How to Begin Collaboratively Setting Goals with Your Customers
Goal planning is central to success. You may have perfectly articulated business goals carefully written down, or they may still be rattling around in the back of your mind. Likely, at least one of these goals relates to customer retention, customer growth, or customer advocacy. If so, then your goals don't matter as much as you think.
Come year's end, the companies that will be celebrating achievements are the companies that understand that their customers' goals impact their success a great deal more than their own goals do.
When we say customer goals, we mean the business targets your customer hopes to achieve through the purchase of your product or service. In the world of Customer Success, we call these product/service targets desired outcomes. (Desired customer outcomes is more involved but it hinges entirely on this idea of goal setting. I've collected some of my favorite articles on the topic below for anyone interested.)
The truth is, your success is contingent upon your customers' success and customer goal setting is the binding agent. Why? Goal setting is how you partner with customers to reach a shared definition of success. This shared definition becomes a compass pointing your two companies in the same direction. Through partnering, goals are developed collaboratively into a success plan; a map that guides you to a common destination. In order to reach your goals, your customers must reach their goals, and it's up to you to help them get there.
If you have a Customer Success program, then odds are goal setting is already part of your pre-sales and customer on-boarding processes. If not, the great news is that you can get started fairly easily.
Here are 3 things you can do THIS WEEK to begin collaboratively setting goals with your customers:
1. DRAFT STARTER GOALS: Pick 1 customer and create a draft of their top 3 goals using the S.M.A.R.T. goals framework (click here for our free template to get started). Use the tools already at your disposal! Review sales proposals, business plans, and customer on-boarding documentation to remember why the customer purchased your product/service, and what they hope to achieve as a result of the purchase. When possible, try to keep to annual goals. For complex, multi-year contracts, we recommend setting goals no longer than 2-3 years out.
2. HOLD A JOINT GOALS REVIEW: Schedule a goal planning session with your customer. During this session, walk through the draft goals together for validation. Ensure that you have properly documented your customer's business target needs and that you intimately understand their prioritization of each goal. Which goals could have negative consequences for your customer if they are missed? Which goals does your customer consider icing on the cake? Which goals could help or hurt your business sponsor's career? You should also use this session to draw out any missing information to ensure goals meet the S.M.A.R.T framework. What metrics are available to measure? What's realistic given your customer's other business priorities? What customer business cycles could impact the success timeline? Given the nature of these conversations, we recommend holding the goal planning session in person, if possible. Your objective is to work collaboratively with your customer to finalize their goals and solicit customer buy-in for the newly refined definition of their success.
3. START PLANNING: Work with your customer to begin developing their success plan. The success plan will break each of your customer's top goals down into interim milestones. For example, if your customer's top 3 goals are expected to be achieved at the end of the year, then the success plan will break these goals down into monthly or quarterly milestones which will help move your client along the path to success. If you are not able to define all of the interim milestones right away that is completely okay. Just get started by planning out the first quarter, and you can continue to add to the success plan as things become clearer.
One quick word of advice for newcomers, go slow and grow. Setting goals is just the beginning. You will spend the year working with your customer(s) to maintain goal visibility and update the success plan to track their progress. We'll cover those items for you in a future blog, but for now, remember that the point of this activity is to demonstrate goal achievement to your customer. It's better to focus on a small number of customers and see their success materialize than to plan goals with all of your customers right away only have customers end the year with lackluster results.
Now get out there and help your customers dream more; do more!
Additional Reading on Customer Desired Outcome:
How Would You Define a Customer Outcome by Eric Brown
Build Customer Loyalty by Focusing on Customer Outcomes by Gordon Tredgol
Understanding Your Customer's Desired Outcome by Lincoln Murphy