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The Evolution of the Customer Success Renewal Playbook

Customer success renewal playbook
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Before you read on customer success renewal playbook, some context about the topic would be helpful.

With the evolution of the information age, specially in the last 5 years, where knowledge about any field is at fingertips, the competition for keeping the customers loyal to your brand has increased rapidly. Customers are demanding more from the business in terms of services they can avail. And with the monthly subscription plans, it’s become much easier for them to switch vendors if their expectations are unmet.  

Hence, businesses are getting keen on building effective customer success strategies. The customer success managers (CSMs) are on the spree of honing their skills with the experiences and learnings. While dealing with different customers and based on their experience, the successful CSMs often design a customer success playbook. It mostly comprises the best practices they can apply to their job roles.  

Customer success as a function in a business has undergone a vast evolution in itself, especially in the last decade, when more and more companies have realized the benefits of SaaS customer retention and loyalty. And the evolution is still under the process with more and more software vendors switching to subscription based business models. In fact, it has been predicted by Gartner that by 2020, 80% of software providers will have migrated to a subscription-based business model. 

But instead of drilling further into customer success let us look at a brief history of this function and how it has evolved in the past few decades to become what it is today. 

Before 2000: Call-center, Emails and World Wide Web 

It was during the 1980’s when the concept of call center was introduced to give post-sale support to the customers. It was mostly a reactive approach when customers used to call the customer support staff of an organization to fix the issues they would face while using their product or service. This was the first segment of customer-facing professionals and would interact with the customers through phone lines.  

They later evolved into using emails and instant messaging with the advent of internet technologies becoming more widespread in the 90’s. But still, these later technologies didn’t replace the call-centers and only became an add-on to the existing service to provide support to the customers. They are still in operation in today’s world because companies widely need them to fix issues with their products or services faced by the customers. The advent of online ticketing systems made it more feasible for both the customers and companies to raise tickets and execute processes of resolving them in a more systematic and accountable way. 

Between 2000 to 2010: CRM, Web Channels, Mobile App 

With the evolution of customer management software built prior to the 2000’s, the Customer Relationship Management software came into existence in this new decade. The CRM software had a more comprehensive approach of giving service to the customers. It would take into account the customer history and would help the customer relationship officers to understand the customer satisfaction level. Companies by now had realized the importance of customer retention and expanding their business with them, hence they started coming up with the ways to improve customer relationships through software like these. It would mainly integrate the sales, marketing and customer support into one platform to attain a holistic view. Software users could gain useful insights around customer retention and business expansion. 

Through web channels companies were able to streamline their customer service by reducing the size of their support staff and giving platforms to the customers to access help and resources online. The invention of smartphones made it even more easy for the companies to bring efficiency to their customer support activities. The customers could gain online help articles, tutorials to use the company products. Some companies even created online support apps which customers could operate from their smartphones to access help online through automated phone operators for live service requests. 

2010: SaaS, 2013: Customer Success 

The decade beginning from 2010 brought widespread adoption of the subscription based distribution model of software. Hence the SaaS industry started booming in this period. Companies became more qualified in the field of retaining customers. They started using metrics like retention rates, upsell quotas and maintaining customer success renewal playbook.

SaaS companies began to realize that the traditional business model can no longer serve the new cloud based models. The subscription business model started increasing the sales numbers rapidly due to lower initial investment of the customer. While at the same time, it brought rise to the problems like customer churn. 

The primary concern for the SaaS companies was to retain customers. Hence they started looking for the ways to maintain a successful business relationship with customers and help them derive value from the products. Hence, the Customer Success as a business process was introduced somewhere around 2013 by the early adopters.  

Unlike previous customer relationship managers, the customer success managers should know their product inside-out. The CSM should be able to guide customers through their journey of product adoption. They should continuously demonstrate the value of the product in the context of the customer’s business. Being well versed with the software their company is providing would be immensely helpful. They should possess the technical as well as the domain knowledge of the product.

CS Playbook best practices

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A playbook should comprise of all the stages of customer life cycle and cover points around: 

Provide a great customer experience during customer onboarding

If possible, you should give manual help to the customers for the product orientation. The more personalized you make the onboarding experience, the more easily they start building trust towards your brand. 

Make sure to add the challenges you faced during onboarding in the playbook. What are the frequently asked questions? What goals did you have for onboarding? And what is the time limit you wanted to achieve for the completion of onboarding? Add all this information in the playbook.

Facilitate their initial adoption of the product

The customer should be able to drive value from your product. Hence it becomes prominent for them to quickly adapt to the major features. This is important for the initial adoption to take place. The CSM should be able to achieve that within a couple of weeks of customer onboarding. 

What steps did you take to drive product adoption? What challenges did new customers face while getting familiar with the product? These challenges form the prominent part of your playbook. And to second that, what measures you took to resolve them, should also be documented.

Achieve long-term adoption goals

Constantly monitoring your customer’s behavior on the product is must. With modern customer success platforms, it has become much easier to peek into your customer’s activities.

Based on the usage patterns of the customer, the CSM should identify the unused features of the product. Through this, they should take steps to introduce those features to the customers and recommend them to use it. 

Expand business

When the customer has reached comfort with your primary product, it is time for expanding the business. An expert CSM knows beforehand the right time for recommending the customers for upselling or cross-selling. They should be able to execute it smoothly with adding enough value to the customers.

Customer would never mention about their evolving needs. Most of the times they don’t even know what they need.

What are the cues that a CSM must catch in advance to identify their needs? Do they take help from the marketing team to create upselling or cross-selling collaterals? These information must be documented in the playbook.

Wrapping up 

Subscription renewals is the most important goal of customer success. It needs a long-term strategy in place that must be executed with a thorough planning. The relationship with customers takes time to build. There are many tactics and nuances that a CSM comes across in their journey. Hence, all these learnings deserve a proper documentation for future references.

A comprehensive customer success playbook consisting all the experiences and learnings of the CSM can be very helpful. They should make it by taking references from customer success renewal playbooks templates available online. With more than seven years in the last decade, the customer success function has evolved immensely. It is still under the process as more and more businesses are realizing the need to retain their customers. This helps in increasing their revenue which is directly proportional to the customer’s lifetime value

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  1. Pingback: Why mapping 'Product Adoption Journey' beats mapping 'Customer Journey' any day!

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