June 10 by Kerry Skemp
The sales cycle went smoothly. The purchase order was filled. Everyone’s excited about how the new software’s going to transform the company. There’s only one thing standing in the way: implementation. Will your newest customer get up and running successfully?
Many companies make big investments in their sales teams to make sure they can close deals. But sometimes, customers can’t get the help they need after the checks clear. Investing in customer success is the smart way to see customers through their implementations and make sure that they will continue to do business with you over time.
In this post, we will cover some critical components of a customer-focused implementation process that will delight customers more than you ever thought possible.
Onboarding may seem obvious, but it’s surprising how many companies don’t do it well. From nailing down the right contacts for technical and administrative issues to clarifying the project timeline, a successful onboarding covers all the basics and outlines all the information necessary for implementation success. A good practice is to follow a template, but also make room to customize everything so the process will best reflect and uncover client needs.
Secret Hack: The best onboarding tool is still a comprehensive PowerPoint deck. But managing a dozen different decks, custom built per customer, gets daunting. Consider a tool like Perfect Pitch from KnowledgeTree, that enables you to easily remix your own presentation decks using a library of pre-built slides. Pick the right slides for a customer’s role, industry, and more to build a deck fast, without looking around for its many predecessors. Seismic offers a similar tool.
Detailed Deep Dive- into Business Goals
After onboarding, many companies dive right into a super-technical implementation process. For best outcomes, put a stop to that practice! Starting to implement without understanding the business goals first is a mistake. Don’t start with code or systems, start with a business goal. How do we know this implementation will be successful? What are the internal criteria? What would you like this system to look like once it’s implemented? In six months or a year after that? Ask all of these questions and more, and get the answers documented in writing so you can come back to them frequently, preventing dreaded scope creep and customer dissatisfaction.
Get into the Grunt Work
It’s important to be prepared, but the work has to start somewhere. As soon as clear goals and target timelines are set, start working away. Establish an easy way to keep customers posted on progress and setbacks, and stay in communication throughout without becoming bothersome. The process of tracking and communicating about the project shouldn’t overwhelm the work itself.
Secret Hack: Don’t over complicate it. There are a million complex tools for project management out there. Your client probably doesn’t want to learn all the ins and outs of yours. Sometimes a simple weekly email or call is the best format for an update.
Cheery Check Ins
The worst thing you can do is wait until a customer is displeased with the implementation to check in with them about it. A customer success manager should be present and highly visible throughout the entire process, keeping the business goals front and center, mediating between the customer and implementation team, and helping to overcome any technical obstacles.
Secret Hack: If you haven’t heard of Boomerang, you’ve been missing out. It’s a tool that sends important emails back to the top of your inbox if nobody responds. There’s no way to look more on top of things than to use a tool like this or Followup.cc to keep communications going. Everyone will be amazed at how you never drop the ball.
Monitoring What Works (and What People Use)
Although you don’t have to reveal all the ins and outs of your implementation to the customer, your internal team definitely needs to be on the same page about implementation details and customer health. Create project and customer success dashboards (in Salesforce, most likely) that everyone on the team can easily access to see how things are going and where there are any issues. And since different teams use different systems, keep in mind that good dashboards will require you to…
We’ve saved the best (in our opinion) tip for last. As anyone who’s been a customer knows, inconsistent communication is pretty much the worst thing that can happen. To provide a personal example, I am an AT&T U-Verse customer. I don’t have any problems with the service itself, but I absolutely hate the fact that AT&T sends me frequent snail mail offers that it turns out I’m not eligible for. What I’m paying wouldn’t seem so bad if they weren’t regularly enticing me with unattainable offers at the very attractive rate of $15/mo. It’s pretty infuriating. Inertia keeps me there for now, but I’ll definitely think twice about getting AT&T again in the future.
Likewise, if the customer success team promises one thing when support says another, it’s almost guaranteed that the customer’s head will explode – and your boss will get an earful. To prevent this from happening, integrate your systems so that everyone on the team has a record of what’s been communicated. Even if you do have to modify what’s been said, at least you can acknowledge the previous communication and apologize for the change. Acknowledgement is usually the big thing that frustrated customers are looking for.