When I was in-house working in customer success, finding the perfect customer success platform was just... hard. There are a growing number in the market, the differences are unclear, pricing isn’t clear, and you can’t even get a trial with most. It's daunting because the cost and implementation time are so high, you can't afford to get it wrong.
And yet: it’s such a crucial tool in a success tech stack. Implemented correctly, customer success platforms arm you with data to reduce churn, identify expansion opportunities, and keep a pulse on the satisfaction of every customer.
Here’s some of the top options, with the information you need to decide which ones to book a demo with.
Here are the 9 best customer success platforms
We'll be covering:
A comprehensive platform with intuitive UI, manageable administration, & excellent customer portals
Pricing model: Basic, Professional, and Enterprise plans available for unlimited users. Expect starting prices of ~$25k/yr. Exact pricing offered only after the demo, but you can evaluate all features of the different plans on their pricing page.
Planhat can give mature customer success platforms like Gainsight a run for its money. It's similarly comprehensive in terms of data, features, and integrations, but takes it up a notch with its modern UI.
Unlike most competitors, Planhat offers unlimited seats on every plan, which means you can invite everyone from CS to support, sales & leadership without worrying. Instead, their pricing is based on consumption & customer value. It's built so that it doesn't matter whether you have a high number of low value customers, or a low number of high value customers -- pricing works out simiilarly. There's also feature differentiation based on plan tiers.
Planhat users rave about excellent hands-on customer service explaining technical things easily to a non-techy audience (the dream!). Like Gainsight, you can also create different kinds of customizable health scores using rules, segmented customer groups, etc.
A significant benefit of Planhat over Gainsight & others is their customer portals feature. You can create a collaborative workplace between your CSM & your customer to share to-dos, reports, dashboards, resources etc. with your customers. This is best for teams with a high-touch CS model.
Elisabeth Courland, customer success manager at Agorapulse, says her favorite Planhat feature is the automation station, which can do many things — like ensuring each new customer created on Planhat pulls information from your CRM, scheduling a meeting a set number of weeks/months before subscription ends, etc. — all without writing a single line of code.
Downsides of Planhat
Two potential downsides of Planhat:
1- Although it is capable of more complexity than most in the market, it still not quite up to par with Gainsight. Gainsight offers more customization and supports more complexity.
2- Since Planhat does more overall compared to lighter weight CSPs like Catalyst, you can expect a slightly longer implementation time.
Elisabeth also wishes formulas and calculated metrics were simplified — right now, they’re a very complex feature, according to her.
You might also find useful: Gainsight vs. Planhat comparison.
The market leader. Highly customizable, comprehensive, with many integrations, but difficult to implement & maintain.
Gainsight is likely the most popular customer success platform in the market and for good reason: it's the longest established, the most comprehensive, and it can support the largest CS teams in the world.
Gainsight can offer excellent customer analytics that helps you predict churn, expansion opportunities, and automate tasks. It’s excellent at being the central hub for all customer data — from their chronological history to customizable customer health scores.
Each CSM has a separate portfolio to track customer communication, and its native integrations ensure everything is up to date. Gainsight can become your CS team’s “truth book” given its extensive data on the customer. The drag-and-drop onboarding editor is helpful in customizing and automating your customer journeys too.
If you're prepared to pay top dollar, and you're prepared to hire experienced Gainsight administrator(s) to manage & utilize the platform, then it's arguably the best money can buy. The most flexibility, the most scalable, and the most customizable.
Downsides of Gainsight
There are some really significant downsides to Gainsight though. The biggest ones are the price (it's expensive), the learning curve, (it’s slow and difficult adopt), and the maintenance (it's very heavy to maintain/use). You’ll need a Gainsight admin ($100k+ annual salary) to derive the most use out of this platform. Its plentiful features and data hurt no one, but only mid-market & enterprise companies can get the most out of them. If you don’t need everything it has to offer, or you don’t have the resources to maintain it, you may want to look at alternatives to Gainsight.
A highly flexible platform that suits rapidly growing startups, but lacks features like unified customer comms & built-in product usage
Totango has a low barrier to entry due to its free plan — which means it's perfect if you’re a rapidly growing CS team and want to dip your toes in CS tools at no cost first. The best part about its pricing is you can choose which features you want right now and only pay for those.
Like all other customer success software, it gives you a customer health score (that can be customized), the ability to automate workflows, and track customer success teams’ KPIs. Its standout feature, called Spark, helps you gauge customer engagement levels and take action in real time before the risk of churn looms.
Downsides of Totango
A big disadvantage is there’s no unified inbox to centralize all your customer communication in one place. Many reviews (even positive ones) complain of the tool getting slow as tasks increase. Worst of all: they have a high churn rate internally, which means poor support. One customer left a complaint highlighting that she got assigned three CSMs within six months, which is a bit excessive.
There's also no built-in product usage feature like there is with Gainsight & Planhat, which means you'll need something like Mixpanel or Amplitude separately.
A lightweight CSP that is easy-to-use, and fast to set up, but might be outgrown over time if you start to require more customizations & advanced features
Pricing model: Base platform fee + accounts. Request customized pricing info on their website.
Catalyst is a lightweight customer success tool, best suited for small to mid-sized businesses. The best thing about it is how intuitive it is to use — there’s minimal learning curve, and setting up is easy.
You can also set up custom dashboards and track customer metrics or KPIs that matter the most for your organization. There are also helpful playbooks to nudge your actions in the right direction for common customer success scenarios like upselling to existing customers.
Like Gainsight & others, you can track the health of a customer account and take actions proactively to resolve any issues.
Downsides of Catalyst
Since Catalyst is a lightweight tool, there’s not a lot of data that makes up the account health and other metrics — which might lead to your team eventually outgrowing Catalyst as you scale.
Another con is its lack of integrations: while Salesforce is available, there are no other CRM integrations, which can be a major drawback for companies wanting CS tools to source data from multiple software.
A comprehensive tool with great email & in-app messaging automation, surveys. & customizable health scoring, but a clunky old UI & less reliable support
Pricing model: Base platform fee + user licenses. Request a demo to know the exact rates.
ChurnZero might not be the most budget-friendly option, but it has an extensive feature set to match the tag. It can provide customized customer health scores and trigger alerts to your CS team to take proactive action for churn, upsell, payment, etc., but that’s not it: the best part about ChurnZero is its in-app messaging feature.
Send your customers reminders, support, and nudges within the ChurnZero app itself without the need for external integrations (like with Intercom or Pendo). You can also take NPS, CSAT, and custom surveys using this feature.
In my previous organization, there was a large CS team based on hierarchies and complicated structures. If you’re in a similar CS model, ChurnZero provides more layers of account hierarchy for your team structure — like parent, regional, national market, and more.
Downsides of ChurnZero
The only reasons you might look for ChurnZero alternatives are: it’s heavy on the pocket, and its UI isn’t the most pleasing compared to newer and more modern customer success platform tools in the market today.
Another con that comes with its mature feature set is (similar to Gainsight) a difficult implementation. Reviews highlight ChurnZero is difficult to set up, and their support team isn’t the most responsive.
An all-in-one platform with a modern UI, a fast time-to-value, and relatively easy adoption. Lacks some integrations, e.g. CRMs outside of Salesforce/HubSpot.
Pricing model: Three plans available — Tech Touch, Hybrid Touch, and High-Touch to suit your CS model. Price is based on the number of customers and user seats. Request pricing or demo to get exact rates.
Vitally has a faster time to value and is easier to use than its more mature competitors like ChurnZero and Gainsight. It is simpler to implement and maintain than its rivals and covers all the expected CS use cases of tracking customer health, identifying at-risk customers, and highlighting upselling opportunities.
Like ChurnZero, it has an easy-to-set-up NPS survey. It’s also more lightweight and has a better UI than ChurnZero and Gainsight. But where it really shines in the battle of ChurnZero vs. Vitally is via its Docs feature: it's a customer-facing page (looks like Notion) to share information with your customers, like an onboarding checklist or a new feature release. ChurnZero has a similar feature, but it’s pretty meh compared to Vitally’s Docs.
Downsides of Vitally
If you’re considering Vitally, remember Vitally doesn’t offer as many native integrations as some other tools. For instance, Vitally doesn’t integrate with Pipedrive. But it does integrate with Salesforce and HubSpot — and it chooses to go deep rather than wide.
If you use SF or HubSpot, you’ll find Vitally’s integrations more detailed and easier to manage. But if you use any other CRM like Copper, ChurnZero and Gainsight are better due to their native integrations.
Vitally also doesn’t have EU data storage (yet).
A platform with a pricing model & ease of use that suits smaller teams, but might not be comprehensive enough for larger teams
Pricing model: Based on the number of accounts. Get a custom quote on their website.
Custify’s pricing is based on the number of customers and is cost-effective if you’re a small business with a low headcount and a tight budget.
It has all the basic features you’d expect from a customer success tool: custom dashboard, surveys, customer health scores, and customer segments. But where it shines is its ease of use. Reviews repeatedly highlight how easy it was to set up and start using.
Its ability to automate tasks means you’ll be alerted when a customer completes a specific milestone using your product — enabling you to reach out to them at the right time without missing a beat.
Downsides of Custify
Where Custify can improve is its native integrations (they are fewer compared to more mature platforms), and a limited task management tool. Some reviews highlight that their tasks feature doesn’t have many customizations and flexibility, and many customers also complain of the tool being buggy sometimes.
An all-in-one platform well-suited to a high-touch CS model, but with weaker task management features, and less reliable support
Pricing model: Bundled packages — Startup, Growth, and Enterprise. Request a demo for customized pricing
ClientSuccess is best for high-touch CS models — according to many reviews — where customer relationships require more nurturing. This tool gets all the primary CS tasks done, like tracking customer journeys through a lifecycle, providing a health score, and CRM syncing.
Its reporting is solid — reviews highlight that orgs have weekly CS meetings based on the data in its Customer Pulse report.
Apart from this, their Success Cycle feature enables you to manage a huge chunk of your workflows, but it can still be a bit manual. They have pre-built integrations for most popular CRMs, which means you can set up and get going quickly.
Downsides of ClientSuccess
ClientSuccess users often complain about its task management features, poor customer service, and limited API. The customer success tool often nudges about the reminders after the due date, and the support team doesn’t respond fast enough.
Well-suited to fast-growing teams (due to unlimited seats + customers) who prefer a comprehensive platform, without needing separate tools for email, product usage, surveys, etc.
Pricing model: Three plans — Growth, Pro, and Enterprise. All plans have unlimited users and customers. Pricing is outcome-based on the plan required + your company’s ARR. Get more information on their pricing page or book a demo.
SmartKarrot is the new kid on the block for customer success software. But don’t mistake its newness for a lack of comprehensiveness: it has all the CS features you might need — a 360 view of the customer, identifying churn risks, playbooks, automations, and more.
Like Gainsight & Planhat (but unlike Totango, ChurnZero, & many others), SmartKarrot has a built-in product usage tool. That means you don't have to have a separate tool integrated like Mixpanel to get data.
It also has a customer portal feature, and email automation built-in. These things make SmartKarrot one of the more feature-complete and comprehensive platforms.
Apart from the basics, it has SmartKonversations, which lets you record customer calls, transcribe them, and analyze customer sentiment. Other tools on this list would require integration with software like Gong to enable this feature, but SmartKarrot has it built-in.
Downsides of SmartKarrot
SmartKarrot can be a tad complex to understand while onboarding, which can prolong the adoption period. All of their integrations aren’t listed publicly, but reviews say their custom integrations take quite a bit of time.
It also lacks integrations like Mixpanel, and data warehouses (e.g. Snowflake).
Which is the right customer success platform for you?
Deciding which customer success platform to choose isn’t a cakewalk. Buying a CS platform is a heavy investment and one you can’t take lightly. With information on these top 10 customer success tools in the market, you’re better equipped to make the right choice for your company.
Remember to read about the platform, its features, & pricing model before investing your time into taking a demo — this way, you can go to the sales call with specific questions and have a basic understanding of what you’re signing up for.