B2B Companies: Focus on Onboarding First

In any customer experience, certain phases have more impact than others – either positive or negative – and create a measurable impact on the rest of the relationship. Positive results lead to customer who trust you, are more willing to forgive mistakes, and are more interested in your other products or services. But if they don’t go so well, customers are more likely to stray; they pounce on every mistake, and they’re very reticent to use your other offerings.

The moments that matter vary by experience, and even by individual. Effective journey maps show these Moments of Truth. But even if you don’t have a journey map – or if yours just isn’t very good – there’s one area that is consistently important in B2B experiences: The new customer onboarding journey.

Onboarding is when your customers transition from being the center of the universe, to becoming just another cog in the wheel of your operational processes. That may sound overly dramatic – but if you’re not careful, that’s exactly how they feel. Prior to this, they’ve been handled with care by their salesperson, who has a limited number of accounts upon which to focus, and can customize the experience to fit their demands. Onboarding is when that changes. In the sales process they get to dictate the timing, and at least some of the terms. They’re in charge. Onboarding shifts that dynamic. Most companies can customize the sales program to a far greater extent than they can their operations.

Increasing the difficulty is that your new customer now has to work with more than one person and department. There may be multiple employees involved – a project manager, a few technical people, finance, training. Your salesperson is hopefully still involved, but probably is no longer in control.

This requires handoffs. And each handoff risks an uncoordinated response.

There’s a famous cartoon (attached) that I frequently see used in internal meetings. It’s also frequently posted on cubes, right next to the Dilbert cartoons. It shows the disconnect between different departments. The reason it’s so popular is because it resonates. Each department really does interpret the customer needs differently.

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