How to build your own customer success playbook

The following is adapted from The Seven Pillars of Customer Success.


There’s a key tool every company needs if they want to create an exceptional customer experience. What is this must-have tool? A customer success playbook.


In my experience, having a playbook is the secret to growing and scaling, to making sure customers are happy, to increasing customer lifetime value… the list goes on and on. I know that might sound too good to be true, but I promise you: when you build your own customer success playbook, you’re going to be amazed at how much it elevates the experiences you provide your customer (not to mention how much easier it makes your job).


That’s because your playbook—which includes templates, best practices, strategies, collateral, and more—guides you in deciding how (and when) to respond to anything that comes up in the customer experience. Having a playbook brings other benefits as well: it sets the standard for your operating procedures, it allows you to train new hires quickly, and perhaps most importantly, it ensures all clients receive the same high level of service.


The end result? You’ll be able to get better outcomes even though you’re putting in less effort! Over the years, I’ve set up many customer success playbooks for different companies. In doing so, I’ve found that there’s no single right way to build a playbook; however, there are some guidelines and strategies I can share with you that will help you build your own customer success playbook.


Use A Simple Template


When you’re building your first playbook, start with a simple template. You want to make it simple—something anyone can contribute to or pick up and use.


Begin with the fundamentals of a basic task or trigger (like a playbook for upselling)—you can easily add ideas later and flesh out the details along the way. In fact, it’s probably fair to say, “a customer success playbook is never done,” because with each new customer and product iteration, you add different product capabilities and new services.


Start with the name of the playbook and trigger that caused you to deploy that playbook. For example, maybe you have a playbook named “Customer Onboarding.” The trigger event for that playbook is “customer signed agreement.”


Next, add the actions that have to take place once the trigger is activated. Include information that answers the following questions:

  • Who owns the action?

  • Who are the stakeholders?

  • What does the call to action (CTA) look like?

  • What are the pieces of collateral—such as presentations, white papers, reference guides, videos, podcasts, and so on—that you can leverage?

  • What are the playbook’s system requirements?

  • Once you’ve delivered the playbook, where are you going to store the information? Is it in a CRM? A financial system? A Google Doc?

Remember, there are no hard-and-fast rules about any of these questions. As you go along, your playbook will evolve into something that is hugely beneficial to your entire company. These guidelines are just intended to get you started.


Make Your Playbook Adaptable


Your playbook needs to be adaptable. Every industry is constantly changing and morphing, and your playbook needs to change with it. Your customer is going through an ever-changing environment as well, so you have to continually update your processes and improve your content to meet their needs.


A playbook is not the same as your standard operating procedures (SOPs). SOPs need to be followed and executed step-by-step. They’re a process. Playbooks are a collection of best practices, examples, successes, and templates that are tailored to specific use cases.


You can think of your playbook as a framework that allows employees to own their roles within the context of the organization. That’s what I love most about them. You can build playbooks your own way. You can add a personal element to the playbook, such as your understanding of the customer, the maturity of your customer, your customer’s personality, their politics, whatever.


A playbook keeps knowledge in one place for the customer success professional to access when they need to make a judgment call. Playbooks aren’t always perfect, and you can make any adjustments when you discover a strategy that works well—or doesn’t work at all.


You May Need Multiple Playbooks


You’ll likely create different playbooks for various moments along the customer journey or for specific triggers. For example, you could have a playbook that addresses upselling. Then, when something happens that triggers the need to upsell, anyone on the team can grab the playbook and have everything they need to upsell the customer.


You might create another playbook that addresses low adoption or usage. That playbook could be used if someone on the team needs to address those scenarios with a particular customer. Because the playbook includes information relevant to that specific situation, every team member will have a consistent guide for how to approach and address the situation.


Even though most companies face the same customer success situations, your playbooks should reflect your company values, culture, industry expectations, and practices. The playbooks provide structure and consistency for the customer success team, and will help you accomplish many of your customer-related goals.


It Isn’t About Perfection


Your first templates will be simple, but that’s really all you need to get started. As you use the playbook more, you’ll discover the information that’s most useful and what’s missing.

Remember, it isn’t necessary to have a perfect playbook—all that’s necessary is that you have one (or more!). So go ahead—pick a basic task and put your first playbook together. When you do, I think you’ll be amazed at how much easier it becomes to deliver an exceptional customer experience.



For more advice on how to build and use customer success playbooks, you can find The Seven Pillars of Customer Success on Amazon.


One of the world’s leading customer success experts and a Top 100 Customer Success Strategist, Wayne McCulloch works with Google Cloud’s entire SaaS portfolio as the Customer Success Leader. He’s a keynote speaker and the recipient of multiple industry awards with more than twenty-five years of experience in customer-focused roles. Wayne began his software career at PeopleSoft and Vignette before becoming an SVP at Salesforce, the Chief Customer Officer at Kony, Inc., and the VP of the Customer Success Group at Looker. For more information about The Seven Pillars, including downloadable templates and training and certification materials, visit www.cspillars.com.

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