Agile Customer Success is how we at Bolstra do Customer Success. The Agile methodology works for Customer Success because it’s iterative and cyclical, and customer success relies on the ability to prioritize, facilitate, listen, re-evaluate, and realize continuous value.
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.
Our best practices recommend that we have brought our customers to First Value by the completion of the Land stage.
While we know how important it is for our customers to see value quickly, we also recognize that Adopting our solution is equally, if not more, important. And, it’s crucial that the adoption process begins immediately upon the heels of demonstrating first value. Customers must go from “Aha” to “I need this” quickly and seamlessly. Adoption is essentially “dating”, after a magical first date; moving from that “first site” experience into a deep level of commitment. Doing so involves a “matchmaker” (the CSM) who continues to bring customer and solution together, revealing inherent value to one another along the way.
If Landing is a great first date, then Adopting is getting serious. Second, third and subsequent dates happen when people are gaining enhanced interest in one another. The same is true of adopting a solution. Each touchpoint with a customer has the shared purpose of drawing the customer further into the solution and solidifying the commitment between customer and platform.
Consider the evolving nature of dating. In early stages, your goals might be shared interests, so you spend time exploring things you both enjoy. As the relationship evolves, those goals change, too. Relationship goals in later stages might involve identifying deeper levels of compatibility which may warrant introductions to one another’s families. Each stage is reached organically, and the shifts in activities complement those stages.
This same organic, evolving process is true of the Adoption stage in Agile Customer Success. Just as you don’t get to meet a new relationship’s family until you’ve gotten to know him/her pretty well, you wouldn’t entrust a provider with advanced organizational outcomes until you have built up trust in the platform. CSMs are in charge of monitoring and anticipating customers’ readiness to advance to new stages of adoption. They know the expectations for the customer’s lifecycle, and they also know their customers’ skillsets and needs. They use this information to gradually lead customers through steps to grow in comfort with the platform before they gain increased interest in knowing more and using the solution to attain more and larger goals.
At Bolstra, we use 8 week sprint cycles in facilitating adoption for our customers. Using the Agile methodology, we incorporate retrospectives, planning, monthly scheduled meetings, and reviews into each sprint. CSMs work collaboratively with customers to identify goals for the period and then the CSM continues to facilitate the attainment of those goals for that period before moving onto a second sprint round. These defined, iterative cycles allow for relatively quick wins (outcome achievements) which secure greater confidence, and, in turn, open the way for higher level goals and usage. Basically, each sprint provides the opportunity for strengthening the relationship between the customer and the solution, and increasing the likelihood of renewal.
Adoption only happens when customers remain engaged. (You don’t go on subsequent dates if you lose interest or attraction.)
During the Adoption stage, CSMs play the vital role of matchmaker, continually and prescriptively helping customers gain increased value from their solution. The agile methodology supports this iterative approach by identifying manageable goals and attaining them in short sprints, then moving on to more goals. Each time, they are securing a greater commitment from the customer, which leads the way to expansion down the road.
What happens when your new relationship appears to be losing interest?
When it appears a customer isn’t getting what they want from your solution, you have to ask yourself a few questions:
Unless we can readily identify that our solution is NOT appropriate for our customer, we must go to great lengths to identify the root cause of the slippage.
Whatever the underlying cause, the agile methodology allows us to regroup and reprioritize without pulling out the surrender flag. Each sprint cycle incorporates retrospectives on past objectives, planning for short-term goals, and regular reviews. These short cycles allow both customer and CSM to see potential areas of concern and address them or shift direction. Slippage should only be brief, and getting a customer re-engaged is as simple as starting a new (mutually agreed upon) sprint.
Adoption is the critical lifestage in subscription-based relationships that bonds the customer to the solution. Levels of interest and commitment ebb and flow as relationships become solidified. The agile approach to adoption works with this potentially erratic progress by building in cycles of priorities and facilitation. By using this iterative sprint methodology, CSMs are never left in the dark about a customer’s health and interest, and know what to do at each turn to keep the customer advancing toward expansion and renewal.