If you are in the field of customer success for quite some time, you would have known the definition of it by heart by now. It is a business strategy through which you ensure that the customer is able to reach their goals by using your product. Needless to say, all strategies are just theory as long as they don’t have an action plan for success. And the above said strategy calls for a customer success plan that we are going to discuss today.
Customer success is a broad field in the SaaS industry. You can go haywire around all the different topics it surrounds. There are so many directions to proceed, so many concepts to integrate in your customer success strategy.
Take for example, net promoter score, adoption rate, retention rate, etc. These are few of the important concepts in customer success. You can spend days or weeks around measuring these metrics and try to come up with some insights on your efforts. But until you have a consolidated plan around these insights, your efforts would go to waste.
Preplanning: Your Success Plan is Not What You Think
Imagine you’re planning a trip to visit the Monteverde Cloud Forest in Costa Rica and a day later, you’re suddenly dropped off right in the middle of the jungle. You might have heard from a colleague about the vast biodiversity of the forest and the wild animals. Perhaps you also did some research beforehand so you had a decent idea of what to expect.
But when you finally arrive and experience everything all at once for the first time, it’s a whole different world and it can get pretty confusing!
But … luckily for you, you are actually the tour guide! You know what to expect from the jungle and you have crafted a detailed map for navigating through every square mile of the wilderness. Not only that, but you have crafted a plan to help anyone who enters the rainforest so that they have the best possible experience during their adventure and don’t get lost!
This little analogy is similar to how new customers feel when they are thrown into the new product – and you, as the customer success manager, are kind of like their tour guide.
Your customers have signed up for your new solution and while you are consumed with your customer success metrics and goals, your new customer is probably a little nervous about things. How do they use your product effectively? How can they reach their goals? Will the product work for them as they originally expected it to?
Ironically enough, planning out your customer success plan is just as important as the plan itself.
But before we get into it, there are two very important (and often overlooked) points you must always keep in mind:
- Your customers are essentially the one guiding the creation of your plan.
- The creation of the customer success plan is NOT the sole responsibility of the customer success team. All those who have a close relationship with the customer should be included, such as sales, product, and, naturally, the customer.
Below, I’ll discuss exactly what you need to create an effective customer success plan that will allay all your customers’ fears and bring them to success in no time!
4 Steps to create your customer success plan template
- Create a library of standardized outcomes
Kick off the design of your success plan template by defining a list of standardized outcomes that will create measurable value for your customers when they adopt your software product(s). Establishing a library of predefined outcomes will help your Sales team easily prescribe outcomes to a customer during the sales process.
Both your Sales and Customer Success teams will be integral to defining your outcome library, because they understand the business goals and outcomes your customers are looking to achieve. These teams also recognize how different factors (e.g. segmentation) affect the types of goals your customers are looking to achieve.
Many customer success leaders conduct interviews with their most successful customers during the outcome design process to solicit feedback and hear what outcomes their products have helped customers achieve. We recommend designing value-based outcomes to facilitate this process.
- Define standardized delivery playbooks for your outcomes
Value-based interactions with a customer are most effective when they include pre-planned workflows, or playbooks, according to TSIA. You need to define the steps your teams will take to help your customers achieve each outcome after you have established a library of value-based outcomes.
You should create a pre-planned and standardized workflow for each outcome. Learn more about how to design standardized customer success workflows using efficient and lean processes.
- Determine what additional fields you need in your success plan template
In addition to developing outcomes and playbooks, many organizations include critical data points in their customer success plan templates. These fields are helpful when you transition a plan from one team to another (e.g. Sales to Customer Success), or when multiple teams are collaborating to accomplish a particular task (e.g. Professional Services and Customer Success during onboarding).
Consider adding important data points (e.g. critical contacts, contract links, etc.) to your success plan template to centralize customer information and increase the efficiency of cross-functional collaboration.
- Operationalize your success plan
Now you’re ready to operationalize your success plan. To support this initiative, you can choose from an increasing number of software applications to create and manage your plan. When selecting a solution, keep in mind that it needs to support cross-functional collaboration and, just as importantly, collaboration with your customers.
Many companies operationalize their success plan strategy using a customer success platform. Learn more about how to select the right technology if you’re looking to invest in a customer success platform.
Benefits of a customer success plan
Consistency of efforts in customer lifecycle
A customer success roadmap makes sure that you always have the end goal of your customer in mind. This way you never wander-off in your efforts towards meeting the customer’s expectations. Every stage of the customer lifecycle must have their typical customer success goals. And a plan helps ensure that you are always taking steps in the right direction through the right resources at the right time.
Mitigating unpleasant surprises
Through a plan, you would surely achieve your end-goals if you tread through the right path. Hence, when any unexpected requests come from your customer, you can measure in advance whether that is achievable or not. If not, then you would have the right knowledge of what to tweak in your plan to meet those expectations.
Saves execution time
It has been commonly observed that the time spent on firefighting issues is always more than the time when you were already prepared for it. Planning takes care of the unprecedented issues in advance so that you are always prepared for any possible outcome.
Creates better outcomes with lower operational costs
Through a customer success plan, your time and efforts reduce considerably. You don’t have to spend time and money on wondering what you should do next when you reach a milestone. Your customer success team would always be prepared to proceed to the next stage in the customer journey.
Now that you've made the effort to build a mutual success plan, make sure this is something you reference with customers frequently. My success plans have become and all-in-one doc where I capture everything from meeting notes to product guides so this data never feels stale.