Productivity is a serious challenge for those of us in customer success. It’s easy to get caught putting out fires every day.
Sometimes we start the day with big goals, but get nothing done over eight hours because we’re responding to one emergency after another. That’s how a lot of customer success teams function, but it’s not a good long-term strategy if you expect to improve that retention number (and it becomes laborious as an organization scales).
Designating deep work time, leveraging automation, and changing your mindset are useful ways to find time in your day; however, some tasks just have to be completed by a person. They can’t be automated because they require a decision to be made, but the tasks are generally similar.
For these types of tasks you should create processes, which are documented workflows and checklists that lay out the steps of a task for you or anyone else.
Let’s talk about how you can create effective processes for your customer success team.
A process isn’t scribbles on a sticky note.
A half-completed or poorly written process isn’t just frustrating for the user, it can have real consequences that affect the company’s bottom line. That’s especially true in customer success where every interaction with a customer is an opportunity to change how they feel about your product and company.
That shouldn’t scare you since it also means every interaction with the customer is an opportunity to serve them well and make renewal more likely. This is another reason to rely on processes. Once you find a procedure that works, you should roll it out wherever it’s applicable and tweak it over time.
If you don’t care to write complete processes, your team will ignore them. They won’t bother with a document that doesn’t solve their problem. But once you have a thoughtful process in place, you should lean on it as much as possible.
You can’t create a process until you know the task well yourself. The goal is to impart your knowledge and expertise into a document for others to leverage. If you don’t know how to do the task, creating a process for others to use isn’t just pointless – it’s counterproductive.
However, if a workflow is complicated, creating a process while you do it the first few times can help you wrap your brain around it. Document your steps as you go so you have reference material when it comes time to produce the formal process.
Once you finish creating a process, follow it explicitly yourself to make sure it’s useful. Would a reasonable person get caught on any of the steps? Is any information missing?
Each process should start with a clear title so the user knows he/she’s in the right place. Follow the title with a subheading that describes the goal of the process.
Example title: How to Create a Quarterly Business Review
Example subheading: This process explains all the steps to collect data and format a quarterly business review presentation.
Next, it’s smart to list any tools, documents, resources, data, or other processes before your steps. This helps the user collect everything they need. If there’s something they can’t access, you want them to know about it before they spend any time working on the steps.
A process’ steps should begin at a relevant point in the workflow. If you assume what the user knows and start too late, they’ll end up confused.
Here’s a super simple process for creating a quarterly business review. (It’s incomplete, but this is just for the sake of an example.)
Imagine starting at step two. The user wouldn’t know what “new document” means in step three because they hadn’t created it yet. Now they’re wondering what they should do with the data they collected. A seasoned team member would know they need a document to store the data, but new people or fill-ins won’t.
Make sure your processes start at the beginning of the task. If another process should be completed first, step one should refer the user to that process. This keeps everything in order so the user isn’t confused or is forced to ask for help.
That said, don’t start too early, either. A “How to Make a Sandwich” process shouldn’t start with “Buy ham and cheese” because you wouldn’t buy the ingredients every time.
Whenever you create a process, assume it’s not for yourself, even if you plan to be the only one who will use it. Assume it’s for the next guy and he won’t know nearly as much as you. Or assume it’s for someone who will fill in for you when you’re out sick.
The point is to be thorough and comprehensive. If the reader might not understand a term, link to supporting information. Don’t use slang or abbreviations. Use details whenever necessary.
Bad instruction: Complete the next step of the DEC plan.
Good instruction: Locate the Documentation Editorial Calendar document in the Work in Progress Folder. Identify the next article in the queue. Craft the article according to the Documentation Production Process.
If the process isn’t for you, make sure to consider your audience. Who are you creating the process for? If you’re writing for other customer success managers, you can use customer success terms or give instructions without screenshots. If the process is for someone on another team, they probably won’t be familiar with all of your terms and concepts.
As you build processes to manage the repeatable parts of your job, you’ll notice that many of them interact with one another. One will lead into the next, into the next, etc. Some processes will refer to other processes with conditionals, like “If you did X in Process Y, do Z here.”
It’s smart to host your processes in web format where you can link processes together. You’ll want the ability to use text links so no one has to search for information. The wiki-style of pages is most useful. This also ensure that everyone is using the most recent version of a process. Tools like Process.st, Kotive or simply Google Apps are useful.
Most importantly, have everyone contribute to your process creation. Instruct your team to document anything they do more than twice. If they might have to do it again, it should be turned into a process. This makes everyone’s job easier and ensures the success of the team.
Remember: Writing processes isn’t to make your job harder. It will make your job easier over time as the small, repetitive parts of your job become more efficient. You’ll gain time back in your day, delegate more work for others, and get back to serving your customers.