Companies closely track a prospective customer’s journey - from first meeting to final contract.

In the past, the buyer’s journey ended at onboarding. Today, smart companies know this is when your customer’s journey is just beginning. Tracking the customer journey has become more important than ever as most companies see a majority of revenue long after the initial sale. In order to lower customer churn, maximize revenue and promote advocacy, you need to establish a Customer Success strategy that manages your customers throughout the entire lifecycle with your product or service. This means mapping out the ideal path to recurring value for your customer and recurring revenue for your organization.

The customer journey begins with your first engagement with a prospective customer. Customer Success solutions allow you to follow them through each stage of the journey and monitor usage of your product or service—all the way through renewal. This process comprises tracking, measuring, and monitoring customer health at every stage, predicting issues before they occur, and providing course correcting to ensure the delivery of continuous business value.

In order to accurately chart your customer journey, there are five key steps you must complete:

  1. Define the customer lifecycle stages
  2. Identify milestones and events that require attention at each stage
  3. Create health scores and alerts customized to each stage
  4. Establish key Customer Success plays for each stage
  5. Implement a feedback loop using signal analysis

Define Customer Lifecycle Stages

In order to devise a plan to ensure a customer’s success, you must first understand which stage they are at in the customer journey. For instance, someone who has just started using your product will act entirely differently than an expert user who has had the product for months. The stages you define are totally unique to each individual company, but generally companies have at least the following three stages:

Stage #1: Onboarding

It is often said that the first 90 days decide the fate of most implementations. Depending on the complexity of your product, this timeframe may be shorter or longer. If the customer feels let down during onboarding, then the journey ahead could be precarious. This is the stage after someone has purchased the product and before they have seen their first value. To ensure a smooth start to your customer’s journey, you need to invest in making sure that they have the right support and resources from your company to implement your solution and deploy it successfully across their organization. This stage generally ends when the customer first begins seeing the business impact and value of using your solution.

Stage #2: Established

Once a customer has begun to see value from your product on a regular basis, they become an established user. Ideally, at this stage, your product and the value it delivers would be integral to the customer’s success, but it still requires monitoring by your success team to ensure the customer stays on track. Ongoing milestones should be based on establishing goals around product usage and adoption, increased user engagement, user growth, and advocacy. Your Customer Success team can help meet these goals by creating nurture campaigns that ensure the customer continues to experience increasingly more value.

Stage #3: Pre-Renewal

As a customer approaches renewal, it is important to be aware of any challenges they may be encountering and carefully measure the business impact and results your solution is providing. This allows you to be sure that you’re delivering enough value to have the customer continue using the product. At this stage, it is particularly important for your Customer Success team to address any outstanding issues that may cause a negative experience for the customer, like support tickets or new user training. Renewals can also present a good time for upsell or add-on sales to accounts that are in good health, so monitoring positive behavior is important.

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Identify Customer Milestones and Events That Require Attention

Once you’ve mapped out the stages of the customer journey, the next step is to highlight the key milestones that show whether or not your customer is seeing value at each stage. Milestones should be things like usage of key features, particular business outcomes, the number of users who are logged in, etc. With each milestone you should be able to determine how long it should take for a user to accomplish.

In addition to milestones, it’s important to track any key events that may need the attention of your team. These can be both positive and negative and include things like: significant increases or decreases in usage, changes in administrators, data exports, a drop in health score, or specific user behavior like the CCO not signing in. Using active, real-time monitoring to notify your Customer Success team about these actions enables them to proactively engage customers and manage them appropriately.

The milestones and events will be specific to your customer journey; here are some examples of events to track in the various stages:

Stage #1: Onboarding

  • Administrator completed system setup
  • New users have been added to the account
  • 20% of licenses have been used
  • First “wow” moment with product
  • Implementation not completed in set time period
  • Activity since purchase

Stage #2: Established

  • Consistent and frequent user logins
  • More users have been added to the account
  • Administrators are viewing reports daily
  • Use of advanced features has increased
  • Adoption of a new module

Stage #3: Pre-Renewal

  • User engagement
  • Administrator or champion has left the company
  • High number of support cases are still open
  • Licenses are being under utilized
  • Engagement at QBRs and other value-added programs

Monitor Health Scores and Alerts

Now that you are tracking milestones and key events, you can use them to build a customer health score for each stage of the customer journey. The health score combines several KPIs, metrics and other variables into one comprehensive metric to help you understand the overall health of your customer. By combining the relevant data points, the health score will tell you whether an account is happy, at risk, or somewhere in the middle.

Your Customer Success team can monitor the health score over a period of time to get a better understanding of where the customer is and why their status has changed. Alerts can notify you of any changes in account status quickly so you can deal with issues as soon as they occur.

Good Customer Success teams use objective, data-driven leading indicators and alerts to help them identify:

  • Which customers are in trouble so they can proactively reach out and intervene quickly
  • Which segments of customers are struggling and which are doing well so the team can focus resources and efforts where they are needed most
  • Whether the programs in place are being effective and getting the desired results to achieve goals

Below are some of the key factors that drive health. It is important to remember that health models are not set in stone. They need to be monitored and tweaked to ensure they are adequately representing the true health of your customer.

Primary Indicators:

Business Outcomes

Is the customer getting the end result they expected when they purchased your product?

Product Engagement

Are users logging in and using the application in the way to maximize benefits?

Service Utilization

Is the customer fully utilizing their subscription?

Secondary Indicators:

Customer Satisfaction

What is the feedback from customers and CSMs?

Support & Operations

Are there outstanding support, SLA and/or invoicing issues?

Define Customer Success Engagement Plans for Each Stage

Once you’ve defined customer health, it’s important to tell your teams what to do with this information. Customer Success Engagement Plans are customized, defined programs that help your team target the right set of users and move them on to the next stage in their journey. These plans include things as simple as a phone call, as well as more complex activities including automated email campaigns and in-person training. As with all other parts of the journey, these key plays must be tailored to the goals of each stage of the customer journey. Below are some examples of Customer Success plays:

Stage #1: Onboarding

  • Account is in good health: This is great! Now you can incorporate some educational training programs for features you know are key to their success.
  • Onboarding has not started yet: Reach out to stakeholders to make sure they get started.
  • Schedule a progress review to follow up on a weekly basis.
  • 10 new users joined the account: Schedule training session for new users or share relevant training tips.

Stage #2: Established

  • Started using new feature: Send best practices and power tips documentation. Schedule an adoption review in 30 days.
  • Low engagement with reporting functionality: Invite sponsors to a review session that is focused on their particular needs.
  • Account is in poor health: Escalate this account. Schedule a meeting with key stakeholders to understand what the issue is, and put a program in place to resolve quickly.

Stage #3: Pre-Renewal

  • Open support tickets: Escalate tickets within support to make sure they are resolved quickly. Reach out to key stakeholder and notify about progress.
  • Account is in average health: Set up business review with key stakeholder and establish plan to ensure renewal.
  • 20% decline in active users: Add this account to watch list to keep an eye out for further decline. Escalate internally to create win-back plan. Invite all users to training webinar.

Implement Feedback Loop Using Signal Analysis

Manually tracking each customer’s journey, is like drawing a map by hand and expecting it to be accurate and to scale. Use technology to help you measure, map, and track your customer’s journey, drilling down into each milestone and using data to verify your observations.

Once you’ve established your customer journey, it’s important to revisit it regularly with any data you’ve collected to ensure that is still aligned with the customer’s objectives.

By looking at lists of churned and renewed customers, you can identify common events or milestones that may help to refine your customer’s journey. At a minimum it is recommended that you review your customer journey on a quarterly basis.

Putting This Into Practice

Once you’ve mapped the customer journey you can use it to implement an Early Warning System for your organization. This solution helps you move away from fire fighting at–risk accounts and helps your Customer Success team focus on proactive customer retention by alerting you to the customers who need attention.

Acheive success throughout your customer's journey. Start now.