The Cycle of Customer Success: A Blueprint for Customer Success Teams

I’m not someone who likes methodologies as I like to keep a clear perspective and be open to change. As someone who studied history, I preferred to use facts and evidence rather than theories and methodologies as the main guides in my decision-making process. After spending over 15 years in Customer Success, I have however recognized some distinct patterns in how the best Customer Success teams are run. I’ve created a comprehensive yet simple approach that you can use to avoid many of the mistakes that I made and double down on the best strategies that the Customer Success community has implemented. For this reason, I’ve documented what I’m calling “The Cycle of Customer Success”.

The Cycle of Customer Success

There are six main components of the Cycle of Customer Success model:

  • Customer Journey
  • People
  • Process
  • Technology
  • Measure & Iterate
  • Properly defining the roles and responsibilities of each CS team within your Customer Success function to support this structure. This also includes addressing the most asked CS question ever: “how many accounts should a CSM own?”.
  • Creating a standardized hiring process for your Customer Success team. This isn’t an area that you want to mess around with.
  • Creating a standardized onboarding process for new team members that is metrics driven.
  • Compensation.
  • Ensuring your team receives ongoing training and enablement.
  • Creating formal career paths in and outside of Customer Success and performance management.
  • Customer onboarding
  • Customer health scoring
  • Executive business reviews
  • Internal account reviews
  • Customer success plans
  • At-risk / customer health reviews
  • Playbooks
  • Renewals and upsells
  • Quarterly retrospectives
  • Executive sponsor program
  • Best practice webinars
  • Identifying advocates
  • Support escalations
  • Product training
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys
  • Cross-functional initiatives such as CS/Product collaboration on the product roadmap.

Summary: The Circle is Never Complete

Being the Star Wars fan that I am, I would have yelled back to Darth Vader: “the circle is never complete — it just keeps going”. This model is not supposed to be a maturity model. It’s designed to help you plan, build and execute your Customer Success strategy. You should keep in mind that you will travel around the Cycle of Customer Success many times as your company matures. At first, the cycles will be more rapid and then they will slow down as you grow as it’s harder to make large scale changes. You will focus more on processes and tweaking the technology and customer journey. That’s ok if you have the right listening posts in place and are measuring against the right outcomes. You can then determine if you need to go back around the cycle and reframe the mission and customer journey based on what the data is telling you. At Eloqua, we had to make a fairly massive adjustment to the Customer Journey after we had a mature customer success process in place. The data clearly told us that we had problems that needed to be addressed. We had the right leaders and people to make the necessary changes and get us back on the right path which eventually led to a successful IPO and acquisition by Oracle (have a read through Kia Puhm’s post if you are interested in this story).

Customer champion & customer success executive. A leader that is always learning. Top 25 Customer Success influencer. Father of 3 kiddies. Leafs fan

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