Mutual Success Plans are your permanent point of contact between client and vendor teams. While the accounts get handed off from one stakeholder to another during the customer life-cycle, and the points of contact from either side will change with time, the Mutual Success Plan will remain constant between the two sides.
One such important hand-off event is transferring an account from the Onboarding Manager to the Customer Success Manager during complex implementations and onboardings. In many SaaS companies, the Customer Success Manager herself is responsible for onboarding the end users. Nonetheless, the post-Go Live phase gives the client value for her investment.
Now, the value realization mechanism is not straightforward. You may have agreed to provide an X% increase in a particular metric and a Y% uptick in specific other metrics during your Onboarding phase, but how are you going to reach there?
During initial adoption, both sides must agree upon KPIs mutually, identify new pain points, resolve them, and ensure that the system has the latest must-have or good-to-have features.
From a data perspective, the Customer Success Manager monitors user engagement and adoption while keeping a close eye on potential roadblocks or avoidable escalations early on by analyzing the ticketing data in the CRM or user behavior on BI tools. But this is all about data. What about the actual customer? How do you know if they are happy with your product? What quick wins could you offer to bring the status-quoists to the table and help them adapt to your software? What else could you do to enhance the customer experience of your power users? This is where cadence comes in.
I set up a calendar for cadence with my customer’s POC right at the end of the previous phase. We identify a bunch of end-users we need to include in the meeting and set up a recurring invite. I usually start with a weekly meet-up and dilute the frequency to bi-weekly or monthly once the account matures.
Remember the oft-repeated phrase in any Customer Success Job Description? It’s about building relationships, empathizing with the client, guiding them on best practices, and advocating for them in internal meetings? Well, this is why we need Cadence. While Onboarding sets the client up for success, Cadence goes one level deeper into relationship building. This is where a lot of maturation takes place. The users begin to mature in product usage. Your understanding of their business needs develops. Ideally, there is a lot of frank conversation, besides the official communication channels for raising issues or feature requests. This is where you “delight the customer.” Now, remember that cadence doesn’t involve leadership from both sides. That part is restricted to Quarterly Business Reviews. So while Quarterly Business Reviews will focus on the overarching vision and the strategic alignment for the next quarter, the Cadence meetings define the tactics to be implemented and make necessary course corrections to reach the customer’s desired outcomes in the best manner possible.
As you can see, you need to often coordinate on a range of issues from setting up the cadence to conducting them, from identifying the agenda before each meeting to noting action items and their ETAs before the next meeting.
How did I do this previously? Of course, on emails, with long chains of conversations, meeting notes, action items and following them up by setting reminders. Internally, it was no different, where I juggled between following up on tickets on CRM to coordinating the resolutions on Teams or Slack with internal members.
Simply put, Cadence is a milestone in a customer’s journey, and you are placing it accordingly in the plan. You can choose not to share this milestone with your clients by hiding it till the customer goes live. But once they are live, you can share the milestone with them. As we have seen previously, each milestone is a set of tasks with its respective owners and ETAs. Therefore, you will begin by asking your customer about the Mutual Success Plan and then mutually agreeing to a set cadence of meetings. Each such meeting will become a task, with you as the Customer Success Manager owning the discussions and their outcomes. You can use the comments section to jot down the notes, and every action item can now be added as a separate task in the milestone, assigning it to its respective owner on either side.
What else can you do? You can also note down the before and after meeting in the tasks. Any agenda for the follow-up meeting can be added in comments, followed by the minutes once the discussion is complete.
While you run the cadence with the end-users, gain their confidence, remove their roadblocks, and enhance your product adoption, it is crucial to address the pivotal question:
The MBR/QBR/EBR doesn’t just involve a change in outlook toward the meeting, but it also consists of a change in the stakeholders. The MBR/QBR is geared toward positioning the current status of your project to the economic buyer - the stakeholder who paid for the subscription. At the end of the meeting, they will come out knowing that either they are getting the promised value or the team is well on track to achieve the said outcomes within a specific time frame.
Here again, there’s nothing better than a glorious visual display of your Mutual Success Plan, marked as On-Track, with all the relevant tasks and milestones shining bright green and marked as completed. The value realization via your product, with a clear-cut description of the customer’s journey, will lend credibility to your Champion ahead of their management.
This can act as a feed-forward loop when you try to up-sell or cross-sell your products and services in the next quarter.
The Mutual Success Plan is not only going to help your clients keep abreast of the project’s current status and next steps, it will also help you align with their current and future goals. For this, you must use the Mutual Success Plans to their fullest potential and document every action item, conversation, and discussion with your stakeholders at the appropriate places in the Plan section. When you or your manager review these notes and comments, it will help build a perspective on where the customer currently stands and where they intend to go in the future. This becomes more critical when you document your Business Reviews on your Mutual Success Plans and share them with and get them validated by the customers.
So now, since you are the customer expert, if you feel that the customer should upgrade to a better package, or they might be a good lead for some other product or service offered by your company, all you need to do is simply initiate this conversation on the plan, tag the appropriate stakeholder (the customer POC, the Account Executive, etc) and let them take over. Earlier, I drove these conversations on emails with my clients and then CC the internal team members. But now, these communications and exchanges are available at a glance to everybody involved in the project.
Since the ultimate goal of Mutual Success Plans is to drive business outcomes by holding the stakeholders accountable and helping your customers reach their goals faster, your null hypothesis should see an uptick in your renewals and a concomitant decrease in churn.
In this way, you chart a successful plan of action for your stakeholders, backed with solid documentation, collaborate with your customers on it, and provide a single record of truth for your customer’s journey through the entire post-Sales pipeline.
During this course of events, no matter how many people lead the phases or move away from current roles, your Mutual Success Plan will act as a solid base for your company to build a long-lasting and fruitful relationship with your customers on a scale.
Customer Success Managers regularly struggle from burnout and time management - the result of managing too many accounts and not having enough time for each account. Integrating a mutual success plan into your current post-go-live strategy will support the client’s goals and expectations by:
BuyerAssist is a customer collaboration platform used by B2B revenue teams and their customers to work together efficiently. It drives clarity, alignment, and visibility at each step in the enterprise sales, implementation, and customer engagement process. Our customers include growth-stage companies like Skedulo, Jobvite, SquadIQ, and BrandIntelle.
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