The beginning of a new project or a venture requires careful planning and execution. It is often seen that lack of planning is one of the major reasons why such endeavors fail. This failure rate shoots up to 80% when it comes to small businesses hence planning and defining outcomes have become an integral part of success. The 30-60-90 rule is increasingly becoming a part of the hiring process where on one hand, prospective candidates are assessed on their ability to visualize a plan once they come on board and how organizations are equipping themselves to onboard the incumbents once they are hired.
The 30-60-90 rule is based on 3 principles:
- Defining a progress path with clear articulation of objectives
- Breaking down of the objectives into goals
- Setting up metrics to assess progress and deploy course- correction measures
While these design principles hold true for all situations, its imperative for individuals to align themselves to the current phase of the business and role implications. As per the book The First 90 Days by Michael D Watkins, the various situations that the incumbent can be in are :
- Start-up Phase : Customer Success is being setup
- Turn-around : Customer Success function is in trouble and need to be brought back on track
- Realignment : Reinvent and revitalize the function
- Sustain : Take the successful unit to the next growth phase
Lets look at a scenario of a 30-60-90 day plan where a hyper growth company decides to hire a Customer Success Leader.
30 Days : Assimilate and Understand
The first 30 days are probably the most important phase of the entire plan. The time should be spent on knowing the product, the sales methodology, customer feedback and the expectations of the customer success role. These interactions pave way for meaningful future conversations. Some of the key points that the Customer Success Leader must look into are as follows:
- Define the learning agenda, set goals, put forth metrics and allot time for periodic reviews
- Meet the Customer Success Team and know the team members
- Understand the existing process of engagement, interaction, onboarding deployed by the customer success team
- Understand the data and metrics captured by customer success team
- Identify challenges, gaps and areas of concern
- Connect with the key stakeholders of the firm such as Product, Sales, Engineering, Marketing, Strategy etc.
- Understand the vision and mission of the company including short, medium and long term priorities.
- Clearly understand the expectations of the role and the immediate focus areas
- Dive into the sales process, understand their methodology and market sentiments
- Understand the pricing strategy of the products and services
- Deep dive into the challenges faced by the sales team
- Understand customer segmentation, financials, metrics, churn etc.
- Understand the product, its value proposition, future roadmap, client feedback etc.
- Understand the competitive landscape of the product and the firm, peers, product differentiation etc.
- Become a product expert
- Get a comprehensive download on the use cases to grasp product capability
- Understand customer feedback
- Connect with the customers by deploying the 20% rule which says that one should engage the top 20% of the customers :
- Who bring in 80% of the revenues
- With the best usage and adoption scores
- With the potential to churn
- With the highest growth potential
- Understand their points-of-view, product feedback, challenges, expectations, engagement experience etc.
Once all these interactions and conversations are completed, its important to reflect on the conversations, make notes and plan for the next steps.
60 Days : Analyze and Plan
The next 30 days should be spent on assimilating data, analyzing them and getting a perspective on business. Its a general observation that the next few months will be spent more on building the Customer Success function and laying down a foundation for stakeholder interactions and collaboration. Some of the points are as follows:
- For Immediate Action Items:
- The Customer Success Leader should start taking actions for the areas highlighted by the management that are of immediate concern. These could be instances like facing some irate customers, saving churn or engaging with a few key customers. In a growing company, there is always a situation where one needs to fly a plane while learning how to build it.
- Analyze data from the dashboards of product, sales and customer success to understand the As-Is situation, identify gaps and engage with the relevant stakeholders to seek clarifications. Some of the key metrics one should be familiar with at an org level are:-
- Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)
- Life-Time-Value (LTV)
- Average Recurring Revenue
- Net Renewal Rates
- Gross Renewal Rates
- Annual Churn
- LTV/CAC >3
- Adoption and Engagement Scores
- Analyze customer success data and metrics to identify gaps and key focus areas such as churn reduction, engagement improvement, supplementing growth, improving customer experience etc.
- Relook at the current customer segments, their metrics, health scores etc. to plan and deploy segment based interventions. If the same has been done before, its worthwhile to check the efficacy of such programs and build improvements over them.
- Map the customer experience journey, plot the nodes of interactions and compare it with the existing architecture to understand gaps.
- Start building process documents to institutionalize Customer Segmentation, Onboarding, Education, Customer Engagement, Adoption, Usage, and reporting
- Create churn, renewal and growth plans to solidify positioning of the Customer Success function
- Start analyzing the teams ability against the required capability to meet present and future outcomes, identify capability gaps and start addressing the gaps by hiring, training or coaching
- Start Building a Customer Success Strategy as a guiding framework for the function going forward
- Conversation with the management will start in two folds:-
- Formal Leadership Meetings : The Customer Success Leader should now play a role in the overall decisions of the company. This is also the time when the Customer Success Leader will get opportunities to build credibility by presenting findings, providing perspectives, owning projects and driving impact
- Ad-hoc interactions- These interactions will play a crucial role to help the Customer Success Leader have one to one conversations, solicit advice and feedback
- Conversation with the management will start in two folds:-
- Start participation in client pitches, discovery and pricing decisions with sales.
- Initiate weekly meetings with Sales leaders and representatives to discuss account health, churn &revenue forecast, engagement plans, customer health scores, NPS etc
- Work closely with product and internalize the product road-map
- Since Product and Customer Success are extremely close knit and have a plethora of shared metrics, its important to integrate dashboards, usage reports, adoption reports, feature reports, churn reports, feedback, NPS to be on the same level playing field.
- Both the functions must capture voice-of-customer and its important that conversations on alignment, report sharing etc. are built in a process document to ensure predictability and consistency of efforts
- This period should be the beginning of driving pro-active engagement such as Business Reviews, Usage Reviews, Escalation Calls, Churn Conversations, Expansion Conversation etc.
- The Customer Success Leader must initiate periodic conversations or sense-checks with decision makers of key clients
At the end of 60 days, one should have secured some quick wins, established rapport with the functions, grown influence with some key stakeholders, established rapport with key clients and gained confidence.
90 Days - Implement & Improve
The final 30 days is the phase when the Customer Success Leader should be able to roll out the customer success strategy for the firm. While this timeline may vary given the circumstances of the business, a customer success strategy builds efficiencies within the function and provides a reference point for the stakeholders. Some of the key milestones are as follows :
- There must be a formal roll-out of a Customer Success Strategy in alignment with the firms objectives and growth ambitions. This is the first formalized framework and improved versions will follow as the organizations evolves. The strategy should be clearly communicated to the entire organization with management buy-in and approval
- There is also a formal launch of the Customer Experience Journey Map with a comprehensive plotting of interaction points of various functions with their defined purposes
- Customer Segmentation Framework must be incorporated with clear defined parameters
- The Engagement Framework/format should be built around customer segments and personas with defined objectives, metrics, timelines and ownership
- Key activities such as 0nboarding, education, engagement, reviews must be institutionalized and efficacies must be tracked through metrics. Plans to drive scaled programs should now start taking form
- The Customer Success Leader must introduce periodic dashboards with metrics at all three levels – Organizational, Functional and Individual and drive discussion with all the relevant stakeholders
- Decisions regarding efficiencies and effectiveness are a priority and adoption of a Customer Success Platform or Integrated SaaS platform should be in consideration
- The conversation with management have started becoming participative and strategic. The Customer Success Leader should be able to secure sponsorship for the launch of the Customer Success Strategy (Engagement Framework, Customer Journey, Customer Experience, Segmentation, Goals, Metrics etc.)
- The Customer Success team should now actively participate in all post sales interventions such as discovery, building engagement plans, onboarding, education, health reporting and business reviews
- Feedback regarding sales processes should be provided to sales for improvements. Meeting are periodic and expansion plans (upsells, cross-sells and referrals) should have started becoming collaborative
- There is greater cohesion between sales and customer success. The Customer Success Leader and the Sales Leader have periodic meetings while the Customer Success and Sales representatives get together to drive business outcomes.
- The product and the Customer Success Team should develop a cadence for fortnightly or monthly meetings to understand Customer Sentiments, Feedback, Engagement, Adoption, Churn, Feature usage etc. with clear outcomes and next steps
- Engagement should now be based on a documented plan signed off by the decision makers. The document, called the “Customer Engagement Plan” should have the following components:
- Objectives of the Clients
- Goals or Milestones to assess success
- Key Interventions plans against the goals along with timelines
- Sign-off from the required parties
- The customer journey should now be more predictable
- Customer Advocacy Groups should be formed
In conclusion, the Customer Success Leader must secure early wins in the first 90 days. These small wins not only build early credibility but also allow the leader to build trust among the functional leaders.
One of the major components of success is to ensure that there are periodic reviews of the progress against the set objectives. Such conversations must have realistic expectations and timelines.
The other component is to understand that success is a team effort and it becomes arduous doing it alone. Identification of key influencers, mentors, advocators, detractors paves way in building an internal support system.