Customer Success (CS) is all about ensuring customers reach their desired outcomes using your product. It’s also one of the biggest proponents of your company’s growth strategy. As your product continues to evolve, it helps to give your CS team a winning strategy to guide different customer interactions they’re likely to encounter throughout the customer journey. One way to do this is through the use of Customer Success playbooks!

In this post, we’ll be covering what Customer Success playbooks are, why they’re important, and how to build them for your team.

What is a Customer Success Playbook?

Customer Success playbooks are an internal list of reactive, proactive, and best practice activities to be carried out by Customer Success Managers (CSMs). Think of it as a pre-built set of tasks that can be assigned to an account or group of users at certain stages of their customer lifecycle to help them successfully adopt and engage with your product. Playbooks allow teams to create repeatable, scalable strategies for customer success at every stage of the customer journey.

The types of playbooks will depend on the company, complexity of the product, and goal a team is trying to accomplish—reduce churn, onboard new customers, or even quarterly business reviews. For instance, a large company with multiple customer tiers is likely to have a detailed set of onboarding playbooks for each customer tier, compared to a startup that may only have a playbook for onboarding beta testers. As time the product and business continue to grow, playbooks should be updated to reflect the changing needs of the CS team and their customers.

With this in mind, let’s take a quick look at why creating and iterating on playbooks is so important for your business.

Why is a Customer Success Playbook Important?

Not only are playbooks designed to improve the customer experience, but they also improve the lives of your CS team in a few different ways:

Scale and standardize your CS process

Playbooks allow you to proactively align your team around the actions required to drive customers towards their desired outcomes. There’s less room for individual error and more clear, repeatable processes that define when and how to engage with your customers. This empowers your CS team to drive your customers towards success no matter what.

Rally around customer challenges

As your team learns how to address new customer challenges, you can build a playbook to share knowledge on how to best address similar issues that arise. This in turn improves the customer experience because you’re targeting users with the information they need, right at the time they need it, so they don’t have to go searching for additional resources.

Track CSM performance

Tracking each CSM’s task completion is a simple way to ensure that the team is taking the right actions at the right time to drive Customer Success. As your product and business continue to grow, playbooks are a great guide for success teams to build upon and expand to make their daily lives easier and more efficient. It’s also a great way to understand which members of your team may need additional help in handling their assigned customers.

Quickly onboard new hires

By building a pre-defined set of tasks to follow, new CSMs won’t get lost trying to onboard a new customer or figuring out how to drive new feature adoption. As new hires begin to manage their assigned accounts, they’ll be able to trust that the guides they are following have proven successful and can be more confident in their role. The more confident your team, the more likely they are to build strong relationships with your users and empower their success in the product.

Creating A Playbook

There are five main steps of creating your own playbook: setting a playbook goal, determining where the playbook belongs along the customer journey, segmenting the impacted users, creating assets for your team, and finally reporting on the success of using the playbook. Let’s jump in!

1. Set a goal for the playbook

The first step of creating a playbook is have an explicit goal to accomplish. Are you trying to increase product adoption and user engagement? Are you worried about new strategies to decrease churn? Does your team need a more consistent onboarding process for enterprise tier customers? It’s important to understand exactly what aspect of the customer experience your team is optimizing so that you can tailor the action steps to align with the aspect of the customer journey and the type of users that are going to be impacted. This way, you’re not only making your CS team’s jobs easier, but you’re also creating a repeatable process for customers to find additional value form your product.

Let’s walk through an example playbook. Say your company has recently signed contracts with a number of VIP customers and the success of those accounts is going to be essential for the business. One goal you may have for a playbook is to make sure the onboarding process for those accounts is as smooth as possible, so they can fully adopt your product into their daily workflow and receive the most value possible.

2. Determine placement of the playbook

Different playbooks are going to have different goals, which means they are going to live in different places along the customer journey. Understanding the appropriate place for a playbook along the customer journey is also important for determining the trigger mechanism for the playbook. There’s a number of ways to trigger a playbook, but the most commons ones include Lifecycle Phase, Events, Schedules, or manually by a CSM.

Continuing with the example from before, a playbook geared towards improving onboarding is going to occur when a customer is first being onboarded into a product. You could use a lifecycle stage trigger so that when a customer moves first enters the onboarding stage, the assigned CSM get a notification of tasks to be completed.

3. Segment user by persona

Once you have a goal and determined the appropriate place for the playbook to be triggered, the next step is establishing which customers will benefit most from each type of playbooks and what the most appropriate out-reach tactic makes sense for that portion of the customer population. Personas allow you to target, track, and continuously report on user behavior trends for a segment of users that are similar in ways that matter to your business.

So you could associate the onboarding playbook you’ve been building out to a VIP persona and receive automatic updates as customers move in and out of the persona designation for tasks to be completed.

4. Create playbook assets

So you’ve finally figured out why you’re creating this new playbook and exactly who it’s going to impact. Now it’s time to actually list out the activities and resources required for each step of the playbook. Included materials could be email templates, call scripts, meeting agendas, presentations for customer calls, or even additional guides and FAQs to be sent out. The idea behind asset creation is that when your CSM has a task to complete for a customer they already have all the resources ready to go. This ensures a quick turn around for task completion for the team, but also the necessary resources available for them to be able to personalize information being sent to customers as needed.

For that VIP onboarding playbook, some assets that would make sense include a standard welcome email template, as well as messaging and a designated schedule for a company kick-off call, integration set up, and follow up calls. The more automated the tasks, the easier for CSMs to carry out.

5. Determine the success of the playbook

Simply creating and using a playbook as part of your daily workflow isn’t the end of the game. It’s essential to evaluate the success of the playbook. Is it helping drive the outcomes it was designed to? Are customers receiving new, additional value from it? Is there still lingering friction or a new set of issues that could be improved? For the VIP onboarding flow, how engaged are the VIP customers after onboarding?

Use key performance indicators, customer experience metrics, and customer feedback to evaluate the ongoing success of your playbook. As your product evolves and grows, continue to report on the success of each playbook and update the process as you learn more about your users’ and your teams’ needs.

Conclusion

Playbooks make it easy to clearly define actions required of each CSM at critical points throughout their customer’s lifecycle. Utilizing them is a big part of a good CS team strategy, as well as for furthering User Success. User Success is a business strategy that focuses on driving engagement, retention, and lifetime loyalty by creating personalized customer experiences through targeted user behavior trends, rather than account association. By gaining a deeper understanding of your user base you can drive higher levels of engagement with persona based playbooks to better align your teams around the needs of your users and to become an indispensable part of your users daily workflow.