You have successfully closed a big deal and you take a huge sigh of relief. But this is not the stage to take the gas off the pedal as adoption is the key to retaining your client. A seamless handoff from sales to customer success to implementation is necessary to deliver the promised early value. This is crucial to make your customer’s experience easier.
CS professionals must have felt the grunt of a bad transition from Sales to Customer Success. Vital information is sometimes lost. Miscommunications happen that lead to damage in relationships with the customer. But if you align your teams and pull off a seamless handoff, you will lay a steady foundation for your relationship. This makes retention easier. But if done poorly, the customer loses motivation to use the product.
Why are Sales to CS handoffs a tricky stage? This is the point where teams change hands and the primary point of contact shifts too. An important factor to look at is the time to value ratio. It is the amount of time taken for the product to show its first value to the customer. If a process gets repeated when the sales to service handoff are implemented, the time to value ratio goes up.
Why is it important?
There are various factors that sales to customer success handoff can affect. We have already mentioned a few but let’s get into more details.
Retaining a customer is a major job of a Customer Success department. The process of retention starts from the beginning. If you leave it at the time of renewal, you are likely to fail. Impressions of a product are made with the initial use of it. With the increase in complexity of the product, sales to customer success handoff become a delicate process. Nail this step and the customer will be asking for retention themselves.
The first step after a sale is successful is onboarding. This is more than a logistical setup of the product. CS professionals need to understand thoroughly how their product is being applied. And address the pain points of the customer. This also means clearing the air about expectations made and if you will be able to deliver them. Starting on the same page with well-established communication is crucial to building trust.
Time to Value
We talked about it above, time to value is important. It shows that your product is working for the customer’s set of problems. If you show early value, the customer will be ecstatic to use your product.
The effective way for Sales to Customer Success handoff
It is time to get down to the basics. Customers need to get comfortable and confident with your product & brand. So how do we achieve that? Below we highlight a few points that we at Customer Success Box use for the sales to service handoff process.
1. Establish trust with the Customer Success team
Your sales team has just kicked ass in acquiring the client. They tailored the story and created a personalized experience for the client. The Customer Success department needs to replicate this effort and continue the chain. This means the communication between the sales team & customer success team should be smooth. Every ounce of information should be exchanged. This establishes good rapport and enhances the customer experience.
Some tips that help:
- Have the teams available on an internal messaging system like Slack.
- Get-to-know-you calls are important to create a sync between different teams.
- Add communication goals to the teams’ tasks.
- Give the complete information on the Customer Success Manager. How they have helped achieve results for other customers
2. Onboarding should be followed up immediately
The longer you delay your onboarding, the more agitated your customer will get. This agitation will make things more difficult. A good practice is to have the onboarding ASAP after the deal is closed. Customer onboarding is all about delivering that early value. If you nail this step, you are through a major chunk of the handoff.
Some tips that help:
- In the welcome mail, send out the data required to set up the product. Also share other resources that can help the customer.
- There are two ways you can pull off a successful onboarding:
- Low-touch Onboarding: A very hands-off onboarding strategy. You share educational materials on the product. These are guides, video tutorials, or automated tutorials. This can be a hit or a miss as some customers might find it difficult to grasp through just videos. If your product is basic and requires no initial knowledge or tool or training then you will prefer this method. You will require powerful automation tools and intuitive user experience (UX).
- High-touch onboarding: If your product is complex, Customer Success would prefer this method. This requires a team led by a CSM to guide customers through the product. Hand-holding at every step. This is also the preferred method for high-priority accounts.
- It is important to tailor the onboarding process to every customer. If the process feels too impersonal, customers might not be on the same page, and their risk increases.
3. Creating a perfect Sales to Customer Success handoff document:
Probably the best way to ensure that everything goes smoothly is to have documentation about each step, every data point, or information. The following points are essential to be added in a Sales to CS handoff document.
- Complete Account Information: Customer company name, the industry they are in, product-market fit, company size, and contract information.
- Team Information: Note down the point of contact from the customer’s end, executive decision-maker, and the team that will be using the product.
- Internal Team Information: Primary Customer Success Manager and Sales member. You also need to write down the key stakeholders and their responsibilities.
- Goals: The big scary business objective.
- Pain Points: Why are they choosing your product? What their pain points are and how your product or service will help them. Another key information is to know if they have worked with your competitors before and why they left.
- Customer Success: The metrics by which we will measure the value we are providing to the customer.
- Internal Success: Defining parameters for the team that keep the product timely and customer experience happy.
- Communication Methods: Note down where each team member involved can be reached.
- Customizations: This section is to write down any customizations you will be doing for the customer to fit their use case.
- Problems: To identify the issues during the sales process if any and how to solve them.
- Product Adoption (Next Steps): Note down all the steps moving forward for maximum customer satisfaction.
- Hand-holding guide: If applicable to your product, add the details of training the customer for a smooth implementation.
Roadblocks to avoid in Sales to CS handoff
A Customer Success Manager (CSM) job is to build relations with the customer strong enough that opportunities of upsell and retention organically present themselves. This means providing the value they are looking for and even going beyond it. But with how tricky the danger zone is, you will find CSMs grasping at straws during account handovers. It not only is about poor knowledge sharing but other factors like:
Bad reviews can be damning, especially to subscription businesses that have to retain attention over and over again. As the customer goes through the buyer’s journey they eliminate your competitors and they take out time for you. Your sales have handled the process perfectly till now. But Customer Success takeover can be very jarring. When sales is about to close the deal, they can go overboard with what the promises. It is incredibly important for the Customer Success team to know the full story. Customers can leave nasty reviews when talks break down at such initial stages. Be careful to avoid this.
Sales and Customer Success KPIs are different
This is where the Sales to CS handoff document is essential. Aligning your KPIs internally is such a key to pulling off a proper handoff. In general, the Sales team will be measured on meeting the quota, sales revenue, and potential revenue pipeline, and so on. Meanwhile, Customer Success metrics are customer lifetime value, churn rate, retention/upsells. This is where teams can hit a snag while aligning themselves. This can result in customer churn and can hugely impact your business.
Learn about actionable metrics in SaaS.
Some issues are gonna be unavoidable but it is better to remain calm and have your team ready to meet any challenge. Customers mustn’t see your team panicking and pulling off last-minute implementations (even if you are). Talking about implementation is the next big step. The Implementation to Customer success handoff is as important as the Sales to CS handoff.
Perfect Implementation to Customer Success Handoff
Implementation is nothing but onboarding. We have talked about the importance of it above. So now we will jump right into what constitutes a perfect customer success implementation plan.
The difference between Work Styles
Implementation is all about efficiency in product adoption. So their interaction with the customer will be shorter and adoption limited. Customer Success will start to poach the customer at this stage, building trust, strengthening their bonds. Even if Customer Success and Implementation belong to the same broader function, distinguishing responsibilities is the first major task. The clarity in who is doing what ensures no bumps in the road.
Understand the traits/work styles of both the teams and where they might clash if they do. Have a proactive approach in communication and everything will sail over.
Rope in Implementation and Customer Success early
As soon as the welcome email is sent, implementation and customer success should be included. Your sales team has excited the customer and Customer Success needs to build on it. Early inclusion also means the customer will be comfortable with their CSM rather than being blinded by a new person in the middle of the process. After the welcome call, the product adoption begins and implementation engineers get to work. A lot will happen if your product is more complex. An Implementation engineer will work on things like:
- Gathering all the required data for configuration.
- Technical deliverables- configuring APIs, integrations, provisioning and customising of the system.
- Main point of contact for technical support throughout the onboarding process.
- Updating stakeholders and managing expectations.
- Advise on optimising workflow for the customer.
- Showing a demonstration of the product and how it resolves customer issues.
- Catch any potential issues and risks.
Customer Success should be aware of all the communications between implementation engineers and the customer so they can intervene or build on it if needed.
Internal meeting before implementation to CS handoff
Basic follow-up call after the implementation is finished. The team should brief Customer Success about everything they learned during the onboarding. If the team has made notes during implementation, it would make everything easier. Ensure that both teams are on the same page after the call, ask questions if necessary.
The Implementation to Customer Success handoff
The most important step, bringing in Customer Success after implementation is finished. Now that the teams have aligned, Customer success should lead the customer and become their primary contact for their lifetime. This means guiding them to the next steps in onboarding. Implementation might still receive communications from the customer with the shift but they should be forwarded to the CSM. Here you will achieve a united front with only a primary channel of communication.
Handoffs are all about perfecting internal chemistry and communication. More work is turning remote and this makes communication a little trickier but proper documentation & transparency is key to nailing the Sales-CS-Implementation handoff. For the longevity of a customer, every team should work on gaining trust and building relations. Learn everything there is about customer success on our blog.