Agile Customer Success is the Bolstra model for incorporating the basic tenets of Agile management into a Customer Success framework. It is both iterative and cyclical, and can be used at each stage of the customer lifecycle. The key concepts of Agile CS are reflective of its origins in software development:
This completes a single virtuous cycle in customer engagement, which is repeated (in approach, but with updated outcomes and approaches) throughout the life of the relationship. (See Figure 1)
Incorporating Agile Customer Success into the Customer Lifecycle begins from the very start of the relationship. Consider a sample customer lifecycle: Land, Adopt, Expand, Renew.
At Bolstra, we believe that Landing is not merely onboarding and launching, but is really the time to first value (TTV). Customers in the XaaS world have the expectations to reach first value within 4 – 12 weeks. This cannot happen without an agile approach, which includes discovering, communicating and prioritizing desired outcomes first.
At Kickoff (or handoff), the customer’s desired outcomes are communicated (or re-discovered). It’s the CSMs job to make sure those outcomes are realistic, given the customer’s capacity. The discovery process should also involve breaking big visions/goals into bite-sized pieces that can be achieved in short order. Then, and only then, can enablement and configuration take place, built around these priorities. It is out of these agreed upon outcomes that configuration is planned so that launch actually targets a speedy time to first value. This sets the customer up for seeing value in a timely fashion.
At Bolstra, we are SaaS providers just like our customers. So, we practice what we preach. From the moment a new customer is handed over to our Customer Success team, we get agile. Our customers all have the same big-picture goal: grow their customer lifecycle value! And, while we promise to get them to that place using our solution, we know the importance of getting them into our platform and seeing results quickly. Keeping in mind their overall goal, we help to parse it into manageable and attainable goals. That means we work with our users (CSMs) to identify quick wins such as:
No longer are they trying to eat the elephant (reducing churn) in one sitting, but they are taking substantial bites along the way.
Nowhere in the Customer lifecycle are potential obstacles to value attainment more visible than in Landing. During the sales process, customers may have shared all their wants/needs, but it’s possible they have not been fully transparent about their capacity to achieve those goals. In the Agile methodology, this moment of vulnerability is actually an opportunity. The kickoff/handoff should be that opportunity to let it all hang out, and it’s incumbent upon the CSM to enable that kind of disclosure. Only then can you truly right-size goals to meet capacity so that those small wins can happen in a timely fashion.
Let’s consider an example. You’ve just sold your marketing analytics platform to a customer with the promise of increasing lead generation threefold. Upon transfer of the account from sales to the Customer Success team, you learn that the customer lacks the full capacity to work with the data that your platform generates. While they are eager to maximize their lead generation, you know they are being set up for failure if you don’t help them understand how to manage the data first.
What’s your best first step?
You have to reset their goals to address this need for knowledge transfer first so that they are able to take steps toward their larger goal of lead generation. While it may appear, at first consideration, to be a delay in value attainment, it actually expedites it because you’ve provided them with a win more quickly, rather than a failure further down the line.
This is what Agile Customer Success is all about. It’s showing value iteratively. In the Land stage of the Customer Lifecycle, getting to first value quickly is imperative. That’s why it’s critical to identify and prioritize the right goals, and then get about achieving those. That opens the door to Adoption, and the agile cycle begins again.
Learn how to build your own Agile Customer Success Team.