Customer Onboarding

Get your Customer Onboarding right- Andrew Marks

Andrew Marks is the President & COO of SuccessHACKER and SuccessCOACHING. He’s one of the Top 100 Customer Success Strategists.  SuccessHACKER is a Customer Success advisory firm focused on providing education, recruiting, and consulting to high-growth companies. Here, he talks about the steps to get a perfect customer onboarding.

Andrew Marks

What are the ingredients of a perfect customer onboarding?

It starts with appropriate and accurate expectation setting during the marketing and sales phase; followed by a strong transition to post-sales with a thorough transfer of information; definition and quantification of the measures of success; a well thought out and documented success plan that includes identification of the Key Actions that both vendor and customer need to achieve to move closer to the defined measures of success (including names, and dates); and active participation and engagement by customer resources critical to value being attained.

What are the KPIs and metrics you track for onboarding?

Time to value; customer engagement; Key Actions (leading indicators); measures of success.

Should onboarding be different for different customers? What are the best practices & suggestions that you’d have for the same?

Yes and No. Regardless of how homogenous your product is, every customer is unique. Every customer is different. Your onboarding process should be prescriptive, yet flexible

What happens if customer onboarding goes wrong?

It could be the beginning or the end of your relationship. It is one of the most important and high-stakes moments of truth. If you can “save” a customer after a de-railed onboarding, it’s going to take a lot of effort, which draws your cycles away from other customers. If there is one thing you need to nail in the customer journey, it’s onboarding.

Additional Read: Customer Onboarding Framework

Top 5 mistakes that you have seen/made ?

Not in an order of importance: 

  • Poor expectation setting in the marketing/sales phase of the customer journey; 
  • Poor or no transfer of information between sales and post-sales teams;
  • Asking the customer the same questions that they already answered in the pre-sales experience; 
  • Post-Sales team members showing up with little knowledge of the customer or why they made the purchase;
  • Lack of a well-defined onboarding process or plan to achieve TTV; 
  • No or poorly defined definition(s) of success or first value; 
  • Lack of CSM’s being engaged in a program management role (overseeing an onboarding team); 
  • Lack of customer stakeholder engagement;

I could go on….

How do you know that you’re off track?

Not moving towards the key milestones that need to be achieved to hit the first value.

Automated vs Remote vs In person onboarding? Which one do you prefer and why?

It depends on your product and your customer base. I always prefer to automate as much as possible.

When should you start customer onboarding? (Pre-sales / Post Sales)

It depends on your product, customer, and segment.

Any tips on a handoff from sales to the onboarding team?

Make sure you have a handoff that provides the onboarding team with everything that sales know about the customer and why they’ve come to you to solve a problem. The worst thing you can do is have the team responsible for making the “promises” into “reality” asking the same questions that the sales team answered.

Do you have different strategies for different segments of customers?


When & how escalations should work?

It depends on the issue and the structure of your organization. This is a hard question to answer generically.

Who should be responsible for customer onboarding? 

Customer Success Team

Why should (the team you selected in the previous question) be held responsible for onboarding?

This is not an either-or question, and it’s another depends question. What I can tell you is that if specialization is required (e.g. an Onboarding Team), then the Customer Success team should be engaged in the process from the beginning.

What are the strategies you deploy for customer onboarding?

  • Expectation management;
  • Automation;
  • Change management tools for customer leaders;
  • Engagement;
  • Success plans

Can customer onboarding be automated?

Sure. Why not? Once again, it depends on your product and your customer.

According to you, which parts of Onboarding cannot be automated and which parts should not be?

Once again, it depends.

Tips for leaders while setting up the onboarding process. 

Don’t try and look for some cookie-cutter type of approach. Your onboarding process will and should be unique to you, your company, and your customer base. Also, don’t forget that there is a change management element here. Just as important as a solid onboarding process, you should invest some time and effort into developing a change management framework that can be applied to your customers to help them drive adoption so that you can avoid your onboarding process being all for nothing.

Customer Onboarding Template

Swagata is Head of Marketing at CustomerSuccessBox. Advocate for great customer experience. She is an avid traveler and when she is not working always on the lookout for new places to explore.