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It seems so obvious: Businesses that take a proactive approach to customer success by going out of their way to anticipate customers' needs, and to offer help rather than waiting to be asked, are more likely to have loyal and repeat customers.

Shifting from reactive to proactive customer success is especially important for software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies; after all, their subscription-based business model demands keeping customers happy over the long haul.

Yet, adopting proactive customer success is easier said than done. Many SaaS companies don't understand that proactive service can't be just an aspiration and that it requires a well-thought-out strategy with the right processes and technology tools to support it.

Here are five steps for a proactive strategy that can improve satisfaction and customer loyalty.

1. Success Journey

You must start at the start: defining the customer's success journey.

"Customer success journey" is more than a buzzword. You really need to have a firm grasp on all the milestones, touchpoints, and metrics you can use to construe the value the customer gets out of your technology. And success plans should be predefined, with minor customer-specific adjustments post-sales.

As you onboard customers, work with them to lock down specific goals they want to achieve with your product and outline a path to achieve these objectives. Doing so helps provide a blueprint for identifying potential problems in the future and ensures alignment on strategic goals.

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image of Matt Zelen

Matt Zelen is chief customer officer at Act-On Software, provider of marketing automation for small and midsize businesses.

LinkedIn: Matt Zelen

Twitter: @Matt_Zelen