Customer success metrics: A closer look at the KPIs

Customer success metrics

Customer success isn't just a buzzword; it's the lifeblood of your business. But how do you know you're achieving it? How do you define success for your business?

That's where Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) come in. Customer success KPIs act as your roadmap to happy customers and a thriving bottom line. These metrics will help you analyze your business strategy and guide you in optimizing for maximum growth.

The success metrics are categorized into five parts:

Customer-centric metrics 

  • First contact resolution rate: Tracks how often support solves issues in the first interaction.

    Example: If a customer contacts support with a problem, and it's resolved during that initial contact, the first contact resolution rate is high.

    How to calculate:

(# issues resolved on first contact / # total issues) * 100 = First contact resolution percentage

  • Customer retention rate: Measures how many customers stay with you over time.

    Example:If a business starts with 100 customers and retains 90 of them over a year, the customer retention rate is 90%.

    How to calculate:

((# customers at end of period - # new customers acquired) / # customers at beginning of period) * 100 = Customer retention percentage

  • Customer Effort Score (CES): Uses surveys to assess customer effort in interacting with a company, particularly in resolving issues.

    Example: After a customer completes a support interaction, they might be asked to rate the effort required on a scale.

    How to calculate:
    Based on a standardized customer survey with a range of options like "Very easy" to "Very difficult."

  • Customer health score: An AI-powered metric that analyzes a range of customer data points, including usage patterns, support interactions, sentiment analysis, and contract renewal history. Helps you understand how likely a customer is to stay with your company and identify potential churn risks.

    Example: A SaaS company might use a health score based on product usage, customer feedback, and support tickets to assess the overall health of a customer account.

    How to calculate:
    Varies depending on the chosen model, often involving scoring individual indicators and aggregating them.

  • Customer engagement: Measures how actively users interact with your product or service (e.g., logins, features used).

    Example: Tracking the number of logins, feature usage, and feedback submissions to gauge how engaged customers are.

    How to calculate:
    Varies depending on the specific actions tracked, often using averages or sums of interactions.

Financial metrics 

  • Monthly recurring revenue (MRR): Measures the reliable income your business generates each month from ongoing subscriptions or recurring services. Helps you understand your financial stability and predict future earnings.

    Example: If a software subscription costs $100/month and there are 50 customers, the MRR would be $5,000.

    How to calculate:
    The sum of all recurring charges from subscriptions or contracts.

  • Customer retention cost: Measures the total investment required to keep a customer engaged and using your product or service over a specific period. 

    Example: If a business spends $10,000 on customer retention initiatives and retains 100 customers, the customer retention cost is $100 per customer.

    How to calculate:

Total customer retention expenses / # customers retained.

  • Renewal rate: Measures how effectively you convert one-time users into loyal, long-term subscribers.

    Example: If a subscription service has 80 renewals out of 100 customers, the renewal rate is 80%.

    How to calculate:

(# customers who renew / # customers up for renewal) * 100 = Renewal percentage

  • Average revenue per user (ARPU): Measures the average amount of revenue generated from each user over a specific period.

    Example: If a company generates $50,000 in revenue from 1,000 customers, the ARPU is $50.

    How to calculate:

Total revenue from users / # of users.

  • Expansion revenue: Measures the revenue generated from existing customers purchasing additional products or services

    Example: If a customer who initially subscribed to a basic plan upgrades to a premium plan, the expansion revenue is the difference in pricing.

    How to calculate:
    Total revenue from existing customers - initial contract value.

User and product metrics

  • Active users: Counts the number of users who regularly use your product or service within a defined timeframe.

    Example: If a mobile app has 10,000 downloads but only 5,000 active users, the active user count is 5,000.

    How to calculate:
    Users meeting specific activity criteria (e.g., logged in within the last 30 days).

  • Adoption rate: Measures the percentage of users who start using a new feature or product.

    Example: If a new software feature is used by 70% of customers within the first month, the adoption rate is 70%.

    How to calculate:

(# users who adopt / # total users) * 100 = Adoption percentage

  • Repeat purchase rate: Measures the percentage of customers who make additional purchases after their initial purchase.

    Example: If 300 out of 500 customers make a second purchase, the repeat purchase rate is 60%.

    How to calculate:

​​​​​​​(# customers who make a repeat purchase / # total customers) * 100 = Repeat purchase percentage

  • Product usage rate: Measures how often and how much users utilize specific features or the product overall.

    Example: Tracking the number of hours customers spend using a software app per week.

    How to calculate:
    Varies based on the tracked action (e.g., average sessions per user, features used per user).

  • Average time in the app: Measures the average amount of time users spend using your product or service per session.

    Example: If customers typically spend 20 minutes per session using a mobile app, the average time in the application is 20 minutes.

    How to calculate:

​​​​​​​Total time spent in app / # of sessions.

Support and operational metrics

  • First response time: Measures the average time it takes to respond to a customer inquiry.

    Example: If a customer submits a support ticket and receives a response within 1 hour, the first response time is 1 hour.

    How to calculate:

​​​​​​​Total response time / # of inquiries

  • Ticket backlog: Indicates the number of unresolved customer support tickets.

    Example: If there are 50 open support tickets awaiting resolution, the ticket backlog is 50.

    How to calculate:
    # of open tickets at a given time.

  • Ticket volume: Indicates the number of customer support tickets received within a specific period.

    Example: If a support team receives 200 tickets in a month, the ticket volume for that month is 200.

    How to calculate:
    Total number of tickets submitted.

  • Time between purchases: Measures the average time between a customer's purchases.

    Example: If, on average, customers make a purchase every 3 months, the time between purchases is 3 months.

    How to calculate:

​​​​​​​Total time between purchases / # of purchases

Qualitative metrics

  • Qualitative customer feedback: Open-ended feedback from customers gathered through surveys, interviews, or reviews.

    Example: Customer feedback obtained through surveys, reviews, or direct interactions, expressing opinions on product features, support quality, etc.

    How to calculate:
    No numerical calculation; analyzed qualitatively for themes and insights.

Related reads:

Decoding CAC: An introduction to Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)   

The top customer engagement metrics to track in 2023   

Focusing on what matters most:

Not all metrics carry equal weight. Here's a sample prioritized list, along with the reasoning behind each ranking: 





Customer retention rate


Retaining existing customers proves cost-effective and simpler than acquiring
new ones.

Monthly recurring revenue (MRR)


MRR serves as a pivotal metric for gauging the predictable monthly revenue.

Customer Effort Score (CES)


CES measures the ease with which customers interact with the business

and get their queries addressed.

Customer health score


Monitoring and improving the customer health score aids in identifying
customers at risk of churn, allowing proactive retention efforts.

Renewal rate


Enhancing renewal rates is vital for ensuring predictable recurring
revenue streams.

Active users


Tracking and expanding active users validate product value and
market demand.

Average revenue per user (ARPU)


Growing ARPU is essential for increasing the profitability of the

customer base.

Product usage rate


Improving product usage rates helps understand user engagement and
pinpoint areas for enhancement.

Expansion revenue


Monitoring and boosting expansion revenue contributes to increasing the
lifetime value of customers.

First contact resolution rate


Improving the rate of resolving customer issues on the first interaction
reduces churn and enhances satisfaction.

Conversion rate


Tracking and optimizing conversion rates is crucial for expanding the
user base and revenue.

Customer acquisition rate


Ensuring sustainable growth requires tracking and optimizing the rate at
which new customers are acquired.

Customer engagement


Enhancing customer engagement is vital for retaining users and

fostering growth.

Adoption rate


Tracking and improving the adoption rate ensures that users derive value
from new features or products.

Onboarding engagement


Improving onboarding engagement aids in reducing churn and increasing
user lifetime value.

Overall resolution rate


Enhancing the overall resolution rate within a specific timeframe contributes
to improved customer satisfaction.

First response time


Reducing the time taken to respond to customer inquiries improves
overall satisfaction.

Average time in application


Increasing the average time users spend on the application enhances
user engagement and product adoption.

Customer retention cost


Tracking and reducing customer retention costs are imperative for
improving overall profitability.

Ticket backlog


Reducing the number of unresolved customer issues (ticket backlog) is
crucial for enhancing customer satisfaction and operational efficiency.

Ticket volume


Optimizing ticket volume ensures adequate resources for effective
customer support.

Time between purchases


Reducing the time between customer purchases is essential for
increasing customer lifetime value.

Related Videos:

Customer retention: A roundtable discussion on the art of nurturing customers  

Customer success KPIs in action: Real-world examples of how metrics drive success

Here are example scenarios where the top 3 metrics paint a vivid picture of customer success in action:

Scenario 1: The SaaS startup's growth spurt (SaaS customer success metrics)

Imagine you're a young SaaS company whose mission is to help businesses streamline their marketing. Your key KPIs are:

  • Customer retention rate: You track this religiously, aiming for a 90% rate. A dip to 88% triggers an alert, prompting you to analyze churn reasons and implement targeted retention strategies. This proactive approach helps you maintain a loyal customer base, fueling your growth.

  • Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR): This metric is your holy grail. You celebrate every MRR milestone, knowing it reflects customer satisfaction and predictable revenue. By focusing on product improvements and upselling opportunities, you steadily increase MRR, showcasing your ability to deliver long-term value.

  • Customer Effort Score (CES): You want to make your customers happy! You track CES through surveys, aiming for a score below 20 (out of 100). A spike in CES triggers immediate action to identify pain points and simplify the user experience. This commitment to ease of use keeps customers engaged and singing your praises.


Scenario 2: The E-commerce giant's retention challenge (Ecommerce customer success metrics)

Let's say you're a global ecommerce giant facing a rising tide of customer churn. Your crucial KPIs will be:

  • Repeat purchase rate: You analyze this metric to understand customer loyalty. A dip below 15% signals trouble. By personalizing product recommendations and offering loyalty programs, you entice customers to return, boosting your repeat purchase rate and overall revenue.

  • Average Revenue per User (ARPU): You want to maximize value from each customer. You track ARPU, aiming for a steady increase. By offering premium memberships and targeted promotions, you encourage customers to spend more, showcasing your ability to drive profitability.

  • Customer engagement: You know engaged customers are happy customers. You track website visits, app usage, and social media interactions. A decline in engagement prompts you to revamp your content and communication strategies, rekindling customer interest and loyalty.

Scenario 3: The fitness app's onboarding odyssey (Customer success metrics for Apps)

Imagine you're a fitness app struggling with user drop-off after signup. Your focus shifts to:

  • Onboarding engagement: You track completion rates for key onboarding steps, like creating a workout plan. A low completion rate for setting goals triggers you to redesign the onboarding flow with clearer instructions and motivational prompts. This results in higher engagement and user retention.

  • Product usage rate: You need active users to thrive. You monitor daily sessions and feature adoption. A decline in average sessions prompts you to analyze usage patterns and introduce new challenges or social features, reigniting user interest and boosting product usage.

  • Time between purchases: You offer premium subscriptions. You track the time between premium subscription renewals. An increase in this metric signals potential churn. By offering personalized workout plans and exclusive content to premium users, you incentivize recurring subscriptions and extend customer lifetime value.

Scenario 4: The streaming service's content conundrum (entertainment customer success metrics)

Let's say you're a video streaming service facing fierce competition. Your KPIs become:

  • Customer churn rate: You track the percentage of customers who cancel their subscriptions each month. A rising churn rate prompts you to analyze viewing habits and content preferences. By adding diverse content based on user data and offering personalized recommendations, you reduce churn and keep viewers engaged.

  • Customer satisfaction score: You value happy viewers. You track satisfaction through surveys and social media sentiment analysis. A dip in satisfaction score triggers you to address common complaints and improve customer service. This proactive approach fosters loyalty and positive word-of-mouth.

  • Content completion rate: You want viewers to enjoy their content fully. You track the percentage of shows or movies watched until completion. A low completion rate for specific genres prompts you to curate content recommendations and highlight hidden gems, ensuring a diverse and engaging viewing experience.

Choose metrics that align with your unique business goals and adapt them as needed. For any business, customer success shows how far a company has come and how far it will go. Prioritize the metrics for your business and start measuring them using dashboards to take your business to new heights.


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