How To Build Your Customer Success Journey

May 04 2016 0comment

When we say the customer journey in the context of customer success teams, we rarely mean mapping the UX experience or defining the steps that the customer takes from the moment they reach your website till the moment they buy (or on-board). That would be the UX/CX Experience and we should ideally be helping the product team create an optimized one. As a customer success team, we’re charged with the CS journey (otherwise known as the Customer Lifecycle), defining the various touchpoints that would help the customer perceive and realize the most value from our solution.

An ideal customer journey would be addressing all 5 pillars of customer success, as recently defined by Gainsight:


A strong customer success framework (aka Customer journey), would have three types of customer playbooks:

Customer Lifecycle Playbooks

This would include defining proactive touchpoints throughout the different milestones in the customer’s lifecycle with our solution. To start, I recommend defining a small number of customer stages (three is a good number). Popular stages include Onboarding, Adoption, and Expansion. If your customers typically go through a trial period, it would behoove you to include the trial as a fourth stage. Once you have your stages, define a few key milestones related to each. Reflecting on past experience, consider adding a CSM touchpoint for each milestone. If the milestone was successful – celebrate it with your customer and leverage the moment to ask for a referral (internal or external) or to join your advocacy program.

The goal in defining this type of playbooks is to drive a consistent and effective customer journey that allows you to proactively add value to the customer and build strong relationships, regardless of the customer health or usage data. Meaning, you’ll be creating a certain cadence of touchpoints with the customer that is completely independent of any triggers besides time or milestones.

  • Go-Live milestone celebrations
  • Success plans (aka: account plan, value plan)
  • Health Checks
  • On-Site visits
  • Executive Business Reviews (Aka QBRs)
  • Monthly Check-ins

Retention-at-Risk playbooks

Instead of waiting for those dreadful inbound calls, be proactive, and reach out to the customer when it seems they might be struggling. The key to incorporating risk related playbooks is to help the CSM identify signs of customer risk early (at least 2-3 quarters before their renewal date) and collaborate cross-functionally to address issues.

Types of customer data that should be evaluated in assessing whether a customer is at risk include your sales data, usage logs, support tickets, survey responses, financial systems and sponsor movements to customer health. We then define the risk criteria, trigger right-in-time alerts on risks and define the recommended best practice playbooks for attending to those risks. By sharing best practices and defining the right time to take proactive action the customer success team ensures that risks are dealt with efficiently, effectively, and consistently for all customers.


  •  Changes in customer health scores
  •  Low / Poor survey responses
  •  Executive Sponsor changes
  •  “Code red”

Expansion (Up-sell and Cross-sell) Playbooks

These playbooks make it easy to identify and take action on opportunities for growth and expansion. In this bucket, we will also identify opportunities to recruit advocates who would do media interviews, participate in press releases, advocate for us on social media, take part in advisory boards to fortify an executive alignment with industry leaders or simply refer us to other clients.

  •    The Customer has submitted a promoter NPS score
  •    The User had been identified as a power user with a high NPS score
  •    The Account is over 90% utilization capacity

Once the triggers for each scenario are identified, it’s important to come up with the right step by a step action plan (aka Playbook) for each based on the account segmentation (or the touch plan). For high touch plans, the playbook would involve the CSM proactively reaching out to the customer after doing some initial research (aka a “Customer 360”). For smaller accounts, we would typically apply a low or no touching plan which will typically involve a more scalable approach such as automated email outreach.

Source: Gainsight’s customer success touch plan pyramid

An overly simplified touch plan could look like this

Segment name Criteria Touch plan
Enterprise MRR>= $10,000 High Touch
Mid-Market MRR>= $5,000 Low Touch
SMB MRR < $5,000 No Touch

Note: The criteria shown above is not to be used as a guideline. To validate your segmentation, you may want to check the overall account to CSM ratio, the book of business ratio to CSM salary, assess the overall number of hours required per account in each segment vs resources available, etc. To learn more, ask us about our strategy coaching sessions.

Once you validated your account segments and have them defined, a great way to map the playbooks is by using a word table where you could identify each playbook by the customer stage. I usually take the time to discuss how other teams (marketing, support, product, finance, etc.) take part (if any) and then review those with them to uncover opportunities to optimize the cross-functional collaboration and enhance the customer experience.

Renewal Prep Preparing for a renewal 3 months in advance Enterprise, Mid Market 120 day before the renewal date Check the health score and usage trends
If the low health score – schedule a meeting with the customer and create an account plan
If renewal is manual, contact the business sponsor to confirm renewal process & send renewal paperwork
Escalate to management, if a delay in renewal date is expected

Finally, consider creating a summary overview. This would most likely require a summary table or a visual timeline to demonstrate the various touchpoints across the customer life cycle. The advantage of taking this final step is taking the opportunity to map at a high level, which systems are going to be used to enhance the process and empower the team and management to uncover opportunities for optimization. The table above is a simple version of a grid I typically use as a baseline for driving playbook and customer journey conversations with customers. Another way to learn more about this process is through the hands-on group activities with other CSMs during our CSM Bootcamp certification workshops.


As a customer success team, we’re charged with the Customer Success Journey, also known as the Customer Lifecycle, that means, defining the various touchpoints that would help the customer perceive and realize the most value from our solution. A strong Customer Journey would have three types of customer playbooks: 1) customer lifecycle, 2) retention-and-risk playbooks, and 3) expansion playbooks.


How can CSM Practice Help!

At CSM Practice we accelerate SaaS companies’ profitable growth through customer retention and expansion selling strategies.

CSM Practice specializes in the technology and services industry, which offers a portfolio of enterprise solutions, who wish to achieve successful and scalable results. CSM Practice offers a particular customer-centered approach that helps you to develop a winning plan for the success of your client.

Take it to the next level! Ask CSM Practice about the services we provide and learn how we can help you transform your organization into success.

About CSM Practice

CSM Practice specializes in the design and implementation of best of breed scalable customer success programs using an optimal combination of research, strategy, playbooks, and technology. CSM Practice is the first to develop accelerated methodologies for customer success programs and is continuously producing thought leadership content for the Customer Success community. The company was founded in 2014 and is headquartered in Sunnyvale, California.

Irit Eizips
Written By:

Irit Eizips

Irit is the Chief Customer Officer & CEO at CSM Practice. CSM Practice is a customer success consulting firm offering services to increase net retention, improve customer satisfaction, and grow advocacy. Irit has been pivotal in shaping Customer Success methodologies and best practices. She has been named one of the top Customer Success and CX Strategists, year after year, since 2013 and is frequently featured as a speaker at conferences and Customer Success publications. Her strategy consulting firm, CSM Practice is the first customer success strategy consulting firm in the world. The firm helps companies accelerate profitable growth through the design and implementation of customer retention and expansion selling methodologies. CSM Practice offers a unique customer-centric methodology encompassing the entire customer life-cycle including onboarding, adoption, expansion, and renewals. It is the first consulting firm in the world to be fully dedicated to Customer Success. Irit had been leading the success of her firm through the development of methodologies for customer success programs and is continuously producing thought leadership content for the Customer Success community.