How to Reduce Customer Churn with Better Customer Onboarding?

5 Tips Your Customer Success Team Should Adopt To Improve Onboarding

May 5, 2022

Is your company struggling to retain customers? More than 50% of customer churn can be attributed to poor onboarding. Setting up your customer for success so that they stick with you starts with an amazing onboarding experience that gets them to realize value from your product or service quickly.


What is Customer Onboarding?

Onboarding is the process of setting up a new customer with your product and service so that they can solve a critical business need. Some common steps in any onboarding process include:

  1. Acquainting your customer with your product and services.
  2. Developing a relationship with your customer.
  3. Integrating your offering into their workflow and existing tools.
  4. Teaching them how to use it to maximize the value they get out of it.
  5. Monitoring them to ensure they see sustained benefit.
  6. Checking in with them periodically to ensure your customer is happy and retained.

Often, customers find the onboarding process sloppy. Many organizations tend to omit crucial onboarding steps before understanding customer needs or building a relationship. This leaves a negative impression and might prevent a customer from realizing the value you provide. This eventually results in customer churn. The earlier you address the threat of churn, the more effectively you can overcome it.

Here are some ways to reduce customer churn through better onboarding practices:


Tip 1: Hand Off Should Be Smooth

Once your sales team gets your customer to sign a contract, they hand off the customer to an internal onboarding team - this is usually a Customer Success Manager or an Implementation Specialist. For many companies, onboarding simply entails dumping a checklist on their customers before understanding their problems and establishing relationships.

What you don't want to happen is for sales to get the contract signed and disappear. This is followed by a total stranger from your onboarding team reaching out for a kick-off without context or prior knowledge. The customer should feel like there is no loss in continuity after buying. A smooth transition from the Sales team to the Customer Success team makes for a better customer experience. Also, reducing the number of stages and people your customer has to interact with makes onboarding easier on your customer. 


Tip 2. Keep Customers Accountable 

If your customers aren’t onboarded successfully, they’ll never see value in your offering and leave. There are usually a couple of steps a customer needs to take to use your product or service. For example, when using a software product, they might need to invite teammates, connect integrations, or perform their first activity. For a services company, they might need to give you some information about their business, set up a point of contact, give you access to their workspace, or send over assets.

Getting people to do anything is hard, especially if it’s not urgent. This often leads to delayed onboarding and customer churn. To prevent this, you need to keep your customer accountable. Explain the steps they need to take and the deadlines for each to successfully get started. Keep track of it in a spreadsheet or project management tool that you both have access to. Make sure you both stick to the agreed-upon rollout plan.

Also, be incredibly transparent about what steps you’re taking on your end. By giving your customers visibility into your process, explaining what they need to do, and ensuring they follow through, you can shorten the time for onboarding and get your customer to see value quicker.


Tip 3. Be Proactive

Improve your first impression by being proactive. Get your customer success team to understand the customer prior to meeting them by listening in on sales calls, researching online, and looking up any internal notes. This enables the team to come in with a good understanding of the customer, where they are in their journey as a business, what they need and sets you up to help them through a seamless onboarding experience. A well-organized and thoughtful onboarding where you anticipate your customer’s needs helps you prevent them from ever getting into a failure spiral that results in them leaving.


Tip 4. Make Sure the Right People Are Involved in Onboarding

Every company is different. Customize your onboarding process to match the size of the customer's company and the type of product you're selling. For companies with complex implementations and lots of engineering work or regulatory restrictions, assign an implementation specialist like a customer success engineer or a certified implementation manager to the customer success team. At smaller companies, maybe a single Customer Success Manager (CSM) will do. The needs of your customer and the complexity of the sale dictate who gets staffed on your onboarding team.

Tip 5. Automate Whatever You Can of the Onboarding Process

Companies lose $136 billion in avoidable customer churn every year. Data onboarding is one of the major blockers in getting a customer to use a new product. This added burden of data onboarding can delay your customer and be the reason for customer churn. Making the data onboarding process seamless and error-free can significantly shorten the time to value for your customers. You can use to let customers import their data and have it cleaned automatically.

A good onboarding experience is key to building an enduring customer relationship. Tailor your onboarding process to the customer's needs, be sure to listen to them, be proactive, provide a smooth transition between sales and success, and automate what you can. Your customer retention will be up in no time.

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