No matter what industry you’re in, it’s a well-known fact that delivering a great customer experience is the best way to earn your customers’ loyalty. For product-led organizations, the customer experience hinges on the product’s ability to deliver value to its users. But the product can also be used as a vehicle to deliver experiences or provide services that encourage loyalty—and give customers natural ways to become advocates for the brand. 

For customer success (CS) teams, fostering loyalty is always top of mind, and something customer success managers (CSMs) are uniquely equipped to help influence throughout the customer lifecycle.

What is customer loyalty?

Customer loyalty is the byproduct of a great customer experience and a result of long-term customer retention. It encompasses a customer’s goodwill and positive feelings towards a brand, and is a reliable indicator of how the customer might talk about the company with their peers and colleagues (aka your potential future customers). In short, loyalty is a customer’s sense of affinity or allegiance to an organization.

Loyal customers are typically your best brand advocates. As the term implies, these people advocate for the company and its products. And they do so willingly and organically—without being prompted or incentivized—through testimonials, reviews, social media, or word-of-mouth.

How a product-led approach helps drive loyalty and advocacy

In more traditional organizations, CSMs have historically relied on resource-intensive one-to-one (1:1) motions to truly move the needle on customer loyalty. Activities like live onboarding and enablement, checking in via phone or email, and answering customer support-type queries eat up valuable time CSMs could otherwise use for more strategic and fruitful customer engagements. 

Product-led approaches help free CSMs from these repetitive, manual tasks so they can spend their time focusing on high-value activities and nurturing the customer relationships with the greatest potential to impact the company’s bottom line. These strategies also allow them to scale their efforts through one-to-many (1:many) motions, without sacrificing the personalization or moments of delight that make for a great customer experience.

Leveraging the product to improve customer loyalty also encourages CSMs to bring a data-informed approach to how they manage customer relationships. Using quantitative and qualitative data, CSMs can begin to identify their happiest and most loyal customers so they can replicate those behaviors—and the motions that helped them get there—across their full customer portfolio. They can also use this information to inform sales and expansion processes through a better understanding of who their ideal buyers and users are.

Data also helps CS teams build tighter bonds with the product team by uniting both orgs around a common language and shared source of truth for product performance and customer behavior. For example, a CSM might notice several of their customers dropping in usage or running into the same problem inside the product. Surfacing this concern with the product team helps lead to a more timely investigation and fix—the speed and efficacy of which helps impact a customer’s satisfaction and likelihood to remain loyal to the brand. 

Product-led tactics that contribute to customer loyalty and advocacy

Bringing conventionally extraneous engagement activities inside the product not only helps CS teams scale their efforts and save time. It also makes the message being relayed more resonant and sticky for customers, because it’s presented within the context of the product itself. Here are a few product-led tactics CS teams can leverage to drive customer loyalty and deliver a delightful product experience.

Use the product to deliver great onboarding

While it may feel premature to think about long-term customer loyalty and advocacy at the beginning of a new relationship, the reality is that customers start judging their experience and forming their perception of your organization from the minute they first learn about—and start using—your product. So it’s important to get the moments that matter right, from day one. Onboarding is a critical step in the customer journey, and more often than not, sets the stage for what customers can expect from the rest of their experience. 

The CS team should partner with product and enablement to build in-app onboarding programs that help customers realize the value of the product as quickly as possible. Here are a few ideas about how CS teams can help inform the onboarding process:

  • Give new users a “choose your own adventure” onboarding experience by allowing them to select their initial learning track based on the jobs they’re trying to get done or outcomes they’re hoping to achieve.
  • Introduce the customer to their CSM using a simple in-app guide. Include a personal message and let the customer know the best way to contact their CSM if they need help at any point.
  • Use what your CSMs know about their ideal customers’ behaviors to improve existing onboarding flows. Have customers in a similar subscription tier struggled to adopt a particular feature in the past? How can you incorporate more enablement around that feature in future onboarding modules so new users don’t run into the same issues?

Help customers help themselves with in-app support

Simply giving customers peace of mind that their CS and account teams have their back goes a long way towards building trust and loyalty. And in product-led CS organizations, delivering support doesn’t necessarily mean being available for customers 24/7. It’s about bringing commonly requested documentation and guidance inside the product and making it easy to access—so customers can self-serve whenever it makes the most sense. 

Product-led support also leverages the product to help customers get connected to their account team or submit feedback and requests. This can be achieved through integrations with other ticketing or scheduling platforms, as well as reserving dedicated areas in the product for feedback collection. By giving customers ways to get resources on their own, make suggestions, or ask for additional help all within the context of your product, you:

  • Improve the quality of the questions being asked
  • Reduce the number of repetitive queries your CSMs need to respond to (which can often be solved without human intervention)
  • Reduce the amount of time customers spend waiting for help (a massive contributor to customer satisfaction)

Keep customers in the know and close the loop

The best CSMs never leave their customers in the dark. They value transparency and honesty in their relationships, and communicate relevant updates or product news in the places where customers are most likely to see them. They use in-app guides to relay important news at the account level—or even flag actions that need to be taken at the individual level. They also use in-app guides to close the loop with customers who have submitted feedback or requests. By letting customers know they’ve been heard and thanking them for sharing their contributions, CSMs can continually build goodwill and loyalty.

Product-led CS teams also use data to have more productive, transparent conversations with customers. They use findings from product analytics to inform their customers’ success plans, based on how they’re performing today and where they need to improve in the future. This information also helps them have more meaningful discussions with customers during key touchpoints like quarterly business reviews (QBRs). CSMs can highlight user behavior or adoption trends of note, then suggest tactics for improvement or highlight other features that might further improve the customer experience.

Check in on Net Promoter Score (NPS)

Net Promoter Score (NPS) is an industry-standard benchmark of customer health and happiness for a reason. It condenses a range of customer sentiment-related considerations into a single question, with a measure that’s easy to track over time. It’s also a great metric for CS teams to track closely because it’s a good indicator of churn and loyalty. In short, users who are considered “Promoters” are more likely to serve as advocates for the company and become long-time customers, whereas unhappy “Detractors” will likely jump ship at the earliest opportunity.

Ideally, your product analytics tool should allow you to compare your users’ behavioral data with their NPS responses. For CSMs, the intersection of these insights can be extremely valuable for identifying champions (whose behaviors would ideally be emulated across the CSM’s entire portfolio) or customers who are at-risk (who likely need additional support, enablement, or other interventions). For example:

  • High usage promoters are your strongest advocates. These are the perfect candidates to ask for testimonials or reviews (more on that below). 
  • Low usage promoters find value in your product, but may be struggling to use it to its fullest potential. The CSM might consider recommending additional services or enablement to help users leverage all the features they’re entitled to.
  • High usage detractors are customers who have a clear need for what your product does, but are deeply dissatisfied with their experience using it. It’s worth digging into this cohort to identify if the users are decision makers, see whether they’ve shared any feedback that could add context to their score, and note how their usage has changed over time—all valuable information for helping the CSM realign and salvage the relationship.
  • Low usage detractors are customers who don’t feel affinity towards the brand, and are therefore likely to churn. These customers are considered at-risk and require intervention from their CSM. 

Ask for testimonials and reviews

Customer and user testimonials are some of the most powerful tools sellers have at their disposal. And as the people who communicate and interact with customers most frequently, CSMs are well suited to ask their customers for them. Use product analytics to identify the customers and users who are the most engaged and therefore the most likely to advocate for you, then target them with an in-app guide asking them to write a testimonial, leave a review, or complete a survey (bonus points if you can capture their responses within the product).

Important note: Be sure to consider the timing of your testimonial or review request. Think about your users’ usage patterns and how they move through your product. In general, it’s not a good idea to bombard your users with requests right when they open your product or when they’re in the middle of a task. It’s also not wise to have the guide appear if they’ve just had a negative experience with your product (e.g. degraded service, security issues, bugs, etc.) or if they have a number of outstanding support tickets in the queue—it’ll just cause frustration. 

As a best practice, set your review or testimonial request guides to show up during or shortly after moments of delight—for example when a user completes a workflow, reaches a milestone in their tenure as a customer, or achieves a notable usage threshold within the product.

Create moments of delight

Customers don’t just measure their overall experience with a product or brand at business milestones like renewal. Their perception is formed over time (even before the point of sale), and shaped by what happens throughout their entire journey. That’s why it’s important to focus on creating personalized moments of delight—made scalable through product-led approaches.These kinds of thoughtful touches go a long way towards building customer loyalty and delivering a great product experience.

Here are a few ideas for injecting moments of delight into the product throughout the customer lifecycle:

  • Use trigger-based in-app guides to congratulate users after they complete a specific workflow for the first time
  • Try animated formats like GIFs in your in-app guides to make your content more engaging
  • Embed a pre-recorded video from the CSM into a customer’s personalized onboarding guide, introducing their support team and welcoming them to the product
  • Put a little thought into the “in-between” moments—like loading screens and login portals—in your product, and try adding in engaging language or imagery (e.g. using different messaging at different times of the day on the login screen)
  • Generate excitement for a new feature by allowing users to sign up for a beta program or see a preview directly within the product
  • Celebrate customer milestones or life events (e.g. birthdays or holidays) with customized in-app guides