The day I turned 16, my mother drove me to the Department of Motor Vehicles to get my learner’s permit. At the time, this milestone represented the long-awaited road to independence, a significant moment of my teen years. Naturally, that day is happily etched in my memory forever.

Learner’s permit secured, together my father and I mapped out a plan to guide me toward my final destination: becoming an officially licensed driver. It was a joint effort that encountered some bumps in the road and required a lot of patience — mostly on his part — but the adventure ended in success when I passed my road test on the first attempt.

Like my driving lessons, the road to a customer’s success — to value realization — requires a roadmap, one with important mile markers noted along the way. These roadmaps, also known as joint customer success plans, show the customer where they’re going, where they are currently, and where they’ve been. They are a collaborative effort between the customer success manager and the customer that chart the course to outcomes achievement and help the customer realize the value of their investment.

I’ve had the opportunity to act as cartographer many times, collaborating with customers to design maps that navigate their path to success. I know when to check with my co-passenger on which back roads to take when a detour inevitably arises, but I’ve also seen where things get confusing and a left turn ends up leading to an unexpected dead end. So I’m here to share three approaches to smoothly accelerate building your joint success plan without having to unexpectedly slam on the brakes.

  • Know where your customers want to go. Before having the kickoff meeting, engage with sales to gather key customer information such as the business problem(s) they’re looking to solve, their desired outcomes, and their criteria for success. Having this knowledge prior to the kickoff helps to alleviate repetitive conversations, making customers feel valued, and provides insight into their anticipated destination.
  • Determine the best route to take. While it might be tempting to simply start the car and speed off, mapping out the best route to achieving outcomes helps to avoid ending up in a place where the streets have no name. Instead, think like a long-distance trucker who plots their route with the goal of arriving quickly and efficiently, tracking milestones along the way and having alternative routes in place should there be a detour.
  • Share the driving responsibilities. Much like friends on a road trip, taking turns driving ensures that no one gets too tired from being behind the wheel or too bored from just sitting there staring out the window. To design a success plan that involves all parties equally, engage customers by asking open-ended questions to capture their goals, making sure to push past simple surface-level answers. Involving customers in the planning process allows for shared responsibility, making it less one-sided and fostering a sense of ownership in reaching their desired destination.

Customer success leaders should coach and empower their teams to help create the roadmap by understanding where the customer wants to go and why. This not only gives customer success managers a more active role in customer engagement, but it also increases the odds that customers stay, attain value, grow, and advocate. Read How To Build Outcomes-Based Joint Customer Success Plans to learn how to build a roadmap to ensure that customers reach their desired destination and avoid the highway to hell.