Making the Case for Agile Customer Success Strategies
Customer Success Best Practices Incorporate the best of Agile Methodologies
“Agile” isn’t just for software development. It’s an innovation-based, iterative approach that’s being used in marketing, logistics, HR, and more. Agile Customer Success Management is the best way to ensure your customers get a consistently excellent experience with your solution, remain loyal, and become advocates. As you determine what your customer success best practices are, and charter your team within the enterprise, consider the benefits of incorporating an agile approach.
A Little Background
In the shift from on-prem software to SaaS, buying, implementation, product updates, and service/support models changed dramatically.
In a nutshell, we went from:
- often expensive platforms
- few options to choose from
- waterfall style implementation
- less informed buyers
- lower entry costs
- many options to choose from
- customers wanting/needing an ongoing relationship
- reliance on professional expertise
- more informed buyers
The customer gains control
We can’t forget that as this shift has happened, the buyer has gained greater control over our brand. Crowd sourcing has given them a powerful voice, and we all are beholden to it. It takes just a few minutes for a customer to write a review that all current and future prospects will read and use in making their buying decision. With the customer in control, they (deservedly) expect:
- Results – time to first value
- Constant Improvement – ever evolving products and services
- Expert Services – knowledgeable and accessible resources
- Ongoing value – continual attainment of their Desired Outcomes
Old-school implementation methodologies no longer work
The problem is that many of us are still implementing and delivering old-school style. The “vicious cycle” of SOWs and professional services to address customer needs is antiquated. This model DOES NOT fit with SaaS. Rather, agile methodologies are the right customer success strategies for today’s SaaS CS teams.
Consider the Virtuous Cycle of Agile Customer Success
Looks familiar, doesn’t it? Designed around the same tenets of agile development, agile Customer Success allows customers to have more control over how they receive value from your solution. The iterative cycle allows CS teams to collaborate with customers to identify and prioritize initiatives, deliver value expediently, assess value, tailor the approach, and identify new priorities as they arise.
No More SOWs
SaaS Customer Success does not lend itself to SOWs to address every new customer need. In fact, this model renders obsolete such a cumbersome process. An agile approach to Customer Success incorporates retained services that are essential to implementation and ongoing adoption of value. When additional expertise is called for, there should be a menu of offerings and fees available for customers to select from. This lays it all out, and takes SOWs out of play. Instead, the customer knows upfront what’s “included” in their contract and what additional services they may opt for as needed.
Here’s a strategic way to distinguish between Customer Success and Expert (Assurance) Services:
The People, Process and Technology needed to DO Agile CS
Once you recognize the benefits of incorporating Agile methodologies into your Customer Success best practices, consider the people, process and technologies you’ll need. Here are some thoughts:
- People: CSMs must have right combo of technical, communication, and industry knowledge.
- Process: Spend some time understanding your ideal customer lifecycle, and charter your team to deliver around that model for every customer, every time. As you do that, the services you should include in your solution contract will naturally rise to the top. Build a cost structure to include those core services. Then continue to massage your menu of additional services such that they are value-rich (lead to strong adoption) and worth the extra fees to your customer.
(Read how Coveo figured out how to structure their offerings to become more valuable to their customers – and even profitable.)
- Technology: if you decide to invest in a technology to support your agile Customer Success team, consider one with customizable, flexible and automated workstream capabilities. You’ll also want time-tracking so that you can have accurate data for planning and delivering your offerings.
Agile … it’s not just for software development. Adopted properly, the agile approach to Customer Success management will yield stronger adoption, higher retention, and increased loyalty. Your customers want this.