How to Use Agile Customer Success Management to Increase Adoption
In our previous blog, Implementing Agile Customer Success Management we shared some best practices for incorporating agile techniques during the first stage (Land) of a post-sale customer relationship. This blog post covers how to continue using agile methodologies as your customers grow more loyal and continue to adopt your solution.
Agile methodologies work for Customer Success Management because of the iterative and cyclical nature of the Customer Success process in continually delivering value to customers. CSMs are always prioritizing outcomes for their customers, facilitating the route to reaching those outcomes, and re-evaluating goals in the cycle of continuous value attainment.
Agile Customer Success Within the Customer Lifecycle
Incorporating Agile Customer Success into the Customer Lifecycle begins from the very start of the relationship. Consider a sample customer lifecycle: Land, Adopt, Expand, Renew.
In a perfect world, customers have attained first value by the end of the Land stage.
While we know how important it is for our customers to see value quickly, we also recognize that the ongoing and increasing adoption of our solution is even more important in garnering loyalty, and ultimately advocacy. And, it’s crucial that the adoption process begins immediately upon the heels of demonstrating first value. Customers must go from “Aha” to “I need this” quickly and seamlessly.
Think of “Adopt” like dating. After that magical first date, it takes some work to deepen the commitment. CSMs who continue to bring customer and solution closer together are like matchmakers who help reveal and facilitate the love relationship.
Adoption only happens when customers remain engaged.
If Landing is a great first date, then Adopting is getting serious. Each touchpoint with a customer has the shared purpose of drawing the customer further into the solution and solidifying the commitment between customer and platform.
During the Adoption stage, CSMs play the vital role of matchmaker, continually and prescriptively helping customers gain increased value from their solution. The agile methodology supports this iterative approach by identifying manageable goals and attaining them in short sprints, then moving on to more goals. Each time, they are securing a greater commitment from the customer, which leads the way to expansion down the road.
Just as you don’t get to meet a new partner’s family until you’ve gotten to know him/her pretty well, you wouldn’t entrust a provider with advanced organizational outcomes until you have built up trust in the platform. CSMs are in charge of monitoring and anticipating customers’ readiness to advance to new stages of adoption. They know the expectations for the customer’s lifecycle, and they also know their customers’ readiness. They use this information to gradually lead customers through steps to grow in comfort with the platform before they gain increased interest in knowing more and using the solution to attain more and larger goals.
The Customer Success Process can benefit from incorporating sprint cycles in facilitating adoption for our customers. Well-heeled Customer Success practices use Agile methodologies to:
- incorporate retrospectives,
- plan, schedule and lead meaningful monthly meetings, and
- conduct regular retrospectives to assess and re-prioritize
CSMs work collaboratively with customers to identify goals for the period. They then continue to facilitate the attainment of those goals for that period before moving to a second sprint round. These defined, iterative cycles allow for relatively quick wins (outcome achievements) which secure greater confidence, and, in turn, open the way for higher level goals and usage.
Basically, each sprint provides the opportunity for strengthening the relationship between the customer and the solution, and increasing the likelihood of renewal.
The value of the Sprint in re-engaging customers
When it appears a customer isn’t getting what they want from your solution, you have to ask yourself a few questions:
- Is it me (my platform) or them?
- Do we have the same goals for this relationship?
- Is there a communication breakdown?
Unless we can readily identify that our solution is NOT appropriate for our customer, we must go to great lengths to identify the root cause of the slippage.
- Perhaps we are moving too fast?
- Or maybe we’ve failed to understand their objectives clearly?
- Or, maybe there’s a gap between skills and resources?
Whatever the underlying cause, the agile methodology allows us to regroup and reprioritize without pulling out the surrender flag. Each sprint cycle incorporates retrospectives on past objectives, planning for short-term goals, and regular reviews. These short cycles allow both customer and CSM to see potential areas of concern and address them or shift direction. Slippage should only be brief, and getting a customer re-engaged is as simple as starting a new (mutually agreed upon) sprint.
Adoption is the critical lifestage in subscription-based relationships that bonds the customer to the solution. Levels of interest and commitment ebb and flow as relationships become solidified. The agile approach to adoption works with this potentially erratic progress by building in cycles of priorities and facilitation. By using this iterative sprint methodology, CSMs are never left in the dark about a customer’s health and interest, and know what to do at each turn to keep the customer advancing toward expansion and renewal.