Experience is expected to surpass price and product this year as the biggest market differentiator among B2B companies. Customers today will pay more for a better experience and they will continue doing business with companies that treat them well. This starts from the moment a customer connects with your company – an email, a product demo, or a blog post – but one of the most important stages in the customer journey experience (CJX) is onboarding. In this blog, we’ll provide insight into what makes an effective onboarding process and how you can start making improvements to your process today.
What is Onboarding?
Onboarding is the first process post-sale where a company welcomes its new customers into the company. During this period, the company gains an understanding of their challenges, needs, communication preferences, plans for measurement, and other factors that define the value proposition for the customer. The cost of retaining a customer is far less than acquiring a new one which is why successfully onboarding customers is crucial to maximizing customer lifetime value.
In a recent ServiceSource survey of 500 technology industry experts across North America over half of those surveyed cited an inferior handoff between sales and customer success teams, poor onboarding and adoption processes, or the inability to perform proactive customer health checks as the most significant challenges to creating an optimal experience for their customers. A quintessential way to consistently provide a great experience is to map the customer journey and prioritize the delivery of excellent service at each touchpoint. You want to create a seamless experience that interconnects each touchpoint and supports the overall journey.
Understanding the Journey
B2B sales representatives often work with one stakeholder, perhaps a member of the executive team, to complete the sale, and yet another stakeholder within the same organization who manages the company’s day-to-day operations. It’s important to recognize the goals and challenges unique to each stakeholder group as they may have different views on how to take advantage of the product you’re selling.
Know who you’re selling to by plotting each stage in the customer journey and aligning each of those customer touchpoints with your sales cycle. Many companies map a single persona, such as the B2B buyer, though companies should also map the partner experience to have a complete assessment of the market to which you’re selling, from awareness to engagement and purchase. Channel sales partners include affiliate partners, resellers, value-added partners, and other businesses that don’t sell directly for your company.
While B2B sales reps identify and build customer relationships early in the sales cycle, those relationships require frequent attention and nurturing throughout the journey to maintain active customer engagement. It is crucial to keep the relationship fresh and relevant to avoid splitting up. While many B2B companies invest heavily in lead generation, sales development, and customer acquisition, we can expect more attention to be given to retention efforts such as onboarding, adoption, and health checks. Consumers today have many choices in our competitive B2B market and making the switch to a new company or product is easier than ever before. By learning the customer’s expectations and frequently educating them about how the product will routinely meet their needs, you build trust and add value to the relationship. Customers need to know they are top of mind and you have their best interests at heart. In fact, a study from Salesforce notes that this year, 75 percent of buyers expect businesses to anticipate their needs and make relevant suggestions before they initiate contact. A bad relationship cannot simply be fixed by customer success – start things off right with an effective onboarding process.
Onboarding Best Practices
Thirty-eight percent of consumers surveyed recently expect a useful and effective onboarding process. Participants in the ServiceSource survey also said the most important factor in a great experience is a simple and personalized sales process. To simplify the customer experience, follow this checklist for your next onboarding session:
● Goals & Measurement: Close the gap on what was sold versus what the customer receives by determining their goals, obstacles, and truly grasping what success looks like for them. Make sure you identify the KPIs and establish a process for measuring performance at the beginning of the relationship.
● Roles & Relationship: Customer expectations today are high. Show customers that you respect and appreciate them by accommodating their desire for proactive, responsive, and high-quality personal support. Routinely engage in active listening and frequent communication to instill confidence and trust among your customers.
● Education & Training: Make sure customers are using your product to its full potential by coaching and educating them on best practices for use and industry and market trends. Continue to add value to customers by leveraging insights learned through your relationship-building to tailor the experience to meet their individual needs. This may include providing customers with tips on how to use your product to address a particular challenge or training them on a new product feature.
Proactive management of expectations reduces customer churn and breeds loyalty. One in three consumers say they would leave a brand they “love” after just one bad experience. Onboarding is key to creating an experience customers will love. Better your onboarding process by detailing and interpreting the customer journey, aligning performance goals and measurement with the sales cycle, and nurturing your relationships through investments in education and training.
ServiceSource is a global leader in sales development and customer acquisition, onboarding, adoption, health checks, upselling and cross-selling, and renewals. For over 20 years, we’ve delivered exceptional customer experiences for our clients that in turn grow revenue and increase customer satisfaction.