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Jillian Kaplan

5 Principles of Customer Success and What They Mean for Product Design

Jillian Kaplan

  • Jul 8, 2020
  • 6 Min read
  • Jul 8, 2020
  • 6 Min read
Product Management
Domain Expertise


"Customer success" is a relatively new idea and term. Most of us have heard of customer relationship management and customer service, but how do we define customer success? I can tell you it’s more than successfully getting a customer to buy a product. That might be success for you, but that is not an overall customer success. So what exactly is customer success and why does it matter for product design and delivery?

Customer success really refers to building a relationship. Customers purchase things from people they know, like, and trust. As you build your customer success story, are you someone that your customers know, like, and trust? A great product is certainly important, but in order to get your customers’ attention, you have to work on the relationship first.

Many companies today like to refer to their customers as "partners" because they work with them to develop their products and help them find use cases for them. These customers actually do partner with companies in order to ensure that the company can sell their product and that the customer has success in using the product and comes back to buy more because the product helped them solve a problem.

There are many principles that can ensure customer success, but for the purposes of this guide, we are going to focus on five principles. What are the top five principles of customer success?

  • Listen
  • Value
  • Communicate
  • Transparency
  • Treat Everyone Like Someone

Let’s dive into each of these principles and how they apply to product design and delivery.


This one is extremely important to product design. You need to listen to what your customers are saying they want. Just because you think a feature is cool doesn’t mean your customers want it. It is important to engage them in conversations so they feel valued in the process of product design. But not only that—you also need to listen to what they have to say and make sure you take their feedback into account as you are designing and delivering your product. Building something your customers don’t want does not sell any products and certainly does not lead to customer success.


After you listen—truly listen—to what your customers are saying, you need to then value what they are saying. Customer opinions on product design are worth their weight in gold. Companies pay big bucks to get their top customers’ opinions, so if you are able to engage with your customers, you must make sure you value what they are saying. Make sure the customer understands that you are listening and valuing what they have to say.


After you listen to what they are saying and value their feedback, you need to be able to openly communicate with your customers. Communication is where you take their feedback and have a conversation back and forth on why something is good or bad.

For example, if a customer tells you that a product needs a certain feature but it’s out of scope due to price or time or something else, having a conversation on a second-best solution will help keep the lines of communication open with the customer.

The top three principles of customer success where you listen, value, and communicate allow you to develop a relationship with the customer. It’s back to the first thing we talked about in this guide, which was that people buy from people they know, like, and trust. These first three principles get the customer to know and hopefully like you and therefore the brand. So what about the trust? That brings us to the fourth and fifth principles.


Transparency really means keeping communication open and honest with your customers. Always telling them the truth and ensuring that you build trust is where transparency comes in.

For example, if you are promising to deliver a product for a customer by a certain date and you cannot make that date, and you know you can’t make that date, then be open and honest and tell the customer. Don’t wait for them to tell you that you missed it.

Treat Everyone Like Someone

This is pretty much just a life principle. We are going to start off this principal by discussing what not to do. Do not treat your customers like a number or a quota. Do not send emails that don’t address them by name. Do not show up late to meetings, or worse, not show up to meetings at all.

As you are designing a product, you are most definitely seeking customer input, so make sure you treat them like a person and not just customer XYZ.

Cultivating this relationship with your customers will change everything for your product. You probably have someone in your life who may not have the best product or the cheapest price, but you continue to go back and purchase from them. Why? Because of the way they make you feel. They make you feel like you matter and like you are someone.

Having transparency with your customers and treating them like they mean something, because they do, is what is going to build that trust.


As a product designer, you may be thinking, "I'm not a salesperson, so these don’t apply to me." But guess what? No matter your role, you are a salesperson. We are all salespeople, and in the end, it is our job to sell.

Understanding these principals of customer success will help you properly listen, value, communicate, and be transparent with your customers. Customer success is a school of thought that has recently emerged, and as companies focus on it, it will become an important part of product design strategy.

Applying these five principles will ensure your customers know you, like you, and trust you. This will ensure customer success in product design and delivery.