There was a time when closing a deal was the be-all-end-all for sales teams. And in some industries, it still is (auto sales, real estate, etc.). But this couldn’t be further from reality in the SaaS subscription world.
There’s no such thing as closing on a customer and moving on to the next in this field. Doing so would be detrimental to your bottom line. If you’re not investing in customer onboarding, then you risk losing sales at the gate. According to Wyzowl, 63% of customers consider a company’s onboarding program when making a purchasing decision, and 86% say they’re more likely to be loyal to businesses with onboarding content.
So the transaction event is merely one step in the customer’s journey. The next step is onboarding, which should be immediately after the purchase. How long you onboard customers will vary based on the solutions offered. However, you want to ensure you’re engaging with customers within the first one to three months, and that your onboarding strategy targets common issues customers face during the initial stages of using your product.
Here’s a look at the common mistakes you should avoid when developing your customer onboarding strategy.
1. Not Tying the Buyer’s Journey to the Desired Onboarding Experience
When developing your customer onboarding strategy, you want to consider the pre- and post-sales process. Pay attention to how the prospect engages before making a purchase. This will give you insights into what they expect the onboarding experience to be like.
Your strategy should also take into account the ideal prospect persona. Keep in mind the attributes associated with the persona, so you can tackle them throughout the onboarding process. For instance, if a particular persona finds an area of your software complex, then invest more time in creating content on how to use it.
By taking this approach with your onboarding strategy, you’ll find it easier to build credibility and trust with your customers.
Brainstorm ways you can make the post-sale a seamless transition. You want the customer to feel like the time they invested with the sales team carries through to the customer success and onboarding teams.
2. Having Poor Solution Documentation Tying Pre-Sales to Onboarding
Where do pre-sales scoping and solutions live post-sale? Is it within a CRM? And if so, is it enough to house all the crucial documentation of how your customer solves their business case?
If not, consider creating a handover book that connects the original problem statements to the future ROI that unifies all customer-facing roles. Your customers desire continuity of information because it makes their experience feel seamless. It’s a win-win for your onboarding specialists and customers, which translates to improved ROI and realized revenues.
3. Starting Implementations with a Complex, Technical Lens
The important rule of successfully onboarding customers is to keep the process simple. Complexity is what turns customers off and away from product solutions. So focus on establishing defined business outcomes and a roadmap to the specific ROI they bought.
You’ll need to understand the customer, so you can create a unique and relevant implementation roadmap. Are they a newbie or expert on what they’re taking on? A newbie will require a more in-depth breakdown of how to use your solution to achieve results than an expert.
Also, be more specific than what was built in the sales cycle so you can develop a tactical plan with measurable milestones to work towards.
4. Not Having Enough Data to Monitor Progress
How will you know whether your customer onboarding program is working? Like with any marketing and sales initiative, you need to measure key metrics. This includes usage stats, project plan progress, user activation, training delivered, and so on.
The key is finding a way to track and measure these metrics. Ideally, you want to use data monitoring as a red-alert system, so you know immediately when a customer is falling behind. This is especially critical in high-volume sales environments where they may go unnoticed.
With this data, you can prioritize your onboarding activities based on the customers that need it most.
Then for the customers who are doing well, you can map them to a more self-service or self-paced learning path. Be sure to identify what would be best to use — your content or third-party content.
5. Over-Automating the Onboarding Process
Automation is becoming an integral part of business processes. But there are certain areas of the company where a human touch is necessary, such as customer onboarding. For example, have a team available to answer questions and address concerns; Or reaching out when someone completes their transaction, can give a great first impression of your company and shows you’re committed to customer success.
Although the customer will have access to resources, assigning a dedicated guide to them is also ideal. This way, they have someone they can trust to assist them should they get stuck or have questions while navigating those first steps.
Now, this isn’t to say you can’t or shouldn’t use automation at all. For instance, you can make onboarding more efficient using automation later in the journey. Just avoid using automation at the start, and make sure it’s balanced with the self-serve process. You can do this by creating gated checkpoints, so there’s prompt timing for person-to-person interactions when needed.
6. Not Being a Cross-Functional Advocate for the Customer
The onboarding process isn’t always a one-on-one interaction. In some cases, there are as many as a half dozen individuals customers will engage with throughout the process. Assess this in advance so you can determine whether or not you can reduce the number. If not, you can always assign a Customer Success Manager to act as their “quarterback” during those interactions.
Either way, be sure to clarify with customers the rules of engagement and who plays what role with them. Establishing clear lines of ownership eliminates the need for customers to figure out how your organization operates to be successful.
Then if any issues arise, make your customer service process is swift. Support tickets can be an area of frustration, particularly at the start of the onboarding process. However, providing the value-add of tracking and resolving tickets in the first few months will pave the way for building strong relationships.
Having a customer onboarding program for your products and services is no longer an option — it’s a necessity. Your customers expect it and even demand it. Just be sure that your onboarding strategy avoids the common mistakes SaaS companies make.
Don’t rely too much on automated solutions and try to be as human as possible. Being proactive with outreach and guidance will give a great first impression, build trust, and improve the odds of them becoming long-term, loyal customers.
Now, it may be difficult to decide the tradeoffs of putting this activity on existing roles in your organization (or even creating a separate role). This is where ServiceSource comes in. We help guide companies through that decision process.
Either way, prioritizing your customer experience during the first three months will pay back dividends in the form of lower churn and spend, thanks to the foundation you build early on.
If you’d like the help of experts for your onboarding strategy, then get in touch with us today!