Customer Onboarding Strategy

How to Streamline Your Enterprise Customer Onboarding Process

Sales folks ring the gong when they close a large enterprise client. It makes sense, often, enterprise deals take several months, quarters or even years to complete. The signed agreement should be celebrated. However, those of us on the customer success side of the house know that there is much more work ahead of us. For the customer onboarding and implementation teams, the work has yet to begin.

Customer onboarding and implementation for an enterprise client is a dynamic science that continually shifts with the changes in your market, your customer requirements and your product. This makes the practices of yesterday unsuitable for today’s customers, and will likely mean that the specifics of any strategy employed today should be flexible and adaptable as your team scales.

Of course, enterprise customer onboarding is an essential step in the customer journey, especially in SaaS, where the customer may be a client for several years in the future and could expand their purchase to drive even higher ARR (annual recurring revenue) for your company in the future.

We’re going to take a look at how some of the onboarding processes bring up unique challenges for SaaS companies shortly, and then how to streamline the process to overcome these challenges. 

First, though, as a way of emphasizing the importance of enterprise customer onboarding, take a look at the major motivations behind a cutting-edge onboarding strategy. 

The Importance of Enterprise Customer Onboarding

For any enterprise, the goal of enterprise customer onboarding and implementation is to provide a valuable, perhaps even delightful journey enabling the client to engage all relevant stakeholders to complete all requirements to effectively begin using the product. For this to happen, it takes an organized process, clear communication and alignment on priorities. Further, if you are fortunate to provide transparency, you'll likely find a lot more accountability from all parties. Here are some of the key motivators for the implementation of a good onboarding process:

  • Customer onboarding is about more than just zoom meetings and powerpoint slides. In fact, it may even begin before the contract is signed. Onboarding and implementation is a critical step in the customer journey, a journey which only ends when the client achieves the desired outcome with your product or service. 
  • The desired outcome, again, isn’t simply the purchase of your service, it’s the efficient utilization of it to address the customer’s unique and specific goals. This is where the strategy comes into play, and it’s the reason why onboarding is forever changing: customer needs are always evolving. 
  • The onboarding and implementation process must be a critical function of the customer success plan. In and enterprise implementation, this process will be cross-functional, working with folks in numerous departments across multiple teams. Further, you may encounter a third-party integrator working with your client -- so organization, process and communication will be key to success.
  • In order to measure internal success, it's also crucial to ensure your onboarding and implementation process scales as you grow your customer base. You'll want to ensure each client has a consistent process, the most up-to-date instructions and rock-solid plan even though you could have dozens of folks on the team which will be the primary point-of-contact in any given implementation.
  • When the customer receives a great onboarding & implementation experience, you’ll find numerous opportunities for upselling, referring, and new customer acquisition through them. They will become a valuable champion of your product and can provide high-value new customers at almost no extra cost to your company. In fact, referred customers are often more than 25% more profitable than new ones, simply because they have been picked out by someone who knows they’re a good fit for your product (your customers).

A stellar customer experience should therefore be the focus of your onboarding process, and your onboarding process should be well integrated into a strong customer success program as a whole. 

Many of the challenges to onboarding are universal to companies, but there are specific issues that arise with SaaS companies, and the way they run their onboarding. 

Challenges Around Enterprise SaaS Onboarding

enterprise saas onboarding

There are numerous challenges worthy of discussion, but for this article, we’ve identified three of the most common. 

Poor Expectation Setting

The first challenges for SaaS onboarding come from the early stages of interaction between the customer and your company, this often occurs during the sales process. It is important that sales people are engaged and understand the importance of onboarding and implementation and don't over-promise the speed or ability to get up and running.

Furthermore, when your organization doesn't have a streamlined onboarding and implementation process, it's natural that a salesperson will share a story that is often a best-case, instead of a more realistic scenario. This can be especially true when the salesperson doesn't know the internal implementation process and who needs to be included. Unfortunately, when there are unrealistic expectations, you'll immediately start off on the wrong foot during the initial kick-off call.

Lack of Organization

The lack of organization is a major challenge in the enterprise onboarding and implementation process because, honestly, there are generally so many stakeholders at the table. An organized process should be able to quickly and efficiently detail the following items:

  • Who are all the stakeholders involved (from all parties)
  • What tasks need to be completed; how to complete it; and its due date
  • Who is responsible for each task
  • What is the best way to communicate
  • What is the proper cadence for following up, asking questions, and meeting in the future

Having all of this information readily available is incredibly helpful -- if you have a system which is dynamic and updates in real-time, it can be even better. An organized process won't just make you and your company look like highly-skilled professionals, you will save time and money for both your company and your client, a true win-win outcome.

Inefficient Communication

The third major challenge to SaaS enterprise onboarding and implementation is inefficient communication. Unfortunately, this usually begins on the first call, when the onboarding team starts asking all of the exact same questions asked of them in the sales process. Doing that is a sure-fire way to start off on the wrong foot. Inefficient communication takes place when any of the following things occur:

  • Wrong medium being used (ex: getting on a call to discuss something that can easily be sent via email)
  • Dealing with the wrong stakeholders: Enterprise onboardings often have dozens of stakeholders, it's critical to know who is involved at the start so that everyone can connect with the appropriate parties
  • 1:1 Email correspondence: The challenge with 1:1 emails is that if a person is OOO the message may not reach the appropriate person for several days or weeks. Sometimes, in large organizations, someone may have even left the company or has been terminated
  • Lack of transparency

These communication inefficiencies unfortunately add a lot of time and expense (in the mind of the client) and will likely lower their satisfaction with your SaaS. The good news is that the opposite can also be true, stellar and efficient lines of communication will enable your team and SaaS to stand out amongst the crowd.

Guide to Streamlining Your Enterprise Onboarding

The challenges we’ve covered do have solutions. Many times, issues with onboarding simply come from one or more of these challenges not being addressed properly. Here are some solutions to the challenges that SaaS companies face, which, if implemented properly could significantly streamline the process. 

Create a Repeatable Onboarding Process

Creating a scalable, repeatable onboarding process is the foundation to exceeding expectations and creating a top-notch customer experience. Having this process is so crucial because you'll need to measure the results across a similar experience. This way, you and your team will be able to iterate and constantly improve the process to continuously refine the customer experience - for the better!

If you are building from scratch, we suggest starting with the following phases:

  • Phase 1: Introduction and Kickoff
  • Phase 2: Integration
  • Phase 3: Test & Go Live
  • Phase 4: Quarterly reviews and account management

Ensure Internal Alignment and Buy-in

To create the absolute best experience, you'll need to have executive buy-in to ensure the sales folks are properly communicating with prospects.

First, sales can assist by adding all the relevant client information, including stated goals, expectations, and unique requirements that will matter along their customer journey. This allows for a smoother hand-off from sales to onboarding.

Second, sales can and should leverage actual onboarding data to provide realistic expectations -- based on the company size, scope, plan and timelines.

Third and most importantly, sales should use the awesome customer onboarding and implementation team as a selling point! Remember, even though the salespeople may exit the opportunity when the contract is signed, the buyer still needs to get up and running with the software. Showing them the successful plan will help close the deal -- we've seen it over and over again!

Proper Team Structure

If your company has an enterprise sales motion then you should have a corresponding enterprise success motion. This should include separate onboarding & implementation teams, customer success managers and then a support team.

The onboarding and implementation team often tends to be a bit more technical and project management focused. Typically, they would be the primary point of contact after the contract is signed and while the client is fully launched and handed off to the success manager.

The customer success team is the brand liaison assigned to the client to help advocate on their while guiding them along the customer journey and continuously ensuring the product is meeting their clients' stated goals.

Finally, the support team can assist with general product questions, tickets and smaller more general issues that could be answered quickly without knowing about the clients specific requirements.

Enterprise Customer Success Team Structure

Create a Repeatable Onboarding Process

Creating a scalable, repeatable onboarding process is the foundation to exceeding expectations and creating a top-notch customer experience. Having this process is so crucial because you'll need to measure the results across a similar experience. This way, you and your team will be able to iterate and constantly improve the process to continuously refine the customer experience - for the better!

If you are building from scratch, we suggest starting with the following phases:

  • Phase 1: Introduction and Kickoff
  • Phase 2: Integration
  • Phase 3: Test & Go Live
Sample Onboarding Process Timeline

Having a repeatable process will allow for consistency across your client base, which will provide the best feedback loop in order to refine the process. Furthermore, it will also allow to create and track KPIs and metrics which will serve as the northstar for the team to optimize for in the future.

With all of these points in mind, there are some best practices to follow that might come in handy for other unique challenges that arise. 

Enterprise Customer Onboarding Best Practices

For your customer onboarding process, almost universally, you’ll benefit from the following six best practices. These are general steps that should be taken for most onboarding situations, but they will also help in addressing some of the unique issues that arise with your customers. 

Have a Customer-Centric Approach

With SaaS, your clients will have to make the decision each year to renew your product or service. Of course, they will weigh all the benefits your SaaS provides and one of them should be a stellar customer experience. Therefore, the success of your customers will be critical to the long-term success of your organization. Your customer’s journey should involve emotional markers that make them feel welcomed, engaged, and educated on the value of your product, well before they’ve implemented it. 

This means tailoring all engagement around these moments and creating value at multiple steps along the onboarding process. To do this, it’s possible to divide up the customer education on your product into ‘modules’, and – if you have an adequate understanding of your customer’s needs – assign them in the right order to illuminate the high-value applications of your product from the customer perspective. 

Specialize Your Team

Customer success and onboarding are deeply related aspects of the customer journey, but they aren’t synonymous. It’s important that each branch of the customer journey has a dedicated team, and your onboarding team should be one of these. As such, it should have very well-defined roles and responsibilities. 

Teams which have specializations can continue to refine their skills and efficiency. Ultimately, this will allow your team to be more efficient and create a much better experience for your customers.

Plan Your Outcomes

Similarly, onboarding should have waypoints from start to finish, at which there is an interaction with the customer. Each of these points should be both loosely defined as a general onboarding practice and clearly defined on a case-to-case basis with the individual customer. 

These waypoints should come with desired outcomes from the company, based on desired outcomes from the customer. 

Identify Friction Points

Other than transitional moments between teams, there are plenty of opportunities for friction points to slow things down. Throughout onboarding, it’s important to identify these, and in many cases, work to reduce them. Conversely, there are points where friction can be good.

It isn’t always the case that a rapid onboarding is the best onboarding. SaaS in particular can often have a steep learning curve, and in removing all friction, you may find the customer becomes overwhelmed and doesn’t have enough time to process and assimilate the information they’re taking in. 

Identifying positive friction points is as important as identifying negative ones. 

Automate the Tedious Jobs

A huge part of the onboarding process is simply keeping everyone on task, and following up with who needs to do what. Reminders, follow-ups and other tedious tasks shouldn't take up a majority of your team's time. Instead, invest in automation to save your team precious time, which they can use to service more customers, allowing your organization to be leaner and more efficient. lets you automate a lot of the high-volume, repetitive tasks related to enterprise onboarding while freeing up time for that personal touch. You can also organize, manage and collaborate simply with the unified platform, all processes that will help you streamline your onboarding and identify challenges that need to be worked on. 

Review, Assess, and Improve

As always, it needs to be understood that onboarding occupies a dynamic and ever-changing landscape. The only way to stay on top of this is to track the necessary metrics, analyze them and improve. 

This monitoring can come in many forms but implementing customer feedback forms and measuring key onboarding metrics for processing are two of the most powerful. Be sure to review this data often, monthly if not weekly. From this data, you can adapt your processes and increase the value of your product.


Ultimately, the success of enterprise onboarding relies on understanding the customer experience. From there, it’s a matter of streamlining the process by providing the right incentives to your teams, and balancing your interaction with the customer between hands-on and hands-off approaches. 

Key things to remember include making sure your teams know their objectives, are aligned and bought-in, and agree to act in a customer-centric way.

Streamlining your enterprise onboarding processes will absolutely create value across your organization. By following the steps detailed in this guide, you'll be off to a great start to creating a repeatable, scalable process that will delight your clients.