Deep Dives: Balancing the human touch and tech in customer onboarding

Renata Kashiwaya Pinheiro, VP-CS at WeGift tells us how CS teams can strike the right balance between tech and the human touch in onboarding
Mohana Valli Prabhakar
October 12, 2021
Preflight Conversations
Main Illustration:
Sivaprakash

Deep Dives: Balancing the human touch and tech in customer onboarding

Renata Kashiwaya Pinheiro, VP-CS at WeGift tells us how CS teams can strike the right balance between tech and the human touch in onboarding
Mohana Valli Prabhakar
October 12, 2021
Preflight Conversations
Main Illustration:
Sivaprakash

In This Post

In our third Deep Dives session, Renata Kashiwaya Pinheiro, VP of Customer Success at WeGift, joined Srikrishnan Ganesan of Rocketlane to discuss how CS teams can strike the right balance between tech and the human touch in customer onboarding. 

WeGift is a digital payouts platform that enables companies from over 30 countries to drive their businesses forward through digital rewards, incentives, and pay-outs. Renata’s team of CSMs is responsible for onboarding customers through their onboarding journey that spans API integration, merchant approval, onboarding, finance setup, and training. 

In this session, Renata focused on:

  1. How WeGift combines tech touch and the human touch in their onboarding process
  2. Why onboarding still needs the human element 
  3. Getting the most out of customer feedback
  4. Skills that teams need to ace the high touch aspects of onboarding 

Here are our key takeaways from the session. 

Customer onboarding at WeGift

  1. The WeGift customer onboarding process mainly focuses on
  2. API integration: Done at the customer end with support from the WeGift Customer team Solutions Engineer  
  3. Merchant approvals + onboarding:  Get the customers’ preferred merchants onto the platform  
  4. Financial setup: Handling internal signoffs, invoicing, transfers, etc.
  5. Training on the platform
  6. The goal of onboarding is to get the customer up and running in 21 days. However, this can often take between 3 to 60 days, depending on the customer’s specific needs.

The human element vs. the tech touch

Automate anything that doesn’t need human interaction to add value instead of using people to pave through product gaps. Here’s the approach Renata recommends: 

  1. Elements that can be automated: The welcome email, a guiding tour of the platform, survey launches, playbooks based on triggers, team introduction (in a video format)
  2. Elements that need the human touch: Understand use cases, pivoting based on their goals, consulting, clarifying concerns, and assuring the customer that their situation and needs are understood. 
  1. At WeGift, even in the case of tech-touch customers, the kickoff is done by a CSM who uses it as an opportunity to align expectations, point customers towards resources, and address queries or concerns.
  1. For enterprise accounts, CSMs meet customers regularly, sometimes as often as twice a week, to ensure their customers are supported throughout the onboarding process, and that launch progresses according to the pre-agreed timelines.

The role of the kickoff call in measuring the effectiveness of onboarding 

  1. Any onboarding project needs to have a clear idea of the customer’s expectations and how they measure success. The best time to do this is during the kickoff meeting, where all expectations, including aspects of timelines, people management, stakeholder management, etc., should be discussed and agreed upon.
  1. The WeGift Customer Success team uses the kickoff call to introduce key team members the customer will meet as they onboard, explain their roles, and align the expectations at the various touchpoints. 

They then review how they fare against customer expectations at two stages: 

  1. When the customer is first able to use their product
  2. When the customer uses it independently as part of a meaningful activity

This review includes understanding: 

  1. If the APIs are working as expected and how easy it was to implement
  2. If the WeGift CS team was able to manage communications efficiently
  3. If queries were adequately addressed/supported 
  4. How easy it was for customers to use their platform 

This provides them the insights they need to plug gaps in the onboarding process and to help them continuously improve onboarding. 

Impactful changes in the customer onboarding process

  1. The two big changes that helped improve the onboarding process at WeGift were:
  1. Enabling automation as far as possible: these include video demos, templated messages ready to send along the journey, making Knowledge Base articles available on live chat, etc.
  1. Adding human resources to phases such as kickoffs: making CSM-led kickoffs mandatory for every project instead of diving straight into the project with the default task list

Getting the most out of customer feedback and inputs

  1. Ensure that every point/stage of feedback collection is followed up by an exercise to close the loop. For instance, a high CSAT score could be followed up by a thank-you email, or a case study request, while low scores or negative feedback can be used to initiate a debriefing call to salvage the situation or plan a relaunch.
  1. A good way to show customers their feedback is acknowledged is by communicating any changes resulting from their feedback back to them, either via an email, a newsletter, or a meeting.

Best practices for feedback collection

  1. Ensure that feedback collection surveys are both phrased and timed well (only after customers have interacted sufficiently with the platform/solution, for example) 
  2. Use the right feedback collection method for your customer segment. The WeGift team finds CSAT more useful than an NPS in their context.
  3. Ask questions to assess how effective the human touch was. E.g., Did the CS team understand your issue? Were you treated empathetically? 
  4. Map the ‘aha’ moments along the onboarding journey and use surveys before and after them
  5. Renata recommends the Attest blog for tips and resources for designing effective surveys. 
  6. The WeGift team uses the CS platform, Planhat, for surveys/feedback collection. They ensure that (a) Survey questions have follow-up questions based on the responses, and (b) Low scores trigger alerts for CSMs to follow up on

Reasons for a bad onboarding experience

  1. Poor expectation setting: This is a direct result of not discussing, quantifying, and aligning expectations at the start of the project
  2. Communication gaps: Onboarding teams waiting too long between updates, or wait only for milestones to share updates instead of sharing interim updates as and when needed
  3. Not having a regular cadence of communication: This could lead to changes in the customer’s scope due to organizational changes that may have been missed from their end.

Acing the human aspects of onboarding

The three skills a good CSM needs:

  1. The ability to handle and diffuse tense situations
  2. The ability to ask questions upfront
  3. Basic project management, especially for high touch complex onboarding
  4. Hiring for CSMs: The hiring process at WeGift includes a task that helps assess a candidate’s suitability for the role. The task involves giving candidates an onboarding scenario and asking them to create a signature-to-launch presentation for it. 

They are assessed for engagement models, stakeholder management, escalation models for both ends, timelines, etc.  

Advice for onboarding teams

  1. Keep iterating to ensure that even automated or tech touch elements need to be adaptive based on human feedback. 
  2. Make the most of the human touch to (a) Celebrate successes (E.g., Sharing goodies or gift care packages at go-live), (b) Solve problems (E.g., Reaching out right after receiving negative feedback or survey responses) 
If you have any additional strategies you want to share, we’d love you to join our Preflight Community and share it with all our community members!

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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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