The early steps and experiences your new customers undergo when first engaging with your company are critical. They set the tone for the relationship going forward. Even if a customer is in a longer-term contract, those early experiences need to be examined to ensure they offer the kind of tone and experience you intentionally want to deliver. Otherwise, an unhappy customer at the start of a long-term contract leads to woes for both parties.

Let’s use a common example: a software company. The sales department does their magic and finds a new customer who wants to sign up. Typically, the customer experience offered by those in sales is good, since they want to win over the customer. However, the next step in the buying process is often a dip down in the experience. In fact, it is common to find customer pain in the hand-off between any departments (silos) inside a company. And the hand-off from sales to the implementation team is where common issues occur. To ensure this doesn’t happen in your company, be sure to design an intentional experience with the customer in mind.

Be sure employees focus on the customer perspective and don’t let the internal organization structure drive any part of the customer experience. (See my blog on how journey mapping is a tool that brings the right perspective to light.)

Back to our example, the hand-off from sales to implementation needs to include more than just the facts about the person/ company buying the software. For starters, it needs to be designed so that the sales department’s promises become realities. Second, it needs to offer the same level of experience between sales and those that interact with customers later in the experience. Third, the customer needs to be clear on what they can expect next. Create a clear path and be their guide along the way. Lastly, keep in mind that experiences that are inconsistent (between employees or departments) erode customer trust and negatively impact loyalty.

It is always useful to keep in mind what it feels like for a customer’s company to invest a large sum that is critical to their business. As the software provider, you must consider the emotions most clients will feel: tense, stressful, anxious. Remember, too, how your actions can build trust, confidence and help them feel more at ease. Transparency, regular communication and living up to your promises go a long way at this point in their experience.

By the way, the worst idea is to tell customers how to feel. You can’t tell them to trust you; you can’t tell them to trust your process. They don’t know you; trust is earned. Your actions, your words, your response time, your empathy speaks volumes!

If you wonder what it’s like to be a customer in the onboarding process, talk to one, they want to be heard. There is power in listening to customers that are have negative/ challenging emotions. You can solicit customer feedback on your regular check-in calls during implementation, but also set aside time to listen to how it’s going and hear what concerns they have. Then do your best to keep them informed or how you are addressing their concerns.

Have any great ideas on how to make the onboarding experience better? Share them below.