Best Customer Success Software for Your CS Department in 2024
If you are reading this, you are faced with a real challenge. Either you already manage a customer success function and your existing toolset is not fit for purpose, or you have decided to start a customer success department and want to implement the right software as a solid foundation for your Customer Success Managers (CSMs).
This article should help you find the best customer success software based on your profile and requirements. We will explore the key considerations in selecting software to help implement your customer success strategy and tactics. We will present a curated list of the main players on the market today and reveal the best solutions in the following categories: best for scaled customer success, best for startups, and best for enterprises.
How to Choose a Customer Success Software for SaaS?
Goals and Objectives
Your first job is to define what you want and why! As a customer success professional, you will be used to figuring out why your customers invested in your solution and helping them achieve those desired outcomes.
This is no different; now you have to define your specific desired outcomes and find the best CSM software to meet those requirements. Are you looking to drive up retention, reduce churn, increase operational efficiency, and make informed, data-driven decisions, or do you have some other specific goals?
Of course, don’t make the mistake of thinking any of the CSM platforms can do everything; sometimes starting with modest expectations and finding something to meet your core requirements is the most prudent strategy.
Features You Need
There are some standard features that you will (should) find in all software for customer success, such as 360-degree customer views, customer segmentation, health scoring, task management, and playbooks. Some features, however, are available in only a few — surveys, an email client, or in-app user guidance. You need to decide on your non-negotiable features and what you regard as nice to have.
If budget is a consideration, you don’t want to pay extra for features that may already be available in your existing tech stack. It may be better instead to integrate data from an app you already use into your Customer Success Platform (CSP).
A good example of this is the ability to capture Net Promoter Scores (NPS). Some CSPs have this survey feature available natively, but of course, the cost is baked into the overall price of the solution. Instead, you may want to continue using your pre-existing survey solution and connect it to a CSP that can integrate and parse the relevant results.
Also, sometimes it’s just better to use a best-in-class point solution than use the one built as an add-on to a bigger platform.
Think About the Cost
This is a big one! The amount you’re willing to pay should almost always be a function of the return on investment (ROI) of a solution (check out my post explaining how to measure the ROI of a CSP).
Sometimes there simply isn’t enough cash in the bank to take a risk on investing in an unproven solution, especially a CSP, as they can be very costly. If budget is a major consideration, I suggest creating a very short list of features that are non-negotiable for your CS solution. Look for solutions that meet that requirement and that offer flexible payment terms to de-risk your investment. Ask for a monthly payment option, the ability to cancel anytime, a free trial or pilot, and negotiate!
Also, think about how you want to consume the solution. e.g.
If you have a very high volume of customers and want to track many activities and metrics, be aware that some solutions charge on a per API call basis and may charge overages for data. In this case, look for a solution that charges on a per-seat or per-integration basis.
If you want data from the CSP to be available to everyone in the business, opting for a solution that charges only on a per-seat basis could prove very expensive. In this case, look for a solution that offers unlimited seats for a base fee or free read-only licenses. Also, you could look for a solution that pushes key data and metrics into your CRM.
Benefits of Customer Success Platforms
CSPs are designed to deliver specific benefits to SaaS and other subscription businesses, for example, reduced churn and, by extension, improved retention rates.
They also help improve customer satisfaction and customer health, improve CSM productivity, and can track and share key metrics and indicators across the business.
CSPs exist to help businesses become more sustainable and successful by facilitating the retention and growth of their customer base.
Best Customer Success Software for SaaS Companies (Listed Alphabetically)
- Client Success
Akita — Best for Startups
Akita, an EU-founded customer success solution, positions itself as a platform that helps startups address their customer success challenges at a low cost and with a short implementation period. Akita prides itself on its ability to integrate 3rd party data with ease and its powerful segmentation engine, which is at the core of its value proposition.
With automated playbooks, health scoring, task management, and a 360-degree customer view, Akita delivers robust features that form the core of customer success management (CSM). While it may lack certain fringe features like sentiment capture, Akita’s range of integrations ensures this type of customer data can be easily passed into and tracked within the platform.
Pricing starts at $160/month and a free trial is available.
ClientSuccess is a customer success management software solution that has earned a strong reputation since being founded in Utah in 2014. It has a comprehensive toolkit, including a customer onboarding module, customer health scoring, and reporting features.
Customer reviews have praised its ease of use, the range of integrations available, the 360-degree customer view, and the support the company delivers to users. Some negative feedback highlighted the limited filtering capacity, the manual effort required in implementing the solution, a lack of custom fields, and an arbitrary health scoring function.
They don’t publish pricing, but 3rd party reviews indicate pricing starts at $1200/month.
ChurnZero — Best for Scaled Customer Success
A newer breed of CSPs, ChurnZero is a solution praised in online reviews for its playbook automation and usage tracking, as well as for delivering great customer support.
Some drawbacks mentioned are the lack of customizations available in its health scoring model and report creation, as well as an over-reliance on support and customer success to get set up. Overall, feedback indicates that ChurnZero is effective in managing churn and driving up customer satisfaction.
Vendor.com reports pricing that typically ranges from $19,700.
Custify helps SaaS companies improve customer retention and grow customer lifetime values. Features include customer onboarding, product adoption tracking, health scoring, and churn prediction.
Users report being very happy with the health scoring model, the customer segmentation feature, and how engaged the Custify support team is. In terms of shortcomings, some users complain that the application is not sufficiently customizable. Problems with the native email client are reported, and the lack of helpful tooltips can slow adoption.
They don’t publish pricing, but it’s reported that their base plan starts at $899/month.
Gainsight — Best for Enterprises
Gainsight was the pioneer of customer success software. The Gainsight customer success platform is a comprehensive solution that combines automation, analytics, and customer intelligence. It’s an enterprise-grade solution that delivers an exhaustive feature set. It comes at a cost, however, which generally places it outside the budget of smaller SaaS companies and startups.
In reviews, users liked the Gainsight customer journey orchestrator, the success plans module, and its timeline view, as well as the automated calls-to-action. Some users, however, reported performance issues, difficulty navigating and administering the platform, and referred to a lack of visibility of data outside the CS team.
Customerfacing.io estimates Gainsight’s pricing to start at $24k per year.
Planhat, a Swedish-based CSP, is praised for its clean interface and its ease of customization.
Reviews praise its strong analytics capabilities, enabling CSMs to make informed decisions. Its automation and ease of integration with other line-of-business applications, as well as its proactive customer support, also receive positive feedback. There is some negative feedback around the time-to-value as some users feel it takes time to learn the intricacies of the platform; occasional delays in support response times are also mentioned.
They don’t publish prices, but some reviews indicate pricing starts at around $25k per year.
SmartKarrot’s CSP was founded in 2018 and has a focus on streamlining customer success processes, enhancing customer relationships, and driving up retention rates. Its comprehensive customer success features include 360-degree customer views, automated workflows, and personalized onboarding journeys. Users have reported satisfaction with the platform’s task management features, as well as the customer usage tracking and the excellent support they receive. On the other hand, reviews indicate some difficulty in collaborating with other CS team members within the platform, there are some reports of a buggy interface, and that the app can be slow to load.
SmartKarrot’s basic plan starts at $6,600/year.
Totango is a mature CSP offering a range of features, including customer health scores, customer segmentation, and personalized communication. Totango positions itself to serve “enterprise businesses and cross-functional teams”. It has received praise for its ability to help drive customer retention and satisfaction. Positive reviewers have commented on Totango’s task management capacity, its ability to segment customers, and how it delivers a single source of customer truth. There have been some negative comments regarding the inability to customize their health scoring model, the inability to create custom fields, and the account view.
Most teams will go with their Enterprise Solution, starting at $18k/year, but they do offer a limited package for smaller teams, starting at $3k. A free trial is available.
As the CSM software market becomes more mature, it becomes easier for companies to find a customer success system that fits their specific requirements. CSM tools range across budgets, from a lower limit of $160/month to an upper limit of hundreds of thousands annually. While this can provide difficulties in narrowing down a shortlist of CS platforms, you can be guaranteed to find one that suits you. Hopefully, this article has helped you achieve that!
Frequently Asked Questions
What is customer success software?
Customer success management software, commonly referred to as a Customer Success Platform (CSP), is specifically designed to help SaaS and other subscription businesses maximize revenue over time. By centralizing and analyzing all key customer data in one place, CSPs can provide insights and manage processes to ensure customers continue to purchase your solution and potentially grow their investment over time.
Is customer success management software (CSP) the same as CRM?
No. CRM software helps companies manage their sales process and facilitates revenue forecasting, as well as being a repository for lead and customer contact details. Unlike CSPs, CRMs do not typically provide insight into how engaged users are with your solution.
Is customer success management software only useful for SaaS businesses?
Customer success platforms deliver optimal value to businesses that need to understand how their customers are consuming their product or solution over time. This is easier for SaaS companies, given they have direct access to engagement details that can be integrated into a CSP. However, any business that needs to continually generate revenue from a customer over time, either via selling tangible products or via services, can receive value from a CSP, so long as they have sufficient data about customer buying patterns, sentiment, or engagement.