Onboarding Processes w/ CSM Office Hours

Episode Thumbnail
This is a podcast episode titled, Onboarding Processes w/ CSM Office Hours. The summary for this episode is: <p>This week we are discussing the onboarding process.</p><p><br></p><p>A weekly segment:</p><p>CSM Office Hours</p><p>Every Tuesday. 11:30am ET.</p><p><a href="https://lu.ma/CSMOH" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">https://lu.ma/CSMOH</a></p><p>--</p><p>If you want to join the discussion with thousands of other customer success leaders, join Gain Grow Retain: <a href="http://gaingrowretain.com/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">http://gaingrowretain.com/</a></p><p>This podcast is brought to you by Jay Nathan and Jeff Breunsbach...</p><p>Jay Nathan: <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/jaynathan/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">https://www.linkedin.com/in/jaynathan/</a></p><p>Jeff Breunsbach: <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/jeffreybreunsbach" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">https://www.linkedin.com/in/jeffreybreunsbach</a></p>
Setting Expectations
00:49 MIN
The Accountability is Internal and External
01:02 MIN
Achieving the Result You're Looking For
01:42 MIN

Speaker 1: Welcome to the Gain Grow Retain podcast.

Jeff Breunsbach: I think one of the big things that we're noticing right now is, when we have a customer that's coming on board, we have not really done a great job of making sure that they're actually getting into our customer community. We're a community company. We've got a really great framework and robust community that we've built for our customers to be successful. It has access to training and education. It's got access to peer- to- peer collaboration, and then we've got our support and knowledge base. And so that's become a critical step for us to go back into that process and sit and start making sure, how do we reinforce that they're getting into the community? How do we make sure that that is happening throughout that implementation and onboarding process? And then once it is, what is happening during that, right? Are we sending emails? Is it automated? Which system is it coming from? But we've really taken a hard look at that right now, as a big project that we're undergoing, is how do we make sure that they're getting into the community? And then how do we make sure we have the right onboarding process of that community so that they know the benefits, they know where to go, they know where they can get value? That's been something that we've had to dig into a lot right now, here, over the last couple of months. And actually we've got two projects, hopefully, ending in about the next week or two of us just revamping what that process looks like. So that's something that we're really focused on right now for the onboarding piece. James, you've got your hand raised. What are some of your thoughts here?

James: Yeah. It looks like in the chat, there's a very constant theme of onboarding. And that was the theme that we saw in the breakout room with myself, Patricia, Matt, and Malek. One of the things that we're doing at Phoenix is, we're standing up a customer success team. It's a brand new function, there's myself and three CSMs. We have very few customers and even fewer processes in place. We have a pretty solid implementation, which is led by a professional services team and a bunch of payments experts. Which they actually get the customer set up, running, working in production, processing transactions. And then, traditionally, once that's live, the CS team would take it over. Before, the CSMs weren't introduced until that point. So we had no idea how anything had gone. It could have been a terrible implementation, but we were completely blind. So that the first thing we started to do was get involved late presales, be involved at a high level during the implementation. And so now, the process that we're launching at the end of this quarter, I'll hopefully finishing up and wrapping up, is the customer go- live led by the customer success manager. That's where we track back through everything. And Patricia made a good point on our breakout room is, we don't want a customer to have to repeat everything that they've been repeating for the entire sales cycle and for their entire onboarding. So we don't just come in and be like, " So tell me about why you bought Phoenix." And they're like, " I've told 15 different people, James. Why do I need to tell you again?" We should know the outcomes that they purchased our tools for. They didn't buy a tool, they buy an outcome that your tool delivers, and we need to discuss how do we deliver that outcome for you? And so that's the main, so what reason behind our go- live meeting. And a lot of it come down to, Patricia made some great points about ownership and accountability with every member of that team, with the sales, with the implementation manager, with CSM. Who owns it? Who's accountable for it? Who's delivering it? And that's what we'll hopefully launch in this quarter.

Jeff Breunsbach: Yeah. One question, maybe you go a click deeper for you, too, James is, as you look at... You mentioned getting customer success involved earlier, later, right at the end of that sales cycle and right as implementation is going on. So yeah, what's the responsibility of CS during the implementation cycle then, if you're getting introduced earlier? What's on your plate to make sure that you're focused on that while the customer's going through that process? I'd love to know what you guys have found there, maybe.

James: Yeah. So I run the team and we're testing, bringing myself into the conversation as contract is being signed. So that we set the expectation of customer success, that the implementation manager and sales engineer have been involved, even from the demo and the POC period, and then bringing myself in, just so that they know what we're responsible for. It's again, going back to accountability, we put that seed in their brain early on. And then, when we get through to the implementation period, a CSM is very much in the background of it, but they're there to ensure that things don't slip, right? We have project managers, implementation managers that do a good job, but we are still holding ourselves accountable for the relationship, ensuring that the customers, we're not losing sight of why. Constantly reminding everyone of why we're here and why we're doing this. Again, otherwise, yeah, some of our implementations can take up to six months. Once we get to go- live, everyone's forgotten about why we did this. What was the original reason and outcomes that we bought this thing for? And then you were going live and you're like, " Crap, what are we here for? Why are we doing this?" And as long as we've been there to keep beating that drum the whole way through, as we get to go- live, our success metrics for the year, our EBRs and our renewal, is even secured at that point of official onboarding, because we know what do we have to do in the next nine months to lock this renewal up?

Jeff Breunsbach: Yeah, that's great. One thing you mentioned that I've seen recently as well, that hit home is, almost in every email communication as well, reinforcing what your role is. In the footer, I've started noticing, I know there's a team we were working with and what they said, it was like, " Jeff Breunsbach, Implementation Leader, Project Manager," but then also said, " Here's what I'm here to help you do in the journey," which I just found really impactful. I mean, it's a small thing, it's in the footer, you're hoping somebody reads it. But I think it was just another little anecdote where it was, " Oh okay, they're reinforcing why this person's involved, what they're helping me get to," where it is in the milestone. So I like your point too, about why are we here? What are we all doing? What is the role responsibility that we're playing? So I think that's good. David, you've got your hand raised, what are some of your thoughts here?

David: Yeah, two things. Thanks for getting this going again, here in March. Really appreciate that. Two quick comments, one to follow on James. The other thing that we find is really important is that, I don't about everybody else's sales teams, but often you come out of that sales process and the customer is really excited, in this big honeymoon phase, because they've talked about all this vision and everything can happen. And then, you get down to the brass tacks of actually doing it, and now all of a sudden, it's up to us from Success, to be, " Great. Let's make sure we mutually align in terms of exactly what's going to happen over the next period of time and how we're going to get there." So getting it down to those very prescriptive steps that takes... If you don't really ground it, sometimes the sales team can get the customer really excited and they feel deflated if you don't hit all of those big lofty goals right away. Right?

Jeff Breunsbach: Yeah.

David: So it's important to have a mutually agreed plan that you can agree on with the customer as to exactly what's going to happen by when, so that you can check those boxes you get there. The second thing I was going to say, too, is that, for us, we leveraged experience of other people in the onboarding stage. So, I mean, when we started this a couple of years ago, or a year and a half ago, we were trying to invent exactly what that process looked like. And there's tons of great experience, through this community and people like Jeff. We actually worked with Nils Vinje. I don't know if I'm saying his last name right. But Nils is a great resource that actually took all of the information that we had, for example, and help filter it down into great, " Here's your prescriptive steps, here's the types of meetings, here's the people that you align to, here's your requirements." And so it took all that information we had and then leveraged experience of others to say, " This is what your process looks like." And so I would highly recommend, if you're struggling with that side of it, in terms of, " I know there's so much information that we have, how do we build it into like some process?" It's leverage people and gain, grow, retain, or leverage other experts that have done this for a long time, because they really helped us a lot. So that would be some suggestions.

Jeff Breunsbach: Awesome. You heard it here first. Gain Grow Retain helps out a lot. We got a customer testimonial, or a member testimonial. But David, I love back to your first point, too, of just making sure that when you start thinking about the information and what's happening in that sales cycle, I like the point, too, of setting the right expectations from the beginning. The other thing that this brought to mind to me, too, is that there is, I guess, that opportunity as they're getting in that sales process, to go through a lot of validation. And I think that's what James was mentioning, right? " Hey, we're validating what we heard in the sales process, and at the same time, that validation process or step is helping us build the right plan that customers want and have." I don't know, is there any other things that come to mind for you, David, about making sure as you're setting expectations or you're setting that timeline with the customer at the beginning, is there anything that comes to mind for you as aha moments or gotchas that you've found in your career, something that you can call out there for us?

David: I think that probably the biggest thing is that sometimes customers seem to want everything they've heard of, all of these different things you could do with our technology, and I'm sure everyone's in the same boat. And when you start asking the questions as to why, so why that? How does that impact you? How does it affect the business? How do you measure that? When you start asking those three or four levels of why, you can really get down to those single- use cases that really matter. And they can be like, " Ah, that's what we want to do," and if we can do that, we have value. It's taking that why funnel and narrowing it down into a few key things that you know are achievable, and the customer feels really good about that.

Jeff Breunsbach: Yeah. I love that. I was recently listening to a podcast or a YouTube video around Facebook and their early, I mean, obviously a little different of what we're dealing with in terms of scale and a little bit more of a consumer facing app. But they said the one thing that they figured out about how they could make people successful and grow on Facebook was the moment that you got to your seventh friend was the key moment that unlocks something where it said, once you got to seven friends, you were there, you were hooked, you were on. And so what they started to do is optimize everything into getting to seven friends as quickly as possible when you were onboarded on the platform. So if you deconstruct that and you think about signing up for Facebook or any of those platforms now, it changed my mindset a little bit, because now you start realizing how everything does really funnel you to like one specific thing that they want you to get done at the very beginning. It's like, fill out your profile, and then I just remember everything after that was, " Hey, do you want to connect your phone number in here, because you can find more friends." " Hey, do you want to connect your email, you find more friends." " Hey, do you want to see who's around you locally, you can find more friends." So you start thinking about how they broke it down. It was literally laser- focused on that one thing. And I think to your point, David, how do you get the customer to answer those three or four levels deeper to figure out the one thing that we know will move the needle and impact it at the very beginning, knowing that there's going to be a larger plan, like you said, that's being put together that says, " Hey, we can go achieve all these things, but we need to have singular focus on this first, before we can go tackle the bigger and next step." So that was just a story I heard recently that I liked, that hits on that, too. Patricia, you've got your hand up. What are some of your thoughts here?

Patricia: Yeah. Hi, So I think in line with what James was saying before, I think that accountability piece, it's not just an internal thing, and that's something that I'm trying to drive with clients. And the way I put it, not to the client, obviously, but internally, the way I like to look at it is, okay, we already got the PO. The money has already been spent, so let's try and make the most of this, you know? Like you said, when you start relationships, so we'll have the honeymoon period and everything's okay, but then if there's not a commitment on both parts, if both parts say, " Okay, let's meet there at 6: 00 p.m.," and both parts aren't there, it's not going to happen. So I think driving that understanding and portraiting ourselves as someone who is there to help the client navigate something, but he's not there to do something for the client. I think that it's really, really important. That empowers your client, but then also, they understand that, " Uh oh, for this to work, I need to do something." And in 12 months time, they cannot come to you and say, " Well, it's down to you that my figures are not happening. And then, my users don't know how to use the product." You cannot go and force someone to use a tool to engage with something. So I think that it is, for me, that is key. And I've noticed that when I started my engagements by identifying stakeholders, putting names to paper, creating a success plan where we break actions and we hold people accountable for it, we end up getting to our milestones and to our outcomes much quicker, and people are then able to carry on planning for the next success plan, the next outcome, the next milestone that they want to hit. And they get results quicker, we get results quicker, and there is a relationship and there is trust, and there is respect because both parties are equals.

Jeff Breunsbach: Yeah. I mean, I love your point about getting the buy- in on the success plan and on the approach that we're going to have right over the next 12 months of this relationship, similar to what David was going down. And I think the big thing that that has triggered for me, too, is the fact that it's really hard when you start thinking about somebody's role, say, we'll talk about your customer, Patricia, your contact over there. They might have multiple projects going on, multiple things happening, and if it's not written down on paper with dates, it's really hard to prioritize and figure out, " What do I do next? What's the right thing?" Right? I've got five projects happening, three of them, I might have dates written down for or milestones, two of them I don't. I don't really know what's in my mind, when's the last time I had a meeting? What do I do next? And so I think, like you said, putting that onus and the ownership to say, " Hey, we're going to commit to these. We're going to write these down." I actually think it helps your context a great deal to say, " Hey, we're now we're committing to this," now they can actually have maybe a better way, internally, to help prioritize certain things. " Hey, okay, I need to get this done. Now we can fold other people into this or I can figure out how to make that happen." But I think even putting it down on paper just drives that a lot. I've just seen that recently as well.

Patricia: Yeah. And let me just quickly say, so I had situations where the keys they call... So the person answering to the leadership team, or a member of the leadership team is coming to us and say, " Why is this not happening?" And then when we start breaking it down and say, " Okay, actually someone on your side did not complete an action, which meant we could not proceed with something. So actually, before we start pointing fingers, let's go back to that success plan. Let's make sure that all the stakeholders understand what is going on." And again, I think asking yourself, " What is the consequence of not doing this? We already made the investment, what is the consequence of our users not using the product? What is going to happen to the business?" And I think when you start putting things on that perspective, I think you get a much quicker buy- in from the client.

Jeff Breunsbach: Yeah. Great to look at the risk and the downside, right? What's the risk of us not doing these things? And then really, because that also drives accountability. Because then it's, who are you going to have to go tell that to internally? " Hey, we bought this tool. We're not using it, or, " Hey, we're not getting as much value." I like that point. Awesome. Nathan, you've got your hand raised.

Nathan: Well, I mean, there's not much for me to say. Patricia just nailed it in every aspect. Yeah. She's actually just wrapped it up really well, with saying it's okay to actually talk to the customer about that milestone and the consequences, and make that really clear. Our team just implemented that, not on the customer success side of things, but starting with sales and actually starting with the whole funnel, and making sure that we verify what their values are, we verify what they want to do, and then, in the onboarding process, they get reiterated, " These are the steps that you have to take in order to accomplish and get this go- live date by the right time that that's going to happen." And then right in to the CSM role. It's all streamlined, so that we're always talking about the things that are most important to the customer, the things that they said were valuable and then we're really nailing that piece. And then from there, yeah, growth, expansion, those are easy conversations, because we've proven that we're really focused on what they're focused on. It's an easy next step. It's like, " All right. Hey, we nailed this, we completed this, this is done. Now what's next?" What are those next, maybe, top two, top three things that you want to focus on? Let's go ahead and tackle those as well. And we've been finding this as pretty successful in the SMB month- to- month market. Just recently, we've been rolling this out to that group of our client base, and it's been just hugely successful with actually getting more turned on in actually a shorter period of time. Because when they see that, " Hey, if I do this and I get this done, I can get to the next thing. I can get to the next important thing on my list." And that helps just streamline the whole process, right? It's not us hounding them and trying to figure out why are they not doing this stuff? It's like, we agreed to this. We agreed to this from day one that this was the important piece, and the consequences of not doing this piece are astronomically bad for you. So let's make sure that we're actually doing that. So yeah. Patricia, you said it wonderfully, though. Totally nailed it there.

Jeff Breunsbach: Yeah. I mean, the big theme, I just keep hearing, too, especially from what James and David, I mean, it's all, it seems to be all coming back to narrowing your focus. It sounds like the client wants to go do so much. At the beginning, the world's the oyster, how do we go achieve all these different things? But it really sounds like we can't go do those things unless we narrow that focus at the beginning. And if we can't do that, then how do we prescriptively try and build those steps in over time? That just reminded me of another consumer app. I'd just like to think of experiences. So another consumer app I've seen recently is Noom, which is the weight loss app. Which does a good job of holding you accountable. Because at the beginning, if you go through the questionnaire, I'm probably blanking out right now. But if you go through the questionnaire, there's two or three questions where they're essentially asking you how they should hold you accountable throughout the process? And what's more important for you in order to move forward? Is it losing weight or is it looking like a bodybuilder? All these different questions that you're asking. I forget the real ones, so we'll have to go figure that out. But I think, again, it highlights the same thing that you just mentioned, Nathan, where it's helping the customer narrow focus and say, " Hey, we can help go achieve this one thing right now. What is it that you really want to prioritize, and then how do you want us to hold you accountable if you don't do those things?" I like that example a lot. James, you've got your hand raised. What are some of your thoughts?

James: Yeah. Just to follow on from what Nathan said there. When I joined Phoenix, there's a book that they make everyone read, it's called, The Score Takes Care of Itself, by Bill Walsh. If you stop looking at the scoreboard and just focus on your thing, that is how we achieve the result that we're looking for. There was a good blog the other day that was from a CMO lambasting CSMs who just approach their customers three months before the renewal was due, " Hey, is everything okay? Do you want to renew?" And he said the focus is too much on our success. And at that point we shouldn't call ourselves customer success managers because our focus is our success. It's like we should be my success manager. And the point was that we got to establish early on, as exactly as you said, the very, " What is it that you're trying to achieve and what is their success?" So if we're looking at Phoenix, it's, what are your boarded merchants looking to achieve? What are you trying to achieve as a software vendor? Do you want to retain your customers for 10 years, or do you want to have them running all of their transactions through your software, or do you want to expand or grow or retain? What is it that is your success metric? And then track backwards from there, how do we help you achieve those? And Nathan said it, then the upsells, the expansions, the renewals take care of themselves. Like Bill Walsh says, " It's taken care of, it's done." And so I learned that the hard way, getting too focused and caught up on my goals that, I go, " Oh crap, how am I going to get my renewals, my retention number? inaudible looks really bad. If I'd took a step back and went back to the original point and understand what is the customer trying to achieve with it? If we help them do that, it should be a no- brainer, versus trying to come up with all these wacky creative ways to find upsells somewhere from absolutely nowhere.

Jeff Breunsbach: Yeah. I like that. It's a good point. Yeah. I've read through that book a little bit here and there. But Bill Walsh, great coach with the 49ers for a long time, back in the 80... I made that up, not'80s,'70s?'60s? I think it was'80s. Yeah, it was'80s, because it was Montana. Yeah-

James: Carlos knows.

Jeff Breunsbach: Yeah, it was'80s. Carlos told us'80s. Sorry, I was losing my dates there. Josh, you got your hand raised and you can close us out, and then we'll go from there. But what are some of your thoughts here?

Josh: Hey, that's a lot of pressure here. But what I did want to do is add to what James is saying and actually join in to the concept that I think we're all agreeing with, which is, James, when you said you're talking about going and backtracking within your purview. But one of the things that I think we need to look at as a member of an organization, as a company, is that that customer journey begins back all the way with marketing, right? What are we trying to do? And if we can have, if we can influence, marketing to say, " Hey, who is the persona that we're going after?" It could be in that person, in that industry, but what size of company? What maturity of their own processes? And once we have the tighter and more specific we can know that person, then the marketing messages meet with the sales messages, meet with the deployment and expansion messaging, and the whole thing becomes highly lubricated and we can go through with more efficiency. Because just like when I was growing CloudSploit, one of the things that I talked about was, " Yeah, big numbers look great, but it's not necessarily about the looks, it's about the books." I can go and make a higher margin by going and reducing the number of people that I'm even attempting to go and onboard and expand.

Jeff Breunsbach: I think it's a great point, especially about getting back into the idea of where does the customer journey actually start and how are we influencing, impacting? How we're making sure that that's all carrying the way through. Awesome. All right, well, we are at time. So appreciate everybody joining. Good to see you all again. And CSM Office Hours, this will be weekly. James and Jeremy are looking for co- hosts. They're looking for help where they can to run these sessions. So if you want to reach out, email me, Gain Grow Retain. You can find Jeremy and James on LinkedIn. There's probably a number of places, but if you want to do that, please reach out. But otherwise, we'll see you. We have leadership office hours on Thursdays, which James and Jeremy are also helping with. And then, we'll see you all again next week. But hope everybody has a good week. Good discussion, and we'll see you soon. Hey, guys. Thanks so much for taking the time to listen to the Gain Grow Retain podcast. If you liked what you heard, please take a moment and share the podcast with your friends and colleagues and subscribe. We really appreciate it. Talk to you soon.


This week we are discussing the onboarding process.

A weekly segment:

CSM Office Hours

Every Tuesday. 11:30am ET.



If you want to join the discussion with thousands of other customer success leaders, join Gain Grow Retain: http://gaingrowretain.com/

This podcast is brought to you by Jay Nathan and Jeff Breunsbach...

Jay Nathan: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jaynathan/

Jeff Breunsbach: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jeffreybreunsbach