Just one bad experience is enough to lose a once-loyal customer.
After all the work of educating a lead, converting them to a customer, and working to build a strong relationship, a single negative interaction is enough to convince 32% of customers to jump ship — potentially for good.
Slip up a few times and that number jumps to almost 60%.
While those statistics are enough to get your palms sweating, you don’t need to live in constant fear that your top customers will churn over the most minor mistake — but it should highlight just how crucial it is to prioritize customer success.
Customer success (CS) software makes it easier to stay connected with customers throughout their entire customer journey, enabling you to identify process gaps, budding problems, or areas of opportunity before they churn.
But with such a wide range of customer success tools on the market, it’s hard to know where to get started. Here’s everything you need to know about CS software, how it benefits your teams and customers, and how to choose the right platform for your situation.
How to think about customer success management software
Customer success software helps your team predict, identify, and solve customer problems and challenges.
It goes beyond standard customer support, providing training, education, and holistic assistance from multiple team members and departments.
If it sounds broad, that’s because it is.
Customer success looks different for each organization, meaning the tools you need usually do too. Your customer success tools tech stack is typically influenced by:
- customer base size
- audience demographics
- product complexity
- your team’s size, skill level, and availability
We’ll dive deeper into each of these tools later, but here are just a few of the tool categories your customer success management tech stack might include:
- Customer onboarding tools
- Customer adoption platforms
- Knowledge base tools
- CS enablement tools
- Customer portals
- Help desk/chat/support software
How to start (and grow) your CS tech stack
Rather than choosing tools based on flashy features or what everyone else seems to be using, start by understanding how you can support your customers throughout their entire customer journey.
Then you can match the tools you need with the problems you need to solve.
Take a look at your customer process across four functional areas:
Phase 1: Analyze
Getting to know your customers is a never-ending process — but it’s a crucial component of prioritizing customer success.
CS tools make it easier to analyze customer behaviors, measure product usage, and keep tabs on changing environment needs so you can make strategic adjustments in real-time.
Tools to consider include:
- Customer analytics: Identify trends in how your customers communicate, learn, and engage
- Product analytics: Gather insights into the product features customers are using (or not using)
- Support analytics: Understand the how, when, where, and why behind customers reaching out for support
Phase 2: Act
You’ve collected and analyzed your data — now it’s time to act. Customer success operations that fall in this bucket help you turn insights into actions.
For early-stage companies with a focus on establishing a solid presence in the market, customer experience, satisfaction, and streamlining internal processes should be a top priority.
Tools to do that include:
- Customer relationship management (CRM) tools: Manage customer interactions, organize important information, and keep tasks moving forward
- Customer feedback and survey tools: Gather customer feedback and insights while creating a positive customer experience
- Collaboration tools: Internal and external collaboration tools enable strong communication and better problem-solving
For growth-stage companies with established customer relationships and a strong brand presence, the focus should be on maintaining (or improving) reputation, delivering solutions that scale, and gathering more in-depth insights. Tools to consider include:
- Customer success (CS) platforms: Track metrics, detect trends, and identify opportunities to upsell or cross-sell based on holistic customer data
- Support, ticketing, and chat tools: Keep track of support tickets, manage notifications, and track trends to improve support and have more meaningful conversations
Phase 3: Engage
Engaging customers turns them from buyers to advocates ready to share ideas, tips and tricks, and extra support — and they’ll want to bring other users into your community as well.
Early-stage companies should prioritize product adoption and customer engagement rates. The following tools can help do that:
- Customer onboarding platforms: Streamline onboarding processes and deliver customized onboarding experiences as you scale
- Digital adoption platforms: Provide in-app guidance, instructions, and support at the times your users need it most
- Customer portals: Stay connected with users and create a central location for resources, to-dos, and reminders
Growth-stage companies can harness the full potential of an engaged customer base by building advocates and an active community. Tools to consider include:
- Community platforms: Create an online platform (think a forum or social media page) where users can ask questions, share ideas, and give or get advice while building brand loyalty
- Instant-messaging platforms: Solidify your place as an industry leader by facilitating meaningful conversations, sharing exclusive resources or advice, and encouraging your audience to connect
Phase 4: Educate
Onboarding and training tools get your customers familiar with your product, but ongoing education is what helps them get the most of it — and what encourages them to stick around. Strong educational content can also help relieve pressure from your team, freeing them up to focus on more complex problems.
Here are the types of tools that can help:
- Knowledge base tools: Create a go-to source for on-demand information and resources
- Webinar and course platforms: Encourage users to dive deeper into products or specific features with webinars and brand academies
You likely won’t need one of each tool listed, but you do want to make sure all phases are covered. Many customer success tools can check multiple (maybe even all) of your boxes.
Let’s take a look at some of the most popular, valuable, and interesting customer success platforms on the market and what companies they might be right for.
1. Customer success platforms
The all-in-one solution
Customer success platforms provide a holistic view of customer onboarding, product adoption, renewal and growth opportunities, and insights and analytics.
They use integrations to pull in data from the other platforms your teams depend on, creating an all-in-one tool for teams serious about their customer success operations.
Many customer success platforms are geared toward mid-market and larger, enterprise businesses.
One of the main players in the customer success space is Gainsight.
Gainsight does all the things you’d expect from a customer success platform, but its biggest differentiator is its extensive integration library — particularly its connection with Salesforce. The Gainsight marketplace allows for a completely customizable experience with apps, workflows, and views.
And while that flexibility is great for teams with devoted customer success teams to set up and manage the platform, smaller teams may find tools like Gainsight almost too powerful. With so many different capabilities and functions, getting a tool as robust as Gainsight up and running is time-consuming and costly.
For smaller teams still finding their footing in the market or who may not need all the features, ChurnZero is a great alternative.
ChurnZero does many of the same things Gainsight does (minus a few customizations and features), but with an interface that is easier to set up, use, and manage. It’s geared towards small to mid-market companies, so it can help you get started and stay with you as you scale.
Other honorable customer success platform mentions include:
- Custify - A solution for startups and new businesses just getting started with customer success software.
- Vitally - A simplified customer success tool that prioritizes ease of use and maintaining a clean interface.
- Planhat - An automation-rich customer success tool to help free up time for busy CSM teams.
- Catalyst - A CS tool for sales and success teams following customer-led growth methodologies.
- Missive - A team inbox and chat app empowering teams to collaborate on customer service
2. Customer onboarding tools
For high-touch onboarding at scale
For high-touch services or SaaS businesses, onboarding is the most crucial touchpoint in building long-lasting customer relationships.
Too many companies rely on messy spreadsheets or project management tools for this — and it results in clunky, confusing, and frustrating experiences for both customers and employees.
Customer onboarding tools automate the annoying admin work for employees while giving customers an easy-to-navigate onboarding home base. Customers get that personal feel without the heavy lift from your team.
With Dock, you can create a standardized onboarding template for each customer segment (we have one to get you started), and then quickly make a personalized copy for each new account.
Then you can add, delete, or edit any checklist, task, reminder, or resource to fit your customer’s unique needs. Your onboarding workspace can evolve as your relationship with your customer grows, transitioning to a client portal.
Dock is great for onboarding processes that require sharing a lot of different types of information, like videos, slideshows, notes, etc.
But if your onboarding process is primarily checking off tasks, you might want to consider a tool like Rocketlane.
Rocketlane is structured like a project management tool, but with some extra onboarding-specific features. You still have the ability to share documents and resources with customers, but the platform follows a spreadsheet-but-better layout that works well for tracking task statuses.
Other onboarding tools include:
- GuideCX - Onboarding tool designed for a seamless transition between sales and onboarding processes
- OnRamp – White-glove platform with intuitive UX/UI for small companies with straightforward onboarding
- Process Street - Process management software for easily duplicating and tracking checklists and repeated tasks
- Arrows - Uses two-way integration with Hubspot to keep data stored in your CRM while building a user-friendly interface for customers
3. Customer adoption platforms
The low-touch onboarding alternative
Not every product requires a one-on-one onboarding experience — but even if your audience doesn’t need your team’s direct support, they still want to be pointed in the right direction. Enter the customer adoption platform.
A customer adoption platform provides in-app guidance directly within the application, walking users through onboarding, interface redesigns, feature introductions, or troubleshooting.
One of the most popular customer adoption platforms is Pendo. Pendo has cost-effective plans that match every stage of growth — including a free version for small brands with limited monthly activity.
But the cost does come with some caveats, including basic analytics and flexibility. For a more robust customer adoption tool, consider Whatfix.
Whatfix is a digital adoption platform and platform analytics tool in one. It’s geared toward midsize to enterprise businesses and comes with customizable features to let you deliver personalized training to a wide range of customer profiles.
Other customer adoption tools worth considering include:
- WalkMe - No-code platform, but with a heavy focus on internal applications
- CommandBar - Universal search and smart nudges for minimal in-app guidance
- Chameleon - Easy-to-use platform that prioritizes UX/UI and end-product look and feel
- Usetiful - All the benefits of an adoption platform, but designed for single-page applications
4. Knowledge base tools
For self-service customer success management
More support touchpoints isn’t always the answer. Giving customers the tools they need to solve problems on their own saves time, improves team productivity, and contributes to long-term customer success.
A knowledge base is one of the most effective tools for providing on-demand support and education to your customers. Use your knowledge base to answer common questions, how-to instructions, and troubleshooting guides.
Document360 is a solid knowledge base platform that can be used both internally and externally. It has an intuitive editing portal that requires little training or page-building knowledge, making it a great option for teams that don’t have developers on stand-by ready to build custom content pages.
For teams looking for more than just a documentation platform, there’s HelpScout. HelpScout merges a traditional knowledge base with customer service features, like live chat and in-app messaging, making it ideal for teams with heavy support traffic.
We’re also big fans of these knowledge base tools:
- Notion - Cost-effective, flexible platform for creating basic knowledge documents
- Zendesk - Get knowledge base, community forum, chat, and more all in one platform
- Intellum - Merge your knowledge base and training platform great for companies with complex tools
- Docsie - Smart documentation with built-in ghost translations for managing content in multiple languages
5. Customer portals
The two-way collaboration manager
A CRM is great for keeping your customer information organized amongst your team — but it actually does very little to help you build and manage customer relationships.
Sure, you can always email paperwork or reminders to new customers, but that quickly becomes messy and complicated to manage (especially when your conversations require multiple moving parts).
Customer portals offer a better alternative.
These secure workspaces create a go-to spot for sharing help materials, submitting requests, and staying in touch with your customers. Cut down on back-and-forth emails and stop wasting time digging through inboxes.
Remember how we mentioned converting your Dock onboarding page into a customer portal?
The platform’s flexibility makes it easy to add new checklists, notes, and tasks, so customers don’t need to switch to a whole new platform.
SuiteDash is another portal option, particularly if you need capabilities like payment processing and built-in scheduling. It promises all-in-one business software with many capabilities, and it’s even cost-effective. But SuiteDash is still a work in progress. While it can tackle so many different things, those features may not be as clean as competitors with a smaller scope.
Other top customer portals to consider are:
- Copilot - Comprehensive customer portal for small service businesses like law firms, and agencies
- Recapped - Sales-focused customer portal to prevent deals from slipping through the cracks
- Softr - Build editable front-end pages using data stored in Airtable
- Accelo - Give customers insights into work progress, including project status or retainer details
6. Support and help desk software
The customer success must-have to reduce churn
Customer success might be more than just providing support, but it’s still a major component. Even with proactive planning and self-service options, nothing can fully replace one-to-one customer support.
Support software can make getting and providing help easier for customers and employees. And two-for-one platforms, like Zendesk, can provide insights to improve your overall customer success strategy.
As one of the biggest names in customer support, you can’t go wrong with Zendesk. It covers all your customer support bases — from chat to community to knowledge base — and has robust integrations and customizations to make the platform your own.
A more lightweight option is Intercom. Intercom uses AI to automatically generate replies or direct customers to agents — it is even introducing a ChatGPT-backed tool. It’s ideal for scaling companies that want to make the most of new technology.
Here are some other customer support tools to take a look at:
- Sprout Social - Social media-focused customer service to stay connected with customers where they already spend their time
- Jira Service Desk - Easily bring IT and developers into service conversations to resolve software bugs or issues
- Hiver - Support management software built to work directly in Gmail and Google Workplace
- HubSpot Service Hub - Support software for teams already using HubSpot marketing, sales, or CRM tools
Add Dock to your customer success tech stack
Many tools out there promise a one-size-fits-all solution — but the truth is, you’ll likely need multiple platforms to fit the unique needs of your customers and team. This can feel intimidating, but knowing the solutions that are right for you can make it easier to get the ball rolling.
Begin building your tech stack by seeing where the tools you’re already using can fit within your customer success plans, or consider new options that have the flexibility to tackle multiple requirements — like Dock.
Whether you’re just getting started with your customer success software journey or you’re looking to optimize your existing process, Dock can act as the glue that keeps the rest of your tech stack together. Keep all your important sales, onboarding, and ongoing education materials in one easy-to-access place, helping both your team and your customers stay organized.
Want to see for yourself? Get started with a Dock free trial today.