Customer onboarding is more than simply getting a customer up and running with your solution. It’s about making sure you’re prepared to answer your customer’s next question, “What’s next?” Here’s a look at how you can improve your customer onboarding process to not only get them set up, but started down the right path to successfully adopting and achieving their desired outcomes with your products and services.
Improving the Onboarding Process
When it comes to new customers, one of the primary questions we at TSIA ask our members is, "When do you start the adoption activities?"
- During the sales cycle.
- Right after the customer signs the contract.
- After the customer is up and running on the platform.
- Three months before the renewal is due.
Of the responses we receive from our members, 47% (nearly half!) have indicated that they only begin onboarding and adoption activities immediately following the signing of the contract.
Customer success typically only gets involved after the sale has landed, but our recommended best practice is that the onboarding process should begin with an 85-90% certainty that the deal is going to close. That is to say, before a customer signs on.
Onboarding a Customer Before They Sign
If we as an industry start onboarding activities before the customer signs on, we would begin to see smoother handoffs from sales to the next team, and a much faster time to value for the customers. (Tweet this!) By waiting until after a deal has landed to start the onboarding process, we’re losing valuable time for customers who are waiting to achieve their first outcome. Time to value greatly impacts a customer’s adoption of your solution, as well as their decision to continue and ultimately renew, so we need to focus on shortening that time.
This is especially important in the case of subscription models where customers are on a 30-day trial basis. It’s ideal to start onboarding in a 2-day to 2-week period, rather than waiting until the end of the 30-day trial to see if they’re going to commit to becoming a customer.
The First 30 Days: What Does Success Look Like?
Once you’ve made it to the onboarding phase, this is your chance to really get to know your customer, their preferences, and most importantly, what business objectives they hope to achieve by using your product or service. So how do you gauge what a customer wants, and furthermore, how can you be sure if they’re even ready to successfully implement your solution? Surveys, such as readiness surveys, are always helpful, but knowing the right questions to ask is the most important piece of the puzzle.
When it comes to outcomes, the best question you can ask your customer is, “What is your definition of success?” (Tweet this!) Success is going to look different to each of your customers, and by having this open discussion, you’ll learn a lot about who they are as well as their primary business objectives. Once you’ve identified exactly what your customer hopes to achieve with your solution, you can better tailor the onboarding process to helping them reach their goals.
Here are some more questions you can use to begin getting to know your customer:
- Why: Why did the customer purchase?
- What: What are their requirements?
- Who: Who are the key stakeholders in this purchasing decision?
- When: What is the time frame they hope to achieve a desired outcome?
- How: How is your solution going to be implemented in their day-to-day business?
Successful onboarding will lead to long-term adoption, which is the first step in building an ongoing customer-supplier relationship. (Tweet this!) You can learn more about this topic by watching parts 1 and 2 of my Customer Success Journey webinar series, “The Customer Success Journey: On-boarding and Adoption” and "The Customer Success Journey: Benchmarking and Monitoring," available On-Demand.
About the Author
Judith Platz is vice president of research, Customer Success and Support Services, for TSIA. During her over 25 years of customer support experience, she has been responsible for supervising and coordinating multiple functional, strategic, organizational development and technical work streams, including technical support, account management, business consulting, implementation management, and training. Judith can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.