The Importance of Internal Onboarding

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By Lauren Costella

A plethora doesn’t even begin to describe the number of articles, podcasts, meet up topics, blogs, presentations, and more that have focused on the importance of onboarding for customers. The sophistication on the topic, within just the past few years, is incredibly impressive: specialized onboarding for various customer segments, dedicated internal teams for onboarding, and specialized roles. I’m blown away by what folks are doing to create value and an amazing experience for customers. And rightly so! The value driven in that first engagement is invaluable and sets the tone for the entire relationship with your company. Customers are the lifeline of your company.

But is it only customers whose onboarding experience we need to consider?

Our own internal team members are also lifeline of our companies, and one thing I don’t read to the same degree in the CS space is the importance of internal training for our CS teams, especially as it relates to their specific roles. The best companies train their people! And they train them well for the job they’re hired to do. How well do you onboard your internal team members? Is it as tailored as your customer onboarding? Is each CSM, Support Rep, Implementation Manager, Project Manager, etc. onboarded in a way which allows her to know exactly what success looks like in the first day, week, month, and year?

Internal training is a complex topic, but for Customer Success, I think it’s one of the single most important focuses for a leader in this space. Without great team training, you can kiss an incredible customer experience, and the subsequent renewals and growth you’re expected to drive, goodbye. Your internal people are the secret sauce in driving customer value, and if you don’t set them up for success, how can you expect them to deliver for customers?

So where do we even begin to tackle this issue? Where do we start? Well allow me to offer three tips to consider as you think about your own internal onboarding.

1. Roles and Goals

Before you train, you have to know what success looks like for each role within your team, and it has to be quantifiable and measurable. For example, success for a Customer Support Representative (CSR) at Medrio is answering admin tickets within 3 weeks. You can expect to take about 300 tickets per month by the time you’re fully ramped (usually within the first 3 months), and you’re expected to maintain a 90% CSAT for tickets. This should be in your “scorecard” for the job. Don’t have a scorecard yet? Check out the last blog I wrote on hiring great people.

If you have this as your benchmark for success, you can start thinking through what it means to make sure that person is successful when he/or she starts. And training must be holistic. It can’t just be about our software used to answer tickets, log calls, or document projects. It MUST be about who our customers are, what they care about, and why our product matters and is valuable to them.

For Medrio, our Customer Success team needs to understand our core customers in clinical trials, they need to understand what industry terms are common and why, and then need to be able to apply that knowledge in order to help various types of trials in which customers are using our products.

Consider, too, a mix of hard and soft skills. If your job role describes the need to be a great listener, do you train your team on what that means? While you may think this is “intuitive” to all people in the space, I can absolutely vouch that it isn’t.

2. Repeatable and Scalable

Training delivery for your internal teams is absolutely critical. I’ve experienced a wide variety of training programs in my time in nonprofit, federal government, startups and established for profit companies. Everything from no training, to week long boot camps, to full on interactive online courses, all methods have their pros and cons for setting up. Identify what you can do today and start making moves. As you do this, my biggest piece of advice is to consider making your program repeatable and scalable. For example, if you run an in-person boot camp, and your team has plans of expanding globally, how will that boot camp be delivered? And at what cost? For example, do you plan to fly your international team members on site? Have you budgeted for that? Do you always have a trainer available? Think through your needs now and into the future.

Here at Medrio, my first initiative with the team was to get eLearning set up. We had already created an eLearning for our customers within the product, but we wanted to repurpose the product training internally as part of onboarding. We thought eLearning was a great delivery mechanism because we had remote employees and it was important for our remote team to have more training to access outside of the office. We ended up creating a quarter long priority for a small team to tackle, and let me tell you, they did fantastic! We have a full overview of our department, an overview of each team and each role that exists within those teams. There’s also a schedule and a plan for each role, which allows each person to monitor their progress with our week over week plan. The best part - this was created for new team members by current team members.

We also complement our training with resources outside of our team – for example, we use modules from lifesciences.com and our team uses the Success League online learning program. This saves us critical time from creating material that’s needed but more general in nature vs. specific Medrio training. And finally, the team also created a process to keep our training updated, which leads me to my next point.

3. Change and Iterate

One thing that’s REALLY, REALLY hard to do and easy to forget is remembering that anything you create will quickly become outdated. Does this mean you need to be redoing all of your training every day? Not necessarily, but what is absolutely critical is that you set up a business process to identify outdated material and have a process in place to keep it updated. We have set up a process where we relook at all of our training material every six months. If something is absolutely critical to change (i.e. we’ve changed a system or business process) we’ll make that education change right away, but we use our every six months timing as a growth project for teammates, who want to take on some extra responsibility. It’s a great way to allow for creativity, new ways of thinking, and complete ownership.

Our team’s onboarding isn’t perfect; however, we have most certainly iterated since Medrio University 1.0, and with the right business processes in place, we can keep improving over time. What we know for sure is, internal onboarding is just as critical as our external efforts. A poorly trained internal team can’t deliver excellence and value for external customers, and it’s a huge cost to the company if we lose great people to something that’s completely in our control to own and make better!

Need help with onboarding in your organization? The Success League is a customer success consulting firm that offers training and coaching for customer success leaders. Please see our Leadership page for more information on our programs.

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Lauren Costella - Lauren is a change agent, communicator, leader and passionate champion for Customer Success in business, since a great customer experience drives retention, growth and brand advocacy. Her expertise centers on building early signs for risk and growth, defining cross-department success plays, team enablement, operations and process, and selecting and implementing CS software. When she’s not working as the VP of Customer Success for Medrio, you can find her serving as an advisor and blogger for the Success League, an active board member for the Customer Success Network, and blogging generally about her CS experiences on the CS Playlist. Lauren has her MA and BA from Stanford University. She was a former USA National swim team member and enjoys staying active with running and surfing in the Bay Area.