3 Steps to Onboarding Successful Customers

November 10, 2016 Linda Schwaber-Cohen

Onboarding for Customer Success

Customer onboarding is a unique window of opportunity for a SaaS business. It’s a time when the customer is truly excited and interested in advice and guidance in a way they likely won’t be later on in their customer journey. They’re ready to make a game plan, and soak up everything they need to learn to be successful. When recurring revenue is at stake, it’s essential to build trust, drive adoption and establish a clear path to value during onboarding. This combination breeds success and satisfaction, and when maintained, can inspire loyalty and advocacy.

How do you begin to plan onboarding?
  1. Start with a plan
    It’s not enough to just go through the motions when onboarding customers. You’ll need a plan, and especially for complex implementations, you’ll want to surface that plan to your customers so they can fully buy into the journey you’re about to take them on. The plan should include information on timelines, deliverables from the company and the customer, and knowledge that needs to be acquired in each phase of onboarding. Once the plan is presented, you can use a variety of mechanisms to steer the customer in the right direction, and as you grow, your tactics may evolve for different customer segments.

  2. Cover all your bases
    At times, you’ll get lucky, and your customer will respond to every email, attend every call and fully absorb everything you’ve told them. More often, however, you’ll realize that they have a bucket of different priorities fighting for their time. Calls and individualized training sessions are helpful for some, but many customers prefer to delve into your product on their own time and explore at their own pace. Providing on-demand training options can help here, and appropriately timed marketing of your training resources can drive your new customers to them. You can integrate your Learning Management System with your existing systems so your Customer Success team can easily stay on top of training progress for their new clients. Include training options in your onboarding plan, and ask for buy-in from the customer as you transition them out of the sales process.

  3. Be Data Driven
    Onboarding may look different for different customers or customer segments, but if you develop a data-driven approach to evaluating progress, you’ll be able to quickly identify risk and course correct. For example, if you are regularly reviewing data on training, you can easily see when a customer hasn’t yet learned how to use the product. Zoom into that data to see if there are certain areas of your onboarding program that are more or less valuable to the customer to better tailor your approach. You’ll also want to review product usage data and satisfaction early and often. Taking a data-driven approach can sometimes require dependencies on other parts of your organization, but by establishing a foundation that values data, you’ll be more informed when it’s time to grow your onboarding program.

By creating a defined onboarding program for new customers, you can begin to take some of the guess work out of customer retention. Once you have a framework, you can evolve it with experience, and provide pathways for success to create the lifelong customers we’re all aiming for.

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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