The first experience a new customer has with your company sets the stage for a successful relationship. Therefore, a smooth onboarding experience is critically important to not only ensure product adoption but accelerate time to value as well.
Evan Klein, Founder and President of Satrix Solutions, sat down with Peter McCoy, co-founder of Baton, a software implementation management platform, to discuss how companies can overcome common challenges when onboarding new customers and gather their best practices to improve the onboarding experience.
What are the biggest benefits to a company when they are consistently strong with new customer onboarding?
Peter McCoy: A strong, favorable first impression during onboarding can deliver a great customer experience and measurable ROI, especially downstream. It’s not surprising that software vendors who accelerate time-to-value via an improved implementation experience also lower churn rates, because they demonstrate value more quickly. Think about any business sale. The ability to fulfill initial promises — on time — translates to diminished buyer anxiety.
Customers pay for value delivered when onboarded effectively. You’ve given them good reason to believe your brand messages, and while this might seem like a minor point, it’s arguably the top requirement for a B2B brand message to go viral.
Most end-customers, at some point, have been oversold, convinced the business outcomes they desired would be met in a larger way, or delivered faster by the so-called ‘competition.’ This is a terrible experience. Conversely, companies that consistently deliver on their implementation promises in a repeatable, measurable fashion, that afford the ability to analyze project variations and make adjustments generate revenue more predictably.
Are there common challenges companies face when onboarding new customers?
Tons. But for today’s discussion, let’s focus on three challenges: process, triage and operational leverage.
Process: We have seen the process be as simple as a 10-line checklist to a robust project plan with 200+ lines and a client-facing document for each step. The main thing is to capture the knowledge of your initial team and share it in a documented and repeatable way. In a size that fits your business at your stage.
Real-time triage: Static project management is a big challenge. Software leaders need to depart from the status quo of how products are deployed today. Inconsistent spreadsheets, PM tools and email chains are a huge time sink. Using outdated tools, flexibility is difficult. There’s no ability to gain real-time visibility into projects or manufacture time in a project. For example, if a project task finishes early or late, the PM doesn’t find out until reviewing weekly email updates. If a task finishes early, and the next sequential task owner is not alerted to start immediately, and time is wasted. If the task is trending late and no one is updated, there is no possibility of triaging that task to be back on schedule and time is forever lost.
Operational leverage: For companies to scale implementation processes quickly, the prevailing method is to hire more people in professional services. This hurts margins long term, and creates a process-driven culture in onboarding instead of one driven by optimizing resource efficiencies.
How should companies be approaching their onboarding strategy? What are some best practices you can share?
Create systems and processes that scale. More often than not we see companies grow their implementation teams and hurt their long-term growth and margin prospects because they don’t create scalable systems.
Making sure all stakeholders know their responsibilities and scheduled commitments at the kick off is imperative to a successful project. Onboarding can be time-consuming work, which is why we advise software vendors to consider implementation management tools that include repeatable templates to store a reusable record of project work. Templates that can be used time and again. And do so in a centralized ‘living’ portal that will exist as a real-time audit trail of the entire onboarding process.
Empower your customers to partner with you, as most are motivated to move the project to fruition and to do it well. This means provide a solid plan and the implementation the tools to allow participants to:
• Assign and schedule work
• Monitor project progress and track stalled tasks
• Reassign and reschedule work as needed
• Understand and comment on project specifics
• Alert team members of task delays and other relevant activity
• Revisit records to improve future projects
What defines a successful onboarding experience? How do companies measure success?
Some will settle for the software vendor managing the implementation on time and on budget. While valid assessments, you need to know how well you’re doing throughout the project. We created the Baton Score for just this reason. It lets the software provider know how their people and processes are performing across every milestone and for every member of the team. It also alerts the PM to step in to ensure each project stays on track and keeps the vendor-client relationship strong by affording the ability for the team to work together to fix issues earlier.
The industry knows that bad experiences do not happen in a vacuum and that it behooves a software provider to honestly analyze their implementation processes; to know what went wrong (and when) and how they can improve. The audit records kept within the Baton platform helps companies assess their onboarding performance with actionable, dynamic data that is specifically linked to every phase, milestone and task throughout the implementation project.
While the Baton Score provides a means to assess each implementation based on internal performance metrics, it’s also important to invite feedback from the customer directly. Establishing an ongoing feedback loop based on candid input from key customer contacts will provide additional insights into customer satisfaction and perception of the implementation experience. Companies like Satrix Solutions not only provide best practice recommendations on how to structure such a program, but serve as an objective 3rd party to analyze customer feedback and so you know precisely where the implementation team is performing well or improvements can be made.
Tell us about the Baton platform. What do companies generally use before they learn about your company?
Baton is a platform that leading software companies leverage to manage, scale and automate their implementation workflows in real time. Prior to discovering Baton most companies were using spreadsheets, lengthy email chains and other antiquated, manually-updated status reporting tools. Baton is a communications and collaboration portal that helps software companies scale their implementation processes and accelerate revenue recognition.
What we’ve learned in building Baton is how important the audit trail (that Baton maintains ) is to our customers and their clients, not just for analysis and continuous improvement, but as a guide rail for continuously improving their clients’ onboarding experience.
You can learn more about Baton here.