Make a Great Impression at Every Stage of the Customer Journey

John Rode

Companies typically give a lot of thought to how they’ll make a positive first impression with customers. Marketing experts carefully craft a brand image over time, strategizing on how to best convey the company’s value proposition and polish their image with prospects, existing customers and the marketplace. Customer success teams tend to focus on managing relationships with existing customers from onboarding and beyond. But last impressions matter too: To set themselves apart in an increasingly volatile market, companies should make a great impression at every stage of the customer journey, from first to last.

Consistently managing customer relationships at every stage is the key to reducing churn, as a recent Preact survey that identified the top causes of churn indicates. Once brand impressions have generated leads and marketing outreach transforms prospects into customers, the work of serving existing customers begins in earnest: The customer onboarding experience must be effective, or new clients will quickly lose that first good impression of the company – and possibly move on to a competitor.

To make a good impression on customers at the onboarding stage, the customer success team should keep an eye on metrics that may indicate confusion about how to use products or services. Customer success professionals should monitor metrics that indicate engagement and product use – such as completion of key application steps and a high rate of adoption of important features – to make sure onboarding is proceeding as planned. If they notice deficiencies in these metrics, the company can turn it around by beefing up the onboarding program as need, and deploying multimedia materials such as online videos, how-to guides and more to help customers use the product or service effectively.

As customers complete the onboarding process and begin using products and services on a routine basis, the customer success team should maintain a focus on delivering a great impression. That might involve soliciting customer feedback and studying user performance indicators and then liaising with the product team to ensure that the product fully meets customer needs. It’s important to remember that product design and customer usage will evolve, so the customer success group should keep up with emerging needs.

As customers become accustomed to using the product, new ideas and requirements will emerge. This is both an opportunity and a source of tension for customer success as the team seeks to strike a balance between responding to customer demands while respecting the product team’s resource constraints. To develop a workable roadmap, customer success and product development teams should work together. They should collaborate and make sure the customer has a voice in the process so that product innovations are on target every time.

Companies need to ensure that the customer’s most recent experience with the business is positive and productive too. As important as first impressions are, the most recent impressions tend to stay with a customer, so the relationship must be handled carefully at every stage. Companies that handle all phases of the relationship well can generate additional business by word-of-mouth or even turn a former customer into a repeat client.

To achieve that state, managers must keep in mind that every customer touch-point is the “last interaction” and potentially the most important since customers may be considering increasing their spend, signing up more internal users, evaluating competitor offerings or recommending the service to someone else. In a very real sense, the company is always on the hot seat, so businesses that embrace customer success across the customer journey will win the day.

John Rode is senior director of demand generation at Preact, a provider of cloud-based customer health metrics to help SAAS providers reduce churn.