Donna Weber is the world’s leading expert in customer onboarding. For more than two decades, she’s helped high-growth startups and established enterprises transform new customers into loyal champions.
As a recognized thought leader, influencer, strategist, advisor, author, and speaker Donna gets to the heart of Customer Success.
She is passionate about helping customers reach their goals because when your customers win, you win. It’s that simple.
High-growth companies hire Donna to increase customer retention and lifetime value, decrease time to customer first value, reduce implementation time and costs, boost product adoption and usage, and scale Customer Success organizations.
Her award-winning book is: Onboarding Matters: How Successful Companies Transform New Customers Into Loyal Champions.
Dickey Singh is the CEO and Founder of cast.app, an automation company that drives growth and revenue from existing customers.
Cast Virtual CSMs generate personalized presentations and deliver and explain them to your customers, tying insights to actionable recommendations and advice.
Dickey was the founder and CEO of Pyze Analytics and Encounters before cast.app. Earlier, he was SVP of product, CTO, or a VP creating customer-facing products at several silicon valley venture-backed companies, including CustomerSat, MarketTools, and Vivotech, serving customers ranging from Apple, Google, Salesforce, SAP, MasterCard, Oracle, and more.
He has ten patents and lives in the SF Bay area with his wife, twins, and a 98-pound English Lab Elektra.
Dickey: Donna we are excited to have you join us for this webcast to talk about how to automate the critical Gap from buyer to customer Journey.
I met you in Utah in beautiful Sundance and you gave me a signed copy of your book. Thank you!
Dickey: So before I ask before I ask you to introduce yourself and tell us about your book, let me tell everyone about me
I'm Dickey Singh, founder of and CEO of cast.app an automation platform to drive growth and revenue from existing customers without expanding teams.
So we automate things that matter the most to customer success and revenue leaders: growth, revenue, and referrals.
And integral to growth is driving usage usefulness and adoption of products customers are paying for, which leads to no-brainer renewals, upsells, cross-sells, and referrals.
Well-thought-through onboarding is critical to driving usage, usefulness, adoption, and customer-product fit.
Today we have Donna Weber the world's leading expert on customer onboarding.
Donna, welcome and please introduce yourself and also tell us about your book
Donna: Thank you so much Dickey it's such a pleasure. I'm so grateful that we met in Utah and we're continuing the conversation.
I work with high growth companies to help them turn new and existing customers into loyal Champions and it's all about really engaging customers and delivering value as quickly as possible and last year my book onboarding matters came out it said people have told me it's the most practical Business book they ever read and I detail my orchestrated onboarding framework which we'll talk about and um and how to really uh you know Drive value to customers so that they stick around for the long term and have those no-brainer renewals you talked about I love that term.
Dickey: I know. I actually read your book on the flight back from Utah to San Francisco; and I might add it's a very easy read it's very easy to follow and I was like bookmarking so many things that I wanted to get back to.
But thank you for sharing so uh okay let's jump in and start with your favorite topic onboarding or to differentiate it from employee onboarding customer onboarding.
So, um what is the importance of onboarding in the Customer Journey, overall health, retention, adoption, and expansion?
Donna: Well you know there's a lot of customer success focus these days which is really awesome but it seems that a lot of companies think that every interaction with customers has equal weight but the reality is that the beginning of the journey the beginning of any relationship is the most important and we all know how important first first impressions are that due to the way our the inner workings of the brain that that first interaction kind of creates a um uh you know like it kind of lays down the assumptions and judgments that will continue so if you don't start off on a on a good footing with your new customers you're going to always be struggling and I can't tell you how many companies that I talk with and work with where they tell me that you know the customers are stuck in back laws implementations were really rough customers fall into the trust path of disillusionment and then customer success teams are are struggling to win back their love and you know my goal is to avoid all of that and start start with the love and then keep it going
Dickey: Somehow I heard a visual of Ed Powers when we were like talking about this. I think you also mentioned in in your book but he also talks the same thing the importance of onboarding is much higher than other...
Donna: Yes and I learned about that from him and he really turned me on to the things of onboarding and I'm actually going to be having a chat with him this week
Dickey: nice I will talk more about that and I have some research papers that I can share with you about...
Donna: please please let me make a note of that.
Dickey: So, you know, I recall a really long conversation at Peet's coffee at San Carlos. Onboarding starts even before the customer Begins the customer Journey right like you know and we we called it the buyer Journey uh before that so you know onboarding includes like pre-boarding where you tell the prospect how awesome and ready to help the customer success team is and what to expect from the company and the customer success team once the prospect kind of becomes uh the customer I recall you called it like embarking or Embark in "onboarding orchestration."
How would you differentiate pre-boarding from onboarding considering a prospect is transforming from a buyer journey into the customer Journey
Donna: yeah absolutely so you know I worked with one company and the head of sales operations said everyone wants to see the path to success and now I quote him everyone wants to see the path of success and there's this idea in you know in high tech that like we just go live with the product and it's everything's fine but the reality is that um many of the products are pretty complex and um and you know even though somebody buys the product and there's going to be a team who delivers the product there's there's going to be a need there's often a project team there's often um you know most of the companies I talk with their onboarding takes three to nine months so there's a whole journey ahead and there's this idea that we closed the deal and then you know all that other stuff happens later but let me tell you I was working with a company they provide a um a marketing platform for real estate agents and I was meeting with the CFO and he shared with me that he was he was buying a a a a document signing platform similar to DocuSign and during the buyer Journey the um they were sharing with him here's all the things that you need to do these are all the things we do this is how long each thing takes here's a here's the website with your CSM dedicated and this is all the things we do for you he they even included him in the contract here's how long each thing takes number of hours in this case was hours this is how long you what you need to do how long it takes is what we do how long it takes and his reaction was this company's got their stuff together I want to work with them so we need to go beyond that like that the sales is a separate thing and the post sales is you know I was talking with a company um a customer success leader recently and he said oh you know we have separation between church and state now he was talking about the implementation and the customer success teams but so many companies have this quote separation between church and state when it comes to sales and post sales and it's ridiculous because um it's gonna actually instill more confidence in me if I'm buying Cast app and you help me know you're not just throwing a product at me but you have best practices and methodology that's going to get me the value as quickly as possible in one it's going to reduce the sales cycle two it's going to keep me more engaged and you know and three it's going to make the post sales teams much more successful so um you know it seems very obvious to me and I am uh continue to be amazed how we're stuck in this old sales pair Paradigm I'll add one more thing I was working with one company and they provide hardware and software for medical practices and the CRO there at the time they've moved on but he who was all time kills all deals don't get involved in my sales Journey but the impact was he was busy closing all the deals throwing everything over the implementation team the implementation team is struggling to implement because they were poor fit the implementations were costly and long and customers were frustrated and then the reality was the sales reps had to keep coming in to resolve issues and it was there were huge opportunity costs because they weren't out there selling so all that you know don't talk don't don't engage during the sales was costing that company over a half a million dollars a year
Dickey: Yeah and you talked about Time to Value, Time to perceived value, resources needed to get to value. All those kind of things are like Ultra important, um you know sometimes you can put all of these down because you don't know how much time a customer would take to do the same tasks but you can average it across other customers by you know the industry by the size of the country and putting something together like this really goes uh a long way and as we talk like you know pre-boarding as we just started talking about is is effective it like in a does help close the deals faster uh but it is a resource-intensive for the Cs organization especially when the CS folks are brought into like closed deals and uh so typically what ends up happening is um uh you bring in CS folks for like very strategic accounts right, and we don't bring in for like uh others. Could pre-boarding be offered to all customers, for example...
Donna: Absolutely so! Product where there's a higher touch sales process and the higher touch CS uh Journey uh post sales journey and you know we could talk about automation a bit uh as well um but in a uh sales reps can be presenting so you know what I do when I work with companies we Define the journey ahead and very um um in a visual kind of aspirational inspirational way that everyone can relate to and that could be one to three slides in a sales profit deck it does not have to be a high lift by CS and then two we Define exactly when somebody in CS would engage so generally that would be very late in the sales cycle and they're really helping to talk about the path ahead they're not like going to start diving into technical weeds and scare off customers you know it's good to scare off the prospects because that's what sales reps are afraid of so it's all about helping the the prospects understand what's needed help to set expectations appropriately help them to know what the lift is so that they're ready and prepared so that they can partner with you um so I don't believe it has to be a heavy lift and and um but it has to be very defined so um you know why this there's sales enablement involved they sales this these are your talking points this is when we started introducing it you keep a very very high level it's really that the the journey ahead big picture and then you define very specifically when a CS person engages and how they engage and what they're engaging about so it should not be a heavy lift and and plus CS teams need to have access to their crms so that they know what's in the pipeline a lot of Cs teams don't even have access and they're just waiting for deals to close and I jump in and not know anything.
Dickey: yeah, 100 percent agree. A lot of times sales people have to help even after the deal is closed and a lot of times CS people have to help before the deal is closed. So it's not like a like a handoff it's more like a collaboration that you know yeah maybe the sales tapers down as the CS involvement tapers up or or so but it is definitely a collaboration I think it's that's why it's so interesting like the buyer journey and the customer Journey the the this little overlap that we are talking about.
Dickey: So um I wanted to like uh distinguish between user Journeys and customer Journeys and you know last time we talked we also talked about like the Persona uh Journeys right like when you group a bunch of users together and like say hey this is the persona so and you have mentioned like onboarding users versus customer accounts uh in your book right so why is it important to think of onboarding users personas and accounts uh separately so in B2C we don't have this problem right because you have a user it fits a certain mould, but B2B is like far more complex like there are account there there's there's an account that you're selling to there's like users there are users with different personas there's like the C the C Level and the V level execs looking for Value in Roi and there's The Operators looking for to improve the product and then their individual contributors right so so you know what I'm talking about right so let's talk about that a little bit more the importance of uh users personas.
Donna: Yeah absolutely well in the in the be World I'll say SAS you know SAS high tech new world they there's this idea that the cut the customer is a company and you're you know you go live and you have a logo and they're you know they're using your product but the reality is that their people are using your product and the reality that the people are using your product are also consumers in their lives and in the last you know I would say decade or so there's been a huge consumer revolution where consumers have so much more power and so we have these expectations right and there's a huge opportunity in the world of B2B SAS to really uh uh engage the users because if you don't have product adoption then you don't have a license to renew because let's say you sell something to Acme but you know uh oh I'll just say another thing so you sell it to Acme we get five users let's say but your company's whole uh uh approach is land and expand and you're not engaging the users well then they're not going to use it there's you just killed any land and expand potential um so you know when it comes time for Renewal the buyer is going to go well how many people are using this product what value are are we getting are we getting reports insights you know is it making a difference if no one's using it then they're not going to renew so if you don't have product user users using the product then you don't have a license to renew and then you just because you know so many companies I I meet with they do like a product walkthrough but you know you might have Executives using your products you might have business users you might have administrators you might have developers um so each of those personas needs to know how to they don't want to just log in and have a tour they need to know what how they're going to do their job faster better how they're going to make more money how they're going to save money how they're going to be compliant and so they need to have specifics around that what they're doing so for example I worked with the company Big Data platform and we were looking at they had building out a self-paced journey for the data scientists and the data admins and they do very different things and when I looked at their existing self-paced Journey there was a huge amount of drop drop off and it was just a lot of information and it was it and it was just like I don't know where to go there there was a bunch of links or you could do this you could do that you could do the other well we don't want you know people don't want that I want to I want to be talked to I'm the data analyst you know I want to I want to see this is for me here's my pathway self-identify and it needs to be the right content for the right user at the right time whether that's in-app whether that's in a learning management system um whether that's webinars you know whether that's um um you know instructor-led you know hand-holding white glove treatment it doesn't matter but we need to engage those specific personas and I'll just add one more thing here which is that I work with companies I work with the Supply Chain management company they had a b to B to B to B to C, and all of those users need to be enabled and onboarded I'm I'm just starting working with a company that does a medical payment platform they have the B is like the um the health institutions but the C is a P it's a patient it's Health institutions and patients B2P so you know if they can roll out this great thing so that I could pay on my mobile phone but if a patient doesn't know how to do it then they're getting they're not going to renew
Dickey: yeah, when you mentioned B2P I thought you're going to talk about like partners because partners are similar...
Donna: yeah there's Partners too yeah there's B2B to P to C
Dickey: yeah you know and one thing that's struck that you said uh it made a lot of sense like we spend a lot of time trying to create uh monthly active users right like we bring people in we walk them through like the in-app guidance and all those kind of things but a lot of times there are Executives and see all they care about is is the product useful are we getting value what is the ROI so instead of like driving them into the product and doing them you know making them go through the tour we could take that information directly to them wherever they exist right whether it's email any of those uh kind of things right at the end of the day they are paying for the bills right so they need to know that the product that the other personas are using in the company
Donna: They need to know the insights you know what difference is it making it so they'll be using it every day like their teams are but they need to have a dashboard that's really showing the impact yes
Dickey: yeah they could but again that logging in into the system is a challenge for an executive so taking the dashboard in them yeah so and we we hear that a lot like you know oh yeah but the users are using it but but we do this qbr thing or something and the incentives don't show up for qbrs right so we say like you know providing continuous value continuous reach out to every persona so yeah um let's talk about like scaling uh onboarding and one of the things when
I was like uh browsing through your book uh last night I saw like you mentioned like something like spreadsheets and crms are the most used tools uh you know and you listed it uh somewhere with a long bunch of like other tools that's absolutely true for cast.app like even though we support like CSV files spreadsheets several crms any database that Amazon does any database that Google does or any database that you know Mike Azure or Microsoft does right all of them but we find most of the people use uh like a CRM like Salesforce or like Google Sheets CSV files snowflake or you know some of the other things so what's the reason why do even very sophisticated companies uh still use CSV files and Google Sheets and CRMs.
Donna: Well they're easy they're accessible but um here here's the big concern that onboarding and customer success teams are not running their business you know their organization as a business they're very one the teams are siled two they all the account stuff is the siled so so so for example you know I often see companies work with project plans tools or um spreadsheets for managing every account and that might mean like okay I'm managing your account say and I could see all the things I need to do for you but they're losing all this visibility into uh you know at a higher level to see what's going on with all the accounts for one CSM or when onboarding uh uh manager or for the whole customer success organization so they're so therefore they can't run their business because they don't have any insights or data there so um uh you know there's there's there's issues customer success is often seen as a cost and so they they struggle to get a budget for valuable tools and also um uh you know oftentimes they start as small teams and they use those tools because they're not investing you know in a sales organization you have sales Ops you have a CRM and you have an admin who runs all that right they you know and then CS you kind of everyone's just trying to figure it out so we're still maturing as an industry but um in general you know the leaders need to be stepping up and and owning their business and being a business owner to to Really um have the tools needed and to show the impact to customers and to to the company to the executives and the boards so then they'll get more investment into awesome tools
Dickey: it's surprising, because you know for Scaled companies 75% of the revenue kind of comes from existing customers right and I'm talking a company like Salesforce, slack, Segment and UI Path and like I have I actually was asking that question to anyone and everyone that I talked to right it was in the you know 66 percent to like 77 of the revenue comes from existing customers and yet uh the budgets for CS tools is much smaller than budgets for sales tools right so so and that's fine I mean like you know and that's why we think like people need more automation than like very expensive uh uh tools because like you know we can do a lot more uh with automation
Donna: yeah yeah, I know, I think we're still stuck in this old sales Paradigm I mean so look at things right now the reality is that you know 15 to 80 of your revenues coming from your existing customers and everyone you know things are quiet and everyone's running around trying to get new customers and like hello like that that's very expensive and um you know new sales are quiet right now so this should be a really diving in and engaging their existing their existing customers and we still you know they're still there still seems to be a big level of them uh understanding and maturity needed there and then again sales CS teams need to be really demonstrating their impact then they'll start getting all the resources they need
Dickey: all right let's switch topics right so in your book I found a graphic saying that visuals are processed 60 000 times faster than text and uh 90 of the information passed to the brain is visual right and and which is 100 True like in fact the brain processes text as a collection of small images and has to kind of put it together to understand what you're saying right so that and this is some research that we did and this is exactly why people process images videos and presentations way faster than reading a blog post or reading an email or report or so right so and I originally mentioned that I'm going to send you the study the study is actually from Washington State University and mentions that people retain 6.5 times more uh than what they uh visually than what they read so if they view presentations or something with 6.5 times is or and if you if you if you're like an engagement and influence platform like cast.app right that's very important uh to us like you know visually explaining excites engaging users and like you know trying tying those explanations to relevant actions right
So talk about the importance of Visual Communications during the customer Journey, including onboarding.
Donna: so sure so what I found was that um like when I'd be meeting with companies you know first of all everyone's busy they're coming from you know other Zoom calls and um everyone's heads are full of personal and professional things right I mean I've got so many lists of things I should I need to do today and so what I was Finding is people were kind of like you know we're I'm moving them through a journey but they're always kind of like where are we where are we going where have we been and so what I did I started learning about the visuals and I just created I'm going to share this this is uh my my tailored version of my orchestrated onboarding framework for how I work with companies and so here's the journey and I just kind of like here's the journey we're on and then as we move through the Journey all I did I created this on canva I just highlight where we are and it's amazing like if I started meeting and all I do is kind of show where we are where we're going where we've been people like just kind of calm down you know it's like it's really interesting they just kind of they settle and then they're ready to be present because we create a branded image with some very simple Journeys so people understand where we're going and and it helps them to it kind of gives them the itinerary so they can relax and kind of be part of the journey with you rather than just being stressed and overwhelmed and uh you know I am all about a phrase I'm really into these days is information is transformation not information so when the onboarding and implementation began most companies throw a lot of information their customers that they get the people working with and all it does is overwhelm them and we want we're looking to deliver transformation that's why our products are here are to transform their companies
Dickey: yeah and then when you started showing the visuals you like briefly showed like what was the onboarding orchestration I kind of recognized that from the book as well oh yeah I can share that for sure yeah so let's just jump into it right like so and then uh so my question would be like how would you automate certain aspects those six six stages that you showed what aspects can be automated um the of the in your framework
Donna: sure so uh the main thing that that one of the the big um critical things that I focus on is that onboarding is so much more than going live with your product it's about building trusting and enduring relationships so they get that expansion um with those existing customers because that's where most of your revenue is coming from and that you know when customers win you win so that all starts with the embarked stage which you call pre-onboarding then we have handoff and kickoff and these really set up the implementation to be successful I won't go to all of these stages then we have a doc which includes the implementation but also the adoption because the user training enablement because as we said earlier if you don't have users you don't have a license to renew and then we have review and expand because guess what there's High turnover there's new products your products are you know new things are always coming out you are choir company you get acquired so you really need to keep those customers engaged and I gotta say I'm shocked because so many companies that have a land and expand um growth approach they do not they do not engage new customers once that initial go live has happened and yet their products constantly changing and they're not helping you know and and the turnovers extreme these days and they're not helping any new users be successful so that's hindering their land and expand but um you know so what what you can do you can do this as a high touch as a low touch is IT Tech touch is a has a hybrid touch um what I often do when I work with companies is we do a higher touch but we we then Tech touches um or lower touches so that I I like to call it a hybrid touch but absolutely you can be sending um emails email campaigns you could have in-app product uh in product guidance you have in product chat but the main thing is you're not just throwing um website at the wrong slide there important spot advancing there we go the main thing is that you're not um just throwing information at people but you're giving them the right content for the right user at the right time that's going to drive Behavior to get them to value and to get them to the next thing so for example I a lot of companies I talk with they tell me well we know customers are successful when they move off their legacy system we know customers are successful when they use the electronic uh in in product waiver for customers to sign we know customers are successful when they use you know they they get uh reports well then you have to make sure that that journey is not just you can log in but uh that that's driving that behavior to get to those sticky points that's going to guarantee your customers are going to get value and therefore will stick around and therefore your company will stick around
Dickey: nice yeah and then um uh that's exactly what it was looking for like and there are you, call it we call like pre-boarding so but it's the same thing but one thing was interesting is like you drew it as an infinite Loop that starts back right so um so we kind of talk about like uh cross-selling products and upselling features you know we talk about like add-ons and their attach rates uh we do we take existing customers for granted like you know is onboarding for a cross-sold product to an existing customer any different because I see the loopback that you have...
Donna: yeah you saw something new well yes we do take existing customers for granted we need to continue to deliver a value Journey and so um so uh that's why I have the double infinity yeah so it really depends like so let's say you have um you have uh you know you've gone live and uh you get some new users well you might just need to kind of loop back in here and to do some product adoption uh some roll out and because they're you know what they're using is there's just some new people who are using it however you might roll out to a new region a new Geo you might roll out to a whole new department and there might be new requirements tailored tailorization customization so therefore you're gonna really need to step back and kind of understand their requirements know where they're going have set their expectations have a kick off it you know if it's whole new implementation yes you're going to start the entire Loop over um but you know you you roll out a new product feature yes help to help people know kind of what's coming and why and what how they're going to benefit and how it fits in with your existing um platform so absolutely um excuse me so so it depends on what those customers need but we and you know does it does the onboarding team do it does the customer success team do it yeah I would say it depends but you need to keep engaging customers and not just go how's it going yeah but uh you keep delivering more value so you know so often customers use you know a surface level of the product and the goal is like help them understand all the amazing depth and breadth so that they get more value and they're going to pay more and yeah tell everyone how great it is
Dickey: yeah exactly and and um just just like you know you you you're showing the the double infinity but I think we should uh not be so rigid because we as cast we have gotten like uh expansion during a kickoff right so right the kickoff is happening somebody want to expand and usually happens like this right they say oh let's start using cast for the the low touch kind of thing and then they see the value that they say oh we should also do it for the other two tiers right and then oh let's leave the Strategic customers off for now and so they end up enabling it for like maybe four like three out of 40 years or four out of five tiers right so we see here that all the all the time and and that brings me to like think like yeah we have these but we should not be like you should not assume that an expansion will only happen after the review or after
Donna: oh that's a great point right situation happens when you deliver value 30 seconds
Dickey: yeah so that's the key thing yeah and then even like delivering like perceived value when this the moment they have you haven't gone live with the customer they see the perceived value right they run a test or something and and they see and then they won't expand so yeah so and that's my complaint about the customer mapping and all those kind of things right like you know Journeys and like 66 of the customers don't follow your customer map but it is still good to do because you get to know how you know your customers are are using uh the product.
Donna: I want to just jump back into the pre-onboarding because what I do is um when I work when when I'm working with a company where they have let's say there's a huge data migration or they need to integrate with you know Insurance health insurance companies or um or you know uh Health institutions like this company I'm I'm working with now that could take weeks and then they pay the deal closes and then they sit around for weeks kind of and then the nobody in onboarding can start and cast we're just kind of going they're frustrated and it's not the company's fault so they'll even front load before the deal closes hey we need your information we need to start working on this it takes three weeks if we want we want to move as quickly as possible and sometimes cut the companies can't recognize Revenue until they go live and they're busy waiting on this data migration or Integrations and so I have them start communicating that to customers and even start you know prospects during the sales cycle so they then then the minute the deal closes they can start delivering value as quickly as possible and they're not just kind of sitting there waiting and hoping that all of this migrations and Integrations happen
Dickey: yeah when we talk to like customers and like we usually work with like the CCO or the VP of Cs most of the time but a lot of times they bring in their you know cro or the revenue leaders as well so I asked that question but who do you want to start pre-boarding and then they usually come up with a number uh uh you know if probably close is greater than 70 or 80 or something so that's when they want to like start yeah and it is strategic or so exactly yeah but but when we bring cast in you have the capability of providing it to all the customers using automation because we're using virtual csms right so instead of like a human CSM so you can start providing that value to like several more customers and we've seen people say that yeah it helps it shows that the Cs team has everything together they want to really help us like you know be successful
Donna: it it instills confidence and Trust which are really key to new relationships
Dickey: exactly exactly
So I think uh those are all the questions. I have and uh is there anything else you want to advise to someone looking at like both uh doing onboarding or using automation to do pre-boarding and onboarding or any of any parting advice
Donna: Well parting advice is that uh uh companies are spending too long with onboarding and it's costing them too much money so you know they might let's say the product's thirty thousand dollars and then they're spending six months to onboard and they're probably spending thirty thousand dollars to onboard that account and that doesn't even include customer acquisition costs so you really need to know what is costing you to onboard a customer and look for ways to scale like now because you can't be spending all that money to onboard customers you're not going to break even two for two or three years and that's going to really hurt your company so really pay attention to what you're doing this basic and repeatable that can be delivered in a one-to-many approach or in an automated way or in the product so that you're you know you're really you would need to really drive down the costs to onboard and get customers live in your product
Dickey: Great. Thank you so much, Donna always a pleasure talking to you!
Donna: oh, pleasure's all mine. Thank you so much!