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Your company has just signed a new client. The sales demo proved the value of your product, and now new customers are ready to experience it for themselves — only they don’t know how to unlock that value.
It can be challenging for new customers and SaaS subscribers to set up their teams on a new platform or access the features needed to accomplish their goals. That’s when the Customer Success team steps in to provide an effective onboarding experience that not only educates new users about the solution, but also increases customer satisfaction. Creating happy customers reduces customer churn rates — which means stronger customer retention metrics, greater customer lifetime value, and over 2x more revenue for your organization.
New users’ product knowledge relies entirely on the onboarding and training they receive, so it’s critical your Customer Success Managers (CSMs) are prepared for their calls. After the handoff from sales to support, the CSM needs to hit the ground running and get the user on an onboarding call immediately.
The overall goal of any touchpoint should leave the customer feeling heard and having a next step.
4 steps to successful user onboarding
We’ve compiled our top tips for prepping your Customer Success team before their first onboarding calls.
1. Schedule the kickoff call ASAP
The moment a sale closes, a Customer Success Manager should send a welcome email and get an onboarding or training call on the new user’s calendar. At this stage, your organization should already be in touch with the account. Minimizing the downtime before new clients begin the customer onboarding process increases the likelihood of activation and decreases churn.
Simply put: Schedule a kickoff and product walkthrough session ASAP. If more than one call is needed, push to schedule the next one before the first call ends. If that isn’t possible, use follow-up emails with a scheduling link to make it easier for the customer. (Better yet, use scheduling automation like Calendly’s Workflows to automate email follow-ups.)
In any case, always keep the onboarding journey moving toward adoption. Start this process with a well-structured email that introduces the customer to their onboarding specialist and sets expectations for the experience. To get new CSMs started, try sharing this kickoff email template.
Subject line: Schedule your onboarding today!
I’m so excited to help your team members get started using [your company’s product]. To get the ball rolling, let’s put a meeting on the calendar for an onboarding screen share. Please use this link to sign up for the time that works best for you: calendly.com/[yourschedulinglink]
What to expect from our session:
Recap your business processes and goals
Discuss your workflow
Walk through your account goals
Review possible customizations and quick wins
To start learning on your own:
[include links to tutorial guides, FAQs, or videos]
[include links to your knowledge base or help center]
Looking forward to getting your team up and running!
2. Share your expertise — and your screen — during tutorials
Using screen shares during the customer onboarding process is the most efficient way to teach a customer how to navigate your product or software. Seeing a CSM go step-by-step through the account setup process will help the training stick. And the faster your customer gets ramped up, the faster you can start delivering value.
Once the basic product tour is finished, instruct your CSMs to let the customer drive. The customer should share their screen with the CSM, who can then coach the user through the features they’ll use most often. Videoconferencing platforms like Zoom, Webex, and GoToMeeting let you record your sessions. Find the platform that best suits your CSMs and their training styles, but be sure that you’re able to record the call and link to it in your follow-up email with the customer.
When training a large team, it’s unlikely every member will be able to attend. Providing a recording lets your CSMs distribute the training to anyone who couldn’t attend, or for existing customers to review if they have questions later. It’s also helpful to use scheduling automation to set up multiple group meeting options so people can sign up for the user onboarding session that’s most convenient.
3. Avoid tightly scripted tutorials
In a world of increasing automation, a human touch can make a big impact. It’s important to continue the customer relationship begun by your sales team and build on its momentum. So how can user onboarding do that when each account is different and their workflows vary?
An effective customer onboarding strategy shouldn’t use rigid scripts during onboarding calls. Instead, encourage your CSMs to start with a standard skeleton checklist of admin tasks all new users must know to start using the product. Then, the CSMs can focus the remaining training around the features each account needs to accomplish their specific goals.
Explaining every feature will cause information overload, and the negative customer onboarding experience will drive some users away. Your sales team should give the CSMs detailed notes about the account’s goals and pain points dating back to the first discovery call. Gathering the customer feedback and goals ahead of time will shape an outline of onboarding topics. CSMs should:
Establish a goal for the end of the initial session to help you build your onboarding outline.
Cover the account framework, admin tasks that should be completed before customizing the account settings, and examples of the functionality that new clients want to use.
Avoid setting up the users’ accounts for them. Instead, walk them through the steps after the first login.
Here is a sample customer onboarding call skeleton script:
Introduction: Set expectations for the call — Gather any remaining use case details
*BEGIN CALL RECORDING*
Account Settings: Creating an account — Where to locate settings
Managing Users: How to add/remove users — How to edit user accounts
Features relevant to their goals: Features for individuals — Features for teams
Integrations: Applicable integrations
Support resources: Help center / knowledge base — Community — Contacting customer support or account manager
Save time during the onboarding session: Before the call begins, uncover the features new customers will use most. Some scheduling platforms let you program custom questions into the booking process. Structure your questions around most-used features, pain points, team goals — anything that focuses the customer onboarding process.
4. Develop skills and qualities that make CSMs more successful
Creating a successful customer onboarding experience begins with having the right people in the role. Customer Success Managers can come from a variety of backgrounds, including customer support, account management, or sales. The role requirements vary by company and product, but leaders should nurture some key skills and qualities to ensure their Customer Success team members will provide an excellent experience at every point on the customer journey.
As the sales deal nears its close, the CSM should be on top of the account status. They need to be proactive and get a customer onboarding call on the calendar and promptly follow-up with new users to guarantee their success with the product. They must also drive customer engagement by scheduling regular check-ins to review customer satisfaction, upsell feature upgrades, and lock in renewals at the end of the contract.
“The onboarding and renewal are bookends of a multi-faceted experience. Throughout any customer’s journey, there are a number of milestones, emails, and meetings that CSMs have to orchestrate.”
Head of Customer Success at Calendly
If a customer asks a question that the CSM can’t answer, they should remain in control of the call. Instead of saying “I don’t know,” they should use language like, “That’s a great question! Let me do some research and get back to you!” or, “Let me loop in our customer support team who can answer that in more detail for you.” Having a strong bond with colleagues in other departments will come in handy here.
Whether it’s helping the sales team close a deal, working with marketing on an educational webinar series, or delivering customer feedback to the product team, Customer Success Managers need to maintain sound relationships across the company to serve their customer base better.
CSMs must be able to foster a trusting, transparent relationship with their accounts. It helps users feel advocated for, heard and considered. Loyal customers like knowing they have a contact at their service provider, and making them feel valued opens opportunities to collect invaluable customer feedback.
Creating a learning environment in which new customers feel comfortable asking questions makes customer onboarding and training more effective. The CSM has to apply your company’s solution to whatever personal use case the customer has. The goal is always driving towards adoption and customer retention, and a CSM who is patient and an active listener can make the difference.
By the time a CSM meets with a customer, the CSM should already be familiar with the account’s use case and the personas involved. A new user may not have explored enough to realize how much they can get from your product, but that can all be unlocked during onboarding. The training should cover the functionality customers asked for during sign-up, but it should also include the features they didn’t know they needed. CSMs should be so well-versed in the product that they can predict what workflows will best meet the customer’s needs and generate the best results.
A good CSM should receive the same product training as Customer Support team members. CSMs must have an in-depth understanding of your product’s functionality, so they can imagine innovative ways to apply it to any use case a customer can throw at them. You never know what types of questions will come up, and in-depth product knowledge equips your team with the flexibility to be ready for anything.
Do your part to build a successful customer onboarding process
The customer onboarding experience can make the difference between a customer successfully adopting your company’s product the first time they use it, or churning before seeing the value your product can deliver. That experience is only as good as the Customer Success Manager leading the onboarding session, so it’s critical for you to develop a framework for creating effective CSMs.
With a Customer Success team confident in their product knowledge, a timely onboarding cadence, and training that focuses on the essentials, you have the foundation for more successful customer onboarding — and the greater revenue that comes with it.
E-book: Email templates for every stage of your customer journey
Download these customer success email templates to build lasting relationships and get better, faster results from your customer meetings.
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