Customer Onboarding to Customer Success Handoff

Learn how to successfully transition customers from the onboarding team to the customer success team with our comprehensive handoff guide.
February 2, 2023
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Aswinchandar M

Customer onboarding to customer success handoffs marks the transition from action to the adoption of a product or service.

This handoff signifies that the customer has received the necessary training and is now equipped to use the product effectively. And once handed over, your customer success team’s responsibility is to ensure the customer's continued success with the product and work to address any issues or concerns that may arise.

It would be conducive to your teams that own customer onboarding and success in your post-sales org to have clearly defined milestones for the handoff of a customer from training with an onboarding specialist to a customer success manager. It will ensure that there are no downstream effects of clumsy handovers.  A failure to communicate or any important notes lost in translation between these teams can ultimately lead to customer churn.

The Preflight Community, in a recent conversation, discusses how you can distinguish when a customer has learned to use the product with the Onboarding specialist versus a CSM driving adoption.

Anya Palisch, Head of Implementation @ Pave

Consider rolling out a list of required training and releasing it to the CSM when you confirm that the customer has done those training. That's probably the lowest lift!

The highest lift would be rolling out a certification program to customers, aka what is like a Zendesk Certification; this ensures you've quizzed customers on knowledge.

With past teams I have run, we would set product exit criteria Eg. The customer has taken X product action, which means they are done with implementation + training exit criteria. We trained customers on X, so they are done with training. There is also an argument that CSMs should own training as part of the relationship-building exercise and IMs should just own making sure the product is effectively launched. I've seen this done a ton of ways and recommend basing it off the core skills you want each role to own/possess.

CSMs should often have a usage or adoption goal for customers in their scope. Good adoption is a leading indicator of the likelihood of renewing. I've done this in the past by defining 5-10 critical regular actions we want customers to take and weaving that usage into QBRs or regular check-ins with the customer. For example, at Rippling, companies needed to hire employees using our platform regularly. CSMs were equipped with dashboards that showed if someone wasn't hiring and would bring that nugget into a call as a jumping-off point for discussion.

Adoption is a continuous effort; unfortunately, the implementation manager can't guarantee long-term usage, only usage during the implementation period. CSMs are super equipped to carry the torch on adoption, which can often open more significant value-selling opportunities heading into renewal/upsell motion.

Srikrishnan Ganesan, CEO @ Rocketlane

We are currently doing a “reverse demo” after launch (an idea inspired from Ashley), which is where we determine that the customer is now set with basic training and is “adopting” the tool. So we can then pass it on to CS.

Nate Siswanto, Senior Manager of Implementation @ Rippling

We start by defining adoption. For our team, we break it out into three buckets:

  • Is the product installed/integrated (product is configured to be used)
  • Is the product being used (is the customer using the product for its core functionality)
  • Is the product being leveraged beyond core functionality (is the customer a super user, using it to automate tasks, gather data, etc.)? Since my team is in implementation, we focus on the first two as we only have X days with the customer. This is handled by the account manager or the customer success team.

Dave Yandel, Onboarding Specialist @ PushPress - The Gym Operating System

It was essential to look at a few KPIs of the system. Since our system is a CRM, I found a few KPIs that would show me if my customers were using the system as we intended them to and whether it was solving their pain points. Although it varies with industry and product, here is a set of questions that are relevant to a CRM’s handover that comes to mind that will help you determine when a handoff needs to take place:

  • How many leads have come into the CRM
  • How many have they converted
  • How many SMS have they sent (I track 3x their member list)
  • How many emails have they sent, and when have they surpassed $2k in MRR? If they satisfy all of these criteria, they are considered onboarded and go to the adoption phase (CSM). It takes about 76 days from the date of sale to being fully onboarded.

Chris Jacobs, ex-Head of Customer Experience, Katana Manufacturing ERP

We use segments to read product database actions per account over time. We had our data analytics team analyse the lifecycle of existing customers that had been with us the longest. We were able to define what actions or combinations of actions performed at what specific periods contributed to overall long-term retention and formed four statuses that we analyzed the customers based on those actions:

  1. Inactive
  2. Implementing
  3. Partial utilization
  4. Full utilization.

It is considered a successful adoption when customers hit the latter two statuses. During their time in the pipeline, they need to qualify for this status within 90 days. If they don't, they haven’t successfully adopted, and we put them through a retention process to see if we can kick off onboarding with them again. When it comes to the meetings- while the customer is onboarding, we try to engage, with the focus on getting them to that new status.

It would be a win-win for your organization if the onboarding and success teams were to work together to define clear handoff milestones for a customer from the training phase with an onboarding specialist to the phase handled by a customer success manager.

If you have ideas, suggestions, and questions for the larger customer onboarding, implementation, and CS community, we’d love to have you join the Preflight Community and share it with our members!

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Usha Kalva
Community & Partnerships @ Rocketlane

Usha is a Community Manager at Preflight. She's been an EIR, runs a successful restaurant, and is inclined toward the social sciences. In a parallel universe, she'd have been a wildlife photographer.

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