Customer Onboarding: How to deliver success through an Onboarding team

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Originally published in Portuguese: http://useronboarding.com.br/como-entregar-sucesso-para-novos-clientes/ and updated on 05/08/2018

The most important purpose of having an onboarding process for new clients is to help them take the first steps using your solution, in a way they can quickly remove technical barriers, see a first value and then be satisfied. The onboarding process usually matches technical orientation, when needed, and strategic education, which removes all barriers your client could face at the very beginning of their journey. Removing these barriers allows them to have a better experience, which makes them stay longer as customers.

There are many different ways to structure an onboarding process, taking into account your solution and your customers’ profile and needs. Some companies are able to deliver success in the first days through their own solution, offering guidance via product tours and automatic messages. Dropbox and Duolingo are good examples of it. Still, there are also situations in which the customer needs more touch. In other words, more guidance to use your solution. It can happen due to your product’s complexity, as EPR systems, or even when they need more strategic orientations. In these cases, offering implementation services is a good way to be close to your public and help them achieve more results. In this article, I will talk about the RD Station case, in which we offer onboarding services to support our new clients and partners in their first steps using our software, RD Station Marketing.

 

RD Station: Why have a specific team to handle the customer onboarding process

At RD Station, we offer different implementation packages not only to facilitate technical setup (which is not that complex as RD Station Marketing works on SaaS model) but also to give more strategic support, as Inbound Marketing, our core business, is not a common subject for all customers – and they must understand this topic to see value using our solution.

Currently, there are approximately 60 implementation specialists (lovingly called Implementation Success Managers) in the Services department, divided into 6 different teams – 2 of them focusing on partners (digital agencies) and 4 of them working directly with customers. Together they run around 400 projects monthly. I’ll go back in time to explain how we structured this department.


Onboarding and Ongoing processes: breaking down into teams

Since the beginning of the Customer Success department, back in 2013, we have known the importance of focusing on the onboarding and ongoing stages separately, as customers able to achieve great results during the onboarding stage were more likely to renew contracts, as shown below:

Initially, the CSM was responsible for both stages, being the one in charge of the implementation process and also for all other activities related to the ongoing stage. That worked well for a while. However, as the number of new clients increased quickly, our team became unable to do a really great job in both stages. When you have more than one focus, you actually have none, right? That’s what happened. And that’s when we realized we needed to review the processes by dividing the team into two.

It was 2015 when we broke down our CS team into two different positions: Implementation Success Managers, responsible for delivering value for new customers and partners through the onboarding projects, and Customer Success Managers, responsible for all next steps after the implementation process. With this division, the IS team started to track and be responsible for a different metric: Activation, which means the capacity of showing value during the onboarding process and ensuring a good software usage.
Here are some details about our IS operation:

 

The implementation projects

To deliver a proper experience during the onboarding stage, we offer 6 different implementation projects: 5 for direct clients and 1 specifically for partners (digital agencies). All these projects were designed according to the Digital Marketing Success Map, in which we had previously mapped the most important results the customers want to achieve using RD Station Marketing. This made it possible to ensure the onboarding projects were all scoped regarding the value customers would like to achieve quickly, during the very first steps of their journey with us.

The onboarding process has on average two months of duration. Briefly, the process works like this:

1) The client chooses the project during the sales process, according to their reality and needs
2) The client receives materials (videos and articles) about technical actions they must do using RD Station Marketing before the online meeting with the ISM
3) They watch those videos and do the expected activities by their own
4) In the meeting, the client can validate all actions and receive feedback/guidance from the ISM, who sends a new content to be explored by the customer for the next meeting.

In this way, the technical content is taught through videos, which gives autonomy to the customers to do the activities when it is more appropriate for them, without dependence on an ISM. Furthermore, this way the meetings are focused on strategic guidance, which adds more value to the onboarding process.

 

Metrics

The IS team is today responsible for two main metrics:

1) Activation: Externally, it reflects the value achievement of the customers during the onboarding process. That’s when they say “Wow! I can see some results and that’s what I wanted!”. Internally, Activation means the usage of the main features of our solution during the onboarding process, so we can ensure the customer learned how to use the features related to the implementation project they have chosen previously.
2) Net Promoter Score (NPS): We don’t only want to track the usage of customers, but also know how they feel after the onboarding process. That means we want to receive feedback from them. For this, we send a NPS survey after the implementation project is done, asking all customers to rate the experience during the onboarding process. We use the responses for continuous improvement of our team and processes.

 

The main benefits

I must confess: it was hard to structure the IS team: many challenges, studies, processes structuring, change management and so on. But even with all this effort, it is worth it. Here are some of the best results of having an IS team dedicated to the onboarding process:

1) A real impact on churn: Activation is our main leading indicator, with a clear correlation to the retention rate. From the customers who are able to achieve the First Value during the onboarding stage, the churn rate reduces by 50%. The impressiveness of this result makes us invest much in the IS team. (If you want to know more about the leading indicators of the RD Customer Success team, I strongly recommend this article.)
2) All focus on the onboarding process: Besides the continuous improvements in the services to deliver more and more value to the customers, the IS team works really close to our Product team, giving feedback and opinion about the roadmap and features to be improved. In this way, we guarantee both teams work together to deliver the best experience to all customers.
3) Improvement of the CSM role: With the IS team focusing on the onboarding process, the CS team was able to restructure their role as well. A great example of that is the QBR execution, in which the CSMs are responsible for checking the next steps each customer should take to guarantee they are reaching more results, showing the way through quarterly meetings.
4) Continuous improvement: as we receive many responses from the NPS survey, we are always validating if the old and new processes are working well. As you know, the market can change, and so the product and the need of our customers. The continuous attention to all data related to the process helps me and my team to ensure we’re always doing our best to deliver the best experience to all customers.

I hope this deep dive into our operation has helped you to have some insights into what we do. Please, feel free to ask questions or even share your own experiences about the onboarding process of your company. 😉


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