What is a Customer Success Playbook? (And How to Build One)
Discover how you or your team can build rock-solid relationships and drive business growth with a killer customer playbook.
I’m not here to call myself a dating expert, but in my experience, you don’t sit down at the first date with a checklist of pros and cons and deadlines for marriage or children. That’s an avalanche of red flags and a sure way to end up trudging home alone.
No, if you want the date to go well, you get to know the person. You have a friendly conversation, you listen to them, you share a bit about yourself, and then you set up a second date. And, if things go wrong, you don’t beg. You don’t wheedle. You certainly don’t lose your temper and scream at them in the middle of the restaurant.
Customer relationships are no different. You might not be out for a romantic connection, but you can’t just propose over the appetizer—you have to know how to build a long-lasting connection.
Granted, building relationships with hundreds of customers is a lot more intense than managing a single date. Luckily, a good customer success playbook can be the best wingman you’ve ever had.
What is a customer success playbook?
A customer success playbook is your ultimate guide to assisting clients. It is NOT your ultimate guide on how to make a sale. If you learn nothing else from this piece, I need you to know that.
Assisting a customer does not equal making a sale.
Sure, if you walk a customer through a new product and create a positive relationship, they’re much more likely to buy from you. But that purchase is never the point. Building a successful customer playbook is all about creating a flawless reputation for customer service, assistance, and experience—and if you happen to win their money in the meantime, good on you.
Unlike a sales playbook that focuses on systematic sales strategies and revenue, the customer success playbook focuses on people. What do they want? Why do they want it? How do you connect with them? What do they hate…and how can you never ever do those things?
Essentially, it’s a relationship/onboarding self-help book for you and your customers. Your end goal might be marriage, but if you don’t know how to build trust along the way, you’re going to get jilted at the altar.
What is So Important About a Customer Playbook?
Teddy Roosevelt once said, “People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.” (1) Dang, the man was eloquent—and absolutely correct.
In fact, 6 out of 10 consumers in 2022 said they would leave a business in the dust after just one poor customer experience. (2) That’s 60% of your consumers. And millions…potentially billions of dollars in company revenue down the drain. You simply cannot afford to not care about your customer’s interests. Customer success playbooks are a top-tier tool of information focused towards tackling this problem. They detail what your customers care about and give you the resources you need to address those issues so you can get back to the sale.
So what do your customers care about? Well, here are four aspects of sales that your customers will obsess over—and none of them have anything to do with money or selling.
Sure, you might lure a dozen people to your business for an instant purchase with a BOGO sale ad on Instagram, but for the most part, if you’re trying to make a sale, you have to be a person. Think of your favorite brands right now. Why do you like them? Yeah, their stuff is great, but why do you keep going back?
I can tell you right now that I don’t keep going back to the Apple store because I love spending money on electronics I know I’m going to replace in two years. I go back to Apple again and again because their customer service is some of the best in the world and I have never had a bad experience getting information, or scheduling a repair for my device. It matters. (Doubly so with B2B sales, by the way.)
If your company is trying to sell a product with poor quality, you won’t retain any single customer for longer than a month—unless you’re specializing in the 10-cent burger. Even if your product perfectly solves all of your customer’s problems at that moment, if it breaks down after one use, you didn’t really win the sale. All you won was a few bucks towards your quota that won’t mean anything by the time next month rolls around.
You might not always have control over your inventory quality, but you can control how you communicate quality to your customers. Keep stats handy in your customer success playbook and keep it honest, Pinocchio. Lying about product performance is currently the number one reason a customer will switch brands. (3)
3. Customer service
Are your customers comfortable sitting on hold for 20 minutes just to find out that the only problem with their toaster was that they neglected to plug it in? The answer is no, just in case you were thinking otherwise. We’ve all been that customer and none of us enjoyed the rest of our day.
It’s all well and good to get the sale, but if you don’t put a couple of minutes towards customer service resources, you’re not likely to win any future loyalty. Your customer success playbook gives you a chance to lay out service strategies and information so you can chase relationships, not quotas.
If your client has to dredge through a 100-page document just to get a quote on security software, you can bet all 100 pages are going in the shredder.
Using a customer success playbook gives you access to reliable tactics and information that keep things nice and simple. Plus, it saves you time and money in the long run. If your customers don’t want to read your 100-page nonsense document, what makes you think anyone in your business wants to write it?
What makes a good customer success playbook?
If someone asked me the secret to a perfect relationship, they’d probably get a wildly different answer than if they asked my best friend, or my brother, or my mom. Relationships are incredibly personal, right? And while business relationships are less personal, they still require individualization and flexibility.
As a result, a great customer success playbook isn’t as much about the step-by-step journey as it is about the process and strategy built along the way.
What the heck do I mean by that?
Well, let’s say you have two customers, Zac and Talia. Zac recently bought your latest software product and called your customer service department because the software didn’t solve the problems he thought it would. Talia, meanwhile, is in the sales pipeline and called her sales rep because she ran the software by her boss and he wants her to pull the plug on the deal based on the software features.
Both of these customers exist in completely separate areas of the buyer journey, but they’re essentially facing the same problem: they were told that your software product would do A,B, and C, but it actually does X, Y, and Z. The only difference is that Zac already handed over money and Talia hasn’t purchased anything.
In this situation, a good customer success playbook would outline strategies for dealing with broken trust. It might have a script your reps could use for acknowledging the mistake and then options for moving forward. Perhaps a way to calmly offer a refund or an add on to keep the customer from slamming the door in your face?
Rachel Hogue, Customer Service Manager at Azazie, puts it eloquently: “Imagine your customer is your best friend—listen to their concerns, be a shoulder to lean on, and then shift the focus from what went wrong to how you can help make it right. [It] helps remind them that we are all human [and] encourages the customer to provide us information that helps us help them [while creating] customer loyalty.” (4)
Framing your customer success playbook through this lens ensures that you’re gathering the right resources. Speaking of which…
What should be “playbook”?
Creating your customer success playbook will set your cs team up to knock it out of the park by detailing as many possible customer scenarios and solutions as you can think of. For instance, what if your rep gets on the phone with a client for their third meeting and the client is having a bad day? You can’t just hop into the pitch; you have to address the emotions in the room. What do you want your reps to say in those situations?
Ideally, it’s in your customer success playbook.
You should also include these two essential lists:
Customer relationship milestones
These are your set steps for your customer relationships. They don’t have timestamps on them—much like moving in together or getting engaged—but they set a general stage that lets you actually assess where you’re at in your partnership. Sometimes, labels are important.
Customer partnership milestones might include things like renewal purchases, positive reviews, or even something as simple as multiple email clicks.
Customer relationship alerts
These are your red flags. No one wants them, but it’s hard to define a successful business relationship if you don’t know what you DON’T want. This list might include fun little warnings like ghosting calls and emails, suddenly asking for price changes, or leaving negative reviews after what seemed like a positive experience. It’s pretty crucial that you know what these customer flags are and what the proper response to them is. Otherwise, you’re just trapped in a toxic relationship moving nowhere.
Create a killer customer success playbook with a killer sales consultant
As of right now, this deep-level customer relationship approach is still new and there’s no shame in not knowing how to approach it. My advice? Plan your first move strategically.
Contact my team today to craft a customer success playbook that will propel your business—and business relationships—into a brave new future.
- Theodore Roosevelt,
- Zendesk, 2022 CX Trends,
- YouGov Research,
- Rachel Hogue,