SaaS customer success plan for first CSM

90 Days Customer Success Plan for First CSM

Have you been recently hired as a first Customer Success Manager (CSM) in a SaaS company? If you are the first CSM, it can be a challenge to make the first 90 days’ SaaS customer success plan. It can be a daunting task to determine the right tasks that you are going to work on.

Understanding the product is the first step to be a successful CSM. You need to be well versed in the product and various use cases as you are going to be the point of contact for your customers. You not only require a deep understanding but also a 360-degree view of the product. This will help you to understand what problems of the customers are you actually solving and what all pain points still exist.

A 90 days SaaS customer success plan has to be designed in such a way that you hit a few key milestones and are able to get results in 3 months.

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6 things that you must focus on while making the first 90 days SaaS customer success plan:

1. Understand which metrics you have to focus on

This is a critical step which many CSMs overlook. After that no matter how hard they work, the founders are not impressed.

A CSM has to manage several tasks like customer onboarding, account escalations, upsell campaigns, periodic health checks, customer advocacy, etc. But in the first 90 days, you have to focus on one important metric that matters the most.

To decide which customer success metrics to focus on, you need to sit with the founders and discuss. What are the problems that the founders are trying to solve for which you were hired? Is the aim to increase retention, expand upsells and upgrades, improve advocacy or something else? Improving one of the metrics has to be the primary focus, which can be best explained by the founders.

If CSMs don’t discuss with the founders, sometimes they start focussing on a metric for which they were not hired which leads to complications in the future.

2. Segment the customers

There are always different categories of customers. You have to segment them based on specific metrics. This will allow you to decide the number and type of touch points (high touch, tech touch or low touch) you need to have with each customer so that you can provide maximum value by spending the least amount of resources.

To understand the importance of segmentation of customers assume you have 35 customers. 5 customers have an annual contract value (ACV) of $25K, 10 customers with ACV $10K and 20 customers with ACV $5K. Now, if you spend an equal amount of time and resources on each customer, most of the time will obviously be spent on the customers with ACV $5K.

However, the customers whose ACV is $25K will most likely want more touch points (preferably high touch or tech touch) because they are paying more. Also, they are probably using your product to achieve larger and more important goals. So, if you are not able to satisfy these customers, they are likely to churn. That would leave a much deeper dent in your annual revenue than if few $5K customers had left.

It is not that customers who are paying $5K are not important. Every customer is valuable but customers who pay significantly more need more attention.

The key is to set realistic customer expectations, and then not to just meet them, but to exceed them – preferably in unexpected and helpful ways. – Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group

Segmenting the customers also helps figure out the customers on whom the maximum focus should be – normally those accounts which have high contract value.

Also, for each specific segment of customers, different guidelines need to be drawn as per the requirements.

This will ensure all customers are taken care of as per their needs.

3. Set up the customer onboarding process

One of the most important tasks of the first CSM is to set up a customer onboarding process. The onboarding process that you will design, will then be used as a cornerstone for the future customer success team.

An effective onboarding process can decrease the churn rate drastically as most of the churn happens during this time.

What should be your focus while designing an onboarding framework?

During the onboarding process, some CSMs try to teach the customers all the features of the product. This is NOT the correct way. A customer should only be taught those features that are absolutely necessary for him/her to achieve their goals.  

The focus of onboarding should be such that minimum time is required to help the customers reach early value.

What is an early value?

A customer buys your product to get different tasks done. Early value is showing him/her that it is your product is best for him/her by getting one of the tasks done. This will help the customer realize the effectiveness of your product and motivate him/her to learn more about the product.

Design an onboarding framework

An onboarding framework is a series of steps that a customer must follow to finally reach their mini goal along with learning how to use the product. It basically helps you take the stepping stones to success.

Make sure each step that is put in the onboarding framework actually helps the customer reach some milestone. Remember time and other resources are precious for both you and the customers.  An effective onboarding framework will make it easier for both you and the customers.

Not a first time CSM? Here’s a first 90 days plan for setting up customer success

4. Investigate why churn happens

Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning” – Bill Gates, Founder of Microsoft

Increasing churn rate is one of the critical reason why a CSM is hired. To reduce churn rate you need to understand what are the reasons for customer churn.

Did you know there are 7 types of customer churn?

To understand why churn happens, you need to talk to those customers who have canceled their subscription. This will help you understand the unresolved issues due to which they left.

Phone interviews are necessary along with surveys and feedback forms to get a deeper understanding. Phone interviews also help you get some insights which are not easily captured via surveys and forms.

Once you understand the reasons for churn, you can make strategies to reduce it.

5. Decide which tech (customer success) platform to use

For effectively and efficiently managing clients, a customer success platform is required. A customer success platform helps the managers focus on the right things at the right time.

It also increases their productivity which will help them handle more customers. Once, the company starts scaling up a customer success platform becomes mandatory.

How do you know whether a customer is about to churn or not? If you have few customers and are frequently in contact with them you might be able to take a calculated guess depending on your intuition or specific data points. But it would still be a guess and have a good chance of being incorrect.

But, what if you have hundreds of customers? Intuition is not an option because you are not in touch with the customers daily. Also, it will take you days to go through several data points to figure out which customer might churn. This would leave you with no time to solve the issues of your customers.

This is where a customer success platform becomes indispensable.  A customer success software goes through millions of data points to predict which customers will buy more, are at risk or will churn.

This will help you free up your time which you can use to solve the customers’ problems. Hence, your productivity will increase and customer churn will decrease.

However, instead of just searching for the “best customer success platform”, you need to understand your needs first. Since there are several customer success platforms in the market, you should choose one based on team working style (inside vs field vs hybrid success team), the scale of operations, integrations, ARPA (Average Revenue Per Account) per year, or even accounts per CSM.

Customer Success platforms can be used for several features like predicting churn, managing a customer success team efficiently, monitoring customer health scores, and more.

Hence, it is important you choose a customer success platform early in the lifecycle depending on your requirements.

6. Set up customer health score

Since you are the first CSM you will need to set up a customer health score. Health scoring will consist of all the metrics like product adoption that help you get an idea of the current situation of your customers by having a look at a single number. Instead of deeply analyzing a lot of data points, the health score combines the important data points to give an idea of the customer’s health.

Why is a health score necessary?

You can not just guess which customers are facing difficulties and need your help. Analyzing all data points is also not an efficient way since it will consume a lot of time which will leave you with no time to actually help your customers.

Here, the health score comes to your rescue. It’s a number that tells which clients you need to spend time with.

This will save you a lot of time. You will know exactly which customers need your attention at that time. All your focus can then be on helping those customers and resolving their pain points.

If you follow the above SaaS customer success plan, I am pretty sure you will achieve your first 90 days targets and will be on your way to becoming a rockstar CSM.

Arnab is a content marketer at CustomerSuccessBox. In his free time he loves watching videos on YouTube and reading about entrepreneurship and startups.