SaaS Customer Onboarding Cadence

July 14, 2020

SaaS customer onboarding is so critical—it’s really where the customer relationship is won or lost. There is a ton of great customer success information out there—but nothing that’s “block and tackle” specific, like an actual on-boarding cadence example.

The customer success organization has the responsibility to deliver an exceptional on-boarding experience, from the first email a customer receives, through their deployment and transition into active customer status.

How you onboard your customers is specific to your contract value, subscription length, product complexity, and target market. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to onboarding, so we’ll start with a sample that’s pretty generic and simple.

What is an on-boarding cadence?

An on-boarding cadence is the steps (and duration between each step) you take to onboard a new customer. Your SaaS customer onboarding cadence outlines what happens, when, and what to do if things go off the rails at any point.What is most important is that your SaaS customer onboarding cadence is documented, followed across all customers, and measured for effectiveness so you can improve onboarding as you learn and evolve.

But first

Before you can define your onboarding cadence, you need to define what on-boarding is. What does a successfully onboarded customer look like? What have they achieved in what time period? What indicates they are done with on-boarding? It may be when a period of time has elapsed (although this has some significant drawbacks), or it may be when they have hit a key milestone with your product.

Spend some time thinking through these topics before you jump into planning what your ideal onboarding cadence should be.

Sample SaaS customer on-boarding cadence

There are a variety of ways to approach customer onboarding—from light touch (self-service) to heavy intervention, and from automated to manually managed.This example would apply to an average annual contract value of $15,000-$20,000 with a relatively easy setup, and “medium” touch. Adapt to fit your particular product and customers.

  • Deal closes Internal handoff to transfer knowledge from sales to customer success.

Ideally, this should happen the same day the deal closes, or even in the days leading up to the close. If your sales cycle is simple, the handoff can be done in an email (using a template, so the same information is handed off for each new customer). If you have a long sales cycle, you may want to do the handoff as a call or meeting, so the nuances and details of the deal and the customer can be discussed.

To start on-boarding with momentum, the salesperson can book the kick-off call between the customer and the success organization.

  • Day 0 The day the deal closes the salesperson should introduce the customer to their customer success contact via email.
  • Day 1-4 Conduct the kick-off call with the customer stakeholders to gain an understanding of their goals, reasons for purchasing, and expectations. Use this opportunity to outline key milestones and their action items.
  • Send a follow-up email recapping the kick-off call and providing any additional details needed for training and setup.
  • Days 5-20 During the first two to three weeks of onboarding there should be meetings as needed for training, Q&A and to ensure set up has momentum.
  • If your product integrates with other products, there may be calls to discuss and review integrations, and this can extend on-boarding in some cases, depending upon the complexity of the integrations.
  • Day 30 When the customer has completed the onboarding milestones, you may want to formally conclude the customer on-boarding period with a call, or in an email. The “wrap up” can introduce other team members if appropriate, provide support resources and ensure the customer feels comfortable and ready to take the training wheels off. Use this opportunity to re-affirm their goals and provide motivation as needed to stay engaged and active with your product.
  • Day 45-60 Conduct a checkpoint call about two to four weeks after on-boarding is complete in order to ensure the customer is on track, address any lingering questions and set up a time for an account business review. This is also time to see how the product is meeting their expectations and how the customer is tracking towards their goals and objectives.

Of course, the customer relationship starts with the on-boarding period but it doesn’t end there. After successful on-boarding there should be ongoing touchpoints, checking on the health and activity of the customer, and period business reviews to ensure you are having strategic conversations with the customer’s key stakeholders.

The key to great customer on-boarding

No matter what form your on-boarding takes, the key to great customer onboarding is pro-active communication and collaboration inside your organization and with your customer.

The onboarding experience for a new customer is the most important period of the customer journey and can help set up the foundation for a customer’s long-term success with your company, and your product.

To earn the attention of your customer you must stay in regular, ongoing communication with the customer about their goals, progress, wins, hurdles, and opportunities. It starts with building the relationship, understanding the customer’s goals and supporting their journey. And that starts in on-boarding.

This blog post was written by Anna Talerico, and published on SaaSX