Starting Off On The Right Foot - Part 2

By Amin Akbarpour

This is part two of my series on developing the perfect customer onboarding experience. In my previous post, I detailed the value in having a well-documented and detailed Sales to Customer Success handoff. Once you’ve succeeded there, it’s on to setting the tone with a stellar kickoff meeting with the client.

Sales does a fantastic job of drumming up enthusiasm and excitement over your service or offering and gets the deal signed, sealed, and delivered. The last thing we want to do, as Customer Success agents, is to let that go to waste. A well-orchestrated and concise kickoff meeting ensures that you build on that momentum your colleagues have generated, and continue to move the client toward success.

The Kickoff Call

A few best practices to consider as you prepare for the call:

  1. Be concise: Always ask this question, “Am I articulating myself in as few of words as possible?” I tend to practice my kickoff calls with sales colleagues. If they can’t figure out what I’m saying or start to drift off mid-presentation, then I know I need to cut my presentation down.
  2. Use visuals: Illustrations help, whether you’re helping your customer set up a complicated enterprise product or something designed to add mustaches to pictures. The visuals can be things like pictures of your product or a chart that shows the steps involved in onboarding. Over half of the world's population learns best visually, so make sure you don't leave them out.
  3. Avoid tech-speak: My biggest pet peeve with organizations in the SaaS space is that we all tend to speak in our own internal vocabulary. The new clients you’ll be speaking to aren’t living, breathing, and eating in your ecosystem every day. Instead, assume that you’re trying to explain your product offering to someone like your mother. (Note - this advice does not apply if your mother works in tech!)

Once you've taken these best-practices into account, move on to building your agenda. It’s important to set the stage with the client well before the call itself. Be sure to send them a calendar invite with a detailed agenda of what to expect during that initial meeting and who should attend. Depending on the complexity of your offering, you’re going to want to cover most or all of these topics:

  1. Introductions: Introduce everyone and ask them to share what their responsibilities include. On your side of the table, clarify your role as the CSM or Account Manager, and make sure your client knows who to contact for administrative, strategic, and technical issues. Likewise, it’s important for you to know who the operations folks, mid-level managers, and decision-makers are on the client side.
  2. Goals and KPIs: This is your opportunity to get aligned and ensure nothing was misinterpreted or lost in translation during the sales cycle. Does the client have formal expectations for performance? Be sure to define those expectations and find out exactly how they’re calculating ROI. Whether you’re supporting a solution with a soft ROI (think a hiring platform, email service provider) or a hard ROI (an optimization platform of any kind, really), it’s important to understand the customer’s metrics for success so you can build a path to that success benchmark.
  3. Onboarding plan: If your product is going to require more than a week of onboarding, then spell out what that’ll look like. This is a great opportunity for displaying a visual timeline of what you’re hoping to achieve, by what dates, and what will be required of you and the client at each step in the process.
  4. Workflow and process: Another great opportunity for visuals! Before the call you'll need to understand your client’s current workflow and processes, and how they expect your product to change them. Illustrating the shift from their current workflow to what it will look like with your product in place will help everyone on the kick-off call understand the end goal, and might uncover some onboarding challenges before they become a serious obstacle.

A kickoff call is vital since, from the client’s perspective, it is the first touch made by the Customer Success part of the house. First impressions are key and setting expectations are a must. This is your opportunity to do all of that and help set the stage for a smooth onboarding experience with your organization.

That just leaves us with how to properly execute on an onboarding plan to ensure success for your client from the kickoff call all the way to renewal. Till next time...

The first 90 days of a client's lifecycle are critical. If you need help designing an onboarding process that sets the stage for great customer relationships, The Success League wants to work with you!

Amin Akbarpour - Amin 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.