2023 Customer onboarding - Myths and trends

At Propel23, Rocky Dsouza debunks the myths and trends around customer onboarding in 2023.
April 24, 2023
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Further reading

  1. Propel23 recordings
  2. The Launch Station - A podcast for all things customer onboarding
  3. Customer onboarding resources from Rocketlane
  4. Here’s a guide to perfecting the high-touch customer onboarding experience
  5. Check out The State of Customer Onboarding 2023 report to learn the latest trends and common challenges in the customer onboarding space

With over 18 years of professional and customer service experience, Rocky Dsouza is passionate about seeing customers succeed in their business goals and using technology tools to do so. He enjoys setting up new CSM practices and is currently a Senior Practice Director at Netomi, navigating the AI conversation world.

At Propel23, Rocky debunked the myths and trends around customer onboarding in 2023. In his session, he talked about:

  • Customer onboarding as a function and what it means
  • Customer onboarding myths
  • Customer onboarding trends in 2023

What is customer onboarding?

Many definitions talk about getting users comfortable with the product, getting customers to value, and building relationships. While all of them are right, the definition by Wayne McCulloch in the book 'The Seven Pillars of Customer Success' best encompasses all these points.

It describes onboarding as jointly defining a customer success plan and proactively guiding a customer to achieve value in the fastest possible time.

Implementing the product alone does not necessarily equate to success for the customer. Real success is when they've achieved the business value they wanted from your product or service.  This makes crafting a success plan with your customer incredibly important.

So, to provide the best onboarding experience, you need to work with customers to define what success means to them and the value they are looking to achieve. – and do that as quickly as possible.

Debunking customer onboarding myths

Myth #1: Customer Success Managers or Onboarding Managers are the only ones responsible for onboarding

Customer onboarding is more of  a collective responsibility, though it might be a role for CSMs or Onboarding Managers, on paper. You cannot have one person or one group be responsible for it simply because every interaction with the customer – say even sending an email during the sales cycle – contributes to their onboarding experience.

Myth #2: Customer onboarding starts when a customer starts using the tool

Customer onboarding starts with your very first interaction with customers - be it sharing documents or requirements, or your welcome video. That’s why it is best to keep any materials provided to the customer simple and straightforward. You don’t want to overwhelm them with too much information and wreck their onboarding experience.

Myth #3: Customer onboarding is the same as implementation

Implementation is usually focused on the technical aspects of the product that’s being set up. Onboarding is more than just that. It’s about helping customers achieve value from the product.

Myth #4: Customer onboarding is the same as adoption

Onboarding is a finite process that usually has a defined timeline. It ends when your customer has achieved the value you promised them. This might overlap with the adoption period, but onboarding is bound by specific steps and time frames. The adoption journey with your customer is ongoing but usually follows the completion of onboarding.

It's important to set expectations from the start so everyone knows when onboarding is complete. 

Myth #5: Customer onboarding is needed for new customers only

Another common misconception is that onboarding only needs to be done only once for new customers. This isn’t true. Customers may have various departments within their organization using the same product and same setup, but with different business values or goals. So, it’s important to recognize that onboarding isn't necessarily a one-time job for new customers.

Customer onboarding trends for 2023

Trend #1: Increased use of technology and automation

Leverage automation and technology for efficient onboarding. If you're a product company, it's important to provide tutorials upon the first signup. Having automated messages or information to be triggered after initial sign-up will go a long way when interacting and engaging with a customer.

You can also automate onboarding welcome emails and kickoff messages for effective onboarding. Tools like Rocketlane can help streamline your implementations, make it easier to collaborate with customers, and track the progress of the onboarding journey. You can even track KPIs and know if you are on track to achieve your goals. 

Trend #2: Videos as a part of onboarding

Videos are the rage now. It's easier for customers to digest information via shorter videos (two to five minutes). Make the most of them in onboarding.

In addition, explore influencer marketing with options like TikTok and Instagram. These have been monumental in building more brand awareness and making products popular.

Trend #3: Emphasis on customer readiness

Sales teams often give amazing demos that make the product features look great, and have customers excited about the project taking off.

But often, after the start, you quickly realize that they aren't actually ready – they are not able to  express what they really need or want out of our solution. And that’s a big problem. 

It can sometimes take weeks or even months to get through the requirements and pre-requirements stage, affecting the time-to-value. Make sure to align with customers during the pre-sales cycle itself. 

Carve out a new ‘customer readiness’ phase, where you provide the customers with onboarding templates, some pre-kickoff videos, and other requirements to get them prepared. This way, customers know what the implementation cycle is going to look like and their expectations are set from the very beginning.

Trend #4: Re-onboarding existing customers

When the higher-ups or executive boards at a customer company change, it usually means the people championing your product or service are no longer at the head of the table.

It’s important to deal with this change and re-onboard the leadership to familiarize them with your product and the value it provides them. You can leverage what you've already done in terms of onboarding, while also sharing the success you've had since your initial onboarding to get them siding with you.

Trend #5: Consistent experience across multiple channels

Especially for product tools, it’s important to provide a consistent user experience across different devices. Omni channel experiences should be a priority, so customers can enjoy the same ease of use regardless of the device they're using.

Trend #6: Leveraging Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Once you've onboarded your customer, you cannot be with them 24/7 or even on weekends. Live chat or live support using AI can help resolve simple queries right away. Additionally, leveraging AI to help with this can improve your customer experience – by staying true to your brand style and tone, while being there for the customer with quick responses. 

Additionally, you can leverage AI to recommend new features based on their earlier selections or preferences to the customers as part of their whole onboarding experience.

Trend #7: Capture customer onboarding KPIs

  • Time-to-value - This can get confused with time-to-implement. Time-to-value is the number of days it takes for the customer to go from kickoff to realizing value out of your solution. That's different from time-to-implement, which is the time it takes to actually implement the product.
  • Customer onboarding support tickets - During the onboarding phase, track and analyze the support requests/tickets raised. How many tickets have been opened? Are most of them bugs or are there good enhancements too? There’s something to learn from them. For instance, tickets related to enhancement requests are a sign that customers are engaging with the product.
  • Engagement rate - Track the number of users engaging with the product. Measure that over a period of time during the onboarding phase and use those metrics to measure the success of your project too.
  • Onboarding customer feedback - To get the most out of this process and keep improving, it's important to get feedback from your customers. Ask them what worked, what didn't, and what they'd change. That way, you'll always have something to work on and reiterate.

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Shuvedha Subramaniam
Content Marketer @ Rocketlane

Marketing analyst @ Rocketlane. An Advocate by choice and a penwoman for the love of it. When the world zips, I like to zoink. Also, being happy by being kind.

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