What to include in your implementation-to-customer-success handoff

Discover key tips and best practices for a successful implementation-to-customer success handoff and set up customers for long-term success.
April 9, 2023
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Mukundh Krishna

Every time you land a new customer, you are on cloud nine. But remember that the customers of today usually wade through a sea of choice to get to you. Your sales pitches and marketing campaigns have convinced customers to choose you over your competitors. It's now time to make customers more successful, as you are the chosen one!

Customer journeys start with onboarding and implementation, finally getting them to go-live with your product or solution. But the customer’s journey does not stop here. You need to ensure that the customer has continued success with your product. Here’s where your Customer Success teams come into the picture. They maintain a continued long-term relationship with the customer and help them reach their goals.

A key aspect of customer success is the implementation-to-customer-success handoff. The handoff allows your customer success team to understand what each of your customer’s journey to going live with your product has been like, and use that data to personalize support and guide the customer through using your product. A well-implemented customer success handoff can ensure that the customer has a positive experience with your company from the start and is more likely to become a long-term customer. It can also help reduce churn and improve customer satisfaction.

Before we jump into the nuances of handling implementation-to-customer-success handoffs, we must distinguish between, and understand, the roles of the respective teams.

What is implementation?

Implementation refers to the initial rollout of a new product or solution focused primarily on getting things up and running for the customer. It is predominantly project-based, and implementation teams often adhere fiercely to project deadlines for the organization's and customer's sake. Implementation teams also tend to have a finite relationship with the customer and focus on productivity. 

Want a more nuanced definition of customer onboarding and implementation? Head here

What is customer success?

Customer success is about orchestrating ongoing success for the customer. It focuses on ensuring that a customer continues to achieve their desired outcomes with a product. Customer success teams work with the customer throughout their lifetime in the organization. They prioritize delivering outcomes and building long-term relationships over agile project management.

The interdependency between implementation and customer success teams

Both implementation and customer success teams work towards the same goal: customer satisfaction and retention. They are equally essential to an organization's success, and need to collaborate to support each other and deliver the best possible outcome for the customer. At the end of the day, both teams look out for the customer and want the customer to be happy and successful.

But there is a difference between them. Here is an easy way to remember it:

The role of the implementation/customer onboarding team is to offer a launchpad that helps customers blast off and get started with the product. The team's goal is to ensure everything is set up and running smoothly so customers can begin using the product effectively.

Customer Success acts as a navigator that helps customers chart their course and reach their destination. The team's goal is to provide ongoing support and guidance to help customers achieve their goals and get the most value out of your product.

So, you could say that onboarding is about getting customers launched, while customer success is about helping them stay on track and navigate their journey with the product.

Curious to know why it's important for your pre and post-sales teams to interact? Read more here 

Why is an implementation-to-customer-success handoff important?

An implementation-to-customer-success handoff helps ensure a smooth transition of the customer account from the implementation phase to the customer relationship management and support phase. During the implementation phase, the focus is typically on getting the customer set up (integrations, customization, product configuration, etc.) and trained on the product or service. After the implementation is complete, the customer success team takes over. It is responsible for building and nurturing the relationship with customers and driving retention and expansion for the organization.

A well-executed handoff process helps you ensure that the customer has a positive experience throughout the entire customer journey. It also helps you ensure that the customer success team has all the information and resources they need to support the customer effectively and with the apt level of personalized service.

Here's how Insent looks at customer success and implementations at its organization

What to include in an implementation-to-customer-success handoff?

Once a customer's onboarding and implementation processes are complete, the implementation-to-customer-success handoff document will be passed on to the customer success team.

The document outlines key information about the customer's journey so far, detailing any challenges they may have faced and the moments they have experienced delight. The main purpose of the document is to ensure that the customer success team has all the context and knowledge they need to support customers throughout the rest of their journey. Here's what you need to include in your implementation-to-customer-success handoff.

1. The scope document

The scope document containing the customer's specific goals, deliverables, features, functions, processes, and timelines should be handed over to the customer success team once the implementation is over. 

During the onboarding phase, the customer typically sits down with the team to determine the project's scope. The scope document should detail its contents in three parts:

  • What was planned for the implementation
  • What was actually achieved during the implementation
  • What remains to be implemented/completed

At the end of the implementation, you may or may not have achieved all that you had set out to do. So, it's ideal to lay  out the original and full scope of the project before the customer success team. The CS team can then plan for new initiatives to get the customer to their ‘happy place’ based on what has been achieved so far.

2. Stakeholder mapping and sentiment analysis

Stakeholders' sentiments tend to change throughout the implementation process. So, it's important for the customer success team to know the current frame of mind of the customer, their involvement, and satisfaction.

Are they happy about the implementation? Was any specific person unhappy? Are their execs still excited about the product?

Any context on the customer's goals and why the customer is happy or unhappy will help the CS team work around these stakeholder sentiments and get them to value faster.

Pro tip: For an enterprise account, get the implementation team to map the customer's individual and team goals and the level of success achieved during the implementation. This way, the customer success team will be able to provide a more detailed roadmap for what lies ahead.

3. Implementation score

Customer success teams need to know how well (or not) the implementation played out to gauge the customer success strategy they need to execute. For instance, if the customer complained of inconsistent communication, the customer success team could set up regular meetings with the customer to demonstrate that your organization takes them seriously.

Get the implementation team to present a health score of the implementation. The health score can be arrived at by looking at elements such as launch time, goal achieved percentage, and sentiment of key stakeholders.

4. Documentation of key decisions

It's also essential for the customer success team to know why certain decisions were taken during the implementation phase and the reasoning behind them. All the decisions taken during implementation can be compiled into a decision table for the customer success team's reference. This will eliminate the need for the CS team to go back to the customer and ask questions that the customer may view as basic knowledge that the customer success team should have known right from the beginning.

5. Details around workarounds and requests

Feature or enhancement requests and workarounds brought up during the implementation phase need to be detailed for the customer success team. 

Make sure to add any issues identified during the implementation and their current status, so the customer success team can continue to track them.

Best practices for perfecting implementation-to-customer-success handoffs

Here are some best practices on how to go about nailing your implementation-to-customer success handoff.

  1. Start by identifying the key stakeholders from the implementation and customer success teams who will be involved in the handoff process.
  2. Collect all necessary information that the customer success team will need to support the customer in the future, including details of the customer's business, their current usage of the product, any challenges or issues they may have encountered, and how those challenges were resolved.
  3. Outline outstanding tasks that need to be addressed by the customer success team, including any follow-up calls, training sessions, or support requests.
  4. Provide valuable insights into how customers respond to various approaches. For instance, the implementation team can help identify the most effective communication process to use with the customer. Will they be more responsive when you escalate the issue, or do they respond when you ask the first time? Would they prefer a more prescriptive approach to the whole process, or would they want to take all decisions themselves?

It's important to factor in all these observations and pass them on to the customer success team to ensure effective interactions with the customer.

  1. Develop a templated approach to your handoffs. This enables you to have a fixed setup for all implementation-to-customer-success handoffs and repeat only your best work. You can also iteratively improve existing processes. The best part about using this approach is, you will not have to start from scratch for every handoff.

At Rocketlane, we collect all information needed for the handoff throughout the customer onboarding journey – and not at the end of it. This also feeds into our onboarding software, Rocketlane (of course!), automatically.

Additionally, as part of the sales process, we get customers to share their existing process docs or sheets with us. We then build these out as templates on the Rocketlane platform.

Most importantly, we build an evaluation/validation plan with our customers so they can try different aspects of Rocketlane even before the purchase, right from their free trial signup. This helps them see things working early and get comfortable with how the product will work for them.

P.S. If Customer Success is your go-to function to handle all customer onboarding right after the sale, here's a document to help with your Sales-to-Customer-Success handoff.

Create effective implementation-to-customer-success-handoff documents with Rocketlane

Having that perfect handoff can be a little tricky. But it’s not something internal collaboration and alignment can’t solve. 

Rocketlane can help you work well with your internal teams to deliver consistently delightful onboarding for your customers. Rocketlane lets you set up handoff documents in minutes, share them, and make them centrally accessible with zero fuss.

Hop on a call with us today to see how your project implementations can be made more powerful with Rocketlane!

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Shuvedha Subramaniam
Content Marketer @ Rocketlane

Marketing analyst @ Rocketlane. An Advocate by choice and a penwoman for the love of it. When the world zips, I like to zoink. Also, being happy by being kind.

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