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


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.


Should we share the Customer Success Plan with clients?


Unequivocally yes! 


As mentioned previously, the CSP serves as the foundational artifact that a CSM or AM can use to manage the customer to success.


It is the map of the success path to realize the product’s value proposition and therefore should form the central focus point for customer interactions.


The more often the CSP (i.e. a strategic outline of steps to realize value) is seen and discussed, the more comfortable it becomes for the customer to identify with what they need to do and the more efficient it is for the CSM/AM to get the customer to do so.


How can I use the Customer Success Plan for expansion within a customer account?


The art to expansion is to have the customer recognize the ongoing value they will receive if they keep using and doing more with a product (predicated on trust though initial success with the product of course).


Make a customer successful, gain their trust through the delivery of the value proposition (i.e. what you promised them when they bought) and show them how to continue success by evolving their use of the product, and expansion will occur as a matter of course.


That is, the customer will logically continue expanding their use of the software because they want to realize more value and they can see how to do that.


The CSP, incorporating the strategic product vision and corresponding tactics, allows for that recognition of what more can be done.


A CSM/AM can therefore use the CSP, along with the understanding of the maturity levels a customer goes through in their evolving use of the product, to drive expansion in a very disciplined and consistent manner.


In other words, the notion of expanding the use of the software is incorporated into the CSP and shown to the customer from the very beginning so that the larger context of what more to accomplish is known from the very start.


Be strategic with expansion from the very beginning, even if the customer does not incorporate complete product coverage or does so over years.


How is the execution of the Customer Success Plan measured?


Simply stated, the execution of the CSP is measured by customers successfully accomplishing their goals and recognizing the value they receive from the product.


The interesting part here is that customer goals vary by customer and by their level of maturity with the use of the product.


One customer may have achieved X with the product and are thrilled, another customer may have achieved X and were expecting much more and are disappointed.


This is why a CSP is critical but it is the use by the CSM/AM that is invaluable.


The template itself outlines the larger product vision to set the stage for initial adoption and ongoing expansion.


It is the CSM/AM however that incorporates the individual customer’s objectives and the knowledge of the customer’s maturity level, to manage the relationship accordingly.


A CSP is successful when the customer feels their specific goals were accomplished and that the product met their expectations.


How is the effectiveness of the Customer Success Plan measured?


I often see vendors that are amazing at making their customer’s successful but at the expense of their own success.


Sure, customers need to be achieving with the product and it’s the vendor responsibility to point out through benchmarking and quantifiable measurement what their return on investment is, but vendors also need to be seeing results otherwise the CSP is not fully effective.


Labour intensive, high-touch models to drive adoption and expansion are appropriate at certain stages of a company’s evolution but they are not scalable when used across the entire and ever-expanding customer base.


CSPs need to effectively drive adoption and expansion rates as well.


Effective CSPs therefore facilitate a regular adoption cadence to drive retention and make it easy for CSMs/AMs to identify expansion opportunities.


The former is measured by tracking customer velocity through the customer journey, the latter by tracking opportunities through the expansion (upsell / cross-sell) sales funnel.

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