve discussed the benefits and features of CSM tools, let’s take a look at the best of the best. Below is a comparative chart of the top eight CSM tools followed by a more in-depth look at each platform.

Keep in mind, all of these work best when integrated with a robust, comprehensive CRM software like Zendesk.

CSM Tool

Price

Free Trial or Demo?

Scalability

Customer Health Scores

Integrations

High Data Security

Reporting and Analysis

Gainsight

Free with Zendesk

Demo

ChurnZero

Free with Zendesk

Demo

X
Tray.io

Free with Zendesk

Trial

X
UserGuiding

$69/month

Trial

X
X
Custify

Contact for a quote

Demo

Totango

Limited Free Version

Trial

X
Client Success

Contact for a quote

Demo

X
PlanHat

Contact for a quote

Demo

X

The 8 Best CSM Tools


1. Gainsight integration

Gainsight customer success software integration

Image credit

Gainsight is a unique, customer-centric CSM designed to scale efficiently, create alignment, and present a holistic and comprehensive customer view. Using key information like usage, customer health scoring (CHS), survey response, and integrated data, Gainsight pairs your customer tickets with a complete 360-degree view of the customer.

Currently, over 200 organizations use Gainsight’s product portfolio (including GE Digital, SAP Concur, and Box). As a free integration with Zendesk Service, it’s not hard to see why.

Features:

  • Customer health scores
  • Customer profiles
  • Customer segments
  • Customer monitoring
  • Playbooks
  • Reporting and Dashboards
  • Data import and export
  • Notifications
  • Scalability
  • API and Integrations
  • Workflow capability
  • Customization
  • High data security
  • User, role, and access Management

Free trial or demo: Demo available

Pricing: Free with Zendesk integrations

2. ChurnZero integration

ChurnZero customer success software integration

Image credit

ChurnZero is a real-time CSM designed for subscription businesses fighting against customer churn. By integrating with a business’ CRM, ChurnZero helps evaluate how customers use products, how likely they are to renew, and how personalized and appreciated their experience is.

A unique feature of this CSM is the churn prediction algorithm. ChurnZero uses this algorithm to collect and analyze customer participation data and generate actionable reports within the software and across your tech stack. Ideally, with ChurnZero, you can stop a departing customer before they make it out the door.

Features:

  • Customer health scores
  • Customer profiles
  • Customer segments
  • Customer monitoring
  • Playbooks
  • Product engagement
  • Churn prediction
  • Reporting and Dashboards
  • Scalability
  • API and Integrations
  • Workflow capability
  • Customization
  • User, role, and access Management

Free trial or demo: Demo available

Pricing: Free with Zendesk integrations

3. Tray.io integration

Tray.io customer success software integration

Image credit

Tray.io is a bit of an outlier, but we’re including it because if you already have a fair amount of customer-oriented software, Tray.io is your key to bringing them all together. Tray.io is a leading automation platform which rapidly aligns and automates processes across your company. This platform was designed for business professionals looking to take their cloud software stack and scale it no matter what their growth status.

Tray.io is not technically a CSM, but if you have existing software that can look deeply into your customer behavior, partnering with Tray.io will allow you to analyze that behavior and implement its insights in record time.

Features:

  • Reporting and Dashboards
  • Data import and export
  • Notifications
  • Scalability
  • API and Integrations
  • Workflow designer
  • Customization
  • High data security
  • Traffic control
  • Plugins

Free trial or demo: Demo available

Pricing: Free with Zendesk integrations

4. UserGuiding

UserGuiding customer success software

Image credit

UserGuiding is a specialized customer success software that focuses on onboarding and customer guidance. It was designed to assist businesses in increasing conversions between trial/demo users and paying customers by fully showcasing the value of the products.

While UserGuiding doesn’t include the full list of features common in CSMs, it does include additional features like behavior response messaging and interactive resource walkthroughs. It is important to note, however, that this CSM doesn’t conduct customer health reports. If that’s what your company needs assessment on, then this software is best as an add-on, not as your go-to CSM.

Features:

  • Survey implementation
  • User segmentation
  • Multi-language support
  • Behavior response messaging
  • Reporting and Dashboards
  • Data import and export
  • Notifications
  • Scalability
  • API and Integrations
  • Workflow capability
  • Customization
  • User, role, and access Management

Free trial or demo: Trial available

Pricing: Starts at $69/month

5. Custify

Custify customer success software

Image credit

Custify is a Customer Success Platform designed specifically for SaaS businesses. With fellow software companies in mind, Custify focuses on onboarding support and simplification of software products. In the best circumstances, Custify can cut onboarding time down by weeks.

Despite its specificity, Custify is highly scalable to different sizes of SaaS companies. Many users report liking its simplicity of design and clear metric reporting.

Features:

  • Customer health scores
  • Customer profiles
  • Customer segments
  • Customer monitoring
  • Playbooks
  • Product engagement
  • Upsell opportunities
  • Reporting and Dashboards
  • Data import and export
  • Notifications
  • Scalability
  • API and Integrations
  • Workflow capability
  • Customization
  • High data security
  • User, role, and access Management

Free trial or demo: Demo available

Pricing: Contact company for a quote.

6. Totango

Totango customer success software

Image credit

Totango presents as the industry’s only Composable Customer Success Platform. With massive scalability, Totango gives companies the opportunity to build the software they need with the features they want. Used by over 5,000 businesses (including Google and GitHub), this CSM provides real-time customer health reports, risk alerts, and specified engagement opportunities.

High customization puts Totango at the top of the list for experienced companies, but be aware that smaller, less tech-savvy businesses may find themselves lost. Make sure your company knows exactly what features it needs before jumping in.

Features:

  • Customer health scores
  • Customer profiles
  • Customer segments
  • Customer monitoring
  • Product engagement
  • Custom triggers
  • Reporting and Dashboards
  • Data import and export
  • Notifications
  • Scalability
  • API and Integrations
  • Workflow capability
  • Customization
  • High data security
  • User, role, and access Management

Free trial or demo: Trial/limited free version available

Pricing: Limited free version available. Paid versions start at $199/mo per every two users.

7. ClientSuccess

ClientSuccess customer success software

Image credit

ClientSuccess tackles CSM through their Customer Success Management Platform™. They pride themselves on holistic approaches to customer profiles and a focus on long-term relationships where customers choose you because they want to, not because of contract lock-ins.

ClientSuccess’ customer profiles break each buyer down by risk factors, success factors, and interaction pulses — giving you all the information you need to personalize a strategic customer experience. This CSM is designed for all company and tech levels with intuitive architecture (even if that means customization options are more limited).

Features:

  • Customer health scores
  • Customer profiles
  • Customer segments
  • Customer monitoring
  • Product engagement
  • Reporting and Dashboards
  • Data import and export
  • Churn risk predictions
  • Notifications
  • Scalability
  • API and Integrations
  • Workflow capability
  • Customization
  • User, role, and access Management

Free trial or demo: Demo available

Pricing: Contact company for a quote.

8. PlanHat

PlanHat customer success software

Image credit

PlanHat is a CSM built to manage your workflow while giving you crucial insights and real-time churn warnings. Scalable for companies of all sizes, PlanHat streamlines your customer data and allows your teams to set realistic goals and ideal outcomes. Key features like playbooks and automation also make PlanHat a solid investment in CSM software.

Per users, the one downside of PlanHat is that it can be complicated to use when you get into the customer intelligence weeds. We recommend this one for more tech-savvy companies.

Features:

  • Customer health scores
  • Customer profiles
  • Customer segments
  • Customer monitoring
  • Playbooks
  • Churn risk predictions
  • Customized triggers
  • Reporting and Dashboards
  • Data import and export
  • Notifications
  • Scalability
  • API and Integrations
  • Workflow capability
  • Customization
  • User, role, and access Management

Free trial or demo: Demo available

Pricing: Contact company for a quote.

How to choose customer success management software

All of the above CSM tools are fantastic, but how do you choose the right one for your company? There isn’t necessarily a one-size-fits all CSM tool, but there are ways you can narrow down what you’re looking for and what would best fit your company.

  1. Make sure it integrates

    We’ve touched on this several times, but if your CSM tool cannot integrate with your existing software (especially your CRM, live chat, and customer service tools), then it’s not for you. There’s no point in investing in software if it’s going to create further confusion about policy in your company. Make sure everyone has access.

  2. Ask your colleagues

    You’re never alone in making SaaS decisions. Pull your colleagues aside and ask what integrations they’re looking for and if there are any features they’re particularly excited about.

  3. Know what you need

    Before you start looking, know what you’re looking for. If you have specific company needs to address, write them down and make sure that any product you view conforms to that checklist.

  4. Practice, practice, practice

    A successful sales company runs practice scenarios with reps all the time. Your software is no different. Before you buy, run through a few simulations with specific problems. When you hit a point in the simulation run where you need a technological ability you don’t have, write it down and make sure your new software takes care of it.

  5. Try it before you buy it

    Most SaaS products offer a free trial or a demo before you commit. Always take advantage of those offers and make sure your new CSM tool blends seamlessly into your existing tech stack.

Frequently asked questions

Still have a few questions? Not to worry. Here are a few answers from our most common FAQs.

What is customer success SaaS?

Customer success SaaS is any software product dedicated to customer success that includes all of the above-mentioned customer service features. Some CSM tools are sold individually, but some are integrated with larger customer service software platforms.

What do you look for in a customer success tool?

No matter what size your company is or what products you sell, your customer success tool needs to be able to do two things:

  1. Integrate with your existing software.
  2. Efficiently collect and analyze data from multiple sources.

If your CSM tool can’t integrate or quickly collate and analyze, then it’s not worth the investment.

What are the top five priorities in customer success?

The top five priorities in customer success are:

  1. Improving the customer experience.
  2. Proactively addressing common customer service issues.
  3. Creating long-term strategies for solving customer problems at the source.
  4. Achieving customer goals (not company goals, customer goals).
  5. Redefining company alignment and culture around what your customers need and the experience they have with you.

You’ll notice that none of these priorities have to do with increasing numbers or revenue. Those aren’t priorities — they’re results. If you focus on these priorities and commit to the customer experience, then the numbers will follow. You’ll see more revenue, less churn, fewer tickets, and increased brand engagement. Having results-oriented goals is helpful, but in this case, it’s all about the experience.

Try a CSM tool for free

If you’re ready to try a CSM tool, integrate it with Zendesk. Zendesk is the only complete customer service solution. It’s scalable with your business, convenient for your customers, and includes robust, out-of-the-box tools that are easy to use and quick to set up. Most importantly, Zendesk offers free customer success integrations with numerous top CSM tools. You’re already working hard and investing in your customer experience — why spend more when you don’t have to?

Request a demo today and see how the power of Zendesk combined with a powerful CSM can revolutionize your customer experience.

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