We can all agree that getting customer onboarding—the first 90 days after the sale—right is critical to creating loyal customers. But, what exactly needs to take place to deliver an exceptional onboarding experience? We have broken onboarding down into five distinct stages:
STAGE 1: MOBILIZATION
The Mobilization Stage is initiated when the customer contract or agreement is signed. During this phase, the sales organization begins to transition the customer from the sales funnel into the customer onboarding process by handing them off to a designated Customer Onboarding Specialist.
The Customer Onboarding Specialist is responsible for:
- Ensuring a smooth knowledge transfer
- Getting to know the customer and their needs
- Setting goals for the project
In this phase, there are three key activities that can help to properly align to the customer and their needs:
Know your customer. Being prepared to talk about the topics at hand and showing that you understand market conditions will go a long way towards making them successful with your product/service offering and building a long lasting relationship with your company.
Prior to meeting with your customer, the Customer Onboarding Specialist should:
- Visit the customer’s website and get to know their products and/or services
- Set up Google Alerts to stay current with what is occurring in the customer’s organization and their industry
- Send customer relevant content (making sure to communicate the connection between the content and how your product/service can help them meet their challenges)
Develop a mutual Onboarding Success Plan. Having a mechanism to meet your customer where they are by co-creating an onboarding plan will go a long way towards eliminating headaches and avoiding a rocky start. The process of creating a plan together will act as a catalyst for a deep understanding of what led them to purchasing your product/service, clarification of their key business drivers, and establishment of their definition of success.
Set communication cadence: As you move from mobilization to design, it is also important to set a communication cadence with your key stakeholders. This will eliminate confusion, save time, and ensure the customer gets the tools and resources they need during each stage of their onboarding journey. (We recommend that you have your Customer Onboarding Specialist serve as the main point of contact during the first 90 days, with your account manager maintaining responsibility for the overall relationship.)
STAGE 2: DESIGN
During the Design Stage (~30 days), the Customer Onboarding Specialist works in partnership with the customer to create a system and a process (including training plans) that will quickly enable their organization to utilize the new offering.
STAGE 3: LAUNCH
In the Launch Stage (~30 days), the product or service is rolled out to the customer’s end users. The Customer Onboarding Specialist works closely with the customer to identify and address any issues that come up during the deployment process.
STAGE 4: ADOPTION
The Adoption Stage (~30 days) begins once the product or service is fully deployed. During this stage, end users are utilizing the application and are beginning to derive value from the product or service. The Customer Onboarding Specialist remains the single point of contact during this phase, engaging the Professional Services and Support teams when necessary.
STAGE 5: VALUE CREATION
Lastly, in the Value Creation Stage, the end users have optimized the use of the product or service. During this stage, it is crucial to provide executive management with visibility into how the product or service is impacting and optimizing your customer experience.
Creating a process that encompasses these five stages of onboarding is key to getting your customers to their desired outcome quickly and efficiently. If you do this well, you will create customers who not only stick with you, but also drive secondary revenue through upgrades, expansion and referrals.