Nilesh Surana

@nileshsurana

First 90 Days Plan for Customer Success Management

July 30th 2018

Congrats on deciding to set up a customer success management practice at your StartUp. You have decided to invest in customers, helping them derive more value from your product. But the question remains — where to begin?

This 90 day roadmap will help you set up a Customer Success Management (CSM) practice at your company and understand what you should be able to accomplish in the first 90 days.

At the end of implementing all the strategies in this blog, I expect you to understand your customer personas, build customer segments, map the customer journey, know when and how to engage with your customers, hire a customer success leader, set up reporting and dashboards, expand your customer success team and decide to build or select a customer success platform.

First 30 days

Spend the first 30 days on customer personas, customer data, and creating segments (buckets).

Ensure the product roadmap includes delivering value continuously. No customer success plan can be successful if your product roadmap does not deliver the specific value due to which the customer bought the product in the first place.

Be on top of product usage metrics. Track daily/weekly/monthly usage, number of active users, license utilization, i.e., number of active logins for a group of licenses, and understand how each customer is deriving value from your product.

Build a basic segmentation strategy. Using key indicators to automate the process, each account has to belong to one of these buckets at any point in their lifecycle.

  • Good Health — Customers are in a good health state and they are not going anywhere.
  • At Risk — Something is triggering a potential churn. These are the accounts you should focus 80% of your time on in the first 90 days or even the first year.
  • Poor Health: They have one foot out of the door. You could give the world to them and they might still leave.

Monitor customer sentiment using tools (such as Hootsuite Insights and Rapidminer) or tracking via Twitter Advanced Search. They may tell you that you are the best in an email and simultaneously slam you on social media.

Speak to your customers. Understand your ideal customer profile (ICP) and related use cases. Understand their challenges in using your product. Review the progress they have made in terms of achieving value as compared to the goal(s) of buying your product. This will have to be primarily done in coordination with your sales and marketing teams as they are the ones who create the ICP in the first place. So, compare the ICP you have deduced from the customer calls with the ICP that sales and marketing have agreed on.

Review your product pricing to link the value a customer gets to the money s/he is paying for your product. Early experimentation will go a long way in deciding on a suitable pricing plan so that customer success does not have to bear the repercussions of too many pricing plans.

An important thing to keep in mind is that not every customer will talk to you but you need to nail down the ICP and build a strategy in the next 30 days to meet the goals and deliver value to your customers.

Days 31–60

Create a high level CS strategy, hire a CS leader, map the customer journey, build a customer engagement model and identify upsell opportunities in the next 30 days

Turn your research and data from the first 30 days into a high level customer success strategy. Test and fine tune the strategy for the initial 2 weeks as you hire an experienced customer success leader and share your high level strategy.

Work together with this leader to test that strategy, step back (yes, you are still the CEO) and let him/her drive customer success. Document everything. What was the starting point, what you changed and what were the outcomes of each change. The plan that you two agree on will be the baseline for your customer success hires after your customer success leader.

Design an effective customer onboarding framework. Once you know what value your customers are looking for, you need to find the shortest path to help them reach their goals as soon as possible. Hence, you need to ensure that each feature that you train a customer on is critical to getting value.

Here’s a customer onboarding framework template that you can use to build an effective customer onboarding process.

Map the customer lifecycle journey to ensure that you engage with your customers as per their lifecycle stage. You obviously don’t want to send a renewal email to a customer who has not been onboarded yet.

Connect the data to real customer case studies. Say, a customer has been logging in more than two times a day and all of a sudden you see that the account has been inactive for a week. This could be an account about to churn. So, you need to set up such checks for each account to keep a track of customer success.

Set up a customer engagement model. Now that you know what your data means and the actions you want to take at each lifecycle stage, you need to set up an engagement model. A typical engagement model would have Quarterly Business Reviews (QBRs), 1-to-1 meetings, automated campaigns, feedback calls and more.

Identify expansion and upsell opportunities. As part of mapping the lifecycle, you can also identify accounts which are ready to buy more licences or move to a higher pricing plan. For example, if the number of active users suddenly increase, there is a high probability of expansion. Or say the account is hitting the monthly limit of data upload in 20 days, you have to engage with them for an upsell opportunity.

Days 61–90

Build dashboards, set up KPIs, expand the team, and select a customer success tool.

Reporting: The moment you start attributing and factoring monthly recurring revenue (MRR) targets into your annual revenue goals is the moment that your customer success strategy starts paying for itself.

Analyze data early and often. Most customer churn happens in the first 90 days. You need to know why so you can plug the leaky bucket. It will also help point out flaws in your product, sales, pricing plan and / or customer success strategy.

Set up the right Customer Success KPIs. Success for one company might not be the best success metric for another company. For example, if you are Slack, you would want to know how many messages did a user send, the number of channels created, the number of devices being used to login, etc. Or if you are a marketing automation company, you would look at number of conversions per campaign for clients using your product.

Expand your Customer Success team. Understand what it looks like for your head of customer success to manage 100 or 200 or 1000 accounts. Let him/her define a hiring plan. FYI, remember (and Sales will hate me for this) you can convert a sales executive to a customer success manager and they are not bad at it ;-)

Select a Customer Success platform. Build or buy a product to support your customer success management practice (building it into your CRM vs. buying CustomerSuccessBox or Gainsight or Totango…Intercom or Segment is not a customer success platform).

Setting up a customer success management practice for the first time can be overwhelming but if you follow this 90 day customer success management plan, you will be able to establish a strong foundation for future growth.

This article was featured in the 20 most popular SaaS Roundup reads of 2018.

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