Since its 2009 introduction by Eric Ries in his NY Times bestseller, The Lean Startup, the concept of Minimum Viable Product (MVP) has been applied by numerous startups to engage in new product and service offering developments. Well-known companies such as Groupon, Zappos, Dropbox, and Uber have used MVPs to not only determine and modify their overall business strategy, but also to achieve long-term business success.

However, despite over a decade of proven effectiveness, the MVP concept has not yet been widely adopted by Customer Success leaders to build or expand Customer Success operations. It’s time to change that.

Before delving into the various reasons why Customer Success leaders should adopt an MVP strategy, it’s important to have a basic understanding of what a CS MVP is, and how it works (dive into more detail on the how here). In traditional MVP approaches, the focus tends to be on developing a software program or an app with the minimum functionality needed so that customers can begin experiencing what has been produced. Customer experience then provides feedback which can be used to determine the viability of the program or app.

With a CS MVP, what is being produced is the minimum functionality needed to deliver a Customer Success experience for your end-users. For example, regardless of the product or service a company offers, there are certain steps that either the customer must take in order to complete the onboarding process, or that the company wants the customer to take to consider that process complete. In that scenario, a CS MVP for onboarding would focus on:

  1. Designing a customer journey map outlining the onboarding steps
  2. Creating the applicable onboarding materials (e.g. a welcome letter, a kick-off meeting agenda and slide deck, instructions on how to access support, etc.)
  3. Establishing the operational mechanisms necessary to deliver and execute the onboarding steps and materials (even if that means sending messages or instructions manually for now)
  4. Identifying the KPIs and metrics by which onboarding performance will be evaluated
  5. Enacting mechanisms to collect customer feedback

Customers going through this newly created CS MVP onboarding process will produce statistics and feedback which can then be used to not only determine the effectiveness of the process, but also to identify modifications which need to be made moving forward.

A CS MVP strategy doesn’t need to be limited to just one stage of the overall customer journey. You could use a CS MVP approach to create an end-to-end customer journey from onboarding all the way through to completion of a customer’s renewal. However, if taking a broad approach such as this, remember to focus only on the minimum functionality necessary to deliver this end-to-end customer experience. The ‘nice-to-haves’ can wait until after the initial MVP.

With this understanding of what a CS MVP is, here are a few reasons why an MVP strategy can help you accomplish your CS initiatives:

  1. Let’s be honest, building and implementing any CS initiative can be quite the arduous task. Adopting an MVP approach will allow you to narrow the focus of an initiative to a specific area (or areas) of your overall CS operations. Then, within each specific area, only the minimum necessary functionality needs to be established for delivery to customers. This removes the pressing need CS leaders sometimes feel to build absolutely every aspect of CS delivery at once or to ensure they’ve thought of everything before taking action.
  2. Building and implementing any CS initiative is time-consuming. Too often, CS leaders try to design and build their overall CS operations in one massive effort. Not only does this all-in-one effort require a tremendous amount of time and resources to complete, but once completed, it can be challenging to evaluate the efficiency or effectiveness of an initiative due to its sheer size and complexity. And that’s assuming you get it mostly right the first go around. A CS MVP, on the other hand, requires very little time and resources to complete. It’s also fairly simple to evaluate because of its limited size. Plus, just in case you don’t get it right the first go ‘round, the business impact remains minimal.
  3. Once you have completed the initial design and begin to build aspects of your CS MVP and implement them with customers, you will begin gaining valuable insight into the effectiveness of your CS initiative almost immediately. You will learn, as an example, how your customers are reacting to the journeys or experiences you have designed. You will be able to validate (or correct) the underlying assumptions supporting your initial strategy. And you will uncover specific adjustments that should be made to that strategy to better accommodate your customers’ wants and needs.
  4. The valuable insight gained from a CS MVP approach will allow you to accurately determine which aspects of a CS initiative need to be scaled and which do not. If, for example, part of your CS MVP includes your CS team manually emailing customers with renewal reminders and these reminders have a significant positive impact on renewal rates, then it would make sense to automate and scale these reminders moving forward (perhaps as part of your next CS MVP). Because CS MVPs can be implemented and completed in a relatively short amount of time, you can quickly (and cost effectively) determine which aspects of your CS operations to allocate more budget towards.
  5. Often, CS leaders run up against challenges in gaining support for their initiatives. The low cost, low resource requirements of a CS MVP increases the likelihood that you will receive approval to move forward with your CS MVP approach. Additionally, results and insights provided by CS MVPs can then be used to demonstrate the business potential of a larger CS engagement strategy to secure buy-in from key stakeholders within your organization.

Now more than ever, it’s imperative for companies to ensure their customers are achieving success with their products or services all while enjoying an excellent overall experience. Rather than trying to achieve these results in one gargantuan effort (and hoping you get it right the first go around), breaking your overall initiatives into smaller, more cost-effective and less time-consuming, an MVP approach can help you do a lot more with a lot less.

Next steps: how to implement a CS MVP

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