Implementation Stories

Strategies for sustained onboarding success: Leveraging proactive engagement

Heather Spencer, Manager - Customer Onboarding at 1Password, shares insights, and strategies for sustaining success in customer onboarding.
May 27, 2024
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Mukundh Krishna

In this episode of Implementation Stories, Heather Spencer, Manager - Customer Onboarding at 1Password, shares insights, and strategies for sustaining success in customer onboarding.
The common thread in Heather’s professional journey has been the commitment to helping others understand the power of gaining buy-in, and ensuring that customers not only see the value in specific features but also understand how the product is integral to their everyday lives. 

In this session, Heather talked about:

  • The evolution of customer onboarding at 1Password
  • The power of getting customer buy-in
  • How to stay engaged and build confidence through customer onboarding 
  • Measuring success at each stage of the journey

This post offers the key takeaways from the session.

The strategic evolution of customer onboarding at 1Password

Like many tech startups, 1Password recognized the critical importance of continually reevaluating and refining its processes. They started this journey with a review of their existing customer onboarding process.

Fries or salad?

To explain the evolution of 1Password’s customer onboarding journey, Heather likens a new customer’s experience with a product/solution to a dining experience at a restaurant. 

The main dish represents the product that the customer has purchased, something they are excited about. The server asking if they want fries or a salad symbolizes the customer onboarding process—an additional offering that the customer hadn't initially considered but is glad to have. 

However, just like a side dish, onboarding might not always be the focus for the customer—they might pick at it but not necessarily finish it or appreciate its full value.

The ‘fries or  salad’ analogy highlights 1Password’s initial approach to customer onboarding: support was available but considered  ‘nice to have’. 

While this approach might work for a few tools, at 1Password, effective onboarding was realized to be crucial for customers’ success. Thus, the team made it a priority to ensure all teams, – starting with Sales –  took onboarding seriously.

Version 1.0 of 1Password’s customer journey

1Password’s onboarding process was specifically designed for its newest customers, aiming to set them up for success from the beginning.

All materials—checklists, training sessions, and resources—were crafted with the assumption that new users had minimal knowledge about the product. The goal was to demonstrate how 1Password could meet and adapt to their needs seamlessly.

The customer onboarding team introduced themselves to new customers and offered assistance without making it mandatory. During the kickoff call, the focus was on gathering essential information about the customer's setup, tools, and preferences to customize their training accordingly. The success of the deployment was measured by the delivery and completion of training sessions, the time taken to achieve these milestones, and the number of sessions delivered.

Once customers reached these milestones, they were considered to have completed onboarding and were transitioned to the customer success team. The key metrics for moving customers through the onboarding journey were the number of sessions and the days required to complete them. 

However, the data showed a significant improvement in customer success for those who completed the onboarding process compared to those who did not. 

This highlighted the value of the customer onboarding process and its impact on customer outcomes. 

As the team continued to grow and evolve, it became clear that further improvements and adaptations were necessary to maintain and enhance the onboarding experience. 

Focus areas for improvement in customer onboarding

There were a few areas of opportunity that the 1Password team began to see:

1. High NPS scores but a lack of specific feedback

While their high Net Promoter Scores (NPS) indicated customer satisfaction, they did not provide specific insights into what was working well and what needed improvement. Customers expressed general happiness with the service and ease of getting started, but the feedback lacked detail.

This lack of specificity meant that the customer onboarding team couldn't pinpoint the exact value they were delivering or identify areas needing enhancement. 

2. Engagement challenges with key customers

Despite initial positive interactions and productive sessions, follow-up engagement was lacking, leading to the team members feeling ghosted.

The team realized the need to understand why customers were disengaging after initial contact.

3. Structural and metric-based issues

The focus on the number of sessions as a primary metric was not conducive to sustainable growth. The emphasis on quantity over quality was leading to burnout and inefficiencies.

With this focus on the number of sessions conducted, delivering numerous sessions — even if repetitive or unnecessary – ended up being seen as a positive metric. However, this did not necessarily translate to actual value for the customer or the organization.

An example was a customer requesting ten identical sessions. While initially seen as a metric booster, it prompted questions about the actual value and necessity of such an approach.

Strategic shifts and process improvements in 1Password’s customer onboarding process

1. Enhancing feedback mechanisms

To address the lack of detailed feedback, 1Password began seeking more specific input from customers about their onboarding experience. This included targeted questions to uncover what aspects were particularly beneficial and which areas needed improvement.

The goal was to move beyond general satisfaction scores and obtain actionable insights that could drive meaningful enhancements in the onboarding process.

2. Developing customer re-engagement strategies

The team focused on developing better strategies to keep customers engaged throughout their customer onboarding journey. This included more personalized follow-ups and an understanding of the reasons behind customer disengagement.

By identifying patterns and common drop-off points, the team aimed to implement targeted interventions to keep customers on track.

3. Reevaluating success metrics and the team structure

The team knew there was a problem with the reliance on session numbers as a success metric. To address this, they began to focus on the quality and impact of each session, ensuring they were meaningful and aligned with customer goals.

The primary metric of success shifted from the number of sessions completed to the impact of those sessions. This meant focusing on deployment and ensuring customers were effectively using their allocated seats. This not only saved the customer time but also improved the team's efficiency and capacity.

4. Designing a more customer-centric kickoff

The kickoff call was restructured to focus not only on technical requirements and setup but also on understanding the customer’s desired outcomes. The focus was on understanding their definition of success rather than merely moving them through 1Password’s process. This shift ensured that the onboarding process was tailored to meet specific customer needs and goals.

Timelines and goals were discussed during the kickoff call, allowing for better planning and a smoother transition to the Customer Success Management (CSM) team. This focus on accountability ensured that customers were fully engaged and ready for the next step when handed over to CSM. 

5. Increasing collaboration with Sales

To ensure that the customer onboarding phase was perceived as vital, 1Password worked closely with sales leaders to enable their teams to speak confidently about the process during conversations with prospects. This collaboration set clear expectations about the value of onboarding even before a sale was made. It ensured that onboarding was seen as a critical component of the customer's overall success with 1Password, rather than a standalone process.

6. Creating the perfect Sales - Customer Onboarding - Customer Success sandwich

The goal was for customer onboarding to be like the delicious ingredients between two slices of bread, essential for the overall enjoyment of the meal. 

In this analogy, sales represent one slice of bread, and long-term customer success the other, with customer onboarding creating those memorable moments in between.

Best practices for gaining customer buy-in

Achieving customer buy-in is not just about discussing desired outcomes and goals; it's about how to genuinely engage and build trust with customers. 

Here’s how 1Password approached this:

1. Focus on genuine curiosity and deep discovery

Gaining buy-in starts with genuine care about customers' needs. Building trust requires showing customers that their answers matter. This involves a focus on active listening.

Heather recommends a few practices:

  1. Pause and reflect: During calls, take a moment to ask yourself if you’re truly listening or just documenting responses.
  2. Acknowledge responses: After asking a question, focus on the answer and acknowledge it. For example, say, “I see where you're coming from,” and elaborate further to show you’ve understood.
  3. Have follow-up questions handy: Use genuine curiosity to dive deeper into responses, moving beyond a simple checklist of questions.

2. Avoid assumptions at all costs

Never guess what a customer might need or do next. Instead, turn assumptions into certainties:  If team members are unsure about customer actions, encourage them to ask clarifying questions to turn “I think” into “I know.”

Collaborate with team members to brainstorm and solidify the next steps based on confirmed customer feedback.

3. Apply change management principles

The same principles used in change management for internal projects apply to engaging customers.

These principles include: 

  1. Understanding desired outcomes and goals:  Start by clearly understanding the customer’s desired outcomes and goals. Begin with questions that uncover the benefits and impacts of the customer onboarding process. For instance, “What are the main goals you hope to achieve with our product?” and “How do you see this change benefiting your organization and team?”
  2. Create a customized plan: Based on their responses, create a plan that acknowledges their specific needs. Share this plan, highlighting that it is tailored to their answers and goals.
  3. Invite questions and feedback: Present your plan but pause to allow questions and feedback. Ask, “Does this plan sound doable to you? Is there anything you’d like to adjust?”
  4. Confirm commitment: After discussing the plan, ask for their commitment: “Is this something you can commit to?” When they agree, it signals genuine buy-in.

Steps to enabling customers and your customer onboarding team

Confidence is foundational for both you and your customers. Here are a few focus areas to help build this confidence:

  1. Preparation: Set your intention before each call. Write down why you’re asking specific questions and what you aim to achieve. For example, "I am asking the customer these questions to understand their goals so I can better support their onboarding."
  2. Clarity and purpose: When customers understand the purpose behind your questions, they are more likely to open up. Explain your intentions clearly to build trust and foster a collaborative relationship.
  3. Acknowledging imperfections: It’s okay to admit that the process might not be perfect. During your deep discovery, ask about potential roadblocks and challenges. This shows that you’re realistic and prepared to support them through difficulties.
  4. Making problem-solving a shared activity: Emphasize that you and the customer are working together to solve a problem. Frame the problem as something external that both parties are addressing from different angles.
  5. Staying engaged: After each session, ask for feedback, asking questions like, "How did you find today’s meeting?” and “Was this helpful?" ensure that you’re meeting their needs and can adjust if necessary.
  6. Reiterating support: Reinforce that you’re there to help and that their feedback is crucial for mutual success. This ongoing dialogue helps turn assumptions into certainties, building a stronger, trust-based relationship. 
  7. Enablement resources: Enablement involves both having the right resources and a clear plan. Ensure you have the support you need to help customers effectively. This could include internal tools, team collaboration, and access to necessary information.

Results from 1Password’s improvements to customer onboarding

In their evolved approach to customer onboarding, the team at 1Password achieved several successes including:

  1. Continued high NPS scores: Despite strategic changes, their Net Promoter Scores remained consistently high. Additionally, they began receiving more detailed feedback from customers, highlighting specific positive experiences and areas for improvement.
  2. Impactful handoffs: By focusing on strong kickoff calls and clear timelines, the transition from onboarding to customer success became smoother and more effective. This ensured that customers' needs were understood and met throughout their journey.
  3. Enhanced customer engagement: The commitment from customers upfront led to a reduction in dropouts during the onboarding process. This resulted in more successful completions, meeting customer goals, and ensuring online security.
  4. Improved team autonomy: Team members experienced increased autonomy and flexibility in managing their schedules, allowing them to focus on quality interactions rather than quantity.
  5. Focus on ‘everboarding’ and stakeholder support: Recognizing that new stakeholders may join customer organizations after the initial implementation, the team is reevaluating their goals and processes to ensure ongoing support. They are proactive in engaging with new team members and collaborating closely with customer success counterparts to provide seamless support and assistance.

More resources

  1. Implementation Stories from Preflight
  2. Customer onboarding resources from Rocketlane
  3. The Launch Station - a podcast for all things customer onboarding

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Kirthika Soundararajan
Head - Content Marketing @ Rocketlane

All things content at Rocketlane. I run on coffee and cat videos. Follow me on Twitter @kirthikasrajan

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