The onboarding ghost ship (on customer entropy)

In Customer Success land, we’re starting to find religion around how critical customer onboarding and adoption can be. As we diagnose the root cause of churn and escalations that we’re managing, we often point back to the early days of a customer relationship where your product takes hold. Or doesn’t.

However, there is an over shadowing problem that might be bigger still.

Consider the users that were part of the initial onboarding cohort. How many are still your users a year later? Or, did they change roles or even change companies? Could this be 20, 30 or even 50% of the folks you loved so much at the beginning?

In parallel, a new set of users arrived. They inherited the jobs of their peers and/or predecessors. They inherited the licenses to your product. They might be 20, 30 or 50% of your users a year later.

Ask yourself: did you engage each of them to onboard and train them equally as well? If you didn’t, your user base is in a constant state of decay (or, entropy) as newer, less engaged users replace the older ones.

This is a huge problem.

What can you do to curtail the Onboarding “Ghost Ship”?

First, adopt a user-centric mindset. Companies don’t get onboarded and trained in your product. People do. Each person must be enabled individually, whenever they arrive. Make them feel as welcome as you did when you were excited to onboard them as a brand new customer, fresh from the competitive win that caused your sales gong to ring. There should a business process triggered by the creation of a new user ID.

Second, recruit internal champions to provide continuity. They help the newbies get up to speed on your product. Find them and win their commitment to help the new users.

Third, measure the rate at which users come and go in your accounts. If you have turnover, time to invest here big time to protect the quality of your user base.

I often think of the health of an account as the sum of the people in it. Part of earning customer loyalty is to make the newbies as happy as the prior people who had a hand in choosing your product in the first place. In that way, a healthy account can be sustained. And we all know the effect on retention and growth that can have.

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