When the new client honeymoon is over.
Oh, it ain’t no fun no more
I don’t know what to say,
The honeymoon is over baby,
It’s never going to be that way, again.
- The Honeymoon is Over, The Cruel Sea
When a client moves from their old service provider to the new, there is a “honeymoon” period when the new provider can’t do anything wrong.
Everything is bright and shiny. The new software is faster and smarter. The customer service is friendlier and much more helpful. Even the account manager seems to be everywhere and is anticipating problems before anyone else can.
This is to be expected. If things were so good with the old provider, why would the client have moved in the first place? Management should have assessed both the incumbent and the alternatives against reasonable criteria, and testing in real world conditions should have been undertaken as part of the implementation process.
From the service providers, there has been weeks, months or even years of preparation. The onboarding process has been meticulously planned, and the IT has been bedded down and stress tested. The new business team is excited, and usually the whole company is buzzing. “Customer X starts Monday!”
While there may be some initial resistance from the client’s operational staff, this is quite quickly overcome. Generally speaking, operational staff dislike change and prefer to perform tasks in the tried and true method. If management at your client has been proactive, then the operational staff may have been part of the decision that ought to help smooth things over.
The sun will be shining, and the donuts and coffee are liberally spread throughout the organisation.
But then, after a week or two, the gloss may start to come off the new service. This can be due to two related critical factors: habit and a short memory.
People will very quickly adapt to the new system. The changes are no longer frightening, and they may have discovered a few shortcuts.
The new system is now the standard operating procedure. People are familiar with the colours and the processes. They have formed relationships with customer support and have eaten enough donuts that the account manager doesn’t bring them anymore.
The fact that “process X” takes 3 seconds is something people have become accustomed to. A new workflow has formed around the new system and the new service provider. A high level of service has been set, and the expectation is that this will continue.
The old system fades into the past. The quirks and workarounds that were part of daily life might be something people remember, but as each new task replaces an old one that memory dims.
“Was the old system that bad?”
Suddenly, when something unexpected occurs, it’s just a bad thing. This didn’t happen before. With our previous provider, everything was peachy all the time.
“Yes, customer service is quick, but I don’t remember calling them this often.”
I work in logistics, and an example of this may be the following:
Client – “We always used to receive a delivery at 1030, and the new driver doesn’t get here until 1115”.
Me – “Yes, but your previous service took two days, and we’re delivering next day”.
Client – “But 1115 is too late!”
The difficult second album
Often it is a challenge for a band to back up the success of their first album. They spent years practicing and crafting each song for their debut and then they are sent back to the studio for a few months to do it all again.
The best way to continue the honeymoon is to do what Nirvana did. Make your second album way better than the first. How can you make your client feel like you just dropped “Nevermind” on them?
One key to overcoming the loss of gloss is to reboot the honeymoon. After a couple of weeks of bedding in and full attention, go back and do everything again.
Retrain, reboot and refresh. Back to the studio with renewed vigor.
Send your onboarding team back out on the road and get them face to face with the people who may have started to fall out of love with you. You may be excused for not taking donuts and coffee, but take that new attitude from two weeks ago with you.
Another option is to send the other onboarding team in. This may be management or a different group of people. Everyone in your organisation has a slightly different set of skills and experience. Use them all!
Keep buying flowers
Always keep the relationship fresh. Don’t fall into a routine of accepting things as they are. A colleague of mine refers to this process as “continuous implementation”. Every day is a new day and there always processes with room for improvement.
Ensure your client is as special to you on day 50 as they were on day 1. We can be in this together for a good time AND a long time. Sure, it takes work, but for most business models retention cost is much cheaper than acquisition cost.
The result of your good work can be a honeymoon period that goes on forever. This is a win for you, and a win for your clients.
P.S. The quote at the top of the post is from The Cruel Sea – the full song can be found below.