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Customer success playbook indicate actions to be taken by clients to achieve desired results. Customer playbook templates make it easier for them to follow.
“Playbook” has become a significant buzzword in the customer success management circles in the last couple of years. But what do they really mean and how do we go about defining playbooks that make sense for our businesses. Let’s look at how to design your Customer Success playbook.
There is no dearth of information available on playbooks. And the more advanced CSM tools provide playbooks as a part of their templates for CSMs. But, how do we decide that these will indeed be useful for CSMs to perform their day-to-day operations more effectively? And not become yet another checklist that will in fact, impede the speed of execution?
Let’s start by understanding what a playbook is.
The dictionary defines the term “Playbook” as a “book containing a sports team’s strategies and maneuvers”.
This definition is quite accurate in the case of Customer Success Management space as well. Simply put, Playbooks provide a guided path towards handling repeated/recurring business interaction situations in the customer success management world.
Let’s explore the various parts of a Customer Success playbook.
Customer success managers’ everyday chores
Milestones that the client will reach at certain points along the way
Triggers and notifications aid in charting the complete client journey. If the client deviates from the initial plan, they aid CSMs and the customer success team in getting them back on track.
A detailed step-by-step action plan. There must be no room for misunderstanding, so the actions must be clear.
The schedule, team, and objective. Specifying the desired objective, the team(s) in charge, and the amount of time needed to complete the operations is important.
The purpose of a playbook is to build scalable processes for your customer success team. A playbook helps you quality assure the basics of your customer success methodology. Playbooks help you align your teams, and help make on-boarding of new CSMs easy.
Few of the things might be same as other company’s playbooks but the details are unique for your company. So it becomes easier to adapt to your working style through this playbook for a new CSM.
The playbook consists of the proactive play that you would use to move your customer along the path of success. And it will also contain reactive approaches that tells your actions while intervening when a customer went off the path.
Playbooks are extremely contextual.
It helps enable your customer success managers enable your customers to best utilize your product for their business objectives. The business objectives can be varied for every end customer depending on their business niche. The number of variables here are varied. Hence it is unlikely that a templatized approach to playbooks would be very effective.
Therefore, you must consider the following aspects as you embark on your journey of defining appropriate playbooks:
Even if there was congruity in the all the above-mentioned variables, there is the size of the customer opportunity to contend with.
Ultimately, the CSM approach also must make viable economic sense – and hence the depth of the customer success engagement must be corelated with the size of the business opportunity with a customer. This would mean you may want to have a stratified approach for “Super-star” customers versus “Point-solution” customers.
This eventually means that you should deploy different playbooks. Even though the customers might have procured your product to achieve the same business objective.
Having touched upon the factors that influence playbook design, let’s look at an example of how we can use this information to create playbooks that are tuned to our requirements.
Scenario: Suppose we are designing the playbooks for a SaaS company Akme Inc that has customer churn in excess of 10% which they want to bring down to a industry norm of 8-10% by addressing the problem of low product adoption.
The first step is to understand scenarios that we might need playbooks for. In our example, customer churn could be caused by several contributory factors – some of which are:
In this scenario, we have information that the customers often are unable to adopt the full feature set of the product thereby resulting in low perceived value and consequently less than optimal renewals and higher than normal churn.
It’s important to break down the various underlying factors that manifest themselves as problems (in this case, Low Adoption). A critical analysis might show some of the following factors as being responsible for the low adoption:
Once we have identified the underlying factors, it is imperative to do a systemic analysis towards assessing how each of these factors the Customer Success Management team handles. While assessing these factors, a very high premium should be placed on the ability to have mechanisms which are consistent (repeatable), efficient (no wasted interactions) and scalable (can be adopted across the board for a large number of customers without additional overheads).
In our example, we found that inadequate user onboarding was the underlying factor that needed the most work – and therefore needed to have a playbook defined to drive consistent and predictable results. The overall map of the analysis looked something like this.
Once you identify the scenarios, then starts the important job of constructing the playbooks themselves. There are a few things that need to be kept in mind while constructing a playbook. These are:
In our example, the exercise results in a high-level playbook like the following:
Figure 2: Playbook for User Onboarding Scenario
Following a step-by-step approach like this will allow you to achieve the following:
Here are some of the customer success playbooks every CS team should be aware of:
Setting clear expectations should always come first when pitching to a prospective customer. Parties need to know what to anticipate and what not to expect. Your chance to create a strong first impression is limited. You will probably change the dynamics of your relationship if you can start your partnership meeting by addressing major issues and aligning partner expectations.
The customer onboarding phase is the first possible churn point. Therefore, it should go without saying that limiting turnover without a robust onboarding structure is difficult. We have established an onboarding framework to make it simpler for you to develop an onboarding procedure.
Customer happiness with a product or platform is determined by a data-driven process called Customer Health Score. It becomes an important part of your customer success process when your firm grows from a small one to a big one.
Due to the size of the user base, it might not be easy to contact every single one of them. Thus you risk missing crucial warning signals. Even if you reach out, it might be difficult to predict whether your customers can achieve their objectives without a Health Score.
A high-level strategic debate between two parties occurs during a company review meeting (Partner & Business). As a result, the teams should be aligned with the Sponsor and Champion. The audience serves as the sponsor, and they should monitor the development. Champion is the meeting’s co-host. Make sure that the CSM and the Champion agree in terms of readiness.
Renewal is a commercial transaction. What your client has done along the way is reflected in a contract renewal. Since the customer joins in renewing the contract, it is appropriate to start examining it. Ensure that the value your marketing and sales teams promised reaches your consumer. You must have a renewal playbook for it to succeed.
Playbooks are an invaluable tool towards building scale and consistency within CSM operations. However, you need to be careful while adopting out-of-the-box playbook templates by taking the time to ensure that they are oriented towards achieving the business objectives that you have set for yourself.
It always helps to take an iterative approach to deploying playbooks and testing these for efficacy and making incremental adjustments. 42
The SaaS world has long moved on to a very iterative mode of developing products and services to stay current with the challenges that their customers face, so why should the approach of the customer success managers who handle such accounts as customers be any different.
Ritesh has over 20 years of experience collaborating with customers and adding value to their organizations. In his prior role as head of healthcare practice for a high growth US healthcare tech organization, he built a centralized knowledge house to drive customer-centric delivery.
Published April 16, 2020, Updated April 27, 2023
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