Could you imagine retaining customers that don’t ever adopt your product? Without adoption, your customers don’t have a product to use, and you don’t have a license to renew. Adoption occurs when your users take up and use the implemented and customized product. It’s important because your product quickly becomes shelf ware if it’s not installed correctly, or users don’t know how to properly use it.
The Adopt stage includes such implementation phases as customizing, integrating, and launching your product or platform. It also addresses user onboarding and enablement, so the customer’s people know how to use your product. Depending on the industries and user types with whom you work, this stage also includes change management, which is a must-have for end user adoption.
The Adopt Stage
The Adopt stage is the fourth stage of the Orchestrated Onboarding™ framework. It begins after both the customer handoff meeting (where teams align on the big picture) and after the kickoff meeting (where everyone involved aligns on the implementation and adoption plan).
Orchestrated Onboarding is a workable process that improves communication across internal teams as well as customers to ensure the renewal in the beginning of the customer relationship when it matters most. See an overview of the framework, below.
Creating a seamless journey
The Adopt stage is where customer-facing services come together to help customers implement and embrace your product. Services like consulting, support, and education are traditional ways of helping companies customize, integrate, and use your product. While these services have been around much longer than the Customer Success function, they often operate as soloists, focused on their task at hand rather than the larger customer journey.
When it comes to seamless customer journeys, soloists can’t pull this off—you need orchestration. What’s unique in the Orchestrated Onboarding framework is the focus on the customer and their experience, rather than the particular service being delivered at any given time. Customers want a seamless experience, and that means services teams must now band together to provide what customers want.
Because the Adopt stage includes multiple components it may last weeks or possibly even months. I considered breaking the Adopt stage into implementation and adoption but merging them together makes the journey more effective. You don’t install, configure, and customize products for their own sake. The point is to deploy products that make people’s lives better. That means users need a product to which they can relate and know how to use. Another reason to roll implementation, enablement, and change management into one stage is that new customers ideally interact with several teams as they work through all these steps. I specify ideally, because it’s important that CSMs don’t single-handedly manage all these important functions. Let’s explore the three keys to improving customer adoption of your product: implementation, enablement, and change management.
Implementing (or deploying) your product means making it active and effective for your customers. It encompasses post-sale processes that you may or may not have worked through with your customers during the Adopt stage to build, fit, or alter your product to their specifications.
Implementation takes anywhere from a few moments to several months, depending on the complexity of your product and the number of customizations and integrations needed on the customer side. After deployment, you have the opportunity to launch your product to your customer. Launch is when the software goes live and is released to the users with the customization and integrations (mostly) working.
Enablement, or educating your customers, is the action of preparing each user type to do their job using your product. Enablement might include self-paced courses, instructor-led courses, or a combination of both. This is such an important component of both user and customer success that I dedicate a whole chapter in Onboarding Matters to this topic. Many companies utilize CSMs to fulfill this important task, but I advise against that. Instead, create a dedicated person or team to enable your customers.
Implementation and enablement are usually two distinct components of onboarding that don’t overlap, but I encourage you to blend them. They’re more powerful when they work in harmony. When customers take the appropriate courses before consultants engage, implementation tends to roll out more smoothly and quickly. I’ve experienced this with many organizations. Customer teams have a better grasp of the product and are ready to focus on their unique customizations. They don’t have to figure out the new software while also defining implementation requirements with consultants. In addition, this allows consultants to make use of their deep technical expertise to focus on unique use cases, instead of walking through basic overviews of the product at the beginning of every engagement. Bringing implementation and enablement in tune with each other keeps consultants engaged and challenged while providing customers better value.
3. Change management
Change management is the discipline that guides how you prepare, equip, and support customers to successfully adopt the change associated with buying your product. Change management goes beyond implementation and enablement to address changes to processes, job roles, organizational structures, and expectations.
Include change management in the Adopt stage so customers can transform their businesses, beyond simply using your product. When users don’t embrace your product or adopt the changes required by the initiative that caused them to purchase your product, the account will churn. Change management addresses the actual people at the customer, because they are the ones modifying the way they work.
The two main ingredients of change management are communication and more communication. At all levels, be sure to communicate why the change is happening and the desired outcomes. Explore ways to help your customers embed the new way of doing things into their existing processes.
Onboarding in general (and the Adopt stage in particular) encompass much more than implementing your product. The Adopt stage takes anywhere from a few days to several months, and incorporates implementation, enablement, and change management. Once you your product goes live, you stay engaged to ensure users are enabled and businesses are transformed.