Managing B2B Customer Lifecycle Stages

Keeping pace with your customer’s evolving needs and experiences throughout their journey is essential to remaining a part of their plans. The most effective way to follow this progress is to break down the journey into modular B2B customer lifecycle stages.

This breakdown helps turn the sprawl of an ongoing customer relationship into a series of clearly defined stages that ensure every action you undertake is aligned with generating customer value. Each stage is equipped with goal-based, results-driven tasks that turn customer growth into a straightforward process of day-to-day activities. 

Goal-Based, Results-Driven Customer Success

The digital transformation of business has encouraged customers to seek personalized, on-demand services and products built for their needs. The resulting subscription and SaaS supplier models spread customer lifetime value across repeated cycles of renewal and upsell and give customers the power to walk away if they’re not satisfied.

The customer success approach to meeting this challenge is to be part of the customer experience and provide value at every stage of the customer journey. You continually impress your customers through proactive, personalized engagements that prove you are partners working for mutually beneficial growth.

The concept of B2B customer lifecycle stages gives focus to this ideal. Each phase has its own set of goals, and each set of goals is judged against a customer’s product usages and experience.

The most common stages are:

  • Onboarding
  • Adoption
  • Escalation
  • Renewal 

Remember, there are far more—or fewer—stages depending on your organization. Successful management of these stages will allow you to continually deliver value to your customers throughout the years. 

Onboarding – The First Step

Onboarding is your customer’s crucial first experience of your product, and a chance to reach first value. If you manage your B2B customer lifecycle stages properly, then the onboarding phase should focus on accelerating your customer’s ability to incorporate your product into their daily workflows. This is the quickest path to the experience of value and developing customer loyalty.

What you do in the immediate aftermath of the sales event can mean the difference between a life-long customer or a churn casualty. You want the benefit and results of the products they just bought to be 

During the onboarding stage you should be working to:

  • Encourage rapid completion of the onboarding program
  • Clear potential bottlenecks and delays
  • Establish a clear link between your product and your customer’s business goals
  • Develop lines of communication
  • Monitor product usage metrics 

Thinking in terms of distinct customer lifecycle stages lets you focus on the specific needs your customer has during onboarding. This also better prepares them for the other stages to come. 

Adoption – Customer Product Use

Adoption is the largest stage of the customer lifecycle and the point where they’ll spend most of their time. Essentially, it describes how well your customer uses your product to experience value. That having been said, always remember that product usage is the means to an end. It is the tool to achieve the customer’s business goals.

Your adoption goals will be guided by the information you collect on your customer’s ongoing product experience. These day-to-day behaviors can be combined with strong business algorithms to create product usage metrics and an overall customer health score that will guide your customer engagements. These tools let you prioritize your accounts so that those in danger of churn and those ready for renewal and upsell get fast attention.

For example, a customer with a low health score may have become frustrated with your product because they’ve not progressed to using more advanced business features. Closely following your customer will reveal this potential problem, and proactive thinking should mean there’s a personalized campaign ready to roll out that includes support for accessing the necessary features.

Because adoption is such a large stage of the journey—for years—your organization should be ready to accommodate product and workflow shifts based on customers’ ever-changing business needs.

Escalation – Opportunity in Disguise

Customer escalations are rare and valuable assets. If you receive any kind of feedback from your customers, cherish it. Sound B2B customer lifecycle stages management dictates that each phase of the journey must be driven by actions that align your goals with your customers, and escalation is the easiest to execute.

Here, you should work to ensure:

  • All customer escalations get a rapid, personalized response
  • The customer is informed of the escalation process and given a timeframe for a solution
  • Regular updates are sent to the customer as the process unfolds
  • All relevant internal stakeholders are notified of the problem
  • The escalation is compared to the experience of customer in the same account segments

Make sure you’re mapping the different escalation reasons, and building the proper playbooks and responses to each type. If you are lucky enough to hear directly from your customer be prepared to act on their advice, and potentially change your methods. 

Renewal – Everyone’s Responsibility

Renewal is essential to the growth of every SaaS enterprise. It is not exclusively tied to an anniversary date but is a result of the entire customer experience. That’s why it is critical that all the customer information you collect is shared between every team and stakeholder in your enterprise, without the need for additional passwords or siloed storage. 

B2B Customer Lifecycle Stages Drive Value

The customer lifecycle model of understanding modern business lets you stay relevant to your customer every step along their journey. Of course, these stages don’t occur in neat linear flows like rungs on a ladder. Rather, customers will frequently move between stages, and can experience multiple stages at once, such as an escalation during onboarding, or the need to return to onboarding elements during adoption.

To make sense of this complexity, you need comprehensive customer success software. The leading platforms let you collect and analyse data from multiple sources, generate meaningful metrics, and establish early warning alerts that prompt customer engagement in times of opportunity or danger.

With the right digital platform its possible to keep having meaningful conversations with your customers through years of mutually beneficial partnership. 

Totango customer success platforms are designed to keep you in constant contact with your customers. When you explore Spark you’ll find a powerful, adaptable way to collect and analyse data in real time so you can stay relevant to their growth. Create a free trial account today and find out more about your customers.

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