Crafting Customer Success Plans That Drive Action

Crafting Customer Success Plans That Drive ActionCrafting Customer Success Plans That Drive Action

The need for effective Customer Success plans cannot be overstated. It’s what transforms a good product into a valuable tool that helps ensure long-term success for your customers.

To put it simply, a quality CS plan is a set of mutually agreed-upon goals between your customer and their Customer Success Manager that align with what success looks like for the customer. It's more than just mere documentation. Your success plan should be focused on driving actions and outcomes for both your customers and your company.

What You Will Learn From This Article

  • Why success plans matter
  • The core elements of a great success plan
  • Common pitfalls
  • Steps for creating an actionable success plan
  • Why you need a customer interface for your success plans

Why Do Customer Success Plans Matter?

A Customer Success plan isn't just a document for your Customer Success Manager to refer back to during check-ins; it's a strategic tool that should be shared, understood, and driven by the customer.

The significance of an effective CS plan comes from its power to:

  • Clearly articulate shared goals and success milestones.
  • Provide a structured guide to realizing value from your product.
  • Act as a communication tool that aligns internal teams and stakeholders.
  • Create a sense of partnership, investment, and commitment to success from your customers.

While the general outline of a success plan tends to be one-size-fits-all, the effective ones are typically tailored, actionable, and can evolve as the customer's needs change.

The Core Elements of a Great Customer Success Plan

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When it comes to the structure of a customer success plan, there are five key components that every plan should have. Keep in mind that the details and level of granularity within each component will vary for each customer:

1. Success Criteria and Objectives

This is where you and your customers outline what success means to them. What are the specific business outcomes they are looking to achieve? These objectives should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound) and should serve as the North Star that guides all actions within the plan.

2. Milestone Plan

Creating actionable steps towards the laid-out objectives is crucial. A milestone plan segments the customer's timeline into different phases, each with its own set of achievable actions and outcomes. Regularly scheduled calls, like quarterly business reviews, should be aligned with these milestones.

3. Metrics and Key Performance Indicators

How will you measure progress and success? Defining the KPIs that will indicate successful progress towards the milestone and ultimate objectives is key. These metrics often serve as a barometer for the health of your customer relationship.

4. Accountabilities and Responsibilities

A clear Customer Success plan outlines not only what the customer needs to do but what your team is accountable for as well. Detail the roles and responsibilities of each party to ensure there's no ambiguity and expectations are aligned.

5. Action Plans

In this section, lay out the tactical steps that need to be taken to reach each milestone. These should be specific, time-bound, and assigned to individuals. Be sure to also include the resources and support your team will provide to help the customer achieve these tasks.

Pitfalls of Success Plans

Many SaaS companies fall into the trap of creating success plans that are static, overly complex, or too generic. Here are some pitfalls to avoid:

Lack of Segmentation

Treating all customers the same by providing a one-size-fits-all plan is a sure way to decrease the value of your success planning. Different customers will have different goals, environments, and challenges that require unique approaches. Tools like Marketo and Segment are perfect for segmenting customers based on a variety of data.

Non-Actionable Plans

Nothing happens in business until something is sold. On a similar note, nothing can happen in a success plan if an action is not taken. A success plan should not be a laundry list of hopeful actions. Each item on the plan should be directly tied to an objective, and every action should be clear, specific, and doable.

Remember, the goals outlined in the success plan are mutually agreed upon. This means that the CSM should offer goal suggestions they would be willing to do if they were in the customer's shoes.

Absence of a Feedback Loop

A success plan should be a living document that evolves alongside the customer's needs and your product's offerings. Without a feedback loop, your plan is likely to become obsolete and ignored. Qualtrics XM is the perfect example of a tool that makes creating a feedback loop easy and seamless.

Crafting an Actionable Customer Success Plan

Now that we have a good grasp on what to include and what to avoid in a success plan, here are five steps to help you create success plans that are actionable and impactful:

Step 1: Understand Your Customer's Business

To create a plan that resonates, you need an in-depth understanding of your customer's business and the industry they operate in. This context will help you tailor the plan to address their specific pain points and goals. Consider gathering the following information:

  • Who are their main competitors
  • What the main use case is for their typical customer
  • What pain points does their product address
  • What their long-term and short-term growth plans are

Step 2: Collaborate on Defining Success

Rather than presenting a plan to your customers, collaborate with them to define what success looks like. Creating an actionable success plan should be a two-way dialogue. This form of communication creates buy-in and ensures that the plan is realistic and owned by both the CSM and the customer.

Step 3: Develop and Document the Plan

Once you've defined success, it's time to put pen to paper (or rather, fingers to keyboards) and draft a comprehensive plan. Be clear, be specific, and remember that simplicity and clarity far outweigh complexity. Use a shared document so both parties can make edits in real time.

Step 4: Review and Revise Regularly

Set up a process for regular review and revision of the success plan. Ensure that it's a topic of discussion in your regular touchpoints, and update it as the customer's needs evolve.

A success plan that drives action can act as the CSM’s guide for every call with the client. It will help them know what topics to cover and what initiatives (goals) to follow up on and discuss.

Step 5: Drive Action and Demonstrate Value

The most crucial step is to drive actions that are aligned with the success plan and to consistently demonstrate value. Prove to your customers that the plan you've set forth is driving real, tangible results for their business.

This doesn't have to come in the form of a lengthy Executive Business Review (although those are important). Simply showing the customer the data that proves they are moving towards their desired outcomes on a typical client call is enough to keep the client engaged with the success plan.

Leveraging a B2B Interface to Improve Your Success Plan

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In today's rapidly evolving Customer Success landscape, the importance of a robust B2B interface cannot be overstated. This digital bridge between your company and your clients transforms a basic success plan into a dynamic, collaborative platform. Such an interface enables continuous two-way communication, allowing customers to share feedback and seek assistance effortlessly. It also ensures transparency by providing real-time visibility into the progress of the success plan, facilitating immediate adjustments and improvements. Additionally, it equips customers with actionable tools and resources—ranging from best practices and training materials to comprehensive support—empowering them to actively engage with and benefit from the success plan.

A customer interface should:

  • Facilitate two-way communication where customers can provide feedback and request assistance.
  • Provide visibility into the progress of the success plan, allowing for real-time tracking and adjustment.
  • Offer tools and resources that help customers take action on their success plan, such as best practices, training materials, and support resources.

EverAfter stands at the forefront of this innovation, offering a seamless, code-free solution that enriches customer interaction and engagement. With EverAfter, the success plan transcends its traditional role as a static document to become a vibrant, living strategy that maximizes the value of your product or service for each customer. By focusing on actionable insights, collaborative efforts, and adaptive strategies, your Customer Success plans will not only boost customer satisfaction but also drive substantial business growth.

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