Customer Onboarding Best Practices

The customer journey doesn't end with the sale. In fact,  the most critical part of the customer journey, from the customer's point of view, is what comes next. Their Onboarding into the service or product they just paid for.  Your client has given you a commitment. They acknowledged that they have an issue that needs solving and you and your company are going to be the ones that solve it.


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A go a bit deeper into each point.



Customer Onboarding sets the expectations of ALL your future interactions and that is why it's wildly important.  In this post we will be going over Customer Onboarding Best Practices, how they impact customer lifetime value (CLV) and why Marketing and Sales are co-responsible for product/service adoption. 

Defining Onboarding? 

Sometimes it is easier to say what something isn't before thinking about what that is. 

Onboarding isn't…

  • About you: Put your ego and your company's ego aside. Think about what would be best for the customer.
  • Time-based: Arbitrary time lines are a distraction. Saying a client is Onboarded because they have been registered for X number of days doesn't reflect if the client is getting value out of the solution (We'll talk about Value more below).
  • Purely functional: For example users loaded into a database is not equal to users successfully using the solution.  Functionality usage can factor into the process as an indicator, but should not be the only thing you are looking at.


So what is it? 

It usually boils down to one of two things. You can either say it is the process of the customer realizing or achieving value for the first time or when they understand the value potential of your product/services for the first time, for real. If your Onboarding process is complicated, showing value potential will be your best bet for considering the client onboarded.


As an organization you need to define what onboarding looks like to you and your clients. You may even need several Onboarding processes to cover all your customer segments. The point is the onboarding process needs to make sense to you and your client.


To build your process you will need to know:

  • What was promised by Sales and Marketing?
  • At what point will sales hand the client off to the Onbaording team?
  • When and how does the customer start getting value out of the product/service?
  • When is onboarding complete?


Building a Customer Onboarding process

In this instance it's better to start with the end. You need to define what an "Onboarded" client looks like. What does it mean to be "Onboard".  Look at your most successful clients. How did they achieve success, what did their path look like? If you are just starting out you will need to use your imagination a bit but you can always change things once you have some data or feedback. "Completed Onboarding" is a major milestone in the customer lifecycle and is a metric that should be measured, hence why it needs to be well defined. Once you know what the end of the Onboarding process looks like you can then work backwards.

Generating value during the Onboarding Process 

You can make sure the new client is getting value during the Onboarding process by defining Value Points. Value Point are where the client can see that value is coming in the future and can connect the dots from where they are now to where they start reaping the benefits of your solution.  How long it takes to Onboard a new client can vary greatly from company to company. You will need to define an onboarding journey which highlights the Value Points that customer will achieve during the process.

Achieving First Value during client Onboarding 

It is especially important to know how long it will take the client to achieve their First Value Point. This is important for managing the clients expectations. Each time a client reaches a value point they can move to the next step in the process. Also each value point will have list of tasks that need to be complete so the client can get value out of your product/service.


Value points don't need to be literal a dollar and cents calculation. They can be a step that lets the client know the process is moving forward. An important planning meeting, completed integration or hitting play on new system can all be value points. Whatever you use the underlying purpose of Value Points is to give the client a sense of progress and accomplishment. The longer the Onboarding process the more important these Value Points become.

Tip: Measuring how much time it takes to achieve First Value is a good KPI for making sure good sales handovers are being achieved.

Onboarding is a collaborative process 

There is Co-Responsibility with Sales, Marketing, the Onboarding team, and the Customer.

  • Marketing: Every customer interaction must be documented and organized. This is not only important for Sales enablement but also for post-sale context. In addition marketing can get involved with integrating customer support platforms into their marketing tools, set up automated communications to help the client stay on track and surfaces proactive support opportunities based on client behavior.


  • Sales: Handing over the client to the Onboarding team can be a delicate process. If you have a long sales cycle this becomes even more important. Many times this handover is where a value point can be achieved. It is also a best practice for the sales person to be  involved in the handover meeting. This can be as simple is participating on a call for the first 15 minutes, so the client can be confident everyone is on the same page. Also the sales team needs to be tactful in passing future client requests to the Onboarding team, reinforcing their importance.


  • Onboarding Team: After a general process is put in place, the onboarding team will need to tailor it to the specific clients. You can present this process to the client in a presentation a flow chart or whatever makes sense at the time. The medium doesn't really matter as long it is clear and the client knows how to follow along. Team roles and responsibilities need to be defined for both the customer and the Onboarding teams. 


  • The Customer: They need to trust the process and hold their own team accountable. The way they get there is by understanding the Onboarding process, each Value Point and how their team contributes the success of the product/service adoption.


With everybody on the same page Onboarding success increases, which leads to happier clients and reduced Churn.


If you haven’t been thinking of the onboarding process as a responsibility of not only the Onboarding team, but also sales and marketing, hopefully you are now. With some simple processes and reports you should be able to rethink how you are doing things today and if your clients are getting value when they finish your Onboarding process.

I hope you found this post informative, are ready to go back to your company and take a hard look at the customer Onboarding process. If you have any questions feel free to reach out to me on social media, my contact is below. Also subscribe if you want to stay on top of the latest and greatest in digital marketing and sales.

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