Client to CSM Handoff call vibes

  • 17 April 2023
  • 9 replies
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I get it. Newly onboarded customers might have a hard time letting go. (I've even heard some people call their handoff calls "Break up calls"). After all, you worked hard to be a product expert, a trusted advisor, their advocate, the list goes on.

Here's my standard format for a handoff call:
🟢 Introduce the customer to the CSM and vice versa
🟢 Give a brief overview of how amazing each member was to work with
🟢 Set basic guidelines for when to reach out to support vs. CSM ("Support's job starts when the product stops working")
🟢 Turn the time over to the CSM

How do you set clear boundaries to make sure that the customer is empowered in knowing where to go if they have questions post onboarding?


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@emaynez 

I'm currently working on this! I'm part of an ed tech company that does both services and software as a service (SaaS). We recently started an onboarding team in February. Now we're trying to figure out when's the best time to hand off the clients (should it be when they 'go live,' during the mid-point program review, or something else?) and what the process should look like.

I'm making a list of pros and cons for each option, and one downside of doing it later is what you mentioned - it might be tougher to end things with the customer the longer they've been working with the Onboarding team.

What should we consider when deciding on the ideal handoff timing? Any advice?

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Hi @lydiaanderson welcome to the ON! Congrats on the new onboarding team - that is so exciting! Glad you came across this post! This is an excellent question!

While there are many factors (complexity of the product, maturity of your teams, maturity of the customer team, etc), a good rule of thumb is that the best time to hand off clients is when they are able to achieve value on own.

The most common time for a client to graduate onboarding is once they’ve achieved the AHA moment.

From there I strongly recommend working closely with the CSM team. (Just like you worked with the Sales team to ensure a smooth transition from buyer to customer). The best handoffs are when the CSM has a journey outlined for the new client to continue getting value. (Some journeys may include weekly/bi-weekly meetings to touch on best practices and expected outcomes. The goal is to keep the customer warm and address concerns that may come up!)

 

PS I know @Mark Mitchell pioneered an engagement phase. It’s the phase between onboarding and customer success where the customer was met with weekly (if not more) to assist with change management and adoption. Mark, could you chime in here? Might be worth exploring!

 

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@lydiaanderson,

I love hearing about where you are in your CX journey. So exciting! I also love the exercise you’re going through to figure out what that is best for the customer and your company (they are both lucky to work with you).

When thinking about the purpose of the onboarding, I like to compare it to nature (with a little help from chatgpt, in the style of David Attenborough):


In the world of customer onboarding, we encounter a fascinating parallel to nature's own nurturing process. Picture this: the onboarding team, like a diligent bird, cares for its customers as if they were delicate eggs. Guided by a shared purpose, they provide a guided experience, nurturing customers through key milestones of value.

Just as the bird keeps its eggs warm and feeds them, the team supports customers with education, resources, and moments of value. These moments of value mark progress and reinforce the journey's worth.

But here's where it gets interesting. Like the bird nudging its young out of the nest, the onboarding team aims to prepare customers for independence. Equipped with knowledge and skills, customers are encouraged to embark on their own journey.

In this remarkable parallel, both the onboarding team and the bird understand the importance of timely departure. While challenges may lie ahead, they provide the necessary tools for a confident leap into the next chapter.

--

What I love about this analogy is that birds aren’t totally comfortable and ready when they leap from the nest, but they aren’t going to experience the value of life by extending their stay.

 

The same goes for customers. They may not be perfectly ready or know everything about the product by the end of their onboarding, but in order to truly experience the value they need to launch.

 

Not to mention, the longer it takes to introduce their ongoing CSM (for the long-term relationship), the less time the CSM has to establish a relationship prior to renewal.

 

Give them just enough to get on their own value journey with your product, then push them out of the nest 🪺

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@lydiaanderson “when is the ideal handoff timing?” is such a great question. Getting this right will create the best possible experience for your customers and in turn, the best outcome for your business. There was another conversation a group of us were having around a similar topic. I’ll link to it here in case you find any helpful ideas in there.

I listened to podcast not too long ago that had a great take on this as well--advocating for conducting a handoff after usage goals are met. Here is the link (starting at minute 12 they discuss this very question and it goes until roughly minute 17).

Different companies approach this in different ways:

  • “With a lot of new customers and limited onboarding bandwidth, we can only spend X amount of time onboarding a customer. After that, we conduct the handoff to Customer Success.”
  • “We have a very lean team, so we have the same person running the onboarding and the customer success, so they stay with one point of contact the whole time.”
  • “We know the renewal is at risk unless certain usage/ROI goals are reached during onboarding, so we focus on that no matter how long it takes. Handoff only occurs once those goals have been reached.”

Each approach has pros and cons to consider. If you hold a tight timeline for example, you risk incomplete onboarding. If you use the same person, you risk burnout. If you stick to a usage metric, you may spend much longer in the onboarding process than you’d like.

If possible, I recommend choosing an adoption criteria. What level and what kind of adoption leaves you feeling comfortable that this customer is getting value from your software based on their habits in it? The CEO speaking in the podcast I linked to above shares that they want 70% daily active usage before they make a transition to Customer Success.

The reason an approach like that works is that it creates honest incentives for every party involved. If you know that is your goal, then you are transparently planning for it with your customer immediately after (or even before) they sign their contract in the sales cycle. You are also aiming all of your efforts at accomplishing that goal and timing yourself so that you can set the right expectations with your customers on approximately how long it takes to hit that adoption target. In my opinion it also exposes the right challenges that need to be addressed. If this process takes too long, that is good feedback for your product team. If this process is unclear and the customer is unprepared for it, that is good feedback for your sales and onboarding teams.

Ultimately, no matter what you decide, the most critical part of that decision is confidently and clearly setting the right expectation with the customer. Do not promise A and deliver B. Be honest about what you can deliver, what it will take from the customer to get there--and then be confident in calling out risks along the way if any arise. Along those lines, think of how helpful it is to know when a package from Amazon is late, or a delivery from DoorDash. They don’t make you wait to find out it’s late, but they let you know as soon as they know, so you can adjust your expectations--so much of your success in onboarding depends on meeting the expectations you yourself have set with the customer.

This is something that requires a look at your team dynamics and internal goals, but if the risks and rewards are openly discussed internally, you will arrive at a great decision. It’s something I love talking about as well, so if a call would help to dive in a little deeper, I’m happy to set that up too.

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@emaynez @Mark Mitchell @harrisclarke 

Thank you all for sharing such helpful insights! This is exactly what I needed to get the gears turning in the right direction.

As I’m brainstorming I’m realizing the importance of mapping out the customer journey and making sure that the CSM can deliver some quick wins to the client early in the relationship to keep the momentum going and establish trust in the handoff. Kind of like an ‘alley-oop’ - onboarding tosses the ball up to CS for them to get a slam dunk early on (clearly we all like our analogies here!).

I really appreciate you all bringing these practical tips - and resources - to the table. They've been super useful for me already and I imagine I’ll continuing referencing this post or reach out to ya’ll directly as more questions pop up. Thanks for creating a supportive network of folks!

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I get it. Newly onboarded customers might have a hard time letting go. (I've even heard some people call their handoff calls "Break up calls"). After all, you worked hard to be a product expert, a trusted advisor, their advocate, the list goes on.

Here's my standard format for a handoff call:
🟢 Introduce the customer to the CSM and vice versa
🟢 Give a brief overview of how amazing each member was to work with
🟢 Set basic guidelines for when to reach out to support vs. CSM ("Support's job starts when the product stops working")
🟢 Turn the time over to the CSM

How do you set clear boundaries to make sure that the customer is empowered in knowing where to go if they have questions post onboarding?

I’m stealing this meme (been there, done that!), and I laughed outloud at “break up calls”… Thanks for the laugh in my day!  

I agree with all comments for the most part here… finding what works best for your onboarding team, the CSM, and your customer is a delicate balance and sometimes takes iterations to find! It can be elusive. It may not be a one-fit-for-all.. different customers might need different approaches.

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Haha I’m so glad that this meme resonates with you!!! 
 

Thank you for sharing your insights, @eduensing.

Iteration is the name of the game! Keep testing different formats until you find something that works!

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I love the meme! 😂

 

I completely agree on all parts of the post. A clear understanding, with written back up post handoff call, is so critical to ensure your customers are receiving what they need to be successful. During onboarding, I find there is a lot of handholding/constant communication because of the deadline on deliverables. Once the team hits post-onboarding, they have the tools and knowledge to be successful, but keeping a line open for communication around goals, best practices and more is critical once they’ve entered the CSM world. The hardest part is separating the onboarding team and the CSM team for the customer to understand that the onboarding team is no longer a point of contact. 

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10/10 Meme! 10/10 use of SIR David Attenborough! 

 

@cheylafrance has got the right of it! As I always tell customers on training calls, you’ve likely got a great way to close out the onboarding relationship with the customer perhaps via a Hand Off call like we do here at GUIDEcx, but it’s always great to double up on setting expectations in that hand-off call by finding a way to leave it in writing with the customer post call. 

I close all my GUIDEcx projects with a PM Note at the end that sends a note with project closure. In that note, I aim to use strategic words to communicate who their new point of contact is and how they will be the liaison to other team members if the CSM identifies that need along with their contact information!

I’m also meeting with customers in trainings several times before hand-off so I find any opportunity to repeat the fact that soon they will be handed off and they’ll have a “champion” for all their needs both on calls and in our recap notes. They know they’re working towards that. I make the CSM “superman” in their minds 😅 And that’s not just fluff! I see them advocate for their customers everyday! So if you can get the customer to truly feel like going towards the CSM is going to be a valuable move, then introducing them and handing off becomes a LOT easier! 😊

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