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How do you drive existing and new customers to value, at scale?

Webinar Q&A recap, part two

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If you follow me, you know that customer onboarding is about transforming your customer’s business, not just going live with your product. And that means onboarding happens with existing as well as new customers. Ongoing onboarding is especially important because that’s where growth happens. I learned from Beth Yahaskel, Revenue Architect at Winning by Design, that recurring revenue comes from delivering recurring impact to your customers.

How can you continue to engage your existing customers and deliver impact? How about onboarding new users, new teams, and new products and features so your customers keep thriving with your product? In the webinar, Driving customers to value during onboarding at scale I delivered with ChurnZero, I shared how to stop recreating the wheel every time you onboard new and existing customers as well as why, how, and when to have impact with customers at scale.

Since there wasn’t enough time to answer all the questions that came in, read on for my answers to the unanswered questions. In addition, you can watch the webinar and read the first part of the Q&A. Now, let’s get to those questions.

Q: What are best practices to align Customer Success, Professional Services, Sales / Account Managers, and Support especially through onboarding?

A: Whether you are onboarding new or existing customers, it’s important to break down those silos in which customer facing teams tend to operate. Rather than motivating each team with incentives and metrics that relate to their world only, think like a customer-centric company. Gather the leaders of each organization to align around measurements that demonstrate impact on customers.

Consider what you know about your most sticky customers. What makes them stick around? Then, organize all customer-facing teams around driving the customer behavior that ensures they take the right actions to keep renewing and growing. That might be a percentage of active users leveraging your product, using unique product features, or generating a specific number of reports. Once you know the actions required, you define a seamless journey that drives action and results for both you and your customers. Finally, bake them into the onboarding and customer journeys with clearly defined roles, responsibilities, and swim lanes for every customer facing role at every stage and measure the impact.

Q: Customers keep ghosting us. How do you handle customers that aren’t engaged and keep the excitement going throughout onboarding?

A. Whenever there are issues during onboarding, I look upstream to resolve them. The main way to ensuring customers stay engaged is to deliver appreciated value that is meaningful to them. The reality is, deploying your product may not seem all that exciting to your customers. But, receiving value as quickly as possible is very invigorating.

In fact, every time your customers receive value, they get an endorphin hit. Endorphins are chemicals that help to relieve pain or stress, and boost happiness. Taking small steps, or quick wins, are the way to keep customers engaged. I created Quick Wins to deliver achievable nuggets of value customers can commemorate even before your product is deployed.

In addition, when you leverage my Orchestrated Onboarding framework, you set expectations with new customers early and often so they know what is expected of them and are ready to partner for success. You start setting expectations and selling the value of your onboarding and enablement during the Embark and Handoff stages. You start early and then repeat regularly what customers need to do to be accountable. You put together a success plan so you capture and share what is needed and how you will address risks and escalations.

Q: What is the best way to collaborate with customer and keep them accountable at scale?

It all depends on the complexity and timeframe of your product and implementation. The longer and more complex onboarding absolutely benefit from the new breed of onboarding software tools to increase communication, collaboration, accountability, and engagement. But remember, it’s important to start with people, then processes, and then technology, so you aren’t just throwing a tool at a problem.

Q: What's your recommendation for developing success plans and gaining adoption from pre-sales teams to use these before a prospect signs a contract?

A. I use success plans when I work with my clients, and I recommend you do too. A success plan is a single place to capture customer goals and your plan for reaching them. The plan is a document that includes best practices and quick wins, while addressing gaps and risks. Success plans are simple to set up. The challenging part is making sure they are adopted.

The success plan commences during the Embark stage to capture what the sales teams know about customer requirements, goals, and resources. Then continue working with the success plan during the Handoff stage for the post-sales team to validate what you know about the new account. Often, the Sales Engineer or Sales Consultant are great people to populate the success plan during the sales cycle. That’s because they have a good understanding of customer goals and objectives, as well as the technical requirements and may not always be off to the next deal as quickly as the Sales Rep.

The best way to engage pre-sales teams is to demonstrate with data how much more successful your team is when you have that information, with shorter implementations (how much money is saved) and faster first value (how much new money comes in). When you can show sales reps actually make more money by helping you out, they will be on board with your onboarding approach.

Q: How do you view financial incentives as a tool to try to get customers to reach a “magic number?”

A: Motivate new and existing customers by delivering them first value quickly and then ongoing value. See the answer to the second question, above. Also, remove the obstacles that prevent their success. Customers are made up of people who are already overwhelmed and overtaxed, so what can you do to make things easier for them?

For example, I worked with a software company that monitors and protects network infrastructures. Their customers struggled with migrating data during onboarding. As a result, implementations were taking too long, their backlog kept growing, internal teams were losing motivation, and customers were frustrated and churning. This company created a paid package included with onboarding to migrate customer data and create an initial set of meaningful reports. Now customers quickly have their data and metrics at hand with visual evidence of the value this company’s product delivers. The churn rate dropped dramatically and the new offering brings in additional revenue for the company. Those blockers may be huge opportunities, so mine areas your customers find challenging to create offerings and services to sell to customers and help them gain more value with less effort.

First impressions matter. Whether you are onboarding a new account or a team of new users in a long-held account, it’s important you deliver a proactive and prescriptive way for your customers to have impact with your product. When you take onboarding seriously your customers stick around for the long run.

DONNA WEBER is the world’s leading expert in customer onboarding. For more than two decades, she has helped high-growth startups and established enterprises create customers for life. Her award-winning book is Onboarding Matters: How Successful Companies Transform New Customers Into Loyal Champions. Learn more at

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