Planning to Succeed: How to Build a Winning Customer Success Plan?

Elen Udovichenko
January 25, 2024
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Success is no accident, as Pelé once famously said. But can you really plan to succeed?

When it comes to customer success in B2B, you can! Moreover, you must have a plan in place to effectively onboard your new clients and help them get the most out of your product or service as soon as possible. Otherwise, they will churn.

In this post, we'll talk about the anatomy of an effective customer success plan as well as best practices for building one for your customer success team.

What is a customer success plan?

Most B2B products and services don't just have complex sales processes, they require a lot of handholding after the deal is sealed. This is where your customer service department should come into play with tools and practices to onboard and nurture individual accounts.

In simple terms, a customer success plan is a roadmap designed by a company to help customers achieve their key goals with the product or service they purchased.

It's a strategic blueprint for making your new clients successful and building a positive, long-term relationship. Its main objective is to deliver a consistent customer experience and allow for smooth product adoption, shortening the time to value. 

Starting with the "sales to customer success" handoff, the customer success plan lays out the action steps for onboarding and implementation, including potential roadblocks, methods of communication, and measurements of success for the entire team.

The benefits of customer success planning

Having a solid game plan as a part of your customer success playbook is essential to keep your clients happy and help them reach their business goals. However, this also provides a range of business benefits, including:

  • Higher customer retention rate. A solid customer success plan ensures clients understand and utilize your product or service, boosting their retention rates as satisfied customers are less likely to seek alternatives.
  • Better customer loyalty and advocacy. Actively contributing to clients' success fosters a partnership, turning satisfied customers into loyal product advocates who champion your brand.
  • Increased customer lifetime value. With long-term relationships, clients continue to find value in your offerings, extending their engagement and significantly increasing their lifetime value to your business.

Who should own customer success planning?

A strategic approach to client satisfaction might look like a no-brainer, considering the listed perks. And we will dive into the anatomy of a successful customer success plan as well as things to consider when creating one.

But who should be in charge of your customer success program? The most obvious answer would be your customer success manager or customer service team in general. However, some companies also have a customer relationships manager role, which covers a similar range of responsibilities, with the main focus being on relationship building.

At certain stages of the implementation, you might also require assistance from an onboarding specialist (e.g., client onboarding manager) or a dedicated implementation specialist to help with the technicalities and set up the processes for your customer.

There are also situations when marketing or even sales teams can get involved, for example, in case of case study development or upselling.

Customer success plan template: 10 key elements to include

There are dozens of customer success plan templates you can find online, some might even be applicable to your business with minimum changes. However, knowing the key components, you can build your own framework tailored to your business processes and convenient to use.

 Here are some of the essential elements you should have on your customer success plan:

  • Goals and objectives

Start with identifying the pain points the customer is currently facing and problems to solve. Then clearly define what the customer aims to achieve through your product or service. This could include specific business goals like increased efficiency or improved user adoption, as well as more general desired outcomes.

  • Key milestones

Now, you can't plan anything without establishing significant checkpoints throughout the customer journey where specific achievements or progress can be measured. These milestones will serve as markers for success towards realizing the set goals.

  • Action items

This section should outline the tasks to complete — the steps both the customer and the internal teams need to take to progress toward the goals. But also it's important to specify any training or skill development required by the customer or internal teams to effectively implement the plan.

  • Timelines

Since it's a plan, it should have specific timelines for implementation. Outline the expected duration/deadlines for each phase of the customer success plan. This helps set realistic expectations and ensures that both parties are aligned regarding the pace of progress.

  • Success criteria

If you want the plan to be executed, you should define measurable criteria to indicate the success of the engagement. This could include quantitative metrics, such as increased revenue, customer satisfaction scores, or user adoption rates.

  • Roles and responsibilities

Clearly outline the responsibilities of each stakeholder involved in the customer success plan. This includes the customer's role, internal teams, and any third-party contributors. Clarity in roles ensures accountability and effective collaboration down the road.

  •  Reporting and customer feedback 

Next, lay out a framework for reporting and feedback exchange. Specifically, you should clarify the frequency, format, and recipients of the progress reports. Also, you should build a process for handling customer inquiries — define how customer team feedback will be collected, analyzed, and utilized internally for continuous improvement.

  • Communication plan

Aside from the official reporting, there should be a process in place for regular check-ins between the customer and your company, whether it's a weekly project sync or quarterly business review. It's important to agree on the communication channels to be used, e.g., email, video calls, or a dedicated customer portal, as well as the main points of contact from both the customer's side and your company. This ensures a smooth flow of communication and prevents misunderstandings.

  • Education and training resources

Provide a comprehensive list of resources and training materials to support the customer in understanding and utilizing the product or service effectively. This could include documentation, video tutorials, webinars, or training sessions.

  • Tools

Specify the software that will be used throughout the project to facilitate communication, track progress, and measure success. This could include project management tools, dedicated client portals, mutual action plan software, or specific analytics platforms. 

Best practices for customer success planning

Aside from the listed key components, there are a few things to consider for effective customer success planning.

  1. Set the goals and KPIs collaboratively to ensure that both parties are aligned and foster a sense of shared ownership in the success journey.
  2. Actively seek and gather customer feedback, whether through surveys, interviews, or informal conversations and promptly address any issues they voice.
  3. Monitor your progress and be prepared to make adjustments to the success plan as needed. Flexibility is key to adapting to changing circumstances.
  4. Foster collaboration across different departments within your organization. A cross-functional approach ensures that the entire team is working in harmony to support customer success.
  5. Document the customer success plan and all related materials to ensure knowledge sharing within your team and ensure consistency if team members change.

How to create an effective customer success plan?

Now that you have a customer success plan example you can follow, let’s dive into the actionable tips of how to build one with your customer success team. 

Here are some of the important steps you should take when planning your customer success program.

  1. Map your customer journey. To kick off your customer success planning, craft a comprehensive customer journey map first. This map should intricately outline each stage of the customer lifecycle, from onboarding to loyalty and advocacy. This allows you to understand the customer's experience, identify pain points, and pinpoint opportunities for proactive customer engagement.
  2. Identify customer goals and objectives. Dive into the customer's world to understand their goals and aspirations. Try to find out what success looks like for them and align customer expectations with your product or service offerings. This step lays the foundation for tailoring the customer success plan to meet their unique needs.
  3. Outline key milestones and action items. With customer goals in mind, lay out key milestones that mark significant achievements in their journey. Alongside these milestones, identify actionable steps or tasks — action items — that both your team and the customer need to complete to progress toward success.
  4. Define the timeline for implementation. Define a realistic timeline to fulfil your customer success plan. Consider the duration of each milestone, ensuring that the deadlines align with the customer's expectations and your team's capacity.
  5. Set criteria to measure and key metrics to track success. Establish clear success criteria that serve as benchmarks for achieving customer goals. Key metrics, such as customer satisfaction scores, retention rates, and product adoption, become the yardstick for tracking success. Regularly measure and analyze these metrics to gauge the plan's effectiveness.
  6. Align internal teams to support customer success efforts. Success is a team effort. Assign roles and responsibilities across internal teams to ensure a collaborative approach. Define who will be responsible for onboarding, support, and ongoing engagement. Alignment ensures everyone is working cohesively towards the shared goal of customer success.
  7. Pick educational/supporting resources and tools. Arm your team and customers with the right resources and tools. Provide educational materials, tutorials, and documentation to enhance product understanding. Choose collaboration tools that facilitate seamless communication. This equips both your team and customers with the knowledge and tools necessary for a successful journey.

How to manage your CS plan?

Communication and collaboration are the two key aspects of effective customer success plan implementation. Without that, even the most detailed plan will remain just a plan.

Most CS teams use simple spreadsheets or project management tools to create and carry out a plan. But there are more convenient and capable solutions you can adopt. Tools like Flowla allow all involved parties to work together in building mutual action plans, offering a visual representation of the steps and action items involved.

With Flowla, teams can easily outline milestones, identify action items, and visualize the flow of the customer success plan in a way that's easy for everyone to grasp. This ensures everyone is on the same page, making coordination smooth and progress monitoring straightforward.

Final word

Selling in 2024 extends beyond transactions to become a continuous journey of customer success.

Creating an effective customer success plan is similar to crafting a roadmap for this journey — with each element designed to empower both your team and your customers for sustained growth down the road.

A well-crafted customer success plan goes beyond a simple checklist — it's your pledge to keep customers satisfied and loyal for the long run. It lays the groundwork for lasting partnerships and mutual wins.

Turn your CS plan into a collaborative flow

See the entire journey at a glance, set deadlines, assign tasks, and track progress effortlessly.

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