How do you know whether your customer onboarding program is working? You ask your customers. Reviews are formal and strategic discussions with stakeholders, with the goal to learn from customers. While reviews are, of course, an ongoing part of your relationship with customers, they are especially important during onboarding.
The Review stage
The Review stage of Orchestrated Onboarding is an integral touchpoint to uncover what’s working in your onboarding program and what needs to be fine-tuned. It’s a short but critical piece of any onboarding program. Use the Review stage to build alignment, keep customers on track with their goals, guide them to more value in your product, and learn how to improve your services and products.
The Review stage is the fifth stage of the Orchestrated Onboarding™ framework. 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. The Review allows you to rectify any changes needed within specific accounts, while also improving your onboarding program for all customers.
How did onboarding go?
Listening to customers is as important for your success as it is for theirs. You find out how your onboarding program is working by listening to the people who just went through the process. When meeting with customers ask a handful of simple open-ended questions to guide the conversation. And then listen. Here are my favorite questions for the initial Review meeting to learn specifically about customer onboarding.
What worked well?
What are your suggestions for improvement?
Tell me about a fabulous onboarding experience you had with another vendor.
What is needed to wrap up onboarding?
If you had a magic wand, what is the one thing you would change today?
What else do you think I should know right now?
During the review, I pose the question, listen to the customer’s response, and then I provide my input as well. For example, with one company I conveyed how fabulous they were to work with. With another, I articulated the challenges we all experienced from the turnover in project leads and detailed the impact that had on our work together. Sharing mutual feedback is a great opportunity to learn together.
Listening is key
If you want to guarantee you never get the account stakeholders to attend another review meeting, make sure you sell to them during the review. While you might invite sales reps and product managers to discuss features and present the product roadmap, the focus is still to listen, not to sell.
In addition, avoid running on about the number of support tickets logged, the average time to resolve support issues, usage metrics, and the product roadmap. Otherwise customers won’t have a chance to get a word in about what’s working for them. Or not. Learn about the importance of listening to customers in my article, Whoever Understands the Customer Best Wins.
Provide value during the review
After you explore the onboarding experience for your new account, make sure to provide value to your customers as well. Follow these best practices shared by Kristen Hayer, CEO of The Success League, in The Success League’s excellent Customer Success course, Executive Business Reviews, which is part of the CSM Certification Program.
1. Develop a standard format for sharing goals and results. Having a standard format for review meetings prevents CSMs from recreating the wheel every meeting. It also means you review the same document with your customers each time you review, and over time you see trends to celebrate or address. The format might include the original success plan you created before the deal closed.
2. Nothing speaks louder than metrics. Arrive at review meetings armed with data that highlights successes and provides insights into challenges. Be sure to include visuals, such as graphs and reports, because our brains respond better to visual than verbal data. Always bring more information than you think you need, so you don’t get stumped by a tough question from leadership.
3. Be candid. Ask your customer how they feel you have performed so far. This gives them the chance to provide you with honest feedback and to let you know if their expectations are being met. In turn, be sure to share any concerns on your side. Finally, don’t be afraid to tactfully ask if you are on track to secure their contract renewal. It’s always good to gauge the temperature well in advance so you don’t end up with any surprises at the contract’s end.
4. Be neutral and fact-based. Don’t try to skew results to make you or your customers look better. Customers respect you more when you candidly share what’s working and what needs to improve.
5. Schedule the next review meeting. Whilst you have the attention of the stakeholder and team is the ideal time to schedule the next review meeting. So, ensure you devote time in the agenda to secure the next meeting on the calendar.
When to hold review meetings
Hold the initial review meeting about 90 days after the kickoff. For short deployments, users might already be live and actively using your product. For long implementations, accounts might still be making their way through the Adopt stage. Regardless, it’s important to stay connected with your customers and to step back from the tactics of deploying and using your product to review the original objectives and outcomes for which your customers are aiming. Once you are past new customer onboarding, determine a cadence that works for you and your accounts. Just because review meetings are often called “quarterly business reviews” (QBRs), doesn’t mean you need to stick to a quarterly schedule. Monthly or bi-annually may make better sense for different customer segments.
The purpose of the Review stage is to learn from your customers. Initially, to improve your customer onboarding program, and then to guide customers to maximum value in your product. Remember to allot most of the review meeting agenda to learn what’s working for customers, what they would improve, and to hear about their latest initiatives and goals. Listening is the doorway to innovation for both you and your customers.