The setting is all-too-common. Sales rings the gong making a new customer win official. Celebratory messages and high-fives are exchanged throughout the company. A moment of bliss!
Soon after, the customer onboarding team starts to ask questions. What did sales include in the deal? What dates were set for go-live? Does the client know what to expect from our client onboarding process?
We’re now in the most critical portion of the customer journey - the onboarding process. According to a report from McKinsey, poor client onboarding experiences account for 52% of the reasons that customers churn in the first 90 days. So what can teams do to decrease the risk of churn and avoid other new client onboarding pitfalls?
We want to spotlight 5 successful elements of a superb client onboarding checklist. These 5 best practices for customer onboarding were pulled from hundreds of conversations we’ve had with customer onboarding and implementation leaders, and we are going to share them with you.
What is customer onboarding?
Customer onboarding is the process of getting users to experience first-time value in your product. It includes making each initial user experience compelling, guiding each new or existing user through your product to navigate obstacles, and surfacing moments of delight. Having an efficient and thorough onboarding process has immediate and long-term benefits.
All customer onboarding and implementation processes are not the same, however. Some products allow for the user to self-onboard through a series of in-app prompts and tutorials. This is more commonly known as a low-touch or tech-touch onboarding process - one that does not require much human intervention.
Other products or services require a more robust new client onboarding process (or implementation process) spanning weeks or even months. These implementations are managed as a project with key milestones that need to be achieved in order to onboard groups of users after setup and configuration is complete. This is more widely known as a high-touch client onboarding process.
Why is client onboarding so important?
“You're going to be defined by your first 90 days. You've got to act.”
Jack Welch, former GE CEO
While the above statement from heralded thought leader and former GE CEO Jack Welch refers to new employees, the same principle applies to customer onboarding. The experience that you provide to customers in those first 90 days is critical.
According to statistics published by HubSpot, 63% of customers consider the company's onboarding program when purchasing. Customer onboarding is the critical first step to providing value to new customers. If time to value is delayed during the implementation process, confidence in your product decreases, and the likelihood of churn increases. Simply put, your new client onboarding process can lead to highly satisfied long-term customers, or it can quickly erode your revenue base.
What elements should a client onboarding checklist include?
While there are various ways to construct your client onboarding checklist, successful onboarding starts with some common best practices. Here are the 5 essential elements we’ve seen from the client onboarding checklists of leading customer onboarding organizations:
1. Introduce client onboarding teams before the sale closes
One of the most important elements of a successful client onboarding checklist happens before the sale even closes. If your product is one that requires a mid-to-high touch client onboarding process, your buyer will likely want to understand how the post-sale onboarding process will unfold.
By introducing key members from your client onboarding team before the sale, prospective buyers will gain trust in your onboarding process and understand your level of customer service. Partner with your sales leaders or account executives to standardize when your client onboarding team can get involved in the sales cycle. This step in a sale often happens in a well-thought handoff document or meeting at, or near, the close of a sale. From there, prepare a one-pager or a few slides that outline the expected onboarding process timelines and phases of your client onboarding process.
2. Host a focused client onboarding kickoff call
We’ve all purchased a product or service and felt that “what now” feeling. Unfortunately, too many customer onboarding teams drop the ball after a deal closes and all the new customer goodwill and momentum you generated quickly evaporates.
A reliable way to inspire confidence in your new client onboarding process is to prepare for and execute a new customer kickoff call. Prepare for the call by creating an agenda and sharing it with the customer beforehand. Depending on your onboarding process, kickoff calls are usually 30-60 minutes long. The most covered new client onboarding kickoff call topics include:
- Introducing key stakeholders and their roles in the onboarding process
- Reviewing your client onboarding checklist
- Adding/removing any additional onboarding scope requirements
- Talking through client onboarding checklist milestones and requirements
- Scheduling future onboarding checkpoint calls
To efficiently scale your new client onboarding kickoff call process, consider templating an agenda and client onboarding checklist that can be adjusted for each new customer on an as-needed basis.
3. Break your client onboarding checklist into milestones
It’s important to separate your onboarding process into milestones. A milestone (or a phase) can be defined as an action (or a series of actions) that marks a significant change or stage in the new client onboarding process. Milestones not only communicate a clear path to value in your onboarding process but also break the client onboarding checklist into digestible chunks of work. Breaking your client onboarding checklist into milestones fosters a positive, winning feeling before the customer is fully onboarded.
4. Ensure you include product testing and new user training
If you have a fairly long client onboarding checklist or average 30 days or more to get a new customer live, chances are you need to test your product before going live. In software implementation, the most common workflow to test is that of integrations between your product and adjacent systems. Don’t be afraid to run test environments with dummy data to ensure your workflows run smoothly and that your configuration work is production-ready. Bake in a few extra days in your client onboarding checklist for both internal and customer-approved tests so that no one gets to launch with faulty product experiences.
Similar to testing, new user training should be an included phase in your client onboarding checklist. While you may have been working closely with managers on the customer team who understand your product, you will have other end user teams who will be seeing your solution for the first time. At the end of the day, end user excitement from those who live in your product every day is one of the most important predictors of whether that customer will retain, upsell or churn.
5. Incorporate consistent feedback throughout the client onboarding checklist
Whether it’s a customer satisfaction survey (CSAT), a net promoter score (NPS) email, or simply asking for feedback, successful customer onboarding teams are constantly seeking feedback from customers. While waiting until your client onboarding checklist is complete to gather feedback feels natural, we recommend layering feedback opportunities throughout your onboarding process. Providing multiple opportunities for feedback ensures that expectations remain clear and that your team can solve issues that could creep up after the new client onboarding process is complete.
Don’t be afraid to keep feedback as simple as a brief email, questions during a call, or a google form. What’s important is that your team understands your customer’s concerns during the customer onboarding process. Feedback also gives you actionable data on how to improve your client onboarding checklist for your new customers next week or next month.
Using the right client onboarding software to power a better onboarding processes
An awesome client onboarding checklist is only the first step to scaling your new client onboarding processes. When your customer onboarding specialists have multiple onboarding processes in flight at once, it can be difficult to stay on top of deadlines and meet customer expectations. How to scale quickly becomes the question customer onboarding leaders ask themselves.
Leading customer onboarding and implementation teams are using Status as a centralized hub for everything customer onboarding. With Status, teams organize projects, tasks, and team members in a single location. From there, configurable dashboards provide internal and customer teams with visibility into where client onboarding checklists stand, what blockers there may be, and what to expect in the next phase of the onboarding process. Then through time-saving automations, onboarding teams can do more with less by automating tasks like new client onboarding checklist setup, task reminders, and more. All this while providing the new customer with a branded portal link containing all pertinent client onboarding checklist details.
Try Status for free and experience how you can onboard customers faster and scale with ease.
Customer onboarding workflows and client onboarding checklists are critical to a brand's long-term success and revenue growth. By following these new client onboarding tips and best practices, you can establish an excellent foundation of better first impressions needed for long-lasting customer relationships.