Big Picture

Do Your New Customers All Require Special Treatment? It’s Not Them. It’s You.

Donna Weber - principal at Springboard Solutions Consulting

Closing new customers is cause for celebration. You ring the bell, bang the gong, or pop open a bottle of champagne to commemorate closing a new deal. As long as you keep getting new logos, your company is winning, right? Not necessarily.

When you treat every new customer as a “special snowflake,” you end up in trouble—fast. All that new revenue gets eaten up by endless hours of handling customers with special care. To get ahead of the curve, you need to be proactive with your customers and explore ways to scale. Otherwise, you’ll face eroding margins, frustrated customers, and increased customer and employee churn.

Why funding won’t bail you out

I work with high-growth companies that commonly reach out to me after they receive funding. Their new investments are usually injected into the sales and marketing engine, which causes elation with pre-sales teams but concern with the folks who deal with customers after the sale. They see a tsunami of new customers coming at them and know their current approaches no longer work. They can’t scale.

Zack Urlocker, COO at Zendesk, defines scaling as the ability for a business to grow revenues faster than expenses. The investment to bring in new bookings means current approaches only work when you add more people to manage the waves of new customers. When you don’t figure out the scale opportunity, everyone suffers. Customers experience delays in resolving issues. The loudest customers get all the attention, while others hear crickets. Internal teams are overwhelmed and exhausted.

So, how in the world can you fix it?

  1. Be prescriptive.
    In order to thrive, you need to be prescriptive. Being prescriptive means following a specific process that guides your customers to successful outcomes. I recently worked with a learning technology company whose customer success teams were letting customers drive the show. As a result, implementations were long, complex, and highly customized. Customer success managers (CSMs) waited for customers to have problems before jumping in to save the day.
    But customers don’t want problems. They want guidance to follow the right path in the first place instead of getting lost and having to seek help.
    When I shared this with the company’s CSMs, they were surprised to hear that customers want up-front direction. They didn’t know it was their responsibility to guide customers along a journey of best practices. Working together, we built a proactive onboarding approach to guide customers through milestones and deliverables during the critical first 90 days. As a result, this company aligned customer success and sales teams, steered customers along a proactive journey, and reduced their new customer onboarding time and costs by 80 percent. Now they can scale in a way that aligns with their growth trajectory.
  2. Apply the right touch.
    It doesn’t make sense to treat every customer the same. Rather than babysitting customers at every stage of their journeys, explore segmenting your accounts. Engage each segment with the right services and resources to get them to initial value quickly—and then to lifetime value.
    Most companies believe their largest customers need the most handholding, but that’s not necessarily the case. Sometimes, your smaller customers need the most help because they don’t have the in-house resources to be successful.
    When you roll out proactive guidance for the first time, it usually makes sense to map out the new framework as a high-touch approach. Start the process with dedicated resources to guide customers along every milestone and guidepost. Or, you might pilot your new approach with a specific segment of customers.
    When things are rolling along smoothly, consider moving to a low-touch approach. For instance, you might assign a pool of resources, rather than a dedicated CSM or account manager, to some account segments.
    Once your low-touch methods are humming along, explore a completely tech-touch approach, with customer onboarding, enablement, and engagement content delivered through emails, your product interface, and in learning management systems.
  3. Add appropriate technology at the right time.
    Many teams stuck in ad-hoc hell expect technology to put out their fires and make their lives easier. But in reality, it usually makes things worse. Applying new software systems on top of ineffective or nonexistent processes only creates more challenges for you and your teams.
    As you now know, you must start by building a proactive framework to guide customers to value. When you have these processes in place, tech-driven in-product guidance, learning management systems, marketing automation, and customer success platforms can make scaling a reality. The right technology—at the right time—allows you to dramatically increase the volume of customers you can engage without adding an exponential amount of costs and resources.
    Here’s an example: I worked with a content security platform company that built an onboarding email campaign with training videos. Customers’ emails were based on what users accomplished, or not, within the company’s product. We found that customers who read more emails and watched the prescribed videos dove into the product further and filed 10 percent fewer support tickets. And the tickets they did file asked more complex questions because they already knew the basics.

In addition to delivering bite-sized tips and tricks via email, this company also offered one-to-one training to dive into the specifics after customers mastered the basics. This is a great way to scale and provide the right technology—and touch—at the right time.

The takeaway?

While all of your customers are special in their own ways, this doesn’t mean you need to approach each one exclusively. Design a journey that all customers can follow on their own, or at least during the beginning of their time with you. Supply customers with the best practices to reach their goals as they use your product. Deliver the appropriate type of engagement to get customers to value. Then explore how technology will enable you to deliver your customer journey at scale.


Written by Donna Weber.

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Donna Weber
Donna Weber, principal at Springboard Solutions Consulting, is the world’s leading expert in customer onboarding. For more than two decades, she’s helped high-growth startups and established enterprises create customers for life. Her new book is Onboarding Matters: How Successful Companies Transform New Customers Into Loyal Champions.

Donna Weber is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. You can follow her on LinkedIn.