At the beginning of March, we held Customer Onboarding roundtables with over 20 Customer Success experts to discuss three important elements of customer onboarding:

  1. Driving Customer Engagement
  2. Building a Customer Experience Strategy
  3. Perfecting Customer Handoffs

In this blog post, we’re sharing the key insights from the sessions on perfecting customer handoffs between Sales, Customer Onboarding and Customer Success teams.

The key to accelerating time-to-value and creating lifelong customers is to put systems and processes into place that will enable your teams to handle multiple customer touch points and transfer valuable customer information seamlessly between departments (and people) at the different stages of your customer lifecycle.

1. Define Your Post-Sale Customer Journey

First up, you have to get a grasp on what you’re doing now and where the opportunities for improvement are. So grab a pile of post-it notes, a whiteboard or two, get your teams in a room, put on your design-thinking hats,* and take the time to:

  1. Document your customer personas, understanding that you might have different ones based on size of deal, who is involved on the customer side, etc.
  2. Map out your post-sale customer journey step-by-step using one color of sticky notes.
  3. Using a different color sticky note, layer in any challenges you incur throughout the process.
  4. Once you have completed steps 1-3, it’s always a good idea to overlay an “Empathy Map” which shows how a customer feels (e.g. anxious, stressed, excited, etc.) throughout the journey. This will help you to insert/customize touchpoints that meet them where they are.

Once you’ve mapped out your post-sale customer journey, warts and all, you can:

  • Identify and fix problems in your process.
  • Establish responsibilities and goals for each department.
  • Determine where and when you need to set customer expectations.
  • Identify what customer information to capture at the different points in your customer journey and create a central place to store information so that it is accessible to the relevant team members (and customers, when applicable).

*For a great story about applying design thinking to upgrading systems and processes, check out this interview with Bonni Simi, president of JetBlue Technology Ventures (the whole interview is worth a listen, but if you’re short on time, start at 14:10)

2. Leverage the Relationship Established by Your Sales Team

It’s safe to assume that your sales rep has developed a relationship with a customer during the sales cycle. During this time, s/he has developed an understanding of the customer’s business drivers, how your company’s solution can help solve their needs, who the key stakeholders are, what is most important to them, etc.

Here are some ideas on how to ensure your customer feels their needs have been successfully translated from your Sales team to your Customer Onboarding and Customer Success teams.

  • During the sales process, develop a standard customer profile that can be accessed by sales, customer onboarding, and other members of your post-sale departments
  • Host a handoff meeting with your Customer, Sales, and Customer Onboarding team members, giving your sales team the opportunity to articulate the our understanding of the needs and success criteria for this application
  • Capture key customer data in a tool that can be accessed throughout your customer’s journey

3. Set Customer Expectations Early and Often

At TaskRay, we like to say that customer onboarding starts before closed/won. This means that post-sale expectations for onboarding should be set during the sales process. Here are some ways to do this:

  • Develop predetermined onboarding packages to enable your sales teams to make onboarding part of the sales conversation—setting expectations even before the handoff from Sales to Customer Onboarding.
  • Include a customer onboarding representative in the pre-sales cycle to help scope the right onboarding package. Introducing your Customer Onboarding rep will not only ensure the customer gets the right onboarding package, it also enables them to get off to a running start with your onboarding team.
  • Similarly, hosting an initial onboarding kickoff call that includes your sales rep allows your sales rep to articulate their understanding of the customer’s needs. This interaction will go a long way in creating a smooth handoff from Sales to Customer Onboarding.

4. Offer a High-Touch Onboarding Add-On

There may be customers who require a little more hand holding through the onboarding process. The roundtable participants expressed that a red flag is when a customer does not have a documented onboarding process or when they are trying to stand up an onboarding department. While it’s best to figure this out during the sales process, it may be the case that the true nature of your customer’s needs aren’t uncovered until after the handoff from Sales.

If a customer needs more dedicated time from your team during onboarding, providing the option to purchase a higher touch package can help to ensure customer expectations are set appropriately with regards to your onboarding process and number of touchpoints they should expect from your team.

5. Focus on Change Management and End-User Adoption

By making change management and end user adoption a key focal point for your onboarding process and discussions with your customers, you can help them develop clear messaging that helps articulate the importance of your solution to their organization.

Your onboarding process should start with helping your customer to identify what’s in it for the end user to provide them “selling points” that help them advocate for the change in process and technology. If you take the time to understand “WIFM” (what’s in it for me?), i.e.  identify end-user needs, getting them to adapt to the change/adopt the new product will be a heck of a lot easier.

Another critical piece to your onboarding process should be enabling your customer to create training materials that can be used to onboard everyone who will be using your solution. Doing so will accelerate end-user adoption.

This documentation can also be used as a knowledge transfer tool between your onboarding and success/support teams as the handoff is made from Customer Onboarding to Customer Success.

Conclusion

By making handoffs a critical part of your customer’s post sales journey, you will ensure your customers feel heard and build their confidence in your organization’s ability to get them quickly to value with your product or service.

We hope these best practices will help you to design your company’s world class customer onboarding experience.

Check Out Our Customer Onboarding Podcast

In our latest episode, TaskRay’s Chief of Staff Jamie Cole sits down with Gainsight’s Chief Customer Officer, Ashvin Vaidyanathan to discuss why product and onboarding teams should collaborate, how to hire for onboarding leaders, and more. > Listen to Podcast

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