Preflight Conversations

Building early customer onboarding and implementation teams

Setting up a dedicated customer onboarding and implementation team is the first step toward good customer engagement and adoption.
November 10, 2023
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Mukundh Krishna

Building your organization's first customer onboarding or implementation team can be daunting.

You are racing against the clock, chasing every opportunity to deliver value faster and improve customer adoption. You scour through playbooks and tailor them to suit your business needs. Setting up a dedicated customer onboarding and implementation team can help you take the first step toward reducing your time to value and improving adoption.

We hosted an exclusive Preflight Conversation to get some expert tips on building early customer onboarding and implementation teams.

On our panel, we had:

The speakers shared their experiences and strategies for building early customer onboarding and implementation teams, addressing onboarding pains, ensuring customer readiness, tracking customer satisfaction, and more.

Here are some key takeaways from the session.

Building early customer onboarding and implementation teams

While teams should focus on delivering value faster and driving product adoption post-onboarding, they should also be keen on building relationships with POCs and ensuring customer readiness. In order to do so, it is important for teams to:

  • Develop in-depth product knowledge: Customer onboarding and implementation teams need to have a comprehensive understanding of the product beyond just basic information. This knowledge will enable them to effectively demonstrate features and provide hands-on guidance to customers.
  • Provide hands-on guidance: Instead of relying solely on verbal explanations, teams can actively show customers how to use different features and navigate the platform. The hands-on approach will help customers grasp the platform's functionality faster and promote effective learning. To further enhance onboarding effectiveness, customer onboarding teams can also spend a small amount of time working with the support team each quarter. This will help them get exposed to real-life customer queries, better understand the product's new features, and, in turn, help align the onboarding process with client needs and improve overall perspective.
  • Streamline the customer onboarding process: Teams should avoid overwhelming customers with a comprehensive overview of all platform capabilities. Instead, they should collaborate with customers to establish goals and align with them. Try to make the learning process more manageable and targeted for customers, focusing on limited features and functionalities during onboarding.
  • Foster collaboration between teams: Customer onboarding and implementation teams should ensure seamless coordination between sales, product, and customer success teams during handoffs. Clear communication channels and guidelines should be implemented to ensure a smooth transition.
  • Prioritize customer readiness: Teams should also help customers identify their key goals and define a clear plan before the onboarding process begins. This proactive approach ensures customers enter the onboarding phase with clear objectives and know what's expected of them. A project scoping meeting can come in handy at this time. You can involve your onboarding team in the call and ensure everyone is aligned on customer goals and objectives. Setting expectations with customers upfront also helps with customer accountability. Remember to keep things simple for the customer and focus on getting the scope of your onboarding projects right. 
  • Refine customer onboarding processes regularly: It's best to revisit and evaluate your customer onboarding and implementation processes based on regular feedback from customers and internal teams. This will aid in enhancing customer experience and maximizing product adoption.
  • Establish yourself as the expert: When guiding customers through the onboarding journey, establish yourself as the expert and recommend the best path for the customer. You can also push back and rely on data from earlier onboarding experiences to convince customers. At the end of the day, customers need to know that you are their partner in the journey who wants to see them succeed.
Here's a quick tip on playing devil's advocate and setting the right expectations with customers at kickoff.

Customer Onboarding Vs. Implementation

In most organizations, the term onboarding and implementation are used interchangeably. But, having a more nuanced definition for the terms brings clarity and helps you communicate better to internal and external stakeholders. For starters, customer onboarding refers to the training and adoption phase, while implementation refers to the technical side of setting up. And that's why Preflighters suggest breaking down implementation and onboarding into two separate functions.

Here are three reasons why you should consider setting up two separate functions for customer onboarding and implementation at your organization:

  1. Your business is growing or expanding, and the team is overwhelmed with handling training
  2. There's a change in your client base, so more expertise is required for better alignment
  3. Customers are faced with a steep learning curve, and it takes too long for them to get completely comfortable with the product

|If you are in the early stages of building a company and can't afford to have dedicated resources for each org function, here's how you can set up your first customer onboarding team.

Customer readiness and product adoption post-onboarding

Customer readiness can help enhance your onboarding process, improve customer engagement, and foster a positive and effective communication approach. This can also improve product adoption post-onboarding.

Here are some key insights on ensuring customer readiness and product adoption post-onboarding.

  • Divide the customer onboarding and implementation process into distinct stages to not overwhelm the customer. Have an activation phase focused on achieving the first value for the customer, followed by a technical implementation/configuration phase involving integrations and customizations.
  • Manage customer expectations by dedicating specific time for onboarding and training, including user adoption and go-live announcements.
  • Acknowledge customer progress and create a positive experience by sending celebratory emails when they reach significant milestones or achievements during onboarding.
  • Set clear expectations with customers during the onboarding process by improving communication with them. Create a communication plan outlining what customers can expect from the start. Describe what tasks they might need to complete and provide guidance on how to accomplish them. Explore how you can incorporate intuitive elements into your communications with customers.
  • Encourage customers to actively engage with your platform by incorporating interactive gamification techniques. This way, customers will be motivated to learn the platform and complete the required tasks.
  • Apply a positive spin to customer feedback and progress updates. Instead of focusing solely on what tasks are incomplete, highlight accomplishments and encourage customers for further improvement.


Tracking product adoption

When it comes to measuring the success of a product, most organizations rely solely on retention metrics. While customer retention is undoubtedly important, evaluating adoption requires a broader perspective. Organizations and teams must evaluate factors like ease of use and customer feedback to know how customers perceive the product and how they actually feel when they use it.

Start by defining the success criteria during the kickoff call and capture them for future reference. Ask customers questions about their expectations regarding product usage, frequency, and desired outcomes to establish a baseline for success measurement.

By capturing success criteria and consistently gathering customer feedback, organizations can iterate their processes, address areas for improvement, and drive higher adoption rates while enhancing customer satisfaction.

Building customerrelationships

A customer-centric approach is essential in fostering long-lasting relationships. Align with customers and internal stakeholders by providing resources to set expectations from the beginning. Maintain regular communication with customers to check on their progress and address any concerns or difficulties they may face. Use this opportunity to gather additional feedback and ensure customers feel supported throughout the process. This will also help you prepare for potential customer ghosting by establishing clear communication channels. You can implement processes to follow up promptly and gamify the onboarding experience to keep customers engaged and motivated throughout. Move quickly during onboarding to capitalize on the initial excitement and maintain momentum. Reduce onboarding time by streamlining processes and involving account executives in scheduling initial calls.

Donna Weber shares some best practices for keeping your customers engaged during onboarding. Check them out here!

Teams should also focus on building relationships with key stakeholders within the customer organization. Identify decision-makers, champions, and other relevant individuals on the customer side to establish strong connections and facilitate successful adoption. Engage both decision-makers and end-users in the onboarding process to ensure alignment and promote adoption through champion engagement models. Tailor communications and interactions based on their respective roles and needs to get buy-in from stakeholders.

At Propel23, Jarvis Harris shared strategies to drive early adoption through a targeted customer onboarding and implementation process. Check it out here

Two best practices for customer onboarding and implementation teams

During customer onboarding, two effective practices that can reduce friction, improve time to value, and enhance the overall customer experience are:

  • Conducting a technical validation call: Before finalizing the sale, scheduling a technical validation call with the customer is beneficial. The call allows for addressing technical concerns, clarifications, and setting realistic expectations. It's important to ensure the sales team avoids delving too deep into technical aspects during the initial sales process. With a dedicated technical validation call, customers can ask questions about the onboarding process upfront, streamlining their onboarding journey and ensuring a smoother transition.
  • Creating a Dynamic Project Template: Another valuable practice is developing a dynamic project template tailored to each customer's specific needs. Begin by capturing important information during the kickoff call, and then use this information to create a process document that outlines the necessary components for success. By customizing the template based on the customer's requirements, you can provide a structured and personalized onboarding experience for each of them. This approach helps customers understand the steps involved and prepares them for a successful onboarding journey.

Implementing these practices can significantly enhance the customer onboarding process, minimize hurdles, and maximize customer satisfaction. By addressing technical concerns early on and providing a customized project template, businesses can ensure a smoother onboarding experience, foster positive customer relationships, and accelerate time to value.

If you have any ideas, suggestions, or questions you want to share with the larger customer onboarding, implementation, and CS community, we’d love to have you join the Preflight Community and share it with our members!

Further reading

  1. How to build a customer onboarding framework
  2. The ultimate checklist for a successful go-live
  3. Tactics for complex customer onboarding journeys
  4. Customer onboarding: Types, steps, and best practices
  5. The ultimate guide to client onboarding in 2023


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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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