Posts Taged onboarding

The One Year, Thirty Minute Challenge :: Week 38 :: Operations :: Customer Onboarding

There’s nothing more critical to a great customer experience than onboarding. Many times, we limit “onboarding” to something we do with a new employee, but every stakeholder in the organization should have an onboarding experience. Onboarding sets expectations, defines responsibilities and describes “winning”.

In this week’s One Year, Thirty Minute Challenge, we’re focusing on customer onboarding, but many of the outcomes and methodologies can be applied to other stakeholder groups.

Here’s why onboarding is so important. Have you ever received a movie recommendation from a trusted friend and, after watching the movie, realized you’d never get those two wasted hours of your life back (or in the case of Dances with Wolves, 4 hours)? It’s pretty disappointing. But why is it disappointing? Because the friend’s glowing recommendation created high expectations. In the absence of that recommendation, you might have still hated the movie, but you would have just added it to the list of movies you’ll never watch again. But now, you’re presented with confusion. You’ve had reliable recommendations from that friend in the past. What did you miss in the movie that your friend loved? How are you going to explain your disappointment to your friend? Will you ever be able to trust their recommendations in the future?

That all stemmed from faulty expectations created at the beginning of the interaction. We can have the same problem when we begin a relationship with a new customer. If we don’t successfully create correct expectations at the beginning of a relationship, the customer will create their own. Those will come from experience (the last time I hired a plumber, it took them an hour to replace my kitchen faucet), from hope (I would love it if the plumber spread a tarp in front of the sink before they began working on the drain) and from people who influence them (my friend hired a plumber and it cost them $300 to get their sink unclogged).

Let’s jump into this week’s exercise. We want to finish with a rock-solid customer onboarding framework. Depending on your product or service, this could be very simple or a bit complex. You can do this one solo or invite some trusted team members who are familiar with the flow of work from initial customer contact to delivery. We’re going to focus our attention on three things – expectations, responsibilities and metrics.

Before I jump into the steps below, let me quickly say that I’m aware we’re talking about a mix of communication, some before the sale and some after the sale. I realize that in some pre-sale messaging, you’re selling a feeling or experience (someone buying insurance is buying peace of mind in the midst of an unfortunate circumstance, not a policy). The bulk of the ideas below are to create clarity of expectation, responsibility and metrics. You decide where to deliver them in your messaging based on your product, service and desired delivery experience.



  • Succinctly describe what product or service the customer is buying (A great meal at a great price, the most sophisticated timepiece you’ll ever own, you’ll never know your car was wrecked).
  • Give clear direction to the first step in the discovery or purchase process (Visit our showroom at 123 Main Street, contact one of our friendly customer service representatives at 555-555-5555, click here to schedule an initial appointment).
  • Explain the steps in which you create value for the customer (It all starts with a free health assessment, we’ll email you the results of the assessment along with our recommendations, in three days we’ll contact you and get your decision on which weight loss program is best for you, we’ll kick off your exercise and diet plan, and by week 4, you’ll be down 10 pounds).
  • Explain what interactions will look like (you’ll never be stuck in voicemail jail – a real person will always answer the phone, you’ll be able to manage your account from anywhere on our award-winning mobile app, you’ll have unlimited support via email with a 4 hour guaranteed response time).
  • If your product or service has inherent uncertainty, explain the path from uncertainty to certainty (When our technician arrives to examine your appliance, you’ll get a full explanation of the problem and a complete estimate of what it will cost to fix it. We’ll get your OK before we proceed with any repair. And when it’s fixed, the parts and labor are guaranteed for one year).
  • Explain the customer’s financial responsibility ($99/month for the first six months, then $129/month for 33 months, there’s a $400 administrative fee on top of the price of the car). If you want to make customers extremely unhappy, bury some previously undisclosed cost in the fine print.
  • Explain what will happen if something goes wrong (our workmanship is guaranteed for 10 years – if your roof leaks, we’ll fix it at no charge to you, if this isn’t the best snow-cone you’ve ever eaten – your money back, if you don’t like the like the paint color you’ve chosen with our patented color match system, we’ll repaint your room for free).



One of the key parts of customer onboarding is explaining the customer’s role in the delivery of your product or service.

  • Define deadlines (For your policy to be in effect by 10/11/2020, we need your driver’s license number and the VIN from your car by 9/30/2020, to terminate your lease please notify us 180 days before the renewal date).
  • Explain their involvement. The number of used treadmills, ellipticals and Chuck Norris Total Gyms on Craigslist owned by people who are still overweight are a testament to the number of customers who don’t embrace their responsibility during onboarding. Customers buy, what appear to be, solutions to a problem they are experiencing. Clearly lay out the steps they must take for that problem to be resolved. And explain the how, not just the what.
  • Provide engagement tools. Think about the number of companion apps you have for the products or services you consume. I can lower my thermostat, manage my robot vacuum, change the payment method for my car insurance, and get a reminder when my Home Depot credit card bill is due on my phone. Each time you make it easier to interact with your product or service, you help the customer derive more value from the product or service, make it easier for the customer to fulfill his or her responsibilities, and ultimately solve their problem. Engagement tools don’t have to be as sophisticated as a mobile app. I recently got a bid from a roofing company to replace my roof. Part of their proposal was a checklist for me to follow before they began work on my home. The checklist explained not only what I needed to do, but why it would aid them in quickly solving my problem (getting a new roof on my house in the minimum amount of time and with the least amount of expense).
  • Give examples of customers who have successfully engaged the product or service and achieved the desired results. These examples inspire, inform, and help customers connect the dots between what the product does and what they must do.



Everyone wants to “win” with their purchase. In the onboarding experience, we need to accurately identify winning for them.

  • Help customers measure leading indicators, not just trailing indicators. If they buy exercise equipment, “winning” is working out 20 minutes a day and cutting their caloric intake, not losing 20 pounds. If they do the former, they will get the latter.
  • Help customers attach greater meaning to their purchases. The financial planner’s 1% annual management fee isn’t a cost, it’s an investment in someone who devotes their professional life to helping clients secure their financial future and the financial future of the client’s family.
  • Help customers attach greater reach to their purchases. The business coaching purchased by the CEO doesn’t just benefit the executive. All who work for that executive benefit as he or she becomes a more effective leader and pushes what he or she learns down through the organization. And, by increasing the organization’s effectiveness and efficiency, shareholders benefit.


When expectations, responsibilities, and metrics are clearly defined for a new customer, everyone involved in the equation knows how to behave. If the company fails to deliver on the expectations, they can quickly make it right. If the customer fails to live up to their obligations, the company can jump in with a bit of accountability and encouragement to get the relationship back on track. When both parties agree on what “winning” looks like, they can track it with reporting and reinforce it with messaging.

The One Year, Thirty Minute Challenge :: Week 17 :: People :: Onboarding

The struggle for talent is real. Hiring managers kiss lots of frogs on their way to finding a well-hidden prince or princess. And when they find a stellar employee, the organization is challenged quickly to find the best way to engage them in meaningful work and give them opportunities to lead and grow. And, maybe more importantly, those employees must work seamlessly with a new team that must quickly produce results where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

Onboarding is the key activity to accelerate the integration and productivity of newly hired employees. Successful onboarding starts even before the hire, continues through the offer and acceptance and wraps up a few months into employment.

For purposes of this week’s One Year, Thirty Minute Challenge, we’re going to assume that during the recruiting and hiring process you made sure the new employee is a good fit with the company’s culture and embraces the company’s core values. If that is not the case, the onboarding activities are all paddling upstream and will ultimately end in the employee’s soon departure.

Let’s jump into this week’s exercise. I’m going to list several things newly hired employees need to understand and experience. During the 30 minute exercise, I’m going to ask you to open a Word document or pull out a notepad and, item by item, identify opportunities in your current onboarding process where new hires can get that information and experience. Then I want you to customize those items, so they work for your organization. Finally, I want you to think about who could most effectively deliver the information and experiences – it might be you.

  • Pair the new team member with someone who models the culture fully and can explain it in detail. You already checked for culture fit during the hiring process, but onboarding is the chance to flesh that out. Remember, culture must be caught AND taught. I suggest using an employee commitment document that spells out the employee’s commitment to the organization, team members, customers and personal growth. If you want a sample employee commitment, email me.
  • Explain the company’s value creation activities. How does the company create a product or service that customers are willing to pay for? What are the key components of the process? Where do the key activities take place? What benefits do customers derive from the product or service? What tangible or intangible advantage does the customer receive that makes him/her willing to pay more money than what it costs the company to create the product or service?
  • Explain how the new team member’s job fits in that value creation process. How does their work create a better customer experience, make the product of higher quality or drive costs down? How can they increase economic value creation for the company or experiential value creation for the customer? Implicit in this conversation is an explanation of the team member’s new job responsibilities.
  • Attach purpose to the work. Companies must make money to survive, but they must not exist solely to make money. It’s comparable to saying that humans exist solely to breathe. We must breathe to exist, but we all aspire to more than just breathing. Help the new team member attach greater meaning to the work of the organization. Maybe you give families more leisure time by making everyday responsibilities faster and easier. Maybe you provide a venue where guests can make vacation memories that will last for a lifetime.
  • Understand the new team member’s personal and professional goals. The most effective way to manage employee development is to align the employee’s interests with the interests of the organization. To make that happen, you must understand the employee’s goals and aspirations and craft growth plans where those goals intersect with the organization’s future needs. Every employee wants to be good at their job. Help them get there AND simultaneously realize their own personal growth goals.
  • Help them integrate into the organization. Marcus Buckingham’s important work documented in First Break All the Rules details the importance of relationships in the workplace. Happy employees have a “best friend” at work and have someone speaking into their personal and professional development. The nuances of relationships in the workplace are impossible to address in a short post but let me make a few quick observations –
    • The goal is integration not assimilation. Don’t push team members into molds, instead encourage them to contribute their unique skills and perspectives.
    • Build trust that makes room for frank conversations informed by multiple differing perspectives and opinions.
    • Encourage both autonomous work (flexible schedules, work from home) and collaboration (ad hoc groups and projects).
  • Explain the mechanics of working in the organization. Help them understand the org chart (bosses, peers and subordinates), how to access benefits (insurance, retirement, PTO), how to use the technology (equipment, access to data) and how to navigate the physical facilities.
  • Explain how they can leave their mark on the organization. We all want to impact our corner of the world. Help new team members block out time for deep work. Ask what “flow” typically looks like for them. Explain big problems and big opportunities that exist in your industry and your company and encourage them to engage in the discussion. Ask new team members to be on the lookout for ways to do things better, faster and cheaper. Encourage team members to speak to problems and opportunities that are outside their discipline. Explain how to communicate ideas to pivotal people in the organization.
  • Explain how to “pull the ripcord”. Even with rigorous screening, hiring and onboarding processes, occasionally you’ll make a hire that just doesn’t work. Explain to the team member what to do if they feel like the new job is just not working out.

Check in periodically in the first few weeks to make sure the new team member is productive, connected and well informed.