Incorporating the best of Agile for Customer Retention
The self-managed, customer-focused nature of the Agile methodology is fast becoming the go-to approach for managing projects and accounts across industries and functions. The Scrum framework and Kanban system, which are associated with Agile, are particularly beneficial in managing the work involved in customer retention. Consider Agile Scrumban as the ideal solution for doing and managing the multifaceted and collaborative work of Customer Success.
Profound knowledge and effective business organization
To understand where the benefits of an Agile approach come from, we need to start with some foundational thoughts on best practices for creating systems for managing work.
Recall Dr. Edward Deming from your Principles of Management classes? He was a renowned thinker and leader in the areas of effective business organization. His thought leadership managed to bring about successful changes in the way the automotive industry worked internally and delivered to its customers, and it was pivotal in Japan’s economic recovery post World War II. Deming proffered the notion that business systems must be built on a Profound Knowledge, incorporating 4 basic principles:
- Appreciation for a System: the system must consist of interdependent components that each contribute their best, and work together to accomplish a single aim.
- Knowledge for Variation: all members must understand the uniqueness in customer characteristics, what is sold and how it is implemented.
- Theory of Knowledge: theory is the way we create meaning out of experiences. It allows us to establish best practices based upon analyses of experiences. Without theory, we are unable to ask questions, challenge assumptions, and learn.
- Psychology: both intrinsic and extrinsic motivations must be managed concurrently.
How Kanban fits the criteria for Profound Knowledge
The Agile approach to managing the work involved in customer retention adheres to Deming’s guiding principles of profound knowledge.
Consider how a Kanban system of visualizing tasks (a columnar/swim-lane approach to identifying tasks within a workflow) fits within the criteria:
- Appreciation for a System: Understanding a system is difficult. Kanban helps by making the goals, capabilities and boundaries very clear.
- Knowledge for Variation: Variation is inevitable. The size and complexity of the work is not uniform. Kanban reduces the overall impact of variation.
- Theory of Knowledge: A culture of continuous improvement is necessary. Kanban enables metrics, operations, and retrospectives which support hypothesizing and proving best practices.
- Psychology: Employee engagement is critical. Kanban shows progress and demonstrates contributions of each team member.
Another basic tenet of the Agile methodology is the Scrum (a set of practices used in agile project management that emphasize daily communication and the flexible reassessment of plans that are carried out in short, iterative phases of work). Along with Kanban, these core building blocks of the Agile methodology reflect Deming’s principles of Profound Knowledge and can be applied across areas of work beyond their origins in software development. Together, Agile, Scrum, and Kanban (Agile Scrumban), form an approach which is grounded in proven theory about effective systems of work.
Agile Scrumban and Customer Success Management
Consider how these fundamental tenets of Agile Scrumban are well supported in managing the work involved in customer retention (often done by Customer Success Managers):
- Agile reflects the iterative nature of Customer Success, which enables relationships to build incrementally without necessarily having a singular end-goal in mind.
- The Scrum framework, with iterative short sprints and retrospectives accommodates changes and provides more transparency into all aspects of the relationship.
- Finally, and most importantly, the Kanban system of visualizing work is intuitive, increases flexibility, reduces waste, and maximizes customer value.
Any Customer Success solution (technology and process) should incorporate these elements, providing full visibility into the work that must be done to retain loyal customers.
Agile Scrumban applies to both the function and approach of Customer Success as it:
- Focuses on the customer’s needs first.
- Allows team members to manage their own work and organize around their roles and responsibilities.
- Enables best practices to evolve that improve customer retention and the attainment of business outcomes.
- Is served within a visual system that is not time bound.
Practical Benefits of Agile Scrumban in Customer Retention
The value of an Agile Scrumban customer success management approach does not lie in theory alone. The benefits are practical and far-reaching.
Here are 8 key value propositions of such an approach:
- Embraces change & increases flexibility.
- Easy to use and quick time to first value.
- Faster delivery & flow.
- Strong team interaction.
- More transparency & usability.
- Increased accountability.
- Saves money & reduces waste.
- Customers are heard.
If you are forming a Customer Success team or rechartering an existing team, consider the benefits of an Agile Scrumban foundation to retain more loyal customers. No other approach provides the flexibility and adaptability that Customer Success demands.