Customer onboarding to customer success handoffs marks the transition from action to the adoption of a product or service.
This handoff signifies that the customer has received the necessary training and is now equipped to use the product effectively. And once handed over, your customer success team’s responsibility is to ensure the customer's continued success with the product and work to address any issues or concerns that may arise.
It would be conducive to your teams that own customer onboarding and success in your post-sales org to have clearly defined milestones for the handoff of a customer from training with an onboarding specialist to a customer success manager. It will ensure that there are no downstream effects of clumsy handovers. A failure to communicate or any important notes lost in translation between these teams can ultimately lead to customer churn.
The Preflight Community, in a recent conversation, discusses how you can distinguish when a customer has learned to use the product with the Onboarding specialist versus a CSM driving adoption.
Consider rolling out a list of required training and releasing it to the CSM when you confirm that the customer has done those training. That's probably the lowest lift!
The highest lift would be rolling out a certification program to customers, aka what is like a Zendesk Certification; this ensures you've quizzed customers on knowledge.
With past teams I have run, we would set product exit criteria Eg. The customer has taken X product action, which means they are done with implementation + training exit criteria. We trained customers on X, so they are done with training. There is also an argument that CSMs should own training as part of the relationship-building exercise and IMs should just own making sure the product is effectively launched. I've seen this done a ton of ways and recommend basing it off the core skills you want each role to own/possess.
CSMs should often have a usage or adoption goal for customers in their scope. Good adoption is a leading indicator of the likelihood of renewing. I've done this in the past by defining 5-10 critical regular actions we want customers to take and weaving that usage into QBRs or regular check-ins with the customer. For example, at Rippling, companies needed to hire employees using our platform regularly. CSMs were equipped with dashboards that showed if someone wasn't hiring and would bring that nugget into a call as a jumping-off point for discussion.
Adoption is a continuous effort; unfortunately, the implementation manager can't guarantee long-term usage, only usage during the implementation period. CSMs are super equipped to carry the torch on adoption, which can often open more significant value-selling opportunities heading into renewal/upsell motion.
We are currently doing a “reverse demo” after launch (an idea inspired from Ashley), which is where we determine that the customer is now set with basic training and is “adopting” the tool. So we can then pass it on to CS.
We start by defining adoption. For our team, we break it out into three buckets:
It was essential to look at a few KPIs of the system. Since our system is a CRM, I found a few KPIs that would show me if my customers were using the system as we intended them to and whether it was solving their pain points. Although it varies with industry and product, here is a set of questions that are relevant to a CRM’s handover that comes to mind that will help you determine when a handoff needs to take place:
We use segments to read product database actions per account over time. We had our data analytics team analyse the lifecycle of existing customers that had been with us the longest. We were able to define what actions or combinations of actions performed at what specific periods contributed to overall long-term retention and formed four statuses that we analyzed the customers based on those actions:
It is considered a successful adoption when customers hit the latter two statuses. During their time in the pipeline, they need to qualify for this status within 90 days. If they don't, they haven’t successfully adopted, and we put them through a retention process to see if we can kick off onboarding with them again. When it comes to the meetings- while the customer is onboarding, we try to engage, with the focus on getting them to that new status.
It would be a win-win for your organization if the onboarding and success teams were to work together to define clear handoff milestones for a customer from the training phase with an onboarding specialist to the phase handled by a customer success manager.
If you have ideas, suggestions, and questions for the larger customer onboarding, implementation, and CS community, we’d love to have you join the Preflight Community and share it with our members!