Defining the Stages of the Customer Journey Map: Acquisition

June 12, 2023

Kate McBee

Category: Customer Experience, Customer Retention, Customer Success as a Service, Customer Success Maturity, Customer Success Strategy, Digital Customer Success, Monetizing Customer Success

A prospective customer has learned about your business, they’ve spoken to Sales, and they feel like yours is the right solution for them. Congratulations! You’re officially rewarded for your work and are observing them move into the next stage of the customer journey – Acquisition! It’s time to celebrate. The moment a prospect becomes a customer, Customer Success steps into the spotlight. That’s right. It’s time for implementation and onboarding, baby.

Not everyone does it exactly like this, but we’ve seen many a customer journey map in all our years helping businesses build them. While there is no universally accepted, one-size-fits-all model for the journey, we’ve divided it into the five stages that broadly fit CS best practices the most. Today, we’re continuing our voyage through the customer journey, investigating every step and Customer Success’s role in each one. I’m also sharing guidelines for journey map touchpoints along the way. So far, we’ve taken a closer look at the pre-CS stages, Awareness and Consideration. Today, I want to examine Acquisition – where the rubber meets the road for the customer, and Sales hands the reins over to a CSM.

Acquisition – Welcoming a new customer

In the Awareness and Consideration stages of the customer journey, you’ve learned a lot about the customer. Sales has assessed their pain points and fit a solution to meet their needs. The goal is to have Sales record all the critical customer information they’ve gathered during those discovery stages so they can hand it off to Customer Success during Acquisition. If you’re ahead of the game (and believe me, if you’re doing this already, you are!), CS was working with Sales during Consideration to pinpoint the benchmarks the CSM will track through the rest of the lifecycle – the ones that show the customer how much your solution is improving their lives. If you haven’t established them yet, you’ll want to do that here during Acquisition.

As I’ve said, Acquisition is all about implementation and onboarding, which is a bit of a sprint. This stage of the customer journey is all about first value. Nothing is going to be sticky if your customer can’t get their hands on it! You need to set your customer up to get what they need from using your product as quickly as possible. This is one of the most critical stages of the customer relationship. Sales has made promises that CSMs now have to fulfill ASAP. So, this part isn’t about the product’s long-term value; it’s about getting to the first great experience and making sure the customer feels confident and happy with your solution as fast as possible.

Seize the moment with fast, purposeful onboarding

In Acquisition, the CSM should be prepared to take on the new account, ready to swing into action. You’ll benefit from any change management work you’ve been able to achieve in earlier stages. You should have a comprehensive plan for change communication and meeting any technical requirements, as well as a detailed understanding of your solution’s impact on the customer’s environment. A good onboarding experience will build momentum towards the customer’s time to value and set your customer up for success in the long run. In this stage, it’s also essential for CSMs to manage expectations, ensuring the customer has set realistic targets and goals and has a sensible timeline in mind for achieving them.

Like Consideration, Acquisition may have multiple phases depending on the complexity of your solution. Map this stage of the customer journey by the milestones your team must achieve to get to the go-live date. Keep your team and the customer informed as progress is made. Consider what the customer can do with your product even before it’s fully implemented. If onboarding requires training, try to make progress on it alongside technical execution. Identify and highlight even the smaller wins for your customer as they progress through this stage to sustain and enhance their excitement about your solution.

Customer Success’s role in the Acquisition stage of the customer journey

Onboarding has been a primary charter for CS organizations since Customer Success’s inception, and it’s still a critical role for most CS teams today. A TSIA poll found that 54% of businesses primarily depend on their Customer Success organization for onboarding new customers, and the 2022 Customer Success Leadership Study – that ESG partnered with other firms in driving and in analysis – found that onboarding was the most common organizational charter. Leading the Acquisition stage of the customer journey is in our bones.

During implementation, the CSM acts as the team’s quarterback, ensuring everyone knows their role, what they need to get done, and when it needs to be completed. For onboarding, the CSM guides the relationship with the customer, starting it off on the right foot and driving toward the first time to value. The seeds of churn are planted early, so it’s absolutely crucial to get this stage right. It makes perfect sense that so many businesses depend on Customer Success to get it done.

Next up in our series is the Service stage of the customer journey map. It’s the longest amount of time your customer spends with you, yet it’s too easy to drop the ball once Acquisition is complete. Find out why in my next article— coming soon!