Here’s the rub: your high-value customers need a bespoke, customized experience based on their unique goals, and a cookie-cutter approach just doesn’t, well, cut it. At the same time, as your company grows, building a customer success strategy from scratch for each high-value client will eat up all your time and energy. You need to personalize your approach, but you don't need to reinvent the wheel.
For most business challenges today, the answer to scaling and efficiency is automation. But in customer success, automation is not the answer, especially for your high-value customers. For low-value customers, you can get away with automating processes like targeted emails, personalized messages, and product activation, but the larger the account, the more important it is to rely on human interaction over bots.
Below, we share tips on how you can document your customer success best practices so that as your business grows and incorporates new customer success agents and customers, you have a solid starting framework. The documented best practices won't be a complete guide to every customer situation — remember, you need to tailor your approach to each customer's unique needs and goals — but they can be a launching point for most customer interactions based on what's proven to work for your company in the past.
Define roles and responsibilities for internal stakeholders and make them visible across teams
From sales and implementation to customer success and expansion, there are multiple teams within your company that will interact with high-value customers. A charter of clearly defined roles and responsibilities will ensure that there are seamless handoffs between internal teams at each stage of the customer journey, leading to more efficiency and less confusion.
For example, it is the responsibility of the implementation and customer success teams to understand what the sales team sold to the customer, what their expectations are from the product, and how it relates to the use cases of the product. The sales team needs to extensively record the discovery process, customer goals, and opportunity notes so that when other teams take over, they are already familiar with the account, and the notes are visible when future team members join in.
You want all your teams to focus on the common goal of keeping your high-value customers happy by aligning with their north star. But when roles and responsibilities are not recorded and made visible, it leads to team conflict and a waste of time. The best way to ensure this doesn’t happen is to define the roles of each team and give them a clear workflow so that your high-value customers can smoothly move along the journey. Even as your sales and customer success teams grow, they know exactly where they fit in the pipeline based on their role description.
Make an onboarding checklist that leaves room for change and growth
An onboarding checklist helps your customer success team stay on track for each new customer, especially as you take on new hires who need to be brought up to speed. However, customer journeys aren’t straightforward and linear. And your onboarding checklist shouldn’t be, either. Nothing is more frustrating for a customer than a rigid process that doesn’t allow them to fulfill their unique needs.
For example, an onboarding checklist can remind your team to start with simple processes because not every customer will be technologically adept and have the same level of knowledge. For more complex products and industries, it's important to include customer education as an early onboarding step. If your onboarding checklist is too rigid, and you give the same style and amount of education to each customer, you risk going too fast for beginners and boring (or even offending) experts by going too quickly or slowly, respectively.
So, while it's important to consider customer education for every single new customer onboarding, it's equally important to leave room for flexibility. Before working through the checklist with utter faith, assess which items on the checklist are most important for each unique customer.
Collaborate with your customers to set expectations that hold both parties accountable
As the service provider, take charge and sit your customer down to develop a concrete list of clear goals and expectations. It may feel like you're forcing them to do extra work, but without establishing a common understanding of what your partnership is working toward, success is an ambiguous, moving target.
While customer contacts and success agents come and go, one thing should anchor your partnership with your customers: their goals. That's why it's so important to sit down with your customer at the onset of the relationship to plan milestones and tasks and agree on priorities while not losing sight of the overall strategy.
Let’s walk through how Smarking, a SaaS startup facing the challenges of a rapidly growing team and customer base, achieved this. Their situation was typical: their pre-contract information and implementation details were scattered across spreadsheets and slide decks, and customer collaboration was primarily through emails, meetings, and shared documents.
Employees were unable to implement smooth handoffs because they were busy answering questions or stepping in to assist until the next person was fully up to speed. Every decision turned into an internal discussion, adding to the account management overhead.
The company needed a simple, collaborative tool for a centralized view of all interactions with the customer — discussion threads, feedback, quick wins — a tool they could use to remind customers of upcoming deadlines and updates easily and instantly, so they could keep customer goals front and center.
With Coordinate, Smarking found a single source of truth — a centralized place to record, view, and manage each customer’s status on achieving milestones, feedback on how things were going, and long-term goals. Notes and discussion threads enable teams to collaborate more effectively on big accounts without the need to huddle for every decision. New hires are onboarded quickly and efficiently, with sufficient context to dive into customer management.
Prepare modifiable scripts for the most common customer scenarios
Customers come in all types, and so do their interactions. They may be angry, silent, or constantly demanding. Your customer success team needs to be well-prepped to handle their queries, issues, and even rants.
Scripts help your customer success team have a starting point to respond to the most rote customer interactions to avoid the time and energy that goes into typing up a similar email from scratch over and over again. For example, having scripts for scheduling a business review or reaching out to an unresponsive customer can be a big time-saver.
However, because customers (and their communication expectations) are all different, it's important to leave enough wiggle room in those scripts to allow your customer success team to tailor responses to each specific customer.
Better still, have your experienced sales and customer success team members collaborate to put together the best tips and tricks they’ve gathered when dealing with customers. Consistently review interactions as a team to reflect on how these scripts can be improved and updated over time.
Set up a default end-to-end customer roadmap for all customer success managers
Customers today are seeking consistent services and constant engagement. A high-level roadmap that outlines the customer journey makes it easy for your team to achieve the minimum amount of contact with each new customer. A roadmap ensures you default to a solid minimum, from which you can always go above and beyond for your highest-value customers.
Build different roadmaps for your low-value accounts and your enterprise accounts. When a CSM knows the type of account they are handling, they have a visible starting point and can make the right investment of time and effort.
The end-to-end customer roadmap should help CSMs keep a bird’s-eye view on these steps:
- What is the north star for the customer? Have goals and objectives been identified?
- What are the touchpoints in the customer lifecycle, from purchase, implementation, and onboarding to renewal, and which teams will be involved at each stage?
- How frequently will the CSM monitor customer sentiment through emails, phone calls, discussion threads, and Quarterly Business Reviews?
- Which tool will be used to collaborate and track goals and to ensure customer success?
Tailor your customer success best practices for all high-touch customers
For high-touch customers, specifically, you can’t plug and play. You need to set up living, collaborative sources of truth in the form of customer-facing playbooks. These playbooks provide a documented, systematic framework off of which teams can customize customer success best practices through a robust onboarding process, continuous interactions, feedback loops, and customer success plans. At the end of the day, it is your customers who decide if you’ve delivered value.