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The new normal is tiring–connecting with customers and teammates via Zoom for hours every day is draining and brain-numbing. How do we, as Customer Success leaders, help our CSMs stay positive, energized, and productive? One antidote is available today. It’s called progress, and it’s an often misunderstood and under-utilized management tool.

In their book, The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work, Amabile, and Steven Kramer demonstrate the connection between workers who are happy, engaged and productive, and work environments that support making meaningful progress on work that matters.  

“The power of progress is fundamental to human nature, but few managers understand it or know how to leverage progress to boost motivation.” 

Teresa Amabile, Edsel Bryant Ford Professor of Business Administration at Harvard (Emerita).

When used effectively, a manager can support a self-reinforcing process, a progress loop, in which making progress on work that matters fosters a positive attitude and creativity, which in turn, fuels more progress. Amabile identifies “catalyst” effects that help produce this progress loop:

  1. Setting clear goals 
  2. Providing resources
  3. Allowing autonomy
  4. Giving just enough time to complete work
  5. Helping do the work
  6. Learning from problems and successes
  7. Allowing ideas to flow 

Workers in environments with the above catalysts feel empowered, are more creative, and can be measurably more productive. Customer Success leaders can tweak their existing management program to add or improve their own progress loop.  

What is a Win Capture Program?

A company with a capable product and competent CS function can be swimming in signs of progress –activations, adoption, referrals, anecdotes, feedback, internal introductions, program participation, and partnering in marketing events–are just a few examples of wins that matter. You may have programs to capture product impact such as white papers, or referrals. But Marketing may only want one or a few such assets from any one customer, and you can only renew a customer once a month, year, or at best every few years. 

There is no limit to the amount of progress a CSM can and should be making with a customer and each indication of progress, each win, is fuel or an opportunity to make more progress. In this way, a win capture program will give you another way to determine if your CSMs are on track to earn the renewal or expand the relationship. It also provides many more opportunities to acknowledge and celebrate meaningful work and make your work environment positive and supportive. 

Launching a Win Capture Program

You can design and launch a win capture program MVP quickly and iterate on improvements. You can use the program for a month or two, revisit the definitions and process and iterate on improvements.  

Here are 6 key steps to get started:

  1. Define progress categories and progress data
  2. Enable win capture in a shared resource
  3. Start capturing wins 
  4. Review wins with CSMs individually and in team meetings
  5. Share wins internally with Sales, Marketing, Support, et al
  6. Share wins with the customer in check-in or QBR

The best way to start a new, experimental program is by not formally starting a new experimental performance program. Rather, enlist a manager or CSM to answer this question, “If we wanted to capture evidence that a customer was adopting our product and realizing sufficient value, what kinds of data would we capture?” Have them capture the results in a shared workbook. Share the first part of the list below to get them going.

Step 1: Define Progress Categories and Progress Data

A win, or progress, should be a tangible milestone or outcome that a customer, or internal stakeholder, would acknowledge as progress. Discuss with your team the categories and examples of outcomes that are meaningful to your customers to get started. Typical examples include:

  • Realizing value (improving profit, reducing costs…)
  • Achieving customer-specific account goals
  • Achieving activation and adoption targets 
  • Key stakeholders being responsive (accepting meetings, connection requests, calls)
  • User participation in feedback, survey, training or events
  • Customer participation in Marketing or Product programs
  • Users completing high-value tasks in the product
  • A manager or power user sharing an endorsement or anecdote 
  • Achieving NPS or CSAT targets
  • Receiving referrals or introductions to interested leaders or teams
  • Renewing or expanding

The schema, or fields, you use to define a single win can be few:

  • Account name
  • Win Date
  • Win Summary
  • Win Detail
  • Contact
  • URL
  • Attachments
  • CSM

The “Win Summary” is a single line that succinctly represents the notable outcome. The “Win Detail” should contain the quote, anecdotes, and other key points like expectations and causes you want to learn from.

You can add metadata to support more analysis like win cause, product features, contributing factors, or time/cost data. You can even add a numeric field, win value, to capture a relative estimate of the value of the win. A helpful referral to a new executive could be a 10 (out of 10), a quote indicating doubt or concern could be worth 1. 

Step 2: Enable Win Capture in a Shared Resource

Enabling win capture can be the biggest challenge in launching a program if you don’t have the appropriate technology. Having a “Win” object related to accounts in a CRM or CS solution makes it easy to quantify the impact and improve a health score design. Adding custom objects in the CRM is ideal for managing this initiative. 

You can also use a shared spreadsheet (Google Sheet) to prototype win capture. I wouldn’t recommend a Word doc, email, or non-structured format for obvious reasons. Win data isn’t disposable. Wins should be captured and managed as strategic, high-value data. 

Step 3: Start Capturing Wins

Ask a CSM  to start capturing wins in the shared resource. Encourage CSMs to dig a bit deeper and find out what the customer experienced, what they expected, and what was the reason for the outcome. You want to understand and capture the reasons or causes for the win so you can share this knowledge and repeat the outcome. 

Capture wins for a few weeks until you get some useful examples. Review the wins with the CSM to determine if they are representative of real progress. What has the CSM learned about the customer and their true status? 

Step 4: Review Wins as a Team

When you’re confident you have a representative sample of useful wins that other CSMs can model, have the CSM present a few wins in your team meeting. Invite other CSMs to start collecting. In future meetings, call out and recognize CSMs that are doing it right. Share reports of program participation with individuals in 1-on-1 meetings. 

Step 5: Share Wins Internally

Product, Sales, Marketing, and other internal stakeholders will benefit from the steady stream of insightful wins that contain useful insights and feedback. If you’re using a CRM or other solution, it’s easy to provide ongoing reports in which you can identify trends or relevant patterns. Reporting on a regular cadence can be an event the company looks forward to.

Step 6: Use the Wins with Customers

Besides your CSM, the most important beneficiary of this program is your customer. Your CSM will be able to better explain the impact your product is having. You’ll be able to better educate and develop your customer program manager and executive champion with detailed examples of adoption and value to better defend or grow investment. 

A healthy win capture program should provide you with a steady stream of insights that can become reasons for quick check-ins, or packaged as quick updates that can be readily shared in an email, and hopefully forwarded repeatedly. 

If you aren’t bathing in a steady stream of wins, wouldn’t you want to know before the end of the quarter? For a manager, one tremendous benefit of a win capture program is that it’s actionable and can provide a large amount of autonomy. It gives specific guidance to a CSM on the types of outcomes you value most and lets them target their efforts to deliver them. CSMs who embrace the program become more knowledgeable about their customer than CSMs who don’t.

You can learn more about a Win Capture program you can hear me discuss the strategy on Bill Cushard’s excellent podcast, Helping Sells Radio, in which he asks, 

“This sounds amazing. Why isn’t everyone doing it already?” 

The answer I shared was this: “capturing more detailed wins does take effort, and without a CRM or CS solution, it’s not scalable.  And CS leaders do have programs for specific wins, like white papers, or renewals. But as teams become more data-savvy, and health scores become richer, more accurate, we can expect the atomic unit of value, the engine of an effective CS program, to become more atomic. But most importantly, it will help you as a leader and help your CSMs have more satisfying and rewarding work experiences. As a servant leader, this is the biggest win you can have.”