You’ve just been handed a new customer, and it’s your job to officially start the relationship. Your entire organization has put the customer in your hands now, expecting that you can keep the enthusiasm of purchase alive and establish roots for an enduring relationship. Your kickoff meeting sets the tone for implementation, and the future of the customer relationship. No pressure. Right? Without making this more stressful than it needs to be, you should recognize the importance of doing Kick-off well, and remembering some basic guidelines for making it the start of an enduring relationship.
Customer Success Managers are responsible for Kick-off. As is the case with most of what CS does, it’s valuable for the sales team to understand how Kick-off is done so that they can set expectations for customers.
Kick-off is the first customer-facing interaction a CS team has once a new customer is landed. It’s not the first time a CSM meets a customer. That may (should) happen near the end of the sales cycle. And, it should definitely NOT be the first time a CSM learns about a customer’s reasons and goals in purchasing. While the sales team may have been the customer’s first impression of your organization, Customer Success (during Kick-off) becomes the second, and enduring impression. Customers should be excited to get started, so keeping that energy alive and getting them to first value quickly is key to a successful Kick-off
Even if the sales process seemed taxing at times, the customer has made the decision to buy your solution, so they want to get into it quickly. Don’t do anything to deflate their excitement. Be a cheerleader. Celebrate their decision to purchase by setting a near date for a kick-off meeting. Don’t let time or organizational fatigue (over the sales experience) diminish your enthusiasm for bringing on a new client. Pick up right where your sales team left off by reassuring your customer they made a wise decision.
Kick-offs are for information gathering, as well as for expectation setting. Consider the twofold goals of Kick-off:
Use the Kick-off to confirm that both you and your customer understand why they bought your solution. Conduct a managed “re-discovery” to allow them to articulate their reasons and goals. Then, to ensure that neither of you encounter surprises down the road, set realistic expectations for moving forward with implementation. Review the parameters of the contract and be clear about the frequency and duration of meetings that will happen during implementation. (i.e. no more than 1 hour long and at a cadence that won’t make them feel as though they are drinking from a fire hose or waiting for further knowledge to move forward.)
Kick-off provides Customer Success teams the opportunity to strengthen your company’s position. The last thing you want to do when handed a customer is lose the momentum that sales has set for the relationship. Being prepared demonstrates commitment, and customers want to know that your team is committed to them. Here are a few specific things you can (should) do to demonstrate how prepared (committed) you are:
Take charge of Kick-off by starting with introductions and a review of the contract. Then initiate a controlled discovery session, allowing your customer to define what constitutes successful implementation for them. You should then be prepared to outline suggestions for forward progress toward their goals. Know ahead of time what input, projects and dates you need from them so that you can create an appropriate schedule for implementation. In other words, know what you know and what you need to know to be able to lead Kick-off. Your customer is expecting this from you.
Some examples of questions you may want to address:
Follow through on your commitments. This does NOT mean following up, or checking in. That can just be annoying. Know what each stakeholder (including yourself) needs to do before you meet again, and make sure you’ve followed through on your commitments. For instance, did you:
Following through on what you promise sets an example for your customer, and mutual follow-through is essential in a trusting and sustaining relationship.
Kick-off is the first opportunity your customer gets to experience how your company delivers, and we all know how important first impressions are. Don’t skimp on enthusiasm, preparation, and follow-through. They will serve you well in setting the stage for a positive customer experience, which is core to a sustained relationship.
Read more about the Blocking and Tackling of Customer Success .