Implementation Stories

Effective change management during customer onboarding

The CS Head at Ada Health talked about how change management can aid in getting users to adopt your product before go-live
March 2, 2022
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In this session of Implementation Stories, we spoke to Dean Colegate, Head of CS at health-tech AI platform Ada Health. Dean talked about how change management can aid in getting users to adopt your product before go-live. 

Dean has spent over 12 years of his 25+year career leading and scaling teams in customer success management, onboarding, implementation, and support. He has also spent several years as a CS consultant helping companies with their customer journeys. 

In this session, Dean talked about: 

  1. The need for change management
  2. The five elements of change management
  3. Change management best practices
  4. Tips and recommendations for driving user adoption

In the rest of this post, we share the key takeaways from the session.

Why customer onboarding needs change management

The best software solution, the best-fit business case, clear value/benefits, or even a well-designed onboarding process could mean nothing if users don't want to adopt a product.


A prediction analytics solution that promised a 20% efficiency boost, elimination of error-prone manual work, and fast-tracked projects failed to find adoption among its users.

The reason for this was that the customer’s users (often long-term employees) were suspicious of the effectiveness of the product’s algorithm and considered their manual processes a value-add. Additionally, they saw improved efficiency as a threat to their jobs. 

Another product, an AI-based symptom checker that provides easy and timely access to quality healthcare and reduces in-person care, failed to get full adoption on the ground. This was because clinicians were not convinced of the medical efficacy of artificial intelligence and added an extra step in their already busy patient workflow. 

The end-user adoption problem and its solution

The core problem behind low adoption is often just resistance to change.

This is a bigger challenge in the case of industry-disrupting or high-touch products that teams need to use for large parts of their day.

Even in cases where a product is replacing a competitor, it’s common for customers to resort to bespoke processes or have different expectations based on their earlier experience. 

Irrespective of the magnitude of change, the solution is to use the well-known practice of Change Management. Adoption is far too significant to assume that end-users will want to use your product.

Customers aren't always equipped to handle change management just because it's their staff or they have training. Customers know their teams and motivations; you know your product and how others have successfully adopted it. Solving the problem of change management is best done together.

Change management and customer onboarding: What, when, and how

1. The three simple rules of change management in customer onboarding:

  • Expect resistance. 
  • Help customers manage change and co-own the process with them.
  • Focus on getting users excited to use your product.

2. Plan change management initiatives based on the plan go-live date, and communicate the plan for this right at the kickoff stage.

3. Though change management could be part of pre-sales, it works best when implemented in parallel with technical onboarding. 
Large companies hire change management consultants or specialists to handle change management, though the most common model in mid-low segment companies relies on CSMs being the change agent.

The five steps in effective change management

1. Brainstorm with a cross-section of customer stakeholders

  1. Find parts of the current process/product they are attached to
  2. Explore ways to overcome objections and skepticism, as in the case of AI products. they want to understand exactly how things work

2. Create a communication plan

  1.  Identify which channels are suitable for these messages
  2.  Tailor communication for known/suspected detractors

3. Develop a recognition plan

If users attend training sessions, fill out surveys, take part in focus groups, etc., re-enforcing their efforts by getting, for example, a thank-you message by the executive sponsor will go a long way. 

4. Chart out a timeline of activities

Integrate this into the onboarding/launch plan and communicate this as part of kickoff. Make sure that change management runs parallel to onboarding. 

5. Track success

Gauge how the change management and the product are being received. It’s better to delay go-live than launching your product in an environment where it is struggling to find adoption.

Change management best practices to be integrated during onboarding


  1. Drip-feed benefits in bite-sized chunks instead of relying on articles or white papers. Incorporate video messaging from stakeholders 
  2. Invest in branding and teaser exercises (online and offline) with help from the marketing team. Physical leaflets and posters work for some audiences.
  3. Organize webinars by senior stakeholders from the customer’s side.
  4. Use the company newsletter/magazine to spread the word and build excitement around your product.
  5. Acknowledge and celebrate end users’ first successful steps through in-app interactions.


  1. In training sessions, focus not just on how to use the product and its benefits but also on how your product won’t derail existing processes and systems.


  1. Plan to ensure enough launch-day support. If possible, have the CS on-site provide in-person help.
  2. Make launch day an “event”. Try to add some fun when your product goes live—it might just convince the final few detractors.

Design a hyper-care phase

  1. Make sure customers receive extra-responsive support for a pre-defined duration post-launch.
Like what you read? Join our private, invite-only Slack community and attend the next Implementation Stories session. You will also gain access to peers and share knowledge on customer onboarding, implementation, and customer success.

More resources

  1. Propel22 recordings
  2. Implementation Stories
  3. Preflight Conversations
  4. The Launch Station - a podcast for all things customer onboarding
  5. Customer onboarding resources from Rocketlane

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Mohana Valli Prabhakar
Marketing Analyst @ Rocketlane & Community Manager, Preflight

Introverted, but willing to discuss books. Follow me on Twitter @Mohanavalli96

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