Without buy-in from leadership, success teams don't get the resources & budgets they need to make a serious impact.
And how do you get buy-in? It starts with great reports. Reports that clearly show how much your team contributes to revenue & other company goals.
In the last 5 years of my customer success career, I've learned a lot about reporting in general: how companies do it, where it fails, how I could do a better job, and how it can help me to push the “CS manifesto” forwards.
In this piece, I’m going to give you a blueprint of how I do it and which metrics to include so you can illustrate your efforts & impact. Let’s dig in!
General principles of CS reporting
Let's start with the fundamental traits of a great customer success report. It:
- Clearly shows KPI growth/impact
- Highlights opportunities for improvement while also highlighting positive results
- Is concise but thorough, and gives actionable insights into how your customers are using your product/service, how successful they are, and where there's room for improvement
- It doesn't include any personal opinions on topics outside the scope of your customer's use of your product or service (e.g., "I think we should redesign our website because I think it looks ugly")
Every business approaches reporting differently, so take my points with a grain of salt. Combine it with your own experience, and the context of your team/circumstance. The general principles of the structure should be applicable in most cases though!
A few quick tips before we start:
Always tie reporting back to company goals or OKRs
Don't get lost in the day-to-day and forget the big picture. Always tie your reports back to company goals or OKRs. It's also important not only to include metrics like retention rate but also revenue metrics like ACV (average contract value) and ARPU (average revenue per user). More on metrics below.
Make sure information sources are accessible & accurate
If you share metrics or other data, note down the source. And make sure everyone has access. For example, if you're using data from Google Analytics or Salesforce for reporting purposes, it's important that managers have access to those tools so they can dig around for extra context, and ensure everything is being measured properly.
Don't think in a silo
An excellent report connects the dots between all aspects of your business, including marketing, product development, and growth strategy. You can write a killer customer success report yourself by leveraging data and insights from your CRM system, web analytics, customer support tools, and other relevant internal systems.
8 things to include in a customer success report
1. Revenue metrics
Below I have listed the top 5 indicators of customer success, revenue-wise. Depending on your specific reporting needs, you can add or remove some.
- Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR)
- Expansion MRR
- Contraction MRR
- Churned MRR
- New MRR
Your report should be able to explain:
- An overview of where you're at with these metrics & how they're trending
- How these metrics need to be improved towards your monthly, quarterly or annual goals
- Key current initiatives impacting these metrics
- Future related plans/projects
Starting with a visual overview makes your report simple to understand. It could look something like this, for example:
Let’s assume that we want to take a look at expansion MRR and how it was influenced by the CS efforts. This applies to subscription-based products primarily but you could adjust it to your specific case by following the same logic.
Expansion MRR was $11k this month vs. $10k compared to the previous month, which is a 10% improvement.
Here, you can provide any insights on the various parameters you believe drove the positive or negative change.
This is where you elaborate a bit on the actions and/or circumstances that moved the needle from your side or were affected by external factors.
#1 This month we focused on reaching out to enterprise customers who nearly exceed their plan limits to offer discounted upgrades.
#2 We scheduled review calls with clients that had average product adoption and offered guidance on unlocking new features that will help them increase ROI and thus increase MRR.
You may include a list with the number of accounts and respective upgrades breakdown so as to be able to spot trends over time.
Some subscription plans might be more popular than others or some plans might not make sense for the majority of your accounts and you need to rethink your pricing approach.
Next steps (example)
We'll keep up with this initiative since it's working.
Next month: We'll prepare an email to [customer segment] ready to promote [new add-on feature].
All of the above metrics are standard and widely used in customer success reports, they also may vary depending on the company and business model, but including them will give a good overview of the company's customer success performance.
2. Progress towards OKRs / higher level objectives
Οbjectives would be things like: "Increase the number of leads we generate from our free trial program" or "Decrease churn rate." Those two examples might seem simple enough—but there are other types of objectives that may cause confusion about what exactly they're supposed to measure.
One of your company objectives probably is to "increase growth by X". But what does that mean in terms of CS? How do you know if you've accomplished this goal?
Your job here is to break down company OKRs into CS goals by translating them into customer success terms. Here's an example of how CS OKRs can be linked to company OKRs:
Then, I suggest creating a donut or bar chart for keeping track of progress as it will help your team and external stakeholders get an overall idea in a glimpse.
In the following example, I’ve chosen a doughnut chart using the “Actual result” and “Remainder” values.
If the goal was to decrease churn by 10% and you achieved 8% you’ll need these two numbers in a column with their respective names. Excel will do the rest for you if you choose the “Insert Doughnut chart” option. It may look like this:
Repeat the process for each OKR.
3. Product feedback
Your product is a living, breathing thing that you're constantly making changes to. To best understand how your customers are using it—and how they could use it better—you need to hear from them. You can collect this type of feedback in a few ways:
- Send out surveys either when someone signs up for your product or after they've been using it for a while (e.g., one month).
- Talk to people on your team who have been working closely with customers (namely the Customer Support team) and get their thoughts on what's working well, what isn't working well, and why.
Then, all you have to do is aggregate the results and serve them through a graph per product area. For example, let’s say you work for a mobile application; you should present feedback around:
- Which parts of the app are creating confusion?
- Which parts need improvements in terms of UX?
- What number of users have churned after submitting the feedback?
- Which user cohorts are affected?
Explain the initiative & the results e.g, we have two sources of feedback to share:
- Responses from a 1-month check-in email (821 responses)
- Ad-hoc notes from 1:1 customer calls
It's a good idea to share the TL;DR version of your customer feedback. E.g. highlights of interesting or most common responses.
Customer satisfaction rates are the ultimate metric on a customer success report since they show how your customers feel about their experience with your business.
There's no better way to improve customer service than by reducing churn. This means that you need to track how long each of your customers stays with you and then use this information to make changes for the better.
Your CSAT report slide should include aggregated customer feedback that you’ve gathered through:
- Post-onboarding surveys
- Customer Support tickets ratings
- NPS survey
- Happiness survey from existing customers
I suggest creating a stacked bar chart illustrating the results, something like this:
5. New customer onboarding & related KPIs
Onboarding is your chance to show your customers the value of your product early into their adoption journey. It’s an important metric to include in your reports as it showcases the company’s ability to convert leads to paying customers if you offer a trial period, for example. It’s one of the first indicators of customer success!
Your report should answer these questions:
- How many customers were onboarded?
- How many working days did their onboarding last?
- What was their retention rate over time?
- How did we onboard them (in person vs online)?
- Did they find your content helpful during onboarding?
- For those who weren’t onboarded on time, why was that?
- What was the conversion rate of trial users to paid customers?
- New MRR
6. Upcoming renewals/client performance metrics
This part of the presentation depends on your specific business but I’m going to discuss the two main cases; subscription-based products and contract-based products/services. The first thing you'll want to do is measure client performance. This can be done through a survey or by looking at their usage data, just like we discussed above. If your clients are happy, there's a good chance they'll stay with you and renew their contracts/subscriptions.
Then, I suggest you create a list of accounts to be renewed based on the usage data and their happiness rating so far -- this will give you their customer health score. Then, based on the benchmarks you have around renewals versus health score, you’ll be able to extrapolate the percentage of renewal forecast. The benchmarks depend on your specific niche and company goals of course, but it should give you a quite accurate picture of which accounts will be renewed and which not (#normalizechurn).
Finally, you create a chart which will consist of 2 vertical variables:
- Health score
- Renewal forecast
7. Customer support tickets
A customer ticket is a record of an issue, question or suggestion that a customer submits to your company. They can be submitted through any number of channels—via phone, email, chat and so on—but it's important to keep track of them all in one place so you can spot trends, improve your product and help customers more effectively.
You should be able to answer questions like:
- What are the most common types of tickets?
- What is the volume of tickets per topic?
- Where do they originate?
- Who is submitting them?
- What’s the median resolution time?
- What’s the median time to 1st response?
- What’s the median happiness rating after interacting with the support team?
8. Highlights, learnings, & upcoming tasks
This is the part of your report where you get to brag about your team. It’s a good opportunity to reflect on what worked well, or not so well. The last thing you want is for your team to feel like they didn't do anything right or important. This section should include both the good things that happened during this time period as well as any ways which could have been improved by changing how things were done. This will help with future lessons learned for each initiative moving forward.
For monthly reports, this is an important section to break down your future team tasks and discuss why they are important and how you’d like to approach them. As for more long-term presentations, this could be in the form of a roadmap, with estimated project delivery dates.
Frequency & formats for reporting
The next step is to determine the frequency of your reporting. In general, there are three reporting types that could make sense for customer success teams.
These are useful for sharing information about high-level trends (for example: “usage has increased by 20% since last month!”) with stakeholders who don’t need access to more sensitive details about user behavior or performance hurdles. I suggest you keep it sweet and simple. Gather all the data in an excel file and discuss them with your direct teammates. The goal is to derive actionable items until the next meeting which you can discuss the progress of as you go.
These are best when it comes to communicating a more detailed analysis of progress towards goals. For example, if you know that a certain percentage of users need help with specific features, or if they’re having trouble setting up integrations with external systems like Salesforce and Zendesk—this type of granular data would make sense in monthly updates.
For format here, I prefer booking a recurring meeting at the beginning of the month for which I create a Google slides deck to go over with my team. Again, this is a “closed” meeting - only CS team can attend. I share this report with my direct manager of course and we go over it separately so I can get their feedback on the team’s progress and performance.
These can be good for providing an overview of how customers are doing and how you’re progressing towards goals.
This is your times to shine in company-wide meetings with eye-catching presentations.
Biannual or yearly reviews:
These should include the same metrics as monthlies but in overview mode. For example, you should include all the metrics we discussed above but in QoQ and YoY visuals. This will help you illustrate progress and spot trends worth investigating further down the line.
Like quarterly reports, these can also give you a time to shine in company-wide meetings
Customer success reporting is a crucial aspect of any business. It enables companies to understand their customers, identify and retain high-value customers, and measure the impact of their marketing and sales efforts. By regularly tracking and reporting on customer engagement, businesses can make data-driven decisions that drive growth and increase revenue.
I hope this post has given you an insight into what kind of metrics you should be focusing on when creating a customer success report. There are many different metrics that could be included in your report, but I think these are the ones most relevant to customer success teams right now and they provide a good starting point for any business looking at how they can improve their customer experience. Good luck!