You know exactly what your customer should do or experience at every juncture of implementing your solution. You have a well-defined customer lifecycle which identifies stages and achievements within each stage. You even know who is responsible within your organization for managing the relationship at each turn. However, you still have an adoption and retention issue. Maybe the problem isn’t managing your lifecycle, but rather managing the actual work that is being done to cultivate loyal customers.
Defining a customer lifecycle is no small task, but it’s also not enough.
Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA) describes the customer lifecycle as:
“The progression of steps a customer goes through when considering, purchasing, using, and maintaining loyalty to a product or service.”
Understanding the stages and achievements a customer will (should) go through to become a loyal, renewing customer is a basic tenet of customer success. Some might argue that a customer lifecycle is the blueprint for being proactive in delivering value and cementing the relationship.
Consider a caveat:
A Customer Lifecycle is only as good as the WORK that CSMs do to create and mature engagement.
Knowing what your customer is supposed to experience on their way to loyalty is great, but it’s not going to guarantee said loyalty unless the prescribed activities that define those experiences are executed properly. As activity and work management go, so goes lifecycle management, and so goes increased loyalty.
Customers Don’t Care About Lifecycles
Your customer is indifferent to whether you define your customer lifecycle using Acquisition, Engagement, and Retention stages, or you use the Land, Adopt, Expand, Renew nomenclature that TSIA promotes. All your customer wants is to leverage your solution to solve their problems. So, just because you say your customer is in the Adoption (or Engagement) stage, and they have an assigned CSM to provide ongoing training and support, it doesn’t mean you’re meeting their goals by purchasing your solution. Customers don’t care about lifecycles. They care about what you DO to connect their needs with your solution.
It’s all about the Blocking and Tackling
What does it take to “land” a new customer after they’ve signed the contract? Perhaps you’ve identified the activities and achievements necessary to consider a customer landed, such as:
- a kickoff,
- admin training and configuration,
- end-user training, and
- attainment of an agreed upon first value.
These are reasonable activities to conduct with customers to move them through the Land stage of your customer lifecycle. However, each of these must have a defined protocol and the right assigned resource to be truly effective in ushering a customer toward adoption. They require the right work being done at the right time.
Consider your Kickoff meeting. If it doesn’t effectively increase customer enthusiasm, then the relationship is beginning at a deficit. The customer doesn’t care that another meeting has been set to train an admin if they don’t wrap up the kickoff fully affirmed in the reasons they purchased to begin with along with agreeing on a plan for attaining a mutually agreed upon first value. Lifecycle stages or achievements aren’t worth the Excel doc or CS platform they’re documented in, if the right work isn’t being done by the right people.
The blocking and tackling of customer success is the core of intentionally maturing your customer and garnering actual loyalty from them. It involves defining and assigning each of the achievements within the customer lifecycle, and then delivering with consistent excellence. This is what matters to customers.
The solution lies in excellent work management
Work management may not be as sexy as customer lifecycle management, but it’s the holy grail for customer success. Without it, customer success is relegated to theory, measurement and checklists. And, like customer lifecycle management, it’s easier said, than done. Knowing WHAT to do is part of it, but then having a strategy (and technology) to execute is the linchpin to establishing and maintaining loyalty. Read our full guide on improving customer retention.
To be excellent at work management, you’ll need to:
- Be agile. Establish priorities. Facilitate a plan. Listen/review. And then tailor your path to the next stage of value delivery.
- Automate workflows when you can. Don’t let important tasks slip through the cracks. If possible, create triggered workflows so nothing is forgotten, and what works is standardized.
- Align resources with tasks. Know what work requires which skills, and charter your Customer Success team accordingly. Not all solutions warrant the same skillsets to deliver value to customers. Hire and assign the right resources for the work you need done to engage your customers.
- Manage capacity with accuracy. Accurate capacity planning is required for customer lifecycle management and work management to be effective and efficient for both the customer and the SaaS provider. For the customer, it’s about getting the right work done at the right time. For the vendor it’s about having the right type and quantity of resource(s) assigned to the right tasks. This can only be done when accurate data can be gleaned about time and effort spent on tasks and elapsed over time.
- Have solid Customer Success leadership. While the work is done at the CSM level, CS leaders have to keep the team on course and know when to make adjustments. Great CS leaders know that retention and advocacy are the goals of their team, and can make the proper small adjustments to their work and resources that will have the most positive impacts on consistent and continuous adoption and engagement.
Invest in a platform that supports the work management of Customer Success Management.
Many CS platforms are built to provide information about account health and churn risk. Knowing how engaged a customer is is far different from keeping a customer engaged. The work of CSMs is the basic building block of customer engagement, adoption, and loyalty. Therefore, a platform for Customer Success Management ought to provide a simplified way for them to manage the work required of them.