In this session of Implementation Stories, we spoke to Samantha Wong, Head of Onboarding Programs and Services at Front.
Samantha Wong enables CS teams in a high-velocity business environment to achieve growth, retention, and adoption goals. She has developed and operationalized the CS department at Front. Used by over 7500 companies, Front is a customer communication hub that powers connections between teams and customers. It brings email and apps together in a collaborative customer communication platform to enable both operational efficiency and a focus on customer relationships.
In this session, Samantha talked about:
In this post, we share key takeaways from the session.
In the early days, the CSM who handled expansion, onboarding, and retention spent most of their time on expansion activities (given the targets they had to chase).
The first structural change within the CS team was making onboarding a separate function and creating a separate role - that of the onboarding manager. This focus on implementation allowed the team to hire for the project management and change management aspects/skills that implementation needed.
The team faced another challenge: CSMs hired for their hunting and expanding skillsets also needed to nurture adoption and drive customers’ technical success.
This resulted in the second structural change - a separate account management function (placed under Front’s global sales function), created to deal with all commercial aspects of the customer lifecycle. Salespeople were hired for this function with a role incentivized to cross-sell, upsell, and drive renewals.
This allowed the CSM to focus on long-term adoption and health, beginning at the post-implementation stage, driving adoption, and going all the way to renewal. This included managing feature requests, engaging in roadmap conversations, and adoption motions such as training and workflow tweaks. This approach, where every role is aligned to a domain (Customer Success, Account Management, Onboarding), has shown outstanding business results and improved engagement from employees.
In addition, two onboarding models (high and low-touch) were created. The high-touch model eventually became onboarding paid services; low touch became the programmatic model.
At Front, onboarding managers are trained to be product experts. Each Onboarding Manager is trained on the product, and the pros and cons of all architecture/designs, so they can take a consultative approach to all their onboarding projects.
The six areas of focus for onboarding managers are:
The onboarding team meets for a deployment/onboarding pipeline meeting every week which they use for peer coaching and to discuss current challenges and change management issues. Onboarding managers at Front work on a base + bonus model.
CSMs don’t participate in every customer call during implementation, but make sure to attend the:
CSMs have a target earning model with split targets (including an NRR target).
The Front Team has three goals for onboarding:
Document everything so you can:
As part of new employee onboarding, new employees shadowing colleagues are encouraged to draft conversations for their colleagues to send to help them internalize the process and build muscle memory.
Invest in talent and initiatives that help ramp Onboarding Managers. For example, the Front team worked to create:
Invest in a project management tool to:
The team surveyed the sales teams to understand their conversations with customers. This helped them design better training and best practice documents (also reviewed by sales teams).
They also set up a cadence to regularly meet:
Separate product feedback from service feedback. For instance, use NPS for customer feedback from a product standpoint and use CSAT to capture the effectiveness of the onboarding service.
Keep post-implementation surveys short (approximately 60 seconds, five questions). Example questions include:
Revisit the goals and outcomes discussed at kickoff and present quantitative findings on ROI. Focus on further roadmap conversations.
Set up a high-touch handoff, so customers don’t end up repeating conversations. Ensure that every handover involves a 15-minute sync call and a handover record filled by the Account Executive/Manager.
Ask candidates to walk you through a change management instance from their experience. Probe them to understand
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