Do you stay in the lines? I grew up in a time when we were taught that it is good to stay in the lines. The generation after me was taught to be creative and go out of the lines. But when it comes to interactions with our customers and internal stakeholders, how much should you stay in the lines.
It seems that everyone in Customer Success is building plays, playbooks, calls to action, scripts, talk-tracks, etc. and the question of when to stay in the lines comes up often.
I am a firm believer that there are great things to be gained outside of the lines. Think of an artist painting a vase of flowers. They start with the basic shapes, they add some color and detail, they step back and adjust and add some more, this continues until there is a beautiful painting of a floral arrangement. The viewer of this art is moved in some way by the creativity and the results the artist was able to achieve.
Compare that to someone that paints a floral arrangement via a “Paint by Number” guide. Sure, there is a floral arrangement there, but which one moves the viewer. Which one inspires others? They likely both bring joy and happiness to the artist, but the first one has the bigger impact on others. As Customer Success Managers we want to have the bigger impact on others.
Does this mean that a Playbook is not needed? Of course not, we need to train people on the general goals and methods to achieve Success for our customers. In my experience, the playbooks, guides, etc should all focus on the desired outcome and the key indicators that there is a missing path to that outcome. There should be some suggested paths for resolution or attainment as well. These are even more critical for a scaled organization relying on automation to trigger certain campaigns and actions, however, they should become ‘suggestions’ for a Customer Success Manager interpreting them.
It is up to the Customer Success Manager themselves to determine the best way to navigate toward that outcome. I often think of this as a drive from one location to another with the family. There are many different roads that can be taken. Sometimes you need the fastest and most direct route and
the driver has to inform the rest of the family of the reason that decision is made.
But more times than not, the driver has the ability to take several different routes to provide benefit to those along for the ride in the car. Junior in the backseat would love to drive by the rock quarry to see the dump trucks. Someone else in the car would enjoy stopping at the store to pick up an item that they need. Maybe the driver decides to drive down that one farm road where the horses are always up along the fence line for little Suzie to see. The point is that in all cases the car gets to the destination, but the enjoyment and happiness of the rest of the passengers is different upon arrival.
So what do we take away from this as a Customer Success Manager? Create experiences that benefit the recipient and others along the way. Use the journey within each play, call to action and interaction to strengthen the relationship with our customer. Have them enjoying the journey they took, not just the destination. Use the playbook, but make sure that all the steps in the play make sense based on the scenario. You are still in control of the interactions as a CSM and you have the capacity to ensure the journey is memorable. Inspire the customer along the way whenever possible.
The suggestions in this article are not to say that the guidelines and playbooks should not be followed. It is great to have them, it means that someone considered the points of intersection and what the desired outcome should be. It is a symbol of a well thought out Success Program. The execution of that plan is where there needs to be a bit of flexibility.
So what will you do, stay in the lines or create memorable experiences in addition to the desired outcomes?