4 Steps To Successful Customer Onboarding

By Jeremy Gillespie

A prospect signs on the dotted line, you hear the sound of a gong and coworkers high-five. At this point it’s easy for everyone to take their eye off the ball and assume the product will do the rest. Instead, as coworkers rejoice, the hard work begins for the Customer Success team. It’s time to focus on onboarding your new client.

Here are 4 steps to ensure successful customer onboarding:

1 - Align on Success

Each customer is a snowflake with their own unique needs and they should be treated that way. Time spent at the beginning of onboarding to thoroughly understand these needs is crucial to delivering true customer success.

Gather as much information as possible from your sales team about why the client decided to buy and what they are hoping to gain from your solution.  Then take the time to have a conversation with your new client about their goals, and define their success metrics. This will give you the opportunity to tailor your onboarding process to each client as well as manage expectations throughout the process.

2 - Establish a Timeline

Once you’ve defined success from your customer's perspective, you're ready to set up a timeline and milestones. A timeline accomplishes a number of things, but most importantly it allows you and the customer to get on the same page about the onboarding process (up next). This step can be an extension of the conversation you have in step 1, and is also a big help in managing client expectations.

Think of milestones as checkpoints along the onboarding journey, to make sure you’re on the right path. Before you start the down the onboarding path, define a clear timeline with expected results at each checkpoint. Use milestones to assess if you’re meeting expectations and correct course if not.

3 - Develop Repeatable Processes

Processes are especially important for growing companies, because they provide a system for onboarding customers quickly and efficiently. Not only do you need the right processes, they need to be repeatable in order to provide consistency for both customers and CSMs.  With repeatable processes, anyone can know where each customer is during onboarding. 

Create an outline of each step in your ideal onboarding process. Once you have an outline, review the steps with your team to make sure you haven’t missed anything. Then carefully go through and write a detailed standard operating procedure (SOP) for each step. This will be the guide everyone follows to provide consistent onboarding. Be sure to communicate these processes with your customer during the timeline discussion.

4 - Identify Points of Contact

When a customer is learning the product and getting everything set up, the last thing they need is a new contact every time they turn around. This isn’t to say that one person needs to handle each customer or every conversation, but there should be specific points of contact during onboarding.

Define a contact hierarchy and clearly communicate (both internally and with your client) who's who. Typically, an account manager or relationship manager are the main point of contact during onboarding. For example, a customer might have an account manager that oversees the onboarding process, an onboarding specialist who takes care of training, and a technical support person who handles software-related questions. In this example, the account manager would be the primary point of contact, and would be responsible for making sure other team members understand customer needs and are pulled into conversations as appropriate.

That’s it. Sounds easy, right? 

In fact, implementing these steps will take time and is an iterative process. Go through each of these steps with your team and carefully lay out your onboarding process. Revisit onboarding quarterly as a team, and send out satisfaction surveys to customers to continually improve. If you nail these four steps you will build a strong foundation for long-term customer success.

Do you need help building a delightful, yet scalable customer onboarding process?  The Success League works with executives who want to optimize customer success efforts and realize the loyalty and revenue that will bring to their company.  www.TheSuccessLeague.io

Jeremy Gillespie - Jeremy is a growth-oriented marketing geek, technology enthusiast and customer evangelist. He loves using complex data to build creative retention solutions. By leveraging technology, Jeremy excels at creating scalable retention marketing programs.  He works for LinkedIn, holds a BA in Communication from the University of Pittsburgh and MBA from Point Park University.  He is a proud former Pittsburgher, but currently lives in San Francisco, CA.