By: Ben Barker, Brandon Garcin, Mary McCoy & Joseph Tavano of Continuum Managed Services (Pictured Above)
So you’ve closed a deal and signed your client. Congrats! Now what? Maybe you ring the sales bell, but what happens afterwards?
You’ve earned your new client’s business, but now you have to keep it. In addition to delivering on contracted good and services, there’s a lot more that goes into generating a customer—especially if you wish to retain them. No matter the industry, there are multiple stages in the overall life cycle of a customer. After you generate the client, you’ll need to onboard them to your product so they are set up for success, nurture the relationship to build strong, dependable revenue and plan strategically for long-term growth as your clients’ business demands grow and change.
Customer Success in the Short Term – Client Onboarding
Following up After the Sale
You were in regular communication with your client before they signed on the dotted line, and you have to maintain those frequent touches afterward. First, establish a client onboarding process to set expectations and ramp them up for success. Send a welcome email, sharing all of the best ways to contact you and any important documentation or links you think they’ll need to properly leverage your products and services. After clients sign the contract, immediately follow up and schedule an onsite visit. You may be able to support them remotely, but you’re in the business of relationships. This onsite meeting is the perfect opportunity to revisit your service level agreement (SLA) and map out short-term and long-term goals of your partnership. In so doing, you’ll become more than just another vendor. You’ll be a strategic business advisor, thus making you stickier.
Client Enablement Materials
Beyond the initial follow-up, develop a consistent communication plan to stay top-of-mind with clients. Every time a new partner enablement material is created, distribute across email and post to your client portal, if you have one. Provide some context for how that resource or piece of collateral will help them, and what they can expect from it. Providing these educational materials is a crucial component of customer success. These materials can be product-specific or general best practices tips. If you’re an MSP, for instance, you might consider sending end users a list of tips for staying secure online.
Every good you buy comes with a set of instructions because there’s always some learning curve consumers have to get over. In the same way you should create and share educational materials as part of your marketing program, you should also build educational programs into your client onboarding plan. We offer our own partners a free, self-paced learning service called Continuum University to ensure successful adoption of our IT management platform. This helps partners learn how our products and services work, which equips them to better manage their own client service delivery. Consider implementing something like this at your own company. Offer in-person technical trainings if applicable. Just as we advise MSPs to lend support remotely through educational email sends, we also encourage many to conduct cybersecurity seminars onsite. By taking the time to train clients about common social engineering tactics, for example, MSPs graduate to the level of strategic IT consultants. At the same time, these MSPs cut down the influx of IT disasters attributable to human error.
Planning for Customer Success & Retention
Long-term customer success and support are key drivers of retention once initial onboarding phases are complete. If you’re a software vendor, you’ll want to make sure your customers have access to dedicated technical support, training and troubleshooting resources; these are designed to help answer specific questions, train new users, and problem solve when things aren’t working as expected.
If you’re a service provider, you’ll likely want to take things a step further and set aside dedicated time to work with your customers to understand how their business goals, roadmap and technology stack are evolving over time. This often ends in a win-win as it strengthens your position and value prop as a strategic partner who’s actively working to help your customers grow and succeed, while also providing you with insight into potential cross sell and upsell opportunities.
Another important element in this equation is data. If you’re able to provide your customers with insights as to how your software or services are helping them save time or money, operate more efficiently, eliminate technical issues or alleviate pressures that existed before they started working with you, they’ll be far less likely to jump ship and sever ties with you. If your offering has some sort of self-service analytics component that allows your users to do this themselves, that’s great – try going the extra mile by scheduling semiannual or quarterly business reviews (QBRs) and check-ins with an account manager to make sure they’re crunching the numbers effectively and are really seeing the value you bring to the table.
At the end of the day, bringing new customers through the door is of course a top sales and business goal – but focusing on winning and keeping those customers for life, and putting the right mechanisms in place to ensure long-term retention and success, can be just as important.
Building Relationships with Your Clients
When you close a deal with a new client, it is your responsibility to grow and nurture that relationship. If you build strong and genuine relationships with your clients, you will reduce the risk of churn and increase your upsell/cross sell opportunities. There are a few ways that you should attempt to grow and develop relationships with your clients.
Scheduled Check Ins
Make time for your clients. This is key. Check in with them on a regular basis to make sure that they are happy with your services and that you’re meeting their expectations. This time can be used to go over the service level agreement (SLA) that you have set with them, as well as the previously mentioned business goals and QBRs. The frequency of these check-ins should be flexible depending on how much support a given client requires. Some clients may only want to check in with you once every quarter. Others might want to have monthly calls. Being flexible will make your clients feel like you have their best interests at heart.
The amount of face time that you’re able to spend with your clients depends on a couple of things. First of all, it depends on their location. If your clients are all located in or around the city that your business is based, you’re going to have a better chance of setting up face-to-face meetings. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t serve clients outside of your local geographic location, or that you shouldn’t try to make time for clients that are further away. It simply means that these visits will be less frequent and need to be scheduled far in advance. Another determinant is the workload of your employees. If your technicians are busy remediating tickets all day, they’re not going to be able to do as many site visits. Taking advantage of an outsourced network operations center (NOC) is a good way to free up some more time for your current technicians. By offloading the mundane, day-to-day work, they’ll have more time to spend building and reinforcing relationships with your client base.
Social media is a good tool for staying in touch with your clients, but should really be looked at as a supplemental effort. Don’t rely on social media to stay in contact with your clients, but rather use it as another avenue to provide them with crucial information and helpful content. One way that you could utilize social media is by sharing company updates. Let’s say you know that your phone system is going to be down for scheduled maintenance during a business day. You can post this kind of announcement on your company’s Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts so that anyone who sees it will know to expect an interruption in communication with you during this time. Social media can also be used to share content that your clients will find helpful. Think about some of the questions that your clients have asked you in the past. If you have a company blog, you can simply post the answers there or share the article on your social channels. If you’re not managing a blog, you can search some third-party publications and share the content that they’ve already created. Your clients will be happy to have the information in front of them and the publications will be happy that you’re promoting their content.
Do you have resources in place to ensure your clients’ needs are being met at each stage of the relationship, or are you set up to close deals and move on to the next prospect? Unless you’re guiding, training, and helping your client succeed through the use of your product or service, you’ll never be able to realize the full profit potential that can be achieved from closing a new customer.
Are you looking for more information on customer success? Make sure you attend HubSpot’s session, It's Not Over When You Generate a New Customer, presented by Dan Wolchonok at MassTLC’s marketing conference on March 24th. Continuum is a proud user of HubSpot, and each of us leverage the marketing automation platform daily to drive leads and sales. Learn more about the conference here.