The pandemic-induced disruption caused most companies to declare a temporary end to the traditional physical office. For almost two years, employees shifted to working from home. Some tech companies, such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Dropbox, Reddit, Square, Slack, and Quora, to name a few, have even decided that most or all employees will have the option to work from home permanently. Jason Fried, Basecamp’s CEO, tweetedOpens a new window , â€œLease is up. Cleaning out our office.â€ While switching to a remote model is great for saving overhead expenses and avoiding time lost in lengthy commutes, one thing is often overlooked in these calculations: onboarding new customers.
Increased Complexity in Customer Onboarding
Fortunately, most onboarding is already done as a remote practice, particularly for customers of SaaS products. That is to say, the vendor has been remote, but customers were often in a single or a few locations. Today, customers, too, likely have fully distributed workforces. The pandemic now complicates some of the factors that were formerly advantageous for onboarding.
Communication that used to be organic now has to be intentional. Establishing the configuration and training needs that will meet the requirements of all relevant groups within the customer’s organization becomes more difficult. A collaborative environment that can collect, coordinate, and make actionable the needs and expectations of each person or group can be especially helpful, particularly if both vendor and customer teams can contribute information, see what others have put, and interact with it.
Collaborate With Customers to Onboard Them
Bringing together vendors and groups or individuals within a customer’s organization ensures that all expectations are heard, overlaps are consolidated, and accountability is built in. The vendor should not bear all the responsibility for communication and managing the onboarding process; companies often make this mistake. The need is exacerbated with a fully distributed workforce. The vendor and the customer need to share the project management aspect of onboarding. Onboarding can start the way that is best suited for each customer, regardless of where individual employees are located. Adjustments, too, can be made more fluidly along the way.
Another important capability, especially when individuals are remote, is to have a centralized repository for all start-up and training materials, including presentations, documents, and videos. This is beneficial for both the vendor and the customer, each with distributed employees. It makes it easier for each employee of a customer to find and access materials from their location. For vendors, it minimizes the need to hunt around for materials and curtails reinventing the wheel and recreating existing materials. It also enables consistency and ensures quality. Organizing the repository with intuitive tags and filing is vital. Annotating materials with helpful summaries and other details is valuable too.
Systematize Knowledge Sharing
Vendors with onboarding teams working from home need to capture the knowledge and experiences of each member in a centralized way. This should include the most current details in handling a situation or condition or how to implement a workaround. Often, when team members are in the same office, this knowledge may spread organically by overhearing talk or through casual over-the-wall questions and discussions. This is not an option when everyone is remote.
Details should be captured in playbooks, templates, and notes that are centrally available and kept up to date by the team. Email or messaging is fine to blast out detail to everyone’s attention, but it lacks any staying power. The search and indexing are too rudimentary. It becomes an isolated fact, not connected to other details, and often requires one to remember that the fact was distributed this way.
Having fully remote teams on both the vendor and customer side creates challenges and aggregates issues that typically exist even when teams are in one office. These can be overcome with mature procedures and practices and a proper system for managing all facets of onboarding. Being fully equipped, companies should no longer risk losing customers due to less-than-optimal onboarding when vendors and customers rely on employees working from home.
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