The Personal Touch of Customer.io’s Onboarding

Onboarding isn’t an afterthought at Customer.io. It’s an opportunity to show off the company culture of authenticity and empathy.

Written by Avery Komlofske
Published on Feb. 22, 2023
The Personal Touch of Customer.io’s Onboarding
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How does Customer.io let job seekers experience its culture from the first moment? It starts with the job description.

“It’s written like a letter,” said Sales Training and Enablement Manager Nick Izzo. “It was literally speaking to me.”

The job description began with Alex, Izzo’s current boss, introducing herself to the potential candidate and outlining what she was looking to add to her team.

“I saw that and immediately said, ‘I have to work here. I’d never seen anything like it. I still haven’t — not that I’m looking at a lot of job postings right now,” he said. “I love where I work.”

A personalized approach to job descriptions is just the first of many steps in hiring and onboarding that help Customer.io attract and retain the talented and empathetic people that make up what People and Culture Specialist Elizabeth Tancreti calls the company’s “secret sauce.”

 

WHAT THEY DO

Customer.io helps marketers craft personalized, data-driven emails, push notifications, in-app messages and SMS to improve client engagement.

 

Tancreti was brought on to take a critical look at Customer.io’s onboarding process and restructure it as necessary to create the best possible employee experience. When she was going through the process herself, she discovered that the cultural bones the experience was built on were already strong.

“I had one of my prospective managers in my interview talk about psychological safety, and I was blown away by that,” she said. “I could tell right away that this high-touch personal experience was really important at Customer.io.”

As she worked on perfecting the onboarding process, Tancreti wanted to make sure that Customer.io’s values of transparency and empathy rang true throughout the whole experience.

 

Customer.io team members smile at an event.
Customer.io

 

Onboarding with Value

“I had such a wonderful onboarding experience,” Tancreti said. “So I think the philosophy behind some of the changes we made was really around keeping this high-touch experience while making it scalable.”

With that in mind, many of the changes she made to the onboarding process were designed to make the administrative parts more streamlined, while also prioritizing what matters most: the personal touch. 

The company set up two hiring days a month, which gave departments like finance and IT time to set individuals up with their necessary tools and get them on the payroll — and also provide new employees with a community of peers right from the start. In addition, Customer.io’s structured 30-day onboarding process balances guidance and autonomy. 

 

The philosophy behind some of the changes we made was really around keeping this high-touch experience while making it scalable.”

 

The importance of human connection was emphasized further through a restructuring of the company’s training materials. What was once a document-heavy process was expanded with videos, calls and exercises, enabling hands-on experiences and the chance to connect with and learn from more experienced employees.

The standardization of onboarding procedures has been incredibly helpful not only for Izzo, whose sales team has grown in recent months, but also for IT Manager Eldin Scotland, who can much more easily ensure that new hires’ technology is secure.

“I implemented master data management, and that’s where it comes in. Employees are powering on their computer and it’s automatically installing all the necessary tools,” said Scotland. “Not only is this leveraging security, it also creates a ‘wow’ effect for the employee — like, ‘wow, I just got this and it’s already installing everything I need.’”

The changes to Customer.io’s onboarding enhance the company’s ability to lead with a hands-on touch, rather than losing it as they scale.

“We want people to feel enabled to come in as their full self — the awkward version, the empathetic version — and feel successful in their role,” Tancreti said. “That’s the philosophy we have with onboarding.”

 

Customer.io team members wearing bee keeper gear.
Customer.io

 

Awkward and Authentic

“One of our core values is empathy, but another is awkwardness,” said Nick Izzo. “I’m kind of an awkward guy, so that really speaks to me. It’s important to feel comfortable in your own skin, no matter what your background is.”

Eldin Scotland wouldn’t describe himself as awkward — instead identifying as fun, always smiling and extroverted — but the idea resonates with him regardless. 

 

“I can just be open and be myself, and folks are open to the vision I have,” he said. “If you bring out your authentic self, you get it back.”

To encourage authentic connections, Scotland keeps some reliable, personal discussion starters on hand.

“People ask about my flags,” said Scotland, looking back at the Flag of Dominica draped across the angled ceiling behind him. “Each of the colors has a meaning, and I tell people about them.”

He also has a joke about his town of residence that never fails to spark a conversation. 

“I live in Dallas, Georgia — not Dallas, Texas,” he said, smiling. “I think it throws people off, because they’ll say they’ve never heard of Dallas, Georgia. I’ll stop everything, and say ‘we’re doing history today; everyone Google Dallas, Georgia.’ I did this to the CMO, and he had a grand time.”

 

We want people to feel enabled to come in as their full self — the awkward version, the empathetic version — and feel successful in their role.”

 

Part of the company’s onboarding process ensures that new hires get to know a mix of team leaders and peers, both through scheduled meetings and optional but encouraged randomized meetups with co-workers across departments.

“I make it a point to meet with everybody on day one,” said Izzo. “Elizabeth does too, and Eldin meets them week one.”

Izzo and Tancreti have their own ice breakers. Izzo has a background in musical theater, and Tancreti asks for book or TV show recommendations; she was recently inspired to watch “Severance.” But the subject of these discussions is less important than the purpose: To foster authenticity and communication that pervades an employee’s career at Customer.io.

“One of the reasons I’m successful at my work is because I know who I can go to,” said Izzo. “I’m not afraid to reach out to people because of all the conversations we’ve had, and it helps me do my job.”

 

 

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