Implementation Stories

When lives are on the line: Customer onboarding under pressure

Meg Lovell of Everbridge on her learnings from high-stress, high impact customer onboarding journeys
December 24, 2021
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In this session of Implementation Stories, we spoke to Meg Lovell, Senior Director, Business Transformation at Everbridge, a critical event management (CEM) platform provider.

In this session, Meg talked about:

  1. The mission-critical nature of customer onboarding at Everbridge
  2. Working with customers lacking a software or project management background
  3. The changes Everbridge made to improve their customer onboarding process
  4. Tips and recommendations for building efficient and effective customer relationships

In the rest of this article, we share the key takeaways from the session.

Why customer onboarding at Everbridge is mission-critical

Everbridge builds applications that provide information about critical events to help organizations with personal safety and business continuity by ensuring public/employee safety, powering alerts, automating digital responses, and accelerating clinical responses. 

Everbridge’s CEM applications help public safety responders and key personnel assess risks, locate impacted people and assets, act rapidly, and analyze the outcomes and effectiveness of their response. Since Everbridge’s customers use the product in times of crisis, they must be equipped to use the platform correctly since any delays, snags, or deployment failures could directly impact human safety and lives.

The current customer onboarding approach at Everbridge

Most of Everbridge’s customers are from non-software/project management backgrounds making onboarding (and its effectiveness) a high priority.

 A typical customer onboarding/implementation project has the following stages:

  1. The orientation call where the implementation team reviews the project with the customer and makes sure that the customer is ready to get started
  2. Basic configuration call focused on basic configurations that get the customer started   
  3. Other configuration calls focused on a specific agenda
  4. Advanced features call to introduce more advanced features
  5. Closeout: Ensuring that the customer has met the exit criteria and has access to resources for continued usage

They use a key stakeholders chart to map the customer team members through the process.  They ensure that each project has someone (one or more employees) to handle the key roles of:

  1. Project lead
  2. System admin
  3. Executive/management-level employee
  4. Trainer,
  5. Data integration/technical specialist 

They use a Gantt chart with resource requirements and expected timelines outlined, right at the start of the customer onboarding process.

Changes that positively impacted customer onboarding

The biggest challenge the Everbridge team faced was reducing the time taken to complete their customer onboarding (180 to 200 days in 2012). 

The team has been successful in shortening the implementation timeline to as low as 30-60 days through practices that include: 

  1. Canceling status update calls: The team ensured that every call was focused on a specific issue/requirement that moved the project forward 
  2. Replacing the kickoff call with an orientation call:  The first stage of the implementation journey is used to review the project and orient customers without diving into the specifics of the implementation as in a traditional kickoff call.
  3. Using an LMS instead of live training sessions: The implementation team replaced fire-hose-style live training with self-serve training on an LMS with provisions to assign specific ‘homework’ style exercises for customers
  4. Involving the implementation team to develop the product roadmap: This included setting up a stakeholders team with members of onboarding/implementation to ensure that any new features/enhancements took into account their long term impact on customers  (and the customer onboarding process)  

Customer onboarding metrics and KPIs

The Everbridge team focuses on:

  1. Measuring how long a customer implementation project is open
  2. Tracking how long the customer implementation team is spending on each project
  3. Using data to track expected timelines and deviations
  4. Identifying key milestones and the time taken to reach/complete them
More from Meg Lovell: Establishing successful implementation KPIs

Lessons from high-stress, high impact customer onboarding journeys

  1. Don't start customer onboarding/implementation till all the key stakeholders are on board.
  2. Ensure that all projects have a stakeholder at the executive sponsor level to keep the team motivated and accountable. Make it a practice to highlight both successes/positive developments and issues/roadblocks with them on an ongoing basis.
  3. In the case of low-tech customers, encourage them to leverage their internal IT/helpdesk team to handle data imports and integrations instead of taking on those additional responsibilities as part of the implementation.
  4. Involve the training team at the customer end so they can be integrated with the standard ongoing training plans for the company.
  5. Consider placing a limit on customer onboarding. Offer customer onboarding/implementation packages (say 20 hours spread over 90 days) as part of the contract and explicitly state the implementation team’s input and availability.
  6. Focus on driving best practices with each new customer and implementation. Document recommended practices after careful consideration with the product team, record any deviations from recommended best practices for the benefit of downstream teams such as Support and Account Management.  Build a mechanism to collect and document customer requests/requirements and share them with the product team periodically.
  7. Use the CS software/LMS to check how customers are progressing on training and tasks. Leverage these platforms to set up alerts and reminders for both internal teams and customers.

Most importantly, remember that the behavior set in implementation affects the quality and success of customers for years to come. As an Implementation Specialist, you’re not an operator, you’re a coach who can influence your customers’ future behavior.

Like what you read? Join our private, invite-only Slack community and attend the next Implementation Stories session. You will also gain access to peers and share knowledge on customer onboarding, implementation, and customer success.

More resources

  1. Implementation Stories
  2. Preflight Conversations
  3. The Launch Station - a podcast for all things customer onboarding
  4. Customer onboarding resources from Rocketlane

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Mohana Valli Prabhakar
Marketing Analyst @ Rocketlane & Community Manager, Preflight

Introverted, but willing to discuss books. Follow me on Twitter @Mohanavalli96

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