When do your prospects become customers? Technically speaking it’s when they first sign a contract, create an account, or pay for a license. However, in the age of SaaS, those things are often just the first step of an extended evaluation period. With a low barrier to entry and an even lower barrier to exit, it becomes critical to quickly guide your customers to realize the value and continue to deliver on that value over time. In this article we will cover how to use Coordinate’s Plans to provide your customers with a clear path towards success that helps set expectations, align your teams, and hold them accountable.
A Coordinate Plan is primarily a communication tool aimed at maintaining alignment between all stakeholders, setting clear expectations, and tracking progress toward high-value goals. There are a few simple guidelines for creating an effective Plan that will motivate your customers:
- Write the Plan from the customer’s perspective
- Address common pitfalls
- Lead the customer to their goals
Writing Plans from the customer’s perspective
To make an effective Plan, it’s important to keep the intended audience in mind. Who are your stakeholders? Generally speaking, stakeholders are all those with a vested interest in the business goals. That means you have to consider everyone from the executive sponsor to the PM or primary contact you’re working with every day. The executive sponsor might only check the plan occasionally to see how their goals are coming along while others might be interacting with individual tasks daily.
The Plan needs to be easily understandable for those that are intimately involved as well as those that only check in occasionally. This may sound obvious, but some key points should be kept in mind:
1. Keep it simple
Remember that the Plans are meant to align teams and lead them to their goals, not to replace all of your other product documentation or project ideas. You may have many internal steps required to onboard your new customer, but you can represent that in the Plan in a clear and concise way to your customers. All they need to know is that you’re working on it and when it will be finished. For example, a single task assigned to your team could simply be “Account Setup”.
2. Elevate the Plan
Do you have 20 steps that need to be completed to configure SSO? Instead of creating 20 individual tasks, you can create one called “Configure SSO” that either has a checklist or links to a more detailed how-to document. This captures the task accurately, keeping things simple to track and easy to follow.
3. Use their language
Whenever possible use your customer’s terminology in the plan. This is especially important for their goals. Using their language will make the plan more relevant and help motivate them to reach their goals.
4. Groups should stand alone
When organizing your plan into groups make sure they are logical and descriptive. Your executive sponsor should be able to understand the big picture and assess where they are in the Plan without digging into the details and tasks.
Addressing common pitfalls
Customer success teams are all well versed in Murphy’s Law. If there is something that can go wrong in your processes when working with customers, it will. When those issues are on your side of the equation you can iterate on your processes and improve them over time. But what do you do when there are common pitfalls in your customer’s success that are out of your control?
- Getting stuck or confused when implementing or configuring your solutions
- Not allowing proper time or assigning sufficient resources to be successful
- Lack of clarity around responsibilities or goals
- Competing priorities leading to missed deadlines or lowered engagement
Your best weapon against these kinds of issues is communication! The more you can clearly lay out expectations, define commitments, and establish alignment early, the more likely it is that the customer will follow through.
When you’re putting together your plans in Coordinate, consider where these challenges lie for you and make sure to address them head-on. For example, if you find that customers often underestimate the time commitment and resources they’ll need to be successful with your products, explicitly point out those requirements in the plan and review them with your customers early on. This can help you set realistic timelines and secure the resources you need from your customers. Similarly, if there are prerequisites that are outside of your control those need to be clearly outlined in the plan.
Leading the customer to their goals
If your customer has a goal they are hoping to achieve in six months, but your plan only covers their initial onboarding that takes six weeks, your plan isn’t complete. What does your customer need to be doing in the following months to be successful? Enforcing new SOPs, onboarding new users, adopting additional use cases? You’re the experts, so your customer will look to you for guidance on how to reach their goals. Lay it out for them clearly so that when you have your check-in a month after go-live you can ask how they’re doing on the plan to reach their goals! Remember that you’re not successful until your customer is successful, so avoid celebrating too early or disengaging prematurely.
The purpose of Coordinate is to help you reliably deliver success to your customers. To do that you need to create effective Plans. Following the simple guidelines described above, your Plans will show your customers how to reach their goals while also saving time and effort for yourself!