What is a Playbook?
You know those little booklets that come in the packaging when you purchase a new device. They have instructions written on them and you try to read Chinese. Yeah! That is what playbooks fundamentally are. They are a series of instructions/actions created beforehand to be executed for a certain desired result.
They usually make life easier for teams applying them.
What is a Customer Success Playbook?
Customer Success Playbooks are a specified list of activities (they can be reactive, proactive, or best practices) to complete a task to be carried out by Customer Success Managers (CSMs). Think of a playbook as a way to engage and adopt a customer to your product at certain stages of their lifecycle.
Playbooks allow teams to create strategies that work repeatedly and optimize them along the way as well. The complexity of your playbook depends on your product and goal for the playbook. You can create playbooks on reducing churn, onboarding, and even how to talk on emails. It can also be a great way to solve a problem or to teach a newly formed team. If you are a startup, you should imbibe the habit of creating playbooks for teams especially customer success teams. With this in mind, let us look at some benefits of CS playbooks.
Here is an example of an onboarding playbook we use at CustomerSuccessBox.
As you can see it is a pretty standard set of instructions, calls, check-ins and adding space at the beginning for the CSM to decide if he wants to do something a certain way.
Benefits of Customer Success Playbooks
Customer success is a relatively new concept that has a few problems. There is an N number of similarities between customer success and sales. But over the years, sales have created metrics for tracking and accountability. Meanwhile, customer success has constantly spinning cogs and lots of variables that come with it.
Sales have to hit their quota. Yes, it is an oversimplification but that is the crux of their job.
For customer success, the big bad metric is churn. Arguably, there are differentiating opinions that Net Revenue Retention (NRR) or Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR) might be better. By bringing in playbooks you create a shield of accountability and measure of success.
Scaling and Structuring
Everybody goes blank while working sometimes. But with dedicated playbooks assigned for tasks, your team can just look at it for guidance and direction. Playbooks give out outcomes for your Customer Success Manager. These outcomes are to be achieved within a set period of time. They directly relate to a business objective.
Why is it important? Because the number of customers outweighs the number of Customer Success Managers in every company. The ratio is sometimes 1:100. Playbooks create structure when the space is so chaotic. Leaving CSMs to fend for themselves against a horde of customers is a bad idea. Don’t do it.
They also help in aligning teams at important intersections in a customer journey, like handoffs, implementation, etc. CS playbooks mean less chance of an individual error or errors that can be caught easily. Plus repeating tried and tested methods ensures a good customer experience.
With CustomerSuccessBox you can assign tasks in a playbook and track them within a few clicks. Here is how assigning tasks to look in our product and here is how tracking a playbook looks:
Playbooks are not just about tactics to be executed. With structure comes metrics that can be measured. And metrics are the way to track your CSMs’ effectiveness. No playbook is fail-proof, but its impact can be a key indicator on your CSM. As you can see in the above image, the tasks done are a great indicator of effectiveness. But each CSM’s playbook is attached to a certain outcome. At CustomerSuccessBox, we measure the impact of the playbook & CSM through outcomes.
Meanwhile, you can check out our CSM onboarding guide!
Should I use a playbook for my business?
Yes, Yes, Yes. Your company needs a playbook regardless of the size or even industry. Playbooks are easy to create, incredibly effective and there are virtually no downsides. They will help things scale and run smoothly. Who doesn’t want that in their company?
Perfecting each playbook will come as you grow as a company. Make mistakes and learn from them. Understand your strengths! Playbooks are built out of your best plays too.
Without playbooks in customer success, things will quickly get chaotic. Customer success has to deal with a lot of data and their work is action-centric towards a customer. One bad move and you can lose a big client.
How to Build a Playbook?
It is established that customer success playbooks are a necessity. So we can now get down to how to build them. In B2B SaaS, we understand that every customer is not the same. The variance in customer objectives, niches, and goals means that your playbooks have to be contextual. They have to cater to customers’ needs in the same manner but approaches will differ.
Even creating playbooks can be a consuming process, especially in terms of time and economy. So segregating customers based on the details of your relationship with them, the nature of the product you are giving them, and their end objective is the first step.
Example: You are looking to drive revenue through renewals and need a playbook to align your customer success team.
Step 1 – Understanding the pain points
The first step is to identify why we need the playbook in the first place. For our scenario, renewals are necessary for stable recurring revenue. Getting to high renewal rates means tracking touchpoints like:
- Product adoption health: This is the way to know if they are getting value.
- Service quality health: Are the SLAs being followed?
- Financial Health: Are their invoices on time? Have they been upgrading or downgrading?
- Relationship Health: How is the communication between you and the customer?
Depending on the answers to these questions, you can start to build a strategy around renewal. Note: Renewal is not a one-time tactic, it is a perpetual process.
Step 2 – Set a Goal
In this case, the goal is to drive revenue through renewals. But with every playbook, the goal will differ. You can work on reducing churn strategies, adding more user engagement, or increasing product adoption. The list is endless. Optimizing an aspect of the customer experience from your playbook is the best play.
Step 3 – Where in the customer journey does a playbook come in?
Different playbooks have different purposes. This means that they will be triggered at different points in a customer journey. Adding this information is critical to not have confusion about when to trigger a playbook. If you use the set too early or too late, it will be as good as not using it at all. For our example, renewals are generally triggered 90 days before their invoicing ends. So our playbook for renewal will come into play 90 days before the renewal.
Step 4 – Segmentation
Segment, segment, segment. You know the pain points, goals, and when to trigger a playbook. Now you need to establish which customers will benefit from your playbook. Expending energy where it isn’t required to is bad practice. Segmentation also paves way for easy tracking, targeting, and reporting.
In our case, you can segment customers on the basis of at-risk accounts, likely to renew accounts, and accounts that have ‘upsell’ opportunities. This way you know how to approach the customers the right way.
Step 5 – Adding the Instructions and Actions
You have everything on the plate. You know who the playbook caters to, their problems, their end goal. Now all you need is the instructions, actions, and “plays” that fill the playbook. The actions can be anything like sending out notifications, giving a call, a specific email template, or agendas for a meeting. With the asset already available, your CSM will have the resources needed on hand. This also makes for easy personalization and a quick turnaround time. All that ensures a great customer experience.
In our case, you can set up a meeting as a Quarterly Business Review. You can discuss the state the customer is in and incorporate a roadmap you have for them. Maybe a play here can be adding a feature they requested before so the renewal cannot be turned down.
Learn more about Renewal Playbook
Step 6 – Playbooks Success Metric
You have created the playbook and are using the playbook but that is not the end. Evaluating success for CS playbooks is essential. Is it reaching the goal it was meant for? Is it giving out additional value? Are there steps that can be improved for better efficiency? For the renewal playbook, success with at-risk accounts can be a great judgment of caliber for your playbook.
Use customer feedback, KPIs, and experience metrics to evaluate your CS playbook. This will allow the playbooks to get better each time until you land on perfection.
Step 7- Follow Ups
Follow up! Customer Success is based on proactive approaches. If a certain outcome did not come out as expected, get to the root of it. Your playbooks are not perfect. But you can always make the internal processes that define the playbooks better. This will take a lot of trial and error, a bit of a tumble but you will get there.
Playbooks are fundamentally easy to create but hard to master. Every playbook will grow with experience. It is incredibly calming for a CSM to have guidance in critical situations. Employing playbooks effectively and you will see the result as broad as daylight. They also force you to understand the customer better. At the end of the day, it is all about Customer Success.
You can learn more about important customer success topics on our blog here.