After a decade in B2B SaaS, I’m convinced that B2B Customer Onboarding is fundamentally broken. A great customer onboarding experience cements your customers’ trust in your product and establishes your brand as a trusted partner. Every team wants to create an amazing customer onboarding experience but due to resource constraints, onboarding is always a second priority. This leaves everyone using a hodge-podge of clunky tools and strategies to try and drive their customers to success, leading to poor customer experiences and outcomes.
What is Customer Onboarding?
At its core, Customer Onboarding (also known as Implementation, Integrations, etc) is about giving your customer the ability to quickly get their organization setup and running with your software.
This can include:
- Sharing product configuration data
- Provisioning instances
- Configuring specific integrations
- Sharing call recordings
- Getting sign off on key architecture decisions
- Scheduling trainings
- Setting goals, etc
Multiple stakeholders need to be aligned, timelines and workflows need to be coordinated, and tasks need to be completed on both the vendor and customer side. This is impossible without a close collaborative effort between all stakeholders.
How is Customer Onboarding handled today?
Most customer onboarding teams rely on tools they have on hand (think email, spreadsheets, or Gantt charts) to align stakeholders. These tools aren’t built for this task, leading to a subpar experience for the customer and huge operational overhead for onboarding teams. I’ve seen teams copy-pasting data from spreadsheets into internal systems, manually creating internal tickets, hand crafting weekly updates with screenshots of product dashboards, and chasing their customers with endless email follow-up. All tasks which can easily be automated by the right tools.
Imagine this scenario: After spending so much time and effort getting a customer to sign a contract, the first thing you send over to them is a spreadsheet detailing every step they need to take. Even worse, imagine sending them a link to 3rd-party products (like a project management solution) that they now have to create accounts in and learn how to use. You might create and send a weekly status reports to keep everyone aligned, but things can slip through the cracks.
There are many things wrong with this way of doing things:
- Not trackable: How do you track implementations across multiple spreadsheets with hundreds of customers?
- Easy for things to get lost: What happens when emails get lost or people leave projects?
- Heavily dependent on individual heroics/vigilance
- Feels overwhelming to the customer
- High chance for user-error: No validation during data entry and manual processes leave you open to issues
Your customer buys your product because they want to solve their problems. Instead of delivering that pain-killing experience, they are greeted with more work! This becomes the foundational emotion they associate with your brand, your product, and your NPS score.
My journey with Customer Onboarding
When I was at Magento, my team and I recognized this and built a product to help our onboarding teams. This system coordinated all stakeholders, timelines, and workflows while decreasing cognitive load. Building this product was a multi-year, million dollar effort that helped transition the company into a cloud-first solution provider and ultimately led to the Adobe acquisition.
Before Magento, I led an onboarding team at Gusto. Gusto’s core product allowed us to track the onboarding process as a funnel. This enabled my team to proactively move customers through the onboarding process. The Gusto founders made a deliberate decision to build onboarding into their product to control their customer experience. They knew that a great onboarding experience was crucial to stand out in a crowded market.
I believe that other organizations can benefit from what we built at Magento and Gusto. The term that comes to mind to describe this kind of onboarding experience is “Productized Onboarding.”
I believe that Productized Onboarding will become a way for the best B2B SaaS companies of the next decade to stand out from their competitors . When you productize onboarding, your customers feel like they are already using your product. Your organization is presented as one cohesive team instead of multiple separate teams. Every stakeholder can immediately see and understand their impact on the onboarding process. There is one space for everyone (internally and externally) to see and do what needs to get done without jumping through hoops.
For most companies, the idea of building out this experience natively sounds good on paper but ultimately gets descoped, deprioritized, or compromised due to the need to build and grow core product functionality. This is why I started working on a way to help teams build out their own productized onboarding.
Simplemnt enables every company to productize their onboarding process and provide one space to handle everything. Simplemnt empowers onboarding teams to be proactive and drives customers towards onboarding success by automating key workflows and tasks. Customers can get things done in this space without learning new tools or relying on email. All this leads to a delightful experience and faster time to value.