Learn the fundamentals of creating a measurable onboarding program that helps customers realize the shortest time to value.
August 3, 2021
Your sales team just sold someone a SaaS product with the guarantee it would deliver on ease of use as well as exceed their expectations for completing complex functions. Fist pump - you made a sale!
Now start your stopwatch, because that customer is expecting value. And it’s your customer success team’s job to get that value to them as quickly as possible via a meaningful onboarding experience. The metric we’re focused on today is Time to Value (TTV).
Lucky for you, placing an emphasis on Time to Value (TTV) is a win-win situation for you and your customer. Allow us to explain:
But what exactly is time to value and how do you shorten the time it takes for customers to experience that initial “aha!” moment?
Recommended: A Guide to High-Touch B2B SaaS Onboarding
Time to value is the time that it takes for your customer to experience value from your product or customer success services after completing their purchase. The lower your TTV is, the faster your customers experience the benefits of working with you.
Offerings for some simple tools might have an inherently short TTV, delivering value to a customer right away. An example is a customer that downloads a messaging app, and without the need for UI instructions, can immediately send a text message. Value is achieved almost instantaneously.
Other tools, especially SaaS products that act as data hubs, tend to have a longer TTV for new users. It’s unlikely that the full value of your product will be realized without further instruction on setup and even continued education for more complex and powerful features. In this case, a prompt setup call with a customer that teaches them how to log in, assign roles, and pull data into your tool might be the initial value point to increasing customer retention.
Since we’ll be throwing around the word “value” for the duration of this article, let’s expand on what we’re referring to.
We’re not necessarily referring to what YOU think is valuable about your tool or product or service. Value is defined by what your customer perceives as value, and that value drives meaningful business outcomes.
The “value” will be up to your team to identify and clearly define as you continue the customer onboarding process with customers. Once the leaders across your organization define it; articulating it and making it tangible, you can now take aim at an actual target.
Making the decision to measure your TTV requires your team to first examine any current data or intuition your teams have about what the initial value for your customer base is. Explore this across your organization and the reasons why they think it’s the initial value.
You’ll likely come up with many values or “aha!” moments that you deliver, but you’ll need to choose the most important initial value as well as the order in which all your value points should be distributed across onboarding and beyond.
Pro Tip: Don’t forget to make sure others in your organization are made aware and aligned on this value plan. From your sales team to your customer success and product development teams, everybody needs to be on the same page to ensure customers are being appropriately serviced via matched expectations.
It’s simple but true. If you want to improve your TTV, you need something to measure your improvements against. If you don’t know where you’re starting from, you won’t get a clear picture of what’s working and what isn’t.
As you continue measuring TTV and understanding your customers’ behaviors within the onboarding process and in your tool, you’ll get a clearer picture of where customers are becoming most frustrated. Learn and let the iteration process continue.
Pro Tip: You don’t have to make assumptions based on only numbered analytics. Ask your customers directly in order to gain honest insight into how actual paying customers view each step of their experience.
The key to every great onboarding program and delivering value is strong cross-department communication that results in alignment. Your customer hand-off between those two departments should be smooth, but that’s only possible if your sales team and your success team know exactly what their roles are, what the customer expectations are, and how to set each other up for success.
If your sales team is boosting their conversion rates by misleading customers about your product, it’s going to be difficult for your customer success team to onboard them and keep them satisfied.
This happens as the customer slowly realizes that the product isn’t what they wanted, the service isn’t as robust as it was pitched to be, or the product can do what they want but not at the price points they were sold on.
By starting the TTV measurement process, you’ll begin to identify any gaps in communication between these teams and fix those to create a better customer experience.
By measuring and identifying your most important customer initial value(s), you can create the straightest possible line to deliver them that experience. And once you’ve unlocked the secret sauce to consistently delivering value throughout onboarding (a process we like to think of as never ending), then customers will continue to stick around.
The result, lower churn, a more valuable product, and a more valuable company.
There are different TTV terms that you’ll come across and all of them are worth considering when developing your measurement processes. We like to note that each company is different so there are no hard and fast rules about specific times for each of the below categories. It might take your company hours to achieve time to basic value, and it might take another company a month to achieve it.
The time to basic value is the time it takes for a customer to extract their first instance of value from your product or service. If a customer signs up for a free trial and benefits from the free materials that you included in their trial experience, they have enjoyed a basic value from your offering.
The time to exceed value is exactly what it sounds like. It’s the time it takes to ultimately prove that you’re more valuable to them than the investment they’re putting in. This could be by over-delivering with a freemium product or perhaps you completed a project that returned multiple times what they invested.
If they feel like you were able to deliver a healthy ROI, above the margins, they’ll have an easy time continuing to do business with you.
Important Note: Be careful not to assume you’ll exceed value expectations quickly by presenting all of your awesome features in one sitting. Too much information too quickly can turn customers off.
A number of companies, especially in the software industry, might have a longer time to value. Some robust solutions that require inventorying and logistics management require a significant number of inputs before the valuable part of deployment can begin.
A long time to value is important to identify as it is vital that these companies create personalized, high-touch roadmaps of other values that will carry on satisfying the customer while they wait. This might be as simple as routine updates on progress, or as elaborate as continued consulting sessions and training courses for staff before deployment.
Short time to value refers to companies that often offer simple, understandable, low-touch services. You can imagine that when setting up an appointment for your dog’s haircut, there are very few steps between making the appointment and your dog getting that haircut. This is a short time to value (unless your groomer is booked out for months).
Immediate time to value applies to products and services that can be immediately delivered. There is no need for any onboarding or much effort to gain value from the product. A simple example is buying a jacket in a store. You buy it. You put it on. You feel warm (value).
You’re not likely going to find a tool like Google Analytics with a line item that says TTV and reports out the time and number of customers that hit that time. Instead, there is a continuous process involved in measuring TTV effectively and a set of measurements that can give you indications that you’re successfully hitting that TTV goal more often.
Here are the things you’ll need to do in order to measure your customer’s TTV.
The first step is to label each part of your program, product, or service that provides value to your customers. Define them and document them.
Begin by brainstorming with marketing, sales, leadership, customer success, and product development on what those “aha” moments are. It’s okay if you don’t definitively know, but it’s important to set out with some points of value established.
After documenting everything that delivers value to your customers, the next step is to determine the best order to introduce value moments to your customers. Remember these are values that satisfy the customer’s wants AND contribute to the success of the business. Be thoughtful about what the most impactful value moments truly are.
If you’re short on data about which value is most influential on retention outcomes, that’s okay. In our experience, the customer onboarding process never ends.
You’ll likely be adding new features, experiencing new types of customers, and you’ll need to factor in an onboarding process for eventual renewals or upsells. This maturation process will require you to make fairly frequent iterations.
There is another way of framing the value conversation that is equally important. Time to value isn’t all about YOU delivering value to the customer. It’s about analyzing what actions your most successful customers engage in.
Then measure how much time it typically takes for them to complete these value realizing actions.
Once you have established the time it takes for customers to make value-realizing actions, you can begin to measure how the time to those actions impacts customer retention.
Do they tend to retain longer or remain more engaged if they’ve added 7 friends within 10 days (popular Facebook reference)? Are customers who log in twice in the first week typically more satisfied? Can we encourage those behaviors?
A starting place to identifying which customers have the most insight to provide is to segment which costumes make it through your entire onboarding program and which ones did not. You can then compare that to their NDR or Logo retention rates.
Note: It’s vital to understand that there are causation and correlation details that you’ll need to sort out about customer behavior data. Your teammates and data science resources will need to determine which actions are truly causing value realization.
You can use multiple tools and strategies to help your customers receive value quicker. Here are some ways that we’ve seen value distributed to customers.
A customer success manager is a dedicated role, involving working closely with customers to ensure they have everything that they need to learn and operate your services. This high-touch role is able to engage users throughout the entirety of the onboarding process, giving them the unique personalization their business requires.
Nothing says quick value like a dedicated human resource who can both listen and take actions based on feedback.
Different types of content can be used to help reduce your TTV as well. Content can be drip-fed to customers to keep them engaged at key moments whether via email or UI action that triggers content delivery. There are several types of content that often prove useful in TTV.
Video is a highly engaging form of content. Educational video tutorials give customers a visual experience that allows you to show them exactly how to perform any action.
And best of all, video tutorials come in many useful formats. You can save recorded webinars and tutorials to send out, allowing you to re-use your best materials with a convenient link share. Or you can perform live webinars that allow you to answer questions live or show off new features before they’ve been made publicly available.
Onboarding guides are a great way to provide step-by-step written instructions with images and videos that make the onboarding process straightforward, resulting in fewer customer support tickets.
In the event that your customer success team is overwhelmed, a guide may also be the initial value resource that also relieves time constraints on your representatives.
Case studies can be a fantastic way to show the value you can deliver to new customers. A detailed case study that explains how companies similar to their own have benefited from results you have secured can give customers an initial understanding of how your product will bring in value and how to specifically utilize your tool to achieve those results.
We’ve mentioned it several times in this article, but we’ll say it one more time. Improving TTV is not something that is the responsibility of one department. In fact, siloing TTV to a single department is a sure-fire way to ensuring that you don’t improve TTV and might even create internal frustration across departments. Company-wide alignment on this OKR is vital.
By achieving alignment, you’ll find it’s easier to begin prioritizing headcount and selling features. And the cyclical impact of improved alignment will allow you to iterate in ways that make it possible to reach more customers and drive more value.
As you take your customers through their onboarding journey, survey your customers. Whether by calling them, meeting with them face-to-face, or sending out survey forms, you need to be assessing how your customers feel about your product.
It sounds simple and sometimes feels uncomfortable or invasive, but thoughtful customers will appreciate your team’s time and consideration. Who knows, that survey might even be one of your initial values for customers.
Arrows’ onboarding software makes delivering frequent value to your customers a systematized, transparent process. By providing your customer success team the tool that holds and activates your entire onboarding program, you’ll be able to better understand where value is located for your customer, how and when you deliver it, and when to improve upon any part of your current program.
To learn more about the power of Arrows, schedule a demo.
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