By: Erik Snider, VP Marketing at Strigo
You’ve heard the saying, “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.” If we take this notion and apply it to customer success, we could say that it hinges on the users’ knowledge and proficiency with your tool. This is oftentimes the weakest link – and what may ultimately lead to customer dissatisfaction and churn.
As soon as you acquire a new customer, it’s imperative to teach them how to use your software and apply it to their specific use cases. This will empower them to drive business growth and reach their goals. In fact, training during onboarding should be an integral part of every company’s customer success strategy.
Let’s take a look at what the experts have to say about implementing a successful customer onboarding strategy.
Donna Weber, at Springboard Solutions, says that onboarding is a much deeper process than just implementing the product, and it’s a critical part of building lasting relationships with your customers. She believes that this is really the key to customer success. Weber shares her six-step orchestrated onboarding framework, which begins even before the deal closes, during the embark stage. Only after the relationship moves from the sales team to the customer facing team (handoff), does the actual kickoff stage occur, where technical requirements and deliverables are discussed. The onboarding continues as the customer begins to deploy the solution (adopt). And you continue to review the customer’s progress and evaluate how you can help them maximize the value they get from your product (expand).
Donna has nailed it. Onboarding truly is a process. When companies invest in the customer with this level of dedication and diligence, it really sets the foundation to create enduring customer relationships, loyalty, and trust. So by what mechanism can companies help their clients adopt new software in a way that brings them maximum value? We believe that this is where customer education plays a huge role. At the adoption stage, training should be an integral part of your strategy for teaching customers the ins and outs of your software, and reviewing all of the use cases that are relevant to them, so that they can become proficient and knowledgeable from Day 1, and be able to implement effectively without feeling overwhelmed.
Barry Kelly, at Training Industry Magazine, dives straight into the importance of having a dedicated training program in place during onboarding. He says that one of the biggest challenges for businesses today is how to scale their onboarding efforts as the company grows. Kelly suggests that businesses, first and foremost, must be using an appropriate customer training platform. Then, he says, the key is to diversify your training methods by offering various types of training, such as self-paced learning, virtual training, and microlearning. This will help keep customers engaged during the onboarding process and become more proficient with the software.
We are in complete agreement that companies should be using a dedicated customer education platform for all of their training needs. Trying to adapt other types of learning platforms or patching together various tools often leads to a disjointed and clunky experience, whereas having an all-in-one training platform will create a high quality, dynamic and engaging learning experience.
Kelly also makes a great point about the need to diversify training methods. With the right technology in place, your customers can choose the training modality that best suits them, or a mix thereof – whether this be on-demand learning or virtual instructor-led learning. Students can also have the freedom to choose the training hours that best suit them, can break down training into shorter chunks, and can have access to hands-on labs whenever they need to refresh their knowledge.
Phil O’Doherty, at the Hubspot Blog, offers some best practices specifically for SaaS customer onboarding. One of his tips is to help new customers see the value of your product as quickly as possible. This means that onboarding efforts must go beyond simply welcoming the customer and scheduling next steps. You’ve got to help the customer get something tangible done. Another tip from O’Doherty is to focus on and reinforce your customer’s goals and priorities during the onboarding process, as a way to help build trust. No matter what task you’re working on, he says, always know the “why” behind it.
We appreciate O’Doherty’s concise list of recommendations for SaaS customer onboarding, but if we could add one more important tip, it would be – provide hands-on training on your software tool right from the onboarding stage. If you want your customers to achieve quick value, they must be knowledgeable and proficient in the use of your product, and the most effective way to achieve this is by providing training opportunities that allow them to experience your software first-hand in a virtual lab environment. This also ties in to O’Doherty’s second point about keeping your customer’s goals front and center. By offering onboarding training, you are giving customers the tools they need to succeed in reaching their business goals. This will also help establish a strong customer relationship right from the beginning of the customer journey.