Companies invest a lot in their customer acquisitions. So what does it take to retain your customers? It’s not simply  selling a product or service, but rather focusing on great customer experience.

The experience starts with the first step of the customer journey: Onboarding. It is during this phase where you begin to establish relationships and trust with your customer.  It’s important to understand what drove your customer to select you, their business case requirements, and overall pain points so you can plan the path to their success with your product.  Each customer and their requirements are unique, therefore, taking the time to get to know your customer and prepping the internal and external teams will help pave the way for a successful onboarding process.

SaaS companies have varying onboarding timelines, and it is important to communicate proper expectations dependent on the complexity of the data and project.. Being cognisant of the factors that can cause onboarding delays certainly helps customers get a return on their investment more efficiently.

Below are a few steps that can be considered as you plan, implement and accelerate the onboarding process:

1. Structure a Repetitive Process: Soon after the sales team closes a deal, there should be a formal hand-off from Sales to the Implementation team. Putting a standard structure in place will help guide the process and help the team be flexible where needed for the unique requirements of each implementation. Consider the following factors in defining your process:

  • Start with an internal huddle where your implementation team can be debriefed on everything learned during the sales cycle.
  • Keep an eye focused on milestones, onboard a customer in phases 
  • Celebrate the completion of each milestone/phase with your customers
  • Determine the steps needed for the minimal viable product so your customer can begin using your product quickly

2. Help the customer focus on data cleanliness: Data cleanliness and understanding its complexity are critical factors to a successful implementation. Data can be raw, disorganized or stored in disparate sources. The more customers can cleanse and prep their data in advance, the smoother the process.  Customers with great data hygiene practices are rare, so you should be prepared to coach your customer through their cleansing process.

3. Gain Clarity from Customers: As with any relationship, the vendor/customer relationship is a two-way street. You can help your customers derive maximum value by accurately capturing details related to data requirements, the calculations to be performed, their reporting requirements, use cases, pain points, and so on. These data discovery calls are frequent during the initial stages of customer engagement. The better you know their business needs, the more effectively you can direct them in the use of your product and derive quick wins.

4. Get to Know the MVP (Minimum Viable Product): The one-size-fits-all approach is long gone – every customer is different and so are their needs. From your data discovery efforts, you should now be prepped to guide them in leveraging your platform and deriving as much value as possible. Remember to set realistic expectations so you can deliver quantifiable value.

5. Establish a Constant Communication Loop: During the onboarding and early adoption phases customers require additional support and guidance to give them confidence and prepare them to be self-reliant. Practicing active listening and focusing on customer issues and insights, while providing timely responses will help you build that trusted advisor role. Schedule recurring meetings with set agendas so customers know what to expect.  Make yourself available and responsive. Communication is one of the biggest keys to success, because everything is more manageable when being transparent and honest.

Knowledge bases, written documentation, training sessions, workshops/webinars to discuss specific use cases are the great resources to empower your customers to be successful.

6. Cross-Functional Team Effort: During onboarding and at strategic intervals during the customer lifecycle, it’s important to include subject matter experts from Engineering, Product, Sales, along with the assigned CSM. Cross-functional partnerships help accelerate processes, save time and the possibility of misunderstanding requirements.  In addition, this gives your customer a sense that their best interests and ultimate success is important to you, and that a community is there to support them.