Why most companies miss the mark with their onboarding experience

Brands that get sticky customers that stay and upgrade are winning. That stickiness all starts with customer onboarding (and there are a lot of gaps in how it’s currently done).

Stuart Balcombe

September 29, 2022

3 minutes

Everyone is talking about how Net Revenue Retention (NRR) is their new north star metric.

But how many are being intentional about retaining and expanding customers to make it happen?

Because it’s not about sales velocity anymore.

Instead brands that get sticky customers that stay and upgrade are winning.

That stickiness all starts with customer onboarding (and there are a lot of gaps in how it’s currently done).

"90% of customers think companies could “do better” when it comes to onboarding."

Here’s my take on the most common ways companies miss the mark:

  • Lack of Alignment: Not effectively identifying the outcomes customers signed up to achieve.
  • Automating Too Early: Trying to “scale” self-serve onboarding before making customers successful with a human in the loop.
  • Not Measuring: Treating onboarding as a check in the box without collecting data to iterate on the experience or prove the downstream impact.

Why onboarding starts on day one.

Don’t wait until a deal is closed to start thinking about onboarding.

You’re in a battle against switching cost from a customers very first interaction with your brand.

By default customers will keep doing what they already know. So, if your goal is to create successful customers you need to create alignment throughout their journey.

✅ Identifies prospects jobs-to-be done
✅ Messages which use cases are a good fit for the product
✅ Handles common objections and bridges knowledge gaps

✅ Discovers specific pain points and business constraints
✅ Builds business case focused on realistic impact
✅ Aligns customer expectations with effort to realize them

✅ Verifies desired outcomes
✅ Builds a clear path for each customer achieve them
✅ Holds customers accountable to the work required to be successful

Customer Success
✅ Identifies new desired outcomes and verifies outcome achievement

If you wait to start onboarding until after the deal is closed…you're too late.

Customers start creating expectations on day one. Design your customer journey accordingly.

3 ways to close the deals you forecast AND build onboarding momentum

How many times have you lost a deal you forecast to close this quarter because it got stuck in procurement?

Here’s how to introduce an action plan to maintain momentum that helps close deals AND kickoff a successful onboarding experience:

  1. Lay out the path to success: Introduce your action plan during the final stages of the sales process to align the work everyone involved needs to do with the value you’ll deliver as a result.
  2. Identify blockers early: Explicitly capture who will be responsible for procurement and legal and include them in your action plan to provide visibility on progress and task assignments.
  3. Schedule the onboarding next step during the sales process: There’s nothing worse than a customer excited when you close who goes dark and never gets onboarded.

→ Identify who will be the customer point person for implementation (it might be different than sales)

→ Schedule the next step while your champion is still engaged in the sales process

Building and maintaining momentum usually means enabling everyone involved to take action on their next step rather than sending more follow ups.

Create a buying experience that makes customers life easier and in turn they’ll help you close your deals faster and onboard customers more successfully.

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