Kristi Faltorusso is an award-winning Customer Success Executive with experience in building, scaling, and transforming Customer Success organizations at hyper-growth B2B SaaS companies. Over the past decade, she's helped many companies redefine Customer Success resulting in increased retention, long-term revenue growth, and customer advocacy.
At her workshop at Propel23, Kristi Faltorusso walked us through a framework to build an effective customer onboarding program with zero investment and zero resources. She discussed what customer onboarding is and its impact, the business of onboarding, the things to consider, and the steps involved in creating a customer onboarding program.
Customer onboarding refers to the process of assisting new customers in setting up and independently using your product to achieve their goals. As a SaaS company, the ultimate aim is for customers to effectively utilize the software as intended, enabling them to drive their goals. Therefore, it is crucial to focus on this aspect. Many onboarding programs tend to rush customers through the process. However, when reaching the end, customers often struggle to use the technology independently, integrate it into their workflows, and properly adopt it. The priority is developing a core competency to ensure customers can independently use the product.
The second important aspect of customer onboarding is helping customers achieve their goals. Often customer onboarding programs are designed in a checkbox-like manner, attempting to fit a one-size-fits-most approach. While such programs may assist customers with a few tasks, they may fall short in aligning the onboarding process with customers' specific objectives. This could involve investing significant time configuring product features that customers may not require or want to use since they do not align with their original purchase intentions. Consequently, when considering customer onboarding, it is vital to emphasize these two goals:
The reality is that most customers will decide to churn even before the customer onboarding process is completed. If you provide a poor onboarding experience or implement an ineffective program, it guarantees losing customers. They will struggle to adopt and utilize the product, indicating they are not deriving value from it. Inevitably, your product will become shelfware.
Attempting to reboard customers and generate value later in their journey can be challenging. By that point, the momentum and excitement would have been lost, and the partnership will falter. It's crucial to align understanding and recognize that customer onboarding significantly impacts the long-term success of the partnership. There is an opportunity here to get it right or wrong, and ensuring that upfront investments yield long-term success for the partnership is paramount.
We all aim to solve business problems with technology and help our customers do things differently, improve efficiency, achieve a better ROI, and leverage technology effectively. Ultimately, our customers evaluate whether onboarding will help them achieve these outcomes. A successful onboarding program leads to higher customer retention rates, improved customer health scores, better Net Promoter Scores (NPS), and greater lifetime value. These are tangible business metrics that demonstrate the value of focusing on onboarding. If you need to articulate the importance of onboarding within your organization, these metrics provide a compelling case.
Surveys indicate that 63% of customers consider onboarding a key factor in their decision to subscribe to a product. Many prospects are eager to understand the customer onboarding process. Interestingly, their focus often revolves around the onboarding experience rather than the product's ability to drive ROI or achieve goals. They understand that success can be achieved together if both parties invest in onboarding.
Additionally, 74% of potential customers will switch to alternative solutions if the onboarding process is too complicated. This statistic highlights the risk of designing an onboarding program that overwhelms customers. If the experience is overly complex, customers may feel it requires too much effort and decide it's not worth it. This emphasizes the importance of simplifying the onboarding journey and making it engaging and exciting for customers, helping them reach their goals. These elements often receive less attention but significantly impact the long-term success of customer onboarding.
Kristi then walked us through how her team at Client Success transformed their onboarding experience from a complicated checklist to a streamlined and simplified process that their customers can easily follow.
In conversations with Customer Success professionals about their customer onboarding programs, Kristi often asks about their goals. Surprisingly, she found that many professionals have not considered defining a clear goal for customer onboarding. Their focus tends to be on getting customers onboarded quickly and achieving fast time-to-value, but they haven't considered the specific objectives they want to accomplish. Establishing a clear SMART goal tied to the customer onboarding process is essential to address this.
In Kristi’s role at Client Success, the objective was to redefine the onboarding program and identify what should be achieved with customers and how it will be measured. The first primary objective was to reduce the onboarding time significantly. Secondly, the customer onboarding program needed to prioritize core areas that led to faster value realization and ensure customers received thorough training and guidance on effective utilization.
With these objectives in mind, Kristi created an eight-week program, providing ample time for enabling customers, configuring the product, conducting training, and wrapping up the onboarding process. This achievable timeframe allowed for reconsidering content to align with the desired outcomes. Customers prioritize certain aspects based on their specific needs. While the focus remains on the five core areas, customers can deprioritize certain elements and emphasize others. Modular customer onboarding modules are in place, making it simple to customize the experience while maintaining a structured approach.
Furthermore, there was significant emphasis on training and enablement. Instead of relying solely on administrators to train end users, which can be challenging within an eight-week timeframe, the responsibility for end-user training is taken on by the customer onboarding team. The goal is to ensure that customers can independently use the product as intended to achieve their goals.
Having a clear goal lets the team stay focused on what they aim to achieve with the onboarding program. If the process extends beyond eight weeks, something may not go according to plan. It prompts conversations, assessment of shifting priorities, and ensures effective meeting of customers' needs. This goal-oriented approach helps the team identify whether things are going well or if adjustments are necessary.
Therefore, if a goal for the customer onboarding program hasn't already been defined, make it a priority to do so. The goal should be measurable and aligned with the objectives. This exercise will provide clarity and serve as a guiding force in the customer onboarding efforts.
When reevaluating your customer onboarding program, there are several factors you need to consider. They are:
If we cannot track the success metrics of a customer onboarding program, assessing its effectiveness and making data-driven decisions would be challenging. Measurement allows us to track progress, identify areas of improvement, and ensure that the program is aligned with its intended goals. Here are the key metrics that Kristi recommends to measure the success of a customer onboarding program:
Kristi mentioned several important steps in designing an effective onboarding process to ensure a smooth and successful customer journey. They are:
Kristi then showcased a customer onboarding program that received positive customer feedback. Here's a high-level overview of the flow of the customer onboarding program:
It's interesting how companies often define the first value for their customers, assuming that completing a specific action means they are receiving value. With a customer onboarding process customized to each customer, we can enable them to do something they could not do on their own - producing reports for greater transparency or setting up customer health scores to assess their customer base with accuracy. We can ensure that our customers receive meaningful results from our onboarding process to make their partnership successful.
Kristi led the audience through the Client Success team's web-based customer onboarding process redesign. Google Sites and Canva were employed to make a portal providing information about the company, its technology, and the different customer onboarding stages. To ensure smooth sailing, they developed a three-part "Getting Started" checklist based on customer feedback, an onboarding timeline, and a partnership kickoff meeting. These are developed with a clear agenda, and the presentation deck is shared beforehand to encourage beneficial dialogue.
Customers can view brief videos and tutorials throughout the onboarding process to facilitate their learning and enable them to complete tasks before their next appointment. Trackers are utilized to monitor progress and reward noteworthy accomplishments. Furthermore, a resource guide has been established that encompasses boot camp videos, masterclass instruction, playbooks, and a platform design workbook. The workbook is beneficial in guiding customers through configuring different software elements while providing insight into best practices and illustrations.
Although building such resources takes time, the benefits and positive customer feedback make it worthwhile.
If you are considering optimizing your customer onboarding program, consider Rocketlane. It includes every must-have feature to make the onboarding process as painless as possible! It’s the ultimate guide to onboard new customers. You can achieve quality project management workflows, insights into customer satisfaction trends, and lower time-to-value.
With Rocketlane, every customer can access their own portal with a dedicated domain. You can brand and customize this customer portal by adding your touch via logos or themes to ensure a distinct connection with your brand. Every customer gets magic links that take them to their portal so they can see what you have in store for them.
On this portal, you can take them through interactive walkthroughs of your onboarding plan, assign tasks and follow up on them, request approvals and feedback, and share updates.