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The most dangerous time in the Customer’s Journey is after the deal has been signed and before First Value Delivered (FVD) has been realized... Implementation!

It doesn’t matter if you have a self-serve ecomm product/service or sell an Enterprise software solution – Your customer MUST have a successful implementation experience or your company risks churning them in the future.

A successful implementation experience is really in the eye of the beholder – so there is no reason to guess.

Here are some questions to ask your customer during the handoff call with the sales rep. (see how I made the assumption that this is a best practice at your organization?).

  • What issues are you expecting to solve with our product/service?
  • What are the success criteria for this initiative?
  • What does First Value Delivered look like for you?
  • How have other software implementations gone in the past. What’s worked well? What’s been a challenge?
  • What are you expecting of me as your CSM/Implementation Manager?

After you understand the “Why” behind the purchase and what success looks like for the customer you need to make sure you are clear about what will happen throughout the entire implementation process. It’s not unusual for the person who purchased your product/service to not be involved in the implementation. This means you might be working with someone who is just learning about this project and doesn’t have any prior relationship with you or your company.

Regardless if your contact is already familiar with you and your company or not, you must make sure that there are clear expectations with the Customer around:

  • Timeline
  • People Resources
  • Homework
  • Success Milestones
  • First Value Delivered

Let’s take a closer look at each of these as well as the “Code Red” signs that you customer is off track and could be at risk in the future.

  • Timeline – You need to spell out, in writing, how long implementation is expected to take and then break that timeline down into bite-sized tasks to be accomplished daily/weekly/monthly. This is how you’ll how you’ll hold the customer and your company accountable for making sure that the implementation ball keeps moving forward each week. Let’s face it, most time an implementation gets behind, it’s usually on the customer’s end. So, you need to do everything you can to help them understand what tasks are expected of them and when so they can start to gather the necessary resources.
    • Code Red: Your customer is WAY off timeline. 2-3 steps behind goal is a red flag that something is wrong. Time for an open and honest conversation to see what might be happening behind the scenes and re-set expectations.
  • People Resources – Speaking of resources, most implementations will involve more than 1 person from your Customer’s company. Most software systems these days are integrated with other systems within the customer’s company, so it stands to reason that IT, OPS, and other departments will be required to donate people and time to this project. Make sure your customer understands who else will need to be involved and how much time will be necessary.
    • Code Red: The people who are needed for a successful implementation weren’t aware of the project and are not available to help. Putting the project not only behind schedule, but in jeopardy.
  • Homework – Let’s face it, most Implementation “work” happens when you’re not meeting with your customers. After each milestone/check-in meeting you and your customer should walk away with homework that needs to be completed before the next get-together happens. This ensures the project is staying on track and moving forward.
    • Code Red: Your customer is coming to the milestone meetings unprepared and without their homework done. Worse yet, they are cancelling or pushing the meeting because they don’t have their homework done.
  • Success Milestones – What are the big tasks that once completed have really taken the implementation to the next level. In all implementations there are larger projects that get you a lot closer to the finish line. What are these? Make sure your customer knows that these 3-4 items are a clear indication that huge progress has been made. Make sure to stop and celebrate these milestones as a way to keep the team motivated and excited to cross the finish line.
    • Code Red: It is taking much longer than expected to reach these milestones or these are technical issues during these milestone steps.
  • First Value Delivered - this term is borrowed from the Software world but applies to most products/services. “First Value” or “First Value Delivered” (FVD) is defined as the initial success your customer has with your product/service, according to your customer’s definition of success. The sooner your customer there the better. Can you find a small implementation win that will allow your customer to start to use your product or service?
    • Code Red: You can’t find a way to get a quick win with FVD. Maybe your product isn’t really set up for FVD or your customer would rather the entire implementation be completed before they start to use and get value.

As I stated at the beginning. Churn starts during implementation; a poor or unsuccessful implementation isn’t always recoverable. You need to make you have a structured, successful, and repeatable process in place for onboarding your clients. You also need to understand the Code Red signals and make sure you have a plan to address these as well. It costs a significant amount of money to acquire a customer, make sure at the end of implementation you have a Raving Fan!