How to Build a Customer Onboarding Program That Creates and Maintains Engagement

Built In Staff
October 6, 2020
Updated: February 18, 2021
Built In Staff
October 6, 2020
Updated: February 18, 2021

Part of the appeal of IKEA furniture is that it’s relatively easy to assemble. Their pictures-only instructions make it straightforward for anyone of any language or skill level to put together a Billy bookcase. If that’s still too complicated, IKEA offers an assembly service as well. 

According to a study by Salesforce, 70 percent of customers said the ability to understand how to use a product or service is very important to earning their business. A recently purchased platform or software is like an unassembled bookcase for new customers. And without the right onboarding program, it’s hard for customers to get much use out of the pieces. They also have different levels of capability: Some can do it themselves, while others need more guidance. 

At LA-based electronic health record (EHR) platform SimplePractice, customer onboarding lead Mike Schafer said consistent communications with customers keeps them engaged and in need of less customer support. 

“For us, the most critical part of building an onboarding program is creating a sense of partnership and community between the customer and our team,” Schafer said. 

If onboarding can answer a question before it’s asked, that shows the business and the customer they are on the same brainwave.

But that alignment is hard won. Nicole Garcia, the director of customer success at InStride, said onboarding is part of a conversation that starts long before the contract is signed, and goes a long way to show the edtech company's commitment to their partners' and their employees' success. 

"By moving up our onboarding timeline before a contract is signed, we can better align on our corporate partners’ expectations," Garcia said. 

Learn more about how these 15 customer success leaders and teams across the U.S. build their retainment-driven customer onboarding programs below.

Effective Customer Onboarding Strategies:

  • Offer ongoing customer training, not just at the start of onboarding.
  • Personalize onboarding to create client-specific solutions.
  • Be available across a variety of channels.
  • Re-emphasize the value of the product.
  • Create and track measurements of success during onboarding.
  • Celebrate milestones in onboarding and continued product usage.
  • Be ready to adjust onboarding strategies to evolving customer needs.

 

Gympass

Eugenia Kaplun

HEAD OF CLIENT SUCCESS

Eugenia KaplunGympass’ app-based corporate wellness benefit program involves several moving parts: over 2,000 corporate clients, their employees and over 55,000 gyms all over the world. That’s why Kaplun told Built In that an engaging customer onboarding process requires a clearly defined launch strategy and alignment with HR teams and fitness partners from the start.
 
The pandemic could have thrown a wrench into the gym-based business model. Instead, Kaplun said that Gympass switched from in-person to webinar onboarding for customers and created a variety of communication tools for HR teams to inform employees of timely new virtual product offerings, based on research that people are increasingly prioritizing mental health and also seeking at-home workouts. 


 
What actions have you found to be most critical when building and implementing an effective and engaging customer onboarding program?

Our business model is unique in that we are B2B2C, because our customers are both HR teams and their employees. Given the complexity of this, it’s incredibly important to clearly define a launch strategy and align on a process upfront. This lets our HR clients know what to expect so they can weigh in on what will and won’t work, ensuring we communicate in a way that resonates with their employees.
 
Over the last few months, Gympass has significantly expanded its product offering to include mental wellness, on-demand and live-streaming classes and personal training, so it’s important to be able to communicate these updates clearly to employees.


 
What are some examples of improvements you've made to your customer onboarding? 

With the shift to employees working from home, we had to adjust our activation process to introduce the product, shifting from in-person events to webinars. We started incorporating live workouts with fitness partners, and found that employees are more engaged and more likely to use the product over the long-term.
 
We are also supporting our HR clients by providing the tools to clearly communicate Gympass’ new product offerings for their employees. We created a digital launch tool kit, including email templates, infographics and guidelines to help our HR clients engage their employees. 
 
How do you leverage the onboarding process to generate excitement about your brand and prevent apathy with your customers?

I was actually a Gympass user prior to joining the company, and I genuinely feel like this product can be life-changing on a personal level. I want to partner with HR organizations to help their employees live a more healthy lifestyle, whatever that might mean to them. We believe the customer experience is a crucial factor in gaining enthusiasm to help drive employee adoption. We started a program called Gympals where we ask HR teams to identify influencers within their workforce — HR leaders, local site reps or employee resource group leaders — and offer them advanced access to the program, introductory material and incentives for them to become advocates who generate excitement among their peers.

 

VTS

Lily Engle

VP, IMPLEMENTATION SERVICES & SUPPORT

Lily EngleThe pandemic also highlighted and accelerated the commercial real estate industry’s need for an online marketing and leasing platform. VTS responded by launching the VTS Market platform to help landlords and brokers attract, convert and retain tenants through virtual tours and verified content. With so many new customers adopting the service so quickly, Engle told Built In that interactive training resources were key to smooth onboarding. VTS also found that educational reference materials featuring formalized insights on best practices from existing customers are helpful for new customers to feel comfortable using the platform.   
 
What actions have you found to be most critical when building and implementing an effective and engaging customer onboarding program?

For customer onboarding to be engaging, you have to build around an internally aligned vision of success at your organization. That means understanding the sales process, why customers are choosing your platform and what makes them successful after go-live. If your onboarding program is solely focused on getting a customer up and running, without also driving success around initial goals for the purchase or what makes customers successful in the long-term, onboarding will always be an uphill battle. 
 
Things are always evolving, but understanding your “customer journey” and staying aligned with other teams along that journey will ultimately put the customer first. If you’re unsure of the outcomes your customers are looking for or the variables that make existing customers successful, that’s where you need to start. From there, the steps for onboarding — both technical and as they relate to change management — will be much easier to streamline and communicate with new customers.


What are some examples of improvements you've made to your customer onboarding? 

The most impactful improvement we made to our customer onboarding process recently has been a heavier focus on change management during our onboarding process. With the motto of “Begin with the end in mind,” we work from day one to help clients build out and understand how they’ll use our platform at go-live and long after. 
 
From there, we can tailor the more logistical aspects of onboarding — system integrations, data collection, user permissions — to the specific ways in which our customers will ultimately use the platform day to day. This onboarding approach is much more consultative than data-focused and leads to more stakeholders engaged with our platform early in the process, rather than introduced to a fully-baked system at go-live.
 
We’ve also worked hard to define “best in class” workflows and best-practice takeaways to share with customers based on what we’ve learned from the success of existing customers. New customers look to us to ensure that they’re leveraging the VTS software in a way that will produce the best results for their company, so it’s important that we come to the table with impactful suggestions and insights from day one. These best practices are formalized and shared with each customer in easy-to-reference formats to ensure everyone is comfortable with the new workflows as soon as they log in.


How do you leverage the onboarding process to generate excitement about your brand and prevent apathy or disengagement with your customers? 

For new customers, onboarding of any software can either be a resource drag (how it’s often viewed) or an opportunity for team members to shape improved, efficient processes to free up their time for more important work. We recognize that the success of a customer really begins with our onboarding process: tying the project milestones back to business goals, leveraging educational or training resources ahead of go-live and keeping business sponsors in the loop while keeping a project on track. 
 
When clear connections are drawn between project milestones and the customer’s ultimate business goals, it’s a lot easier to keep everyone engaged and on track. 
 
Similarly, leveraging interactive, educational resources throughout onboarding helps customers become familiar with the platform ahead of their first login. We use our “VTS Academy” resources to introduce users to the platform and encourage them to get comfortable with the ins and outs as early as possible. 
 
Finally, when we have strong alignment with our business sponsors and keep them in the loop on project progress, we can highlight the work their teams have accomplished and also ensure there’s top-down support for any changes we’re working to implement. They may not need to be in the weeds of the project, but tailoring regular updates around the things they care most about goes a long way to preserve those relationships through a process in which they may not typically be engaged. If anything doesn’t go according to plan during the onboarding, business sponsors can serve as escalation points or help remove any blockers so you can get things back on track.

 

SPINS LLC

Jess Lovell

VP OF CUSTOMER SUCCESS

Jess Lovell

“Education is a core element of our success team’s mission,” said Jess Lovell, SPINS’ VP of customer success.

For leader at the food data company, it’s vital that customers are consistently aware of how the company’s solutions can help solve their specific business needs. 

 

Keys to an engaging customer onboarding program: It’s important to ensure that a program, at minimum, answers two critical questions: What is the goal of onboarding and in what ways will the success of the program be measured? Clarity on purpose guides teams in the direction of what to do, but also what to avoid as customer programs evolve. Making sure the onboarding experience is tied to a set of defined outcomes helps maintain alignment and prevent scope creep, which can negatively impact the customer. 

Second is making a program measurable. For those in a commercial software-as-a-service field, this is often measured in non-renewal of a contract. Implementing simple measures — like usage statistics, completing activities within a certain timeframe or monitoring communication frequency — is key to keeping customers on track. And teams should regularly report back on the measurements they find.

 

Moving a customer through the onboarding journey isn’t only about hitting check boxes.”

 

Improvements made to SPINS’ program: Our onboarding program was defined for two client segments. However, we realized that certain clients could fall on either side and their onboarding could be misaligned with their business goals. This discrepancy highlighted a need to expand the coverage of our program. Ensuring a more broad application of the program allowed us to unearth different use cases of our data across a wider group. We also stress-tested what we deemed as success criteria against the different business needs. 

We are in the midst of enhancing our success measurements. We can now track areas of underutilization in our business intelligence platform to illuminate users that are missing potentially helpful solutions for common problems. This information helps us connect with the customer and get them access to what they need.

 

How to generate excitement through onboarding: Moving a customer through the onboarding journey isn’t only about hitting check boxes and completion rates. So it’s key that the language we use when interacting with clients encompasses our desire to educate. Every piece of the program is vital in that message, like including links to live, weekly training sessions or taking the time to walk through specific use cases. An educated customer is an empowered customer and that helps prevent apathy and disengagement.

 

Club Automation

Derek Baker

IMPLEMENTATION AND DELIVERY MANAGER

Derek Baker

When COVID-19 struck, Derek Baker said the customer team at Club Automation had to rework how they ramped health and wellness center customers. The implementation and delivery manager said teams adapted onboarding to educate customers on the features they needed most based on changing demands. 

 

Keys to an engaging customer onboarding program: When creating our onboarding program, we had two principles that guided us: understanding the customer’s needs and meeting people where they are. Our team has always prioritized carving out time to understand the customer’s operations and goals. Having several scoping conversations helps achieve alignment before kick-off. It works to ensure the client is prepared for the implementation process and provides us with time to adjust the program to meet their needs. 

Knowing that each person learns in their own unique way, we also structured our learning materials to meet those individual needs. Self-paced learning courses, training manuals, recorded training sessions, demo sites and instructor-led workshops are some of the many ways our program meets each user where they are. 

 

Understanding our customers’ needs proved to be the best way to engage them.”

 

Improvements made to Club Automation’s program: We are continually improving our onboarding process based on the changing needs of our customers and the market. The pandemic shifted our customers’ needs overnight and our ability to implement was significantly hampered. We quickly reprioritized training that helped their needs of handling chargebacks, capacity restrictions, virtual appointments and communication with their clients. We also spun up 14 self-paced training courses that our customers could distribute to their staff to help ensure proper adoption of software remotely.

 

How to generate excitement through onboarding: There is a huge correlation between brand promoters and successful implementations. Our customers want their software provider to be a partner that can help drive efficiency and revenue for their organizations. The onboarding process is the foundation of that partnership. Our team works to earn a client’s trust and provide consulting so they can utilize Club Automation to its full potential. Understanding our customers’ needs proved to be the best way to engage them and transform new relationships into long-lasting partnerships. 

 

Buildout, Inc.

Margaret Moltz

PROJECTS TEAM MANAGER

Margaret Moltz

“It’s important to ensure that all stakeholders know exactly what we will be doing, when we will be doing it, and how we will be doing it,” said Margaret Moltz, Buildout projects team manager. 

For Moltz’s team, transparency, then making good on the proposed strategies, is a key part of onboarding at the real estate marketing platform.  

 

Keys to an engaging customer onboarding program: The most critical action is getting our teams aligned as soon as possible, ideally during the kick-off call. This moment is when our projects team is introduced to the customer and passed off from our sales team. Alignment covers multiple areas including goals, first value, key use cases, roles and next steps. Onboarding is customized for all five of our customer segments. 

Another important practice is expectation-setting, as this is when customers learn more about their involvement. They can identify and allocate the necessary resources on their end to begin the process. 

 

We build trust by saying what we are going to do, then doing it.”

 

Improvements made to Buildout’s program: A simple yet impactful improvement has been collaborating with stakeholders with our project plan checklist. We can show customers how far they’ve come in onboarding by reviewing weekly call notes, and what steps remain. It has given our customers insight into the process to help them feel like they’ve made real progress.

Another improvement was calling the end of our onboarding process a “graduation,” which signals an important transition point in their lifecycle. When someone graduates from school in real life, they take with them what they have learned and use it everyday; that’s what we want our customers to do with Buildout.

 

How to generate excitement through onboarding: We build trust by saying what we are going to do, then doing it. We check in with customers to make sure their expectations are met while encouraging them to keep going. 

If we do notice customers struggling during onboarding, we implemented ways to get them back on track depending on what is going on, like skipping calls, misaligned expectations or missing deadlines. Sometimes the solution is as simple as reframing the goals and expectations. Other times we work with leadership or steering committees to make a new plan or iterate on the current one. And a post-graduation survey allows us to continually iterate and improve our onboarding processes through customer feedback.

 

Showpad

Christina Sciarrotta

U.S. PROFESSIONAL SERVICES MANAGER

Christina Sciarrotta

Personalized onboarding a foundational part of how teams at sales enablement platform Showpad help customers solve their challenges. U.S. Professional Services Manager Christina Sciarrotta said client success equates to the company’s success, so onboarding programs are both nimble and unique. 

 

Keys to an engaging customer onboarding program: Our approach to onboarding new clients is centered on being tailored and flexible. While we have tried-and-true best practices, the reality is that every customer is a little bit different. Their culture is unique, or they have nuanced ways their teams work across the organization. We have to be willing to adjust so that we can involve the right stakeholders at the right time to maximize buy-in and adoption. 

Discovery plays a very important part in this. Taking the time to discuss goals and desired business outcomes helps our team prioritize and construct the right onboarding plan to meet those objectives. 

 

Build excitement with customers by reminding them of what’s in it for them at every touchpoint.”

 

Improvements made to Showpad’s program: We made a few shifts in our process to ensure we’re understanding business goals while “load balancing” our plans to spend time where clients need support. We don’t want to just follow a one-size-fits-all set of steps to configure.

 

How to generate excitement through onboarding: A common phrase heard during our onboarding process is “change management,” which is the vehicle to success in any onboarding scenario. It’s not easy, but we build excitement with customers by reminding them of what’s in it for them at every touchpoint. The onboarding experience often sets the tone for a customer’s relationship with us. We found that going back to basics and ensuring we are focused on their success allows us to prove our value and get customers engaged and excited. 

 

RXBAR

Brianna Lombardo

SALES OPERATIONS ANALYST

Brianna Lombardo

Being excited about the product is just as much a part of the customer onboarding process at RXBAR as understanding the customer’s needs. Brianna Lombardo, a sales operations analyst at the snack provider, said enthusiasm for the brand helps customer teams better engage and excite customers, while also addressing their specific needs. 

 

Keys to an engaging customer onboarding program: Honesty about our brand and keeping conversations simple surrounding our products are important when engaging with new customers. When we have candid exchanges, it shows new customers how proud of the brand we are and what we think of the products we’re selling. Customers recognize a seller’s passion for the company and the product, and they know there is nothing we’re hiding behind.

 

Our goal is to listen to a specific buyer to understand who their consumer is.”

 

Improvements made to RXBAR’s program: We’ve gotten better at developing processes for commercialization, sending sample products to prospective customers and communicating the needs and expectations of our different customers. Our customer channels vary in how they operate. So our goal is to listen to a specific buyer to understand who their consumer is and the brands that succeed in their stores. It comes down to supporting our customers in whatever way we can.

 

How to generate excitement through onboarding: Ideas constantly transition into actions at the company, which creates excitement around the brand. Because our team is always ready to pivot, we can quickly adjust our course based on feedback from both the customer and the everyday consumer. 

 

Fuze

Joe Scurio

CUSTOMER SUCCESS TEAM LEAD, NORTH AMERICA

Joe Scurio

Joe Scurio said onboarding success lies in the details. Fuze’s North American CS team lead said customers should be aware of the minutia of their onboarding program so they know what to expect and remain fully engaged throughout. 

 

Keys to an engaging customer onboarding program: Consistently setting expectations is arguably the most critical element to building an effective customer onboarding program. Successfully setting expectations early in the partnership will quickly build trust and prove that you are the advocate the customer hopes you will be.

After the initial sale of a product or service, the customer should have complete clarity as to how and when a company will communicate with them and what documentation and deliverables they will be receiving. They should know the tasks they will need to perform in order to move the project forward. Once those initial expectations are set, it’s important that companies stay proactive in notifying the customer of their progress to avoid potential surprises later if a delay occurs that pushes the initial timeline back.

 

Successfully setting expectations early in the partnership will quickly build trust.”

Improvements made to Fuze’s program: To be successful in a customer-facing role, people will inevitably push to help their customers whenever possible. However, this idea can pose a challenge to the customer experience when dealing with large and complex deployments during the onboarding stage. When there are too many resources reaching out to the customer for different reasons, a team can appear disjointed or confuse the customer. 

Before introducing the team members who will be working with the customer during onboarding, it is important to align internally first to define each person’s role and responsibilities throughout onboarding. Once those definitions are set, it is equally important to maintain a cadence with the account team and internal stakeholders to regularly review how the project is moving along and if adjustments are necessary to continue seeing success.

 

How to generate excitement through onboarding: Customers who recently purchased a product or service have almost certainly gone through a thorough process to determine the best vendor for their organization. Not only has the customer invested in your company financially, but they also invested emotionally in the successful outcome of this new partnership. This period is almost like a honeymoon phase for clients and key stakeholders. They want the partnership to work out just as much as you do and are almost always going to be fully bought into mutual success.

An effective onboarding process is the most important tool an organization can leverage to maintain that excitement and keep the customer engaged. With consistent messaging and showing progress toward the customer’s defined goals, teams can continue the momentum of that initial honeymoon phase; they can turn clients into public references and advocates for their organization.

 

Klaviyo

Kate Walsh

VP OF CUSTOMER SUCCESS AND SUPPORT

Kate Walsh

“Onboarding is the most crucial part of the customer lifecycle,” said Klaviyo VP of Customer Success and Support Kate Walsh.

Walsh’s team sees the first month of the customer relationship as make-or-break, and they work to highlight the value of the communication platform as early and often as possible.

 

Keys to an engaging customer onboarding program: The most important piece of onboarding is to understand the customer goals, defining what success means to them. Leverage those goals to create a success plan with the customer to achieve those results.

When building out the success plan, it’s important to define potential roadblocks upfront, like resourcing constraints or team prioritization. The plan should include ways around those obstacles with a clear and agreed upon timeline.

 

Customers are won for life — and brand advocates are created — within the first 30 days.”

 

Improvements made to Klaviyo’s program: We want to ensure customers see immediate value within the first couple of weeks. Once that initial value is realized, it’s easier for customers to invest resources toward driving more value with a tool, making it irreplaceable. 

To improve our initial time to value, we created customer milestones based on two aspects: customer goals and the steps needed to drive revenue with Klaviyo. Ensuring each customer is tracking along those milestones in a timely manner allows us to improve the onboarding process. It identifies where customers are getting stuck so we can quickly iterate and improve. This initiative accelerated time to value, led to higher Customer Satisfaction Scores (CSAT) and improved retention. 

 

How to generate excitement through onboarding: Customers are won for life — and brand advocates are created — within the first 30 days. Through achieving their goals and driving revenue for their business, these advocates then become the customer stories and case studies. Those case studies and stories become a foundation for our marketing strategy, helping the business grow. 

 

Wellframe

Doug Berkson

VP OF CLIENT ENGAGEMENT

Doug Berkson

Metrics help VP of Client Engagement Doug Berkson and his team at Wellframe not only gauge the success of their onboarding programs but replicate it. The leaders said the healthtech software provider recently implemented a replicable framework for measuring how clients are engaging with the company’s tech. 

 

Keys to an engaging customer onboarding program: There are two efforts Wellframe undertakes to build effective and engaging onboarding programs. First, it is critical that we build relationships with varied stakeholders within our client base, which tends to be large and complex organizations. We must also do assessment work to ensure we understand our clients and build an onboarding program tailored to them and their constructs. We must fit within how our clients operate, not make them fit to us.

 

It takes discipline and constant attention to ensure positive engagement.”

 

Improvements made to Wellframe’s program: We recently created a role within our client services organization responsible for ensuring onboarding success for our clients. We also established a scalable and replicable framework that allows us to deliver assessments in a way that not only positively impacts our clients but also allows us to benchmark critical metrics across customers. We measure success by monitoring staff adoption of our technology as well as member engagement and their longitudinal utilization of that technology.

 

How to generate excitement through onboarding: Through a combination of our varied stakeholder relationship development and an expectation that our framework is constantly iterative, we are able to engage our clients throughout the lifecycle. However, it takes discipline and constant attention to ensure positive engagement because the work is never easy.

 

Wishlist

Sophie Greenspan

CUSTOMER SUCCESS MANAGER

Sophie Greenspan

At Wishlist, CSM Sophie Greenspan isn’t simply nodding her head and passing a message along. She said that the employee rewards company relies on a human approach to customer service to distinguish itself from the competition. That said, her team also works off of an objective management system to evaluate customer behaviors and track milestones.

 

What actions have you found to be most critical when building and implementing an effective and engaging customer onboarding program?

There are two key elements to creating a highly effective customer onboarding experience. First, successful programs start with the end in mind. It is important that your CSMs understand what your client’s end destination is and what they want to achieve by implementing your solution. Make sure it’s specific and measurable (for example, increase employee NPS by 5 percent by the end of Q2). From there, your team will be able to act as guides along the way to achieving their intended results.  

Second, be human. Ditch any scripts or rigid checklists from your process. Instead, make what is important to your client important to you. Find out where they spend their time both at work and outside. Take notes, make a joke and be authentic. Engage them in the most memorable and fun conversation they’ve had all day. Blend your technology with the power of human connection and you’ll have a partnership established on the most solid of foundations. 

 

What are a few examples of improvements you’ve made to your customer onboarding?

Who says Agile methodologies are only for product teams? We don’t. In fact, we recently moved our CSM team to Agile and have been running sprints for both client launches and customer onboarding. The sprints are tied to specific client milestones that reflect key behaviors of successful accounts. The account progresses as they hit these wickets versus simply checking in with clients after 30, 60 and 90 days. This process has allowed our CSM team to assess trends in behaviors and provide specific feedback to the client.

 

Who says Agile methodologies are only for product teams? We don’t.’’ 

 

How do you leverage the onboarding process to generate excitement about your brand and prevent apathy or disengagement with your customers?

We refuse to offer a meaningless onboarding process. Clients are tasked to hit certain checkpoints during the launch and onboarding phase which correlate to product usage and establishing habits that will make their program successful.

 

Vendavo

Susan Wolfgang

MANAGER OF CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE

Susan Wolfgang

At B2B software company Vendavo, the team introduced a new role into the mix a few years back: service delivery manager. Manager of Customer Experience Susan Wolfgang said the position has allowed employees to interact with both customers who pay for subscription services they provide and those who don’t. As a result of the hands-on approach, Wolfgang has seen an increase in customer loyalty.  

 

What traits or skills have you found to be most critical when building and implementing an effective and engaging customer onboarding program?

First, build a relationship. Take a few minutes to get to know each other as people. Our software is complex and takes several months to implement. We are going to be working very closely for a long time. 

Second, show empathy, especially when there are issues. Try and understand the issue from the customer’s perspective. This is technology. Issues arise when trying to combine hardware, middleware, software, integration to ERPs and changing processes. Building relationships and showing empathy encourages collaboration and reduces blame and escalation.  

And most importantly, be honest. Be as transparent as you can be. Raise issues as early as possible so you can collaborate quickly to resolve them. Waiting only limits your options.

 

Try and understand the issue from the customer’s perspective.’’ 

 

What are a few examples of improvements you’ve made to your customer onboarding?

We continually review our processes for ways to improve the customer experience and the efficiency of our methods. A couple of years ago, we added a role called a service delivery manager to assist our customers after our software solution was implemented. The service delivery manager assists the customer in scheduling upgrades, system reviews and custom enhancements. This role has allowed us to better deliver our services. Issues were resolved faster and within lower levels of the organization.  

Not all of our customers purchase subscription services. This new role allows us to engage with those who don’t for reasons other than sales or technical support issues. We have been able to improve relationships and resolve issues that had been outstanding for months because no one took ownership of the issue. 

 

How do you leverage the onboarding process to generate excitement about your brand and prevent apathy or disengagement with your customers?

We introduce business and relationship experts during customer onboarding to ensure our customers receive the intended value from their investment in our software platform. Our business consultants are experts in pricing. They assist our customers with learning to use the software and measuring financial returns, which continues on a quarterly basis.

Immediately after we implement the software, we introduce the user to our customer experience manager. The person in this role is meant to build a long-term relationship with the customer by acting as their advocate within Vendavo, resolving issues and providing a variety of information via meetings and email. The combination of business results and the relationship focus give us a quick signal of potential apathy or disengagement.

 

ENGAGE

Mike Irvine

SENIOR DIRECTOR OF CUSTOMER SUCCESS

The idea of a digital field management platform might sound daunting to a potential ENGAGE customer in the oil and gas industry. But Senior Director of Customer Success Mike Irvine said that being able to introduce the onboarding process in the sales cycle helps eliminate any initial adoption hurdles out of the gate. 

 

What actions have you found to be most critical when building and implementing an effective and engaging customer onboarding program? 

It all starts with setting expectations upfront with a customer by clearly defining the onboarding process. At ENGAGE, we introduce the onboarding process in the sales cycle so the customer is aware of our onboarding steps once they sign a contract with us. From there, we host a kick-off meeting to walk through the steps and provide templates for users to provide us the data we need to configure our platform. Overall, it’s all about structure. 

 

It all starts with setting expectations upfront with a customer by clearly defining the onboarding process.’’ 

 

What are a few examples of improvements you’ve made to your customer onboarding?

We recently started sharing our “implementation playbook” with prospective customers during the sales process. Doing so has actually helped close deals. We get to show prospective customers that we have a step-by-step process to quickly onboard them to our platform and start realizing value.

 

How do you leverage the onboarding process to generate excitement about your brand and prevent apathy or disengagement with your customers? 

It can be daunting for our customers to think about the effort and complexity involved in adopting a new platform for their operations. Our onboarding process helps alleviate that concern and generates excitement. Customers can visualize a clear path from day one of the project.

 

customer onboarding simple practice
Simple Practice

SimplePractice

Since there is no sales team at electronic health record platform SimplePractice, onboarding success is essential to retaining customers. Customer Onboarding Lead Mike Schafer said the company’s virtual product tours allow customers to thoroughly understand key features and keep support requests down. 

 

What actions have you found to be most critical when building and implementing an effective and engaging customer onboarding program?

Our customers are private practice owners who have dedicated their careers to helping others. Each of them has a unique way of managing their practice, and that’s a core component of both our product and our onboarding approach. Our platform is designed so customers have complete flexibility in how they operate, which creates a unique onboarding challenge. 

Since SimplePractice doesn’t have a sales team, the first interaction a potential customer has with our product is when they sign up for a free trial, which is where the onboarding program kicks off. For us, the most critical part of  onboarding is creating a sense of partnership and community between the customer and our team. That means helping our customers be successful during their free trial with an email series, in-product tutorials, a dedicated one-on-one video onboarding call and daily in-person classes and Q&A sessions.

 

Our platform is designed so customers have complete flexibility in how they operate, which creates a unique onboarding challenge.” 

 

What has been the impact of improvements you’ve made to your customer onboarding?

One of the major improvements was launching detailed in-product tours once trials have started. These product tours provide walkthroughs of key features without directing our customers to read a help center article or watch a video. We’re always iterating on these walkthroughs by monitoring how engaged our customers are. We’ve seen an immediate reduction in incoming support requests from brand new customers. 

In addition to in-product tutorials, we also have multiple email lifecycle series for our customers based on their specialty, experience level with EHRs and their practice size. By customizing these lifecycle journeys, we can match their onboarding experience to their practice. We’re always iterating, testing different email copy and adding new emails based on what our customer success team sees via incoming support requests.

 

How do you leverage the onboarding process to generate excitement about your brand and prevent apathy among your customers?

Our customers go into private practice to help those in need. At that moment, they become entrepreneurs. To fully empower our customers to be successful, we share business-building resources with them that aren’t covered in their traditional education. These resources help our customers see that SimplePractice is not only a software platform, but a community of individuals here to support them during their entire private practice journey.

 

instride
INSTRIDE

InStride

As the director of customer success at edtech company InStride, Nicole Garcia said it’s hard to work with a customer if they don’t know what their goals are. To determine success, goals are decided collaboratively before a contract is signed. Throughout onboarding, Garcia revisits those goals with the customer and adjusts and updates progress accordingly. 

 

What actions have you found to be most critical when building and implementing an effective and engaging customer onboarding program?

When developing a strategic education program, aligning on success goals is critical. Our onboarding team starts engaging with our corporate partners long before a contract is signed. First, we align with our partners on what success looks like and how it supports larger company goals and key objectives. Then, we have a kick-off meeting with all stakeholders, including the executive sponsor, to reiterate program goals before going through deliverables, timelines and work required from both teams to ensure a successful onboarding.

Timely, transparent communication is also key. We constantly revisit the initial expectations and our progress through weekly check-ins with our partners. These are documented and shared with our partners to ensure there is no misalignment at any point. When challenges arise or the scope needs to change, we always make sure to inform our partners as soon as possible with all relevant information so they have full awareness throughout the process.

Rigorous project management is the final critical element. We have people and systems in place to ensure all onboarding steps are clearly documented and tracked. We also have weekly cross-functional meetings to quickly address any issues that may come up.

 

What has been the impact of improvements you’ve made to your customer onboarding?

By moving up our onboarding timeline before a contract is signed, we can better align on our corporate partners’ expectations. This small step has also gone a long way in showing our commitment to making our partners and their employees successful, and in some cases, has helped accelerate employees’ educational journeys.

 

We make interactions as collaborative as possible so that we are working together to make their programs successful.” 

 

How do you leverage the onboarding process to generate excitement about your brand and prevent apathy among your customers?

Aligning on success across multiple stakeholders is incredibly important for generating excitement and engagement. We constantly remind our corporate partners and our own team what our collective goals are.

We also try to make the interactions as collaborative as possible so that we are working together to make their programs successful. We also think of our account managers as strategic partners who go above and beyond to bring teams together, work toward shared goals and celebrate shared success.

 

Further ReadingCustomer Success Managers: Here's How to Reduce Churn

 
Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images via listed companies

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