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How To Win at Implementation

Every stage of the customer journey is critical to reaching the ultimate goal of renewal and customers enjoying the product’s full value. And that journey starts with customer implementation.

If your product is the racecar and the renewal is the finish line, implementation is when customers get the keys. This is the stage when CSMs give customers access to the product, create accounts, and organize the system to meet their needs.

Winning at implementation is crucial to a customer’s overall success and the start of winning at every stage. Giving the driver the keys doesn’t guarantee success on its own but is the crucial first stage in getting across the finish line.

Let’s dive into the three critical elements to win at implementation.

Follow a Strategic Plan

Winning at every stage of the customer journey requires creating an intentional and thoughtful plan.

In many cases, implementation is a customer’s first impression of the product in action. Successful implementation starts by realizing its importance in setting the customer up for success from the very beginning. This means knowing their desired outcomes, having a plan to get there, and what success looks like in the end. Implementation isn’t just a one-time box to check but part of a larger strategy that sets the groundwork for success. Winning at implementation means introducing the product and establishing a relationship for future growth.

Implementation also requires its own strategy to move from day one to first value. The most critical metric for implementation is time to first value, or how long it takes a customer to get stood up.

As soon as a customer signs a contract or finishes the sale, the clock starts ticking to deliver value. The definition of value varies for each company and often for each customer, depending on their goals. Value can be getting five users on the system, uploading 10 files, managing the client dashboard for 30 minutes, or any other benchmark that shows customers are connected to the product and on the path to full engagement. Working towards first value provides CSMs with a concrete goal and timeline and sets the stage for future engagement.

The shorter the time to customers experiencing quality-based value, the more successful the implementation and the sooner customers can start using and engaging with the product.

Communicate Transparently and Show Value

Reducing time to value requires overcoming the biggest threat to winning at onboarding: the trough of disillusionment. When customers sign a contract and have a strong kickoff call, they are excited to jump into the product. But when they can’t connect their needed outcomes with the plan established or, worse, get no communication from the implementation team, that excitement plummets as they have to wait to see value. Customers start to assume the worst and may get buyer’s remorse. The trough of disillusionment can halt progress and be challenging to recover emotionally.

To avoid buyer’s remorse and keep the momentum moving forward, communicate as much as possible. CSMs need to offer regular updates to customers about what is happening internally, the status of their account, and when they can expect the next steps. Taking credit for your work behind the scenes adds value because customers can see all of the time and effort that goes into setting up the product. Don’t wait to reach out until the customer needs to take action — over-communicate and keep the customer in the loop.

Over-communicating means providing customers with all the information and updates they need in one place. Some companies send automatic alerts when the account reaches specific milestones or the back-end team does certain tasks. Other companies build dashboards for customers to easily see the status of their account and any action items they may need to complete in one location.

Providing clear communication throughout implementation shows that CSMs care about and are working for the customers and establishes trust between both parties. Remember, this is just one stage of a customer’s success plan, but it is critical.

Show Value and Celebrate Every Stage

One of the biggest mistakes CS teams make is viewing implementation as a purely logistical step. In actuality, it is prime time to showcase the value of your product. Celebrate wins to share your excitement with the customer and continually highlight the product’s value. Implementation sets the tone for the rest of the relationship. When CSMs are excited and continually showcase and re-sell the value of the product, that excitement will spread to customers and make them more excited to jump in and use the product fully to meet their goals.

Celebrations can happen at many milestones — the moment the company receives access, the first time the customer logs in, the first time they take the reins on their own, and more. Each celebration is a chance to show the value the product brings to the table and strengthen the relationship with the customer. An excited note or phone call celebrates the occasion and moves the customer forward.

If implementation is giving your customer the keys to the car, celebrating is like congratulating them on getting their driver’s license. It gives them confidence and excitement to continue moving forward on their own.

Viewing implementation as a crucial part of the customer journey increases its magnitude. When CS teams understand the role implementation plays in establishing the relationship, they can deliver value quickly and showcase all the product offers. Winning at onboarding puts customers in the driver’s seat as they move towards the next step of adoption.

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Greg Lloyd

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