Customer onboardings and how to nail them

Members of the Preflight community discuss effective strategies to nail customer onboarding
September 9, 2022
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Not all customers are made equal. It can be arduous to be a proactive champion of your customers and be the implementation manager who always finds new and innovative ways to onboard teams to start helping them realize your product's or service's value.

Let us consider a scenario where your partners take almost three months to complete the platform implementation process. You make sure that your communications are scheduled and go out without delay, and the follow-ups go out on time, yet the partner, your paying customers’ team, takes weeks to share the required information. It’s the fourth month, and the ROI is nowhere near what you’d like. What do you do?

It is a familiar problem for the implementation and onboarding teams worldwide. While the magnitude of the problem is always a variable, we’re sure your onboarding team has been hard at work trying to help partners attain value. Members of Preflight discuss what has worked for them in these situations and other closely related scenarios during customer onboarding and implementation like:

  1. How to create and maintain a sense of urgency in our customers during the initial implementation phase?
  2. What do you do when the team size is small, and these individuals wear multiple hats in their jobs?
  3. Where do we draw a line between helping them get started smoothly within a set time frame and not coming across as too 'pushy'?

Sri Ganesan, CEO @ Rocketlane

Some ideas I’ve seen work well before:

  • Putting a dollar value on it that expires or charging if it goes beyond a timeline is a sure-shot way to keep the customer serious about it.
  • Getting alignment from the executive sponsor right at kickoff on your resources and timelines - so that they are securing time from these team members.
  • Getting the sponsor to make a timely launch of objectives and key results (OKR)  for the identified POCs from the customers’ side.
  • Doing more workshops together for things that need their effort completed on time - so there’s a push for them to show up and deliver. Especially for a small team, putting things on their calendar is the only way to get the work done - as they will always be busy with other work and tasks.
  • Establishing the communication, follow-up cadence, and escalation upfront during the kickoff to help the customer know this will be intensive, and so your team need not hesitate regarding follow-ups and escalations.
  • Reminding yourself that you are not throwing them under the bus if you’ve established the protocol beforehand.
  • Identifying the most problematic steps and figure out if there are templates/examples of help content that can help the customer with their deliverables.
  • Sharing surveys to get a customer effort score and determine the highest effort items they need help with and how to reduce effort on the customer.
  • Having a readiness kit the customers’ team can use to prepare themselves for the onboarding.. You could share that during the sales process too, and let them decide what their start date for implementation can be.
  • Letting the executive sponsor articulate the urgency and by when they need the implementation in place, so everyone is aligned on the timelines.
  • Your onboarding team’s energy, intensity, and professionalism should make the customer take you seriously. So make sure you are entering each implementation with a tight plan and let the customer you are onboarding feel your intensity right from the start.

Guru Prasanna, GTM @ Trainn

If you can offer a partner who can deliver managed services or do the work for the customer, you can offer to do that at a cost.

For example, with Trainn, we have been slow to get started and engage a partner who can deliver the videos we need to get up and running.

In most cases than not, your new customer would not be able to spend as much time configuring the platform. If the team is large, the solution provider, i.e., your company, can offer to do it themselves. If you're a lean team, you should have a services partner that does it for you. I recommend every company to explore managed services.

Jan Young, Principal Consultant @ The Success League

When you have a large number of customers with small teams that can't do timely onboarding, it would be safe to say that this account is an “at-risk” account now.

Here are some suggestions for at-risk customers:

  1. Let them know. Share your concern with them and ask how you can get them back on track.  
  2. Estimate how long it will take for them to finish their tasks, and always ask how you can help.
  3. At this point, maybe you don't charge them for this help yet, since you risk them coming back to you later to say they are six months in, haven't used the product, and want their money back.
  4. Is the executive stakeholder/buyer directly responsible for working on the implementation? If not, be sure that person is in the loop and aware of your concerns. The earlier, the better!

We’d love to hear about everything that has helped you keep your customers motivated during the initial onboarding phase. Were there any approaches you or your onboarding and implementation teams have tried and tested? Share them with us!

To join in on more such remarkably insightful and honest conversations on customer onboarding and implementation, join Preflight. Find your community of leaders and practitioners managing customer onboarding, success, implementation, value delivery, and project management.

More resources

  1. A 'Readiness Kit' for customer onboarding 
  2. Customer education - the missing link to customer onboarding success
  3. How pre- and post-sales interactions impact your business
  4. How to leverage customer onboarding to reduce churn

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Usha Kalva
Community & Partnerships @ Rocketlane

Usha is a Community Manager at Preflight. She's been an EIR, runs a successful restaurant, and is inclined toward the social sciences. In a parallel universe, she'd have been a wildlife photographer.

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