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A Customer Success Playbook in 5 minutes or Less

Customer success is a major trend in both the startup and enterprise space. Whether it’s providing customer support with a high level of care and human touch or supporting the sales team with proactive insights, companies hire more agents to serve customers better and increase retention. As the CEO of a SaaS company, I know all too well about the struggles of customer success. It’s tricky but critical. That’s why I’m sharing my team’s guide for how to build a Customer Success Playbook (CS Playbook) in 5 minutes or less; whether you’re a founder, entrepreneur, executive, business builder, investor, or non-profit leader who wants to learn about this growing business trend. Happy reading!

If you have any ideas or other tips to add, please share them with us — we love hearing about them and having thoughtful conversations 🙂

The customer signed on and is willing to take a chance on your product. Now what? This is where customer success (“CS”) steps in and takes control. But, what is customer success?

What is customer success, and why is it important to have a customer success process?

Customer success is focused on 1) customer retention and/or 2) expansion (at least by traditional definitions). Expansion opportunities are highly dependent on your business model and product. Customer retention should be the bread and butter of your company’s revenue.

“Customer success is where 90% of the revenue is” — Jason Lemkin, SaaStr and Echosign (acquired by Adobe)

How do you retain (and potentially expand) customers?

  1. Keep them happy — are the users happy with your product or service?
  2. Executive buy-in — are the decision-makers “bought-in” to your product or service?
  3. Making the product sticky (user adoption and dependence on the product) — is your product necessary to your customer?
  4. Addressing customer issues as needed — are you solving the problems they have?

Remember that getting sales through the door is difficult. It costs more to lose customers to churn than it does to retain them with customer success! Don’t let a customer leave because of a poor customer success process.

Okay, but where do you start?

Step 1: Get to Know Your Customer ASAP

You would be surprised how many sales teams fail to do a proper customer handoff to their customer success teams. How do you make sure that the relationship is successful if you don’t know what brought the customer to your company in the first place? In other words, if you don’t know why your customer came to you, it will be hard to get them to come back.

Some questions to consider when building your customer profile

Step 2: Avoid Buyer’s Remorse!

Too much time between the sale and onboarding leads to lost momentum and lower return on investment (“ROI”). Customers should see ROI as soon as possible, so get in touch with them and get them onboarded quickly. Like many other companies, we’ve had the first-hand experience of a customer walking away after a sale because of a delay. Don’t let that be you!

How do you quickly and effectively onboard customers?

  • Have an introductory call where the Sales team loops in the CS manager
  • Develop an “attentive” approach towards communication during the onboarding phase, i.e., be overly communicative (if applicable)
  • Reconfirm the success criterion, ROI, etc. with the customer so that each party is clear on what is defined as successful onboarding/value realization
  • Clearly layout what responsibilities each party has to have a successful onboarding; set timelines and milestones

Step 3: Routine Maintenance

Like any relationship, you only get out what you put in. Ensure to regularly follow up with your customers (quarterly, monthly, weekly, etc.), and don’t let them fall through the cracks!

The check-ins help ensure that 1) the customer is getting the value they want out of your product and 2) the customer keeps your relationship top-of-mind (while continuing to build upon it).

After speaking with 50+ customer success managers, here are some of the key indicators to consider when measuring the customer’s success: 

**Please note that this is not all-encompassing

Positive and negative indicators of customer retention

Various tools help you manage the process and customer success, ranging from CRM tools to NPS/CSAT score surveys. Use these tools to help you manage your customer relationships.

“…The one that I am most excited about is surfacing insights — there is so much data nowadays on customers, so where should I focus?…” — Travis Bryant (Redpoint Ventures) on the future of CS.

Step 4: Upsell? Renewal? Repeat Step 3 as Needed

Going into the renewal or upsell periods — the phases when you need to ask your customer to come back again or for more); it is even more critical to consider CS indicators (like those listed in the table above) for renewal, upsells, and importantly, churns.

General Best Practices:

  1. Touch base with your customers on a regular cadence.
  2. For any contracted or subscription customers, reach out to the customer before renewal. While the customer may be aware of the contractual clauses, it’s always better to bring it to their attention. No one likes costly, unwelcome surprises.
  3. Track and monitor product usage or purchasing patterns.
  4. Follow up on satisfaction and gauge customer pulse.

**Again, please note that this is not all-encompassing. We could go down the metaphorical rabbit hole with customer success. Tailor the recommendations and metrics to your industry. The most important thing is to MAKE a CS Playbook.

Thanks for reading! What are some of your CS tips and best practices? Please share them with us 🙂

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Co-written by Lisa (Customer Operations Leader at involve.ai) and Gaurav (CEO at involve.ai)