Playbooks Drive Repeatable Tasks for Your CS Team

As a customer success manager, how many accounts do you handle?CS playbooks

20? 200? Somewhere in-between?

The more you add, and the more your company scales, the harder it gets to take a consistent and personalized approach to accounts' individual needs. It becomes infinitely more difficult to ensure your team takes the right steps for any event, from a low NPS score to low product usage. It also becomes more difficult to track the success of those actions. 

With customer success playbooks, your team has tools to develop repeatable and scalable processes that lead to wins for you and your users. Without playbooks … Well, enjoy that non-stop juggling act.

How playbooks factor into your customer success platform

Whether your customer success team is in early pre-growth stage — about 20% of CS teams fit this category, according to a 2021 report by the Technology & Services Industry Association — or in late-growth stage (38%), you can climb your way up with playbooks.

If you haven’t heard of playbooks outside the realm of Sunday Night Football, don’t sweat it. As we've uncovered at UserIQ, 68% of the success experts we polled aren't using playbooks yet

Good thing you’re about to join the 32% who are ahead of the competition. 

Basically, take the X's and O's of a football playbook and translate them to the world of software and subscription services. Both are tools that help teams handle recurring events in a defined (and proven) way. Both provide clear directions to players when it comes to what to expect on the field and how to respond to win the game. The only real difference is the game in question.

Well, maybe two differences. Your job as a customer success manager (hopefully) requires less protective gear.

Why every customer success team should be using playbooks

Done right, there are several benefits your SaaS team can unlock by using a success playbook, including:

Customer success playbooks benefits

The foundation to all of these benefits? Personalization and standardization. To get a better understanding of exactly what plays look like in action, we spoke with Brian Nicholls, Vice President of Customer Success at UserIQ:

 "There are times when you need your responses to be somewhat differentiated, but you still have to react similarly from CSM to CSM,” Nicholls says. “Otherwise, you may end up with an inconsistent experience across your customer base."

At first, playbooks can feel pretty counterintuitive. How does a tool that helps success experts create repeatable processes also lead to a more personalized user experience? 

Well, for that answer, we’ll explain how we use plays at UserIQ.

No one loves an "it's not me, it's you" conversation, especially when it’s coming from a customer. So when that churn notice comes, it can feel like your whole day comes to a grinding halt. We’ve set out to change that by putting a specific process in place for as soon as that message hits a CSM’s inbox. 

Our customer success playbook walks through each CSM through what they need to do to process the cancellation and, more importantly, learn from what went wrong. 

In an ideal world, that notice never actually comes in thanks to our other play. First, we identified predicted indicators of outcomes like churn and customer retention and used those signs as the catalyst for our plays. That way we can address problems before they ever actually come to a head.

One of the most useful success metrics we lean on is activity in the app — or lack thereof. If a user hasn’t logged on in a few days, our CSMs have a clear roadmap on how to re-engage them and uncover whether they’ve run into an issue with our platform. 

By implementing plays, your SaaS company can take a proactive approach to your success plan that empowers both you and your users. For you, that means swooping in at the exact right moment to give your users the support they didn’t even know they needed. For your users, that equals stronger business outcomes all thanks to your product.

Now that you know what playbooks are and why you need them, it’s time to learn how to build them.

What you’ll need to know to build your own CS playbook

Success playbooks are built on two things: triggers and plays.

  • Triggers are specified behaviors or events in the customer lifecycle that — wait for it —  trigger your success team to take action
  • Plays are how your team takes action.

Triggers and plays can each take very different forms depending on your team’s overall strategy. However, as you select your own, we still have some helpful trick plays and tips up our sleeve here at UserIQ:

Which strategies should you turn into plays?

The short answer to this can be a little frustrating: It depends. 

But in all honesty, it really does vary. Wherever you work, there are slight variations in how your organization will handle things. A very high touch business will have an entirely different response to churn than less engaged one simply because it's a different way of doing business. However, as Nicholls shared with us, that doesn’t mean everyone can’t benefit from plays.

"As you move forward in your career, you'll start picking up on where a standardized response has worked versus where you'll need a more customized one. On top of that, trial and error within your own business will serve as your greatest source of learning when it comes to plays."

What KPIs should be used as triggers?

Start by asking yourself which metrics serve as a signal that your team is getting a good experience. Again, the answers can vary, but some of those common success metrics we’ve found include: 

  • Voice of customer.
  • Activity on platform.
  • Number of support tickets and resolution time. 

Your customer health score system can simplify your decision as it wraps up all of these metrics into one neat little package. But, the more targeted you want your plays to be, the more specific your triggers should be. 

One word of caution here: Don't rely on your competitors as your sole benchmark for triggers. While it's important to understand what they're doing, you didn't set out in the world of SaaS to be them. You want to be your own. With that in mind, when you're looking for benchmarks, lean on your own experience as well as shared resources in the success community from sites like Gain Grow Retain.

How to drive customer success initiatives with playbooks

Customer success plays strategy

You know what plays are, why you need them and how to build them. Now, it’s time for what we like to call our Five Golden Rules of Playbooks:

  1. Keep your playbooks sharp by focusing on what customer outcome you want to drive.
  2. Include objective and subjective measures so that you can always get the full picture. 
  3. Intertwine plays with your health score to get the most insights from your customer data.
  4. Evolve your playbooks as the environment changes and don’t be afraid to ask your customers what they think.
  5. Don’t run plays just to run plays.

We saved the best for last there. To understand our final — and maybe most important — rule, we’ll turn things over to Nicholls one last time:

“I firmly believe that when you hire talented people you need to let them do what they do to make the customer happy. If you try to write a play on every scenario it won’t really work out. Be intentional on what you’re writing those plays for, and always look at things that would generate a strong customer relationship and good user experience.” 

Implementing your own playbooks

At the end of the day, plays are the key to forming a proactive customer success strategy. Without them, your team will always end up feeling like you’re taking one step forward and three back in the battle against churn. 

Plus, once you’re able to automate those plays? That’s when the real magic happens.

Ready to start building and implementing customer-driven plays? Take a look at UserIQ Plays in action