Understanding the commitments and parameters of a customer agreement is a core component of a Customer Success team’s ability to manage contract compliance. We all want our Customer Success teams to be efficient and highly aware of our commitments and responsibilities. When renewal time comes around, your team needs the context of an account’s contract, especially when customers are re-assigned or when multiple parties — Sales, Product, and CS — each contribute to the parameters of the final agreement.
Here are 5 reasons why having a contract lifecycle management process is critical to the success of your Customer Success team.
1. Context Is Precious
With modern contract negotiations, the context of a contract as well as the customers’ understanding of the contract’s terms or WHY specific clauses were utilized or terms were developed can be lost in a maze of inboxes, Slack or text messages, and verbal conversations. Very often this chaotic flow of communications happens quickly in the pursuit of a timely conclusion and involves people from across your organization.
The trouble with legacy and fragmented communications systems is that they aren’t associated closely with the contract. They exist in their own silos and teasing out multiple lines of contract negotiation is challenging. This is greatly simplified when your contract management software allows for seamless internal and external communications with respect to the evolution of the contract. Moving the contract negotiation process online becomes a key element of frictionless contract execution.
While the value of these conversations is high during the contract negotiation process, it becomes important once again when up for renewal, where you can easily see the nuance behind why specific changes were made and by whom. This contextual awareness is invaluable in the continued management over the course of the customer’s lifecycle and during the contract risk assessment of the customer. Without highly proximal metadata that is stored in perpetuity alongside the contract, it is easy to lose sight of the intent behind any changes made during the contract negotiations.
2. It’s About The Data
Having access to the data that is contained inside your contracts and being able to report on and take action based on the parameters of the agreement is a key component in delivering a brilliant customer experience. Knowing of upcoming important dates, renewals, and dimensions of your commitments — e.g. SLA terms variances, thresholds of usage, and the characteristics of pricing as applicable — becomes extremely important when doing cross-customer analysis and reporting.
If you want to know which customers have a specific variance to their SLA (in case of a required notification), a system of record for these key fields greatly simplifies this effort. Too often Customer Success is left with either a manual review and data entry or an after-the-fact analysis of SLA breach impacts. A thoughtful process and the use of standardized Smart fields and field selectors with defined parameters keep your contracting consistent, supportable, and reportable for contract risk analysis.
3. Consistency Is Key
One of the greatest challenges in Customer Success is the many variations of language and contract structure. When using Microsoft Word and email to redline a contract and negotiate contract terms, subtle language changes or inconsistencies can lead to customer misunderstandings, lower-quality support, or even a violation of SLA or other commitments due to poorly understood or crafted contract language.
Using contract management software with a clause library and a selection of legally-approved term variations gives you real-time flexibility in the contract negotiation process by allowing your team to quickly adopt the approved language. Customer Success teams can report on and prepare for pre-approved language in advance as well, so customers see a uniform experience and odd variations in language don’t cause contractual compliance or customer satisfaction issues later in their lifecycle.
4. Velocity and Clarity Drive Efficiency
Another big challenge in Customer Success contract management is obtaining the right contract approvals in a time-efficient manner. Two big blockers to the old email and MS Word way of “managing” contracts are:
- Knowing who is required to approve a contract and, if you do,
- Ensuring that contracts are consistently routed to the appropriate person
A robust contract management software system speeds a contract along to all the right parties and makes it easy to see where approvals are without having to dig through long chains of emails with questions, clarifications, and approval acknowledgments. Stuck approvals or routing to the wrong people or missing people in your approval process can contribute to customer dissatisfaction due to long wait times to receive the contract, or even receiving an unapproved or unsupportable contract.
5. A Contract Repository for Everyone
Anyone who has been in Customer Success has had that painful experience with a customer who lost their executed contract, doesn’t have access to it, or perhaps doesn’t even know where it might be filed. Modern contract management software solves this with a secure, universal contract repository accessible by all parties to the signing and contract negotiation process.
Adding other parties to the contract at any time during the customer lifecycle allows new people to seamlessly gain access to these important records of partnership. This, coupled with all the rich meta-data and standardized smart fields that are associated with the document, gives all parties a 360-degree view of the contract and all important information related to it. When these systems are integrated into contract management workflow automation and customer databases like Salesforce, this provides a one-stop solution that is closely tied to the customer CRM on both sides.
Full transparency for the customer and a true record of agreements, complete with data for Customer Success teams to access and draw from, make it easy to fully understand their support and engagement needs.
While contract management software may be viewed as a necessity only for Legal teams, the value that it brings to Customer Success teams is clear. CLM software allows Customer Success teams to:
- Understand context and expectations from the outset
- Dive into contract data
- Ensure consistent language in all your contracts
- Speed up internal approvals
- Keep all contracts in one secure contract repository, for easy retrieval at any time