Onboarding Stages... What Happened to Orientation? - by Marcus Sparks

Russell Bourne
Russell Bourne Member Posts: 61 Expert
GGR Blogger 2023 GGR Blogger 2021 First Anniversary
edited May 2021 in Strategy & Planning

(This week's blog post comes courtesy of Marcus Sparks, a longtime CS practitioner and leader, and an active leader in the GGR community.  Thank you Marcus!)

Customer onboarding is hot! 

We all know that the first 90 days post-sale are critical to the customer experience. Recently, many bright minds have focused their attention on ideas, philosophies, process models, frameworks, and methodologies designed to define and optimize new customer onboarding. There is a lot of good work out there and a variety of well-defined paths to onboarding goodness.

Donna Weber stresses the need to front-load customer relationships with world-class Onboarding (If you haven’t already, be sure to pick up a copy of Donna’s book Onboarding Matters). I love the fact that her “Orchestrated Onboarding” framework begins with Embark, where Sales positions the value of Customer Success and the onboarding process. Steps 2 and 3 are Handoff and Kickoff: this is where I am advocating for a focus on Orientation.

Orientation is a good lens through which to view culture, commitment, and collaboration. My perspective here is colored by years of experience in food manufacturing and distribution. In the manufacturing world, the most profitable plants have the best orientation programs. New employees feel welcomed, appreciated, and valued. They feel that they are part of something special. And this feeling either happens or doesn’t happen in the first week of employment. When the feeling does happen, when the employee attaches to this new thing, it is the result of the intentional design and flawless execution of an orientation program. Good orientation programs answer the big questions, the questions we assume the answers to because we signed the business. We think we know. 

  • Where am I?
  • Why am I here?
  • Why does this matter to ME?
  • What happens next? 

Collaboration is fundamental in a good Orientation program. At a best-in-class manufacturing plant, everyone collaborates to make sure that new employees see the big picture and understand where they fit in the mix. Functional leaders do not simply send a deck to the Orientation trainer, they show up, introduce themselves, and provide context. And when the Plant Manager (or another member of top management) shows up, the new employees really feel that they matter.

In summary, think deeply about the experience of your customer at the customer handoff, at the kickoff call. Answer the big questions. Know your audience - the specific individuals and personalities who are engaged with your solution. Connect with your audience, and make sure your audience knows that you appreciate them. For Enterprise/Strategic customers, be sure to align mission/vision/values - how our company cultures are connected and why this is important. A focus on Orientation will put your customer at ease, open up communication channels, and enable you to continually test for alignment with desired outcomes.