Chapter 2. Do You Make These 9
Customer Onboarding Mistakes?
Beginning implementation of the product as soon as the deal closes
Before you start in with implementation, you need to do a proper shift of the customer relationship through a formal “hand-off meeting.” The purpose is to help the customer make the mental transition from the sales team to the “post-sales” team, which involves introducing those individuals who will help the customer work through onboarding. The meeting should assist the internal team in understanding why they bought the product in the first place and what their expected outcomes are. Getting this information up front will aid greatly in the onboarding process and set up the internal team as the go-to resource as obstacles arise in the adoption of the software.
Focusing on operation details
Once a SaaS purchase is complete, the post-purchase process seems consumed with myriad details and transactions — getting data into the system; getting users set up with user names and passwords; and remapping the business processes. Up to this point, marketing has probably done a great job of “shaping emotions,” as McKinsey analysts have put it. But the moment customers are dropped into the lap of post-sales operations, often what happens is that decisions are stripped of emotion and people begin experiencing buyer’s remorse, questioning why they’ve undertaken this troublesome progression of events. A well-choreographed customer onboarding process can go far in helping to deepen the relationship while also getting the information needed to guide the customer through the set-up work to come.
Providing a bunch of touchpoints and no pathway
There’s a reason new customers often complain about having to drink from the “firehose.” Too often, SaaS companies begin the onboarding process by emailing a profusion of links for their knowledge base and video channel and suggesting customers use search to find the information they need. That’s no way to get people onboarded. As Thought Industries’ Alyssa Azevedo explains, it’s important “to strike a balance” between helping customers understand the specific functionality of the software that will help them reach their goals while also “exposing them to the possibilities of the platform.” One-size-fits-all training really fit nobody well. By providing a pathway that emphasizes what’s important to the customer, you’ll help shorten their time-to-value — the amount of time it takes for a user to gain success or value from your software.
Telling rather than listening
If you find that you’re doing most of the talking during your conversations with customers — whether in the transition meeting, during support calls or in other venues — it’s time to stop and listen instead. That’s the only way you’ll really encourage customers to tell you what they’re thinking about and what they think they need to succeed. It’s true that not everybody you speak with will be able to articulate these things, but those who do are invaluable because they’ll lead you to the unspoken problems that are getting in the way of customer success.
Ignoring possible quick wins
As with many aspects of life, the pursuit of perfection can easily get in the way of progress. Your job isn’t to make sure a product is fully implemented. It’s to make sure the components are in place that will help your customer get to those quick wins that guarantee loyalty. And remember: A quick win isn’t defined by your goals but by the customer’s goals. So, focus on their milestones and what they’re hoping to achieve.
Being the “hero” rather than being proactive
Sure, it may feel good to your onboarding and support teams to feel good about jumping in to helping a customer overcome some snag in their deployment. But what would be even more valuable is to assess problems that routinely surface during that part of SaaS adoption and being proactive about addressing it on a systemic level. Likewise, rather than “parachuting in” to rescue a flailing customer close to their renewal, it’s smarter to save the account by making sure they’re on target to get value from your product early in the relationship.
Mistaking customer happiness for customer satisfaction
Oftentimes, customer success teams will see a heightened level of customer happiness at individual touchpoints and mistakenly add those up into an assumed cumulative level of satisfaction. Positive feedback can be narrow — an employee may answer a troubleshooting question on the first try — even as the root causes of the problem are left unresolved. Underlying problems can fester, resulting in an overall level of customer dissatisfaction that will go undetected until the renewal period has come and gone.
Focusing on saving the wrong relationships
Customer success expert Donna Weber warns against the myth of the happy customer. In her experience, engagement is a better indicator of loyalty because, as she says, “the moment customers are not happy, they could leave.” She advises the use of customer health scores, first, to better understand whether they’ll “churn, renew or expand,” and, second, to prioritize the activities of the customer success team. Not every company is a good fit for a given product. The use of a scoring process can help you identify which customers are worth the extra investment of pulling out all the stops to “rescue” and which ones are likely to leave no matter how much effort is expended.
Viewing a customer departure as the end
Given that some customers will never be the right fit, for those that should be, don’t consider their non-renewal as the end of the relationship. Make lemonade out of the non-renewal by doing what you can to uncover the reasons why the renewal didn’t occur. Yes, this conversation probably should have happened earlier in the relationship, but even though it didn’t, gather the gumption to have it now, whether through a phone call, focus group or exit survey. What you’ll learn could make the difference for the next company deciding whether to stay with you or go.
Now that you understand the most common problems SaaS companies make during their customer onboarding efforts, it’s time to learn how to measure and monitor your customer onboarding success.