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Customer Success Plans Unplugged: How to Use Them to Drive Adoption and Expansion Part I

Customer Success Plan (CSP) Customer Success Operations Customer Adoption Customer Expansion
Customer Success Plan (CSP)

The Customer Success Plan is still one of the hottest topics discussed in the industry.

Earlier posts regarding them still generate a lot of interest and I regularly receive questions about how they should be used, what information they should contain, who to share them with etc.

I wanted to share my responses to some of the questions that I have received with everyone in this two part series of CSPs Unplugged.

What should a Customer Success Plan consist of?

The best CSPs tie the context of the overall product vision to the tactics that must be executed in order to realize the value proposition.

They articulate that vision through the effective use of visuals so that they are easy to understand and simple to follow.

In addition to containing the larger, strategic, context for the product, Customer Success Plans should incorporate the key components of scope, time and the notion of progress, to make them an effective tool in the Customer Success/Account Manager’s toolbox.

Think of them as analogous to the results for directions from a Google maps search.

They visually display the entire map from point A to B, contain the high-level steps to get there, the time estimates for each segment of the journey, and they indicate where one currently is along the path to the final destination.

What are the key components to a Customer Success Plan and why are they required?

The key components of a CSP are product vision, scope, time and the notion of progress.

The overall vision encompasses the product’s strategic value proposition. 

That is, it outlines in the simplest terms the business value the customer will gain by fully implementing the product within their organization (i.e. point the customer to where they should head).

This allows the customer to understand, within the larger context, why they should care about fully implementing the product within their organization and motivate them to do so.

Scope consists of the main tactics, both organizationally and within the product itself, that the customer needs to execute in order to achieve the full value of the product.  

The key here is to outline tactics in a manner such that their concepts are self-evident and serve the purpose of holding the customer accountable to accomplishing, not for each tactic to be outlined in detail to serve as training (those details are more appropriately contained within knowledge materials).

The notion of time helps drive urgency and a sense of pacing to adoption that is required to keep the customer moving towards the achievement of their goal.

For this reason, the CSP should have an element of time incorporated into it. 

That does not necessarily mean that specific dates need to be called out, but some form of “movement” should be incorporated to keep the cadence of progress moving forward.

Progress being the final key element of a CSP. 

Customers should be able to easily sense that they are making progress towards their goal and understand that the sooner they do so, the faster and better the business gain will occur. 

Typically, this is best portrayed through a report card like visual that, when used consistently, displays the progress the customer has achieved.

How is the Customer Success Plan used?

During onboarding the CSP is used analogous to a very high-level project plan or overview.

The idea is to show or discuss the CSP with the customer at every communication point to keep their eye on the end goal and provide visibility into where they are currently at in reaching their objective, both through what they have already accomplished and what more they are required to do.

After onboarding and at every value discussion (i.e. Quarterly Business Review, Renewal Discussions, etc.) with the customer thereafter, the CSP should be used to validate that the product is satisfying the reason for why they bought and demonstrate quantifiable value gained.

How does the Customer Success Plan drive adoption?

Product adoption is ultimately about onboarding, timing and usage.

If a company learns the product quickly, implements it seamlessly into their business environment and then realizes the value they are receiving, they will continue to use it.

A solid CSP naturally incorporates onboarding, timing and usage through the structure of the four key components and hence serves as an effective tool that Customer Success Managers can use to drive adoption.

In essence, the CSM has a means to “project manage” the customer to success because the CSP contains the necessary components to achieving successful adoption.

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