building business through customer onboardingThis is part 1 of a two-part guest blog post by Elizabeth McAuley-Italiano of WnTD Partners.

Building your organization for scale is one of the most critical factors in the long-term success and overall health of a business, particularly for SaaS businesses. One area that we are most commonly asked about at WnTD is how to scale the customer onboarding process. Customers are often won over or lost in the first 90 days of their post-sale journey. It’s a crucial step to get right and it can have a massive impact on your customer’s success and your organization’s bottom line.

Particularly in today’s subscription economy customers can come and go with relative ease. When customers have a smooth onboarding period that results in realizing value from their purchase the following outcomes are likely for your organization:

  1. They are more likely to spend additional money with your company by adding users or upgrading their license. At the very least they are more likely to renew
  2. They require less ongoing support over the long term. They start using your product correctly and effectively right out of the gate

These two benefits will improve your revenue and your cost to serve.

I’d like to dive a little deeper into one of the points made above. I talked about customers ‘realizing value from their purchase’. CS professionals often call this, the first time to value. This is a critical component to think about in your onboarding journey. You want to have deliberate steps that will get your customers to not only use your product but use it to the point of achieving value. Your organization should be asking what is the Required Customer Journey that will get our customers to realize their first time to value?

This is the first step towards successful product adoption and creating a pattern of usage. CS professionals often talk about making customers ‘sticky’ in order to reduce the potential of churn. However, expecting customers to move towards becoming sticky without a solid onboarding process is kind of like expecting to steer a rowboat without paddles. You are at the mercy of external factors and that’s not a good place to be.

Ok, so we now know that onboarding and achieving first time to value is important … But you may be asking yourself ‘how do you scale this thing!?’.

Glad you asked! Let’s dive into how.

Our evaluation of the customer journey often has a heavy focus on the onboarding process because it lays the foundation for ongoing customer communication and the engagement framework. To have an effective engagement framework it’s important to evaluate the makeup of your customer base so you can determine the best way to engage with them. Scaling your onboarding process sometimes requires reviewing your customer segmentation. If your customer base is varied from small business owners with a single user to enterprise customers with hundreds of users you will likely need to tailor elements of your onboarding process for each customer segment. This will help to inform your customer engagement framework. We often break our engagement framework model into three segments and methods:

  1. High touch
  2. Low touch
  3. Tech touch

Breaking out your engagement model into these distinct categories of engagement methods is one of the most effective ways to scale onboarding. Let’s start with describing each in more detail:

  • High Touch is a 1:1 engagement model and is generally aligned with your high-value target market customers that require frequent 1:1 proactive communication. These are the customers you want to establish a partner and advisor relationship with. An example, of when this is the Required Customer Journey is when you have a client with a large user base, integrations that make setup and onboarding more complex, and numerous use cases.
  • Low(er) touch is typically for customers that represent a large volume of your customer base, but with relatively lower contract amounts. Individually these clients are a small portion of revenue but cumulatively make up a material portion of your monthly or annual recurring revenue (MRR/ARR). Low touch is where the designing process for scale is most critical. It is a combination of proactive tech touches (often referred to as 1:Many reach outs) with less frequent 1:1 communication with a CSM.
  • Tech touch is leveraging technology to communicate to large groups of your customers with a 1:Many process. For example, this can be done through campaigns to inform of a new product feature, or by emails that are pre-written and triggered to send to customers based on product usage, or webinars put on by a CS team member for a group of customers. It is used in a combination of scenarios, which we get into in more detail in our best practices below, but for now suffice it to say it’s a 1:Many customer outreach model that helps you scale across a broad customer base. It is also particularly important for customers that are not within your ideal product-market fit. It allows you and your CSMs to focus time and attention on your customers that are within your target market fit that can be successful with your solution over the long term. You should be selling to the right customers anyway, but we’ll leave that topic for another day.

It’s important to note that low touch and 1:Many engagement models and methods are not for the purpose of avoiding speaking to customers. If time was not a finite resource we could offer the same level of 1:1 communication to all customers, however, that is not the reality. That’s why it’s so critical to evaluate each customer segments’ Required Customer Journey and provide an engagement framework that is a variety of high, low and tech touch methods that have the explicit purpose of helping customers achieve first time to value and product adoption.

Want to learn more about WnTD Partner’s recommended Onboarding Best Practices? Tune in next week for Part 2 of this blog series!

About the Author

onboarding author pic
Elizabeth Italiano is the Founder of WnTD and the creator of the Customer Success Master Class Series. Previous to starting WnTD she worked for organizations such as Xerox, Salesforce and Vend POS. Her career and passion for Customer Success began 10 years ago. Elizabeth’s expertise encompasses creating and implementing Customer Success strategies that start at the go-to-market strategy, through to renewal and expansion sales. She helps organizations increase revenue, reduce churn and decrease the cost to serve. The combination of her experience and passion for CS allows her to help create customer-centric cultures that scale across the entire business. She is a firm believer that Customer Success is a business imperative that’s quickly becoming one of the most important business disciplines to master, which is why she created the Customer Success Master Class and WnTD. 

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