A Formal Customer Onboarding Process Can Drive Satisfaction and Sales
Like employees who might have first-day jitters, purchasing from a company for the first time can make customers nervous too. A formal onboarding process that looks holistically at what customers need in terms of information, support and trouble-shooting can help turn a one-off purchase into a long-term relationship and facilitate valuable referrals. It can also help ensure your customers never experience a sense of buyer’s remorse, but rather see the wisdom of their purchase quickly affirmed and reinforced.
Why making the sale is not enough
Customer onboarding helps new users become familiar with your product or service so they can gain maximum benefit from it. But it doesn’t stop there. The goal of a strong onboarding program is to nurture a relationship that grows with the customer’s journey, adapts to their needs over time, increases satisfaction, expands your role in their life or business and drives retention and referral.
Yet many companies leave the process to chance. One study found that only 8% of commercial banking divisions even had a formalized onboarding process for customers. According to data from Salesforce, 74% of people say they will take their business elsewhere if the purchasing process is too difficult. They also report that 77% of B2B clients say that technology has dramatically transformed their expectations of how companies should interact with them, with greater personalization and more frequent contact.
Consider several keys to building an effective customer onboarding strategy.
- Look at your company like an outsider. On the Sales Logic podcast, hosts and sales consultants Meridith Elliott Powell and Mark Hunter urge business owners and leaders to evaluate the buying process like someone who knows nothing about the company. You need to see how easy (or difficult) it is to understand and navigate. “Think about what you want their first experiences to be like,” Elliott Powell says. “Just because they’ve bought from you doesn’t mean they trust you; they are still testing you and trying you out at the beginning.”
The first 30, 60 and 90 days can be especially critical with more involved or complicated products and services. Expectations can be high following the sales process and now you need to live up to the hype. You need to experience what your customers experience to understand where confusion and difficulties can emerge.
Powell provides a simple example of a recent B2B purchase she made where the service contract was sent as a PDF that had to be printed, signed, scanned and emailed back, rather than a much more convenient online signature form. That added friction started the relationship off on the wrong foot.
- Listen to current customers. In Onboarding Matters: How Successful Companies Transform New Customers into Loyal Champions, author and customer service consultant, Donna Weber, says you can’t expect customers to reach out to tell you things aren’t going as well as they’d like. Pick up the phone and ask what is working well, what suggestions they have for improvement and anything they think you should know right now. She also likes to ask customers to share a fabulous onboarding experience they’ve had with another vendor. You can learn a lot from what pleased them.
- Look for ways to increase value. Listening will also help you better understand your customer’s goals so you can focus on their top priorities. The point of a robust onboarding program is to supply value to customers as quickly as possible by helping them alleviate pain points, save time or money, or increase their performance or profits. “Providing value is most relevant at the beginning of the relationship when expectations of your product are high, and you have limited time to meet them,” Weber writes.
Another way to increase value is to actively educate yourself about the environments and industries that your customers operate in so you can anticipate their needs and proactively solve problems.
- Engage your team. Depending how complicated your product or service is, you may likely involve other team members in meeting customer needs. When customers know they can contact an expert who has the authority to solve their problems, it builds confidence and trust. Yes, you’ll maintain a main point of contact who can consistently nurture the relationship, but engaging customers with team members who can provide critical support and unique knowledge helps them see the full range of services you offer to address their needs now, and in the future. The human touch also reassures customers that they will receive personalized attention.
- Show gratitude. No customer wants to feel that, once the sale is made, you’ve moved on to bigger prospects. Make time to reach out without a sales agenda to touch base and thank them for their business. These interactions can even lead to an easy win if you find you can do a little extra to respond to a specific need and increase satisfaction.
A single purchase decision does not mean a new customer fully trusts you yet or feels confident you will meet expectations. An effective onboarding plan can help you head off potential problems, reduce uncertainty and solve issues quickly, paving the way for increased customer satisfaction, positive buzz, repeat business and valuable referrals.