You’ve just been appointed as a new VP of Customer Success.
Congratulations! Now what?
Over the last couple of years I’ve worked with many Customer Success executives who have been in this situation. I wanted to share an action plan for your first 30-60-90 days.
In the first 30 days: Set a baseline
As the new VP of Customer Success your first job is to understand what you’re walking into. This is the time to find any problem areas and establish where the team stands at the moment. To do this you must understand the status of your customers base and as well as the health of these accounts.
Step 1: Get visibility into your customer base
Build a renewal map: Given that there is immediate revenue impact, customer renewals are important area to focus on. What is the status of these accounts, is there an immediate problem you have to solve for or is this a future concern that you can deal with down the road? Understanding where these customers stand will help you establish your immediate priorities.
Identify problem areas: As you start reviewing where you are today, you will quickly see problem areas that need to be addressed. These could be issues related to onboarding, training, support, the product, your engagement model and process, anything. Highlighting these early will help you build a plan to move forward.
Step 2: Learn more about your customers
Analyze churned and happy customers: Take a look at the customers who’ve churned and renewed in the last 6-12 months to see what the data tells you about these groups. Are their key milestones and events that are indicators of positive or negative performance? Collecting these data points will help you hone in on what indicators your team should be using so they can proactively manage their customer accounts.
Identify your champions: These users can be relied on to provide you with anecdotal feedback and additional insights to your how these accounts are using your product. It’s important to introduce yourself to their contacts because they’ll provide accurate and honest feedback that can be leveraged by your and your team.
Meet your customers: Start taking time to meet with your customers, closed lost opportunities and even accounts who have just churned. As the “new guy” you can ask more questions and get greater insights into what happened in these accounts. These don’t need to be sales meetings but instead fact-finding missions for you to get a better understanding of what you do well and what you need to do better.
Step 3: Learn more about your team
Analyze your team: The first 30 days is your opportunity to get to know your team and establish their strengths and weaknesses. What are the gaps that you need to address? There are lots of different ways to organize your team based on the complexity of the product, the roles and responsibilities, and the pay structure.
In the first 60 days: Define an action plan
Once you’ve taken stock of the current situation, it’s time to work on your action plan. Based on what you learned, what are areas that can be fixed quickly and make a big impact vs. major gaps that will require more time to solve.
Step 1: Define your customer journey
Determine the right customer segmentation: You may already have segmentation in place, now is the time to determine if this is done correctly. Segmentation will help you determine not only how your team interacts with customers but also how you evaluate their use of the product.
Map your customer journey: Take the milestones and events that you learned and spend time defining the customer journey for each segment you identified. What path should the customer take that leads them to value and, in turn renewal? What are the actions that lead toward churn along the way?
Step 2: Implement an early warning system
Once you have the data and the customer journey mapped you can set up alerts for your customer base that allow you to address problems immediately as opposed to waiting for time based check-ins. An early warning system enables your team to focus on the accounts that need help instead of only managing those with the largest account value.
Step 3: Create executive dashboards
Establishing clear ways of measuring and communicating success is imperative to driving support for your team. In order to make the conversation easy, build executive dashboards that highlight your key metrics and indicate progress that you’ve been making. Key metrics will vary based on your organization but may include: overall customer health, % churn, Customer Retention Cost (CRC), portfolio score, and engagement.
Step 4: Design your engagement model
As you build the internal processes to identify and measure your customer base you’ll want to establish how your Customer Success Managers engage with their customers. For accounts having trouble with onboarding, what tools should be leveraged to get them on track? For customers with renewal coming up are there specific meetings that can be used to ensure the customer is on track.
Figuring out the best course of action should still be left to the determination of the CSM but here are some engagement models you can consider.
- QBR: A scheduled review with the account, this is great for high touch customers who may have custom accounts.
- Surveys: Can be run periodically or based on a customer action as an impassive way to collect feedback.
- Meetings: This is a good way for your team to understand what is going on in an account as well as build relationships with the key stakeholders
- Advisory Board: Designed to provide feedback from key accounts that can help you make executive roadmap decisions.
- Training: Can be used for onboarding, with the release of new features or even for new users added to the account.
- Webinars: One to many presentations that can help your customers continue to move along their journey.
Step 5: Build the right customer success team and specialize
Start by filling in the gaps that were identified early on; this may be simply hiring new Customer Success Managers or adding Customer Success Engineers that can focus on the more technical aspects of the product. There may be training required for your current customer base that will help them improve their position. This is also the time to make sure you have correctly distributed your customer base to each member of your team.
In the first 90 days: Build smart, repeatable, scalable programs
Now that you have identified that areas of improvement and defined your action plan it’s time to create programs that can be used by your team. These will help you quickly expand and optimize the process by which you engage with your customers and allow your team to become even more proactive.
Step 1: Roll out Customer Success programs
Drive more value and improve customer experience with clearly defined programs that keep customers on their journey to success. These programs should identify and mitigate any potential churn risks in the customer base but they also need to highlight potential growth opportunities.
Step 2: Make assumptions, measure and analyze
Once you’ve identified the key areas of focus to improve your Customer Success team it’s important to make sure you have a continuous feedback loop in place. As you move forward in your plan you need to continue to collect, analyze, and refine how your team engages with their customers.
Again, congratulations on your new role as VP of Customer Success. I hope this example plan will help you get started.
To see how Totango’s Customer Success Center enables the VP of Customer Success to manage both their customers’ success and their team’s success, watch this video on A Day in the Life of a VP of Customer Success.
As you start developing your team’s plan for superb customer success, use our helpful guides to lead you in the right direction: 6 Secrets of Great Customer Success and ROI Metrics: The best way to measure Customer Success.