In my previous article, I introduced a framework to assess your adoption of the six Customer Success Readiness pillars. Now, we will explore the Playbook and Onboarding pillars in greater detail, which combine to form Deployment. In our context, Configuration is the configuration and personalization of your service to the unique aspects of your customer, and Onboarding is the enablement of each user to gain productivity and other business value through your service.


It would be nice if your solution was able to “automatically” reflect a customer’s processes, interfaces, and other unique aspects. Until that time, a strong implementation playbook that is based on repeatable processes and templates continues to be a key foundation of successful implementation. As we will see, the expectations in a subscription economy are greater than having an internal bible of knowledge to get individual users to a state of productivity with your cloud service.


Many emerging companies fall victim to their own success. While earlier in the company’s growth, the focus was on getting customers signed up, the scramble is now to get them configured. If your organization has not yet defined the sequence of steps, milestones, and checkpoints to get a new customer from the first task to an independently productive solution, you belong in this category. Product documentation is not a substitute for an implementation playbook. You need best practices, templates, a methodology, and lessons learned to make your configurations a repeatable and efficient process.


The customers on the other side of the Renewals Chasm expect a consistent formula. Your organization has recognized the steps that can be automated or streamlined to accelerate the time to value and has taken the time to document those steps and best practices. Now, you promote faster configuration of your growing customer base, as well as your growing team. However, your implementation playbook, best practices, and templates are still only known to your team.


To ease any worries about the effort needed to implement your solution, demystify the steps to adopt your service, and give your customers visibility. Your Intellectual Property and value are not the way you get a customer implemented. Publish your methodology, and give your newly gained customers a choice to engage your team, a partner, or do it themselves. A published and accessible implementation playbook provides a common language and creates confidence and success.


Now that you have a published playbook, you should make it interactive and integrate it into your configuration. The ability to toggle between the page where you define settings and the documentation that describes the steps avoids confusion and frustration, and makes it possible for customers to help themselves!


In addition to your playbook, you need a way to engage with the users to perform the configuration, personalization and rollout to the end users. Instead of the How, this pillar is focused on the Who.


In this early stage, core product capabilities and the many tools to incorporate and integrate existing data and systems are still missing. Therefore, the Engineering team is heavily involved in the deployment to bridge the gap between your product and your customer.


As a next step, companies typically cut the umbilical cord between Engineering and the delivery of resources, and have a dedicated post-sales team with a separate Professional Services and a Support organization. This segregation fosters increased Engineering excellence, greater customer-facing excellence and engagement discipline, and ongoing support. This is the traditional stage for on-premise solutions.


System Integrators help you to expand your delivery capabilities, as well as your customer base. The SI is deploying your solution within their best practices framework after gaining the necessary knowledge from your methodology and training, if they are aligned with and integrated into your framework. Otherwise you lose the precious long-term connection with your customers.


Not every customer is ready for the big deployment project. As individuals, we are used to self-service, YouTube How Tos, Wikis, and other forms of DIY. The Onboarding leaders have developed a whole ecosystem of DIY options that empower your customer to seek immediate help throughout their entire lifecycle. Some or all of the following offerings propel you to the Conquering stage:

    • “Ask a Guru”: Schedule a recurring meeting manned by an expert. Customers can call in for help during these specific times, and ask any question to one of your specialists. This becomes a cost-effective way for you to provide help and to minimize objections and concerns.
    • Spot Service Marketplace: For a full-scale engagement you need NDA, MSA, and SOW. For a few hours of help, this contractual framework is an inhibitor, not an enabler. Small service bundles with a EULA-style T&C section that you add to a shopping cart avoid this hassle. Integrate your partners to deliver these services and create synergies among customers, partners, and your company.
    • Center of Excellence: As you move from requirement to design, configure, test, and rollout, your expertise is needed less and less. If you just step back, you leave a knowledge vacuum behind. Fill that void by selecting a few champions to take over at the customer site. These internal experts in the Center of Excellence (COE) are more than an internal helpdesk. They are foremost your internal spokesperson or champion who help to evangelize your solution beyond the initial target audience. Identifying and nurturing these individuals helps you to scale throughout the organization.
    • Community: This is such a critical component of your Customer Success efforts and and has long-lasting effects beyond the Deployment stage, that it requires it’s own dedicated section and will be described in my next article.

Customer Example: A mid-size enterprise software provider can use the techniques above to reduce their services costs for their customers by over 30%, and improve the rate of successful Go-Lives by 30%.


To this point in your journey to full Customer Success Readiness, you have focused on deployment. In my next article, I will introduce you to the Nurture components that allow you to support the stakeholders and end-users, before focusing on the Value.

Andreas Knoeful

Director of Services, NextLabs