Customer Onboarding

What is customer onboarding?

Customer onboarding is the process of introducing a new customer to a company’s products and services. It typically begins when a customer first signs up for a product or service and can involve activities such as account setup, training, product demos, and customer support. The goal is to ensure that customers quickly learn quickly how the product can help them.

Why does customer onboarding matter?

Although onboarding marks the beginning of a customer’s post-sale journey with your company, this pivotal phase plays a significant role in their likelihood to churn. Onboarding is about mores than product training and implementation deadlines. It sets the tone for the partnership between the company and the customer. Therefore, onboarding requires a deliberate focus on customer strategy including setting clear expectations and building a shared understanding of what success looks like for each customer, not only in the coming months, but in the long term too.

What is the most important step of the customer onboarding process?

One of the most important steps in the customer onboarding process is defining what a successful onboarding looks like from the customer’s point of view. The success of onboarding should not be defined by its mere completion. Instead, outline what your customer needs during onboarding to be successful with your product independently.

Start simple and set realistic expectations. Define the bare minimum of tasks that your customer needs to achieve to see initial success. Then, decide what success looks like for you, such as what success might look like after implementation. What should the customer have accomplished? How should they feel?

What are the top onboarding objectives for Customer Success teams?

1. Get the customer to first value.

Onboarding is your first touchpoint with a customer in their lifecycle. Some onboarding processes consist of one or two training calls while others require a data implementation before you even discuss training. Regardless of your onboarding’s length and complexity, there are a few cornerstones to its success. Ultimately, the customer must realize the value behind why they purchased your tool.

  • Set a clear timeline and process so the customer knows what to expect leading up to launch. This includes activities like the welcome call, data implementation, training schedules, and so on. Setting the correct expectations from day one is the best thing you can do for the relationship.
  • Set clear roles. Who should own what from the customer’s end? It’s possible that the customer you’re working with during onboarding was not involved in the purchasing process. Get them up to speed on what needs to be done and what roles need to be filled to ensure a smooth transition.

2. Get to know your customer.

Before jumping into all the details, timelines, and expectations, learn more about your customer. Ask questions to gain context so you can better understand and serve them.

3. Set expectations.

Have the customer explain their expectations for onboarding. Then, come to an agreement on what needs to happen during this phase to meet their needs. In onboarding, the CSM often starts by outlining their expectations (“this is how it’s going to go”) but they also need the customer’s buy-in. Resetting and confirming the customer’s expectations increases their accountability and decreases their likelihood to disengage.

4. Create customer-centric goals.

This advice comes with the caveat of setting REALISTIC goals. If you don’t think the goals are achievable, it’s on you as the CSM to reset the customer’s expectations to something that’s ambitious but within their reach.

What are the most common customer onboarding mistakes?

1. Failing to correct unrealistic expectations.

When customers enter onboarding with unreasonable expectations of the process and timeline, it’s detrimental to the personnel involved in the process. Keep goals practical.

2. Stalling due to a customer’s internal blocker.

Barriers of this nature are particularly difficult to overcome as there’s little you can do to move the customer forward without the cooperation of their team and processes. If you know these types of barriers are possible, voice them early and often.

3. Getting ghosted by a customer.

This is where it’s helpful to have defined roles. If you’re dealing with an unresponsive customer, you can go up the chain of command to reinitiate contact. You can also try varying your contact attempts. Switch up the day of the week or the time of day of your outreach. It’s possible you’ve been trying to engage the customer during a time when they have a standing meeting.