Account Transition Series: Offloading Accounts

This is the first post in a series covering best practices for account transitions. Stay tuned for future posts including tips on Onboarding and Managing Clients through a transitional phase.

Hand Off

Picture this: you’ve been offered your dream job and after some deliberation, you’ve decided it’s time to spread your wings. Change is always tough but especially in the service industry. You have built relationships with your clients and you want to ensure that they are well taken care of. Your once perfect-stranger-coworkers have become your friends and you want to ensure that they are set up for success. That’s where this post comes in! This, my friends, is a four step plan for transitioning your accounts.

Step 1: Get Organized

Hopefully, you’re already somewhat organized but you have to take a step back and realize that your system might not be intuitive to everyone else. You need to organize tasks and documentation in a way that will make sense to the person that takes over the account.

Moreover, it isn’t just client files & data that need to be organized. You need to create a plan that determines who will take over each account, a plan for getting them up to speed, and supporting documentation that they can use in your absence.

The unfortunate reality is that two weeks is a tight squeeze for transitioning an account. Hopefully, you’re able to give more than two weeks notice but, even still, it’s best to plan for life after your departure. You’ll teach the lucky winner of your accounts tasks that they may not actually complete until a few months after your departure (tasks that only occur quarterly, for instance) and so it’s good to have supporting documentation for reference. As a bonus, it’s always nice to provide a means of contact “just in case”, but I digress.

A good plan will include:

  • Account Distribution – Who will Manage Your Accounts?
  • A plan for onboarding, including client notes. Notes should be as comprehensive as possible, including context and things to know, background, details around the current engagement, opportunities, pain points, contacts, paths to important documents, passwords and goals.
  • A task list. What is due and when?
  • Internal and Client notifications. Who will tell them and when?
  • Time for Questions from all involved parties.

Step 2: Tell the Appropriate Parties Internally

Unless you are really in a bind, you probably shouldn’t make any announcements until your plan is complete and approved by your leadership team. Granted, the leadership team will probably make the call on when and how the news is delivered but you can chime in with your suggestions! 🙂

Once the plan is complete and it is time to notify people, I suggest starting with the people that will be impacted the most. The people that are receiving the accounts should be the first to know. You need them to feel good about the transition; the sooner they know and the more organized you are, the better off they will be.

Step 3: Rolling Out the Plan

The best way to start rolling out the plan is by setting up a few periodic “download” meetings. Set these up as quickly and as soon as possible. The first meeting should be an overview of the goals, client contacts, and initiatives in place. You should cover the different things that have been tested in the past, as well as any opportunities that might be worth testing in the future. Last but not least, any context you can add is always beneficial. For instance, it’s good to know how decisions are made, what interests the client and the leadership styles at play.

As soon as you’ve started the transition, you should ensure that the new account manager is included in all calls, decisions and relevant projects. Introduce them to the client as soon as possible so that both parties can begin getting acquainted. Think of each task as an opportunity to train. Ideally each time a task needs to be completed, the new manager can complete the task and you can check it. If they don’t already know how to do the task, you can train them and then they can practice to ensure that they get the same results. As the transition progresses, they’ll take the reins. This leads us into the next phase of the transition.

Step 4: The Safety Net

As I mentioned earlier, the sooner you can begin the transition, the better off your account heir will be. That may sound like common sense but a common problem with transitions is that downloads and passing of information are scheduled right up until the previous account manager departs. This doesn’t leave much time for questions. The reality is that the new account manager probably won’t have questions until they really start getting into the weeds. Give them time to do that while you are still around. I call this the “safety net” time frame because the new account manager is in control but the departing account manager is still there in case they have questions.

The Fifth Quarter

In addition to the four step transition, there are a few other considerations. There’s a certain etiquette that comes with transitioning accounts. (Hopefully that goes without saying.) A smooth transition is in the best interest of your professional career, your coworkers, and your clients. The more notice that you can give, the better. As soon as you give notice, it’s time to get started on a transition plan. If you know you are planning to leave, you can even start your transition plan in advance.

Stay focused; as tempting as it may be to spend your last days floating on the lazy river, remember that you’re still being paid for your services. As my track coach always said, “Run through the line, not to the line.” As a bonus, it’s great to provide contact information, in case questions should arise after your departure. Contact information isn’t necessarily expected but it’s definitely an act of good will.

Of course every transition has two sides: the person offloading the account and the person onboarding the account. Check back for the next post in this series geared toward taking over accounts.

I hope you’ve found these steps helpful. I’d love to hear your transition tips in the comment section below!