Trust: The Missing Piece of Customer Onboarding

Updated: Jan 6


You just closed a deal with an important customer and are excited to get started. Things are good, right? Not necessarily, when you know what’s lurking beneath the surface of your customer’s brains. In my article, The Neuroscience of Customer Onboarding, you learned about the neural storms going off in the brains of your users when they buy your product and how they derail your onboarding. Combat the challenges of first impressions, buyer’s remorse, and prospection with the orchestrated onboarding framework, which quiets those neural networks and builds trust with your new account right away.


When you get a new account do you consider how the people feel? The buyer’s thoughts may be filled with doubt, remorse, and dread. They may feel insecure about the choice they just made and the impact it has on their organization and even on their career. The project team and users may be annoyed to have a new tool to figure out on top of all their other projects. And everyone feels abandoned when you leave new customers hanging after the deal closes.


Rather than letting customers ruminate in their fears and doubts, help them feel confident they made the right decision in buying your product and are in capable hands for what comes next. The orchestrated onboarding framework incorporates four solutions to generate a positive confirmation bias and build trust: cognitive closure, continuity, small talk, and change management.


1. Cognitive closure. When you don’t know how to proceed with something you run through scenarios to confirm your expectations and fears. You worry whether you made the right decision. That’s why you need cognitive closure. In the article, The Need for Cognitive Closure, Arie Kruglanski and Shira Fishman indicate that cognitive closure is the “stopping mechanism” that applies “brakes” to the validating process, and allows crystallized judgments to form. Cognitive closure is necessary to provide a definite answer to the questions the brain keeps asking itself. It’s a way to stop the uncertainty, confusion, and the ambiguity of prospection; and to establish trust.


To ensure customers are onboard with you as you onboard them, cognitive closure is key. My article, Don’t Let New Customers Fall Through the Cracks: Four Ways to Nail the Handoff, details how to hand off an account the right way. It’s not enough to have a quick meeting between your internal Sales Rep and the CSM to discuss what was purchased. Instead, you hand off the relationship on the customer side as well. You bring your pre-sales and post-sales teams to the meeting, and they invite the buyers and the project teams. The buyer shares the reasons behind what was purchased so the users know why they are using it. The clear ending of the buyer journey and the successful launch of the customer journey start in these handoffs.


2. Continuity. Continuity is another reason why you have both an internal handoff and a customer handoff. Continuity helps people build trust and get on board with what’s next. Continuity can start even before the contract is signed, when the sales team brings in the post-sales team to establish a baseline relationship built on assuredness and confidence.


3. Small talk: While it might seem trivial, small talk is an invaluable tool for building trust. So take a few moments during handoff and kickoff meetings to connect to the real people using your product. Their brains will be thankful. Ask about their families, upcoming vacations, and where they live. I prepare for meetings with new prospects by investigating LinkedIn for shared connections or interests—their location, where they went to school, activities they enjoy. Then I use this information to get the conversation started. For example, in preparing for a recent meeting, I noticed my contact’s LinkedIn profile showed an image of him hanging out on the top of Half Dome, the legendary granite dome in the east end of Yosemite Valley. Since I had also hiked Half Dome, I started the conversation discussing our shared passion.


4. Change management. I was surprised to find most new users at my previous company resisted the powerful analytics tools we sold. They cherished the formulas, charts, and pivot tables they carefully built into their coveted spreadsheets and held on to them with a death grip. Do you find similar resistance with your end users? It seems people prefer the familiar even when change makes their lives better.


Orchestrated onboarding addresses anxiety inducing situations with the implement and adopt stages. Since customers won’t renew your product unless they use it, you may need to incorporate clever ways to transition their organization to use your tool as well as the new processes around it. For example, at one company I work with, product adoption increased dramatically when users understood the context and concepts around why and when to use the product.


“The choice to churn or to renew is determined during onboarding,” Ed Powers, the Vice President of Client Success and Marketing at InteliSecure, recently shared with me. Customers quickly judge the value of your product and the quality of your relationship the moment you connect. If they start with a negative first impression, they will likely churn no matter what heroics you throw at them down the road. When you deliver a prescriptive journey from day one, you redirect their brainpower from fear to trust. The orchestrated onboarding framework provides the clear beginnings, endings, and framework your customers’ brains need to start an enduring relationship.