Implementation Stories

Decoding customer onboarding at Insent

The Insent team shares their approach to onboarding, their challenges, successes, and learnings from onboarding 50+ customers in two years
February 17, 2021
No items found.

In this session of Implementation Stories, we spoke to Prasanna Venkatesan, Co-founder and CTO, Insent, and Karthik K.V. and Shyam Ganapathy, both Customer Success Managers at Insent. Insent is an early-stage startup that offers a human-first chat platform for sales and marketing to midmarket and enterprise customers. 

One of the top three departments at Insent, Customer Success, is responsible for the entire post-sale journey, including customer onboarding and implementation. 

In this session, the Insent team shared their approach to onboarding, how they segment customers, their challenges, successes, and learnings from onboarding over 50 customers in two years. In the rest of this article, we share our key takeaways from the session. 

1. How Insent looks at Customer Success

Unlike traditional CS approaches that focus on account management and support, Insent’s CS function doesn’t just focus on renewals and growing the account or responding to support requests. The CS team is involved starting from day zero, focusing on making sure that customers get the best out of the product/service they offer. This involves proactively looking for customers’ issues and being their north star through the whole post-sale journey. 

In the early growth stages,  the Insent team does not have separate teams for Customer Success and Onboarding: The CS team handles everything — from onboarding to setting up customers for success to handling customer support.

2. Insent’s approach to customer onboarding and implementation: Stages and skills 

Since Customer Success at Insent is heavily focused on handholding the customer through the post-sale journey, the CS team needs to understand the technology and the product and the customer’s domain and business. 

Here are the key skills and traits needed for each stage of their implementation journey: 

  1. Solutioning: critical thinking, problem-solving, product expertise, expectation setting
  2. Implementation: people skills, coordination,prioritization, foresight
  3. Success: pro-active, critical thinking, foresight, grit
  4. Expansion: critical thinking, problem-solving, product expertise, expectation-setting

Classification of customers

The two approaches the Insent team takes to classify customers are based on the: 

1. ACV/ size of the organization/ revenue

2. The stage the customer is at based on their prior understanding of (or experience with) their product or a similar one. Gen-1 customers are those who are using a product like Insent for the first time. Gen-2 customers have used a similar product in the past. The Insent team has noticed the following key differences in each group’s approach to implementation and customer onboarding:

  1. Gen-1 customers have a basic to advanced use case.  They look at CS as Subject Matter Experts and expect CS managers to leverage their experience with other customers and domains to provide them the best practices and guidance. Gen-1 customers look at data for basic to advanced insights and decision-making.
  2. Gen-2 customers who have used similar products in the past look at the CS manager/team as a facilitator who will help them accomplish their goals. They also tend to make advanced data-driven decisions — they look at data to see why something is working and why something is not, or if tweaking something will have a better impact. 

The four stages of the implementation process 

Insent's customer implementation process before go-live includes four essential meetings/calls:

    1. Strategic alignment call: This focuses on introducing the teams, initiating relationship-building, understanding and establishing the use-case, and ensuring goal alignment. 

    2. Deep-dive call: This call focuses on how the platform is configured, the integrations and use-cases to be taken care of, and how the platform’s features can be used for the desired use-cases. 

   3. Testing call: The agenda covers open issues after integration and configuration have been completed, resolving them, and helping the customer realize the platform’s benefits. The stakeholders are the champions and managers from the customer end and the Sales and CS teams from Insent’s end. 

4. End-user training call: This call is focused on getting end-users to use the platform. 

During all of the above calls, the team lists all tasks/action items against owners and target dates. 

Though the four steps appear linear and fairly straightforward, they rely heavily on the activity happening in the background at both ends:

  1. At the customer end, these include identifying stakeholders, getting IT/Security approval, getting the necessary integrations in place, managing internal coordination, internal approval, and sign-off.
  2. At Insent’s end, these activities include internal coordination and platform configuration for the customer’s use case. 

Successes, challenges, learnings 

What has worked

Here are some of the steps and practices that helped the Insent team see success with customer onboarding: 

  1. Having stages and action items identified helped the team understand the pace needed for implementation and the tasks and activities that need to be done for each phase to lead smoothly to the next. 
  2. Tracking usage data: Tracking which features were being used and having metrics in place helped them identify the measurable value customers could derive.  This was easier because Insent has embedded these metrics into the product right at the start. This provided a way to present this ROI and value to customers as per the 30-60-90-day milestones.  
  3. Customers having easy access to CSMs: Insent’s customers know exactly how to reach the CS team. The team used their chat platform to enable communication between them and the customer. 
  4. Accessible and easy documentation: Customers had access to help guides and videos on Loom with clearly illustrated steps for product configurations and integrations. 

Challenges and best practices to avoid them

These were some of the challenges that the team faced and the best practices they have inculcated to work around them:  

Challenge #1: A mismatch between the product’s capabilities and customer expectations

Best practices:  A detailed handoff call led by Sales before onboarding. This goes a long way in avoiding this issue. The Insent team also uses an onboarding survey before the strategic alignment call to get insights on how the customer wants to use the platform.
The handoff and survey combination helps them have a sample plan for the strategic alignment call to set clear expectations before they start onboarding. 

Challenge #2: Customers picking complex use-cases, which in turn impact the go-live. 

Best practices: A phased approach to onboarding, with the first phase targeting quick wins first and advanced use cases being included later in the journey. They use their experience with other customers to suggest the right phased-scoping for the customer’s needs. This avoids the risk of delaying go-live and has helped Insent bring down the Time-To-First-Value from 90 days to two weeks. Even though the value delivered in the first phase is not deep or exponential, it makes customers familiar and comfortable enough with the platform to build confidence for advanced use cases. 

Challenge #3: Issues with PoC transitions at the customer end.

Best practices: Having the handoff documented and shared with key stakeholders 

Staying agile in an enterprise environment 

The phased approach to go-live helps the Insent team stay agile by demonstrating value to customers and resolving issues quickly and immediately. By focusing on the low-hanging fruits in the form of simpler and easier use-cases, they can show data on usage, best practices, etc., which they further use to iterate the implementation. 

Difference between implementation for midmarket and enterprise customers 

The level of service at Insent currently is the same across all segments. However, this is likely to change once they go beyond 100 customers and have enough data to customize their service offerings.  

One point of difference is that if the deal is a large enterprise one, the CS team is involved earlier —  right after the decision-maker buy-in at the customer end. For mid-market customers, the CS team is involved post the deal closure.

More resources

  1. Implementation Stories
  2. Preflight Conversations
  3. The Launch Station - a podcast for all things customer onboarding

Industry insights you won’t delete. Delivered to your inbox weekly.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Kirthika Soundararajan
Head - Content Marketing @ Rocketlane

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

You might also like...
Here are some other posts from us you may enjoy reading
Maximizing impact: Lean teams in large client rollouts
Learn to maximize impact with lean implementation teams and the process of scaling documentation and training for larger implementations.
Using the pre-sales phase as groundwork for customer onboarding
Alex Laverty, Director - CS @, talks about ensuring high user adoption post customer onboarding, and the Discovery Scorecard.
WebEngage's approach to complex customer onboarding journeys
Jharna talks about the huge role that onboarding plays in WebEngage's customer success journey

Move your service delivery into the fast lane

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.