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8 October 2020

5 Expert Steps For Building Outcome-Based Customer Success Playbooks

Ross Fulton
by Ross Fulton Reading time: 7 mins

Building Outcome-Based Playbooks

Customer success playbooks are an invaluable component of a strong customer success  strategy…as long as the playbooks are laser-focused on enabling measurable value to be realized by customers. 

Most CS teams have playbooks built for ‘customer management’, i.e. playbooks that guide the CSM on completing activities and milestones important to their company – the software vendor. While customer success playbooks that get the customer to launch the software, attend QBRs, identify risk, engage in renewal planning, and provide access to leadership to enable expansion selling are certainly important, these types of playbooks do not create any value for the customers themselves.  

CS leaders at the top of their game understand that customer success playbooks focused on driving the achievement of value-based outcomes for their customers are critical to a successful customer success strategy. At Valuize, we call these outcome-based customer success playbooks, Outcome Delivery Playbooks.

These customer success playbooks are focused on achieving and sustaining customer adoption of the right parts of your product(s) at the right time so outcomes that create measurable value are achieved. 

Here is our 5 step framework for building outcome-based customer success playbooks.

The 5 Ws of Designing Outcome-based Customer Success Playbooks

Outcome-based customer success playbooks explain what needs to be done when, where, and by who to ensure the achievement of value-based outcomes prescribed to customers (the why). Building your customer success strategy with these 5Ws in mind will help you create strong, customer-centric playbooks.

Establish Why You Need To Design Outcome-based Playbooks

Simon Sinek gets it right! Always start with the why. This is especially true when designing your customer success playbooks. 

Don’t make the mistake of starting with the who when designing your playbooks. Many companies start by looking at the teams they have inside the company tasked with ‘customer success’ and build playbooks that align with the role definitions and capabilities within those teams. 

Instead, start by clearly defining the why behind the customer success playbook i.e. the objective of the playbook. For Outcome Delivery Playbooks, there is a single common why driving them: the achievement of value-based outcomes. 

“achievement of value-based outcomes”

Definition: Users are using your product’s feature/functions to do their ‘jobs’ in such a way that the measurable value prescribed to the customer is realized.

So the first step in building an Outcome Deliver Playbook is to identify the value-based outcome you want the playbook to consistently, efficiently and scalably achieve with customers. To do this, you need to have already designed the value-based outcomes that your company will be prescribing to and agreeing with your customers in their Success Plan

Determine What Actions Need To Be Taken To Make Your Playbooks Successful

With the why of the outcome-based customer success playbook clear, next you can tackle the what. What tasks and milestones must be completed to achieve and sustain user adoption of the product feature/functions required by the target value-based outcome?  

Leveraging the product, domain, industry and customer knowledge in your company, you must define the tasks and milestones that must be completed by you, the vendor, and the customer themselves to achieve the target adoption state. Below, are some examples of task types that might make up an Outcome Delivery Playbook. Note that you must define the tasks and milestones that need to be completed outside your product as well as inside your product. 

Identify Who Needs To Deliver Your Playbooks

Now, it’s time to identify who must be responsible/accountable /consulted/informed (RACI) for each task and milestone outlined in the playbook. The goal is to determine who has the skills required (e.g. technical, strategic, leadership, etc.), the access required (i.e. to the necessary people, technology, and processes), and the authority required (i.e. status, role, etc.) to be successful.

By thinking about the what, why, and who of your customer success playbooks, it’s clear to see that the delivery of these outcomes extends far beyond your customer success organization. For this reason, customer success playbooks need to be cross-functional. While your customer success organization can lead the delivery of these playbooks, all of your customer-facing teams and their leaders should be involved in this process. For related insights on this topic, consider this article on how to align sales and customer success

Indicate Where You Need To Operationalize Your Playbooks

Ultimately, your customer success playbooks need to be data-driven and scalable in order to drive recurring measurable value to your customers. Thus, you need to determine where each task in your customer success playbook should be executed to ensure maximum scale, efficiency, and impact. The first step in doing so is to proactively evaluate whether or not the technology you’re using now will help your team deliver your customer success playbooks in the future.

Ask yourself whether the task can be executed so that:

  1. It can be automated?
  2. The duration, progress, and results can be measured?
  3. It will minimize application/window switching for the task executioner?

While workarounds like Google Docs or SFDC might be an adequate solution for the time being, the most successful customer success organizations use customer success technology like Gainsight. If you’re currently considering an investment in customer success technology, here are 6 evaluation criteria to help you determine which provider is right for your organization. 

In addition to determining the technology that will be used to operationalize the playbooks in the hands of your own teams, think about how the playbook tasks can be operationalized directly in the hands of the customer. Analyze where customers are using your product most frequently relative to the outcome they need to achieve. By mapping out the customer’s usage of your software product, you can easily identify the best place to trigger, enable and measure the customer’s completion of the task you need them to next complete per the design of your playbook. 

Specify When To Execute Your Playbooks

Last but not least, you need to decide when each outcome-based customer success playbook should be executed to ensure maximum customer retention and expansion. In other words, a successful customer success strategy requires an in-depth understanding of how value-based outcomes and therefore Outcome Delivery Playbooks map out across the entire customer success journey. 

Identify the interdependencies within your value-based outcomes and their associated delivery playbooks. Can outcome Y be achieved in outcome X hasn’t already been achieved? Or can either come first? 

These relationships between the outcomes and therefore between the playbooks must be reflected in the customer expectations of when each outcome will be achieved. Leverage Success Plans to capture the sequencing of the outcomes prescribed to and agreed to by a customer and the associated playbooks that must also be prescribed and agreed to by the customer.

Success plans are mapped directly to your pre-existing customer success journey, which automatically integrate the sequencing of your playbook delivery. If you’re looking to develop a success plan for your organization, we recommend using this prescriptive success plan template to get started.

With these 5 Ws answered, you’re now ready to build outcome-based customer success playbooks. By launching this customer-centric initiative, your organization will be empowered to drive exceptional customer adoption, retention, and expansion results. 

This post was adapted from a Valuize webinar. Watch the full webinar recording here.

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Ross Fulton
Ross Fulton

Prior to founding Valuize, Ross spent over 16 years growing software companies and their partners in go-to-market strategy, sales engineering and customer success leadership roles on both sides of the Atlantic. An Englishman by birth but not by nature…he’ll take an espresso over tea every time!