WHAT IS
CUSTOMER ONBOARDING?
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As we like to say at Precursive, Customer Success starts with Customer Onboarding. Post-purchase of a product, new users will need to become acquainted with and understand how your product helps them achieve their business goals.


The ultimate in customer onboarding is to set them up for success and whether that be with playbooks and documents that enable growth, milestone tracking or ongoing support, onboarding should provide all the requirements that create a seamless customer experience.

WHO IS IT FOR?

Beyond the obvious requirement of needing to set up your customer, customer onboarding also impacts churn and, done well, retains customers. Therefore it is a cornerstone for B2B SaaS companies delivery, especially those with a subscription-based model, where lifetime value of the customer is pivotal with better engagement and recurring revenue. SaaS businesses are now building their onboarding teams to work seamlessly across functions, both externally with customers and internally with Pre-Sales, Customer Success and Professional Services teams to ensure customers are having their outcomes achieved.

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WHY IS CUSTOMER ONBOARDING IMPORTANT?

According to our playbook ‘How to Scale in Saas with Customer Onboarding’, 59% of businesses believe that onboarding has an impact on customer retention. Sales and pre-sales can set the tone of your likely working relationship but customer onboarding is the first real interaction a person has with your product or service as a customer, so it's the chance to prove that tone's accuracy in delivery.

 

But also consider the value to your own organization; the majority of your revenue is likely to come from existing customers so retaining it starting the relationship well will keep customers (and also make them a source of referrals), plus a repeat/retained customer forgoes acquisition costs.

 

For many organizations the challenge of onboarding lies in getting the right information from the right people at the right time is tricky and leads to customers becoming stuck in a disparate onboarding process. The solution is to have a repeatable or packagized process to simplify onboarding for companies that want to scale. The identification and resolution of a process bottleneck to accelerate time to value and allow businesses to collaborate with the customer in real-time is vital to the success of the onboarding process. To do this, businesses should utilize automation with a Customer Onboarding solution, to manage key milestones, trigger communication and provide training resources.

 

A few reasons why:

  • The better the onboarding process the sooner the customer sees value (time-to-value) or an outcome of using your product/service (time-to-outcome) strengthening the relationship.

  • Reducing tedious admin tasks means happy customers who turn into advocates for your company.

  • Retained customers means opportunities to promote other services and increase revenue.

  • Smart engagement and nurture strategies can improve conversion rates.

  • Reduce the load on your services team if the customer understands and knows how to use your product from the start.

Time-to-value (TTV) is one of the most important metrics used to measure the success of onboarding. It is the amount of time between when your customer takes action and when they see the value of that action. The customer did not buy the product for the sake of it, they are buying the outcomes the product/service has promised. So understanding why the customer has decided to buy the product, what they are seeking to achieve, creating an outcomes-led strategic plan internally and then tracking the impact of your onboarding is imperative to ensure an increase in lifetime value of the customer. Setting first time-to-value such as time from kick-off to go-live or from go-live to first transaction is common, but a more time-to-outcomes approach such as time taken to increase profitability (set against the desired metric) will provide a more successful roadmap leading to repeatable framework that can be used to continuously gain value from the product/service.

GOLDEN RULES

  1. Listen to the customer: there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way, be guided by what the customer says.
     

  2. Understand what success looks like for the customer: what do they want to achieve? Take the time to define and agree what success is for them in their language.
     

  3. Don’t make assumptions about the use case: make sure to spend time understanding how the customer will use the product or service. There may be a unique aspect not thought of before!
     

  4. Insights come from different departments: when gathering information and feedback, don’t rely on.
     

  5. Customer Success only, loop in Sales/Account Management as they will have greater knowledge of the case. 
     

  6. Don’t JUST listen to what the customer says: look at what they do, usage data also tells a story, understand the story it tells.

CUSTOMER ONBOARDING PROCESS

The best companies obsess over driving value for customers, and having an efficient and intentional approach to delivering it.

Seat at the table
Having senior stakeholders responsible for the onboarding process involved in the process from the start contributes massively to the overall customer success. According to our latest Customer Onboarding Benchmark Report, more than 50% of companies across all segments surveyed have VP representation now. This rise in seniority of Customer Onboarding leadership shows the increasing importance of this function. Including team members experienced in capacity planning and resource management, and assigning the right person to the right task should be at the crux of efficient Customer Onboarding.

 

Seamless Transition

The word ‘handover’ sounds too rough; it's not a throw over the fence from Sales to Services, but a consistent alignment between the internal teams where the customer is communicated with each step of the way. The customer’s outcomes need to be clearly outlined by the teams and actionable deliverables set in place. The aim is to drive more value for customers, faster. Traditional services delivery is evolving with new onboarding services that are capable of quick deployment.

 

Milestones

The Customer Onboarding, Customer Success and Services team need to set up onboarding milestones together to ensure the customer is achieving their outcomes by using your product. The value driven by these should be captured to dictate wider digital transformation over time. This is imperative to keeping happy customers and avoiding escalated costs. Currently, the milestones seen to dictate ‘success’ for completion include Customer Acceptance, Deployment Completion and Adoption. These are very vendor-centric milestones, showing little to no value for the customer. Find out the metric you should be tracking in our latest webinar.

 

Repeatable Process

As mentioned above, a seamless transition is vital to customer satisfaction and retention. Setting up repeatable processes is a sure way to consistently achieve the objectives. This decrease in time-to-value, creates a bigger impact as a key to growth for SaaS business models. Furthermore, our report also shows companies across all segments surveyed that have an established repeatable process for Customer Onboarding have higher levels of customer satisfaction. One way to do this is with playbooks, a process that works with the ability to customize to the particular company's needs.