How to effectively analyze the Customer Journey

Hi, Markus here. Welcome to a free edition of the Customer-Value-Led-Growth Newsletter.

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Do you feel like you are in control of what’s going on with your customers? Too often CSMs are staring at a black box that puts them into a reactive mode.

Putting out fires, handling escalations, and providing quick fixes. Under high pressure, low time, no context resulting in low odds of success.

In today’s post, I want to share how analyzing and understanding your customers’ journeys can improve

  • the occurrence of negative events

  • predictability and responsiveness

  • customer retention and revenue growth


The customer journey has ultimately only 3 possible outcomes:

  • Successful - customers are retaining, might have purchased more resources and features and there’s no sign for them to leave

  • Unsuccessful - these are the customers that churned where the journey is over (unless they can be recovered)

  • Unknown - I consider those as a churn risk by default that will turn into real churn soon

and you need to analyze all of them. I don’t believe that you can learn the most from your unsuccessful customers.

Because that does not give you the answer to what works. Moving forward by trial & error does not make any sense. It should be your last resort.

You will see the most progress when you can compare successful with unsuccessful journeys and eliminate the gaps.

1. Delayed Progress

As a CSM there’s always a timer floating over your head. Your customers do not only want to get value, they want to get it fast.

Every delay in progress has the potential to escalate into churn. At least when we are looking at the early stages. Customers who already saw 400% growth are more patient 😉 

None of your customers wants to spend months on education and training before getting anything done. Likewise, they don’t want to spend months completing small steps.

In Customer Success, especially in onboarding, we are often talking about the Time-to-Value. What we don’t talk about often enough is the context of what is fast and what is not.

Detect delays and corresponding risks by defining standard times for completing specific tasks.

  • What is the minimum time to complete task X?

  • How long does it take on average?

  • What are the percentiles e.g. the time 75% of customers completed task X?

2. Product Usage

Speaking of, product usage is often treated as the crystal ball to predict future customer actions. But there’s a problem many CSMs do not understand

When customers are struggling you don’t necessarily see a change in overall usage. They are often spending even more time with your product to force the issue.

And when it fails there’s not a steady downward trend but a sharp drop. At this point, it’s often too late to start effective countermeasures.

The only thing that you can predict with 100% accuracy is that a customer who is not using the product will not become successful.

That includes very little use that is below the minimum viable time you have to spend (based on experience and common sense).

What can give you meaningful insights, on the other hand, is not monitoring overall usage and time spent but actually what your customers are doing.

  • Are your customers using your product according to their use case?

  • Or are they rather doing more or less random stuff?

  • How do top performers use it compared to low performers?

3. Non-Responsiveness

Seasoned CSMs know that when customers are no longer responding to your outreach churn is not far away. You have to act quickly and get them back on track.

Does it work? Rarely. Because one right can’t make up for many wrongs. But what exactly did you do wrong? Hard to find out when you never hear from these customers again, not even in an exit interview.

There are only 2 reasons why customers become non-responsive

  • They find out that the product is not what they’ve been looking for and no longer care while waiting for the date to cancel their contract. That usually happens rather early in the customer journey.

  • You’ve been (unintentionally) driving them away by your content and services, actions and non-actions.

The next best thing after asking your customers directly is to draw conclusions based on recurring patterns.

  • At what point were customers becoming non-responsive?

  • Are there similarities between their previous journeys?

4. Churn patterns

Losing customers these days is even harder than before. It’s crucial to understand why customers are leaving. The easiest way to find out is to conduct exit interviews.

I recommend to use the 5-Why framework to uncover the very root causes of churn. But what if your customers don’t agree to participate nor give you any other kind of feedback?

What if your customers can’t pin down why they have failed and neither can you? Looking at the journey that led up to this point - in addition to the exit interview (preferred) or instead as the next best thing.

  • Did these customers stick to the plan?

  • Did they follow your advice?

  • Did they consume the recommended content and services?

  • If not, what did they do instead?

  • If yes, why did it not work?

5. Deconstructing Success

It’s a pity that CSM is almost always interpreted as a defensive game. Don’t get me wrong. Building and maintaining a high retention rate is crucial for your company’s survival.

But it’s also the low-hanging fruit and becomes boring. The real gems - financially and personally - lie within expansions, up-and-cross-sells, and referrals.

The easiest way to make customers successful and trigger additional demand is to replicate the journey of your most profitable and top-performing customers.

Yes, they will certainly be protective of their secrets to success. And some success factors are simply rooted within the uniqueness of their company. But not all of them.

  • How are they using your product? Who has the same use case?

  • Did they follow the CS plan? Did they make alterations on their own?

  • What content and services did they consume?

Analyzing data does not come naturally to every CSM. Their strengths are usually rooted in working and communicating with people.

However, understanding your customers’ journeys gives you a huge performance boost.

It’s an investment that pays compound interest through higher retention and growth.

The good news is that you don’t need to build excellence in data analysis. You only need to become good enough 😉 

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