The sales to customer success handoff is one of the most important intersections in the customer journey. It can make the difference between successful product adoption or a churn risk waiting to happen. To properly examine this topic let’s start out by stepping out of our current professional frame of reference and look at this topic from the customer’s perspective and consider the following scenario:
Most of us have been here, it’s that moment when you have made a purchase or signed a contract and you are left wondering where all the eager help and quick responses have gone. Your salesperson was diligent in responding to questions and guided you through your decision-making process and buying journey. It has been a great experience – up to this point. Now that you’ve signed the dotted line, you get passed around faster than a football off the snap and more often than an offensive puck on a power play. Or worse, you are at a standstill and left with no response at all.
This is the worst case scenario and we all know as a customer that this is a crucial moment in the adoption phase of a new product or service. The onboarding process is tied to a lot of expectations. On the Company side and on the Customer side. In order to make this transition as smooth as possible, we will show some helpful tips and tricks on what you should have an eye on while supporting customers along the user journey.
Set relationship management expectations during the sales process
Your efforts towards a successful handoff begin in the sales process — right when the relationship with your customer begins. Make sure your sales team lets your customers know what your post-sales relationship will look like before they sign the deal. That way there are no surprises later on down the line when they’re passed into different hands.
- Will they receive a designated account manager or customer success manager?
- Will they have a full customer success team to contact for questions?
- Will they contact your general support line if they need help?
Covering these types of questions early on will help your customers get a feel for the type of relationship they can expect to have with your team.
Success can mean different things to different customers
Defining success isn’t easy. Success to one client can look like something completely different to another client. If your customer handoff process looks like an unorganized web of documents, this key detail can be lost in translation. Losing sight of your customer’s definition of success can mean the difference between renewal and churn.
From the very start, both sales and customer success must be aware of what success means to your customer. While success — and the customer’s related end goals — will likely change over time, a consistent pulse must be kept on your customer’s definition of successful outcomes. This also includes understanding the varied goals of each influencer who contributed to the customer’s purchasing decision. Remember: only by having this key information will you be able to guide your customers to their desired outcome. Properly understanding this doesn’t just lead to retention — it instills customer confidence in your team.
Since Customer Success relies heavily on the details recorded by Account Executives, questions around the definition of success must be asked at the outset, prior to contract signing. When working to define success, consider the specific challenges your customer is trying to solve (such as engagement or retention) as well as the unique obstacles they may experience (like a limited budget or a slow approval process). Don’t forget to consider what success looks like in three months, twelve months and beyond.
Be aware of how these definitions of success may evolve, even during the course of the sales cycle. Also consider what expectations were set, both explicitly and inexplicably, during the sales process. It’s important to understand what commitments or promises were made to the client.
Establish a communication strategy and source of truth
This may be in your CRM or shared documents, but be sure it captures what you need in CS without creating extra administrative work for Sales. A lot of what you need is what they’ll already have done in discovery during the sales cycle, so be sure it’s documented and shared.
Even with all the rules and expectations written out in a playbook, nothing’s perfect—mistakes will be made. Providing actionable feedback in a timely manner will help both teams grow. Additionally, if you’re providing feedback directly to your colleague, it minimizes the chances of complaining and talking behind people’s backs around the office.
A feedback model that’s commonly used in corporate settings is the situation, behavior, impact feedback model—or SBI. The SBI feedback model is a model for delivering effective feedback. You do this by focusing comments on specific situations and behaviors and then outlining the impact these behaviors have on others.This method of giving feedback eliminates any assumptions and ensures your comments are objective. You can find this information outlined in our playbook, along with an example.
By aligning the efforts of the customer success team, sales, and the rest of the organization, you can deliver a seamless experience customers will love and remember—until renewal time and beyond.
The sales team sets customer expectations early, so make sure you document every promise and communication your sales team makes. This makes it easier to prevent any miscommunications or broken promises. Also, this creates a detailed record in case customers return to the sales stage in the future, such as for expansion or an upsell opportunities.
Implement a repeatable handoff process
This standardizes the handoff for all customers and makes it easier for team members to provide strong support.
Establish inter-team workflows
Create workflows that span both the sales and CS teams. This ensures all tasks are delegated and that every team member knows their role.
Add event-initiated triggers.
You should watch for any customer behavior that indicates they may be having trouble moving from the sales stage to onboarding, such as little to no engagement with team members or the product. The best way to do this is to create automatic triggers that fire when a specific behavior is exhibited. These triggers will send CS team members notifications so they can take action immediately.
Collect customer data
Gather data about the customer, their business, and goals at all stages of the customer journey. This enables you to separate customers into segments—groups that share similar characteristics—which makes it easier to provide personalized support.
Make all information available and accessible
Give your entire organization a fast and easy way to access relevant information as they guide customers through onboarding and adoptivon. All team members must have a customer’s information handy to make informed decisions and offer effective engagements. Use a tool that eliminates barriers and streamlines customer data across teams.
Create a RACI matrix
The RACI model employs a matrix of responsibilities for tasks in a project. What’s nice about this method of assigning roles is that it takes into account stakeholders who need to be informed and accountable, not just the people doing each task. Plus, it’s visual, so you can keep track of things quickly.
The RACI model breaks down each project into four roles:
- Responsible = the person who will actually complete a task
- Accountable = the person whose head will roll if the task doesn’t get done
- Consulted = the person who can provide input on how to do the task
- Informed = the person who needs to be kept up to date on the progress of the task
The Sales-to-CS-handoff RACI matrix should list all the tasks and stakeholders that will be a part of the handoff. For each task, someone, or multiple someones, will be assigned as an R, A, C, or I.
A simple handoff process might include:
- Presales Customer Success introduction call
- Sales to Customer Success information transfer
- Internal kickoff call
- Postsale kickoff call with the customer
- Customer success plan creation
All of the above mentioned Tips are designed to align your team to deliver an outstanding customer experience during the buying process and beyond. In order to create a best in class handoff process you do need the right data at the right time. With journy.io you will have all necessary informations at your fingertips to speed up the important transitions during the customer lifecycle.
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