Step-by-Step Process and Best Practices for Customer On-Boarding Software/SaaS Client

Step-by-Step Process and Best Practices for Customer On-Boarding Software/SaaS Client

Launching Internal Software – On-Boarding External Corporate Clients

The step-by-step process for on-boarding new corporate software clients, which would include the basics of the client onboarding process include: Initial Contact, Kick-Off, Training Adoption and Retention.

CUSTOMER ON-BOARDING (SOFTWARE/SAAS CLIENT)

OVERVIEW

  • Customer on-boarding is a step by step process to familiarize the new customer with the Saas product and create a customer success journey.
  • For a Saas/Software customer, the on-boarding process is important since there are no barriers which can prevent the customer from shifting to other companies because of poor handling.
  • Boarding experience can define the ongoing relationship the customer has with the product and serves crucial for the Saas business.
  • The Customer success onboarding is usually undertaken by Customer Success Managers (CSMs).

PROCESS & EXPERIENCE TO SUCCESSFUL ON-BOARDING:

  • The Customer Onboarding Process for a new software client involves five major steps :-

STEP 1: Initial contact

The first interaction with the customer success team and the software client primarily consists of automated or digital engagement points to welcome the customer and get a sense of what your product can do for them and how it works.

  • KEY ELEMENTS:

1. Sign up form : The first step of on boarding experience starts with a sign up form which provides necessary information about the client and their needs.2. Welcome Email : Sign up is crucial and should be followed with a welcome email, which is personalized and kept simple once the customer has created their account.

  • CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE:

With the sign up form the customer onboarding experience begins and this leaves a mark on the customers which can influence future sales. When personalizing the welcome email it is vital that the client feels enthusiastic after receiving it and it should highlight the importance of the product based on the particular industry of the client, in addition to the expectations during the onboarding process.

STEP 2: Kick Off

During the second stage of kick off, it is important to discuss the product in the context of the customers needs along with defining expectations and the success metrics to ensure everyone is on the same page.

  • KEY ELEMENTS:

1. Login: “This step is about providing users with everything they need to get started such as login credentials”. The customer/user is given a clear path to what they should do first.2. Documentation: Documents, specifications and task sheets are vital element during the kickoff of the onboarding process.

  • CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE:

The first login helps to build confidence in the customer experience journey. It is therefore important to ensure that the customer is not presented with an empty user interface. The user interface should highlight all set of tools and buttons which create positive reinforcement. It is important to adopt an easy setup for all users using the presence of multimedia content along success metrics and clear guidelines provided by the customer success managers results in a better customer experience.

STEP 3: Training

During the training stage the customer success manager should focus on minimizing time-to-value along with highlighting the specific product features relevant to the customer needs and its impact on success metrics.

  • KEY ELEMENTS:

1. Product Tutorial: There should be a form of tutorial to guide new customers through the user interface of your product to ensure that they go through the early steps they need to take to get up to speed.

  • CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE:

Although critical, product tutorial should not be kept as a mandatory step to follow by the customer/user as it may be a hurdle towards the delighted customer experience of on-boarding if they don’t need to or want to see it. As such, to better engage the user during the training phrase, one can focus on sharing the best practices to speed up time-to-value along with the initial results.

STEP 4: Adoption

In-depth learning and support to the new user/customer is provided during this stage with explanations provided for advanced or premium features, along with data integration to consider. Additionally, this stage is critical for gathering feedback of the customer.

  • KEY ELEMENTS:

1. Data Import: Although customers at times do not see any value in this element but it is vital step in which B2B tools requires customers to import their data and ensure smooth transition.2. Check-up call: This can have a huge impact on the overall onboarding experience of your customers as one can gather great actionable insights to take a measured approach.

  • CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE:

The data import should be done in an automated way (as much as possible) for a better customer experience with less time-consuming tools to avoid any barriers for customers to experience the product and be able to use/try the product. The feedback gathered during this stage helps the product team to improve the application based on customer requests and needs. A customer onboarding survey can be a vital tool to gather feedback specifically on the premium features.

STEP 5: Retention

As an ongoing process for keeping users engaged with your product over time and, therefore, increasing customer retention, this step is vital to get customers excited about new features and ensures an engaged workplace.

  • KEY ELEMENTS:

Notifications: Based on the exact type of product needed, notifications play an important role of re-engaging users who might have disengaged since it provides a contact point.

  • CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE:

With the improvised and customized features, the retention activity ensures the customer experience is providing them with excellent reasons to keep using it over time. The notification frequency should not annoy the customer experience and be able to tempt the user into re-engaging with the product with limited information sharing on the first go.

CHECKLIST

The Client Onboarding process checklist for a Software Development Company includes the following check marks to ensure great customer experience includes:

  • Introduction
  • Gather and Sharing basic information
  • Generate Invoicing and signing
  • Project management
  • Welcoming and Introductions
  • Scheduling
  • Assessment
  • Pre-meeting preparation
  • Kickoff call
  • Post call project brief
  • Client guidance
  • Progress report
  • Onboarding feedback
  • Sources
  • Related checklist

TIME COMMITMENTS:

  • FOR CLIENT: The time commitment to be followed by the client for the success of the on-boarding process includes during the stages of Contract signing, first Invoice paying, setting up project management responsible team from client side, agreeing on project timeline and sharing feedback during progress reports.
  • FOR CUSTOMER SUCCESS MANAGER: The time commitment to be followed by the customer success manager for ensuring a successful on-boarding process includes during the stages of -sending the contract to the client for signing, generating first invoice and sending it, setting up project meetings, scheduling kickoff, sending project briefs, along with performing 30 days and 60 days progress reports and ensure the feedback survey is sent timely and immediately after the sending off.

KEY MATERIALS NEEDED:

  • The key materials required during the on-boarding process include login credentials, documentations, project specifications, SLA’s, multimedia content and customer feedback.

GROUP LAUNCH/INDIVIDUAL LAUNCH:

  • High-touch on-boarding, Blended high-tech on-boarding and In-app onboarding are becoming a trend towards group onboarding practices which also are a great way of enhancing the onboarding process for each user and gives 24/7 access to critical features of the product.
  • The best practice of launch or onboarding is considered to be in a group form or for the whole team which ensures everyone who is involved and knows the needs, and background.

DATA & STATISTICS

According to the global survey about B2B client onboarding conducted by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services among 330 executives (including 79 executive managers or board members), below are data and statistics on the sector:

  • 80% of the respondents said that “an increased focus on onboarding offers significant or moderate positive impact over the life of the contract for revenue, client renewals, and client referrals.”
  • “85% respondents agreed that successful customer onboarding will ensure long-term customer loyalty.”
  • “Lack of alignment between functional areas (54%), inadequate communication(51%), limited understanding of customer needs(44%), and insufficient staff resources(26%) are the prominent issues identified for customer failure points during onboarding.”
  • “Only 49% respondents agreed that their firms leverage data and insights to understand and predict higher-level customer needs.”
  • “62% of the organizations look at overall customer satisfaction during the onboarding period. “
  • “69% of companies put together a formal plan going into the onboarding period with 60% respondents having mechanisms for ensuring that expectations set during the sales phase are met during the onboarding period.”
  • “54% respondents agreed that clients have a clear understanding of what to expect during the onboarding period.”

BEST PRACTICES

The customer onboarding best practices that can ensure a successful customer experience include :-

  • Define expectations and set milestones: Be sure to define customer expectations and set “success milestones”
  • Customize the experience:Part of the onboarding experience should be individualizing according to each customer, his needs and expectations
  • Onboard the team: Doing an internal onboarding brief by involving whole team ensures everyone who will be involved knows the needs, pain points, story, background, and onboarding process of the customer.
  • Gather data: It is vital to prove the value to the customer beyond the onboarding process, which is only possible with as much necessary gathering of data during the onboarding process.
  • Focus on the relationship: Do not deliver sale, make a partnership and create a relationship
  • Communicate: Good, consistent communication during the onboarding process will ensure trust during the onboarding process.

Research Strategy:

In order to provide information, insights, data, and statistics surrounding the process for successfully on-boarding new corporate software clients, which would include the basics of the client on-boarding process and experiences, researched through multiple credible news articles, publications and survey reports from sources including but not limited to HBR, Forbes, Useriq, North Highland, Hubspot, and Smartsheet.


Through the search, the above listed step-by-process of customer onboarding process and experience naming-Initial Contact, Kick-Off, Training, Adoption and Retention along with key elements involved during each step and framing a checklist accordingly has been provided above in detail. An old source from Chart Mogul has been used as it shared key information on the important elements required for successful SaaS Customer Onboarding and no such similar sources being available from recent years, we have therefore used it as an important resource in presenting the findings along with other supportive sources.

Launching Internal Software – Case Studies

Three companies that have successfully on-boarded corporate clients for their internal software product are Airtable, StoryChief, and Slack. They have all created an on-boarding process that is interactive and simple and focuses on making the user feel comfortable when using the software.

CASE STUDY 1: AIRTABLE

  • Airtable focuses on understanding the user personas and thus the use case. It has a “Resource and Learning” tab that is helpful when easing into the user interface (UI). It also gets the user to use the product without email verification.
  • Airtable uses “empty states“. This is a gray box with a plus sign in the middle with text that says “Add a base”. This is meant to motivate the user to enter the information needed to use the product.
  • It has an introduction screen. Before requesting the user’s information, Airtable introduces itself by explaining what the app does at a high level.
  • Templates are of great importance for the Airtable app because the template determines the use of the app. For example, if the user chooses a project management template, then Airtable will function as a project management app. If they, however, choose a content marketing template, then Airtable will function as a content marketing workflow app.
  • Airtable has a wide-ranging library of templates. Users can add data to the app, tailor it to their needs, and invite the team to collaborate.
  • Airtable’s tutorials use Touchable Video, which makes them engaging and interactive. The tutorials have pause points where the video stops and a pulsating indicator appears that invites the user to tap.

CASE STUDY 2: STORYCHIEF

  • StoryChief displays customer testimonials on its sign-up page aimed to increase user trust in the product, increase the brand’s authority, and inform that well-known brands and similar persons use the product. The customer testimonials are shown on the homepage after clicking on the sign-up button.
  • It uses simple checklists that lead users to activate the product and make them “feel a sense of progress.”
  • The StoryChief on-boarding process is light, has positive reinforcement, and is humorous. It does not feel mandatory or obligatory.
  • StoryChief keeps the on-boarding process short and rewarding so the experience is successful.

CASE STUDY 3: SLACK

  • With Slack, the user can choose to “skip the tour” on every screen, which means that users who know Slack can opt to skip the on-boarding process. Additionally, users who are frustrated or bored with the on-boarding process can just exit the process instead of closing the app.
  • Slack explains why it is important to fill in certain fields by making use of micro-copy, small-sized text.
  • Slack provides a feature tutorial that walks the user through the software and asks the user information via a chat-box. The tutorial is hosted by Slackbot and is an interactive experience which educates and drives the user to take action at the same time.
  • Slack asks for system permission, to verify email addresses or create a password, after the user is comfortable with the software.
  • Slack makes existing user behavior easier and more efficient instead of radically altering this behavior.
  • It reduces distractions from unimportant messages and emails by providing a “centralized hub for team communications, including the information streaming in from work-related tools”.
  • Being active on Slack says: “I am at work and I am available.”

Launching Internal Software – Client Champions

Companies that need to on-board corporate clients for their internal software products use client champions to improve the software implementation process by sharing the knowledge of the product and reduce the resistance among the teams. This is an effective strategy to use since it accelerates the implementation at a cheaper cost.

Tips to implementing new enterprise software

  • Ashley Sefferman, head of content at Appentive, a customer engagement software company, suggests eight tips for implementing new enterprise software, including the identification of an internal champion, someone responsible for rolling out the new software to the team. Some tips include:
  •  Get executive buy-in and establish an implementation team.
  • Start with a formal software kickoff to introduce the software to the team.
  • Begin with a pilot group and establish an implementation strategy that outlines communication and training protocols, including how the software will be introduced to both existing employees and new hires.
  • The software vendor should provide documentation and technical expertise to assist the client in implementing the new software.
  • Also, Process Street, a workflow management provider, offers a checklist for software companies onboarding new clients, which includes information on project management, scheduling, kickoff meetings, assessments, meeting preparations, post-meeting calls, and progress reports.

How client champions help streamline the onboarding process.

  • According to Recruiter Library, the process of implementing new software will run more smoothly if a group of early adopters who will champion the new technology in the wider business is built in the first stages of the adoption process.
  • This group of technology champions may be formed in tech-savviness, and they can be involved in usability testing.
  • Client Champions can have a role in training other users.
  • Two strategies to improve the Software Implementation Plan in a company highlights the importance of finding a champion and creating a shared understanding of the new internal software products.
  • The first strategy is about finding a champion to build momentum around this new software so they can help convince the rest of the employees to use it, and seeing the enthusiasm of these champions will help convert people who are more skeptical or hesitant.
  • The second strategy is about helping your champions understand the tool or software so they can be involved in the implementation process and can share the value with the rest of the team.

Effective strategy

  • Client champions are used as an effective strategy in convincing the on-board corporate clients of the benefits of the implementation since they can be resistant to changes. Client champions can tell them how it should be done and help demonstrate best practices.
  • User IQ in its article, Introduction to Customer Onboarding Strategies outlined the benefits of the Champion-based customer onboarding. This strategy is effective when “focus is on training a particular subset of a client’s users who will then be responsible for cascading down learning to their respective teams internally”
  • Also, using this strategy can be cheaper since it allows the company “to build strong business relationships with senior employees from a client’s organization.”

Leave a Reply