What no one told you about scaling your customer onboarding team: Jerry Henry for Propel22

How to think about scaling an onboarding team: metrics, hiring, and more
Kirthika Soundararajan
March 17, 2022
Propel22
Main Illustration:
Sivaprakash

What no one told you about scaling your customer onboarding team: Jerry Henry for Propel22

How to think about scaling an onboarding team: metrics, hiring, and more
Kirthika Soundararajan
March 17, 2022
Propel22
Main Illustration:
Sivaprakash

In This Post

In his Propel22 session, Jerry Henry, Director of Professional Services and Onboarding at Sendoso, talks about the lessons he learned from scaling Sendoso’s customer onboarding team.

Jerry scaled his team from 3 to 15 people in 1.5 years while also reducing the time taken to complete onboarding projects by 35% and significantly improving Sendoso’s CSAT score.

He talked about over-segmentation, forecasting for headcount, data-driven process changes, and how to provide a consistent experience for both onboarders and your customers.

This article provides key insights from the session.

Understand your company’s goals

Jerry recommends understanding your company’s scaling goals and then figuring out how the onboarding team can work with that.

During the early stages, CSMs are probably the catchall folks, handling onboarding as a part of their function. However, as you grow, this will not be sustainable. You need different processes. This is when you need to look at processes that can be made repeatable so they are easy to scale. Questions you need to answer:

  1. Do you need to segment your team with clearly defined responsibilities?
  2. Do you need specific tools to scale the processes?
  3. What mindset shift does your team need?

At Sendoso, they understood that CSMs handling onboarding is not scalable and that they needed to build a dedicated onboarding team. They started with three pioneer onboarders who took the risk to move from CSM into full-time onboarding. Creating an onboarding team helped them crystallize what they needed to focus on: getting customers up and running. The team currently has 15 members.

Segment onboarding projects to scale

Next, Jerry moved the onboarding process into a segmentation model. He understood that different categories of customers, such as enterprise and SMB customers had different pain points and needs and therefore needed different onboarding plans and processes. They made sure they segmented their onboarding in three aspects:

  1. Process
  2. Tools
  3. Mindset

Use metrics to measure success

Once you understand how the process and tools work, it’s time to become data-driven. Sendoso tracks the following data points:

  1. Time to completion of onboarding: Sendoso reduced their time to completion from 75 days to 43 across segments
  2. ARR: As you continue to grow the company and secure more funding, your deal sizes are bound to increase. You need to evaluate how that will impact your onboarding process. Track and link the time to completion to the ARR to understand the value that customers receive from onboarding
  3. Activation vs. utilization: Sendoso treats them as huge milestones. Sendoso uses the pay-per-seat pricing model; they shifted from focusing on getting more people to simply sign into their platform to focusing on how many people are utilizing the tool. They try to understand how to get users to utilize the tool more. For instance, Sendoso incentivized their users to use their tool over just activating their accounts.
  4. The number of customers per onboarder: Jerry noticed that each onboarder was handling close to 25 accounts at one point. They resorted to being reactive instead of proactive in their customer relationships. Jerry saw that reducing the number of customer accounts per onboarder to 15 increased the overall CSAT scores for Sendoso and increased utilization rates.
  5. CSAT: CSAT is the customer’s honest opinion of their onboarding experience. If you don’t track CSAT, you will not know what is working for your onboarding, what is not, what needs to be changed, etc. Tracking CSAT helped Sendoso gain these insights and improve their CSAT every quarter by tweaking processes.
  6. Sales leads: Understanding how many customers the sales team is bringing in and ensuring the onboarding team members do not have more than 15 customers each helped maintain the quality of the onboarding experience and the CSAT. Knowing the targets also helped Jerry hire ahead to make sure there we enough people on the team to handle the customers coming in

Have a single source of truth

Having a central data source provides visibility to your executive leaders, your team, and you. Sendoso built an extensive dashboard that shows important metrics such as time to completion, ARR, utilization, number of onboarding projects per team member, CSAT, etc. This helped Jerry and his team use data-backed insights to present requests for hiring, etc., to the executive team.

Hire right

The next important aspect of scaling a team is hiring. Here is how Jerry looks at hiring:

  1. Lead with culture fit. The skills and tech knowledge required for the role can be learned. But you can’t teach behaviors through training. You can’t change people. You can change their skillset. So Sendoso prioritizes culture fit.
  2. Have an interview panel with members focusing on different competencies. Sendoso’s onboarding function generally has a four-people interview panel, all of them onboarders. Each interviewer focuses on a specific core competency, such as technical knowledge, culture fit, prospects for growth within the company, etc.
  3. Work with the recruiting team to build a candidate pipeline. If your team cannot add enough people soon, they are going to feel burnt out. Thanks to The Great Resignation, there are a lot of candidates out there today. You need to distinguish your company to stand out among the rest. Sendoso sends branded goods, e-gifts, zen gardens, etc., to welcome the new employees, to make them feel comfortable ahead of time.
  4. Be proactive about helping new employees assimilate quicker. Sendoso also has a 30-60-90 day employee onboarding plan that helps get their new employees up to speed about the company, their team, and their role. Sendoso’s onboarding team has a 98% retention rate, indicating that they have committed team members and that Sendoso has made the experience enjoyable.

Help team members feel empowered

You need to make individuals feel like they are a part of the team and have a say in how things are done. Here are tips for onboarding leaders to empower team members:

Democratize process changes

As a leader, if you change a process, but you’re not the one in the trenches, you will probably not understand what is going on. Ensure your team has all the required inputs on any new, significant process. Managers at Sendoso do start-stop-continue meetings every quarter. They evaluate what they aren’t doing but need to start doing, what they need to drop, and what works well and needs to be continued. 

Let team members have a say in who your hire

As the leader, you may not be working with the team members side-by-side every day. Ensure that the rest of the team has a say in who you hire.

Prefer promoting team members over bringing in a new leader

Pick leaders from within the team. Sendoso helps team members understand what they need to do to grow their careers at Sendoso; Sendoso has also invested in learning platforms to help team members upskill. Even if not within Sendoso, they set their team members up for success as an onboarding professional

Delegate strategic projects

Empower your team members to take on strategic projects such as process changes. Sendoso includes the team leads and managers from their onboarding function in cross-functional meetings to gain visibility and provide the onboarding point of view for decisions.

TL;DR

Here are quick takeaways from the session:

  1. Understand company goals: How do they want to scale? How will onboarding contribute?
  2. Link your team’s KPIs to the company’s OKRs
  3. Take stock of processes, put in new ones where required
  4. Look at metrics every quarter, and check for improvements and changes. Use the data to make further improvements and decisions
  5. Make data-driven hiring decisions
  6. Have a good hiring process
  7. Empower your team for their career growth

More resources from industry leaders and experts

  1. Propel22 recordings
  2. Implementation Stories
  3. Preflight Conversations
  4. The Launch Station - a podcast for all things customer onboarding
  5. Customer onboarding resources from Rocketlane

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

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Kirthika Soundararajan
Content Marketer @ Rocketlane

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

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