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Your 90 day plan as a new VP of Customer Success

Congratulations! You’ve just been appointed as a new VP of Customer Success. Now what?

Over the last couple of years I’ve worked with many Customer Success executives who have been in this situation. I wanted to share with you some of the things you need to get done in your 30-60-90 days.

In the first 30 days: Set a baseline

As the new VP of Customer Success your first job is to understand what you’re walking into. This is the time to find any problem areas and establish where the team stands at the moment. To do this you must understand the status of your customers base and as well as the health of these accounts.

Step 1: Get visibility into your customer base

Build a renewal map: Given that there is immediate revenue impact, renewals are important area to focus on. What is the status of these accounts, is there an immediate problem you have to solve for or is this a future concern that you can deal with down the road? Understanding where these customer stand will help you establish you immediate priorities.

Identify problem areas: As you start reviewing where you are today, you will quickly see problem areas that need to be addressed. These could be issues related to onboarding, training, support, the product, your engagement model and process, anything. Highlighting these early will help you build a plan to move forward.

Step 2: Learn more about your customers

Analyze churned and happy customers: Take a look at the customers who’ve churned and renewed in the last 6-12 months to see what the data tells you about these groups. Are their key milestones and events that are indicators of positive or negative performance? Collecting these data points will help you hone in on what indicators your team should be using so they can proactively manage their customer accounts.

Identify your champions: These users can be relied on to provide you with anecdotal feedback and additional insights to your how these accounts are using your product. It’s important to introduce yourself to their contacts because they’ll provide accurate and honest feedback that can be leveraged by your and your team.

Meet your customers: Start taking time to meet with your customers, closed lost opportunities and even accounts who have just churned. As the “new guy” you can ask more questions and get greater insights into what happened in these accounts. These don’t need to be sales meetings but instead fact-finding missions for you to get a better understanding of what you do well and what you need to do better.

Step 3: Learn more about your team

Analyze your team: The first 30 days is your opportunity to get to know your team and establish their strengths and weaknesses. What are the gaps that you need to address? There are lots of different ways to organize your team based on the complexity of the product, the roles and responsibilities, and the pay structure.

In the first 60 days: Define an action plan

Once you’ve taken stock of what the current situation is, it’s time to work on your action plan. Based on what you learned, what are areas that can be fixed quickly and make a big impact vs. major gaps that will require more time to solve.

Step 1: Define your customer journey

Determine the right customer segmentation: You may already have segmentation in place, now is the time to determine if this is done correctly. Segmentation will help you determine not only how your team interacts with customers but also how you evaluate their use of the product.

Map your your customer journey: Taking the milestones and events that you learned, now you can spend them time defining the customer journey for each segment you identify. What path should the customer take that leads them to value and in turn renewal? What are the actions that lead toward churn along the way?

Step 2: Implement an early warning system

Once you have the data and the customer journey mapped you can set up alerts for your customer base that allow you to address problems immediately as opposed to waiting for time based check-ins. An early warning system enables your team to focus on the accounts that need help as opposed to only managing those with the largest account value.

Step 3: Create executive dashboards

Establishing clear ways of measuring and communicating success is imperative to driving support for your team. In order to make the conversation very easy you want to build executive dashboards that highlight your key metrics and indicate progress that you’ve been making. Key metrics will vary based on your organization but may include: overall customer health, % churn, Customer Retention Cost (CRC), portfolio score, engagement.

Step 4: Design your engagement model

As you build the internal processes to identify and measure your customer base you’ll want to establish how your Customer Success Managers engage with their customers. For accounts having trouble with onboarding, what tools should be leveraged to get them on track? For customers with renewal coming up are there specific meetings that can be used to ensure the customer is on track.

Figuring out the best course of action should still be left to the determination of the CSM but here are some engagement models you can consider.

  • QBR: A scheduled review with the account, this is great for high touch customers who may have custom accounts.
  • Surveys: Can be run periodically or based on a customer action as an impassive way to collect feedback.
  • Meetings: This is a good way for your team to understand what is going on in an account as well as build relationships with the key stakeholders
  • Advisory Board: Designed to provide feedback from key accounts that can help you make executive roadmap decisions.
  • Training: Can be used for onboarding, with the release of new features or even for new users added to the account.
  • Webinars: One to many presentations that can help your customers continue to move along their journey.

Step 5: Build the right team and specialize

Start by filling in the gaps that were identified early on, this may be simply hiring new Customer Success Managers or adding Customer Success Engineers that can focus on the more technical aspects of the product. There may be training required for your current customer base that will help them improve their position. This is also the time to make sure you have correctly distributed your customer base to each member of your team.

In the first 90 days: Build smart, repeatable, scalable programs

Now that you have identified that areas of improvement and defined your action plan it’s time to create programs that can be used by your team. These will help you quickly expand and optimize the process by which you engage with your customers and allow your team to become even more proactive.

Step 1: Roll out Customer Success programs

Drive more value and improve customer experience with clearly defined programs that keep customers on their journey to success. These programs should identify and mitigate any potential churn risks in the customer base but they also need to highlight potential growth opportunities.

Step 2: Make assumptions, measure and analyze

Once you’ve identified the key areas of focus to improve your Customer Success team it’s important to make sure you have a continuous feedback loop in place. As you move forward in your plan you need to continue to collect, analyze, and refine how your team engages with their customers.

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Again, congratulations on your new role and I hope these steps will help you get started. If you want to learn more best practices for a VP of Customer Success, please join me at Customer Success Summit March 23-24 in San Francisco, CA: www.customersuccesssummit.com

For more information like this visit www.totango.com/resources

Omer Gotlieb

Omer Gotlieb, Co-Founder and Chief Customer Officer of Totango, has dedicated most of his career helping businesses deliver value to their end users. At Totango, he has helped define and implement core Customer Success practices and strategies that are used as benchmarks in the industry. He speaks frequently at Customer Success events, both locally and internationally, sharing valuable insights and experiences. Prior to Totango, he was the VP of Product at MTS, Director of Client Services at AtHoc, and other customer-facing roles at Addwise and Netvision. His specialities include churn management, business intelligence, and performance management.

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  • Hi Omer. This is a good checklist for the first 90 days. It’s thorough. My concern is I think there should be a robust focus on getting to know the team. I’m sure it’s in the plan, but it’s a leadership gesture that can instill confidence and respect. It should be the first step of the 30-day period.

    Your team can offer valuable insights and help you learn more about customers. Or is it simply better to learn about the customers and then compare your insights with respect to each team member and how they approach their customer-service task?

  • Hi Omer. This is a good checklist for the first 90 days. It’s thorough. My concern is I think there should be a robust focus on getting to know the team. I’m sure it’s in the plan, but it’s a leadership gesture that can instill confidence and respect. It should be the first step of the 30-day period.

    Your team can offer valuable insights and help you learn more about customers. Or is it simply better to learn about the customers and then compare your insights with respect to each team member and how they approach their customer-service task?

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