Smooth Implementations: Are you setting your customers up for success?

Prospective first-time home buyer here. As anyone who has bought a house knows, this process can be stressful. For me, the saving grace has been having a knowledgeable and transparent realtor. On the internet, there are conflicting answers to questions, and you don’t know what you don’t know, right? As someone who likes to have a plan and know what next steps are, it has been incredibly helpful to have a realtor who has guided me through the process. While conducting a qualitative research interview the other day, I started thinking how this mirrors implementing a new solution or software, something companies deal with daily.

After putting an offer on a house, our realtor sent us one email with the next steps listed out in order (including prospective or actual dates), links to additional information, AND contacts for other areas not in her domain (e.g., the lender, highly rated home inspectors, etc.). This was excellent. We had everything we needed in one place, for easy access, and we knew exactly what was happening and when.

This is ideal when thinking about implementing a new solution. We speak with individuals from a variety of industries, many of whom are going through implementation, and they frequently note SaaS companies send multiple emails from multiple individuals. It can be overwhelming and makes it easy to miss key details. The customer doesn’t know where to start. Blog posts like this one, “Five Strategies to Help Ensure a Smooth Software Implementation,” by Tyler Stuber, outline the steps needed to set a new customer up for success. To gain insight into what the customer should be focused on to ensure successful implementation, check out, “Secrets to implementation success,” by McKinsey & Company. However, SaaS companies should use both to redesign their implementation plan. It’s important that the customer’s experience and their needs are kept in mind. What we hear overwhelmingly from businesses looking for a SaaS company, is that they’re looking for more than just a vendor. They want a partner, a company which they can rely upon, not one that will “disappear” after they close the deal.

Now, how will you know what is important for that specific customer? The sales rep should determine the top needs and/or use cases for the prospective customer during the sales process. This information can be transferred to the onboarding team or specialist, who can then tailor the implementation checklist or plan to ensure it is focused on the biggest needs of the customer first. Everything following that is a value add, but not essential to the customer’s core functions. For some SaaS companies this is called a “Customer Success Plan,” but the point is to be upfront with the information and show how seamless the onboarding and implementation experience will be.

Learn from my realtor: walk your new customers through every step of the process and send an email on next steps after phone calls and major “milestones.” The more effectively the customer is set up for success, the more likely they are to realize the full value of the solution. It is incredibly important to ensure the engagement starts off on the right foot to prevent churn and build strong customer advocates. As my colleague, Tamara Clarke, noted in her recent blog post – customer reviews hold a lot of weight in generating (or deterring) new business. Our customer satisfaction research is a great way to determine how well your implementation process is performing. Are there steps your business could take to tighten up the implementation experience? Are there steps a standout onboarding specialist took that could be turned into company-wide best practices? Our team speaks with customers in various industries every day to capture this feedback and turn it into actionable recommendations. Please reach out to me at or comment below if you’re interested in learning more. I’d love to hear what you think is important to ensure a smooth implementation experience!

Kristen Higgins – Research Manager