January 24, 2019

How Customer Success Teams Should Navigate the Complexities of Customer Handoffs

How Customer Success Teams Should Navigate the Complexities of Customer Handoffs

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When it comes to dealing directly with customers, is there anything more anxiety-inducing for customer success teams than the dreaded handoff? Probably not, but it really doesn’t have to be this way. Typically, customer handoffs are such a complex part of the customer journey because they set the tone for how a relationship is actually going to work.

Before a handoff, customers don’t really know how their long-term partnership will operate on a day-to-day basis as they’ve likely only worked with the new business sales team. After a handoff, it all rests on the shoulders of the customer success team, so no wonder the handoff causes so much stress. The best way to navigate these complexities and take the stress out of customer handoffs is to have a clear plan in place and a good understanding of the goals and expectations on both sides.

What Constitutes a True Customer Handoff?

While the biggest customer handoffs happen between sales and customer success (aka, after a deal is signed and before onboarding occurs), there are actually quite a few different opportunities within the customer journey where handoffs may occur.

Between Sales and Customer Success: One common handoff occurs between a sales team and a customer success team. For best results during this handoff, the customer success manager (CSM) in charge of the customer account could be introduced early on in the sales process. This way, a customer is already comfortable before onboarding and can hit the ground running with implementation, firs value, and goal attainment.

Between One CSM and Another: Sometimes, a customer success manger (CSM) has too many accounts on their plate already and simply cannot manage another account. Although a specific onboarding specialist or customer success manager might walk through initial onboarding with a customer, they eventually hand the account off to another CSM. During these handoffs, transparency and communication is key. Keep your customer apprised of everything that’s going on internally so they aren’t surprised or overwhelmed. A nice proactive introduction from the current CSM to the next CSM is always a nice touch.

Internal Team Handoffs: Other times, it could be an internal issue that causes a customer account to change hands. If a CSM moves into a different role or leaves the company altogether, a customer will need to be transferred to another account owner. In this situation, try to let your customer know as early as possible about what will happen. Introduce a new CSM early on for minimal confusion down the road. Don't wait til the roles transition has past or the CSM leaves your org. That is always awkward. Be proactive before the role or personal change.

Customer Handoff Best Practices

To ensure the best possible handoffs for your customers and your internal team, take some of the following best practices in mind:

1. Develop Department Handoff Processes: Don’t forget about other departments like product, support, and marketing, as well as sales. Create a strong customer handoff plan for each these teams whenever they become involved with a customer account. You can also develop a strong customer journey map or customer touch point map that will help this process.

2. Introduce Key Stakeholders: Introduce key stakeholders early on in the customer journey, even if they won’t be needed until later on. For example, bring in a person from the marketing team during adoption or value realization even though they likely won’t be participating in a case study for some time.

3. Develop Handoff Timing and Role Assignments: Track and manage all of your customer data from a single location. It’s incredibly easy for important details to slip through the cracks during a handoff, and having everything in one place will prevent issues.

4. Align Handoff Goals: Align the goals of different departments, as well as your customer’s goals. When your sales, service, and product teams are on the same page, handoffs can be incredibly smooth.

You can use ClientSuccess SuccessCycles to map out the customer lifecycle or journey, manage milestones, and create team assignments to ensure handoffs are seamless.

Below is an example of a ClientSuccess Lifecycle Map using ClientSuccess SuccessCycles. You can see the high-level milestones in the journey: Onboard, Deploy, Adopt, Grow, Renew. With ClientSuccess, you will have all your customer success data in one place.

Below is another example of using ClientSuccess SuccessCycles to create team assignments and due dates for defined handoffs during your customer journey. This helps your team of CSMs stay on top of every handoff and touchpoint along the customer journey.

You can learn more about how ClientSuccess is making it easier for CSMs to streamline handoffs and customer lifecycles by requesting a 30-minute demo.

Creating a Culture of Customer Success

At the end of the day, the best way to ensure a seamless and effective handoff experience for both your internal team and your customers is to have a dedicated culture of customer success throughout your entire organization, have strong processes and approaches to customer handoffs, and provide your team the right tools to help them manage and track the customer lifecyle. This way, the customer is at the center of every touchpoint along the customer journey. Creating a culture of customer success starts at the top, which means aligning your executive team to ensure all teams know exactly how their department and output impacts the customer.

Want to learn more? Check out these resources for more customer success best practices and insights on how to deliver amazing customer handoffs:

Blog Posts:

The Outcome Customer Journey: Defining Customer Handoffs, Success Metrics, and Outcomes Between Departments

Fives Steps to Establish a Successful Knowledge Transfer Between Sales and Customer Success


Ultimate Guide to SaaS Customer Success Metrics

Customer Success as a Culture: Customer Success Leaders Edition

Learn more about how ClientSuccess can help your company develop a strong Customer Success methodology and strategy with easy-to-use customer success software by requesting a 30-minute demo.

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