We hear a lot in Customer Success about Voice of the Customer (VOC) but Debbi Stanley, CFRE, Vice-President of Sales & Customer Success, Rallybound feels there is a more important term – VOD or Valley of Death.
So what is the Valley of Death (VOD)?
Assume your sales has just sold a SaaS software to a customer and you are waiting for the implementation to begin. This is where the Valley of Death comes in the way. VOD is the delay in time between selling and implementation. A lot of companies don’t reach product adoption because they get stuck in onboarding due to delays on one or both sides. Depending on the complexity of your product, this VOD could be quite a long time.
Now, we all know that if you pay attention to a new customer, they could easily turn into a repeat customer but the vice-versa is also possible. Thus, Valley of Death can easily lead to customer churn as most customers leave in the first 30-90 days. And these customers might not have good things to say about your customer onboarding process. So, not only will you see customer churn you might see a dip in customer acquisition rates as well.
Even if a customer waits for the onboarding to get over, the chances of renewals and upsells decrease with time because everyone wants to achieve early value and get to product adoption. No one wants to wait forever to get results. The faster the customer achieves desired outcome, the higher the chances of customer retention.
So, how do we avoid the VOD?
There are multiple things which you could do to get your customers to early value and product adoption.
Customer Onboarding Specialist
According to Debbi, you should hire a customer onboarding specialist who acts as a project manager and is responsible for the handoff between sales and implementation. S/he could even be a Project Management Professional (PMP) but it’s about getting the customer to transact on your product ASAP.
We are like those kids on Christmas morning. We’re so excited, we love our new toy, until we don’t, until it’s not new anymore.
So, it’s critical that the onboarding specialist keeps that loving feeling as long as possible and makes sure that the customer does not lose the excitement during the pain of implementation.
But I already have a customer success team. Why can’t the customer success manager (CSM) be the onboarding specialist?
You are absolutely right.
Unless the onboarding is really technical, you don’t always need an onboarding specialist. Your CSM can 100% be the onboarding specialist.
I believe that customer onboarding is the time when you are working with the customer at their maximum excitement level and it offers an opportunity to build a bond that will last a lifetime. So, it’s the perfect time for the CSM to leverage and build a long lasting relationship with the customer.
1 : 1 and 1 : Many
So, you could have a 1 : 1 or 1 : Many customer onboarding program.
1 : 1 is where you have an onboarding specialist who is more of a teacher and/or a trainer. S/he would make sure that the top tier clients are onboarded right after handoff from sales and even go further in the journey till they reach product adoption.
The second tier of customers would have the onboarding specialist for just the initial handoff and then they would get looped into a 1 : Many program.
1 : Many, as the name suggests, is designed to train a larger group of customers on best practices and ways to leverage the product via webinars, blogs, communities, etc. You want to train them in bulk, teach them other ways top clients are using your product and teach them key industry insights.
So, the goal of your CSMs in 1 : Many is to remove barriers to success and identify the at-risk metrics. And your hope is the customers have gone through the training and will become product champions / promoters.
How do I know if I’m in the Valley of Death?
What is the one metric which would tell me if I have avoided the VOD or I’m in it? You need to measure not one but two metrics – Time to Live (TTL) and Time to Value (TTV). You need to look at these metrics and know where the customer is in the lifecycle.
If a customer is going live and achieving value within the defined benchmarks, you have avoided the Valley of Death. But if your average onboarding time is 62 days, and a customer is on the 65th day, you have entered the Valley of Death.
How do you avoid the Valley of Death?