Why Every Customer Success Manager Needs Playbook

Why Every Customer Success Manager Needs a Playbook (And How to Build One)

Leverage the power of Customer Success Playbooks! Learn why every CSM needs them and how to build one.

customer success manager playbooks
customer success manager playbooks

Customer Success Managers are at the heart of retaining and growing customer accounts. They help clients get value from the product or service. This is tied back to increased revenue and customer loyalty. Yet, despite its importance, Customer Success Management often lacks the structure and standardization found in other roles like sales and marketing. This is where Customer Success Playbook comes in. With playbooks, your CS teams work in tandem to deliver consistent results that can be reviewed and improved as you scale.

Now that we know how about playbooks, this article focuses on why every CSM needs playbooks and how to go about building one.

The Importance of a Customer Success Playbook

  • Standardization
    Customer Success Playbook helps in creating a standardized approach for dealing with various customer scenarios. Without a playbook, CSMs might approach issues based on their own experiences and intuitions, which can lead to inconsistencies in service delivery. Giving a view of the ongoing customer journey, the playbook ensures that every team member has all the relevant information. This helps in keeping relevant stakeholders informed without having to ask for data and progress, thus improving the quality of customer interactions.
  • Scalability
    As companies grow, the Customer Success team also expands. Training new team members becomes more comfortable and more consistent with a playbook in place. With playbooks, growing team is aware of the steps to follow under different use cases and handle different scenarios with greater expertise.
  • Enhanced Customer Experience
    A well-designed (and implemented) playbook ensures a uniform customer experience delivered by every team member. Tracking your KPIs becomes easier and so does identifying and improving your customer journey. Playbooks also give an idea of how well your current process is serving the customer requirement that have a great impact on the experience your team delivers.

For more insights into the importance of Customer Success Management, check out this article from SmartKarrot: [The Ultimate Guide to Customer Success Management]

Examples of Customer Success Playbooks

Customer Success Playbooks are more than just a collection of best practices; it is a strategic frameworks and basic minimum steps needed that guides Customer Success Managers (CSMs) through various customer scenarios. The playbook serves as a tool for standardizing procedures, ensuring consistent service quality, and fostering customer relationships that lead to business growth. Playbooks can be created for any business scenarios, but for the sake of brevity, we will take the example of three critical ones: customer onboarding, issue resolution and, account growth.

Customer Onboarding

The customer onboarding process sets the tone for the entire customer journey. During the onboarding phase CSM has the opportunity and responsibility to design the journey well suited to customers need and help them realize the value that product /service brings to the table. A well-defined onboarding process in the playbook should:

  • Outline step-by-step actions to help customers set up and start using the product.
  • Involve customers to participate in the playbook as needed. This creates a shared sense of ownership as well as pushes the customer to execute on their end e.g., Implementation manager, technical program manager etc.
  • Create key milestones and track them regularly

Issue Resolution

Even with the best products, customers will encounter issues. How these issues are resolved can significantly impact customer satisfaction and loyalty. An effective playbook should offer:

  • A classification system for categorizing customer issues by their urgency and complexity.
  • A flowchart or decision tree to guide CSMs through the resolution process, including when to escalate issues to other departments.
  • Automatically push relevant “issue resolution tasks” to multiple roles in the organization as needed.
  • Metrics to evaluate how effectively and efficiently issues are resolved, which can be used for continuous improvement.

Account Growth

Account growth is not just about upselling or cross-selling; it’s about identifying opportunities that genuinely add value to the customer. CSMs should be well-equipped to recognize these opportunities and act upon them strategically. The playbook should:

  • Define triggers or events that signal potential account growth opportunities, such as high usage rates or specific customer queries.
  • Once triggered, the playbook pushes relevant tasks to all key stakeholders internally.
  • Provide scripts or templates for approaching customers about upselling or cross-selling.
  • Include tracking mechanisms to monitor the success rates of these growth initiatives.


Customer renewals are not just about retaining existing clients; they revolve around reaffirming the value a product or service brings to those customers. CSMs should anticipate renewal challenges and pivot strategies to uphold customer loyalty. The renewal playbook should:12

  • Detailed potential reasons for non-renewal, such as gaps in product usage, unaddressed customer pain points, or external factors affecting the customer’s business environment. This proactive approach ensures CSMs can strategize to address issues well before they impact renewal decisions.
  • Furnish specific scripts or communication templates to facilitate renewal discussions. This should be a blend of highlighting past value delivered and future advantages, demonstrating a commitment to the customer’s long-term success.
  • Incorporate structures to capture and integrate feedback from customers who chose not to renew. This feedback is invaluable for refining both the product/service and the renewal approach itself.
  • Renewal Performance tracking. Embed systems to monitor the success rate of renewal strategies, allowing for continuous refinement based on empirical data.

Steps to Build Your Customer Success Playbook

  • Identify Stakeholders: Building a Customer Success Playbook requires a multi-departmental approach that melds data-driven research and stakeholder input into a cohesive, actionable document. Identify the stakeholders that should be made part of the playbook, it could also include your customers. SmartKarrot has a ‘Customer Portal’ to make sure your customers become part of your playbooks.
  • Draft Procedures: Create procedures for different scenarios, such as customer onboarding, issue resolution, account growth and tracking usage. These include having templated emails and standard documents that can be shared with customers under different circumstances. These procedures serve as actionable frameworks that guide Customer Success Managers (CSMs) through various situations, promoting consistency and efficiency in customer interactions.
  • Tracking and Metrics: An effective Customer Success Playbook isn’t complete without mechanisms for tracking performance and outcomes. Identify and establish the key performance indicators that will measure the success of your customer success initiatives. It is crucial to loop back these insights to the customer success team and other stakeholders to ensure that everyone is aligned on the latest best practices. Review your feedback regularly. Schedule regular reviews, at least on a quarterly basis, to analyse the collected data. Based on these reviews, adjust your customer success strategies, and update the playbook as needed.

In conclusion, playbooks are not just a collection of steps but an essential tool for CSMs. They provide pro-active best practices to help CSMs achieve more and in turn work with your customer base to bring business goals to life. From best practices to bringing structure and tracking how your KPIs are being met- playbooks bring solution that have impact on overall customer experience.

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