Customer Onboarding

Get your Customer Onboarding right- Maranda Dziekonski

Maranda (VandenBroek) Dziekonski is the Chief Customer Officer at Swiftly, Inc. She possesses over 20 years of experience both working in and building world-class operations and extensive experience building and scaling teams in early and mid-stage startups. Here, she talks about the best practices to get effective customer onboarding.

Maranda Dzeinkonski

SwiftlyInc. is a Data Platform that provides reliable data to 95+ city transit networks around the world and has helped customers improve arrival predictions by up to 30% and complete planning projects up to 90% faster. 

Can you define successful onboarding?

When a customer can successfully use and achieve value from your product and/or services. 

What are the ingredients of a perfect customer onboarding?

  • Clear goals, outcomes, and expectations that are mutually agreed upon.
  • Clear project management plan that both you and the customer agree on with defined responsibilities. 
  • Clear timelines and milestones.
  • A strong change management plan for the organization.
  • Training plan.
  • Ongoing support plan.
  • A strong handoff to a Customer Success Manager (if the CSM is not the one doing the onboarding)”

What are the KPIs and metrics you track for onboarding?

Core KPIs

  • Time to the first value
  • Post-implementation/onboarding NPS
  • Milestones achieved
  • Overall adoption (usage)

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

While it’s always best to try and keep your onboarding as uniform as possible for efficiency and scale, depending on your product and customer base, you may need to have different onboarding paths. 

To determine your needs, identify the ideal customer onboarding experience, what it would take to achieve that experience (both internal resources and customer investment), and the timeline in which you need to have onboarding complete. Once you have this documented, next you need to understand the minimum onboarding experience required to help customers get on the right path and achieve value. 

What happens if customer onboarding goes wrong?

Simply put, you should partner with your key sponsors at your customer to reset and restart. 

Top 5 mistakes that you have seen/made

  • Not setting up expectations with the customers what their Onboarding experience will be.
  • Not getting buy-in from the customer that onboarding experience meets their needs.
  • Not setting up established milestones and goals that show the customer, CS team, and the implementation engineer that the project is moving in the right direction. 
  • Not setting up a self-help, collateral and stuff like that helps customers to go out and self-learning on their own.
  • The biggest mistake happens before onboarding even starts. The sales team not setting up the right expectations about the product. 

How do you know that you’re off track?

  • Missing milestones
  • Not hitting the established goals
  • Your customers are not participating.
  • Your customers are not working through change management plans (if the product requires change management).

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

Honestly, this completely depends on the product, the revenue that you’re collecting, the onboarding fee (if any), etc.

If your product requires a lot of change management, remote or in-person onboarding is generally the best thing. Automated is best if Onboarding doesn’t require a lot of hand-holding or maneuvering. 

When you’re building out your onboarding program, always look at what can be automated immediately. Always find efficiencies in your onboarding program, what kind of tools you can use, processes you can set up, etc. Ensure that Onboarding is quick, simple, painless, and automate out as much as you can without degrading the customer experience.

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

This depends on your product and how much change management is required, but generally post-sales..

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

My team has created a form that is used to collect any information that we need in advance of starting the onboarding process such as:

  • The key stakeholders
  • The motive behind purchasing the product.
  • What the goals are
  • All other information that helps the customer get early value. 

Time to first value is very important in Onboarding. So any information “Sales team” may have that will help reduce the time to the first value should be collected. 

I’ll also add that it’s nice to have that handoff for ’Enterprise’ level or strategic customers over a Zoom call rather than just sending an email. 

Do you have different strategies for different segments of customers?

Yes. Everyone should be looking at desired customer outcomes and creating an experience that enables the different segments to arrive at those outcomes. Smaller customers who purchased a small part of your product may not need the same customer experience that a large customer with heavy change management needs. 

We love to give white-glove services to every customer but the problem is that it gets very expensive. So you have to figure out the desired outcome, desired experience, and back into that and see what you can deliver.

When & how escalations should work?

If there is any need for escalation in the onboarding phase this either means that:

  • Something is not going well within the product,
  • The milestones are not met,
  • Maybe there’s a misfit with what Sales sold and what the customer believes that they purchased.

So depending on why you’re having the escalation, you would want to loop in the parties that need to be involved. Sometimes it would need looping in Sales rep, or Customer Success Manager, or product manager, or customer, etc

Clearly, there’s no one size fits all answer. You need to understand why you’re escalating, who needs to be involved, and then prepare a plan to get the course-corrected. 

How do you solve visibility problems?

I do a couple of things. There’s a tool that an implementation manager has to update where the customer is on the Onboarding. We also put out a monthly dashboard that shows to the entire organization who’s in Onboarding and what phase of Onboarding they’re in. 

Who should be responsible for customer onboarding?

Customer Success Team and the Onboarding Team.

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

It’s important that the CSM starts building reports very quickly either at the end of the sale or post-sale. This way it makes them an accountable party to the success of the Onboarding. 

What are the strategies you deploy for customer onboarding? 

It depends on the type of Onboarding that’s being done. If you’re building Customer Onboarding for the first time, then go through the Onboarding yourself within your product as a customer. Understand the experience and then document the steps. 

Can customer onboarding be automated?

Yes and No. It depends on the product. There are a lot of products out there that have successfully automated their Onboarding process. Yet, there are products out there that require some kind of manual touch. It’s important to know which bracket you are in. What can you automate that can free up your implementation or Onboarding specialists’ time that’ll enable them to do things that are mission-critical to the success of your customer.

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

Anything that requires critical thinking, heavy change management, joint partnership, manual touch, etc. should not be automated. But again, as mentioned above there are products that have successfully automated 100% of their Onboarding. So yes, it depends. 

Tips for leaders while setting up the onboarding process.

I know it sounds repetitive. But start with the desired customer outcome and customer experience, what’s absolutely necessary and back into it from there. Understand what can be automated and what tools are out there for automation and how can you leverage those for efficiencies, so on and so forth. 

Lastly  make sure that you’re collecting feedback from your customer after every Onboarding and take those things into account while designing your process. 

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.