In this session at Propel22, Jeff Kushmerek from Infinite Renewals recollected some ‘war room stories’ from his journey with many companies. Some were from when he was leading and setting up professional services teams, and some were from when he was consulting. Jeff also spoke about why onboarding is tricky and presented some practical tips to help us understand what might be going wrong.
Here are key takeaways from the session.
An essential part of the process is about finding what works and what doesn't work with your onboarding and implementations.
Customer churn is a big problem. But, the slightest uptick with improvements in your process will help things out a lot more. And as a sort of pre-emptive thing, you should try and hold on to your customers after you sign them.
Although implementation and onboarding can be hard work, it can be hard work that you enjoy. Soon afterward, you are going to be getting gratifying things. You ended this great stage of knowing everything you need to know about your company; how it works, how all the teams work together, how the product works, etc. You can be a real benefit to the sales team, and you're not going to slow deals down.
The company Jeff was advising had a 30-day promised implementation period. One of their implementations was delayed by eight months, and the customer was unhappy. They had canceled their contract with the next vendor, and this company had gone through the presales, saying yes to everything.
The product was sold as white-labeled and customizable. The CEO in the sales cycle had promised features without any scoping. There wasn't a professional services team to build features, so dependency grew on the development team. The development team didn't want to build custom features. The product team reported to the development team and was instructed that this was not a priority. The customer was frustrated because they had no insight into what was happening.
Moral of the story: The fixes worked. Although this was a bit of a reunion recovery trip, the key is to be transparent and upfront. Get comfortable with the process and then move from there.
The new customer had skipped the kickoff meeting. They were a no-show for 2 out of the four weekly meetings. And now, their 30-day kickoff suddenly extends to 60. They hadn't sent their files over, and they hadn't given the tech resources needed for implementation.
It's not like anybody has the onboarding whisper. [P.S. Jeff might be one of the few talented people to have that onboarding whisper because he is super resourceful! ;)] These issues are standard. It happens in every company.
Common SaaS startup symptoms for post-sale issues include:
Drawing parallels to food eating habits and simple analogies, Jeff explained how to get all our mess in order and make onboarding right.
1. Have a defined, repeatable process - keep iterating until you get it right.
2. Have separate roles for implementation, support, and ops instead of having your CSMs do everything. This will not slow you down, it will help you scale better and faster.
3. Have a separate support department - having a dedicated support department helps you keep track of tickets being raised and resolved.
4. Get Sales to involve CS in the pre-sales phase
5. Consider charging for your implementations
6. Segment your customers and use different touches for segments. A bonus tip here: you can't scale by providing everybody white-glove treatment. You need to have some distinction in saying that these are the people who will be getting a white-glove treatment, while here are some others who need a high-touch treatment of sorts.
Jeff concluded the session with three tips on how to improve your customer onboarding and reduce churn.