How to Build an Onboarding Plan for New Customers

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How to Build an Onboarding Plan for New Customers

In most organizations, onboarding serves a dual function. Internally, it’s used to integrate new employees into an organization and externally, it’s used to familiarize new customers with a company’s products and services. Although the content will differ depending on who your audience is, the goal of both processes is the same: education. An effective onboarding process can not only acquaint people with your business, but it can also provide them with the necessary resources to be successful.

Post-sales activities like training and support can make or break a positive customer experience and onboarding is often your first opportunity to demonstrate the value you can offer customers beyond your actual solution. Your onboarding process should be a clearly defined and well-timed workflow to ensure your customers are getting the right information at the right time.

Here are some tips and best practices for creating an effective onboarding plan to help your customers make the most of their MPS solution.

Determine your goal

What action do you want customers to perform at the end of the onboarding process? Setting a goal and regularly tracking customer performance against the goal will help you measure the success of your onboarding.

Your goal should tie in to your customers’ long-term success to align your onboarding to ongoing customer experience initiatives. For example, your goal could be to have customers register for an online community such as a LinkedIn Group that you'll use to routinely engage them, provide resources and communicate news and announcements. To measure the success of your onboarding process in this instance, you could compare how many new customers you have against how many of those customers join the LinkedIn Group.

Crunching the numbers is not enough, though. Ensure you have a benchmark to compare your actual results against to see if you are falling short, hitting the mark, or exceeding expectations. Determining this benchmark may be difficult because it will depend on several variables including your industry, how engaged your customers are online, and sales growth.

Establish a timeline

How long do you want your onboarding process to last? When you are thinking about the duration of your workflow, consider the time between communications and how you will engage with customers. Both will ultimately determine how long your onboarding workflow ends up being. Timing can be tricky; you don’t want to send emails or schedule calls too close together at the risk of ‘spamming’ customers, but you don’t want to wait so long that they feel disengaged.

When it comes to determining the appropriate amount of time between communications, the best place to start is with your team. Your sales and marketing team will have insights into your company’s sales cycle through interactions with new and existing customers, particularly with regard to the time it takes to move from prospect to customer. It may seem odd to create a post-sales process based on pre-sales activities, but how customers engage with your team can help you create an onboarding process that meets their needs.

Map your workflow

Workflows involve a lot of moving parts. Regardless of whether you have a marketing automation tool to automate parts of your workflow such as emails, it helps to visualize each step in the overall process. Seeing it mapped out in a diagram can help you identify any gaps to fill and ensure it flows well. These are some key considerations when drafting your workflow:

• Who will be responsible for each task (e.g., emails, phone calls)?
• Are there any automated processes?
• How will the team gain insights into the success/performance of these automated aspects of the workflow?
• Are there any integrations that need to take place between your marketing automation tool and your CRM solution?

Draft communications

If you're using a marketing automation tool that enables you to personalize mass emails and create automated, behavior-based workflows, you should create your emails ahead of time and make good use of your lead intelligence for effective communication.

When you are making calls, try to avoid relying on scripts which can make your conversations seem forced or robotic. You should have a list of objectives for each call, though. Are there particular questions you would like answered to? Are their common questions you can address to mitigate future obstacles new customers may encounter?

If your onboarding process relies heavily on customer feedback, surveys can be a useful way to get that information in a way that doesn’t take up a significant amount of your team’s time. It can also be an opportunity for ideation – asking what customers think could be improved in your solution and identifying highly engaged customers who may want to participate in a case study.

Create onboarding-specific content

The key to educating your customers is providing them with the tools they need or will need to understand how your product works and how to troubleshoot common issues. Auditing existing content such as user guides, help documents, and other technical documentation will help you identify what you have. Conversations with new customers and your technical support team will help you identify what you need.

A large portion of your onboarding content will be product-specific, but it is worthwhile to create content that addresses some of the challenges of implementing an MPS solution for the first time. These don’t necessarily have to be technical, but can be informative resources about managed print to help customers with documenting and/or updating their print-related processes, for example.

Generate effective training material

So, where does training fit into all of this? It makes sense to offer a training program as a line item for existing customers or those who would like a refresher, but the best way to ensure new customers are poised for success from the start is to integrate training into the onboarding process.

Effective training should be more than instructional material on how to use a tool; it should also include best practices, recommendations, and troubleshooting tips to mitigate some of the common tier 1 technical support queries you are likely to get with new customers. Part of the value you can offer customers is your knowledge and expertise, so be sure to share these insights.

To be even more effective, your training should incorporate various media. Leveraging different formats appeals to different learning styles and preferences, and also capitalizes on the popularity of various tools and technologies available. When you are creating content for your onboarding process, consider the following content formats and tools you can integrate into your training:

All of these tools can be used to create modules for more sustainable training in the long-term and certification programs to gamify training and engage customers. These tools will enable customers to learn at their own pace. They will also make maintenance of your training materials significantly easier and potentially save your technical support team valuable time they would otherwise spend responding to preventable tier 1 technical support requests.

About the Author

ECI Staff Contributors love to share their insights and expertise on a variety of topics including sales, marketing, cloud, ERP, and SMB development as well as on product specific education. With offices throughout the United States, Mexico, England, the Netherlands, Australia, and New Zealand, more than 40 employees contribute to blog on a regular basis.