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The 4 Phases of Building an Enterprise Onboarding Process Ashley Dotterweich

Closing deals isn’t the end of the journey for building a happy customer base — it’s just the beginning. Having a strong onboarding process is critical for ensuring your users get the most out of your product and can reduce churn, increase retention, and create brand advocates.

Starting early and methodically building an onboarding function for your organization will create a consistently stellar, scalable experience for every user. This process was shared by Rahul Vohra, founder of Superhuman and Rapportive, in an episode of EnterpriseReady on building products for prosumers in the enterprise market.

Phase One: Founder-led Onboarding

What to focus on: Gathering user feedback and understanding what customers care about

“Founders should do the first few hundred onboardings and understand what should be in the onboarding, and what should not be in an onboarding,” says Rahul. Not only does this ensure that those first few adopters have the best experience possible, it also gives founders the crucial opportunity to see how users interact with the product, spot bugs early on, and get real-time feedback.

It’s important to note that Rahul says that in the early days of Superhuman, these onboarding calls were fairly long — about 90 minutes each. There’s no real formula for success at this point, so dedicating the time needed to give customers a good experience is critical to future scalability.

Phase Two: Senior Leadership Steps In

What to focus on: Gathering more data and start documenting process

Since early onboarding calls are a significant time commitment, the next step is to bring in someone from senior leadership team to help carry the load. This person can dedicate more time to doing onboardings, so you can cover more ground.  Another important step at this phase is to start documenting your process, based on early trends and learnings.

Find someone on your team who has a strong understanding of the product, strategy, and positioning, while also being very process-focused. For Superhuman, the Head of Growth, Gaurav Vohra, was the ideal person to take on this task. “You need someone who’s extremely organizational, very process-driven. Gaurav trained as a strategy consultant, so he was excellent at execution. You need somebody like that to run this kind of an organization,” says Rahul.

Phase Three: Hire Generalists and Refine Your Process

What to focus on: Creating a repeatable process, streamlining onboarding time

Now that you have two people who know the onboarding experience inside and out, it’s time to hand the task off to someone who can dedicate their entire day to thinking about user onboarding. Another indicator that you’re ready to hire is that you have a strong enough pipeline of new customers to keep a few full-time onboarders busy. Rahul recommends hiring generalists for these first few onboarding hires instead of specialized onboarding professionals, since the role is necessarily a messy, cross-functional one.

Your onboarding generalists should focus on creating a repeatable onboarding process that can be used for every new customer, and reducing the amount of time it takes to complete the process. During this phase, Superhuman’s team reduced each onboarding from 90+ minutes down to about 30 minutes per customer. Tooling becomes a major consideration at this stage, as well; whatever your future onboarding team will need to scale and streamline conversations should be implemented at this point.

Phase Four: Bring in the Specialists to Scale

What to focus on: Implementing a repeatable process at scale, hiring the right people

Once you’ve gotten to a point where your process is dialed-in, churn is low and retention is high, you’re ready to start hiring in a team of onboarding specialists. At Superhuman, new onboarding specialists now have an 8-week training plan that includes certification and a shadowing process with experienced onboarding specialists.

Rahul notes that while product knowledge is important for the onboarding specialists, he also looks for critical soft skills when hiring for the team. These skills are what sets a 1:1 onboarding apart from a self-serve model: “Product knowledge is one thing. I can imagine that a really highly motivated user could learn everything there is to know [without an onboarding specialist], but there’s a definite skill set in listening, watching, teaching, and training that we select for when we’re hiring for this role.”

As your product evolves and customer needs change your approach may require adjustments, but at this stage you should have a solid onboarding process, toolset, and team in place to support a rapidly growing customer base. For insight into what the the final result of Superhuman’s efforts, check out Drift’s Matt Bilotti on the #Growth podcast for a walkthrough of Superhuman’s onboarding process from the user’s perspective. “I’ve never gotten set up with a tool that feels like mine so immediately,” says Matt of the experience.

Learn more about the crafting great user experiences with Rahul Vohra on EnterpriseReady

The onboarding experience is just one facet that enterprise-facing companies need to reconsider as they build products for enterprise “prosumers.” For more of Rahul’s conversation with Grant on the everything from fostering a customer obsession for your team to pricing products for a prosumer market to Rahul’s unconventional fundraising strategy, be sure to listen to the whole EnterpriseReady episode, Prosumer in the Enterprise.

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