Mapping out and having a clear picture of the customer lifecycle is key for ensuring you are meeting your customers’ expectations, as well as for creating effective, purpose driven playbooks (or customer touch points) for your Customer Success team.
The customer lifecycle is often divided into stages (or sometimes called “phases”) - there is often an onboarding stage, an adoption stage, a “success” stage and sometimes a renewal stage. These are the most common stages in an annual subscription model.
The customer lifecycle stages differ based on your product and pricing model. Some companies charge their customers monthly, some do annual subscriptions and some per-value-created - and depending on your model, you will need to define the stages that fits your business.
We will be covering the basic stages (or phases) below for those running annual subscriptions. This is to help you wrap your head around what they mean and what you should aim to accomplish in these lifecycle phases.
Most SaaS companies have an on-boarding phase of some kind. This is a phase in the client lifecycle where your customer success team reaches out to the client to set expectations, configure the tool for the customer and train the users. The goal is to drive product engagement.
This phase is an important one - there are studies suggesting that if a user is not engaging with your product within the first three months, there is only a 10% chance they will ever start to engage.
Read more about the onboarding lifecycle phase here
The adoption phase of the client lifecycle is about finding ways of getting your new users, or your disengaged users excited about your product, winning back those newly on-boarded or trained users that dropped off and never came back.
There is a direct correlation between low product usage and high churn. Read more about the adoption phase, and what to do if your clients are not engaging with your product here.
The “success phase” or the “delight phase” is the phase your customers will be in most of the time. They have been trained, they understand the value of your service and they are using your product frequently.
However, what exactly does "delight" mean? It is a word that is often brought up in customer success, but there has been little discussion around what delighting your customers actually means. If you're interested in learning more about it there is a great article written by Bonjoro that covers customer delight. You can download it here!
In this phase, it is also important to be monitoring your client’s health score frequently. "Plays" and "red-flags" should be triggered if the health of the account goes down. You do occasional check-ins throughout the year, you do your Quarterly and Executive Business Reviews (QBRs, and EBRs) and make sure that everything is running smoothly.
Assuming that you have annual contracts or longer, the “renewal phase” indicates that the customer is “up for renewal”. This is the time in the lifecycle where you close the renewal.
Make sure you have a good renewal strategy in place. Are they looking to switch to a competitor of yours? Low score on the latest NPS? Did the Decision Maker change jobs? Treat the renewal as any other sales/closing call. Be prepared!
Food for thought:
It is a common misperception that this period is the period when your customer decides whether or not to renew their contract. Our experience is that the actual decision not to renew is often made way earlier when the perceived value is lower than what expectations the customer had on your product/service. It could be done during the on-boarding or any time throughout the subscription period.