Startup Sales — The Basics of Customer Success

After making a sale to a customer, you need to start the process of ensuring they stay a customer. Here are the basics of keeping customers happy and increasing revenue.


As the builders of your own product, it’s easy to assume a customer will immediately know how to use your application. Unfortunately, the reality is often different. Here’s how to onboard a customer and prevent them from quickly churning:

  1. Customer Training — Train all new customers. Lead the customer through a series of common tasks to ensure they know where to go and what to do. Initially, you should do this in person, but over time it should become more automated. For example, Duolingo, a language education app, has customers translate a few easy sentences before using the core app.
  2. Human Support — Be available to help customers realtime. Your customers will encounter unexpected problems, but a quick resolution can keep them happy. Ideally, help the customer in-person during an onsite deployment; but over time shift to remote help via video conferencing, chat, email etc.
  3. Knowledge base — Providing an in-depth knowledge base, usually built over time, can help customers dive deeper while reducing the number of inbound support queries. For example, Asana, a project management app, offers a customer guide with best practices for a variety of use cases.


Building a product that customers want to use everyday is incredibly challenging. Here’s how to give yourself the best chance of having your customers rely on the product, and continue paying:

  1. Metrics — Pick a fair metric to measure how many individual customers use your product heavily, allowing you to measure the success of changes you make. Monthly or Weekly active users is not strict enough and can be influenced by short term distribution spikes. A better metric might be: customers who use the platform 3+ times a week.
  2. Customer Interviews — Interviewing customers and videoing them using your product, usually reveals numerous opportunities to improve their experience and increase engagement. Ask for honest feedback on their experience: What would make their experience easier? What is stopping them using it more often? Are there additional problems you can solve? UserTesting and Userbob offer solutions providing usage videos within a matter of hours.
  3. Rapid Iteration — Your first idea to fix an engagement issue will often fail. Give yourself the best chance of finding the right approach by iterating rapidly. Try to launch new tests, addressing engagement issues regularly — multiple times per month if possible. Use metrics to determine a test’s success and respond accordingly: move on to a new idea or double down on a successful one.


Once a customer is satisfied and regularly using the product, look for opportunities to increase your revenue from that customer. It’s usually easier to generate additional revenue from an existing customer than it is to find a new customer.

  1. New Feature Notifications — Customers are unlikely to find new features on their own, limiting the potential revenue increase. Inform your customers about new features and seek their feedback, this will drive their usage and increase revenue.
  2. “Approaching Limit” Warnings — Don’t wait until a customer hits their plan’s limit before offering an upgrade; offer upgrades as they approach the limit. 80% is a reasonable milestone. Most customers will be grateful for the warning and upgrade before they encounter a problem.
  3. Talk to Power Users — Have regular conversations with your most active customers. If the customer is using your product as intended, find out what they need and give them as much as you can. Heavily engaged customers are more likely to upgrade than other customers, given they already rely on the service.

Winning customers is difficult and time consuming; you simply can’t afford to lose them. Use these principles to ensure your first customers stay customers, stay happy, and ultimately increase their revenue.

Thanks to Kaego Rust and David Smooke for their help on this article.

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