Expert Tips and Best Practices to Nail Customer Onboarding in 2024

Elen Udovichenko
March 27, 2024
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customer success experts round-up

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Customer success is a long game. And the way you onboard customers sets the tone for the entire journey ahead.

Yet, many CS teams fail to offer enough assistance to their customer in getting started with the product or service, focusing on metrics or renewals instead. 

That is the reason we’re building Flowla Onboard — the ultimate toolkit to handhold customers toward success. And that is also why we’ve decided to ask 16 Customer Success thought leaders for their thoughts on successful customer onboarding.

So, grab a seat and join us as we ask leading experts in the field to share their best strategies, pitfalls, and strategies for delivering exceptional onboarding experiences in 2024 and beyond.

Understanding the role and objectives of customer onboarding in 2024

First, let’s agree on the overall role of customer onboarding and its main objectives.

Julie Fox, CS Leader, speaker, podcast guest, and blogger, defines onboarding and implementation as the cornerstone of long-term customer relationships. It's not just about helping them get familiar with your product or service; it's about ensuring customers feel empowered and confident from day one.

“Onboarding and implementation in SaaS isn't merely about teaching users how to use a tool; it's about empowering them to solve real challenges. By prioritizing seamless onboarding experiences, SaaS providers cultivate trust and confidence, laying the groundwork for sustained customer success and loyalty.” — Julie Fox

According to Julie, onboarding is much more than a checklist; it's the first impression that sets the tone for the entire customer experience and the gateway to customer success. So her advice would be to “strive for simplicity, clarity, and personalized support to guide users smoothly toward achieving their goals.”

Jean-Pierre Frost, Customer Success Associate at Posit PBC, considers the goal of customer onboarding to be deeper than an introduction to the product or service. He suggests exploring customer’s expectations and making sure they are aligned with realistic outcomes, getting to know the key decision-makers, and eliminating potential roadblocks to implementation.

For Cristina Fernández Urbano, Corporate Customer Success Manager at Genially, onboarding also means much more than just giving the customers a product instruction manual. 

She highlights the importance of a strategic approach to this initial stage of the customer journey and suggests creating a customer success plan as a result of the initial interactions with the customer to confirm their objectives, set KPIs, define ownership, and agree on timing.

“Customer success plan should also focus on quickly guiding customers towards their first moments of success, helping them to engage with the project, and to swiftly realize the value of your product." — Cristina Fernández Urbano

Similarly, Saahil Karkera, VP of Customer Success at Oaky and the founder of CS Connect, underlines the role of good onboarding in the current economic downturn, when money is tight and every purchase is questioned by the CFO. In this situation, making sure customers feel confident and see the value of what they’ve bought quickly is more important than ever. And proper onboarding can help you do just that.

He argues that good customer onboarding is like giving someone a map and a flashlight on a dark, unfamiliar path — it shows them where to go and shines a light on the important spots along the way. Saahil compares this to the IKEA effect.

“Remember the IKEA effect? It’s when you feel good because you were part of creating something and it felt easy. That’s how onboarding should feel. Not just dumping information on someone, but involving them in the journey, letting them see the value they’re creating with each step.” — Saahil Karkera

But a lot of companies don’t get this right. 

Customer onboarding challenges & mistakes

When it comes to customer onboarding, there are a few things that can go wrong. For example, many CS teams might overwhelm customers with information and burden them with unnecessary procedures rather than guiding them through the process.

“Instead of guiding new users with a story and clear steps towards their goals, they bombard them with too much information or make them fill out endless forms. It’s like being lost in a maze. Good onboarding should be like a gentle guide, showing customers how each feature helps them and leading them to success, step by step.” — Saahil Karkera

Marija Skobe-Pilley, the Founder of Women in Customer Success, CS Coach, and podcast host, also noted that information overload is a common mistake in onboarding.

Another common onboarding issue Marija noticed is related to training. Customer success teams need to focus the training on change management. 

“Even before the beginning of onboarding, inform the users about the changes, reasons for getting a new tool and how they will benefit from it. Use the live training to present process changes. Then, prepare the product training as small bitesize ‘how to’ videos so users can easily and quickly get to use the tool for their work." — Marija Skobe-Pilley

She also suggests offering additional training, while making it short and to the point not to overwhelm users with the information they don’t need at the beginning.

Aside from that, Stijn Smet, Head of Customer Success at Whale, sees a couple of key challenges in onboarding: “Balancing comprehensiveness with speed and tailoring onboarding to different customer segments.”

In his opinion, customers want to see value fast, but skipping steps can lead to confusion down the line. However, one-size-fits-all doesn't work. The ideal onboarding experience should cater to specific customer needs and goals.

According to Irit Eizips, Chief Customer Officer & CEO at CSM Practice, two of the most overlooked aspects of customer onboarding are First Value Delivered (FVD) and Time to Wow (TTW).

Yet, most companies approach FVD all wrong and never take the time to design a wow moment in the onboarding journey.

“When defining a First Value Delivered (FVD) with clients during the implementation phase, it's essential to understand that not all FVDs are created equal. Helping customers select a proper FVD that results in user adoption is key to reducing first-year churn. Moreover, It's important to intentionally design wow moments along the onboarding journey.” — Irit Eizips

Now that we know which pitfalls and mistakes to avoid, let’s talk about some of the best practices for delivering an excellent onboarding experience.

Tips to nail your customer onboarding strategy

As they say, the renewal process starts with onboarding so you better do it right! So we asked the CS experts to share their tips and best practices for successful onboarding.

According to David Collard, Customer Success Manager at LinkedIn, “onboarding needs to start before the deal is signed.”

So, first of all, David recommends “getting your comms sorted.” This means understanding the clear WHY from the business: Why did they buy this and what are they expecting the impact will be? In this regard, aligning with the sales team is critical so you don't miss a beat. 

David also suggests co-creating a communications plan together with your client. 

“Having the right people (not necessarily the most senior!) communicate through the right channels at the right time have a disproportionate impact on the success of a rollout.”David Collard

If you want to make your onboarding experience effective, start with prioritizing customer expectations. Antti Nevalainen, CS Advisor and the Founding Member of Gain Grow Retain, suggests focusing on the client and aiming to show value as soon as possible.

One way to manage customer expectations is by helping them define their goals. Daphne Costa Lopes, Director of Customer Success at HubSpot, shares 3 questions to help uncover and measure them.

The first question starts the conversation by focusing on what was the catalyst for the investment. The second one is designed to help you go from a tactical and undefined goal, into a strategic and well-defined one. The third question aims to help you understand the KPIs that the customer cares about, so you can use them as part of the success plan and business reviews.

Jason Noble, VP of Global Customer Success at Vinli Inc, highlights another critical aspect of onboarding — customer education — which can be a game changer when done right. 

However, there are some things to consider:

  • Ignoring customer concerns can lead to dissatisfaction and negative buzz.
  • Too much information can overwhelm customers, making learning ineffective.
  • Tech evolves quickly. Failing to update your training can render it obsolete.

Alex Turkovic, Director, Adoption Programs at Flexera, has a few more tips for effective onboarding, starting with the handoff. First, you should focus on transferring relevant customer details at deal close to ensure that your onboarding teams have all of the necessary context to be successful in their onboarding efforts.

Next, Alex highlights the importance of proper kick off and providing customers with the necessary information, including a list of activities that need to be accomplished, who will own those activities, how long the entire process will take, and what meeting cadence will take place throughout the process. This is the perfect case for mutual action plans.

Building on the previous point, Alex highlights the importance of driving accountability.

“Distractions can occur and part of the role of an effective onboarding manager is to drive tasks and accountability across internal and customer facing teams. Driving strong accountability towards completing actions within onboarding can have a dramatic impact on TTFV (time to first value), which will have a knock-on effect towards driving success in other outcomes.”Alex Turkovic

Cinthia Silva, Customer Success Manager, Fintech at Nasdaq, further elaborates on the importance of seamless handoff and alignment between sales and CS teams.

“By ensuring that your customers feel supported with a streamlined onboarding experience, they’ll see the Customer Success team as a partner and work together to reach value milestones with your solution. This will also make the concept of suggesting new features, services, or products an easier decision and ensure your renewal process is frictionless for both parties.” — Cinthia Silva

Marco Carrubba, Director of Customer Success, believes that customer onboarding needs to be intuitive, contextualized on industry, preferences and specific needs of each customer. One of the ways to achieve this level of granularity is to create a dedicated onboarding team.

“Establishing a specialized onboarding team means lifting the time of your Customer Success team and elevating their authority towards more strategic conversations. A customer onboarding team will be familiar with a variety of verticals, enabling them to maximize the experience to the full advantage of time and effectiveness. Experienced professionals can help quickly identify common process issues and make valuable suggestions to transform the approach, thus improving over time.”Marco Carrubba

He suggests that this team should be empowered to regularly monitor and analyze the onboarding process data to identify areas for improvement. They need to continuously iterate and refine the approach based on user feedback and performance metrics. 

Similarly, Nir Kalish, Head of CS at Nimble, recommends focusing solely on one team for onboarding. 

“By zeroing in on one team, we can swiftly showcase value. It reassures the executive buyer and champions that they've made the right choice.” — Nir Kalish

Future outlook

Onboarding challenges and opportunities haven't changed fundamentally over the past few years. But like everything else in tech right now, the problems have glaring flashing lights on them and a huge impact.

Jan Young, Customer-Led Growth Advisor, states: “The Time to First Value and Optimization to Business Value doesn't just have a few customer stakeholders checking in on it in a year — now the CFO wants to know if it was money well spent.” 

So when a customer finally gets the approval from their CFO to purchase a product, every process in creating the partnership needs to be on point.

“In the age of Growth at Any Cost, companies could afford to throw some extra resources at the problem. No more. And if your plan is to turn your Onboarding and Adoption into a self-serve approach, customer friction and level of effort needs to be minimized. Especially in the age of AI, if there is a product that is easier to Onboard and Adopt, it will win."Jan Young


If you’re looking to streamline your onboarding process, Flowla Onboard provides the ultimate toolkit to handhold customers towards success. Turn clunky spreadsheets and a million documents into one, interactive onboarding journey.

Handhold your customers with Flowla Onboard

Turn clunky spreadsheets and a million documents into one, interactive onboarding journey.

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