There are a number of great Customer Success (CS) frameworks available for implementation, which outline the core building blocks that Customer Success teams need. This blueprint, however, is based on a model which, while it is not a major divergence from these approaches, emphasizes the cyclical nature of this framework. You really need to approach Customer Success with the mindset that your work is never done!
It doesn’t change when you move into leadership. You need to continue to modify your strategy and hence the cyclical approach. It is important that as you round the corners along this journey, that you do follow a certain path. For example, you shouldn’t start making massive technology investments until you have some of the other building blocks in place, such as your customer journey and processes. This is a guide to help you visualize the steps you need to take.
This model is designed to be used at any stage of your company from start-up to a full blown enterprise.
The Cycle of Customer Success
The Cycle of Customer Success model is based on these six components:
- Customer Journey
- Measure and Iterate
When you are just joining, rebuilding or forming a Customer Success team, you need to create a common purpose and direction for the team.
You need to pull your team (or CS leadership team if you have a large team) and draft out a mission statement. Every CS team needs a purpose — it doesn’t have to be perfect. You can and should refine it over time.
Your mission should guide and empower your team on what to do if there were no processes or managers. It should also be a guide for the rest of the company in terms of WHAT the Customer Success team stands for.
Your CS values should emanate from this mission which will influence the other areas of the cycle, primarily the customer journey and the people you hire. Everyone needs to know and incorporate this mission statement which needs to be repeated over and over again!
2. CUSTOMER JOURNEY:
Defining and refining the customer journey has taken a greater prominence in recent years within Customer Success teams. It’s more than just improving the customer experience. It’s about determining the right customer interactions that will deliver the customer’s desired outcome and ultimately drive the right financial results for your company. A large component of the customer journey is clearly laying out the proactive measures that your organization is prepared to take. You hear the saying “Customer Success is not a department, it’s a philosophy”. Your customer journey map will determine whether that is actually true as the events and actions along it should include more than just your CS team.
The Customer Journey will help determine the people you need and the processes you will roll out, so it’s critical to invest in the proper resources for this initiative.
There are two major parts of this customer journey process: establishing the right customer segmentation model, and mapping the customer journey. It will require you to involve the various functions that touch the customer across your organization to seek out their input and buy-in as well as gather input from your customers. This isn’t an easy process and it may require some external help to get this initiative up and running. At the very least, start to define the stages and events of the journey and go from there. It will impact so many aspects of what you will do, including the type of skills you need for your team as well as your budget. It’s a part of the cycle that you will keep coming back to and refining over time.
This is by far the most critical component of customer success. The “People” section includes the following components:
- Determining the right CS team structure based on the customer journey. This may include Customer Success Managers to start, but also may include Support, Onboarding, Services and Education as you scale your team and determine the need to specialize.
- Properly defining the roles and responsibilities of each CS team within your Customer Success function to support this structure. This also includes addressing the most asked CS question ever: “how many accounts should a CSM own?”.
- Creating a standardized hiring process for your Customer Success team.
- Creating a standardized onboarding process for new team members that is metrics driven.
- Ensuring your team receives ongoing training and enablement.
- Creating formal career paths in and outside of Customer Success and performance management.
This is the time to build out and standardize the processes that your team will use to execute on the customer journey. It will include how you coordinate the various transitions within the Customer Success team but also outlines how CS interlocks with the other functions such as Sales on complex upsells or Marketing on customer communications. As your organization matures, this is the area that tends to get the most attention — especially when you can build out a CS Operations function.
How you plan, create and execute on these processes will make or break your Customer Success department and your job.
The following are just some of the key processes that you will need to define over time. The breadth and depth of these processes will depend on the stage that your company is at:
- Sales to CS transitions
- Customer onboarding
- Customer health scoring
- Executive business reviews
- Internal account reviews
- Customer success plans
- At-risk / customer health reviews
- Renewals and upsells
- Quarterly retrospectives
- Executive sponsor program
- Best practice webinars
- Identifying advocates
- Support escalations
- Product training
- Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys
- Cross-functional initiatives such as CS/Product collaboration on the product roadmap.
This is definitely not an exhaustive list. Keep in mind that how you execute on these processes will be determined by your customer journey and the quarterly goals that you’ve established.
Technology can sometimes appear to be that mirage on the horizon when you feel like you’ve been wandering in the desert for days. Don’t go drinking from that water before you pass go!
The reality is that there are no quick fixes. Don’t invest your precious CS budget on any major technology solutions until you’ve gone through the components of the Cycle for Customer Success. You need to have a plan on centralizing your CS technologies within your CRM so that you have full visibility across the Customer Journey and the customer-facing functions. Your Support, Project Management, Task Management, and Customer Success tools need to be all integrated with your CRM. Start ups can first use Google docs for some of these processes so as to have a basic framework before investing in some major tools.
6. MEASURE AND ITERATE:
Please don’t think that because this item stands at the end of the cycle that you should wait until you’ve gone through the other sections before defining your key metrics and then reviewing them at this point.
You should have metrics established for each and every stage and be constantly reviewing them.
It is essential to take a metrics-driven approach to everything you do!
As an example, let’s dig into the “people” section of this model. It is recommended to have a standardized approach to how to measure the candidates you interview and hire. Then measure how they progressed through onboarding. For the enablement and training of your team, create quizzes where you can measure their uptake of information. You should then have a regular review process where you evaluate how your team has performed when you compare their performance review versus how they scored in the interview process. If you have some low performers, assess where the issues are: is it your recruiting process, the interview process, the onboarding process or the ongoing enablement process? Work with your team managers and the other functions such as HR to make the necessary improvements. This is one example of how you create a Cycle of Customer Success and how you build a Customer Success function to scale.
THE CYCLE IS NEVER COMPLETE!—.
This model is not supposed to be a maturity model. It’s designed to help you plan, build and execute your Customer Success strategy.
You should keep in mind that you will travel around the Cycle of Customer Success many times as your company matures.
At first, the cycles will be more rapid and then they will slow down as you grow, as it’s harder to make large scale changes. You will focus more on processes and tweaking the technology and customer journey. That’s ok if you have the right listening posts in place and are measuring against the right outcomes. You can then determine if you need to go back around the cycle and reframe the mission and customer journey based on what the data is telling you.