4 Onboarding Mistakes & How to Avoid Them

April 5, 2017 Linda Schwaber-Cohen

4 Onboarding Mistakes & How to Avoid ThemLet’s say your sales team closes a huge deal. Then one year later, that client decides not to renew. What went wrong?

If you’re not sure, it may be time to reexamine your onboarding process. Customer success teams in businesses with recurring revenue spend a significant portion of their time strategizing ways to get a leg up on churn using reactive approaches, without taking the proper steps to build success from day one. When implemented correctly, onboarding sets your customers up for success and can help your organization increase product adoption, decrease time to value and improve retention.  

Continue reading to learn about 4 common onboarding mistakes and how to avoid them:


1. Setting Unrealistic Objectives

Even if your product is the best on the market, be careful not to overpromise and under-deliver. There’s nothing that leaves a bad taste in customers’ mouths quite like failing to meet their expectations. This kind of disappointment will often fuel a negative dialogue about their experience and drive them to start looking for another solution, which can better meet their needs.

To combat this, nail your sales handoff and schedule an introductory call in the first few days. Gather any information discussed in the sales process and prepare for challenges in advance. When you’re speaking to your customer, ask what his/her team is looking to accomplish and be honest about your product’s capabilities.

Use the customer’s goals as a benchmark when working with new clients to determine specific and attainable business objectives and refer to previous examples to guide them towards success. Additionally, empower your customer success team to take a prescriptive approach based on their previous experience with clients. Think about it this way: every user is unique, but many of them share similar pain points. As such, you should understand where others in their position have seen success.


2. Not Providing True Value

Onboarding is a crucial time for both you and your customers. This is when your product is still the “shiny new toy” they’re excited to play with. But be aware – this novelty quickly wears off. If, by that point, you haven’t shown them any value beyond the bells and whistles, you’ll likely have difficulty with retention at renewal time.

So, what can you do? Don’t focus too much on your product’s features. Instead, emphasize the benefits you can provide, such as increased efficiency or insight into key data points. Then let users experience them through training.

A Learning Management System (LMS) like Skilljar can help you train users more effectively. For example, you’re able to categorize content by job function, so trainees can select relevant courses for their needs and interests.

Once the customer has the right knowledge, reinforce behaviors with other tactics like drip campaigns for new users, in-app messaging, and customer success outreach.


3. Failing to Follow Up

Again, it’s important to consider the time frame here. While your customers are still learning how to use your product, they expect to hear from you. Sending a welcome email with a few tips isn’t enough; you should work toward implementing a process with defined reactive and proactive touchpoints.  

This means reactively responding to any questions or complaints ASAP, but also taking advantage of other opportunities to engage. If you are leveraging an LMS for on-demand training and onboarding, you may consider integrating it with your marketing automation software, as well. That way, you can send automated emails, celebrating onboarding milestones and encouraging users to complete training.

Of course, while automation is a time-saver, it does not eliminate the need for a more personal and proactive touch. Check in with your clients via phone on a weekly (or at least monthly) basis to ensure they’re on track for success.


4. Ignoring the Data

One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a customer success professional is to rely solely on anecdotal evidence. Maybe customer X seemed happy when you last spoke. But how do they really compare to customers Y & Z? The only way to know for sure is to analyze the data you have at hand.

With this in mind, review your analytics. Work with your product and finance teams to determine if there are any specific actions your best customers take or features they utilize. Integrate these key activities into your onboarding processes and drive healthy behaviors among your new customers. Alternatively, try to determine at what stage in the process people are dropping off and strategize ways to mitigate the drop off. Understanding this type of information can help you improve onboarding and reduce churn.

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About the Author

Linda Schwaber-Cohen

Linda Schwaber-Cohen’s expertise lies in building and growing onboarding and training programs at software startups. After teaching for several years in a K-12 and university setting, she shifted gears and began to develop programs to help customers adopt and see the value in B2B software purchases. She currently serves as Head of Training at Skilljar, a Seattle-based customer onboarding and training platform, and previously managed customer onboarding and enablement at Simply Measured, a social media analytics SaaS company.

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