As the world is moving towards a subscription economy, all the post-sales functions (customer onboarding, customer success, customer support, renewals etc) are increasing in importance. Out of all the post-sales functions, customer onboarding is one of the critical functions that decides how fast your company will grow. No matter how good your product or your sales team is, if the customer is unable to gain value during onboarding, s/he is likely to churn. Thus, to make sure that you provide a proper onboarding, it is important to have a customer onboarding checklist.
But what should be the focus during the onboarding process?
The focus of onboarding should be to help the customer reach an early value as soon as possible. But you have to make sure that the onboarding process is as smooth as possible and the customer has to put in the least effort from his/her side.
It is important to understand that not only should a customer be able to achieve an early value but the customer experience should be pleasant also.
For example, you have decided to order furniture for your office from a certain manufacturer. The price and quality of the furniture are good. But you always have to follow up with the manufacturer and s/he also has a grumpy nature. Will you still proceed with the order?
Suggested Read: Designing a Customer Onboarding Framework for B2B SaaS
What if there is another manufacturer who provides the same quality at a little higher price but s/he is a nice person to work with? Who will you choose?
At the end of the onboarding process, there should be product adoption from the customer’s end. Onboarding is not just the timely completion of steps. If a customer has completed all the steps that are in the onboarding process but there is no product adoption that means the onboarding is unsuccessful.
Hence, the onboarding process should aim to achieve 3 things:
- A Customer should be able to get an early value.
- The customer has to put in the least effort to get that value.
- There is product adoption at the end of the onboarding process.
What is a customer onboarding checklist?
To make sure, each customer achieves all the 3 things, a client onboarding checklist is required.
Though each customer segment will have a different onboarding process, some essential tasks are common for everyone.
An onboarding checklist consists of all these essential tasks.
Here are some of the items that should be in your onboarding checklist:
1. Welcome email
This is common across companies in other fields also. Congratulate them on choosing your product along with introducing yourself. Also, instead of giving too much information that may overwhelm the customer, just give them the basic information along with the link to the knowledge source (or FAQs) so that they can learn more about the product.
Finally, make sure to schedule a kick-off call with your customer so that the onboarding process can be officially started.
2. Kick-off call
Here the agenda should be to make sure what the customers expect and what you can deliver are agreed upon. Based on the requirements of the customer, you discuss with them what the onboarding process will be like and what the expected timeline will be.
Key outcomes and deliverables should also be discussed. Since, we are talking about B2B SaaS companies, how and who will manage integrations and send the data also needs to be discussed.
Also, you should teach the customer the important features of your product that will be helpful for the customer to achieve his/her early goal. This will enable the customer to log into the product and start using it.
After the call, the timeline along with the deliverables can be shared via email.
3. Product onboarding call
Once, all the important integrations are done, the customer is ready to use the product. Make sure you help the customer reach an early goal (deliverables as discussed earlier) as soon as also possible.
Teach the customer not only the different features but also the concept behind the features so that they themselves see value in why things are done in a certain way.
Make sure the customer understands and is convinced of the path to reach the early goals. If s/he has any doubts, you should clear them at the start. Only if the customer is convinced of the process, both the customer’s and your efforts will be fruitful.
4. Educational Emails
Everything should not be taught to the customer at once. If you try to teach a customer too many things, s/he might get confused. Onboarding should be done in a step by step method.
Customer success platforms help you know which customer is at what stage of onboarding, how much they are using the product, etc.
As the customer completes each step, send him/her an email, congratulating them and informing them about the next step.
If the customer’s usage drops (can be notified through alerts in a customer success software), send them help articles regarding the topic. You should also call the customer so that you can discuss issues that they are unable to solve and help them overcome the roadblocks.
5. Checkup call
Even if the customer is achieving all the milestones and everything is going as per plan, make sure you call your customer at least once during the onboarding process to make sure they do not face any untoward difficulties and the process is smooth for them.
Now, let us discuss an example of how you should approach an onboarding process. Assume that an onboarding process is designed for a CRM and the customer use case is to forecast revenues. Various steps and timeline for each of the steps are decided from the start.
|Onboarding Playbook (Use Case #1): Forecast|
|Onboarding Steps||Timeline||Success managers tasks (Playbook)||Customer tasks||Product Adoption (Milestones)||Value (Health)||Resources|
|Step 1||Day 1||Setup CRM instance|
|Step 2||Day 1||Share access with the customer||Logged In|
|Step 3||Day 2||Check if current pipeline data is available in excel format||Excel Upload template|
|Step 4||Day 5||Share Pipeline (excel format)|
|Step 5||Day 5||Upload current pipeline data from Excel to CRM||Upload completed||How to Upload (Video)|
|Step 6||Day 10||Setup Forecast Reports||Forecast report setup|
|Step 7||Day 12||Walk the users through the report||Attend the session||Forecast report viewed||Forecast Viewed|
|Step 8||Day 15||Forecast report Shared||Forecast Shared|
|Step 9||Day 20||Feedback|
Tasks are also defined for the Customer Success Manager and the customer. Once all steps are followed, the customer crosses specific milestones. If you wish to get an actionable plan for setting up your Onboarding process, check out the Customer Onboarding Framework here!
But customer onboarding is not complete only if all the tasks or the milestones are crossed. The onboarding process is successful only if the customer has achieved value. So if the customer has crossed the milestones but not viewed the forecast report, that means the onboarding process is not successful.
Hence, successful onboarding leads to the customer getting some value and not just timely completion of the steps. And better onboarding experience leads to higher renewals rates for a recurring revenue business.