How WebEngage's Onboarding Approach Adds To Their Customer Experience

Jharna talks about the huge role that onboarding plays in WebEngage's customer success journey
Kirthika Soundararajan
March 14, 2021
Implementation Stories
Main Illustration:

How WebEngage's Onboarding Approach Adds To Their Customer Experience

Jharna talks about the huge role that onboarding plays in WebEngage's customer success journey
Kirthika Soundararajan
March 14, 2021
Implementation Stories
Main Illustration:

In This Post

In this session of Implementation Stories, we take you through our hour-long discussion with Jharna Moorpana who handles customer onboarding at WebEngage, a B2C marketing automation solution for enterprises. As someone who started her career as a customer support executive with WebEngage in 2016 and now works as an Onboarding Manager, Jharna has had an inside view of WebEngage’s customer success journey and the huge role that onboarding has to play in it.

She talked us through their onboarding approach while telling us how they handle complex integrations, demanding customers, growing startups, and the works. In this article, we share the key takeaways from her session — with additional inputs from implementation folks at  Freshworks, Pando, and InstaSafe.

 Let’s dive in.

A dedicated function for onboarding

In the early years, WebEngage started its post-sales journey with two teams: Customer Support and Customer Success. At roughly the one-year mark, two things began to happen: 

  1. The support team saw a pattern in the support tickets that customers were raising. Most issues were a result of bad data flowing into the system. The root cause was just flawed implementations during onboarding. 
  2. As the product started getting more complex, the customer success team found themselves firefighting churn issues with little time to focus on expansion and growth.

This impacted their conversions and the adoption of the product.  That’s when the team decided to separate the two areas: a dedicated function for onboarding, and another for business growth and strategizing with the accounts. This way, issues could be caught on time and addressed with the attention and detail they needed, so that Customer Success Managers (CSMs) could focus on expansion and growth.

They began with a few small MRR & low touch accounts, but now this approach applies to all their clients — low MRR and enterprise clients.

Speaking about the initial phase of their journey, Jharna shared that their approach was still rather ad-hoc — though there was a rigid first call, there was little personalization and focus on processes. Since then, they have worked to get things streamlined — through defined timelines (4–6 weeks) and processes — including a well-designed first call with a predefined set of questions for every business, project trackers, and templates at each step.

As for KPIs, they stuck to the basics — minimal escalations, onboarding within committed timelines of 4–6 weeks, a high CSAT score, and no re-onboarding.

From her experience and interactions with other implementation professionals, Jharna recommends setting up a dedicated onboarding team for implementations that take over four weeks. 

A fundamentals-first agile approach for complex integrations 

With marketing automation and campaigns, data changes often, and failure to track and feed these correctly was the primary reason for failed campaigns. In such implementations involving data and heavy lifting on the customer side, ensuring the correctness of integration is a huge challenge.

In their early approach, the customer performed the integration end to end, post which the onboarding team would help them test it. This would cause issues and delays, mostly right when it was almost time to go-live.

Since then, they have modified their process — considering their model looks at all interactions as events and ensuring the corresponding user-tracking in the system. This is the five-step model that they follow: 

  1. In the first step, they perform data modeling around the events being passed. 
  2. The customer then identifies three events to test in the first phase. 
  3. Then, the onboarding team creates a separate staging account for UAT where the customer fires these events.
  4. These events are verified on a live call.
  5. Only post a go-ahead at this stage, is the implementation for the rest of the events done.

Integrations follow an agile and iterative process with weekly focus areas. For instance, a month is broken into themes for each week. The first call is used to explain the methodology and what will be accomplished each week. For example, 

  • Week 1: Marketing/outcome-focused. This involves data model definitions, etc, and scoping for specific large tasks to be accomplished 
  • Week 2: Tech-heavy with some integrations in a staging environment
  • Week 3: Implementation review and bug bashing

And so on.

This approach is very document-intensive with detailed checklists for the key phases and activities — for both the customer and the onboarding team to verify. Anything repetitive is templatized. 

The customer is given specific documents and lists for appropriate teams to check implementation at their end. For example, the implementation checklists can be used by the customers' QA team. On the other hand, WebEngage’s onboarding managers also perform testing at their end to verify the implementation. 

The implementation team — Roles and Skills

Here are what the implementation team roles look like at WebEngage and Freshworks and the ideal candidates for these roles. 

WebEngage

They look at roles with the onboarding team as a techno-functional role. So, while they don’t look for people who can code, a manager should understand tech concepts and be able to speak the customers' language, and ensure that customers understand how the product is set up.

The right candidate would be someone with a technical background, client-facing experience, project management experience, and the ability to handle multiple clients, deadlines, and the stress that could come with it all.

Freshworks

The implementation team at Freshworks consists of four defined roles.

  1. Engagement Manager: A combination of a relationship manager and project manager, who is the POC for all things implementation.

        The right fit: Someone with strong communication skills, customer-facing experience, project management skills, and a fine balance of.        diplomacy and assertiveness.

  1. Onboarding Specialist: Responsible for product implementation and configuring everything needed inside the product based on customer requirements.

        The right fit: Someone who has a good understanding of APIs, webhooks, and the ability to translate something technical into simple plain.         language for customers. Besides the ability to say no.

  1. Onboarding Engineer: Handles custom integrations, custom apps, and anything that needs writing code.

        The right fit: An experienced engineer with a very technical, hands-on background.

  1. Solution Architect: Involved in complex accounts, to ensure the solution is being delivered in a scalable way, and the right calls are taken on custom apps, integrations, workflows, etc

        The right fit: A senior manager with 10–15 years of tech experience.

Handoffs: Sales > Onboarding > Success & Support

WebEngage, FreshWorks, and Pando have a well-defined transition across customer-facing functions from Sales through Onboarding to Customer Success and Support.

Sales to Onboarding/Delivery

WebEngage follows a format where Onboarding collects information from Sales — about the client, their business, pain points, competitors, previous experiences, use cases sold/pitched, etc. This is followed by a call with Sales to understand the customer sentiment before the kick-off call. The Customer Success Manager is involved from the onboarding phase itself and looped in on all correspondence throughout the onboarding journey even if they don't join every call. Sales also sends out an email to all stakeholders capturing all of the above as a formal account transfer.

At Pando, the sales hand-off to implementation/delivery is automated as much as possible with the key stages as below: 

  • Sales fills a questionnaire with nearly 30 questions including answers to:
  • Modules sold
  • Client executives
  • ROI promised (cost savings/percentage)
  • Documents for this phase  (SOW, Proposal Presentation, etc,) are uploaded
  • Delivery goes through the questionnaire content and documents followed by a call with Sales to clarify any questions or gaps
  • An "executive connect" call set up by Sales where they:
  • Introduce the delivery/implementation team
  • Get the executive-level perspective first hand on purchase reasons, expectations,  top priorities, service levels, etc
  • Discuss the kick-off meeting and identify who is needed for it

At Freshworks, the Customer Success Manager is introduced right after the deal is closed by Sales and continues to be the lifelong point of contact. The CSM introduces the implementation team but also makes sure to be a part of the onboarding journey.

Onboarding

At WebEngage, onboarding is completed in 4–6 weeks. Onboarding is marked complete after the customer successfully runs at least two campaigns. Through this phase, the CSM is looped in on status updates twice a week.

At FreshWorks, the CSM is copied on all emails, status reports, and is on any key calls with executive stakeholders.

Onboarding to Customer Success and Customer Support

At WebEngage, the onboarding team sets up a sync-up call where the CSM is introduced, and the project is officially transitioned over.

 At Freshworks, a post-implementation handoff document is created for Success and Support that captures:

  • All that was done, all modules configured with the context around it
  • Workarounds suggested and being used, as applicable
  • Pending or deprioritized items 

Documentation: If you repeat something, replicate, don’t repeat

Jharna shares a simple thumb rule for documentation — anything that is repetitive goes into a template document — from processes to emails to reports.

The onus of updating these documents rests with the document owner, and any major changes post-go-live are communicated to the customer as applicable.

At FreshWorks, there are at least 5–6 handoff documents, including a document made by the TAM (Technical Account Manager) from the support team who collates everything into a "360-degree" document that gets attached to the helpdesk/CRM.

Customer POCs: Managing expectations

The onboarding team gets involved in POCs too where needed. The responsibility of defining the objective for the POC and ensuring that the customer’s tech team helps with getting the right data, etc. rests completely with the customer. Only then does the onboarding team showcase how the campaign can be run or the goal achieved

On the subject of dealing with POC timelines and expectations, here are some approaches:

  • Offering a free POC but with a timeline after which the engagement turns paid, putting pressure on the customer to finish the POC within the timeline.
  • Adding a time-ticker at the end of every email as a reminder on how long is left to complete the implementation as planned
  • Communicating resource availability to let the customer know that the resource assigned to the project would transition out and on to another project at the end of the scheduled period
  • Getting a Letter of Intent from the customer before commencing any work on POCs (as suggested by InstaSafe)

Startups: Balancing support and scale

WebEngage has a dedicated 6-month program for startups with suggestive timelines as below

  • Month 1: Onboarding support, post which they are allowed to experiment with the platform
  • For startups, the number of touchpoints during onboarding is minimal with customers implementing onboarding themselves with support from the onboarding team if needed.
  • Month 5: Strategizing campaigns
  • Month 6: Exploring the potential for conversion

At Freshworks, the onboarding for startups is carried out at the customer end where Sales helps them set up through product guides, checklists, etc, post which they directly transition to Support — without going through Freshworks Onboarding. Institutional guidance in the form of webinars, the Freshworks academy, and DIY resources have been sufficient to support startups.

Gamechangers: Impactful changes that move large customers faster

Jharna shared that in the case of enterprise customers, there were often multiple stakeholders, different teams, with different dependencies — such as a web team, an app team, an Android team, an iOS team, etc. Not all of them are always on the same page — leading to messy situations with different understandings among their teams.

 To solve this, here are three changes that have had the most impact:

1. Adhering to the Scope of Work

  • The first and most important step was to figure and define the scope of work and share it with all the teams involved
  • Identify business requirements, pain points being solved
  • Strictly follow the scope of work without any deviations         

2. Creating the same understanding among teams

For example, with multiple teams, the WebEngage onboarding team creates data model documents for each team and has a sheet with the names of the events, where to pass these events, where to call tracking functions, etc to create a shared understanding and where separate teams can add their comments in their designated columns.

3. Conducting daily stand-ups or alternate day sync-up calls

This was to make sure the teams have the same understanding and are doing things the right way. If there are issues and open points, ETA for resolving the open items is mentioned and discussed in the next stand-up meeting.

Measuring success: Showing value, tracking efficiency, ensuring billing

 WebEngage sticks to the basics to define what success looks like for the onboarding team: 

  • Ensuring that the client goes into billing
  • Showing some value, reducing the Time-To-First-Value ensuring that the customer has executed a few campaigns at the end of the implementation journey

At Freshworks, there's also a CSAT survey with 5–6 questions sent out at the end of the onboarding journey.

Companies like Innovacer where the bulk of integration is carried out by the onboarding team and not the customer also look at efficiency by assessing the delay and the percentage of rework. The aim is to keep rework and delay under 5%.

Summary

Here is a quick summary of the key takeaways from this engaging and insightful session. 

  1. Assess if you need a dedicated onboarding team: If you have an onboarding process that takes over four weeks, you’d be better off with a dedicated function. 
  2. Be agile with integrations: Create iterative models so you don’t have to wait for the customer to complete end-to-end integrations before testing or signing off. 
  3. Establish clear handoffs: From Sales to Onboarding to Customer Success and Support; ensure that the Customer Success Manager or Engagement Manager is involved through the entire journey even during onboarding. Ensure that you document the context at each stage: customer background, expectations, and sentiment before onboarding and implementation details, workarounds, and additional context for Support.
  4. Replicate, don’t repeat: If there are processes that you repeat, document and templatize them that the team can refer to and replicate at all stages.
  5. Roles and skills: A well-oiled implementation team needs the right balance of project management, client management, engineering,   focus on setting up a team with a combination of project management, customer handling, and engineering/technical skills. A team servicing enterprise clients would do well with a combination of the four roles: A CSM (or an Engagement Manager), an Onboarding Specialist, an Onboarding Engineer, and a Solutions Architect.
  6. POCs during onboarding: Keep the customer accountable. Manage expectations by offering time-bound POCs that either convert into paid POCs or lapse after the duration has passed.
  7. Supporting startups: Create self-serve solutions for startups that can help them implement integrations independently at their end.

We hope the discussion leaves you with some ideas for your onboarding team and journey.

If you’d like to read more implementation stories, you can find them here.

If you’re looking for additional resources to plan an onboarding kickoff meeting, or identifying metrics for your team, or making value realization a part of your onboarding journey, do check out our articles here.

Join our private, invite-only Slack community and attend the next Implementation Stories session. You will also gain access to peers, get to share knowledge on customer onboarding, implementation, and customer success.

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Kirthika Soundararajan
Content Marketer @ Rocketlane

All things content at Rocketlane. I run on coffee and cat videos. Follow me on Twitter @kirthikasrajan

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