If you’re a SaaS provider, software implementations are probably the most crucial aspect of your business. Development is important; you must create reliable software programs that meet your customers’ needs. But designing and building those applications is just the beginning. Your customers can’t experience the full benefits of your products until they’re integrated into their workflows.
It may seem like your customers need to do most of the heavy lifting to implement your software into their work systems, but that’s not the case. The more support you can provide during this process, the better the experience will be for your customers.
So let’s consider what you can do to support your customers’ software implementations.
What Are Software Implementations?
What exactly does it mean to implement software? And why is it so important to optimize the implementation process? Because this is your chance to showcase the value of your product and gain your customers’ long-term loyalty.
Imagine software implementation as a bridge: it connects the phase when your customers purchase your products and the phase when they see the full return on their investment. In other words, it’s the customer onboarding phase, during which you deliver the product to your customers, train them to use it, and do everything you can to get them up and running as soon as possible.
The longer it takes to fully implement your software, the more time your customer spends without seeing that ROI. If your customers have to wait months or even years to integrate your software fully, chances are they’ll become disillusioned and regret working with you. They might decide to leave for one of your competitors before they’ve even gotten to experience all the benefits of your products!
How do you keep your customers happy and reduce the risk of churn? By optimizing your software implementation/customer onboarding process. That means finding ways to increase efficiency, reduce your customers’ time to first value, and give them an outstanding experience from start to finish.
Step 1: Clearly Define Your Implementation Process
Before you can find ways to improve the customer onboarding experience, you need to have a comprehensive, in-depth understanding of the implementation process. Start by defining the scope of the project, starting at the sales handoff and ending when your software “goes live” within the customer’s workflow.
Think of the scope as a roadmap that your team will use to guide your customers through the implementation phase. This map should include as much information as possible so everyone understands what to expect of the process, like:
- Timeline: Identify the exact (or estimated) start and end dates.
- Deliverables: The software itself may not be the only deliverable! Itemize everything that you will provide to the customer and clarify delivery dates and dependencies.
- Milestones: Highlight milestones so your team and customers have a clear way to track progress.
- Stakeholders: Make a list of all internal and external individuals who are part of the implementation process.
- Critical resources: Clarify resources your company will provide (e.g., training materials) and those the customer will provide (e.g., signed contracts, payments, user information).
- Potential bottlenecks: Look through the plan and identify any possible roadblocks. Then make plans to address or overcome them.
Once you’ve made a clear, comprehensive software implementation plan, you can get everything in place: training materials, task management procedures and communication systems. A dedicated customer onboarding solution that incorporates all of these aspects can significantly increase efficiency and minimize churn rates.
Also, make sure your implementation team knows how to identify potential issues and recognizes any areas where things may go wrong. By preparing ahead of time, you can minimize the chances that a mistake or oversight will impact the timeline and your customer’s overall experience.
Step 2: Identify Key Stakeholders
Next, it’s time to make a list of everyone who will be involved in the software implementation. This list should include both internal and external stakeholders, like:
- Your company’s project manager(s)
- Onboarding team members
- Training team members
- Your customer’s project manager(s)
- The users
- Any other individuals involved in the process
Once you’ve got a complete list of personnel, figure out where they fit into the implementation process by mapping out each individual’s responsibilities. Try to give your team members tasks that fit best with their roles and expertise. Also, clearly note org-chart hierarchies and task dependencies so that each person understands their role completely.
Some projects may require a bigger implementation team while others may benefit from a smaller onboarding team. Standardizing your onboarding operations makes it easier to scale your assets as necessary, so you can quickly add or remove team members without having to adjust the entire implementation plan.
Step 3: Create a Task Management System
You can’t just wing it when it comes to assigning and tracking software implementation tasks. Having a solid task management system in place is key. Without one, you’re inviting mistakes, delays, and miscommunications that will frustrate your customers and impact delivery dates. It’s not incorrect to say that effective task management is at the core of a successful software implementation system!
Start by identifying your process for creating, assigning, and tracking tasks. Are you doing all these things manually? If so, this is a fantastic opportunity to automate your systems and processes. You’ll save time and eliminate human errors.
Next, take a look at your task dependencies. Are they clear? And are they transparent to your team and your customers? One of the most common mistakes that implementation teams make is not allowing the customer to view the entirety of the project. This lack of transparency can severely limit customer engagement and increase delays when customers don’t realize that they have tasks to complete before things can move forward.
Finally, decide how to handle delays or missed milestones. For example, ensure delivery dates are adjusted as quickly as possible. This is another area where automation can play a key role. A good task management system should automatically adjust delivery dates in real-time when tasks get completed late (or early!).
Step 4: Assess the Customer Experience
You’ve spent a lot of time looking at your team’s side of the implementation plan. Now, shift your perspective and put yourself in your customers’ shoes.
- What’s their experience during onboarding?
- Are they receiving reliable communications and updates?
- Do you know where to go or who to ask when they have questions?
- Can they see when progress is made on the project?
- Do they understand their responsibilities and tasks?
- Are they receiving automatic notifications about tasks and timeline changes? Or do they have to wait for one of your team members to send an email manually?
- How do they access the task management system? Do they have to log in every time?
- Does the implementation process feel slow?
- Does your customer have to wait too long before they can start using your software?
These are just a few of the questions to ask. And be honest about the answers! It might feel frustrating to recognize places where your customers’ experience isn’t ideal, but identifying those issues is the first step in improving the customer experience.
Step 5: Evaluate and Improve Your Implementation Process
You’ve made it to the final step: implementing your implementation process! But although this is the final step, it’s an ongoing one. No matter how well-designed your customer onboarding process is, there is always room for improvement.
It’s important to constantly evaluate your software implementations: look for bottlenecks, identify consistent delays, and recognize things that are working well, too! With that information, you can develop solutions to address the problems and find ways to leverage the successful aspects to improve other parts of the process.
It’s also a good idea to get feedback from your customers. Many companies wait until implementation is complete to request feedback, but it’s far better to check in with your customers throughout the process!
If your customer onboarding software has an integrated CSAT (customer satisfaction) tool, you can use it to see how your customers are feeling at key points in the project (e.g., milestones). Use that feedback to make changes as quickly as possible. If your customers can see that you’re taking their concerns seriously, they’ll likely have more patience with minor delays and problems because they know you are proactively working to make things better.
GUIDEcx Facilitates Excellent Software Implementations
If you want to build a solid reputation in your industry and keep your customers happy, you need a well-designed software implementation process. During this customer onboarding phase, you make your first impression on your customers and show them a return on their investment. When you have an efficient, standardized implementation process, you can shorten your customers’ time to first value and expand your team’s capacity to onboard more clients simultaneously.
What’s the key to an efficient, effective software implementation plan? It’s all about:
- Making a plan
- Defining the stakeholders
- Optimizing task management
- Assessing the customer experience
- Finding ways to improve the process
Want to reduce your team’s workload and give your customers a better experience throughout the implementation phase? GUIDEcx can help. Our dedicated customer onboarding solution includes key features that improve every aspect of implementation, from task management to communication to customer success.
Talk With a Guide Today
Discover how GUIDEcx can help you improve efficiency by reducing your customer onboarding timeline and increasing the capacity of your project managers. Our unparalleled professional resources and unwavering commitment to excellence support our industry-leading customer onboarding solution.