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The Value of an Amazing Onboarding Experience

Intuitively we know that effectively onboarding a new customer is an important part of the overall experience. As consumers, we have come to expect solutions that are easy to adopt and use, so we know that our own customers expect the same from our products. As you build your company and consider how much to invest in the customer journey, how do you quantify the value that an amazing onboarding experience provides to your organization? What are the metrics that matter? Here are 5 outcomes you should consider:

Faster time-to-value

Customers who have spent money on your solution expect to receive value from it quickly. At this point, even in B2B environments, this has become table stakes. The faster your customer can start receiving value from your solution, the more likely they are to renew their agreement, expand their business with you, and recommend you to other potential customers. Invest in the people and technology to speed up the onboarding process, and measure the impact on your retention, expansion, and referral rates.

Clear customer expectations

Part of an amazing onboarding experience includes some discovery. Why did the customer purchase your solution? What are they hoping to achieve with it? What will tell them that they made the right decision? The answers to these questions provide critical information you can use to refine your product and customer journey. Invest in a discovery feedback loop between your onboarding and product teams, and measure the impact on product-market fit and your retention rate.

New expansion opportunities

A common outcome of great onboarding is the discovery of additional selling opportunities. Perhaps the customer would be better off with the next subscription level. Maybe a related product would provide them with even more value. Building an onboarding experience that uncovers opportunities benefits both your customers and your bottom line. Invest in building onboarding processes that drive leads, and measure the impact on expansion revenue and customer satisfaction.

Solid customer relationships

In addition to the technical aspects of onboarding, there is a relationship-building aspect as well. Even if your onboarding process is largely automated, the way you communicate with your new customers is critical to their impression of your company and product. Customers don’t just want to know about the technology, they want to know how to maximize its value. Invest in a strong communication plan during the onboarding process, and measure the impact on product adoption, customer satisfaction and your renewal rate.

Raving fans of your brand

Customers who are happy with your company will talk. In our culture of online reviews, referral programs, and word-of-mouth marketing, an amazing onboarding experience can be a valuable brand asset. This requires designing an onboarding program that doesn’t just meet, but exceeds customer expectations in terms of speed, value or the overall experience. Invest in an onboarding program that goes above and beyond for your customers, and measure the impact on online reviews and referral sales.

An amazing onboarding experience can drive key metrics across the customer lifecycle and your organization, from product and marketing, through sales and support. Drive toward a fast, but exceptional, onboarding process. It may take time to design and build the optimal experience, and you will need to refine it as your company grows. It’s worth the investment.

Founder & CEO of The Success League, a consulting firm focused on customer success. She believes that customer success is the key to driving revenue, client retention and exceptional customer experiences. Prior to founding The Success League, Kristen built and led several award-winning customer success teams. She has published over 60 articles on customer success, and hosts the popular customer success podcast, Strikedeck Radio.

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Why Service Is The New Marketing for IoT Manufacturers

Today more than at any other time in modern history, service is actually really really important. It used to be that companies would claim that “service is our middle name.” But the reality was that their service was always lacking.

But today there’s nowhere to hide. There’s nowhere for a shoddy product, bad experience on the customer service line, or a pushy sales person to hide.

Why?  The answer is obvious: everything is instantly sharable on social media. All the time.

To take a non-business related example, how often now are we witness to viral videos on Facebook and Twitter of racist rants and police brutality? The increase in frequency is never-ending.

The same is true for bad customer service and poor quality products.

This is especially true for the consumer IoT industry, which has a whole set of issues all to its own.

 

The IoT Ecosystem Challenge

Let’s attack this issue right away. IoT products for consumers, such as home automation, wearables, trackers, sleep tech, pet tech, and all sorts of other techs, have opened a Pandora’s box of previously non-existent problems.

From connectivity problems like learning your device requirements and edge router, to connectivity to other devices, or incompatibility with your mobile platform of choice, consumers have a steep learning curve.  Consumer devices are pretty friendly, as their designers put a lot effort into making them not only functional, but built for a great user experience.  That said, this is all new to most users.

The IoT manufacturers that win at this game are the ones who have implemented a well thought-out process for holding customers by the hand so that connecting, using and trouble-shooting these connected devices are a breeze.

Takeaway: make a complicated technology product easy to use by implementing friendly and timely support processes to help customers learn to use and connect their new IoT devices.

Something to Share on Social Media

Social media has changed everything related to marketing and customer service. If your customers are not saying great stuff about your company, it’s really your word against theirs. And in social everything comes to light.

The best types of social sharing is 3rd party sharing. In other words, social proof. And when you deliver a fantastic customer experience, whether through your great product design, UI or customer support and service, customers will rave about you on social media.

But I’m not just talking about great service. I’m talking about really great service. People don’t share “good” stuff on social media. That’s boring. People share surprising incidents that amaze them.

Surprise your customers through some sort of “delight” mechanism. How can you delight your customers by going the extra mile and putting them off balance a little bit, albeit in a positive way?

Takeaway: deliver outstanding customers service, and include a type of “delight” component that surprises and amazes your customers. They’ll absolutely want to share that on social media.

Educate Your Customers About Everything They Can Do With Your Product

You don’t know how frustrating it is when I buy a new phone, and I realize I’m only using about 3% of its functionality. It took one of my nephews to show me a few cool tricks I could do with my phone, and that was just scratching the surface.

So many consumer IoT products can do so many amazing things, but most customers don’t take full advantage of them because they don’t know about them. And when they don’t take advantage of everything, there’s no opportunity for them to really fall in love with your product so they can eventually become repeat customers.

Launch tutorial videos or webinars so you can teach your customers how to get the most out of their smart security camera or smart lamp. Show them cool new things they can do.  If your product receives firmware updates with new functionality, make sure to accompany the firmware updates with video tutorial updates as well.  Share all this with your customer support team as well, so they can built it into their knowledge base and they’re aware and prepared to share it with your customers.  Do the same with your Customer Success Managers.

Takeaway: use content to educate your customers so they can use as much of the functionality of your products as possible.

Cross-selling and Upselling

With consumer IoT devices chances are you won’t make your money from the first sale. You make your money from service subscriptions, cross-selling and upselling.

When your customers buy your tracking device, smart camera, smart lock or pet fitness device, that’s just the first step in the funnel. This is an opportunity for you to shine in your service so you can sell them the next thing in your funnel – usually something that is a bit more expensive, or something that they will pay monthly for.  Hint: Leverage your customer support team, the people that have the most direct contact with your users, to recommend upgrades and additional solutions to your customers.

Takeway: deliver excellent service so you can sell more products and drive profitability. Your first product, the one that’s getting all the attention, may just be the loss leader for your whole product offering.

Turning Customers Into Advocates and Promoters

Another effect of social and digital media is the disintermediation of the sales person. You don’t go to a stereo store anymore these days, and you avoid the pushy sales guy barely surviving on those stereo commissions.

 

But somebody has replaced the sales person: the brand ambassador. Whether you establish a deliberate brand ambassador program (like Hennessey) or it happens naturally, you need to get to a point where your customers are so sold on your company, so dedicated to your brand, that they will gladly spread the word for you as free sales people.

Takeaway: start a brand ambassador program, or find a way to delight your customers into promoting your brand.

Conclusion

Bottom line: today, if you want your IoT company to become a household name, you need to be a ninja at support and customer service.

  1. Help your customers figure out the ecosystem challenges
  2. Deliver a surprising “delight” experience so they can share about your brand on social media
  3. Educate your customers so they can fall in love with everything they can do with your product
  4. Set up a cross-selling and upselling funnel driven by awesome service
  5. Turn your customers into brand ambassadors.

It used to be, back in the day, that good marketing could make up for a bad product. Not today. Today, your product and service is the marketing. It’s especially true for consumer IoT products.

Happy customer servicing!

Has been involved with high-tech sales and marketing for 22 years and is a prolific blogger. He’s written about IoT, digital transformation, agile development, and international marketing. He lives in Austin, Texas, the “Silicon Hills” and is passionate about startups and how to help companies achieve fast growth.

The Guide to Growing Your IoT Business through the
Customer Journey Support© Model

You’ve found it – the complete guide for designing a customer journey support system that will boost the growth of your IoT business, specially for consumer-oriented IoT companies.

 

There are a million different opinions about key growth factors for technology companies.

Some assert that customer acquisition is the key. Others claim that having a unique product that fulfills an otherwise unmet need is most important. Some place the burden largely on aggressive sales and marketing.

We think a more inclusive, holistic approach, what we call Customer Journey Support, is key to that growth. Predicated on the perception that customer lifetime value serves as the basis of value for any business, Customer Journey Support is defined as supporting your customer throughout their engagement with your product and company, from on-boarding, to first-use, support and maintenance and renewal. This approach places a clear premium on customer retention.

Customer Journey Support is the unique intersection between customer operations, customer success, analytics and marketing. Together these elements form a virtuous circle that turns into a flywheel driving exponential growth.

In this article, we provide you the roadmap for how you can plan for and design the processes to support your customers along that journey. If you follow this path, you will not only retain your customers, but cross-sell them, upsell them, and turn them into raving fans of your company.

Why Customer Journey Support?

Customer Journey Support is a new support model specifically designed for today’s technology companies, including – and maybe even especially – IoT manufacturers.

There are two important developments from the last few years that have made this new support model a requirement: the increasing rate of product innovation, and the subscription-based business model.

Internet thought leader Jeffrey Eisenberg described the economics of customer retention in a recent post:

Customer lifetime value (LTV) predicts the profits of the future relationship with a customer. Customer retention directly affects lifetime values. If ABC Company spends $100 to attract a new customer it makes a $100 in gross profit on the first transaction. If they make $100 every month for five years they make $6,000. The longer the relationship continues the better the Return On Investment (ROI).

Customer equity is the total of lifetime values of all your current and future customers. It’s the sum total of all the value you’ll ever realize from customers. Customers create all value. Customer Equity is the same as the “going concern” value of your business.

Value of a Business = Customer Equity + (Assets – Liabilities)

Consumer products today are more technologically complex. This is the space where consumer IoT companies live: selling innovative and complex technology products to a market that by default is not very technologically sophisticated.

The market needs a lot of hand hand-holding, but it’s cost-prohibitive to scale the kind of hand-holding consumers need.  B2C companies have hundreds of thousands to millions of consumers.

But while technology has made today’s consumer products complex, it has also enabled a level of automation that makes providing support along the complete customer journey possible– and necessary.

Example: Home Security Camera

Let’s look at the example of a home security camera, like those shown on some of the commercials that seem to be ubiquitous these days.

In these commercials, you see a woman sitting at a sidewalk café calmly sipping a coffee and chatting via her smartphone to a burglar. She leads the burglar to believe that she is at home bathing the kids.

This is not a simple product. It can intimidate consumers who are not technology savvy.

That’s where Customer Journey Support comes into play. By looking holistically at your consumers’ experience throughout the life of your engagement, you can map out the key touch points they’ll have with your product and company, and design support plays to ensure that at each step of the way there’s greater product usage, greater customer satisfaction, you’re producing relevant metrics that will allow you to optimize, and your customers renew and become advocates.

Once you’ve designed the plays you can then plug them into various stages of the journey, decide what you can automate, what you want your team to do, and what you can outsource.

Step 1: Map Customer Journey and identify Touch Points

To get started you need to map out the customer journey and identify key touch points.

What are the important moments when you engage with a customer and in what way? Perhaps when you first close the sale or the client subscribes to your service; or when you contact the customer 30 or 90 days later to check on his progress with the product, or about any issues or questions; or every time the customer calls or e-mails your support team.

Once you know those touch points, identify what you should do at each point. Is any of this done in-product? Through email? Is this an actual phone call, or even a meeting? Are you looking up the customer in your CRM? What message are you sending? What goals do you have for that interaction? How do you schedule it? What kind of value elements will you give your customer while you’re talking to them?

What you decide to do and exactly how you decide to do it at every point in the customer journey are referred to as plays.

Step 2: Develop Customer Journey ‘Plays’

Plays are a set of steps that you follow to do something, decide who (or what or how) will do it, and schedule when it will be done.

Think about football plays. Members of a football team memorize dozens or hundreds of plays they can use at any given moment to move the ball forward.

The same is true for supporting the customer throughout her journey. The plays you design across the various stages of the journey will move the product forward.

Onboarding Plays

On-boarding plays get your customer set up with your product, gets them using it, and helps them to extract value from your product.

Back to the security camera analogy. When a customer first buys the system they need to set it up.  Some may be able to do the setup themselves, but some will not. In some instances they may want to integrate your product with another vendor’s platform (think Amazon Echo or Google Home).  After they get it set up, you need to make sure they’re actually using it 30 days, 60 or more days after they install the product.

At various stages your customer will face challenges, and you will want to know about them. For example, at the 30-day mark you’ll want to know if your customer is still using the camera. Were they able to use the app and take advantage of the basic features?

At the 60-day mark, you may want to know if this person is interested in integrating the camera with other devices.

In this scenario a play would be a series of automated and triggered emails. The first email may point the customer to a video showing them how to set it up in their home, for example.

Follow up and Engagement Plays

After the initial excitement of onboarding and first use, product usage might go down. We want to ensure this doesn’t happen. We want to increase usage of the product. How do we do this? We want to educate the customer.

At the 60 and 90-day mark you could send them emails that point to FAQs and videos that can help them trouble-shoot commonly experienced user errors, or familiarize the user with new product features. These plays help avoid common reasons for customer attrition, and gets them further engaged with the product.

Support Plays

Designing support plays is similar for B2B and B2C. In both scenarios your customer is calling somebody on the phone, sending a support email, opening up a trouble ticket on the support website, or initiating an online chat session.

Your customer is engaging in a support conversation to resolve a specific issue, whether it’s a product knowledge issue or a product defect.

In addition to assisted support plays, there are also unassisted support plays, such as providing support on common product issues on the website or through a user community.

Renewal Plays

The last major set of plays is renewal. At some point in a subscription-based model, the yearly subscription will run out. You need to prime your customer in advance. Maybe 30 days before renewal you send a triggered email. For a B2B company, that might be a phone call or a personalized email.

Plays are processes, and processes are a critical part to scaling your company and ensuring that customers are treated with care on a consistent basis throughout their journey.

Step 3: Identify “outsourceable” v. internal operational assignments

The “process” nature of plays also makes it easy for you to decide what you need to outsource, and what you can automate or handle internally.

For example, you might decide that one of your plays can be outsourced. You could hire a specialized outsourcing team (such as Infolink-exp) to perform an onboarding function or a support function, knowing that you can ramp them up really quickly because you set up the plays beforehand.

Or maybe you can automate some plays. Refer to your play document to design an automated flow using the email automation system that comes with or integrates with your CRM tool (like HubSpot, Salesloft or Infusionsoft).

Step 4: Identify linkages between internal team and partner

Hopefully the power of the customer journey support concept is starting to become obvious. But at this stage it becomes even more powerful.

Your customer journey starts to become a holistic process that joins all the plays together along the journey. You can then design seamless transitions from one stage of the journey to another. and decide what team handles what aspect of the customer journey.

For example a customer may be interacting with the onboarding team or your customer success manager, but then has a question more appropriate for your support team to handle.  At some point, the support team may also need to escalate to the customer success team for things like subscription related issues.

By designing the customer journey support process with your pre-defined plays, you also design the seamless connection between the teams, especially if you outsource onboarding, support, or any other touch point interaction to a remote team, which is common and makes sense for companies that need to scale operations rapidly.  IoT vendors commonly fit that bill.

These are called “linkages.”

You can design linkages to ensure that the communication and hand-off between teams, whether outsourced or internal, is transparent to the customer – and transparent to you.

This is also true when it comes to metrics. How do you ensure that the metrics you and your outsourced team are using are synchronized and calibrated? Are you both reading from the same song-sheet when it comes to metrics? Linkages allow you to do that.

Step 5: Operate and execute plays

Everything up to this point has been planning. Without planning you’re feeling around in the dark, and without planning from a customer journey support standpoint, you may lose track of your customer’s experience and value throughout the whole engagement.

But after planning your customer journey plays based on the customer journey map, you need to actually execute them. In the end, this is the part that takes the most effort and where you can validate that your holistic approach is working.

Now you need to write and schedule the emails, and program the triggered events. Your support team needs to actually handle the calls, emails and chat sessions.   This is where you will need expert help in building a capable team, planning for hourly coverage across time zones, using the best available tools, managing resources, managing escalations and more.

This is where the rubber meets the road.

Describing how you’ll execute all the plays, and how you’ll measure everything, is rather complex and out of the scope of this article. But I don’t want to minimize it. It’s critically important to your operation.

That’s what we at Infolink-exp do: we help you plan and execute the plays, and we insert ourselves into your customer journey map, to support you and your customer every step of the way.

Step 6: Measure outcomes

Measurement is so often overlooked, yet it’s one of the most important parts of the customer journey, both from an operational standpoint and from a customer success and marketing standpoint.

Measurement feeds into customer success, product management and marketing. The data allows you to continuously improve the product and your messaging.

Operational metrics tell you if your customer is satisfied with the level of service that you’re providing and how productive your operation is, as well as the quality of every interaction

You should measure how customer support agents are doing.  Are they handling the correct amount of customers per hour, per day or per week? Are they meeting customer satisfaction goals? How many calls are coming in through email versus phone versus some other channel?  When are calls or e-mail coming in?  And more.

You can also measure customer experience directly through a customer satisfaction survey, or you could even initiate a customer satisfaction call program (touchpoint) if you’re a B2B firm.

In an IoT scenario you might also be collecting data from the device or the app that allows the customer to control and monitor the device.   That data will be key to informing your decisions, as you’re able to combine usage patterns with other customer data and customer behaviors.

Step 7: Identify usage patterns, At-risk customers and Selling opportunities

This is where the magic happens. Company growth comes at the intersection between operations, customer success, marketing and product development.

Operations feeds customer success and marketing, which feeds product optimization and product innovation, which ultimately leads to better operational and customer metrics.

And ultimately, company growth.

For example, I bought an Amazon Alexa device recently. The first few weeks I used it a lot, and then I stopped using it. I realized it was more of a nice-to-have, a novelty, rather than a necessity.

That’s a classic change in usage pattern. I used it a lot for a few weeks and then I stopped using. That’s not good.

You need to know that. This could indicate a customer who is ready to stop using the product.  A customer who is ready to defect.  A customer at risk.

Out of your whole universe of customers you need to identify those who are at risk of defecting.

More importantly, you need to identify why. Is it because they had a bad customer experience? Or did they have a negative experience with the product?

If it’s a negative product experience, these metrics can go directly to product management. If it’s an on-boarding problem or engagement problem, you can revise your plays, beef up your execution, write more comprehensive FAQs or film more “how-to” videos.

But what if you can detect a pattern that indicates they’re ready for an upsell? Again, operational metrics intersects with marketing. Your customer has bought product A and product B. Do we have an opportunity to sell them product C?

There is gold in your data, whether it’s in your product, your CRM or your support platform. But there needs to be alignment and cooperation between your customer success and your marketing teams.

A capability that enables you to take data from the various sources to ask questions about selling opportunities, changes in usage patterns, customers at risk, and put it together with the insights and experience of your customer success and customer support teams is the holy grail of this whole process.

If success looks like 95% customer retention, then a great customer experience throughout the journey + great insights that you can put into practice is the way to get there.

Step 8: Marketing and Customer Success: Implement actions

Once you have established that critical linkage between marketing, product development, customer success, operations and support, and you have the right data-driven plus human insights (those of your CSMs and support team), then you need to implement

For example, it’s time to do something about the customers that you have identified as at-risk, whether that is contacting them by e-mail to offer assistance or sending them a relevant article that will get them to reengage; or whether that is offering a promotion or an upgrade to clients that you have identified as prime for an up or cross-sale.

Other actions such as triggering e-mails with certain product information or recommendations, or informing a CSM’s renewal call with relevant customer data are possible too.

Step 9: Operations: Sustain or Scale

Finally, your productivity and quality metrics should tell you whether you need to sustain what you have in terms of the operations, or scale it.

If you’re going launch a new version of your product in two months, and you expect a peak in growth in number of issues, then you need to make sure that you scale your operation and you do it in a planned and affordable manner.

If you’re hitting the ball out of the ball park with your product sales, then you also need to make sure that your operation supports a much greater number of users, and the types of issues and requests you might be getting.

Conclusion

Today’s IoT vendors in the B2C space face an important challenge, and a profitable opportunity. They can leverage the Customer Journey Support model to drive growth and success in their market. By planning the plays they will use to support the customer through the on-boarding, engagement, support and renewal process, and the linkages and metrics to create a seamless, virtuous feedback loop, they knock down the Chinese wall that traditionally separates operations from sales, marketing and product management.

So what are your next steps?

We invite you to download our Customer Journey Support checklist so you can have a roadmap to plan.

Download it here, or contact us if you would like to set up a 20-minute mini-strategy call to see if you’d like our help to design and execute your customer journey support process.

 

download checklist

CEO and Founder of Infolink-EXP. He’s founded technology companies in big data analytics, Internet services, software, nearshore outsourcing and technology customer support for 20+ years. Lives in El Paso, Texas and spends part of his time in San Jose, CA and the Silicon Valley. Passionate about customer experience (CX), in particular through consumers’ complete cycle of selecting, adopting and fully utilizing IoT technology to improve their lives.