How to Maximize Your Team’s Time & Boost Efficiency with Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

May 10, 2022

Kate McBee

Category: Customer Success as a Service, Customer Success Maturity, Customer Success Strategy, Voice of the Team

The first thing that comes to mind when I think of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) is the old saying “don’t recreate the wheel.” SOPs help organizations document and stick to best practices for routine operations and are excellent resources for quickly and efficiently getting new employees up to speed. And my favorite part – they save everyone the headache and extra time it takes to start a project from scratch.

The principle of an SOP itself is simple but setting out to actually create one can be quite challenging. So, I’ve decided to lay out some best practices, include a few resources, and give you a free template to make it a little easier for you!

Now, you might be wondering where exactly SOPs fit into Customer Success, and what the differences are between SOPs and CS Playbooks. SOPs function well for internal operations (think manual inputs into a CS platform, updating account details in the CRM, processing renewals or upgrades, etc.), while playbooks are helpful resources for customer-facing processes. You can think of playbooks as a triggered set of related and sequential activities that are meant to accomplish a specific (and ideally measurable) goal (think risk management plays, expansion and renewal playbooks, or QBR/EBR playbooks).

General tips when using SOPs

  • Be clear and concise: avoid technical jargon, wordiness, and ambiguity to keep things simple and easy to read
  • Answer these questions:
    • Who does what?
    • How do they do it? What steps do they follow? What tools do they use? How often do they perform the steps?
    • What is the result?
  • Don’t be afraid to use graphics and charts
  • Write in the third person from the user’s perspective
  • Clearly articulate decision points
  • Create SOPs in the language, style, and format best suited for your specific organization – do your best to match the style of other existing process documentation or internal communication

Benefits of SOPs

  • Ensures adherence to best practices
  • Increases policy/process compliance
  • Ensures consistency
  • Reduces miscommunication
  • Ensures proper onboarding and training
  • Maintains organizational knowledge
  • Streamlines workflows
  • Eliminates unproductive steps
  • Improves quality
  • Boosts accountability
  • Eases knowledge transfer/task handoff

Useful SOP formats

Checklists are a simple method of writing SOPs, often created in a word-processing program like MS Word. This format typically includes a header and checklist items to help keep track of progress. It is easy to follow and straight to the point. Checklists are a great option for everyday tasks that don’t require much detail or explanation. They often look something like this:

Purpose & Scope
The purpose of this SOP Checklist is to provide you with an example of a Checklist format.


☐ Copy this template

☐ Add & remove your steps as needed


Step-by-Step Checklists
SOPs in the step-by-step checklist format include numbered or bulleted lists that outline the steps necessary to complete a process. Although similar to the checklist format, they do not include an actual checkbox and are therefore best used to document straightforward tasks that require little to no explanation. They are also preferable if the task you are outlining has steps that need to be performed in a specific order. Here is an example of what that might look like:

Purpose & Scope
The purpose of this SOP Checklist is to provide you with an example of a Step-by-Step List format.


    1. Copy this template
    2. Add & remove your steps as needed

Hierarchical Steps
Hierarchical step outlines are commonly used for processes with multiple steps that involve complex decision-making. While a step-by-step format will bullet point steps (1, 2, 3), a hierarchical step outline dives deeper into each step (1a, 1b, 1c). Here is an example of this format:

Purpose & Scope
The purpose of this SOP is to provide you with an example of a Hierarchical SOP format.


    1. Copy this template
      1. Open a new MS Word document
      2. Paste this template into document
      3. Save the template to preferred folder/drive
    2. Add & remove your steps as needed
      1. Highlight & delete unwanted text
      2. Add your own text & steps


Often used for processes with less predictable results, flowcharts map, and plan processes and can include multiple possible outcomes. The outcome of each step impacts the direction the employee should take next. Flowcharts are a useful option when the outcome of the processes has dependent variables. Here is a general example:


Getting started can be intimidating but if your team is growing or you’re just looking to standardize your processes and boost efficiency, SOPs will be your new best friend. Download our FREE SOP Checklist Template to get the ball rolling!