What to expect on a first date with your cloud provider?

After going through the long process of researching and choosing a cloud provider what should you expect the first engagement to be? Well, it’s very much like going on a first date.

Image of What to expect on a first date with your ICT Provider | NTT ICTOnboarding is probably the most important period in the customer lifecycle. It’s the time when the footing for a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship is formed – or not formed. How the relationship is managed during the period immediately following the sale is going to determine the ultimate fate of the relationship.


The first date
Some have likened a sale to a first date. If we come on too strong after the first date we could be seen as desperate. Yet, if we don’t call, text or follow up in any other way, this sends a pretty strong signal that we’re ‘just not that in to you’.

For the purpose of this post I have defined onboarding as the 90 days after you have made a cloud purchase. In my estimation this represents about 45 days for us to build your private cloud platform and another 45 days supported by our customer care team. Also, for this post to make sense, let’s assume the new customer, you, spend 10k per month or greater. Despite onboarding accepted as vitally important few organisations have a clearly defined, automated onboarding process. The following are my six rules for onboarding new customers.

Rule #1: We will say ‘thank you’ – Expressing our thanks for your business is good manners – and makes good business sense. We put ourselves in your shoes. If you have signed a 36 month term at 13k per month, that’s a half a million dollar agreement. No company, especially us, takes this lightly. If we want a second date (or an ongoing relationship), it helps if we show you some gratitude.

Rule #2: Listen – The onboarding period is the time to understand each other’s likes and dislikes, background, hopes and dreams. We assess your needs; try to match them to current products and then structure some meetings to help you to measure your performance.

Rule #3: Have a plan – Relationships with long term customers like you don’t happen by accident. The complex nature of our relationship requires a process to ensure that each customer is treated correctly (this doesn’t mean treating every customer the same). We won’t leave it to chance that customers will receive the right onboarding. We developed an onboarding practice to start our relationships off right. Generally we want what you want “A long-term satisfying relationship that provides value for us both and one that grows over time.”

Our onboarding plan includes:

Day 1 Welcome phone call.

Day 6 Kick off meeting. We get the NTT ICT team who will be managing your account in the same room with you for introductions. We assign a project manager to ensure we deliver what has been sold. He will provide you with the timelines for your project delivery.

Day 14 Safe NTT ICT Training. We win business on the back of our online management portal. “Safe NTT ICT” includes an insight into the health of your private cloud that is unmatched by other suppliers. We provide on-site personalised training with the relevant staff in your group.

Day 30 Presentation of your first bill. Invoicing is something that is really easy to get wrong. In complex technology a staggering number of bills are wrong. It happens to us sometimes too. If the person who receives the bill understands exactly how the invoicing works this cuts down on confusion. For instance our first bill includes both a full month plus the pro-rata part of the previous month plus set up fees. So if you expect a 12k bill and your first bill is 30k this meeting removes that worry.

Day 50 Project Completion Meeting (on delivery). This is the official hand over of your platform. We meet and sign-off the completion of the project. This normally calls for a celebration. It’s a good opportunity to plan a lunch or drinks to celebrate this milestone.

Day 75 Executive Engagement. We arrange a peer to peer that allows interaction at the executive level. We focus on your strategy and encourage this peer to peer engagement so that we can align ourselves to your direction.

Day 90 Follow up and win review. A follow-up by the sales team to ensure things are humming along. It’s normally at this time when we may approach you to be a reference customer. We feel that the there is nothing stronger in appealing to prospective customers than the reference from a satisfied one..

Rule #4: We Won’t Smother You – If we bombard you with information without checking first on your progress we may come off as pushy. We won’t start with the assumption that that you will immediately want to buy our other products. We will never get so busy promoting that we stop listening.

Trust level graphRule #5: We wont be reactive; we know that if we don’t follow up or we wait too long, we may be letting the relationship go cold before it even has a chance to warm up. We realise that during the onboarding phase you may have unique needs. Organised onboarding keeps us focused on each other and ultimately strengthens the relationship. I have drawn a simple graph to demonstrate what happens to the trust level of if we don’t spend extra time with you during your first week.

Rule #6: We will follow up; We will create a process for checking in with you. Help you to measure your success and ensure that you are using your new services correctly. We find that a good metric is utilisation. If you are using your platform, you will be more inclined to like it. If this is not the case, we want to find out why.

I would love to hear from you about your experiences with the onboarding process.

Added 26 June 2014

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