Onboarding a new customer is a reason to celebrate for every sales team. However, it is not the finish line. The next phase, and a crucial one at that, is the handoff of the customer account to the customer success team. This handoff influences the customer’s experience in transitioning from pre-sales, to post-sale, to implementation. This transition can make or break the relationship with the customer. In addition, it lays the foundation for successful customer retention.
When done right, this handoff leads to a customer who is eager to use your product to achieve their goals. It helps avoid confusion and provides the customer with the support and structure they need during the transition.
It is usually a document that encapsulates all the key information that the sales team collects during the initial meetings. It includes the expectations of the customer and the goals they intend to achieve by using the product. In addition to this, it also clearly defines the goals that need to be achieved. All members involved in the project from start to finish are listed, and their roles are mentioned to define a task and its owner clearly.
Articulating the most efficient handoff process has multiple benefits. Strengthening the handoff strategy creates a win-win scenario for both the customers and internal stakeholders alike. A well-planned handoff ensures that no vital information gets lost during the transfer process. It prevents tension and loss of time. This ensures that the expectations of the customers are transferred efficiently between team members and smooth and successful completion of the project. An impactful sales-to-customer-success handoff goes a long way in delivering customer satisfaction.
Here’s a five-step checklist that will help you ensure the most effective handoff.
Goal: To prime your customer for the relationship handoff.
A successful Sales-to-CS handoff begins even before the customer is officially onboarded.
During the sales process, the Account Executive (AE) should prepare the customer for a relationship handoff by letting them know that a member from the Customer Service Management (CSM) team will be assigned to them, to help them achieve their desired outcomes. It also helps to mention why a particular CSM is being assigned and highlight how they have helped other companies solve challenges similar to what the customer is facing.
Goal: To give your customers visibility into the next steps and help them prepare for them.
The customer should never be left wondering “What next?” after signing the contract.
The AE should detail the next steps like onboarding date, data needed from the customer to set up the product, etc. in an easy-to-understand timeline format. The owners of each action item should be called out. The contact information of each of these owners has to be made available to the customer for easy reference.
Goal: To share all the information about the customer with the CSM and set him up for success.
You can divide this part into two steps:
A questionnaire should be sent to the AE by the CSM. Doing this reduces the dependency on the availability of AE and CSM and ensures a quicker hand-off.
Apart from details of the contract like the number of licenses, account value, etc. the questionnaire should include the following questions:
The CSM and AE can meet internally once the handoff questionnaire has been filled.
Armed with context about the customer, the CSM can ask further questions and understand more about the account and buyer from the AE in this meeting. In addition, the AE can provide the CSM with all the information collected during the initial meetings with the customer. This helps the CSM understand the expectations of the customer and the reason behind their purchase of the said product.
Goal: To help the CSM set the right expectations with the customer and hand over the relationship.
The AE should set up a convenient time with the customer to introduce the CSM and help set the right expectations with the customer and kickstart the onboarding process. This sets the tone for the remainder of the project.
This is probably one of the most important meetings you will have with your customer. It always helps if the AE and CSM are aligned and prepared for pushback before the meeting.
If the AE isn’t going to be involved in the account going forward, it is recommended that they introduce the CSM to all the key people they interacted with during the sales process. This relationship transfer helps the CSM during renewal, especially in the case of large enterprises.
Few tips for implementing and driving this process :
1) Build Playbooks: A playbook in its most simplistic sense is a set of tasks that need to be done when an event occurs in your customer’s lifecycle. So your handoff playbook should contain a list of tasks to be completed (with due dates) before an account is transitioned to Customer Success.
2) Clearly define the owner of each task: Assign one owner per task. Having more than one owner for a task is equivalent to having no owner. Therefore, it is imperative to play by the strength of the members and assign the best-suited candidate to each task.
3) Track the key metrics: What gets measured gets done. The important metrics you should track here are:
As you start tracking these metrics, you will be surprised to see the correlation between good handoffs and your customer’s ability to see success (and your CSM’s ability to deliver success), directly impacting churn and upsells.
4) Use CRM software or other project management tools: There are multiple CRM tools available that can help you automate your processes, increase the visibility of the handoff statuses, and document important information. The incorporation of pre-built templates helps maintain consistency in the communication between the customer and the CSM.
The following are the key elements that need to be a part of the handoff to ensure a smooth transition and work going forward.
The customer success team must understand and capture all the elements that are truly important to the customer and develop the post-sales lifecycle from the customer’s perspective. All departments must be on the same page and aligned on customer’s needs to ensure smooth inter-departmental transitions and customer satisfaction.
The sales handoff is one of the most crucial aspects of the customer lifecycle. This transition from the sales process to “becoming a customer” sets the tone for the remainder of the customer relationship. However, communication gaps between the sales and customer success teams are common with regard to a new customer’s business goals, needs, and desired outcomes. This leads to CSMs and CS leaders not being aware of the critical expectations or promises discussed between the customer and the sales team.
The onboarding/implementation process is the first step into customer/vendor relationships for new customers. It gives them an idea of what the relationship will be like moving forward. If the onboarding process solely focuses on the setup of the account or selective features instead of analyzing how the customer will implement the product to achieve their goals, roadblocks may occur.
Where onboarding strategy is concerned, there are typically two different strategies or methods: low-touch and high-touch.
Many onboarding experiences fail if the customer feels too rushed, if the content is too obscure, or if the process is too impersonal. CSMs must tailor every onboarding experience to the customer.
The customer begins to see value with the implementation of the product as more users become engaged during the adoption stage. A key element to avoid at all costs during this stage is silence. Most often, CSMs do not check-in enough or ask the correct questions after the relative chaos of onboarding. Customers tend to have questions specific to a feature or workflow at this stage, which CSMs can usually quickly resolve. It is essential to ensure that all users, from executives to end users, benefit from the product. Regular follow-up calls should be scheduled to discuss predefined goals, ROI, and business outcomes.
To ensure maximum value for the maximum amount of users, CSMs can follow some of these best practices:
Customer expansion strategy leads to identifying novel revenue streams within existing accounts, both with new features or user growth. Expansion opportunities are the key factor of a CSM’s customer account and are the ideal indicators of satisfaction. With the implementation of a clear strategy and clean execution, this can be achieved.
A best practice for expansion opportunities is to work with Sales to develop the best proposal for individual customers based on their custom concerns, goals, and opportunities. CSMs should keep their eyes open for any metrics that highlight a customer as expansion-ready, including an increase in product usage, engagement, etc.
During the renewal stage, a CSM’s strategy revolves around strengthening a customer relationship to the point that they decide to repurchase the solution for another set period of time.
When it comes down to who should own the renewal, a best practice is aligned with sales. CS teams are well-versed in dealing with current customer issues, concerns, and values, while Sales can bring negotiating techniques and tactical expertise. Another best practice is to develop strong executive relationships during the entire customer journey.
An inefficient sales-to-customer-success handoff often threatens an important aspect of the customer’s lifecycle. Experiences that challenge a customer’s long-term success can develop early on—even before a customer has used your product. A strong partnership between Sales and Customer Success is essential when making this delicate transition to ensure customer satisfaction and retention.
When mastering the sales-to-customer-success handoff, it is necessary to be well-informed of the definition of success in the customer’s eyes and the right time to introduce them to your Customer Success team. Ensure that both customer expectations and your teams’ internal expectations are aligned from the start and reinforced at each stage of the customer lifecycle. Most importantly, never underestimate the importance of your knowledge transfer process. Both internally and externally, nothing should be left to question once a new customer has signed on.
Seamless handoffs will pay dividends now and well into the future. We hope these tips can help your team establish long standing relationships with your customers in addition to enabling efficient and effective execution of projects.
You could download this free template and customize it according to your requirements.