The right time to invest in customer onboarding software

Observations from our journey so far
November 5, 2021
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“It’s too early for us to use a customer onboarding tool, we’re still figuring things out.”

While building Rocketlane, we weren’t surprised to hear this from many early-stage companies we interacted with. We found ourselves mostly agreeing with them. After all, most of them were still trying to understand the full range of their use cases/how customers used their product or were at a stage where they didn’t even know what to track.

While we knew we wanted to help fast-growing companies delight their customers, our approach towards identifying the best-fit customers was shaped largely by our observations of how customer onboarding looks at different stages of a company’s growth.

The four stages of customer onboarding maturity on the business growth journey

We’d seen that typically, companies went through four phases in their growth journey that influenced how they onboarded customers. 

Stage 1: The reactive stage 

In this stage, companies—typically in the seed stage of their fund-raise journey—relied on the founding team to handle customer onboarding and the uncertainties and the trial-and-error that come with it. This phase is characterized by surprises, incorrect estimates, course correction, and iterations, resulting in customer onboarding being a largely reactive exercise. 

Stage 2: The checklist stage

As companies progress to this stage (typically on their way to a Series A funding), they have collected learnings from their reactive phase to evolve to a checklist model that relies on their understanding of the barebones of their customer onboarding processes.

Stage 3: The project plan stage

As companies evolve and get closer to their Series A funding, it’s natural for their customers to expect a certain element of maturity and predictability in their operations. At this stage, most companies are forced to outgrow their ‘checklist’ phase and adopt a structured and sequential ‘project plan’ approach to bring an element of professionalism and preparedness to their customer onboarding methodology.

Stage 4: The dedicated customer onboarding/CS function stage

As companies grow to their Series B stage and begin to scale their team and operations, it’s the time for companies to give onboarding the attention and expertise it needs. 

It’s typically at this stage that customer onboarding transitions out of the hands of the founding team into the hands of a dedicated team such as Customer Success or Support. 

We’d expected that companies at Stage 4, with a better understanding of their onboarding processes and a dedicated team working on customer onboarding, would derive the maximum value from a purpose-built customer onboarding platform like Rocketlane.

But as we interacted with members of the Preflight community and spoke to companies at different stages of customer onboarding maturity, we realized that we needed to revisit our initial assumption.

Is it too early to invest in a customer onboarding tool? 

As we worked with early-stage companies like Sprinto, Botminds, and Leucine, we noticed how companies looked at onboarding to build credibility with their customers besides starting their growth journey on a steady and strong footing.

In the last four months since we launched, we’ve seen four distinct ways a dedicated onboarding tool benefits companies even low on the customer onboarding maturity spectrum.

1. It builds credibility 

Today, mid-market and enterprise customers expect a certain level of maturity, even from early-stage startups. With a customer onboarding tool, companies can ensure better expectation-setting and management and fewer unpleasant surprises. 

While spreadsheets and emails often get the job done, they don’t do a great job presenting the full picture. By streamlining customer onboarding, companies demonstrate a certain preparedness and commitment to accountability. For instance, we’ve seen companies use Rocketlane’s templates feature to customize their onboarding for different customers even in their early stages of operations or use the Presentation mode to demonstrate the full scope, timelines, expectations, and deliverables, right at the kickoff stage. Other ad hoc tools fail at this streamlining.

2. It sets the Customer Success function up for success

In the early stages, before accounts move into the renewals and QBR stages, customer success is mostly about driving customer implementation and adoption. With this focus on setting customers up to get value, it only makes sense to make accelerating time to value (TTV) the top priority. 

Customer onboarding software can help place TTV in center focus, and in the process, easily be the most effective customer success investment a company can make at this stage. 

3. It lays down a strong foundation for growth and scale 

Using a customer onboarding tool during the trial-and-error-heavy onboarding phase ensures that all the data, learnings, and insights from this phase are fed back into the system. 

Whether this means that playbooks get automatically revised or background data collection and analysis, a customer onboarding tool can be a strong forcing function to ensure that teams use iterations, data, and insights to inform future customer onboarding projects.

In essence, this means that all the lessons of the zero-to-one journey are fed back into the system to ensure that all the groundwork and lessons learned are encapsulated within the tool for newer team members.

The best time to invest in a customer onboarding tool

Customer onboarding will always be an iterative and evolving process. Waiting for your customer onboarding processes to perfect themselves could be the reason why your CS function is unable to keep up with your business growth. 

As you grow and work with newer and different customers, your customer onboarding methodology needs to evolve with your business growth. A customer onboarding tool might be just what you need to do that. 

If you’re focused on delivering maximum value to your customers at every stage of their journey (and yours!), consider exploring the value an onboarding tool would provide you. You may be pleasantly surprised to find that it’s never too soon to make customer onboarding a priority.

Read more

  1. How Rocketlane’s Salesforce integration ensures a smooth customer onboarding experience 
  2. Meet Rocketlane Forms: Collect and organize data in a jiffy
  3. How to Pick the Right Customer Onboarding Software [Free RFP]

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Kirthika Soundararajan
Head - Content Marketing @ Rocketlane

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

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