Whether you are a platform, product, services, marketplace or similar business, chances are you will be operating on the Customer Success model. Part of this model is Customer Onboarding.

Onboarding is the first stage of the post-sale customer lifecycle. Your customer’s onboarding journey can predict the kind of relationship they will have with your business going forward. A poor customer onboarding experience can dramatically decrease their likelihood to renew within the first year. By contrast, when you implement a successful, scalable onboarding process, it leads to happy customers, increased satisfaction, higher retention and upsell - all of which are critical to a recurring revenue business.

Lincoln Murphy of Sixteen Ventures and author of “Customer Success: How Innovative Companies Are Reducing Churn and Growing Recurring Revenue” uses the phrase “The Seeds of Churn are Planted Early”. Lincoln asserts...

“Customers rarely wake up one morning and decide to leave you… In fact, chances are the seeds of their churn were planted before they were even a customer.”.

Lincoln explains that often the customer is just the wrong customer, or their expectations were not aligned with what the solution can deliver. It is usually during the implementation where this becomes clear.

In the same way that “The Seeds of Churn are Planted Early” it is also at this early stage of the customer journey that you have the most influence over their long term success. Delivering an excellent onboarding experience will improve a customer's long-term prospects and set them off on a path for success.

Set expectations and provide a plan

For your onboarding process to scale it is essential that you can define a repeatable process. This method allows you to communicate the plan clearly with each customer and also create a common language for the team to know where each customer is in the process. The Kickoff is your opportunity to ensure everyone is on the same page. We like to use this time to clarify the scope, establish the customer's expectations and their definition of success. We then walk through our Onboarding Success Plan, identifying parts where the customer is required to provide assets or information and their expected level of availability. Through this session, we can make adjustments on the fly. We then share this plan as a live link with the customer using Taskfeed.

Sharing the plan amongst the entire internal team along with the customer's side means there is a clear, mutually agreed action plan. We leave this session with a clear path for how we will proceed.

The initial plan is just that, a plan. Therefore, you can expect requirements to evolve as the customer becomes more familiar with your product and how your product solves their particular challenge.

We manage this by setting a baseline once the initial plan is agreed during the kickoff. The Baseline is a snapshot of the timeline after the kickoff. We can now easily see changes and their impact on downstream work. The baseline becomes an essential way to establish the forward-looking effect of delays on the timeline.

We embrace changes to the plan but are careful to make sure we understand the impact of those changes.

Customer Onboarding in Salesforce

When you are working with spreadsheets, emails, or with disconnected apps, it's hard to keep on top of every customer while making sure those essential steps are followed and tracked. Your business is already running on Salesforce - it makes sense to continue the buyer journey from Sales through to Customer Success, and that starts with Customer Onboarding.

Valuable data is collected in your CRM through the Sales cycle from contact information to the products and services purchased through to any product configuration or custom information you track about your own business.

Wouldn’t it be great if when an Opportunity is Closed Won, an Onboarding Plan could be launched and populated with activities defined in Playbooks and mapped to your products? Or perhaps mapped to different customer segments and triggered from any criteria you set within Salesforce. Well, this is all possible with Taskfeed, where you can track and manage your progress within Salesforce and build Reports that reference your customer information such as Account Type, Account Exec, Opportunity Value, etc.

Every company is different - there is no one-size-fits-all approach to Customer Onboarding. By using Salesforce with Taskfeed you can automate and customize the solution to fit your process.