Customer Onboarding

Getting your Customer Onboarding Right- Jeff Hackler

Customer onboarding is the equivalent of what we more commonly call entering a relationship.

This is a key step in the business relationship that will mark the beginning of a long story (hopefully) between your customers and your company.

It is crucial to pay particular attention to it since this essential period, made up of discovery or sometimes of doubts (at least on the side of your clients) will set the tone for your future collaboration. Onboarding is where you show the first value and it is all about momentum at the end of the day (science nerds will get it). 

How you start your Onboarding lays down the foundation of how your entire customer journey is gonna flow. Customer Success must remain hyper-vigilant during Onboarding to ensure that customers follow their set journey. 

Although a complicated subject, industry experts in this newsletter have distilled the information on Onboarding for you! This spans from low-touch to high-touch Onboarding builds on their experience, mistakes from the past, and some really saucy advice. We all know Onboarding is the real sauce to Customer Success, so let us get it right.

Following are the excerpts from the interviews conducted by us with Jeff Heckler, Andrew Marks, Star Hofer, Jay Nathan, Maranda (VandenBroek) Dziekonski, and Ankur Sethia. 

Let’s dive right into the interview without further ado!

Jeff Heckler is the Director of Customer Success Solutions at  MarketSource Inc.  He is a Senior Customer Success Leader with over 20 years of leading Customer Success, Professional Services, and customer-facing revenue teams. He’s one of the Top 25 Global CS Strategists & Influencers. Here he talks about strategies to get Onboarding right.

Jeff Heckler

Can you define successful onboarding?

When the customer receives: 

a.) the transition from Sales and a prospective customer to an ecosystem with Support/Customer Success/Marketing with the least friction and most positive experience possible, and

b.) the customer received value from products and services they invested in as early as possible which drives them to receive their desired First-Time-to-Value.

What are the ingredients of a perfect customer onboarding?

  1. Customer Responsibility/Buy-In
  2. Customer Success Authority/Autonomy
  3. Enablement Channels
  4. Investment of Time and Resources from both Customer and Vendor
  5. The Environment of Partnership
  6. Documented Goals, Milestones, KPIs, and Outcomes
  7. Tracking Platform

What are the KPIs and metrics you track for onboarding?

These all depend on the model, goals, products, and relationships.

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

Absolutely.  Onboardings need to have frameworks to enable scalability.  However, every onboarding is tailored for each customer.

What happens if customer onboarding goes wrong?

  • Own the errors
  • Clearly communicate.  
  • Define a new path forward
  • Share findings to ensure the error(s) do not repeat.  

Top 5 mistakes that you have seen/made

  1. Lack of dedicated time and resources,
  2. Lack of documented agreed goals,
  3. Poor internal relationship and communication between Sales and CS
  4. CS is not empowered to be an authority in the relationship
  5. Vendors sell outside of their ICP

How do you know that you’re off track?

1. Goals, outcomes, KPIs are immediately off-target, 

2. Kick-Off mtg demonstrates misalignment, 

3. No documentation or platform for CS.

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

It all depends on the overall environment.

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


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

  • Clear and stable documentation shared by all
  • Pre-sales sync meetings between CS and Sales
  • Shared CS and Sales platform
  • Co-owned touchpoints and meetings/communication

Do you have different strategies for different segments of customers?

Yes.  The combination of 1:1/FTF and enablement channels (digital CS, etc.).

When & how escalations should work?

Documented, defined ownership.

How do you solve visibility problems?

  • Escalate to management
  • Shared platform for all stakeholders
  • Abundance of communication

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?

Because they own the post-sales life of the customer.

What are the strategies you deploy for customer onboarding? 

  • Customer Responsibility/Buy-In
  • Customer Success Authority/Autonomy
  • Enablement Channels
  • Investment of Time and Resource from both Customer and Vendor
  • The Environment of Partnership
  • Document Goals,Milestones,KPIs and Outcomes
  • Tracking Platform

Can customer onboarding be automated?

Hopefully, yes.  At least in part. These all depend on the model, goals, products, and relationships.

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

These all depend on the model, goals, products, and relationships.

Tips for leaders while setting up the onboarding process. 

Start with your resource constraints and ideal Customer Journey Maps.

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.