There are two primary reasons why customers churn: the customer didn’t understand your product, or they didn’t get any value from it.
But both of those items should have been addressed during the sales process — hence the signature on that dotted line.
So why are we seeing our customers’ happiness take a dive once they become a customer? On average, customers churn within the first year of closing a deal at a rate of approximately 50%.
Why Customers Churn after the Sales Process is Complete
Most companies have separate teams for handling the sales process and for doing customer onboarding/success. The most common problem we see is a mindset that once the sale is complete, all the steps of the sales process are done, and the sales rep has moved onto closing other new deals.
This is harmful for two main reasons:
- The sales process is not done yet, and
- The Customer Success team is only partially informed while being expected to take care of new customers.
This leads to—you guessed it—confusion and lack of value.
But selling your product or service is only half the job.
The other half is fulfilling it.
That is why it is important to set up an appropriate onboarding process between the Sales and the Customer Success teams.
What Leads to Poor Handoffs between Sales and Customer Success Teams
If there is no process set up for a successful handoff, there is a risk that the customers won’t get the level of service they expect and won’t see the value. Confused customers do not buy and, of course, they won’t advocate for the product or service, so it is crucial to avoid the following common practices:
Not Giving the Customer Success Team Access to Your CRM
Many sales representatives often take diligent notes in the CRM, yet forget to give the Customer Success team access to them. Whether or not your reps take great notes in the contract record, many times Customer Success team members (who don’t sell) don’t receive the visibility they need. Nor do they get as extensive training in the CRM as the Sales team does.
Everyone from the sales process to the client onboarding process needs to be well-versed in all the technology used to record communication history, and they should be empowered to do so.
Not Keeping Closed-Loop Communication Between Sales and Customer Success Teams
Some companies (like Revenue River) have a good idea whether a big client is about to close. They also have a good idea on which team members will be helping the new client onboard and succeed over time. Yet, many companies give up the opportunity to communicate to these team members BEFORE the client signs.
Keeping communication TIMELY and FREQUENT, even if the client is a week or two from signing the contract, can make or break the customer success relationship from the beginning.
What Sales Teams Can Do to Contribute to Successful Onboarding
It is crucial to establish an internal, repeatable form of communication for the Sales team to inform the Customer Success team that a handoff will be occurring. This may include an automated trigger via Slack or CRM, as well as an informal briefing.
Simply logging notes into CRM, to which the Customer Success team has access upon handoff, can make the process more efficient and reduce the need for in-person meetings.
However, remember those notes should be thorough. It can be extremely frustrating when a new customer is passed off to a new team member, who then fires off questions or asks for information that the customer had already provided. It's as frustrating as calling your local cable company and being transferred to different representatives that all ask for your contact information each time (can I get an 'Amen'?).
To avoid the frustration, sales reps should enter all notes and details, such as contract values. They should also enter this information in a consistent and established location, so that the Success team knows where to find said information.
Proper Introductions and Explanations
During the handoff process, it may be a good idea to set up an onboarding kickoff call or a meeting with anyone on this account. This phone call will ensure that the new customer is starting off on the right note, - with the whole team understanding the account.
The Customer Success team needs to have the right context going into the relationship with the customers. Otherwise, you may lose out on references, stellar reviews, or potential case studies.
Furthermore, the customer himself/herself shouldn’t be left wondering who they should be initiating contact with. If they do continue to go back and forth between the Sales and Customer Success teams, information will fall through the cracks.
It is also important to set up realistic client expectations and having the fortitude to decline potential clients who are a bad fit, even if these potential customers want to do business with you.
Trying to create a feedback loop between the two teams is important. Is Sales only concentrating on getting the sale and pushing it through, not on whether the prospect is actually a good fit? If not, Customer Success will be set up for failure, and churn will inevitably occur. The Customer Success team should be informing Sales of how customers fit in the model, and if expectations need to be adjusted.
Proper Transition from Proposal to Real Project
When thinking about the transition from proposal to a real project, the Sales team can help by building proposals, which set up clear boundaries, while leaving some space for flexibility within them.
Benefits of Developing a Successful Customer Handoff Process
Following the best practices to develop a smooth and seamless handoff process from the Sales to the Customer Success team benefits all of the parties involved: the customers, as well as the members of both teams.
- Happier Customers. Having a procedure for a successful customer onboarding and handoff from Sales to Customer Success teams will lead to happier customers that stick around longer.
- Happier Teammates. A smooth and well-planned transition process will reduce the friction between the Sales and Customer Success teams, so that the Customer Success team can really hit the ground running.
The Key to Successful Client Onboarding? Communication.
If you're trying to create a sales process that is painless for both the client and the members of the team, selling is only half of the job. Another half involves ensuring a smooth and successful buyer’s journey between Sales and Customer Success.
The most important thing here is to maintain a constant back-and-forth communication between the teams and keep all the parties informed of where the process is at. Following some of the recommendations outlined in this article, you will be able to improve the client handoff process, leading to happier customers and happier employees.