Customer Onboarding is a crucial activity for customer success teams. In fact, within SBI’s 4-Step Customer Success (CS) Strategy, successful Customer Onboarding is the #1 factor in ensuring that customers achieve their desired outcomes. Yet, if you were to ask customer success managers or sales reps to define Customer Onboarding, you would likely receive a wide variety of inconsistent answers, even among those within the same organization.
That’s why we’ve designed these easy to follow Customer Onboarding Process Guidelines to help you develop a world-class onboarding process.
What Exactly Is an Onboarding Process?
Think of customer onboarding as you would boarding a plane. Up until the moment you step off the jet bridge, you’re a ticketholder – once you cross that threshold, you’re a passenger. That’s a quite literal example of customer onboarding in a B2C (Business to Consumer) environment, but it’s really not all that different from onboarding in B2B.
Customer onboarding is the moment when your customer goes from a prospect to a customer, sales has done their job, the contract ink is dry, and now Customer Success takes over – but how? Through a structured, yet-tailored process called onboarding. Onboarding marks the first post-sale interaction the customer has with your company and sets the tone for the relationship going forward.
Although customer onboarding processes vary widely based on the goals of the business and the goals of various customers, the ultimate goal is to ensure value on both sides. For the customer, they need to become experienced with your product or service as quickly as possible to start achieving the desired outcomes. For the company, they need to drive value throughout the customer lifecycle. This dual focus (customer and company value) is critical to the successful design of a world-class onboarding process.
How Do You Create a World-Class Onboarding Process?
Customer onboarding can quickly become complicated, with so many stakeholders and variables to the experience, it’s vital to combine an outward-in and inward-out approach – never losing sight of the customer and what is important to their experience while also driving value for the business.
In order to tackle these complexities, we anchor on three core design principles:
1. Customer-Focus: It’s essential for your customer success team to know exactly how your customer will utilize your product or solution. The answer to this question should drive the creation of the onboarding process.
- As an example, a CRM Customer Relationship Management Tool will be used very differently based on the client’s industry.
2. Clarity: The entire process should serve as a sort-of decision tree, with clear resolution paths for every potential scenario.
- For instance, what is each team member who is introduced to the client responsible for? After onboarding, do they maintain those responsibilities, or is another team member responsible?
3. Standardization: Wherever possible standardization and automation should be incorporated into the process design for repeatable and high volume activities.
- As an example, an onboarding email with a standardized template should automatically be generated for each client. In some circumstances, usage information, such as a customer utilizing a portal function, should trigger a suggestion for training materials.
Those core design principles serve as the foundation for Our Customer Onboarding Process Guidelines, which provide additional details on the following 10 high-level guidelines to consider when developing a customer onboarding process.
- Maintain Customer Focus: Ensure onboarding content/process is tailored for your customers use case
- Clearly Define and Measure Success: Don’t fall into high-level metrics like project completion rate. Partner with your customer to define success throughout their customer lifecycle.
- Create a Winning Team: Just as sales reps go after accounts with the highest value, your top talent should be supporting your top customers; both should align to your account segmentation.
- Outline Hand-offs: Within the process, there should be clear hand-offs from the pre-sales process/team and to the customer support team ongoing.
- Establish an Onboarding Timeline: It’s important to have different timelines based on the complexity of the onboarding process. Create timelines around compelling events.
- Implement a Feedback Loop: This isn’t just for product-based companies to return enhancements to developers. Capture and review your customer’s feedback on the onboarding process as well.
- Training Resource Library: Whenever possible, utilize recorded webinars or documented training materials for general how-tos for customers.
- Map Resolution Paths: Treat every customer issue as an “If-Then” statement until it’s resolved, submitting a support request is the start of the resolution journey, not the end.
- Standardize Wherever Possible: Standardizing templates and team structure can prevent the exception from becoming the rule, standardizing a great experience.
- Automate Whenever Possible: Technology should be used to support the customer onboarding process, not replace it.
The path to creating a world-class onboarding process is iterative, and for many companies requires learning from the mistakes of the past. Each of these guidelines are just that, guidelines that should be tailored for your company.
What Are the Impacts of a World-Class Onboarding Process?
The benefits of implementing a world-class onboarding process are well worth it:
- Increased customer lifetime value
- Decreased churn rate
- Higher retention rate
- Higher net promoter and customer satisfaction scores
As my colleague Ellen Wade shared last month, Customer Success is a revenue multiplier, not cost center. In fact, “Businesses utilizing Customer Success see a 40% increase in revenue, 50% faster growth, and experience many positive effects on churn and customer happiness.”
Ready to Design Your World-Class Onboarding Process?
If you think your organization could improve or implement a customer onboarding process, be sure to download our Customer Onboarding Process Guidelines.
If you’re still not sure what application would be best for you, let our experts facilitate the discussion and kick start your customer success journey. Contact us to schedule time with one of our experts in the SBI Studio.