This article was transcribed from Lisa Nguyen’s presentation at October 2021’s Customer Success Festival APAC.
Hi, my name is Lisa Nguyen. I'm an advocate for digital transformation, and I’m extremely passionate about customer success.
Before I share the keys to successful customer onboarding and value management with you, let me tell you how I got started.
How I got started in customer success
First of all, I’d like to thank my family for laying the foundations for my career in customer success. When I was young, we owned a couple of small businesses. As you know, small businesses require all hands on deck, and most of the time they’re a family affair. Though I was just seven years old, I was heavily involved in my family's stores.
In one of the shops where we carried merchandise for Vietnamese immigrants, we even helped our customers to ship products to Vietnam. Our products ranged from small goods to fabrics. We had a responsibility to research the latest products, understand the benefits of those products, and ensure that they'd be affordable for our customers.
As a junior salesperson, I needed to know all of the products we sold. Even more importantly, I needed to be able to convey the features and benefits of those products to my customers.
Keep in mind that some of our products were totally foreign to my customer base; they might never have used them before, but they wanted to know about them and buy them for their relatives in Vietnam.
To be able to secure a sale, I needed to be able to convey the benefits quickly.
Early on, I noticed that my customers required a little bit of time to digest. It could be very overwhelming for them to review the products and make a decision quickly. But as a salesperson, I wanted to keep my customers in the store rather than letting them go home to make that decision, so we put in a comfortable seating area and provided snacks and coffee.
Enhancing the customer experience in this way, understanding our customers, understanding our products, and conveying the benefits of those products were the keys to our success. Those lessons that I learned when I was young still resonate with me, and I use many of them to this day.
What is Zyllem?
Before we start, let me tell you a little about Zyllem, the company I'm at right now. We’re a SaaS company that specializes in logistics software. Our all-in-one platform allows our customers to digitize, optimize, and take full control of the network that they may or may not own. We enable teams to scale and stay ahead of the competition.
I’m the Head of Customer Success, and throughout the years my team has overcome several challenges and created success in many different areas.
During the pandemic, we had no choice but to shift from on-premise customer onboarding and implementation to a fully digitized onboarding process.
We successfully virtualized the entire enablement process while maintaining a 99% customer retention rate. Through creating value for our customers, we’ve also made a success of our land and expand model. I’m going to share with you the keys to our success.
The keys to successful customer onboarding
Onboarding is all about setting the right foundation. It’s the first and most important step in the customer success journey. There are three main elements of a successful onboarding process: alignment, attraction, and activation. Let's dive into each of them.
When talking about alignment, there are three different areas that we should focus on:
- Securing readiness
- Objectives and deliverables
- Setting expectations
Securing the readiness
What does it mean to secure readiness for onboarding? It all starts with a proper handshake. The first handshake takes place within your organization when the sales team hands over to customer success. The other handshake that you want to consider is between your customer success team and your customer.
To increase your readiness to guide the customer to success, you first need to understand them, so gathering insights is crucial. To gather those insights, you should have a structured handover from sales.
Think about the critical data points that you need to collect. Were any soft agreements made between your sales team and your customer? Does your customer have any deadlines or constraints? Perhaps they need to go live on a certain date because of other financial or commercial agreements.
There are several factors you need to take into account when confirming your customer’s readiness for the project you’re embarking on together. You’ll want to think about whether they have the necessary resources available.
It’s also a good idea to check if they have any experience with starting a similar project; if they don’t, you might have to go beyond the standard onboarding process to prepare them.
Objectives and deliverables
Once you’ve confirmed your customer’s readiness for onboarding, it’s vital to make sure that you understand their objectives. This can be done through the handover process with your sales team and alongside your customer.
The objectives should be clearly mapped to deliverables, and each deliverable should be listed with clear ownership, timeline, and dependency. It’s especially important for your customer to understand the dependencies so that if one is missed, they can anticipate the impact on the overall deliverables.
Keep in mind that some deliverables might require coordination outside of your immediate project team. For example, many of our projects require integration, but our customers don’t always have the right internal IT resources, so we have to coordinate with external IT providers.
Instead of having multiple project plans, we work with those external stakeholders to ensure that all dependencies are mapped, whether we own the deliverables or not. This allows us to manage the project holistically and ensure that we have one common goal, which is to deliver the project successfully and on time.
The third step in the alignment process is to set expectations. You need to be very clear with your customer about what you need from them, and about all the stakeholders’ responsibilities.
You should also have a clearly documented communication structure that sets out the frequency of interactions, whether that’s weekly meetings, daily meetings, or even monthly reports.
The last part of setting expectations is to understand how you will measure the value of this project. What determines the success of the project is not that it’s completed on time, nor that you’ve delivered all the objectives; what determines the success of the project is the value that your customer gets from it.
Attraction is all about getting the person's attention and keeping it. That’s why we need to focus on the “why”, focus on the value proposition, and really go beyond the basic presentation of the project.
When talking about the “why,” the purpose of your project should be crystal clear. Why does the company want to do this? What will be the benefits for the company when the project succeeds? What will be the impact if it doesn’t?
To bridge the why to the value proposition, you need to know your stakeholders. It goes beyond the sponsor of the project. For our projects at Zyllem, we have users all the way through the company structure, from the C-level down.
It’s essential that we understand and convey the benefits that our product and this project will give to each level. To increase stickiness, every user must know the importance of their role in this project.
We find that our success increases if we customize the whole journey of attraction, so we make it very interactive and we ensure that we listen to what our users have to say. By better understanding our users in this way, we can tailor their experience to them.
We won’t be able to successfully influence our users if we don't understand their job or how our product can benefit them.
With this in mind, when we built our drivers’ mobile app, we shadowed the drivers so we could fully understand their day-to-day challenges and enhance their experience of using our application. You should find a way to get to grips with your customers’ realities too.
Activation is the third key to successful onboarding, and it has three core components:
- Beyond training – because training is just the first part,
- Value measurement – so your customer can see the success of your collaboration, and
- The feedback loop – allows you to continue to deliver value.
1. Beyond training
Most of us are doing digital training nowadays, so it’s more important than ever that the training is interactive. It needs to involve a confirmation phase, meaning some kind of task that confirms the user’s learning. Foster an environment that allows for open communication, feedback, and improvement as well.
As training is not a one-time deal, you need to ensure that the training materials are easily accessible to all of your users. This gives them the freedom to do a refresher on their own instead of having to come to you; it also enables their team and any new hires to get up-to-speed after the project is done.
Upkeep of the training material is crucial as well, so make sure you have a process in place with your customer to keep everything up-to-date.
Customer success doesn't end when the project goes live. Your customer will expect to have clear measurements of the value that your product or services bring to them. It’s important to know the metrics that your customers care about and how to measure them.
Please be practical too – some value can be achieved and measured within days, while some require months' worth of data monitoring and increased user adoption. To minimize any surprises among stakeholders, it’s important for us to clearly document the expected value and how to measure it.
It’s also a good idea to have a range for each parameter. What are high and low scores for each success metric you’re looking at? As long as you take into account any factors that are outside your control as well as the ones you can directly influence, the higher values should be achievable.
3. Feedback loop
For every stage of the onboarding process, it’s best to have a feedback loop in place; this allows you to proactively improve throughout the journey and build a strong and successful onboarding process. That’s the first step in becoming a trusted partner. Once you achieve trusted partner status, you’re on your way to a productive long-term relationship.
Now we’ve got successful onboarding down, let's take a look at value management, which is the sum of three parts:
- Knowing your customer,
- Focusing on the outcome, and
- Taking control.
Know your customers
Knowing the customer goes beyond understanding their functional and technical requirements. You should know them, their industry, the challenges that they're facing, and how you can play a role in their long-term strategy.
Oftentimes, people make the mistake of assuming that their customers can map each product feature to a business benefit, but it’s not always as simple as that. Benefits can vary from industry to industry and customer to customer, so it’s crucial to map the benefits for your customer and keep them updated to ensure their relevancy.
Focus on outcome
Customer success is a journey, so it’s important to have continuous engagement with your customers. And if you want to anchor a successful land and expand model, you need to create continuous value.
The value you create may go beyond your product. For example, some of the value we create with our customers comes from our industry knowledge. We’re constantly learning from our customers and the industries we serve and bringing their best practices into our engagement.
Our team is also very proactive. When they see something they say something, and it's not restricted to the project that we're working on. With this, our customers can see that we always have their best interests in mind.
The final piece of the value management puzzle is about securing a fruitful long-term relationship with your customer. You can do this by creating loyalty, upselling, and increasing your partnership.
Trust and loyalty are tied together. To create loyalty, you have to build trust. We gain our customers’ trust by doing what's right, not by doing what's easy. Our customers trust us because we take responsibility for things we've done wrong, disagree with customers when it’s in their best interests, and go above and beyond our duties.
Upselling is much cheaper than acquiring a new customer. If you want to upsell and expand with your existing customers, they need to trust you, they need to believe in your product, and they need to believe that your team is capable of stellar execution and providing long-term value.
Increase your partnership
It’s vital to stay relevant to your customers. You can do this by bringing in new innovations that will benefit them and by increasing your partnership. Don't be shy to reach out to customers and brainstorm new ways for you to bring them value.
Be a partner, not a vendor
To conclude, just remember that as you tread the journey with your customers, you should always be a partner, not a vendor. Vendors are easily replaced; partners are for keeps.
A whole playbook dedicated to customer onboarding?
If your customers don’t have all the right information in front of them, you radically increase their chances of churning! This is why, in partnership with GUIDEcx, we’ve created The Customer Success Onboarding Playbook: All Aboard in 7 Steps – because first impressions really do count.
This playbook will be your new best friend if you want to know:
⛵ What customer onboarding actually is
🔥 The steps to take before the prospect converts
💰 How and when to identify revenue opportunities
🧠 The best way to reflect on your process and measure success
So if you don’t want your customers becoming disengaged and unsubscribing, download your free copy of our playbook and discover how to onboard your customers properly.
After all, you wanna make sure they realize the full value of your product, right?