August 12, 2020

How to Build a Customer Success Playbook

Customer Success Playbooks-Featured

To optimize your company’s success, you want to find ways to make the lives of your customers as frictionless as possible and anticipate their problems before they know they have them. To help achieve this, you need to create customer success playbooks.

Customer success playbooks help maximize your ability to ensure your customers are happy. They are a framework that includes the set of steps a customer success manager (CSM) should take to achieve a desired goal and what segment of customers they should focus their proactive efforts on.

“Generally speaking, a customer success playbook is a way to operationalize ensuring your customers’ desired outcomes are met,” says Luke Owen, Principal Customer Success Specialist at SaaSWorks.

1. Set a Goal for Your Playbook

Creating a customer success playbook starts with determining a goal. What aspect of the customer experience do you want to impact?

Some common playbook goals include increased product adoption, increased customer engagement, improved retention forecasting, improved time-to-value and product expansion.

“Improving time-to-value is a common goal you hear in customer success, so what does that mean? Onboarding,” Luke says. “Let’s say onboarding is taking on average 90 days to do and therefore it’s taking 90 days for [customers] to see value from your business; that can be a problem. So success might start running some playbooks where the goal is to shorten that to 45 days.”

2. Determine Where the Playbook Fits in the Customer Journey

Customer success is about more than just securing renewals. It aims to enable your customers to get the most value from your offering, and that’s something that happens over time throughout the entirety of their customer journey.

“Generally, you want to have a playbook for every aspect of a customer’s journey when you look at it on a timeline,” Luke says.

Based on the goal of your playbook, you need to determine where in the customer journey it’ll have the most impact.

For example, an onboarding playbook to improve time-to-value would come into play within the first 90 days of a customer’s journey. A playbook aimed at driving a renewal would take place in the 90 days leading up to a contract ending. But in between those two, you could have playbooks targeting engagement and product usage or offering upsells.

Download the Essential Guide to Demand Generation

3. Identify Who to Prioritize

Which segment of your customer base is your playbook going to focus on? Different tactics will be effective with different portions of your customer base and your ability to make traction toward your goal will also differ. 

For example, if the goal of your playbook is to reduce churn, it’s not worth focusing on a segment whose churn rate is well below industry standard because the amount of impact you can make is minimal. Instead, it’s better to look at a segment that has high-churn and develop a playbook to combat the causes of it.

“There’s only so many hours in a day as a CSM, and you have to keep that in mind,” Luke says.  “For most company models, talking to all of your customers is simply not possible. So you have to segment and know who to prioritize in order to maximize your team's opportunities.”


4. Build Out Playbook Assets

What communications will occur as part of your playbook? Create assets to help your CSMs conduct those communications as quickly as possible.

These assets can include email templates, presentation decks, meeting agendas and phone scripts. 

Much like playbooks as a whole, these assets should serve as a starting point for CSMs but be easily customizable to suit a customer’s individual needs.

Download the Essential Guide to Demand Generation

5. Track and Report on the Performance

Once you start running a playbook, you need to track its performance in order to understand how it’s contributing to your goal.

“You need to know who’s been selected as an account where you want to run the playbook, where they are in that playbook — did they have the initial communication sent? Did they reply? Did their call happen? Did their usage go up?” Luke says. “If the goal is usage increase, you should have a dashboard that basically says ‘here’s all the accounts that have gone into the playbook and then here’s that usage stat that you want to improve in this playbook.”

These reports will help you determine if the playbook is worth the resources you’re investing in it. 

To get conclusive results, you also need to set a timeframe. Luke recommends running playbooks for 90 days and then seeing how it’s performing. If it’s doing well and can be replicated with other customers, then you can continue. If it’s accomplished its goal or didn’t perform as desired, you can move on to other strategies.

The Takeaway

“Any customer success organization that doesn’t have playbooks is probably going to fail,” Luke says.

Playbooks improve accountability and efficiency for your customer success team.

A common mistake customer success teams make is assigning accounts and churn goals to individual CSMs but not doing any more granular performance analysis. Playbooks allow you to see how your team is working with customers.

Just like how a sales manager tracks not just how many deals a sales rep is closing but also how many meetings their booking, emails they’re sending and calls they’re making, tracking playbooks enable customer success leaders to understand what proactive efforts CSMs are making. 

Playbooks also help CSMs organize their daily responsibilities and prioritize their proactive efforts.

“The last thing you want CSMs to have to do when they’re not being reactive is needing to spend tons and tons of time investigating who they should be proactive with,” Luke says. 

When CSMs find themselves with some free time in their day, playbooks can help cue up their next actions and maximize the time they spend engaging with customers. This way, they’re not spending tons of time deciding who to reach out to and what to say. They have the information they need at their fingertips to provide value to their customers.

New call-to-action

Quinn Kanner

Quinn is a writer and copyeditor whose work ranges from journalism to travel writing to inbound marketing content.


Ready to jumpstart your acquisition, retention and expansion efforts?

Request Assessment