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The importance of hiring a customer onboarding specialist

Customer onboarding specialists are crucial for successful customer onboarding and avoiding churn. Find out about their skills and more
February 24, 2023
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Aswinchandar M

If you’ve read any of our previous blogs, you’ll know how important the customer onboarding process is. Its success, however, largely depends on who executes it.  

And that’s where a customer onboarding specialist steps in.

They can be the customer’s go-to resource for all onboarding queries and are integral to customers arriving seamlessly at a point of satisfaction.   

In this article, we’ll discuss why you should hire a customer onboarding specialist, four of their primary responsibilities, four essential skills for this role, and provide some useful interview questions to use during the hiring process.

Who is a customer onboarding specialist?

A customer onboarding specialist is a customer-facing professional who guides your customers in unlocking the value of your product from the initial use to the aha moment (that is, the point of value realization). They are an integral part of any customer success team.

By providing personalized support, they get customers to feel comfortable and confident when using your product or service. Their support takes many forms, including account setup, training, and answering your customers' questions. 

Think of an onboarding specialist as the bridge between the sale and initial customer satisfaction. 

Why should you hire a customer onboarding specialist?

Since the onboarding process is so crucial, you must entrust it to someone fully capable of ensuring your customers develop confidence in your product. 

A customer onboarding specialist will: 

  1. Focus specifically on onboarding new customers: While a customer success manager (CSM) can provide general onboarding services, they’ll have numerous other responsibilities to existing customers. An onboarding specialist can devote all their time to getting each new customer to their first point of success with your product. 
  2. Offer personalized customer support: The customer shouldn’t require much more support after completing a successful client onboarding. But you must provide customers with specialized support when they need it most during the initial stages of their product journey.
  3. Help customers realize the product’s value: How you introduce customers to use your product directly impacts how much value they get from it. The onboarding specialist can remove any roadblocks to customer engagement and demonstrate the value of your product more efficiently.
  4. Improve customer retention: Acquiring a new customer is far more expensive than retaining one. So customer retention is the key to every business success story. When customers don’t see the value in a product or don’t understand how to use it, they will usually abandon it. An onboarding specialist focuses on eliminating these issues, so you retain more customers.

Trusting your onboarding process to a specialist also reduces some common onboarding challenges

4 primary responsibilities of a customer onboarding specialist

The four key responsibilities of an onboarding specialist are:

1. Assisting with implementation

Once a customer has purchased a product or service, their next point of satisfaction is deriving value from it as quickly as possible. 

By having an onboarding specialist assist with implementation, the customer experiences smooth adoption without the difficulties that may come from familiarizing themselves with the product. 

Some tasks an onboarding specialist might take on during implementation include:

  1. Setting up an API connection
  2. Setting up accounts 
  3. Embedding code
  4. Solving technical glitches
  5. Providing relevant product information
  6. Training the customer to use the product

Assisting with implementation is especially important for a technology company operating in the SaaS space, as your product is often related to synthesizing work processes for your customers. 

2. Providing guidance 

To provide general guidance on using the product, onboarding specialists need excellent technical knowledge of the product and a broad knowledge of the industry. This way, they can match customer problems with product solutions.   

For example, imagine your product is a tool that helps customers improve their website’s UI. In addition to knowing how the product works, your onboarding specialist must have a working knowledge of web design and coding.  

3. Ensuring a strong customer relationship 

Onboarding specialists deliver the first impression of your product and brand.

Ideally, an onboarding specialist should develop strong relationships with your customers and reassure them that your team is committed to their success.

If your customers feel that you are invested in their goals, they are far more likely to continue using your product. As a result, onboarding specialists bridge the gap between customer needs and the solutions a company provides. 

4. Collecting customer feedback

Each customer needs something different from your product, which means they can have unique problems.

One of the responsibilities of a client onboarding specialist is to collect and relay any critical feedback to the product team. This way, they’re the product team’s ‘boots on the ground’ for real-time customer information.

Such regular customer feedback can be instrumental in the product’s continuous improvement and improving customer lifecycle.

The responsibilities placed on onboarding specialists can be challenging. 

Preventing churn, providing a good customer experience, and ensuring customer satisfaction through the smooth adoption of your product is no easy feat.

Let’s look at what they need to succeed.  

4 essential skills a customer onboarding specialist must have

To adequately assist customers, onboarding specialists need to have a particular skill set that includes: 

1. Company and product knowledge

As they are new to the product, the onboarding specialist must educate customers on how to use it. To do this, the onboarding specialist must have vast prior experience with the product and explain the details to the clients in simple language.  

Moreover, they need to address a customer’s needs and solve any technical problems that may pop up.         

2. Project management

While a company may employ more than one onboarding specialist, each onboarding specialist will likely handle multiple clients at a time and must be able to prioritize their work appropriately. 

Naturally, the ability to work on multiple tasks and projects simultaneously is imperative. As such, excellent organizational and time management skills are required to deliver a quality service for each onboarding project.

An essential part of a successful onboarding project is utilizing a tool like Rocketlane for transparency and clarity to assist the onboarding experience.

3. Communication skills and empathy

Any customer-facing role that involves creating strong relationships will always require good communication skills and empathy.

But this skill is especially important when a position involves educating clients. Good communication skills involve simplifying complex technical concepts and taking customers through a step-by-step guide on using the product. 

Not only do they need strong communication skills to educate customers, but they need to be able to express empathy toward the difficulties your customers may experience. 

Your client onboarding specialist needs to be understanding of the pressures that your customers may experience and show empathy toward their confusion, impatience, doubt, or dissatisfaction. In addition, they will also have to manage customer expectations to prevent as many frustrations as possible. 

4. Problem-solving skills

Ideally, a customer onboarding specialist should handle most problems without escalating the issue to the internal team.

Escalation is time-consuming, which increases time to value and contributes to the likelihood of customer churn and decreased customer lifecycle. In addition, the need for escalation may undermine a customer's confidence in the onboarding specialist. 

It’s not always easy to find an employee with the complete set of skills necessary for effective onboarding. Often new employees need to receive extensive training before they can be trusted with onboarding customers.

So how can you assess whether a potential new hire is right for the job?  

Interview questions for hiring a customer onboarding specialist 

As well as creating an accurate customer onboarding specialist job description, your human resources team can use these interview questions to find the right new employees for your company: 

  1. How do you handle customer complaints?
  2. What is unique about your methods for onboarding customers and providing quality customer experience?
  3. How will you handle a customer who asks for a feature that is not a part of the product?
  4. How do you balance competing priorities from multiple customers?
  5. Provide an example of how you’ve handled a customer complaint or unhappy customer with integrity.
  6. How do you define empathy, and why is empathy an important part of the onboarding process?
  7. What are the most important skills you’ve developed from your previous work experience?
  8. Tell me about a time you had to go above the call of duty for a customer.
  9. Describe a time when you couldn't solve the customer's problem. What was the outcome, and how did you handle it?
  10. Tell me about your greatest onboarding success story.

Ideally, you want a new hire with a bachelor’s degree and prior experience. Having the right skills for the job description is crucial. Often, the skills are learned through years of experience.

There’s plenty more to know about onboarding specialists. 

We’ll answer the most frequently asked questions below if you're still curious.   

3 FAQs about the customer onboarding specialist role

1. What’s the difference between a customer onboarding specialist and a customer success manager? 

These two positions have some similarities. They are both part of the support team, customer-facing roles, and are tasked with providing quality customer service.

But they differ concerning when they work with the customer:

  1. Onboarding specialists assist customers during the initial days of the journey until they have completed their first task using the product and are confident about using it independently.
  2. The customer success manager (CSM) takes over once onboarding is complete and works with the customer to provide continued support. 

It’s also a good idea to introduce your customer success manager to your customers during the sales cycle. Even though the onboarding specialist plays a major part during the initial stages, the role of the CSM in successful customer onboarding should not be overlooked. A good customer success manager should check in with the customers to ensure they are satisfied with the onboarding process. 

The CSM is often the first point of contact and focuses on introducing the customers to the customer success team that will be helping them throughout the onboarding process.

So from time to time, the CSM should take the initiative to follow up with the new clients during onboarding, as this will give them an extra sense of being taken care of. Following up also helps instill a sense of trust and familiarity with the CSM, which will benefit your company’s customer relationship in the long term. 

2. What is the average salary for a customer onboarding specialist? 

The pay for customer onboarding specialists varies depending on the location, qualifications, expertise, and hiring company.

Here are some of the average full-time specialist salaries based on location:

  1. United States: $55,657 per year
  2. United Kingdom: £23,553 per year 
  3. Australia: A$138,170 per year  

3. Can onboarding specialists use any tools?

Depending on the company, there are several tools that onboarding specialists utilize for:

  1. Project management 
  2. Product analytics
  3. Communication 
  4. Performance tracking 
  5. Data collection 
  6. Automation

But using multiple tools can pose many problems. Each tool has its learning curve, leading to employees and new clients taking longer to familiarize themselves with it. Moreover, tracking communication and deadlines across multiple platforms can become a hassle on big projects. 

Fortunately, Rocketlane solves these issues by merging all of these functions. 

Rocketlane: the go-to tool for every customer onboarding specialist 

Rocketlane is a dedicated client onboarding tool that brings all onboarding communication and tasks under one roof to synthesize workflow.

Our collaborative customer onboarding platform serves as the backbone of the whole onboarding process and helps businesses decrease the time to value for their products and increase customer engagement by placing the focus on the customer. 

You can share and edit documents in the Rocketlane app, automate email notifications, and even create interactive walkthroughs for your customers on their customizable portal.

For the customer onboarding specialist, Rocketlane provides:

  1. Visibility: Specialists can view all their projects at a glance and gain access to the project goals, completion status, customer sentiment, and much more.
  2. Customer experience: Help your customers feel at home with a customizable portal to match their color schemes, logo, and domain.
  3. Collaboration: Update your internal team members in real-time across projects and easily organize all documents.
  4. Consistency: Save dozens of hours with project and document templates that easily adapt to new customers. 

Not only will Rocketlane help your client onboarding specialists do their job professionally, but our software will give your onboarding process that initial kick to meet your customer expectations. 

Create a collaborative customer onboarding process

Customer onboarding specialists are crucial to providing quality, personalized customer service during the onboarding experience. 

A good onboarding specialist needs strong communication skills, project management, and problem-solving abilities. But even with their skills, training, and talent, they’ll need the right tools by their side. 

So why not provide your onboarding specialist with the best customer onboarding software tool on the market? 

Rocketlane provides greater project visibility for onboarding teams and improves communication and collaboration by unifying the workspace. 

Want to see if Rocketlane is a good match for your onboarding specialist? Book a demo, and let us impress you!

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Kirthika Soundararajan
Head - Content Marketing @ Rocketlane

All things content at Rocketlane. I run on coffee and cat videos. Follow me on Twitter @kirthikasrajan

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