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December 8th, 2020

Customer Onboarding: Preparing for Your 2021 Kick-Off Meetings

By Liz Ferguson

It's been quite a year, and we all need a moment to reset.

Good news? The new year usually brings an influx of new customers. So, let's lay out a plan to deliver the best experience for your new customers so they can be sure that they made the right choice – we don't want them to start 2021 with buyer's remorse.

First thing's first – what is a customer onboarding strategy, and why is it important?

What is Customer Onboarding?

Customer onboarding is how you bring your new customers into your portfolio. It's how you not only roll out the red carpet but also roll up your sleeves. Your initial interactions will help form how your customers think of you, your product, and your company.

While this might sound a bit daunting, we've put together a customer onboarding checklist for how to ensure those first impressions are nothing short of stellar.

How to Prepare For Your Customer Onboarding Meetings

To successfully prepare for and conduct your first customer onboarding meetings in 2021, here are some steps that can help.

1. Set up the customer onboarding call and introduce yourself

The earlier in the year, the better. Early January is an excellent target for an initial call, but make sure to allow time to prepare for the call properly. While introducing yourself, make sure to give them a sense of who you are, so they already feel a connection. Follow them on LinkedIn and maybe wish them a Happy Holidays.

2. Sync with your sales team

Talk with sales about each new customer. Why did they purchase the product? What are their biggest pain points, and how are they expecting your product to solve for those? Are they expecting any future changes that might impact how they use your product?

As we talked about in How to Build Stronger Customer Relationships Remotely, ensure the customer knows that you are fully aligned between all your different teams internally, especially the Sales Team, after the hand-off.

3. Know the product roadmap
Know what product releases are upcoming that will get your new customers excited based on their initial unmet needs. This will help you keep them engaged after the kick-off meeting and show that you're already thinking about the future and prioritizing their success.

4. Prepare and share an agenda

Share an agenda with your customer about two weeks before the call. Ensure the agenda allows for a bit of flexibility, so they feel some ownership. Keep it human and customized, tailoring the message and agenda to them.

5. Send a quick "looking forward to it" note

A few days before your meeting, send a quick note letting the customer know you're looking forward to the call and preparing for a productive chat. Make it personal with a "hope all is well in XYC City" closing. This can also be used as a gentle reminder to the customer to review the agenda before the meeting.

6. Take a break and breathe

This might seem silly, but it is critical. We all need a break after a crazy year of ups and downs. Once you've properly prepped for the meeting, take a moment to rest your brain. You'll thank yourself for taking time when you have to jump back into the madness in January.

7. Start the customer onboarding meeting with clear expectations

Make sure you set the expectations at the start of the call, so everyone is aligned. Since you sent them the agenda ahead of time, this is just a review and an open invitation to see if there's anything else they'd like to discuss on the call. If they've reached out about something else since the initial agenda, make sure to have that added to the agenda prior.

8. Document the meeting

Document, document, document. Take notes throughout the customer onboarding meeting, especially around their current and future challenges. Ask questions and note which of your internal teams can help achieve your new customer's desired outcomes.

If you're one of our Outline customers, Templates and Collections are a great way to stay organized, all while ensuring the most relevant customer context makes it to the appropriate internal teammates.

9. Immediately follow-up with the customer

The most important thing to do is summarize what was discussed in the meeting at a high level and call out any next steps. This is an opportunity to ensure you both left the meeting with a shared understanding and have a game plan.

If you have relevant resources, you can quickly send them (onboarding documents, job aids, help resources, etc.) and include them in the email. Establish the best way to collaborate with them in the future (e.g., sharing documents via Google Docs or a project plan via Asana).

10. Follow up internally

No doubt some items came up in your meeting that requires collaboration with your teammates. Reach out to the product team, the sales team, etc., and ensure that key items discussed are brought to their attention.

Do they have other resources that could be helpful for the customer? If there is a need to pull someone from the Product or another internal team onto future customer syncs, work with that person to block off a few potential time slots to propose to the customer.

A super-efficient way to collaborate internally for our Outline customers is to invite your internal teammates to your customer's workspace. Easily assign action items post-meeting and collaborate together by adding customer feedback into shared Collections.

11. Follow up with your customer more extensively

Depending on what your action items were following the meeting, this communication's timing may vary; needless to say, the sooner, the better. A best practice is not letting this more thorough follow-up be beyond a week from the initial meeting.

Provide an update on all of the action items established in the meeting. Be sure to ask them for updates on any action items that are assigned to them. Were there resources that you wanted to send them, but you didn't have them ready previously? Were there product questions they had that you needed to collaborate with the Product Team on? Whatever you promised to work on, show some progress on all items, no matter how minimal.

While these are all pretty logical steps, the key to successful customer onboarding is consistent with this process for all of your new customers.

What better way to kick-off 2021 than to have your customers feel attended to and considered, all while gathering the data you need to provide them with a stellar experience throughout the year?!

If you're a CSM and looking for help with optimizing this process with meeting intelligence, internal collaboration, and streamlined follow-ups, check out how Outline can help here.

Our platform ensures all teams at your organization understand exactly what your customer wants, what they must-have for success, and when they need it. After all, a successful relationship in 2021 means a more likely renewal for 2022. 🙂

We've made it through the madness of 2020. Let's take a moment to reset and prepare ourselves for 2021. The team at Outline wishes you a relaxing holiday season and an exciting and successful 2021!

To see how Outline can help put your customers at the center of your business, request a demo here.

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