What to do when you are delaying your customer's success

The key to customer success is preparing them for onboarding even before the phase has begun.
March 24, 2022
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In the second session at Propel22, Star Hofer, Vice President of Customer Success at PartnerStack, walked us through the process of readying customers for onboarding. And by readying customers, you ensure that their success is not delayed, and they are more involved in the entire onboarding process.

Here are the key takeaways from her session: 

  1. Prepare your customers for the onboarding experience while in the sales cycle. 
  2. If you're using your readiness kit, ensure you continue to use it throughout the entire journey. Don't just stop at sales. Make sure it goes all the way through. 
  3. When building out your process, think about your customer's experience. Put your customer hat on. Be the customer. If you need to get a sense of what it feels like as you're stepping through, measure before you begin to truly see the positive momentum.
  4. Measure the ‘before’ and ‘after’; ensure that you positively motivate the sales team. You're not going to get perfection upfront. But you can celebrate even small milestones to keep their spirits up and encourage them to keep improving. 
  5. If you have a customer that uses the readiness kit or the PDF approach, and if it works, celebrate it even if it's an incremental change. Advocate it across the entire organization, and talk about its effectiveness. The small incremental gains now can help make substantial incremental gains later on. So don't be afraid to advocate for what worked.

Star began the session by tying in a few key learnings from the previous session by Lincoln Murphy, and the one thing she emphasized was that it's too simple! Urging participants to share why customers may delay onboarding, she explained how there might be multiple reasons for the delay, such as issues with tools, lack of time, other competing projects on priority, shifting resources, etc. Star stated that one common issue she sees during onboarding is that customers don't know what to expect. And because they don't know what to expect, innate delay happens. And that could be fixed.

Before explaining how to fix the delay, Star dived right into the why of the problem. She said that with the sales team constantly walking the customer through the onboarding process, or with the customer expressing that they were in a hurry to get started, or with customers indicating that this was a priority for them, ideally, the onboarding should not get delayed. But then, why are customers getting stuck during the onboarding? With her umpteen experience, Star explained that customers are not prepared for onboarding

She then described how preparing customers for onboarding and having a clear expectation while setting the process and talking through it are different. 

Star then introduced the Readiness Kit to pair it with what customers need to ready themselves before onboarding.

The Readiness Kit - The 'What,' 'How,' and 'Why' 

So, what is the readiness kit? A readiness kit is something you can arm your sales team with. It includes critical elements that a customer needs to think through and specifically figure out as part of your product. This specific thing is likely the same thing for your competitors, and so customers need to figure it out, regardless of whether they go with your product or not.

To state examples of what some of these critical items might be, it could be:

  1. A location or tree structure of some sort 
  2. Integration mapping
  3. The workflow or  journey flow 
  4. Templates
  5. Resources they need to conjure up before onboarding

And whatever may be the critical elements customers might need to think through, some of the content needs to be given to them upfront. You start by preparing customers for that discussion you're going to have. But how do you do that? Well, you do that by giving them a readiness kit. The kit then acts as an excellent means for cross collaborating with your sales team, marketing team, and product team in readying them for that critical element in the onboarding. 

Finally, with the vital question of why you want to do this, it could be for the very fact that it will set you and your sales team up for success. And the customer is also going to be truly ready, not just with the process, but for the overall onboarding in general, because you're going to ask them the hard questions and start getting things updated. 

With the kit in place, the sales rep can also speak on the critical element in the product during the sales cycle. And whatever might be the key element, the sales rep can now build a rapport, talking about something as a part of your product and transferring from plain feature selling to value selling. As a result, it makes a big difference because it allows your sales team to talk about the critical element to the customer and prepare them without making them feel like they need to buy your product. It gives your team a reason to reach out to customers and inquire how they are doing with the questions or how they are doing with the readiness kit. It gives them that extra opportunity to have a conversation outside of just selling. 

But when is it a good time to share a readiness kit? Is it in the awareness stage? Is it in the educational stage or during the selection process? For starters, it shouldn’t be shared during the onboarding phase. It will be too late by then.

Ideally, it's better to do it in your first discovery call (during a sales call) when you want to talk about the readiness kit. Or, you could do your discovery call and then maybe send across an asset or resource as a piece of information that customers can read through for key elements they might need to consider during onboarding. Or, you could even do a follow-up call later on. The intention, however, is to introduce the kit as early as possible.

One common question is whether the CSM or the onboarding rep should be handling this? Star mentions here that the CSM and the onboarding rep shouldn't be the only ones talking about how to drive success with your customer. It really should be everybody. And to do that, it requires the sales team to understand what the onboarding journey looks like and how to truly ready them as well.

Samples and Examples

A couple of samples that Star shared with the viewers during her session include: 

1. The Workbook approach: Depending on the depth of your product, it might be better to create a workbook that helps guide customers through the multiple modules you may have. Or it could also be an interactive workbook, if you have something that's a part of your app, or something external, like a Google Sheets deck that will help them through all the key decisions they need to make. In this case, the optimal time for you to introduce it to the customers would be early on in the sales cycle. It then becomes helpful for guiding the customers through the decision-making process. However, it is vital to ensure that it is used throughout the onboarding process and is consistent. The workbook approach is thus an excellent method if you have an intense product or if there are multiple decisions you need to make at different interaction points in your onboarding journey.

2. The PDF approach: The PDF approach is best suited for simplistic products. In this approach, you hand out all the resources upfront, show them the plan you will go through, and tell them how you will be measuring success at the end. This creates a clear expectation of what each session is about and what they need to expect. 

Two different approaches, the goal is the same: to drive one outcome where the customers' expectations are set for each stage and readied for the whole process.

Checking on your onboarding processes

You want to make sure you're setting your customer up for success. 

  1. Do you ask your customers to provide or complete a form during kickoff? If you're going to ask customers to fill out a form or provide some information, don't ask them to do so during the kickoff. It's too late by then. You haven’t prepared for the content until then, so they did not plan it into their schedule. So figure out how to change your onboarding process. Keep in mind that you're constantly optimizing your onboarding experience for the customer. Ready them ahead of time as much as possible; take a look at your current process to see where you are headed, and then configure a way to ask them sooner.
  2. Do you need them to ask for resources from another department? If so, give them a heads up. Help them get planned and ready for those resources.
  3. Is data entry, import, or scrubbing required? Never introduce this post kickoff. Since this stage takes a lot of work, give customers the heads up as early in the process as possible. Data entries, imports, and scrubbing take time to align, ensuring everybody has the template during the sales cycle.
  4. Is this a company-wide rollout? If it is, start providing recommendations on change management during the sales cycle or even during your kickoff. In most cases, depending on who you serve, they might not be change management experts. They might not know how to drive change across your department or the entire organization. So, guide them through the process.

More resources from industry leaders and experts

  1. Propel22 recordings
  2. Implementation Stories
  3. Preflight Conversations
  4. The Launch Station - a podcast for all things customer onboarding
  5. Customer onboarding resources from 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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