Adopting a Customer Success Platform (CSP) can transform your team into a productivity powerhouse.
But with dozens of options available, and more coming online every day, how do you choose? How do you even decide what you’re solving for?
To help, we’ve put together our guide to best practices on what to look for when evaluating and choosing a CSP that not only fits your team’s needs but your customers' needs as well.
Along with a handy list of questions to ask when you’re meeting with sales reps, our experts provide insights into five critical areas to look at during the evaluation process.
First Off: Why Do I Need a Customer Success Platform?
For CS teams to be effective, they need to be able to form a complete picture of their customers’ experiences. When it comes to accessing the customer data portion of that picture, there are a lot of potential sources to pull from:
- Customer Relationship Management tools like Salesforce and Hubspot
- Ticketing systems like Zendesk and Intercom
- Revenue data from Stripe or Chargebee
- Hosting platform metrics from providers like Mixpanel or Segment
- Data warehouse usage stats from Snowflake and BigQuery
CS teams need a lot (if not all) of this data, and manually updating spreadsheets for tracking updates and customer data to build the right kind of customer interactions can end up a messy affair.
And what about ongoing success and account development? Your CSMs need the right tools to continuously deliver value to your clients through the entire customer lifecycle. That means you need to consider how to drive positive business outcomes just as much as having the raw data at your fingertips.
Sound like you? Congrats. You’ve just identified a need for a CSP! It’s time for you to discover how to bring everything into a single pane of glass, empowering your team to manage at scale.
What to Look for in a Customer Success Platform
Whether you’re on the hunt for a new solution or thinking of making a change, Vitally’s experts are here to explain what to prioritize, what to look out for, and what to ask vendors when you're evaluating your CSP options.
Start With You
Before you begin shopping around, you need to decide what success looks like for your company. Your business goals should drive your decisions. These can include a lot of factors, including:
- Customer time to value (CTTV)
- Product adoption and usage
- Churn prevention
- Upselling and revenue growth
- NPS, CSAT, and other surveys
You’ll also want to think about how current processes block your team from reaching these goals, and how a CSP could improve them with tools like automation.
Once you’ve identified your own overarching wants, it’s time to compare them against five key areas critical to gauging the capabilities and functionality of a CSP.
1. Data & Integrations
A customer success platform isn’t going to be effective if it can’t pull in all the sources you need. In order to get that data, it needs to have either pre-built integrations, APIs, or manual data pulls to get it from the source app into your Customer Success software.
Questions to ask: What is the effectiveness of each integration listed? Are the integrations bi-directional and secure? How easy is it to set up each integration? How does the platform handle data for tools without integrations?
Vitally insight: “As your company grows and scales you’ll start to build up a roster of tools. You’ll eventually get to a point where you’re living in spreadsheets to map data exports from one tool to another! VLOOKUP & IF EXISTS have probably become terms you use day-to-day. These are key signs it’s time to bring on a CSP — to centralize the information in one space for a comprehensive view of your customers, and to tailor the customer experience so that you can reduce churn, improve retention/renewals, and drive revenue.” — Fahmida Yasmin-Monium, Vitally Solutions Architect
2. Project Management
Your Customer Success Platform should function as the command center for your CS team. That means including a way to manage projects at a glance to keep everyone on track with tasks and projects.
Questions to ask: Can I create templates for repetitive projects (onboarding, QBRs, etc.)? How easy is it to see the status of a project or when it’s off track? Can projects be automated based on customer activity?
Vitally insight: “CS software allows for seamless cross-team visibility and project management. Your CSM will better understand sales discussions, renewal managers will know the pulse of the business or churn risks by tracking logged calls, and product teams will always be up to speed on customer escalations and requests.” — Stephanie Townes, Vitally Senior Customer Success Manager
3. Reporting & Analytics
Slicing and dicing data allows you to get the 360-degree view you need — whether that’s overall customer insights or team effectiveness. The right CSP will enable your team to showcase the value of Customer Success back to the organization.
Questions to ask: What types of reports come pre-configured for my team? How easy is it to create my own custom reports? What options do I have for automating and sharing these reports?
Vitally insight: “Integrated reporting that features native integrations and consolidates data from multiple sources into one place eliminates the need for CSMs to jump between various tools. This unified approach not only saves time but also provides a more comprehensive view of your customers' interactions and data.” — Laura Alvarez, Vitally Senior Customer Success Manager
4. Customer Health
Customer health scores are an excellent way to understand and visualize customer health based on metrics your team defines as good or bad indicators. Data points like product engagement, user activity, and adoption can all be used as factors in determining a healthy customer from one that may need attention to prevent churn.
Questions to ask: What customer data can I use for a health score? How dynamic is it? Are health scores measured at the account or organization level? Can I build health scores for each stage of the customer journey?
Vitally insight: “Customer health tracking features, like Vitally’s Health Scores, take customer monitoring to the next level by incorporating core product events alongside sentiment analysis. This holistic view allows you to track customer activity more accurately, providing deeper insights into their well-being.” — Laura Alvarez, Vitally Senior Customer Success Manager
Automated workflows can reduce time spent on redundant, repeatable tasks, eliminate human error, and ensure your customer insights are always up to date. They’re an efficiency superpower. A modern Customer Service Platform should include powerful automation to handle any repeatable task while accounting for different scenarios.
Questions to ask: What parts of my customer data processing and platform workflows can be automated? How many levels of automation can be built into your platform? How does your platform handle data that doesn’t always fit the automation?
Vitally insight: “When it comes to delivering a consistent customer experience, it's crucial to create repeatable processes you can iterate on as your business scales. Your team will be running regular interventions like QBRs, renewals, churn risk calls, and implementations. Automating & templating those workflows allows for a uniform approach to any customer intervention to ensure no detail is missed.” — Stephanie Townes, Vitally Senior Customer Success Manager
The Secret Sauce Is Support
Choosing any tool is both an investment and a process. One you’d hope not to have to repeat again in a year or two. That’s why the choice of your Customer Success partner is just as important as the quality of the product itself.
That partner can come in many forms, and it’s important to ask just what sort of post-purchase support you can expect from their team. Success, after all, breeds success.
Along with Vitally’s own panel of CSP experts, we’ve also asked Chad Horenfeldt, Principal at Enlightened Customers, what he recommends. Here’s a few suggestions on who to look for to support your partnership.
The Account Executive (AE)
The AE will likely be the first person you interact with. During your discussions, it’s important to make sure they are listening to your pains and explaining clearly how the platform will address them.
Chad points out, “When choosing a customer success platform, I want to know the team I'm working with truly understands our use cases. Are they just trying to determine what we need so they can craft their proposal or are they curious about what we're trying to achieve?”
You deserve the same level of client support you offer your customers! You know just how vital a CSM can be to the overall success from adoption through renewal. When evaluating partners, it’s important to understand how much access and guidance you’ll receive from your CSM, either a single dedicated manager or pooled across various CSMs.
The Implementation Specialist
While some vendors handle new customer onboarding and implementation through a Customer Service Manager, an Implementation Specialist has deep product knowledge to help navigate technical aspects or troubleshooting that may arise during this stage.
“How the onboarding is structured is also very important,” Chad told us. “Having defined perimeters is important but crafting your CS strategy requires a true partner. I want to ensure that the onboarding team is extremely knowledgeable and not just focused on setting us up. Are they looking for ways for us to improve how we operate as a whole?”
Choosing the Right CSP Software: Next Steps
Remember, this is just the beginning of your journey to improving Customer Success for your team, business, and most importantly, the customers you support and serve. We hope this will make it easier for you and your team to properly evaluate and choose the Customer Success Platform that best meets the needs of your organization and business.
Not a Vitally customer yet? Request a personalized demo of Vitally with one of our Customer Success experts today and learn how our top-rated Customer Success Platform can supercharge your CS organization.
For even more advice on this subject, download our Buyer's Guide: Selecting a Customer Success Platform