Why and how should you build an onboarding program for customers and employees?

After attracting that customer or hiring your newest team member, what’s the next step your company takes? Cross your fingers and hope for the best? Send them a manual and let them figure it out? Or do you have a systematic process for bringing them effectively and efficiently into your company? BrightGo finds that a well thought out program is one of the keys to a successful customer experience and an engaged productive employee relationship.

This program is called Onboarding. For employees, it is an extension of orientation or induction that you may already have and supports them in getting to their minimum (& beyond) performance level as quickly as possible. For customers, it is the time between first acquiring the product or starting the service and their first success in getting their needed job to be done, done. 

We’ve noticed there is a lot of similarities in bringing employees and customers. The terminology is different but many principles are the same. For example with onboarding related metrics, in marketing we call non renewals or cancelled subscriptions CHURN while in human resources we call employees quitting TURNOVER, both departments track if people are dropping off in pre commitment stages with ABANDONED sign ups or DECLINED OFFERS, and they both consider value added - whether that's CUSTOMER LIFETIME VALUE or REVENUE PER EMPLOYEE. In this Onboarding article, we’ll include examples for both and BrightGo can assist you whether its external customers or internal employees.

You may have had the experience of starting a new job and your laptop isn't ready or your boss is too busy to get you started so you languish and are delayed in getting anything meaningful accomplished - this leads to a feeling of unimportance and a lowered expectation of what you should be doing for the company. You may have also had the experience of a not quite intuitive enough product or service that you seem to be able to only do a few things on. It may take you many tries or even giving up before realizing the shortcuts, icons and menus that give the features you need to get the job you need done done.

Now that you can imagine a poor onboarding experience, what is included in a good onboarding experience? 

It helps you reach the main benefits of

  • Reduction in time to first success (& likelihood of converting free-to-paid) or full performance
  • Reduction in friction & frustration
  • Increasing engagement
  • Higher rates of buying again or in the case of employees referring colleagues & stretching for promotions
  • Alignment with company goals, vision and values - especially for employees but increasingly so for customers who are looking to connect with the companies they give their money too

The content may differ depending on

  • Each job or specific product / service as they will have some unique content
  • Where to find FAQs and who to contact for more help
  • Location both physically but also considering culture, context and compliance differences

The delivery method may differ depending on

  • Availability of packaging or tools like Intranet and apps
  • Use of manuals and employee handbooks
  • Feasibility of welcome tours, drip emails, welcome videos and in-person training 

Keep a clear focus on what the customer / employee job to be done is and how onboarding can help them achieve their desired outcome faster.

A framework we find useful is Bruce Tuckman’s stages of Forming-Storming-Norming-Performing. 

Customers go through similar stages. They start Forming with the initial enjoyment and novelty of the new product, some frustration as they enter Storming as start to try to do advanced tasks and are not immediately successful but then they figure it out in Norming, and then their performance continues to increase as they get faster and better in Performing. 

That is unless they discontinue the trial or return the product in the Storming stage! For customers, between sign-up and the first “success” is a disproportionate amount of Churn. For employees there is a similar pattern of disproportionate amount of Turnover in their first 3 months and first year. 

Whether you engage BrightGo Solutions to work with your teams to build an onboarding program or decide to Do It Yourself, you’ll want to consider:

  • How long & what pace should the program be?
    • How long does it normally take people to get to full performance?
    • When do customers drop off? When do employees quit?
  • What content should be included?
    • Common questions on forums, to help emails/call centres, to managers/IT/HR/accounting
    • Most popular or useful features
    • Showcases of company culture and to further goal alignment
  • How should it be delivered?
    • Budget
    • Available tools - in-built, email, video, in-person
    • Community, buddies, partners
    • High-touch / low-touch
    • What is the feel or culture you are trying to build?
    • How personal, fun, serious, quirky, etc. should it be?

And remember to seek feedback and iterate! Ask directly of customers / employees, indirectly from the helpers (tech support, managers, HR, etc), and look to usage data, performance metrics and those metrics like conversion rates and Churn/Turnover.

Have more questions? Need help with your onboarding program or setting up performance metrics? Contact BrightGo Solutions today to partner with human resources and business solutions experts, with a global perspective.