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The Three Pillars Of Scaling White-Glove Onboarding To Every Customer (Sustainably)

Scaling white-glove onboarding is about identifying when to leverage technology versus keeping high-touch human service
Diana De Jesus
October 20, 2022
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When a new customer buys your solution, you want them to feel special, attended to, and valued. In short, you want them to have the “white-glove” experience. 

But this experience is often time-consuming, resource-intensive, and seemingly unscalable by nature. Or is it? 

Scaling white-glove service is not linear—as in, it’s a bad idea in most cases to hire a new CSM every time you sign a new customer. Instead, it’s about identifying the right places to leverage technology and the right places to keep that high-touch human service. 

In a #ReUp2022 Customer Success Summit keynote, Paul Holder, co-founder and CEO of OnRamp, shared more about the value of white-glove onboarding and how to scale an onboarding program to all new customers. 

Defining the white glove

Paul defines white-glove service as assigning dedicated personnel on your team to get your customer to clearly-defined initial value. This journey is typically marked by regular check-ins, sometimes custom work to configure the platform, and possibly tech support from your team to help the customer get comfortable. 

All of this accomplishes a key task: presenting your onboarding team as subject matter experts and the initial face of the relationship. It sets the stage for everything, but in particular retention down the line.

“The truth is, a poor onboarding experience is the number one cause of customer churn,” explained Paul.

But a wholly manual, human-driven onboarding experience is not only unscalable, but it’s also not even necessarily what buyers want anymore. Where previous generations wanted hand-holding and human service 100% of the time, Paul said millennial and gen-z buyers want an as-demanded experience, meaning self-serve digital when they want it and a human when they want it. Buyers also expect the humans involved in the buying process to have opinions and be strategic partners rather than simply someone to explain the ins and outs of a platform. 

As a result, white-glove onboarding has become about more—more content, more people, and more touch points. From a budget perspective, this can feel daunting. But it doesn’t need to be. Leveraging technology in the right spots can assuage a buyer’s need for self-service and give humans more time to focus on the relationship-building elements of white-glove onboarding.

“Ultimately people like working with other people they like and have a connection to,” said Paul. “And this will always be true.”

Pillar 1: build a mutual playbook

A “mutual playbook” is one that lays out instructions to achieve value with your platform, including steps that both you and your customer need to complete. 

Paul shared a framework to make this happen called MADE: 

  • Map the necessary steps: ensure words are action-oriented so every stakeholder knows what they need to do and accomplish.
  • Automate busywork with tech: make it easy to spin up automation with menus and segmentation.
  • Delegate steps to the right people: this includes customers. Ensure that the tasks are specific (linking back to necessary steps).
  • Empower stakeholders: focus on visibility into the big picture, context for the current step, and ability to act from clear instructions.

Companies should have a MADE framework built for every customer journey. As you get to know a new customer, you might tweak the plan a bit, but stick within the core framework.

Pillar 2: turn playbooks into dynamic action plans

Once you’ve MADE your mutual playbook, turn it into a dynamic action plan that allows everyone—customer stakeholders included—to see how progress is going. 

Paul shared the CAT framework for this:

  • Clear: succinct and visual context with mini-training along the way rather than a big training document or knowledge base.
  • Actionable: all language should focus on specific tasks and offer whatever information might be required to enable third parties to act on your behalf (if needed). Further, centralize all information—e.g. Forms and surveys—in one place so data is not lost.
  • Trackable: reporting should be available for every step in the customer journey and every milestone in the playbook so customers can see their own progress—and know what comes next. CSMs can help here, for example, by sending weekly summaries (bonus points if you automate it through a customer success platform).

This framework takes the bigger plan and makes it very clear who is doing what, how everyone is doing, and what comes next. 

Pillar 3: measure and improve 

As you go through the onboarding motions, ensure measurement is not simply a reporting exercise but actually shows progress toward a goal.

In particular, Paul said to focus on:

  • Efficiency: measuring data such as time to live, time to value, or completion set-up time.
  • Outcomes: in reports, make category headings actual outcomes a customer wants to achieve—going through tasks is in service of an actual outcome.
  • Experience: scores such as customer satisfaction (CSAT) and NPS with free-flow text so customers can share more with you.

With outcome-focused measurements, it’s easy to spot when someone is falling behind. You can even run automated playbooks to help a customer get back on track with self-serve information (plus a way to contact a human for more support).

Build relationships early and keep them forever

A strong start is one of the best indicators of retention, expansion, and loyalty. It’s also hard to scale if you try to do everything manually. Instead, leverage content to build trust and scale white-glove service matched to the modern buyer. This will not only help you scale in general but also merge the qualitative and quantitative, driving more insight for the CS team than simply relying on usage metrics alone.

“As onboarding managers, it's really important that we can also identify opportunities to go deeper with the customer and unlock additional value, if not initially, certainly over time through that account lifecycle,” said Paul.

Watch all of #ReUp2022 On Demand HERE

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