Do you have a family recipe or heirloom jewelry that’s been passed down for generations?
The recipe may have gone up or down a couple of ingredients, or steps, based on the availability of ingredients and convenience. The heirloom jewelry may have been polished, stones replaced, or even repurposed into a totally different piece. These may be things that are permanent and constant in the family, but they would have definitely had tweaks along the generational journey.
The customer onboarding process of an organization is just like that - a permanent and constant process in the company, but something that can be tweaked according to every customer’s needs. It might sound like something akin to Schrodinger’s cat; to have a set process that is also flexible enough to accommodate the plethora of different customer needs. However, you can trust us when we say that we know one thing in common with both cats (our mascot, Felicette, is a space kitty) and customer onboarding processes - if the skeletal structure is strong, it’s easy to land on your feet in diverse situations.
How do we know this? Because we practice it. Our basic customer onboarding process is all planned out, much like the blueprint for a building, and we tweak it based on our customers’ unique requirements. Having 300+ customers across sectors like SaaS, AI, professional services, fintech, legal services, marketing, and more, we know our basic onboarding process plan is universally applicable to all sorts of customers.
At Rocketlane, we follow a customer onboarding process that is laid out across four stages. In this blog, we recommend a customer onboarding process, complete with a flowchart, that can easily fit most use cases:
We split this customer onboarding process into four main stages - requirement gathering, implementation, training, and go-live. There are various activities and decisions involved in each stage. The stages are progressive, with loops that feed back into a previous stage, if necessary. Let’s go into a little more detail about each stage.
This is essentially the ‘research’ stage of the process, where you get to know your customer’s needs and requirements, and set up the kickoff meeting with them to get cruising on the project.
As part of the pre-kickoff, gather as much information as possible about the customer and the project to prepare the team and start the customer onboarding process. A proper handoff from sales and engineering teams is absolutely imperative to assess the project scope and any other metrics that are associated with value or ROI to your customer. It is also important that the customer onboarding team do their own research about the customer’s industry, background, challenges they faced earlier, and more. We highly recommend an internal pre-kickoff meeting to get all the team members and internal stakeholders on the same page and address any concerns they may have.
At the kickoff meeting with the customer, it is important that the team takes the time to introduce themselves and identify the key stakeholders from both sides, as the customer onboarding process could potentially go on for months. Begin by setting an agenda based on the research and internal discussions that have happened. Set goals, milestones, and priorities at the kickoff meeting, and get your team and the customer to agree on the requirements from either party.
It is advisable to set up a cadence for meetings, solutioning, and most importantly, to set a tentative end date for the customer onboarding process so that the timeline is clear. Any and all requirements from the customer before starting the onboarding process, including assets, resources, credentials, approvals, etc., must be discussed and agreed upon, with a protocol for obtaining them. Once this is done, it’s time to get to the track and start running the next stage!
The second stage of the customer onboarding process is where the project goes on the floors. You can expect some back-and-forth with regards to how the requirements are being accommodated in the product.
However, this is also the stage that is fraught with friction; customers tend to get impatient with waiting to see ROI from your product. It might be feasible for your implementation folks to establish and measure a few value-based metrics in a 30-60-90-day interval.
It is important that routine status updates and check-ins happen during this time and the customer is up-to-date on all proceedings. Mini-demos and weekly showcases of the solution can take place to make sure that the customer is getting exactly what they want and are on the same page.
The solutions that you deploy based on initially agreed upon or even additional requirements must be properly tested for bugs and issues, both by the product team on your end, and by the customer’s team. This is so that there are no surprises on both ends after training starts or the customer goes live with your product.
This is when the product, after solutioning and implementation of changes, is rolled out to the customer’s handpicked team of initial users. In this phase, they learn how to use the product, see if they can form a habit of using the product; they can report any bugs or issues, and work out all the kinks. User Acceptance Testing (UAT) can be its own micro-phase within the training phase, with its own checklists and test cases.
One thing that can truly help enhance and accelerate the training stage is finding a customer champion. This is most commonly the main point of contact on the customer’s side, who has the potential to lead the training sessions after being trained by your customer onboarding team. This champion can facilitate better adoption on the customer’s side, and encourage their team to bring up pain points and ask questions, making the customer onboarding process an interactive experience.
One important thing to keep in mind, especially in the case that your product is replacing a long-existing system in your customer’s organization, is that the training will essentially facilitate habit change. The customer’s side will have to pick up some new skills to adopt your product completely. Having a change management plan or an onboarding enablement package on hand has helped Rocketlane increase product adoption. Here’s another unique example from the Preflight Community on how training is done at BombBomb as well!
Thinking about what specific actions or activities could make the customer onboarding process’s training phase effect significant change can truly help you swing out of the way from churn. We suggest training videos or gamifying adoption to start with.
This is where you make sure the end users are comfortable with using the product and are adapting well to it. Once the initial testing team members from the customer’s side are comfortable enough with the product, the product can be deployed to the rest of the team.
Go-live is critical and the final milestone in the customer onboarding process. It involves specific and timely action when any issues are encountered, so it is wise to have a contingency plan in place before the go-live is flagged off. All project goals and solutions must be accomplished and executed without kinks, and a maintenance customer support team and protocol must be set. Once the product is live, it is important to keep checking in to see if there are any issues or bugs in the usage. There are a couple of approaches that we take at Rocketlane that can be applied based on customer cases. Check out our free, customizable go-live template here!
Here is a session from Propel22 on building a better strategy for effective go-lives and solution adoption that you can check out as well.
So, there you go! We’ve laid out our skeletal customer onboarding process for you. This should hold good for most organizations with an implementable product, with room for case-by-case customizations. We hope this inspires you to get started with formulating the customer onboarding process for your own team!
Overlooked elements in the customer onboarding process
Customer onboarding templates for every stage of your customer onboarding journey
Customer Onboarding Tips Part IV: Establish a rhythm for onboarding