The psychological aspect of customer onboarding

Cori Medler, Director - Customer Success at BombBomb talks about the psychological dimension of onboarding and handling change management with clients.
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In this episode, we talk to Cori Medler, Director - Customer Success at BombBomb. She leads the team and steers initiatives for retention and expansion of BombBomb's managed customers.

Cori is a powerhouse in Customer Success, as she is who has quite literally experienced it all in SaaS. She has been in sales, services, people management, marketing strategies, data analysis, database administration, and so much more. 

Here at the Launch Station, she gets to talking about:

  1. How onboarding and Customer Success has evolved at BombBomb
  2. How the onboarding journey at BombBomb looks like
  3. How BombBomb handles change management with enterprise clients
  4. What are some key concepts that people should research on when trying to effect change management

… and more.

Check out our conversation below.

Sri: Hi everyone! Welcome to another episode of the Launch Station. Today we have Cori Medler, the Director of Customer Success at BombBomb. She leads the team and steers initiatives for retention and expansion of BombBomb's managed customers. Cori is a powerhouse in Customer Success and we are thrilled to have her with us today. Welcome to the show, Cori.

Cori: Hi Sri. Thank you for having me on the show today. I’m very happy to be here. 

Sri: Cori, could you give us a quick intro of yourself and your experiences in SaaS?

Cori: Currently, I serve as the Director of Customer Success at BombBomb, a video communication software company based in Colorado Springs. My journey leading up to this role has been quite diverse and intriguing. 

I began my career in the hospitality industry, where I honed my skills in customer service and sales. From there, I made a transition to the nonprofit museum sector, an unexpected move that proved to be insightful. Working in museums taught me the importance of focusing on the visitor experience, which directly correlates with providing exceptional customer experiences in the realm of SaaS and tech companies.

In the museum world, the primary goal is to serve and delight the visitors, which is remarkably analogous to the objectives of our SaaS products – guiding customers seamlessly through their experience. Additionally, the museum's reliance on recurring revenue, mainly through memberships, imparted valuable lessons on customer retention and loyalty. Learning to nurture ongoing relationships with patrons and cultivating loyalty has proven instrumental in the software industry as well, where retaining and expanding customer revenue is paramount. This unique background led me to my current role in customer success, where I continue to apply the strategies, methodologies, and disciplines cultivated during my time in museums. It has been a rewarding journey, and I'm excited to leverage my past experiences to further enhance the customer success endeavors at BombBomb.

Sri: With such a wide range of experiences, what would you consider to be your key skills or unique abilities that define you?

Cori: I've always been a passionate learner, seeking to acquire new ideas, strategies, and methodologies. Throughout my career, I've gained a wide range of skills and experience, including sales, customer service, people management, department building, marketing strategy, data analysis, and database administration. This diverse background has contributed significantly to my role in customer success today, as it requires a deep understanding of all aspects of a customer's business to deliver real value and ensure a positive experience. 

A few other qualities I picked up during my various roles are empathy and data acumen. Empathy allows me to genuinely connect with customers, understanding their experiences and needs, which is a vital aspect of successful customer success.

By combining empathy with a data-driven approach, I can offer strategic advice that truly resonates with customers. In CS, success comes from being a trusted advisor, working closely with customers to deliver meaningful impact and value. My approach, incorporating data-driven insights and empathetic intuition, has helped me make a positive impact and achieve success in the CS space.

Sri: For today’s episode, our focus is primarily going to be on change management and the psychological dimension of customer onboarding. As you'll soon discover, customer onboarding at BombBomb is not just about setting up integrations and configurations. It's about creating the right changes within the customer organization and among the product users. And I'm really interested in learning more about this. 

Cori, I understand that at BombBomb, you have separate teams for customer onboarding and customer success. Can you tell us when and why you made this division?

Cori: The split among the two functions actually predates my time at BombBomb. I've been with the company for two years now. When I joined, the customer onboarding and customer success management functions were already separated into two distinct roles. This organizational change occurred around five or six years ago in response to various factors. 

Firstly, it was driven by the growing number of customers and increased demand resulting from new sales. As our product is unique, combining technical aspects with a significant psychological component, we recognized the need for a specialized approach. Our product goes beyond mere technology or software; it involves a deep psychological element. Successfully introducing and integrating our asynchronous video communication requires understanding our customers on a psychological level. We strive to address their objections, help them grasp the value, and recognize the impact of this form of communication. This process involves more than just integrating our product with their existing tech stack; it's about empathetically guiding them through any discomfort they might experience when adopting this new, distinct approach to communication. So, the decision to separate onboarding and customer success management was influenced by the increasing volume of customers and the valuable feedback we received from our clients. We realized that providing exceptional service and support in this unique context necessitated a dedicated program focused on understanding and addressing the psychological aspects of using our product.

Sri: So, there are two main factors to consider when you make the split among the functions: volume and complexity. In some cases, companies may face integration complexity, but in the case of BombBomb, the main challenge lies in the significant change in people's behavior and the adaptation to a new communication style. This complexity required dedicated attention and focus. And thus, it was logical to treat customer onboarding as a separate process.

Cori: Yes. That’s right! BombBomb’s product was complex on its own and added to it was the challenge we faced with getting customers to adoption. And that was a huge indicator for us to assemble a dedicated customer onboarding team to ensure that we provide appropriate guidance to customers during their journey with the product.

Sri: What does the customer onboarding journey at BombBomb look like today? Could you give us an overview on the timelines, activities, and the scale at which you operate?

Cori: At BombBomb we cater to a diverse range of customers across various industries and verticals. To provide tailored support, we organize our customer onboarding managers based on specific business segments, such as small and medium businesses, mid-market businesses, and enterprises. 

Additionally, we assign customer onboarding managers who specialize in particular industries.

Speaking the language of our customers and understanding their unique needs allows us to build trust more effectively. For instance, if we have customers in the mortgage industry, having customer onboarding managers who understand their industry jargon expedites the trust-building process. 

Since our customer base spans from small businesses to large enterprises, our onboarding approach varies accordingly. For enterprise customers with more complex tool integration needs and larger teams to train, we offer a more customized customer onboarding experience. This process typically takes around six to eight weeks, but we remain flexible and adapt to each customer's requirements. For smaller businesses, we provide a streamlined and straightforward four-week onboarding program. Initially, we begin with a crucial handoff call from our sales team, ensuring a seamless transition and customer trust as they move from the sales phase to customer onboarding and customer success. During the customer onboarding process, we conduct kickoff or admin calls with our customers to understand their goals and objectives with video communication. This helps us tailor the training to meet their specific needs. Our standard training includes team sessions, which can range from two to 14 sessions spread out on a weekly basis, or even twice a week if desired. Depending on the customer's preference, we also offer on-demand training options or Train-the-Trainer programs for customers with internal training teams. Throughout the customer onboarding journey, we maintain regular communication, focusing on milestones achieved, ongoing objectives, and introducing the customer to their dedicated CSM for continued support. In short, our onboarding approach is designed to align with our customers' segmentation, beginning with a strong handoff from sales, followed by a personalized kickoff call and customized training sessions. 

Sri: You mentioned the training on best practices for video production. As you move towards enterprise-level usage, there is a large number of people who need to adapt to these changes. Managing such a change can be challenging. Could you share some approaches you have implemented during the customer onboarding process to help people transition smoothly into the new way of doing things?

Cori: When it comes to change management, whether you’re dealing with a group of 500, 1000, or even just five individuals, setting and managing expectations is a fundamental aspect of establishing the right tone and fostering strong partnerships. Often, we overlook these basic yet critical steps in our enthusiasm to implement change. It is essential to communicate clearly to our customers about what they can expect from our onboarding program. Defining the role of our customer onboarding managers, how they support the customers throughout the journey, and the roadmap of the process helps instill confidence and trust.

Change management is a continuous process, and we must consistently remind people of the roadmap of the journey and what lies ahead. Having a visual representation of the roadmap allows to effectively guide customers, providing clarity at every stage and avoiding confusion.

As experts in our product, our primary objective is to assist our customers in adopting our solutions effectively and deriving value from them. To achieve this, we sometimes need to be directive and prescriptive. For instance, during the admin kickoff call, we focus on understanding the unique business challenges and goals of our customers. Based on this understanding, we collaboratively decide on the initial use case for video communication. Recognizing that video communication is a skill that requires step-by-step development, we start with a specific use case to build a strong foundation. By introducing video skills through one focused use case, we prevent overwhelm and analysis paralysis that can arise from presenting too many options at once. Instead, we ensure a simpler, more digestible approach, allowing for steady growth and expansion into additional use cases as the team gains confidence and proficiency. This strategy of narrowing down and chunking critical information has proven to be successful, leading to a more positive customer onboarding experience.

Sri: Can you highlight some key psychological concepts that individuals seeking to implement and manage change should research upon? Would you have any recommendations for resources or experts in the field? 

Cori: It's fascinating how our video communication tool is not just a technical solution but also carries a significant psychological aspect. Over the years, serving more than 60,000 customers, we have observed common psychological challenges they face. Many struggle with feeling comfortable on camera, concerns about their appearance or voice, uncertainty about using video correctly, or believing their videos should look highly professional. Recognizing this, we have delved into understanding and addressing these psychological barriers to help our customers embrace video confidently. To navigate this psychological change management effectively, we turn to experts in the field. We draw insights from sociologists, psychologists, and thought leaders like Amy Cuddy, who explores snap judgments, warmth, and competence in human interactions. Video communication enables us to display warmth and competence immediately, overcoming some of these subconscious biases. We also embrace Brené Brown's teachings on vulnerability, understanding that we are often our own harshest critics when watching ourselves on video. However, our recipients don't notice the same perceived flaws, and embracing authenticity enhances trust and relationships with others. In addition to addressing psychological hurdles, understanding adult learning styles and the psychology behind it is crucial to deliver impactful customer onboarding experiences. Capturing and maintaining attention, motivating learners, providing quick wins, breaking down information into easily digestible pieces, and reinforcing learning throughout the process are all vital components.

Furthermore, the connection between neuroscience and customer onboarding is significant. First impressions are powerful and require careful attention, as our brains quickly form snap judgments. Additionally, we must be proactive in addressing buyer's remorse, ensuring a smooth transition from the sales phase to onboarding to prevent any dissonance. Building trust during the change management journey is essential, considering the vast variability in human responses to change.

There’s a wealth of intriguing information to unpack here, particularly regarding the intersection of psychology and onboarding. Understanding and applying these insights allow us to create positive and effective customer onboarding experiences that can empower customers to embrace the change.

Sri: I’d love to dive deeper and explore some successful strategies you have implemented. Do you have any personal experiences that have reaffirmed the effectiveness of your approach, such as improving first impressions or captivating customers with unique content? Could you share some success stories with us?

Cori: When it comes to addressing buyer's remorse, our product plays a crucial role, and while it might sound like a plug for our product, it genuinely has had a significant impact. After a customer makes a purchase, there's a limited window to capitalize on their excitement before buyer's remorse starts to set in, especially for substantial purchases. Setting clear expectations with the customer at this stage is absolutely critical. 

Unlike some practices where sales disengage after closing the deal, at BombBomb, we believe in maintaining involvement throughout the handoff process. And to do so, we leverage our product, asynchronous video communication. We record a personalized video featuring both the sales representative and the customer onboarding manager, introducing themselves and outlining the customer's journey, along with the next steps. 

Our goal is to deliver this video within one business day of the purchase. The impact of seeing the faces of the people they will be working with, experiencing their excitement and emotions firsthand, is significant for customers. This human connection goes beyond a simple email, helping to alleviate any potential buyer's remorse and building a strong foundation of trust. Through video communication, we have found a powerful tool to guide our customers through critical moments.

The ability to convey emotions, personalities, and genuine excitement through video has been transformative in our customer interactions. This is just one example of how we harness the potential of our product, and there are undoubtedly more instances where video communication can make a substantial impact. 

Sri: What has been the response from customers regarding the video? Have you personally heard any feedback from them and do you have any interesting anecdotes or stories to share about its impact?

Cori: It's interesting how our customers respond to video messages differently at various stages of their journey with us. When they first encounter video communication during the sales process, they might not explicitly share their thoughts, but they become familiar with it as they move to the customer success phase. Our sales team often uses videos to communicate with potential and existing customers, and we've received positive feedback from them. They express how the videos help them understand our programs better and instill excitement about working with us. 

However, the most fascinating and powerful feedback we receive is when our customers send video messages themselves and experience the recipient's response. At BombBomb, having been in the business for nearly 15 years, we understand the impact of video communication. When our customers receive responses to their video messages, they are astounded by the reception they get. The recipient's reaction is profound; they feel a genuine connection, like they know the sender, and appreciate the personal touch. 

Sri: That’s truly amazing. It actually reminds me of how we utilize Rocketlane to guide our customers through onboarding at Rocketlane. And similarly, you're using BombBomb for your own customer, which is really cool for your own customers.

Cori: That’s right, Sri! One other important aspect we often hear is that when our customers see us utilizing our own product, they have more confidence in us to guide them in adopting and benefiting from it. This is because by using it ourselves, we demonstrate our expertise, our ability to make an impact, and our knowledge in assisting them to use and find value in it. Consequently, this builds a strong foundation of trust when our customers observe our usage, leading them to think, "Oh, you guys also use your own product? That's great!" And our response would be, "Absolutely, we rely on it extensively." Thus, the use of our own product contributes significantly to earning the trust of our customers.

Sri: Absolutely. So how big is your customer onboarding team? Are there any group activities or practices in place that promote experimentation and learning for the entire team?

Cori: Absolutely! Oh and I'm actually enjoying these questions! So, currently, we have five customer onboarding managers who primarily focus on the SMB, and mid-market segments, and three others dedicated to the mid-market and enterprise space. Each manager is well-versed in different programs, allowing us to adapt and support based on sales volume and customer needs. The seamless handoff between onboarding managers and customer success managers is crucial, which is why we all work together as one cohesive team. 

We also have weekly team meetings that bring us all together to discuss progress and ensure a collaborative approach. Recently, we decided to take a more directive approach, guiding our customers towards their initial use case. By designing a progressive process that focuses on building strong video skills and incorporating human-centered communication, we aim to deliver value to recipients effectively. To revamp our customer onboarding process, we adopted a group design methodology. This involved gathering all customer onboarding managers for a brainstorming session. 

We wanted to assess what was working, what needed improvement, and what we aspired to achieve. This group design approach may not have been the quickest, but it proved to be worthwhile. Slowing down to gather various perspectives and insights created a highly inclusive and open learning environment for all of us. Every team member felt comfortable sharing their ideas, and this trust fostered a strong sense of collaboration. This inclusive and trusting atmosphere now fuels our team's agility and speed in iterating and implementing improvements. 

As a leader, I join the team bi-weekly or monthly to offer my support and input, but they primarily run with the improvements themselves. Their ability to iterate quickly and effectively, while fostering a culture of inclusive teamwork, has yielded fantastic results for both our team and our customers. This journey of revamping our customer onboarding process has not only improved our approach but also strengthened our team dynamics and customer-centric ethos.

Sri: That’s wonderful to hear. So, how do you measure what's working and what's not working from all the ideas and initiatives you implement?

Cori: There are several factors to consider when measuring the effectiveness of our customer onboarding process. To ensure a comprehensive and balanced evaluation, we focus on both quality and quantity metrics. It's essential to avoid getting caught up in vanity metrics, which may not truly reflect the success of the process. 

One crucial metric we use is the Net Promoter Score (NPS), specifically tailored to our new customer onboarding process, which we recently launched. The NPS provides us with valuable feedback directly related to the customer onboarding experience. Additionally, we pay close attention to customer feedback and satisfaction throughout the process. By capturing customer input as they progress, we gain insight into their perceptions and identify areas for improvement. 

For us, usage is another vital quantitative indicator of success. We aim to achieve a specific level of usage for our customers during the onboarding phase. This involves ensuring that we have seamlessly integrated the necessary elements and that end-users are actively engaging with the product as part of their initial use case. In addition to usage, we analyze the depth of use cases adopted by customers. Once they have successfully implemented their first use case, we encourage them to explore additional applications. By delving deeper into various use cases, we foster customer stickiness and gauge the effectiveness of our approach.

Sri: That makes a lot of sense. We have three quick rapid fire questions for you. Here’s the first one: Tell us a song or movie that gives you energy.

Cori: Oh, this is easy! And if you asked anyone on my team, they would answer it so quickly. It’s Harry Styles’s ‘Treat People With Kindness’. I know I’m late to the Harry Styles fan club. But I am here and I’m loving him and his song.  Last year, I couldn't get enough of his "Treat People With Kindness" song; it truly gave me life. The video resonated with me so much that I watched it repeatedly. And what a great experience it was!

Sri: Oh, I need to listen to this one. I haven't yet.

Cori: Yes, I highly recommend it.

Sri: Here’s the second question: What’s one life lesson that you always share with your teams?

Cori: One valuable lesson I've consistently embraced throughout my leadership journey is the power of encouraging others to recognize and nurture their unique strengths. Whether it's our teammates, individual contributors, or fellow managers, understanding and harnessing our distinctive abilities is key. I advocate for a process of discovery, understanding, development, and open discussion of these strengths. 

By fostering a culture where everyone acknowledges their individual strengths, we build an inclusive and effective team dynamic. Egos take a back seat when we embrace the fact that each team member brings their unique qualities to the table. Instead of feeling threatened by someone else's expertise, we celebrate it and seek their guidance when needed. This enables us to work faster, more efficiently, and with heightened creativity and innovation. I always encourage my team and colleagues to explore and understand their inherent strengths. It's essential to assess whether these strengths remain consistent over time or evolve. People come alive when they operate from a place of strength, contributing more meaningfully to the company and the world. 

Engagement levels soar when individuals operate from a position of strength, and this has a transformative effect on our endeavors. Our collective sense of aliveness leads to heightened performance and a positive impact on our goals.

Sri: This resonates a lot with me too because I saw this firsthand during my tenure at my previous company, Freshworks. “Play to strength”, deeply ingrained as one of our core values and actively encouraged throughout the organization. There was also enough opportunity for individuals to shift roles based on aligning with what they believed their strengths were. It's incredible how such a simple yet powerful idea can create a workplace environment where everyone's potential is maximized.

Cori: There’s research and tools out there now that are designed to enhance team dynamics. There are numerous studies that have been conducted to examine the effectiveness of teams that prioritize a strengths-based culture. Moreover, valuable assessment tools, such as Clifton StrengthsFinders, have also come up to aid in identifying and leveraging each person’s unique strengths.

Sri: Here's the last of the rapid fire questions: What's one skill you want to learn in 2023?

Cori: Time management is the most topical and relevant challenge for me currently. I’m going to be returning to grad school soon and I need to find effective ways to manage my time to be able to do it all. As I grow in my leadership role, time management takes on new dimensions, and I continuously adapt my approach to meet evolving demands and prioritize my focus accordingly. So that’s the skill I'm going to focus on this year.

Sri: Cori, we have one question from our Preflight community as well. What do you do to ensure that all your customer onboarding representatives are adhering to the best practices that you set up and delivering consistent experiences?

Cori: That's an excellent question, and I must admit it's challenging too. We've encountered situations where the lack of a standardized process or process led to teammates improvising and designing their own approaches. While this may showcase creativity, it hampers our ability to measure the impact and effectiveness consistently. To address this, we utilize various tools for call recordings, peer-to-peer coaching, and usage metrics to assess performance. Standardizing our processes with shared decks, language, and methodologies has been critical.

However, what I find most impactful is involving the team in the process. When we slow down to engage them, bringing them together to design the program collaboratively, we create buy-in and ownership. 

As a leader, guiding this process is essential. Ensuring that the team comprehends the value of consistency and the reasons behind standardization fosters greater success. When team members participate in shaping the program, they develop a sense of pride and connection to it, increasing its effectiveness. Additionally, this approach enables us to measure results accurately and make necessary adjustments as needed.

Sri: Here's the last question for our episode: What's top of mind for you in customer onboarding in 2023?

Cori: There are quite a few initiatives currently on our radar. First, we are focused on developing a Mutual Impact Plan collaboratively with our customers during the onboarding process. This plan becomes a strategic partnership, handed over to our customer success managers to ensure consistent and impactful experiences throughout their lifetime with us. We aim to document and utilize this plan to tailor the customer’s journey and understand their unique needs better. 

Another crucial aspect we are delving into is the neuroscience behind customer onboarding. Research shows that the first 90 days are pivotal for adopting new behaviors and implementing change management effectively. Our current customer onboarding process spans from four to eight weeks, but we recognize the importance of intentionally designing it for the 90-day period. To achieve this, we are engaging our customer onboarding manager group in brainstorming the next iteration of our process. By sticking to 90 days, we can significantly impact behavior change and support our customer success managers more effectively, ensuring consistent usage and accountability during this crucial time.

Sri: I'd love to stay plugged into that journey to see how the 90 day customer onboarding journey turns out. Thanks a lot for coming on the show today and sharing all your experiences with us, Cori!

Cori: Thanks, Sri for having me over at the Launch Station today. I had a really wonderful time talking to you.

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