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The Key to Unlocking Success in your Customer Relationships

In the world of Customer Success, sustaining client relationships is the core. This article will uncover a tool to help you succeed in building strong partnerships and manifesting remarkable outcomes for your customers.

Unlock Success Graphics

It all starts with getting to know your customers’ objectives. To proactively understand client challenges and adapt to their evolving needs, it’s imperative for us to create an environment of collaboration and measurable results. 

Ultimately, you and your customers should be aligned on a shared vision driving towards tangible business outcomes. You may be familiar with one way of framing these, SMART goals.

How can we crystallize this shared vision into a concrete plan? Where would we start?

This is where Success Plans come in.

Success Plan: Your Path to Delivering Success

A Success Plan is a document that outlines objectives, timelines, and clearly-delineated steps that tie into your customer’s goals.

Beyond just establishing shared accountability towards customer goals, this plan drives a common sense of purpose - a camaraderie to help build rapport between the customer and your CS team, thus creating a highly engaged relationship. Remember: In Customer Success, your success is dependent on the customer’s success! 

By revisiting this Success Plan in ongoing customer conversations, you help spur incremental progress towards their goals. 

When it comes time for business reviews for your clients, you can rely on the Success Plan to outline all the notable achievements in your partnership and the value your customers have unlocked. 

Renewal and expansion discussions become streamlined with a Success Plan in the backdrop.

Without a Success Plan in place, you risk aimless customer interactions. The client often ends up seeing your team and functions as reactive; an extension of your Support team. They become less engaged and will only consult you when they have problems with your product.

It becomes challenging to track progress, measure success, and proactively address customer needs. 

Business reviews become awkward exchanges of invaluable information or sales pitches that put off the customer from renewing their subscription.

Above all, the lack of a structured approach can quickly lead to a misalignment of expectations and missed opportunities for value delivery and before you know it, churn becomes unpredictable and uncontrollable.

Elements of a Success Plan

In the industry, Success Plans differ in detail and scope depending on the complexity of your product, Customer Success offerings, maturity of your organization, and other parameters. Regardless of these parameters, let’s look at the ‘bones’ of an ideal Success Plan:

Executive Summary:

A concise overview of your customer’s purpose for this partnership, laid out in collaboration with key customer stakeholders. The best time to start building your Success Plan is at the beginning of your partnership with the client; if you can initiate one when they’re a near-close prospect, this would be even better as it sets the stage for a value-based relationship from the get-go. However, it’s never too late to get started!

Example:

Our Executive Summary for Walmart (as a client of Stripe) is:
We aim to leverage Stripe to power seamless end-to-end transactions for our customers.

Current State Assessment:

This refers to the evaluation of the customer’s current state pre-product implementation, and you can work in conjunction with your Sales team as well as customer to prepare this. Looking into the customer’s existing processes, challenges, and needs will help you make the right strategic recommendations to set up this basis for the Success Plan.

Example:

Before integrating Stripe's payment platform, Walmart bore the brunt of complex payment processing systems across multiple global markets. High transaction failure rates and chargebacks pose challenges. Through close examination, we identify opportunities for process optimization, fraud reduction, and enhanced payment acceptance to fuel Walmart's growth and elevate the customer experience.

Goals and Objectives:

Your client’s current state assessment will help pave the way towards working with the customer to clearly define their goals. Remember: These are your customer’s goals, not your goals. Once these goals are outlined in the Success Plan, you can now start to map out exactly how the customer can leverage your product to achieve these.

Example:

Walmart’s high-level goals:

  1. Streamline global payment processing

  2. Increase in transaction success rate

Reduce chargebacks

Actionable Steps and Milestones:

These stem from your customer’s high-level goals; the quality of the recommended actions you put forward for your clients will make or break their success with your product. One way to ensure this is by leaning into your data, understanding relevant industry metrics relevant to you and your customers, and translating these into actionable insights for your clients.

More on this in a future blog post. Data-driven storytelling is an asset in any CS professional’s arsenal.

Example:

  1. Increase Payment Success Rate: Achieve a 20% improvement in transaction success rates by implementing Stripe's advanced fraud detection and payment optimization tools.

  2. Streamline Global Payment Operations: Simplify and centralize Walmart's payment processing across various international markets using Stripe's unified platform, resulting in reduced complexities and increased efficiency.

  3. Reduce Chargebacks: Implement proactive measures and risk assessment tools to reduce chargebacks by 15% and minimize potential revenue losses.


Resource Allocation:

Equipping your clients with the correct customer education will set them up for success. Training materials and content in association with recommended actions all mapped against their goals will strengthen synergies and accountability towards driving value.

Example:

Providing links to tutorials, training, community or knowledge base in a well-structured format.

Regular Review and Evaluation: 

Ongoing monitoring and assessment of the customer's progress, course-correcting as needed to ensure success.A Success Plan built without iteration and check-ins is pointless and does not deliver true value in an agile manner, lacking flexibility in changing economic and business circumstances. Checking in regularly is important to keep clients on the right track to success, enabling you to stay ahead of risks, reveal opportunities, and identify expansion opportunities. This is where you reinforce your worth as an invaluable asset to your clients.

Example:

Meeting at a regularly-defined cadence with the right decision-makers at the customer end in order to keep their Success Plans progressing and up to date. For your higher ARR or higher growth opportunity customers, this could be bi-weekly, while for lower ARR customers this could be monthly.

Takeaways

In summary, to make Success Plans work effectively, there are several key points to consider.

Success Plans should be value-focused, centering on delivering tangible outcomes for the client. Align the plan with your customer’s goals and objectives to ensure it addresses their specific aspirations.

Shared accountability with the customer is essential for Success Plans to be actionable and productive. Maintain open lines of communication with clients, providing guidance and addressing any concerns they may have. Set the stage for a two-way relationship that encourages client feedback and input; their insights are absolutely necessary to power your collaborative Success Plan.

Additionally, Success Plans should be data-driven, utilizing relevant data and insights to guide clients effectively. Gather and analyze data around client usage, engagement, and results to identify areas for improvement and inform decision-making. Use data to track progress, measure success, and offer data-backed recommendations.

Another powerful technique is the art of storytelling. Instead of simply presenting facts and figures, craft a compelling narrative around the Success Plan. Use storytelling to paint a vivid picture of the customer’s journey, emphasizing the positive impact the plan can have on their business. Stories resonate with clients on an emotional level and can inspire them to actively engage with your shared Success Plan.

Lastly, your Success Plan should be dynamic in nature; regularly evaluate and iterate on it. Continuously monitor the customer’s progress, collect feedback, and adapt the plan as needed. Success Plans should be adaptable, allowing for adjustments based on changing client needs, market conditions, and other factors.

By incorporating value-focused strategies, shared accountability, leveraging data, utilizing storytelling techniques, fostering collaboration, and maintaining a regular feedback loop, Success Plans can be the engine to drive positive customer outcomes and facilitate a successful long-term partnership between you and your customers.

Thank you for reading!

Credits

Sumitra Narayanan

This work wouldn’t have been possible without the expertise and collaboration of Sumitra Narayanan, a CS leader from Braze. Sumitra discussed with us how to craft effective Success Plans based on her Customer Success experience. We’re honored to share some of her insights in this article.

Success Plans hub

You can learn more about Success Plans, view examples, and create your own, visit our dedicated hub.

If you’d like to collaborate on an article like this one, please hit us up:

hello@retentional.co