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All Aboard! Three Steps to Better Customer Onboarding

April 04, 2014 | By Bob Peterson

You will never get a second chance on a first impression! Effective customer onboarding sets the tone for the new relationship and carries it forward for the duration of the customer lifecycle.

Several years ago, I took advantage of one of those overseas delivery offers from a European auto manufacturer. For those not familiar with this concept, certain car companies offer all sorts of incentives, sometimes including free airfare, hotel, car discounts and access to exclusive features not available in the United States, if you are willing to take delivery of your car in the manufacturer’s home country. Not only did I save money, but I was treated like a king from the moment I was picked up by a limo at the airport to the hours I spent with the delivery representative poring over the features of the car. It probably doesn’t surprise you that I’m still talking about this experience years later (and I expect to be a customer for life, by the way).

When customers are asked what was the most memorable part of their experience with a company, many note the welcoming process as either exceptional or regrettable. And while most companies are working to improve their employee onboarding process, a similar process for customers is often left to chance.

Effective onboarding sets the tone for the new relationship and carries it forward for the duration of the customer lifecycle. Best-in-class b-to-b companies recognize the value of customer onboarding and invest accordingly. Here are some ways to jumpstart your customer onboarding efforts:

  • Define ownership. One of the main reasons customer onboarding goes awry has to do with the lack of a clear owner within the organization. It can be tricky to identify where the proper handoffs need to occur – sales has played point during the buyer’s journey and will likely take a back seat going forward. Formalize the key handoff points and leave nothing to chance. Assign clear responsibility for specific parts of the onboarding process so customers don’t fall through the cracks.
  • Welcome customers appropriately. Onboarding is the perfect time to gain additional insights from new customers about their preferences, including how and when they’d like to be contacted, their preferred mode of interaction with your company and their key areas of interest. Upload these preferences in sales and marketing systems to make sure that customer wishes are respected.
  • Become engaged. Once the sales process concludes, engaging the new customer is critical to long-term success. Marketers can play a lead role in ensuring that new customers are introduced to the various channels available for customer participation, including user groups, product councils, online customer communities and other social media outlets. This is also a good time to share other customers’ early-stage success stories to help the new customer get up to speed more quickly. By effectively managing the customer engagement process, you can also set the stage for customer advocacy opportunities down the line, once the customer has realized value from your product or solution.

Customer onboarding plays a critical role in the first stage of the customer lifecycle. As they say, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Challenge your organization to exceed, not simply meet, customer expectations by striving to implement a best-in-class approach to welcoming your new customers.

Bob Peterson

Bob Peterson is a sales and marketing thought leader with more than 20 years of experience working in mid- to large-sized global organizations, with emphasis on the financial services and software sectors. Bob has particularly focused on developing account-based marketing strategies to help sales and marketing organizations forge tighter alignment.

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