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Why you need a customer success playbook for your SaaS business (and how to create one)

Jonny Parker,

Content Marketing at Front

15 June 20220 min read

Build strategies for every scenario so your customer success team can be as consistent as they are awesome.

Your business is growing, you’re becoming more strategic about everything from product development to subscription modeling, and you’re consistently putting the right people in the right positions to help fuel your rise to the top. 

Here are a few clues that this may be true:

  • The volume of customer communications is steadily increasing

  • Your customer success team is growing and there’s less-than-ideal clarity on who handles what

  • You want to drive customer retention further

  • Your revenue projections predict exponential growth

If you said yes to more than one of the above, it may be time to re-invest in customer success. And one of the best ways to do that is to create a strategy. 

In this article, we’ll break down the role of customer success in your SaaS business and how to create a playbook that’ll help your company launch into its next growth stage.

What is customer success?

Customer Success teams do it all: identity, anticipate, and proactively manage all customer needs, lead expansion efforts, and build a culture of trust in your business — among other things. This team helps attract and retain customers by ensuring they get precisely what they want when they want it. Or, even better, making unexpected—but wonderful—service surprises happen for customers. 

To do this, customer success managers and teams are charged with looking at the business, its products, and service through the lens of the customer and working to make every last detail as appealing and easy as possible. They may recommend new product features, offer product education to customers, carefully analyze the customer lifecycle and work to improve it, build relationships with customers to ensure they remain satisfied, and so much more. 

Customer success is invested in the customer from their very first interaction with the business to their onboarding experience to ensuring they are experiencing value throughout their subscription to encouraging their renewal. 

Whether you’re a one-person customer success department or you have a team of many, it’s critical to have a series of playbooks to help you define and reach your goals.

What is a customer success playbook?

If you’re an athlete or a sports fan, you’ve probably encountered a playbook before. In the pre-digital days, it was the tattered notebook containing hundreds of tried-and-true plays that the head coach tucked under their arm, ready to pull out in any situation. 

A customer success playbook serves the same purpose. It’s where you keep the best practices and killer strategies that help your business stay competitive and continue to grow. It provides direction and guidance to current and future team members and helps hold them accountable for their role in carrying out the company’s overall objectives. 

Most customer success playbooks focus on one topic, such as customer onboarding, mapping the customer journey, decreasing churn, upselling, or encouraging renewals. You might even have a playbook for each phase of the customer lifecycle. Each aspect of customer success will require different strategies—and you can have a playbook for every one of them.

What should be included in a customer success playbook?

No matter which topic you plan to tackle in a playbook, there are some basic components that should be included: 

Goals

Identify one or more overarching goals that your customer support team would like to achieve. It’s important to ensure they’re SMART, i.e.:

  • Specific

  • Measurable

  • Achievable

  • Relevant

  • Timely

Each of these components will take on a different meaning depending on the goal, but it’s important to take the time to sketch it out before you begin.

If you want to decrease churn, your goals might start with:

  • Specific: In the third quarter of fiscal year 2022, we want to reduce customer churn

  • Measurable: By 10%

  • Achievable: We have a number of strategies that have been proven by other companies in our space

  • Relevant: This goal is tied to the company’s overall 2022 goals

  • Timely: We are raising subscription rates in the fourth quarter and want to retain as many customers as possible before that takes effect

Data and metrics

It’s not enough to “feel” your way through a strategy—you’ve got to have data to back up your assumptions and goals. No matter what the topic, your playbook should mine for numbers first.

For example, if your playbook is dedicated to “encouraging renewals”, you’ll want to identify data like:

  • Customer retention rate

  • Renewal rate

  • Customer churn rate

  • Average revenue per user

  • Customer lifetime value

  • Customer revenue growth rate

  • Net revenue retention

Once you have some numbers that help tell the story of the impact of the topic—in this case, renewals (or lack thereof)—you can start to consider what strategies would be most effective in improving that data. 

Actions 

What are the specific steps team members (inside and outside of customer success) can do to achieve the goals set out in the playbook? It might be helpful to identify which roles within the team or the company is responsible for each task. 

For example, a playbook focusing on customer retention might include an action like “set customer expectations”. This would include a number of sub-actions that the customer support team—or others in the organization—would do to ensure customers understand precisely what the product can do for them. Sub-actions might include:

  • Providing an onboarding package that outlines the value propositions

  • Sending customer emails and other touchpoints to help educate them as they use the product

  • Offering a library of resources (e.g. blog articles, videos, podcasts, etc.) that customers can access to ensure they’re aware of the full scope of the capabilities of the product

Milestones

As the strategies come together, it’s helpful to break down actions into milestones. This will allow you and/or your team to organize your goals and methodically work away at achieving them. It also brings transparency and accountability into your process.

Some project managers group a number of activities into one milestone; others consider each action a milestone. No matter how you choose to define a milestone, it’s critical to track and acknowledge when you or your team reaches one. Recognition and a small celebration can help keep momentum and encourage continued or renewed engagement in the playbook process.

How can a customer success team collaborate to create a playbook?

No project or playbook is possible without team collaboration. Even if you’re a one-person customer success department, you’ll need to draw on the insights and experiences from every other department in the company. But pulling information across different platforms and throughout multiple databases and apps can make it tough to connect all the dots. 

A collaborative inbox can bring opinions, data points, past account experiences, and apps into one place, allowing you to streamline communication needed to drive a stellar customer success function and build a top-notch playbook. It’s important to choose a solution that serves the overall goal of the customer success function: to offer an exceptional and consistent experience across the customer journey. Good thing we built Front to do just that.

What happens when you complete your first playbook?

You congratulate yourself and your team! And then you move on to your next playbook. The best way to create a robust customer success department is to steadily build strategies for every scenario so your team can be as consistent as they are awesome.

It’s important to consider each playbook a living document that is constantly updated to reflect changes to the customer journey, the product, customer feedback, and any other factors that will affect customer success strategies. 

In time, you’ll have a library of playbooks that will help your team exceed customer expectations and propel your SaaS business into the next stratosphere. 

Written by Jonny Parker

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