The Art of Creating a Strategic Customer Success Plan

Selecting a software platform and implementing it are important steps, but it’s hardly the end of the road. Installing and configuring the software, integrating with relevant systems, and testing the system before going live are all critical phases in the process. Beyond the technical aspects, obtaining acceptance of a new system from users who have been using legacy methods or a different system, has challenges that can match the technical difficulties. Particularly during the transition phase, acceptance can be hard to obtain as users struggle to learn new terms and methodologies.  

For the software vendor, understanding the customer’s particular requirements and use cases is critical, to ensure successful onboarding and to maximize the use of the product. As reported by TechCrunch, most customers may not be using more than 5- 20% of your features, so any efforts to increase awareness and usage should bear fruit

Let’s take a look at the steps involved in post-implementation that will smooth the process and enable a positive relationship.  

Table of Contents

Determining who the Users are  

The first step is in reverse – taking a step back, to get into the user’s shoes and look at the process from their side. Questions to ask are along the lines of ‘who’ and ‘how’ 

Who will be using the platform  

  • How many users? 
  • What roles do the users have – are they managerial or staff, and do many of the users have the same role?  

How will they be using the product  

  • Is the implementation SaaS or on-premises?  
  • Will some or all the users be connecting remotely?  
  • Which mobile platforms will need to be supported?  
  • Is their usage concentrated in specific hours? 

Questions like these are important to be able to determine the roles and authorizations within the platformFor the vendor, obtaining this information helps raise issues such as requirements to create new roles, security concerns with remote access, load on the system and other issues that affect configuration and usage.  

Creating a Strategic Customer Success Plan  

Although each customer has their own requirements and processes to which the vendor has to adapt, in our extensive experience serving global customers, we have found the following methodology provides the framework for a successful partnership.  

Designating a CSM 

This step provides the most impact – designating a Customer Success Manager (CSM) to each customer, has significantly increased the measure of success. Although the CSM is not able to fix every issue, they are responsible for ensuring that a solution is found, providing a single point of contact. Users can rest assured that they have a champion who is proactively looking out for their interests and enabling smooth operations 

The CSM ensures that issues are dealt with quicklyand is able to answer requests for more training and advocates for the customer in the vendor’s product enhancement roadmapThe designated CSM does not preclude ongoing CSM support for implementation and usage issuesbut acts as the coordinator for issues and communication, bringing in technical experts, trainers, and others as needed. 

Annual Implementation Plan  

The CSM is also responsible for an Annual Implementation Plan, which summarizes the objectives and plan of the coming year, with the goal of maximizing usage of the system. This plan also includes insights from System Utilization reportwhich are generated a few times per year, to indicate how the system is being used and if adjustments are required.  

Achieving a positive relationship with customers is often challenging; building and maintaining a strategic Customer Success Plan can go far to achieve a mutually beneficial relationship, with the vendor accepting feedback to improve the product and the relationship, and with dedicated personnel who champion their customer within the vendor organization.

Additional ways to promote a positive customer-vendor relationship are discussed in our next post Improving Adoption of Software Solutions.