Sep 20, 2019

Read Time 9 min

Q&A: How to Build Effective Customer Success Plans


Every Customer Success Plan has a secret sauce that turns it from just a plan on paper to something a team can actually execute and deliver successfully. CS Plans should consist of the right balance of touch points, type of touch points and specific high value outcomes that guide customers along their roadmap to being fully entrenched and engaged with your solution.

To talk on this topic of how to build effective Success Plans we hosted a well-attended webinar last week with Jackie Golden, CEO of LandNExpand. She has become the “go-to” person for building the ultimate Customer Success model.

During the webinar she taught attendees how to:

  • Identify the high value problems your customers have that your solution can solve
  • Track the progress your customers have made towards solving these problems with your solution
  • Uncover additional high value problems the customer should be considering that you can solve for them
  • Deliver high value outcomes that create hard ROI and real impact on your customers’ business

No worries on if you missed this webinar (or even if you want to listen to it again), you can view the webinar on-demand here.

We also engaged in a great Q& session with Jackie that we wanted to re-share with you.


Q&A Recap

Speaker: Jackie Golden, CEO, LandNExpand

Q: What are your recommendations on keeping CSMs from being shoved down to a lower level customer contact after the initial sale. The original C-level or VP level decision makers nearly always ignore or refuse to meet with CSMs during QBR or Customer Success Plan meetings. It’s hard to keep strategic alignment when CSMs get pushed down to the lower level folks. What is your recommendation to help this?

A: This is where you bring in those stakeholders or the executives in your organization that have relationships with those people who bought. What I’ve done with teams is, give CSMs the ability to bring those issues into weekly meetings to say, I have a customer and I’m stuck at the low level. And then you can use your team to say, where are these relationships, and use those executives to get the meeting and they request that they come to a QBR.

Or in some cases if it’s just more of timing and hard to get them, we actually would create a separate meeting that we could walk through the roadmaps with them. Make sure they’re onboard with this roadmap. But it will enable you to meet them really where they’re at. What you have to do is get to the reason of why they’re not meeting with you and use your contact inside the company because somebody had meetings with them and somebody sold this person somewhere so they might have the ability to break down those walls and get you the meetings.

It may not be in your QBR, so don’t be suck with they’re not attending the QBR. Maybe you need to create a one-on-one type session with them outside of that that, because their schedules sometimes are very difficult to get on and I found when I actually talked to the executives, they’re not intentionally not wanting to be there. They just can’t ever fit those in and if you’re trying to get an audience of 10-15 people, it doesn’t always meet your executive sponsor’s schedule very well.

So, I would go at it a couple of different ways, but definitely use your connections inside who already have relationships.


Q: What do you do if you uncover a disconnect on expectations from the customer side in regard to the Customer Success Plan?

A: Again, the answer here is the roadmap. So, if they’ve never seen this roadmap you are going to have an issue. This happens a lot where in the sales cycle, you’re dealing with a different group of people. So, the group you are working with might have never seen the initial roadmap and plan that was previously agreed upon. And then they handed it to a team, and you might be walking into that team who’s like, yea, I don’t get it, but here’s what I need to do.

We always start with- we want you to understand the roadmap that we designed for you. And then we name all of the people that have seen the roadmap that are onboard with the roadmap and we want to take the time to walk you all through it so you understand what we shared with your executive team and what they bought into and how we’re going to help you transform. And then that brings them into the loop because you’re addressing it right up front, whether you do that in your kickoff meeting, or your design sessions, you want to bring them into the fold by basically walking them through that all over again.

And this is a common problem, I’ll walk in and they dive right into the details and the teams looking around the table going, I don’t even know why we’re here and what we’re doing and we don’t even know why they bought you and so you need to bring them into the fold right off the bat. That’s part of that customer experience that you create with your lifecycle and it’s a nice transition from sales over to the CSM team and that they’re introducing the players from the leadership team down to the actual working team and that you can even have sales help position that roadmap and reintroduce it to the next layer of people that are coming into the plan with you for execution.


Q: Can you explain further what you meant by maturity level?

A: So, the maturity level of every company is, if you think about a startup, startups will tackle problems and when something really is critical, it becomes all hands-on deck all the time, but that’s not scalable. So over time they start to organize. They start to create coordinated attacks, if you will. They start to divide and conquer. They start to create standards and policies and processes for how to collaborate across the organization, but be able to handle more customers with a more intentional standardized approach, which means you start being aware that you need specific levels of service and your experience with your customers that you want to deliver ten out of ten times. So, you want to start to standardize that experience and you want people to do things the same way that’s part of the maturity of a company that you start to put these standards and processes in place.

So, as you go from one level to the next year putting these standard and processes in place your then collecting data, you’re able to use data to figure out what’s working and what’s not. You’re able to shift and make changes in your organization a little bit more, not just quickly, but more intentionally, more purposeful. And then you’ll get to a point where you have enough data, enough standards, enough consistency with what you deliver on that you’re going to start to be able to predict your results in the market and your ability to deliver on products and services in a very standardized way that your customer start talking about. Like every time they deal with you, they get the same results, it’s high quality, it’s excellence.

So, maturity models in an industry are identifying companies in the industry and different maturity levels those companies are at.


Q: What stage in the lifecycle do clients typically struggle and what pre-emptive strategies do you have in place to prevent that?

A: Probably the biggest challenge in the customer lifecycle is what I call the coordinated attack. I think people get really comfortable in each of their own departments on what they can do and how they do it but the transition from a customer perspective from one to the other is the areas that I probably spend the most time helping clients to create a more coordinated effort for collaborating together and transition the customer throughout the lifecycle for different areas of services that they need to solve their problems and to keep them moving forward.

And so I spend more time on those transitions as well as to not be disruptive across the organization because again, when you’re a less mature company your way of dealing with the problem is you just run over to the person and go okay, we have this issue and so everybody’s being very disruptive to each other instead of creating some kind of standardized approach for how we will deal with all these different scenarios that come up with our customers in a very organized manner that creates a really good experience for the customer but isn’t quite so disruptive for the company. And so, we develop these together and get agreement and this is our standard approach now.

And then we just allow for flexibility. Meaning if the wheels fall off, you know, here’s what we’re going to do, kind of “in case of emergency”, do this, this, and this. But it will create a more collaborative approach but those are always the challenges in customer lifecycle models. I think people build these great journey maps out with great intention. Everybody does these really well but it’s those handoffs and those transitional periods as well as the collaborative approaches that you need to spend a little bit more time on and get agreement across the organization.


Q: What do you do when customers don’t necessarily want to put in the effort to measure the quantitative benefit of the product. Is there any way to measure it without involving the customer or giving them “homework”?

A: Well keep in mind that they’ve signed up for your roadmap to deliver on some high-value outcomes in the very beginning. We usually will lay out how we’re going to know we’re successful. And so, if they are avoiding that we usually will also bring in and or go back to our key sponsors and the people that were expecting these kind of outcomes to see what we can do to help make it easier for them to provide us that information so that we know that we are on track and delivering on these outcomes. And it’s rare that you’ll get a lot of pushback.

If you can keep some of the key leadership people involved whether that’s through the way you deliver on your reporting your status updates, your email campaigns, things that you want to make sure they’re aware of and what’s going on in their market. However, you want to make sure you deliver valuable content. You keep those leaders in the loop and part of that communication in an ongoing basis so that you could tap into them when you get a roadblock. You always want to make sure that you have those relationships from sales and make sure that you are introduced to all of those key players and that you build those relationships and keep them so you can tap into them when you need them and it’s usually when you get stuck down at the user level.

If somehow no one ever helped you to get introduced and be able to build relationships with some of the key people that were sold in the beginning that start to roadblock you from not being able to get to the people that you need to get that information- what I do is make sure they know it can be kept private. You know, we’re not going to use it to publish it, we just want to track it to make sure we’re delivering on this roadmap that we agreed to and that is usually what will help.

Sometimes they think they you’re just out for marketing or a case study kind of thing and sometimes they get a little shy of sharing that information. So, you can also tell them that you won’t do that. You can keep it private.


Q: Creating an individual lifecycle for each customer seems like a lot of effort. What do you suggest for CSMs that have 100+ client accounts to manage?

A: So, customer lifecycle model is built for a company not a customer and it is for a lot of companies. It’s only one customer lifecycle model. The only time it might change is if in their go-to-market strategy, if they’re going after multiple markets. So, for instance we have a solution for financial services, and we also have a solution for retail, or we have a solution for engineering organizations and a solution for marketing.

There’s usually one customer lifecycle model then the roadmaps get developed. Remember you’re using the 80/20 rule. So, if that market has you know tens of thousands of potential customers for you, you’re developing a roadmap, one roadmap for that market. So, for the majority of that market, these are the problems we solve, here’s the high-value outcomes. And then that allows you to have thousands of customers, that you can then do a high-tech touch to that group following that roadmap.

So when you get to the upper Mid-Market and Enterprise company level that might be the only reason why you might be more customized and specific because the problems you’re solving are more complex and therefore there might need to be some flexibility in that roadmap to address some very specific needs for those high-end Enterprise customers, but you’re still going after the 80/20 rule for the really big problems.

So hopefully that helped to clarify. You can actually create a Customer Success Plan for thousands of customers in a target market in a segment and deliver a tech touch automation to get them the right content.

To learn more about how you can build effective Customer Success Plans, take a listen to the webinar on-demand. 

View On-Demand

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