Onboarding Existing Customers Into New Products and Tiers

The first form of Customer Success that any B2B SaaS company implements is Onboarding.

Instinctively we all know that unless someone sees early success with the product, we lose traction. And if we lose the customer’s confidence early on, it will be an uphill battle to get them to recommit.  

As businesses grow, onboarding services are developed to the point that they can be replicated time and time again, with a relatively high success rate.

It’s one of the most scalable services that software firms can offer, without venturing too far into the path of professional services. 

For customers that are in this early stage of their journey, ‘Activation’ is used as a key metric of success.

Activation let us know whether customers have set up key features of the product that will enable them to get their desired outcomes. While every business will define activation differently, it’s always a calculation based on the usage of the stickiest and most important features of your product. 

Like every other metric, activation isn’t perfect.

Not every customer wants to get the same outcomes from your products, so those 3-5 things you want to see everyone doing might not be a perfect fit for everyone. It can be gamified by the team, who are often incentivised using this metric etc. Yet when designed correctly activation is a great early indicator of long-term product adoption, because it tells you that your customer is off to a good start. 

We invest a lot of resources in designing and continuously refining the right onboarding programme for our new customers. 

But do we spend nearly as much time thinking about how we onboard existing customers into new products? 

In my experience, the answer is no. 

Most companies are either:

1- waving the onboarding, under the gaze that if a customer can use the current product they will be able to use the new one, or 

2- selling a new onboarding package to that new product, and just taking the existing customer through the cookie cutter new onboarding experience

The first option often ends with the customer failing to activate key new features, and in turn not unlocking the new value they expected. The latter often ends with a frustrated customer, who is hearing a lot of the same things that they already know, and feeling like the onboarding calls are just a money-racking scheme. 

Why is this important to customer success?

In a world where a fundamental part of customer success is to expand customers through new products, if we fail to solve this challenge, we are jeopardising the entire renewal of that customer.

When the time comes to balance what has been invested and the value that has been extracted, Customer Success Managers will have a harder time proving that it’s a worth partnership to continue. 

In the age of information and connectivity, be sure that your clients are comparing your product to your competitors. 

So, how do we successfully onboard customers into new products? 

We look at the complexity of the new product vs. the change that it drives in our customer’s processes.

Quadrant 1: Low Complexity / Low Change

A self-service onboarding made up of content that can be consumed at their own pace will be all this group needs to get up and running. The new product isn’t challenging and they are likely to work in the way that this new product is set up.

Customers can be automatically enrolled on those programs, or you could bring the onboarding content into the product with quick tutorials.

The content should be focused on “what’s new” based on their previous subscription, that way the customer can laser focus on learning how to iterate based on the new features they have.

If the adoption of the new tools doesn’t come in the first few weeks, it’s a good idea for the CSM to reach out to ensure the customer has everything they need. This step can even be automated!

Quadrant 2: High Complexity / Low Change

For customers purchasing a considerably more complex product, that doesn’t necessarily change the way they work, the focus is on product enablement. Examples of customers in this quadrant are those going from lower tiers into enterprise tiers, where the features can create huge efficiencies for their workflows.

Human onboarding is always a good idea here. If your customer upgraded, they are already bought into the vision of transforming their current processes. This service should focus on getting practical.  The most value will come from process mapping and system set-up. That way, you can take what the customer is already doing, and show them how to implement their vision.  

Quadrant 3: Low Complexity / High Change

This is the most dangerous quadrant. For products that are easy to use, but represent a mental shift in how customers do their work, is easy to assume that customers will figure it out. 

Some will, but most won’t. Even if your customer has bought into the vision of doing their work in a new manner, the status quo is deeply embedded in their organisation, and breaking those patterns requires a lot of enablement. 

This onboarding should be focused on change management. Helping key users set up their processes, gather feedback from their teams, iterate, communicate change effectively, enable users etc. While this is not a technical job, you will definitely need your professional services team and/or partners to help. 

When done correctly, this upsell is powerful because it builds trust. It shows the customer that you can do more together and that it isn’t as difficult as they might have anticipated, opening up doors in the organisation.  

On the other hand, if the implementation flops, you will likely get stuck as a point solution that can do one thing only.  

As a CSM your job here is to coordinate all the resources, communicate effectively with all parties and keep your ear to the ground to ensure you can act quickly if you observe signs of friction.

Quadrant 4: High complexity / High Change

For customers purchasing a new product or tier that significantly increases the complexity of their current tool, and that introduces a new way of doing things, an onboarding experience that marries the process, the technical and the change work is a must. 

This is where you might be working with a group of multiple stakeholders (eg. Engineers, consultants, partners, designers etc) and might need to flex your project management skills to ensure it goes smoothly.

Documenting customer goals and measuring activation of key areas of the product based on those will help you communicate early success to your stakeholders.

This upsell usually created great success stories for your business, and when done correctly, this customer will likely be a great fit for a case study where you can demonstrate the power of your solution in practice.

Final Thoughts

While the job of the CSM is not to onboard customers, it’s absolutely their role to help them achieve their goals by matching the customer to the right service. To drive a successful renewal after an upsell, it’s not enough to count on value delivered before the upsell. The customer needs to see the new outcomes materialised.

If your company doesn’t offer these services, it might be a good time to advocate for them, especially as you encounter the challenges highlighted here.

How are you onboarding existing customers into new products?

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