Defining a Customer Success Workflow

Issues, optimization, and understanding common workflows.
building a customer success workflow

  • What is a customer success workflow?
  • What are some common issues that impair workflow?
  • How to optimize an existing workflow?

What is a workflow: A brief history and introduction

Historical studies in operational philosophy mark a clear connection to two mechanical engineers as the pioneers for modern workflow theory, Frederick Taylor and Henry Gantt. Taylor and Gantt aimed to identify methods of eliminating redundant or wasteful processes. Of the two, Gantt is an oft-cited thinker in the field of workflow. His most notable work is the Gantt Chart, which uses a classic bar graph to provide visuals that permit the assessment of tasks and milestones in a project schedule. Tracking such information illuminates what tasks need to be completed, who is assigned to each task, and how much time is required to complete a task.

In place as late as the 1980s, paper-based processes for documenting workflow resulted in slow changes or stagnation, due to ineffective operational procedures. By 2005, with the advent of Business Process Modeling and Notation tools, software-based workflow systems allowed companies to visualize and adapt operations with much more fluidity and ease. Contemporary models of this technological evolution include Customer Success Management Software that offers even higher levels of specialization and efficiency, especially to SaaS businesses.

This section examines an understanding of customer success workflow, common issues that impair CS workflow, and a guide to optimizing existing workflow.

What is a Customer Success Workflow?

A functioning definition of workflow is identifying all the steps required in the process of completing work. Business workflow is the repeatable process of a series of tasks that must be executed in a specific sequence. In customer success management, this workflow is understood as the standardized and replicable processes of ensuring the CS teams can deliver and sustain a scalable and adaptive system for the customer experience and high-caliber support at every juncture of the lifecycle.

The best customer success workflows address specific customer situations and outcomes, while also maintaining the dexterity to mold their processes to changing customer needs. There is much variation in the specifics depending on the company, but a definite structure exists.

Customer success workflows originate the day payment is received, or a free trial period begins. Following this initial stage, the workflow process transitions into requirements gathering. This stage involves gathering the necessary information from the customer, including the stated reasons for purchase and ideas for use, as well as serving to introduce the customer success manager. Customer success managers can then identify the tools, processes, or systems a customer has utilized in the past, permitting the opportunity to clarify how the customer can address their ongoing challenges and find resolution in the features of their new service. At this point in the CS workflow, training materials or webinars can be provided as part of the onboarding effort. Following these steps, a viable customer success workflow will maintain proactive communication with the customer, including surveys for consistent and progressing evaluation of the customer’s satisfaction and success.

Growth Consultant, Sixteen Ventures, Lincoln Murphy: "Customer Success is about more than delivering service or support."

What is a Customer Success Workflow?

existing customer success workflow

The challenges facing customer success teams are diverse and prolific, and they can be specific to a given industry or company. But some problems consistently arise for many CS teams.

Noncommunicative customer

A sparsity of customer access is a frequent challenge to executing proper CS goals. This includes the myriad customers who become difficult to communicate with despite ongoing efforts from a CSM. Being unable to contact a customer can lead to difficulty in predicting and managing churn. Developing a strategy for an unresponsive customer can include sending product updates, congratulatory observations on success, or offering assistance through the development of marketing collateral.

Faulty segmentation and prioritization

Properly prioritizing customers is a direct result of segmentation efforts. A company struggling to establish dynamic and effective segmenting can run into issues setting the proper priority for customers and their needs. Improperly prioritizing a customer can result in the devolution of goals and progress. A Static Approach can be taken to customer prioritization that utilizes a single dimension for segmentation, such as the ARR model. A potentially more effective strategy is Dynamic Segmentation. This model incorporates numerous aspects, including ARR, health score, or lifecycle stage. Dynamic Segmentation is markedly more viable with the use of a Customer Success Management Software to input and analyze a diversity of complex factors for a more nuanced approach to segmentation and prioritization.

Manual management and automation

A common challenge to customer success workflows is the proper use of automation. Manually executing specific tasks can constitute a significant challenge for the most critical functions of a CSM. For instance, manually managing customer emails, distributing surveys, internal messages, calendar invitations, or similar tasks can be a distraction or undue responsibility for the more dynamic needs of a CSM. Those more dynamic functions being relationship building, creative problem-solving, and complex communication requirements. Automating the customer success workflow's specific tasks can be a method of mitigating the challenges involved with managing burdensome manual efforts.

CEO, Everteam, Ken Lownie: "With the shift to a SaaS model, the connection between your customer’s success and your success is more direct."

A guide to optimizing existing workflow

customer success workflow

This guide will assist in condensing the previous section into an identifiable resource for optimizing current workflows. Any guide ought to be considered within the context of a given business to determine the efficacy of various specifics.

The most effective structure for optimizing an existing customer success workflow is the standardization of the processes. Standardizing the various processes ensures that a workflow structure is scalable and capable of being consistently replicated. Examples of areas that benefit from standardized procedures are onboarding, adoption strategy, escalation management, and expansion guidelines.

Integrating the most relevant technology is also pivotal for optimizing workflow. This increases the efficacy of standardized processes and increases accuracy. Implementing a leading customer success software will make it easier and more efficient for CSMs to discern the correct mode of action to take in an assortment of scenarios.

The final two steps in guiding an existing workflow toward more optimal success are the use of quality data to segment customers and automate campaigns based on this data. Parsing accurate data from software and effective processes leads to the development of customer divisions that empower CS teams to promote the correct messaging at the most effective and valuable times for the customer. Using quality data and effective processes also assist in the production of viable automation campaigns, which can be applied to areas such as renewal outreach, customer enablement, feature releases, and a variety of other customizable needs.

CEO, Uptick, Dave Stamm: "The one-size-fits-all and rules-based models for customer health do not work anymore. We've built a system that learns what factors drive each business and provide everything needed to onboard, engage, retain, and grow subscription customers."