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.
Planning is as important for any business as the different insights they glean from the surveys. It has been found in a survey that around 30% of small businesses fail within their first five years due to poor planning.
What is a customer success plan?
If a customer success management strategy is about helping your customers achieve goals through your product, then a customer success plan is the “what” and “how” part of it. The plan states what value and how you would deliver them to the customer. It consists of the series of actions you would take to meet your customer’s expectations that you can possibly deliver.
Expectations can arise from both ends – customers as well as vendors. A customer may expect your product to reach their business goal e.g. growing to thousand users. While your company may have an internal goal to reach your customer’s time to first value within a month.
To fulfil the expectations of both sides, you need a solid plan that would clearly state the actions you would take. It should be realistic, measurable and achievable to hold its viability. A customer success plan becomes a key tool for a CSM to align their resources, tasks, time and efforts to meet the end goal.
Benefits of customer success plan
Few of the benefits of having a customer success plan can be:
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.
Best practices and steps for creating a customer success plan
A holistic customer success plan would help you identify customer expectations and the processes to achieve them. Basically, these are the steps involved in creating such a plan.
You must help your customers express their expectations from your product right from the beginning. The best time to discover these expectations is the customer onboarding phase. Through strategic discussions you must unravel their expectations from you.
Then you must clarify right then and there itself about what expectations are achievable and what are not. While at the same time, you must have a clear understanding of your own expectations from the customers e.g. quick adoption, brand advocacy, etc.
Create processes to meet goals
Those expectations are the goals you would be directing your customer success plan towards. This is the “how” part of your plan. You must lay out clear steps you would be following towards meeting those goals. Make sure to cover all the possible scenarios that can occur during the course of action.
For example, if your customer’s expectation is quick onboarding, then you must have the right training material already in place along with the team of experts who would configure their systems.
Use metrics to measure the progress
Through right metrics, you must measure the progress of each of your customer success processes. For example, you must measure the time your customer takes for onboarding. Having a pre-defined ideal metric for each stage would help you know the efficacy of your processes. It will also help you know how you can increase the efficiency of the process.
For example, if you have already defined that the ideal time for onboarding is 60 days, then you can measure in real-time whether that is achievable or not.
Assign employees and schedules for each stage
Each stage should have a responsible person for its execution. Their responsibility lies in ensuring that the goal of their respective stage is being monitored and met. They would also measure the data for that stage and cross-check with the pre-defined ideal metrics.
The pre-assigned schedule must be followed that helps in tracking the progress of the tasks. Any lag in the execution must be properly reported to the superiors for taking corrective measures.
Using a customer success plan template would help you cover all aspects of planning and execute with the right steps.
Few Mistakes to avoid
Facing unprecedented challenges while executing a plan is natural. You cannot completely address all the challenges beforehand. Yet, there are few common mistakes that you can be preventive of.
Not considering customer’s inputs into the plan
No matter how thorough and foolproof you have made your plan, if you forgot to take the customer’s input, it would most likely fail. Setting up customer goals is the first step. You must take every measure to include their views rather than assuming on your own.
Creating a plan with ambitious goals that are hard to achieve can turn out to be disastrous. Make sure they are realistic and achievable. Otherwise they would turn out to be a failure.
Using vanity metrics
Using the right kind of metrics to measure your progress is must. Sometimes, CSMs use vanity metrics to measure their efforts that give a false sense of achievement. There is nothing more misconceiving than that.
Lack of improvisation
A plan is a set of guidelines to execute when all things are in place. But sometimes when surprises occur, you must be able to improvise and re-prioritize your actions for a quick solution. An example could be an early warning of churn right after onboarding. Your plan should always be in a state of further enhancements.
The purpose of any customer success plan is to make your job easier in achieving your goals. It is quite probable that you may get lost in different goals of your company like customer retention, business expansion or brand advocacy. Before you think of meeting these goals, remember that your customer’s goals are precursors to them.
There should be a right blend of expectations from both the parties. And only then you must set out to create a plan that would help you achieve those goals. Improvisation and further enhancement of plan are a part of the learning curve. Sticking to the plan is important but allowing some amount of space for further corrections is also vital for keeping it always fresh and breathing.