Incorporating an Agile Customer Success Process Begins in the Land Stage
- Attain customer satisfaction through continuous delivery.
- Don’t be afraid to make changes.
- Cross-functional collaboration is key.
- Agile processes promote sustainability.
- Simplicity is essential.
- Inspect and Adapt.
The Virtuous Cycle
As B2B SaaS companies seek to operationalize their Customer Success process, consider the benefits of Agile. The virtuous cycle of agile Customer Success allows teams (from across the enterprise) to collaborate, identify and prioritize initiatives, deliver value expediently, assess value, tailor the approach, and identify new priorities as they arise.
The key concepts of Agile Customer Success are reflective of its origins in software development:
- The goals and strategic vision are the starting point.
- In consultation with the customer–scrumming, if you will– outcomes are prioritized. Priorities may change based upon where the customer is in his/her lifecycle.
- Once the priorities are agreed upon, the Customer Success team works in a focused way to facilitate the attainment of the identified goals, at which point value (for those selected outcomes and period of time) is realized. Trust is established, and delight with the solution is growing.
- The Customer Success Team then listens and works collaboratively with the customer while revisiting original desired outcomes. Together, they make adjustments or re-prioritize new goals.
This completes a single virtuous cycle of engaging with the customer, which is repeated (in approach, but with updated outcomes and approaches) throughout the life of the relationship.
Agile Customer Success Within the Customer Lifecycle
Incorporating the Agile Customer Success process into the Customer Lifecycle begins at the very start of the relationship. Consider a sample customer lifecycle: Land, Adopt, Expand, Renew.
Landing is not merely onboarding and launching; it is actually the time to first value (TTV). Customers in the XaaS world have the expectations to reach first value within four to 12 weeks. This cannot happen without an agile approach, which includes discovering, communicating and prioritizing desired outcomes first.
At Kickoff , the customer’s desired outcomes are communicated (or re-discovered). It’s the Customer Success Manager’s job to make sure those outcomes are realistic, given the customer’s internal capacity. The discovery process should also involve breaking big visions/goals into bite-sized pieces that can be achieved in short order. Then, and only then, can enablement and configuration take place, built around these priorities. It is out of these agreed upon outcomes that configuration is planned so that launch actually targets a speedy time to first value. This sets the customer up for seeing value in a timely fashion.
How Bolstra uses Agile during the Land stage of the lifecycle
We are SaaS providers, just like our customers. So, we practice what we preach. From the moment a new customer is handed over to our Customer Success team, we get agile. Our customers all have the same big-picture goal: reduce churn so they can grow their customer lifetime value. And, while we promise to get them to that place using our solution, we know the importance of getting them into our platform and seeing results quickly. Keeping in mind their overall goal, we help to parse it into manageable and attainable goals. That means we work with our users (CSMs) to identify quick wins, such as:
- seeing all their accounts and tasks in a single platform,
- simplifying their daily work flow, or
- having full visibility into renewal cycles for all their customers.
No longer are they trying to eat the elephant (reducing churn) in one sitting, but they are taking substantial bites along the way.
Managing Obstacles is part of the Agile Customer Success process
Nowhere in the Customer lifecycle are potential obstacles to value attainment more visible than in the Land stage. During the sales process, customers may have shared all their wants and needs, but it’s possible they have not been fully transparent about their capacity to achieve those goals. In the Agile methodology, this moment of vulnerability is actually an opportunity. The kickoff should be that opportunity to let it all hang out, and it’s incumbent upon the Customer Success Manager to enable that kind of disclosure. Only then can you truly right-size goals to meet capacity so that those small wins can happen in a timely fashion.
Let’s consider an example.
You’ve just sold your marketing analytics platform to a customer with the promise of increasing lead generation threefold. Upon transfer of the account from sales to the Customer Success team, you learn that the customer lacks the full capacity to work with the data that your platform generates. While they are eager to maximize their lead generation, you know they are being set up for failure if you don’t help them understand how to first manage the data.
What’s your best first step?
You have to reset their goals to address the need for knowledge transfer so that they are able to take steps toward their larger goal of lead generation. While it may appear, at first consideration, to be a delay in value attainment, it actually expedites it because you’ve provided them with a win more quickly, rather than a failure further down the line.
This is what Agile Customer Success Management is all about. It’s showing value iteratively. In the Land stage of the Customer Lifecycle, getting to first value quickly is imperative. That’s why it’s critical to identify and prioritize the right goals, and then get about achieving those. That opens the door to Adoption, and the agile cycle begins again.