Onboarding 101: tips for a successful customer retention process

Once you’ve won a customer, the real work starts. And it should start with a robust and customer-focused onboarding process.

Once you’ve won a customer, the real work starts. And it should start with a robust and customer-focused onboarding process.

Your marketing and sales teams have worked hard to build a relationship with a customer and prove to them that your company (not just your product or service) is the right choice for them. So when they are handed to you, it’s time to give them a more indepth introduction to your company and share the goal of building long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationships.

Your customer is likely anxious to start seeing the return on their investment with you, but, if like us, that return takes time, the onboarding process is your greatest asset.   

Why onboarding is vital for customer retention

The number one reason every business needs an onboarding process for clients is to prevent churn and retain customers. Customer retention is something every business strives to maintain, it is after all easier to upsell a happy customer than to find a new one, yet research shows that companies lose $1.6 trillion per year due to customer churn! And in a world where a competitor is just a Google search away, ensuring you have happy customers is vital. This is where onboarding comes in. 

When you take a deeper look at your processes and the needs of your customers, you’ll find that there are three fundamental reasons why onboarding is so vital.

  1. You decrease the chances the client will churn
  2. It allows you to set expectations from the start
  3. You can demonstrate your value early on

As a business who relies on our customer’s adoption of not only a tool but also a philosophy, onboarding has become one of our most important and asked for services. 

It’s no secret that user adoption is necessary to ensure a tool is used properly but, what many people tend to forget is that onboarding is about more than just the adoption of a tool. It’s about helping people understand what they are getting from you as a business (where it’s a tool or a service) and helping them grow their business.

“The faster you can help customers understand and extract value from your product that is in line with their business goals, the stickier and more successful they’ll be.” - Jeff Gardner, Intercom Director of Support

As a diamond HubSpot partner who has been using HubSpot for years, we onboard clients every day and we know that a good onboarding process can make or break your company reputation and customer retention. 

Looking to get started with HubSpot? Sign up for a HubSpot free account now.

Tips for onboarding success

Running a successful onboarding programme may seem easy enough… we know our tool or service well and we just need to train the customer… right? Nope, there’s a reason why training and onboarding are two different things. 

Onboarding is the process of introducing your customer to the tool or service, and business philosophy. This goes much further than just how to create an email and press send, it’s how to use the philosophy and the tool together to grow. 

So, how do you build a process for a successful onboarding? Here are five tips to help you get started.


1. Set clear expectations and milestones

Research shows that the number one thing missing in most onboarding programmes is clear duties and expectations. We’ve learnt many lessons over the years working in the world of inbound, the most important of which is this - set expectations and outline clear duties from the start. With an onboarding process, you set the tone for the long-term relationship with the client. If you allow scope creep from the beginning, you’ll find that the customer expects this all the time. Here are some expectations to set in your first session:
  1. Clear timelines for onboarding session, e.g. 1 hour meetings via Zoom every 10 business days to review progress
  2. Outline exactly what the customer will get from you vs what they are expected to do
  3. Set milestones and tasks to ensure everyone knows their deadlines
  4. Let them know what happens once the onboarding is over

2. Build a good rapport

As mentioned before, onboarding will set the tone for your relationship going forward. So building a rapport not only ensures that the onboarding runs smoothly but that the customer feels they can trust you in the long run.

Start building this rapport from day one by introducing yourself and adding some fun details about yourself. Also make sure to ask about your customer and get to know them a bit better. Make sure to start every meeting with a casual conversion rather than just jumping into business right away.

3. Prove your value quickly

This is such an important step in your onboarding process. The customer has bought the new solution and they are likely anxious to start implementing it in their business, but we all know that some solutions need time. So we need to make sure you offer them value in some way to ensure they feel the money was well spent.

Depending on what your solution is, the best way to prove your value is through quick wins and your own expertise. Send the client ideas on how they can implement quick easy things and remember to offer additional tools and resources that you know will help them grow (even if it has nothing to do with your solution directly)

4. Recap & record

An onboarding session can be overwhelming, you’re offering a lot of information all at once. Make sure to do a recap at the end of each session to outline what was discussed and what homework is expected. This goes back to the setting expectations element. A recap in the last 10 min of the session allows you to confirm that the customer understands what was discussed.

On top of that, make sure you record every session (if you’re doing virtual onboardings) so the customer has time to process the information and then can look back if they need to reaffirm their thinking.

5. Follow up

The final step in a successful onboarding is the follow up email. You’ve spent the session talking the customer through everything and now you have a ton of notes and the perfect opportunity to show your value. Send a follow up email after every session to recap what was agreed to and offer additional resources discussed in the session. Oh, and don’t forget that ever important link to the recording!

This not only gives the customer peace of mind that they don’t have to follow the session and take notes, but also that you are sharing your expertise and offering value. It also ensures that you have everything in writing so there can’t be any confusion on scope down the line.

Keep in mind that every customer is unique and while you need an onboarding process, you also need to make sure you’re customising the experience for the individual customer and both their business and personal needs. 

Have HubSpot and looking for onboarding to help you use the tool to its fullest and grow your business? Get in touch now.

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