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Customer success playbook: A comprehensive guide

Customer success playbooks help align your team goals with your customers’ to drive better results and retention. Enhance your customer experience with our free success playbook templates.

By Hannah Wren, Staff Writer

Last updated October 20, 2023

The most successful sports teams have reliable playbooks—which use tested strategies to improve a team’s chances for success—that coaches and athletes can reference for nearly every situation. So too can businesses create their own playbook and implement it into their customer success strategy.

Customer success playbooks provide step-by-step instructions that outline the best practices for achieving specific goals. Businesses can use them to onboard new customers, troubleshoot problems, and upsell products or services. Read on to learn how to get the most out of playbooks.

What is a customer success playbook?

Customer success playbooks are a collection of prescribed actions, or “plays,” employees can follow to drive an intended outcome with a customer. These plays can be reactive or proactive, helping the employee take initiative or respond appropriately in specific situations.

Customer success playbooks are not one-size-fits-all resources and can vary based on each business’ needs. One business can have multiple playbooks that address a range of customer interactions. Each playbook should provide targeted guidance to specific scenarios so that customer success teams align with their organization’s expectations. The result of having a comprehensive set of playbooks is greater accountability within departments and a simple way to measure the results of customer interactions.

What’s in a customer success playbook?

The details of your customer success playbooks will change based on the use case, but each will follow a similar structure. Some important components of playbooks include:

  • Objectives: the desired outcome the playbook should achieve.
  • Team responsibilities: the tasks that each team or team member must carry out.
  • Reference materials: scripts and knowledge base resources team members can reference during the customer conversation.
  • Step-by-step instructions: detailed actions that keep team members tracking toward their goal.

The more robust you make your customer success playbooks, the more success your employees can have when they engage with customers.

Types of customer success playbooks

You can tailor a customer success playbook for nearly every customer interaction. Popular playbooks address:

  • Low engagement: applies to customer accounts with low or decreased activity.
  • Product feedback: helps agents pull constructive feedback from customers.
  • Account escalation: directs agents on communicating that prices are increasing.
  • Upselling: provides strategies for presenting new products or upgraded services to customers.
  • Onboard stall: guides agents on following up with prospects during the customer onboarding phase when progress slows.

Free customer success playbook templates

Elevate your customer experience with these expertly crafted customer success playbook templates, which cover onboarding, upselling, product feedback, and customer engagement.

How to build a customer success playbook

Regardless of the type of customer success playbook you want to create, you can follow the same general process. Here are five steps to create a playbook.

5 steps to build a customer success playbook

1. Map the customer journey and identify pain points

Creating a customer journey map is a pivotal step in crafting an effective customer success playbook. Identify customer touchpoints and challenges they might encounter by visualizing each milestone of the customer’s interaction with a product or service. Recognizing these pain points allows businesses to proactively develop solutions and strategies that ensure customers feel supported and valued at every touchpoint.

This deep understanding of the customer experience allows you to create targeted employee actions to customer issues, enhances product adoption, and fosters long-term loyalty. A well-mapped customer journey is the foundation of a successful playbook, ensuring that you precisely anticipate and meet your customers’ needs.

2. Define your end goals

Defining your goals for each playbook communicates your expectations to your employees and makes it possible to gauge their success. To do this effectively, customer success managers (CSMs) must understand their mission, vision, and the value they aim to deliver. You can also gather insights directly from customers, discerning their aspirations, challenges, and what success looks like to them.

By merging these two perspectives, organizations can craft clear and measurable objectives that resonate with their brand’s promise and the customer’s needs. These well-defined goals serve as the guiding light for the playbook, ensuring that every strategy and action aims to achieve tangible, meaningful results for the customer.

3. Segment your target customers

Segmenting target customers helps tailor a customer success playbook to address diverse needs. Begin by analyzing customer data and looking for patterns in behavior, product usage, industry type, company size, and other relevant metrics. This analysis will reveal distinct customer groups with unique challenges, goals, and preferences.

Once you identify these segments, you can craft specialized strategies for each, ensuring that the playbook’s interventions are contextually relevant and resonate with the specific needs of each segment. This granular approach improves the customer experience and ensures you allocate resources efficiently, maximizing impact and driving sustainable growth.

4. Create resources for employee guidance

The resources you provide your employees help them execute their tasks quickly. Start by identifying the most common challenges and questions your customers face. From there, develop a mix of pre-built content that’s readily available for your employees to reference, such as:

  • Email templates.

  • Call scripts.

  • An internal knowledge base.

For more productive customer interactions, consider crafting competitor battle cards and case studies showcasing success stories. Regularly solicit employee feedback on these resources to ensure they remain relevant, and always be on the lookout for emerging needs that warrant new tools or content in your playbook.

5. Assign team member roles

Assigning team member roles is pivotal to ensuring a cohesive and effective strategy. Begin by assessing each team member’s strengths, expertise, and experiences. Align these customer service skills with the specific tasks required, such as:

  • Content creation.

  • Data analysis.

  • Customer engagement.

  • Strategy formulation.

For instance, a team member with excellent communication skills could handle customer feedback sessions. Clearly define each role’s responsibilities and expectations to prevent overlapping workflows and ensure that all aspects of the playbook are covered. Regular check-ins and collaborative sessions ensure everyone is aligned, fostering a unified approach that capitalizes on each team member’s strengths.

Customer success playbook examples

You’ll need to highly customize your playbook for it to be properly oriented to the customer and achieve its desired impact. However, you can use these customer success playbook examples for inspiration as you get started.

Customer relationship kickoff playbook example

Customer relationship kickoff playbook example

The goal: A customer relationship kickoff playbook, also known as partnership kickoff, helps businesses start on the right foot with their new clients.

How it achieves the goal: The example above begins by outlining the broad steps and identifying the desired goals. It also establishes a timeframe for how long the relationship kickoff should take, accounting for the special needs of each plan.

The playbook then breaks down each step into action items that the customer service (CS) team is responsible for. It includes directives for what information the CS team must provide the customer and what questions they should ask. The relationship kickoff playbook also identifies the next steps the customer can expect after the onboarding process.

Customer health score playbook example

Customer relationship kickoff playbook example

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The goal: A customer health score playbook helps identify early signs of customer churn.

How it achieves the goal: The example above provides a structure for gauging the overall well-being and potential longevity of a customer relationship. It details the specific metrics and indicators, such as product usage frequency, support ticket volume, feedback scores, and renewal rates, used to calculate the health score.

The playbook must also define the weight and significance of each metric, ensuring a balanced and holistic view of customer health. It should offer guidelines on interpreting scores, detailing clear thresholds for “at-risk” versus “healthy” customers. Actionable strategies for addressing various health score scenarios are integral to the effectiveness of the playbook, from nurturing thriving relationships to intervening with potentially dissatisfied customers.

Customer quarterly business review playbook example

Customer quarterly business review playbook example

The goal: A quarterly business review (QBR) playbook should provide a comprehensive framework for customer success teams to evaluate, strategize, and strengthen client relationships while a contract is current.

How it achieves the goal: The example above includes clear guidelines on data collection and analysis, highlighting key performance indicators, usage metrics, and customer feedback from the past quarter.

The playbook example above also outlines the series of customer touchpoints leading up to the meeting, like confirming the meeting time and sharing information with the customer beforehand. Additionally, this playbook includes a request for a customer testimonial. Customer feedback, like testimonials, can be used to understand the value customers see in your partnership. You can then share their story with future prospects as evidence for your claims.

Customer contract renewal playbook example

Customer quarterly business review playbook example

Image source

The goal: A contract renewal playbook helps CS teams navigate the complexities of the renewal process.

How it achieves the goal: The example above fosters a deeper understanding of customer needs and preferences, enabling tailored engagement strategies that enhance customer loyalty. A contract renewal playbook fortifies the relationship between a business and its customers, sustaining the customer life cycle.

The example establishes the steps a sales team must complete during the renewal process. Some of the critical guidance includes what to research in preparation for the renewal, how to contact the customer, and what to share with them.

Boosting customer success efforts

Customer success playbooks are invaluable tools for creating a consistent and productive customer experience. They encapsulate the essence of proactive customer engagement, ensuring that every interaction adds value and cements trust. Remember, a well-crafted playbook is more than just a guide, it’s a company’s commitment to its customers.

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