Preflight Conversations

The Preflight LaunchPad: Featuring Donna Weber

Industry experts and professionals discuss how to enhance customer engagement and streamline customer onboarding processes.
March 4, 2024
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Mukundh Krishna

Recently, we hosted our first-ever Preflight LaunchPad session with Donna Weber, THE Customer Onboarding Expert. It was an exclusive and interactive session where attendees had a chance to distill key insights from their experiences of 2023 and translate them into actionable lessons for navigating 2024.

We explored strategies for streamlining processes to scale, optimizing handoffs, setting expectations, and delivering value quickly. The discussion also highlighted the importance of successful go-live transitions, sustaining momentum post-implementation, and charging for onboarding to enhance profitability.

Donna and the attendees identified key focus areas in 2024 to drive progress, leveraging collective experiences to overcome challenges and seize growth opportunities collaboratively.

Here are six key takeaways from the insightful session:

1. Streamlining and automating processes to scale

Navigating growth presents challenges for teams due to cumbersome processes that hinder scalability. Without streamlining onboarding processes, teams face inefficiencies and miscommunication, resulting in disjointed efforts and dissatisfied customers. Siloed operations worsen these problems, impeding collaboration and value realization.

To overcome these obstacles, teams should prioritize process optimization and automation. This involves identifying bottlenecks, standardizing procedures, and leveraging technology to streamline workflows. Breaking down silos and promoting cross-departmental communication is crucial for aligning efforts and providing consistent, high-quality service. Investing in customer education and establishing clear expectations can reduce misunderstandings and improve onboarding outcomes. Implementing change management strategies can facilitate smooth transitions and minimize disruptions during onboarding. By embracing a continuous improvement and collaboration culture, teams can enhance efficiency, drive value, and effectively navigate growth in the ever-evolving business landscape.

2. Handoffs and setting customer expectations

Improving handoffs and setting customer expectations during onboarding is top of mind for professionals. Without thorough interrogation and clarity at handoff points, teams encounter significant hurdles, including gaps in enablement within the sales team and inadequate communication of customer expectations. This can lead to prolonged onboarding times, as customers may pause due to misunderstanding their commitments or the level of involvement required from their end.

During customer onboarding, teams must prioritize proactive communication and education. This involves delving deeper into customer needs, identifying potential dependencies, and clarifying responsibilities upfront. Encouraging customers to take ownership of their dependencies and ensuring they understand the value proposition beyond the initial launch are key strategies for fostering successful onboarding experiences.

Moreover, shifting the focus from achieving bare minimum requirements to delivering comprehensive value can enhance long-term customer satisfaction and retention. Identify a champion on the customer's side and empower them to become platform experts who can help you drive product engagement on the customer's side.

By addressing these challenges head-on and implementing streamlined processes, teams can elevate their customer onboarding experience and drive sustainable success for both customers and the organization.

Here are some best practices for spotting your customer champion and enhancing product engagement.

3. Reducing time-to-value for customers

Time-to-value (TTV) is crucial for organizations to understand the customer journey from initial sale to value realization. The onboarding process is akin to a journey, with distinct phases mirroring customer expectations and experiences. Each phase presents unique challenges and opportunities, from needs identification to value realization. However, companies risk encountering significant delays and customer dissatisfaction without streamlined processes. Common signs of dissatisfaction include:

  1. Prolonged project kickoffs
  2. Unexpected resource requirements
  3. Discrepancies between demo presentations and actual product experiences
  4. Confusion regarding training and documentation

To improve TTV, companies must adopt proactive strategies like tracking project milestones, addressing internal inefficiencies, simplifying processes to reduce complexity, prioritizing customer-centricity, and fostering transparent communication. Leveraging tools like Rocketlane can streamline collaboration, eliminate information silos, and accelerate TTV. Prioritizing customer success and optimizing onboarding processes helps companies enhance customer satisfaction, drive value, and achieve sustainable growth.

4. First-value delivery

First-value delivery has emerged as a focal point for teams striving to demonstrate immediate customer impact and value. However, as emphasized by industry experts, the journey doesn't end with first value. Indeed, teams often face significant challenges once customers have achieved initial success. This phenomenon, aptly dubbed "the cliff", underscores the critical need for sustained engagement and ongoing value delivery beyond the initial onboarding phase. Organizations risk stagnation and diminished long-term value without a holistic approach to customer onboarding and success. 

In 2024, teams should extend their focus beyond merely attaining first value, refining their onboarding approach, and leveraging insights from past experiences to identify and prioritize the right metrics. You can proactively address challenges and opportunities beyond the initial milestone by shifting your perspective to encompass the entire customer journey. This forward-thinking approach enhances customer satisfaction and drives sustained growth and loyalty in the competitive landscape.

5. Go-live and beyond - driving product adoption and usage

The transition from go-live to sustained product adoption and usage marks a critical juncture in the customer journey. While achieving launch milestones is undoubtedly significant, true success lies in driving ongoing value and transformation within customer organizations. Simply getting customers to launch does not guarantee continued engagement or meaningful usage of our product. This often likened to encountering a 'cliff' post-launch, should prompt teams to reevaluate their approach and prioritize strategies for driving sustained adoption and usage.

Comprehensive support systems are needed to empower customers to maximize your product's potential. This entails developing tailored resources and initiatives focused on educating customers on product capabilities, fostering marketing strategies, and facilitating transformational outcomes within their organizations. By shifting your focus from mere launch milestones to empowering customers for long-term success, you are poised to drive meaningful impact and value beyond the initial implementation phase. This forward-looking approach enhances customer satisfaction and retention and positions you as a trusted partner in your customers' journey toward growth and innovation.

Clearly define what constitutes onboarding, ensuring alignment on objectives and outcomes. Focus on facilitating successful launches and driving user adoption to avoid drop-offs and ensure customer satisfaction.

6. Charging for your onboardings and implementations

Transitioning from including onboardings and implementations in purchase plans to offering paid implementation services presents a pivotal shift in customer engagement. The decision to explore paid implementation stems from recognizing the inherent value customers place on services they invest in. When implementation services are treated as an additional paid offering rather than a bundled component, there's a significant difference in customer behavior, and it is a lot easier for teams to get executive buy-in from the customer's end. This shift enhances customer accountability and aligns incentives for timely completion of onboarding processes and success.

While still in the early stages of implementation, there's a direct correlation between paid implementation and increased customer commitment. The shift towards charging for implementation services has sparked discussions surrounding resource allocation and the true cost of prolonged engagements in most organizations. 

As exemplified by ongoing projects exceeding typical timelines, the shift towards paid implementation underscores the importance of aligning customer expectations with the resources and efforts required for successful outcomes. Teams can introduce a pricing model that incentivizes timely progress and aims to drive greater efficiency and value for customers and their organization. 

Ultimately, this shift reinforces the principle that value is inherently tied to investment, prompting customers to prioritize and commit to the success of their implementations.

Bonus: Show the impact customer onboarding and implementation have on the business's bottom line

Reflecting on the challenges of 2023, it's clear that customer onboarding and implementation teams must demonstrate their impact on the business's bottom line. Historically undervalued, onboarding initiatives are often overlooked during budget reviews. To bridge this gap, you must quantify the financial impact of customer onboarding and implementation efforts. Frame discussions regarding revenue generation and cost savings and communicate your role in driving business success.

For example, charging for onboarding services generates revenue and accelerates revenue recognition. Similarly, reducing onboarding time can lead to substantial revenue gains. By quantifying these impacts, such as recognizing an additional $400,000 in revenue annually through shortened onboarding timelines, you can highlight the tangible value customer onboarding brings to the organization, securing greater recognition and support for your initiatives.

What are some key areas to focus on to move the needle in 2024?

1. Scaling training and continued success

Explore one-to-many training approaches and enhance an online guide for self-service onboarding. Streamline processes to handle increased training demands, especially for lower-tier plans efficiently.

2. Reducing time to onboard

Aim to shorten the onboarding cycle to a 90-day timeframe. Understand the cost implications of the current onboarding duration and strategize changes to achieve the desired reduction.

3. Driving adoption and increasing customer engagement

Clearly define what constitutes onboarding and adoption, ensuring alignment on objectives and outcomes. Focus on facilitating successful launches and driving user adoption to avoid drop-offs and ensure customer satisfaction.

Preflight members share four strategies to improve product adoption.

4. Measuring onboarding success and value

Refine metrics to measure time-to-value based on actual return on investment and meaningful engagement, rather than just platform usage. Establish a comprehensive understanding of value across different customer personas and use cases, emphasizing the why behind the product purchase.

5. Develop change management strategies

Develop strategies to transition customers from legacy products to newer solutions smoothly, emphasizing efficiency and cost savings. Prioritize change management efforts to address resistance and ensure an understanding of the benefits and value of the new solutions.

By focusing on these areas, you can drive tangible improvements in customer onboarding, adoption, and overall business success in 2024.

Q & A

What are some lessons that you wish that you had learned earlier on in your implementation journey?

Customers, in their quest for comprehensive solutions, sometimes lose sight of the specific capabilities a product offers. This can lead to frustration and misalignment of expectations during onboarding.

As implementers and onboarders, guiding customers towards understanding the possibilities and solutions the product provides becomes paramount. Instead of fixating on product features, the focus should be on the potential and opportunities the product unlocks for the customer. Foster transparent communication with customers and manage expectations effectively to ensure a seamless customer journey towards successful product adoption.

What are some strategies to re-engage with ghosted customers?

When dealing with ghosted customers, the key lies in delivering tangible value promptly. Mere check-ins or routine meetings often fail to captivate customers. Instead, establish a success plan tailored to their objectives and outcomes. Break down the onboarding process into digestible phases, so customers can experience incremental value quickly, fostering excitement and sustained interest.

The journey towards meaningful engagement involves understanding customer needs and refining the value delivery process accordingly. Whether it's empowering them to generate their first report or sparking joy through newfound capabilities, the goal is to create a curated experience that leaves customers eagerly anticipating each interaction. Ultimately, by offering a well-crafted, value-driven journey, businesses can ensure sustained engagement and build enduring customer relationships.

What do you do when customers aren’t actively engaging post-onboarding?

If customers are not engaging right from the start, after onboarding and kickoff, it becomes important to find ways to demonstrate the value you offer. This involves interacting and connecting with them effectively. Failing to engage customers during the initial interactions, or even subsequent ones, can result in customer churn.

Even if implementing a paid onboarding model, emphasize the customer journey ahead even before the deal is finalized. It is like a triathlon, customers need to understand the effort required beyond just crossing the finish line. Prepare stakeholders through handoff meetings and collaborative success plans to ensure alignment between buyer expectations and implementation realities.

Address potential risks and establish clear escalation procedures for proactive problem-solving. Immediate communication with stakeholders regarding challenges maintains transparency and accountability throughout the process. Charging for onboarding also ensures financial sustainability for the company and shifts the dynamic with customers, positioning the onboarding team as a value-added service rather than a cost center.

When should the onboarding and implementation manager be introduced to the customer?

Involve the onboarding and implementation professional earlier in the sales process to significantly enhance customer success outcomes and better understand client needs and objectives. This allows for tailored training sessions aligned with client expectations.

Anticipate client requirements well in advance to prepare  comprehensive training materials and ensure that training sessions are strategically structured to address specific client needs. Tangible metrics demonstrating the impact of training, such as adoption rates and ticket resolution times, can further emphasize the value of early involvement and tailored training approaches.

How to scale your onboarding process while maintaining higher levels of customer retention?

One key aspect is to instill excitement and engagement among users undergoing the onboarding process, especially when the change may not align with their initial preferences. Utilize innovative strategies to captivate users and highlight the benefits the new system will bring in. Implement personalized communication and support mechanisms tailored to individual user needs, to foster a sense of empowerment and ownership over the onboarding journey.

Moreover, transitioning from one-to-many approaches to even broader scalability requires a refined and streamlined onboarding framework. This may involve reevaluating current processes, leveraging automation and technology solutions, and optimizing resource allocation to ensure efficiency and effectiveness at scale.

What happens when a customer side champion leaves?

To ensure smooth transitions and consistent support for our champions, stakeholders, and leadership team, make an effort to establish multiple individuals in these roles. This means that if someone were to leave or if there are changes on the client side, the impact is minimized. Aim to have more than one point of contact (POC) within the leadership team. This ensures that in the case of unforeseen circumstances, you have another advocate or contact readily available within the company.

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Shuvedha Subramaniam
Content Marketer @ Rocketlane

Marketing analyst @ Rocketlane. An Advocate by choice and a penwoman for the love of it. When the world zips, I like to zoink. Also, being happy by being kind.

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