Starting Off On The Right Foot - Part 3

By Amin Akbarpour

This is part three of my series on developing the perfect customer onboarding experience. In my previous post, I went through coordinating a successful kickoff call. Now that the table is set, it’s time to properly serve the meal. Or in this case, execute a successful onboarding plan.

The onboarding process should be designed to answer a couple questions. What actions must be taken to turn the client into a true advocate of your organization? How do you demonstrate the value that’ll make your company a necessary partner in their long-term growth plans?

Onboarding

The first step to the process is getting the client to use your product or service in a self-sufficient and sustainable way. Hopefully, you heeded the advice in my previous post and did your due diligence by creating a concise and thorough onboarding plan. A few words to the wise here from one customer success manager to another:

Document Everything: Make sure you have tutorials and walkthroughs (both written and visual) of how to use your solution and best practices. Regardless of whether your success team is of the high-touch or low-touch variety, it helps to have documentation that provides the customer a solution without having to rely on you every single time. I believe the phrase that applies here is, “Give a man a fish you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

Hands On: Early on, it’s important to keep that momentum from the sales cycle and build on it. Don’t give the customer a kickoff call and then walk away for weeks hoping they figure things out based on all the documentation you sent them. Reconnect with them regularly and constantly provide value add as well as pointers based on their progress within your solution.

Assume Nothing: Don't walk into a new client engagement thinking that because they seem savvy or have used a similar offering they are going to hit the ground running. Treat them no different than any other new customer and provide them with the same tools and opportunity to adopt your product and succeed with it.

End the onboarding period by celebrating it with your new client. Put together a slide deck and review what you’ve accomplished together. Remind them that the heavy lifting of learning something new, integrating it into their current workflow, and adopting a new process is behind them. From here on out, you'll be focusing with them on sustainable success.

The Countdown to Renewal

Let’s be honest. The moment the customer signs a contract there are dozens of clocks ticking down to the time that their contract is up for renewal. It’s important to set yourself up for a successful renewal at the very beginning of the relationship. How?

Add Value: Throughout the relationship be sure to add value in multiple ways. Reach out and truly understand your client's processes so that you can creatively leverage the tools or services your organization offers. Remember to go beyond what’s directly related to your organization and position yourself as an industry expert. My colleague Kristen Hayer recently wrote a blog post with ideas for adding value to customer interactions.

Build The Relationship: From the moment you’ve been introduced to the client, you should be constantly building the relationship. I wrote a blog post  on client relationships that you can use as a starting point if you need ideas. The key here is really to listen and care about your client’s needs and interests. Connecting with every client on a deep personal level isn't realistic, but making yourself personable and striking a meaningful chord with your clients is.

Adapt or Die: Most SaaS organizations have annual subscription agreements. Throughout the course of a year, a lot can change with your product as well as with your clients. Be flexible and always be on the lookout for change. This could mean personnel shifts (new day-to-day contacts or decision makers) or broader organization changes (shift in focus or new initiatives). Make sure you always know what's going on, so that you don't hit renewal season unprepared to address those changes.

Watch the Bottom Line: Ultimately, you can have all three of the previous boxes checked, but if you aren’t coming in ROI positive or providing tangible and clear value to your client, then your renewal is at risk. Make sure you have identified clear success metrics and goals, and ensure that you’re on target to either hit or exceed them. If a customer is off track, the sooner you identify that, the sooner your company can work to address it.

Combine all three portions of this series (Part 1 - Part 2) and you’ll have an excellent blueprint for how to set yourself up for success, from before the client inks the deal to beyond the first renewal.

Building a relationship and continuously adding value throughout the full length of a contract is no easy task. If you need help designing a scalable process that will set the stage for great customer advocates, strong relationships, and 100% renewal, then The Success League wants to work with you! www.TheSuccessLeague.io

Amin AkbarpourAmin is a customer success coach and architect. With relationship-building at the core of his practice, he molds teams by instilling the necessary principles to transform them into trusted advisors. Understanding what's needed for organizational change, he translates theory and ideology into practice and habit. In addition to his work with The Success League, Amin currently serves as an account manager for Persado. Originally from Southern California, Amin is a University of San Francisco alum who is grateful to still be able to call the Bay Area his home.