Customer Onboarding

Get your Customer Onboarding right- Star Hofer

Star Hofer is the VP of Customer Success at PartnerStack. She’s Top 100 Customer Success Strategist (2021 & 2020). She is an experienced CS professional with over 18 years of SaaS implementations in multiple roles: Project Management, Consulting, Training, Account Manager, and Customer Success.

PartnerStack enables companies to accelerate growth through partnerships. It automates the toughest parts of running a partner program and is designed to keep partners engaged long-term, so you can drive predictable, recurring revenue.

Here, she talks about the best practices to get the perfect Customer Onboarding.

Can you define successful onboarding?

When the customer can start to realize the value based on the impact that was promised

What are the ingredients of a perfect customer onboarding?

Agreed outcomes and timelines, time prioritized on both size and the resources to drive the change.

What are the KPIs and metrics you track for onboarding?

  • Time to Graduate (the time it takes to get the customer through onboarding)
  • Time to Value (the time it takes for the customer to recognize value)
  • CSAT and CSAT response rate
  • At-Risk and stalled customers
  • # of projects active per rep
  • A pipeline of each stage (%) (this allows us to ensure we have a flow instead of a bottleneck. This keeps resources well balanced)

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

The stages should be the same, however; the experience should be personalized based on the use cases the customer is looking to onboard. 

Additional Read: Customer Onboarding Framework

What happens if customer onboarding goes wrong?

  • If you catch it soon enough, put the customer back on the ideal path through conversation and understanding of the problem.
  • If you are late, you see if you can do a retrospective and indicate key learnings so it is not repeated. Having a retrospective with a customer on the onboarding experience can be a great exercise too if the customer is willing.

Top 5 mistakes that you have seen/made

  • Not understanding why they purchased the product and what problem they are looking to solve
  • Too systematic and not catering to different learning styles
  • The customer is unsure of the path they will go through in onboarding
  • Expectations are not set early in the journey and the fear to say no + why
  • Not clear on the resources they will need to drive the change in their organization.

How do you know that you’re off track?

If they are in a stage too long, when they express their frustrations and when they ask for something that was a clear surprise.

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

Depends on the product-

  • If the product can be activated in 5 minutes and is a very transactional product, I would automate the experience.
  • In case the product requires some configuration or setup, I would do remote or in-person.
  • If the customers’ demographics are more mature, it may be best to do it in person – especially if the solution is complex.

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

A tricky question really! Pre-sales to set the stage of what the experience will be and how to prepare for onboarding.

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

Documentation and housekeeping are the keys!!

Do you have different strategies for different segments of customers?

No, not yet.

When & how escalations should work?

Depends on the segment and the situation. 

Who should be responsible for customer onboarding?

Onboarding Team

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

They are a team of specialists who focus on the onboarding experience. 

What are the strategies you deploy for customer onboarding? 

  • Consistency on the stages they will step through (pre-sales and through the CS journey).
  • A readiness kit to prepare the customer.
  • Clearly outlining the next steps and calls after each one.
  • Documentation or visibility into the stages completed and stages to go.
  • Being clear upfront about what is required for each stage and the measures of success – ideally agreed upon with the customer.

Can customer onboarding be automated?

Yes for the right product and different stages.

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

For products that require a consultation to map their needs to the solution, a person is required. If you have a complex product where the setup can impact the result, a person should fill the role. 

Tips for leaders while setting up the onboarding process. 

  • Put yourself in the customer shoes and step through the experience yourself
  • Interview past customers to understand what works and what does not
  • Think of all learning styles
  • Consider different company maturities
  • Make the experience easy to explain

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.