Implementation Stories

Customer onboarding best practices from Rocketlane

Vishnu Prasad, Solutions and Onboarding Lead at Rocketlane, shares all the details on the four-pillar approach to customer onboarding.
February 17, 2023
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Aswinchandar M

In this episode of Implementation Stories, we had Vishnu Prasad, Head of Solutions and Onboarding at Rocketlane, share his experience of crafting, iterating, constantly improving, and adapting onboarding journeys to offer customers the best experience possible.

Vishnu discussed the following topics:

  1. The four pillars of customer onboarding
  2. Indications that your customer onboarding team needs to scale
  3. Indications that a customer is going to churn
  4. Keeping up morale for customer onboarding and customer success teams
  5. Making implementations profitable and coordinating with sales teams
  6. How implementation teams need to work in tandem with other teams

The four pillars of customer onboarding

1. Customer experience

Bring your authentic self to customer meetings

When working with a customer, it's important to gain their trust before they accept you as someone who will help them get value from their purchase. The first step towards gaining their trust is to make yourself relatable and form a connection. At Rocketlane, we like to get the ball rolling on every project by introducing each team member to the customer and sharing a little bit about them. That way, they're more relatable, and it helps form an initial connection with the customer. Bridging the gap between you and the customer doesn't happen in one go - it often takes multiple conversations. When you share a common interest or enthusiasm, it quickly builds trust between you and the customer. 

Set expectations with customers during kickoff

Whenever someone purchases a tool or signs a contract, it's important to remember that implementation isn't an overnight process – there will be unlearning and relearning involved. Ultimately, what matters is the long-term value that the tool can bring. Reminding the executive sponsors and users that they need to be aware of both the unlearning that lies ahead as well as the new skills they'll acquire that will have a lasting effect. This helps make sure everyone knows what to expect.

Call out risks early

When someone asked us about potential delays with onboarding, we checked and found that our Salesforce integration setup is usually done for customers in just a few days, but can sometimes take up to two weeks if it's tough to determine who the Salesforce admin is. So at every kickoff meeting, we make sure to point this out as a potential risk. And if the customer can supply a Salesforce admin right away, then we guarantee that we'll finish the task within a day or two. Drawing on past experiences to identify potential risks can help you avoid delays in the onboarding process and sidestep any future disappointments.

How Rocketlane makes customer onboarding delightful 

2. Visibility 

Get your customer's executive sponsors on the kickoff call

Oftentimes, executive sponsors tend to be excluded from the evaluation process. To make it simpler for them to consider the value of the tool, establish if the KRA is something that an organization's leaders are responsible for. If it's an urgent problem that needs to be addressed, try to include them in the initial kickoff. This helps to set the right expectations for the tool and align on the criteria for success, so there are no questions about what is being delivered. This enables the customer onboarding team to identify at every stage what is being provided.

Keep customer stakeholders updated about the progress

On one of Rocketlane’s projects, the executive sponsor attended the kickoff and then followed up with an email a few weeks later, asking if the onboarding had started yet since they had already paid for the tools. It was then that we realized none of the status updates had reached the sponsor. Thus, it's essential to keep the POCs and executive sponsors in the loop, even if they are not actively participating, so they can stay updated on the project's progress.

Run regular internal reviews with customers

The tool can only resolve a part of the problem that your organization is experiencing, it can't address process problems. For example, we weren't keeping our customer onboarding tasks up to date on Rocketlane, but making a small adjustment made a huge difference: we implemented a 15-minute stand-up to ensure everyone was staying on top of their tasks. This way, those who were already consistently updating their tasks could have the extra time to work on something else, and those who weren't as consistent had an opportunity to get caught up. This regular check-in shifted our team's outlook from seeing all these tasks as a chore to something beneficial for everyone, especially our customers. Nobody likes to feel like they paid for nothing, so this helped them get the value they deserve.

Project visibility: The secret to great customer onboarding

3. Collaboration

Find out who in the customer's team you can hold responsible if the progress is stalled

If you want to ensure your customers are actively involved in the onboarding process, it's important to minimize delays and make sure it goes smoothly. Figuring out whom to hold responsible if things aren’t progressing as expected has helped identify any potential bottlenecks in the customer onboarding process. This allows for decisions to be made quickly by contacting the right stakeholders. There could be valid reasons why your primary point of contact might not respond; Having someone in charge at the customer’s end ensures that progress is maintained.

Have your customers do a ‘reverse demo’

It can be tricky to figure out if customers really understand your tool. Earlier, we used to conduct a five-minute quiz to check how much people had learned, but that wasn't particularly effective. So, we decided to make it more competitive: we now ask our customers to show us how they use our tool to onboard their own customers. If they do, they are given credits that they can apply to our invoice. This helps us understand our customers better and validate if they have really grasped the tool's value. Additionally, it presents an opening to discover a few potential mistakes they might make. That way, you can help them relearn key concepts or guarantee that they are delivering value in the right manner.

Have a single source of truth for your customer onboarding projects

Not having a centralized source of information can be a huge problem when it comes to customer onboarding. It's not something you absolutely need, but it sure can come in handy during those times when you need to rapidly get up and running with a large project. Having everything in one easily accessible place makes your life much simpler.

On Rocketlane's Love for Collaborative Customer Onboarding

4. Consistency

Conduct segment-based customer onboarding for consistent CS

As a business, it can cost you a lot of time and effort to ensure that every project offers the human touch. However, it is ineffective to spend the same amount of time on all your customers, as some projects need only minimal intervention and can go live in no time at all. Therefore, you should be providing your customers with educational materials so they can get onboarded quickly if they choose to do so. By differentiating customers based on what kind of assistance they need and how quickly they want to get set up, it creates a unified experience and helps onboarding managers save time.

Automate the sales handoff process

At Rocketlane, the customer onboarding team used to rely on salespeople to fill out a handoff document which was difficult and didn't always provide enough information. This process wasn't scalable either. To make it simpler and more effective, they asked everyone to use one tool, like the CRM, to enter notes about customers so that the customer onboarding team would have all the information they needed. The sales team doesn't have to fill out a different form, they just need to ask the right questions during the sales process. Double-check with customers to make sure you’ve got all the information that is needed. This will make you look organized and prepared, which in turn will help secure long-term contracts and get customers to go live quickly. Automating the process will make sure that key information collected is to increase customer engagement and advocacy. 

How to build a customer onboarding framework

Indications that your customer onboarding team needs to scale

Managing workload is key to success. By segmenting customers, you can gain insight into the amount of work that needs to be done. Consider the time it takes to onboard customers and the sales cycle, including how quickly customers are closed. This will help you determine the number of onboardings required every month or quarter. Make sure your onboarding managers don't take on more than what they can handle. Knowing the incoming load and how long onboarding takes for each customer segment can help you decide how many people should be on your customer onboarding team.

Setting up a customer onboarding motion that'll scale with you

Indications that a customer is going to churn

If your customers aren't completing their onboarding process, that's an indication of potential churn. This could be because the priority has changed, the person responsible for the changes has left the organization, or the problem statement has been altered. If they're not engaging with you or attending kickoff calls, it's a sure sign that they're likely to churn. What makes an experienced customer onboarding professional is the ability to identify patterns that lead to churn and share this information with the sales or marketing team. This way, it will be easy to recognize which segments of customers are more likely to churn, or which types of licensing don't work well. By taking a more objective approach to data, and leveraging your customer onboarding process, you and your customer success team can be better prepared to prevent future churns.
Keeping up the morale of customer onboarding and customer success teams

You can remain passionate about your job while also maintaining a certain degree of emotional detachment. The focus should always be on providing customers with value and a positive experience. There are many reasons why customer escalations or churns happen, from bad internet connections to the customer just having a bad day. Instead of focusing on the people, stay focused on the problem at hand. This is an essential habit for customer support teams, and it isn't something one can easily learn. 

Make sure to check in with your team regularly to ensure their morale is high and that they have enough time to learn - don't let them think their role is only about configuring; there's much more to it than that. Ensure that your team members have both career progression and the opportunity to express their emotions. If they're discontented, ensure they have an outlet to talk. And if they're happy, use those moments as an opportunity to share the knowledge of what was done right, and help the rest of the team benefit from it.

How to plan rewards for your customer-facing teams

Making customer implementations profitable and coordinating with sales teams
Customers value the money they spend on services. Having a price tag and an expiration date on implementations can prompt them to derive value from your product and adopt faster. Onboarding and CS teams should provide proactive assistance as well as reactive support when needed. This is a great chance to make sure everyone is on the same page.

Sales personnel should have the discretion to decide whether to offer a complete waiver or a certain percentage discount on customer onboarding fees in order to make the sales cycle more efficient and drive recurring revenue for the business. However, they should be mindful of not undercutting the value of the onboarding process. Rather than offering it as a free service, they need to promote its value and offer a discount.

How pre- and post-sales interactions impact your business

How customer implementation teams need to work in tandem with other teams

Implementation teams need assistance from other departments in order to give customers the best experience. This includes Customer Success post-onboarding, Sales prior to onboarding, and Product to understand their feature requests. It's essential for everyone to recognize that each function has a purpose, and why they need to collaborate.
Understanding the value of working together as a team is a must since processes can change quickly. Working together is not only about attending calls but also about sharing information. When it comes to making sure the customer has a smooth transition from Sales to Onboarding, and then to Customer Success, we need to create an efficient handoff process that sets our customers up for success. We must guarantee that what was promised by the sales team is what will be delivered by the customer success team. This requires not only a well-designed process but also the right tools to provide support along the way.

Further reading

  1. Tips for crafting an effective customer onboarding methodology
  2. Customer Onboarding Tips Part IV: Establish a rhythm for onboarding
  3. Customer Onboarding Tips Part V: Process Level Enhancements
  4. Customer Onboarding Tips Part VIII: On cut-over plans, handoff calls, and weekly onboarding standups

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Tejasvini Ramesh
Content Marketer @ Rocketlane
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