Tips to build an effective customer onboarding playbook

A customer onboarding playbook brings consistency to your onboardings and helps provide delightful and collaborative customer experiences
Shuvedha Subramaniam
September 28, 2022
Main Illustration:

Tips to build an effective customer onboarding playbook

A customer onboarding playbook brings consistency to your onboardings and helps provide delightful and collaborative customer experiences
Shuvedha Subramaniam
September 28, 2022
Main Illustration:

In This Post

With the onset of mists and mellow fruitfulness comes the NFL fervor. 

While football enthusiasts begin inspecting their favorite team's schedule and projecting a record as a late summer rite of passage, the teams prepare for the game with more than just play diagrams from their playbooks.

In NFL jargon, a playbook is a collection of a team's plays, strategies, procedures, and more. A playbook defines what needs to be done to win the game, breaking the team's strategy into actionable plays and defining roles and responsibilities. The structure tells the story of how a team builds a scheme from the ground up to succeed.

By the same token, customer onboarding playbooks help create a framework or a more predictable process for implementation teams and get everybody moving in the same direction. The playbooks also serve as a stepping stone to creating something truly winsome with customers and are a necessity for constant betterment.

What is a customer onboarding playbook?

The customer onboarding playbook serves as an all-comprehensive reference guide for teams throughout the onboarding phase. It can be used to define each step of the process, detail guidelines for teams to follow, and identify best practices to refine and improve customer onboarding processes over time. The playbook can also outline the steps teams should take during each onboarding stage and provide examples that will help implement these steps effectively.

Why is a customer onboarding playbook important?

The goal of customer onboarding is relatively simple: to get the customer set up with your product/service and accelerate their time-to-value. But this gets complex during execution. Drawing up an onboarding process tailored to each customer's unique needs is indeed an uphill task. That’s where playbooks come into play. 

The customer onboarding playbook is to help onboarding and implementation teams to get through this process and deliver a more consistent experience to customers. Teams can use the playbook to implement delightful onboarding experiences, ensuring that customers are getting off to a great start with your solution.

How to build your own customer onboarding playbook?

When creating a customer onboarding playbook, it is pertinent to remember that teams must tailor the playbook to suit each customer, and there is no one-size-fits-all methodology when it comes to onboarding. However, certain core elements from each phase can be retained as set strategies for all customers in your customer onboarding playbook. This piece lists 6 such top plays you can effortlessly include in your customer onboarding.

Play #1: Seamless handoffs

After the sales team has finally taken the customer over the dotted line to sign that contract, it’s their time to celebrate the new deal they have just clinched. The customer is also happy at this stage for having found a solution to make their lives easier. But what next? Well, the customer is not always going to stay happy with just a signed contract. They expect to start seeing value from their purchase soon. This means the pre-sales and onboarding teams must work collaboratively to formulate the perfect customer onboarding plan to delight the customer. 

The first step in the plan is to nail the handoffs, be it the Sales-to-Customer-Onboarding, Sales-to-Service, or Sales-to-Customer-Success handoff. Begin by detailing out the customer in the handoff document: how their current onboarding and implementation process is set up, their current tech stack, pain points, use cases, any demo or POC feedback, etc. Ensure that the information flow from the CRM to your tool is synced, automated (preferably), and seamless.

Ensure that this does not eat into the time of your customer onboarding teams. Teams are often left to fend for 8-10% of their time manually creating projects on tools and collecting information from the sales team. So remember to invest in the right customer onboarding software at the right time to set your team up for success.

Rocketlane integrates with Salesforce to enable seamless handoffs. Here’s a small snippet:

How mature are your customer onboarding practices? Take our free test here.

Play #2: Nailing kickoffs

The kickoff preparation begins with the following:

  1. Putting together the draft project charter
  2. Ensuring all attendees know their role in advance
  3. Creating a solid agenda and deck for the meeting

The kickoff aims to get the right people in the room to lay the foundation of a successful project and get them moving in the right direction from the start. It is the best means to set expectations, understand project goals, align with customers on desired outcomes, and set the communication plan for future cadences with stakeholders. The kickoff meeting typically takes place after the statement of work has been finalized.

Here's a comprehensive guide on how you can prep and pull off the ultimate kickoff meeting for a customer onboarding project.

Take the time and the effort to understand what the customer’s needs are and what they are trying to achieve with your solution. After reiterating and prioritizing what the customer wants to achieve, the team should walk the customer through the onboarding journey and the duration of each phase, getting customers to co-own the success criteria for the entire customer onboarding process.

Play #3: Drawing plans

Post-kickoff it's time to set up an account for the customer on your product. Enable customers to indulge in a firsthand experience with the product, as experiences tend to stick for longer. Based on their current processes and expectations, create an onboarding plan for them. If customers already have some pre-existing plans and processes, help recreate them on the product. 

However, while designing a customer onboarding strategy, a long checklist will not save the day. It's best to divide the journey into a plan of what to get done each week. Make it a path or a sequence of steps that establish the best order in which you'd want them to approach these steps. The 'Waiter vs. Doctor' is another approach to engaging larger customers about your onboarding plan for them. It also helps to have an acute awareness of customer maturity to build the right onboarding plan for them.

For instance, at Rocketlane, we enable users to build out dynamic templates into their project plans or import templates into their pre-existing plans. This ensures consistency across projects for users and also saves them the time from having to start from scratch for every customer onboarding.

Play #4: Solid implementation

Next up is helping customers figure out the detailed configurations of the product setup. Once they are familiarized with the basics and are ready to implement your tool, take a workshop approach to their product configurations. This will act as a forcing function for customers to get things done and showcase you as 'partners' rather than 'vendors' for your customers. Gainsight says this helped them to reduce their customer onboarding time by 66%

Another way to get moving at the right pace is to make the customer POC the hero of the project and help deliver value so the customer wins in more ways than one. Try a sprint-review-style demo to the steering committee or leadership at the end of every week or every two weeks to showcase the work done.

Play #5: Smooth go-lives

In project management or implementation, a go-live is when end users start using a product/service. A go-live plan requires optimum preparation, timely action, and a contingency plan to deal with unexpected issues. Its main objective is to ensure a smooth transition. Remember, the go-live is not a moment for fireworks yet. Customers are happy that they can use your solution, but they aren't celebrating. The celebration happens only when they realize value during the product adoption stage.

Towards the end of the onboarding, encourage users on the customer side to do a 'reverse demo' of your solution back to your team. The reverse demo helps you understand how customers use your solution to recommend best practices or required tune-ups. This can also be seen as an act to ensure the customer has taken in the training content and can now see value.

Play#6: Driving adoption

The customer onboarding process is not complete without the users on the customer side fully adopting your solution. At the end of your implementation, invite users and business leaders from the customers’ side to an ‘Onboarding Day’, with a focus on ending things on a celebratory note and driving excitement for users. This will subsequently help in improving adoption and retention. 

Or, as a one-off event for enterprise or large user accounts, gamify the adoption. See which team or group on the customer’s side is able to showcase best results using the product. If there are specific metrics that also help you showcase value delivered to the customer, focus on them so that the team's goal becomes to make your product succeed in their group.

Summing up

A customer onboarding playbook can be viewed as the baseline for all your future onboardings. From this vantage position, you can quickly assess and effectively pinpoint areas that require improvement or attention. Plus, it acts as an instructional coach to help you reflect on what’s working and what’s not. The team will then have a consistent process, and be able to gauge and mitigate risks that may arise during each customer onboarding.

Want to hire a coach to help with your customer onboarding playbook instead? 

Rocketlane might be the best fit for you. Try Rocketlane for free or hop on for a quick demo with our folks.

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Shuvedha Subramaniam
Content Marketer @ Rocketlane

Marketing Intern @ Rocketlane. An Advocate by choice and a penwoman for the love of it. When the world zips, I like to zoink. Also, being happy by being kind.

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